Some first meetings don’t go well. For Mitch and Jade, it’s a bit difficult, because he’s arrived at her house, and he’s not – entirely – expected. However, if they’re lucky, they’ll work things out.
The door opened suddenly. An attractive young woman with long, walnut colored hair stood there with a child on one hip and the other by the hand. She frowned at him, cocking her head and raising an eyebrow. She was dressed in sleek taupe pants and an eggshell silk blouse, her hair and makeup flawless.
“And you are?”
“I’m here in response to the add. The agency sent me. I’m here to see Mrs. Smith?”
“Is this some sort of joke?”
He checked the address he’d been given by the agency representative. “This is the Smith residence, isn’t it?”
“My parents’ home. It’s my ad.” She continued to stare.
“Jade, darling? Who’s at the door?” A cultured, contralto voice called from inside. It echoed along the tile floors and shiny plaster walls. “Oh, hello.” An older version of the woman in front of him smiled, also confused.
Both women were taller than average, full busted, pillow lipped, with slender hips, long, dark hair and gigantic blue eyes. Mitch could only stare in return. Not because he was confused, but because they were two of the loveliest women he’d ever seen.
“Won’t you come in?” The older woman said. She took one child, lifting it into her arms as she pulled her daughter out of the doorway.
“He said the agency sent him, Mother.”
“Really? How unique. Please come in, Mr.?”
“Flagler. Mitchell Flagler. You were expecting me, weren’t you?”
“Daddy must have written the name down wrong,” Mother said. “His handwriting is atrocious,” she confided to Mitch. “We thought it said Michelle. Of course, we were expecting a woman….”
“If I’d known you were a man,” the younger woman said. “I would have told them not to send you and saved you the trip. I really can’t….”
“Give him a chance, Jade,” her mother said gently. “We’re running out of applicants. I fear that none of them had the experience necessary for coping with our particular problem,” Mrs. Smith said. “Please come in.”
She ushered Mitch into a lavishly furnished living room. The furniture was stark white, the carpet an expensive, hand loomed Persian. It was beautifully decorated in antique porcelain, glass and crystal. The toys on the floor were the only indication that there were children in the house.
Mrs. Smith showed him to a chair. Mitch sat opposite the two women. One child continued to cling to its mother, the other sat on the floor, playing happily with the toys. Already, Mitch sensed something not quite right about the interaction of the children. Focusing on the older woman, since she seemed the one inclined to speak to him, he smiled.
“I have all the proper references, ma’am. Are you Mrs. Smith?” He turned to the daughter.
“Miss Smith,” the younger woman said crisply. “I’m divorced. I gave that other name back,” she said with a disdainful sniff.
“I apologize. I was told I would be interviewing with a couple. I guess the agency made a few snafus in both directions.”
Miss Smith sniffed again, tossing her walnut colored hair. The child grabbed a handful, putting the hair in its mouth.
Because of the way the children were dressed, Mitch couldn’t tell if they were boys, girls or a mixed set. He waited patiently, trying not to show his nervousness. He really needed this job. His money was almost gone and he’d been living with friends for the past six weeks. Desperate for a job, he applied for this one on the off chance he might actually qualify.
He handed his folder of references and resumé to Mrs. Smith. She took it graciously, opening it as she adjusted delicate reading glasses on her nose. Miss Smith continued to stare at him incredulously.
“It’s rather a surprising profession for a man,” she snapped.
“It’s not my first preference, Miss Smith. But I’m not in a position to be picky at the moment. I need a job badly and I’m well qualified. I believe you’ll see for yourself.”
“Your first degree is in early childhood development?” Mrs. Smith said, reading his resumé.
“Yes, ma’am. My B.S. degree. My Masters is in child psychology and I was working on my PhD until recently.”
“Why did you quit?” she asked politely.
“To be honest, my life fell apart a few weeks ago. I no longer have the money to continue my education.”
“Oh? What happened?” Miss Smith asked.
This was the first note of concern that Mitch had heard from Miss Smith. Her face softened.
“Well, it’s rather personal,” he said quietly, looking at his hands. “Not to put too fine a point on it, I thought everything was perfect, but found out how wrong I was when my fiancée threw me over for someone rich and influential.”
That was more than he wanted to say, but it tumbled out. His ears went hot and he knew he was blushing. What Sheree had done to him both hurt and embarrassed him. That he hadn’t seen it coming, humiliated him.
“I know how you feel,” Miss Smith said quietly. “Perhaps I could have a look, Mother?” She scanned the resumé quickly, lips forming a thoughtful pout.
“So, what was your PhD to be in?” her mother asked.
“I was working on a dual emphasis. Child development and psychology.”
“Do you have any practical experience with children?”
“I have six younger siblings,” he said with a smile. “And my mother ran a daycare and preschool. From the time I started high school, I worked with her.”
“Is she your only reference?” Mrs. Smith asked.
“No, ma’am. I worked at two different facilities while in college. You have contact numbers there. I had in mind to start a preschool of my own for children with learning or behavioral problems. They are hard to mainstream in a regular facility. They don’t have the staff or the time for so called problem children. My youngest brother was born with autism. Because of Tim, I went into this field. He’s almost thirteen now.”
The women looked at one another, mouths open. He saw tears in their eyes and wondered what he’d said to make them cry.
“Oh, Mom!” Miss Smith gasped.
She clutched her child, burying her face on the child’s shoulder, weeping piteously. The child started to cry in response to its mother. The little one on the floor came over, standing at its mother’s knee, staring up at her.
“Mama cwying, Mamaw?”
“It’s all right, darling. Mama’s fine.”
The other child was nearly hysterical. The grandmother tried to take it, but the child flung itself away from the reaching hands. Mitch jumped up, catching the child before it fell out of its mother’s arms.
“Whoa!” He said, picking the little one up. “Careful, kiddo! Good way to whack your head!” He continued to talk to the child, laughing and being silly.
The toddler laughed, grabbing his lips as he made a funny face. The laugh took both women by surprise. The other child lurched over to his knees, grabbing a handful of pants.
“Hi there! You want to come up too?” He sat down, taking one child on each knee. “What are their names?” he asked the women.
Both mother and daughter stared at him. Neither of them spoke right away. The young woman cleared her throat twice before speaking.
“Richard and Rebecca. Richie is on your left.”
So, the unresponsive child was a boy, the other his sister.
“Mr. Flagler,” the older woman said quietly. “How soon can you start?”
It took Mitch a moment to process what she had said. “Right away. You want me, just like that? You don’t want to check my references?”
“We’ve got all the references we need right there,” she said as she gazed at the laughing little boy.
© 2019 Dellani Oakes