Like Real People Do

After the combination of too much coffee and just the right amount of nerves results in her epically choking during the most important interview of her life, Cecily ends up jobless after graduation. Unsure of where to turn next, she jumps at the chance to join an agency which provides nannies to the rich and powerful. She figures it’s new and exciting and will take her out of her comfort zone and she’s not at all disappointed by her first assignment: taking care of the three year old twins of internationally renowned bassist Calum Hood. The trouble is that Calum is a single father who is determined to prove that he can conquer parenting on his own, despite the advice of those at his side. So as Cecily navigates the world of taking care of celebrity children, she sets out to show Calum just how much he needs her, but is surprised to find that in her quest to melt his heart, she ends up giving away her own.

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4. Midnight Blue Moonlight

The one with the apology. 

Calum was giving me the cold shoulder. Which, to be honest, I probably deserved. After all, my actions had caused his children to be terrified enough to need comforting hugs for about thirty minutes before they slowly regained their usual brightness.

Children were resilient; incredibly so. And less than an hour after sobbing so much that they shook, they were chasing each other around the dressing room in a game of tag started by their Uncle Ashton. They were giggly and joyous and if any memories of the frightening incident which happened an hour before remained, they showed no signs.

If only their father so easily came to forgiveness. I already knew Calum was particularly thrilled by my presence in the first place, so after the Paparazzi Incident, I pretty much spent every waking moment wondering when he was going to tell me to pack my bags and head home.

But it never happened.

An entire week had passed and we were now on the road to the another stadium and as far as I knew, I still had my job. The only thing that had really changed was that Calum now went out of his way to pretend I didn’t exist. Which was a bit irritating and hurtful, but I figured he had his reasons and seeing as I was still employed, I decided not to bring up the coldness channeled in my direction.

We had gotten pretty good at dancing around each other. He would stay silent when I came to help the twins get ready in the morning and pretty much ignored me when he saw me in the dressing room during his breaks. Really, the only time he ever spoke to me was when he insisted that he could get them to sleep on his own if there was ever time when they didn’t crash out during the concert.

Tonight had been one of those nights. It was probably as a result of the cupcakes the venue manager had delivered to the dressing room that the twins were still full of energy when the show was over. Once back on the tour bus, they spent an hour chasing each other around the back common area until they were tired enough to fall asleep, but only after hearing a lullaby from their father and their three favorite uncles.

I lay in my bunk, across from Michael’s empty one, pretending that I was already asleep, but really listening to their harmonies and reminiscing about how my mother used to do the same thing for me when I was a child and how her voice singing me to sleep meant my dreams were always happy ones.

That trick worked tonight as well, at least, for the first couple hours. But I woke to find the bus dark and reached for where my phone was plugged in beside me to check the time, groaning lightly when I discovered it was just past one in the morning.

I supposed I shouldn’t have been surprised, seeing as I still wasn’t entirely used to falling asleep on a tour bus. My first night in this position, I had slept a grand total of four hours.

Pushing back my blankets, I decided to make the most of my sudden insomnia and swung my legs to the floor after pushing aside the curtain which shielded my bunk from the aisle. Padding towards the closet where our bags were kept, I rummaged around my duffel in search of my sketchbook and a pencil and headed towards the front seating area.

I hadn’t sketched in a while, partly because I had been busy and partly because I had been lacking inspiration, but I so badly wanted to put my pencil to paper once more. Perhaps the odd hour and the shine of the moonlight on the open road would provide me with the muse I needed to get back my flow.

It was an intriguing dream, but one which was dashed when I entered the front room to find Calum sitting cross legged on the couch, an acoustic guitar in his lap and a stack of papers spread out before him as he chewed on the end of a pencil.

“Sorry, I didn’t know you were still awake,” I whispered when he looked up, his eyebrows lifting in surprise because he obviously hadn’t expected anyone else to be awake at this time.

I figured he would just pretend he’d never seen me and I would return to my bunk to will myself back to sleep, but instead, he spoke, his voice soft and tired. “I shouldn’t be. Tomorrow’s gonna be a long day.”

If I had learned anything from being on tour with the band it was that every day was a long day. Added on to all of the responsibilities they had as a music group was the bonus of ensuring the safety and health and happiness of two three year olds, so I sympathized with the complete exhaustion in his eyes.

“Stressed?” I asked, clutching my pencil tightly in my palm to calm my nerves. I had never truly been alone with Calum until this moment and I wasn’t sure how to conduct myself. Despite being fiercely protective of his children, he wasn’t a particularly intimidating person, but the fact that he was damn gorgeous and obviously hated me made me nervous.

“Always,” he laughed quietly, leaning forward and clutching his guitar to his bare chest. “I can’t remember the last time I wasn’t stressed. Writing calms me down.”

I lifted the corners of my lips into a small smile, wondering if that was going to be the end of the conversation, but was surprised when he nodded towards my sketchbook and continued to speak. “What’s that for?”

“It’s a sketchbook,” I replied, mentally slapping myself, because obviously he knew that.

Still, he wasn’t condescending about it. “You an artist?”

“Something like that,” I nodded. I’d loved to draw since I was a kid and sketching was an important part of the architecture process. But now didn’t seem like the appropriate time to go into those kinds of details because mentioning architecture would send us down the path of why it was that I was a nanny and not a professional architect, a story Calum had no business knowing. At least, not yet. “It’s more a hobby than anything else.”

“Oh,” he said quietly, tilting his head to the side and keeping his gaze direct. “What were you going to draw?”

“I hadn’t decided yet.” That was the truth. I had hoped staring out the window would provide me with a bought of inspiration, but the sight of him sitting in the moonlit darkness was enough to get my creative juices flowing.

“Can I see?”

I clutched my sketchbook to my chest and shook my head, feeling a little bad that I had never gotten up the courage to share my art. It would be like revealing a part of my soul and considering there wasn’t even a level of mutual respect between us, I wasn’t comfortable doing so. “I’m a little self-conscious about it.”

Blinking slowly, he nodded, pressing his lips into a tight smile. If I didn’t know any better, I would think the tone of his voice sounded a little hurt. “That’s alright. Maybe another time.”

That seemed as good a cue to exit as any, so I nodded, lifting one hand in a wave and turned to head back to my bunk, but froze when he called out after me.

“Hey, Cecily?”

It was the first time he’d actually said my name and to be honest, I had been starting to wonder if he even knew what it was, so the fact that he spoke it without prompting was almost impressive. But perhaps he knew more than I gave him credit for. Perhaps I needed to start giving him the benefit of the doubt, even if he didn’t deserve it. Because at the end of the day, I could understand why he was so reluctant to trust me with his kids. They were his kids after all, and I was a stranger who randomly appeared in his life and he had no idea how long I was going to be around. That kind of uncertainty would make anyone tense.

He inhaled softly when I turned to face him completely, taking a moment to formulate his thoughts before speaking. “About what happened the other day with the paparazzi, I think that I owe you an apology.”

My eyebrows lifted in surprise because an apology was literally the last thing I expected from him.

“It’s alright,” I managed to sputter out in my confusion. “I should have known better than to put them in that situation.”

He shook his head, sighing as he set his guitar to the side of him and pushed himself to his feet. “You couldn’t have known the paparazzi would be there. Besides, it’s not like that’s something normal people think about. You’re still new to this life and I should have recognized that what you did, you didn’t do intentionally. So I’m sorry.”

“It’s alright,” I breathed out. His reaction might have seemed harsh at the time, but the truth was that he was right; I had no idea how celebrity life worked.

“And thanks.”

My eyebrows shot up even further. “For what?”

“For being there for my kids,” one side of his mouth lifted into a small smile. “Audra wouldn’t have called out for you the way she did if she didn’t feel safe with you, which means that you must be doing something right.”

“I hope so.” I hadn’t really thought of it that way. I could tell the twins were getting more comfortable with me, judging by the fact that they no longer asked before climbing into my lap or hugging my leg, but that didn’t necessarily mean that they trusted me. It just meant they were used to having me around.

“And honestly, the way I’ve been treating you the past couple weeks…I’ve been out of line and unnecessarily harsh.”

Apparently tonight was just going to be chock full of surprises. Blinking, I shook my head to reassure him that it wasn’t a big deal. “You want the best for your kids. I think that comes with the territory of being a parent.”

“I guess so,” he sighed, reaching up with one hand to scratch the back of his head, smiling at me rather sheepishly. “I just want you to know that it’s not personal. I don’t have anything against you as a person, I just…”

“You don’t want me to replace you.” I finished his sentence for him, knowing where he was going because I had said something similar to Luke my first day on the job.

Nodding slowly, he crossed his arms over his chest to give his hands something to do and stared at me as though I’d just discovered another wonder of the world. “Something like that.”

“Calum,” I shot him a reassuring smile, taking a step towards him in hopes that it would ease the tension between us, “that could never happen. You’re their father and they adore you.”

He lifted his shoulders in a shrug, looking not at all convinced. “For now, maybe. But what happens when they grow up and get tired of this life and realize that I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing.”

To be honest, I was relieved that he had the guts to admit that he knew squat about parenting. It made him seem more human.

Sending him a soft smile, I hugged my sketchbook to my chest. “Then they’ll realize you’re human and they’ll love you even more. As far as this life goes, well, you can’t control who you are and once they’re old enough to understand the complexities of being the child of a celebrity, they’ll also realize that you’re doing your best to keep them grounded and give them some semblance of normalcy.”

It was his turn to be surprised, his expression softening a bit as he spoke. “How’d you get so wise?”

“My mom.” I grinned at the thought of her.

Seeing as he knew pretty much nothing about me, it made sense that he continued to look bit surprised that we were even having this conversation. “She’s good at giving advice?”

Smiling even wider, I nodded. “She was the best.”

“Was?” His tone was soft as he spoke, understanding the implication behind the question, his eyes slowly but surely flooding with sadness.

“She died when I was a teenager,” I replied, the smile fading from my face because it felt inappropriate to be grinning when I spoke such words. “Cancer.”

Saying that out loud didn’t upset me as much as it once had. Of course I still missed her, I knew I always would, but it wasn’t as though I could change what happened. I had gone through all the usual stages of grief over the course of my late teenage years, but eventually I’d realized that being angry wasn’t going to bring her back.

“Oh. I’m sorry,” he said quickly, looking a bit embarrassed.

“It’s alright,” I assured him, used to that response. “It’s been about ten years now.”

“That doesn’t mean it hurts any less.” It seemed I wasn’t the only one on this bus with some wisdom to offer.

Appreciating his sympathy, I lifted one side of my mouth into a small smile. “I guess not.”

“And your dad?”

That was a much more complicated story. And although Calum and I had definitely made some strides in our relationship over the course of the last few minutes, we weren’t at the point where I was comfortable enough with him to bear that part of my tragic past. He had earned my respect and I had earned his, but mutual understanding didn’t equal automatic access to all the corners of my brain. “I think we better save that story for another time.”

Luckily, he seemed to understand why I didn’t want to continue down this line of questioning and took the pause in our conversation as his cue to exit the room.

“Fair enough,” he cleared his throat, turning away to grab his guitar, shooting me a wry smile over his shoulder. “I should probably get some sleep. You should too.”

Nodding in agreement, I wiggled my fingers at him as I turned back towards the hallway which led to the bunks. “Alright then. Goodnight.”

“Goodnight, Cecily.”

With one last smile, I returned to my bunk, leaning my sketchpad and pencil against the wall, knowing that tomorrow, they would be put to good use, because I found myself filled with inspiration. My newly repaired relationship with Calum was tentative, but at least it was a step forward. We were making progress and I decided that the next step in my ‘win Calum over’ plan would be for us to move past mutual respect to actual admiration. Calum and I were going to become friends.

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