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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1. White Chocolate Mocha

The one where one door closes and another one opens.

Ultimately, it was the white chocolate mocha that was my downfall, I was sure of it. Because I got to the building early, I stopped by the coffee shop in lobby, but the line was so long that by the time I actually got my drink, I had about five minutes to chug it down before heading towards the elevators. The rapid pace at which I drank such a rich liquid unsettled me even further before the most important interview of my life and led to me upchucking the entire contents of my stomach into the interviewer’s trash can.

Surprisingly enough, I didn’t get the job.

“You don’t know that for sure,” my older sister, Leona, always the optimist, reassured me on the phone as I tucked my feet beneath me and sank into the couch with a much needed glass of chilled white wine, despite the fact that it was currently one in the afternoon.

“Oh, I know. It was catastrophic,” I nodded for my own benefit, turning up the melodrama. “I’m talking like blood spilled no survivors catastrophic.”

I could tell she rolled her eyes. “Oh, come on, Cece. You gotta think positive. Maybe they understood because it happens all the time.”

I highly doubted that. Though, the partner with whom I had interviewed hadn’t thrown me out after I’d filled her trash can with the contents of my stomach. She’d simply asked her assistant to come take it away and then allowed me to continue. Which was incredibly sweet of her, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get over that level of embarrassment, especially since it happened in front of someone who would be my future boss.

“That actually wasn’t the worst part,” I admitted, leaning back against the arm of the couch and taking another gulp of wine. Amazingly enough, my demonstration of my upchuck reflex hadn’t been the most unsettling part of the entire interaction.

“What are you talking about?” Leona sounded skeptical, which was understandable considering everything I’d just told her.

“Well,” I sighed, preparing myself to weave a tragic tale. “She asked me why I wanted to be an architect and I had no idea how to answer.”

“That’s bullshit,” she replied. “You’ve known exactly what you’ve wanted since mom and dad give you that Lego set for your sixth birthday.”

Technically, she was right. I’d set my mind to being an architect at a young age and every educational moment which followed was working towards that goal. I’d breezed through undergraduate and graduate school and had been ready to take my place at the firm I’d dreamed about working at for years and one interview question had derailed everything.

But what if my focus had been the problem? What if channeling all of my energy into one thing for the majority of my lifetime had caused me to miss the bigger picture? What if choking during this interview was a sign that my life was meant to go in a different direction?

I believed in fate. I believed that everything happened for a reason. And right now, the events of the past few hours were indicating that I had somehow gotten sidetracked and that there was something bigger in store for me than working at a prestigious architecture firm.

“I think, maybe, I just need some time to regroup,” I said slowly, hoping she would understand. Being the older of us meant that Leona was more inclined to be protective, a side of her I absolutely adored and appreciated now, though when we were kids, it annoyed the hell out of me.

There was a pause as she considered this option, the silence finally being filled by a soft sigh. “You know what would make you feel better? Some retail therapy. Want to meet me after work and we can go shopping and get some dinner?”

I wasn’t sure that would be particularly helpful, especially considering that Leona’s form of shopping meant going to stores way out of our price range and staring at the products, but I figured that getting out of the house was probably a good idea, so I agreed, and six hours later, we were wandering through the racks at Iliana’s, my sister’s favorite boutique.

Leona made a beeline for the wall of handbags at the back of the store and I stayed at the front, by the cash register, fiddling with the display of bracelets to keep from wandering over to the table of pristinely folded scarves. I already had a collection of the accessory that well exceeded my needs and I knew that if I so much as touched one, I wouldn’t be able to resist buying it.

My fingers trailed over the charms dangling from the various bracelets, admiring the delicate silver before my gaze shifted downwards to take in the other objects in my immediate surroundings. A box full of rings, a display full of earrings, some keychains, and a pile of business cards.

“Red Balloon,” I muttered, reading off the name on the card.

“It’s a nanny agency.”

I looked up to see the salesgirl approaching from the sundress section of the store and noticed her metal nameplate read ‘Janie’. “I’ve never heard of it.”

Not that I had some vast knowledge of nanny agencies in general.

She shrugged, tapping her chipping French manicure against the countertop. “Do you have kids?”

“Nope,” I shook my head.

“Then I guess that makes sense,” she laughed, her posture relaxing a bit more. “Also, I think they cater to a very specific clientele.”

It took me a moment to understand the implication behind her words, but I nodded when the light went off. “The rich and powerful. Gotcha.”

“Yep,” she popped the ‘p’, leaning forward against the countertop as though she wanted to let me in on a secret. “Between you and me, though, I think it would be a pretty sweet gig.”

“What?” I lifted my eyebrows in surprise. “Being a nanny?”

“Yeah,” she nodded eagerly. “Think about it. You’re pretty much getting paid to hang out in mansions and penthouse suites all day.”

“While you take care of kids…,” I pointed out, thinking she didn’t seem to be taking in the bigger picture here.

“Well, yeah,” she replied with a shrug. “But I still think it would be worth it.”

It was an interesting thought, and one which I mulled over as I slipped the business card into a side pocket of my purse and shot Janie a smile before wandering into the back of the store to find Leona. The truth was that I knew absolutely nothing about taking care of children. But on the other hand, there were plenty of courses I could take and certifications I could get to remedy that situation.

“What do you think?” I asked Leona as we stepped out onto the street half an hour later, pulling the card from my purse and handing it to her. “It’s for a nanny agency.”

She furrowed her eyebrows in confusion as she read the information on the card and looked up at me. “What do you need a nanny for?”

“I don’t,” I laughed, “But I’m thinking about applying to be a nanny for them.”

Her eyebrows now lifted in surprise. “Really? What do you know about being a nanny?”

“Nothing,” I admitted. “But I like kids and I can learn all the technical stuff.”

She looked skeptical as she handed me back the card. “Yeah, I’m sure they’re just waiting to hire someone who’s child rearing philosophy is ‘I’m just gonna wing it’.”

That was fair. “I know it sounds crazy, but I think it might be good for me, you know? At the very least, it’ll be a way for me to earn some money while I figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life.”

“Can’t you just wait tables like a normal person?” she asked as we came to a stop on the street corner.

“I could,” I nodded, watching the light intently, willing it to change. “But this sounds like so much more fun.”

She still didn’t look convinced, pressing her hand to my arm to urge me across the street when the light changed. “I don’t know, Cece…”

I understood her hesitation, but the more I considered the idea, the more I started to like it, and by the time we’d reached the other side of the street, I had made up my mind. “I’m gonna do it. Besides, what have I got to lose?”

3 Months Later

The jolting of the subway to its stop snapped me out of my half asleep state and I hopped to my feet to dart through the train doors before they slid shut and hurried up the steps to street level, thinking that wearing heels today was a pretty stupid decision on my part. At least now I was getting my workout for the day.

By the time I reached the street corner, I was in a full on sprint to get to the other side before the light changed, so when I stumbled into the hotel lobby where I was meeting the person on the other end of the mysterious phone call I’d received the day before, I was practically gasping for air.

Per the instructions given to me by said person, I panted as I asked for Amy at the hotel’s reception desk and was slid a piece of paper on which was scribbled a floor and room number. To be honest, I didn’t mind all the secrecy because it kind of made me feel as though I was in some sort of spy movie. It didn’t, however, calm my nerves, so I inhaled and exhaled deeply once I reached the designated door, knocking firmly twice and holding my breath until the door swung open to reveal a woman with graying dark brown hair and warm amber eyes that immediately made me feel like I was the most loved person on the planet.

“Cecily?” she asked quietly, opening the door wider when I nodded and holding out a hand for me to shake. “I’m Amy, come on in.”

After squeezing her hand quickly, I stepped through the door into the hotel suite, awestruck as I absorbed the beauty of the first executive suite I’ve ever seen in real life and smiling widely when my gaze met Amy’s once more.

“Can I ask you a question?” I said softly, afraid that if I spoke too loud, I might upset the balance of the universe, the corners of my lips still upturned into a smile as she shut the door and turned to face me. “Is your boss like a government secret agent or something?”

“Not quite,” she laughed lightly, shaking her head and glancing around the room in search of something before making her way towards the coffee table in the sitting area to grab a magazine and holding it out towards me when she stepped back in my direction. “He’s just famous.”

The magazine was a gossip rag with a picture of the band 5 Seconds of Summer on the cover, under which a headline read ‘5SOS: On the Rocks?’. My eyebrows lifted in surprise and Amy answered my next question before it could leave my lips. “I’m the personal assistant to all of 5 Seconds of Summer, but I called you on behalf of Calum Hood.”

Of course I’d heard of Calum Hood. In fact, I went to one of the band’s concerts during their first tour. But Calum made headlines by himself a couple years ago when his girlfriend announced she was pregnant, a memory which stuck with me because at the time he had been not yet twenty and I remembered thinking how terrifying it must be to go into parenthood so young.

“Oh.” I muttered, unsure of what else to say because it wasn’t as though I’d had any experience working for a celebrity and could assure her that I was perfect for this job.

Amy picked up on said lack of experience very quickly judging by the slight upturn of her lips, but didn’t seem to care, nodding, as she gestured for me to follow her towards the master bedroom at the back of the suite. “As you can imagine, Mr. Hood would like you to be the epitome of discretion when it comes to his children. Would you like to meet them?”

I blinked as we come to a stop outside the partially open door, feeling my heartbeat gain speed at the sound of soft breathing coming from the other side, partly because meeting the children was a very important moment and partly because I was just now registering that she’d used a plural word, as in, there was more than one child, twins, if I recalled the headlines from when they were born three years ago, one boy and one girl. “Wait, does that mean I got the job? Just like that?”

“I know it’s a bit fast,” Amy admitted with a shrug, though she seemed not at all concerned that she knew nothing about me. “But the agency comes highly recommended and they’ve already done a full background check and ensured you were properly trained, so really all that’s left is for you to agree. To be honest, we’re under a bit of a time crunch.”

“Why is that?” I asked, thinking that despite the thoroughness of the vetting the agency had done – seriously, I probably had CIA level security clearance now – this all seems a bit too easy.

“Because tomorrow night, the band kicks off their world tour at Madison Square Garden, and I honestly don’t want to have to deal with finding a nanny while on the road.”

“On the road?” My words came out in a soft whisper as I processed what she said, wondering if maybe I was in a little over my head. “Can I ask what happened to the last nanny?”

A life on the road definitely has to be difficult and it would be nice to be told up front what lay ahead. Amy sighed, understanding my hesitation and shaking her head as she went on to answer my question. “They’ve never had one. They were born while the band was on tour and they had their mother at first and then the boys had some time off so Calum was at home and then his mother came out to California to help while they were writing and recording the current album in LA, but she couldn’t stay forever.”

“And their mother?” I prodded, knowing that I was being rude, but curious anyways because as far as I knew, nothing about what happened to the mother of Calum’s children was ever revealed to the public. This was, after all, the first time I was learning that she was no longer in the picture. “Where is she now?”

Amy shot me a look which indicated I wouldn’t be receiving any more details into Calum Hood’s personal life from her and fixed me with a pointed stare. “Do you want the job or not?”

“Yes, please,” I smiled sweetly. This may not be what I expected out of my first nannying gig, but I was in no position to turn it down.

Softening her expression, she pushed open the master bedroom door and spoke quietly as she waved for me to follow. “The band is doing promo all day and normally, Calum would just take them along because there’s plenty of ways to keep them entertained at a radio station, but I wanted you to meet them in a more controlled environment, so I told him that he should just focus on the promo and I’d watch them today. It’s just about time to wake them from their nap.”

I began to nod in understanding, only to stop when I fully comprehended what she had said. “Does that mean that Mr. Hood doesn’t know I’m here?”

She scrunched her nose apologetically and shook her head. “Not exactly…”

Before I could ask what the hell that meant for me when I actually met him, the twins, who began to stir when we first pushed open the door, were sitting up in the center of the king sized bed and staring at me as though I was an alien life form. Which was understandable, considering they were three and had never seen me in their life and were probably wondering why I was in their hotel room and not their father.

“Mimi?” the boy whispered in Amy’s direction, his big brown eyes remaining fixed on my face, his soft jet black hair mussed from sleep.

He didn’t expand any further, but Amy seemed to understand what he was asking and smiled softly as the two of us come to a stop at the end of the bed, touching my arm gently as she spoke. “Finn, Audra, this is Cecily. She’s your new nanny. That means she’s gonna hang out with you guys during the day. Can you say hi?”

It was the boy who obliged first, speaking slowly in order to get my name right, but tripping over the syllables. “C-c-cecily?”

“That’s right,” I smiled softly in encouragement, squatting down so I was more at their eye level. “But you can call me Cece if you like. It’s very nice to meet you, Finn.”

“Wha bout me?” the girl asked, feeling left out of my greeting.

Laughing, I shift my gaze to her and grinned. “You too, Audra.”

She giggled as I said her name and I enjoyed the way the sound of her laugh made my insides warm, joining in, along with Finn, who reached his arms out towards me to indicate he wanted to be held. I glance at Amy to silently ask for permission and she lifted her eyebrows and nodded to grant it, so I stood up and took him into my arms, holding him at my waist and wondering how it was possible that I gained this toddler’s trust so easily. Surely it wasn’t natural, because I was certain I’d taken longer to decide on an ice cream flavor and still ended up having buyer’s remorse.

Still, Audra was just as eager to be held and held out her arms towards me as well, but I was saved from figuring out how I was going to hold both of them at the same time when the hotel room door opened and an accented voice called out.

“Where’s the welcoming committee?”

“Daddy!” Audra squealed, scooting to the edge of the bed to slowly drop herself to the floor and take off in a sprint towards her father. Finn squirmed in my arms at the sound of his father’s voice and the sight of his sister leaving the room and as soon as I placed him on the floor, he too ran into the common area.

I followed Amy out of the master bedroom just in time to see the twins being scooped into their father’s arms, a wide smile on his face as he held them one on each arm with practiced ease and pressed kisses to their chubby cheeks. “Hey, darlings. I missed you.”

Calum Hood was taller in person than he seemed in pictures, though equally as gorgeous. Long eyelashes brushed the tops of his cheeks as he smiled and asked his children about their day, his grin wide as he set them back down on the ground, but stayed crouched, his sharp jawline and high cheekbones reappearing and disappearing as he listened intently to them excitedly talk over each other about dolls and toy cars and building blocks and the ice cream in the park Amy bought them and told them not to tell anyone about.

It was as I was admiring the dimples in his cheeks that I realized my thought process had the potential to get me in so much trouble, so I shut it down just as his gaze lifted from his children to travel upwards towards me, his eyebrows drawing down in confusion at my presence. He refocused his attention on his daughter as she finished telling him about the puppy she saw in the park that morning before grinning, kissing both his children on the forehead, standing up straight, and returning his gaze to me.

“I’m sorry,” he spoke softly, shifting his line of sight between me and Amy, “Do I know you?”

I parted my lips to explain why a  random stranger was in his hotel room, but thankfully Amy’s response came out faster. “This is Cecily, the new nanny.”

He blinked, his words coming out quiet, but I could tell he wasn’t particularly happy about the revelation, as his expression quickly changed from confused to rigid and tense. “I told you, Aimes, they don’t need a nanny.”

“I disagree,” Amy replied easily, not at all concerned that she was so openly arguing with her boss, which was impressive because if I were in her shoes, I’d be terrified. “With your mother not here and the tour about to start, I don’t think you have any idea how busy you’re going to be. Trust me. You need her.”

He opened his mouth as to counter, but pressed his lips together again as he seemed to rethink that idea and sighed, shaking his head and lifting one hand to tangle his fingers into his thick, dark curls, apparently deciding not to exhaust the energy to fight with his assistant. “Fine. But for the record, I don’t like this.”

Glancing back down at the twins, who were looking up at him, wondering what the hell was going on, he smiled softly. “So who wants to show me their block castle?”

“I do!” Audra reached up to grab her father’s hand, tugging him towards the play area set up for them on the other side of the living area.

Grinning, he allowed his daughter to pull him away, sending a terse nod in my direction and leaving me alone with Amy once more.

“Wow,” Amy let out a loud exhale, shrugging her shoulders. “That was easier than I thought it would be.”

“I feel like the only reason he didn’t argue more is because he didn’t want to have it out in front of the kids,” I admitted, partially thankful that he respected his children enough not to get upset in front of them and partially nervous that his lack of anger meant I needed to be cautious around him because, to be honest, it made me anxious to know he didn’t seem pleased that I was going to be around.

“Could be,” she replied simply, offering no further comfort, “I guess we’ll find out. In the meantime, we’re not gonna take his agreement to this situation for granted. So why don’t you go home and pack and text me your address and tomorrow I’ll send a car to bring you back here before we head to soundcheck.”

“Soundcheck?” I asked, feeling a bit overwhelmed because everything is happening in such rapid succession. I was almost positive that in about five minutes, I would wake up to find this was all a dream. Because this didn’t happen to people in the real world; normal people didn’t get assigned to be the nanny for a set of celebrity children and weren’t told they get to go to soundchecks and on tour with the band.

“It’ll be easiest that way,” she nodded, pulling her phone from the back pocket of her crisp black slacks and unlocking it to check her to do list. “Like I said, the tour is starting, which means we’re heading to Boston right after tomorrow night’s show.”

“Got it,” I replied, despite the fact that I still felt as though I was in some sort of fever induced hallucination. “Thanks.”

Lifting the corners of her lips into a smile, she stuffed her phone back into the pocket of her pants and pulled open the hotel room door. “Eight am sharp, okay? You should be ready to go because chances are everybody here is going to be running late and time is not something we have a lot of.”

Laughing, I clutched my purse tighter as I stepped out into the hallway. “Roger that. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

As the door closed, I glanced up at where Calum sat cross legged on the floor with the twins, his smile wide with warmth and his eyes filled with love as he watched them add blocks to the castles they’d built earlier that afternoon. I could tell he absolutely adored them, so I told myself that his displeasure at me being hired was just a result of him being protective of his kids. It was completely understandable and if I had kids of my own, maybe I’d feel the same way about a stranger being hired to look after them.

But that was my job now: looking after his children. A job I intended on doing extremely well and I knew that if Calum hated me, it wouldn’t make my life very easy. So as I turned to walk towards the elevators, I decided that my mission as I started this new job, along with being the best nanny of all time, would be to melt Calum Hood’s heart. 

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