The biscuits were not cool enough for them to have at tea-time, but Nanny had allowed the children to decorate the cupcakes she had made, and they all enjoyed them as well as the brownies and mini tarts.
Sarah was delighted when Carrie asked Brad to play the piano afterwards.
“Ooh, yes Daddy! We play too?”
Brad pulled a face, but said, “Ok, but first let me play some tunes for Mommy, then I’ll teach you both something! But you wash your hands before you touch my piano, remember?”
Sarah beckoned to Lucien and they ran off to the bathroom while Brad settled himself at the piano. While he played, he found himself wondering if he should offer to take Carrie and the children for a drive, maybe just to the park. Would Lucien actually go with him? The boy had said very little to anyone except Sarah, although he was polite and well-behaved. He seemed to do whatever Sarah told him to do! For a moment Brad found himself cringing in fear that she was going to be as bossy and domineering as her biological mother had been! He would not allow that! He himself, as an adult, had often suffered shame and humiliation because of Barbara’s temperament. He would not allow his child to make a fool of men the way her mother had!
He stopped playing suddenly, and ran his hand over his eyes.
“Is something wrong, love?” Carrie asked quietly. “Pain?”
He turned to her, forcing a smile to his face. “No. I was just wondering if Lucien would go with me if I offered to take them to the park. ” He couldn’t tell her his real thoughts! Sarah was still a toddler, and Carrie was now her mother. Why had he even thought that his baby girl would inherit her biological mother’s nature, when she had Carrie to influence her as she grew?
“We’d have to ask Grace before we take him anywhere,” Carrie said gently. “He’s only here as a trial run to see if he’ll settle. I don’t think there were any tears when he left his mom in the kitchens to go and play on the swings!”
“He knows his mom is close by. He must have seen her in the kitchens while he was making biscuits, ” Brad said. “He doesn’t say much. It must be very scary for him to be moved about from pillar to post. I feel sorry for the lad!”
“We just have to keep on reassuring him,” Carrie replied. “Like Sarah, now that she knows I’m not her real mom. I wonder if people think you’re her real daddy? Though, I suppose no one would even query that, with your name on her birth certificate.”
Brad frowned. “Does that bother you, love?”
“No. I know the truth. Sarah will never have any other mother than me.” She gave a little smile. “Unless you decide to divorce me and marry someone else!”
He came forward to kiss her, grinning, “Not a chance in hell that would happen! I don’t see pigs flying anytime soon!”
Lucien was actually laughing when the children came back into the music room. The front of Sarah’s T-shirt was wet and she was pouting.
“The tap splash me!” she complained.
“It was your own fault,” Lucien said. “You put your hands too close!”
“You turn it on too hard, silly!” she admonished, wiping her hands on her shorts. “Now I all wet!”
Brad laughed. “Yes, you are. Come, I’ll help you change your clothes. Lucien, you stay here. We won’t be long!”
The child watched Sarah go off with Brad, and he turned to look at Carrie, his face solemn. She smiled at him.
“Is Mommy in the kitchen, Lucien? Did you have fun making the biscuits?”
For a moment she didn’t think he was going to answer, then he muttered, “We made some with chocolate for Sarah’s daddy.”
“That’s lovely! He loves chocolate. What sweets do you like?”
Lucien took a step nearer the wheelchair. “Smarties!” he said shyly. “My mommy sometimes gives me Smarties when she takes me to the park, or to the doctor.”
It was the longest sentence she had ever heard him say to anyone but Sarah.
“Do you like playing at the park, Lucien?” Carrie asked gently.
He gave the tiniest of smiles. “I like playing with Sarah! She talks to me.”
“Yes, she’s quite a chatterbox sometimes. Don’t your other friends talk to you?”
“I haven’t got any other friends!”
Carrie blinked. “Oh Lucien, I’m sure you don’t mean that! What about your friends at your nursery school?”
He shrugged. “They’re not my friends. They don’t talk to me. I don’t like Mommy leaving me there.”
Carrie wasn’t quite sure how to reply to that, but she didn’t have to, as he suddenly asked bluntly, “How did you get sick? Does your head hurt?”
“It was just an accident,” she told him. “I’m not sick. I hurt my head, but the doctor fixed it and it doesn’t hurt anymore.” She couldn’t believe she was having a grown-up conversation with this shy little boy.
He took another step closer. “My mommy said I’m going to live with her all the time now,” he said. “Will I come here with her when she comes to work?”
“Would you like that?”
Lucien gazed at her solemnly for a moment, then he muttered, “Sarah is my friend. I don’t have to be scared of Sarah.”
“Are you scared of your friends at nursery school?” Carrie asked quietly.
He swallowed. “They’re not my friends,” he repeated. “They don’t like me.”
“Oh, darling, Why would you think they don’t like you?”
“They think I’m a baby! Because I get scared when Mommy leaves me there.”
Carrie smiled gently. “But your mommy always comes back for you, doesn’t she?”
He nodded, but said, “It’s still scary. Sarah doesn’t think I’m a baby!” He gave another little smile. “I’m five!”
“I know. You’re a big boy now!” She paused, then said, “I’m sure your mommy will bring you here when she comes to work, if you’d like to play here with Sarah.”
“I don’t want to go back to the other place. Will you tell my mommy I can come here?”
Carrie nodded gravely. “Your mommy knows, sweetheart. Tell me - are the children at that school nasty to you?”
She held out her hand to him, not really expecting him to take it, but he did. He stepped close to the front of the wheelchair, and he smiled at her, ignoring her question.
“Sarah said her daddy won’t hurt me.”
For a moment Carrie was stunned, but she squeezed the child’s little hand encouragingly, and after a while said, “No one in this house will ever hurt you, Lucien. You don’t need to be frightened.” A pause, then, “Has someone at the nursery school hurt you?”
He shrugged. “No. I just don’t like it there.”
When Brad and Sarah returned to the music room, Lucien was leaning up against the side of the wheelchair and Carrie had her arm round his shoulders. Sarah, now dressed in clean shorts and a red and pink striped T-shirt, grinned at her mother and said, ” Daddy say we feed ducks in park!”
“I said if Lucien’s mommy says its ok,” Brad reminded her. He raised his eyebrows questioningly at Carrie and she smiled.
“Lucien and I have been having a little chat. He would like to come here to play with Sarah on the days his mommy works.”
“We play piano, Daddy?” Sarah asked, beckoning to Lucien to come as she went towards the instrument.
Brad frowned, but shrugged resignedly. He lifted Sarah onto the stool, and rather dubiously held his arms out to Lucien. He was surprised when the boy allowed him to lift him, and he sat him next to Sarah on the stool.
“Don’t bang on the keys,” he warned. “Sarah, can you remember that tune I taught you? Let Lucien try too. I’m taking Mommy to talk to Lucien’s mommy about the park!”
On the way to the kitchen area, Brad asked, “Do you think he’ll go with me?”
“Sarah told him you won’t hurt him,” Carrie said with a smile. “He’s a very nervous little boy, but he likes Sarah and seems to do whatever she wants, so I think he’ll be ok about going to the park with us.”
“I hope she’s not being too bossy!”
“Like her mom was? I won’t let her be like that!”
Brad stopped wheeling the chair for a moment and bent over to kiss her cheek. “You are amazing, you know! In everything you do! A fantastic nurse, wonderful mom, an all-round tremendous woman!”
“I’m a wife first, remember!” she dimpled. “The wife of the best man in the world!”
He gave a short laugh. “That man is hoping those children learn to play my piano a bit more tunefully than that noise they’re making at present!′
They were both smiling when they entered the kitchens. Nanny looked up from putting the finishing touches to a cake she was icing, and the other kitchen staff in that particular area were suddenly silent at the arrival of the head of the household!
Brad grinned. “Hi everyone! Just looking for Grace! We’re not here to disturb you all.”
Nanny scowled at him. “Maybe if you came in here a bit more regularly, you wouldn’t scare my staff into silence every time they saw you! Grace is in the laundry. Having trouble with Lucien?”
“Not at all,” Carrie said quickly, seeing Grace come through, looking anxious. “We were wondering if it would be ok if we took him to the park for a short time before lunch? He seems to have settled well. Actually, he wants to come here on the days you work, instead of going to the nursery school.”
“That’s wonderful!” Grace said. “If he wants to go with you to the park, by all means take him. He was excited to be coming to play with Sarah today. I think it may be because she’s younger than he is, so he doesn’t have to be scared of her. I think the other children at the nursery school were too boisterous for him. He says they don’t like him.”
“Yes, he told me that too,” Carrie replied. “He spoke quite a lot to me, surprisingly. I’m not really a child psychologist, even though my training did offer a little on the subject of children. At the moment he’s playing the piano with Sarah, as you can hear!”
“If you can call that noise ‘playing’,” Brad put in. “I think they need a few formal lessons!”
Nanny laughed. “Just because you were playing the piano perfectly when you were three, doesn’t mean all children have to. That noise is music to them!”
Brad grinned. “I’m just hoping that my piano stands up to being man - or child - handled! It’s getting old now! And I’m rather fond of it!”
He put a finger into the chocolate icing in the bowl, and scooped it into his mouth as Nanny smacked his hand playfully.
“Behave yourself!” she scolded, making them all laugh. “You’re worse than the kiddies! Didn’t you have enough chocolate at tea-time?”
“I can never get enough chocolate,” he laughed, and winked at some of the female staff who were smirking, making one of them blush beetroot red and hurry away to the other side of the kitchen.
“Brad,” Carrie scolded in jest. “Stop flirting with the staff!”
“Especially in front of your wife!” Nanny quipped.
He grinned. “My beautiful wife trusts me enough to know that she’s the only woman in the world for me! Not so sweetheart?”
Carrie smiled sweetly at him, and replied, “I think the whole world knows it, darling. You’re not exactly subtle about kissing me in public, are you?”
“Are you complaining?” he probed.
” Never!” she laughed. “Why would I do that when I’m married to a man who kisses like you do?”
He regarded her soberly for a moment, but his eyes were twinkling. “What can I say? My talents are numerous!” And he bent to press his lips on hers.
Nanny sighed good-naturedly. “Will you two please get out of the kitchens if you’re going to carry on like love-sick puppies? I thought you were going to the park? Go away and let my staff get on with their work!”