Debby stared at the 2 storey house in the suburbs and then at the tall skinny man beside her.
“This is where you live?”, she asked incredulously, watching Styke’s chest puff out a little.
“Yes, well, my work does come with it’s benefits”, he said, attempting to be modest. And failing. Miserably. He looked every bit the arrogant prat that he was. She rolled her eyes at him and followed as he signaled the watchman to open the gate.
“I don’t own the whole thing, though”, she heard from beside her and looked back at him, scratching his head nervously as he gestured to the right side of the generous house. At her questioning look, he continued, “Steve and his wife live on the ground floor and I take the first. The stairs are through there”
“We took transfers at the same time, Steve and I. He didn’t like it in Duton. He’s been a Sielite all his life. Can’t say I disagree.”, Styke said as he climbed towards the top.
She didn’t have to ask what it was about the other city that put him off. His parents had never had the same relationship after moving there. And it was only a couple of years later that his father had caught his wife cheating with another man.
A married man who had a 15 year old daughter that his (now ex) wife had never liked. The daughter that was living with Styke instead.
Only six months ago, Debby had only been another girl from the block to him. They had never had much in common.
The only conversations she recalls having with him were to procure question papers of previous years to prepare for the exams to get into his university, Second Best in Duton. Till the Incident. Capital I.
The day her fiance had left her on their marriage day without a single explanation. Well, not so much left as didn’t turn up, leaving her to face 400 pitiful looks as the parents of the groom explained that their son was nowhere to be found.
She heaved a mental sigh and tried to look past Styke’s shoulder, which was a feat considering the fact that he stood a good half foot above her. She stared at his back unseeingly as she recalled those months of hurt where all the people she knew had been gravitating towards two types of reactions.
There were those that threw pitying glances at her and told her they were so sorry that this happened to her. This had mostly consisted of women from the block that she had known all her life.
Then there were those who tried to pretend that nothing had changed. Much.
She was grateful for both parties but she really just wanted to be treated as if nothing had changed her life. Close your eyes and pretend the world can’t see you either.
Styke had fallen somewhere in the middle. Fresh from his parents divorce culminating in his father’s death, he could sympathise with the notion of wanting someone to lend silent support and she had been really grateful for that. But in the last two months, everything had changed.
Her family had offered to search for more suitable men again, which she’d said no to. Her nosy aunts had begun to give her lectures on moving on. Her friends dropped subtle hints about eligible bachelors.
That was when Styke had received THE Call.
She had thought he was terrifying when he was venting his anger for his mother. His reaction to the conversation, (if you could call it that) had gone beyond that. He was shouting in his native tongue over the phone. Properly shouting. In a park.
She was aware of the amount of people staring at her and Di as he kept shouting. She turned to ask Di what he was saying when she noticed the other woman’s face. Di had gone completely white and had her eyes riveted to her brother’s shouting form.
In an instant Debby was kneeling in front of the 15 year old, warming her ice cold hands with her own.
“They’re going to take me away from you”, Di said quietly as soon as Styke hung up.
Debby got out of the way just as Styke took up the same position as she had, kneeling in the grass, vehemently shaking his head.
“We’ll find a way”, he was saying as he comforted his sister.
Debby just stood to the side, trying not to stare at the show of emotion in Styke’s otherwise guarded eyes, trying not to acknowledge the fact that he was scared.
“What happened?”, she ventured softly to the still embracing brother and sister.
Untangling a little, but still keeping a firm grip on Di’s hand, he muttered, “My Mother did”
Taking a deep breath and slowly letting it out, he raised himself off the ground and sat up on the seat Debby had vacated a few minutes ago.
“They want to take custody of Di. They think I’m not around enough to take care of her”, he said, voice rising in intensity
“They just want to hurt you because your dad left everything to you”, Di stated quietly
Styke closed his eyes and nodded slightly. “I know. But how are we going to get out of this one?I can’t quit my job and sit at home. And you’re to old to need a nanny anyway”
“Why don’t you take it up legally? They are the ones who didn’t want her. And Di’s opinion counts too, right?”, Debby asked looking between them both
Slowly Styke shook his head. “Pahlo isn’t a fool, even if he married my Mom. He wouldn’t have got in contact if he didn’t already have something up his sleeve. We’ll just have to meet him and see what he has to say.”
“Gonna stand out there for the whole day?”
The teasing note drew Debby out of her flashback. Shaking her head and smiling, she walked into his house.
Neatly placed furniture and tiled concrete floors made the space seem larger than it actually was. A picture of Di and him was propped up on the shelf above the TV and the rest of the space consisted of organised knick-knacks that Styke’s father used to bring back from his travels.
Following the corridor that branched out from the living room, she stopped at the second door to the left, the only door which was open.
“Is it fine?”, Styke asked her
Debby looked around the generic room. A bed was pushed up the wall furthest from the door, a cupboard to it’s left. The window on the right wall was what caught her attention though. Thin curtains framed the otherwise huge window which was fashioned with its own seat built into the wall.
She looked up and smiled as he let out a whoosh of breath. Gesturing to the end of the corridor, he continued, “That’s my room and right across from you is Di. The kitchen is to the left, the first door you passed”
He looked adorably nervous for a man in his thirties and she graced him with another smile which relaxed him marginally.
Ever since he’d come back from that meeting with his stepdad, searching for a nanny who would be 24×7 available and would be company for Di had begun. It was difficult to find someone who was close to Di’s age and willing to work from home the whole time.
Then Di had suggested her moving in with them. It was brilliant really. Her parents would stop their nagging about her aversion to men, oblivious to the real reason of her change of living quarters, Styke would retain custody of Di and Debby would have enough time to work on her paintings while having a steady income of 1500 kots a month.
Climbing back down, she noticed the huge lock on the ground floor door.
“They travel a lot”, Styke said by way of explanation, “Got a daughter in Duton and a son in Parak.”
Debby nodded and wondered if it reminded him of his Dad. Old man Rikken had traveled a lot when Debby was small.
That’s part of what Pahlo had used against him, citing that his father had left his upbringing all to his mother and thus he would do the same to Di.
But Rikken had never actually done so. His travels were always for his son and he had made sure that everyone who said otherwise knew this fact.
She wondered how he coped with all the memories of him. Well, she’ll be seeing a lot more of Styke now that she was the live in Nanny. Maybe she would ask him herself.
As Styke handed over a set of keys to her, she smiled and looked at the house over his shoulder.
Yep, this was going to be a new experience.