Debby moved into Styke and his step sister Di’s house to act as the 15 year old girl’s nanny to help Styke maintain custody of Di. This story goes on from here. It’ll make more sense if you’ve read the Prologue
” Inspired to draw anything yet??”, Di asked from her perch on the window bench in Debby’s room. She’d watched the older woman stand in front of a blank canvas for a full 10 minutes now.
Sighing despondently Debby sat back on the bed, putting away her charcoal pencil. Ever since the fiasco with her fiancé, she hadn’t been able to draw much. Most people told her to let all her frustration out on the canvas but that suggestion didn’t seem to help her state at all.
The front door opening brought her out of her thoughts as Di put down the book she was reading to go receive her brother.
For the past few days Debby had gotten used to the odd timetable. Styke worked really hard through the day and as a result, very odd hours. When he entered, she usually gave Di and him a few minutes together before serving dinner.
As part of what Styke paid her, she was supposed to cook one meal a day and she’d chosen dinner to give brother and sister time to catch up before Di went to bed. Di loved to cook and took care of lunch while they took turns at breakfast every day.
The domesticity of curry and bread wasn’t what she’d needed today though.
Leaning back against the kitchen counter she stared at the pot of curry as she remembered her fiancé’s reaction to it the first time she’d had him taste it. It had quickly risen to his favourite dish and he often had her cook it for him with rice.
She hadn’t been able to prepare the rice without flashbacks she couldn’t handle so she’d settled for bread instead.
Di and Styke didn’t mind much. She hoped so anyway.
As she brought the dishes to the table she noticed the hush in conversation instantly. Styke’s figure seemed wracked with tension and he hadn’t changed out of his work clothes yet.
Di was sitting at the table and mouthed ‘Bad day’ at her. Nodding her assent at the warning she put the curry and bread on the table and stood looking silently at him until he got up and dragged his feet to the table and plonked himself down on a chair.
Dinner was quiet tonight. Something was definitely off. Di and Debby kept shooting each other looks over the table, trying to decide who would break the silence. None of them ended up saying anything and Styke simply got up and left after dinner, without even cleaning his plate.
“What happened?”, Debby whispered to Di, even though Styke was obviously not making an appearance any time soon.
“Met a friend at work today. Yapped about how he was living with a girl so conveniently his age.”, Di shook her head.
Debby knew Styke had been prepared for this. They’d had this talk when they’d started thinking of this arrangement.
“He’d turned her down a month or so ago.”
Debby’s head shot up as she heard the younger woman sigh.
He hadn’t mentioned this. Then again, he wasn’t going to lay himself bare just because she moved in, she wasn’t doing so either, so why blame him.
“That can potentially complicate the situation” , Debby said, “A jealous woman does her homework well. Though I’m not going to let it affect me, if it affects Styke this much, people can raise questions that I frankly don’t want to handle right now.”
Sighing, she looked up at Di’s closed eyes and smiled. Quietly covering her with the quilt they kept on the couch for emergencies during movie nights, she thought about how life compels you to mature beyond your age sometimes.
Padding out of the room with her slippers in her hand so as to not wake her sleeping friend, she made her way to the room and began to change for bed.
She would talk to Styke over the weekend when Di was with her friends, she decided.
Friday came and went and Debby couldn’t bring herself to ask Styke about the conversation. When Di went out with her friends on Saturday, she steeled herself and waited for him in the living room.
10 minutes later, she was still fidgeting when Styke finally came out of his room for tea.
There was an awkward moment as he caught sight of her, back ramrod straight in the high backed chair.
“Uh…hi?”, he said, awkwardly trying to break the silence.
Stirring his tea, he sat down opposite her in the comfier sofa and waited expectantly for her to say something.
Taking her cue, she cleared her throat and, still fidgeting with the sleeve of her shirt, she haltingly placed her question, “I wanted to know about what your friend said about me.”, quickly looking up to gauge his reaction and finding it carefully blank, she blurted out, “I understand that it isn’t any of my business, but if she ends up talking to someone I know, my family might hear about it. So I need to know so I can have a counter argument prepared.”
Styke seemed to mull over her rapid speech for a minute or two. Chewing her lip and still fiddling with the hem of her sleeve, she stared at him expectantly, wondering if he was going to be angry with her.
But she had to know. A jealous woman would leave no stone unturned to find out everything about her opponent, even though Debby was technically not.
Styke had probably come to the same conclusion as he let out a sigh and started to explain.
“I didn’t want to tell you because I didn’t want to hurt you. I’ll be honest, she wasn’t kind and she said some things that you might or might not want me to know.”
He stopped and on receiving his nod, continued, ” You should know that she says absolutely everything she thinks with no respect for someone else’s feelings and that I don’t believe her in the slightest…”
Debby knew an avoidance tactic when she saw one, she’d used these far too many times herself.
Raising her eyebrow at him, she was momentarily thrown when he blurted out, “She accused you of staging the marriage.”
He hadn’t meant to blurt it out like that. He should have been more delicate, more understanding but something he had heard from his jealous co-worker was burning him with curiosity. He knew it was still a sore topic for her, but this little tidbit of information would make the fiasco so much worse.
Debby was still staring at him, blinking slowly as if to digest the information.
Hesitantly, he continued, “She said that you were simply drawing the attention while your best friend eloped.”
That had an immediate effect on Debby. Her back, which had relaxed marginally after he’d sat down, shot to uncomfortably straight again. Her fingers stopped fidgeting with her sleeve and her teeth no longer worried her lip. But nothing changed like her eyes.
It was like the Great Wall of China was built behind her eyes in a second. What he was looking at was simply a generic wallpaper of his friend.
“He brainwashed her”
Debby’s flat voice and lack of expression was beginning to scare him a little.
Many a time, Debby would talk to him about certain people she knew and why she thought they made the mistakes they made. All her theories had one major common quality.
They all made sense.
Her answer right now though, did not. Before he could ask her for further clarification, Debby got up and walked out, stiff and ungraceful.
Styke could only hope that she would be alright after a little time.
Which was why he was so confused a few hours later as she served dinner.
He’d tried not to be surprised at the jolly and definitely not offended Debby who was currently placing a few sandwiches on his plate.
As he bit into the sandwich, (Ham and cheese), his mind made quick notes of her body language.
He’d been to a counselor for a while when his father had passed, and he remembered some pointers that his counselor had told him about.
No one managed to look 100% normal after a fight or a bad altercation. In order to appear normal, most people would overcompensate and manage to come across as more cheerful than usual and bordering on manic.
Debby looked 100% normal. As if the past half a day hadn’t occurred at all.
“I’m sorry. About earlier, I mean”
OK, watch out for the reaction.
But Debby only smiled slightly, a confused smile, and nodded.
Styke tried to smile back but was pretty sure it ended up looking like a grimace instead.
Five agonizingly silent minutes went be before he heard a tentative sentence that made him do a double take
“Umm, what exactly were you apologizing for?”
He was quite sure he looked like some breed of fish, staring at her with his mouth opening and closing without a sound.
This was not normal. Definitely not normal.
Abandoning the rest of his sandwich he moved towards her and softly asked
“Do you remember what we talked about in the afternoon? Over tea?”
“What did I say?”
“Your friend wasn’t very kind in what she said and that’s why you didn’t want to tell me what it was”
“And?”, he prompted
Debby looked confused, “Are you going to tell me now?”
Styke sat back on the chair and looked at her incredulously, “I Did! Then you walked away!”
Running his hands over his face, he looked straight at his friend and asked her seriously, “Is this the first time something like this has happened?”
At her still confused look, he added, ” where you’ve forgotten something you should have remembered?”
Her face drained of colour and that was answer enough. That was precisely when the doorbell rang.
“I’ll get it. But we’re continuing this conversation”, he solemnly said as he got up to open the door.
Debby instinctively knew that Styke was right. Often she would remember an alternate version of happenings than those around her. She had always believed that it had been because her memory was terrible.
But she’d never forgotten something that had happened earlier the very same day.
That was when she noticed the enthusiastic conversation going on outside. From the table, she could see Styke with a gentleman.
Well dressed and holding a…suitcase?
“You’ll have to wait till morning, I’m afraid. The shops have probably closed for the day”, Styke was saying
She couldn’t make out what the gentleman said before Styke went on to say,
“Of course you can stay the night, Come in. Di’s out with friends for a sleepover and you can have her room.”
Stepping out into the living room, she finally saw the man face to face. Intelligent eyes peered at her from a kind but observant face. He was much older than she had thought, his hair almost completely white, with a little grey here and there. He smiled at her.
“This is my friend and Di’s nanny, Deborah. Debby, this is Steve”
Shaking hands with Steve, she smiled at the older man, “Just Debby please. Have you had dinner? I could make you are few sandwiches if you like.”
“That would be excellent, thanks”, Steve said, smiling again. Debby decided she liked this old man, he reminded her of her dad.
“I didn’t know Di could draw so well”, Steve commented, when he’d re emerged in comfortable nightclothes to eat the sandwiches.
“Oh sorry, that’ll be my painting kit. I’ll remove it from the room, it must be taking up so much space.” Debby said, blushing a bit at the praise.
Steve seemed to look at her for a second before leaning back and asking quietly, “Why did you draw a ring in red? I was going to ask Di but since you drew it, you should have the answer.”
Styke saw the familiar confusion on her face and sat up straight. Of course Steve had asked such a question. He was a behavioral analyst.”
He’d looked after him when his dad had passed and Di’s parents had abandoned her.
The confusion on Debby’s face only seemed to fuel Steve’s curiosity.
“You can tell him. It’s his job to know people’s behaviour”, Styke told her
“I don’t remember drawing it”, Debby confessed quietly.