"Lawrence, you're late," Shayna remarked with surprise as Lawrence walked into his home office.
He glanced at the clock. It was barely five after. Not terribly late by most people's standards, but he was usually right on the dot, if not early, as was Shayna. That's one reason they worked so well together. They were both punctual and appreciated when others around them were as well.
"I'm sorry to keep you waiting. I had some unexpected business to attend to," he explained.
"Anything I need to be aware of?" she asked nonchalantly.
"I had to stop by Lucy Stuart's house to talk to her about her son. A friend at the police station called to inform me that he'd been brought in to the station for vandalism."
"What action do you recommend be taken?"
"None, for now. I gave Lucy a warning and she assured me she has the situation under control."
Shayna pursued her lips and made a note in her notebook.
"You don't agree with how I've chosen to handle this?" Lawrence asked. "You think I'm being too lenient?"
"It's not my job to say," Shayna replied diplomatically. When Lawrence gave her a look, encouraging her to continue, she decided not to hold her tongue. "I think we have rules for a reason. We each agreed to the neighborhood bylaws and signed an agreement to follow certain rules of conduct when we moved to this neighborhood. If someone is not able to control their children enough to keep them from violating that code repeatedly, they should be held accountable."
"Repeatedly?" asked Lawrence.
"You honestly don't think this is the first trouble he's caused, do you?" Shayna asked. "Julian has told me about the reputation Lucy's son has at school and about the type of crowd he hangs around with. It makes me glad that I was able to raise my son to have the good sense to distinguish between who he should associate with and who he shouldn't. And he knows that Vincent Sexton is not someone to associate with."
When Lawrence remained silent, Shayna apologized, "I'm sorry if I'm speaking out of turn, but I can be very passionate when it comes to my son's best welfare and I know you feel the same way about your children. I apologize if I went too far."
"There's no need to aplogize. I understand. I've been grappling with how to handle this myself."
"I realize Lucy was a close friend of your wife and she was your first employer's daughter, but I hope you won't let personal history get in the way of what is fair to all. Doing that would ruin the integrity of the neighborhood. I know you to be fair."
"And I believe this is a fair decision. I've given Lucy a fair warning. Next time there will be consequences."
Shayna nodded her approval and made note.
"What is on the agenda today?" Lawrence asked, changing the subject.
"The paperwork for the new expansion has been approved by the city. We're ready to start looking for a contractor and taking applications for residency."
"Go ahead and look for the contractor but wait on the announcement that we're taking applications. I have a few prospective applicants in mind. I'll speak with them about the possibility and find out if they're interested. If not, then we'll announce the openings."
Shayna didn't look up as she quickly jotted down notes. "Would you like me to make the calls for you?"
"No, I'll handle it personally."
"I've recieved several resumes for your open housekeeper position. Would you like to review them?"
"No, I'll leave that to you. Call a few of the most promising candidates and do a preliminary interview. I'll meet with the top three or so that you think are the most qualified and make the final decision."
Shayna nodded as she finished making notes and then closed her notebook. "That's all I had on the agenda. Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?"
"No, that's it."
"I hope you don't mind if I don't get to the resumes immediately. Meghan is moving in with us this weekend and I'm sure her father has done nothing to prepare. I will review them as soon as I can and will set up some interviews first thing Monday morning, at the very latest."
"Thank you, Shayna."
As Lawrence followed Shayna to the door, he ran into Mrs. McCarthy, his housekeeper and the children's nanny.
"Good evening, Mr. Arrendale. How was your day at work?"
"It was fine. How were things here?"
"Perfect. The children are in the parlor finishing their homework and dinner will be ready in about a half an hour.
"That sounds fine. I wanted to take a moment to tell you, Mrs. McCarthy, in case I don't have the chance to later, how grateful I am for all you've done for me and the children these last few years."
"It's been my pleasure, Mr. Arrendale. You have been a lovely family to work for."
"I don't know what we would have done without you."
"Thank you, Mr. Arrendale. I wish I could stay longer, but as you know, my sister needs me. I hate to leave before you've even hired a replacement, but I'm afraid her health has taken a turn for the worse. If it wasn't so urgent, I would stay at least until you were settled with a new housekeeper."
"I know you would. It's going to be difficult to find someone else to fill your shoes, but don't worry. Your sister needs you now. We'll be fine.
"Thank you, Mr. Arrendale."
"No, thank you, Mrs. McCarthy. If there's ever anything I can do for you in the future, don't hesitate to call me."
Mrs. McCarthy smiled. Touched by her employer's kind words, she turned away. "I should go check on dinner."
Lawrence nodded and walked the other way towards the sitting room to check in on his children. When he looked in he saw Lance seated on the floor working on his homework while Art entertained their little sister.
The last few years had been rough on them all and he was glad whenever he saw his children happy and doing well. Mrs. McCarthy had been a godsend. He truly meant it when he said he didn't know where they would be without her assistance. He wasn't sure what he was going to do without her now. The thought of it being just him and the children again was intimidating. He knew the vacancy Mrs. McCarthy was leaving behind would be difficult to fill, but he hoped he, with Shayna's help, would be able to find a suitable replacement and soon.
He backed away from the doorway without disturbing the children and went back into his office to make a few phone calls before dinner. He was greeted, as always, by the framed photograph of his wife, Eileen, on his desk. She was the one person he really could not do without, but he had been trying his best since she had been gone. It was times like these, when the children were involved, that he felt her absence the strongest and he questioned why things had turned out this way.