"Hey, Jolene. Is it alright if Jenn comes over after school today? We're planning on working on our project for the science fair," Art asked.
"What are you asking her for?" Lance grumbled. "Shouldn't you ask Dad? She's not our parent."
"It's called being considerate," Art scolded. "Besides Dad won't care. He's not the one who's going to be here. Jolene is."
Jolene watched silently as Lance stormed off to the kitchen. It had been easy for her to get the other two children to warm up to her. Artie had been helpful and friendly since her first day on the job. Lorna had been a little wary at first, but as a fellow girly girl living in a house of males, they found plenty of common ground to bond over. Lance, however, was a tough nut to crack. She had tried to reach out to him, in several ways, but he was having none of it. She refused to give up though. She knew there had to be some way to win him over, given enough time.
"Don't mind him. He likes hardly anybody."
"I'm sure it's hard to . . . have someone new in the household," Jolene said, pausing to check her words and not bring up what might be a sensitive subject in front of the children. "I'm sure he'll get used to me if I give him time."
"Good morning," Lawrence greeted the family as he entered the dining room.
"Good morning, Daddy," Lorna greeted him with a hug.
"Good morning, princess."
"Dad, can Jenn come over after school today to work on a school project? Jolene says she doesn't mind."
Lawrence turned to Jolene, when she nodded her agreement, he answered. "That's fine."
"But there won't be any after school, until you actually go to school," Jolene said. "You'd better finish getting ready before your ride gets here."
"Would you like some breakfast before you go to the office, Mr. Arrendale?" Jolene asked as the children went out of the room.
"Yes, thank you. In a moment," he replied. "I should apologize for not being around much since you started. I often have long hours."
"No problem. That's why you need me, right?"
"I did want to check in with you and see how you're getting on."
"I'm getting on fine," she said enthusiastically. "I really enjoy it here. The children are great. They are so well behaved and you have a lovely home. I'm really happy here. Thank you so much for the opportunity to work for you."
"I'm glad to hear it," Lawrence replied with an air of relief in his voice. "I'm glad it's working out."
"Me too," Jolene smiled. "I hope I can stay here for a long time."
"Oh, look at the time," Cassandra said as she rose from the table. She turned to the children. "Get your things together. We need to leave for school in a few minutes."
As Brooke and Doug left the room and Cassie started clearing the breakfast dishes from the table, Blaine was struck by the silence that was hanging over him and his wife. He knew he was the one to blame for it.
He followed Cassie into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around her from behind while she was washing the dishes.
"I'm sorry if I've been a little distant lately," he said.
She frowned with confusion. "Distant? I hadn't noticed . . . What do you mean?"
"Maybe it's nothing then," he shrugged, rubbing the back of his neck. "I think maybe I've just been preoccupied lately. That phone call from Reese threw me for a loop."
"Me too," Cassie mumbled. "I think I've been preoccupied by it myself."
"You too? Why?"
Cassie shrugged. "It just seemed odd . . . unexpected," she answered vaguely.
Blaine nodded. "Definitely unexpected and odd . . . I'm still trying to figure out why she bothered to call me. I get the impression that I missed something she was trying to tell me."
Cassandra's expression darkened with worry. "What would she have to say, other than that she's moving in next door?"
"I don't know, I'm sure it's nothing though." Noticing Cassandra's concerned expression, he added, "If you're worried, don't be. I don't know if Reese called me because she was thinking about the past, but if she did, it is just the past. You and the kids are my only present and my only future and I wouldn't let anyone or anything get in the way of that."
Cassie managed a weak smile, trying to have faith in his words. She hoped they would hold true even if he found out their kids weren't his only children.
"Hello, Simon," Shayna responded when the person on the other end of the line answered. "I have great news for you. I have all of the final paperwork ready for your house. As soon as they are signed, you will be able to move in anytime."
"That's great. I can't wait to tell Reese," Simon replied happily. "When can I meet with you to sign them?"
"Any time you'd like. I could have them sent to the office this afternoon."
"That would be great. Thank you so much, Ms. Ramone."
"You're very welcome. Let me be the first to tell you, welcome to the neighborhood."
As soon as she hung up the phone, Shayna sat down at the computer to print out and fax all of the necessary documents to her former workplace.
Some of her former co-workers thought it odd that she would trade her position at the Townsend Corporation to manage Arrendale Heights and even stranger still that she would choose to work out of Lawrence Arrendale's home study rather than in a more formal office atmosphere. She had to admit herself that she had her reservations, but she really did enjoy working here rather than in a more traditional office space. With Lawrence at the office and the children at school while she was at work, she enjoyed the quiet and the lack of distractions. She was happiest when she could focus, uninterrupted on her work.
Although, today the quiet itself had become a distraction. She was used to some noises in the house as the housekeeper went about her work, but suddenly the house seemed too quiet. As soon as her paperwork had been successfully faxed to the office, she rose for her seat at the computer desk and ventured to the main part of the house to make sure everything was alright.
"Ms. Parker, what do you think you're doing?" Shayna asked when she found Jolene seated at the vanity in Lawrence's bedroom, holding one of Mrs. Arrendale's earrings to her ear as she studied herself in the mirror. She couldn't help noticing the bureau was open and one of Eileen's dresses hung next to the mirror.
Jolene jumped back so quickly at the sound of Shayna's voice that she nearly fell off the vanity stool.
"I was just putting away the laundry," she said quickly, her voice high and nervous as she gestured wildly at the laundry basket and the open bureau. "And I guess I got a little distracted."
Shayna studied her carefully. "What exactly were you doing?"
"I didn't mean to bother anything and I know I shouldn't nose around in other people's things, but I noticed the dress and the earrings and they were just so pretty. I was just looking at them for a second and admiring. I swear that's all. I was going to put them back exactly the way I found them, I promise."
"The next time you think you shouldn't do something, then don't." Shayna said sternly.
Jolene hung her head and promised, "It won't happen again." She turned away and quickly began putting everything back where it belonged.
"I think you should finish what you came in here to do and move on to your next task for the day without haste."
As Shayna left the room, Jolene returned back to her job of putting the clothes away. She was so embarrassed that she had been caught in her little moment of fantasy. She couldn't help wondering what it had been like. As she put the rest of the laundry away and was about to close the bureau doors before leaving the bedroom, she couldn't help feeling the fabric of the sleeve of one of Lawrence's shirts hanging on the closet and breathing in its scent. She closed her eyes just for a moment, wondering what it must have been like.