Alma followed her carpool charges into the high school. The students were meeting this first day with a mix of excitement, nervousness, and dread. This time, Alma was experiencing those same feelings along with them. She felt the same first day butterflies in the pit of her stomach that she did back when she was in school. It was the anxiety of being in a new place with new people and hoping the day went well without too many mistakes or too much embarrassment. It had been a long, long time since she had been in front of a classroom. She just hoped that it hadn't been too long.
She followed the students to the door, then as she'd promised her daughter, they would go their separate ways. She knew how much Judith was looking forward to her first day at high school and her intention in taking this substitute job was definitely not to encroach on Judith's big day.
Judith had been talking about the first day of high school before summer vacation even started. She had probably been thinking about it since Maura started high school without her the year before. Now the girls were back together and Judith had her best friend to show her around on her first day. Alma wished she were so lucky.
"So you're officially a Junior now, an upperclassman," Maura said to Jeremy as they walked up the front steps. "Are you excited?"
He shrugged. "A Junior's not much different than a Sophomore."
Maura beamed at him, glad that he felt that way. "No, I guess it's not."
When someone called out his name, Jeremy turned around and waved to a group of his friends. "I'll see you around."
"Yeah, in Spanish class . . . We have Spanish together."
"Oh yeah. I'll see you then," he said before meeting his friends.
When Maura turned around she saw that Judith had gone inside without her. "Hey, wait up!" she called after her.
"Judith, what's wrong? Aren't we going to walk to class together?"
"I thought so, but I thought maybe you forgot."
"How could I forget? We've been planning today forever."
"Okay, maybe not forgot, but I thought maybe you were going to try to hang out with Jeremy instead."
"No, of course not. I was just talking to him for a minute. We seriously, only said like two words to each other. I wasn't going to ditch you. Did you seriously think that?'
Judith sighed and looked down at her shoes. "No."
"I'm so glad you're finally going to school here. I missed you all last year. Let's just go on with our plan. We'll find our lockers then I'll walk with you to your first class."
"Alright," Judith said, beginning to cheer up again.
"Where's Meghan? Is she coming with us?"
"I don't think so," Judith said, looking over Maura's shoulder. "It looks like she's found some other people to hang out with. I guess she has Julian to show her around."
"It looks like she's taken care of. Let's go find our lockers."
Before they could walk away, someone called out Maura's name. "Maura, do you have a moment?"
"Sure, Ms. Johnston. What is it?"
"I was hoping you could do me a favor. We have a new student who could use someone to show her around. Would you be willing to help her out?"
"Sure," Maura agreed eagerly. "I'm already showing Judith around, but we'd be glad to help out someone else."
"Thank you," Ms. Johnston smiled. She knew she could count on Maura for this task. "Maura, this is Natalie Burroughs. Natalie, Maura Stuart and . . . did you say, Judith?"
"Yes, Judith Wilton," Judith spoke up. She turned to Natalie and said, "Hi."
"Okay, have a great first day, ladies, and if you need anything, don't hesitate to drop by my office."
Vince had been walking the other way, but when he caught a glimpse of the new girl who was talking to his sister, he doubled back. He had to find out who she was. Unfortunately, before he could get close enough to say anything, he was cut off by Ms. Johnston.
"Good morning, Vince. I'm glad I was able to catch you before your first class. Could you come to my office for a minute, please?"
He groaned, "What is it? I'm not in trouble already, am I?"
"No," she said with a smile. "There isn't any reason you should think you would be, is there?"
"No," he answered.
"Good. Don't worry, this is nothing bad, I promise."
Vince glanced over his shoulder at the new girl, before following Ms. Johnston to her office. Why couldn't it wait?
"I have an updated class schedule for you," she said, handing him a piece of paper from her desk. "Mr. Gregory spoke to me after you were here for registration and said you were interested in taking an art class."
"Yeah, I guess. He said something about that to me."
"Well, we were able to shuffle a few classes around to work it into your schedule. Does the revised schedule look good to you?"
He nodded, "Yeah, fine."
"Well, let me know how it goes," she said. "By the way, I'd like for you to meet with me once a week. We'll start with Friday after school and we'll talk about your classes and catch up on how you're doing."
"We all really want to see you graduate at the end of the year and I'm willing to do what I can to help you make that happen. Okay?"
"Okay," Vince replied and mumbled a halfhearted, "thanks," as he left her office. He couldn't say he was looking forward to those weekly meetings, but he decided to put them out of his mind for now and decided to see if he could catch up with his sister and her new friend before first period started.
"So, you're new here? Where did you move from?" Judith asked Natalie as they walked through the hallways with Maura.
"Sydney Greene," she replied. "Actually, I still live there. We haven't moved yet, but we will soon."
"What part of town are you moving to?" Maura asked.
"Arrendale Heights . . . maybe," Natalie replied.
"That's where we live. We might be neighbors," Maura said excitedly. "So I guess you'll be moving into one of the new houses. Maybe you'll even carpool with us."
"Maybe," Natalie shrugged. "We haven't decided for sure if we're moving there yet or not."
"What's there to decide?" Judith asked.
"It's complicated," Natalie said, hoping they would leave it at that and not press her for details.
"So where's your first class?" Maura asked. "I'll show you where it is."
"Oh, that's right on the way to Judith's class. We'll stop by there, then go on to your class, okay Judith?" When Judith nodded, she continued talking to Natalie. "Do you want us to find you after class and we'll all walk to our second period classes together?"
"No, you don't have to do that."
"Are you sure? We don't mind," Maura insisted.
Natalie shook her head. "No, that's alright. I can follow room numbers and I have a map in case I get desperate. I think I'll be alright."
"Well, if you change your mind, let us know."
Meanwhile, Simon was settling into his new position at the main branch of the Townsend Corporation. Lawrence had invited him into his office to welcome him to the new position.
"How are you settling in?" Lawrence asked.
"Just fine thank you and thank you for this opportunity."
"You've earned it. You've been an excellent employee at our satellite branch and I am glad to have you here full time," Lawrence replied. "Have you made a decision about my other offer?"
"Not yet, but I promise you I will have an answer soon."
"Do you think you could let me know one way or the other by the end of the week? We really need to start looking at other applicants if you decide not to move into the neighborhood."
"Yes, I'll do my best."
Once Simon had left his office, Lawrence looked down at his watch. The new nanny should be reporting for her first day of work about now. He resisted the urge to call the house and see how she was working out. It was still too early.
As promised, he'd let the children have a part in choosing the new nanny. He let all three of them sit in during the interview process, provided they would be quiet and behave, and let them share their thoughts with him once each applicant had left.
"So what do you think?"
"She was nice. And pretty," Lorna replied.
Lance shot her a look and then pouted, "I didn't like her."
Following her brother's lead, Lorna added, "She was just okay, I guess."
Lawrence was not surprised by their reactions. Lance hadn't liked any of the applicants and came in with the attitude that he wasn't going to like anybody. Lawrence knew the younger children wouldn't be much help, but he hoped his oldest would have more useful insights to offer.
"I think I liked her the best," Artie spoke up. "She was kind of younger than the others, but she seemed more energetic and fun. I think she could keep up with us and keep us in line. She might be the one, Dad."
Lawrence took his son's word to heart and decided to take a chance on his choice, Ms. Parker.
Since he had an important client to meet with, he wouldn't be at home to greet Ms. Parker on her first day. He trusted Shayna with the responsibility of showing Ms. Parker around the household and going over her duties with her. He had no doubt she would do a better job than he could do himself.
"Right this way, Ms. Parker," Shayna said in her crisp, no-nonsense tone as she let the new housekeeper into the house.
"Ms. Parker sounds so formal," she frowned. "Just call me Jolene."
Shayna continued without missing a beat. "Before I give you a tour of the house, let me explain your duties. Mr. Arrendale told me that you met the children during your interview?"
"Yes, they seemed to be very nice children," she replied.
"Arthur is the oldest. He's thirteen and in Junior High. The Junior High dismisses at 2:00, so he'll be home first. He shouldn't require too much supervision, but you are expected to be here when he arrives home from school. Lance is eleven and Lorna is nine. They both attend the elementary which dismisses at 3:00. I will give you a schedule of their after school activities, which you will take them too and pick them up from. Do you have transportation?"
"Good. After their activities it will be time for homework. You are expected to stay at the house until Mr. Arrendale gets home. Typically he gets home by 6:00, but he often works late and you will need to stay later when necessary. That won't be a problem will it?"
"It shouldn't be."
"If it ever is, let me know and I'll try to find someone in the neighborhood to fill in. Just as long as it's not too often it shouldn't be a problem. You'll need to be here at 7:00 a.m. to help the children get ready for school in the morning. After they leave, you'll be responsible for doing the cleaning and shopping. Once those tasks are complete, any extra time you have before 2:00 is your own free time. If you'd like to take a long lunch with friends or something of that nature, Mr. Arrendale will not mind, as long as your duties are completed by the end of the day." As she spoke, she could see Ms. Parker's eyes glazing over. "Is that clear? Do you have any questions?"
"Crystal clear," she perked up. "It sounds like the usual thing. I'm sure I won't have any problems."
"If you do, don't hesitate to call me at any time. I'm often here during the day, working out of Mr. Arrendale's home office."
"Can I see the house now?" she asked. "I'd like to get started."
The last room, on Shayna's tour was family living room. Jolene seemed drawn to the Arrendale's wedding photos on the living room wall.
"Is that Mrs. Arrendale? She's so beautiful," she said in a dreamy tone. "What happened to her? Did they divorce or did she pass away or what?"
"She drowned, or at least that what the officials believe," Shayna replied. "She was lost at sea."
"Oh my. What happened?"
"The Arrendales were on a cruise, as an early celebration of their tenth wedding anniversary, when she fell overboard somehow. No trace of her was ever found."
"Yes. Eileen was a very lovely person, well-liked by everyone. The entire neighborhood was devastated when it happened. Of course it hit Lawrence and the children very hard. The last several years have been very hard, especially for Mr. Arrendale . . . I hate gossip, but I think you should know that this is the situation since you'll be working in the household. I trust you will be sensitive and show consideration."
"Of course," she nodded. "You can count on me."