"I'm going into the office," Blaine said to Cassandra as she was fixing breakfast for the kids. "Are you sure you're feeling alright? I can call off if you need me."
"No, I'm fine," Cassie insisted, managing a smile for her husband to help make her case. "It was just one of those things. I'm okay now."
"A premonition?" Blaine asked, his brows furrowed with concern. "Was it about Natalie?"
Cassie shook her head. "No, it was just a feeling. I don't know how to describe it. I don't think it had anything to do with Natalie though."
"Well, if you need me call, okay? I can come home anytime." Once she promised she would call if she needed him and insisted again that she would be fine, he kissed her and headed for the door. "I'll see you tonight."
Once Blaine had left, Cassie turned her attention back to her cooking. She hadn't lied when she said she was okay or when she said it wasn't about Natalie, but she couldn't shake the sickly feeling in her stomach that something was very wrong. She tried to put any concerns out of her mind and put on a brave face again when she called the kids downstairs for breakfast.
Eager to put her mind on something else, Cassie brought up a more cheerful topic at the breakfast table. "So Brooke, your birthday is coming up soon. We need to start planning your party."
"I don't want a really big party," Brooke insisted, as she stirred her spoon absently through her bowl of cereal. "Just something simple is okay."
"Can I invite some friends?" Doug asked eagerly.
"Just one," Cassie said firmly. "It's Brooke's party, not yours."
"I don't care who's invited, as long as Joey can come and as long as we don't have to invite them," she said pointedly.
"Who's 'them?'" Doug asked, but Cassie already knew.
"I don't think we have to invite anyone that you don't want to invite," Cassie said carefully. She tried to keep her tone and expression neutral and not betray her true feelings. She also didn't want to make any promises that her husband might not agree to keep. She was thinking of Blaine when she added, "But would it be so bad if they were invited?"
"Yes," Brooke replied, stone-faced and serious. "I'd rather have no party at all than one with them."
"I don't think it will come to that, but we all do have to try to get along."
Brooke huffed defiantly and sulked through the rest of her breakfast. She remained silent until Doug had left the table. When Brooke spoke again it was in a low conspiratorial tone. She looked at her mother with shrewd, narrowed eyes. "What did you see in her palm at the carnival? It was something really bad, wasn't it?"
Caught off-guard, Cassie took a moment to compose herself before replying. "I didn't see anything. I was just feeling sick, that's all. I don't want you to say or think any more about it."
Brooke pouted as she got up from the table. "I still don't want them to come," she mumbled as she walked away.
Cassie sighed as she cleared off the breakfast table. She was beginning to wish she'd never offered to do those palm readings at the carnival, but how was she to know that overwhelming dreadful feeling was going to wash over her at the worst possible time, right when she happened to be looking at Natalie's palm? It was terrible timing.
She stepped outside onto the back patio to get some air and looked out across the backyard at Reese's house. She could only imagine what they were thinking about her right now. She knew there was no way to make them all instantly the best of friends, even if she had wanted to. She wasn't sure if Brooke would ever warm to them or if she herself would, for that matter. But maybe there was something she could do to at least try to set one thing right.
* * * * *
Jolene was finishing washing the breakfast dishes when she heard someone behind her clear their throat. She spun around to see Lawrence standing in the doorway with Lance standing in front of him. Lance's eyes were cast down, locked on his shoes and on his face was twisted into the usual scowl she had come to expect from him.
Lance looked at his father with pleading eyes and when Lawrence didn't budge, he sighed heavily. "Miss Jolene," he began. "I apologize for taking your apartment key yesterday. I know it's wrong to take things that do not belong to me and I won't do it again."
The speech was obviously rehearsed and lacking in sincerity, but Jolene smiled and knelt down in front of Lance, trying to meet him at eye level. "I accept your apology and I appreciate that you won't bother my things again."
Lance looked at his father and when Lawrence nodded, he hurried out of the kitchen.
"Thanks," Jolene said to Lawrence with a smile and then returned back to her work.
As Lance stomped upstairs to his room, he passed by his brother's bedroom door which was slightly ajar. Artie was hanging out with Jenn and their voices carried into the hallway. Normally, he wouldn't have cared, but their topic of conversation caught his attention and he stopped outside the door to listen.
"I think you were right about my dad and Miss Jolene," Artie said. "How did you know?"
"Haven't you read a book or seen a movie?" she asked, rolling her eyes. "The single dad and the hot, young nanny always end up together in the end." She turned to look at him with extreme interest. "What makes you think something's going on?"
"Just the way they were talking to each other last night when I came home. I felt like I was walking in on something. It was weird."
"So what would you think if they did end up together."
Artie shrugged. "I don't know. I guess it'd be okay. Kind of weird, but my mom's been gone a long time and my dad's probably lonely. I don't know."
Out in the hallway, Lance frowned as he went to his room. He wasn't as indifferent to the idea of their dad and the nanny starting a relationship as his brother was. He knew exactly how he felt about it; he hated it and if he had any say about it, he was determined to make sure it would never happen. He'd put up with the new nanny long enough. It was time for her to go.
* * * * *
At the Burrough's house, Reese, Simon, and Natalie were spending a peaceful morning together. Reese was tidying up and chatting with Simon as he watched the news while Natalie sat at the window bench with a book on her lap.
"You've been awfully quiet today, Natalie," Simon remarked. "Everything okay?"
"Fine," she replied. Her tone was upbeat, but she only glanced at him briefly before turning her distracted gaze back to the window.
Reese looked at Simon with a raised eyebrow and he gave her a comforting smile in return.
"It's Mrs. Kitteridge," Natalie said, suddenly sitting up straighter as she turned to look at the adults in the room.
Reese looked at her daughter with curious interest. She expected the outburst to be followed with some revelation or confidence about the evening before, but Natalie had a different reason for bringing up her stepmother.
"She's coming up to the house," Natalie explained as she nodded towards the window. "I wonder what she wants. She's probably here to freak out on me again."
"I'll take care of it," Reese said, walking determinedly toward the door.
Cassie was startled when the door opened before she finished knocking. "Hi, I wanted to speak with Natalie, if that's okay," she began. When Reese didn't move aside to let her in or invite her inside, she added, "I just wanted to apologize for yesterday. I hope I didn't upset her."
"That's really not necessary," Reese said, making a move to shut the door. "Natalie's not upset. Everything is perfectly fine."
Before Reese could shut Cassie out, Natalie was at her mother's side.
"It's okay. I'll talk to her."
Reese opened the door wider, and hesitantly stood aside for her daughter.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry about yesterday," Cassie began her apology to Natalie. "When I ran off the way I did, it had nothing to do with you. I just suddenly wasn't feeling well. That happens to me sometimes. I'm kind of . . . sensitive and I can get overwhelmed easily . . .it's difficult." Cassie shook her head as she tried to refocus her train of thought. "I was afraid you might be thinking it was because of you and I just wanted to assure you that it wasn't. Not at all."
"Okay," Natalie replied, not sure how to respond. "I wasn't thinking that, but thanks for saying so."
Cassie seemed relieved. "Good, I'm glad. I'm feeling much better now. If you wanted me to try reading your palm again, I'd be glad to give it another try. I'm sure I could actually do a reading on it this time."
Natalie shook her head and took a step back. "No, that's okay. I don't really believe in that stuff. Thanks, anyway, Mrs. Kitteridge."
As Natalie walked away from the door, Reese couldn't suppress a proud smirk as she shut the door, leaving Cassie bewildered on the front step.