There's a whole list of potential Firsts in the relationship for us to write about. I chose the First Encounter and the First Fight. Anah will be doing two other scenes in her post later on.
Nico has just gotten to the point where he can relax during the interview when the phone rings. [Name] glances at the caller ID and shakes her head. "I've got to get this."
She picks up the phone and it's immediately clear that she's talking to the guy who will (if he's lucky, if he gets the job) be Nico's boss. Her boss. The next thing he hears, because he's been tuning out so as not to eavesdrop, is [Name] saying, "Here, let me put you on speaker," and then suddenly he's being introduced to James [Last Name], who is tearing his hair out about car seats and school schedules and damp patches on the kids' clothes from where their cereal splashed.
The last interview question Nico had answered was regarding a sick kid on an airplane. But what James wants to know, apparently, is how Nico would manage to get two kids out the door on time in the morning without needing to make three trips back inside for backpacks and lunchboxes and one right shoe. That, Nico has an answer for. He half-raised his kid sister while his mom worked two jobs. He knows how to maintain a schedule, how to talk to people through their frustrations, and he knows the chaos of dealing with a kid first thing in the morning.
The relief in James's voice is reassuring—Nico has nailed this interview—but Nico wonders about the man behind it. He'll find out soon enough. He's got the job, and he starts Monday.
The kids are caked in mud from head to toe. Pretending to be frogs will do that. Nico gets between them and the back door, blocking their way until they take off their shoes and socks. "Upstairs to put your clothes in the hamper, then get ready for a bath," he tells them. "I'll meet you up there in a minute." He has to get their shoes rinsed off so they'll dry before tomorrow.
Vali grumps a little, but Nico knows it's just for show. The little boy loves bathtime. There are crayons he can use to write on the walls, and when he erases what he's written, there's no sign it was ever there. That kind of freedom to explore and make mistakes is something he cherishes.
Inside, they follow directions perfectly, waving cheerful hellos to their dad before heading up to their rooms. The kids are happy, but James looks tense and uncomfortable.
"We found a frog," Nico says. "Next week, Bianca's class starts learning about amphibians. She was pretty excited."
James doesn't like that the kids were so messy. Crawling around in the muck is dirty, and full of germs. They're kids, Nico reminds him, and dirt washes off. The kids had fun.
James knows. He was watching on the monitor. Nico is surprised by that, he'd forgotten all about the monitor system James showed him his first day on the job. It makes him a little uncomfortable that James doesn't trust him enough to leave him truly alone with the kids. On the other hand, he's still new. And they're James's kids. Nico would probably be even more paranoid than James if he had to trust a stranger with his kids. He remembers walking his kid sister to her first day of kindergarten and staring suspiciously at the teacher and the other kids. Yeah, he'd be worse than James.
Nico tells James that if it makes him uncomfortable, they won't play in the pond anymore. They're James's children and James has the right to set the rules and boundaries. James is quiet, then shakes his head. The kids had fun. Just be careful.
Of course, Nico tells him. Always.
The Story So Far: I realized, as I was writing the First Fight, that I have to talk to Anah about the crisis in the story. Because I have an Idea. This kind of thing is what's making me realize how valuable this new system is for our process. So excited!