Sitting in the back of the taxi that was speedily heading for the Miskin house, Lily Harewood re-read the newspaper advertisement that had led her to her current situation.
SITUATION VACANT: NANNY
Local family of noble heritage seeks nanny to care for two young children - one boy, one girl - to help support working single father and elderly grandparents. Must be open-minded. Live-in option available if preferred. Competitive rates of pay.
All enquiries to M. Miskin, Willow Creek.
As the cab pulled up towards the house, Lily looked out of the window, and noticed the beautiful flower-filled garden that was now before her. Paying and thanking the driver, she stepped out onto the lawn, and approached one of the many bushes, examining its blooms tenderly and carefully.
"Can I help you?"
Startled, Lily looked up. A man in blue clothing, with long reddish hair, was standing over her with a confused look on his face.
"Oh, I do beg your pardon!" she said. "My name is Lily Harewood. I've come about the nanny job. Forgive me, but I couldn't help but admire your beautiful snapdragons. They're wonderful."
"Thank you," Mordecai said. "I'm quite proud of them."
"Oh, you grew them yourself?"
"Indeed. I'm a gardener... among other things. That's why I need some help with the kids. I'm Mordecai Miskin - nice to meet you."
"And when can you start?" he thought to himself.
Lily shook his hand.
"Pleasure's all mine. It's nice to meet someone else who's green-fingered! I just adore plant life. I'm sure we'll get along just fine."
Mordecai allowed himself a small smile.
"I'm sure we will. Won't you come inside?"
As Mordecai led Lily into the lounge, she spotted a picture of a blonde-haired little girl in a frame on the wall.
"Is that your daughter?"
Mordecai looked over.
"Hmm? Oh, no... that's my niece. My brother's little girl - Tamara. He and his husband adopted her a few months ago."
"Oh, how wonderful!"
"Would you like a cup of coffee?" Mordecai asked.
"I'd love one, thank you." Lily replied.
As Mordecai headed into the kitchen, Lily continued to look around the room. After a few moments, Montague came in from the corridor.
"Oh, hello," he said warmly. "Are you here about the job?"
"Yes," came the reply. "I'm Lily Harewood."
She offered him her hand, which he took and shook with gusto.
"Montague Miskin. Pleased to meet you."
Lily's eyes lit up.
"Montague Miskin? The comedian?"
It was Monty's turn to be surprised.
"You've heard of me?"
"My father's a huge fan," Lily told him. "We listen to all your show recordings in the car. I love your bit about that time with the fireworks... always has me in stitches!"
"That's... that's good to know. Thank you," Montague replied, genuinely touched.
"Now I know things will be fine," she said, relieved. "I love your work, and Mordecai loves nature, just like me. It's great to know I'll fit in!"
"So... you like Mordecai?" Montague asked - allowing the calculating clockwork of paternal meddling to whir up in his brain.
"From what I've seen of him so far..." Lily replied, "... yes, certainly."
Montague desperately stifled a giggle, disguising the noise with a heavy cough.
"Are you all right, Mr. Miskin?" Lily asked him, concerned.
"Montague, please," he replied. "And yes, dear - I'm fine. Just my age."
As Montague mimed banging his chest to clear non-existent congestion, Mordecai re-entered, carrying two cups of coffee.
"Here we are," he said, handing one to Lily, before noticing Montague. "Oh, hi Dad - I thought you were still in your study. Do you want a cup too?"
"No thank you, son - I'll get one later," Montague answered. "Right now, I think we should introduce Ms. Harewood to your mother and little ones."
"Lily. Please," the young woman chirped up - mirroring the older man's earlier sentiments.
Mordecai smiled, and gestured towards the nearby stairwell. Lily walked forward and began to ascend, with Mordecai closely following. Montague, meanwhile, lingered a few steps behind... and once his son and potential employee were out of sight, laughed and punched the air.
In the upstairs nursery, Rebekah sat on the floor with Milo and Miranda, helping them play with their building blocks. As Lily entered, followed by the two Miskin men, Rebekah smiled in greeting, and slowly rose to her feet.
"Good morning to you, my dear," she said brightly. "I see you've already met my husband and son. I'm Rebekah Miskin - thank you very much for coming."
"My pleasure," Lily replied.
"We should hire her, Mum," Mordecai piped up.
"I'm with the boy," Montague added hastily. "She's perfect."
Lily giggled. Rebekah sighed and shook her head.
"I'm assuming she's told you all about her qualifications and experience?" she asked her two dear relations.
The gentlemens' awkward silence was more telling than words would have been. Luckily, Lily swiftly stepped in. She handed Rebekah a portfolio full of various certificates and awards, and spoke for some time about her experience with children... from babysitting younger siblings and neighbours' kids in her teens to her job in a daycare centre. Clearly, she was more than qualified.
"Well, you've certainly won me over," Rebekah told her. "However, there's two very important people you still need to convince."
And so, Lily was taken to meet Milo and Miranda. Upon seeing them, she gave them her biggest smile, and spoke in her sweetest voice. Despite some initial hesitation, the two toddlers soon took to her, and after a while, they even seemed reluctant to let her go.
"They're so adorable!" Lily said to Mordecai. "But, might I ask... what happened to their mother?"
Mordecai and Montague exchanged glances. Clearly, some quick thinking was needed. Thankfully, years of working in the comedy business had helped Montague develop that very skill.
"She... left," he told Lily. "Went somewhere far, far away. Vanished into thin air, you might say."
"Oh, how terrible!" Lily gasped. "The poor little mites. Well, if I get the position, I promise you - I'll do my best to care for them and keep them happy."
"I don't think it's a question of "if", Miss Harewood."
A few hours later, Lily started moving her things into Matthias' old room.