Mage’s cheeks stung in the cold winter air. She quickly wrapped the platter of brownies with the blanket that they had been resting on. Even though the back door was closed, she could still hear the children giggling with Henry. “Mama left the light on in the She Shed.”
Mama had not left the light on. The sitter had, and she knew better.
Light slipped out through the seams of the door of the gray windowless shed. It had once been the exclusive home of their lawn and garden tools, but after Christmas Mage had told Henry that she was going to claim it as her own.
The idea had been met with some resistance, but Mage convinced him by saying fixing it up would require her to stay home more. After that, the hardest thing to convince him was that he didn’t need to buy a space heater for it.
Mage was careful to unlock the padlock with minimal sound, then pull one of the doors open in a loud rush to catch the Gwenhwyfach by surprise. The light from the lantern spilled out to the yard, as did a shadow cast by the person standing in front of it.
Mage entered and closed the door as fast as possible. Henry and the kids were busy doing other things, so they wouldn’t have noticed an extra shadow. She hoped.
Inside, the sitter was pacing back and forth, her arms folded over her chest and hands rubbing her arms over her coat.
The interior was unpainted, and both sides of the barn were home to an orderly array of lawn care equipment for all seasons. But that didn’t extend the length of the shed, and the back quarter of it was where the sitter lived when she was off the clock.
“Hi, Mage, did you bring me another blanket?” the sitter asked, looking at what Mage was holding.
“I did”—Mage leaned forward but then turned away—“but I don’t think I should have. You know what I’ve said about the light.”
The Gwenhwyfach followed her with a step. “Yes, I’m sorry, it just gets so dark in here close to sunset. Do you want me to turn it off?”
“No, I’ll turn it off when I leave. But don’t do it again, or I’ll take it away.”
Mage offered the blanket, but the sitter only took the pan of brownies and said, “Ohh! I’ve been craving these! How did you know?”
“Lucky guess,” Mage replied with a hint of sarcasm, then added, “Don’t worry about being alone out here in the dark. You won’t have to stay in the shed much longer. I’ve rented an apartment by work.”
“You’re being promoted to nanny.”
“This is fantastic! Things must be going great at work.”
Mage shook her head. “They are progressing. There’s still so much I need to do.”
To make an impression, Mage had helped one of the floundering sales reps land a large client that had been considered out of Dynamic Marketing Solutions’ league. While the sales rep was shopping his resume around town, Mage had the freedom to pursue the client according to her own ability. If Mage could get the contracts signed before the merger finalized, Elite Clientele would find it had additional revenue it hadn’t planned on. That assumed Mage could deliver what the client wanted before Elite Clientele started giving everyone the ax.
The customer’s timeline was aggressive, and they were light on details for what they wanted. The details they did have kept changing, while the timeline remained fixed. Mage was going to need to put in even more work.
She didn’t know what she was doing, but this wasn’t about knowing. It was about doing. Knowledge was both a luxury she could not afford and a barrier to accomplishment. If she could get it done, knowledge wouldn’t matter. Just like using dark magic to summon the Gwenhwyfach.
Mage sat down on a lawn chair and gestured for the sitter to sit on the riding lawn mower. “There are some things we need to go over, but you should know…” She took a brief moment to confirm that she wanted to share this information with the sitter. “There’s a gun in the house.”
There was no change in the sitter’s expression as she consumed the brownies.
“It’s in a safe. I bought it a long time ago to protect myself, and since then I keep it to also protect my family. In case anyone breaks in, I’m going to need you to protect them.”
“Oh, is this the same gun you purchased with Tommy?”
This caught Mage off guard.
“How do you know about that? You don’t have any memories of mine.”
The sitter stopped eating, holding a brownie an inch from her mouth. Guilt coated her voice. “Oh, one of the times I was sitting for you, I thought it would be helpful if I paged through your journals.”
Mage gritted her teeth. “You are not to go through those, they are private. They are mine.”
“I’m sorry. I knew you’d be mad, but I did it anyway.” She still held the brownie, waiting for some sign of permission that it was alright to continue eating.
“I thought it would be helpful. I want this arrangement to work.”
Mage thought about taking the blanket back with her. She used it to cover her lap, and the sitter could have it after she left. She also reconsidered the combination with the safe.
“It won’t happen again. And I understand why you want me to be the one to protect your family. Henry won’t do it.”
“No, he won’t.” As confident as Henry could be, he would be useless in a moment that required instant decisiveness.
The nanny resumed eating the brownie.
“He doesn’t understand how dangerous people can be.”
Mage removed the blanket from her lap and wrapped it around the sitter’s shoulders and took a brownie for herself.
“Yes”—Mage nodded—“people can be very dangerous.”
It is no wonder to me why Mage took all of her journals with her when she moved to the apartment. She couldn’t take much with her without Henry noticing things were missing, but she made sure to take them.
The nanny picked up another brownie. “Do you think I could write my own journals after you leave?”
“Maybe… I suppose you’ll have to. It would be suspicious if it looked like I stopped all of a sudden.”