Although the contract clearly states I wouldn’t be supervising children, cooking, or cleaning on holidays, I would still be accompanying the Frosts on all their vacations.
Since I’ve only been working for them for a few months, this is the first time this stipulation has come up.
“You can go on your cute little nanny retreat, but is it worth losing your job?” Gwen says with a sickeningly sweet tone.
It should be no surprise to me that I’ve been fooled by these people. The Frosts co-own one of the most lucrative financial investment companies in the country. They spend their days convincing the uber-rich to trust them with their money. I’ve heard them on the phone with clients; I don’t know much about high finance, but I do know their promises often sound too good to be true.
I should have taken that as a warning.
The pay, along with room and board, was too good to pass up, though.
“I can’t believe this,” I breathe, dejected and sad.
Brad chuckles and says with a patronizing tone, “The ski lodge is unlike anything you’ll ever get to experience on your own. No offense,” he says. “You won’t be sorry, Ivy. Besides, why would you want to go to the soggy Northwest when you can ski?”
Gwen gives him a stern look over his familiar tone with me, and Brad clears his throat. “I mean, Ms. Snow.”
Ever since a friend of theirs left his wife for their au pair last month, Gwen has been extra weird and bristles at any interaction between Brad and me. She has nothing to worry about, though, as Brad is terrified of her. Not only that, Brad is not my type. Married, fake tan, too-perfect teeth, a weird, fake-sounding laugh—shall I go on?
“If you don’t need my services on your holiday, then I might as well take a real break,” I try.
No dice. “But you’re so good in a pinch. We can’t manage a thing without you,” Gwen says, then laughs, “It’s your own fault for making yourself indispensable. Besides, it’s not like you have a family to go home to.”
I was so looking forward to getting away from these people. I was so looking forward to meeting my online friends in person. I don’t have a home to go to, as my parents are both dead and I don’t have any siblings. My childhood friends are scattered all over the country and all have families of their own.
I have a choice. I could quit my job here and now and join my friends on vacation. Or I could keep my job, pay off my debts, and be assured of a positive recommendation when I move on from here.
I sigh, pay the Lyft driver for her time, and retrieve my pretty pink suitcase, filled with sweaters and books and knitting and all the things I don’t have the time or inclination to enjoy here in sweaty southern Florida.
Which means instead of heading out early for a long weekend with my fellow au pair friends, I’m going to be at the beck and call of the Frosts as they spend three days skiing and meditating and whatever it is they do with their spiritual guru and their fellow disciples.
I head back downstairs to my room and refuse to cry as I unpack my things.
Later, as Gwen and Brad prepare to leave for their Christmas Eve party with their clients, Gwen gives me the rundown of everything that needs to happen tonight. I can barely hide my stink face as I stare at her in her floor-length gown which reminds me of the White Witch fromThe Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.
“Make sure you do the fake footprints on the hearth, so the girls know that Santa came. And use the corn starch, not flour. It photographs better.”
I try to smile blandly and pretend to give a shit.
“And please set out something unique for the reindeer. Carrots are so cliché, and everyone’s doing it. And don’t forget to move the elf one more time.”
That dang elf. Sure, I’ll move him. Right into the trash compactor.
“Babe, we gotta go. The driver is waiting.” Mr. Frost is anxiously checking and rechecking his phone.
“The girls are in the media room playing with their new video games if you want to say good night,” I say to the Frosts. “It is Christmas Eve, after all.”
That last part was a step too far, and Gwen bristles at the implication that she’s forgotten what day it is.
“That’s very thoughtful of you, but we said our good nights. We’ll see you first thing in the morning. Please have the girls packed and ready to head to the airport by 8 a.m.,” Gwen says icily.
I’ve never seen these people kiss their daughters goodnight even once in the six months I’ve worked here.
Her mouth curves up in a knowing smile, both of us aware of who made Christmas happen. Who shopped for and wrapped all the gifts? I did. Who baked Christmas cookies for Gwen’s Instagram while herding the twelve-year-old twin girls who were so over it they started a food fight with the flour? I did. Who addressed and mailed the Frost family Christmas cards? That would be me. Who shopped for and delivered teacher gifts? Again, me. Who decorated the tree? Well, not me. That would be a professional decorator, the one who barked orders at me all dang day while the girls were in school.