The Doctor's Fake NannyBy: Tiana Cole
At only four years old Sophie’s capacity for love was still infinite and it made it all that much easier to love her back. And it didn’t hurt that she was one hundred percent adorable, without having to try at all, all of the time.
Take now, for instance. She wore a long, faded Star Wars shirt that was long enough to be an evening gown on her and clutched a bright pink towel around her neck just like a cape. I loved her constant juxtaposition between the extreme girly and the epic dude movies that everyone knew and loved. She was entirely her own person, with no apologies and a curiosity that drove her question absolutely everything around her.
Looking at her now, I brushed her thoroughly messy blonde hair out of her face and gave her a little kiss on the forehead. She beamed up at me with eyes full of undying loyalty and need, smiled, then said, “Again.”
That was something else I had noticed about Sophie, something that was a little bit different than the kids I was used to from my class. It was normal for kids her age to still be physically affectionate with the people that they trusted. They were all about the hugging and the sitting in your lap during story time. It wasn’t quite the same with Sophie, though.
In the short amount of time I had spent with her I had already noticed that she craved affection on an entirely different level than the children I was used to working with. She lusted after it the way a starving man salivated over a crust of bread, like she hadn’t been loved enough in a long, long time. Did that have something to do with her mother not being in the picture? Did David not give her the attention and security she needed? Because make no mistake, affection was security for a child.
Knowing that she was loved was every bit as important to Sophie’s safety as her knowing that she would be fed or have a bed to sleep in at night. I couldn’t help but wonder if David didn’t have enough time for her or if he simply didn’t care about her all that much. Maybe she was just too low on his priority list. I could add that to the ever-growing list of things I needed to learn about Dr. Wyatt, but for now I was going to make sure Sophie knew how much I wanted her around. At least in that respect I was sure that I could do some actual good.
“It is food. It was my favorite when I was your age. I hope you like it too.”
“What kind is it?”
“Yes! Can we make shapes? Can we make the cakes in shapes?”
“We can try. Wanna help me do it?”
“Yuppers I do. I’m a real good helper. Real good.”
I laughed and grabbed a step stool so that she could stand beside me at the massive counter. The kitchen looked like it hadn’t been used in years and I felt a little bit bad about messing it up. I wasn’t entirely sure I was allowed to be cooking in here. I felt a lot less bad about it once Sophie started helping me, though. She looked so completely excited and that was worth any kind of disapproval I might get on the part of her father. Her chubby pink face was covered in flour and syrup and her pink towel lay forgotten on the floor. As she dumped syrup directly into the batter—a strategy I was unfamiliar with but more than willing to try—she let out a crow of delight and satisfaction.
“Bullseye!” she shouted, hopping from one tiny foot to the other.
“Bullseye!” I laughed, slipping one hand behind her, just in case her little victory dance caused her to lose her balance.
“We’re a team, right?”
She asked me in such an earnest way that it brought tears to my eyes. I hardly knew this little girl and she already thought of us as being a team. It made me think of Nikki with such clarity that I began to ache. She used to be my team, my partner in crime. She had actually called us that, too. She used to tell me we made a good team, right before we got into trouble for something stupid we knew we shouldn’t have done. I missed her. I missed her so, so much.
“Well, what do we have here?”
I turned quickly, feeling sheepish, as if I had just been caught doing something I shouldn’t have. David stood in the doorway watching Sophie and I doing our little cooking dance, just the faintest hint of a smile on his face.
Was he mocking me or was he pleased? It was hard for me to say, so I tried to just ignore the expression completely. It was hard to do. I had to admit, he really was a good-looking man. In some ways it made it easier to dislike him and in some ways it made it easier. I had never seen him quite like this, though, and it was slightly unnerving. He hadn’t yet tamed the unruly curls of his hair or tied his always smart tie. He looked more human this way, more like a normal man with an actual life.