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Interlude 2

Alan Jones knew there was a problem when he walked through the door and was greeted by silence.  Hannah always flew to the door and began complaining the moment he opened it.  Tonight, the house was quiet.  Perhaps she took the baby out?  The thought vaguely worried him.  Oh well.  He could at least enjoy the peace and quiet for a few moments.  Although he had studied hard for the exam, he had that uncomfortable feeling that he had not responded correctly to a single question.  He loved his wife.  He adored his daughter.  Nevertheless, he wished Hannah had not been in such a hurry.  He was walking through life on automatic pilot, feeling as though he was not accomplishing anything very well.  What was the expression?  Spread too thin.  He was spread too thin.  It didn’t help that Hannah had turned out to be so high strung about everything.  Lately, he didn’t much want to talk to her at all, since all she could do was complain, about him not being home, about the baby being abnormal, about the fact that the nanny frightened her, about not being able to party they way they used to.  He sometimes thought that Ellen was more grown up than Hannah.  At least she was quiet most of the time.

He wandered into the kitchen, wondering if there were any beers left in the refrigerator.  He didn’t often drink, but tonight, in the quiet, he felt like celebrating.  He heard quiet noises coming from the baby’s room.  Immediately he became infuriated.  If she had DARED to leave the baby in the apartment unattended, he thought he might get violent.  He was not a violent man, but he loved that sweet-smelling bundle more than he could have thought possible, and the fact that his wife clearly did not share his enthusiasm left him profoundly confused and unhappy.

Quietly, he walked down the hall.  For a brief moment, he allowed himself the hope that he would find both of them in the room, and that Hannah might have finally given over to the boundless love of parenthood.  He imagined her cradling the baby and reading quietly to her.  When he looked through the door and saw Nanny in the rocker rather than Hannah, he was both disappointed and relieved at the same time.  At least Hannah had made arrangements for the baby.  He wondered how they were going to pay Nanny for the extra hours.  Nanny finished reading the page, and looked up at him.  He knew by the expression on her face that the news wasn’t good.

“She gone, Mr. Alan.”  

“What do you mean gone?”

“Gone.  Packed her bags and told me to stay and mind Ellen until you get home.  Said she was gonna go to her Momma because her Momma was sick.”

Alan placed his head in his hands.  The timing of this couldn’t be worse.  He had a major paper due next week.  “Did she say when she’d be back?”

“You don’t understand, Mr. Alan.  I spoke to her Momma this morning.  Her Momma isn’t sick.  I don’t think she coming back at all.”

Alan looked horribly confused.  He had known that Hannah was frustrated, but in his wildest dreams, he never imagined she’d leave.  He ran down the hall to the kitchen and picked up the phone.

“Hello, Mrs. Levine?  It’s Alan.  Has Hannah come home?  Nanny Moses told me that she packed a bag and left suddenly this morning because you were ill.”  

He started scrounging through the kitchen drawers for a cigarette.  He had quit in an effort to economize, but Hannah left the damned things all over the place.  He found a pack on top of the refrigerator and listened grimly to the voice on the end of the line while he lit it.  

“Well have you heard from her, at least?  She didn’t leave a note, she didn’t leave a message at the university, she just left.  I need to know if she’s coming back.  I need to make arrangements for the baby.”

He listened some more.  A frightened look came over his face.  “No, no, no, Mrs. Levine.  You don’t need to do that, you don’t need to come down here to help.  I think you can best help by waiting for Hannah to show up and talking to her this.  I need her to TALK to me about this.”

He looked at the cigarette with distaste and violently crushed it out in the ashtray.  “Yes, Mrs. Levine, I’m sure that Nanny will stay, and I can call my mom if we need extra help.”  

“Uh-huh.  That would be great if you could keep paying her salary while Hannah and I try to work this out.  Okay, I need to go check on Ellen now.  Please call the minute  you hear anything.”

He hung up the phone.  Curiously, he couldn’t define exactly what he was feeling at the moment.  Part of him was devastated that his wife had apparently left him.  The other part was strangely elated to be free of her negative presence in the apartment.  

He went back to Ellen’s room.  Nanny had just changed her, and she looked well-fed and sleepy.  He saw the bottle as Nanny was trying to hide it. “Don’t worry about it, Nanny.  I think that doctor is full of horse manure.  She can have bottles, as far as I’m concerned.”  Nanny smiled.  Alan picked up the soft bundle and sat with her on the rocker.  “It’s just you and me kid.  At least for a little while.  You think we can handle it?”  The baby turned her deep green eyes toward her father’s voice.  She almost looked like she was examining his face.  He looked into those eyes, and suddenly thought that they were going to be okay.  Gently, he rocked her.  Nanny slipped out of the room.  

Twenty minutes later, Ellen was sleeping peacefully in her crib, and Alan wandered out into the kitchen.  He reached for the pack of cigarettes on the counter.  Nanny chided him gently, “Now, Mr. Alan, you don’t really be wanting those, do you?  How’s about I fix you some supper?”  Alan put the pack down.  Then he leaned over the counter with his head upon his arms and began to weep.  Nanny gently put her hand on his shoulder.  “S’long as you need me, I’m here.  You need me extra hours, I’m here.  You want me to move in, I will.  Until you get this worked out, I be here with you and Ellen.”

This kindness seemed to make Alan sob harder.  

Eventually, he raised his head.  “I can’t afford to pay you, Ms. Moses.”  

Nanny chuckled.  “Don’t you worry about that.  The Levine’s shore will be happy to continue to pay me.  They’se gonna be so embarrassed by her leavin’ that they will pay.  Otherwise, you just tell ‘em that they don’t need to see Ellen.”

She took a plate of food out of the oven for him and set it at the table.  Then she grabbed her carpetbag purse, and headed for the door.

“See you in the morning, Mr. Alan.”


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