I do not own these characters and make no profit from their use.
A "Foul" Episode
This story is a continuation of the first season episode "A Fowl Episode." Dr. Miles Taylor was extremely impressed by Nanny's handling of the Sebastian affair. In fact he was so impressed that he wanted to get to know her better. But how do she and Professor Everett feel about that?
Nanny stood outside in the backyard, which lately some of the neighbors had come to think of as a barnyard, contemplating the recent drama with Sebastian, Prudence's former pet rooster. Today they had driven out into the country to drop him off at a local farm where, to quote the Professor, he would have a "lot of lady chickens from which he could choose for a wife." Prudence had been rather stoic throughout the transaction, but when they got home she spent most of the afternoon in her room. She wouldn't even come down for dinner.
In the end, she had gone upstairs and prevailed upon the child to eat a little something, but she remained in her room, Nanny suspected, alternating between crying, sulking, and brooding. She had understood all of the reasons why Sebastian was better off in the country, not the least of which being that the rooster had kept them up at all hours of the night.
She herself had spent one entire night keeping the bird company. The following night, Professor ended up driving all over town with a sympathetic policeman looking for the rooster who had escaped the cage while he was trying to silence him. He hadn't found Sebastian, but the milkman had, on top of his truck.
It became apparent, after Francine came over with the news that her mother might sell the house and move away that something needed to be done. As a last ditch effort Hal tried to "condition" the rooster by rigging his cage so that loud music would play if he crowed. But he didn't factor in the anxiety of the bird, which picked at the wires and shocked himself.
An emergency trip to vet saved his life, but then she realized something. All along, she had sensed that he was dissatisfied with something, but couldn't quite put her finger on it. After a long discussion with him, she finally figured out what the problem was. The rooster was crowing because he wanted a mate, something that the Everetts could not provide for him.
On this Saturday morning when everything finally came to a head, the Professor had a golf date with two other professors from his department, Dr. Miles Taylor and Dr. Fred Parkman. He was planning to try to bring the two men to a truce while playing a round of golf. They argued about everything, including, eventually, the problem with Sebastian and how to resolve it.
Professor Taylor believed that Sebastian had an underlying psychological issue while Professor Parkman thought that this was "nonsense." When she came in with her assessment of the situation, he felt vindicated. Unknown to her, Dr. Taylor had called her "marvelous" for understanding and resolving the issue. It would soon become obvious that he had also found her "marvelous" in other ways as well.
Despite the trials of the past few days, she still missed the poor, lovelorn creature. But there had been nothing for it other than to send him away. As she was ruminating, she heard a voice behind her.
"Missing Sebastian already?" asked the Professor.
"As I said, just like children, they grow up before your eyes and you don't even realize it," she answered. "It's just as easy to forget that roosters are not your average house pet."
"No they are not," he replied emphatically. "Sometimes I can't decide if I'm living in a barnyard or a zoo."
She smiled. Even before she had arrived with her love of animals, he had been very indulgent whenever one of the children had asked for a pet. Whenever a new one joined the menagerie, he always swore that this would be the "last one." Then he would see the eyes of the desired, cute, little animal, not to mention the puppy dog eyes of the child, and he couldn't say no. But of course most cute little animals grow into larger, less than cute, adult animals.
"I grew up among animals and I suppose that I have always missed them when I worked at a job in a home with no pets," she commented.
"And just where was it that you grew up among animals?" he asked curiously.
She smiled her inscrutable smile, but of course would not answer him. He was always looking for a different avenue to try and get her to reveal something of her origins, but she was much too practiced in the art of evasion. He knew that, but it had almost become a game between them. He would ask the question. Then with a little bit of flirtation, she would look at him innocently and avoid it smoothly. He would look back at her in mock frustration.
"Oh, here and there," she said lightly.
"Amidst that army of relatives whom you are continuously quoting or telling anecdotes about," he said.
She gave him her low laugh and said, "You might say that."
He smiled and shook his head knowingly. As she was surveying the remaining animals in the yard, she could feel his hand on her back. It was an unconscious move on his part, one he frequently made as they were entering the house or going up or down the steps. She was never quite sure of what make of it.
Right now there seemed to be no reason for it as they were just standing side by side. Over the past few months that she had been with the family, they had fallen into a very companionable relationship. But there were times when she felt that she was losing control of the situation.
She had come into his home in order to get his rather obstreperous children under control, put the house back in order, and establish a daily routine. She was doing her best to create a home where a woman interested in helping him to raise the children might comfortably enter. On this issue, he seemed to thwart her at every turn. The women that he dated were lovely, but clearly not interested in the "baggage" that came along with him.
She had recently pinned her hopes on his old college girlfriend Marrijane Finley when she had stopped in for a visit, but the old spark just wasn't there. They had a pleasant afternoon and evening reminiscing, but nothing more. It was only later that she discovered that Miss Finley was a single, career woman who was not interested in trading her present lifestyle for home and family.
It was a pity because the children had liked her very much. She had a great sense of humor and was, to quote the Professor, still very fun-loving. However, she presently had a dilemma of her own to deal with. She knew that it was getting to be time for her to move on, but she couldn't leave things as they were. The family was still in need of someone to fill the needs that a mother would.
If she was feeling a twinge of discomfort at the proximity of the Professor, he clearly was not. To test him, she took a step back and once again. Unconsciously, he slipped his arm around her waist. She knew that this should make her feel uncomfortable, but for whatever reason, it didn't. In fact, before she had even realized it, she had rested her head on his shoulder. She could hear him sigh as he pulled her a little closer. Suddenly a voice came down from one of the upstairs windows.
"Nanny! Dad!" called Butch. "We're ready for bed."
Whatever each of them had been thinking, they sprang apart a little too quickly, as if they were caught doing something wrong. She found her voice first.
"Goodnight, Professor," she said. "I believe that we can all finally count on an uninterrupted night's sleep from now on."
"Goodnight, Nanny," he said after clearing his throat. He stopped and gave one last look back at her before he went back into the house.
She felt bad for him. They had always maintained strict professional boundaries between themselves. They had not really crossed the line tonight, but may have come close. The interruption had clearly saved them from finding out. She took one last breath of the night air and returned to the house to say her own goodnights to the children. She knew that her night would probably be as restless as his.
The next morning everything was back to normal. Breakfast was its usual semi-chaotic mix of cheerful chatter about plans for the day and children changing their minds about what they wanted to eat. It was Sunday, so the Professor was going out for another round of his weekend golf. The children all had places to go and friends to visit. She was pleased that she was going to get some time to herself. After they had left, she was trying to decide whether she would use it gardening or sewing when the phone rang.
"Hello, is Miss Figalilly there?" asked a male voice on the other end.
"This is Miss Figalilly," she replied, wondering if there might be a problem with one of the children. Her "radar" had failed for once.
"This is Professor Taylor," responded the voice. "Miles Taylor, I was at the house yesterday waiting for Professor Everett while you solved the rooster problem."
"Of course, Professor Taylor," she said smoothly. "I remember you."
Now that she knew who it was, she was aware of what the phone call was about. She was hoping that she could graciously avoid his advances. She knew that the Professor had enough problems on his hands with Professor Taylor. She didn't want to inadvertently add to them.
"Well," replied Professor Taylor. "I wanted to let you know that I was very impressed by your handling of the rooster affair. You seem to be a very perceptive and intelligent woman."
"Thank you, Professor Taylor," she said uncertainly. "Part of my job as Nanny is to help deal with these little family crises when they occur."
"I could see that you do that very well," he said. "But please, call me Miles. All my friends do."
"I appreciate the compliment, Professor Taylor," she replied meaningfully. "You may call me, Nanny. Everyone does, you know."
But if she thought that this would put him off, she was wrong.
"Really?" he asked. "Even those people to whom you are not Nanny."
"Everyone," she answered firmly.
She sensed amusement on the other end of the line. Professor Taylor knew very well that she had no interest in him other than as one of Professor Everett's respected colleagues. At least she hoped that he knew that anyway. Her sense of the matter was that he was not going to give up his pursuit easily.
She was now in a tricky spot. She did not want to cause problems for the Professor with his colleague. On the other hand she had absolutely no intention of encouraging him in his uninvited interest. She didn't know why, but she expected that that such encouragement would displease the Professor in some way.
"Well, um, Nanny," he said, just putting a little bit too much emphasis on the word Nanny. "Are you busy this afternoon? I mean, do you have any duties with respect to your charges."
She thought for a moment. If she lied, it could create all sorts of issues for the Professor if Professor Taylor mentioned it. As it was, it could already end up being an awkward situation.
"I am going to be working out in the garden today," she said, neatly skirting the topic of the other family members. "I have a good deal of weeding and mulching to catch up on."
Once again, Professor Taylor noticed the omission.
"Does that mean that you'll be home alone?" he asked.
She was starting to get annoyed. Although she also realized that she had become accustomed to the Professor's inattention to such details. Professor Taylor was obviously quicker on the pick up than she had given him credit for. She formulated her next response carefully.
"Well," she said slowly. "I do prefer to do the yard work when no one else is around. I enjoy my solitude and I also get very messy."
"Even 'messy,'" he replied. "I'm sure that you look lovely. But I would not want to disturb your solitude."
"Thank you very much," she said in relief. "In my line of work, I get very little time to myself."
"Oh, but you must get days, or at least evenings, off?" he asked.
"Of course, I do," she said without thinking.
"Ah," he replied a little too quickly. "Then perhaps I can prevail upon you to join me for dinner on your next evening off . . . Nanny. Now when would that be?"
She was silent. She usually didn't slip up like that. Yes, he was most certainly much sharper than the Professor. However, once again her training as a domestic kicked in. It was not her place to a colleague of her employer, even if it was on a night off. How could she let him know that the inequality of their positions made such a thing unthinkable?
"I sense that you are reluctant," he commented during the intervening silence. "Perhaps if you would allow me to call you, Miss Figalilly, rather than 'Nanny,' it might make your decision easier."
And I would like to keep things the way that they are, she thought.
"I think that it would be better for all concerned if you continued to call me Nanny," she finally replied. "And I must decline your dinner invitation."
"Of course," she said out of politeness, and then realized it was a mistake. That was her second slip up in one conversation. That was most unusual for her. Professor Taylor was getting under her skin more than she had realized.
This time, the silence was on his end of the line.
"Thank you . . . Nanny," he said. "I will look forward to seeing you the next time I am at Everett's house."
And I will make sure that I am not in the house, she thought.
"Have a good afternoon, Professor Taylor," she said, definitively ending the conversation.
"Yes, have a good afternoon . . . Nanny."
Whew, I'm glad that I was able to talk my way out if that one! However, she was still unsettled by the pause that preceded it every time he called her Nanny. He gave her the impression that he didn't think of her that way at all. And that bothered her, a lot.
The Fall Out
The next day, when the Professor came in from the university, he stopped by the kitchen.
"Nanny, may I please see you in the study for a minute?" he asked.
"Of course," she replied. Because she was distracted by the daily challenge of trying to pick up the children and prepare dinner at the same time, she didn't notice that he was looking more distracted than usual.
When they got to the study, he gestured for her to sit down and looked at her quizzically. Now that she was able to focus on him, she realized that he was uncomfortable about something. Oh, dear, she thought. Professor Taylor has been talking to him about me. After a minute, he began to speak.
"Nanny," he asked. "Did you receive a phone call yesterday from Professor Taylor?"
"Yes, Professor," she replied.
"And did he invite you on a dinner date?"
She felt herself shifting nervously.
"Yes, Professor," she said now feeling uncomfortable.
He stared off into space for a moment.
"But I declined," she added. "I don't feel that it is appropriate for me to go on a date with one of your colleagues."
He gave her a glimmer of a smile.
"Well, Professor Taylor apparently disagreed with you," he said. "In fact he asked my permission, as your employer, chaperone in this country as he said, to take you out on a date."
She inadvertently rolled her eyes. What was the man thinking, that the Professor was her father or something?
"I am not sure of why he spoke with you," she replied with annoyance. "I am perfectly capable of managing my own social life without any help from you."
He relaxed a bit.
"That is essentially what I told him," he said. "I told him that your private life was just that, your private life. I also told him that it was up to you to decide who you would socialize with, and that it was none of my business."
"Thank you for respecting my privacy," she replied.
"There is one thing that I want to warn you about however," he said. "Professor Taylor does not give up easily when he gets an idea in his head. He can be very stubborn. If he starts to bother you too much or makes you feel uncomfortable, please let me know immediately."
"But Professor," she objected. "I wouldn't want to cause any problems between you and your colleague. I believe that I am perfectly capable of managing the Dr. Taylor on my own."
"I knew that you would say that," he replied with a smile. "But please understand that I am here if you need any help."
She smiled in return. His gallantry did make her feel safe. She knew that no harm would come from one date with Professor Taylor, other than the fact that he might want more than one date. Her present situation was complicated enough by the fact that the Professor was refusing to develop a meaningful relationship with one woman and settle down with her. She herself didn't need to be dating, especially one of his colleagues. And colleague or not, she had no interest in him anyway.
"Thank you, Professor," she said. "I will let you know if I need your help."
She stood up to leave, but before she could open the door, he gently laid a hand on her arm.
"I want you to always feel safe," he said quietly. "The children and I really need you. I would never want you to feel that you had to leave because you did not feel at ease in my home."
She nodded. She didn't quite trust her voice to speak. She really wasn't sure of why. The Professor was simply being kind and a true gentleman. She was glad when she was able to escape to the kitchen and go back to her previous problem of getting all the children home and dinner on the table at the same time.
The Professor followed her in.
"Can I help you with anything?" he asked in his normal tone of voice. "You are looking a bit frazzled this afternoon. But I am guessing that it has nothing to do with Taylor."
"Why thank you, Professor!" she replied. "It really does have nothing to do with him. If you could pick up the children from their activities it would be a great help. If I don't get dinner on the table as soon as they get in then it will complicate homework and bath times."
"Anything for a lady!" he said cheerfully. "But, um, where are they all?"
She smiled in amusement. As usual he had forgotten.
"Look on the chalkboard at Monday," she answered.
"Oh, yes, of course," he said.
After checking the board, he sighed and went out to his car. As soon as she heard the car pull away, she herself sighed in relief. It was good that she would have a few minutes to collect herself. She found it unbelievable that Professor Taylor had had the nerve to speak with Professor Everett about her, as if he was her father or something.
Why Professor Taylor was probably about the same age as he was.
She was beginning to suspect that the man's continued interest in her was now due to the fact that she had become "unattainable," so to speak. On the other hand, she felt rather comforted by the Professor's concern. Despite her insistence that she could manage her own social life, she was rather warmed by his desire to take care of her. Yes, indeed, she certainly had a lot to think on before the family returned.
Later, after the children were in bed, she brought the Professor his coffee. They had their usual evening chat about the children and the day's happenings.
"Do you think that Butch's problems in math mean that I need to help him?" he asked.
"That is the last thing that they need," she replied. "He is much more likely to listen to someone other than you. Parents who are experts in an area tend to make poor tutors for their own children."
"Hmm," he said. "You're probably right. Do you think that Hal could help him?"
Now she shook her head. "That might be even worse. They would probably start arguing. Perhaps his teacher would be willing to help. Why don't you give her a call?"
"That's probably the best solution," he answered. "Now I spoke with Prudence's dance teacher when I picked her up and she mentioned that she is very restless and inattentive in class."
"I will talk to her," she replied. "Perhaps Prudence needs to go back to creative movement. She might not be ready for the structure of ballet class yet."
"She won't like that," he commented.
"Ah, but the threat might be an incentive for her to improve her behavior."
He smiled at her. "You know, Dr. Taylor was right about one thing."
"And what was that?" she asked stiffly.
"You are very perceptive not only about animals, but about people as well," he replied.
Nanny felt a bit uncomfortable. But the Professor read her facial expression better than usual.
"I'm sorry," he said kindly. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. Sometimes I speak without thinking, as you well know. Perhaps I should put it another way. I very much value your ability to understand my children and help them. As you well know, that is not a strength of mine."
She relaxed. Of course she had known that. But this business with Professor Taylor had really set her on edge. She realized that she was confusing his motives with the Professor's. The Professor might stumble over his thoughts sometimes, but he always meant well. And he genuinely wanted her to be content and comfortable in his home.
"I am just doing my best, Professor," she said. "To take care of everyone and keep them happy."
"Don't forget to take care of yourself," he said. "If you do forget, then I'll be sure to remind you."
"Thank you, Professor," she replied. "I am lucky to be working for such a wonderful family."
Before he could answer, she left. The conversation was getting a little too close to the danger zone that they had nearly fallen into a couple of nights ago. But it was not only him, what troubled her most was that it was she who was moving more closely to that danger zone.
Not one to take "no" for an answer, she received another call from Professor Taylor the next day. He was very respectful.
"I want to assure that it is one dinner date only," he said. "If you never wish to see me again, other than with Professor Everett present, then I will respect that. In fact, if you insist, I will even call you Nanny."
Nanny considered his request. Her sense was that he was being truthful when he said that it was for one date only. And if it would mean that he would stop pestering her and let her get on with her life, she decided to accept his offer.
"All right, Dr. Taylor," she agree. "But it is for one dinner date only. My regular night off is Thursday. Where may I meet you?"
Now it was his turn to be silent.
"I take it that you do not want me to pick you up at the house," he said slowly.
"Something like that," she replied. "I prefer to have my own transportation, thank you."
"You drive a hard bargain," he said. "Insisting upon driving yourself in order to have your own transportation implies that you don't trust me."
Not as far as I can throw you, she thought. But instead of telling him that, she neatly avoided the issue.
"I am an independent woman," she said. "I would like to manage my own transportation, if you please."
"How about this," he suggested. "If for any reason you do not feel comfortable driving home with me, then I will pay for a taxi."
This man thinks of everything, she thought to herself. His quickness to defeat each of her arguments, she admitted, now had her curious. Even if she didn't much care for the man, they could end up having a few interesting conversations at the very least. And she supposed that it did sound rather rude to accept his offer for dinner without allowing him to drive her.
"Okay," she replied reluctantly. "I will permit you to pick me up at the house."
"Well, thank you," he said with a touch of irony in his voice. "Is seven good for you?"
"Yes, I will have finished my evening chores by then," she said, reminding him of her place in the household.
"I will see you then," he said.
"See you then," she replied and hung up the phone.
But no sooner had she hung up than she realized that she should have told him that she would tell the Professor about her decision. Who knew how he would put it to him?"
She found out a few hours later when the Professor arrived home. This time he didn't even take the time to ask her to step into the study. None of the children were at home, so he addressed his concern as she worked in the kitchen.
"Nanny, are you sure about this?" he asked without preamble. "Taylor didn't put any undue pressure on you?"
"No he did not," she answered with a trace of annoyance in her voice. "I am a grown woman and perfectly capable of taking care of myself."
"I'm sorry," he said. "I didn't mean to imply that . . ."
But she cut him off.
"Professor, I know that you are simply concerned about my wellbeing," she said. "I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. I am sorry."
He looked at her. She knew that he was surprised, but she could not ascertain if it was because he was worried about her change of heart regarding the dinner date or because she snapped at him. But he was also looking at her in a new way. She had the impression that he was not viewing her as Nanny, or even Miss Figalilly. She wondered if perhaps he might be a little jealous. This was not a turn of events that she liked.
"No, Nanny, it is I who should apologize," he said. "I promised that I would stay out of your private life. I did not mean to step over our boundaries."
His face was full of kindness, concern, and an emotion that she couldn't quite read. Without thinking, she took a step towards him. However, whatever might have happened after that, neither of them would ever know. Hal and Butch came running into the kitchen looking for snacks.
She went back to her afternoon chores and he to his paperwork in his study. Later that night when she brought him his coffee she hung back for an extra minute.
"Yes, Nanny?" he said looking up.
"I just wanted to say that I am sorry for . . ."
But he interrupted her before she could finish.
"I believe that I told you that it was I who overstepped my bounds as your employer," he said crisply. "Think no more about it."
His tone bothered her more than it should have. Not knowing what else to do, she left the study and closed the door firmly behind her. She went to finish up her evening chores so that she could go up to bed and think about things.
When Professor Taylor came to pick her up on Thursday, she met him at the door wearing her dark blue skirt and blouse. She did not own any fancy eveningwear. She had no need for it and traveling as often as she did, she needed to travel light. And she certainly did not plan on buying anything new for the occasion.
Professor Taylor was a bit more dressed up in neat slacks and a dinner jacket and tie. He respectfully greeted Professor Everett and did not try to tease him by behaving as if he was her father. The Professor's response was cool but polite. Both men appeared to be on their "best behavior."
Nonetheless, she was glad to get out of the house and into the car. He told her that they were going to the Town House, a restaurant that she, ironically enough, had recommended to the professor for one of his own dinner dates. She remembered that Dr. Miller had described it as "romantic."
"Now I hope that you don't expect me to call you Nanny all night," he said. "What is your first name?"
"Phoebe," she replied.
"Why that's a lovely name," he said. "Phoebe Figalilly. That's quite an alliterative name."
"You could say that," she replied.
"Well, perhaps for tonight, you could call me, Miles," he said. "If you like, when I drop you off, you can go back to saying Professor Taylor."
She agreed, mostly because it would sound odd to others if she called him Professor. Beside, that name was reserved for her Professor, Professor Everett. She wondered how things were going at home, but then realized that nothing had probably happened in the last twenty minutes since she had left the house.
He left the car with the valet to park and then insisted that she take his arm as they walked in. His manners were impeccable, including holding her chair for her and asking how she liked the table. Then the waiter came to take their drink order.
"Club soda," she said automatically.
Professor Taylor, or rather Miles, looked at her reproachfully.
"I never drink alcoholic beverages when I am working on a job," she replied.
"But you aren't working now," he said.
She still refused.
"To a certain extent, I am always working," she said. "I like to keep a clear head."
"Really," he said. "You know, Phoebe, that is one of those things that fascinates me about you. You are always so in control. At the same time, you are very sensitive to the feelings of others. I guess that both of those things are very important in your line of work."
Despite being momentarily startled to hear him use her first name, she was able to answer him easily.
"Yes, of course," she said. "And I am in as much control of my own life as I am in my family's life."
"It is interesting to hear you refer to them as 'my family,'" he commented.
"Well, they are my family," she said logically. "Until it is time for me to move onto my next family."
"Just out of curiosity," he asked. "When might that be? When will you be ready to move on to your next family, I mean?"
She pondered how to answer that question diplomatically. She certainly wasn't going to come out and say, when the Professor gets married. Perhaps she could obfuscate a little.
"As you know," she said carefully. "The family was in quite a state of disorder when I entered the picture a few months ago. Once they are more settled then I will move on."
"You will?" he sounded surprised.
"Yes," she replied. "I view it as a personal challenge to help such families settle down after big changes. When it is time for me to move on to my next family, I will know."
He looked at her questioningly. He was clearly confused by the implication of what she was saying. Perhaps he couldn't figure out what she meant by "settle."
She decided to clear that up for him.
"As you know, when Professor Everett's wife died, the family quite fell apart," she added. "It has been my task to put them back together."
"You do realize that Everett is too busy to really do everything that you do for him on his own," he said. "It seems to me that he is going to need you permanently, unless of course . . ."
His voice trailed off and Nanny suspected that he had finally put two and two together.
"Tell me something, it seems that you never refer to him as anything other than 'Professor,'" he asked. "Why is that?"
"And he never refers to me as anything other than Nanny," she said sharply.
"You realize of course that Hal never dates any woman seriously," he said. "Now that you've come, he has no reason to. You do everything that his wife used to, except, well, 'the obvious.'"
"Yes," she said primly. "Except 'the obvious.' But that doesn't mean that he won't find someone to settle down with. Especially if he wants 'the obvious.'"
"Well," he said. "Considering what a knock out you are, I'm surprised that he already hasn't tried to . . ."
Phoebe stood up. "You may call that cab now, Dr. Taylor."
"Look, Phoebe," he said. "I'm sorry, I should have thought about what I was saying."
"Yes, you should have," she said firmly.
He reached up and put a hand on her wrist. She looked down at it and he let go.
"Please," he said. "I promise to be more careful of what I say. I can see that you are a real lady and deserve to be treated as such. I am also perceptive enough to see that your employment situation is off the table for discussion. I won't mention it again."
She could see that he was sincere. She sat down and he breathed a sigh of relief. After that the discussion was more general. He was really a very engaging fellow, regaling her with stories of his graduate student years and "war stories" from his years in the classroom. She found herself opening up with anecdotes about her various previous jobs. By dessert time she was feeling comfortable with him.
He asked her if she would have an after dinner drink. She declined.
"Have you ever tried Sambuca?" he asked.
"No," she replied. "What is it?"
"It's a liqueur with a licorice flavor to it," he answered.
She thought for a minute. She knew that such liqueurs were served in small glasses. And licorice was a favorite flavor of hers.
"I would like to try a glass, please," she said.
He then placed their order with the waiter. When the drink came, it was exactly what he had promised. But she looked at the time.
"Dr. Taylor, I really do need to be getting home," she said. "I have to get up early to get the children off to school."
"I understand," he said. "Although, I regret that I have not been able to convince you to address me by my first name."
She shook her head.
"No," she replied. "I prefer it this way."
"I understand," he said quietly.
The drive home was silent. The Sambuca had affected her more than she had realized. She had not known that some of these liqueurs could be very potent, which was why they were served in small glasses. Being a "teetotaler" herself, any form of alcohol was going to have a stronger effect on her. When they arrived at the house, he insisted on walking her up to the porch. This time, she gratefully took the arm he offered.
"Goodnight," she said politely and extended her hand.
He knew what she meant, but instead grasped her hand with both of his hands and very softly kissed her on the cheek. When he pulled away, he looked directly into her eyes. Without warning, he leaned in again and kissed her lips. Startled, she pulled away. But he shook his head.
"No," he said quietly. "This is what you really want."
She froze as he leaned in again to kiss her full on the mouth as if . . . For a moment, she was disoriented as he parted her lips and put his arms around her. Before she realized it, he was attempting to engage her in a very passionate kiss. "This" was definitely not what she wanted. She pulled away again and put her hand between them.
"We will forget that this little incident ever happened," she said. "I had a lovely time, up to this point. But please do not call again."
He looked at her regretfully.
"I am sorry," he said. "You are not like most of the women out there. I am very sorry that I have violated your trust. However, I will not call you again to try and make it up to you. One thing is very clear."
"What is that?" she asked warily.
"I know why you are having so much trouble getting Hal to settle down," he said. "I enjoyed having dinner with you. Goodnight . . . Nanny."
She quickly opened the door and locked herself in. She stopped for a minute to lean against the door and closed her eyes in an attempt to re-establish her equilibrium before she went up the stairs. Because she almost never drank, the strong alcohol was making her dizzy. She was also feeling a bit "off kilter" from Dr. Taylor's attempt to engage her in a manner that made her very uncomfortable.
"Are you alright, Nanny?" asked the Professor's voice, coming through the fog of her brain.
He was standing directly in front of her, with a very concerned look on his face. Without thinking, she let herself fall into his arms. He held her gently but firmly. His strength was comforting and she felt tears welling up in her eyes. She knew that there would be no unwanted advances from him. She rested against his chest as he stroked her hair and said, "There, there," as if she was Prudence. She knew that she was safe again.
"Don't worry," he said quietly. "Everything is okay now. I was worried about you. That's why I stayed up."
She had no response to that. He asked her no questions, but instead helped her to walk upstairs to her room where he left her at the door. She felt no need to lock it after she went inside. Mustering what little sensibility she had left, she undressed for bed and settled in. She fell asleep immediately.
The next morning the Professor hung around after the children left for school. She knew that he didn't have any classes on Friday morning, but usually he went in at his regular time to get some work done. He read his newspaper and drank his coffee while she cleaned up. Finally, he looked up.
"Nanny," he said. "Why don't you get yourself a cup of coffee and sit down so that we can talk about this?"
"But, Professor," she objected. "There is nothing to talk about."
"Unless you want me to go in later and punch Taylor in the nose," he said seriously. "I think that we had better talk."
Sighing, she poured herself a cup and sat down beside him in her usual seat. When she looked up, she could see that his eyes were filled with concern.
"Before we get into this," he said. "Don't deny that Taylor upset you last night. You were clearly shaken when I found you at the door. And that is very unusual for you. Please remember that I feel that it is part of my responsibility to keep you safe."
She really didn't know what to say to that. She felt guilty and wondered if perhaps she hadn't given Professor Taylor some encouragement. At least that was what he would no doubt tell Professor Everett if he questioned him. She stared into her coffee cup.
"Professor," she replied, still not looking him in the eye. "I would like to remind you that you said that you were going to stay out of my personal life. I prefer not to discuss this . . . unfortunate incident. I can assure you that it will not happen again."
He sat back and looked at her. She could see that he wasn't sure of what to say to that. He seemed confused about whether he would keep his word regarding that, or allow his concern to overrule it. But she didn't know why. It seemed that it was an easy enough choice. Finally, he made up his mind.
"Nanny," he said. "Based on your behavior when you came in the door last night, it was obvious to me that something was wrong. As someone who cares about you, private life or not, I want to make sure that everything is okay. I want make sure that you are okay."
Now it was her turn to sit and look at him. She could see that his concern was genuine, as was his desire to protect her. She knew that she had nothing to be ashamed of. She just wished that the situation wasn't complicated by the fact that Dr. Taylor was his colleague. In fact, due to her own poor judgment, she had inadvertently walked into the very situation she had tried to avoid.
"I'm sorry Professor," she began. "But I don't want to make things difficult between you and your colleague because . . ."
"You have nothing to be sorry for," he interrupted. "I am the one who should apologize for not taking a stronger stand with Taylor in the first place."
"No, Professor," she said shaking her head. "I am a grown woman and as such take responsibility for my own choices, whether they are right or wrong."
He thought for a moment.
"I understand," he finally said. "I hope that you can forgive me for being concerned. As a member of my household, I feel very protective of you, whether the man who has tried to take liberties with you is a colleague or not."
"What makes you think that he tried to take 'liberties' with me, so to speak," she asked defensively.
"I made an assumption," he said. "I apologize, but I could think of nothing else that would have upset you so much. And don't deny it, you were upset."
"Thank you," she said. "But you really do not need to be forgiven for expressing your concern about me. It is a lovely gesture. But I would really prefer not to speak of this."
"Don't you trust me?"
"Of course I do!" she said.
"Are you embarrassed?" he asked.
Of course, she was, but mostly for being a fool. She should have known better than to drink any alcohol. She looked down, afraid that her eyes might reveal too much.
"You don't have to answer that," he said softly.
"But you know," he continued. "I will admit that in a addition to being concerned last night, I was a little jealous."
"Of what?" she asked foolishly.
"Why Miss Figalilly," he said. "You are a most lovely woman. It was a little disconcerting to find myself envious of Taylor, for taking you to dinner that is."
She thought about that for a minute. On the one hand, it was a rather bold thing for him to say. But on the other, she didn't take it is a possible problem. Perhaps he was trying to make her feel better. She decided that the mood needed to be lightened a bit.
"Why Professor," she replied. "I do believe that you are beginning to behave a little bit like our poor friend Sebastian."
"Sebastian?" he said amazed.
"Perhaps you need to look for a lady chicken of your own to settle down with," she suggested.
She knew that she was the one being bold now, but she had a point to make. The last thing that she needed was for him to feel jealous. That would certainly not help her to do her job.
He looked at her as if he was about to say something, but then seemed to think better of it. She knew what he was thinking, but was grateful that he didn't say it.
"Well, Professor," she said briskly. "I have my morning chores to take care of. And you needn't worry about punching Professor Taylor in the nose. I don't think that he will come calling for me again."
"Well that's good. It could have made things awfully difficult in the math department. I just hope that no more of my colleagues come calling for you," he said.
"Why is that?"
"Well, this is one rooster who will defend his henhouse," he said and quickly left the room.
She was quiet. Now she knew what Professor Taylor meant when he said that he understood why she was having trouble settling Professor Everett. It was very possible that he already considered himself settled. Now that he was no longer present she wondered if she herself was not becoming settled as well, perhaps even content. She smiled to herself, but then left the kitchen.
"Professor," she said. "Don't forget to bring your umbrella."
"But it's not supposed to . . ." he said, then. "I suppose that the tree frogs are up to their old tricks?"
"Indeed they are," she replied cheerfully.
He came over, took her hands and looked into her face searchingly.
"So everything is back to normal?" he asked hopefully.
"Everything is back to normal," she said.
He dropped her hands and they shared a smile. As he walked out the door, she sighed once more. She was glad that everything had returned to normal. As she returned to her daily chores, she wondered how she would have responded if the Professor had tried to kiss her like that. But she immediately put that thought out of her mind. That was highly improbable, although perhaps, not impossible.
N.B. I have taken liberties with the character of Professor Miles Taylor for the purposes of the story. There was nothing to suggest in the original story that he had any interest in Nanny other than to help him defeat Professor Parkman in their perpetual squabbling.