“Do you have any experience?” I ask Davit.
His grey eyes, like dark steel, are intent on my mouth. I’m thinking aircraft carriers, the North Sea in winter, and all the Eastern Bloc baddies in 24.
He thinks for a moment. “I have small brothers, sister.”
I wait. Nothing. He looks down at his boots.
“Are you a professional nanny, um, Davit? Child carer?” I ask.
He looks up quickly, his face blank. I try again. “What job do you do?”
“You cut down trees?” That would explain the massive arms and the tan. But I’m having trouble working out the link between tree felling and baby care.
“I cut furniture,” he says.
I look at my kitchen and imagine the cupboards, table and chairs reduced to kindling in the flash of a wielded axe, possibly lurking in the bag at his feet – a bag that looks like a cross between Goliath’s golf bag and a size XXL body bag.
“Carpenter,” he says, rapping broad knuckles on my prized little butcher’s block trolley. It rocks with fright. “I make.”
I turn to Fenella. “Fenella.” I drop the “Ms Forsythe” in an attempt at authority. “I’m sure your childcare agency is the best in London, but he’s a carpenter, not a nanny. And, by the way, he can’t speak English.”
“Neither can your baby,” she retorts, reaching into her bag for a mobile phone that’s singing an aria from La Traviata. I glimpse a pack of Benson & Hedges. She ignores the bit about carpenter versus nanny, concentrating on her phone.
“This is Trevor,” she says, “your boss,” (as if I don’t know). “Time to go.” She ducks away, the phone to her ear. “Absolutely fine, Trevor. We’re on our way.”
Like hell. I’m numb all over, except for a small twisting, panicky knot in my tummy. The clock ticks on.
“I’m not going anywhere,” I say.
Fenella’s eyes narrow, stretching her face to breaking point. I fear backlash from the ponytail. She stretches out her arms, and pats the air in front of her, like the Pope.
“Everything will be all right, Beth.”
“I wouldn’t leave my child with a stranger for one minute!”
“Many people do.” She’s using a calm, slow, warning tone, like she’s talking me down from a ledge.
“Oh, but they do.” She folds her arms, furling the wings. “And they use professionals. Look at it like this. You go to a dentist you’ve probably known for years, right?”
“But, if you need specialist work he refers you to a specialist dental surgeon and you go along happily and trust your precious teeth to a complete stranger, who charges you like a wounded buffalo.”
She’s right. She has a point and I tell her so. But Jacob is my human baby, not a tooth.
“And this guy is a Russian carpenter,” I point at Davit, “not a professional child carer.”
“Georgian,” Davit growls, dipping his heavy brows at me. “From Tbilisi.”
Fenella holds up her hands. “All right.” She inclines her neat head. “He was installing built-in cupboards in my friend Charles Davenport’s house in Marlborough Crescent. Charles is a heart surgeon and his wife, Francesca, a senior partner in a law firm. A huge law firm,” she adds, as if it matters. “They had an, er, housekeeping crisis and Davit took it all in his stride for a few days.”
“I see,” I say, although I don’t. “How old are the Davenport kids?”
“Sixteen and eighteen,” she says, proud as you like. “The Davenports are friends of Trevor’s too. Trevor will vouch for them.”
So what? Jacob’s weighing a ton in my arms. He’s sliding down my front, wet now because he’s been sucking the top button of my shirt.
Davit steps forward and takes him. I hang on for dear life, but am no match for those ginormous biceps. Muscleman Davit doesn’t register the slightest resistance. Jacob is thrilled (you could toss him into the lineout at a rugby game and he’d be thrilled) and he smiles and claps his hands, and then his face goes solemn. He’s staring at Davit with round blue eyes, reaching out, fingers stretched into a pink starfish. There’s a row of darling dimples where his knuckles are going to be. He touches the shadow of stubble on Davit’s cheek.
“Bub,” he says, patting, enjoying the texture.
Davit smiles, showing perfect teeth and a dimple of his own. He glances at me and our eyes catch for a moment. I’m not thinking aircraft carriers and wintry sea anymore, rather grey cashmere, and the warm silver ears of the Siamese kitten that comes over the fence from next door.
I subside onto the kitchen chair. “I don’t know—”
“Come on, Beth. Let’s not be late,” Fenella says. “I’ll drive you to the airport.”
Thanks for reading! If you'd like a glimpse into the world of Beth, Davit and baby Jacob, have a look at http://www.pinterest.com/ginarossiwriter/life-after-6-tequilas-by-gina-rossi-in-e-book-and-/