PAIRING: Kerry/Elizabeth
RATING: PG for a little strong language
SERIES/SEQUEL: The fourth of Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Redhead, taking place on the same day as "When You Give It Away."
SPOILERS/CONTINUITY: Becomes an AU after "Chaos Theory."
SUMMARY: What the nanny saw.
DISCLAIMERS: ER is the intellectual property of Constant C Productions, Amblin Entertainment, and Warner Brothers Television. This original work of fan fiction is copyright 2003 Mosca. I make no profit, so it's protected in the USA by the fair use provisions of the Copyright Act of 1976. All rights reserved. All wrongs reversed. You just might have to give it another cookie.
NOTES: Thanks to k and Katisha (a.k.a. the Nitpickers of Nit Hall), and to The Distraction.
The poem excerpt at the beginning is from "Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" by Wallace Stevens, and the whole series is a homage to that poem. "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" is by Laura Joffe Numeroff.

A man and a woman
Are one.
A man and a woman and a blackbird
Are one.
Dr. Corday's been locked up in that bathroom for an hour now. She says she's just going out with a friend but I don't know. It's not like Dr. Corday gets out much, but most of the time when she goes out with her friends she's not like an hour in the bathroom first. And it's usually not like she's all asking permission. Like, she's always kind of freaked out that she's a bad mother, like she should quit her job and stay home full time with Ellie. It's kind of weird. Like, most people around here don't know what to do with their kids. They act like they can't wait to get out of the house and leave their kids with the nanny. Dr. Corday, though, she acts guilty if she's got to leave Ellie at all. I can't complain, cause it makes my job easier, but if I was a doctor, I wouldn't give it up for anything.

I'm cleaning up my and Ellie's dinner. It's only not even 5:30, but you know, she's only 17 months. Weird kid, though. Like really fussy about some stuff, like she'll want the exact right toy and I'll look everywhere for it until I think I'm about to go crazy. But she'll eat, like, anything if I cut it up small. Tonight we had tacos. Ellie isn't old enough to eat that, but she'll have the taco meat and the cheese and the tortillas and even the cut up tomatoes. She eats like tons of it. I'll ask her what she wants for dinner and she'll yell "taco!" like every night. I think it's not just her favorite food but her favorite word. I guess it's good for her though and stuff. Like it's better than some other kids who all they'll eat is like candy and McDonald's and their nannies just figure what the hell, not like it's their kid. I don't think it's right spoiling a kid like that. My mama was strict with me, and look, I'm out of the neighborhood with a good job. And these kids already don't have to work for anything. Like, people shouldn't be making it worse.

After dinner Ellie usually starts to get sleepy, but she likes to be read to for a while. So it's a few books, and then a diaper change, and then PJs and one more book while she drinks her bottle. We've got Ellie down to just the one bottle at bedtime, but Dr. Corday's starting to get worried about her teeth. But when I don't bring the bottle Ellie starts crying and she won't settle down. Like, there are things you've got to be a little strict about, and then there are things where you decide she's still just a baby and you can't control everything.

Ellie and I are in the rocking chair with "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie" when the intercom buzzer goes off. Dr. Corday is still in the bathroom. "If it's Kerry, let her in," Dr. Corday yells. So okay, that's the friend. And that would be an unusual name for a guy, but I guess it could be. Except wait, she said "her."

I put Ellie on the floor with her toys, then go over and press the intercom button. "Corday residence," I say. Maybe I should feel weird saying that when I live here too, but it's not like I pay the rent. And "Corday and Greene and Moreno residence" would be really long anyway.

"Elizabeth?" a voice says on the other end. She sounds confused. And it is a definite "she": a feminine, high-pitched voice. And oh, this is going to be interesting.

"No, this is Maribel, the nanny," I say. "Dr. Corday said you can come up and wait if you want."

"Okay," she says, and I buzz her in.

Ellie looks up from the floor and says, "Read a mouse?"

"Just a minute, sweetie," I say, because there's no sense starting up with the book again when I'm just going to have to put her down in a second to go answer the door. Ellie picks up Clifford, her favorite stuffed dog, and starts flopping its ears, which is what she does when she's pouting.

Dr. Corday's date knocks on the door and I let her in. While I was waiting I was thinking she would be, like, one of those really dykey women who you can barely tell from a man, but she's not even that. She's got short hair and she's wearing slacks, but she's got makeup on, and earrings. She looks kind of just normal. Rich white woman normal, but normal. And definitely dressed for a date, the way you do when you're not sure if it's really a date, but you're pretty sure you want it to be. She's got her eye makeup all smoky and her shirt a little tight and this necklace on that points right to her breasts. At least it's good to know that she and Dr. Corday are thinking the same thing.

And I want to know why Dr. Corday never, you know, told me. Like, I know that she was married and her husband died, but beyond Ellie I don't really know anything about her personal life. I guess it shouldn't be any of my business. But like, I live here. I'm going to find stuff out eventually whether Dr. Corday tells me or not. And it's not like this would have bothered me. As long as she doesn't try to get me to sleep with her or nothing, and I'm pretty sure she wouldn't. People should love who they want, I guess. When you start saying all these limits about that stuff, it's like, what's the problem? Who is it hurting besides you being insecure?

I guess maybe I wouldn't be saying that if I wasn't going out with a white guy. I mean not really going out seriously. It's only been like two dates. But you know how even then sometimes you can tell it's gonna be a lot more dates? That's how it feels. His name is Vytas and he works at the deli at Jewel. Ellie likes when I take her grocery shopping, so I'm like always at Jewel even if we don't really need that much. And I'd stop and get sandwich meat and for a while he'd just be really friendly and whatever, like nothing special, but then whenever I'd go we'd talk like forever, until Ellie got antsy. And then two weeks ago he asked me out. I shouldn't of been surprised, but after my whole life thinking of myself as this fat short brown Mexican girl that no tall blond blue-eyed guy would ever want, even though we really liked each other I guess I thought that he would, like, just want to be my friend. So now I go back and forth between thinking, "I'm gonna marry this guy," and thinking he's gonna dump me when he realizes I'm not pretty at all, and worrying that when I tell my family they're gonna kill him for having the balls to take me out when he's obviously Lithuanian and not Mexican.

So maybe I get it a little, why Dr. Corday would be afraid to tell me about this woman.

"Do you want me to see what's keeping her?" I say to the woman. Kerry. And I tell myself that I should be getting used to this name.

"Would you?" she says. "I-- I wouldn't normally, but-- we're going to be late."

"Read a mouse now?" Ellie says. She's getting sniffly with impatience.

"We were in the middle of a book," I explain to Kerry.

"I'll... do you want me to read to Ella for a few minutes?" Kerry says.

"It's okay," I say.

"I'm happy to," she says.

"Go ahead," I say, "if she'll let you. She gets shy around strangers."

Kerry sidles over to Ellie's spot on the floor. Ellie looks up at her, kind of curiously, like she's going to give this just one chance before she starts wailing. Kerry starts the book over from the beginning: "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie," she reads. "By Laura Joffe Numeroff. Illustrations by Felicia Bond." Kerry has a high, even voice, and Ellie seems fascinated by her. Like the book is totally new because someone else is reading it. Ellie doesn't notice when I sneak off down the hall to check on Dr. Corday.

I knock on the bathroom door. "Everything all right in there?" I say.

"Yes, I'll just be a minute," Dr. Corday says loudly. Then, she opens the door a crack of the way and whispers, "Could I have some help? This is really embarrassing." She lets me in the bathroom. She's all ready except her dress is half unzipped in the back. "The zipper's caught in my bra," she says. "I can't get it unstuck."

She turns around, and with some effort, I work her bra free from the zipper. The dress is a little short, and the bra is a black lacy thing, and now I know I know where this is going. I zip her up quickly.

"Thank you," she says.

"Um... what time do you think you'll be home tonight?"

"Around ten," she says, like she's trying not to get her hopes up too high.

I let her walk to the living room by herself while I watch from behind. She's a little teetery in her high heels. She stands in the doorway for like half a minute, watching Kerry read to Ellie, and I can see from her shoulders that she's smiling. Dr. Corday pivots on her heel and says to me, "Maribel, can I talk to you for a moment?" She sounds like she's trying to be professional.

I go towards her. She whispers in my ear. "Forget ten o'clock," she says. "Better make it tomorrow morning."

"Have fun," I smile.

"Fingers crossed," she says. She practically skips into the living room. Kerry is finishing up the last lines of the book. After the last page, Ellie pushes the book shut. Kerry gets up and Dr. Corday kisses her hello-- just on the cheek, like they're both still pretending this isn't a date. They leave talking too softly for me to hear. And I think, you know, who cares if she's gay? There's assholes and good people everywhere, and what matters is you look for the good ones.

I've got this cousin, Jose, that everyone calls Fina, partly because half the men in my family are named Jose but partly because it fits him. When he was fifteen, my uncle found out he was doing drag shows and kicked him out the house. He's one of my favorite cousins, always been, so I keep an eye out for him. He always seems to have some guy to put a roof over his head, though most of the time that guy don't treat him much good. So I bring Fina groceries sometimes, make sure he don't drop out of school or nothing else stupid. I think I'm, like, the only person in my entire family who knows where he is anymore. I know I'm pretty much the only one who cares.

I think of calling him. My hand is on the phone before I realize, it's Friday night, he's gotta be out somewhere. And besides, no matter how much Dr. Corday tells me it's my home too, I think she'd have a fit if she found out I let my drag queen cousin in with the baby and didn't tell her first. Or maybe I'm making excuses. I want to think she'd see Fina like I do. Like, he's real pretty when he's got his dresses and his makeup on. When we were kids we both wanted to be graceful like supermodels, and at least one of us got to be. I think Dr. Corday would realize that she doesn't got no reason to lie to me, because I would always respect her. See the good, and not turn it around on her. Because no matter what the other nannies say when we all stand around with half an eye on the playground, it's stupid to take your feelings out of this job. You've got to love them a little.

Ellie holds up the book over her head. "Read a mouse?" she says.

I pick her up and hold her gently in the rocking chair with the book in front of her. She points to the mouse on every page. Pretty soon she'll be too old to see new stuff in a book she's read over and over, but now it seems like anything could happen. Like the book could have a different ending every time.