The sky is still dark, but the white clouds are forming and its slowly approaching 7am. As I step out the black taxi, I shiver from how cool it is outside even though it’s June. So much for a summer occasion. Dumbfounded, I find myself rushing to the reception desk of the glamorous Hilton hotel in London. Trying to drag my 3 piece suitcase, a long black dress cover and my very expensive Babyliss hair dryer in my hand, I start sweating with anticipation and anxiety. The pale blue walls and white painted skirting boards inside the lobby aren’t calming my nerves either. Where is the receptionist? I mumble to myself whilst repeatedly ringing the gold bell on the reception desk. I wait for a few moments in complete silence, close my eyes and breathe heavily into the empty space up above my head.
I heard keys clattering as footsteps approached from behind the desk. I snap my eyes open to reveal a tall blonde woman with make-up perfectly applied to her face standing right in front of me. “Here to check in?” she said in an over the top voice trying to conceal her tiredness. “Yup, it should be under the name Melissa Heathers?” I replied, trying to remember whether it was my sister or myself who booked the room. “Ahh yes! Found you here now. Melissa Heathers, party of two for two nights! Excited?” Oh my god. She is way too enthusiastic for 7 in the morning! And I’m way too tired to give a crap. “Excited? Yes. Tired? Extremely” I said, hoping she’ll give me the keys so I can run to my room for comfort. “Of course, Miss Heathers” she turned around, facing her back towards me while she frantically searched for my room keys. Soon after I received them, I glanced around for the elevator, trying to drag all my belongings whilst hiding the fact I can’t carry all of my crap with me. I reached the 5th floor in a couple of minutes and made my way to room 28A. I unlocked the perfect white door in front of me and unveiled a large room with a king size bed, a giant chest drawer with two matching wardrobes, a glowing white bathroom and a large black screen TV that will be switched on all weekend and left unattended. I drop my heavy suitcases on the hardwood floor, carefully hang my dress cover in the wardrobe and flop myself into the armchair facing the window. I breathe a sense of relief as I close my eyes, rest my head back and let my arms hang over the arm rest. The sun was shining through the large glass windows and began to warm my cool tired face. My mind started to drift.
It was 6 years ago in February, around Valentine’s Day. It had recently snowed for days and finally, the rain was melting the snow just enough for people to leave their homes and experience the great outdoors once again. I met him at Pinceton’s famous coffee shop. He didn’t have enough cash to pay for his coffee and I was getting annoyed waiting in line for 15 minutes just for a simple hot chocolate. I remembered literally shoving the extra two bucks into the cashier’s hand which took Tyler by complete surprise and he looked sort of, scared of me. He stood next to me as we both waited for our hot beverages to arrive. “Thanks”, he mumbled to me whilst giving me a polite smile.
“It’s fine”, I said quickly trying to show I didn’t want to talk to anyone, especially on the day I got stuck with both of my host kids for their afternoon play date. I just wanted to get my drink and leave. “I usually have enough cash on me, I had my card but they don’t take card here”, he continued to ramble on but I just drained him out. I wanted to listen to the soothing sounds of the Jazz music in the background, the glasses clinking against each other, the distant chitter chatter of customers and cashiers. I wanted to be somewhere else. Of course, he disturbed me again, “Here you go”, he took my drink from the cashier and placed it into my right hand whilst ushering me to follow him to the sugar stand. Strangely, I followed him. “So what do you study here?” He asked. Oh man! Now he feels like he needs to talk to me just because I paid for his drink.
“Dude, I just lent you two dollars, you don’t owe me anything, it’s fine”. I looked him in the eye this time and noticed his pine green eyes hiding behind his thick black framed glasses. “I’ve never met anyone with green eyes before”, I stupidly said out loud. “Your friend circle must be sparingly thin then”, he replied and I chuckled way too loudly that I looked down at my shoes, feeling embarrassed and remembered I don’t have many friends since they went back to their native country once they finished their au pair year. I must have looked sad because he interrupted my thought and apologized for making a joke.
“Oh no, sorry, I was just thinking. You don’t have to apologize, it’s okay, honestly” Great, now it was me who was rambling on.
“Do you wanna sit down somewhere?” he asked invitingly. I looked around and saw the whole cafe packed out with students, parents and their crying toddlers. I smiled back at Tyler wondering where on earth we were going to sit. He nodded towards the door and I chose to follow him again. It’s freezing outside! I thought to myself and I only had my light black leather jacket and a cotton scarf wrapped around my neck.
“Where did you plan on going?” I asked, curiously.
“I dunno, didn’t really think this one through” he confessed. “Have you been around campus?” he asked me as he took a sip of the coffee I paid for.
“Yup, I had an English language class here last semester so I know the area pretty well”, I replied.
“Oh wow! You must be really clever then” he assumed. Most people had that same impression when I told them I studied at Princeton. Such a shame they didn’t realize how easy it is to attend a college in America once you’re an au pair (and the fact that the college administration don’t care as long as you pay upfront).
“I’d say so”, I said in a confident tone with a smirk. He laughed whilst smiling at my comment.
We went for a short walk on Nassau street, passed the long line at Starbucks and looked through the windows of the Princeton University store. There were still brown, crispy leaves attached to the branches of the tall trees even though there were piles of snow surrounding every bark. The temperature continued to drop and I continued to freeze despite my hot chocolate warming up my hands. The ground was still icy and being the idiot that I am, I was wearing black ankle boots with a few inches of heels. I dreaded slipping and falling in front of him. It’s not like he would laugh at me but I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of someone I just met. I slowed my walking pace, kept my head down and my eyes focused on the floor so I wouldn’t slip on any ice. The grip of my boots must not have been very good because the next thing I knew, I held onto his right arm very tightly as I felt myself slipping.
“Argh! I’m sorry!” I said as I let go of him and straightened up so I could walk again.
“It’s okay. You can hold on to my arm” he insisted, as he offered his arm to me.
Okay, this was getting weird. I don’t even know this person. I just met him a few minutes ago and now I’m walking down the street with him arm in arm?!
It was time to run.
“No, thank you. I actually have to go now”. I suddenly remembered I had my host kids play date in a couple of hours and used this as the perfect getaway, “I have plans”.
“Oh, what are you doing?” He seemed disappointed and was trying to make me stay. I could sense it in his tone.
“Urmmm..” I was trying to think of a convincing lie considering babysitting kids probably isn’t going to be his thing. Fuck it. Let him know I’m an au pair, nanny or whatever.
“I have to look after my host kids in the afternoon, I’m an au pair”
And there it was. That confused, curious and slightly dumb look covered his face and I had to explain yet again, the role of an au pair. He stood in silence, observing my face whilst I explained what an au pair does, how hard it is and the great benefits I get out of it (swimming in my host parent’s 8 feet deep swimming pool and going on multiple luxurious vacations with them!). He seemed both impressed and curious. He wanted to know more about me and strangely, I wanted to tell him.
It felt nice to talk to someone who wasn’t an au pair and had no idea what an au pair even was. I had no one to talk to. It had been like that for a few months and I started to feel alone. That’s the thing with being far away from home and trying to be the perfect au pair. It’s stressful, sad, and lonely. I was lucky to have found him at the right time in the right place.
A loud knock on the door shook me awake. The sun blinded my eyes as I opened them. I must have been dreaming for a long time for the sun to be high up in the sky and I was sweating all over my body. It must be 9am. I heard someone trying to open the door with the hotel key card. I turned around to face the door anticipating who it could be.
“Are you fucking kidding me?! You’re sitting there when you should be getting your make-up on by now!” my sister bellowed at me as she barged in with her suitcase and dress, doing what she does best; making a scene.
“Relax, I still have a few hours” I reassured her as I slouched back down into the chair and started wiping the sweat off my forehead with my fingertips. I was completely knackered. Tyler and I spent months planning this day and it was finally here. Our wedding day.