Abigail opened the window and caught the scent of honeysuckle from the garden, brought in by the breeze as she looked down, watching little Perry sleep in that febrile intense way all babies did. She touched the crib, wondering who the baby would take after, as he grew up.
His father, Jeff, had a spade of a jaw, sharp grey eyes and jet black hair that had manfully accepted ageing with a light greying at the temples. Football had given him a broad chest and wide shoulders, but he hid his bulk beneath good tailoring. As a boy, she could hope that Perry would be half as handsome as his father. It could be a burden for a son, to try and thrive in the shadow of his father’s achievements but Abigail believed that there was some cast in his infant expressions that suggested a palpable wilfulness.
She looked around, the nursery had been decorated with the same exquisite if disconnected taste that set the rest of the house apart. Every room had the detail of a movie set, a magazine aesthetic made real and Perry in time, would understand that toys were things to be put away and he would learn from his parents how important appearances were.
Abigail could not restrain herself and reached into the crib. He was a quiet baby though, and his big dark eyes popped open, black pearls against the cream of his skin as she lifted him into her eyeline. Such a beautiful boy warranted her complete attention.
Jeff called out Rosaria’s name. He looked at Belinda, sleek and angular in the black dress that she had spoken about getting into again before the epidural had worn off. She would not let him touch her but she wanted to look good for the summer again.
The baby was supposed to have changed things. Rosaria had not responded to his call. She was not a patch on her predecessor but Belinda had not appreciated criticism of her hands-off approach to parenting. That, and Belinda had mentioned something about the background check coming back with some odd discrepancies in it. Still, his irritation with the new nanny had deepened into a piquant concern.
Belinda’s shriek made his back teeth ache and he ran up the stairs, heart thumping hard in his chest.
Rosaria had been bound at the wrists and ankles, eyes wide with panic as she swallowed against the gag that sat between her teeth. Jeff turned on his heel and ran towards the nursery. Belinda stood there, shuddering and reaching into her purse for her cigarettes.
He opened the door to the nursery, saw that the bay windows were open and the cot was empty. Belinda had lit a cigarette as she kept asking him what he was going to do, and as he opened his mouth to speak, he caught the smell of the flowers from the garden and realised that he had no idea at all.