His Outback Nanny(5)

By: Annie Seaton

He had to hire some help so he could balance his time on the farm with the time he spent with the kids; otherwise, there was no point in them living out here. The problem was there wasn’t enough money left to hire a farm worker. Ned had no doubt that he could manage repayments on a loan, and the upside would be a better family life, but he had to get it first.

At least he could get the grocery shopping out of the way after he drove them to school.

As the girls came into the kitchen, Ned pulled the pieces of blackened toast from the toaster and put them in the overflowing kitchen bin. “Where’s the bread?”

“That was the last two slices.” Kelsey opened the fridge. “And there’s no milk to have with cereal.”

“There’s long-life milk in the cupboard, Kelsey.” Ned smiled, and his voice was patient. “For when we run out, remember.”

Kelsey rolled her eyes. “What about bread?”

“There’s bread in the freezer.” Ned was pretty chuffed he had this grocery shopping thing under control.

Ryan’s big brown eyes—pansy eyes the same as his mother’s—widened and then filled with tears. “But I want eggs.”

“Girls, go and get dressed. Your new school uniforms are hanging up in the laundry. I’ll cook some scrambled eggs for all of us, and then we’ll get you to school. I’m sure it won’t matter if we’re a bit late.”

The two smiles that lit up the kitchen added to his certainty that he’d made the right decision to move out here.

“You’re bringing us in to our new school?” Gwennie’s voice wobbled.

“I will, and you’ll love it. It’s where I went to school.”

“I wonder if I’ll have the same kinder teacher as you?”

Ned smiled as he ruffled Gwennie’s hair. “I don’t think so, chicken. I’m sure Mrs. McGillicuddy was a hundred when she taught me.”

“Me too?” Ryan cried out. “I want school, too!”

“Preschool for you when we get settled, buddy. But how about a milkshake after we do the shopping?”

“No fair.” Kelsey stamped her foot. “We have to go to a new school, and he gets a milkshake!”

Kelsey could be difficult when she thought things weren’t going her way.

“I’m sure you had many milkshakes before you started school.”

“I did. With Mum.” Her voice was quiet as she stared past him.

“Yes.” Ned turned away and looked out at the paddocks when the girls disappeared into the laundry to get their uniforms. “You did,” he said quietly.

With Cath.

Ryan resumed the car banging. Ned gritted his teeth inside the smile he forced to his face.

By the time he drove into Spring Downs, dropped the girls off, did the grocery shopping, went to Cartwright’s produce store, and then drove back out to the farm, the best part of the working day would be gone. At least he could pick up the salt blocks and get them out into the paddocks before he had to turn around and go back into town, pick up the girls, and then get to the bank at three o’clock.

Kelsey skipped down the hall, and as he opened the fridge to get the eggs out—luckily the hens had performed well yesterday—a little hand tugged on his T-shirt. He looked down to see Gwennie’s wide eyes staring up at him. She was a perceptive little soul, and she knew what he was thinking.

“It’s okay, Daddy. I’ll put the groceries away this afternoon while you feed the cattle. We can mind Ryan, and then Kelsey and I will get tea ready. We can have salad so we won’t burn anything.”

Always the carer, his little Gwennie.

The last four years had been a nightmare, and he’d tried to do the best he could for his three kids. Moving to the country, and back to the family farm, had been an attempt to get them away from the memories and make a new start as a family. A new start, although in a place that was familiar to him. Even though it needed a huge amount of work—and money—to make it a going concern, the farm was the place where he’d grown up—before marriage and kids and before the sad times when his life had been turned upside down in one single day.

“I’ll do you a deal.” He crouched down in front of his youngest daughter. “You can help Kelsey make the salad, and I’ll cook some sausages on the barbie. What do you think about that?”

Gwennie sounded happier as she put her arms around his neck. “That sounds just perfect. I do love you, Daddy.”

“I love you, too, bub.”

A wet kiss landed on his cheek, and Gwennie let go of him and scurried down the hallway.

Ryan chatted all the way into town, but the two girls were quiet. It was the second time they’d changed schools in the last year—when the house had been sold, they’d all moved in with Cath’s parents for three months, until Ned had finished the contracted work at the construction firm in Sydney. But if he could make the farm profitable, they’d be at Spring Downs Public School for a long time.