This is my entry into the Beach House Noir fiction challenge over at Do Some Damage. I worked as an au pair one summer when I was a teenager and although the two little girls I looked after were darling, once was enough.
The Fourth of July
Ali hadn’t wanted the fucking job in the first place but her mother had insisted. “You can’t sit around the house all summer,” she’d said, pretending like she was worried Ali would be bored when really, she just didn’t want Ali around the house when Dean came over.
Her mother still looked good for 35 but Dean was 28 and Ali was 16 and her mom could do the math.
“A summer at the beach, working as an au pair sounds better than bagging groceries at Ralphs doesn’t it?” her mom coaxed.
She’d pronounced the French phrase like “ow pear,” which Ali knew was wrong because she’d seen a TV movie about an au pair who fell in love with the guy she worked for.
There was no fucking way Ali was gonna fall for Eliot Cubbison who was a 40-something finance guy going bald and soft.
Besides, au pair was just a fancy way of saying “full-time babysitter.”
Still, the money was pretty good and her mother was right about it being better than bagging groceries.
Ali had done that the summer before. One of her co-workers had been a ‘tard with a crush on her. She’d complained to the manager that he kept showing her his dick. The manager told her to quit teasing the boy or find somewhere else to work.
She’d stuck it out until late August. The manager had stiffed her on her last paycheck.
She’d gone back to the store at closing time a week later and cut little slits in all the plastic-wrapped packages of steak.
So au pair it was.
The job started June 15th and by the week of July 4th, Ali was so fucking over it.
There was a Mrs. Eliot somewhere but she hadn’t joined the family at the beach house.
Lucky her, Ali thought after three weeks with the kids. Nine-year-old Daniel was a mean little bully and his five-year-old sister Megan was an annoying little tattle-tale, a sibling dynamic that was guaranteed to produce strife.
What Eliot had described as a “private beach” turned out to be a remote patch of sand in the middle of fucking nowhere. Ali hadn’t expected Jersey Shore, but this beach was so deserted Ali half expected to come across the Statue of Liberty buried in the sand.
She was guaranteed one day off a week, but since the house was so isolated, and there was no car for her to use—Eliot had made it clear she wouldn’t be driving his Mercedes—she was essentially a prisoner.
Eliot spent most of his time on the deck with his laptop. Monitoring the movement of other people’s money. The kids had been taught not to bother daddy when he was working so they were under Ali’s feet the whole fucking day.
Eliot entertained every night, but his guests were all his age and he made it clear to Ali that she wasn’t welcome.
The kids weren’t welcome either, except in the roles their father assigned to them. He always brought Megan out in her shortie pajamas just before bedtime and paraded her around in a show of fatherly love that made Ali want to puke. Then he’d kiss his daughter on the forehead and hand her over to Ali before the kid realized she was being dismissed and started to wail.
Daniel’s role was a little more complicated.
Eliot had taught the little boy how to make pina coladas, complete with the juggling bottles and flashy moves and a little umbrella to top off the glass.
The guests thought it was adorable and laughed indulgently when Daniel sampled the drinks himself.
On July 4th, Eliot told Ali he was going to take everyone to see the fireworks once it got dark and then took off with a vague promise to return before dinner.
Megan had whined and sulked and Daniel had badgered and taunted her into a tantrum and by mid-afternoon, Ali was exhausted by the effort of playing referee.
She was lounging in a deck chair watching Megan make sand castles when Daniel appeared at her side with a tray holding a fishbowl-sized pina colada and a bag of over-priced, organic potato chips.
“I thought you might want a snack,” he said.
“I’m sorry for picking on Megan,” he added. “Please don’t tell my dad.”
Ali looked at Daniel skeptically, trying to figure out the little fucker’s angle.
Why not?” she finally asked.
“Because he won’t take us to the fireworks,” he said.
The idea of being stuck at home one more night made Ali shudder.
“I won’t tell your dad,” she said and reached for the drink.
It went down as easy as a Jamba Juice smoothie.
Three hours later she woke up with the beginnings of a wicked sunburn and the sense that something was terribly wrong. Two guys in suits stood over her, studying her like a lab specimen.
“Have a good nap?” one of them inquired pleasantly.
She sat up in the deck chair and noticed a crowd of people standing around a small square of beached marked off with crime scene tape.
“What’s going on?” she asked. The two men exchanged glances. The one who’d spoken to her answered.
“You tell us Ali.”
Ali saw Daniel standing with Eliot, the man’s arms around the boy’s shoulders, hugging him. She did not see Megan.
“I don’t understand,” Ali whispered, beginning to get a bad, bad feeling.
“That makes two of us,” the man said. “You tell me what kind of person ties a little girl’s hands and feet with seaweed then buries her up to her neck to drown as the tide comes in."
"No,” Ali said.
“Did you tell her it was a game?”
“It wasn’t me,” she said. “It was Daniel.”
She saw the look of disgust that crossed the man’s face.
“You sent Daniel to his room for being bad, don’t you remember?”
“No,” Ali said, "no I didn't."
As if he'd do anything I told him to.
But then she looked at Daniel putting on a show for the scrum of solicitous adults and she saw how it would go.
She was so fucking fucked.