Nanny, Warlock had decided. Was a hypocrite.
He had learned the word from his parents when they were fighting behind the closed door of the study. Brother Francis told him the word for what he had been doing was ‘eavesdropping' but Nanny said if people really wanted their conversations to be kept private, they shouldn’t be so loud. So he wasn’t sure if it was bad or not.
Regardless, he had learned the word but hadn’t known what it meant until he had asked Brother Francis. He had chosen him and not Nanny to ask because the gardener was the foremost knowledge on all things great and small. Warlock had learned about hippos several months earlier and had assumed that a hypocrite was similar to a fawn to a deer; or a piglet to a pig. Why his mother had called his father a baby hippo made no sense, so he had sought more information.
Brother Francis had frowned and asked where he learned that word. Warlock had lied and said he heard it used in the kitchen. Nanny approved of lying, as long as it was never to her. Warlock had learned that day, that a hypocrite wasn’t actually anything to do with the animal like he had thought, but was actually a person who did or said one thing, and then did it themselves.
It made sense now, why Warlock had heard his mother screaming it shortly after his dad had told her it wasn’t appropriate of her to spend so much time away from home.
But despite all of that, with his newfound knowledge and vocabulary, Warlock had decided that his Nanny was a hypocrite. He told her as much during lunch one day, while he was picking the crusts off his sandwiches and trying to feed them to the large brown dog under the table. Nanny, who he knew saw everything anyway, hadn’t stopped him trying to do it so he continued. When he spoke to her, however, she had made a funny noise in the back of her throat and raised her eyebrow at him.
“And where did you learn a word like that?”
“Eavesdropping on my parents.” Warlock replied with a smile. Nanny approved of eavesdropping. He wouldn’t get in trouble from her.
She pursed her painted lips and reached into the pocket of her black tweed jacket, pulling out a nearly wrapped sweet. She slid it across the table and he smiled, abandoning his sandwich to take the candy. Her long fingers, however, snatched it back before his own could grab it.
“Why am I a hypocrite, dear?”
Warlock made a face at her and shrugged one shoulder.
“Because when I told you I loved Madeline you said love was stupid and I shouldn’t love anything because I was going to crush it all to dirt under my feet.”
The corner of Nanny’s mouth twitched. The Madeline in question, the dog lazing under the table, raised her head from the floor and gave her tail two lazy wags. Warlock loved her in secret.
“That hardly makes me a hypocrite. Are you sure you’re thinking of the right word?”
Warlock looked at the sweet on the table, caught under Nanny’s pale hand and her neatly painted nails that matched her outfit. He blinked his eyes up at Nanny and looks back down at the hostage sweet. Nanny reached into her pocket and pulled out another one, this one a bright red and shiny sweet that Warlock only got on special occasions.
“You’re becoming quite the manipulator.” She said proudly, “but don’t get too clever for your own good. You were saying?”
Warlock unwrapped the sweet and popped it into his mouth.
“You said I shouldn’t love things. But you love Brother Francis.”
Nanny’s face changed. The prim (he had learned that word from Brother Francis) and proper exterior dropped for a moment and suddenly she didn’t quite look like Nanny anymore.
“Where did you get an idea like that?”
Warlock rolled his eyes and popped the second sweet into his mouth, “Its obvious.” He waited a moment, and then tacked one of his favourite words onto the end of it. “Duh.”
Both Nanny and Brother Francis hate his “blasted American phrases”. He can’t help it, both of his parents speak that way and there are some things he can’t stop. He could have helped it this time, but Nanny couldn’t possibly think he hadn’t noticed that the two were in love. Nanny hadn’t said anything for a while, so he reached out and gently patted her hand, the way Brother Francis would do to him when he was feeling sad.
“Its okay, Nanny. I won’t tell anyone.”
Nanny straightened up in the chair and she looks like Nanny again. Put together and carved of steel and taking no nonsense.
“I should think not, considering it’s hardly true. Brother Francis and I barely know one another.”
Maybe Nanny approves of lies because she’s always telling them herself. Warlock kicked his feet under the table and thought about the rare few times he had seen them together. When Brother Francis had been weeding the garden beds and Nanny had come up behind him and started shouting at the begonias. When Nanny had been caught out in a sudden rain storm and Brother Francis had appeared out of nowhere with a large white umbrella that covered them both and he had walked her to the steps of the house, helping her up the slippery cement in her sensible heels.
Nanny’s face gets softer around Brother Francis. She stands differently and kind of leans in towards him. Like a magnet. And Brother Francis always smiles so wide with his silly buck teeth when he sees Nanny. And when one of them isn’t looking, the other will sometimes stop and look at them in a way Warlock has only seen on the silly sad love movies his mother watches in the living room.
“If you say so, Nanny.”
He doesn’t bring it up to Nanny again. But when she retires, Brother Francis is gone the very same day. He’s going to miss them, they were a lot more fun than his parents. But he likes to think they ran off together and are living in a cottage somewhere, where Brother Francis can tend a garden and Nanny can glare any children who dare run on the lawn into submission.
Or at the very least, he hopes wherever they are, they’re together. He quite likes love, no matter what Nanny says. And he’s pretty sure she does too. In secret.