Jacob’s wife died in childbirth and he was left alone to bring up his daughter. He was careful with her, but he could not cope with the strain and tasks of bringing up a child on his own. One morning he woke up and saw a pin in the cot that might have hurt her, and then someone knocked on the door unexpectedly.
«Jacob, your job is on the line. We’re patient with everything you’ve been through, but your job is far from decent. We’re officially putting you on probation,» Jacob’s boss, Mr Clemens, told him. He could see that his guest was mortified by this, and Jacob had no excuse.
He was often absent from work, forgetting important meetings and failing to cope with several projects. That they didn’t fire him in the end was a miracle. «Mr Clemens, I assure you. I’ll sort it out. I just need to find a solution for Gigi,» he replied, grateful that he still had a job.
Jacob hired a nanny to be able to go to work, but he could not afford it forever, and ironically, Gigi was a restless child. She cried constantly and nothing could soothe her at night. It was as if she knew something was missing.
He wished for the thousandth time that his wife, Rita, was by his side. She died on the operating table and it was the scariest moment of his life. He had promised himself to take care of Gigi like gold, but he felt he was failing. He couldn’t lose his job, but he didn’t know how to comfort her and organise their lives.
The only thing that could reassure Gigi was a car ride, so one day he took her with him just before she went to bed. Luckily, she fell asleep and they went home. He took her out of the car seat and carefully laid her down on the cot in the living room. Sighing heavily, he sat back on the sofa and rested his head on the back cushions. He did not notice how he fell asleep.
The next morning he woke up and found that he was still lying on the sofa. He looked around and saw that Gigi was awake and noisy. Fortunately, she was not crying, but it was time for breakfast.
As he picked her up and carried her out of the cot, something caught his attention. There was a shiny pin lying on her cot. It was strange. Jacob was careful never to leave sharp objects near his daughter. He had even stopped using button-down shirts so that she wouldn’t accidentally put them in her mouth. It was very strange.
He decided to talk to Sabrina, his nanny, about it. But no sooner had he made this decision than there was a knock at the door. Jacob put the baby back in the cot and went to open the door for his visitor. It was Mrs. Neal, his neighbour. He smiled at her, «Hello, Jacob. I have something to tell you,» the old woman began.
Jacob interrupted her apologetically: «Oh, no. Did the baby cry last night? I didn’t wake up once, but it’s entirely possible. I know it must have been hard for you all these months, Mrs. Neal.»
The young father paused when he saw the old woman raise her hands.
«Jacob, Jacob. Listen to me. I’m not upset. Not any more, anyway,» Mrs Neal replied, «I heard Gigi crying terribly last night. It was two in the morning and she didn’t seem to want to stop. I came here and knocked on your door several times. I was actually very angry. You didn’t answer. But your door was unlocked, so I went in.»
«Oh no! I left the door unlocked! What’s wrong with me?» — Jacob lamented, rubbing his hair in frustration. He sat down on the sofa again. Mrs. Neal went inside and closed the door.
«It’s all right. It was just me in there, and I tried to keep my mouth shut when I left. Anyway, I took Gigi last night and cradled her as hard as I could to get her to sleep. She fell asleep after about an hour and all my anger went away. I just wanted you to know,» the older woman explained as she sat down across from him on the other sofa.
«Thank you, Mrs. Neal. She could have cried all night. I don’t understand how I didn’t hear her,» he added, touching his face and looking at his daughter with a pained expression. «I’m a terrible father.»
«No. You just need help and I came here to offer it to you after what I witnessed yesterday. I noticed that you sometimes have a nanny, but I know it’s hard to afford one these days. Why don’t I look after Gigi while you’re at work? I can do it for free every day,» she suggested. Jacob was completely surprised.
He shook his head. «I can’t put that kind of burden on you.»
«It’s not a burden. Sometimes, son, you have to accept help, even if you don’t want to admit you need it.»
«I know… just… wait a minute… does this belong to you?» Jacob stood up and grabbed the pin he had left on a nearby cupboard. He showed it to Mrs Neal.
«Oh dear. I left it here. I’m sorry,» the older woman said, standing up and taking it. «I lost a button yesterday and used it to hold the shirt in place.»
«Thank God. I thought I was going crazy because it was in Gigi’s crib,» said Jacob, and they both sat back on the couch. » I think I’ll take your offer. I don’t really trust my nanny, and I could use all the help I can get. Are you sure that’s not too much?».
«I’m pretty sure. All my kids grow up, they have kids of their own, but they don’t come to Florida very often. So Gigi will look like my granddaughter,» said Mrs Neal with a big smile.
«Thank you. Thank you very much,» Jacob said. Tears rolled down his cheeks from such generosity.
Gigi spent most of her days with Mrs. Neal, and Jacob could concentrate on his work without any distractions. Eventually, he came off probation and even got a promotion.
The little girl grew up thinking that Mrs Neal was her real grandmother, and the older woman liked that. She realised that helping her neighbour instead of shouting at him for making noise was the best choice of her life.