Ice Cream at Midnight
The sudden realization that he was no longer in his father’s safe, strong arms, and the fact that his tummy was growling woke young Jacob Wells from his sleep. As his blue eyes opened he realized that he was in his own bed, in his small chamber which connected to the large chamber his parents shared. His chamber was lit by a lantern which cast a soft glow, keeping bed bugs and other such creatures at bay. Without hesitation the active two-year-old son of Vincent and Catherine sat up, stretching his small arms above his head. After he stretched he looked around his bed and then down at the floor and smiled. His trusted bear was there looking back up at him with a worn smile on its face. Jacob slid off his bed and knelt down, picking up the bear, whom he called Teddy, off of the floor before he walked silently out of his room. His momma and dah were sound asleep in their bed and even though Jacob knew the rule about going out into the tunnels with an adult, his two-year-old mind didn’t think about rules as he walked out of the chamber to find the one person who he knew wouldn’t put him straight back to bed as his parents often did when he woke them at 2 a.m.
Something on his arm drew Father from his restful sleep and for a moment he kept his eyes closed, thinking he must have imagined it. Again he felt something on his arm and with great effort he opened his eyes and found the sweet face of his grandson greeting him. "Is it time to start the day?" Father managed as he shut his eyes and opened them again, bringing the room into better focus.
"It night, but I hungy," Jacob said, holding his bear against his chest, squishing its face as he waited for his grampapa to get up. Father switched on the lamp on his bedside table and looked at the old clock he kept there and then looked at his young grandson. "Jacob, it is very early in the morning. Did you tell your mother and father you were coming here?" he asked, suddenly realizing that Vincent and Catherine likely did not know he had gotten away from them.
"Seepen, no wake up. I wake you up stead," he answered, not realizing the panic he was likely to cause if his parents woke up and found him missing. Jacob shared a bond with his father, but it was a tiny thread compared to the one his parents shared, and Father thought of that. He knew Vincent and Catherine needed their sleep after the long week they had both been through, Vincent helping to repair tunnels closer to top side damaged due to rain, and Catherine above, working with Joe on a case against an architectural firm which had violated all sorts of building codes on a multi-million dollar shopping center that had collapsed in one large section a day before it was to open, killing two of the city’s workers.
As his grampapa sat up, Jacob toddled over to the end of the bed, carefully got the old man’s walking cane and took it to him. He waited as patiently as a two-year-old with a hungry belly could, and once his grampapa had his cane Jacob practically ran out of the chamber knowing that he would get a snack, hoping it would be more of the ice cream, delete comma that a helper had brought down for dessert at dinner not so long ago.
In the dining chamber, settled in an old, well-used wooden high chair, Jacob waited for his ice cream, patting the tray with one hand while he held his Teddy tucked under his other arm. As Father came into the large chamber which was lit only by a few candles closest to where Jacob was waiting, the little boy laughed, then covered his mouth as the laugh echoed through the empty chamber.
Father knew he should have put Jacob back to bed, but found it most difficult to ever be firm with him. He sat down in the chair next to where Jacob was seated and put the bowl of ice cream down on the tray stifling a yawn as Jacob just stared at the bowl. "Jacob, you need to eat so you and I can go back to bed," Father said, watching him as he pushed the spoon to one side.
"You feed me; make funny sounds like Unc Dev." Devin had been to see them with Charles a few weeks before and Jacob had been his shadow. Knowing that Jacob wouldn’t take "no" for an answer, and also realizing that his own hand holding the spoon would likely make less of a mess, Father scooted his chair around to face his grandson. He took the bowl and scooped out the first bite of strawberry ice cream and guided it into Jacob’s open mouth making quiet train noises. Jacob giggled until he had the sweet treat in his mouth and then he let it melt in his mouth and was soon ready for another bite. "Boat, grampapa," he said as Father began with another train. Father complied and couldn’t help but chuckle at Jacob’s obvious delight, despite the late hour.
Almost a half hour later the two of them arrived at the chamber Jacob and his parents shared. "I go by self," he whispered as they came to a halt in front of the entry. An ornate curtain hung over the way, keeping it private for those within.
"You must go straight to bed," Father said, having his doubts about letting Jacob go alone, worried that he would leave the chamber again on his own. Before either of them could speak, the left side of the curtain was pulled back and Vincent stepped out, looking at Father and then his son. "What has happened?" he asked, surprised to see them up at such an early hour.
"Jacob wanted a snack, and we were about to go back to bed," Father said, watching as Vincent suddenly realized that his two-year-old had, for the first time, gone away from the safety of his family’s chamber without an adult present. As Vincent knelt down to gather Jacob in his arms, Father left them, ready to let his son do the parenting on this latest adventure.
In the small chamber attached to his parent’s larger chamber, Jacob sat on his Momma’s lap, hugging Teddy as she rocked him. They had all talked about why it wasn’t safe for him to go out of his chamber at night even if he knew how to get to grampapa. Jacob understood he wasn’t in trouble. Now he was resisting going to sleep as he always did, even with his momma softly singing her lullaby to him. The long week they had just completed had been difficult on him as well. He had spent a great deal of time with Mary and others who loved to be with him, but he had missed both of his parents and didn’t want to miss any part of being with them. When Catherine stopped rocking him and started to stand up, Jacob shook his head. "No-o," he called out as she walked the few steps to his bed. Tears threatened as she laid him down, and Jacob grasped her hand in his tiny one. "I miss you, momma," he said as he yawned.
Catherine reached out and stroked her fingers through his fine soft blond hair. "I miss you too," she said as she leaned forward and placed a kiss on his soft cheek.
"Momma, you here wif me morrow," he said sleepily as his eyes began to droop. Catherine continued to stroke her fingers through his hair, realizing how much he had missed them. Her work with Joe was finished for now and she was ready to stay below and take care of her family. "I will be here when you wake up in the morning," she said as his eyes shut and then opened. He did that twice more before his eyes shut for good. Catherine stood up, pulling a soft blanket over his small body, and as she stood up straight, large safe arms encircled her and she found herself in her husband’s embrace. Catherine pulled her arms up to hold his and they both watched Jacob as he slept for a moment longer before they went into their room, talking about what they needed to do to insure that Jacob didn’t have any more nighttime adventures.