"S'up lil' man?" He asked, not really interested in whatever it was since he was trying to pull Alia's tiny leggings up over her kicking feet.
"Is Nana taking me to school?" He was swaying as he spoke and held on to the changing table leg.
"I want Mommy to take me."
"Remember what I told you just the other day? Mommy's sick, she has to stay in bed for a lil' bit. So Nana's gon' take you and I'ont wanna hear any complainin'. Got it?"
"Yes sir." He poked his lip out almost as professionally as his Mother and trapsed back through to his room.
"Aight, we done here." He smiled proudly and tugged Alia's dress down over her head before buttoning it and picking her up. He was kind of enjoying having to take on all of this without Nicki. He felt he was growing closer to his kids and being more responsible for them.
"Jay? Get your lil' ass downstairs and go eat that cereal I put out for you. You got ten minutes 'til you leave." He waited for a response and continued on with his duties when he heard the tiny footsteps heading down the stairs. They'd been having more and more issues with him lately, particularly with his tantrum throwing and the fits he would have when he couldn't get his own way. They only really recognised how bad he was getting when the school called about his behaviour in class. They'd asked them to come in to discuss what further action should be taken. Truthfully, it was just another issue they didn't need to be worrying about. Especially with everything else on their plate at the moment. Silently contemplating what was going to happen with their son he bumped into Mama Carol on the stairway.
"Oh Safaree, where do you want this basket of laundry?" She propped it on her hip as she looked up at him. Never had he been so grateful for having her with them. He needed her right now.
"I'll do you a trade, could you take her downstairs and feed her?"
"Of course I can." She smiled at her granddaughter as SB handed her over and took the basket from her grip. He stood and watched them head downstairs before entering his and Nicki's room. She was still sleeping, as was Ava in the bassinet next to her side if the bed. Smiling at how peaceful they both looked he sat the laundry down and remembered he had to get Nicki's dressing changed. He'd set everything out the night before and ran through what he was told to do just to be on the safe side. Honestly, it wasn't rocket science but he was petrified of her wound becoming infected or something. His noisy antics, as he tried gather everything quietly, stirred Nicki from her sleep.
"Oh good you're up, we need to change your bandages."
"What?" Stretching up slowly and gently she rested back against the headboard and squinted at her alarm clock. "Why didn't you wake me up sooner?"
"'Cause everythin' is under control and you need rest. Plus, Ava wasn't screechin' or nothin' so I figured she ain't want feedin' yet." He moved over and sat on the side of the bed by her feet. "How you feelin'?"
"I love it when you answer sarcastically."
"Now you're the one being sarcastic." She cocked her eyebrow and waited for him to respond but he didn't. "I wanna shower first, then I'll change it." She spoke whilst throwing the covers back. "Help me to the bathroom." Carrying everything with him he did as she asked and helped her to the shower.
"Here sit on the tub and I'll help you undress." He attempted to lead her to the bath but she pulled her hand away from him softly.
"It's okay Safaree, I got it from here. Thanks." Pretending not to notice him stood looking at her she re-folded her towel and put it on the seat of the toilet.
"I said I'm okay Safaree. Please." She looked at him tiredly and used the sink as a crutch. "Could you just leave the bandages and stuff in here?"
"But I'm s'posed to be doin' it for you."
"I can handle it. I haven't lost the ability to do some things for myself y'know?" Her cold words didn't match the hurt look on her face, a look which mirrored his feelings at that moment. Why was she behaving so angrily?
"The sooner you realise you're just lucky to even be alive, the better." He placed the bag of hospital goods on the towel shelf and looked her dead in the eye. "Shout me if you need anythin', only if you really need it though. God knows we wouldn't wanna hurt your pride, Onika." He silenced her with his harsh words before he left, shutting the door behind him.
He felt a rush of guilt wash over his body as soon as he was out of her view but she needed to understand that she was acting out of turn, blaming those closest to her for something that was beyond their control. He shook off the pangs of guilt and made his way back downstairs after securing Ava in his arms. A quietness had overcome the house as soon as Carol had taken Jay to school. That silence soon faded when he heard Alia squawking in the living room. Robert had her sat on his knee, bouncing her as she screeched happily.
"Hey SB? What is there to do 'round here?" Crossing his arms, Cai leant over the breakfast bar once he'd made it into the kitchen.
"Honestly? There ain't shit 'round here for you to do. But listen, I gotta go see Jay's teacher later and then I'mma head 'round to Drake's. He's still got one of Lia's stuffed animals. You wanna come with?"
"A'ight, might as well." He shrugged casually and looked at his baby niece. "Can't Drake just bring it over for you?" He raised his brow questioningly.
"His car's in for repairs."
"Oh." He nodded understandingly. "Is Nika up?"
"Yeah, she's showerin'."
"Is she okay?"
"She's been better." He tried to smile and erase Cai's worried thoughts but honestly he was scared about how much this was affecting her.
"Can I go see her?"
"Maybe later, we gotta get this one fed." Motioning to Ava in his arms he started walking back towards the stairs. "But Lia needs changing, thanks." Laughing at his unamused face he continued up to their room.
Back upstairs Nicki was biting anxiously on her bottom lip as she tried to pull of her sodden bandages. It would have been much easier of she'd swallowed her pride and let her husband help but the thought of him seeing her like that was enough for her to pull her guard up. The wound was looking slightly better but it was still hideous and always would be in her eyes. Finally ripping it away from her skin she proceeded to cleanse it, dry it and apply the cream before taping on her new dressing. She knew it would take a long time to do since it was her first attempt at changing it but the length of time it took her was ridiculous. Throwing away the last of the bloodied up cotton she tied the ends of the bin bag and left it to the side. Call her squeamish but the sight of own reddened flesh and blood made her feel instantly nauseous. All she knew at that moment was that she had to get to the bed and quickly. Unbeknownst to her, Safaree was right outside the door ready to knock.
"Holy shit!" She held her chest immediately and tried to recuperate from the fright. "Stop doing that."
"I was just comin' to see how you were."
"I'm fine, thank you." Avoiding their eyes meeting she hobbled past him.
"You look really pale."
"Thanks, captain obvious." She heard him huff, but he didn't leave. "I feel really sick."
"You want somethin' for it?" He held back the covers with his free hand and let her climb in slowly. She knew had she not been through major surgery he would have spat the dummy and left the room by now but he was obviously trying to empathise with her, which she was truthfully grateful for even if she wasn't letting him see that. He knew deep down she was thankful.
"Yes, please." She held her arms out and took Ava from his grasp before settling down to feed her.
"Aight, I'll go pick some up while I'm out."
"Where you going?"
"I gotta go speak to Jay's teacher"
"Since when? And why didn't I know about this?" She frowned harshly as she spoke.
"They called yesterday. He's gettin' too much to handle and I ain't tell you 'cause you got a lot goin' on right now."
"So I'm no longer involved with sortin' my child's issues?" She scowled over at him. "The fuck would they know anyway? They don't even bother with him."
"That's not true, Nic."
"Oh really?" She readjusted a fussy Ava on her chest and glared at him. "He's autistic and they just treat him like he's some naughty child, he's not a bad kid, Safaree. They don't understand him."
"You really think so?" He furrowed his brow with thought before moving around the bed to sit on his side. He'd never really looked at it in that way. Maybe the school wasn't accommodating his needs properly. "We could try out another school?"
"What, and have him even more confused and upset than he already is? No, Safaree."
"Look, don't bite my head off at every suggestion I make, Nic. He's my son too and obviously we need to do somethin' about this."
There was a prickly silence as she looked down at Ava. "I know, you're right." Glancing back at him she exhaled slowly. "Im sorry."
"I'm not tryin' to make you feel uninvolved. I would never do that." He pushed the hair from her face as she watched Ava feed. "I'm just doin' what the doctor said. You need to recover. I can deal with the rest."
"Now, what are we gonna do 'bout Jay?"
"What exactly did they say on the phone?"
"Not much. They said he doesn't get involved enough and when he does it just ends witha fight goin' down." They were both sitting with their backs to the headboard, staring ahead. Just thinking.
"What if he just keeps gettin' worse?" Her voice was timid with fear.
"Hey, we managed this far and with all this shit happenin' to us. I'm sure we can handle it."
"That's not what I'm askin' though. I want for him to lead a normal life and do normal things."
"Well we already knew things weren't gonna be perfect for him, Nic. We can't change him."
"I don't want to change him. I wouldn't change him even if I was given the choice but sometimes I wonder what his life would be like if he wasn't autistic, y'know?"
"I wonder that too."
"He could be like all the other kids, have friends and actually communicate with someone."
"He communicates with us."
"But that's different." She sniffled, making him aware of the fact that she was crying. "Ten, twenty years down the line what is he gonna be like?"
"He'll be just like our son." The way he looked at her as he spoke made her feel assured. She had no idea why, but it did. "Let's just worry about what's goin' on now, 'kay?"
"Good." Moving sideways he kissed her temple and stroked Ava's head. "I'mma go talk to his teacher later, I'll make sure somethin's done."
"Let me know as soon as you're done with them."
"I'll call you when I'm out." Getting off of the bed he made his way into the closet to get changed and re-emerged once he was done. "You done feedin' her?"
"I'll sort her." Heading around he gently took their baby and proceeded to wind her and change her before laying her back in the bassinet. "If you need anythin' your Dad and brother are downstairs. So, shout them."
Resting back down on her side gently she just stared at him as he stood in the doorway. She looked exhausted was the only thing he could think.
As soon as he got parked at the school he took note of all the kids playing happily durning their lunch break. Everything Drake had told him was true. He could pick out Jayson from a mile away, sat alone with his blue truck. It pained him to see his son isolated by his own mind. Heading inside he stood and waited patiently for Jay's teacher, as instructed by the receptionist.
"Yeah." He turned and shook the man's hand as he led him back to his office.
"I'm Luke Darnell, Jayson's class teacher."
"You're the one I spoke to on the phone?"
"Yes, that's me." He smiled and sat down behind his desk. "Mrs Samuels isn't coming in?"
"She's just been discharged from hospital so, no."
"Oh dear, nothing serious I hope."
"Baby number three." Safaree smiled slightly and sat down, itching to get to the main reason why he was there.
"Well, congratulations." Luke nodded his head before looking back at the papers in front of him. "I wanted to talk to you about Jayson's behaviour."
"He's a good kid."
"And I have no doubts about that, however the reports I'm receiving back from his teachers are...Not so great, Mr Samuels. I understand that Jay requires more lenience-"
"For what? He should be treated like the other kids. If we wanted him to be treated any different we woulda sent him to another school. One that specialises in dealin' with kids like him."
"He is dealt with fairly here. It's just some teachers find his behaviour quite taxing. He's a handful at the best of times."
"That's 'cause none of y'all know how to deal with him. Y'all just treat him like some kid that causes trouble all the time. That makes it worse."
"I've said the same thing during every school committee meeting we've had."
"So why am I here, when you already know what's up?" Safaree's face softened remarkably.
"Because I think I have a solution, Mr Samuels."
Over the next 8 weeks, their relationship seemed to deteriorate more rapidly than either could have imagined. The silences didn't help much, especially since Nicki's family had gone back home again. Now it was just them and the kids and Jayson was acting up even more than ever, reaching a new level of tantrum throwing and introverted behaviour. An added stress that Nicki could certainly do without. On the more positive side of things however, she'd almost completely recovered and could finally go back to actually doing things and not wasting away in bed 24/7.
"Can you please be doin' somethin' to help me right now?" She loitered in the living room door way with Alia sat on her hip.
"A'ight, tell me what needs doin' and I'll do it." Knocking the TV off he tossed the remote down on to the couch and turned to stare at her.
"I shouldn't have to tell you or even ask you to do things, Safaree."
"Well, we got a half hour before we leave." He stood up and replaced his hat on his head.
"Exactly and here you are sat like we got all the time in the world. Go do something."
Not reacting to her orders he brushed past her moodily and headed up the stairs. This is what things had been like over the last few weeks. The communication was at an all time low, it was either her barking orders at him or completely dismissing him. Sometimes it was like he wasn't even there. Upon reaching the top of the stairs he headed in to Jayson's room and prepared for the daily battle of getting him to dress himself.
They were heading over to Drake's for some sort of pool party. Honestly Nicki had no interest in going since she had absolutely no intention of wearing a swimsuit but the kids would enjoy it and she wanted to get out of the house for a bit. Maybe it would lift the strain on herself and SB. It was worth a try anyway.
Once they got there she couldn't argue that it was a nice looking pool, there was still no temptation to get in though. Hence her accidentally forgetting her swimwear. Hardly a word had been spoken between her and Safaree unless it was to do with the kids. As soon as they reached the back yard SB had taken Alia down to the poolside, leaving her with Ava who was kicking out the "Z's" and Jayson, who was just sitting quietly on the deck chair behind her. There was an abundance of people present. She hadn't expected him to invite so many.
"You're not goin' in?" Her wandering thoughts ceased when a dripping Drake moved over and sat by her in the shade.
"No, not today." She smiled. "It's not really my thing."
"Swimming is everybody's thing, especially kids." He exclaimed. "Does Jay not wanna go in?" He peered behind her at a preoccupied Jayson. He was in a world of his own, as usual.
"I think SB's gonna take him in later. Alia's havin' way too much fun to get out." She laughed genuinely as she watched Alia with Safaree in the water.
"I can't believe you came to my pool party and you ain't even gon' test the water."
"I'll dangle my feet in later, that good enough?"
"No, but I guess it's a step forward so I can be happy with that." He laughed and inadvertently grabbed SB's attention. He hated when she did this. Hardly able to muster enough energy to acknowledge her own husband yet she always had the time of day for someone else. Scowling harshly he secured Alia close to him and waded towards the pool steps before heading over to them.
"I thought you were bringin' Jay in?" He stared down at her in the lounge chair, still fully clothed.
"I already told you I'm not gettin' in." She shrugged. "Grab her towel and hand her to me and you can take him in yourself."
Feeling the tension begin to rise Drake stood up and announced he was going to the kitchen, leaving them to argue it out.
"Why you actin' so selfish, Onika? Alls am askin' is that you spend ten minutes with me whilst our kids have a good time. Once those minutes are up you can go back to givin' attention to whoever the hell you want."
The way his words cascaded over her made everything come to a stand still. "Are you serious right now? You're kickin' up 'cause I was talkin' to Drake?"
"Whatever, Nic." He shook his head angrily. "I'mma go dry her off."
For once, she decided against yelling back. It would have only caused a scene but what he'd said to her was impacting. Did he really think that? Or was he just saying it because he was mad? Noticing Drake was looking over at her she smiled quickly and turned to face Jay.
"You gonna go in the water with Daddy, Jay?" He didn't even glance at her. "Jayson, could you look at me when I'm talking to you?" Nothing. It was like talking to a brick wall. Reaching out she rested her hand on his leg and asked him again but he just shook his head no and turned to face the opposite direction. She knew it wasn't his fault and he wasn't purposely trying to upset her. But she couldn't lie and say her feelings weren't hurt right now, by more than one person.
*This chapter is a whole load of nothing lol I started typing it months ago and forgot it was here :( so it's even more all over the place than usual XD Anywho, I hope it was okay for whoever still reads this.*