bonus chapter #2

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I woke to the sensation of being slapped in the face by a tiny hand.

Tired. So tired. My eyelids were unbearably heavy. I managed to pry them open and jumped, startled to find two pairs of eyes gleaming in the dark like raccoons. Zane and Sloane were standing at my side of the bed, staring at me. Zane, clearly the slapping culprit, giggled.

"Uncle Ethan, I wanna go ho-um," Sloane whined. She was wide awake and she'd already gotten herself dressed. Her outfit didn't match- an orange dress and green pants- but it still struck me as impressive for her age.

Zane, on the other hand, was still in his superhero dinosaur footie PJs. The T-Rex wore a cape. Zane seemed unfazed by how improbable a flying dinosaur really was.

I sat up in bed, squinting to see the clock on Ryan's nightstand. Jesus. It was 5:57am. On a Saturday. Isabelle and Axel had conveniently failed to mention that the kids woke up at the crack of freaking dawn.

Ryan rolled over, still half-asleep. "Hmmm?" she mumbled.

"It's okay. I got them. You go back to sleep," I said. She didn't respond, rolling back over and resuming a peaceful slumber, like I wished I could. I turned back to the kids, who were waiting and watching, bright-eyed. "Hang on," I told them. "I need to get dressed and then I'll get you guys some food."

I stumbled into the closet and blindly grabbed a pair of sweats and a t-shirt. Probably as mismatched as Sloan's, but no matter. Fumbling in the hall, I eventually located the light switch. It wasn't even dawn yet. It was December, and still pitch black outside.
We made a potty detour for the kids before hitting the kitchen.

They sprinted ahead of me and climbed onto the stools at the island, which were perilously high off the ground for people their size. I wasn't sure whether I should try to remove them and risk a meltdown, or let them stay and hope for the best. I gambled on the latter, scattering some throw pillows on the floor around them in case they fell.

"I'm hungry," Sloane informed me as she primly folded her hands on top of the counter, kicking the cabinet in front of her feet. Bang bang bang bang. I cringed, but decided to pick my battles.

"What do you want to eat?" What did little kids eat? They must be past baby food by now. So just... normal people food?

"Cereal!" she declared.

I walked over to the pantry and examined our inventory. I vaguely recalled Ryan saying something about Isabelle specifying no sugar and no processed foods for the kids. What did that even leave? Plain oatmeal? Eggs? Fuck.

Sloane's eyes widened as a tantalizing blue and white box on the top shelf caught her eye. She scrambled down from the chair and pointed excitedly. "That! That! I want Frosted Flakes!"
"Fwosted fwakes," Zane echoed, pointing with his chubby toddler finger. I had to admit, it was hard to say no to him.

"Frosted Flakes! Frosted Flakes!" they both began to chant, growing louder and louder as they danced around the kitchen.

The microwave clock read 6:11am.

I had to silence them. They were going to wake Ryan or, worse yet, piss off the neighbors in our building. The last thing I needed was a bunch of complaints filed against us, or a scolding at one of our Condo Board Association meetings. Our co-op board was a nightmare to deal with.

"You got it. Frosted Flakes it is," I said, grabbing the box, two bowls, and two spoons. "Don't tell your mom."


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