Chapter 22

9 3 10
                                                  

A weird sensation woke Art. He checked his bedside alarm. Almost six. The weird sensation came from the other side of his bed.

Someone moving.

Could it be...

Making sure he was covered, he rolled over. He found himself face-to-face with Joey wearing Aquaman pajamas, lying on top of the covers. "Hey, sport, what are you doing here?"

Joey rolled a toy truck across the bed until it bumped into Art's chest.

"Uh, oh," Art said. "Your truck needs to go over a mountain."

"Uh, oh," Joey parroted.

Art reached over and mussed the boy's hair.

He heard a timid knock at his door. Natalya asked in a whisper, "Joey, are you in there?"

"You can enter, I'm decent."

She pushed the door open and peeked. When she saw Art was covered, she walked in and raised a hand to her mouth. "Oh, gosh, I'm sorry. I was in the bathroom and didn't know Joey had gotten up."

"I don't mind. I was just about to show Joey how to drive his truck over the mountain." While speaking, he studied the woman in front of him. She wore just a robe, it's front opening bunched up in her fist as she held it closed against her chest.

"He doesn't get much male attention," she said. "Not that it's an excuse. He needs to learn boundaries and to respect other people's privacy."

"Being a Down child, does it make teaching him more difficult?"

"Yes, compared with Anya. Raising that girl was a breeze. She was precocious and smart as all get out. Joey needs a lot of repetition. He exhibits obsessive-compulsive behavior when anxious. When he gets like that, he can be trying."

Like when he was obsessed with the cereal box in the grocery store. Art didn't want to sour Natalya's mood by reminding her of the incident. "I've noticed how sensitive and intuitive Joey can be. One thing for sure, he's no dummy."

"You got that right. Given constant repetition, he can learn. His greatest achievement is learning how to use the potty." She paused. "Thank goodness for small victories."

Art said, "I guess I should get up now."

"Sorry again for the intrusion. C'mon Joey." She took her son by the hand. While leading him out, she said, "I'll get breakfast started."

He didn't object, figuring it would keep Natalya's mind preoccupied with something meaningful to do. He could get used to having her around. Joey too.

Except he shouldn't get used to it. They wouldn't be around for long, a few days at most. The thought left him with an empty feeling, a feeling he shouldn't have, a feeling he didn't know how to deal with.

 The thought left him with an empty feeling, a feeling he shouldn't have, a feeling he didn't know how to deal with

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