Today's teaser is a scene from the early years in Demons & Lullabies. Oh, how I miss writing a young Jacob's point of view...
Jacob didn’t know why, but his daddy was very mad. His face was very frowny, and he wasn’t talking much at all, and the smell of him made Jacob’s nose itch. Usually, Jacob’s daddy talked to Jacob while he made breakfast, asked what Jacob wanted to do today, and what kind of drawing Jacob would make, and all sorts of questions. Jacob’s daddy usually asked if the pancakes were good, too, and what kind of syrup Jacob wanted on them, and how many.
Today, his daddy wasn’t saying anything.
Maybe Jacob had done something wrong. He tried to think hard, but he didn’t remember doing something bad.
Jacob kept looking at the door and expecting Nicholas to come in. His daddy talked to Nicholas, too, when he made breakfast. But Nicholas wasn’t coming in, Jacob’s daddy wasn’t talking, and Jacob’s tummy felt funny.
“Daddy?” Jacob said in a very quiet voice.
His daddy put down his mug and looked at Jacob from the other side of the table. Jacob squirmed a little bit.
“What is it, buddy? Do you want more?”
Jacob shook his head. “Are you mad?”
His daddy blinked very slowly. He smiled, but it wasn’t a nice smile. “Of course I’m not mad. Everything’s fine.”
It wasn’t nice to lie. His daddy said so all the time. He must have been really mad.
“I’m very sorry,” Jacob tried, even more quietly now.
“Sorry for what?” his daddy said, and he was all frowny again.
Jacob shrugged a little. “The bad thing I did?”
His daddy sighed loudly and stood from his chair. “You didn’t do anything wrong.” When he moved behind Jacob, he messed up Jacob’s hair then leaned down and hugged him quickly. “And I’m not mad at you, I promise. Are you done with your breakfast? You can go brush your teeth and get dressed then.”
Jacob slipped off his chair and walked out of the kitchen. He looked back at his daddy; he was doing the dishes, and he wasn’t smiling at all. Now he looked mad and sad. Rather than going right to his room, Jacob turned left and ran very fast to his daddy and Nicholas’ room.
The door always creaked so Jacob didn’t bother being quiet and ran to the bedroom. Nicholas was in bed and watching the television. The light from it was kind of blue, and it made Nicholas look a little bit sick. Nicholas was frowning when he looked at Jacob, but then his frown went away, and he smiled. It was the same smile as Jacob’s daddy’s, all tight and hard.
“Hey, sweets. How was breakfast?”
Without waiting for an invitation, Jacob gripped the edge of the bed and climbed on, crawling up to kneel next to Nicholas. Jacob gave him a very serious look and even sniffed a little. Nicholas didn’t smell hurt, and it had been a long time since Nicholas’ head had been all bloody, but Jacob asked anyway.
“Does your head hurt again?”
Nicholas’ smile was a little crooked suddenly. “My head’s fine. Why do you ask?”
“It’s morning, and you’re in bed and watching TV, and you didn’t have breakfast, and Daddy’s mad, and I did something bad, but I don’t know what.”
Jacob was out of breath by the time he finished, and his eyes stung a little. Nicholas wasn’t smiling anymore; instead he looked very sad. He brushed his fingers against Jacob’s cheeks, where they were a little bit wet.
“He’s not mad at you,” Nicholas said quietly. “I’m the one who did something bad.”
Jacob opened his eyes very wide. That explained it. Sometimes when Jacob did something wrong, his daddy sent him to his room for a time out. He wasn’t supposed to play with his toys, then. Jacob wondered if Nicholas was allowed to watch TV when he was in time out.
Jacob lay down next to Nicholas, cuddled against his side. He threw his arm around Nicholas’ stomach, and held on to his t-shirt.
“Did you say sorry?” Jacob whispered. “It makes it all better when you say sorry.”
Nicholas sneaked his arm around Jacob and held him close. “I don’t think sorry is going to be enough.”
“But did you try?” Jacob insisted.
Nicholas sighed and brushed his fingers through Jacob’s hair. “No. But I will. Okay?”
Jacob thought about it. It was hard to think when there were cartoons on the television. Nicholas had changed the channel, and Batman was trying to catch the Joker.
“You give him a hug, too,” Jacob decided when it was time for commercials. “Hugs make him happy.”
Nicholas laughed quietly and hugged him tighter for a moment. “Yes, sweets, they do. Maybe later, then.”
Jacob was going to argue, but then it was time for Batman again, and he forgot. The episode finished, and then another one started, and that one was almost finished when Jacob’s daddy came in. He stopped by the wall and leaned against it with his arms crossed. He still looked mad.
“I thought you were getting dressed, Jacob. And you know I don’t like you to watch those cartoons.”
Nicholas’ hand rested at the back of Jacob’s head, holding him close for a moment, and then he pushed Jacob up until he was sitting. “You heard your dad. Off you go.”
But Jacob didn’t want to go. He wanted to know if Batman would catch the Joker this time.
“Nicholas is sorry,” he said very fast.
His daddy’s eyebrows twitched a little. “Is he,” he said, and he sounded mad again.
When Nicholas didn’t say anything, Jacob looked at him and poked his side with a finger. Nicholas cleared his throat.
“Maybe I am,” Nicholas muttered. Jacob poked him again, and he sighed. “Right. I‘m sorry. Happy, sweets?”
Jacob shook his head. “You said you would give him a hug, too.”
Nicholas looked at Jacob’s daddy, then back at Jacob. “I don’t think Daddy wants a hug now.”
Frowning, Jacob looked at his daddy, too. He was still standing by the wall, but he looked a little less mad. Jacob was sure that if he got a hug, he would stop being mad at all. Jacob scooted to the edge of the bed and slipped off. He went to his daddy and hugged his leg very fast before taking his hand.
Jacob had to pull very hard, but his daddy followed him to the bed. Jacob let go for a second to climb back in, but then he took his daddy’s hand again and pulled some more. His daddy let out a big sigh then climbed in, too. Jacob dragged him all the way up the bed and cuddled back against Nicholas.
“See?” Jacob said, looking at his daddy. “Hugs make it all better.”
For a long, long time, Jacob’s daddy looked at Nicholas, and Nicholas looked back, and they said nothing at all, and Jacob was worried they would both be mad now. But in the end, Nicholas looked down and kissed Jacob’s forehead.
“I really am sorry,” Nicholas said very softly. “I was stupid. I’ll try not to be again.”
Jacob’s daddy did the big sigh again. “You better,” was all he said.
He laid down behind Jacob and hugged him, and Nicholas, too. He didn’t smell mad anymore, and it was all better again, and Jacob even heard his daddy kissing Nicholas above his head. Jacob watched the end of Batman cuddled between the two of them, and he was sure that his daddy would say it was time to turn off the TV soon now. But the cartoon ended, another one started, and Jacob’s daddy said nothing. He just kept holding Jacob and Nicholas, and that was the best Saturday morning ever.