XXV. Ceiling Incident
A day at the park sounds nice, and that’s precisely what we did that weekend.
I watched as the guys kicked the soccer ball around with the kids.
“I got it!” Vinny shouted. He kicked the ball towards Stacey. Stacey stopped the ball, then grabbed it and ran towards the goal.
“Stacey!” Lizzie screamed. “For the last time! You’re not supposed to run with the ball!”
Stacey stops midway and drops the ball. She rubs the dirt onto her shorts and gets ready to kick the ball. Josh rushed towards her and kicked it to the other side.
"Josh! I was going to kick that!”
“Hailey!” He ignored Stacey, “Did you see me? Did you see how far I kicked the ball?!”
Hailey clapped rigorously, “Go, Josh!”
Josh smiled wildly.
Ah, young love.
“It barely passed the tree!” Crystal shouted.
Josh glared at Crystal.
“Eyes on the goal, bud!” Matt screamed.
Caleb rushed towards the soccer ball, “I got it, dad! I got it!”
When Caleb is a foot away, Hayden kicks the ball.
“Hey!” Caleb shouted.
Hayden said something to Caleb.
“Hayden!” Todd screamed. “Let your cousin kick the ball!”
“But, he’s not on our team!” Hayden protested. “Plus, he takes too long! Why can’t I go with Walter and Arden to our friend’s house?”
“Maybe next time you think twice before breaking the vase and lying about it!” Amanda screamed.
Hayden kicked the dirt.
Yesterday, Hayden did karate chops around the house and accidentally knocked over the vase. He didn’t get punished for breaking the vase. He got in trouble for lying about breaking it. He tried to blame it on his brothers, but they have cameras in the house.
I watched as Dustin scrambled towards the ball with Theo. Together, they lifted their legs and kicked the ball.
The ball barely budge.
They tried to kick the ball again but fell on the grass.
“It’s okay! It’s okay!” Matt said. “Let’s try it again.” He lifted Theo while Jackson lifted Dustin.
Theo wipes off his tears then kicks the soccer ball towards Dustin.
When the ball reached Dustin, he turned his head.
Jackson points at the ball.
Dustin shook his head and pressed his body further into Jackson’s chest.
Jackson said something.
Dustin only responds with: “Gyah! No!” Then, he blew a raspberry at Jackson’s face.
Jackson tried to stand up.
Dustin clung to his shirt.
I watch as Dustin hangs from Jackson’s clothes with his questionable strength.
I stood up, “Dustin! Let go of Jackson!”
Dustin looks at me, “No!”
I stomp towards the center of the field. “Dustin!”
I grabbed his waist and pried him off of Jackson.
“It’s okay,” Jackson said.
“No! Not okay!”
Where does he get this attitude from?
I bet it’s from her.
To my right, Crystal stood with Stacy and Macy.
“What is it?” I question.
“I want to go to the mall with Melody, Stacey, Macy, and Hailey.”
I tried to pry off Dustin’s small hands off of Jackson, who seems to do nothing.
“Who is taking you all?”
“Aunt Amanda and Aunt Lizzie.”
“Alright. Have fun.”
“Do you need help?”
“If you’re thinking of tickling your brother, don’t do it. That’s reinforcing his behavior.”
Crystal groaned, “Fine. Have fun!”
“Love you too, mom!”
She rushed towards the car.
I look at Jackson, “You’re really just going to stand there?”
“Oh. Right.” He looks down, “Little dude. You got to let go of me.”
Jackson looks at me, “Well. I tried.”
The van with everyone inside drove out of the parking lot and into the street. I watch it as it disappears before I tickled Dustin. Dustin burst out laughing and let go of Jackson’s sweater.
Jackson raised a brow. He’s mentally judging me. I know it.
“Oh, don’t look at me like that. I save you from getting bitten.” With enough time, Dustin’s arms will get tired, and he will resort to biting.
Jackson shook his head then bent his knees. He rested his arms against it, “Hey, little dude. Give it another shot. I’ll help you. Alright?”
Dustin puffed a breath.
I put him down beside the ball.
“Dustin. You can’t give up all because something is hard.” I held up a finger, “One kick only. Okay?”
Jackson lowered himself and messed up Dustin’s hair. “How about we go to the swings after this?”
Dustin looks at me, then Jackson, then back towards me. He walked towards the ball, and with his eyes closed, he kicked the air.
I pressed my fingers against my forehead.
Jackson took a step close to the ball and rolled it with his hand. “Look!” He screamed. “You kicked it!”
Dustin opens his eyes and squeals, “Kick! Kick!” He shuffled towards the ball and kicked it. “Kick! Kick!”
Dustin’s lower lips trembled.
“You’re fine. You’re fine little dude.” Jackson picked him up and dusted off the dirt. Then, he rolled the ball towards Dustin. Dustin danced a little before he kicked the ball again.
Jackson looked at me and smiled before he gave me the okay sign.
I exhaled softly and made my way back to the bench. It was one of those baby-blue sky days. Many people would enjoy these types of days, but not me. My eyes squinted as the sun beamed more and more with each ticking second. I located the large blue container, determined to satisfy my thirst. I should grab a bottle of water for Jackson and Dustin too.
“Hey there,” a random woman said.
“Hi?” Do I know her?
“Your little boy is precious.”
I definitely do not know her. If I did, she would know my precious son’s name. I may or may not always brag about how handsome Dustin is.
I look at Dustin, “Yeah.”
She took out a card, “I’m a recruiter,” she said. She handed me a fancy-looking card.
“Everharts’ Modelling Agency.” She smiled, “I would love to make an appointment with your little boy to take some photos. He is so adorable!”
“Oh,” I chuckled, “Thanks.” This isn’t the first time some random recruiter comes for Crystal or Dustin. What can I say? I give birth to cute children.
“I mean, it makes sense considering his mother is quite the looker.” I know she’s buttering me up, but I can’t help but feel good. It’s nice to hear a compliment once in a while. “And daddy isn’t a bad looker either.” She winked.
She turned her head towards the field.
Jackson was giving Dustin’s piggyback rides.
My eyes widened when Jackson threw him in the air.
Then, Matt threw Theo in the air.
Now, Jackson threw Dustin even higher.
They’re not doing what I think they’re doing.
While I watched Dustin fly higher and higher with a large smile on his face, I didn’t feel joy. Instead, fear arrives - hard ground. Waves of doubts drove into my head, and I couldn’t stop thinking what if Jackson dropped him.
And then the memories re-appeared.
Crystal laying on the hospital bed with bandages and plugs all over her body.
“Matthew!” I watch as Nina marches towards Matt and Jackson. Then, it began, the ear-piercing screams.
“I’ll think about this,” I told the lady. Two steps towards them, I stopped, “And he’s not my husband.”
She covered her mouth with her hands, “I’m sorry. I just thought-”
“It’s okay,” I said. “Have a nice day.” I tucked the card inside my pants and rushed towards them.
Nina grabbed Theo from Matt, “How could you throw Theo that high? What if you didn’t catch him?”
“Jackson!” I ground my molars, “Give me the boy!” He handed me Dustin.
“Up! Up!” Dustin raised his arms.
“Up! Up!” Theo copied Dustin.
Here is a first.
Someone is copying Dustin.
Nina glared at Matt while I did the same to Jackson. They glanced at each other. “Look. It’s not a big deal,” Matt said. “I mean, Josh and Caleb like it when I made them fly.”
“May I remind you about the ceiling incident?”
“Ceiling incident?” I question.
Nina smiled dauntingly, “Would you like to answer or me?”
Matt scratched his head, “Well-”
“Matt thought it was a good idea to throw Caleb high while we were inside the house. Long story short, Caleb ended up hitting his head against the ceiling and poked his eye on the ceiling fan.”
I gasp, “Wait. Are you telling me that’s the reason why Caleb was-”
“Yes.” She turned back towards Matt.
Matt smiled sheepishly, “There are no ceilings or fans out here.”
She glared at him before she walked away. “Fuck,” Matt mumbled underneath his breath before he went after Nina. “The doctors said Caleb is fine! The optometrist says it won’t affect his sight in the future!”
I glanced at him.
He stopped and cleared his throat.
“So, do you also think it’s okay to throw a child in the air while there are no ceilings and fans?”
“Piper. Dustin was having fun.”
“And if you didn’t catch him?”
He scratched his head.
“That’s what I thought.” When I walked back towards the bench, Jackson followed.
“Alright. It was my bad, but the boys were having fun. I mean, Tyler and Ben do it to their boys all the time.”
I continued to walk.
“And they told me that the boys love it.”
The more I walked, the more uneasy I felt. “It’s not the same.”
“What do you mean it’s not the same? You know I would never drop Dustin.”
My hands clung firmly onto Dustin, who reached for Jackson. He continued to make incoherent sounds.
“I’m sorry, Piper. I really am, but-”“Dustin is not your son!”