When I walked in, he was on the couch, staring sullenly at some violent sport. An immediate warning sign. Sports – especially the outright violent ones -- he explicitly refuses to watch unless he's looking to be upset. Which happens, but not incredibly often.
He didn't turn or acknowledge my entrance.
I set my briefcase beside the door, hung up my jacket and went to stand behind him, quietly rubbing his shoulders.
“Hey, sweetheart.” I kissed his hair.
“Mmm,” was the only reply. The only reply from my constantly chattering, always-in-need-of-conversation boy.
Fuck it. Just.. damn his parents. If only I could justify forbidding him to see them. But... they're his parents. And I can't do that. Can I? God knows I've tried to come up with more than one logical rationale.
At his complete despondence, I climbed over the back of the couch and sat down beside him, hauling him into my lap. He fought against the affection halfheartedly, making the “leave me alone” grunting noises he likes to emit when he's especially tired or upset.
“Shh. Sit still,” I said, simply, holding him firmly and trapping his hands.
“Daviiid...” he whined. “I don't waanna sit heeere.”
“What happened today?” I asked, casually, ignoring him while at the same time trying not to sound too interested. The mere scent of too much interest in things he doesn't want to talk about will turn him off faster than anything else. The things you learn in living with someone...
“Nothing,” he said, defensively, still squirming.
“Hey,” My voice was quiet and I lifted his shirt to lightly smack the exposed hip. “Sit still, hm?”
He did, but made sure to let me know it was under duress.
“How was your day?” I asked, this time hoping it sounded less accusing than the former question.
“It was FINE!” he snapped, sharply, jerking his hands out of my grasp so he could fold his arms over his chest. But he settled back against me as soon as he had. Sometimes a quick smack to bare skin will keep him in line, other times not. Tonight, I knew it might work for a while, but nothing would really keep him from erupting eventually. It was virtually inevitable.
“Would you like to try that one again?” I asked, calmly, digging into the couch cushions to retrieve the remote. I flipped the television off, killing the distraction, however small. It was quite obvious at that point that the real distraction was internal; television was just the accompanying background noise for the crashing orchestra in his head.
Jamie did not appreciate my gesture.
“I was watching that!”
“Wrestling?” I asked, somewhat skeptically.
All right. Enough, I thought to myself. Enough.
“Listen to me,” I said, seriously. And I sat up straight to underline my point. “I can tell you right now where this behavior is going to get you by the end of the night and it won't be a happy place. So just relax, baby, hm? If you don't want to talk about whatever's bothering you, then don't talk about it. But don't take it out on me if you're going to try to deal with it yourself, is that clear?” My voice was kind, not stern or angry. It took some of the bite out of the words, I hoped.
“I just-- I can't-- I don't know...” he fumbled. Then, “Yes. Fine. Okay.” And he shook his head in exasperation.
I just sighed and squeezed him once. “If you want to talk to me, you can. You know that, James, don't you?”
I smiled, not satisfied but temporarily appeased, and turned the TV back on to the news which we sat in front of a while longer. He still wasn't paying the slightest bit of attention to anything but the internal dialogue taking place in his head. I reached a hand up his shirt and rubbed lazy shapes into his back.
“Are you going to keep this to yourself forever?” I asked, softly.
“Idunno..” he mumbled, not moving an inch.
“You're supposed to talk to me when you're upset so that we can fix things together, you know..”
No move to respond whatsoever.
“Jamie..” I said directly into his ear. “You are. Aren't you?”
“I don't know!” he shouted, standing abruptly and stamping his foot before all but throwing himself headlong into the kitchen. “You don't KNOW what it's like!” he said, loudly, as I immediately followed to find him with an uncorked bottle of wine halfway to his mouth. He must have been working on it for quite a while before I got home.
“You have NICE family! You don't KNOW! You don't even care and you don't come around or come with me!”
I'd offered to come with him if he'd ask them to wait until tomorrow, Saturday, instead of insisting on today. But he'd refused to call them back, stand up to them, make the move of independence necessary to request a change of plans. They had him firmly manipulated enough to do as they pleased. And I couldn't weasel out of work that day if it wasn't absolutely, positively necessary.
Though, looking back, it had been.
Hindsight is 20/20, though, isn't it?
I resolved to rethink not making him include me in all of his family events thereafter, regardless of inconvenience. Him being so worked up every time he went near them was going to end one way or another. And if that meant my monitoring his every moment with his thoroughly dysfunctional family, then so be it.
A closer look at the bottle in his hand reminded me that it was the one that had been three fourths full last time I'd checked. Now it was nearly empty.
“Come over here,” I said in the specific tone intended to make his head pop up, his eyes widen and his ears perk. Usually, whether or not he knows he's going to be swatted or worse, he'll jump up and come to me immediately for that tone of voice alone.
This evening, however, he did none of the above. He simply raised the bottle the rest of the way to his mouth and poured the remaining inch of wine straight down his throat.
If I'd thought I was going to be able to put this all off until after dinner, I was sorely disappointed.
Somehow, blatant defiance seems to significantly increase one's ability to cover ground. I reached him in two strides, plucked the bottle from his hand and took his arm, landing five or six good swats to the seat of his jeans.
“Now, you listen to me, little boy,” I said, severely, mustering a good amount of will power to keep some serious annoyance in check. “I know that family visits are difficult for you, I know that your family doesn't love you the way that either of us wish they would, but that does not excuse willfully disobedient behavior. Now, you march yourself up those stairs,” I pointed so he wouldn't get any ideas about concocting loopholes. “And get into the tub. I will bring up dinner and you can go to bed. Maybe a full stomach and some sleep will calm you down.”
“You HATE me!” he screeched, slamming his hands into the counter top and stamping his foot again before racing up the stairs.
I took a deep breath, closing my eyes and momentarily gathering my thoughts before dutifully following him. Screaming was unacceptable, which he knew. And leaving the room that way was disrespectful, which he also knew.
“Come here,” I said again, this time with no intention of letting him take control. We were going to get a few things settled.
He was in the bathroom, peeling clothes off angrily and throwing them into a pile behind the door.
I leaned only slightly against the door frame, making sure to keep my shoulders broad and my stance strong.
Being strong for the both of us isn't always the easiest thing I have to do, but it's always the most rewarding. And, given half a chance, Jamie could do the same, probably better than I do. It helps, that thought. Sometimes. I willed it to help right then.
He hmphed and stomped around a few moments longer, ignoring me.
“Come here, Jamison,” I said again, more sternly.
He swung around, shirt off and pants unbuttoned. “WHAT do you want?!” he shouted, more loudly than I'd heard him shout in a long time. “Why won't you just leave me alone?!”
I looked into his eyes for a split second before he snapped them away from me, but in that short glance I saw the scared little boy I'd come to know upon occasion. His nerves were on end, completely frayed. I reached out, took his arm gently and led him out of the bathroom, down the stairs and to the kitchen corner to stand while I made dinner. If he couldn't manage to leave my sight without first causing a scene, then he simply wouldn't leave my sight. I said as much to him as I walked him down the stairs.
He groused, making loud proclamations of discontent as I patted his back to ease him into the corner.
“Hush up and stand there,” I said, placidly. “I've had enough lip from you for the time being.”
“You don't ever let me talk!” He spat, his emotions escalating rapidly. “You never let me give my side or say anything!”
I shook my head and sighed inaudibly. Had my asking him to talk to me not been exactly what sent him into hysterics in the first place?
I love his voice. I love listening to him ramble and rant and rave. But when the boy's in trouble, he's usually in deep enough. Too deep. And his mouth only digs him in further. I try to stop that as quickly as possible whenever I can by telling him that talking is currently out. Which he doesn't ever take kindly to, but which tends to work.
“Be quiet,” I said again blithely, turning away from him. “Stand still and calm yourself down.”
“I have to shower!” He whined.
“You have to do as I tell you.”
“I don't want to! I want to be left alone!”
“Not happening. Sorry.”
“You are not sorry!”
Oh, so conveniently, the drawer was already half open as I was preparing for dinner and I reached in and quickly retrieved a fairly heavy, wide wooden spoon. I set down the pot I had just filled with water onto the warming stove to boil and walked back to him, whirling him around hard, hoping to catch his attention.
"You are this close,” I held the spoon up to his nose, “to being spanked.” Then I reached behind him and landed a couple of well placed swats that I saw brought some wetness to his eyes. “This close,” I repeated. “So if that's what you're looking for, young man, you just keep it up. This spoon is awfully versatile. But otherwise, I suggest you stand still and get yourself under control before this all gets far worse than it has to. Do you understand me?” I lifted his chin until his eyes leveled with mine and searched them, fiercely, waiting.
“Do you understand me, Jamison?” I swatted him again and he winced this time. Some progress made, I hoped.
Still, he gave me a look of contempt I'd ever seen on his face and said, very softly, but through gritted teeth, “Yes. Sir.” I could see his temper just below the surface and prayed he would get it under control before dinner. I had been prepared for this sort of situation, but it was escalating more rapidly than I'd anticipated and I really would rather have not had to deal with it right then. But that's not the way things work, I suppose. Putting off dealing with things only leaves me with an even more angry, scared, confused brat.
“Good.” I turned him back to the corner, swatted him once more and went back to making dinner.
It was ten minutes before I saw his shoulders slump – three times as long as it usually would have taken. Another ten minutes and he'd started shifting from foot to foot, then only four more and he was making his first attempts at whining his way out.
“Stay quiet, Jamison.”
“But when can I come oout..?” If he seriously thinks that pitiful whining is going to get his butt off the line, he's got another thing coming, that one. As much as I'd like to leave his temper and his tantrums behind myself and forget about them, we both knew that would absolutely be the wrong thing to do.
“When dinner's ready,” I replied, matter-of-factly.
“When will dinner be ready?” he whimpered, plaintively.
“When I call you out from the corner. Now be quiet before I have reason to bend you over. Like I said, young man, it won't take much.”
He was quiet after that.
Dinner was actually all but finished when he'd first begun whining, but I made a point to keep myself busy for five or so more minutes cleaning dishes and straightening up. I didn't want him thinking that his whining was getting him off easy. That could have detrimental results.
“All right, Jamie,” I said as I set the last bowl on the table. “Come sit down.”
He came out, quietly, seeming quite a bit more subdued. Thank God. Of course, we still had a lot to discuss, but it would be far easier if he were calm. He sat, not raising his gaze to my eyes.
Until he saw the pan of vegetables.
“I hate stir fry,” he said, quietly; matter-of-factly.
“This is the kind you liked a couple of weeks ago,” I placated smoothly. He'd had seconds and leftovers not 14 or 15 days prior.
“I've never liked this kind,” he insisted, making it painfully obvious he was doing nothing more than simply ploying for an argument.
“Try it, Jamie,” I said, absolutely refusing to back down. Dinner wasn't negotiable.
Call it my traditional upbringing, but here, you eat what's on the table, nothing else. And because, if given half a chance, he'd go hungry for six out of seven dinners a week, rather than eat something he didn't like, going hungry was no longer an option. Dinner was often his only decent meal of the day and I tried my best to make it count. Which meant he would eat it, like it or not.
I took his plate and spooned some vegetables and rice onto it, then set it back in front of him.
“I want to take a shower and go to bed.” He pushed the plate away and glared at the table.
“Are you feeling all right?” I asked, light heartedly, smiling at his request to go to bed. I playfully reached over the table to feel his forehead. He's not one to volunteer himself for sleep anytime before 5am.
“Quit it,” he whined, scooting away from the table and standing up. “I don't wanna eat,” he said, resolutely, as though his decision were the final one. A move I was more than prepared to translate as a direct challenge to my authority.
“Sit down,” I said. “It's dinner time. Not optional.”
“I HATE vegetables.”
“You liked these just a couple weeks ago. Now, sit yourself down and eat.”
He flopped into his chair and crossed his arms over his chest. “I'll sit, but I am not eating.”
“Then you'll be sitting for a while,” I said, calmly, trying to focus on my own eating, rather than paying him any undue attention.
By the time I'd finished my food, he still hadn't touched his and he was sitting in basically the same position as before. I cleaned up in silence, washing the dishes, ignoring his huffing breaths as he slouched angrily in his chair, glowering at the food in front of him.
I finished and he'd still not touched his food.
“When you're done, bring your plate to me to look at and then it's bedtime,” I said, mildly as I headed out of the kitchen to do some work in the living room. I would have more preferred my office, but then he'd just find somewhere besides his stomach to put the food while I wasn't around to watch.
He turned around once, confirming his suspicions that, yes, I was paying attention, and slumped back against the chair.
By eight thirty, I was beginning to realize how stubborn he can be when he tries.
By nine, I was officially frustrated with him and at my wit's end.
I debated calling Andrew for advice. But, in order for Jamie not to hear the conversation, I would have had to have it in another room. Which would mean he'd be left alone and that had too much potential to make things worse.
I set down my work and sighed, walking into the kitchen. I leaned back against the counter.
“What are we going to do here, honey?” I asked. “You're not going to bed without food in your stomach. I'm sure you've not eaten anything else with an ounce of nutritional value all day and going to bed hungry means you'll wake up twice as hungry. And that means you'll wake up twice as grouchy, too. Something neither of us needs to deal with.”
“You made me eat eggs this morning,” he said, angrily. “Eggs have nutritional value.”
Always an irrelevant argument.
“That's not the point, is it?”
“Well, how should I know?! You don't let me talk and you don't talk TO me!”
What ensued next shocked me, but made me realize with a jolt just how serious the problem with his parents was. And that I needed to do something about it, whatever that something was. Because whoever the monster was that was seizing my Jamie, it wasn't any of the monsters I'd seen before.
In a series of quick, surprisingly fluid movements, my boy threw his plate to the floor, watched it break into several large (thank God) pieces, then made move to stomp out of the room, but promptly slipped on the food he'd thrown, falling backward into the mess of vegetables and rice and smacking his head against the linoleum floor.
My immediate reaction was anger at the nerve of him actually throwing his plate to the floor. I had a mind to jerk him up and show him exactly what I thought of that stunt.
But as soon as he burst into tears and laid back limply against the cold floor, all I felt was an overpowering need to protect him.
“Jamison!” I said, sharply, then dropped to my knees, softening my voice. “What has gotten into you? Sit up. No, sit up, so I can look at you. Are you all right?” I asked, pulling him up to sit and checking his body for glass cuts, feeling the back of his head for a bump. “James, how hard did you hit your head?”
He just sobbed, clutching at me.
There was a three or four inch gash on the underside of his left forearm, but upon quick examination it didn't look very deep. I grabbed the dishtowel hanging from the handle of the fridge and applied pressure, keeping my free arm tightly around him in protection. I felt no bump at the back of his head and it hadn't looked, when he'd fallen, as though he'd hit it very hard.
“It's all right, baby,” I said, quietly, into his hair. “It's okay. You're all right. Shhh..”
He was beyond coherency, crying and trembling in my hold as I whispered reassurances and tried, as well as I was able, to cover him with myself. My poor sad, scared little boy.
Whatever it was that his parents had ever done to him, I wanted none of it – nothing even close to it – to ever come near him again. If it meant that I had to lie on top of him, if it meant I had to follow him around, lock him in the house---
“I'm soo-orry..” he choked, grappling at my neck to move further into my lap. “I'm h-horrible and I'm sooo so-orryy..”
“Hush, hush. We'll fix it. That's what we do, isn't it? Things happen and we fix them. Hush, sweetheart.” I rubbed his back hard and then eased both of us to lean against the cabinet doors. “Let me take a look at this arm.”
“It's fine..” he tried to pull away. “Don't....”
“Jamie. Let me see the arm. That's a long cut and we're not moving forward until I'm satisfied that it's taken care of. Now, let me get a better look, honey.”
“I don't n-need a doctor,” he stammered, softly, sniffling. But he allowed me to maneuver him around so that I could look at it, and relaxed somewhat as I peered closely, making sure it wasn't deep enough for stitches.
It was more of a glorified scratch, really, than a cut, and some warm water, antibiotic and a bandage would do for the time being.
I made move to get up and get some things to bandage his arm, but he burst into fresh tears as soon as he realized what I was doing and I settled back down to reassure him before finally hauling him into my arms and carrying him to the bathroom with me.
I rubbed his back and hair to continue calming him as I ran warm water over the cut. It had stopped bleeding and once it was clean, I took down and poured hydrogen peroxide over it. When he winced as it bubbled over his arm, I pressed his head firmly to my chest and stroked his temple with my thumb. Then I washed his hands, carefully, scrubbing underneath his fingernails and in between his fingers, put antibiotic on the cut and wrapped an ace bandage on his arm just for the time being, to keep it clean. Then I pulled him away from me.
“Listen up,” I said, softly.
His eyes immediately went to the floor.
“Up,” I said again, lifting his chin and smiling into his wet, sparkling eyes. “You're going to eat now, is that clear?” I kept my voice soft and gentle to ease the harshness of my words. “No more dramatics and no more fits or I'll spank you hard and feed you myself.”
He sniffled, his lip quivered, but he nodded.
“That's a good boy,” I smiled again, leaning in to kiss his forehead.
“Do I have to eat the vegetables or can I have peanut butter and jelly?” he asked, softly. All fight seemed to have mysteriously vanished.
“Vegetables and rice are what's for dinner. You know that. Come on, sweetheart.”
I led him back to the kitchen and picked up the pieces of glass before telling him to clean the food off the floor. As I heated more food in the microwave, I watched him slowly comply.
The food finished as soon as he did and I set the plate in front of him along with a glass of milk as he sat down. He looked at it and then at me, making sure I was really serious that he did, indeed, have to eat it. I just nodded, smiling as he looked away, then left to get my work from the other room.
“You're not gonna stay, Davey?” he called after me. The way he shortens my name when he's tired, or just feeling vulnerable and small, makes my heart skip.
“I'm coming back, sweetie. Take a bite of that food. I'm just going to get some work to do while you eat.”
“Talk to me? Instead?” He pleaded, unabashedly.
“You need to eat.” I rubbed his head and picked the fork up off the table, putting it into his hand. “Finish this. I'll turn the radio on and I'll sit with you.”
He nodded, reluctantly. But after I'd turned on npr, I glanced over to see him actually put a bite into his mouth. Thank God. Markable progress.
When I returned, however, he was just picking, sliding things back and forth. I began to wonder if perhaps whatever it was he wasn't talking to me about had honestly eliminated his appetite.
I sat down next to him and spread things out over the table, scooting my chair close to him, hoping my presence would encourage him to finish his food so we could go to bed. As soon as I was settled, he leaned his head against me, still picking and only forking one or two grains of rice to his mouth at a time. He was distant and absent.
“Eat it, Jamie,” I reminded him. “We're both exhausted.”
He nodded and forked a decent bite to his mouth at my prodding, but immediately afterward returned to his picking.
Five minutes later with no improvement I'd had enough. He was obviously tired, we still had his behavior to discuss, I wanted him to shower before bed or else I knew he'd never sleep well, and he was not going to do the eating thing on his own.
“All right, up,” I said, standing and motioning for him to do the same. His head shot up in alarm and he looked at me, afraid of what I wanted him to stand up for. “Come on, up,” I repeated, in the “Obey Me” voice.
Unlike earlier, he did obey me this time, though he started to cry as he did so.
“I'll eat it, I promise I will. I promise. I'm trying.”
I sighed and left him there for a moment to dig in the silverware drawer.
At which point he started to cry in earnest.
“A spoon, darling. A spoon,” I held up the little teaspoon in my hand and closed the drawer. “Not The Spoon. And hush, there's no reason to get so worked up. You're right, you will eat it. I'll help you. Come here.”
I sat down in his chair and pulled him down with me, nestling him in close to my body. Still shirtless from earlier, he was getting cold, even with the heater on, and I rubbed his arms briskly to warm them.
He calmed considerably when he realized I wasn't preparing to punish him and dutifully accepted bites of vegetable and rice without complaint. The tears subsided and I even got half the glass of milk into him before I stopped, satisfied that he'd had enough. He'd not finished all of it, but he was just about to start thinking seriously about sleep and if I let him get much more serious, he'd never get into the shower with me.
There was also the matter of the broken plate to deal with. And I didn't want to save it for morning either, in spite of how tired I knew both of us were.
“Plate in the sink, love,” I handed him the plate, spoon and fork and gently pushed him up.
He did as I told him, then stood there, silently, staring out the window in front of the sink and rubbing at his eyes.
I drank the rest of his milk and straighted the chairs around the table, put the empty glass in the sink, then moved behind him.
“Are you going to tell me about it or are you going to drive yourself crazy first?” I asked, gently.
“I'm not going crazy,” he said, glancing back at me. He paused, breathing deliberately, before adding, “You don't think I'm crazy... do you?” He turned in my embrace to look at me and swallowed hard.
“Of course I don't think you're crazy, silly boy.” I gathered him tightly into my arms and hugged him with everything I had. “You may very well drive me crazy, however,” I said, dryly.
“Sorry,” he whispered against my neck and I heard him sniffle.
“Upstairs for a shower and bed,” I said, matter-of-factly. It wasn't the time to engage in anymore major emotional breakdowns right then. I picked him up again, hands under his bottom, his arms around my neck, and carried him upstairs.
“I'm really, really sorry about... about--”
I began to undress him and cut him off.
“We'll talk about that when it's time,” I said. “Right now, undo this zipper, would you? These are your trick jeans, I can never get them off you.”
“Maybe I wear them for a reason,” he sniffed.
When I looked at his face, I saw the hint of a smile. A good sign.
“Take them off,” I chuckled.
He got them off as I undressed myself and started running water.
“Come here.” When he was jean-less, I pulled him to me by the waistband of his underwear and slipped them down his hips for him. He could undress himself, of course, but he didn't enjoy doing it nearly as much I did. Besides which, he likes it when I take control. A lot of the time anyway.
I sat him down on the toilet and pulled his socks off, pushing all our clothes into a pile with my foot.
He watched while I finished adjusting the temperature of the shower, still rubbing sleepily at his eyes and yawning. It's ridiculous how young he can look sometimes, and how much that stirs my gut; my protective instincts.
His hair was in his eyes, he was naked and smooth and sleepy, the bathroom was beginning to fill with steam. I hoped that it would warm him some. I tousled his hair and smiled at him.
“In,” I said, holding back the curtain for him.
He stepped in and waited for me to follow, which I did, after stripping everything off myself.
He was leaned against the wall, arms around himself, only partially in range of the hot shower spray and shivering visibly.
“Come here, honey, you're a mess,” I said, softly, drawing him to me as I stepped into the tub and wrapping my arms around him to warm him with my own body heat as well as the heat of the water. Water ran down both of us and when I pulled him free, his hair was dripping and plastered to his head.
One of my favorite ways of connecting with Jamie is in the shower. Meticulously washing his body, his hair, every piece of him down to his fingers and toes. I want him to know how much I love him. Every bit of him. His appendectomy scar, the freckles on his shoulders and that mole that I so adore but I think we need to get an appointment to have removed...
“Am I gonna get a spanking?” he interrupted my thoughts.
Inwardly, I groaned. Every single time. If there's a delay between behavior and correction, he always asks. Always. Sometimes, I tell him that it's not the time to talk about it because he's already worked up enough. Other times, I tell him yes, you are going to get a spanking. And it will be okay. But either way, he knows the answer. He just needs an affirmation of strength, I think. Whether that manifests itself in telling him to be quiet or in answering him honestly.
“Do you deserve a spanking?” I asked, rubbing shampoo between my hands and then lowering his head so I could massage it through his hair. “Close your eyes.”
“I threw my plate...” he said, quietly. He closed his eyes.
“That was quite an act of temper and frustration,” I affirmed, nodding. “I think it's a good example of what happens when you don't talk to me about things that bother you. Keeping them all bottled up, sweetheart, just escalates things.”
“I know, but...” he trailed off and I tipped his head back to rinse his hair.
“Keep your eyes shut.”
“I'm sorry about the plate...”
“Do you deserve to be spanked?” I asked again, starting on his back and arms.
“Don't you?” I pressed, gently.
“Do I?” he whispered. He looked so very small and scared and hurt and... damn his parents. How dare they hurt their baby... MY baby.... and on such a regular and predictable basis? How dare I let my baby.. go to them? Alone? To be re-ravaged, re-beaten, re-upset and wounded?
This was my fault now. Because I could have stopped it. All of it. And whether or not I knew that was entirely rational – which of course it wasn't – it felt true.
“You tell me,” I said.
He flinched as I ran the washcloth over his bottom and immediately, I stooped to make sure nothing was wrong. There were no marks, no bruises.
“I guess I.. I might've.... it wasn't....”
I stood back up and continued to wash and rinse him, listening. Only listening.
“It shouldn't've... I'm sorry I threw the plate...”
“Is the plate the point? Do I generally care much when dishes get broken?” I turned his back to the shower spray to rinse and looked squarely at him.
“I guess it's 'cause I was.. I-I was defiant... and that's not nice?” he mumbled.
“Mmm..” I said, starting on my own hair. I've found that the less I say, the more forthcoming he is. He just hates the silence enough to fill it with whatever will make me talk, I think.
“It wasn't nice. It wasn't. 'Cause I should talk to you and, and I know I should talk to you but sometimes I know I'll get in tr-trouble..... I know you'll give me a spanking... if I do tell you. And I don't want one, but I guess.. I guess... if I don't tell you an' I'm trying to not get spanked.... I'll prob'ly end up drivin' myself crazy so that I get s-spanked for something else and then...” he wandered off into tears and I pulled him close, positioning us both under the shower spray so that I would rinse off and we could get out sooner, to more quickly end this whole mess.
“I'm such a bad person!” he sobbed. “I'm sorry! I know I can't throw plates! I know it's not how I should deal with things and I'm so stupid!”
“You are not a bad person,” I said, firmly, pulling him away to give him a very stern look. “You do know that throwing things is not allowed. You know that because you're smart. And you don't break rules because you're bad. Sometimes you just don't think things through quite far enough. And sometimes you do, but you choose the wrong thing anyway. So, I'm here. I'll help you with that. And yes, you will get spanked sometimes. And other times, it will be other punishments. But none of that makes you bad, stupid or any less lovable. Look at me.” I lifted his chin and wiped at his cheeks, dripping with water and tears. “You are my sweet, good Jamie. My good boy. Do you understand me? I won't have you insulting my Jamie. Just like I wouldn't let anyone else insult him.”
“I know, but you don't know what hap--”
“We'll get to that. In the meantime, stop with the insults and name calling. Clear?”
“Uh huh,” he sniffled, his nakedness and slight shiver making him look all of three years old. Making me want to protect him for the rest of my life.
“Good baby.” I turned the tap off with my foot and drew back the curtain. “Come on and we'll dry you off.”
He nodded, still half crying.
I got the bigger of the two towels and wrapped him in it, before quickly drying myself with the other. Then, I drew him to me by the neck, kissed him deeply and began briskly rubbing him dry.
“Too haa-aard...” he whined at one point, as I vigorously rubbed his hair. “You're not s'posed to kill me......... yet,” he sniffled.
“It's cold out. Nearly time for snow. I'm not having you going to bed sopping wet. You'll catch something.”
“Being cold doesn't make you catch anything,” he grumbled, ineffectively.
“A weakened immune system does,” I smiled, taking the towel from his head and kissing his nose. “And guess what causes that?”
He sighed and shook his head, sleepily rubbing at his eyes.
“Teeth,” I said, handing off his toothbrush to him, toothpaste already on the bristles.
He dutifully obeyed and we brushed our teeth in silence, but for the whir of the heater and the scrub of brush against enamel.
I was done before he was. Long enough to get into pajamas and have to go back to see what was taking him so long.
He was still rinsing. A lot.
He knew exactly what he had coming, poor darling. Walking out of that bathroom meant one thing right then. Only one.
When he stood up from the sink, still stark naked and looking a little cold, there were tears glistening in his eyes and he gave me a plaintive look. An “I don't really need this, do I?” look.
“Am I getting spanked now?” he whispered.
“Come put on a shirt,” I said, simply, towing him along behind me.
I pulled a long sleeved shirt of mine over his slight frame and straightened it carefully, staring at him. He's so beautiful and perfect... and there were so many things that needed talking out.
I sat down in the big red chair in the corner. It's one of the only pieces of furniture he actually owned before we met and it was something he couldn't bear to think of parting with. It had been officially turned into our cuddling chair. I pulled him down after me and snuggled him close, pulling the blanket that hung over it's back onto us.
The lights were low, the room was warm and we were both sleepy and dreading things about to take place.
“Talk to me, darlin',” I whispered. “What happened today?”
He takes effort, this one. Effort always well spent, but effort nonetheless.
“I saw mom and dad?” he offered.
I chuckled. “And after that?”
“We were just moving furniture and.. and...” he swallowed hard, I could hear it and a tear slipped down his cheek.
“Shh, shh... you're okay now. Everything's better now. Remember what I told you in the tub? You're a good boy. I love you. More than anything else. Whatever happened, you tell me, we'll deal with it and it will be okay. The way that it's always okay.”
“Y-yes, sir, I know..”
“Then tell me what happened. Take a deep breath.”
“It's stupid, though, David, it is... It's silly and I'm an adult, this stuff shouldn't bother me!”
“What shouldn't bother you?”
“We were just moving stuff and.. and I dropped some vase or something... mom got mad and dad started yelling and saying how I was never any good and I was shouting back because it wasn't fair! I didn't mean to drop it! It slipped!”
I rubbed his back in comfort. It didn't seem at all fair that he should love them so much when all they did was hurt him. Repeatedly, no less.
“They s-said I was good for nothing and that they didn't mean to have me and how I wasn't ever as good as Jon or Theo. I HATE it when they yell, I hate it! It wasn't my FAULT.” He was in tears and crying into my chest while I held him, tears stinging my own eyes as well.
It just wasn't fair. He was sweet and kind and just wanted them to love him well. Not such a horrible thing to ask, was it? Not that difficult, could it have been? Yet they seemed perfectly incapable.
I continued to rub his back and then his tummy and I cooed soft words of affirmation and reassurance to him until his breath came more regularly and with less hitching and swallowing.
“You're my good, sweet Jamie. You know that. I love you.”
He nodded, eyes shut tight.
I let him sit still and held him a while longer before sitting up a bit straighter and stroking his hair.
“There's still the matter of the misplaced temper tantrum earlier,” I said, quietly.
It did seem mean. It seemed horrible. It seemed cruel and evil, even. I didn't want to spank him. I wanted to take him to bed and hold him until sleep mercifully took both of us. But he'd thrown a plate to the floor. And there was no excuse. There just wasn't. He'd acted up all night, in fact. If I didn't spank him then, I'd have to wait until morning when it would be ten times harder on both of us. Now was the time, it just didn't feel at all good.
“I know...” he whispered, tears slipping out again. “I'm super sorry...”
Somehow, “super” sounds sweet and fragile coming from him.
“I know you are. But it's not a matter of how sorry you are, is it? Things need to be reset. We need to get this out of the way so we can move forward.”
He nodded, silently, and swallowed again, swiping his hand across his wet eyes.
“Does it have to be a spankin' though?” he asked, still whispering.
“It'll be quick and get everything over with. Yes, it has to be. Come on and stand up. Quicker we end this, quicker I can love on you some more and we can sleep. Something we both need fiercely, hm?” I scooted toward the edge of the chair until he put his feet to the floor, then stood, helping him to stand at the same time. On both of us, various body parts had fallen asleep. Unfortunately for him, one of those parts was not his rear end.
“Can we wait 'til tomorrow?” he pleaded, softly.
“You won't sleep through the night waiting until tomorrow. This way,” I drew him to the bed and sat down, being gentle, yet swift enough that he had little time to argue. “It'll all be over with quick. Now, down you go,” I said, as I always did, bringing him across my knees and tugging at him until he was just off balance enough for the position to be precarious. His toes didn't touch the floor and his head rested on his arms on the bed. He wiggled, uncomfortably. But it was easier to hold him still this way, and I didn't plan on keeping us here any longer than I absolutely had to.
“I'll never throw again...” he whimpered, just above a whisper. “I won't, Davey, I promiiise.”
“I know. I believe you. But you pitched fit after fit tonight, Jamie. And I gave you time to talk to me if you wanted to, didn't I? You need to learn, young man, that you don't keep things inside you until they have the potential to hurt other people. And until you can remember that, I'm going to remind you when you don't. Now, tell me why I need to spank you?”
He was starting to cry again and I just wanted this to end. All he'd done all night was cry. He needed sleep. He was worn out completely and he was a whirlwind of emotion.
“I can't throw, it's dangerous. 'Specially stuff like plates. And I wasn't respectful. I didn't listen to you. I'm 'sposed to tell you things so that everything doesn't get out of control. I know, Davey, I do! I'm sorrrryyy...”
I started to spank him. Not harshly. Slowly, soundly and well. He cried from the beginning, started to beg and plead fairly quickly in, but I didn't see, feel or hear him break until a little while later when he went limp across my lap, sobbing incoherently. I spent a couple of moments after that going over his red bottom again, before I stopped to rub his back and hold him close.
“Jamie, Jamie, Jamie,” I sighed, pulling him back into my lap, careful to keep his bottom between my knees and not touching even the softness of my flannel pajamas. “What am I going to do with you, good boy?”
He sobbed louder and snuggled closer.
“Jamie, sweetheart... my boy, my good, good boy...”
It was twenty or thirty minutes before the sobbing died down enough that I could say anything worth comprehending. I'd pulled him up onto the bed by that time and laid down under the covers with him, deciding he'd probably be happier without pajama bottoms.
“You're not going over there without me again,” I said, quietly, my voice neither stern nor incredibly gentle. It was just a statement of fact.
He didn't protest or argue. He just nodded, meekly, into my chest, his eyes closed.
“They're not going to hurt you when I'm around, do you understand me?” I whispered. And I squeezed him, tightly. “They can't say those things to you because they aren't true.”
He nodded again, more slowly this time. He was losing the battle with consciousness and his breathing was evening out.
“I love you too much, Jamison. I love you.”
He was asleep by then, I think, and I reached down to gently rub at his warm, red bottom, which tensed only slightly against my hand. I turned the light out and slipped further down into the blankets to sleep.
“I'm sorry,” I whispered. “I'm sorry. It won't happen again. I promise.”