"Jacob, sweetie, eating that fast might make you sick," Angelique told the boy as she sat down in her nearby dining chair.
He didn't appear to have heard her. Jacob continued scarfing down the breakfast like he had been starving. Simon had only taken the first bite of his bagel when he heard Jacob release a loud burp. When he looked over, a hint of a smile was visible on the child's face as he relaxed his little body into the high chair.
Before the couple even got halfway through their breakfast, the boy's relaxed breaths morphed into faint snores.
"Do you think we should wake him up?" Angelique asked.
"No, I think we should let him sleep for a little bit. He probably woke up a little bit too early this morning," Simon speculated.
"Okay. Since he's asleep, will you tell me more about what happened when you went to get Jacob?" she asked.
Sighing and shaking his head, he began, "It's already been such a long morning..."
When he finished obliging her request, Angelique had a stunned expression on her face. "Mr. Hammond did say these first few days will be tough. The good news is that it's already Friday," she said, trying to sound reassuring.
"Yeah." Simon paused and tapped on his chin. "Now that I'm thinking about it. I'm going to adjust the mattress height in the crib."
"Okay, I'll keep an eye on him," Angelique agreed.
It was a thunderous burp that jolted Jacob out of his nap. He held his face in his hands, rubbing the sleepiness out of his eyes. Once he uncovered his face, he focused on the two pairs of brown eyes staring down at him.
"You're finally up. I was a little worried that we lost you to a food coma," Angelique joked.
Jacob looked between the two of them feeling slightly embarrassed. It didn't matter how much he tried, he couldn't resist the persistent need to sleep that his toddler body tormented him with.
After a short laugh, Simon took Jacob out of the high chair and placed him on his feet. "I've got something fun to keep you occupied for a while. Wait here," he told him, heading upstairs.
While he was gone, Angelique took the time to wipe Jacob's face clean with a wet paper towel, and it helped the little boy to become completely alert again.
"Come on over here, Jacob," Simon called out when he re-entered the living room.
Angelique put an encouraging hand on his back, ushering him out of the kitchen to join Simon. Once the living room was in view, Jacob watched as the older man unrolled a foam play mat onto the hardwood floor a few feet away from the couch. He opened a small bin and deposited a handful of the wooden plank pieces onto the floor.
It looked like an advanced building set for young architects. Growing up, Jacob had always wanted to get a set for Christmas, but his mom couldn't afford one. He marveled at the coincidence. Not too long ago, he had considered buying a similar set with some extra scholarship money that he had, but it had felt too childish.
Crouching down to Jacob's eye level, Simon thoughtfully disclosed, "I sometimes enjoy playing with these myself."
"Oh," Jacob said, genuinely surprised.
Jacob hesitantly sat on the playmat and tentatively matched a few blocks together. At first his goal was only to appease Simon, but after a few minutes, he really got into the building process. He didn't even notice when his caretaker walked away to take a seat on the sofa.
After two hours of uninterrupted building, Jacob had created a very impressive medieval style castle. He was happy to see that his affinity towards engineering also extended towards architecture.
His castle was expansive. It consisted of a few different towers all connected to each other by walkways and bridges. He was just about to place a red flag on the highest tower when his elbow bumped an adjacent support column. Within seconds the entire castle crumbled right in front of him.
"Fuck!" he yelled, kicking a few wooden planks across the room.
"Jacob, what did we say about swearing?" Simon asked, standing and walking towards the playmat.
"I didn't even do it on purpose," he said, attempting to defend himself.
"I understand that you're frustrated, but the rule still stands," the older man said as he took his hand and began walking him into the kitchen.
"Well, that's just stupid," Jacob retorted, forcefully pulling out of Simon's grasp.
"Do I need to remind you that you are now a child, and this is our house? We are the ones calling the shots, not you. If you don't quit while you're ahead, you'll be sitting in timeout for ten minutes."
"I don't give a shit."
"Ten minutes it is," Simon said firmly.
Jacob sat fuming on the stool. He was already upset that all of his hard work was undone by a simple mistake. It was such a grand castle, and he wished he had thought to ask them to take a picture of it. He consoled himself with positive thoughts. It's fine. I've got all the time that I'm stuck in this hellhole to work on it.
But when Simon started piling the planks into the bin, Jacob lost it. He bolted out of the corner, screaming, "What are you doing? I wasn't done!"
"Jacob! You do not get out of the corner," his caretaker scolded.
The little boy stood his ground. "Why are you taking the blocks away? I didn't even do anything that bad!"
"I'm not taking them away. You've been playing for hours, and it's almost time for lunch." Simon moved to stand directly in front of Jacob. "Go back to the corner right now," he said, pointing at the stool in the kitchen.
"No," Jacob spat, crossing his arms in front of him.
"No?" Simon questioned, daring the little boy to repeat himself.
Jacob defiantly glared at the older man and didn't say a word.
"For swearing and leaving timeout without permission, you'll be sitting here for the next fifteen minutes," Simon said as he took a hold of the little boy's arm.
"So, I can't swear, but you can kidnap people and hold them against their will? Fucking hypocrite!" Jacob screamed as he was pulled into the kitchen.
Simon sat the child on the stool in the kitchen and stooped down in front of him. "You are on thin ice, Jacob. If you keep pushing me, I will have no choice but to punish you with some old-fashioned discipline," he warned in a no-nonsense tone of voice.
The young man was absolutely livid. He couldn't believe Simon would try to threaten him with a spanking. Clenching his jaw, he crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the older man until he turned to help Angelique with lunch preparation.
After every additional minute in the corner, he became increasingly frustrated. He felt like he was really trying to be on his best behavior and win over his kidnappers, but they were always finding new ways to coddle him like a toddler.
When fifteen minutes had passed, Simon approached him and crouched down to return to his eye level. "I think an apology for your earlier behavior is in order before you leave the corner," he stated.
Patiently waiting for the little boy to comply, Simon rhythmically tapped his knuckles.
Seething on the inside, Jacob struggled with what he knew he had to do. He focused his eyes on the floor near his feet and took a deep breath. "I'm sorry," he whispered.
"What are you sorry for?"
Jacob snapped his head up to look at Simon. He was in disbelief that the man would force him to debase himself that much. Just considering verbalizing the apology he knew Simon wanted to hear felt humiliating. He closed his eyes tightly, resigning himself to getting it over with.
"For swearing and leaving the corner without permission," he said, feeling a small part of his psyche tear off and die.
"Good boy," Simon praised as he put him in the high chair.
He was silent throughout lunch and didn't touch any of the food Angelique placed on the tray in front of him. Characteristically, it smelled absolutely appetizing, but he was far too demoralized to eat anything. While Simon and Angelique ate their lunch, he laid his head against the back of the high chair, staring at the ceiling.
His thoughts kept returning to how humiliating this entire experience was for him. He was an adult sitting in a high chair with a colorful tray in front of him. The whole thing was unreal and unfair. He was in the midst of wishing that a portal would open up above him and free him from his current ordeal when Angelique stood in front of him.
"At least take one bite," she said, urging the boy with a spoonful of seasoned rice and beans in front of his mouth.
"No," he said, ignoring her and turning his face away.
"Jacob, you need to eat, or you will be hungry before dinnertime," she said.
"I don't care," he muttered.
"Open up," she insisted, touching his lips with the spoon.
"I said no!" he shouted, slapping the utensil out of Angelique's hand.
Simon immediately stood up, causing the dining chair to squeak as it was dragged across the floor. "That's it. You've earned yourself a spanking," he said pulling Jacob out of the high chair and taking him upstairs.
"Put me down!" the little boy screamed, banging his fists on the older man's back.
A sharp slap to his behind caused him to involuntarily still, and Jacob felt his stomach fill with dread. He knew that Simon really was about to follow up on his earlier threat.