Simon set Jacob down onto the counter. He quickly stripped the little boy, leaving his worn clothes in a pile on the tiled floor and tossing his diaper into the trash.
"I already had a bath this morning," Jacob softly reminded Simon as he was released into the tub.
"Oh, that's right. I forgot. Well, you're going to be super clean tonight," he said, rubbing soap into the washcloth.
It was quiet for a moment as Simon washed Jacob. Deep in thought, Jacob reflected on how worn down he felt both physically and emotionally. It was becoming more exhausting to constantly keep his guard up around the therapist couple.
He took a moment to imagine just how terrible it would be if he got used to them taking care of him, and the thought made him feel slightly nauseated. He knew he needed to remind himself at all times that they were his kidnappers, nothing more.
"Do you like dogs?" Simon asked, interrupting the silence.
"Yeah, I had a few growing up," Jacob answered.
"Good to know," Simon said before looking back at Jacob with a wide smile on his face.
The regressed boy briefly wondered why Simon asked, but after a short moment he decided that he really didn't want to know. Rather than continuing the conversation, he let the silence return.
"Alright, let's wash your hair," Simon said, standing. He walked over to grab a small bowl from below the sink.
"Ugh," Jacob groaned in protest. He had hoped that Simon would forget about that part of the bath.
"Oh, you don't like to wash your hair?" Simon questioned with a bottle of tear-free kids shampoo in his hand.
"The water just gets everywhere, and I hate it," he explained, letting irritation seep into his tone of voice.
"Well, I can do my best to be quick," Simon proposed, keeping his tone calm and comforting.
"Okay," Jacob agreed, shutting his eyes tightly the moment Simon tilted his head back to pour the bowl of water onto his hair.
Jacob survived the entire process of having his hair washed by taking himself to a happier place. He fantasied swinging on the playground of his elementary school. It was one of his favorite childhood memories and relaxing enough that he could almost forget about all the events of the last week. That was until Simon interrupted his daydream.
"Was that so bad?" the older man asked, shutting the water off and draining the tub.
"It was awful," Jacob declared petulantly.
"They say that if you keep your face all pouted like that, then it will stay that way forever," Simon told him in a jovial tone as he finished drying the majority of the little boy's Afro.
"That wouldn't be so bad. I wouldn't mind." Jacob asserted while rolling his eyes.
"Suit yourself," the therapist relented, wrapping a dry towel around Jacob and carrying him to the nursery.
"Can't we skip the diaper?" Jacob pleaded the moment he was laid onto the changing table.
"No, I don't want to clean up the accident you would definitely have overnight." Simon said in a firm tone.
"If you just give me a chance, there wouldn't be an accident," he protested.
"No, Jacob, and that's final," Simon told him in a no-nonsense tone that made it clear that the regressed boy would get no compromises out of him that night.
"Fine," Jacob relented, crossing his arms over his chest and glaring at Simon.
While Simon finished dressing Jacob in a pair of green pajamas, Angelique joined them in the nursery.
"It's still a little early for bed, even for the little people," she announced, winking at Jacob before continuing, "So, I thought we could do a puzzle together."
"How many pieces does it have?" Simon asked.
"It's a five-hundred-piece puzzle. I didn't want it to be too easy," Angelique said holding up the box in her hands with a smile on her face that intrigued Jacob.
"We are both really into puzzles," Simon explained, seeing a curious look replace the glare previously on the little boy's face.
"We sure are," Angelique said, hugging Simon and planting a kiss on his cheek.
"Shall we?" Simon asked, gesturing towards the spacious play table and releasing Jacob onto the floor.
Angelique quickly opened the puzzle box, lifting the pieces out and placing them onto the play table.
The therapist couple sat cross-legged near the table, and Jacob knelt on the floor as he was too short to sit and still be able to see. They made quick work of sorting the pieces, separating them by color and tossing the edge pieces into a pile.
"Would you like to work on putting the border together?" Angelique asked, handing Jacob a corner piece.
"Yeah, sure," he responded nonchalantly.
Internally, Jacob certainly wasn't interested in spending quality time with either of the therapists. However, he didn't really want to be stuck in the crib so early. He couldn't deny that doing the stupid puzzle was the best of all the available options.
It didn't take very long before the puzzle came together. Once Jacob finished the border to the puzzle, Simon and Angelique had already built half of the puzzle. Looking over at their progress, he knew that they certainly weren't exaggerating their puzzle skills. It was impressive.
"I'm uh done with the border," Jacob announced.
"Excellent! Let me just slide this over," Angelique said, attaching the completed portion to fit inside the corner pieces.
When that was done, the couple continued building the puzzle at full speed. For a second, Jacob wondered if they had met at a puzzle competition. The speed at which they were doing it was astonishing. A few minutes later, it was down to the last piece. Simon and Angelique grabbed it at the same time.
Laughing together, they looked over at Jacob. "Would you like the honor of finishing the puzzle Jacob?" Simon asked.
"He deserves it. We went full speed, and he didn't even get to participate," Angelique said with remorse evident in her voice.
"Uh...sure," Jacob mumbled, taking the puzzle piece from the edge of the table.
He leaned into the table, standing on the tips of his toes to reach the right spot and finished the puzzle, earning slightly startling applause from the couple.
"Well, I guess it's time to get you to bed," Simon said, looking at Jacob.
"No. I'm not even sleepy," he protested.
"How about some hot cocoa?" Angelique offered, intending to diffuse the argument before Jacob landed himself in trouble again.
"Okay," Jacob agreed, satisfied to find a way out of getting stuck in his crib.
Angelique lifted the tyke into her arms and made her way downstairs. Once she turned the lights on in the kitchen, she deposited Jacob into the high chair.
"This shouldn't take long," she said pouring water into the teapot.
"Do you still have that appointment tomorrow in town?" Simon asked.
"Yes. I almost forgot about that! Thank you for reminding me," she said, turning to face Simon.
"No, problem. I've got a phone conference tomorrow, but I should be okay by myself with Jacob," he said confidently.
"Awesome and right in time," she said in a sing-song voice as the kettle whistled.
Angelique poured some hot cocoa into mugs for herself and Simon and a sippy cup for Jacob.
"Drink up," she said, setting the cup on the tray for him.
Standing and sipping their mugs, the therapist couple stood in front of the posted calendar in the kitchen.
"We need to plan some different outings now that Jacob's around," Angelique said.
"Yeah, no more R-rated movies for a while on family nights," Simon joked.
"Definitely not," she agreed, laughing.
While Jacob was chugging his hot cocoa, he remembered a few peaceful childhood memories. He remembered being four years old, sitting in his mom's lap having a cup of Ovaltine. He had felt so safe and secure, and he wished he could experience that memory at least one more time. He figured that he might in his dreams, dozing off and relaxing onto the side of the high chair.
It wasn't until Simon had almost finished washing the dishes that Angelique noticed Jacob nodding off.
"Okay, time for bed Jacob," Angelique announced, taking him in her arms. She took him to the bathroom and quickly got him ready for bed.
"I'm not tired," he said, slurring his words as he was laid onto the mattress in the crib.
"Is that why you barely kept your eyes open the whole time I brushed your teeth?" she asked sarcastically.
"Mhmm," the sleepy boy answered lazily, obviously unsure of what he was agreeing to.
"Goodnight, Jacob," she said, chuckling before planting a kiss on his forehead and pulling the blankets over him.
Within seconds of Angelique closing the nursery door behind her, he drifted off into a deep sleep that catapulted him into one of the most vivid dreams he would ever have in his life.
Fluttering his eyes open, Jacob was immediately aware of a strong burning sensation in his stomach. He was starving, and he needed to fix that right away. Jacob quickly opened his mouth to verbalize his desire for food, but the only thing that came out was garbled nonsense.
When he tried to sit up, the only thing he was able to accomplish was to roll himself from lying on his side to his back. He didn't know what the hell was going on, and it was freaking him out.
It appeared that his agitated movement and cries of distress were enough to cause his kidnappers to check on him. It was only a moment before the therapist couple were standing next to the crib and looking down at him.
"Aw, our little boy is awake," he heard Angelique say to Simon.
When Simon tried to tickle Jacob on his belly, Jacob recoiled from the older man's touch.
"He still looks scared. I think he needs more of the medicine," Simon told Angelique.
"You think so?" she questioned.
"Yeah, I'll give him another dose."
Jacob watched in horror as Simon immediately made his way towards a shelf in the nursery where he pulled a small vial and an unopened syringe. It didn't take him very long to uncap the needle and draw the contents of the vial into the syringe.
Standing next to the crib once again, Simon reached into the crib to roll Jacob back onto his side. With only the muscle strength of a baby, he wasn't able to offer any resistance.
"Just a little pinch," Simon said, tapping the air bubbles out of the syringe.
Jacob felt sick. His heart pounded as Simon inched the needle closer to his hip. He tried to squirm away from him, but Angelique gripped his arm and held him on his side.
The needle burned as it broke his skin and its contents were released into his system. His all too profound anxiety as well as the frustration of his powerlessness caused his eyes to burn, and he couldn't ignore the overwhelming compulsion to cry. As his cries grew louder, the world around him started to fade.
Before he knew what happened, he stopped crying, and there was giggling coming from somewhere. Looking down, he realized Simon was tickling him and he couldn't stop laughing no matter how hard he tried.
In his head, his own brain turned on him. Everything was funny, and he was just a silly baby who didn't need to think for himself. Complex thoughts were for big boys, and he was just a baby. He had lost all control, and with that, all his complex thoughts ceased. His inner thoughts dwindled into nothing and his consciousness faded away.