Jacob snapped his eyes open, rolled over and shook his head, appalled by the tone of the dreams he had that night. He must have gotten too comfortable because what he dreamt was just inexcusable. Simon and Angelique were not his real parents, and they would never be. That was certain, and he couldn't afford to be slipping into the character they wanted him to play. It was one thing to avoid spankings, but an entirely other thing to truly regress into a toddler.
No, he couldn't let them do this to him. He wouldn't let them get in his head. He had to make a stand, and it was going to start with the nasty diaper he was stuck in. Quickly unzipping the onesie, he wormed his way out of it. Finally, he had the access he needed.
Without another thought, he ripped it off and tossed his diaper into the crib. The regressed young man stomped around the mattress, gathering the free sheets that he was covered with while he slept. Hastily, he rolled the sheets to create a makeshift rope, and once he tied it around the top of the crib's rail, he pulled on it to form a sturdy knot.
Jacob wasted no time in climbing out of the crib, following nothing but his impulse to get away. Step after step he made his way to the top of the rail, and he was already halfway up the crib bars when Angelique unexpectedly entered the nursery.
"Jacob! What are you doing?" she shouted, running over to the crib.
Every muscle in Jacob's body froze, and he fell back onto the mattress. Instantly, he snapped out of his defiant disposition, and boy was he sorry for what he had gotten himself into. Before he could stop himself, he started to cry.
"I-I don't want a spanking," he blubbered, tears running down his face.
The irrational part of his brain had taken over. He was so genuinely ashamed of his bad behavior and so very scared of the consequences. He knew he had broken at least one major rule, and he had learned time and time again what the punishment of doing so would be.
Angelique reached into the crib to hold and comfort the crying child while she assessed the situation. She realized how fortunate she was to have gotten to him before he tried climbing down the sheet as he could have broken something if he fell. She did blame herself in part for his escape attempt, knowing it was careless of her to leave a sheet in there when he still wasn't fully regressed. She just got ahead of herself with how well things had been going.
"Jacob, sweetie," she began, rubbing his back to soothe him. "You're not getting a spanking," she said, quietly.
"I'm not?" he asked, looking up at her.
"No, but you're going to stand in the corner while I clean this up," she told him firmly.
"Yes, ma'am," he responded, sniffling.
She lifted him out of the crib and ushered him into the corner with a guiding hand on his back. "Now, you stay there until I tell you that your time is up," she instructed, turning away from him to begin cleaning up the crib. It took a few minutes, but she was able to untie his makeshift rope, discard his dirty diaper, toss his onesie into the hamper and change the sheets.
While Jacob was standing in the corner, he spent the time racking his brain, trying to figure out what was happening to him. Nothing but the shame of getting in trouble caused him to burst into tears, and he didn't understand how that could be. He knew it wasn't just the fear of a spanking. On the contrary, he simply didn't want to be bad. He yearned to be a good boy, and good boys behaved and did as they are told.
He shook his head, disgusted by the revelation. He was 22 years old, and he refused to allow them to have him believe otherwise. He had to find some way to fight back, but it was going to be tough with the invisible hold they now seemed to have on him.
"Jacob, your time is up," Angelique said, standing behind him.
It was like her voice stirred something within him, and all of the rebelliousness in him faded instantaneously "I'm sorry," he said on cue, hanging his head.
"It's okay now," Angelique declared, taking his hand in hers. "You're going to have a quick bath this morning," she said, leading him out of the room to the bathroom.
While the faucet in the tub was running, Angelique sat Jacob on the counter and grabbed his toothbrush. He watched as she squeezed a glob of paste onto the bristles. Holding his chin in her hand, she told him, "Open up."
To Jacob, it seemed like she was being unusually thorough that morning. Every inch of his teeth were well brushed before he was allowed to rinse his mouth, and in the shower, she scrubbed every inch of his skin with a washcloth.
She quickly rinsed and carefully dried him before bundling him in the towels and seating him on the countertop once more. This time, she grabbed a comb and some hair products. Angelique meticulously combed out the knots that had formed in his hair overnight. She massaged some grease into his scalp, and with a palmful of curl enhancer, she rubbed all of it throughout his hair until his Afro morphed into a cluster of tiny curls.
"So handsome," she said, taking a step back to admire her handiwork. "Do you like it?" she asked him.
"Yeah, it looks good," Jacob answered.
"Awesome. Well, let's get you dressed," she said, carrying him to the nursery.
Angelique walked to the closet and picked out a light blue polo shirt and a pair of khaki shorts. She opened a drawer and pulled out a pair of white socks. Setting all the clothes on the changing table, she laid Jacob next to them, and helped him unwrap himself from the towel.
"Are we going somewhere today?" Jacob asked, seeing the clothes she picked out for him.
"Someone is visiting us today," Angelique divulged, pulling the polo shirt over his head. "Your social worker, Mr. Hammond, is doing a house visit today to check on you," she explained.
It finally made sense to Jacob why she was so meticulous while getting him ready that morning. Now that he knew they were trying to impress this guy, maybe he could use that to his advantage.
Putting on his socks, Angelique made eye contact with the toddler and recognized that calculating look on his face. She added, "So, you'll be on your very best behavior, won't you?"
Jacob snapped out of his thoughts. "Yes, I'll be good," he mindlessly promised. Blinking his eyes rapidly, he tried to get a hold of what had just happened. There was that same phrase she had used sometime before. He wondered if it could be some kind of mind control trick where they were using trigger phrases on him, but he would have had to have been hypnotized as some point for that to be the case. He certainly didn't feel hypnotized, but there was really no way to tell. He'd have to keep paying close attention.
"Breakfast time," Angelique announced.
When they got downstairs, Simon was standing in front of the waffle maker, and the unmistakable scent of turkey bacon permeated the air in the kitchen. Seating Jacob in the highchair, Angelique opened a drawer and pulled out a long bib for the toddler.
"This is just to prevent a stain," she explained, tying the bib around his neck.
Once the last waffle was finished, Simon placed a colorful plastic plate with a small waffle and a few strips of turkey bacon as well as some grapes on the tray in front of him.
"Bon Appetit," he said, smiling.
Even though Jacob wasn't really in the mood to eat, he still devoured the breakfast. If there was one thing, he'd learned since he was regressed, it was that his toddler body wanted to eat and sleep indefinitely. It was like he was constantly oscillating between satisfying one of those two needs.
Licking the syrup off of his fingers, he asked, "What time is the social worker coming to visit?"
"Oh, you already told him?" Simon asked, surprised by Jacob's question.
"Yeah, I did while I was getting him dressed," she answered. "He'll be joining us for lunch," she told Jacob, untying his bib and taking him out of the highchair.
"Do you want to finish the movie?" Simon asked him.
"Yes, please," Jacob replied, excited to get to see the parts of the film that he slept through.
Simon boosted Jacob onto the couch. He skipped to a scene right before the toddler had started to doze off.
"Thanks," Jacob said, when the movie began playing.
"You're welcome," Simon replied, walking back to the kitchen.
While Jacob was watching the movie, Simon went to fix the kitchen door. He had bought the new hinge a few days ago, but with everything going on, he hadn't gotten the chance to install it. He strolled outside to grab a drill from the shed. After removing and subsequently tossing out the old, defective hinge, he quickly installed the new one, and when he was done, he tested the door a few times, enjoying its smooth, noiseless opening and closing.
Shortly afterwards, the therapist couple began working on preparing lunch. Angelique had suggested that they go with her family's lasagna recipe for lunch that afternoon. They busied themselves cutting up vegetables, seasoning the sauce and boiling the pasta. Once it was in the oven, they swiftly cleaned up the kitchen and changed their clothes.
While Jacob was relaxing on the couch, watching the credits roll down the TV screen, he heard the sound of a car pulling into the driveway. He instantly sat up and watched as his caretakers went to answer the door, especially curious to see who his social worker was. He just hoped the man wasn't as terrible as he knew Dr. Kelly could be.