Buckled securely in his car seat, Jacob watched the large, expansive houses, mesmerized by their grandiosity. The houses they passed along the nicely paved streets were all uniquely styled. Some were Victorian while others were mid-century modern styled homes. The color schemes were also unique but fitting to each house's design.
Finally, they stopped in front of ranch-styled home. The lawn was neatly cut and there was a narrow path from the driveway to the front door. A few small shrubs decorated the front of the yard.
From the driver's seat, Angelique put the car in park and announced, "We're here, Jacob."
Angelique and Simon were determined to keep the experience as exciting as possible for Jacob. They wanted to get him acquainted with unfamiliar situations and new people. In the future, he'd need to attend daycare, and they planned to hire babysitters for their date nights.
"Wait, Batman!" Jacob screamed as his toy fell from his hand while he was being unbuckled.
Simon reached down to pick up the plush toy. "Got it," he said, giving it back to Jacob.
Jacob was helped out of the car and placed on the narrow brick path to the front door. Angelique ushered him forward with a hand on his back, and the trio made their way to the door.
"Are you ready to meet Noah?" Simon asked, tickling Jacob along his side.
"Yes," he squealed, wiggling away from the tickles.
"Well, you're going to be the ringer, Jacob," Simon explained as he lifted him up and held him next to the doorbell.
Jacob pushed it, and he could hear the doorbell ring through the inside of the house. Just as Simon placed him back on his feet, the door opened, and Diana and Noah were standing in front of them.
Diane was a white woman of average height. She had long black hair and a skinny build. Her smile was remarkably bright, and her face lit up with it. Her 3-year-old son, Noah, stood right next to her, and he had a short haircut and a skinny build like his mother. He was dressed in cargo pants and a thin blue shirt.
"Welcome to our home. Please come inside," Diane said, offering space for the trio to walk inside.
While the adults hugged each other, Noah stepped closer to Jacob. "Hi, Jacob. I'm Noah" he said, shyly.
"Hi Noah," Jacob replied.
"Mom let me put all my toys in the living room for us to play with," he explained, excitedly gesturing towards the pile of toys in the living room.
As Jacob still wasn't completely regressed, he knew he had to be careful playing with Noah. His caregivers had stressed the importance of being kind to little kids who were not as "developed" as he was. He wasn't sure what they thought he might do. He didn't plan on holding the kid for ransom, even though it was a tiny fantasy he had imagined for a fraction of a second.
"He's getting so big," Angelique enthused to Diane, looking at the 3-year-old boy.
"It's been a while since we saw each other, Noah. Do you still remember me?" Simon asked, giving him a quick hug.
"Yes," he answered. "You're Mr. Simon, and she's Ms. Angelique."
Diane reached over to give Jacob a squeeze. "It's nice to meet you Jacob."
"Nice to meet you too," he responded politely.
"Wow, you speak in full sentences at your age!" Diane said, surprised. "He's very verbal for his age," she told the couple who pretended to seem surprised by her observation.
Jacob looked at his caregivers expecting a reprimand. He was supposed to be pretending to be a normal two-year-old. This time they had promised him a popsicle for good behavior, and he was especially excited for that treat. When he made eye contact with the couple, they didn't seem to be upset. In fact, they were smiling at him encouragingly which meant to Jacob that he could still obtain his popsicle.
"Let's give the kids a chance to get acquainted," Diane suggested. "Can I offer you both some coffee?"
"Yes please," Angelique answered joining her in the kitchen where they could keep an eye on the kids in the living room.
Noah led Jacob to the living room. "I really like trains," he explained. "This is my train track."
Jacob took in the massive train set situated in the middle of the living room space. It was a wooden and consisted of quite a few different large pieces that were all connected together.
"You can be the green one, and I'll be the red one," Noah explained, handing Jacob a green train.
"Okay," Jacob said, taking it from him.
"Choo Choo," Noah said, moving his train across the track.
Jacob followed the lead of the three-year-old and moved his train across the track a few feet behind Noah's train.
"Oh no," Noah shouted as the bridge broke while his train was passing over it.
"I can't stop fast enough," Jacob exclaimed, continuing to move his train.
Soon enough, his train collided with Noah's and the two vocalized the sound effects of a massive train crash.
"They need help," Jacob cried with urgency in his voice.
"Yeah, it's an emergency," Noah added, crawling over to the other side of the train track.
He grabbed an ambulatory train and handed Jacob a helicopter.
"We're going to rescue them," Noah explained, rushing over to the accident.
Jacob played along, making sound effects for the helicopter as he moved it closer to the fallen bridge. The boys worked together to attach the magnetic attachments of the wrecked trains to the helicopter and ambulatory train. Soon, their hard work paid off and the wreckage was clear.
"We gotta get 'em to the hospital," Jacob said. "Where is it?"
"It's over there," Noah answered, pointing at a building on the other side of the track.
"Let's go!" Jacob shouted, crawling quickly and moving the trains along the track toward the new destination.
"We have to hurry!" Noah cried.
Quickly, they ushered all the passengers to the inside of the hospital. They barely had enough space in the small structure to fit all of the passengers inside, but they made it work.
When they were done, Noah went back over to the broken bridge. "We've got to fix it," he said, trying to attach the halves together.
"Here, I can hold one side," Jacob offered, lending a helping hand.
"We did it!" Noah exclaimed when the bridge clicked back together.
They were having such a good time; they didn't even realize the time was passing by. The boys had spent nearly an hour playing with the trains, and Diane decided to interrupt them with snacks.
"Jacob. Noah. Do you want snacks?" Diane asked, holding two boxes of apple juice and two small muffins.
"Yes, mommy," Noah said followed by a, "Yes please," from Jacob.
"Let's get our hands washed then," she said, leading the boys over to the kitchen sink. She had them take turns standing on a small stepping stool and helped them wash their hands.
"All done," Diane announced. "Now you can have your snacks."
The boys took the snacks from her and moved towards the small kid table. As they passed the therapist couple, Angelique asked, "Jacob, did you say thank you?"
Jacob shook his head sheepishly. "Thank you, Ms. Diane," he said with a mouthful of muffin.
"You're very welcome, Jacob," she replied, handing him a paper towel for his muffin.
"Thank you," he said again.
"Were you two having fun playing?" Simon asked the boys.
"Yes, we were playing trains," Noah answered, toying with his straw.
"What are you going to play next?" Diane asked.
Noah looked over at Jacob's Batman plush toy. "Superheroes!" he exclaimed.
Jacob smiled. Noah was a really nice kid. The three-year-old was especially collaborative while he was playing. Jacob knew that he'd be very good at group work when he was older. He allowed the boy to lead him back to the collection of toys in the living room. He picked up his Batman plush toy from where he'd left it.
"Let's play superheroes, Jacob," Noah said, digging through a toy box.
"Can I be Batman?" Jacob asked.
"Yeah," Noah confirmed. "I'm going to be Superman."
Noah pulled out a plush toy similar to Jacob's. "They can have a super fight," he said.
"Why are they fighting?" Jacob asked.
"There can only be one superhero for the city," Noah explained in a no-nonsense tone.
"Let's fight over here then," Jacob said sitting further away from the train set.
"Hiya!" Noah shouted, making Superman kick Batman.
"Boom!" Jacob shouted, pretending to throw something on the ground. "There's a smokescreen."
"Superman has heat vision," Noah said. "You can't hide from superman."
"Oh no!" Jacob shouted, trying to evade Superman's attacks.
They pretended to fight for nearly another hour. They were running around the room chasing one another depending on who had the upper hand during the stage of the fight between two of the greatest superheroes. In the end, there was no real winner. The boys had simply collapsed from exhaustion.
Noah had pulled out a tablet, and they were watching some Spiderman cartoons until they fell asleep sprawled out on the carpet floor.
The adults went to the living room to get the boys. Diane was taking Noah for a nap while Simon and Angelique were going to take Jacob back home.
Jacob stirred awake while Simon was lifting him.
"Say goodbye to Noah, Jacob," he heard the older man say. "We're going home."
"Bye Noah," Jacob whispered to his sleeping friend.
"Goodbye Jacob," Diane said, holding her sleeping son in her arms.
"Bye," Jacob replied, resting his head on Simon's shoulder and closing his eyes once again.