Collin woke around five, about halfway through our movie. I disentangled myself from the headphone cords and Patrick’s arms to retrieve the baby. “Good gracious!” I exclaimed when I picked him up. “Someone smells awful.”
Patrick laughed from the bed, “He does tend to do that if you didn’t notice.”
“You’re so funny,” I said sarcastically as I found the diaper changing stuff.
“I apologize,” Patrick said, smirking and sitting up.
“Good. You can change the baby then.” I said matter-of-factly, handing him the baby. “I’ll go out front.”
“Running away from a challenge,” Patrick scolded with a grin on his face.
“Yup,” I answered, returning the smile. “See ya!”
“You’re really leaving me with this?” Patrick asked my retreating figure, disbelief in his
“You’ll be fine,” I said over my shoulder and left the room. When I got to the front of the bus, I sat down next to Evan in the booth who was busy completing a jigsaw puzzle with Alison.
“Where’s the baby?” Krissy asked.
“Patrick’s changing him.” As if on cue, the baby began to wail.
“He seems to be doing well,” Krissy remarked, completely straight faced.
“Eh, he’ll figure it out,” I said smiling. I rested my head on my big brother’s shoulder and watched as he and Alison placed the pieces.
Patrick brought the baby to the front of the bus. Collin was red faced, squirming, and screaming in his arms. Worry in his voice, he asked, “What did I do? He won’t stop crying.”
“That baby’s not crying,” Krissy said, standing. “He’s screaming.” She held out her arms for the squealing child. “Let me see.” Patrick handed off the baby, but he continued to stand there watching with concern as Krissy checked Collin’s diaper and gave him a once over. “Doesn’t look like anything’s wrong. When did he eat last?”
“Right before I put him down for a nap,” I answered, “Bout three. He shouldn’t be hungry yet.”
“Awww. Buddy what’s wrong?” Krissy asked the still yowling baby, jiggling him a little bit. When that didn’t work, she held him close to her body and rubbed Collin’s back.
“Poor baby,” I said, turning in my seat. Krissy had now turned the baby so he was sitting upright, his back against her chest, looking out at everyone else. Collin’s bright eyes found me. He reached out his little arms and screamed louder. When I reached for him, he practically launched himself into my arms. I settled him into my arms and he quieted gradually, eventually hiccupping and then gurgling happily in my arms, looking up at me and smiling. “There we go. That’s a good boy.”
“Someone’s the favorite,” Krissy said.
“Lucky me,” I said grinning down at the baby.
“Uncle Patrick! Can you help me with my puzzle? Uncle Evan isn’t very good,” Alison said, a look of frustration on her face.
I couldn’t help but laugh out loud. I quickly regained my composure and said, “Alison, that wasn’t very nice. You should say you’re sorry to Ev.”
“Sorry, Uncle Evan,” she said looking down at the table.
“It’s ok, kiddo,” Evan replied. “You’re right, I’m not very good at this.” He winked.
I rolled my eyes at him as Patrick came to sit across from me. I whispered, “You could’ve backed me up a little bit.”
When I looked over at him and he turned to me, I could see his eyes shining. He said in a hushed voice, “She called me Uncle Evan. What was I supposed to do?”
My heart swelled to see my brother get so excited about this little girl calling him uncle.
Again, my head went to his shoulder as we both watched Patrick now help Alison fit the pieces into the puzzle.
Then Evan’s phone rang. He answered it and after a short conversation, he announced to the bus, “We’re stopping at Golden Corral in five minutes for dinner, so get ready.”
“Who wants to make up the baby’s bottle?” I asked. I had the sneaking suspicion that if I put
Collin down, he would howl until I picked him back up.
“I’ll do it!” Joe said enthusiastically, jumping from his seat on the couch.
“Alison, we need to get your shoes on. Two minutes, ok?” Krissy said.
“Ok,” Alison said, looking intently at the puzzle before her. She placed another piece then announced she was ready to put her shoes on now. Patrick picked her up and lifted her out of the booth so she could follow Krissy to get her shoes.
The bus pulled to a stop a few minutes later. Somehow I managed to get my own tray without putting down the baby, and soon we were all sitting a long row of tables. Collin was fussy when I tried to put him in the highchair, so I held him on my lap. He was drinking his bottle happily as the rest of us ate. Alison was sitting with Gabe and William when I looked up halfway through the meal.
“What are you teaching her?” I asked, incredulously.
Alison froze with her hand pulled back, ready to throw something. The look on her face matched the guilt on William’s and Gabe’s faces. They all chorused “Nothing, Lauren.”
“You better not be about to throw that handful of mashed potatoes, Miss Alison.”
“No, ma’am.” She lowered her arm and I could tell by her movements that she was wiping her hand on her napkin. I fixed her with a stern look, my eyebrows raised, for a moment. When she looked down, I looked the other way down the table to hide my giggle. Pete caught her eye and grinned. He had a spoon loaded up with peas, ready to be flicked at Joe who wasn’t paying attention. “Peter, don’t you d-“
I didn’t finish my sentence because at that exact second, some sour cream had splattered all over Evan’s face. Collin squealed gleefully and I looked down to see his hand covered in the offending sour cream.
“You coached him to do that!” Evan cried, halfway between laughing and being indignant. He threw a piece of bread at me.
“Did not!” I threw the piece of bread back.
Chaos, as you can imagine, ensued. By the time we put an end to it, Alison had not only been standing on the table at one point, but she had been picked up by Gabe for use as a human shield/food machine gun, all the while, screeching with joy. She was covered in gravy and other assorted food. We all were. It was disgusting. But fun. We left (after leaving a giant tip, of course) and climbed back on our respective busses.
“You stay right there, miss,” I said to Alison, gesturing to the chair I had just covered with a trash bag. “Once I finish with Collin, I’ll give you a bath too.”
“Am I in trouble?” She asked, genuinely upset and fearful, cowering in the chair, tears in her eyes.
My heart broke. I kept forgetting that this little girl’s life had not always been easy and happy like it was now. She had seen things that no four year old should have to see. Once, when we were coloring, she had told me about the time when her mother hit her when she spilled her juice a couple of months ago. Of course she would be scared. The mess we made in the Golden Corral was way worse than a little juice.
I knelt down in front of her and said, “No sweetheart, you’re not in trouble. We were just having a bit of fun, weren’t we?” She nodded. “I just needed you to sit here until I can wash you up so we don’t get any of this messy food around the bus, ok?”
She nodded and after a few seconds of me smiling at her, she grinned back and said, “I got Uncle Patrick in the face with my tatoes.”
“I saw that. Good shot.” With another grin, I stood and took the baby to the sink to give him a bath. After changing his diaper and putting him in pajamas, I tried to hand him off to Patrick so I could give Alison a bath. The baby immediately started to scream. I laughed and took Collin back. “Krissy, can you give Alison a bath? Collin isn’t inclined to hang out with his Uncle Patrick.”
“Absolutely!” Krissy said, emerging from the bunkroom where she had been changing in to clean clothes and washing the food off her face and out of her hair.
Seeing her I winced, knowing that all the gunk on my own body was hardening. I needed to change. “Alright, little man, you’re gonna need to sit with someone else so Lauren can go change ok?” He
was looking at her, eyes wide open. “Trick?”
“I’ve got him,” Patrick said, taking Collin.
Collin screwed his face up and was about to start bawling. I tapped him on the nose, “None of that now.” He let out a little squeal, but otherwise stayed quiet. I kissed him on the forehead and said, “Good boy.”
I went to change and wash up. On my way out of the bathroom, I noticed the door to the back room ajar. I peeked in to see Patrick pacing with the baby. He saw me and whispered, “He was almost asleep out there. I thought it would be easier for him to fall asleep in here. Is he asleep yet?”
I stepped in the room to get a better look. Collin’s head was on Patrick’s shoulder, but his eyes were still open. He saw me and began to fuss and reach out for me. I took him. “Oops. I let him see me.” Patrick laughed. “What time is it?”
He checked his watch, “Almost eight.”
“Alison needs to go to bed too. I bet she’d like you to read her a story.”
Patrick nodded and left to get Alison. He read her Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day while I paced with the baby. Collin was asleep before the end of the story. I put him in his crib then sat on the edge of the bed to hear Patrick read, “It had been a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day. My mom says some days are like that. Even in Australia.”
“Poor Alex,” Alison said sleepily. She was curled up next to her uncle, her eyes barely open.
“I know. But it all turns out alright. Now say goodnight to Lauren, and let’s get you into bed.”
Alison crawled over the bed and threw her arms around my neck. “Night, Lauren. I had fun today.”
“Me too. I’ll see you in the morning.”
She nodded and let Patrick pick her up. After hugging him around the neck and kissing his cheek, she said goodnight, and Patrick tucked her in. He took my hand as we walked out of the room. He pulled me to a stop before we left the bunkroom. He laughed when he looked me. “You have mashed potatoes in your hair.”
He just laughed harder and pulled the offending potatoes out of my hair. He wiped his hand on his jeans and with his other hand, he pulled me closer and kissed me. When we pulled apart after a few moments, I let my head fall to his shoulder as his arms wrapped around me.
“Hey,” he said into my hair.
“Hi,” I mumbled.
“So I had a good day, did you?”
I tilted my head up to look at him, smiling. “The best.”
He leaned down and kissed me again.
“Lo! Trick!” Pete shouted from the front of the bus. “Mario Cart tourney. Let’s go!”
I giggled and began to pull Patrick toward the front of the bus in the direction of our friends.
“Lo?” Patrick asked.
“Don’t worry about it. Pete’s crazy.”
“That’s something I already knew.”
We all played Mario Kart well into the night.
A/N:Your patience has been rewarded!!!! lol it's taking a while, but I am still writing this, so yay for that. Go review. Also, go read and review my other story (Go Ahead and Burn it Down). Also, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day was written by Judith Viorst. It's awesome. If you haven't read it, you should. That's all lol