Day 12—Babysitting the Neighbors’ Kids
Leonard walked up to the door of Nikolas house five minutes after six and rang the doorbell. He was greeted by the calmer twin.
“My brother’s across the street and two doors to your right if you’re facing the opposite row,” she told him.
“It’s the overnight bag,” she explained matter-of-factly, “plus the fact that you were the last person he asked who said yes. Everyone else hated doing it.”
“I’ve been duped!” Leonard said indignantly.
“No. Just unprepared. Bye, now.” Marissa shut the door in his face. Leonard ran his hand through his hair. “Christ,” he muttered. “Just how bad can these kids be?”
His question was soon answered when a slightly harassed-looking Nikolas answered the door with a six year old boy tugging on his black sweater, begging for him to give him candy. Nikolas yanked Leonard inside, ignoring the kid’s whining.
“Thank God you came,” Nikolas half-gasped. “The parents aren’t even gone yet, and I’m already being harassed. Leonard laughed.
“That’s what you get for misinforming me,” he told the black haired boy sternly.
“I didn’t ‘misinform’ you, I merely left out the parts that I thought were irrelevant,” Nikolas protested.
“Does it involve elephants?” Leonard asked.
“Then it’s irr-elephant!” he said triumphantly.
“What—I—that is the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard!” Nikolas said.
“No, it’s not! The kid is laughing. See?” Indeed, the little six year old had stopped tugging on Nikolas’ shirt and was now crouched down, letting loose spiels of childish glee.
“But that’s just Nathan—he laughs at everything. The four year old is Michael,” he continued when another little boy toddled in, “who I think is aspiring to be a chef or a biochemist one day. He enjoys making strange mixtures out of the food I give him.”
Just then, an attractive auburn-haired woman dressed in a silky blue dress came running down the stairs, stocking-covered feet bare and clutching a purse, trailed by a man wearing a suit with the tie crooked and glasses tucked in one pocket, carrying high heels and a jacket.
“We’re late!” the woman screeched.
“I know, dear, but we can’t go anywhere if you forget your jacket and shoes!” the man said frantically. The woman snatched the articles of clothing from her husband. As she put them on, she hurriedly delivered instructions to Nikolas.
“Nik, darling, the dinner’s in the refrigerator—all you have to do is heat it up. Don’t mind the dishes, I’ll do them in the morning. And make sure the boys are in bed by ten!”
“All right, I will,” Nikolas told her calmly.
“And who are you?” she asked Leonard.
“My name is Leonard, I’m Nikki’s friend,” Lenny told her politely.
“Ah. I see. Well, Nik, dear, the guest room is open for you, or if you want to take the couch, you know where the spare blankets are.”
“Bye children,” she trilled. “Be nice and polite to your babysitter,” she admonished.
“Yes, mommy,” they said obediently. “Bye, daddy.”
“Bye, kids, see you tomorrow.” With a kiss to both of their children’s heads, the two parents headed off, the mother muttering quite clearly, “I hate these things.”
There was a moment of silence. Lenny frowned. “Wait, if she doesn’t like them, why doesn’t she just stay home and care for her kids while her husband goes off and does the socializing?”
“Because people just don’t do that,” Nikolas explained. “I don’t know for sure, but I think it’s because Mr. Wright wouldn’t go if Mrs. Wright wouldn’t go. And it’s rude to just not show up, so they both end up going.”
“Nik!” the six-year-old—Nathan—demanded. “Does your friend know any other funny words?”
“Um.” Lenny crouched down to the children’s level. “What about… supercalifragilisticexpiali-docious?”
The children looked at him with wide eyes.
“How many letters is that?” Nathan demanded while Michael attempted to count on his fingers and toes. Leonard looked at Nikolas for help. Nikolas shrugged with a smile.
“You got yourself into this. How about we watch a movie, and then we’ll find out how many words there are?”
“Yay! Movie!” Michael cheered, having given up on counting the letters.
“But first,” Leonard usurped Nikolas’ idea. “First, we eat dinner.”
“No! I wanna watch a movie!” Nathan pouted.
“We can eat dinner while we watch the movie,” Nikolas suggested, crouching down to match Leonard, “as long as you promise not to make a mess on the coffee table.”
The two boys nodded solemnly. Nikolas stood up and clapped his hands cheerfully. Leonard fell over, much to the children’s amusement.
“Okay! This is easy! Go to the TV room, kiddos!”
The boys ran off as Leonard got back on his feet.
“I thought you said they were ‘energetic’?” he asked with raised eyebrows.
“I did,” Nikolas answered simply. “And they were. Until you came. You’re good with kids.”
And so they watched a movie. Nikolas almost made the mistake of letting Leonard choose, and then realized that he would probably pick something that was a) unsuitable for small children or b) going to give all of them nightmares.
And so he picked the movie. And because he promised Nathan they would find out how to spell “supercalifragilisticexpialidocious”, they watched Mary Poppins as the boys ate dinner. And because he was a good babysitter, he cleaned up after Michael spilled his juice all over the coffee table and coerced Leonard into doing the dishes.
When it came time to tuck the children to bed, Nikolas was surprised at how well everything had gone. Not once did anything break. Not once did something almost catch on fire. Not once did he have to threaten to call parents if they didn’t behave.
Then when it came time for bed, they started protesting. And whining. Begging, pleading, please-can-I-stay-up-a-little-longer, please-can-you-read-me-another-story requests that made Nikolas want to swear in frustration.
Then Leonard had a bright idea. He made hot milk and spiked it with some of Mrs. Wright’s chamomile-jasmine infusion tea. He gave the boys each a glass, which they drank.
Then he stood back and had Nikolas count five minutes for each boy.
Slowly, as the tea-spiked milk worked its magic, each little boy’s eyes drooped and fluttered and closed for the night.
By eleven-twenty-four p.m., the boys were asleep.
When Leonard and Nikolas were safely downstairs in the living room, Nikolas sighed in relief.
“Wow. Eleven-twenty-four. New record,” he said. “Why didn’t I meet you sooner?” He yawned and laid his forehead on Leonard’s shoulder. Leonard pushed him off.
“Because I haven’t been in high school since freshman year?”
“Oh. Hmm, you’re right. D’you want to watch one of those lame, B-list late night movies?” Nikolas asked him.
“Or we could just talk ourselves to sleep.”
“What’s the record for the longest time it took to put them to sleep?”
“Um, I’d say…around two in the morning,” Nikolas told him sleepily. “But it was a bad day. There was a birthday party earlier, and the two were so hopped up on sugar, they couldn’t sit for more than two seconds. Have you ever pulled an all-nighter before?”
“Well, welcome to high school. Except, you’re in your senior year, so you missed both years of hell.”
“Sophomore and junior year.”
After a while, they did watch a lame, B-list late night flick. Eventually, they did talk themselves to sleep.
When the Wrights came home, they found their television on and the babysitter and his friend curled up together on the couch like cats. Smiling fondly, because Mrs. Wright had always liked Nikolas, she covered them with the blankets she removed from the linen closet, turned the television—which was playing The Princess Bride—and let them sleep.
Besides. They looked cute all curled up on the couch, falling over each other like dominoes.