“Must be? More like hope they are. I can’t believe we did this,” I could hear Jake respond. “But I’m totally going to blame you for it.”
Giago unlocked the door, opened it and slowly walked in with Jake following closely behind. Bradley, sitting on the arm of the couch and facing the door, turned the light on.
“Good morning, gentlemen,” Bradley said with faux cheeriness.
Giago and Jake froze momentarily. “Hi, Pops,” Giago replied sheepishly.
“Can he see us?” Jake whispered to Giago.
I slowly pushed the door closed. Startled, the boys jumped and turned around to face me. “Can you see me?”
“Hi, Mr. Mollinger,” Giago said to me, using his nickname for me as if nothing was wrong.
I walked toward the two usual suspects and mentally took notice of their ever-increasing height. “Where have you two knuckleheads been?” I asked.
“Sleepwalking?” Jake responded.
“Being a smart ass isn’t in your best interest right now,” Bradley said to Jake.
“I thought it was funny,” Jake mumbled under his breath.
“It was not,” I responded. “What time is it?”
“We don’t have our watches,” Giago replied.
I crossed my arms and raised an eyebrow. “Check your cell phone.”
Giago pulled out his cell phone. “It’s four-fifteen.”
“So you did have your cell phones on you,” Bradley observed.
Giago and Jake both smacked themselves on the forehead.
“What time did we tell you to be home?” I asked.
Giago and Jake looked at each other as if they didn’t know the answer outright.
“Eleven?” Giago replied.
“Don’t act like you don’t know the answer.” I said.
“And don’t ‘fine’ me. We told you two to be home at ELEVEN. It’s FOUR-FIFTEEN IN THE MORNING! That is beyond unacceptable. You didn’t call. You didn’t text. Eleven turned to twelve. Twelve turned to one. One turned to two. Two turned to three. Three turned to APOPLECTIC RAGE.”
“What the hell were you two thinking?” Bradley asked.
Giago and Jake turned to face Bradley. “We just lost track of time,” Giago answered.
“Lost track of time?” I said as Giago and Jake turned to face me again. “You more than lost track of time. You lost track of your goddamn minds!”
“What’s the big deal? We’re home and we’re safe,” Giago reasoned – or so he thought.
“Have either of you been a parent before?” Bradley asked. Giago and Jake turned back to face him again and then looked at each other in confusion.
“No?” Jake responded.
“Clearly not,” Bradley replied as he walked over to stand next to me. “Because if you had been parents, you would know what crosses the mind of a parent who hasn’t heard from his late-arriving children for FIVE hours – anything from getting lost to getting hit by a car to getting kidnapped to getting mugged to getting attacked to being hospitalized to getting killed by some nightcrawler with an ax to grind. So because you haven’t been parents, you don’t know what it’s like to feel that way for FIVE hours.”
“And then when you arrive home FIVE hours late, to feel bad because instead of being happy to see the children who have arrived home safely, you just want to kill them for arriving home safely FIVE hours late.” I added.
“So now my question is why. WHY would you do that to your parents?” Bradley asked.
Giago and Jake looked at each other for an answer, but looked back at Bradley and I when they came up short of one.
“Do you love your parents?” I asked Giago.
Giago and Jake once again looked at each other.
“This doesn’t require a consultation,” Bradley said.
“Yes, of course,” Giago answered.
“Then why would you do something like this to the parents you love?” I asked.
“I don’t know,” Giago replied.
“You should probably find out. And you’ll have about a month to do so.” Bradley stated.
“What do you mean mean?” Giago asked.
“It means for the next month, you go to school and you come home. And when you get home, you do your homework, you eat dinner and you go to bed because you’ll probably still be tired from having been out all night long,” Bradley explained.
“Plus you’ll want to rest up for each weekend during that month when your yardworking services will be rendered unto all the neighbors and classmates’ parents we spent an hour calling trying to figure out where you two were,” I added.
“Is it a big deal yet?” Bradley chided Giago.
I turned my attention to Jake. “Do you love your guardians?” I asked.
“Yes, I do. And I’m very grateful to be here.” Jake responded.
“Then you’d better act like it by showing us the respect of coming home when we tell you to,” Bradley told him.
“Yes, sir. I’m really sorry.” Jake said ruefully.
“Are you really sorry?” I asked.
Jake put his head down. “Yes.”
“So this isn’t going to happen again, correct?” Bradley asked.
“And we’re not going to have to go through this again, correct?” I asked.
“And the same goes for you, Giago,” I said.
A resigned Giago nodded his head. “I know.”
“Now both of you go to bed. And you both had better be up in the morning for school,” I told them. “And I don’t want to hear about how tired you are. I don’t want to hear about how you slept through the alarm. If you’re not up and ready to leave in time to catch the bus, we’re adding another month to your punishment. You’re dismissed.”
As Giago and Jake made their way up the stairs, Jake turned back to ask us a question. “Just so I’m clear, is Giago’s punishment also MY punishment?”
“Do you want a harsher one?” I asked.
“No, I’m good. I was just checking.” Jake replied. He flashed a wide, goofy smile and walked past Giago to the top of the stairs.
Giago lagged behind for a moment. “I’m really sorry, too. I just figured you’d be asleep. I didn’t realize you’d stay up this late worrying.”
I walked over to the base of the stairs. “Of course we’re going to worry. You’re our son. And Jake is like a son to us. We love you both,” I said.
“Maybe not at this moment, but in general,” Bradley teased.
Bradley and I watched as Giago and Jake made their way to their respective bedrooms. “So what do you think?” I asked.
“I don’t know. They’re sixteen. We could wind up having this exact same conversation in three months.”
“Nice guilt trip on the five-hour thing seeing how we were asleep for the latter half of it. I’m just glad we heard them pulling into the driveway.”
Bradley and I stifled giggles. “I’m glad I installed a GPS locator on their phones. They were just sitting at Swingers in Santa Monica.”
“I wonder what the hell were they doing up there.”
“I don’t know, but there was either a girl involved for Giago or a boy involved for Jake.”