"Seth, hands off the batter! Go out there and help Paul and Charlie to get that fire going." I could hear being shouted as I descended the staircase on slightly wobbly legs. Following the voices, I found myself in the kitchen where everyone seemed to be busy left, right and center. Feeling a bit timid, I just stood there for a moment to observe the scene. Sue, Ava, Angela and Leah were standing in the kitchen doing various food preps while Tai Por Waverley sat by the dining table wrapping vegetables in foil with two toddlers seemingly crawling around under the table by her feet. Watching such a domestic homely scene really warmed my heart. Everyone looked so comfortable and delighted to be working along side each other with ease. Noticing my presence, Sue looked up from her task and greeted me with warmth.
"Bella! You're awake. Come join us." Sue said as she put her knife down and wiped her hands on a towel. I smiled shyly at her and walked over to sit down on the opposite side of the kitchen bench top. Everyone greeted me with happiness as they continued their tasks. It seems like they knew I was still feeling a bit groggy, so there wasn't much questions thrown my way. I smiled and silently watched them, occasionally accepting a bit of food here and there from random people. Feeling a gently hand on my shoulder, I looked to my side to see Tai Por Waverley smiling at me.
"Come child, lets sit you down on the sofa until your mind clears up." She says as she slowly guides me into the lounge area. Once seated on the cozy sofa, Tai Por Waverley walked off telling me she'll be back.
"Here you go, child. Sit and enjoy these. Dinner will be ready soon." Tai Por Waverley said as she handed me a five bottle pack of Yakult drinks and a tub of mini Oreos. My face lit up with happiness at seeing one of my all time favourite probiotic drinks being offered to me.
"Thanks, Tai Por Waverley. You're the best!" I thanked her gratefully as I took the offered beverage and snacks off her hands. She laughed at my eagerness and patted me on the head before disappearing again. Not wasting a moment, I quickly poked a straw into a bottle of Yakult and basically inhaled it in five seconds, and did the same thing with the next one. As I was just about to stab another straw into the next bottle in the row, I noticed a presence in my peripheral vision. Turning to my left, I was met with a huge pair of almond shaped hazel eyes peeking over the sofa armrest staring longingly at the bottles of Yakult in my hand. This must be one of the twins.
"Uh, hey there. Theo. Or was it Arlo?" I asked unsure of which twin he was. Seeing him perk up more when I said Arlo, I assumed that was his name. "Would you like to drink one?" I asked the toddler awkwardly. His eyes met mine briefly, then quickly ducked down to hide, so all I could see were his chubby little fingers still gripping onto the armrest. I smiled at his shyness and waited for a few moments quietly until his head surfaced just enough for our eyes to meet again. I gave him a friendly smile, and he just continued staring between me and the Yakult bottles in my hand.
Since I've never really interacted much with kids before, I felt slightly lost on how to progress from this awkward silent stare down. I recalled an article I once read about how to approach prey animals. Maybe it will work for shy toddlers too. Contemplating on how to execute my plan, I decided to first sit on the floor in front of the sofa and place my drinks and Oreos on the coffee table in front of me. Then I removed a bottle of Yakult from my pack of remaining four and poked a new straw into it. I subtly peeked my eyes over to where I could see Arlo eyeing my movements from the edge of the sofa, and using slow gentle movements, I placed the bottle of Yakult on the other side of the coffee table closer to the toddler.
"That bottle of Yakult is for you, Arlo. Feel free to get it anytime." I told him softly as I briefly met his eyes and pointed to the drink. He quickly ducked back into hiding, so I let him be. I turned on the tv to ease the awkward moment and pretended to watch whatever is playing instead of observing him. After around ten minutes of silence, Arlo finally waddled over to the coffee table and stood there looking at the drink I placed there for him. I gave him a soft smile and pushed the drink right next to his hand which was resting on the table.
"Drink it, little man. It's yummy." I told Arlo with a grin as I raised my third bottle of Yakult to my mouth and finished the whole drink in one dramatically large gulp. I let out a loud satisfied sigh which was accidentally accompanied by a loud burp. Embarrassed, I looked around to see if anyone else was around. Luckily no one was around except for the adorable toddler, whose eyes widened in awe. A few moments of staring later, he gave me an open mouthed smile that showed off the two very cute dimples on his chubby cheeks, melting my heart on the spot.
Poking a straw into my last Yakult, I watched Arlo finally grip his drink between two chubby hands. As I took a sip of my drink, he copied me. I laughed at his cuteness and raised my bottle to tap his. "Cheers, Arlo!" I said as we continued to sip our drinks while eyeing each other with a smile. When we finally slurped up the last of our drinks loudly through our straws, I let out another dramatic sigh of satisfaction and Arlo mimicked me in his cute little baby voice. I think I've just made a new friend!
Now that our drinks were finished, a moment of awkwardness fell upon us. The little guy just kept looking at me as if waiting for my next trick or something. He doesn't seem interested in the cartoon on tv, nor does he seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, so I just took that moment between us to fully observe his appearance. He is definitely a cutie. He has light locks of brown hair on his head that curls out in random directions. He had rosy chubby cheeks and pouty little red lips. What I find the most adorable about him though was his dimples when he smiled, oh and those amazing pair of puppy dog eyes accompanied by long thick eye lashes that I have a feeling will be the death of me.
Wanting to break the staring contest that seemed to be happening, I lightly poked his chunky little arm. He looked down at where I poked him then looked back up at me. "So, little man. Your name is Arlo right?" I asked for confirmation. The toddler continued to stare at me as he nodded. Racking my brain out for what else to say, I decided to converse with him like I would any other person I just met.
"Well hi, Arlo. My name is Bella." I said as I stuck my hand out to introduce myself to the toddler. Arlo looked down at my hand and poked it like I did to him just seconds ago. I let out an amused laugh at his strange response and poked him back again. His looked a me blankly for a second then cracked a smile, and we somehow ended up in a poking war where I basically tried to poke him without letting him poke me back. I can tell he was a very gentle child, because no matter how many times we poked each other, he never got aggressive or tried to escalate the one finger poking "rule". After a few more rounds of our poking game, I decided I'm done, so with one last poke from him, I whispered out "oh no! I've run out of energy..." and dramatically laid down backwards on the ground with my eyes closed pretending to be knocked out.
There was a few moments of silence where I had my eyes closed. I was curious to see what Arlo's reaction would be, so I stayed still. It didn't take long until I heard the soft pitter patter sound of what I assumed was the toddler's movements. I could feel his presence next to my head, making me feel curious on what his next move would be. It was hard trying to resist the urge to open my eyes to see what he was up to, but I toughed it out. Silence once again met my ears and when the suspense of nothing happening for a few more moments finally got to me, I opened my eyes to see what was going on. To my surprise, Arlo was just lying on the floor calmly next to me with his face just centimetres away from mine. When my eyes met his, his face lit up and he greeted me with his happy dimpled smile. Well that was different...
"Well, I see you've made a friend." A delightful voice broke through our moment. Looking up from where I was laying, I saw that it was Tai Por Waverley leaning against the doorframe with Ava standing right next to her, both smiling fondly at us. Looking back over to Arlo, I noticed he had yet to look away from me. He really was an odd little one. Giving his cute little nose a tap, I sat up and crossed my legs to properly look at the adults.
"Hi Ava and Tai Por Waverley. I think I did make a new friend. But it seems he's a man of very little words." I responded while smiling at Arlo who was also sitting up right now. Ava let out a laugh and came over and sat on the sofa near us.
"You must be something special. Our little Arlo here usually doesn't go anywhere near strangers. He usually doesn't even engage with anyone except for his own family. We are still working on getting him to say his first words." Ava shared with a look of curiosity towards me. I blush at her compliment with a smile and looked back down at Arlo who had just scooted over to sit closer to me. Tai Por Waverley came over and sat down next to Ava.
"Oh, don't you worry about that boy. He's going to be just fine. He may not be a chatterbox or social butterfly like his twin, but he has the intelligence and instincts that's beyond his years. Isn't that right, my sweet boy." Tai Por Waverley said reassuringly to Ava while giving Arlo a wink. Arlo turned to look at her briefly nodding his head before turning his attention back to me.
"I have a feeling you've got a friend for life with this little one now." Ava said with a chuckle. I laughed at her words and ruffled Arlo's hair.
"Well, I've never really had many friends before, so I guess you'll just have to teach me how to be your friend huh?" I responded humorously looking between the trio. Arlo poked my arm again and gave me one of his full dimpled smiles as if to confirm his agreement. I winked at him and poked him back on his little dimpled cheek and he took hold of my finger in his chubby hands. Can he get any more adorable?
"Yes, I think you will both be good for each other. Why don't you two come through to the kitchen and help bring the food out to the back yard when you're done in here. All the other families should be arriving shortly." Tai Por Waverley announced as she stood up and headed out of the room. Ava followed suit leaving me and Arlo alone again.
"I guess we should go help them, huh. I'm kinda hungry now. You think they would let us sneak a bit of food before everyone gets here?" I asked Arlo playfully. He looked at me thoughtfully for a few moments then stood up and waddled over to pick up the tub of Oreos left forgotten on the coffee table. With two hands on the tub, he made his way back and handed it to me.
"Aww, thanks. Shall we open this and munch on a few before heading out?" I asked Arlo with a smile. He simply nodded and calmly sat back down facing me. Opening the tub, I gave the toddler an Oreo then popped two in my mouth, moaning at how good it tasted.
Arlo looked at me still holding his cookie with a small frown. "What's wrong buddy? Don't you like these?" I asked confused. Instead of answering me, Arlo simply reached his chubby little hand into the tub and took another Oreo. He then puts two more in my empty hand and looks at me expectantly. Finally understanding what he wanted, I popped them in my mouth as Arlo did the same. We both chewed together looking at each other with pure joy and contentment.
Such a strange little cutie. Who knew my newest friend would be a baby. And that hanging out with him would bring out such simple happiness in me.