Hello! It is Wednesday and I am back with a new chapter. (Wow, I actually read through this story and wrote the author's notes on Tuesday because I was going to be out all day Wednesday and I forgot to press upload before I went -.- Here is it now!) It's pretty rare for me to come up with a title before the story itself but that's how it went down for this particular chapter. I may be wrong, but I believe it's the first time that happened! After watching the 90s Peter Pan film, I was prompted to think about James' father, Charlie, and how I knew that he used to be a far more fun and engaging character in his youth but that got lost on the way. I came up with this title and knew I would write a chapter focusing on that subject. So here it is! I hope you enjoy :)
Disclaimer: I own the story and the OCs mentioned!
Also, the full title of this is actually "The One With The Man Who Forgot How To Have Fun".
"Ngghaww…" the grumbling noise escaped from the moustachioed man's lips as he trudged through the halls of his great manor, trying to keep a pep in his step but failing massively. Even if there was no one around at that point but I to see, he at least did try.
The corner of my mouth couldn't help but perk up as I watched while he listlessly stopped outside cupboard doors and room doors, loosely flinging them open and then hardly actually looking inside to see if anyone was lurking there. He would have to perk up at some point otherwise the children would grow quite annoyed!
And although there was a part of me that I should have been miffed and perhaps quite a large degree put off at the way he was acting, there was something amusing about it all the same. I suppose it was because it was a universal feeling.
Adults were often made to do things they didn't want to do by children! The latter liked to crow about how it was the other way around. But sometimes, I noticed that it was a two way street on quite a handful of occasions.
"Dear, dear me…" Charlie mumbled to himself, leaving one area of his vast home behind him and walking through the double doors to another section, intending on continuing his vague door flinging antics. "I should have known that owning such a large house would bite me in the bottom in due course."
His beady, forest hued eyes shot down at me just once but I knew that he wasn't actually talking to me. In fact, he had hardly engaged with me at all while I had been put on his team of seekers in order to locate the hiders of the playful game.
Nonetheless, it didn't put an uncomfortable knot in my stomach or cause me to keep glancing back his way, wondering how I was going to make conversation and engage myself. I believed that it worked to my benefit, really. If I wasn't drawn in by him, I could anticipate the sort of behaviour that both the children's parents had warned me about.
I would be all the more prepared for action. This couldn't be more different from James' father being less than pleased at having to play hide and seek with his grandchildren!
Together we roamed through the indeed large manor, Charlie's ring clad and purposeful fingers swinging open vast cupboard doors and barely taking more than a second to peek his hawk-like features into the room itself. We past room after room, hallway after hallway.
I inhaled the aromas from the kitchen and dining wing, wondering what his fleet of staff were cooking up on that particular day. I heard not a single peep from the halls leading to the guest quarters. Apparently James' children and I were the only ones there to visit. We entered an impressive, almost tropical-like conservatory room and I did notice the scents of all kinds of trees and plants tugged at my nostrils and the greenery which occupied my sights.
However, what couldn't help but garner my attention most of all was the gardens of Morgan Manor. I could then count on one hand how many times I had seen that view. Yet nevertheless, it forced me to stop inhaling and stop walking as well. The great topiary mazes always took me to another world and the light could not refrain from bouncing off my eyes.
It really was such an impressive place to live. But of course, it was nothing more than a house to James as a little boy. He could easily get lost there which worked to his advantage. But needless to say, we all know that tale well enough to understand that the never ending hallways were his birdcage.
A sound broke me away from my musings. And as well as this, it broke Charlie away from his demeanour of looking like a deflated balloon somehow trying to act like it was nothing but pert. While my eyes grew rounder for a different reason, his shoulders elevated towards the limitless glass ceiling.
Tilting his own head, I knew that what we were both hearing was the same. That's how I knew that it was a sound for all to hear – it wasn't just my acute hearing picking it up.
I watched Charlie as his head evened out once more, two lines forming between his eyebrows as well as his moustache twitching on his face. He stalked further forward, his chest and shoulders leading the way and his ears honed in even if he had stopped having a slope in his neck.
We shared the briefest of glances and in that fleeting silent moment, he was reassured that he wasn't the only one hearing things, just like I had felt in previous moments.
Leaving it all up to himself, his eyes that were very much the same as some of the plants in the room darted about and he scanned the area, searching for where the noises were coming from. And then, there was no denying it.
It was unmistakeable to Charlie that one particular, large and spiky leaved plant was twitching more than usual. It wasn't uncommon for it to do that, especially if water droplets from a previous watering were ricocheting from one leaf to another, or it was swaying in a distant breeze from an open window or even the air from another part of the house.
But there was something different about it. And Charlie knew that this small but undeniable difference wasn't to be taken for granted.
His previous disinterested demeanour faded away more with each movement of the clock and he was then a lion creeping up on its pray, his chest the leader of the pack as he made a show of reaching his arm out and tousling his fingers through the leaves of other, equally as tall looming plants.
The black tips of my ears twitched as I too heard the scuffing noises and the muffled giggling. Yes, Charlie was close and Charlie had cracked it.
His moustache quirking upwards before his lip followed suit, he switched position from being standing upright and squatted down. His aubergine coloured velvet suit contrasting wonderfully to the deep green colour of the leaves, he brushed them out of the way.
Giggling and gasping noises could not be ignored. Flashes of other, brighter colours could be seen. He had found his grandchildren.
"What on earth are the two of you doing in there?" he asked, perhaps not remembering the point of the game if he had to ask that. Or maybe he was playing along in some strange way. It was hard to tell. "Did you believe that I would suspect that you were nothing more than vibrant flowers in my conservatory?"
An aubergine decorated arm shot into the display of leaves and then a six year old boy was pulled out. All Jayden did when he was revealed was allow his grandfather's fingers to wrap around the entirely of his little forearm and use his other hand to cover Jayden's own mouth, attempting to supress continual giggles.
While I managed to swallow back my own noises, the corner of my mouth curved up like a lurking spider had attached a piece of web to it and was pulling on it. So, it was Jayden who we had heard! It was the six year old boy who had led to the cover being blown.
That same little boy was given a purse lipped and brow furrowed look from his grandfather. He was let go off but then he was dusted down, like he had been covered in all the dirt and debris in the world from lurking there. But I suspected that Charlie's cleaners wouldn't dare leave any inch of his house anything less than spick and span and squeaky clean.
I watched as though the leaves of the concealing plant had stopped rustling and twitching, James' father was confident that he knew he wasn't mistaken by the things he had seen. Yes, within his greenery he had seen flashes of lavender and magenta locks. And he had seen streaks of a similar hue to his velvet jacket and suit trousers too.
That same arm of his shot back into the disguise of the plant after it was finished dusting down his dual haired grandchild. This person was better at being silent and they put up a bit more of a fight. However, they were eventually tugged out from their hiding place as well.
"You're at a bit of a disadvantage by hiding together, young squires." Charlie told both of his grandchildren, his whole hand effortlessly wrapping around the matchstick arm of the nine year old boy, just like it had done to the younger of the two.
Justin's head was revealed last and then a whole tumbling mane of locks accompanied the rest of his being. And although from finding myself sat between the two trainers of Jayden and feeling his little fingers squashing at my cheeks, the nine year old boy didn't look entirely pleased at the words that were being said, he didn't hold back from defending their decision.
"It was our team versus your team. Of course we were going to hide together." he insisted, his expression mirroring his grandfather's. Justin's knotted brow was filled with an adamant quality while Charlie's oozed with judgement. "I wouldn't leave him alone."
And with that, Justin's determined expression melted away like it had fallen victim to the sun beating down through the glass roof and in its place a far more innocent look took over. Not only this but he rid himself from the hold of his Grandad Charlie and he joined Jayden by his side. The fact that he didn't touch him and just stood there like a protective pillar said everything without a sound being spoken.
Even Charlie got that message. A single ring clad finger reaching for his own body to dust himself off like he had somehow gotten soiled from kneeling down on the ground, he stood back to his full height. And that time as he looked down at both of his grandson's, he didn't figuratively look down on them like he would've done to his own son.
"How very noble of you, Justin." He complimented. My brows moved up just a centimetre or so as I watched the way that Justin's expression didn't alter in any way at being praised, becoming flattered or stern or otherwise. Jayden's head then felt a touch just like I was receiving from the same six year old boy. "Your efforts have contributed to a game well done, I should say."
It goes without saying that Jayden didn't really understand everything that was being said, let alone Justin! Nevertheless, it didn't stop him from being able to fathom out his tone and it certainly didn't stop him from piping up, just like the way that his only older brother had done.
Walking away from me in his little sneakers and me no longer feeling so protected by a foot on either side of me, his slender arms folded over his chest. His curls appeared to sprig so vehemently that a crease didn't have to form on his forehead.
"The game isn't over." He insisted to his Grandad Charlie. Immediately, the moustachioed man looked further down at his grandson, the whites of his eyes becoming more prominent as he was seemingly told what to do. "It's time to swap teams."
Yes, he had indeed been told what to do. Again, Justin's expression didn't change to indicate whether he thought it was a good idea for his little brother to do this, or he thought that he should be more careful. Instead, I felt his presence and two boot decorated feet on either side of me but not a caress on the top of my head.
Despite the fact that a boy of the age of nine could conceal expressions, it was evident that the grown man that was James' father and the boys' grandfather hadn't learnt that lesson in life! It was his turn for his deep purple coloured suit as well as his black under-shirt to feel the constriction of a pair of arms.
Charlie shook his head and his body language spoke long before his tongue actually did at how much he had hoped that they would play just the one game.
"It's time to do something else." His reply came, ignoring Jayden's glossy eyed and saucer like alteration in expression if he had even seen it at all. His arms remained fixed and folding over his own chest. Charlie's moustache danced on his face in disagreement. "Let's go out on a high. I did well! We shall find something else to do."
He smiled down at his grandson's, his moustache then grooving on top of his upper lip in a different manner. But of course, this expression was not shared. Jayden's stance remained fixed showing his own inner feelings by his lower lip puckering and his eyelashes twitching with disappointment, Justin's barely moved.
His attitude didn't alter in a single way, however, his body did. He took a step forward, his feet no longer on either side of me and he folded his own arms over his chest in a manner which I believe was purposeful on his part.
Justin himself ignored the way that Jayden's eyes couldn't meet their grandfather out of disappointment but his was not done in a dismissive way. Instead, his glance made their way straight for Charlie and got their point across in that way.
Part of me thought that there was no way that Charlie Morgan would relent, knowing him a fair amount myself and believing the stories that I had heard. Regardless, I was left with my mouth hanging a similar shape to Jayden's orbs when, all of a sudden, the moustachioed man's arms grew limp and flopped down to his sides.
Justin took a step back, joining his brother by his side again rather than me. He understood that he had got through to the much older man in a successful way.
"Ngghaww…" Charlie grumbled and we all heard that sound on that occasion rather than just me. The dual haired little boy had just enough time the dab the corner of his brewing eyes and Justin could relax a little, his hands sliding into his skinny jeans pockets before more noises could be heard. "Let's make it a quick game then, gentleman."
Those noises that we heard were actual words. And I simply couldn't believe that Charlie could have his mind changed so easily!
I could've pondered and I could have easily felt tension growing in the centre of my brow and forehead at the way that he was so effortlessly changed by his grandchildren but not his next of kin. All the same, I didn't have the chance to because then all of my attention was taken up by Justin taking charge all over again.
To show that it wasn't all authority with him and his big-brotherly persona could slide on some occasions, Jayden was left standing alone when his older sibling left his side and joined his grandfather instead, both of his hands locking onto the one wrist of Charlie.
He knew better than to rub the soft, velvet material of his suit in case he left sticky finger marks there.
"I'm going to be the seeker this time." A nod of his head erupted from him that was not shared by Charlie. No matter. He believed that he would enjoy himself more than he anticipated. "I think the competition of the two of us could make round two an even better game."
I knew that while this was flattery, that time it wasn't Justin trying to get his own way. He wasn't trying to cajole their grandfather into playing at least one more game with them. Nevertheless, after a second or two of an unreadable disposition from Charlie, it appeared that the nine year old boy had succeeded.
He wasn't approved of with words but a subtle moustache twitch from the dark lavender haired man as well as the briefest of pats on both of his hands while his digits didn't leave his grandfather's wrist again spoke everything that needed to be said without uttering a thing.
Following this moment, though, someone did utter words. His expression growing all the more dewy than the way that he had been denied by Charlie, Jayden's nose threatened to run and he was forced to dart forward and closer to his own relative, clearly displaying his plight.
"But, but I don't want to be alone!" he cried out, his child-like and hurt voice already causing Justin and Charlie's heads to turn, let alone a sad tear crawling down from the inside of his nostrils and seeking refuge on his upper lip. "This isn't fair."
Jayden's limbs hugged over his own chest. He had only himself to embrace. He somehow knew his grandfather wouldn't offer for them to hide together like his eldest brother had done. And I had an unpleasant feeling bubbling in my stomach that was a great difference to the softness that I experienced from the way that Justin's head turned to his little brother, immediately attentive.
I possessed a vinegary expression in which I couldn't hide when I saw Charlie's irises rotating in his sockets as well as the grimace that tugged on his perfectly combed moustache. I knew that his disapproval was not only because of the liquid threatening to erupt from the six year old boy's nostrils in a display of unhappiness.
It took a very stern reminder to myself to keep cool and to let the situation play out before intervening. And then I was left feeling impressed (albeit a little made redundant) when Justin diffused the situation.
To this day I don't know whether he saw Charlie's not very subtle disapproval towards his little brothers display and fathomed that it was the same reaction that he would have had towards his father when he was of the same age to Jayden.
Whatever the case, he stepped in there and a brotherly hand being placed on the younger boy's shoulder, he was encouraged to look back at him and dab both of his eyes and the corners of his nose, allowing reassurance to flutter into his heart.
"Don't worry, Jayden." Began his words and from the way that the dual haired boy's little chest contorted before he allowed a breath to rush out of him, he felt better already. Even so, that comforting touch didn't leave the small round ball of his shoulder. "I'll search for Grandad Charlie first and then the two of us together will be very quick at finding you."
My eyes took in the vision of Justin's fingers leaving his little brother's shoulder after once extra squeeze. In the same way, the six year old boy's meadow orbs felt the tightness of his shoulder before it left for good. He watched his eldest brother's comfort moving away from him.
He felt the reassurance and heard his words, it was true. But it wasn't enough. And that became evident from the way that his eyes bubbled and brewed all over. Unlike the way that Justin had controlled himself enough to not latch too much onto Charlie's arm; Jayden's fingers attached themselves to the older boy's wrist, becoming a monkey toy with sticky tabs on his hands.
I knew that I had to take a leaf out of the nine year old boy's book and control myself when Charlie's eyes like ping pong balls practically rolled so hard that they may as well have bounced on the floor.
"But I might hide in such a good spot that you both won't be able to find me!" Jayden's tone was bordering on a whine at that point and I had to compose myself when I saw the way that Charlie was then at least trying not to outwardly react at his grandson's display which was – in his mind – completely ridiculous.
Even if Justin was used to his second to youngest sibling going from sunshiny to exploding with showers in a matter of seconds, he still made it his duty to make him feel better. In that moment, I knew I wasn't mistaken when a bit of amusement tugged up at the corner of his mouth and he longed to smirk at the way that the six year old boy was somehow getting upset about his own hide and seek skills.
After another folding of the arms over his chest from Charlie and rocking his body, rolling from the balls of his feet to the tips of his toes in his boots before repeating over and over again, Justin evened out any instinct of his mouth.
A small crater appeared on his cheek and he touched his little brother all the more that time. As his arm wrapped around his shoulder securely, a grin was flashed to Jayden which was a reminiscent of how they would go on to act with each other even as men.
"You're my brother!" Justin reminded him, immediately encouraging the little boy's meadow orbs with rainy lashes to clap together. A selection of his front teeth appeared as he earnestly continued grinning. "Of course I'll know where to find you."
In hindsight, the small child that was Jayden could have read into these words and thought that Justin was telling him that his hide and seek skills were not as coveted as he once believed. Maybe he was!
Thankfully, the six year old boy could understand the brotherly love coming from him and if he wasn't comforted by his words, the half-hug between them both couldn't be ignored.
Following a couple of seconds of allowing his eldest brother's words to sink in and continually feeling his touch on his small frame even if it was no longer there, Jayden then flashed Justin a bit of a grin in return. A nod accompanied this gesture.
Charlie stopped rolling from heel to toe and back again and exhaled all the air out of his chest. He even nodded his head. He understood that all was resolved and game time would go on as planned. I knew that when realisation struck him that they were playing yet another round, it would hit him hard and his body language would switch to being like a flimsy paper bag all over again!
But for the time being, they were all ready to engage in round two of hide and seek. I perhaps should've shuffled off with Jayden to find a hiding spot with him but he had been so reassured by Justin that I didn't want to undermine him. I knew that he would be fine to find a location to perform his part of the game and to wait there silently.
In fact, it was Justin who I felt sorry for! As I watched Charlie preparing to shuffle off while Justin moved against the wall, his hands over his eyes and counting aloud, I knew that he being located first meant they had all the more time to share together.
But Justin wasn't worried about that, was he? He somehow knew how to handle his Grandad Charlie. I'm sure that it was a trait of his son's that James wished he possessed. But alas, he did not. And he just had to have an open enough heart in spite of it all to be able to be glad for him rather than sceptical and jealous.
I thought of this while Justin continued counting aloud to himself and Jayden and Charlie left the conservatory. I thought of this and a few different things as Justin's numbers counting aloud grew closer and closer to the number twenty.
Maybe I should be doing a better job of bringing James and Charlie closer together. Seeing as I was the one to accompany the visits, I saw for myself what he was like with the grandchildren and it was certainly a far cry from the man that I had once known. I felt my lip falling into my mouth when I thought of this.
The last thing I wanted was for James to think I didn't believe him. And the last thing I wanted was to push something together that wasn't meant to be. Sure, Charlie was stiff and not exactly the greatest and most eager playmate for the children. But he wanted to see them. And that was far more of an effort than he had ever made with James even as an adult.
"Twenty!" Justin's voice concluded and tugged me back to the present rather than the past as well as any part in a possible future. The nine year old boy spun around in his boots and he stretched his arms out from having them over his eyes for at least twenty seconds. "Ready or not, here I come!"
All of my previous musings to myself floated way like ashes in the wind when I heard those words tumbling out from the lips of Justin. That was all that mattered. The present was what mattered. I had been asked to accompany the children on another visit. And it was that that I had to focus on, rather than how things could be or should be.
Unlike how it was when Charlie and I wandered through rooms of his own manor, Justin very much engaged with me. While I wasn't necessarily displeased with the dynamic in which the moustachioed man appeared to be happy with, I felt lightness elevating in my stomach when the nine year old boy reached for me and placed me on his shoulder.
We would look together even if I was neither a seeker nor was I a hider. I was an observer. But I was welcomed and I felt very welcomed indeed.
That time instead of looking around me while Justin searched the conservatory room in case his relatives had played mind games by hiding there because that was the last place he would suspect them to be, I looked right to the boy with the cascading deep purple locks.
It was funny to me that I could feel such fondness towards one of the creations of two people that had caused me such trouble when my best friend was around that boy's age! But it simply was what it was. It had been almost as much of a joy to watch he and his siblings grow as much as it had been for Ash and Misty's own offspring to go through life. No, it was an equal pleasure.
And that fondness thumped in my heart all the more when Justin left that conservatory room with no leaf unturned and no relative of his found and headed through the doors to the very next room.
As soon as he stepped over the threshold let alone when he actually entered the room properly, something caught his eye which he simply couldn't deny. He didn't see a glimpse into his future by being enamoured by the regal hat stand that stood in the corner of the room, longing for attention.
Somehow, he saw a glimpse of his present. He saw a glimpse of a part of himself. Yes, he had seen a glimpse of his sibling! And he didn't bother to act like he hadn't seen him at all. It didn't take a genius to figure out that Jayden wanted to be found.
The ball of his shoulder was clasped all over again by Justin's hand and after the nine year old boy reached for the six year old boy from behind, the younger of the two turned around. Immediately, he was met with a gaze that he could very much read.
All over again, his glance became filled with a lacquer quality yet to contrast the previous intention, his was trying to persuade his eldest brother not to be mad that he had made the game easier for him.
"I just wanted to make sure that you would definitely find me…" Jayden told Justin and in spite of him going on tip toes to somehow be as tall as his eldest brother, even at the ages that they were and his lanky stature, that was impossible. And in some ways it was for the best that Justin was able to look down at the younger boy.
For half a second, a fish hook tugged on his brow, forming a perfect arch on his young face. And then, he decided to utter just two single words. Within that uttering, Jayden gathered that his words had gone down well and I could kid myself that from the older of the two's shoulder, I saw dual locks springing out in all directions with gladness.
"Come on." The six year old boy was commanded to in a very smooth way. And with that, his hand was held out to and after barely any time at all, Justin's hand was filled with his little brothers and they were instead going to head off to find their grandfather together.
Justin should have known that Jayden would rig the game so they could team up all over again. And while it was true that he had been excited for a chance at a competition between himself and his grandfather and for him to prove to him how quickly he could succeed as a seeker, he at his young age was able to have thankfulness for the present rather than any time at all.
At that point in his life, Jayden wanted to do everything with him. He was told that that wouldn't always be the case. So he should enjoy it while it lasted.
I at once knew that Justin and I were birds of a feather. So I decided to then hop onto Jayden's shoulder after having some nice moments lurking on the top of Justin's. One day they would be grown men and there would be no more wandering through endless hallways together and playing hide and seek. So I should enjoy that while it lasted too.
Funnily enough though, in the moments that I made the most of the present and our fun and games and had a smirk on my face from imagining the way that Charlie was probably looking at his watch while curled up inside an ottoman somewhere, Jayden and Justin started to stop enjoying the antics of what they were actually up to.
Well, let me rephrase that: they found something even better to do.
You see, the two boys started to check their grandparents manor house in every nook and cranny to find their Grandad Charlie. I nudged them in the direction of upstairs where I believed that an ottoman was likely to be. And while I pushed my agenda on the two of them, it didn't actually lead to success. At least not for a while, anyway.
Without having to glance much in each other's direction at all and see the light bouncing off the white of each other's eyes, the two of them knew not to go into Charlie and Johanna's bedroom. So instead, they found themselves turning the handle of the knob on the room directly next door to the boudoir of the aristocratic couple.
Jayden's eyes resembled the curve of the impressive chandeliers hanging about all of our heads when Justin pushed the door open but he didn't verbally discourage him. I'm sure that he was curious about what was inside equally as much as his big brother was. I knew that I was!
They had hardly been allowed to go upstairs before and they didn't know much of what was inside those rooms at all. Soon, they would learn. And soon, one of them would be delighted.
Together, the two brothers pushed open the door as quietly as they could, not only wanting to sneak up on their Grandad Charlie if he was hiding there but also because it felt like a bit of a gamble actually going inside there.
There was a nudge in my stomach telling me not to let the situation escalate. To not allow the sides of Charlie that James knew all too well to jump out and the young boys to be reprimanded for being exactly what they were – curious and wonder-filled young boys.
But then, when we all actually properly entered the room and the natural lighting shone in through the windows and the rest of the house was seemingly left behind us in a fog as that was the only room that captured our interest, all of these worries of mine faded away.
In hindsight, I should have continually been more present. But I was present with the excitement. And when Justin's eyes swivelled around the room, I knew that the light bouncing off them wasn't him reflecting the sunlight shimmying in from outside.
A hitch in his breath, he made his way straight for the thing that took his interest most of all. Although as I will go on to describe, each part of the room filled him with delight in varying degrees.
"I didn't know Grandad Charlie had fun without us." Jayden's young and hitch pitched sounding voice accompanied Justin scurrying along the carpet, forgetting about being quiet and making his way over to the ornate record player within the room that kept all of the musical memorabilia from over the years.
While I was equally delighted with looking around the room myself and watching Justin's face as he approached the vinyl record player too, my attention was then snatched by sharing a smirk with the side of Jayden's face that he was far too young to return. He was far too young to understand the complete hilarity of his innocently blunt words. But that was okay. I would go on to remember them. And be all the more amused by them as time went on.
Whether he intended to or not, the nine year old boy in some way corrected his younger brother's words by piping up himself, forgoing any inclination of manners or fear that he had previously had by bending down on the floor and looking for a switch to actually bring the record player to life.
"I didn't know Grandad Charlie had fun." Justin's words sounded innocent and observational but they did cause me to look over at him in the same way in which I had turned towards Jayden but with more of a glint in my eye and less of a slope of my lips. "I wonder if this room is a secret?"
Humouring me yet, Jayden's eyes became the shapes of the vinyl records hanging all around the room. I could almost feel the hidden delight bubbling within Justin's stomach that he had uncovered a secret. Meanwhile, his younger brother's record-shaped eyes darted behind him, back towards the door.
Moving my paws from his shoulder to having one on the base of his neck seemed to reassure him. And then, after taking a quiet exhale to himself, he couldn't help but approach the shelves that were erupting with old records and posters from an era which I knew to be Charlie's youth.
Jayden didn't hold back a shudder and I felt it rolling through him as I continually perched on his shoulder. In the way that Justin was taken aback by his grandfather having a fun-filled room such as the one that we all were then in, the younger of the two couldn't believe that he had an area of his home that was so disorganised!
Still, a jolt was soon to erupt from him in a different manner. Switch. Justin had found the mains and with a buzzing of static, the well cared for and assumedly well-adored record player came back to life and the lights flashing near the buttons proved that everyone was home.
That clicking noise was not the only noise that would go on to sound. Clunk. Something opened.
With ottomans on the forefront of my mind when we were clambering up the never ending stairs leading to the second level of Morgan Manor, I did not know how I didn't notice one in the corner of the room. Perhaps I assumed that it was simply going to be filled with more memorabilia rather than the person that the memorabilia belonged to.
My eyes jumped practically as much as an old record jumping on a record player when the lid of it opened and an aubergine coloured sleeved arm shot out.
"This room is no secret but you do not have permission to be in here." The voice was muffled from the hiding place but then the grunting and groaning noises became as clear as the crystal glasses that Charlie liked to drink from when he allowed his being to emerge from the piece of furniture.
While it was I to have the horrible reminiscent of the way that he had hid in a coffin and emerged from it to play an awful trick on his son when he was much younger, Jayden had such a fright and backed up that it was as though he had seen a ghost!
Meanwhile, Justin was unfazed. Maybe far too enamoured with the joy of being surrounded everything that was part of his world and the world he wanted to be a part of, let alone the way that he and his Grandad Charlie could be united in their likeness.
It would go on, though, to become a possibility that his laid-back silence and curious fiddling with the buttons on the vinyl player was him leaving some room before he replied nonchalantly to his grandfather.
"The door was left open." Justin retorted in a manner which he hoped was casual. While my paws clutched onto and patted at Jayden to reassure him from the way that Charlie's hiding spot had unintentionally being discovered, the grunt that oozed from the moustachioed man after he freed himself completely led the nine year old boy to add. "If we don't have permission to be in here then how come you hid here as part of our game?"
The boy with the deep purple hair figured that his words might have appeared petulant from the throat growl that came from his grandfather so he turned around to face him, giving him his full attention. Ironically, he went on to add words that seemed all the more like answering back!
I wondered whether I should hold my breath. Charlie certainly did. Then afterwards came a shake of the head as well as muttering noises that were incomprehensible to anybody listening and maybe even him.
"How very smart you are." He complimented his eldest grandson, his hands going to the velvet of his own suit and having a good reason to that time as he actually had been covered in a couple of cobwebs at the decision of the ottoman being his hiding place. "Anybody could turn that old thing on though. And anybody could turn it off. So please do so."
Charlie was plucking threads off of himself when it became clear that he was complimenting his observation rather than the way that he had turned the record player on himself.
And with that and no longer decorated by the flimsy lace of the spiders inside the ottoman, Charlie's hand disappeared into his pockets. Contrasting his authoritative words, he rolled from his heels to his toes all over again, his hands still not reappearing from the inside lining of his pockets.
I thought about jumping down from Jayden's shoulder and joining Justin instead, perhaps even getting involved and encouraging Justin away from his grandfather's property. However, the gentle buzzing that no other person other than a Pokémon could feel told me that the six year old boy needed me sitting there with him and on top of his shoulders for a little longer.
As I thought my own musings, Justin had his own thoughts to ponder. Yes, of course, the right thing to do would be to obey and move out of the way of the very being that he bought to life. But part of him couldn't do so. And as well as this, part of him wanted to pipe up why he knew what he was doing, even if it didn't matter at all.
"My dad's one has a purple light that flashes rather than a red one like yours." He told him, inwardly wondering why his own gaze was flickering from Charlie's rocking legs to his actual face.
In truth, he probably should have been wondering why he wasn't moving and allow that notion to lead him to obeying his grandfather. After all, he did respect him. Respect seemed to be that something Charlie still lacked for his son.
Rocking motions continually accompanying the present moment, his hands seemed to delve further into the lining of his pockets. If softness and respect for his only child was what he was looking for, he certainly wasn't going to find it there.
A twitch from Jayden's narrow shoulder that buzzed through my paw made me wonder if he anticipated the sentence which surely happened next. Or the sentiment at least.
"Brilliant. Come away, now." Charlie replied with complete dismissal. Funnily enough, it was this that made Justin's eyes latch more confidently onto the face of his grandfather rather than growing occupied with his rocking motion against the carpet. I wondered whether it was this that caused the much older man to change his tune. Surely not. "…That father of yours no doubt plays some records that are quite atrocious and uncivilised, dare I assume?"
After bedding both hands into his pockets, one of them had escaped to gesture to Justin to come away at the same time that he had uttered those identical words of the same sentiment. But not long after that, the other one revealed itself from his pocket and they both hung down by his sides.
In addition to this, his chest had lunged forward again in the same way that hadn't gone unnoticed when he was locating his grandchildren for their game of hide and seek. He had tried to hold back. But he failed. He had tried to be dismissive. But he was interested.
It goes without saying that his intrigue was down to noisiness and longing to judge rather than anything sincere but nonetheless, there was interest. And it was this that made him ask Justin this exact question.
While naturally, the nine year old boy didn't understand some of the words that had been uttered and the six year old boy behind him even less so, Justin could figure out the meaning behind it. His deep purple haired mane shimmied on his shoulders as his head shook.
Then, he figured that Charlie was best conversed with through actions equally as much as conversation if not more. And Justin took a chance too.
"He plays this quite a lot, actually." He replied to him and with that, a particular record in a sleeve the same colour as his hair and the same colour as his grandfather's suit was tugged off the wall.
Soon enough, the long player disc was held in the clutch of the nine year old boy. And before he could be stopped, he had placed the record on the player and was edging the arm and the needle towards the line leading to the song that he was very familiar with.
And of course, Charlie knew it like the back of his hand too. Just like his son, it was one that he had carried with him over multiple years. But that was where the similarities ended, they both felt. They didn't realise that they had more in common than DNA and those two children that longed to bring Charlie alive in the same way that the record had been.
And speaking of those children, almost as soon as the first few words of the song had been sung, blaring out of the record player and singing and crackling for all to hear, Jayden couldn't stop some of his previous antics and he giggled all over again, a concealing hand over his mouth.
But then, he started to dance. And while Justin didn't exactly join in initially, he looked over at us both and he pointed and grinned like he was telling us we had the right idea. Jayden definitely did! I was forced to grove because I was then part of him as much as he was himself. I almost toppled off him during some particular moves. My giggles were set free, albeit a little nervously. But then I held onto his head and allowed myself to flow with the music.
"That is quite enough of that." Charlie tried to bring the antics to a halt. It was his turn to feel as though when dealing with Justin, actions would work as well as words. He took a step forward and as his arm swiped outwards, there was a moment where my heart was all of a sudden in my chest. But all he was doing was attempting to head towards the record player so he could turn it off himself. "This nonsense must stop. There shall be no hiding and there shall be no seeking and certainly not dancing!"
He tried to take another step forward. He made his attempt, his arm stretching outwards to wordlessly convey to Justin that it was his house and if he wanted a record of his not played and a room not invaded by the two of them and their childish antics then it was his voice that truly mattered.
In spite of his protest that was going to come, Justin moved out of the way. Charlie believed he won. He didn't have time for his moustache to quiver upwards, let alone his lips. While he believed that his authority had been the successor in the end, Justin's expression became as jagged as that of a record that had been smashed on the floor into a million pieces.
And like his six year old brother didn't stop his groovy moves, the nine year old boy didn't stop his words. Justin really took a chance by grabbing Charlie's arm before he had a chance to grab the record off the pin.
"Do you ever have fun?" he asked, his neck threatening to flush the same colour as the inner ring of the vinyl record and in a turn of events that he would go on to believe to be quite foolish, it was his turn to feel wetness pricking at his eyeballs.
My heart was not only in my mouth at that point but had practically leapt out of my chest and was running around in circles before it came colliding back inside of me, causing my heart rate to thud in my ears. Gosh, he was really taking a chance. And I was so ready to pick up the pieces.
Instead, though, it was Charlie who went to pieces. While his grandson's gaze suddenly dropped down and Jayden's playful antics and movements came to a hurried end, the moustachioed man's mouth hung open before it went between showing that and slamming shut, practically gulping like a fish.
Justin didn't dare glance in his direction. Not while he gulped. Not while he gawked. Not while his eyebrows danced on his face.
He shared a gaze with his grandfather once again only after these words had floated out from him after a couple of moments of a wordless silence that an old 70s record sung over.
"I… I don't know how to." He began and for a moment, his words were almost poignant. Yet from his point of view, they were pathetic so he hurried his gulping mouth into adding more words. "I cannot dance like that to save my life! I don't have the youth on my side like the two of you do."
And for the first time in my life in the presence of Charlie, I was comforted knowing there was absolutely no reason to intervene. It was peculiar to me that my shoulders dropped down to a normal level but I allowed that to be the truth of my present.
It was certainly the first time that he had indicated that he was not that young and it was the sheer newness of an interaction like this that made it worthwhile. It appeared to be not so dissimilar to Justin. Slowly, his eyes travelled back and he tried to breath, allowing his neck to resume to being their usual, porcelain colour.
And it was barely a second after this contact had been made that Charlie decided to look over at Jayden instead of his other grandson, adding some more words yet again.
"I don't want to enjoy the music on my own." He stated. Maybe he was hoping that Jayden understood. Maybe he had felt like he had blown it with Justin and his only choice was to try again with the other grandchild in the room with him.
No, I knew that he hoped that Jayden got the message. And he did.
One of the admirable qualities about the Morgan young children was that they knew about their father's past with their grandfather and they didn't ignore it but they didn't let it dictate their relationship with him. Sure, it could cause their dynamics to go a similar way one day.
But for the time being, everything was afresh. And I was filled with a freshly bizarre yet affirming feeling all the same when Jayden didn't have the heart to reject Charlie even if he had rejected the idea of some fun with him earlier.
He practically shot like a rocket over to his Grandad Charlie so much so that I had to take a leap of faith onto the carpet before I was left in his wake! Charlie didn't utter with words that he was approving of this welcome but that "ngghaww" sound of his came from him again and I knew that he meant it.
Anyone could tell that it wasn't the most natural thing in the world when Charlie was encouraged to have a boogie with the six year old boy, trying to copy and mirror his moves. But try he did! And to try he failed.
But that was not a problem. Things got a lot better for him when he held onto his grandson's hands and they danced together, enjoying each other's presence and the moment together as much as they enjoyed the music. But if anyone had asked Charlie, he would've certainly said it was the music that he preferred!
I wondered what it was that finally prompted Justin into joining in too. Whether it was the music or the blossoming dynamic between his brother and his grandfather or it was the sheer relief that his bluntness and his risk taking hadn't ended terribly for him.
I didn't know whether it was me joining with the dancing myself and being more than happy to dance alone.
Whatever it was, something suddenly elated within Justin. Perhaps it was the affirmation that yes, there were parts of Charlie that lurked inside him and there were parts of him that lurked inside Charlie. And for that reason, it was logical to assume that his father and his grandfather were still a part of each other, even if things were rocky for them at the time being.
The joy of the music and the joy of the moment rushing through him, Justin had a couple of moments to dance in front of the mirror that lurked near the ottoman and he struck his best poses with an invisible guitar that he could no doubt feel as clearly as it was actually there.
And with that, he spun around and he faced his grandfather, that time his cheeks the colour of the inner ring of the vinyl and his eyes lighting up like he was already seeing the glow sticks of the people who would come to watch him perform.
"I'm going to make music like this one day! Just you wait and see!" he told him and it was natural for him to laugh a couple of times to himself before he attempted to turn around to the mirror for another practice at being the pop star or rock star that he believed that he wanted to become. On that day at least.
However, something stopped him. And it wasn't because another dream took over. It wasn't because the idea of a painter or a footballer or an architect suddenly captured his brain for its own desires that longed to be carried out.
In the same way that he had reached for his little brother's shoulder a couple of times, it was his turn to be reached out to. And he wasn't reached for by Jayden. And no, he wasn't reached for by me either.
Charlie spun him around, a shoulder on his grandson's hand that was the complete opposite of a shaking, accusatory hand which could have been found lingering elsewhere.
"And I don't doubt that for a single second." Charlie informed Justin and his moustache forwent quivering. His mouth didn't curve. His expression didn't elevate. His eye didn't glitter. He simply told him.
Maybe he knew that that bluntness and that risk taking were going to be the ingredients towards him succeeding at everything that he wanted. Or maybe deep down he knew that his grandson bringing out parts of people that he had long forgotten about – and truthfully, buried – were going to be the key to his success.
No matter the case, Justin had a moment to feel quite stunned at that sincere seriousness from his grandfather. His eyelashes twitched and he stared for half a second, his jovial expression fading away and his own serious and hoping-that-he-was-correct attitude taking over.
But that was tugged out of him when Charlie tugged at him all over again. There was to be no worrying while there was music and there was dancing. And Justin understood that wordless message.
He wasn't quite tugged into his grandfather's arms but he was tugged into their little dancing gang. And the sounds of laughter that came from the children were almost as capturing as the sounds playing from the record player.
But somehow what was even better for me as I danced alone were the glimpses that I was able to take of Charlie. And the more that he came into his own and even let go of his grandson's hands to bust out some moves of his own accord, spinning in a circle and the tail of his jacket billowing around him, the more that I saw glimpses of the man that he had once been.
I saw how he could be with his grandchildren. And I saw who he had once been before he buried all of that to become a husband and a father. Maybe there really was more alike between James and Charlie than they both anticipated. And maybe I would be lucky enough to see them both arriving at that understanding. And I would.
It's funny how I made the most of that moment because I believed that Jayden and Justin wouldn't always want me there to accompany the visits. And even if that was a wonderful destination to arrive at, I made the most of James trusting me enough to be the chaperone because there was a part of me that felt one day he would take over from it himself.
The truth was, because I was there for it all – I was there from the first anxious visit and from all the ups and downs and bumps on the road – I was welcomed to see the outcome of it too. Even when Justin and Jayden were men and James was even older than Charlie in this story, I was invited along for the ride.
We all made memories. Their memories were my memories. And eventually, Charlie's would be my own too. Certainly tales for me to remember. And enjoy sharing with whoever is listening. Who would have believed that the man who once forgot how to have fun would have so much fun reminiscing with me? But that is the truth. And that is his story.
There you go! Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed :) Re-visiting Justin and Jayden as young children was a bit of fun for me! Especially them interacting with their Grandad Charlie and the ways that he responds to them. It's ironic how he rolls his eyes and judges Jayden for his emotions, isn't it? I think you can tell they're actually rather similar people! Charlie can be pretty animated at times, despite the fact it takes a while to get him to actually have fun :D Thanks again and I will be back on the 28th to update The Diary of Baby Rey! See you then.
Amy signing out :)