Martha was watching from the kitchen. This whole parenting thing was a lot more difficult than she had imagined. Of course she didn't expect it to happen this way.
Her special, silent little boy. All that hair. He was amazingly happy most of the time. That huge grin that he didn't seem to mind sharing with anyone just dazzled her.
Right now, he was on his knees on the carpet in the living room, huge Tonka truck in one hand, pushing it back and forth. Head bent, eyes narrowed in concentration. His hair was falling into his eyes again and she watched him brush it out of his face.
Martha was terrified. Sure, she loved him with every thing she had, but there was so much she didn't know about him. And he couldn't tell them anything. He had no words. He laughed and cried and sighed and even seemed to be making those 'Vroom Vroom' noises in the living room with his truck, but he had yet to speak a word.
He seemed to get that his name was Clark now, and that she and Jonathan were the parents. She got those sunny smiles every time he looked at her, but she was still terrified.
He was still vroom-vrooming on the floor, so she turned to the refrigerator to pull out sandwich things. She still didn't know if any of the food she had fed him would harm him, but nothing so far had seen any ill effects.
The boy looked the same as other children. He had all the same parts and everything seemed to work the same, as far as she could tell. Strong, steady heartbeat, he seemed to breathe normally and eat like everyone else.
Martha put together four sandwiches and looked out the window to see if Jonathan was on his way in from the barn. It was about time for him to come in for lunch, and she didn't want to leave Clark alone to go find him.
"Clark, honey, come in here and eat a sandwich for lunch."
He dutifully, came into the kitchen and climbed up into a chair. Big grin on his face again, his eyes huge with wonder at everything. She picked up one of the quarters of the sandwich and put it in his hand. She watched him bite and chew on the sandwich and marveled again to herself.
He looked at her and smiled again. How could that smiling, happy face every do anything wrong?
She found out the answer to that very question later that afternoon. Jonathan had eaten his lunch and gone back out into the barn. She'd set about to cleaning up the kitchen and sent Clark back to his truck.
The quietness with him in the living room didn't really bother her. She was used to quiet. What bothered her was the horrific crash.
The toy truck was abandoned next to the couch, and the entire cabinet that held their television and stereo system had crashed to the floor. The panic set in when she couldn't see Clark. Was he under all that splintered wood? How was she going to lift it? How was she going to get Jonathan in here to help her?
Before she could scream for help or make it to the phone, Clark wiggled out from under everything. She was so relieved all she could do was crouch down and hug him. She pulled back to look at him, he reached out to touch the tears running her cheeks. She proceeded to touch him all over, checking for a broken bone or even a bruise.
She found neither.
"How on earth is that possible?" she asked herself out loud.
Clark just looked at her. He pointed at the mess on the floor and then held up the remote he still clutched in his other hand.
"You wanted to watch television?"
He didn't answer her, of course. He just pointed again.
"What did you do? How are you strong enough to pull this over on yourself and how did you not break anything?"
He smiled at her. This was becoming frustrating. "Ok. Let's go see Daddy?" She held her arms out to him and he eagerly filled them and wrapped his little arms around her as she picked him up. And he squeezed just a little too hard.
"OW!" She got out before she could stop herself. It wasn't like it hurt that much, just surprised her a lot.
Clark's wide eyes were on her again. His little lower lip was quivering. "Oh, honey, it's okay. Just be gentle, okay? Be soft." She pulled him close and hoped he wouldn't cry. There was no way she was going to be able to convince Jonathan he wasn't hurt if he was crying.
She made her way out to the barn, and called, "Jonathan?"
"Martha? Is everything okay? Is Clark okay?"
"Clark's fine. Come into the house, I want to show you something."
He peered out from behind the tractor he was working on, stood up and started wiping his hands on an old rag. "Everything's okay?"
"Just come in the house."
She turned to go with Jonathan following her. She stood in the entranceway to the living room and just stared at the mess. Jonathan stood behind her, silent. She started to speak at the same time he did. "What...?"
She let him finish. "What happened? You said he was okay. Are you hurt?"
"We're both fine. I was in the kitchen finishing the lunch dishes and I heard this. The noise was horrible. When I ran in here, I couldn't find him. He was underneath that." She pointed. "He crawled out with the remote in his hand, completely fine. I checked everywhere for a bruise or anything, and he's fine."
"How...How did he...Did he pull that over on himself? I have to take it all apart to move that cabinet around. And the television? That's heavy, too. And he's fine?"
Martha nodded. "I don't know how, I just know that he did."
Clark snuggled into her arms more, and she ran a hand over his back. She looked at Jonathan as he looked at her. "I wonder what else we're in for?"
The first time Clark said "Mommy," Martha melted. This tiny little child was calling her mommy. The tears in her eyes were completely joyful. She smiled as he said it again and again. She scooped him up and hugged him to her and tried to speak through her tears and smiles, "Yes, Clark. Mommy. Can you say 'daddy' or 'Clark'"?
He shook his head. He understood what she was saying, what she was asking. He just didn't seem to be able to vocalize anything. "Can you try? What about 'cookie'? Can you say that?"
He grinned at her and held out his hand. "Mommy."
She laughed with him. "Ok, Clark. I'll get you a cookie."
She carried him into the kitchen and sat him in a chair and turned around to get him a cookie from the jar. She set it on a napkin in front of her and was rewarded with another smile. He was happy enough it seemed.
Martha worried about so many things. The little episode with the television last week had frightened her more than she could tell Jonathan. What if he wanted to send the boy away? There wasn't any way she was going to let that happen. How could she love this boy so much and still be so frightened of him. Well, she wasn't so frightened of him, but of what he could do.
She sat down next to Clark and watched him eat his cookie. He grinned through the chocolate pieces, now stuck to his little teeth. He closed his eyes, scrunched up his face, and took a breath before saying, "Cookie."
He opened his eyes again and looked at her in what she thought to be his hopeful face. He was so expressive! "I knew you could say it, Clark. Keep going. You're going to turn out to be brilliant aren't you?"
He looked a little confused but smiled and put the rest of the cookie in his mouth.
"Want to go outside and play, Clark?" She was using his name every time she spoke to him, hoping he'd start saying it. He'd gotten Mommy and cookie pretty quickly. He nodded and brushed his hands together, getting off all the crumbs. She held out her hand and he took it, and she led him into the back yard. She was going to have to talk to Jonathan about getting a fence up.
He immediately sat down on the grass and tugged his shoes off. He stood up and started walking across the lawn. He giggled at the feel of the blades of under his bare feet. He held up his feet and looked at them, and then set them back on the grass. He looked up at Martha and giggled some more.
The sun was shining and there were only high, white clouds in the sky. Martha was going to just sit on the porch and watch Clark play, but she wanted to run inside to grab his trucks so he could play with them. "Clark, be good," she called. "Mommy is going to run inside for just a second. Don't get into trouble."
She went in to the living room, grabbed his truck and made it back outside before he could manage to do anything wrong. She breathed a sigh of relief when she handed him his truck. She prompted him. "You're supposed to say 'thank you' when someone gives you something. He looked at her again with those intense eyes. "Then, that person says 'you're welcome.'"
Martha sat down on the stairs that led to the door and watched Clark play. He stopped at a flowerbed, sniffed each of the flowers, squishing his toes in the wet earth to get to each one. He didn't touch any of them with anything except his nose. He just sniffed and smiled.
She smiled, just watching him. He finished smelling all the flowers and ran over to her. "Mommy!" he cried. He hugged her and then grabbed her hand and tugged her towards him.
She didn't really have a choice. He was so strong! She got her feet under her and followed him over to the flowers. Clark pointed at the flowers, then at her.
"You want me to smell them, Clark?" She bent at the waist to smell them.
He shook his head and repeated, "Mommy."
She looked him. "Clark, they're flowers. They smell pretty and look nice. Is that what you wanted? To know whey they're called? Flowers."
Clark nodded and scrunched up his face like he had earlier with the cookie. "Pretty."
She laughed. "Yes, Clark. They are pretty. But they're flowers. Flowers."
"Yes! Clark. The flowers are pretty!"
She hugged him to her again, and he wrapped his arms around her and giggled. "Mommy pretty?"
"Oh, Clark, honey. Thank you."
Martha just hugged him some more and planted a kiss on his unruly hair.
Clark continued to pickup more words throughout the week. He'd point at something, yell, "Mommy!" and then answer back when Martha told him the name of the thing he was pointing at.
Martha couldn't help but smile every time. One day, that was all he did. He ran around the house, pointing and yelling until he was completely tired out and fell asleep on the sofa. He slept on his stomach, his head turned to one side, breathing out his mouth. She loved to watch him sleep. He was so peaceful. She pulled a light blanket over him, even though he never seemed to get cold.
She thought about a lot of things while he was sleeping. She wondered about the strength that he'd displayed so far. There had been the television incident and then there were a lot of little things that made her wonder just how strong he was. He'd hugged her too tight a couple of times, and once she ended up with a bruise she hid from Jonathan. She was still worried that Jonathan would want to send Clark away.
He'd never said as much, or even suggested, but it was still something Martha worried about. She'd grown amazingly attached to the little boy in a short amount of time.
She also wondered what else they were going to have to accept. She didn't know if the boy was an alien or some scientific research study. He could be a time traveler like that Planet of the Apes movie. Some futuristic human with special abilities sent back in time.
Martha shook her head and turned back to the laundry room. Clark generated more dirty clothes than she and Jonathan did put together. She had no idea how that was even possible. But it seemed to be true. She started the machine and turned around to find Clark looking at her.
She jumped and let out a breathless little laugh, "Clark! You startled me. Did you wake up from your nap?"
He nodded and pointed at the refrigerator. "Hungry."
She nodded and opened the fridge, letting him look inside. He pointed again and said "Apple."
"You know, Clark. You're going to have to say your name soon. And Daddy. You have to say daddy. And you should really start saying complete sentences. And maybe demanding isn't the way to go. You could say, 'Mommy, can I have an apple?' rather than just pointing."
Clark looked at her, confusing running across his face. "No apple?"
"No, I'm getting you an apple. I just have to cut it up for you." She sighed, wondering how she was going to get him to understand.
"Apple." Satisfied he seemed to be getting what he wanted, he climbed up to the table and waited patiently, watching her cut the apple.
She put the apple in front of him on a plate and sat down to watch him eat it. "What do you want to do this afternoon, Clark? Do you want to play with your toys? Or outside? Or do you want to watch television?'
He looked like he was thinking about it. After chewing the bite of apple in his mouth and swallowing it, he said, "Watch outside."
Martha chuckled and answered, "The television isn't outside. If you want to watch TV it's in the living room. You can play outside with your toys."
Clark looked thoughtful again, and said, "Play with toys outside."
"You're getting better, aren't you? Ok, you can play outside. Are you done with the apple?"
He nodded and said, "Done!" as he crawled off the chair. He headed to the back door and reached up to try to grab the handle.
"Wait a minute, Clark. You have to get your toys first." She sighed as he was already out the door and down the steps. She watched him sit down and immediately take his shoes and socks off again. "Ok, Clark, I'll be right out with your toys. Don't get into trouble."
She left the door open as she went into the living room to grab Clark's truck and then find the pail and shovel they'd just gotten.
The first thing that ran through her mind was to wonder where he had found all the dirt. Apparently, Clark wanted more than his toes to be in the mud.
Clark had unhooked his overalls, gotten his little red shirt off and his underpants too. He was on his hands and knees in the dirt, digging a hole with his hands. Martha couldn't help but laugh.
At least he hadn't gotten his clothes dirty.
She took his pail and shovel over to him, and handed them to him. "Clark, you are going to have to take a bath now."
"Well, as long as you're already dirty, I guess when you get done, but before dinner."
He grinned at her again, his white teeth gleaming against the dirty little face. "Thank you." And he went back to digging, using his shovel now.
Martha wondered if it was acceptable to turn the hose on him before she let him back in the house.
Martha didn't hose Clark down. She did try to brush as much of the dirt off of him before she took him inside, there wasn't much she could do.
The boy seemed to have mud everywhere. In between his toes, in his ears and even through his hair: he was covered in it.
She led him to the downstairs bathroom, figuring it was easier to get the dirt of the kitchen floor, rather than the carpet of the living room.
Martha started the water, made sure it was warm enough, but not too warm and added the bubbles. He stood next to her, watched everything she did, wide-eyed and silent. "Are you ready to get in, Clark?"
He shook his head. "No. Like dirty."
"You have to take a bath, Clark. Please?"
Clark looked at the bubbles covering the water and then at Martha.
She sighed. "You can get dirty again tomorrow, but you have to get into the bath now."
He seemed to be considering her words. "Dirty fun."
She had to laugh at that. "Yes, Clark. But you have to get clean now."
He nodded and let her pick him up and put him in the tub. He sat down and the bubbles enveloped him. Martha took a washcloth and folded it in half. She held it over Clark's eyes and said, "Here, Clark. Hold this here so I can wash your hair."
He took the cloth in his hand and held it like instructed. She took the cup from the side of the tub and filled it with water from the tub. She dumped it over his head and watched the mucky water trickle down his face.
He sat there patiently while she squeezed some shampoo into her palm and started rubbing it into his hair. She used her nails to gently scrub the dirt that matted his hair to his scalp. "How did you get so dirty, Clark?"
He giggled. "Clark dirty."
"Yes, you certainly are. Hold that tight, now. I don't want to get soap in your eyes."
She used the cup to dump water on his head again. She ran her fingers through the strands, making sure all the soap was out. After a few times, the water finally ran clear and she was satisfied the hair was clean.
"There, your hair is all clean now. Let me have that." She held her hand out for the washcloth and he held it out to her.
She leaned back on her heels and had to grin at him again. His face was mostly clean, except for the patch across his eyes the cloth had been, and a few streaks where the water had dripped, but he was still filthy.
She leaned forward and got her weight on her knees and put some soap on the cloth and started to scrub the dirt off of him. The bubbles had mostly melted away, and she tried to hurry so she could get him dressed and still get dinner ready.
She finished cleaning and said, "There! Clark, now you're all sparkly clean. How does that feel?"
He just giggled again. "Ready to get out?"
He nodded and held out his arms. She draped a towel across her chest and picked him up. She wrapped it around him and he snuggled into the blanket for a damp hug. "Come on, Clark. Let's get you dressed again."
His eyes were slipping closed as she carried him up the stairs to his room.
Martha left the newly clean Clark in his bed. The bed was one that Jonathan had slept in as a child and with the new, navy blue sheets and the red pillowcase, it was perfect for Clark. She stood to at the doorway to his room and watched him for a few seconds before heading back down the stairs to get dinner ready.
She hummed to herself as she pulled the vegetables and meat from the fridge. She set about to chopping things for the meal and when she looked up at the clock, almost 45 minutes had passed. Jonathan would be in soon to wash up before dinner.
She set the plates and silverware out on the table and checked the pot one more time before climbing the stairs to check on Clark. He wasn't in his bed. She didn't panic at first, he could be anywhere in the house and be fine, it wasn't like she heard any of the doors open.
"Clark," she called. "Where are you?"
She heard a soft giggle from the direction of her and Jonathan's bedroom. "Clark, what are you doing?"
Martha opened the door to her room and covered her mouth with her hand. "Oh, no."
"Oh, honey. What did you do?"
"Clark not pretty?" His little bottom lip started to quiver, and it was all Martha could do not to cry with him.
Her makeup was everywhere. He'd climbed up and sat on the chair in front of her vanity. The drawers were open, and little pots and tubes were opened on the flat surface. Nothing was ruined. Nothing was spilled. It looked like he'd been very careful in the mess he'd made.
He'd smoothed a wide mouth on himself with a particularly garish shade of red and there were bright lines on his cheeks where he'd apparently attempted blush. But he hadn't stopped at his face. There were lines on his arms, and spots across the backs of each hand. There was even a line of blue across his forehead.
After the initial shock, Martha couldn't help but giggle. "Ok, Clark. It's okay. Don't cry. You just can't do this. This is Mommy's make-up."
His eyes were filled with tears, but they didn't spill. He took a hitching sort of breath and looked down at the make-up, and then back up at Martha.
"Little boys don't wear make-up." She added, "Little boys are supposed to be handsome, not pretty."
He nodded but looked longingly back at the make-up.
"Come on. We have to get you washed before Daddy sees you."
Clark slid off the chair and made his way to the bathroom. He stood there while Martha washed off his face and arms and hands. When she thought she was done, he pulled up his shirt to display the pattern he'd drawn on his tummy. It looked like a bulls-eye.
He nodded and looked down at himself. He looked a little sad as he said, "All gone."
She hugged him to her and rubbed his back. "It's okay, Clark. I'm not mad. Just don't play there again, okay?"
Martha could feel him nod against her shirt and she scooped him up in her arms. "Now that you're all clean again, it's almost time for dinner. Are you hungry?"
She felt him nod against her shoulder again, and she carried him down the stairs.
Martha didn't have a whole lot of experience with children. She'd always wanted a child, and she'd read as many books as she could in the short time since they'd found Clark. She hoped she was doing everything right, or at least wasn't screwing things up too much.
They were sticking to mostly the truth. They found Clark in a field after the meteor storm and were hoping to adopt him. Martha wasn't sure how it was going to work out, she just knew that it had to.
She stood next to the fence in the south field and watched Clark riding on the tractor. He was sitting in front of Jonathan on the seat. His little hands on the huge steering wheel, large gloved hands rested just above, doing the actual steering.
The smile on Clark's little face was huge.
Jonathan drove the tractor over near the fence and handed Clark down to Martha. She took him in her arms for a hug.
"Loud!" Clark squealed.
Martha laughed and carried him into the barn. "Was that fun?"
He nodded and buried his face in her shoulder. "Fun."
Martha laughed again and carried him through the barn and into the house. "Let's get your hands and face washed and change that dusty shirt so we can go into town. We have to go get groceries and we'll see if there's anything at Fordman's that we need. How does that sound?"
Clark didn't answer, but Martha took his silence for an answer. He'd gotten good at saying no when he didn't want to do something. He definitely didn't like the peas they'd had for dinner last night. The smooshed peas she'd had to clean off the kitchen tiles were a great indication.
Martha set Clark down on the porch and took his had. She led him into the house and changed his shirt and washed the dust off of his face and combed his hair. She looked in the mirror and checked her own hair and smoothed it down before glancing down at Clark. He stared up at her, watching with great interest.
"Ok, Clark. Ready to go?"
He nodded and they made their way through the kitchen, as Martha grabbed her purse and keys and they headed out to the car.
They hadn't bought a car seat for him, or a booster, but she knew he couldn't ride in the front seat. They'd only taken him into town a couple of times, but Martha had to get the groceries today, and Jonathan had more things to do in the fields and couldn't watch Clark.
She buckled him into the back seat and said, "Clark, you have to keep this on to keep you safe, okay? We don't want you flying through the window or anything."
He just smiled at her.
She closed his door and opened hers and got in. She turned the key and pulled out of the driveway. Clark clapped his hands together. "Fun!" He said.
Martha smiled into the rear-view mirror. The drive into town was pretty quiet. Clark looked out the window and stared at things. Occasionally, he would exclaim things like, "Cow!" or "Dog!" He pointed and laughed. Martha was thoroughly tickled at how happy he was and how he responded to everything.
They pulled into the parking lot at the grocery store and she unbuckled him and led him into the store by the hand. She sat him in the cart and handed him the list to hold. "Here, Clark. Hold this for Mommy. No like this, so I can see the words."
He obediently held the list, but his eyes wandered all over the items on the aisles. Martha pushed the cart down the cereal aisle, and made a few selections, putting them into the cart. She talked to Clark the whole time, making little comments about everything she picked up. She hoped the constant stream of words would help him with his English.
She pushed the cart down the baking goods aisle and stopped to pick up some chocolate chips. Clark loved cookies, and Martha loved making them for someone who was so enthusiastic about everything.
She bent over to pull a 10-pound bag of flour off the bottom shelf, and when she straightened up, Nell was coming down the other side of the aisle, with Lana in the cart. Martha sighed softly and pasted a smile on her face.
"Martha! And who's this?"
"Hi, Nell. This is Clark. Hi, Lana. How are you today?"
Lana looked at Martha, and very politely said, "I'm fine. How are you?"
"I'm fine, Lana. This is Clark. Clark, can you say hi to Lana?"
Clark stared at Martha, then at Lana. He reached out his hand and then jerked it back. He shook his head.
"Why can't he talk?" Lana asked.
"We're not sure. He's shy, we think."
Nell smiled and said, "Well, he's certainly adorable, isn't he?"
Martha nodded. Lana and Clark were staring at each other. Nell seemed to be cataloging each item in her cart and Martha just wanted out of there.
"Well, we have to go. Lots of shopping to do today, and I have to get back to the farm."
Nell nodded and smiled.
"Bye, Lana. It was nice to see you." Called Martha.
Clark twisted his head to watch Nell and Lana walk away. When the turned the corner, Clark snapped his head back and looked up at Martha. "Lana?"
Martha looked down and smiled. "Yes, that's a little girl. Her name is Lana."
"Yes, Clark. She's a girl. You're a boy."
Clark nodded. "Mommy?"
"Mommy's a girl."
Clark nodded again and seemed to be thinking a lot. Martha gave him an amused smile and continued with her shopping. She got to the check out and piled everything on the belt. Clark was still watching everything with wide eyes.
Martha watched them ring everything up and paid and then took everything out to the car. She buckled Clark back into the back seat and sighed. Nell would have the story of silent Clark all over the town within a couple of hours. And will probably have changed thirty times and be how Clark was 'special' or something.
Martha shook her head and looked in the mirror again at Clark. "Clark, are you ready for more shopping?"
Clark nodded and looked back out the window.
Martha sighed and drove to the department store. She got Clark into a cart again and tried to push Nell out of her mind.
"What do you think about getting some new pants, Clark? And maybe a few shirts..."
She pushed the cart back to the little boys' section and started looking through the Clearance rack.
She looked up to find Althea Ross. "Althea! So good to see you!"
The women smiled at each other, and Martha noticed that the other woman's cart held her youngest son. "Is this Pete?"
"Yes, it is. And who is this?"
"This is Clark. Clark, this is Pete. Can you say hi to him?"
Pete looked solemnly at Clark and held out his little hand. "Hi, Clark."
Clark stared at the hand and then looked up at Martha. She nodded at him and smiled. He held his hand out to Pete and Pete took it and shook. Clark smiled. "Hi."
"Clark doesn't talk a lot yet, Pete."
"Well, he doesn't seem to know a lot of words. He's shy too."
Clark just smiled.
"You and Pete are the same age, Clark. You guys can be friends."
Pete nodded enthusiastically. "Yeah! We can be best friends! Can I come over and play?"
Martha laughed. "Sure."
Althea smiled. "That'd be great! You could have them one day, I could take them the next. We could both get so much done!"
Martha nodded. "You have to watch Clark though, he likes to get into things and get dirty."
"Oh, Pete's the same way. Leave him alone for a second and he's got all the pots out from the cupboard and he's banging away on them."
Martha laughed. "Give me a call. We'll set that up. It would do Clark good to be around other kids."
The two women nodded at each other.
"Ok, well, we're headed out, Martha, so I'll call you, okay?"
"Sounds good, Althea. Talk to you later. Clark, say bye to Pete."
"Bye, Clark. I can't wait to be your friend! My brothers don't let me play with them."
Martha smiled as they left. Pete waved as his mother pushed him away.
"Won't that be fun, Clark? A friend to play with."
Clark grinned and said, "Fun!"
It was a few days before Martha could set up the play-date between Pete and Clark. There was so much to do on the farm and so much she couldn't do now that she had to watch Clark every second. It was going to be nice to let him play at the Ross' for a day. And if everything went well, it might happen more often.
She sat down with Clark the morning that Pete was supposed to come over at the kitchen table.
He looked at her and looked down in front of him like he expected food to be put there just because they were sitting at the table. He looked up, confused.
She laughed. "No, Clark. It's not time to eat. You just ate breakfast! Are you a bottomless pit? I wanted to talk about Pete coming over today."
"Yes, I'm sure you'll have fun with Pete. We just have to be careful when he's here. And try not to get too messy?"
Clark scrunched up his face and said, "Careful?"
"Yes. You're really strong and you're special and we have to be careful with Pete."
Clark looked a little confused but he nodded. He climbed down from the chair and ran to the door. He stood there and looked out the screen. "Pete?"
"Pete will be here in a little while. Are all your toys put away in your room?"
Clark nodded and kept watch at the door for his new friend. Martha smiled at him from the kitchen and stood up to wipe off the counter. She did the few breakfast dishes in the sink and looked up to see Clark standing in the same spot by the screen door, just looking out. "Clark, it's going to be a little while yet. Do you want to watch television until Pete gets here?"
Clark shook his head and pointed out the door. "Pete."
Martha smiled to herself and said, "Yes, Clark. Pete will be here soon."
Not much later, Martha heard a vehicle pull up into the driveway. She glanced over at Clark to note his face lit up and he was pointing again. She almost laughed at how excited Clark was. She made her way over to the door and scooped him up to meet the Pete and Althea on the porch.
She waited while Althea got Pete out of the backseat, but Pete didn't waste any time in getting up the porch stairs. He seemed to have something in his arms.
Clark grinned at Pete. "Hi."
"I brought my fire truck and dump truck so we can play. What kind of toys do you have?"
Clark made the vroom-vroom noise he apparently associated with his own truck and struggled out of Martha's arms. She opened the door to let the boys in and watched Pete follow Clark up to his room.
"I'm glad we can do this, Martha. I can't wait to shop for myself again. It's so hard to try on clothes with a three-year-old in tow."
Martha nodded and held the door open for Althea to come in, but the other woman shook her head. "I'm going to head out. I want to be back before dinnertime, so I'm going to have to hurry. Pete won't eat carrots and likes ketchup on everything. Have fun!"
Althea got back in her car and Martha waved as the car drove off. She sighed and trudged up the stairs to see if the boys had already gotten into mischief.
Luck was with her. Pete and Clark were both on their hands and knees in Clark's room pushing trucks around. Pete was making some kind of siren noise and seemed to be chasing Clark's truck. "Do you boys want to come downstairs and play? There's probably more room."
"That's okay, Mrs. Kent." He didn't even look up from the trucks.
Martha smiled and said, "I'll be up in a little while to check on you. Be good."
She hesitated as she left the room, knowing how little time it took Clark to get into things, but headed back down the stairs anyway. She pulled out the vacuum and started cleaning the living room. The methodical pushing left her time to think about what to make for lunch.
When she was done with the living room, she decided to check on Pete and Clark again before she started lunch. The door was open when she was walking down the hall, and it was way too quiet for her liking, but when she got to the door way, her expression softened and she smiled again. Pete and Clark were both curled up on Clark's bed. Pete was on his side with one arm around his fire truck. Clark was sprawled next to Pete, his arms flung wide, almost sideways on the bed.
She headed back downstairs to make lunch.
Martha finished putting together the boys' sandwiches and set the ketchup on the table. She climbed the stairs and peeked into Clark's room.
Clark was sitting on the floor, slowly pushing a truck back and forth and looking at Pete. Pete was still asleep in Clark's bed.
"Shhh. Pete sleeping."
"I see. It's okay if he wakes up. I have lunch ready. Did you have a nice nap?"
He nodded and stood up. "Lunch?"
Martha nodded. "Maybe we should wake Pete up so he can eat, too?"
Pete still had his arms around his fire truck as he slept. Martha smiled to herself at how cute he was. She walked over to the bed and crouched down and touched Pete's shoulder and shook gently.
He opened his eyes wide and looked around, confused for a second. He lifted a fist to his sleepy eyes to rub them, one arm still wound around the truck.
"Want to come downstairs and have some lunch?"
He nodded and struggled to sit up. He rubbed his eyes again. "What's for lunch?"
"Sandwiches. Do you like turkey?"
Pete nodded and asked, "Do you have ketchup?"
Martha laughed and held out her hand. "We do. Come on, let's go eat, boys."
Clark and Pete followed her down stairs, and Clark climbed up in the chair he seemed to think of as 'his' and Pete stood there until Martha pointed him to another chair.
"Did you have fun playing?"
Clark nodded and his eyes lit up. "Pete fun." He said around a mouthful of bread.
Pete grinned. "Clark's my best friend now."
"I'm glad. I think it's great for you guys to be friends."
They both nodded, and Clark grinned. She watched them finish their sandwiches and asked, "Anyone still hungry? I have cookies."
"Cookie!" shouted Clark.
"I like cookies, too."
Martha set cookies on each of their plates and smiled at the enthusiastic 'thank you' she got from each boy. Clark was squirming on his seat, and she gave him a concerned look.
"Are you okay, there, Clark?"
He nodded. "Play more."
"Of course you can play more."
Clark climbed down from his chair and looked at Pete expectantly. "Pete play."
"Yeah. Let's go."
Pete climbed down from his chair and followed Clark back up to his room.
Martha smiled as they went and took their dishes to the sink. They got along so well that she hoped they'd be friends for a long time.
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