Poor Keith, one could almost feel sorry for him - almost....
“What is Richie's prob – um – handicap?” Keith asked.
“Asperger's Syndrome,” Mitch said as if that explained it all. “High functioning autism.”
Keith didn't look like he'd ever heart of it.
“He won't react normally to stimuli,” Mitch tried to explain. He kept it as simple as he could, but it was obvious Keith didn't understand.
Once the children were settled, Mitch served their food, then got his dishes, ready to take his food to his room. The minute he started away from the table, Richie screamed and threw his cup on the floor. The lid popped off and juice went everywhere.
“Juice,” Becky said loudly. “Mess. Ma!”
Jade stooped to mop up the juice.
“I'll get it,” Keith said helpfully, grabbing a handful of paper towels from the kitchen.
He bent over to clean up the puddle and Richie threw his spoon at him. It was laden with spaghetti and sauce. It hit him squarely on top of the head.
“Hey!” Keith barked.
Richie and Becky started to cry.
“Now what did I do?”
“The loud voice,” Mitch said calmly. “Autistic children don't like loud, abrupt noises.”
“Jesus Christ!” Keith said, then immediately regretted it. “Sorry. I'm not used to this,” he explained to Jade. “Is he always like this?”
“No. Sometimes he has a meltdown. Those can go on for hours.”
“Worse than this?”
“Much worse. He's fairly companionable at the moment.”
“He threw a spoon of spaghetti at me!”
“I know. I'm sorry. Keep your voice down,” she said. “You'll upset him if you raise your voice.”
“Why's he acting like this? Did I do something to him?”
“No, man. He's reacting to the dynamics of the household.” Mitch tried to explain. “There's a different emotional balance. You're a wild card, of sorts. I don't think he trusts you.”
“But he trusts you?” Keith was incredulous.
Mitch shrugged, smiling. “I'm the father figure in the house. Kid recognizes me as the alpha male. He sees you as a rival.”
“How do you see me?” He drew himself up. He was slightly shorter and less muscular than Mitch.
“Dude, I'm just the nanny. Don't matter how I see anything. I'm gonna grab my stuff and go.” He took his dishes, putting them in the microwave, before heading to his room.
“Mich!” Richie yelled after him. “Mich!”
He put both hands in his bowl, throwing food around angrily. Becky got upset and and poured her entire bowl over her head before Mitch could get to Richie. Mitch dealt with the little boy. Lifting him from his chair, he carried him to the time out chair.
“We don't do that,” he said firmly. “We do not throw food. You're not being a nice boy right now, Richard. You go in time out.” He put the chair in the middle of the floor and plunked the child in it.
“Isn't he a little young for that?”
“He's aware that he was bad,” Mitch said. “He did it on purpose.”
Jade and Mitch exchanged a look.
“He considers Mitch to be the man of the house,” she explained. “When you're here, it confuses him.”
“So, I have to compete with a toddler and another man? Not exactly fair, Jade. I don't think I'm prepared for something like this.”
“It might be better if I went upstairs,” Mitch said.
“If he lets you go. He's so upset now, I don't know what he'll do,” Jade said, her eyes wide.
“He and I can eat in here,” Mitch said.
“I'll get your food.”
She hadn't noticed Becky until that moment. The sauce ran down her face and the back of her neck. Noodles clung to her in gooey tendrils.
“Oh, Becky! What did you do? You love spaghetti! What am I going to do with you?”
“Mich!” Becky yelled, calling for her nanny. “Mich!”
“Oh, my God. Not you too!”
“Mich! Ma!” She yelled . “Ba!” She yelled at Keith.
“Is she telling me bye?”
“I don't know. I suppose she might be.”
“Are they always like this?”
“Not really,” Jade said. I don't understand it..”
“Sit!” Becky yelled. “Sit, sit! F*ck!”
“Oh, my God!” Jade was horribly embarrassed.
“Go way!” Richie yelled from the play room.
Keith gathered up his things. “I know when I'm not wanted. Obviously, the nanny,” he said the word as nastily as possible. “Has poisoned their minds against me.”
“Oh, right. Like I've got that kind of time.”
“Don't be ridiculous, Keith. Mitch doesn't even know you.”
“Like he said, he's the alpha male, the father figure. Maybe he figures that includes you? If you don't mind, I'll leave before your children kill me.”
Taking his ruffled dignity with him, Keith walked out the door. He picked up the daisies, throwing them across the street angrily.