Olivia had planned to wake up before Noah so that she could help him get oriented, and so she could make her expectations very clear about respecting Barba, respecting the space, using guest manners, and not taking liberties. But she had underestimated the toll the late night move would have on her, and when Noah had floated into consciousness warm and safe against Olivia's side, she had yet to stir.
As he became more aware of his surroundings, it occurred to Noah that he didn't remember crawling into his mother's bed the night before. And then his eyes began to adjust and he realized he didn't immediately recognize the room they were in.
He thought really hard. Had he been in a car last night? He'd been carried, somewhere, maybe. It felt like a dream.
He could hear someone moving around. Kitchen sounds? Like someone making coffee? "Mama," he said softly, but she didn't stir. He sat up and looked around properly. The room was familiar, but he couldn't quite place it.
Yes, someone was definitely making coffee. He could smell it now, and as his mother always had a cup (or three) when they ate together before school, the association caused his stomach to rumble.
School. It was a school day, Wednesday. And that meant morning virtual assembly. What time was it? There was a clock on the wall above a desk, but it was analog and Noah hadn't learned analog yet; he was still mastering digital. He found his mom's phone and flipped it over. The first number on the time was an 8, and his assembly didn't start until 10. He know that meant he had lots of time yet.
Noah was wide awake now, but his mother was snoring lightly, which she only did when she was really, really, REALLY tired. (She was always "REALLY tired", he knew. But there was a definite difference.)
He went back and forth a while on whether to increase his efforts to wake her, but he didn't feel scared, not really. He was mostly just curious. And now his bladder was starting to come into play, which gave him the extra incentive to slip out of bed on his own.
He could hear footsteps, soft ones, crossing by the door that was open a crack, someone trying to take care not to wake them.
His heart was beating fast as he eased the door open further, just far enough that he could bravely slip through.
Barba had grabbed his phone from his room and was on his way back to the kitchen when Noah stepped out into the hallway. He saw the moment of recognition on the boy's face.
Based on past reunions, Barba would have expected Noah to squeal and to run to him for a hug, and was ready to shush him to avoid disturbing Olivia in case she was still asleep. But instead the boy stayed where he was as though his feet were stuck to the floor, and after a moment he dissolved into tears.
A few quick strides and he was scooping Noah up and holding him against his chest, feeling his little body shaking as he hid his face in Barba's neck. Barba had no idea what was going on, but when processing it later with Olivia was told that this was probably a reaction of relief, of a release of stress and fear not over waking up in an unfamiliar place, but from the past weeks of living in an unfamiliar world. Why Barba had drawn out that reaction she couldn't say for certain, though she had some ideas. But regardless of the reason she had assured him that it was a good thing, a meaningful thing.
He walked them over to the couch and sat down, Noah shifting to get comfortable in his lap. They sat silently for a long time, even after the tears had stopped. Barba didn't know what to ask, and Noah didn't have the vocabulary to offer. At one point Barba thought that perhaps Noah had fallen asleep, but when the boy finally spoke realized he'd been busy putting some pieces together.
"Are we going to live here now?"
"For awhile," he replied carefully, handing the boy another tissue so he could finish cleaning his face. "That okay with you?"
"Uh-huh." Silence again. Then, "Is my mom going back to work? Is that why?"
"Nope. She'll work from here. But while she's working you and I will get to hang out, just us."
"Just us?" Noah repeated, lifting his head from where it had been resting against Barba's shoulder. "Really?"
Barba smiled down at him warmly, happy to learn that the prospect was a obviously a welcome one. "Really."
"Can we do Lego?"
Barba had to chuckle. "Glad to hear you have your priorities straight, kid. I'm sure we can find all kinds of things keep us entertained, but we'll keep Lego high on the list, I promise." He ruffled Noah's hair, and was rewarded with a beaming smile. "I also hear you're doing your dance class over ZOOM now, so maybe I'll join you. I bet I'd be great at hip hop."
Noah started to giggle at the very thought, and wiggled off Barba's lap when the man started to tickle him.
"Come on, little man. Your mom set out all your stuff for the day in your bathroom. Let me show you."
Later they were in the kitchen chatting a mile a minute over breakfast when Olivia rolled out of bed. "I see you two started your day without me," she said fondly as she crossed through the space on her way to the shower.
"Me and Rafa have lots to do today, mama!" he told her excitedly. "We're making a plan!"
"A plan, huh? Well, don't forget you have all-school assembly today."
"Item 4," Barba told her, pointing. "Just after 'Make Mom breakfast', 'clean up the kitchen', and 'make the beds'."
"Ooh, I like this plan." What she really liked was the genuine joy on her son's face, something she hadn't seen in awhile. It was well matched by the joy on Barba's face, which was less expected and just as welcome.
She'd been kicking herself since the moment she opened her eyes that she hadn't had a chance to do all the things she'd intended to do that morning. But seeing them together caused her to consider that maybe she could relax a little and just let things sort themselves out. That maybe SHE didn't have to be the one to have a plan for everything.