Chapter 28 Wednesday, 1820 hours (6:20 PM)
In the leopard cage, Derek watched as the kids played. One of the scouts had made a soft soccer ball from rolled up sweatshirts, and they were playing some improvised variant of the game. Jeff stood out as he was the only one not in blue scout uniform. But that was the only way he stood out. He was clearly one of the gang. Derek had felt his son was different, less mature, needing more protection than other kids. Derek realized that he was clearly wrong. Probably all parents acted that way.
Parent. He played with the word, and watched the game with enjoyment.
Watching the kids playing, Derek felt not old exactly, but older--and it wasn't a bad feeling. It was okay being a parent, and he didn't have to compete with his son in the arena of youngness. Derek smiled as he realized he hadn't cracked a joke with his son for a while now.
The smile faded as Derek thought back. He'd cracked a lot of jokes, often to avoid being serious. In fact, it seemed whenever Jeffrey, Jeff, had needed to talk seriously about something, he'd made a joke.
God. What kind of parent have I been? Derek resolved now, not to banish his quips and jokes, but to keep them in check.
One of the scouts, Paul, ran over to field an out of bounds ball. "Would you care to play, Mr. Robinson? It's fun."
Derek laughed. "No thanks.."
"You can be the referee, if you want," said Paul.
"No. I can hardly see the ball. I'll just watch."
This was Jeff's turf. Rom probably would have joined in, but then he wasn't much older than his scouts.
Paul ran back to the game.
"This is surreal," said Derek, aloud. "Without a worry in the world, they're playing soccer in a leopard cage in the dark. I wish I had that kind of night vision."
Derek squinted at his watch. It was almost too dark to read it.
Jack's been gone a long time. He shook off the niggling concern in the back of his mind. Nothing to worry about. Joshua's probably boring Kit to tears with his life story.