7 - By the Order of Princess Tara

It was a bad end to a bad year and a bad time for Tara to turn 24. First there was the Will break-up, then her Nana died. Grad school was kicking her ass and she came home tired most days. For a while, she wondered if she might have cancer.

Perhaps the worst part was that her parents seemed so distant. Her little brother was in the process of dropping/flunking out of high school and all of their energy seemed to be devoted to fighting him on that. She got an earful of it every time she called. Sometimes, she felt like cutting off whichever one of them was talking and yelling, “Ya know, I have issues too!” But that would have been silly. She was older. She was the responsible one. Small snafus aside, she had been nothing but capable in her parents’ eyes since she was 16 years old.

Eight years removed from that rebellious teen phase that she barely remembered stumbling into (or out of), Tara was starting to forget what a good time looked like. Her friends, however, were intent on reminding her. When her birthday rolled around, they presented her with a Party City tiara and told her she was princess for a day.

“Whatever you say goes,” they told her.

“Thanks, guys,” Tara replied. She was blushing. It was a sweet gesture and she wanted to be grateful and happy, but she was slightly miffed and more than slightly embarrassed. Her embarrassment increased when she caught her reflection in a bathroom and saw the plastic crown (they wouldn’t take no for an answer) atop her narrow head. It reached its absolute pinnacle at dinner when the wait staff at Applebees started singing to her. Face reddened and shielded by hands, she muttered half-serious death threats while everyone in her immediate vicinity laughed and clapped and chanted.

By the time they reached her favorite bar, however, Tara had begun to settle into her temporary yet powerful role. Fueled by awesome gifts and a desire to forget everything that made 23 so shitty, she gradually took advantage of her royal prerogative.

“The princess would like another drink,” she said, giggling self-consciously as the words left her lips.

Several long island iced teas later, the self-consciousness was gone and she was beginning to slur her words.

“By order of Princess Tara, summody get me another fuggin drink,” she proclaimed.

She remembered being very drunk and very happy and she remembered very little after that.
**
The next morning, on her first day of being 24, the ex-princess woke up semi-groggy, slightly achy and very, very confused. She was wearing her blue pajamas and laying in her own bed, but she could not recall making it home, let alone changing for bed. Her confusion increased tenfold when she sat up and heard a loud crinkle emanate from her midsection.

“What the fucking hell?” she asked.

As if on cue, Matt popped his head into her room and asked her if she slept OK.

“No,” Tara answered. “Well, yeah, I guess I did. But I don’t remember….Ugh, how drunk was I?”

“Well, the pictures will be up on Facebook soon,” Matt told her with a smirk. “You can see for yourself.”

“Oh God!”

“Relax,” he said. “We were looking out for you.”

“Then I guess you guys took me home, too?”

“Yup.”

“Thanks,” she said. “That was nice of you.”

Nice, she thought, but a little creepy. And it didn’t explain why she was wearing a fucking diaper.

“Yeah, you were totally out of it,” he said, as if she didn’t already know. “But you had a good time.”

“Such a good time I peed my pants?” Tara asked. She winced at her own question. How old was she the last time she peed her pants anyway? Six? Seven? Does dribbling a little after laughing really hard count?

“Nah,” Matt told her. “We thought you would, but you didn’t.”

“Oh,” Tara replied, equal parts relieved and perturbed. “Then why am I wearing a diaper?”

“Well,” Matt said, that evil smirk returning to his face. “Last night, you were telling us about how much it sucked getting older. You said you wished you were turning 4 instead of 24.”

Tara scoffed. “I was joking, right?”

“We thought so,” Matt told her. “But then you started really opening up. You were telling us how, you know, it’s been a rough year for you and how you just wanted someone to take care of you for once and…”

“Oh God,” Tara interjected. “I’m really sorry to dump all over you guys like that.”

She was beyond sorry. She was mortified. Selfish whining had never been her style. In fact, she worked hard to disassociate herself from people who were like that. They were black holes, she thought. Once they sucked you into their personal bullshit, you could forget about being happy around them ever again.

“It’s OK, Tare,” Matt assured her. “You’re right, you know. You do need someone to take care you. We weren’t going to say anything, but you’ve been pretty down lately.”

“Yeah. I know, I know. Everything’s been pretty blah lately. I don’t like talking about it, but I guess I did. So thanks for listening and understanding.” she said. “But that still doesn’t explain the diaper.”

“Well…” Matt began, the smirk morphing into a laugh. “We thought instead of turning 24 years, you could be 24 months.”

“You douche!” Tara said. She charged at him and he took a step back, but she was able to connect with a playful shove nevertheless. Her arms found purchase for a hug and she gripped him with mock-intensity.

“Aah!” he yelped.

“Thanks for cheering me up,” she said. “But I think I’m going to take off this diaper now.”

“Sorry Tare,” Matt said. “Can’t let you do that.”

She scanned his face for that smirk again, but it was suspiciously absent.

“Princess’ orders,” he explained. “You asked for some looking-after and that’s what you’re gonna get.”

“Yeah, well, the princess orders you to leave me alone so I can change,” she retorted. “Besides, this wasn’t what I meant and you know it.”

“You’re no longer a princess,” Matt shot back. “That was one day only. Besides, this will do you some good.”

“OK, seriously, I’m going to have to pee soon.”

He said nothing, but directed his eyes toward her waist, where half an inch of white plastic had crept above the top of her pajama pants.

“Oh, fuck you,” she said, breaking the hug and shoving him away.

A moment later, his hands were wrapped around her wrists and he was dragging her out of her bedroom. At well under six feet and nowhere near 200 pounds, Matt wasn’t a big guy. He was, however, quite outdoorsy. All that mountain biking and trail running (barefoot trail running, when the mood struck him) made him a lot stronger than he looked. Still, Tara knew she could have broken his grip if she wanted to. She could have kicked him real hard or backed him into a wall or bit him or something. But part of her didn’t want to. She wasn’t cool with what he was doing, but she instinctively trusted him just the same.

He’d managed to drag her all the way to her kitchen and succeeded in pressing her against a counter.

“Are you going to be a good girl?” he asked as he held her wrists down on the block.

“Depends on what you’re going to do to me,” she shot back.

“Just something to make sure you don’t take your diaper off,” he assured her. For a moment, she envisioned him reaching for a cleaver, but her mind quickly rejected the suggestion. This was weird, but it was a silly-weird. He hadn’t completely flipped.

“Oh yeah?” she said. “Well, whatever it is, you’d better do it quick. Because I’m gonna bolt in a minute, whether you’re standing there or not.”

Matt rose to the challenge. He was quick. One minute, he was holding her wrists on the counter, the next she felt his hand on the small of his back and the minute after that, he was sliding her hands into a pair of oven mitts. She was too amused to offer much resistance.

“Oven mitts?” she asked after she finished giggling. “Is this the best you’ve got? I mean gosh, Matt, I can just take them off!”

“No you can’t,” he told her. He clapped the mitts together and wrapped her wrists with silver duct tape. By the time he was done wrapping, she was good and stuck. They wouldn’t come off no matter how hard she slid and pressed.

“Ugh, I hate you!” she said.

“That’s enough of that,” Matt told her. He fished a pacifier from his pocket and plopped it into her mouth. It was small and easy enough for her to spit out, but she decided to humor him. After all, she didn’t want that taped to her as well.

“Hate you,” she repeated, mouthing the words around the pacifier.

“No you don’t,” Matt corrected, kissing the top of her head.

“I still hafta pee,” she reminded him.

“Well, you’d better hurry up and pee so I can change you,” he told her. “Ainslee and Ken will be here soon.”

Tara spit out her pacifier. Playing this game with Matt was one thing – they were really close and had fooled around what seemed like an eon ago – but dragging Ainslee and Ken into it made her very self-conscious. She was starting to wish she’d kicked free when she had the chance.

“What?” Matt asked, the smirk returning. “You thought it was just me? We’re all taking care of you today, Tare.”

It went against her nature, but Tara began to pout and whine. She didn’t know whether it was the accumulated stress or the shock of what Matt was doing to her, but it felt entirely appropriate. Rather than let her go, however, Matt braced her back with his left arm. He worked his right hand under her pajama pants and planted it firmly against her diaper.

“Come on, baby,” he teased. “Pee for daddy.”

You asshole, Tara thought. But having her diaper touched had a strange effect on her. It sent a jolt through her body and the floodgates began to open. As she wet herself, she felt layer upon layer of tension dissipate. It was as if peeing her diaper was an affirmation that certain things could not be helped and were not her fault. It was a letting-go moment and she was thankful, though she would never let on just how thankful.

“Whoa,” Matt said, withdrawing his hand from her pants. “You actually did it.”

“I told you I had to pee!” she countered. “You didn’t think this weird little plan of your through, did you?”

“Nah, we had it all planned out,” he said. Then, clearing his throat, he added, “we were just pretty drunk when we did the planning.”

“Well, what happens next?”

“I change you, I guess.”

“Look, Matt, if you don’t want to…”

“No, it’s cool,” he replied. “By order of the princess, right?”

“Damn straight,” Tara said.

Matt grabbed her by the mitts and led her back to her bedroom. He took a towel, an old white one that had begun to fade, and spread it out on Tara’s bed. He then parked Tara on the towel and had her lay back while he pulled off her socks and pajama pants. The diaper beneath was very full, but there was no leakage.

“You’re pretty good at this,” Tara told him.

“Er…thanks,” he replied, blushing.

“I mean, most guys wouldn’t have a clue about changing diapers unless they have kids.”

“Little cousins,” Matt replied.

“Uh-huh,” Tara said, waving her bare feet in his face. “Sure.”

“Bath time,” he announced, brushing her feet aside. “And keep your feet to yourself unless you want me to start tickling.”

Tara took a mental note of that as Matt helped her back to her feet. He cut away the tape and freed her from her mitts. She finished undressing while he drew a bath for her. It was strange being undressed and bathed and cared for. It made her feel vulnerable. Still, she felt no real desire to slam on the brakes and make everything stop. Maybe Matt was right. Maybe this would do her some good. Maybe it was what she needed all along.
**
The bath went better than she could have hoped. The water was warm and inviting and Matt took the time to wash her hair. She’d lost her self-consciousness around him in a hurry. She told herself it was because they had slept together all those months ago. It was a quick fling not long after they first met. She wasn’t exactly sure why they did it or why they broke it off so quickly, but for a long time, she’d been relieved that it went nowhere. Now, she wasn’t so sure.

“Feeling better?” Matt asked as he wrapped her in a towel. This one was larger and newer than the one on her bed. It was lavender. Tara remembered thinking it would make a pretty nifty cape in a pinch.

“If I say yes, does that make me a freak?” she asked.

“Nah,” Matt told her, nearly concealing the smirk this time. “You’re a freak regardless.”

She punched him in the arm and he swatted her on her towel-clad behind and it wasn’t clear who was leading who when they ended up back in her bedroom. He stripped the towel off her and she grabbed his butt as she leaned back onto the bed and for a moment, it seemed like he would fall on top of her and they would go at it.

“I should probably get you dressed,” he said instead. “Ken and Ainslee will be here soon.”

Tara pouted again. She found that she was getting to be pretty good at it.
**
Matt had told her to go with it, to just relax and try to enjoy the rest of the day. And though Tara assured him she would, she couldn’t help but feel a little nervous when Ainslee and Ken arrived. Granted, they were with her at the bar last night and they were obviously in on the planning. But there was a difference between concept and practice. Matt had dressed her in a white tee with a rainbow across the chest and a short gray skirt.

The fact that the first words out of Ainslee’s mouth were “oh my God” did little to put her at ease.

“Somebody’s looking cute,” Ken quickly added.

“Yeah, and Tara doesn’t look bad either,” Ainslee said. “Just kidding. You look great, girl.”

Tara blushed furiously and glared at Matt. This was all his fault. It would be fine, he said. Just relax, he said. Fuck you, she thought.

“Well?” Ken asked. “Who’s hungry?”

Hands shot up all around. Tara had slept in late and it was nearly lunch time. Embarrassed or not, she could eat. She could definitely eat.

“I brought pasta salad,” Ainslee said. She held out a Rubbermaid container in front of Tara’s face and jiggled it.

“Homemade?” Tara asked.

“Yup. My grandma’s recipe.”

Tara’s own grandmother, her late, beloved Nana, didn’t have a special recipe for pasta salad, but she did know how to cook or bake a dozen other things Tara really enjoyed. Nana was also full of interesting stories which ran the gamut from whimsical (riding a trolley to work) to outrageous (her husband starting a fight aboard a cruise ship after she was hit on by an investment banker). The two of them had been close all the way up until Tara’s mid teens. By then, Nana’s health wasn’t what it used to be and Tara was looking toward college and there just wasn’t time for storytelling anymore. When Nana finally died, Tara didn’t feel as if she’d lost a grandparent, but an old friend. And though she cried when she heard the news (“Tara, honey,” her dad began, and she just KNEW it was Nana), she couldn’t really grieve. She felt that she had to be strong for Mom and Dad and Blake and all her other relatives and friends of the family. It made for a very shitty goodbye.

“Tare?” Ainslee asked. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, fine,” Tara said, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. “Let’s eat.”
**
Lunch, like everything else that day, was a departure for her. Along with the pasta salad, Ainslee and Ken brought a sippy cup, which Matt filled with apple juice. The three of them fixed a napkin around her neck for a bib and took turns feeding her, piloting pasta into her mouth a forkful at a time.

“Guys, this is ridic…” she began, stopping abruptly when the fork reached her lips. After trying – and failing – to talk them out of it a couple more times, she gave up and let them feed her. Soon, she was full of pasta and juice and her lips were smeared with mayo.

“That was really good,” Tara said. “I don’t remember the last time anyone made anything for me.”

She wasn’t saying it to be flattering. She’d had her mom’s cooking the last time she’d been home, but it was as much for Dad and Blake as it was for her. Will had attempted a chicken dish once. It wasn’t very good and he neither offered or was asked to cook again.

“So now what?” Ken asked. “I don’t know what babies do.”

“Maybe she needs her diaper changed,” Ainslee suggested.

“Nah,” Matt said. “I changed her before you got here.”

“Still,” Ken offered. “It couldn’t hurt to check.”

“Yeah,” said Ainslee. “I wanna see.”

“You guys!” Tara protested. But it was no use. They hoisted her from her chair and Ken held her arms behind her while Ainslee flipped up her skirt to check her diaper. Unlike Matt, Ken was quite tall – tall and blond and handsome, as a matter of fact. Not unlike the doll which shared his name.

“All dry,” Ainslee proclaimed.

“Well I could have told you that,” Tara said.

This earned her a pacifier in her mouth, which was just as well because she began to squeal when Ken picked her up and carried her out of the kitchen and into her living room.

“What should I do with her?” he asked.

“Nap time, maybe?” Ainslee suggested.

“Do you have any idea how late I slept?” Tara asked, removing the pacifier.

“It’s true,” Matt said. “I almost fell back asleep waiting for her to wake up.”

“We could play a game,” Ainslee suggested.

“Do you have any kids’ games?” Ken asked Tara.

“Does Scrabble count?”

“No!” all three of her friends said in unison.

“Then no,” Tara said. She didn’t know why, but she was suddenly a bit sad that she didn’t.

“I know!” Ainslee said. “Whatabout hide and go seek?”

“Um, it’s a one-bedroom apartment,” Tara pointed out. “Not a lot of places to hide.”

“I know one game we could play,” Matt said.

Suddenly, all eyes fell upon him. Tara knew even before she saw the smirk return that there would be trouble. Nevertheless, her curiosity compelled her to at least find out what kind of trouble.

“It’s called…” he began, the smirk reappearing, “Tickle the Tara.”

“No way,” Tara protested. However, it was no use. They all fell upon her and went to work on her sides, feet and armpits. None of her sensitive spots were spared. She thrashed and kicked and squirmed, but failed to bring it to a stop. As she erupted into fits of involuntary laughter, she couldn’t help but wonder if her neighbors could hear her. She didn’t want to know what they would think.

Several minutes later, Tara was short of breath, red of face, and wet of diaper. The latter embarrassed her, but it was no use concealing it. Matt picked up on it right away.

“I bet somebody has a wet diaper after all that tickling,” he teased.

“I bet somebody’s really anxious to find out,” she fired back.

“Umm…” he said. Tara smiled. It was fun watching him squirm for a change.

“Well?” she asked. “Are you going to change me or not?”

“You go take care of her,” Ken suggested, “and I’ll get her surprise ready.”

“What surpri…” Ainslee began. “Oh.”

Whatever it was, it caused her expression to change from confused to worried in a hurry. Tara was eager to find out, but she knew she would have to wait a few minutes to find out. Matt had pulled her to her feet and was already leading her to the bedroom to be changed.
**
Tara had started dating Will not long after she decided she preferred Matt as a friend. She had never drawn any connection between the two events. Will seemed like someone she would have ended up dating regardless. Like Ken, he was tall and cute (the two played basketball together, in fact, and that was how Ainslee made his acquaintance). He also had a good sense of humor. She loved his Old Spice and his arm around her and the compliments he gave whenever she was least expecting them, but they weren’t right for each other. He could be demanding and selfish and crude. In the end, he dumped her because she couldn’t keep up with him. Those weren’t his words exactly, but there was no mistaking his meaning. She should have seen it coming, but she didn’t.

Now, back on the towel while Matt flipped up her skirt and untaped her wet diaper, she began to wonder if she had been exaggerating his positives from the start. She’d been the one to push for a relationship with Will. She assumed it was because of all she had to offer, but she couldn’t help but wonder if being with him meant she never had to think about Matt in that way again.

That very same Matt was now waving his hand in front of her face and asking her to lift her butt.

“Oh, sorry,” she said while he slid a fresh diaper underneath.

“Were you daydreaming?” he asked.

“No,” she said. “I was just thinking that I missed you.”

“What are you talking about?” he asked. “We hang out all the time.”

“I know, but…”

Before she could explain herself, they were interrupted by Ken’s call for help from the other room.

“What’s going on out there?” Tara asked.

“Come on and find out,” Matt said, pulling her up from the bed. “If it is what I think it is, you’ll want to see this.”
**
They entered Tara’s living room to find Ken seated on her white-and-blue striped sofa and Ainslee laying facedown over his lap. He held her wrists against the small of her back. A swath of blonde hair obscured her face, but Tara had no difficulty imagining the expression behind it.

“What’s going on?” she asked.

“We didn’t want you to feel too weird about this, so we agreed we’d find you a playmate,” Ken explained. “But somebody said she’s having second thoughts.”

“Hello, I was drinking!” Ainslee said.

“I tried that one,” Tara told her. “It didn’t work.”

“Urgh!”

“Listen, I appreciate it guys, but she doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to.”

“Well,” Ainslee conceded. “A lot of this was my idea to begin with. Before I got drunk, I mean. I guess it serves me right.”

“Yep,” Ken said, swatting her behind. “I’d say it does.”

“Ow!” she protested. “What was that for?”

“Trying to talk your way out of it.”

“Jerk.”

“Do you guys need some time to sort this out?” Matt asked.

“Nah,” Ken said. “I think we’re set. Aren’t we, babe?”
**
Tara was almost jealous: Ainslee made for a very cute little girl. Ken had dressed her in a diaper and pink T-shirt. She tried to hide behind him at first, but Ken eventually forced her to reveal herself.

“Only for you do I do this,” she told Tara.

“Whatabout Halloween?” Matt suggested.

“Nu-uh,” Ainslee countered. “I’m going prosti-cop all the way.”

Tara laughed again, this time without anyone tickling her. She was riding a natural high just then: too distracted to overanalyze, too relaxed to worry. Having her friends look after her reminded her that she mattered. It was something she would not allow herself to lose sight of again.

“See, look,” Ainslee said. “I told you she’d like it.”

“Everything’s been great,” Tara conceded. “I thought you’d all gone crazy, but this has been really nice. There’s just one problem though.”

“Oh yeah?” Ainslee asked.

“What are we gonna do for your birthday?”
**
The rest of Tara’s day breezed by. She and Ainslee took turns chasing each other and they nearly busted a gut listening to Ken tell fairy tales in funny voices. Matt was noticeably more quiet and Tara kept on wondering if her flirting during diaper changes had him rattled.

“Listen,” she said when he went to perform his third and final change of the day. “I hope I wasn’t creeping you out earlier.”

“Nothing’s gonna creep me out after today,” he said. “I mean, look at what I’m doing right now.”

She kicked him lightly. “I meant, you know….all I’m saying is you’re a great friend and a great guy and you’re going to make some girl very happy. And I understand if that girl isn’t me.”

He sighed. “I waited, ya know,” he said. “After that last time. I thought you’d come around. I was even going to ask you if you didn’t. But then you started seeing Will and I let it drop.”

“God, how can you not hate me?”

“Because you’re a great friend too,” he said. “You didn’t get all weird when I had that thing with Tammy. And you barely ever complain. That’s why I went through with this. Because you don’t complain and I was sick of seeing it eat at you.”

“Well,” Tara said, “if it makes you feel any better, I’ll complain a lot from now on.”

The smirk made its final appearance of the day as Matt scanned the bed with his hand. “Now where’s that pacifier?” he asked.
**
It was late afternoon and everyone was gone. Tara was sorry to see them go and sad that the game had to end, but she understood just the same. There were chores to do and textbooks to read and busy, demanding lives to lead. Tara herself had some banking to attend to. One of her aunts insisted on sending $10 checks every year.

Back in adult clothes, Tara reached into her purse and retrieved her phone. It had been off all day. No, scratch that. It had been off since she hit the bar the night before. She didn’t want to take “happy birthday” calls when she was getting good and hammered.

There were a pair of voicemails from her parents. One wished her a happy birthday, the other asked her where she was and directed her to give them a call. Tara dutifully found “Home” on her contact list, but paused a moment before hitting dial. What if I told them exactly what she had been up to, she wondered. Would they be shocked? Devastated? Or would they even care?

She pressed send and got her mom on the second ring.

“Hang on, honey, I’ll put it on speaker.”

A moment later, her dad and Blake came through as well. Greetings and “how-are-yous” were exchanged and Tara suspected it wouldn’t be long before she got another earful of someone else’s problems and dilemmas. She would cope though. She always did.

Re: 7 - By the Order of Princess Tara

While it was told in an interesting and somewhat creative fashion and the dialog was pretty good, the plot was kind of Generic.

It may not be my favorite story of all time but it’s still definitely a good one, and a prime example of why even “Cliche” stories can become good, well-written stories if told in the right manner.

Re: 7 - By the Order of Princess Tara

I agree. It also seemed a little bit more plausible than a lot of the stuff that gets posted.