Atonement (Chapter 4 up 5/25/16)

I’ve been forgetting that this forum exists, so I figured I should probably post the couple stories I’ve written or been working on since I’m actively posting and updating them on deviantArt.

This one is titled “Atonement”. It’s about a girl who rather than being sent to jail as a repeat offender, takes her opportunity to live with a foster family, but accidentally makes a deal with a (possibly familiar) demon that causes her to physically regress. It’s also about her foster mother and sister, who have to deal with this regression from an outside perspective. Either way, I hope you enjoy it!

Chapter One

The harsh slamming of the judge’s gavel would echo throughout the courtroom, and in Joyce’s ears for years to come. “Guilty,” they pronounced her. “Guilty.” This certainly wasn’t her first time through this song and dance. Joyce was pretty sure this was…what, her seventh time here? Her seventh time hearing her freedom being taken from her, her seventh time being marched out the door in handcuffs and shoved into a police car to be taken to the jail.

Only that didn’t seem to be happening in this case. She looked curiously at the officers surrounding her, expecting them to drag her away, expecting the judge to give her something like 4 years this time? The problem was that it just wasn’t happening. The judge didn’t hand out a jail sentence. He seemed to be forming some other set of words with his lips, and it was different enough that Joyce quickly tuned back in.

“Miss Carson. You’ve been through here far too many times, and it’s obvious that our standard methods are not having any sort of positive effect. With that said, I’d like to offer you a chance. By law, your minimum possible sentence after this many strikes is life with no possibility of parole. I’d prefer to avoid doing that to a girl before she even turns 18. So, I’d like to offer you another option.” He paused, seeming to invite a response from Joyce.

So she responded, trying desperately to keep her shock and horror at the sentence off of her face. “What do you mean? Isn’t there only one option at this point? I mean, if you can’t fix me, throw me in a cell and leave me to die, right?”

“No, Miss Carson. I’d rather not. We have a new program here that you may not have heard of, judging by your reaction. We will match you with a family and place you into a foster home, where you will be required to follow all of the rules given to you. If you can do that, you’ll be free to go, all of your past sins wiped from your record. If not…well, I won’t have an alternative at that point.”

Joyce involuntarily swallowed at that, nodding slowly in response. “Yes…sir.”

The smile that appeared on the judge’s face looked genuinely kind, something Joyce wasn’t sure she had seen in a very long while. “Very good. Please, head into the next room. We have some paperwork you’ll need to look over and sign.”

Joyce nodded again in response. “Of course, sir.” The handcuffs she was expecting momentarily never came, though an officer did show up to escort her to another room. As she took a seat, she was presented with a stack of paperwork, legal documents, and assorted contracts to sign. Skimming through the legal jargon, she was pretty sure these were exactly what the judge said - she’d be placed in a foster home, given a set of rules, and hopefully, “reformed,” whatever that really meant.

She signed them without even thinking twice.

Honestly, Joyce wasn’t certain that she could survive much longer in prison. She didn’t want to keep stealing from others to live, but she wasn’t generally given much of a choice. Maybe this foster family thing would give her a bit of a chance to start over. Starting over…that definitely sounded good. Maybe it would give her a bit of a chance to make up for what she had to do.

A flicker in the corner of Joyce’s eye caused her to look up, spotting the older, well-dressed woman who casually strolled in and took a seat opposite her. “Who are you?” asked Joyce, half expecting not to get an answer.

“My name is Abyzou. I’m just here to help.” The woman pulled out another few sheets of paper, attached to a clipboard, and set them in front of Joyce. “If you truly wish to start over, you’ll need to sign this as well.”

Joyce signed without a word.

Abyzou smiled and bowed slightly, grabbing the clipboard and exiting the room without a trace. Joyce wasn’t certain she even heard the door open and shut, but she focused on finishing the paperwork anyways. Another suit walked through the door, gathering the finished paperwork and stacking it into a file before exiting the room. And then someone Joyce was pretty sure was not a cop entered the room.

“Hello. Are you Joyce?”

Another smile. She could get used to this. Joyce scanned the new woman, registering the details in her mind. Plain t-shirt, plain jeans, brown hair in a ponytail - this may be the most boring woman she’d ever laid eyes on. Yet the look on her face transfixed Joyce for a second. The slight kindness in the judge’s eyes was entirely blown away by the warm, welcoming look in the woman’s eyes, and that was before even looking at the rest of her face.

Words escaped Joyce as she struggled to come up with an answer. “Uh…um…yeah, I’m Joyce. Are you…?”

“I’m going to be your foster mother. Feel free to call me Connie if you don’t want to call me mom.”

Again, Joyce could find no words to match the situation. “Um…okay,” was what she finally stammered out, though it didn’t really fit her emotions at all. She settled with just staring directly at Connie, awaiting whatever came next.

Connie walked over towards the side of the table that Joyce was sitting on. “I have a room for you at home. I do have a daughter, though she’s quite a bit younger than you. Do you think you’re ready to head out? Do you need anything from here?”

Joyce shook her head dumbly as she slowly got to her feet. She tried to think back to what she should do in this type of situation, but nothing came to mind, so she just followed behind Connie as Connie led her to a minivan sitting outside. As she climbed into the car, she did remember two words, words she couldn’t remember using like this. “…thank you.”

And yet another smile. “Don’t you mention it. I’m glad to have you. Hopefully I can help you and you can help me a bit as well. I know I’ll be happy to have someone around to help out with chores at the very least.” Even Connie’s jokes felt alien to Joyce, but as she sat down and strapped herself into the passenger seat, she felt welcomed for the first time in a long while.

Chapter Two

The humming of the engine came to a stop as the minivan pulled into the driveway of a small suburban home. Modest, some would say, but to Joyce it looked almost unrealistic in its extravagance. Sure, she’d seen the houses of the rich and famous on TV, but being welcomed into one was something else entirely. She blinked as Connie slid the door of the van open, remembering a few seconds too late that she was expected to get out of the car. As awkward as Joyce felt, Connie seemed to be taking it all in stride, patiently waiting until Joyce stepped out of the car and then leading her towards the front door. “Come on in. I’ll show you around,” Connie beckoned.

Joyce quietly stepped through the front door, observing the brightly painted walls, clean wooden floors, and the scent of some sort of delicious food wafting directly into her nostrils. At this, her stomach let out an involuntary growl, prompting another response from Connie. “Dinner will be ready soon. That’s a good time for you to meet Alyssa.” Joyce attempted another step forward, but was met with a hand to her chest. “Ah! Shoes off in the house.”

After a few short seconds, now with only socks on her feet, Joyce took several more steps into the house. The stomping of feet echoed through the halls as a girl of about six years came running through the hall and right towards her. Joyce flinched and covered her face for a second before realizing that the girl was not in fact headed for her, but for Connie. “Mommy!” the girl shouted as she wrapped her arms around the now-crouching Connie.

“Hey, Alyssa.” Connie responded with a peck on the girl’s cheek. “Didn’t make too much of a mess while I was gone, did you?” A teasing smile, but still retaining that kindness that had thrown Joyce off earlier. Connie stood up, releasing Alyssa from the hug, and gestured towards Joyce. “This is Joyce, your new big sister. Remember?”

To Joyce’s surprise, it took only seconds before the little girl was standing at her feet, arms outstretched. Nervous and a bit shocked, she looked between Connie and Alyssa several times before crouching down and holding her arms out in return. She was immediately greeted by a hug. Joyce’s discomfort would have been obvious to anyone looking, but Alyssa continued to hug her for several seconds before letting go.

“I’m Alyssa. Nice to meet you, new big sister!” Alyssa let out a giggle before grabbing Joyce’s hand, managing to wrap hers around a couple of Joyce’s fingers and pulling on her hand. “Come on, Joyce! You gotta see your room! Mommy’s been working so hard on it!”

Still bewildered, Joyce stood and attempted to follow the girl’s lead. “Oh…okay.”

Tidy hallways and several mostly clean rooms followed; the occasional stray toy seemed to escape Connie’s notice, but other than that, there was a distinct lack of dust or grime in the household. “Joyce! Look!” Joyce snapped back to attention at the sound of Alyssa’s voice calling her name. Her eyes followed the girl’s outstretched fingertip into the room before her.

Plain white walls, some floral wallpaper, a simple full-size bed, and a dresser. A simple room, but to Joyce it was just another part of the day that seemed entirely unreal. She slowly stepped forward, managing to make it as far as the bed before flopping down on top of it. Alyssa climbing up next to her and bouncing on the bed barely registered as a long-overdue sigh escaped Joyce’s lips. Joyce closed her eyes, trying to take it all in.

And then Connie’s voice snapped her right back out of it. “Alyssa! I understand you’re excited, but no jumping on the bed.” Joyce dragged herself back into a sitting position to see Connie poking her head into the door. “I do hope you like it; it’s not much, but it’s yours.” A silent nod was all Connie received in response. “Either way, time for dinner. Come take a seat at the table when you’re ready.”

Joyce soon found herself sitting at the table with Connie and Alyssa, a plate of some kind of food she wasn’t quite familiar with sitting right under her nose. Meat, cheese, potatoes, and vegetables were included, though in some unusual combination. “I call it tater tot casserole,” Connie stated as she interrupted Joyce’s thoughts. “It’s one of our favorites, so I hope you enjoy it.” Cautiously, Joyce raised a bite to her mouth and stuck it inside. Although the casserole may not have been the best meal in the world, at this point in time, the care that obviously went into it was enough to push Joyce over the edge. Tears slowly started to stream down her face as she placed her hands over her eyes and started sobbing quietly.

“Why’s she crying, mommy?” A high-pitched voice rang out and was quickly shushed by Connie. In just a few seconds, Joyce felt a hand on her back, rubbing gently. Of course it was Connie. Joyce was just barely getting used to that. Joyce shortly stopped sobbing and began to focus her attention back on the food, shoveling it into her mouth as quickly as she could until not a crumb lay remaining on her plate.

“Well, I hope that means you liked it.” Connie’s smile again, this time a bit of a joking twist to it. Joyce nodded and returned a smile of her own, but couldn’t find any words to accompany it. “If you need seconds, they’re up on the counter. Feel free to take the rest of the day to relax. I’m sure you’ll need it.”

Before she knew it, Joyce was back in her room, alone, and with the door closed. Her emotional exhaustion set in almost immediately, leaving her laying flat on her bed, tears streaming down her face once again. Her mind raced with questions, but she couldn’t manage to pin a single one down or concentrate her thoughts on any one in particular. It wasn’t long before Joyce was entirely passed out, eyes closed and fast asleep.

Chapter Three

A dreamless night passed, leaving Joyce to slowly awaken as the shafts of light shone through her window. Her eyes slowly fluttered open and she unconsciously reached her hand up to cover them to avoid being blinded. It was a solid minute in her half-awake state before she realized the cold damp feeling around her. Joyce sat up quickly, looking down at the sheets and instantly realizing what had happened.

“Dammit…” she sighed - and then stopped herself. Was her voice…higher pitched? That couldn’t be right. She was just waking up, so she must just still be out of it from the craziness of the day before. The day before…wait, this was Connie’s house!

Suddenly worried about the fact that she had managed to make a mess of the gift that she had so graciously been given, Joyce attempted to jump out of the bed onto the floor - and immediately fell flat on her face. Tears began to fall from her eyes as Joyce felt pain shoot through her nose. The thumping sound of footsteps quickly approached her room and Connie burst through the door.

“Joyce! Are you okay?” It took Connie only seconds of glancing around the room to notice what had happened to the bed and to Joyce. She crouched down and lifted Joyce off of the ground and into a sitting position. “Hey. That looks like it hurt.” Connie reached into her pocket and pulled out a couple of tissues, using one to wipe off Joyce’s face before handing her another. “That should help with the bleeding.”

Sure enough, blood covered the tissue that Connie pulled back from Joyce’s face. “Ouch…um…thanks.” Joyce attempted to smile, but winced as another wave of pain went through her nose.

A confused look crossed Connie’s face, her eyes glancing up and down Joyce. “Joyce…I’m not sure what, but something doesn’t quite look right here.”

“What? Oh. The bed.” Joyce blushed red as she remembered her apparent accident earlier.

“No. You look…different. Here, stand up for me, okay?” Connie reached out, grasping under Joyce’s arms and lifting straight up.

Joyce realized right away what Connie was referring to. “Are you…taller?” she asked, noticing that Connie seemed a foot or two above herself.

“I…I think you’ve gotten smaller. You look and sound several years younger, Joyce. Maybe…eleven? Twelve if I was feeling generous.” A tone of concern entered Connie’s voice for the first time since Joyce had met her. “Between that and the bedsheets, I’m not quite sure what to think.”

“What? No way that’s possible.” Disbelief was of course Joyce’s first reaction, but as she examined herself as well as the room around her, no better conclusion came to her own mind.

A thought coming to her, she walked on over to the bathroom she remembered from her tour of the house the day before. “Joyce? What are you doing?” Joyce had no time or thought to respond to Connie as she walked into the bathroom, closing the door to get at the full-length mirror right behind.

And there she was. Distinctly shorter. Clothes basically falling off of her body. Much less developed curves. And finally, a face spotted with bright red, tear-streaked eyes.

Joyce fell to her knees and began to sob, entirely overwhelmed in a completely different way than before. For the first time in years, her crying became audible, her wailing drawing Connie to burst through yet another door to hold the girl tightly in her arms.

“Shh…it’ll be okay. I have no idea what’s happened, but we’ll deal with it, okay?” Connie’s words just brought forth more tears from Joyce, who was by now burying her face in Connie’s chest. Connie sighed and continued to hold the girl but reached over with one hand to turn on the bathtub faucet, beginning to fill the tub with warm water. “Come on, Joyce. How about you take a bath and then we talk a bit? You know, try to figure things out.” Silent nodding answered her question as Joyce reluctantly peeled herself away from Connie, standing up and pulling off her clothes without a care that Connie was standing right there.

Connie quickly made her way out of the bathroom, closing the door behind her and facing forward only to find Alyssa staring up at her, a concerning uestion in her eyes. “Mommy? Is Joyce sad?”

Connie responded instinctively, hoping that reassuring Alyssa would do the same for her. She lifted the girl into her arms with a bit of a nuzzle. “Alyssa, Joyce is just having a hard time getting used to everything here. She also might be a bit…littler than yesterday, but please don’t tease her about it, okay?”

In the matter-of-fact way that children tend to approach life, Alyssa responded instantly. “Okay, mommy. I’m hungry.” A nervous chuckle and a ruffling of hair later, Connie was off to prepare breakfast on this craziest of days.

Emotional numbness set in for Joyce as she climbed out of her bath what seemed like an eternity later. She dried herself with the nearby too-big towel out of habit and wrapped it around her body before taking a cautious step outside of the bathroom. Walking forward at an almost reluctant pace, it didn’t take too long before she found Connie in the finishing stages of cooking a large breakfast of pancakes, eggs, and bacon. Surprisingly, Alyssa was nowhere to be seen. Joyce was too deadened to take much notice as she quietly sat down at the nearest chair.

The clink of a plate being set in front of her caused Joyce to look up. Connie finished setting the table and took her seat next to Joyce, reaching a reassuring arm out and around Joyce’s shoulder. “Hey. Get some food in your stomach, alright? No matter what happens, that’s important.” Connie continued to rub Joyce’s back as she spoke and Joyce almost robotically began to eat. “I sent Alyssa to go play by herself so we could have some time to talk. To be entirely honest with you, I have no idea what’s happening or what to do about it. I imagine you don’t either.” Joyce slowed her eating, responding with only a subtle shake of her head. Connie took that as her cue to continue on.

“Unless I’m completely wrong, you seem to be a bit younger than yesterday. I can’t think of any sort of rational explanation, but looking at you now compared to yesterday, I don’t know what other conclusion I could draw.” Connie took the opportunity to offer yet another kind but worried-looking smile. “Kind of funny, isn’t it. I knew I’d be helping you start over, but I thought that had a bit different meaning.”

As she heard and began to comprehend Connie’s words, Joyce froze up. After a second of silent thought, she looked directly at Connie. “That lady.”

Connie’s concern and confusion were again evident on her face. “What lady?”

“Yesterday, just seconds before you came in to pick me up. This lady - Abby or something - she came in and offered me the chance to ‘start over’. I assumed she was just having me sign paperwork for this whole program thing, but she used those same exact words.”

Connie’s face darkened with further worry as she heard this. “I was standing right outside that room for several minutes before I had the courage to head inside. Nobody else went in there besides you.” The pair was together in silent contemplation for a few seconds before Connie again spoke up. “I’ll see if I can find anything out. For now, and I know this may be near-impossible, you should relax. You don’t need to deal with all of this at once. Maybe you’ll wake up tomorrow and everything will be back to normal.”

Before Joyce could react, Connie leaned over and planted a kiss on her forehead, squeezing her momentarily in a hug as she did so. “I told you I’d help you, and I plan to do just that.” As Connie stood and walked out of the room towards her office, Joyce was left in awe by her words and actions. For the third time in the last day, Joyce felt tears drip down her face.

Re: Atonement (Up to Chapter 3 so far!)

Great start! It’s a good concept and I’m looking forward to seeing where you take it!

Re: Atonement (Up to Chapter 3 so far!)

Thanks! Wrote a bit more (though I’m not as confident in this part) so I hope you still like it!

Chapter Four

Connie moved quickly to her office, shutting the door behind herself and lowering herself into her chair. Fear and panic had begun to take hold of her as soon as she heard the crash earlier that morning, but she hadn’t even close to had time to recover. Rather, she had kept herself busy, first throwing Joyce’s sheets in the wash and then going to make breakfast, pretending it was just a normal routine. She hadn’t signed up to have her view of the world shattered or take care of a supernaturally regressed girl.

At the same time, she had brought Joyce into her house and said she would take care of her. For that matter, it’s not like Joyce was having it any easier. In fact, Joyce probably had the worst of it. Waking up several years younger than the night before definitely must be terrifying.

Though Connie had initially come into her office with the intent of doing some research, the realization that Joyce was probably scared out of her mind and now was all alone was enough to make her turn right around and head towards the door, intent on comforting Joyce however she could. Or, it would have been had she not been greeted by a middle-aged woman with an oddly familiar smile.

“Hello, Connie. I have an important matter to discuss with you.”

Joyce finished her meal in silence, still numb from the events of the day. The passing thought that she still wasn’t wearing clothes crossed her mind, so she took the opportunity to stand up and point herself in the direction of her room. Ruffling through the drawers of her new dresser, she was surprised to find a large variety of clothing, especially given the lack of packing she did before coming here. None of it was her familiar everyday wear, but she managed to pick out an inoffensive solid-colored t-shirt, pair of jeans, and plain pair of underwear. Unsurprisingly, the clothes were now way too big for her. Looking around for other options, Joyce found a belt that when tightened as much as possible just barely kept the jeans from falling off of her body.

Though her first instinct was to head back out of the room and find something to do, Joyce didn’t really feel like she had the energy. She climbed up onto the bed and laid down, trying and failing to find something to think about besides her current situation. At least she was with the nicest people she had ever met. That was a good start. And to be honest, even with as little time as she had spent with Connie, it was hard to picture Connie ever doing anything except trying to help her. Connie promised, didn’t she?

Familiar footsteps soon echoed down the hall, again heading towards her room. Joyce took little to no notice until she felt someone sit down beside her and pull her up into a sitting position, holding her tight. Curiously, she looked up only to see Connie’s tear-streaked face looking right back down at her.

“Hey, Joyce.” Connie’s smile faltered as she tried to talk. “I- I just want you to know I’m here for you, okay? No matter what happens.” Joyce nodded, but refrained from speaking, still feeling like she didn’t have words to describe her feelings.

Connie took a deep breath to collect herself slightly before continuing, her voice still trembling. “I…think I’ve figured out what’s happening.”

Joyce started at that, her eyes widening. “You…you do? How?”

Connie closed her eyes for a second in thought, debating internally how honest to be before opening her mouth again. “I talked to the woman. She came to me in my study, the same way I assume she came to you. She explained a lot, but most importantly, she told me what was happening to you. You are getting younger and will continue to do so for a few days longer. I’m not entirely sure where you’ll end up age-wise, but as long as she was telling the truth, you’re going to stay yourself through the whole process. You’re just getting a chance to start over, exactly like you said she promised. And again, no matter what, I’ll be here for you.”

Confusion and shock were the first things to fill Joyce’s mind. Connie had talked to the person who did this to her? What if Connie was in on it? No, Connie wouldn’t have told her if that was the case. She let out a sigh and again buried her face in Connie’s chest. “I…I don’t know…I can’t…it’s too much…”

Silence followed Joyce’s failure to speak but was interrupted by Connie lifting Joyce up and setting the girl on her lap. Joyce started squirming immediately in response, but stopped as she realized where she was. She tilted her head back, seeing Connie’s smile staring right back down at her from above.

“Can I ask you something, Connie? I think I need something…”

“Anything, Joyce.”

“Can I call you mommy? Like Alyssa does?”

“…Of course. I would love that.”

“Thank you…mommy.”

“You’re very welcome, Joyce.”

Re: Atonement (Chapter 4 up 5/25/16)

Really really like where this is going. Never really been a fan of magic but this changed my mind. Keep it up

Re: Atonement (Chapter 4 up 5/25/16)

I really love this story i’m looking foreward to seeing what happens next.

Re: Atonement (Chapter 4 up 5/25/16)

Thank you so much! I think that’s about the highest praise I could possibly ask for.

Re: Atonement (Chapter 4 up 5/25/16)

Aweeeee! that last part was cute. I really like this concept. Having the parent be aware of the regression is quite unique.
I don’t think i’ve ever really seen that before. Though i have always wanted to see it in a story.

This is extremely interesting, and i would love to read more. Please continue and thank you for sharing. :slight_smile:

Re: Atonement (Chapter 4 up 5/25/16)

Thanks! I’ll be continuing it soon, but I’m working on a couple of projects at once, so it might take just a little bit.