BAD MOON RISING
“This shit hole hasn’t changed much in a century.” The noise of the crowd swallowed Prudence’s mutter. Fair booths lined both sides of the street. The Fall Harvest Festival was like a Halloween themed farmers’ market. Some booths had games, but most sold homemade goods and sweets. Hand-knitted sweaters and blankets, apple and pumpkin butters, summer jams, hand pressed ciders, homemade fudge and candied apples.
Warring scents assaulted her sensitive nostrils. Fried fair food -burgers, corn dogs- mixed with freshly popped kettle corn and pumpkin flavored cookies, cakes, pies and mingled with scents of homemade candles. This bouquet of smells was underscored by the sting of homemade alcohol. Shrieks of excited children pierced her ears and the pungent aroma of dirty diapers filled her nose, drowning out the other scents. Little sugar-crusted snot goblins ran everywhere, too fast for tired parents to keep up.
Prudence nimbly side stepped the kids as she slid between the gaps of people milling about. Her slim hand slipped into pockets as she passed, occasionally coming out with money. Mostly chump change from the locals, but she got quite a few crisp twenty dollar bills from the visiting yuppies. And a few wedding rings she could pawn, though the gold was low quality and not worth much. Her haul was better than the last time she strolled down these streets, pick-pocketing at the turn of the century.
Newton was a small town surrounded by farmland and woods. Cornfields and wilderness as far as the eye could see. That hadn’t changed much; now there was more farmed land, less woods. The town had expanded as the population grew. Dirt roads paved over. More automobiles. No more horses and buggies. Telephone polls. Street lights. Cell phones. Girls in pants.
Main Street was still the largest street, running right through the center of town. A couple of fast food joints. A few diners. One grocery store. Some gas stations. Feed store. The three bars
in town still stood in their same spots. The names changed and buildings were modernized. Her hometown was still just a backwoods scratch on a map. Just a newer version of the same old shit she’d left behind. Even the Halloween Carnival was mostly the same. The name had changed; somewhere along the line, it morphed into the Harvest Festival. Main Street still got closed off and shut down so booths, a spook house, bounce castles and a few carnival rides popped up. A maze of hay bales and tables for pumpkin painting.
Prudence noted one big difference as she walked around; a big increase in the number of attendees. Farm families were too far apart, so they used to bring their children to town for trick or treating. Adults took advantage of the time to trade goods, thus spawning the Halloween Carnival. Now, city-dwelling yuppies, enamored with romantic idealizations of the quaint, wholesome, rustic country life flocked with their broods to the small town. They drove for an hour or more for the honest, simple country folk to fleece them with over priced, hand-made goods.
Prudence couldn’t fault the locals for their business savvy. The yuppies were ripe for the plucking; big pockets, small brains. No common sense. City living bred it right out of them. Not that she was complaining. She smirked and patted the pilfered money in her own pockets.
“This Halloween sucks.” Picking the pockets of idiots with their guard down was the only entertainment this town had. She’d never wanted nor planned to return. Only once had she come back, in the 1940’s to burn a few records of her past and erase some evidence. Local police had labeled those fires as Halloween pranks by deviant youth. One of those fires occurred a few streets away from where she stood now.
She recalled a full harvest moon in a starless black sky and the orange flames turning day to night. That night had been a ill moon for the town. Tonight was a full moon on Halloween, too. She stuffed her hands in her pockets, feeling all her ill-gotten gains. “Looks like it’s another bad moon for you, baby.” She grinned to herself then laughed.
Hicksville was boring as hell, but all that she hated about this place made it the perfect place to lay low. She had pissed off quite a few dangerous, powerful lycans when her latest, not-quite-legal, get-rich-quick scheme went bust. The law got involved. The law breakers were not happy. Now Prudence was laying low until the heat- both from the cops and the wolves- blew over.
The crisp autumn breeze shifted. Red, orange, and yellow leaves fluttered about. Costumed kids shrieked, tiny hands grasping for the dancing leaves. The change in direction of the wind brought in scents of earth, of rotting vegetation, pine needles, and animal musk. The forest. Fresh cut hay and pumpkins from the fields. Pumpkins everywhere. Just like when she was a child. A human.
Pru struggled to recall happy childhood memories. She fought for nostalgia as her feet once more trod the soil of her birth, both as a human then as a wolf. All she felt was nausea. She’d discarded her childhood as easily as she’d tossed her humanity. All she had left were vague memories. A screaming mother. Fighting siblings. So many siblings- faces and names all blurs. A father who always reeked of soured whiskey and who was heavy handed with his belt. Constant hunger in her belly.
She shook her head, brushing the cobwebs from her mind. They weren’t worth remembering. She crossed the street to another row of booths, looking around aimlessly. Three little ball jointed dolls in a glass display case caught her attention. These were collectors’ items, not toys for children to play with and ruin. The dolls were little children dressed up for Halloween in exquisitely detailed costumes. The faces and hair were realistic looking; little replicas of real life. She almost expected them to blink, to giggle, to move on their own. She drifted closer to the booth, standing right in front of it. She never took her eyes off those hauntingly beautiful dolls. Childhood memories frozen in porcelain.
“Like the dolls, dearie? Win them in a raffle. Only five bucks a ticket. Helps out the firemen.” A middle aged lady with gray streaks in her ponytail shook a roll of tickets in Pru’s face.
Pru took an involuntary step back, blinking and shifting her focus onto the lady. A sense of deja vu hit her and she was swept back to her childhood. The woman was a dead ringer for her old teacher in the local one-room school house. Mrs. Fisk had been a strict but fair schoolmarm. Most of the kids liked her. Prudence often was on the receiving end of Mrs. Fisk’s switch; neither teacher nor student had liked each other very much. This raffle lady had to be one of her descendants; a great great granddaughter or something like that. “I’ve never seen dolls that detailed. They’re almost life like. They should be in some high end store, not a prize at a fair. “
“I thought the same when I first saw them. Lucas is such a talented boy. He refurbished these from a thrift shop. He should’ve just sold them on ebay. His cousin Rosie said he insisted on donating them to the raffle when she dropped them off.” The lady shook her head. “The dolls have been a big help. These tickets sell like hot cakes. We just might be able to get that new equipment after all.”
Prudence tuned her out as she prattled on. A boy created such a treasure from junk? She wondered what kind of person this artist who created such beauty was. Trash turned into art. She wanted to meet him. She was tempted to swipe the dolls, but they were at the back of the booth, under glass. And the lady watched them like a hawk. Too much trouble… But if an opportunity presented itself, she’d be ready to pounce. “You look really familiar. Are you related to a Mrs. Fisk?”
The lady blinked, taken aback. “Fisk is my maiden name. I’m a King.” She looked up from her tickets, giving Prudence a long, hard look. “You look familiar, too.” She squinted. “I swear, I’ve seen you before. But I know you’re not from around here. I know all the locals.” Her voice took on a touch of pride.
“Oh, I was born here, but I haven’t been back in ages. Left plenty of family, though. The Pipers still around?”
“There’s a few. You’ve got the look of a Piper.”
“They still causing trouble?”
Prudence laughed. She liked the lady. Maybe she’d let the old bat keep her dolls, as a favor to the very late Mrs. Fisk.
“What did you say your name was?”
“I didn’t. It’s Prudence.”
“Prudence Piper?!” The lady’s grey brows rose nearly up to her hairline in shock.
Pru smiled, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “Something wrong with that name?”
“You don’t know who Prudence Piper was?”
Pru shook her head. The lady rambled on. “Whoever in your family named you has a sense of humor. Prudence Piper is something of a local legend.” She leaned forward to stage whisper. “She was a notorious girl. A bootlegger during Prohibition. Rumor has it she had ties to the mafia. Al Capone’s sweetheart.”
Prudence laughed at that. “I’m not so sure about that last part. But I bet the rest is true. Well behaved women rarely make history, after all. She sounds like a fun gal.” She gave the dolls once last look then drifted away.
The bulging pocket of a teenaged girl caught her attention. She fell in line behind the gaggle of local girls, keeping a few yuppies in between them for camouflage. It was easy to tell the locals and the yupsters apart. The city slickers tried too hard to fit in, making themselves stick out like sore thumbs.
They passed a few game booths like Pop-A-Pumpkin with darts and orange balloons. Prudence drifted closer to the teens, easily weaving between people. She occasionally surveyed the crowd with a casual glance to make sure no one was watching. One eye stayed on the girl and her pocket. She was an older teen, almost grown up. Eighteen or nineteen, Pru guessed. So she might have something good on her, like cigarettes. Or junk like used, balled up tissues or bubblegum.
Who knew with kids these days? They were such slobs. Not like when Pru was young; back then, society had standards. Now, she was often mistaken for an older teen or a young twenty something by the humans. It annoyed her to no end. Given her looks, her age when she’d been bit, been turned, it was only natural that the humans would get confused with her age. She still looked the same as she had a century ago. Her physical body was in her prime; hell, she was in better shape than when she was a human. Physical perfection; beautiful and lethal. A predator in her prime. A wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The longer she lived, the less human she felt. Like that part of her was slipping away. Sometimes, she forgot herself and had trouble connecting with the humans. Blending in with the humans used to be as natural as breathing as she adapted to her new state of being. Now, that state felt natural and acting human was a foreign language, clumsy on her tongue.
The girls whispered and giggled, heads bent together. The murmurs and laughter of the other pedestrians milling all around them should have drowned out their voices. Pru heard them easily from several feet away, as clear as if she stood right next to them. She picked up each voice as well as each individual scent. She sniffed the air, her nose and brain filtering and automatically cataloging each scent like a canine.
“Rosie, you sure it’s okay to leave Lucas by himself?” A girl with acne asked the girl with the bulging pocket. Pru’s ears perked up at that. Could the girl with the bulging pocket be cousin of Lucas the doll maker? It was a small town; Pru was sure she’d just hit pay dirt. She paid closer attention to the girls.
“He’s fine.” Rosie sounded annoyed. Like the topic was getting old.
“He seemed pretty freaked out.” The tallest of the group chimed in.
“Yeah, you know how he is. What if he has one of his anxiety freak outs or something?” Acne girl frowned at Rosie.
“They’re called panic attacks. And he won’t. He’ll be fine. We’re just going through the haunted house. We’ll be back in like five minutes.”
“I feel bad. Just leaving him like that. He looked like he was gonna cry.” Tall girl looked back over her shoulder. Prudence casually turned her head, like she was thinking about buying a candy apple from the nearest food booth. Just another face in the crowd.
Rosie made a disgusted sound deep in her throat. “He’s got his fucking bear and a dry diaper. He’s fucking fine. Just because he’s in a wheelchair doesn’t mean he’s a full blown tard. Quit looking at me like I smashed one of his dumb dolls. Now, it’s Halloween. I’d like to have a little bit of fun with my best friends without my fucking cry baby cousin completely ruining my night. Is that too much to ask?” She rounded on the other girls.
They met her eyes for a brief moment then looked away, awkward and uncomfortable. Rosie stared at them for several heart beats. None of them looked back at her. She sighed and dropped her hands to her sides. “I’m sorry. Look. Lucas even said it was okay. He said he didn’t mind if we went to the haunted house. So let’s just go and get back, okay? I’ll get him a candy apple or something.” That last part swayed the other girls. They nodded and continued walking.
Pru drifted closer until she was directly behind the distracted girls. Foot traffic slowed. Bodies pressed closer together as they neared the spook house line. Ahead, a toddler writhed on the ground in the middle of a tantrum fit. Her fists and feet pounded the pavement, her face red as she howled at the top of her lungs. Pru’s upper lip curled in a snarl at the noise.
She glanced around once. No one watched her. She stepped silently closer to the girls. Her hand dipped into Rosie’s pocket. Her fingers curled around a smooth plastic oval ring attached to something. She guided it out, hidden in the palm of her hand, then into her own pocket. She smoothly turned and walked away. All this occurred in the span of a few seconds.
She walked between two food stalls and behind a bounce house before she examined her latest prize. A pacifier. A large one. Too large for a baby or child. Perfect for an adult. Little Rosie was a raver? She didn’t strike Pru as the type. Rosie wasn’t a kandi kid or a tweeker. First impressions could be wrong, but Pru considered herself a good judge of character. Girls like Rosie didn’t get high. They stole the occasional beer or wine from their parents. Cut school. Broke curfew. Acts of childish teen defiance.
Pru turned the pacifier over in her hand, examining it. The shield was green. The button yellow with a cartoon turtle on it. The handle was blue. Colored more for a boy than a girl. A prop for a Halloween costume? There were some scratches on the plastic and teeth marks on the large rubber nipple. It was too realistic, too well used to be part of a costume. Could this belong to a diaper wearing, teddy bear carrying, anxiety prone, crippled doll maker?
“Only one way to find out. Besides, returning it is the right thing to do.” She grinned, revealing very sharp looking teeth. She tossed the pacifier into the air, caught it and put it back in her pocket.
Finding the boy was easier than she expected. Two fold up tables had been set up under a canopy in case of rain. A sign, hand written in sparkly, rainbow colored marker, read “Donations for Newton No-Kill Animal Shelter”. Beneath it were drawings of a cartoon puppy in a ghost costume and a kitten in a witch’s hat. Empty chairs were scattered behind the table. A few had purses or bags on them. Several half empty to-go cups littered the table. A big glass jar labeled “Donations” contained more air than money. Next to the jar was a plastic bowl filled with little packets of sugar free gummy bears for when the kids trick or treated later in the evening.
An older teenaged boy sat in a wheelchair a few feet back from the table with the sign. He was like a prettier, masculine version of Rosie. The two could be siblings instead of cousins. He gazed down at his feet and the footrest of his wheelchair. He clutched a teal and blue tiedyed teddybear to his chest. The bear wore a pirate dress. A white babydoll diaper peeked out from the ruffled skirt. The diapered boy diapered his bear. Cute. Pru’s lips quirked in a half smile. Every so often, a shudder ran down his thin frame.
Prudence hid in the shadows of a booth across the street, watching him. The boy had to be Lucas. He fit the description to a T. She’d put money on it. He wore a footed, fuzzy blue sleeper. His costume, like the pacifier, was too detailed, too realistic to be just a costume. It looked like a sleeper for an oversized infant. Not an adult sleeper from Target or Walmart. This one zipped up the back, like a baby’s sleeper did. It also had poppers in the crotch for easy diaper access. The sleeper was loose on his thin frame but puffed out at the crotch. The outline of a very thick diaper was visible through the heavy fabric. His diaper was just too big and bulky to be concealed. Two of the poppers on his crotch were open, showing off his own bulging diaper. The white plastic was tinged yellow, signaling his diaper was not just part of a costume.
He was so pretty, like a living version of his dolls. Smooth porcelain skin. Thick tousled black hair. The same big, blue eyes as Rosie. He was long and lanky. Standing up, he’d probably be taller than Pru. Scrunched up like he was, clinging to his bear for dear life….he looked small. Vulnerable. In need of…something. Like a piece of his life was missing.
Not because of the wheelchair. Prudence had known several people in wheelchairs over the decades. Some of them had been assholes. None of them radiated the broken vulnerability Lucas did. The broken pieces touched something in her. Stirred up stuff in her heart she hadn’t felt in a long time. So she just stood there, watching him. Unable to look away.
He never once looked up. Minutes passed. The girls never came back. The glass donation jar was pitifully empty. Yuppies walked right by, drawn to more attractive booths with goods for sale. A few locals came up, put a dollar or change in. They spoke softly to Lucas. He’d shrink back, rolling his chair back an inch or two then look half way up. He’d force a shaky half smile. He’d mumble back, voice little more than a hoarse whisper. He’d nervously tug down the bear’s skirt, trying to hide the toy’s diaper while blissfully unaware his own used diaper was on display.
The sight was just pathetic. Pru tried to muster up her usual contempt and disdain, but her insides were a jello mush. Lonely. The boy was lonely and hurting. His pain called to her, struck a chord long buried deep within her. Staring at him, she was looking at a shadow of her past self.
Pru looked up and down the busy street. Shadows lengthened as the sun started to set. Parents and costumed children began to line up for the Costume Parade before Trick or Treating. No sign of the girls. Prudence strolled out of the shadows with nonchalant ease, heading straight for the Animal Shelter booth. She pulled the pacifier out of her pocket.
Lucas rolled his wheelchair back a few more inches when a big group of well dressed townies strolled by. They didn’t even glance at the tiny, sparse booth. Costumed kids jumped and shrieked with excitement. The wall of constant passersby pressed in on him. The empty space of the booth around him seemed to shrink. Space compressed, squeezing the air out of his lungs. A cold sweat broke out on his fevered, too-hot skin.
“Not here. Not now.” He mumbled to no one as fear and panic inflated like a balloon filling up his chest and squishing his lungs. His fingers shook. He stroked Fiji the Bear’s tie-dyed teal and blue fur. He concentrated on the feel of the soft threads under his fingers, trying to distract himself from the fear suffocating him.
The teal and blue fur was the same colors as the water around Fiji, his favorite island. His parents had taken their honeymoon there, back when things were still good between them. Before things had turned sour and they ended up in prison for cooking meth. Fiji had been a white bear, but his aunt helped him tie-dye his plush companion. His dad, in rare moments of sobriety, used to tell him stories and show him pictures of Fiji Island. Lucas still wanted to visit there some day. He’d take his bear, too; bring Fiji to Fiji. He would’ve giggled if his chest wasn’t so tight.
He rubbed the silky smooth satin of Fiji’s costume. He’d made the pirate dress himself. Making clothes for his stuffed best friend had been how he’d gotten started making and refurbishing dolls. He’d been little when his mom taught him the basics of sewing after he’d begged her. His father had been less than pleased to learn about that. He didn’t really start sewing again until he was ten and living with his aunt, uncle, and cousin. They were on vacation and ten year old Rosie cut off Fiji’s head. Rosie and Lucas had shared a bed; Lucas’ night diaper had leaked. Rosie, angry at her cousin for peeing on her in his sleep, punished him by killing Fiji. His aunt had held him on her lap while she sewed Fiji’s head back on. She’d encouraged Lucas to help her. He’d been hooked.
Lucas shuddered at the memory. Warmth flooded his crotch as his bladder released. His thick diaper absorbed it all. He’d never been completely out of diapers. Doctors said his bladder was underdeveloped. He’d always wet the bed. Long car rides and vacation meant he was diapered. When he was thirteen, he had an ATV accident that injured his spinal cord. That left him in a wheelchair and in diapers full time.
His trembling fingers slipped under Fiji’s skirt, stroking the slippery texture of her diaper’s plastic backing. Fiji’s diaper was a baby doll diaper. In his mind, his bear needed diapers just like he did. She enjoyed her diapers, too. Just like he did.
Part of him was ashamed at needing diapers, but a bigger part secretly enjoyed it. The thick padding swaddling him gave him a sense of comfort and security. It helped manage his anxiety. Even after his accident, he had some bladder and bowel control. Instead of struggling with a toileting routine, all he’d wanted was the protection and safety of his diapers.
Now he wore 24/7. Thick, crinkly padding with babyish prints. Big baby diapers instead of plain, medical, absorbent briefs. He had both at home, but he mostly wore Adult Baby diapers. He found comfort in some aspects of being an Adult Baby; his bear and his pacifier. Sucking on the rubber nipple helped calm him when his anxiety flared up. Like it was now. Rosie had taken his pacifier. She told him he’d get it back as long as he was a good boy while she was gone.
A chill breeze picked up as the sun started to sink. Strange voices and snatches of conversation broke into his thoughts. His heart thumped in his chest painfully. He whimpered. Where was Rosie? He was too terrified to look up. Rosie promised she’d only be gone a few minutes. She’d lied to him again. Deep down, he’d known this was going to happen. Rosie’s promises were empty lies.
He wished he was home, watching Hocus Pocus. He hadn’t wanted to come to the Harvest Festival at all. He never came; he always spent Halloween at home, watching movies with Fiji. This year, his aunt and uncle were in the city to take care of grandma, who was in the hospital. His aunt and uncle usually manned the Animal Shelter booth, trying to get donations for the shelter. The last minute emergency with grandma left no time to find a replacement, so his uncle had signed Rosie up to help out. Rosie dragged Lucas along. She had him wear one of his sleepers as a big baby costume, along with his pacifier and sippy cup he used at night. He got thirsty at night, and the sippy cup prevented spills in bed. His aunt and uncle viewed his baby preferences as strange coping mechanisms. Since it helped him, they let it go.
Lucas shifted in his seat, feet pushing against the wheelchair’s solid footrest. His monstrous diaper crinkled. It was one of the thickest diapers he owned. He’d inserted a booster for extra measure to get him through this horribly long night. He felt so horribly alone. Lost. Strangers pressed in on all sides. What should he do?
Panic spiked. His chest constricted. He was fighting a losing battle to remain calm. Oh, where was Rosie? Rational thought blanked out. All he could do was struggle to breathe and ride the wild waves of out of control fear assaulting him.
“Cookie.” He croaked desperately, calling for his old service dog. Cookie had passed away a year ago. She made his life so much easier. His constant companion. She’d been both a psychiatric service dog and a mobility support dog. She helped him with physical challenges and his anxiety. She’d been trained in deep pressure therapy and tactile stimulation to help relieve his attacks. If Cookie was still at his side, she’d have calmed him down by now.
Cookie had been a Christmas gift from his aunt and uncle when he was fourteen. She’d been a purebred Dalmatian. Her name came from her resemblance to Oreo ice cream. She had come from a puppy mill notorious for inbreeding. This resulted in the dog having a lot of health problems. Lucas only had Cookie for a few years before she passed. His aunt and uncle had paid twenty thousand dollars for her. They’d saved up special for her.
His chest constricted. His breathing was shallow and heavy. He couldn’t get air in deep enough for his lungs. He breathed too fast, not inhaling all the way. He curled in on himself, pain radiating outwards.
“Hey, cutie pie. Did ya lose this?” The strange female voice sounded like it came from far away, through a tunnel of static.
“Rosie sent me to give you this. Don’t you want your pacifier?”
The words fell in a jumbled cacophony at his wheels. He was too lost in his own head, in memories and emotions, to understand her words.
“Hey. Snap out of it.” Fingers snapped sharp in his ears.
He barely heard it over the pounding in his heart.
“Geeze. You’re like a zombie. C’mon kiddo.”
Only one word -Rosie- penetrated the fog choking his brain. Rosie. Was she back? The tightness in his chest loosened a little. His body shook with his shallow, gasping breaths. This far back in the shadows of the booth, no one noticed his distress.
A round rubber tip suddenly pressed against his lips. Rosie was back? She was giving him his pacifier? He automatically parted his lips then a familiar rubber nipple filled his mouth. He sucked. The familiar plastic of the pacier’s shield pressed in on his cheeks. After a few moments nursing the nipple, his heart started to slow. He could breathe easier. His adrenaline dropped.
Warm flesh pressed in on a calming point along his abdomen. For one wild second, he thought it was Cookie. He quickly dismissed it with a pang in his heart. Rational thought came back. Drool dribbled down his chin from all the sucking on the pacifier. Waves of warm calm radiated the pressure like a musical flute luring the beast of his anxiety back to slumber. Who was touching him? Rosie?
Just as he opened his eyes, the pressure disappeared, followed by a dull thump of someone sitting down on a rickety table. A stranger sat on the table, casually swinging her legs. She looked right at home. Had she touched him? His heart twisted anxiously at the thought. There was no way she could have pulled away, made it all the way to the table, and sat down in the few seconds it took for his eyes to open. That was not possible. She’d have to be supernaturally fast.
His adrenaline spiked back up. His diaper grew warm as he peed again. A gurgle rumbled in his tummy but he took no notice. He suckled his paci and clutched Fiji.
“Hey. Don’t start that again. You just calmed down. It’s alright. I’m Rosie’s friend. She sent me to give you your paci. You feel better, right? See. I’m a friend. You’re safe. You’re okay.” Her voice was calm and gentle, soothing as a warm cup of coffee. Her smile was like the autumn sun, softly beguiling.
Lucas rolled his chair back then clung to Fiji. He knew all of Rosie’s friends. Hell, he knew all the locals, both in town and on the surrounding farms. He’d never seen her before. But….she looked familiar. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he got a sense of deja vu.
The girl had curly brown hair pulled up in a frizzy ponytail. Flyaways escaped to frame her face. She was kinda pretty. No blue ribbon beauty queen, but with the right makeup and hairstyle, she could give Rosie a run for her money. She was short and on the chunky side. She wore an orange hoodie, skinny dark blue jeans, and black Converse. Her gray-blue eyes twinkled at him, encouraging him to trust her.
His silence spoke for itself.
“I lived here a long time ago. Just moved back recently. I’ve always had kinfolk in the area, though.” She kept smiling, radiating warmth and trust.
Lucas kept silent, scooting his wheelchair back another inch. His fingers shook. Where was his rotten cousin? Rosie handled people so much better than he did. He never knew what to say. His brain froze up, went numb. When he did manage to open his mouth, something awkward and stupid usually fell out. Then everyone looked at him like he was an idiot. It made him feel even more uncomfortable, so he rarely spoke out.
That’s why he had no friends of his own. He had a few acquaintances; people he talked to at school. They were terrified of Rosie. The upside to having the school bully for a cousin was nobody messed with him. The downside was the kind of people open to being friends with him were afraid to get close. Rosie’s reputation scared them off. The result was Lucas alone much of the time. Sometimes he hung out with Rosie and her friends. They were all seniors, like Lucas was, and they ruled the small, rural high school with an iron fist.
Lucas stared at the girl. Something just felt off. Rosie had to know her somehow, since she’d given the girl his pacifier. Still….sending his pacifier back was uncharacteristically thoughtful of Rosie. Giving his pacifier back to prevent a panic attack that landed him in the ER and landed Rosie in trouble…now that was more along his cousin’s line of thinking.
“I like your bear.”
He hugged Fiji, squishing the tie-dyed plushy almost in half. He hated talking with strangers. What should he say? What should he do? Say nothing and look like an idiot, or open his mouth and still come off as a moron? Oh, he just wanted her to go away. His sucking on his paci picked up pace. She was being nice so far…Rosie’s friends were usually nice to him, in a pitying sort of way. They usually made Rosie be nice to him, too.
This girl had complimented him. That, he could handle… “T-tank y-yew.” He lisped softly around the rubber nipple filling his mouth. He sounded like a scared toddler.
“So, you can talk!” The girl crossed her legs, sitting Indian style on the table. “I saw your dolls for the raffle. They’re really pretty. Did they really come from a thrift store?”
Lucas dropped his gaze and nodded his head in answer. The rumble in his tummy sank lower. He couldn’t shake the feeling he knew her from somewhere. Maybe they met as children, before she moved away? Childhood classmates who never played together?
“Seriously. They’re amazing. You really got talent. Plan on doing that for a living? You could make a fortune.” Her voice perked up in enthusiasm.
“I-it’s j-just…a.h-hobby.” He cringed, shifting position in his wheelchair. His diaper crinkled loudly. Another snap popped open, showing off more of his wet diaper. The thick, damp padding gave him some extra cushion on his wheelchair seat. He blushed at the noise of his diaper, not realizing his diaper was on display. He tugged down Fiji’s dress to hide her diaper.
He knew it was impossible to hide the bulk and noise of his ginormous diapers, but the sleeper still covered the diaper itself. Even with seeing the bulge and hearing the rustling crinkles, most people didn’t realize he was diapered. Seeing Fiji’s diaper might help the girl put two and two together….but it was Halloween. She’d just assume diapers were part of his big baby costume. Rosie had assured him everyone would assume that.
It was bad enough the girl knew he liked to make dolls. Doll-making, diaper pissing pussy boy. The thought of her judgement made his heart thump. He burned in humiliation. His cheeks reddened. Horror washed over him at the thought of her knowing how much he loved his diapers, his baby paraphenalia…making dolls…
Youtube intimidated him too much to make doll videos, but his instagram was full of followers. His dolls sold online for a couple hundred dollars apiece. He’d done several private, custom commissions for a thousand dollars a piece. He easily got lost in his art when he made or refurbished a doll. Just a little varnish, sealant, water color pencils, pastels, some acrylic paint for the face up…designing an outfit, cutting out the patterns for the cloth, sewing it all together…
“I bet you made your bear’s costume. That’s much nicer than the kiddie crap at Build-A-Buddy.”
“I-it’s e-easy…” Lucas squirmed. The diaper’s rustling filled the quiet booth. The murmurs of passersby seemed miles away. It was just Rosie’s new friend, Lucas, and Fiji. He shifted Fiji, and her baby doll diaper rustled too. He wanted to tell her his bear’s name, but she’d probably think that was stupid. Childish. Maybe Rosie had told her new friend jokes about her big baby cousin and his bear.
“H-how do yew know Wosie?” The rubber nipple in his mouth slurred his words into a toddler’s lisp. The words tumbled out of his mouth and he wanted to slap himself as soon as he realized what he’d said. He sucked hard on his paci and squeezed Fiji tight. Her skirt flipped up, putting her white diaper on display for all to see. His pulse sped up and he could feel a cold sweat coming on.
“Oh, shit. How incredibly rude of me. Here I am, carrying on, and I never introduced myself. My mother, God rest her soul, would be so ashamed of my horrible manners.” The girl giggled, not sounding sorry at all.
“Name’s Prudence Piper. Just call me Pru.” White, sharp looking teeth flashed in a winning grin. She held a hand out. When he didn’t move, her hand dropped. “Guess not, huh?”
Lucas gasped at that name. His pacifier started to slip; he bit down on the rubber nipple before it fell out of his mouth. He stared at her with wide eyes like a deer caught unexpectedly in headlights. He knew that name well. Prudence Piper was a local legend. A historical figure he greatly admired. The Prohibition bootlegger girl who allegedly ran off with Al Capone. The wild child who set sleepy little Newton on fire. According to a few old newspapers, quite literally.
He’d done a research paper on her for his senior history class. He’d made a doll of her. Not much was known about her. Some fires in the 1940’s destroyed many of the town’s paper records. She’d been born to a dirt poor family of ill repute some time in the early 1900’s. During Prohibition, she was about his age, eighteen. Probably a little older. She’d frequently been in trouble with the law. Surviving records showed she’d been sentenced to attend church for a year as punishment for her first criminal offence. She’d spent nights in jail. Mostly, she’d ended up with a lot of community service. It seemed the local court didn’t know what to do with a troublemaking woman at the turn of the century.
Only one picture of her survived the fires of the forties. It was a grainy black and white copy in a newspaper. He’d stared and studied that photo for hours while he worked on his doll. The most disturbing and fascinating mystery of the hellion was how suddenly she vanished from the pages of history. Like she never existed at all. Rumor had it she ran off with Al Capone. Most historians thought she was murdered, her body hidden in an unmarked grave in the woods. Her body had never been found.
Lucas hated thinking such a vibrant girl met such a sad end. He favored the Capone theory. He felt a kinship with her. Like him, he’d been born into a shitty family. She inspired him. He wished he could be like her, minus the law breaking parts. People like her never had debilitating anxiety or panic attacks so bad they needed medication and therapy. Prudence had gone out and lived her life the way she wanted. She set her world on fire. She was bold, fearless, and strong.
He tried to be outgoing, to be a rebel, in his own quiet ways. Most doll makers were girls. Even more taboo was his interest in Adult Baby. He’d always wished he could’ve met Prudence. If she was still alive, she’d be well over a hundred. Yet here before him sat a girl bearing his idol’s name.
Suddenly, the familiar feeling niggling in the back of his mind clicked into place. “You look just wike her!” He blurted. A warm stream of pee poured over his crotch and pooled under his butt. The thick padding absorbed it all. The bulge around his crotch expanded, ballooning out more as his diaper swelled up. He didn’t notice.
“Look like who?” Prudence’s smile turned teasing. Her tone said she already knew the answer.
Tears stung his eyes at the certainty she was making fun of him. Just when he started to open up a little, she mocked him. Normally, he wasn’t such a crybaby, but tonight he was extra vulnerable and sensitive. He was out of his familiar comfort zones and Rosie left him stranded, alone and on his own in a sea of strangers. He was stressed, on edge. He couldn’t handle any teasing. Especially from a stranger.
The smile fell from Pru’s face. For the first time, she sounded worried. “Hey, don’t cry. I’m just teasing. I’m sorry. It’s alright.” Her hands moved in a placating gesture. “Hey. How about some hot chocolate? Perfect on a chilly day like this. My treat, to make up for being such a jerk.” With that, she spun around on her butt, hopped off the table, and disappeared into the sea of strangers.
Prudence stood in line for the hot chocolate vendor. The sky was a brilliant ombre of red and magenta edged in twilight purple as the sun sank. Costumed kids and parents paraded through the center of Main Street. Soon, they’d go to booths for trick or treating once the sun fully set and the streetlights came on.
Lucas was such a hot mess inside. She normally looked down on weak people as pathetic failures. His pain spoke to her. She understood it all too well. Something inside was tearing him apart. She didn’t know what it was, but she felt his pain like it was her own. She’d been in his shoes once upon a time. Sick of hungry, screeching siblings, fighting parents, her father’s belt…young human Prudence had snapped. Illegal moonshine numbed her pain. Her old man had been right about that. Stolen food stopped the hunger. She kept the company of men to avoid the company of her dysfunctional family.
The line moved up. How easy it had been to fall into the bad ways. One of the men she took up with had been a bootlegger. There was a big call for lady bootleggers. The laws at the time had restrictions on male police officers searching women. The money had been lucrative and the job fun. Then she met another bootlegging gal, who’d liked Pru’s spunk. That dame had been a wolf in sheep’s clothing. She’d pulled Prudence deeper in, said Pru was too good to waste on being human.
A set of sharp canine teeth had torn into Pru’s soft flesh and ripped her world apart. Gave her a new world to belong to. Pru had embraced it all with open arms, open paws. She never looked back, until tonight. She never regretted anything until she met Lucas.
The line moved again. Lucas buried his hurt inside until he was a quivering mess of jelly. That part, Pru scoffed at. His life still had structure. He build a future with his dolls. He took his pain, his loneliness, and created something beautiful. She took her pain and destroyed her life. He found hope in the dark. She found more darkness. He gave back, brought joy to others. She only knew how to take. She wished she could be more like him.
Prudence stepped up with the line. What the hell was she doing? What did she want with the boy? Hell if she knew. The strong feelings of attraction confused the hell out of her. This wasn’t the “hey-I-like-you-let’s-fuck” kind of attraction. He wasn’t her type of romantic partner at all. Yet he sucked her in with magnetic force. She couldn’t pull away. Being with him felt so right, as natural as breathing. Her gut, her instincts, screamed this was the right path. She never questioned her gut as a human nor as a lycan, and she didn’t question it now. She just followed her inclinations like the tide followed the moon.
Not even the ammonia reek from his diapers could deter her. Blunt human olfactory senses could not smell his pee, but her sensitive lupine nose was full of the scent. It wasn’t just pee; animals communicated through urine. His basic age, sexual maturity, gender, overall health…the tang of his fear, the metallic tinge of his medications. All that information and more was right there in his diaper for her to sniff out.
Sweet scents of chocolate and sugar filled the air. Prudence stepped up to the counter and ordered. “Two dark chocolates.” She paid for the overpriced treat with her stolen money. The steaming liquid inside the styrofoam cups was pumpkin orange. Already, the chocolate bats and marshmallow ghosts started to melt.
She stepped away from the counter and moved to the shadows between two booths. She sat the cups down on a closed garbage can lid. Various scents drifted from under the lid, including dirty diapers, but she ignored them. With a furtive glance around to make sure no one was watching, she pulled a small bottle of Maker’s Mark bourbon from her back pocket. She’d shoplifted it from a state store earlier that morning.
The bourbon had a smooth vanilla caramel taste. Not as sweet as Bailey’s Irish creme or Kahlua, but it packed more of a punch. This would loosen up that diapered bundle of anxious nerves. The bitterness of the dark chocolate would help hide the bourbon’s bite.
Her hand froze just before she poured. An amber drop sparkled on the lip of the glass bottle. Should she do this? Would this be taking advantage of him? She hadn’t felt the prick of her conscience in decades. She brushed it off with a snort.
She was just helping him relax. It’s not like she planned to get him drunk, rob him or rape him. She just wanted him to drop his guard so she could get to know him. Alcohol was a social lubricant and he was one rusted wheel.
Generous dollops poured into the hot chocolate; just the right amount not to overpower the drink but still enough to knock Lucas back on his diapered keester. She poured the rest of the small bottle into her own drink.
On the way back, Prudence spied Rosie and her friends chatting up some college aged guys. The boys were a few years older, around twenty one. Looked like Lucas wasn’t the only one who was going to do a little Halloween drinking. Annoyance flashed through her. The least Rosie could do was check in on her panic attack prone cousin.
“Good thing I’m here to babysit.” Pru thought of Luc’s big baby costume that really wasn’t a costume and giggled at how appropriate her words were.
Lucas was still alone. He’d wheeled himself to the very back of the little booth. The donation jar was still mostly empty. He cowered in the back corner like a frightened mouse. Her heart twisted. She just wanted to go scoop him up and cuddle him. Tell him everything was alright while she rubbed his diapered rump. Change him into a clean diaper. Reassure him.
“Lucas. I’m back. I ran into Rosie. She’s going to hang with some friends from school she bumped into. She asked me to keep you company. You cool with that? It beats being alone.”
Lucas just wanted to go home. He was emotionally exhausted, which made him physically tired as well. His stomach rumbled low. This time, he felt it. He knew he’d have a messy diaper soon. He was too used to them to mind, but he didn’t fancy spending all night in a poopy diaper. He took special pills that nullified fecal odors, so no one could smell when the back of his diaper was full.
He didn’t know what to make of this girl. Given her resemblance to the historical Prudence Piper, this Prudence Piper had to be a descendant. Why was she being so nice to him? People, especially strangers, normally gave up trying to talk to him after a few awkward sentences. When they realized what a weird, awkward freak he was.
Unless Rosie was paying her new friend to watch him. Rosie had done that several times in the past with her various friends. His heart sank at the notion. He was just a burden to pass off, so Rosie could enjoy her night. He wanted his cousin to have fun; he just wished they could have fun together. Wished she wasn’t such a rotten shithead.
He suckled his pacifier and looked up at Prudence. She held out one cup and took a big gulp of the other. She licked melted chocolate and marshmallow off her lips. “Mmm. It’s really good. You’ll like it. Do you want to come get it, or do you want me to bring it to you? I’m fine with either.”
The air chilled with a cold bite as the sun set lower. The red was gone, leaving magenta bleeding into deep purple and blue as the night crept in. Even his thick sleeper let the autumn chill in. A hot drink would warm his insides up and the sweet chocolate would soothe his frayed, jangled nerves.
He sat Fiji on his lap. In his tired, flustered state he never noticed his open crotch and wet, exposed diaper. This girl, this Prudence, got under his skin. She intimidated him, but she also was kind of fun. He’d be more relaxed if Rosie, someone he knew, was here. He enjoyed Prudence’s company but was scared by it at the same time. The conflicting emotions confused him.
He put a hand on each wheel, gave a big push and rolled forward. He stopped just short of where she stood. “Tank yew.” The rubber nipple filling his mouth slurred his words. He was face level with the cup she held out.
He stared down at the orange liquid. Melted marshmallow ghosts and milk chocolate bats. Cute. He smiled. Steam warmed his face and tickled his nostrils. The scent of chocolate soothed him. The tang of nail polish remover soured the warm notes of caramel and vanilla. His head jerked back, face wrinkled in disgust. He looked up at Pru.
She smiled, reading his expression. “They used an off brand creamer. It has a bit of a bite, but it’s still really good. Kinda reminds me of bourbon.” She grinned like she was laughing at some private joke.
“D-did it expire?” His voice was soft. Slowly, he was warming up to Rosie’s new friend. She was a bit much to handle, but she was weird and he liked that. He was still afraid to talk, terrified he’d make himself out to be more of an idiot than he already was. Social anxiety played upon his insecurities, morphing his self-doubts and inner fears into crippling monsters.
He was grateful to her for buying him a treat. He wondered if Rosie actually bought it and just had the girl give it to him. Rosie usually gave him sweets or candy when she felt guilty for being a jerk. It was her way of saying sorry. “Cweamer? In hot chocowit?” That just sounded weird.
“Yup. For the vanilla and caramel. Weird, right? But it’s really good. It’s not expired. Just try a few sips. Trust me. Rosie and the others had some. They all liked it.” Prudence’s lie was smoother than the bourbon. To add weight to her words, she tossed back her own drink in a few gulps. She finished, smacking her lips in exaggerated satisfaction, then tossed her empty cup over her shoulder. It landed sideways, a few orange drops spilling on the table. She pressed the other cup on him. She knew he’d like it once he tasted it. He just needed her goading to help him get past his nerves.
Lucas reluctantly took it. His slim fingers shook. Orange chocolate sloshed over the rim and onto the pavement. He blushed, looking both scared and embarrassed.
“Here. Let me help. I don’t bite. Promise. I’m not a vampire; just a werewolf.”
He almost smiled at her silly Halloween joke. Prudence took the cup back. She spied a folded up piece of white cloth with orange piping next to his sippy cup on the table. “Hey, what’s this?” With her free hand she picked it up and flapped it open. An adult-sized terry cloth bib with plastic backing that rustled almost as loud as his diaper. “Cute. It really completes the look.”
“No!” His face flushed read and his heart thumped so hard he thought his ribs might break. Warm pee flowed between his legs; his diaper swelled up more. The wet feeling stayed this time. He was getting pretty soggy, even with the booster.
He only used his bibs when he was home alone. Rosie knew about them since she frequently pawed through his closet. He caught Prudence’s use of ‘look’ instead of ‘costume’. She knew he was a big baby. A freak. Not just dressed up in a silly Halloween costume. This was a part of him. He hugged Fiji tight.
“I’m not judging. Dude. Relax. You really should have a few sips. It’ll help you relax. Gospel truth.” Pru tilted her head to one side, staring at him while she evaluated the situation and his emotional state.
Luc tried to calm down. He felt raw and exposed, like his skin had been stripped off with a cheese grater to reveal the ugly truths of his secrets. Bared his soul to a stranger. He focused on his breathing and rubbing Fiji’s fur. He tried to use calming tactics to center and ground himself. It was so much harder without Cookie’s help. Maybe a drink would help, even if it smelled funny. Maybe it tasted good. His hands shook too bad for him to hold the cup.
“I could hold the cup for you.” Pru began in a slow, prodding tone. “But it still might spill…on your pretty bear and nice sleeper….I don’t think you want to set your bear down…Do you?”
He felt trapped. She reminded him strongly of Rosie. Both were stubborn and would not take no for an answer. He whimpered at the thought of setting Fiji down. She was his security blanket. He NEEDED her.
He saw where Pru was heading. He dreaded it, wanted the ground to open up and swallow him, but he resigned himself like he always did with Rosie. He saw no way to refuse her.
“So….how about we use this? No one’s paying attention. I swear on the Bible. This’ll just be part of the costume. “ Her soft tone cajoled. She set the cup down and stepped closer to his wheelchair, bib in hand.
Luc clung to Fiji and shut his eyes tight. He sucked hard on his pacifier and managed a little nod of his head. The bib pressed gently into his neck as she tugged on the strings, tying it behind his neck. He felt the…his bib flutter as she fluffed it, making sure it covered his torso and his bear.
“There. You really do look adorable. Honest. I’m not teasing. I really mean it. And your bear is all safe and sound under your…the bib.” Sincerity filled her voice, chipping away at the last bits of his shy-hard shell. His insecurities and resistance crumbled.
“Fiji. Hew name’s Fiji Beaw.” The rubber nipple pressing on his tongue skewed his words. He lisped softly, as if letting her in on a precious secret. Fiji was special to him, to the hurt Little part of him. Letting Pru know that exposed a vulnerable, vital part of himself. He was letting a stranger he’d met today aim an arrow at his open heart.
His bib should’ve comforted him. It usually did. In her presence, he just felt more exposed.
“Fiji, like the island? How fitting. Her fur looks like tropical water.”
Luc opened his eyes and smiled up at her. “Yeth!” Maybe she didn’t think he was a weird freak. She understood Fiji.
At his smile, Pru beamed. She felt like she’d cracked open a particularly stubborn clam. Her finger hooked his paci’s handle and tugged, popping the nipple out of his mouth. A string of drool ran down his chin and onto his bib.
He blushed some more and dropped his eyes. He shifted in his wheelchair, diaper rustling. Another snap popped open. The swollen, yellowed front of the diaper bulged clearly out of his now fully open crotch. His diaper was on full display just like Fiji’s.
“Bottoms up.” Pru held the warm styrofoam to his lips, pressing him to drink. Luc opened his mouth, intending to take a small sip and see if he liked it. The funny smell hit him again. Sometimes, off brand products were horrible. His aunt sometimes bought the imitation Cheerios that tasted like cardboard, or the wannabe Reddi Whip that left a filmy aftertaste in his mouth.
Pru tilted the cup more than he expected. Instead of a small sip, he got a big gulp. It flooded his mouth faster than he could swallow. Orange liquid dribbled out the corners of his mouth and splattered his bib. He sputtered, orange sloshing down his chin before he caught up to the flow and gulped it down.
Sweet and bitter mixed on his tongue. Chocolate, vanilla, and caramel underscored by paint thinner passed by his tastebuds too fast for him to truly savor or be repulsed by any flavors. Too soon, not soon enough, the cup was empty. He panted, catching his breath.
“I’m sorry. I poured too fast, didn’t I?” She dabbed at his face with the dry portion of the bib.
Soon as the drink hit his stomach, warmth spread throughout his body. The constant worries and doubts that nibbled away in his subconscious like maggots feasting on a corpse grew fuzzy and faded. For the first time all night, ever since he left the house with Rosie, he fully relaxed.
He leaned back in his wheelchair, melting down to his bones. A comfortable fog settled in his brain, shushing his thoughts. His muscles grew slack. His diaper grew warm as he peed. Just what was in that drink? The suspicion faded, sinking down in his hazy thoughts just as soon as it bubbled up.
A rubber tip prodded his lower lip. He automatically opened his mouth. A familiar nipple glided over his tongue and a plastic shield pressed against his mouth as he sucked. His tummy rumbled even lower, but he didn’t mind. That’s what his diaper was for. He closed his eyes, wishing his chair had a headrest. He was so warm and cozy he could fall asleep. The chilly air kissed his exposed skin, a delicious contrast to the heat radiating from his belly.
After giving Lucas the pacifier, Prudence pulled up a chair and settled next to him, waiting for the alcohol to kick in. She eyed the mostly empty donation jar. No one would notice if she helped herself…but Luc would cry when he found out. And the money was for the animals….She rifled through the bags and purses Rosie and friends left behind. No valuables worth palming.
By now, even his face was slack. She smiled, pleased with her handiwork at how relaxed he was. His eyes were closed, long lashes inky against his pale doll skin. His chest rose and fell softly and his paci barely moved in his mouth. “So, earlier you said I look like the notorious Prudence Piper.”
He stirred softly, diaper crinkling. She thought about snapping his sleeper crotch close, but he was so adorable with his diaper on display, matching his bear. Even the smell of his pee didn’t bother her. She wanted to change him, feed him a bottle, scoop him up and cuddle him. “Lucas.”
“Hmm?” His lashes fluttered partway open and he yawned.
“What do you think of Prudence?”
Under her intense stare, he sobered up a bit. “I weally wike hew.” He really liked her. He was still so warm and hazy. He wanted to go back to sleep.
“Uh-huh.” He nodded sleepily. The world spun and he closed his eyes. “I did a weport on hew wast month. Fow schewl.” He did a report on her last month for school. The alcohol and nipple filling his mouth slurred and slowed his speech. His tongue felt like a thick slug in his mouth. He giggled. “I made a doww.” He made a doll of her as a visual aide for his report.
The babyish words slammed into her like a physical blow. She gasped; he opened his eyes. “A doll? One of your pretty dolls? Of me-her?” Her deep, penetrating eyes lasered in on him like he was her lifeline. Her entire being focused on him.
He was so out of it he barely noticed her stare. Otherwise he’d have been so scared, so intimidated, he’d clam right up. “Yeth.” Yes.
Pru leaned forward, hands on her knees with a knuckle white grip. “Why?” He squirmed, diaper crinkling. She could smell fresh ammonia when he peed.
“Cuz-cuz…I w-wike hew.” Because he liked the historical Prudence. The intensity of the girl’s tone, her gaze shocked him. His voice shrank to a soft whisper, like a child who’d been reprimanded but wasn’t sure what they’d done wrong.
Pru tried to gentle her tone, smooth her face in a happy expression. “Why do you like her? By all accounts, she was a no good shit. The world would’ve been better off without her.” She couldn’t shake off the intense emotion that gripped her. She felt like her very existence hinged on him. Her raging emotions felt like a hand gripping her heart.
“Nuh-uh!” Lucas shook his head fiercely then whimpered when the world rolled. The fuzzy clouds in his head flipped. He felt like he was on a spinning ride at an amusement park. Indignation twisted his stomach at her words. His pacifier fell from numb, tingly lips. “She lived life on her own terms. She did it her way. She wasn’t bad. She just wanted the world to hear her voice. Prudence was so full of life she overflowed. The world didn’t understand her.” His chest welled with a hot feeling; he rambled on to release the pressure. The fog in his head made him feel topsy turvy; kept him relaxed enough to share his feelings.
Tears stung Pru’s eyes and her chest burned. What did she see when she looked at him? Redemption? She never wanted that. Forgiveness? She wasn’t sorry. If she had to do her life over again, she’d make the same choices, for the most part. Hope? How to walk a different path in life? She laughed.
Lucas, lost in an alcoholic stupor, paid her dark laugh no mind. He was talking more to himself. “I wish I could’ve met her. “
“No, you don’t. Trust me, kid. You hold her in higher regard than she deserves.” Pru ran a hand over her face, scrubbing away tears. She was angry at herself.
He nodded like a puppet with slack strings. “She would’ve hated me. I…I’m a freak. A weirdo. A girl like her…and me….” His laugh echoed hers; sharp and full of pain. It matched perfectly with how Pru felt inside.
“She would’ve adored you. I know this for a fact.” She wondered if any of her words were getting through to him. When she was drunk in her cups, she was oblivious to the world. Just like her old man had been. The unbidden thought startled her. She hadn’t thought of her family since the day she left home.
Luc’s deep self loathing hit her heart. Was this dark muck what lay beneath his timid, nervous exterior? Pru picked up his pacifier and slipped it between his lips. Her fingers stayed on the shield until she felt him start to suck. “There’s a lot of good in you, kiddo. Like your dolls. Seeing them makes people happy.”
The touch of the plastic shield against his lips and the rubber nipple filling his mouth caused him to open his eyes. He focused on her face, staring at her lips with glassy eyes. Her words floated to him through the fog in his mind. The fog was a thick blanket that made it hard to think. He smiled at the compliment. It made him feel good when people liked his dolls.
The nipple once again morphed his speech into a toddler’s lisp. “Dey okay. Others make pwettier dowws.” His dolls were okay, but other doll makers online were more skilled and innovative than he was. Their dolls were prettier.
“Others make prettier dolls?” Pru translated his slurred lisp. How could he be so drunk after just those little drops? Had he never drunk before? Alcohol could hit a virgin lightweight hard, especially on an empty stomach. Had she miscalculated? She barely felt the bourbon. She’d also been a hard drinker since she was young, when she first stole a bottle from her old man.
“Yeth.” He nodded again. He was pleased she understood and wasn’t going to argue with him.
“Maybe. But yours are very beautiful. When I look at them, I see how big your heart it. All the love you put into them. You’re a giver. Prudence…all she does-did- was take.”
Luc shook his head to argue, but she pressed a finger to the pacifier button, cutting him off.
“Even now. Look.” She gestured around the small booth. “Here you are. Fighting your anxiety. Raising money for needy animals. You give even when you’re hurting. That-” Emotion choked her, overwhelmed her.
Pru swallowed thickly and wiped at her too bright eyes. Luc touched her deep, twisted her feelings all up inside. Churned up things she’d long ignored. All of that tangled up in knots clogging her throat. How did she tell him everything that ate her up inside? It wouldn’t come out. She’d never been good at this touchy-feely shit.
Luc saw the pain in her gray blue eyes. They made him think of an autumn sky just before it rained. He knew that feeling well. Harsh self-judgement, when he fell short in his own eyes. Everything he did was wrong. He was a screw up. A royal fuck up. Prudence felt like that; he read it in her face.
With a soft, sympathetic little noise, he reached out to her with one hand. He didn’t think, didn’t know what he was doing. He just acted. He knew she needed comfort. She had no diapers, no pacifier, no Fiji. No Rosie. Her eyes screamed lost and alone. His heart ached for her and tears welled in his eyes.
Pru’s eyes widened in surprise when his hand moved towards her. She froze, unable to breath. Afraid if she did, she’d shatter the moment. Her heart skipped a beat as she watched his fingers closing the distance between them.
His fingertips lightly touched the back of her hand. Electric coursed between them. They both gasped and pulled back, staring at each other. Luc looked scared, adrenaline sobering him up.
Pru smiled. “See? You’re giving right now. You have no idea. It comes so natural to you. I wish I could be like you.” Pain brightened her eyes again.
Luc shook his head. What was wrong with her? There wasn’t anything to admire about him. His love of diapers? His anxiety? His inability to interact with the world like a normal human being? The way he so easily fell to pieces because he was an insecure crybaby? She was off her rocker. “Yew nice, too. Yew bought me hot chocowit.” She was nice, too. She’d bought him hot chocolate.
His fingertips still tingled. The jolt made his already fuzzy head spin and his heart jump. What was this feeling? He wanted to touch her again while at the same time he wanted to run and hide. He did neither; just sat there in his chair and stared at her. He’d take his cues from her.
Pru rubbed the back of her hand. The skin tingled. Damn, she liked him. It wasn’t lust so much as it was how funny he made her feel inside. She was getting attached. She never got attached. Over the decades, she’d had plenty of drinking buddies, bed mates, partners in crime. But she kept the walls of her heart up. With a single glance, this diapered boy tore them down. She felt so raw and exposed.
“That doesn’t count. It was just something small.” She brushed his words off. She’d lied to him, got him drunk, and betrayed his trust. She’d had a selfish, ulterior motive in getting him to relax. Here she was, blowing it. “I really am an idiot.”
“Yew nice to me.” She was nice to him. Luc insisted.
Pru smelled fresh pee and glanced at his crotch. His exposed diaper swelled some more. It had to be close to leaking. It was swelled up like a balloon ready to pop. He didn’t even realize he peed himself. She knew what his bladder was doing, but he didn’t. She found that adorable, along with his toddler lisp.
“No, I’m not.”
“Yes-huh!” Luc scrunched his pretty doll face up in tipsy agitation. “I not wying!” He wasn’t lying. Why didn’t she believe him? He took his paci out of his mouth. A string of drool fell from the nipple to land on his chin and orange spattered bib. He stared at her hard, willing her to believe him.
“Okay, okay.” She held her hands up in placating surrender.
“You’re nice. Even Rosie can be nice. Sometimes. So, you have to be nice, too. What other nice things have you done?”
His glassy eyes burned at her. She regretted giving him some liquid courage. She shifted in her chair. It was like her long ignored conscience crawled out of her and manifested as Lucas. Her gaze dropped as she wracked her brain. She hated thinking about the past. Living in the present was much easier and more pleasant.
A string of petty crimes spanning nearly a century were her foremost memories. None were particularly well thought out; she was more of an opportunistic predator. Not clever, but damn had they been fun.
As a human, she didn’t get emotionally attached. She saw what that did to her mother. It made her weak and vulnerable. Life taught her early to use or get used. The rest of her memories were hazy; a string of arrests, different handcuffs through the decades. A few mugshots, but she usually escaped before she was booked or even taken to the precinct. She took advantage of her shape shifting nature. Her routine was simple; the policeman arrested human female, released the stray, wolf-looking dog, then the policeman scratched his head wondering where the human escaped to.
After that, she laid low in lycan form. In the early days, she hightailed it deep into the woods. Sometimes she’d double-crossed other lycans. In the woods, older, bigger, badder wolves sniffed her out. They weren’t happy with her shenanigans. She found herself on the receiving end of their teeth and claws. The woods were not safe. She was safer in the company of humans; it was harder for the other lycans to get to her. That became her modus operandi; to play the part of the happy family dog, a sweet stray adopted from the streets.
A few decades ago, she fine tuned her scheme after being dumped in the pound a time or two or ten. She played the sweet pooch to get adopted by the first sucker that came along. She ended up getting trained to be a service dog. This happened quite a few times. She played the sweet, furry helper then ditched as soon as the coast was clear.
Lather, rinse, repeat over the decades. This pattern resulted in her being trained in a wide variety of service dog capacities- everything from mobility assistance to anxiety management. It was how she knew just where to push and how much pressure to apply when she’d pressed on Lucas’ chest earlier to calm him. Deep pressure therapy. He’d been too distraught to notice what she’d done. Maybe if she’d been in canine form, he’d have noticed.
Lucas still stared at her, waiting for an answer.
“Well….I did some service dog training…” Her ditching as soon as the coast was clear probably canceled out any brownie points for charitable works. Being a service dog with a human brain sucked balls. She’d been bored most of the time and annoyed with the needy whinging the rest. Last time, when she left the whiny blind brat, she’d vowed to never resort to masquerading as a service dog again. Unless absolutely necessary. Now, she planned on holing up as a loveable stray.
Luc smiled. “See? That’s really good! You helped a lot of people. Made their lives better. Trust me. I know.” He giggled, turning her words back on her. “I used to have a service dog. Her name was Cookie. She was the best dog ever. Cookie helped me with a lot of stuff. She’d get things for me. Keep me calm…” He trailed off, smile falling. His voice grew soft and sad. “She was my best friend. She gave me my life back. Then she…got sick…and passed…” Tears welled in his eyes. He sniffled.
Pru’s heart twisted, guilt nibbling at her. Did all those tards and cripples she leave behind miss her like Luc missed his dog? Did they mourn her loss? She never thought of them. Even now, their faces were just blurred memories, like her family. She’d just run, moving on to the next town, the next scheme. Never gave the ones she left behind a second thought. She brushed them off like so much garbage. If they were stupid enough to let her take advantage of them, she was only too happy to comply. Now, looking at Luc, she wondered if she’d been the stupid one. “You must miss her.”
“Very much. Everyday. Not just for what she did. She was so sweet. She really loved cookies. Anytime I had a cookie, I had to share.” He smiled sadly at the fond memories.
That smile broke her heart. She’d never bonded like that with her humans.
“Cookie knew all my secrets.” Lucas carried on. He felt so fuzzy, so warm and mellow. Like his bones were melted wax. He was too relaxed, too comfortable. His brain snuggled in the fuzz; he didn’t pay attention to what he said. He just opened his heart and let it all pour out. This girl was Rosie’s friend. A descendent of his idol. She’d taken care of him. He could trust her.
Prudence wanted him to trust her. She wanted to bond with him like his dog had. The urge gripped her with desperate need, like a junkie craved a fix. She needed to be with him. To learn from him. To bond and experience all the things she’d been missing out on.
She wanted to prove he could trust her. Let her take care of him. Protect him. “Like your diapers? They’re more than just a costume. You enjoy being a baby. An adult baby. It’s okay. Really. Wanna know my secret? I’m the real, the original, Prudence Piper. I’m a werewolf; that’s why I still look so young.” The truth rolled off her tongue as easily as lies. Her sincerity was true and pure, but her lies sounded so truthful everything came across as one and the same. Lies and truth blurred together in an unholy union.
Lucas jerked as if her words were physical blows. An arrow pierced his exposed heart. Hurt and adrenaline surged; the pleasant fog in his brain rolled away. Thoughts pounded his skull, jump starting his pulse to a pounding tempo. His chest tightened.
This whole night was just a joke to her. She’d come to toy with the big baby. He’d been obvious right from the start. Or Rosie put her up to it as a Halloween prank. Even for his cousin, this was cruel. Pru had been toying with him all night, having fun tricking the big, stupid, pants-pissing baby. Seeing how far she could go, seeing how stupid he was, while she laughed all the while. He’d believed everything she said. Naive baby. He was so, so stupid. She was a liar, just like Rosie. No wonder they were friends. And he was a gullible idiot. Well, no more.
Embarrassed, hurt, and angry at her, at himself…panic and anxiety welled up, lapping at his conscious like waves upon a shore. He threw his paci across the booth; it smacked off the pavement. He really wanted to throw it at her head. He yanked at his bib, but the ties held it firmly in place. His cheeks burned candy apple red in his humiliation. Tears rolled down his cheeks.
“You’re horrible. This is just cruel. What did I ever do to you?” He choked out before his tears fell faster. A sob tore his throat. He lowered his head. His shoulders shook.
“Lucas?” Pru’s face twisted as he suddenly crumbled back into the pain-filled boy she first met. “I’m not joking. It’s the gospel truth. I swear.”
Intense emotion sucked him under, into a world of self-loathing and recrimination. The outside world fell away. All he could do was feel as he fell helplessly apart. Little shards of him falling everywhere. “S-stop! J-Just stop!” It wasn’t funny. It hurt. He wanted to tell her that, but he was sure she already knew. She didn’t care; she found it funny. He didn’t hear her laughing, but he was sure he could feel it.
“Lucas. Please. Calm down. I’m not laughing at you. I’d never hurt you.” Her pleas sounded so genuine, he almost believed her.
He wasn’t going to fall for her tricks any longer. Fight or flight kicked in. Usually, when overwhelmed, he just shut down from the world. Fled deep within himself until no one but Cookie could reach him. At that point, without Cookie anymore, his aunt, uncle, or Rosie medicated him. No one was here for him now. He was on his own.
He wheeled himself backwards. “G-go away! Go!” He stuttered, pain cracking his voice. Tears streamed down his cheeks and onto his bib. His pretty doll face was a sobbing, crying mess.
“Please. Just listen. Lucas-” Her hand reached for him. He felt her palm press onto his abdomen. Same as earlier, when she’d calmed him. Just like Cookie used to do with her head.
“Leave me alone!” He smacked her hand away. He pushed his wheels, rolling to the very back of the shadowy booth so fast some tear drops fell onto the cement.
Prudence stood, staring at him with her arm still outstretched. Her insides crumbled. He looked even more miserable than before. Her fault. She hurt him. Broke something precious to her. Just like always. The more she tried to fix things, the deeper she cut. Her gaze fell from his curled, shaking form to Fiji. The bear had tumbled from the wheelchair when Lucas frantically retreated. The plushy lay on the cold cement. The white of the toy’s diaper was stark against the darkening night.
“Okay. Lucas. I’m sorry. I truly didn’t intend to hurt you. I know you don’t believe me. I’ll go.” She whispered brokenly then silently drifted into the crowd without another sound.
Her and her big, fucking stupid mouth. She was so fucking stupid. Prudence Piper, werewolf and eternal fuckwit. She screwed up no matter what she did. Human, wolf, twenty years old, a hundred and fourteen. Still the same screw up her father and Mrs. Fisk always said she was.
She stormed through the crowd. Kids darted to and fro, dashing from booth to booth and snatching up candy. Trick or treating had started. The sun set; only a few streaks of magenta lingered. Purple bled into navy blue. A few stars twinkled. The streetlights were on.
The full moon hadn’t come out yet, but she could feel it. A siren song to the marrow of her bones, plucking the chords of her being. Lycans were strongly compelled to change under the full moon, almost a biological imperative. It was a natural law; rare was the lycan who could resist. Human superstitions about werewolves were right in this case. There were few exceptions to that law. It was very, very hard- almost impossible- to resist. And painful. So very painful. Most lycans didn’t resist. Only the oldest and strongest of lycans could retain their human form under the full moon. The older weres had more control over their instincts. Younger ones often lost control to the all-consuming rush.
Even then, they still retained their rational mind, their faculties. They weren’t a human-hunting killing machine hell bent on a slaughtering spree for shits and giggles. That was a human misconception spread by horror movies. They were just like any animal, primed on instincts. The full moon was an adrenaline rush, a call to run wild and let loose.
Every once in a while, a newly changed lycan couldn’t handle it. They did lose their mind. Went rabid. There was no help for them when that happened. They couldn’t adjust or cope to their lycan bodies. To their new state of being. They wanted to stay human, fought off the lycan parts of them. Nature would not be denied. That inner conflict resulted in some of them going insane. Snapping. Going rabid.
When a lycan went rabid, the packs had the unpleasant duty of stopping them. There was only one way to stop them. Death. Letting a rabid lycan live put everyone- humans and lycans- in danger. Out of control, rabid lycans were the source of humanity’s beliefs about werewolves. Lycan secrets had to be kept.
Given how out of control a rabid lycan was- they attacked and killed anything and everything in their paths- an entire pack often banded together to take the lycan out. A battle of fangs and claws to the death under a full moon. The rabid lycan was literally torn to pieces by the pack, to prevent the lycan from doing it to others.
Prudence’s heart felt like that now. Ripped to bloody pieces. She shuddered. She’d never had to do that, but some of her packmates had. She’d heard horror stories.
A pack was supposed to mean family and safety. Her pack was a loose collection of rogues; wolves who eschewed pack life. Like her, they kept their walls up. Good times and easy money were the only things that kept them together. Maybe, when she was bitten, she should’ve taken up with a real pack instead of a criminal brigade.
Regret was a bitter pill to swallow. Self reflection an ugly fun house mirror. Both went down better with booze. Spying a bar at the end of the street, she headed in.
The moon hung full and round in the velvet blue night, an orange pearl studded with white diamonds. Prudence ran silently through the pumpkin field. Her feet made no sound, like a predatory animal on the hunt. Her heart hammered like a drum in her ears, her racing feet keeping up with the frantic rhythm. Shiny metal handcuffs glinted on each wrist, broken chain links dangling.
She’d intended to drink herself into oblivion, drown her regrets in alcohol. Instead, she got arrested for credit card fraud. A declined credit card transaction came up with the card reported as stolen.
Once out on the street, she’d tripped the police woman, sent her crashing to the ground while she took off. Prudence moved with inhuman speed and stealth. Lycan bodies were better tuned than humans. Superior senses, strength and endurance. Almost super human. Which was why humans so feared them.
Before the policewoman collected her wits and called for backup, Pru was long gone, lost in the crowd and shadows of the night. She’d broken the handcuffs easily with her lycanthropic strength, as if they were cheap dollar store toys. Not much time had passed- a half hour at most. The cops would still be searching the town for her. Even the most in shape human fugitive couldn’t get this far.
She was on the first farm on the outskirts of town. The farmhouse lights were out. The entire family, all three generations, was in town. The smells of crushed apples, smashed pumpkins, hay, chickens, and cows filled her nostrils. Only faint scents of humans lingered. Her nose told her the family was gone. No humans were around.
She stopped at the bottom of a hill. Most of the pumpkins had been picked and sold off. Only a few smashed ones remained in the tangle of prickly leaves and vines. Throughout this entire night, the call of the moon had nibbled at her subconscious, plucking her lycan DNA. She had no reason to resist anymore. With the moon now risen, she couldn’t fight it off anymore.
Like a majority of lycans, she couldn’t keep her human form under the full moon. Only the oldest and strongest of lycans could keep their human form and remain calm, like the moon didn’t bother them. In all her years, she’d only met one. Daniel. Just thinking of that brute caused her to shudder in fear. Prudence considered herself tough and badass. She pulled mid-rank in her pack. She packed a pretty nasty bite if she did say so herself. Danny was on a whole other level. Humanity was long gone in him; pure primal lycan. The alpha’s alpha. He was a rogue who’d slaughtered his own pack. She’d nearly wet herself when she crossed his path.
Her chest rose and fell rapidly with her heavy breathing. She was only slightly winded; she could’ve run much further. Most of her exertion came from fighting the moon. It was a losing battle. The pain in her shredded heart and being lost in her memories had helped her fight it off earlier, when the call was weak because the moon wasn’t fully out.
Prudence threw her clothes off, tossing them aside. She felt a twinge of regret at the loss of her money. It would be a while before it was safe for her to resume her human form.
“Good job, dipshit. You’ve pissed off the law here too. No more hidey-hole for you. Lucas, I’m so sorry. It was a bad moon for when you met me.” Her last human words drifted away on the chill night air.
Moonlight burned her skin, heating it to a fevered pitch. Her blood boiled. The marrow in her bones burned. Heat and pain rose up from her belly, lava from the core of her being to consume her. Her beating heart sped up until it fluttered as fast as hummingbird wings. Her brain shut down as her senses came alive. Her spine coiled. Her mind tripped like it was strung out on psychotropic drugs. She wasn’t aware of anything but pain and fire as her body shifted from one form to another. The change felt like hours. Minutes. Years. Seconds. Just one big tripping, tearing, spinning jumble.
Bone and sinew twisted and turned as she morphed from human to wolf. Most weres shifted from human to wolf. Some- usually the older, stronger lycans- could keep their head through the shifting and could stop the process partway. This resulted in the well known, half man, half wolf form notorious in horror movies. She couldn’t keep her head; pain and heat consumed her.
Pain and fire rolled back like a curtain, leaving her sharp and crisp as a fall day. Her senses were the same. Eyes sharp, able to see in the dark and picking up details humans missed. Same with her sight and hearing. Her vantage point had lowered. Her furry ears swiveled, taking in the sounds of nearby animals. Moonlight was a warm hand caressing her fur.
She panted, lungs aching. She lay belly down in the trampled grass and dirt. She felt like she just got off an intense roller coaster. Exhausted and exuberated at the same time. There was something about shifting that left her feeling truly alive.
She wanted to run, to howl her presence to the world. Sorrow in her heart tinged the rush, the joy of changing. Lucas. She whimpered. She’d hurt him and left him crying. Guilt haunted her, a shadow on her heart. There would be no forgetting. Not this time.
Pru stretched. Her muscles trembled with the aftershocks of shifting. Slowly, she got to all four paws, getting the kinks of her spasming muscles. She looked towards the woods. She doubted her pack would come look for her here. In town, she could pass as a wolfy-looking stray. Lucas was in town. Ghosts of his sobs hung in her ears. The memory of his hurt, sad eyes haunted her heart; a lantern that would not go out. She’d rather risk the brutal anger of her pack.
She headed towards the dark tree line, head and tail low. Her heart was full of Lucas and the wrongs she’d done. She broke into an easy lope, turned sharply, and headed back into town.
Lucas never turned on the booth’s battery powered lantern. He sat in the dark, nestled in the back corner. His pacifier and Fiji lay somewhere on the ground. He’d untied his bib and threw it on the ground. He hugged himself tight.
His head was fuzzy, no longer warm and cozy. The autumn chill pierced him inside and out. His heart hurt. No passersby noticed him huddled and hiding in the dark booth. The streetlights and booth lamps illuminated the street. The lights deepened the shadows. No one looked in them. He felt full of cold shadows.
Rosie still hadn’t come back. She hadn’t even popped by to check on him. The moon was up. Soon, it would be time to go home. Rosie was his ride home. Unless she’d ditched him. Maybe his cruel babysitter was supposed to be his ride. He cringed at the thought.
He’d truly believed he was making a friend. On her end, it was just a Halloween lark. The pain was still fresh, but his tears had dried. His face was a mess.
If Rosie didn’t show, he’d just have to roll over to the fire department booth and ask Mrs. King for a ride. She was their neighbor. Her daughter was one of Rosie’s friends. He was shy around Mrs. King, but comfortable enough to talk to her.
His entire body ached. His feet tingled. He stretched. He wanted out of his wheelchair; wanted to go home and lay on the floor to do some of his therapy stretches. His lower back muscles twisted in tight knots. He still had some feeling, some control of his legs. He could walk, sort of, in physical therapy. With the help of his therapist and a bunch of adaptive equipment, he could stand and move his legs.
Luc shifted again, stretching as much as his chair let him. He arched his back. His soggy diaper crinkled with every move. Mushy mud slid out of him and filled the seat of his diaper. He was too used to messing himself to bat an eyelash. It didn’t bother him one bit.
He slid back down onto his chair cushion. The mess in his diaper squelched forward, filling in every nook and cranny of his private area. He took special pills that nullified fecal odor so no one knew he was messy unless they checked his diaper.
A soft whine made him look up. Outlined in the yellow streetlight glow sat a dog. A very big, wolfy-looking dog.
The dog whined again, a happy greeting. The fluffy tail wagged. The animal appeared friendly, so it didn’t startle him. He’d grown up around dogs. They had two mutts back home. The size didn’t intimidate him. Much.
“Hey there. You’re a big one. Where did you come from?” Luc smiled then looked up for the owner. People kept walking by. Children snatched up candy then darted off to the next booth.
“Where’s your owner?” He focused past the lights, peering into the surrounding shadows. No one stood there either. People continued on with their business.
The dog stood up on its hind legs and pawed at the lantern on the table. The on/off button was wide and easy to press. It clicked on.
“Aren’t you a clever pooch!” He exclaimed in surprise. With the added light, he got a good look at his furry, four-legged visitor.
No collar. Shaggy, curly brown fur. A little on the chunky side. If he didn’t know better, he’d say the dog was a wolf. Impossible; there were no wolves around here. Hadn’t been for a very long time. He’d never heard of a wolf with curly brown fur. The animal’s long legs, tail, large paws, the shape of its head and muzzle all screamed wolf. Mr. Walton, who lived way out, kept a low content wolfdog. His animal had a bloodline that was more dog than wolf.
This one looked more wolf than dog. The dog clearly was a mixed mutt. Maybe some Siberian Husky or Alaskan Malamute for the wolfy look. The curls made him think of spaniels, and the size of a Great Dane.
The dog sat on its haunches and scratched at an ear with a back leg. Lucas glanced down. “Oh, you’re a girl.”
At his voice, the dog whined again and lay down on her belly. Her curly, fluffy tail wagged. Gray-blue eyes looked up at him expectantly.
He looked around again. No one stood around. “You’re too well groomed to be a stray, and too well trained. You must be somebody’s pet. Did they dump you?” Out here in the country, that happened all too frequently. His aunt, along with their neighbor Mrs. King, volunteered at the local Animal Shelter. He helped out too sometimes.
He watched the dog; she showed no signs of rabies. He held his hand out. She approached on her belly, tail thumping on the concrete. She sniffed his hand. Her nose was cold and wet. Her rough tongue licked his palm. He giggled. His messy diaper grew wet as he peed.
Her giant, shaggy head plopped in his lap with a happy yip. Her tail never stopped wagging.
“Your affectionate.” Luc smiled. He’d always gotten along better with animals than people. Animals didn’t judge him or make fun of him. They accepted him for who he was. They didn’t care about his diapers.
He tentatively stroked the top of her head with his fingertips to see how she’d react. She shoved her head into his palm. His smile widened and he fully relaxed, giving her a good scratch. Her curly outer coat was long, bristly, and rough while her undercoat was thick, short, downy soft curls. Her pelt felt very similar to Mr. Walton’s wolfdog.
Her shaggy head moved after a few more scratches. For the first time all night, he realized the poppers on his sleeper were wide open. His saggy, soggy, messy diaper was on display for the world to see.
A cold sweat broke out on his skin. Immediately, his heart sped up. His still fuzzy, hazy mind shut down in blind terror. His chest constricted. His fingers shook as he struggled to snap the poppers closed. He fumbled, terror-numb fingers clumsy. Finally, he managed to close them all. His diaper was safely hidden once more. His pulse wouldn’t stop racing and he couldn’t stop shaking.
A warm, rough tongue licked his cheek. A warm, heavy head pressed into his chest, radiating calm reassurance. Just like Cookie used to do. The sensations brought him out of himself and distracted him. Warmth and love enveloped him, making him feel safe. He hugged the dog. She pressed her head tighter to him with a reassuring small whine.
Once his heart slowed back to normal and he could breathe, could think, he let go. The dog pulled away. He glanced up. No one was looking at him. If anyone had noticed his exposed diaper tonight, surely they’d have laughed. Prudence must have noticed his diaper. Her warm smiles were smothered laughter. Tears pricked his eyes. He didn’t want to think about her.
A huge paw pressed on top of his leg a wet nose nudged his cheek. “Huh? What is it girl?”
The dog held his pacifier in her teeth. Just like Cookie. He held out his hand, palm up. She dropped the paci in it.
“This is crazy. Good girl!” He laughed in amazement and scratched an ear in reward. Her tail wagged.
She went and retrieved his bear, holding it gingerly with her teeth so she didn’t damage the toy.
He stared at her, eyes wide in disbelief. “Fiji!”
The dog sat right in front of his wheelchair, not moving until he took his bear.
“ Good girl. Is this for real?” He felt dazed, punch drunk. He petted her, distracted. Maybe that weird hot chocolate was still affecting him more than he thought? A pet dog getting dumped happened often enough he could believe it. But a service dog? Those were expensive and precious.
He looked at the dog. Was she a service dog? She had to be. She retrieved his items- she smelled his scent all over them- and she knew how to use pressure therapy and tactile stimulation to calm and redirect him. Her behavior mirrored Cookie’s. He couldn’t say for certain but he was very sure she was somebody’s service dog.
“Who do you belong to?” Surely, if someone lost their service dog, they’d be looking for her. The dog laid her head in his lap; he stroked her soft ears. He looked around again. People passed right on by.
A homeless service dog, trained in just the right capacities he needed, waltzed into his life out of the blue. He had better odds of winning the lottery, or walking again. He tried not to get attached, but she was very sweet.
He stared down at her, stroking the coarse fur between her gray blue eyes. “You remind me of someone.” Probably Mr. Walton’s wolfdog. He brushed the sensation aside. The dog was one hell of a coincidence. He hoped her owner showed up soon. He was already getting attached.
The dog raised her head and trotted to the front of the booth. Along the way, she picked up his discarded bib in her mouth and deposited it on a folding chair.
“What are you doing? You’re a loon.” Cookie had never done anything like that. The bib sat next to Rosie’s purse. Maybe the dog smelled his scent on the purse.
Two little girls snatched up handfuls of candy. Very few people added to the donation jar. The dog put her huge head on the table by the jar and yipped loudly. The girls jumped, squealed, and ran back to their equally startled parents.
Luc’s heart jumped in his throat. “Bad girl! Get back here!” Thinking only of the dog, he rolled forward. “Come here, you lunatic!”
Ignoring him, gaze focused on the parents, the dog yipped again. She pawed the air like she wanted to shake paws. Her tail wagged, thumping two chairs. Her massive paw kept tapping the jar.
The girls’ mother stared. “I think she…wants us to donate…” She looked from the friendly, insistent dog to Luc’s wheelchair. Her face crumpled in sympathy. “Oh, Harold.” She elbowed her husband. “Put a few bucks in.”
She turned back to the dog while her husband fumbled with his wallet. “What a pretty pooch. His name’s Luna?”
“Y-yeah. Her name’s Luna.” Luc mumbled. Luna the Lunatic- it fit, given how the dog just randomly appeared and fit into his life like a missing puzzle piece. The dog yipped at the name, tail wagging. His lips twitched; he almost smiled. Looked like she approved.
He didn’t know the family; they weren’t locals. All their attention stayed on Luna, who lapped it up. He felt safe, with Luna as his shield. He had room to breathe. He discretely sat his pacifier and Fiji on top of his bib.
He helplessly wet his diaper and hoped it wouldn’t leak. His diaper bag was at home. He and Rosie had been distracted, fighting over him going. In the time crunched chaos, his diaper bag was forgotten.
The little girls wanted to pet the pooch. Their dad dropped in a five and Luna let sticky fingers run through her curly fur. A line for candy formed behind the family. Other kids saw how friendly the big dog was and they wanted to pet her, too. Their parents dropped bills in the jar. Luna’s tail never stopped wagging. A few locals stopped by and said hi, but most of the crowd were strangers.
No one claimed Luna. No one knew her. People talked to Luc, which made him nervous. Their attention stayed focused on Luna, so he didn’t panic. Just like with Cookie. He could think, could talk, when the spotlight wasn’t on him.
Quite a few police strolled by, looking serious and focused. He wondered if they were searching for somebody. The candy basket emptied as the night wore on and the donation jar filled. The moon climbed higher.
A few times, Luc got overwhelmed. Luna grounded him, licking his hand, his cheek. She’d lay her shaggy head in his lap and demand scratches. She was the star of the night, so big and full of life. Luc was happy in her shadow. She read him as if they’d been bosom buddies all their lives.
The flow of people trickled to a stragglers. Lanterns went out as booths closed down. Trick or Treating was over. The crowds thinned out as people left for home. Halloween was finished for another year.
Lucas put a lid on the jar and did what he could to clean up. Luna stretched, yawned, then plopped her head in his lap. Right on top of his diaper bulge. The muck inside squelched further up, all the way over his privates towards the top of his diaper.
“Yuck. Luna. That’s my diaper.” He scrunched his face up. He was used to heavily soiled diapers, and he didn’t mind spending some time in one, but he didn’t particularly enjoy it. Right now, all he wanted was to go home, get a hot shower and a clean diaper.
“Lucas! There’s my baby!” Rosie slurred as she stumbled into the booth, tripping over her own feet. She almost fell as she bent down and grabbed him in a big bear hug. She kissed his soft cheek. “Were you a good baby while I was gone?” She giggled.
The sour acetone smell of alcohol lingered on her breath. Drunk. Again. Suddenly, the nail polish remover scent of the hot chocolate clicked in his head. Alcohol. He never drank before tonight. His aunt and uncle weren’t big drinkers, so he wasn’t exposed to alcohol a lot. When Prudence gave him the cup, he’d been emotionally distraught and out of sorts. He hadn’t placed the smell right away. Big, stupid baby. Prudence gave him alcohol. Rosie had been drinking alcohol. The suspicion that Rosie was behind this hurt his heart. He didn’t want to think his cousin was capable of something this cruel. Prudence was. She was a cruel, heartless monster.
Luna whined, cold nose nudging his hand.
He smiled. “At least I met you tonight. I never want to see Prudence again. I hope she’s long gone.” Bitter pain and betrayal tinged his voice. Luna whimpered like she’d been kicked. Her tail and ears drooped. He thought maybe his tone upset her. “I’m not mad at you. You’re a good girl. I’m mad at a very bad girl.” He rubbed Luna’s curly fur and glanced at Rosie. “Two very bad girls.”
“Heeyy! Where did you come from? You’re a big boy!” Rosie just noticed the dog in her drunken stupor. She squealed in excitement and ran her hands all over, burying her fingers in the curly fur and giggling.
“She’s a girl. Her name’s Luna.” That was all Lucas would explain. Annoyance flashed hot in his gut. Rosie was eighteen, like him. Too young to drink. She drank anyway. Her and her friends had been arrested on the fourth of July for underage drinking. They’d gone before a judge, and just finished up the last of their community service sentence in September.
He was going to have to bother Mrs. King for a ride home. Explain Rosie being drunk again. He couldn’t drive, otherwise he’d just drive her car home. What about Luna? Worries nibbled at him. He stroked her soft ears. He planned on taking her home. If no one claimed her, he would adopt her. His aunt and uncle loved animals. He knew as soon as they met Luna and saw how sweet she was, they’d say yes. One of their dogs was a stray his uncle had brought home. The other dog was a rescue from the shelter.
“Well, sor-RY!” Rosie slurred, voice rising in a drunken shout. Luna’s huge head nudged her side. Rosie stumbled. Unable to get her balance, she fell on the ground.
Luc bit his lip then burst into giggles as he gave Luna some extra scratches. Rosie looked angry for a split second before she joined in the giggling.
“Lucas! Rosie! How did it go tonight? Luc, your dolls were a big hit. We’ve never sold so many tickets before…” Mrs. King called out as she approached. She was a middle aged woman with gray streaks in her ponytail. Her voice trailed off as her eyes landed on the dog. “Where did the dog come from?”
Luna immediately stood in front of his wheelchair, body blocking so the newcomer couldn’t get close, crowd him and unwittingly trigger his anxiety.
Luc stared in amazement, astonished again at how well trained the dog was. “I don’t know. She just showed up and stayed here the rest of the night. She had no collar, but she’s very well socialized. The kids were all over her. No one’s come to get her. I don’t know who she belongs to. I’m thinking maybe she was dumped.” He ran his fingers through the coarse curls along Luna’s back. He kept his eyes on her brown fur and fluffy tail.
“Really? Smart dog, going right to the Animal Shelter booth. I’ve always said animals have a sixth sense about people. They know who they can trust.” Mrs. King held her hand out. Luna stepped forward readily and sniffed her fingers. Her tail wagged. She licked the woman’s hand. Mrs. King smiled and rubbed her head.
“I’ve been calling her Luna. She responds to it, too.”
Mrs. King looked up at the moon, a bright orange ball in the autumn night. “Fitting. There’s definitely wolf in her. Her behavior’s all dog, but that build is all wolf. Pure wolf, I’d say. That coat and those eyes- you won’t find a wolf like that. Her body looks like a high content wolfdog.” High content meant mostly wolf with just a dash of dog in the bloodline. High contents were nearly impossible to tell from pure wolves both in looks and behavior.
Mrs. King continued studying Luna. “Her coat and eyes scream low content. She acts just like a domestic dog. Interesting. Maybe I should give Mr. Walton a call. Have him come take a look and see what he thinks.” Low content wolfdogs were mostly dog with a bit of wolf.
“If no one claims her, I’m gonna adopt her. You know Auntie will say yes.” Lucas kept his gaze on Luna’s huge paws, his voice soft and hesitant.
Mrs. King laughed, a deep belly sound. “No surprise there! Your aunt’s been crazy about animals, ever since we were kids.”
Rosie stayed suspiciously quiet, like she was trying to lay low. She tried to avoid drawing attention to herself. She lay spread eagle on the cold cement, on the opposite side of Luc’s wheelchair from Mrs. King.
Luc shifted in his chair. He really needed to stretch soon. His muscles cramped up. The mess in his diaper mushed around. He made a face.
Mrs. King caught his expression. She’d babysat Lucas and Rosie often when they were children, so she easily read his face. She peered closer at him. “What’s wrong, sweetie? You look flushed. Your eyes are glassy.” She laid a warm hand on his forehead.
He stiffened, fighting the urge to cringe away. His diaper was such a swampy mess, he never felt himself peeing.
“You don’t have a fever, but you don’t look good at all.”
Luc forced a nervous smile. “I’m fine. Just tired. It’s been a long night…” He trailed off, wondering how to broach the subjects of Rosie and a ride home. Luna shoved her head into his lap. He rubbed her ears.
Rosie’s foot twitched, drawing Mrs. King’s attention. “Rosie, what the hell are you doing?”
Rosie giggled. “SHHHH! Nuffin! I’m hot. It feels good. The moon’s pretty.” She kicked at the air, feet dancing.
Mrs. King peered closer at her. She studied the girl’s glassy, unfocused eyes, constricted pupils, and disheveled clothes. The older woman sniffed, smelling the alcohol on the teenager’s breath. Her lips pressed together in a thin line. Her face tightened in anger.
Feeling a storm come on, Luc shrank in his seat. His diaper crinkled. Luna nudged his hand, so he pet her.
Mrs. King took several deep breaths, calming her rage. When she spoke, her voice was taut as a bowstring with suppressed tension. “Young lady, have you been drinking?”
“Nope!” Rosie’s answering smile was lopsided.
“Did my Beth and the other girls drink with you?”
“Nope! Nope. Nope. Nope.” Rosie broke into slurred, hysterical laughter, amused at the sound of the word. She repeated it over and over as she laughed. She rolled onto her side, sweater coming up to reveal the scrunched top of a generic white pullup.
Mrs. King’s eyebrows rose. “Rosie, are you wearing a diaper?”
“Nope! It’s a pullup!” Her slurred voice rose to a random, drunken shout. “Cuz last time we drank, we peed ourselves! Remember? Stupid cops wouldn’t let us change our pants! Well, I remembered! Then I remembered Lucas. He pees his diapers all the time and no one knows. He poops them! So, if we wear pullups like Lucas, no one will know if we pee. See?” Rosie shot the older woman a lopsided grin, drunkenly proud of her logic.
“Rosie!” Lucas yelled, cheeks flushed in embarrassment.
Mrs. King shook her head in disgust. She turned her back to them, pulled her cellphone out of her pocket, and called her husband. She explained the situation, told him to look for their daughter Beth and the other drunk girls while she handled Rosie and Lucas. Hanging up, she spied the styrofoam cups from earlier. She picked one up, sniffed it, and frowned at the smell of bourbon.
“That was hot chocolate.” Lucas spoke up softly. He buried his fingers in Luna’s thick fur. She licked his cheek. He wished he had his pacifier, but it was dirty from the ground. He didn’t want his cousin in trouble, but she couldn’t keep up this bad behavior.
“Did you have some of this, Lucas?” Mrs. King held a cup out to him.
He lowered his head. “Yes, ma’am. It tasted funny and made me feel weird.”
“So that’s what’s wrong with you.” He cringed at her words. “Sweetie, you’re not in trouble. I know you’re a good boy who doesn’t drink.” She rounded on Rosie. The eighteen year old girl sat up and leaned against one of the big wheels on his wheelchair. Her legs were splayed, sweater pushed up and pullup on display. She looked like an oversized toddler.
Mrs. King sighed, anger sinking like a lead balloon into a sea of disappointment. “Oh, Rosie. How could you? And with your grandmother in the hospital, too…I guess July wasn’t enough of a lesson. This time, you got Lucas drunk, too.”
Rosie’s glazed eyes widened. “Did not!” She shouted into the night.
“Don’t lie to me. Lucas doesn’t drink. Every time your mother and I turn around, you and Beth are soused every chance you get.”
“But I’m not lying! We didn’t do it!”
“Oh? I suppose the dog here did it.”
Luna’s ears lowered and her head dropped into Luc’s lap like she’d been scolded for being a bad girl. Bad dog. He rubbed her muzzle but kept quiet. He had his doubts about Rosie.
Mrs. King sighed deeply. “Enough. I’m not going to talk to you when you don’t remember anything. I’m taking you two home, getting Lucas settled into bed, then calling your mom.” She paused to pin the drunk girl with the stink eye. “Rosie. I’m disappointed in you. This is the lowest you’ve ever sunk. Considering getting arrested in July, that’s really saying something.”
Rosie withered at the stern parental tone. She cringed into the side of the wheel, her fingers loosely grasping the thin metal spokes. “Yes, ma’am.” She mumbled, wiping at her tears but she kept missing her face.
Luc almost felt sorry for her. She was such a pitiful sight. But she brought this on herself. She never learned her lesson. He glanced up at Mrs. King. “Can Luna still come home with me?”
“Of course, sweetie.”
Prudence sat back on her haunches and scratched an ear. Watching Rosie take the blame for something Prudence herself had done amused her to no end. Oh, she was going to have so much fun with this stupid girl…. Pru looked forward to living with her.
Overall, she was very pleased with herself. She had played the sweet pooch and Lucas had welcomed her with open arms. He let his walls down, let her walk right into his heart. She hadn’t been able to do that in human form.
Hell, she hadn’t even been able to get close to him. She’d done the opposite; hurt him. Now, she made it better. She righted her wrong.
She yawned, tongue lolling out of her mouth. She paid a horrible price for her folly- putting up with all those rotten, screaming snot-goblins grabbing her fur during Trick or Treating. All night, all she’d wanted to do was bite the obnoxious brats. She had pretended to enjoy it, further adding to her agony. Now, she was exhausted. She didn’t regret it; she did it to make Luc happy, to assuage the guilt plaguing her.
While the drunk idiot cried and the nagging lady closed up the booth and got everything ready to go, Pru plopped her head on Luc’s lap. He scratched her ears. She was looking forward to a warm, soft bed; even if she had to share it with diaper boy. She refused to sleep on the floor. A few licks and cuddles, and she knew he’d share his bed with her.
His fingers scratched just the right spot behind her ear and she melted. “Good girl, Luna.” Luna, short for Lunatic. She liked it. Maybe being a service dog wouldn’t be so bad this time around.
Lucas obviously needed her. She had no choice; she had to stick around. The boy couldn’t even get himself a diaper change. She wasn’t going to tolerate him stewing in a dirty diaper like tonight. She was surprised he hadn’t leaked. She’d seen the faces he’d been making all night; he wanted out of his yucky diaper. Her sensitive canine nose had smelled the dirty diaper before she even approached him. When they got to her new home, she was going to find Luc’s diapers, pull a clean one out and make the lady change him. If he wouldn’t ask for a clean diaper, she’d have to get one for him.
Yes, it looked like she was stuck with him for quite some time. He clearly couldn’t take care of himself. He was just a big, helpless, adorable baby in need of a four legged, furry nanny. For the first time in a long, long time, Prudence looked forward to the future. She had a feeling it would be a very long time before another bad moon rose in her life.