Chapter 6: My Sister’s Keeper
Four years earlier…
Under no circumstances was I stepping out of the car with the way I was dressed.
I was seated directly in the middle of the back seat of the car, knees and legs pulled up snug to my chest with my arms wrapped firmly around them. I had darted back into the vehicle after mommy had made me remove my shorts. She had said it was so that she could be thorough with the sunscreen, but as soon as I had gotten the shorts off she had tossed them in the trunk, telling me that I wasn’t going to need them since it was a warm summer day at the beach.
Having removed my shorts and t-shirt, I now had on only a one-piece swimsuit – purple with pink polka-dots – with a diaper underneath it. The swimsuit held the diaper snugly against my bottom and did absolutely nothing to conceal it. The leg cuffs of the diaper stuck out past the swimsuit, and the outline of the diaper was surely unmistakable. It felt as if I was a baby wearing a onesie.
I could make out the beach in the distance from the rear window of the car. A sea of umbrellas and beach chairs led right up to the Gulf of Mexico. The crowds hugged the beach in either direction as far as I could see. The idea of one stranger seeing me in a diaper, let along hundreds or thousands, was terrifying, but mommy and daddy didn’t seem to mind, as they both tried to coax me to get out of the car.
“Mommy, do I have to wear a diaper?”
“Yes,” she replied curtly. “We went over this already at the hotel. There aren’t any bathrooms close by, and you won’t be able to hold it long enough to reach them.”
“But if I have an accident, I can get washed off in the ocean.”
“Young lady, you can’t swim. You aren’t going to be going any deeper in the water than to your ankles.”
I didn’t understand why I had to wear this stupid one-piece swimming suit if I wasn’t really going to be getting in the water in the first place. Granted, I had never been given swim lessons, much to my gratitude given how mommy would probably interrupt the rules requiring swim diapers for children who aren’t potty trained.
“Could I wear a pull-up instead?”
“We didn’t bring any to the beach.”
“No buts. You’re going to wear the diaper, and if you need to go, you’re going to use it.”
I was too busy arguing with mommy to notice that daddy had opened the door on the other side of the car. By the time he had reached in and grabbed me it was too late. I couldn’t break free from the grip of his hands on my upper arms as he basically dragged me from the car and set me in a standing position in the parking lot as mommy hustled over to this side of the car and shut the door before I could even think of trying to run back on.
I held up my arms over my head as mommy rubbed sunscreen all over my body until I was glistening in the sun. Daddy gave Elaine and I each a beach bag to carry. My younger sister had been allowed to wear a two-piece swimsuit, I would have been jealous, except for the fact that it was an outfit that would have left my diaper even more exposed than it already was. If only I could have been given a pair of boys’ swim trunks to wear over this swimsuit instead.
A sandy trail that passed through a grassy dune connected the parking lot to the beach. I did my best to walk behind mommy as closely as I could manage, trying to keep out of sight for as long as possible, even though I knew I was only delaying the inevitable. Sand caught between my toes as my flimsy flip-flops did little to protect my feet from the elements. I decided that I hated the beach.
I couldn’t bring myself to look anyone in the eye as we neared the crowds huddles on towels and portable chairs under the umbrellas. While some people are unobservant, indifferent, or at least kind enough to mind their own business, plenty are not. A ten-year-old wearing a diaper is such a strange sight that it can’t help but catch people’s attention. The unmistakable stares in your direction, but not at your face but down toward your waist. The quick grab to get the attention of the person next to them, followed by a whisper and a finger pointing in your direction. The comments made loudly enough that you can’t help but overhear.
I kept my focus directly ahead of me on mommy’s sandals as I followed in each of her footsteps. Once we had arrived at the beach, we had to zig and zag throughout the crowd as we searched for a spot to set up our umbrella and blankets. Nearly every available inch of the beach was taken already. Despite trying to keep my focus on mommy, I couldn’t help, but notice the babies and toddlers we passed, as if my gaze was magnetically drawn to them. Many of them were running around wearing nothing other than a diaper or pull-up, I suppose my situation could have been worse, after all. Others carried the tell-tale signs of a diaper sticking out of their swim trunks or bulging through the bottom of a swimsuit, in a mirror image of how I must look.
After walking for what seemed like forever, we at last came to a small clearing between a pair of families where we had just enough room to stake out a spot in the sand for ourselves. Daddy laid out two beach towels side-by-side on either of side of the umbrella, enough for each of us to have our own. I instantly claimed one of the towels in the middle for myself.
After they had set their stuff down, Elaine and Daddy ran off to jump in the waves. My younger sister had been given swim lessons earlier in the summer. Mommy was already laying on the beach towel to the right of me, flipping through the first few pages a paperback book she had brought along in her bag.
Laying on the beach wasn’t all that it was made out to be. I couldn’t get into a comfortable position, with the unevenness of the sand beneath the towel causing my back to ache, and I already seemed to have some sand in my hair, and I wasn’t even sure how that had managed to happen already. The umbrella directly overhead did shield my eyes from the sun as I rested the back of my head on the towel, but view it created was uninspiring. To my relief, it didn’t appear that any of the neighboring beachgoers had noticed my diaper, or, if they had, they hadn’t seemed to react to it at all to it.
I few minutes of laying on my back pointlessly was all I could take. I sat upright and looked down at the ocean, just in time to see a large wave sweep Elaine off of her feet and send her face first into the water. I chuckled slightly at that sight. Maybe being out of the water wasn’t so bad after all.
“What’s so funny?” mommy asked without taking her eyes off of the book.
Daddy yanked Elaine upright out of the water. Her shoulder-length hair was now drenched. She jogged back toward us with wide eyes on her face.
“Done swimming already?” mommy asked, still too engrossed in her book to bother to look away from it
“For now, the waves are a bit too rough,” daddy said, not mentioning that Elaine had been pushed over by a wave.
“Yeah, this massive wave knocked Elaine over,” I added, getting a glare from my younger sister for my effort to tattle on her.
“She what!? mommy said, this time slamming the book shut and tossing it down to the side. The book missed the towel and landed in the sand.
“It’s nothing,” daddy said. “It’s just a bit windy, so the waves are bigger than normal. That’s all.”
But mommy was already off of her towel and inspecting Elaine.
“Look at your hair. Are you sure you are OK? Does it hurt anywhere?”
“Mom, I’m fine,” Elaine said, brushing mommy’s hands away.
“I don’t care. You and your sister on not going back in the water. You can play in the sand after lunch.”
I could barely suppress a grin at what I had accomplished. While it was a bummer that I wasn’t even going to get a chance to get my feet wet in the ocean, I’d managed to make things equal with my younger sister after all. Elaine took a seat on her towel, which was to my left, on the other side of the umbrella stand. She knew as well that continuing an argument with mommy wasn’t going to get you anywhere.
We made short work of our lunch. Mommy had packed ham sandwiches, potato chips, and juice pouches. Elaine wanted to build a sandcastle. I didn’t really care to join her, but I also didn’t envision laying on the towel for several hours as being a good alternative, so I helped my sister carry a bag of beach toys – buckets, miniature shovels, and other tools for constructing a sandcastle – a couple dozen yards ahead until we reached a spot a few feet above wave-line.
It wasn’t until I waddled a little as I stood up that I again remembered that I had the diaper on. It had almost slipped my mind once I had gotten settled into our spot on the beach. I sat down as soon as we reached that spot where we were going to build the sandcastle. Keeping my bottom on the ground was my only defense to prevent anyone with a wandering eye from spotting the diaper.
We must have been at the start of the trend, because no sooner had we began plotting out how the sandcastle was going to be built then a young girl and her mother arrived and began working on a sandcastle of their own a short ways away from ours. Elaine and I didn’t pay much attention to them. I was using the shovel to carve out a future moat around the castle walls. When I needed to move, I scooted as discreetly as I could, keeping my bottom as close to the ground as possible. Those efforts proved futile.
“Mommy? Why is that girl wearing a diaper,” said the young girl, pointing her finger in my direction.
The lack of a diaper or pull-up beneath the girl’s yellow-and-white two-piece swimsuit made it clear that the toddler had already mastered the art of potty-training. I turned my head away to avoid making eye contact with the girl’s mother, who I assumed was now looking in my direction as well. I stared intently at my sandcastle, using both of my hands to straighten a wall that was connecting two of the towers.
“Lily, it isn’t nice to point at strangers,” the girl’s mother said, speaking in a hushed tone that was barely audible over the din of the crowd.
I flipped over the bucket to add another tower to the sandcastle. I tried not to fidget too much, but I was beginning to feel some of the sand that had gotten trapped in my diaper. It was just now that I noticed that the diaper was wet. Having not gotten close enough to the water, that was probably my fault. The combination of the gritty pebbles of sand and the moisture of the diaper made it hard to sit still.
“But why isn’t she potty-trained,” the girl asked, her curiosity stronger than her mother’s admonitions about not being rude to strangers.
To my left, Elaine was barely able to keep a smile off of her face. She enjoyed how my inability to potty-train impacted our relationship. She would much rather play the role of older sister, and she gladly lorded her ability to properly use the toilet over me. And since my younger sister was already nearly my height, despite the fact that I had about a year on her, strangers just tended to assume that she must be the older sister. While I couldn’t hear the mother’s sigh of exasperation in response to her toddler’s tenacity, I certainly could at least imagine it.
“Some kids are different,” the woman said. “They have a harder time learning how to grow up. She problem has some special needs and isn’t able to learn how to use the toilet, but it isn’t nice to point at her like that.”
I knew the woman meant well by what she was saying. She was at least trying to teach her daughter to have good manners and not be rude to people who are different, but the words stung, nonetheless. The conclusion she drew was the first conclusion everyone always came to when they saw me wearing diapers or pull-ups.
If they were polite, strangers would ask if I was developmentally delayed, or special needs, if being more discreet. Strangers who were a bit more forward might ask if I have Down Syndrome, Autism, or some other specific disability. The worst ones were those whose minds skipped directly past that and right to the insults. Stupid. Retard. Baby. The idea that an otherwise completely normal girl might not have the ability to control when she uses the toilet was a totally foreign concept to them. Once they catch sight of the diapers, they have to assume that something else must be wrong with me as well.
Despite my experience with these situations, I couldn’t help but begin to cry. I think the woman noticed, because afterward she lowered her voice and whispered to her daughter, who went running back up the beach. Petrified, I remained seated on the sand. I wanted nothing more than to get away from the beach, but to stand up would mean to provide those strangers an even better view of my diaper than they had already gotten. Elaine didn’t say anything in the next couple of minutes. That was unusual for her. She didn’t normally pass up an opportunity to rub in the fact that I had these toileting problems. I hoped that the woman might leave to follow her daughter, and at least give me my privacy and a tiny amount of my dignity back. That wasn’t to be.
The toddler returned, holding the hand of a taller girl, who appeared to be closer to my age. The way older girl walked was slightly uneven, as if she somehow weren’t able to quite control her balance. Strange. Then I noticed something about the girl that did pique my attention. She had a diaper on underneath her swimsuit just like I did.
Not wanting to get caught staring at that other family as the new girl arrived at the sandcastle the toddler and her mother had been building, I once again went back to working on our sandcastle, only to be interrupted a minute later when the woman and the mystery diapered girl walked over to Elaine and I.
The woman greeted us, but the lady didn’t address me, instead choosing to speak to Elaine.
“I’m sorry that my daughter, Lily, was being rude to your sister,” the woman said. “She really should know better, since her older sister has similar disabilities as your sister.”
“Yeah, Annabelle can’t figure out the whole potty-training thing, either” Elaine said casually, having also made note of the diaper this other girl was wearing, as if talking about my issues with a total stranger was not big deal at all.
“This is my other daughter, Patricia. She has multiple sclerosis, it’s a disability that causes her to have some difficulty control her body and movements.”
Multiple what? I didn’t have any idea about what that meant. The girl gave me a meek, disjointed wave at me. I wanted nothing to do with her.
“I thought they might like to play with each other,” the woman continued.
“Of course,” Elaine, said, as if she somehow had the right to decide what I was and wasn’t going to do.
“That’s so nice,” the woman said. “It’s such a pleasant surprise for Patricia to be able to meet someone like her.”
I wasn’t anything like her. Just having a diaper on didn’t make mean there were any other similarities. Why did the fact that I wore diapers have to be the defining aspect about me?
“I’m not a retard like her!”
I knew right away that I shouldn’t have said it. The girl began to cry almost instantaneously. I hated how people judged me for my toileting issues, but it was hypocritical to behave that way toward others dealing with problems outside of their own control.
My outburst of anger really wasn’t at the girl or her mother. I wanted to be normal, to go to the beach without people pointing or staring at me. Without people talking down to me or trying to stereotype me as someone who was only compatible with other children who aren’t normal.
I couldn’t think of any good way to extract myself from the situation. So, I instead made it worse. I picked up a bucket that was halfway full of sand, chucked it at my sister, stood up, and ran all the way back to where mommy and daddy were seated under the umbrella. I practically tossed myself face-first onto the towel.
Mommy and daddy didn’t say anything upon my arrival. Mommy remained trapped in her book, and daddy was laying on his stomach, his beach towel a few feet away from the umbrella so that it would be out in the sun. He had headphone in both ears and may even have been asleep. I peeked up from the towel to look back down at the beach. Elaine hadn’t followed me back, and was still talking with that other family, probably still telling them how much of a baby she thought that I was.
I didn’t dare tell bother mommy that I had wet the diaper. I wasn’t sure that she had brought any diapers to change me in the first place. I also wasn’t sure that she wouldn’t just change me right here and now on the beach towel. I rolled over onto my back. The diaper was less visible from the front than from behind. I didn’t dare get up from the towel for the next hour, partly because I didn’t want to deal with any other strangers pointing out my diaper, but also because I felt bad about calling that girl a retard, and I didn’t want to run into her again.
The need to poop had begun to grow shortly after the incident at the sandcastle. Mommy had indicated that I was supposed to use the diaper, and she hadn’t given an exception for doing number two. Normally, even when I was wearing a diaper and was expected to wet it if I needed to pee, mommy still wanted me to let her know when I needed to do number two so that I could do that on a toilet. But maybe being at the beach was different. And maybe I’d be able to hold it in until we got to the hotel anyways.
We didn’t start packing to leave the beach until Elaine started whining to mommy and daddy about how bored she was. I would never have gotten away with that, but sure enough, a few minutes later we had packed up all the beach toys, folded the towels, and taken apart the umbrella.
It didn’t seem possible, but the beach felt even more crowded than before as we hiked across the sand on the walk back to the car. In the past hour, the urge from my bowels to relieve myself had only strengthened, and it was at the point where if I didn’t give the situation my full, undivided attention, I was likely to end up with a messy diaper as well as a wet one.
As we continued walking, I was sure that if I paused and stood still, if only for a handful of seconds, that I would lose the last grip of control that I had over my bowels. We were about half-way back to the car, so maybe another ten minutes before we got there, and the drive from the hotel to the beach had only been another ten minutes or so. If I could just hold out that long, I’d be fine.
My attention had been so focused on making sure I had kept moving forward as I trailed behind mommy that I didn’t register the fact that she had come to complete stop. I bumped into her back and the fell backwards, landing on my bottom in the sand with a soft thud. As I hurried to stand up, the inevitable happened. I could feel the poop squeeze out into the diaper, the stickiness of it against my skin exacerbated with every step I took.
Mommy, daddy, and Elaine were all ahead of me and had turned to continue walking so they didn’t notice that I had messed myself. I hoped that the view from behind me wasn’t too obvious to anyone watching us walk along the beach. When we arrived back at the car, Mommy finally caught a glimpse of my bottom as I leaned down to pull on my shorts.
“Annabelle, did you really do that in your diaper?”
I knew better than to lie, especially when mommy would be able to discover the truth easily enough. Even though mommy didn’t exactly specify what she was wondering that I had really done in my diaper, I knew what she meant.
“Yes,” I muttered, looking down at my feet.
“Elaine,” mommy said. “Look in the trunk to see if we brought your sister’s diaper bag.”
“I don’t see it,” my sister called back.
As uncomfortable as I was becoming, I didn’t mind that the diaper change would have to wait until we had reached the privacy of the hotel. With the shorts back on as well, I didn’t have to worry about anyone seeing my diaper in the hotel lobby.
Getting me into a clean diaper didn’t seem to be a priority once we arrived back at the hotel. The hotel suite was large, with two separate bedrooms and bathrooms. Mommy and Elaine each grabbed one of the showers right away to get the sand and salt from the beach washed off. Daddy had stopped changing my diapers, so that left me standing alone awkwardly in my room, as sitting down was no longer comfortable given the condition of my diaper. Elaine emerged from the bathroom before mommy did, and daddy got his turn to take a shower, but no way was I going to ask my sister to change me.
I walked over to the bathroom mommy was in. I didn’t hear the sound of the shower from the other side, so she had to be close to getting finished with cleaning herself up.
“Mommy, can you please hurry, I really need to get changed,” I whined at her.
“Go get your changing stuff out and lay on the bed,” mommy said from behind the door. “And tell your sister to come see me if she is out of the bathroom already.”
I sent Elaine off to talk to mommy, and then grabbed the changing pad from my diaper bag along with a pull-up, wipes, and baby powder. I wasn’t normally this cooperative with getting changed, but I wanted nothing more than to just get this diaper off of my bottom. After removing my swimsuit, I eased myself onto the bed in an attempt not to smear the poop across my bottom any more than I already had. I could hear Elaine arguing with mommy from the other room.
“Mom, why do I have to change her diaper? It’s so gross.”
“Because I told you so.”
“But she pooped in it!”
“Exactly. That’s why it needs to be changed. Now go.”
Elaine returned from the other room a few moments later with a couple of paper tissues in her hand. She wadded them up and stuck them in each of her nostrils. Since I wasn’t allowed to change myself, mommy had begun to teach Elaine how to change my diapers. Both of us hated it. Messy diapers were a rarity, and Elaine hadn’t ever had to change one of those before.
“Ewe!,” my younger sister exclaimed as she pulled back the front of the diaper after undoing all four of the tapes.
I couldn’t see the state of the diaper, but the nauseating smell wafting toward my nostrils made me wish I had some tissue paper stuffed into my nose as well.
“You’re so gross,” Elaine said, as she began to gingerly wipe away at my bottom.
I wished she would hurry up and get it over with. That’s what you have to do with a messy diaper, just take a wipe and bravely go right down the middle with it. Elaine was too squeamish. She practically went through half of the fifty-pack of baby wipes before she pulled the diaper away and wrapped it up snuggly.
Elaine carried the diaper away to the trash can, which I was thankful for because wrapping it up wasn’t nearly enough to eliminate that awful stench. I remained still on the bed. For half-a-second, I considered grabbing the pull-up and putting it on myself, but I knew mommy wouldn’t be happy with me doing that, and the odds of Elaine not tattling on me are non-existent.
When Elaine returned from disposing of the diaper, she was holding a diaper in her hand.
“Come on, you need to lift your butt up for me.”
“What! No! I’m not wearing a diaper.”
I kicked the diaper out of my young sister’s hand, rolled off the bed and ran naked into the other room, where mommy was in the middle of getting dressed.
“Mommy, Elaine was trying to put a diaper on me.”
“I know. I told her to.”
“That’s not fair.”
“You know the rules about having a messy accident in your diaper. Why didn’t you ask to be taken to the toilet?”
“You said the toilets were too far away.”
“I never told you it was OK to take a shit in your diaper. Now go back to the other room and let your sister help you get the diaper on. You’re wearing them for the rest of the day.”
Dejected, I returned back to where Elaine was standing at the foot of the bed.
“Baby,” she whispered in a drawn-out snicker.
I chose not to respond. It was hard to get into an argument that I wasn’t a baby when all the evidence at the moment stood to the contrary. Elaine did a better job putting the clean diaper on me than she did with removing the messy one.
“Much cuter,” Elaine commented as she pressed the final diaper tape into place.
She gave my bottom a firm smack as I stood up from the bed. The teasing had finally gotten too much for me to ignore. I turned around and yelled at my sister as all my pent-up frustration from the day came to a head.
“I hate you. I hope you die.”