Crisanta lowered her arms slowly, maintaining her smile as best she could while the sweat seemed to pour down her face.
“Very nice,” the coach told her, glancing up from her clipboard for what Crisanta was sure was just a little longer than she’d looked at all of the other girls. “We’ll let you know.”
Crisanta nodded politely, then jogged over to the bleachers, collapsing down next to Dorothy and Susie while the next hopeful quickly took her place. “Does she look more cheerful than me?” Crisanta asked quietly. “I think she looks more cheerful.”
“That doesn’t matter,” Dorothy assured her. “I saw her practicing yesterday; she’s not very good.”
“But the point of being a cheerleader is to be cheerful. Ow!” She glared at Susie, then turned bright red when she noticed the judge, and the girl who was about to begin her routine, were staring at her. “Sorry,” she squeaked, giving Susie a nasty look.
“You told me to pinch you if you started chewing on your lip,” Susie shrugged sheepishly.
“I didn’t mean for you to do it that hard,” Crisanta grumbled, just managing to stop herself before Susie could reach out for her arm again. She pulled the scrunchie out of her hair and stuffed it into the pocket of her shorts, which had the word Angel written across the bottom, shaking out her long, golden hair as she allowed herself to melt further back into the bleachers.
“If you’re this tired from a try-out, I don’t know how well you’re gonna do if you actually make the squad,” Dorothy whispered, pessimistic as usual.
“It’s just nerves,” Crisanta told her. “Plus, I practiced it, like, a million times. Give me a break.”
“This girl really -isn’t- very good,” Susie observed. “You were definitely better than her, anyway.”
“She does have two advantages over you, though,” Dorothy pointed out.
“But Crissy would be a lot easier for them to throw around,” Susie said somberly. “I guess it would come down to if…”
“If you’re going to talk about me like I’m not here, do it somewhere I’m not,” Crisanta growled.
“Shall we?” Dorothy teased, holding out her hand to Susie, until Crisanta knocked it aside.
“Wait until the try-outs are done, anyway,” she instructed, fighting back a yawn.
Crisanta closed her emerald green eyes, giving in to her exhaustion as well as she could in the uncomfortable seats.
The girl cringed as the hinges on her door creaked open, her bottom lip moving slowly towards her teeth as she peeked her head out into the hall, checking to see if there was light coming from under any of the other doors. There was, just a tad, from the night-light in her little sister, Camelia’s, room, but other than that, nothing.
She ducked back into her room, putting on her shoes and tying them tightly before grabbing the garbage bag. She checked the hallway one more time, to make sure nobody had woken at the sound of her door opening and sleepily flipped on their lights, then stepped out. She knew better than to try to tiptoe in those shoes, so she had to take her steps slowly, gingerly moving ever so slowly towards the front door.
She was about halfway there when she realized that she should have shut her bedroom door behind her - if anyone happened to glance into her room, it would be obvious she wasn’t there, and if they stuck their heads just a little further in, they’d be able to notice the lack of light coming from under the door of her private bathroom. Her sisters wouldn’t care enough to do anything, most likely, though they might ask her about it the next day, if they remembered. Her parents, on the other hand, might decide to investigate.
Maybe she could just say that she’d forgotten to put her garbage out in the can earlier that evening - why she had decided to do so in the middle of the night instead of waiting until that morning and hoping she beat the garbage-man might be more difficult to explain.
But what were the chances they would happen to wake up and come out into the hall, anyway? ‘They get bigger the longer you stand here debating,’ she reminded herself. And besides, if they did wake up, they’d probably hear somebody wandering through the house, so perhaps seeing that her door was open would assure them that it was just her, searching for a midnight snack or something.
She had to slow down even more once she was through the hall. It was always hard to tell just what configuration the chairs in the dining room would be in, and then once she was in the living room, she had to try to avoid any of Camelia’s toys that might have been left there when she had been sent to bed. And, of course, there were the couches and the various end and coffee tables to avoid - she was pretty sure she knew where they were, but every time she let herself get too confident, she’d end up running straight into them.
The sound of the lock on the front door clicking open seemed to echo throughout the house, far louder than she could ever remember it sounding before. ‘I should have brought my key,’ she fretted. If -that- had woken somebody up, they might come to investigate, and if they saw the door unlocked, they would be sure to change that, thus trapping her outside. But it was far too late to worry about that now, so instead she slowly pulled the front door open just enough to squeeze out of it.
Their driveway was fairly long, but it never seemed that bad, not with the hard part of her journey out of the way. She still went a bit slow, in case her dad was lying awake, listening for sounds that could be a burglar approaching, but the moon was shining, and it felt as if the whole, seemingly empty, world was hers. It all looked so big after the claustrophobia of the hallway, and the minefield of the living room path to the front door.
Her parents had done her a great service, way back when they’d bought their garbage can, by getting one that was far too big for them to ever - except sometimes at Christmas - get close to filling up. Her garbage bag always had plenty of room, and once it was in there, in blended in perfectly with all of the others, so you would never guess it had been a last minute addition.
She let herself move more quickly on the way back inside, slipping her shoes off once she had locked the front door behind her. Sometimes she thought about just leaving her shoes out by the front door all the time, like everyone else in her family seemed to, thus being able to sneak through the house in just her socks, but she was always afraid she’d have trouble getting them on in the dark. It was probably stupid of her, but she’d gotten used to it by now.
The hallway was still just as dark as it had been on the way out, so she allowed herself a sigh of relief even before she’d gotten back inside her room and flopped down on her bed, gold hair flying every which way. She smiled to herself - she’d pulled it off again - and then allowed her bladder at last to relax, filling the padding around her bottom with warmth - and now she had started on the cargo for the next trip. It was probably even more stupid of her to wear a diaper under her pajamas while she was sneaking around the house, but after her mom had seen her in the exact same outfit when she actually -was- going for a midnight snack and not seemed to notice, she’d figured it wasn’t -that- big of a risk. Her nightshirt went well past her bottom, anyway, and her pajama pants were loose enough that the diaper wouldn’t be -too- obvious, even if the top of them could be seen.
She knew she should probably change before going to sleep, but her bathroom seemed so far away, and she suddenly barely had the energy to squirm over to a position where she could reach the light switch without actually having to leave the bed before she fell asleep.
Kalina opened her eyes, her teeth clamped firmly against her bottom lip. “Can I try to tumble out of its attack radius?”
Alice raised an eyebrow. “You have ranks in Tumble?”
Kalina smiled worriedly. “I think I have one…”
“Well, you can try,” Alice shrugged.
“You do realize there’s a minus five or something for your armor, don’t you?” Sam The Boy pointed out.
Kalina glowered at him, a strand of her blonde hair choosing that moment to fall free from her ponytail and hang loosely at the side of her face. “Are you trying to get us all killed?”
“Isn’t he always?” Sam The Girl asked, also turning her attention to her male counterpart. “That -is- what he’s best at.”
“One time,” he rolled his eyes. “And it’s not like I made you guys…”
“I’d like to get some homework done tonight,” Alice interrupted, “so would you all stop distracting Kalina so she can get to failing this skill check?”
“Bite me,” Kalina glared at Alice.
“I’m sure the dragon would love to do that.”
Kalina picked up her die gently, blowing on it before giving it a good shake and then tossing it onto the table. It bounced a few times before finally coming to a rest, and, by a severe stroke of luck, on its highest number. She couldn’t quite keep herself from shouting a triumphant, “Ha!” at a now sullen Alice.
“Fine,” Alice sulked. “You summersault out of the dragon’s reach. But now it’s his turn.” She perked up at that, glancing at the battle map with an evil smirk.
“Don’t forget to roll the damage from my poison!” Sam The Boy reminded her.
“Oh, yeah…” Alice’s expression turned dour once again at the result. “…And the dragon suddenly gives out one, final roar, then falls over dead.”
“Who’s useless now?!” Sam The Boy asked, though nobody bothered to answer.
“Well, that was… anticlimactic,” Alice sighed. “But that’s probably a good place to stop for today.”
“But… But… Treasure!” Kalina sputtered.
“What makes you think he had treasure?” Alice asked mysteriously.
“Because you told us he was guarding a pile of it?”
“I guess you’ll just have to wait until next time to find out what it was,” Alice said.
“She hasn’t figured out what it is yet,” Sam The Girl sagely told the others.
“I totally have,” Alice protested. “I just have homework, and… And get out of my house!”
Sam The Boy lived in the opposite direction of everyone else, so he bid everyone farewell right away and rode his bicycle off into the sunset, but Sam The Girl rode a little ways with Kalina.
“Do you remember what we’re supposed to do for Chemistry tomorrow?” Kalina asked her.
“I think it’s pages 80 through 85,” Sam answered. “Or through 90, actually.”
“Eh, it’s probably not that important,” Kalina shrugged, thinking of all the other stuff she needed to get finished. She might have had time for five pages, but not ten.
“It’s really not that hard,” Sam told her, though Kalina was pretty sure she was lying, as usual. “Just get your sister to explain it to you.”
“She had cheerleading try-outs today,” Kalina sighed. “If I ask her about Chemistry, I’m gonna have to sit through at least an hour of her talking about that first.”
“She’s so lucky to have such a caring sister.”
“Darn skippy,” Kalina nodded, turning her bike into her driveway and waved goodbye as Sam continued on. “See you tomorrow!”
As she walked into her house, she found herself almost immediately ambushed by a tiny form, all wild, light brown, hair and green eyes and grass stained jeans. “Hi, Cammy,” Kalina smiled down at her, prying herself free. “How was your day?”
“Good!” her little sister answered with a huge grin, before toddling back into the living room. From the way she was walking, Kalina was pretty sure she could use a diaper change, but she had just gotten in - let someone else deal with it.
She had barely gotten two steps inside when she found herself face to face with her reflection, staring back at her in a rather annoyed way. “It was your turn to set the table,” it informed her.
“It’s not dinnertime yet,” Kalina shot back. “I’m getting to it.”
“Well, it’s already done now,” Crisanta sighed before wandering off into the kitchen. “Why don’t you see if Camelia needs changed?”
Kalina considered asking her sister something that probably would have gotten her in a lot of trouble, but instead she took the high road, and pretended she hadn’t heard her. She loved Crisanta, of course, but at some point she had turned into a miniature version of their mom. That sort of thing was bound to happen eventually; it was kinda sad to see it happening so soon. On the other hand, Crisanta probably found it sad that it was taking so long to happen to Kalina. When had they become so different?
Kalina shook her head wistfully, starting to head towards her room, only to trip over a large, stuffed bunny, likely having been dragged out because of the season, only to be forgotten in the middle of the floor. If she’d have set her backpack down, she probably would have been able to keep her balance. She hadn’t.
“You okay?” Camelia asked, eyes wide with worry as she waddled towards her big sister.
“I’m fine,” Kalina sighed, getting back up and then reaching down for her sister’s hand. “Come on, let’s go get you a dry diaper.”
“Kalina!” Crisanta snapped finally, though she quickly calmed herself a little, remembering Camelia was there as well. And noticing the other shoppers around them turning towards her helped, also. “Mom told us to stay together,” she said, lowering her voice. “We’re just here for clothes.”
“It’ll be fine,” Kalina assured her. “I’ll be back before she is.”
“That’s not the point!” Crisanta protested, but her sister was already gone, off to the video game store next door. She could be so frustrating sometimes… It was hard to believe that she was the oldest, if only by twelve minutes.
“Let’s go look at some dresses,” she told Camelia with a sigh, leading her towards the toddler’s section. Camelia followed happily, though from the tugging on her hand just a few moments earlier, she knew that Camelia would rather have gone with Kalina. She would have liked to deny it, but she couldn’t help but feel a pang of jealousy - she was the one who usually watched Camelia and took care of her when mom and dad weren’t around, not Kalina. Kalina hardly paid any attention to her at all.
“Hurry up,” Crisanta caught herself saying as she tried to pull her little sister along faster than her little legs could go. She slowed back down, though she couldn’t quite find it in herself to voice an apology.
Camelia was easy to please when it came to clothes, so Crisanta didn’t feel too bad about finding what she thought was the cutest little lavender ruffled dress to help her try on. It fit perfectly, and she liked it, so Crisanta carefully put it back onto its hanger and carried it out, making sure to take a longer route over to the older girl’s section of the store, so Camelia wouldn’t catch sight of something else she wanted to try on.
That was the sort of thing that could lead to a seemingly endless cycle, and she wanted to at least have her and Camelia’s clothes picked out by the time her mom got back. It would have been nice to get Kalina’s done, too, but, of course, Kalina’d had to run off on her own. Not that it would likely take her long to decide - she was as easy to please as Camelia, but nowhere near as interested in the whole business. She’d probably just grab the nearest thing she could see that was anywhere close to her size and be done with it.
Crisanta, on the other hand, already knew exactly what she was looking for, if she was lucky enough that it was still there from the last time they’d been to the store. As they got closer, she could see a throng of girls hanging around that area, and sucked in her breath in alarm, but was able to release it calmly when she realized they were looking at something else.
Meanwhile, her top, a light blue babydoll with flowers on the bodice and along the bottom, and butterflies fluttering over them, was safe. She wasn’t too worried about the other half of her outfit, either, since it was a pretty standard skort, white with a ruffled hem, and sure enough there were plenty left, though she did debate for a moment over which size to try, finally deciding to go bigger rather than smaller.
Then they were back to the dressing rooms, mostly just to confirm that the outfit looked good together, though she also had to make absolutely sure that it fit. She was quite confident in both of those things, but it never hurt to be completely positive.
“Well, that was easy,” Crisanta smiled down at Camelia, once she had changed back into her own clothes. Kalina was, of course, nowhere around, so they went back to the toddler’s section for a little bit. Camelia chose a couple dresses to try on, none of which were anywhere near as cute as the one Crisanta had found, and was ready to look for some more once she had tried those on.
“It’s getting kinda late,” Crisanta had to tell her, glancing at the clock on her cell. “Mom’ll be back soon.” She called Kalina, but she didn’t answer. “Probably left it at home,” Crisanta grumbled. She couldn’t very well go after her, not with an armful of clothes she hadn’t paid for. “Let’s go pick out something for Kali,” she said to Camelia. “Since she’s apparently not going to do it herself.”
She vaguely harbored the hope that she’d find her sister over there, already looking for herself; she wasn’t. She considered just getting the same thing she had gotten for herself, but in different colors; she didn’t. They weren’t big fans of matching outfits, and, luckily, their parents never had been, either.
“Do you think she’d like this?” she asked Camelia, holding up a green dress. It wasn’t too bad, really, and it would probably bring out her eyes pretty well. Camelia shrugged, but Crisanta had already made up her mind, and back they went to try it on. It wasn’t as good as Crisanta’s outfit, not by any means, but it fit, and it was good enough for someone who couldn’t be bothered to pick anything out for herself.
She checked her cell again with a sigh. “Come on, mom’ll be looking for us,” she told Camelia, opening the dressing room door.
The girl opened the door a crack, tugging at the hem of her T-shirt as she glanced out at her mother. “What is it?”
“I need you to watch Camelia for a little bit,” she answered. “I have to run over to Mrs. Shubert’s for a few minutes.”
The girl sighed. “Why can’t…”
“Because she’s busy, and because I’m asking you,” her mom said.
“Fine,” the girl rolled her eyes, starting to close her door. “I’ll be out in a minute.”
“I really need to get going,” her mom told her. “I’m sure you can do whatever you were up to just as well in the living room.”
The girl began to set her jaw, ready to tell her mom that all she was asking for was a minute of privacy. But she could tell that this wasn’t the best time to get into an argument with her mother, even if she were to ignore the fact that she had a wet diaper on under her hastily thrown on jeans.
“All right, fine,” she conceded, giving her T-shirt one more tug before glancing down to make sure the bulge wasn’t obvious. She opened her door the rest of the way and stepped out of her room, wincing slightly at the seemingly thunderous crinkling that produced.
“Thank you, honey,” her mom smiled, kissing her on the forehead. The girl followed her to the living room, taking careful steps, half expecting her mom to turn around at any second to see if Camelia had somehow gotten behind her. But she was in the living room, where she received her own kiss goodbye.
“Play!” Camelia demanded, once their mother had driven off.
“I will,” the girl promised, kneeling down next to her little sister. “I just have to go take care of something first, okay?”
But Camelia had her hand clamped around the hem of the girl’s T-shirt. “It’ll just be a minute,” the girl tried to reassure her, prying her little fingers free, but she just grabbed hold with the other hand, shaking her head. “Okay, okay,” the girl rolled her eyes. “I guess it can wait.”
Camelia let go, beaming, then shoved what looked like it might have been supposed to be a stuffed leprechaun into her hands. The girl sat down, diaper squishing damply beneath her, reminding her that her sister’s was probably in the same condition. She set the leprechaun down and grabbed Camelia instead, tickling her tummy for a few seconds before gently tugging down her pants, only to find the diaper beneath was in much better shape than her own.
She could feel herself blushing at that thought, at least until Camelia started to tickle her in return. She wasn’t particularly skilled at it, but the girl found herself laughing anyway, and once she had started, it was difficult to stop.
And that was what was going on when she noticed her sister standing across the room, watching. “What are you doing?” she asked.
“Oh… uh…” the girl mumbled, pulling free of Camelia’s grasp and sitting up, once more pulling at the hem of her T-shirt. “Just playing. I thought mom said you were…”
“I’m doing homework,” her sister said, giving her a strange look. “I just came to get some water.”
“Well, there isn’t any in here,” the girl snarked. Her sister stared at her and Camelia for several long moments, then finally turned around and left.
Camelia tried to tickle the girl again, but she was too preoccupied with staring at the place her sister had been standing. Had she noticed? Her shirt might have ridden up high enough, and her pants down low enough, that her diaper could have been visible…
The girl could just imagine her looking down at them, seeing her two sister rolling around in their diapers, just a couple of babies, leaving her as the only “grown-up” in the house. Would she be coming back to watch them both, make sure they stayed out of trouble until their mom got home, at which point she’d point out that the girl was wearing a diaper like their little sister and, thus, was surely incapable of acting any older than Camelia?
She didn’t, and, in fact, after a minute, the girl could hear her door closing, but even so, the girl got up off the floor and sat carefully down on the couch, tugging up the back of her jeans. Camelia looked upset for a moment or two, then got engrossed in one of her other toys. The girl kept considering going to get changed, but didn’t want her mom to come home and find that she’d left Camelia unsupervised.
So she sat there, as still as she was able so that her clothes would stay in their right places, as she waited impatiently for the front door to open.
Kalina pushed the game store’s door open happily, stuffing the bag of her finds into her purse. Sam The Girl, ever the bargain hunter, had told her they were having a great sale, but she hadn’t mentioned just how great it was - it was too bad she’d had to leave so soon. She noticed her cell phone flashing out at her that she had missed a call, but, seeing that it was from Crisanta’s number, didn’t bother to see if she’d left a message. She had probably just been freaking that they only had fifteen minutes left until their mom showed back up.
Kalina didn’t know why her sister was always so high strung about that sort of thing. It only took a minute or two, once she’d located the girl’s section, to find a great skirt - long, the lace at the hem probably going down about halfway down her shin, and white, with black vines curling all across it, and punctuated with red flowers - that was in her size. There was a nice, chocolate colored tank top nearby, empire waisted and trimmed with a dark pink, flowered cloth that also made up the extra-thick straps, and the sash, that went great with it.
“There you are!” she heard Crisanta’s voice call, just as she pulled the shirt off the rack. “We’ve been waiting for you!”
“I’ve got five-ish minutes,” Kalina shrugged, holding her outfit up in front of herself. “What do you think?”
Camelia smiled and nodded, but Crisanta just rolled her eyes. “I already found you a dress,” she said, holding it up. It wasn’t terrible, Kalina supposed; it just wasn’t as nice as what she’d picked out.
“Nah, I’m gonna stick with this.”
“But this will actually fit!” Crisanta protested. “You can’t just grab the first thing you see, you know - not every company’s sizes are the same!”
“Yes, I know that, -mom-,” Kalina replied. “I’m not as stupid as you think I am.”
“Then what?!” Kalina snapped, stepping towards her sister.
“It’s so good to see you two getting along so well,” their mother sighed, stepping up from behind Kalina. “What are you arguing about now?”
Not daring to let Crisanta get in the first word, Kalina held up her outfit and stammered, “We were just trying to decide which to get for me!”
“Between that and…?”
“The green dress,” Kalina nodded over towards Crisanta.
“She…” Crisanta started to say.
“But I’m pretty sure I like these better now,” Kalina said.
“Me, too,” her mom smiled. “You tried it all on, right?”
Crisanta’s face was starting to go red. “Of course…”
“Of course I did!” Kalina spoke over her. “You don’t think Crisanta would let me get away without doing that, do you?”
Camelia ran over to their mom to get picked up. “Hey, sweetie,” she cooed. “Okay, let’s go get checked out.” Crisanta shoved past Kalina, nearly knocking her over, but Kalina didn’t mind. She knew Crisanta was just jealous.
Crisanta tapped her pencil’s eraser on the desk once, then again, before circling the answer to the last question. That had been the hardest on the quiz, pretty much the only one that required more than just a cursory skimming of the section of the textbook they’d been assigned to read. Mr. Matson was losing his touch - that, or finally accepting that most of his students didn’t really care about the class.
She quickly looked over the questions again, making sure that the teacher hadn’t done something tricky with the phrasing in any of them. As far as she could tell, he hadn’t, so she flipped the paper over and leaned back in her chair, glancing around the room without making it look like she was searching for answers in someone else’s work.
A surge of pride hit her when she saw that, apparently, she was the first one done. Everyone else was hunched over their desks in concentration, some mumbling to themselves, some chewing nervously on their pencils. Back in elementary school, her teachers would always tell her “It isn’t a race!”, but, of course, that wasn’t actually true. They just couldn’t let all the other kids feel bad when she beat them so badly.
And, back then, Kalina was usually right behind her. Sometimes they would tie, but most of the time, her sister was just the tiniest bit slower. Now…
Crisanta turned her head towards Kalina’s chair, where her sister was obviously still at work. Crisanta could see her feet twisted back into the book rack under the seat, knees bouncing with what was either nerves or an overload of sugar, and, considering she was chewing on her bottom lip as well, the former was more likely.
She found herself smiling cruelly at her sister’s predicament for some reason she couldn’t quite fathom, though it made her feel a bit dirty once she’d managed to stop. What was wrong with her, that she got some kind of satisfaction from seeing Kalina squirm? There was a time when seeing that would have made her feel a little sick to her stomach, make her want to do anything to help.
As it turned out, however, Kalina was about to do that for herself. She raised her eyes towards the front of the class, apparently checking to make sure that the teacher’s gaze was occupied elsewhere, then turned sideways, leaning out over the aisle to sneak a glance at the test on the desk of the inattentive boy next to her.
Crisanta heard herself gasp, felt her cheeks grow red as the people around her gave her odd looks. Kalina gave her one of those as well, after hastily re-situating herself in her chair and scribbling down the answers she’d just found.
Crisanta knew she should say something to Mr. Matson, no matter how unpopular that made her with Kalina, but as she shuffled past his desk at the end of class, all she could bring herself to do was set the quiz down on the top of the growing pile and stop for long enough to get him to notice her.
“Yes?” He might have sounded annoyed, but it was hard to tell, because, as far as she could tell, he always sounded somewhat like that.
She meant to open her mouth, ready to do the right thing, but she couldn’t even get that far, as all of her muscles seemed to tense up, starting with those in her jaw. She shook her head stiffly and skittered out of the classroom, not even bothering to put on her backpack. She could still spot Kalina in the hall, walking and talking with one of her weird friends.
“Kalina!” she called, her body allowing her to speak again, as her plan changed to convincing her sister to confess rather than tattling - perhaps Mr. Matson would go easier on her that way. But she didn’t hear, or was choosing to ignore her.
Crisanta started to push through the crowd before Kalina could vanish, only to bump straight into her Art teacher, Miss Higgins. “Sorry, dear,” the woman said, but by then it was too late. Crisanta, surprised, accidently let go of the backpack she still hadn’t slung back over her shoulder, dropping it in the middle of the hall, papers scattering in every direction like a split-second blizzard.
The girl’s eyes shot up towards her door as her heart promptly froze. She sat there on the floor, legs splayed in front of her, for another few moments, until the knock came again.
“Come on!” the girl’s sister hissed from the other side. “Stop acting like a baby and talk to me!”
At another time, the girl might have laughed at the irony of that, but right then, she was too concerned with making sure that’s all it was, as she scrambled up off of the floor, diaper drooping heavily between her legs, in case her sister, for some reason, tried to look under the door. She nudged her stuffed animals under her bed with her foot, reflexively cursed when she also hit her bottle - one of Camelia’s old ones - and knocked it over. Not that it would have made any difference, even if anything’d had a chance to get out before she snatched it up and set it on her desk, since it was just water, but she couldn’t help herself.
Her sister sighed. “Fine, be that way,” she said.
“Wait!” the girl blurted out, before her sister’s footsteps moved too far from her door. “Look, it’s just… I’m just getting ready for a shower.”
There was a pause, and the girl started to wonder if perhaps her sister had just tiptoed the rest of the way to her own room. “And that stops you from talking?” came the reply, finally.
“No, it just… I mean…” the girl stuttered. “I didn’t…”
She could almost -hear- her sister roll her eyes. “Whatever,” she declared before slinking back to her own room.
‘Stupid,’ the girl berated herself. ‘Piss her off at you even more.’ She looked down at herself, shaking her head. She hadn’t even tried to patch things up with her sister after dinner, just went back to her room to, as her sister had put it, act like a baby. And now she’d just made her even more angry at her.
She felt a little like crying, and a little like sitting back down to play with her dolls and try to forget about it all, again, but her disgust at herself outweighed both. She didn’t have to be a baby every time she was alone… She shouldn’t really. It might feel nice, but there was more to life than that.
She shook her head again, staring down at the floor, where she suddenly saw that her bottle had spilled some after all. “Perfect,” she sighed, right before she noticed that the floor wasn’t the only wet thing. At first, she thought that perhaps she had somehow spilled water from her bottle onto her foot, but as she followed the trail up her leg, she realized the truth. “Gross,” she wrinkled her nose. She thought she had gotten so good at judging when her diapers could take another wetting, and when they couldn’t, but apparently, she had been mistaken.
“Crap!” she growled, waddling back to her bathroom, legs wide to try to avoid putting too much pressure on her soaked diaper. “Crapity-crap.”
Even though the door to her room was closed and locked, as always when she was going diapered behind it, she closed and locked her bathroom door as well, before opening the cabinet beneath her sink and crouched to grab the can of air freshener, and a garbage bag from the box she kept down there.
Before she could stand, she caught sight of herself in the full length mirror on the back of the bathroom door, quite the spectacle in her leaky diaper and T-shirt, squatting down like Camelia sometimes would when messing herself. She saw her cheeks redden as the parallel crossed her mind, and she started to straighten up, a little too quickly. She barely registered that she had lost her balance until she hit the floor, straight onto her wet, squishy bottom.
She stared at herself in shock for a few moments, her bottom lip beginning to quiver, until, at last, she began to laugh. “Good thing I wasn’t -really- doing that,” she giggled to herself. She -had- pooped in her diaper before, and the act itself was fun, but she always waited until she was done playing, because she didn’t like to stay in it for any longer than it took to do it, then change herself. Most of the time when she did it, she waited until she was in the bathroom, even, so she didn’t have to so much as walk across her room. The idea of actually sitting down at such a time was icky enough, but the thought of “tricking” herself into doing so over something so stupid was suddenly the funniest thing she had thought of in weeks.
Once she had stopped laughing, she took off her diaper, putting it into the garbage bag before hopping into her shower to wipe off her legs with her washcloth, which she then rinsed off in the sink and left draped there for a moment, until she could take it into her room to clean the wet spot on her floor. But first, she picked up the garbage bag and tied a couple knots in it before opening her garbage can. She sprayed inside with the air freshener - vanilla scented - then unceremoniously dropped the bagged diaper inside.
Kalina dropped her tray onto the cafeteria table with a clank, making all of her dining companions jump.
“Thanks for the heart attack,” Alice grumbled.
“Oh, calm down, old timer,” Sam The Girl teased her friend, who was roughly a year and a month older than her. “What puts you in such a good mood?” she asked Kalina, who had sunk into her seat while the other two spoke.
“Chemistry,” Sam The Boy answered for her. “Somebody didn’t study.”
“It better not have been you,” Kalina said, trying to sound somewhat jovial about it. “Matson keeps the desks in there way too far apart.”
“You should write a letter of complaint to the school board,” Sam The Boy suggested. “Tell them they’re making it too hard for you to cheat. I’m sure they’d look right into fixing that for you.”
Kalina gave him a half-smile, which was about as much as she could muster. She stared down at the food on her tray briefly before pushing the whole thing across the table.
“It really isn’t that hard if you just read it…” Sam The Girl told her, quite unhelpfully.
“Well, I would have if I’d known there was going to be a quiz!” Kalina snapped.
“I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be a pop quiz, then…” Sam The Girl said quietly, turning to her food.
“Maybe we should talk about something else,” Alice suggested. “Like, why is your sister coming over here?”
Kalina glanced at the Sams, especially confused by the fact that, as far as she knew, neither of them had sisters, or any siblings at all, that went to the same school, before realizing Alice was looking at her. She turned around, and, sure enough, Crisanta was approaching.
“Kalina, we need to talk,” she whispered, before Kalina could ask her what was up.
“Okay,” Kalina whispered back.
When she hadn’t moved after a few seconds, Crisanta jerked her head towards the hall. “Somewhere else.”
“I just sat down,” Kalina sighed. “Can’t you just talk here?”
“I don’t think it…” Crisanta did the strange double-blink thing she did when she was surprised - Kalina was pretty sure -she- didn’t do anything like that, but she had never asked anyone to confirm that for her - as she noticed Sam The Boy. “Oh,” she said simply.
“You’ve met him before,” Kalina reminded her. “And it’s not polite to stare.”
“I’m not staring,” Crisanta lied. “Fine, we can talk here, since you’re probably all in on it anyway.” She glared disapprovingly at Kalina’s friends before settling her gaze on Kalina. “You need to confess to Mr. Matson.”
If it were anyone else, Kalina would try to feign ignorance, but that was pretty pointless with Crisanta. Instead, she just said, “Go to your own table, Crissy.”
“Don’t call me that,” Crisanta frowned. “This is serious!”
“No, it isn’t,” Kalina rolled her eyes. “It’s a stupid Chemistry pop quiz. The world’s not gonna end because I cheated. We’re not all perfect little angels.”
“I never said I was perfect,” Crisanta crossed her arms, “but you should know better. I can’t…”
“Yeah, you can’t believe me,” Kalina finished for her. “I’ll make sure to think real hard about what I’ve done, and I’m sure the guilt will be punishment enough.”
Kalina saw Crisanta’s fingernails digging into the flesh of her arms. “I was going to offer to help you, if you’re having so much trouble, but…”
“Oh, please. Like you’re going to have time to tutor little old me.”
“Huh?” Crisanta’s hands relaxed, her eyes widening. “What do you mean?”
“I -mean-, you should pay more attention to the bulletin board. And you probably shouldn’t be seen talking to us anymore… I’m pretty sure cheerleaders aren’t supposed to associate with geeks.”
Crisanta’s stern expression quickly melted as she listened to her sister talk. “Really?” she managed to squeak, sounding as giddy as Kalina had heard her since they were about eight.
“Go look,” Kalina shrugged. Crisanta squealed and ran off, her lecture promptly forgotten in her excitement.
Sam The Girl’s voice was quiet, hesitant. “I don’t remember seeing her name on the list.”
The words hung there, over the table, for quite a while, nobody daring to comment on them. The longer the silence grew, the worse Kalina felt about what she had done, her stomach tying itself up in knots as she sat there in the quiet, occasionally glancing towards the hall to see if Crisanta would come back to the cafeteria.
Finally, Sam The Boy spoke up. “We’re not -that- geeky, are we?”
Nobody bothered to answer.
“Did you wash your hands?” Crisanta’s mother asked absently, setting the salad bowl down on the table before turning. “Oh, I thought you were Kalina.”
Crisanta couldn’t help but smile at that as her mother bustled back into the kitchen. There was just something about it that made her feel a little better. She walked around the table and slipped into her chair, pulling the Italian dressing a little closer to her plate so that, once everyone else had shown up, she’d have easy access to it.
Kalina approached next, quickly looking away when she noticed Crisanta was already there. That might have raised Crisanta’s mood a bit, too, if it wasn’t more likely to be out of fear that Crisanta was going to tell on her about the test than it was out of shame at herself for being a bitch.
“Mom asked if you’d washed your hands,” Crisanta said after a moment or two of silence.
“What?” Kalina glanced up, confused.
“I said, mom asked if you’d washed your hands.”
Kalina rolled her eyes. Crisanta decided not to push it any further.
Their mother brought out the salmon, set it down and started to turn towards the hall, until Camelia showed up, being carried by her daddy. “We’re not late, are we?” he asked, getting a quick kiss in reply.
“Right on time.”
Kalina fussed with the salad tongs for awhile before finally managing to use them to extract a few leaves of lettuce, which were promptly smothered in Ranch. Crisanta, pulling the salad bowl a little closer to her, gave a sideways glance towards her mom, to see if she was going to tell Kalina to have a little more salad with her dressing, but she stayed quiet.
Crisanta munched on her salad, sparing Kalina the occasional glare, and waiting. Kalina glanced over towards her every couple bites, her eyes growing progressively wider and more scared. ‘If she were smart,’ Crisanta told herself, ‘she’d just turn herself in.’
It took a few moments for her thoughts to really sink in, at which point she froze, fork halfway to the next to last piece of lettuce. She didn’t really believe Kalina was dumb, did she? Sure, she had done some stupid things, but who hadn’t?
‘You’re just feeling bitter about her little joke,’ her mind explained. ‘That’s all.’
But if that -was- all, then did that mean her desire to reveal Kalina’s cheating was coming from the same place? She’d thought about doing so before, but she didn’t know that she would have actually gone through with it - she certainly wouldn’t have waited until she had the whole family around as an audience.
“So,” the question finally came, as her dad spooned some peas out onto his plate, “what did you girls do today?”
Kalina’s gaze shot immediately over to Crisanta. She was almost certain she saw actual repentance in there, somewhere, and it made her close her mouth quickly, having hardly realized it had begun to answer.
Then she opened it again. “Oh, just the usual,” she shrugged, spearing the final lettuce leaf. “Nothing special.” She bit down, smiling a little at the look of relief that washed across Kalina’s face.
The girl bit down on her pacifier in surprise, then quickly spit it out and pushed it under her pillow as she realized what had woken her up.
“Hi!” Camelia smiled, bouncing happily on her bed. The girl looked up at her door, and saw that it was standing wide open, not closed, like she’d left it.
“What are you doing out of your crib?” the girl asked sleepily. Camelia had learned to climb out just a few weeks ago, though, as far as anyone knew, she’d only done it a couple times, not enough to get her parents to convert the crib into a toddler bed just yet, especially since she had always just stayed in her own room. At least until now.
The girl rubbed her eyes and rolled over to face her little sister. “It’s too early to play,” she told her. Camelia pouted, until the girl lifted up her blankets and said, “Come here, then.”
Camelia giggled and crawled under the blankets, cuddling up with her big sister. The girl found herself giggling, too, as they laid there together, as if they were the twins of the family. The girl could almost imagine bars growing up around her bed, not so much trapping them as protecting them, keeping out all the pain and worry of the outside world.
The girl smiled contentedly as she stared up at the walls of the imaginary crib, wishing she was brave enough to fish her pacifier back out, but not wanting to risk anyone else seeing, if they happened to pass by, and not wanting to just assume that Camelia wouldn’t find some way to mention that to someone. Continuing with that thought, she gave her pajama pants a tug from below the blankets, making sure they hadn’t ridden down too far, in case she kicked off her blankets, and her parents decided to peek in on her, since her door was already open.
The girl snuggled with Camelia, who was already starting to drift back to sleep. She felt herself yawn, then curl up a little tighter, her own eyes begging her to close them again. She complied, letting her breathing slow back down, letting her imaginary crib reconstruct itself in her mind, blocking out everything until she was just a little baby falling asleep with her sister.
Like that, it was hardly even a conscious decision to let her bladder go, feeling the warmth spread through her diaper, around her bottom, and then…
The girl sat up, desperately trying to stop wetting, but she was already done. “Not again,” she groaned quietly. She glanced back at her door, making sure nobody was watching, then threw her covers back and rolled out of bed. She quickly sat back down, seeing the wet spot on her pajamas.
Camelia gave a little wriggle, but thankfully, stayed sleeping. The girl glanced nervously from her to the hallway outside her door. Should she try to get Camelia to her own room, and changed, while in soggy pajamas herself, or should she change herself first and hope that Camelia didn’t wake up and figure out what was going on?
It took a few moments for the girl to realize how silly she was being - of course Camelia wasn’t going to figure it out, especially if she just closed her bathroom door, as she quickly tiptoed around her bed to do to her bedroom door.
She moved Camelia away from the wet spot on the bed, then decided to just take her out of her sleeper, which fortunately hadn’t gotten very wet. She’d wash it with her bedding, though, since she needed the rest of the family to think that Camelia was the source of the wet bed. She was pleased, in a strange sort of way, to see that the diaper underneath was wet, if not as much so as hers - at least she wasn’t the only one to have used her diaper this time.
She threw out her overloaded diaper, changed herself into a new set of pajamas, and a pair of panties, since she was going to be going down to the laundry room, and the basement steps tended to be loud, then tossed her wet things onto her bed before picking up Camelia and carrying her back to her own room.
Camelia stirred only once, after the girl had, somewhat jealously, put her into a fresh diaper, and was trying to get her stuffed into another sleeper. She stared up at her big sister inquisitively.
“Just go back to sleep,” the girl told her. “You just had a little accident.”
Even though she probably wasn’t going to remember it, the girl still felt kind of bad about lying to her like that, blaming her for something she hadn’t done. After all, who was she going to tell? Camelia was probably the only person she could ever imagine confiding her little secret in.
“Actually,” she started to say, feeling a tad silly. “It…” But Camelia’s eyes were closed, so the girl just shook her head, laughing quietly at herself, then put her back into her crib.
Kalina bit down into her piece of fish, settling back into her chair. “Yeah, pretty boring day,” she answered after swallowing. For the most part, that was even true - she was pretty sure most of her teachers had been just as eager as their students to get through the day so they could start their weekend.
She could still feel Crisanta watching her from across the table, taking her dainty little bites like some sort of princess. She knew she should feel grateful to her sister for not ratting her out after all, and she did, but at the same time, she couldn’t help but wonder why, and what this silence was going to end up costing her.
She didn’t notice she was glaring suspiciously at Crisanta until her sister gave her a strange look, as if trying to ask what in the world she was doing. Kalina stared down at her plate, where she was pushing a pea around with her fork. Their parents had moved on to talking about their day, but Kalina wasn’t paying any attention, nor, she suspected, was Crisanta.
At the very least, Kalina knew, she should apologize to Crisanta. She’d been planning on doing that anyway, once they had a minute alone, and she’d worked up the courage, but she supposed that it was especially important now. She wasn’t even sure what had come over her at school - maybe it was just because she was in a bad mood and Crisanta wasn’t making it any better, or maybe it was Crisanta’s know-it-all, holier-than-thou attitude.
‘Nah, probably not,’ she mused to herself, ‘I’m used to that by now; that’s what she’s always like.’ She giggled out loud; it wasn’t a nice thing to say, but that didn’t stop it from being the truth.
Crisanta gave her an odd look as she picked up her glass of water, most likely meaning to take a sip. Somehow, however, she managed to miss her mouth, instead pouring it down the front of her shirt.
Kalina’s giggling exploded as she watched Crisanta leap to her feet, trying to brush the water off of her shirt. “I’m sorry,” Crisanta squeaked, “I’ll go get a towel.”
Kalina managed to get her laughter under control after Crisanta scurried off to the kitchen, but when she came back out, she couldn’t help but say, “Maybe you should borrow Cammy’s sippy cup,” which was followed a few stray, unsolicited, chuckles.
Crisanta gave her a look that could have set the wall behind Kalina ablaze if she hadn’t been in the way. Kalina coughed and went back to her food.
“I’ll take care of it,” Crisanta told their mom before she could stand up all the way. “Just eat.”
And then, as she knelt down to dry off the floor, she bumped into the edge of the table, knocking her glass over. Kalina burst into laughter as the water rained down on her sister’s head, at least until her sister stood up and yelled, “Oh, shut up!” at her.
“Calm down,” their dad said. He probably would have gone on, if Crisanta had let him.
“Just shut up, you little cheat!” she shouted, throwing the towel across the table.
The table grew silent, Crisanta glaring and breathing heavily on one side, Kalina hardly daring to take a breath on the other.
“What does that mean, Kalina?” their mother asked finally.
She knew she should just confess, but Kalina couldn’t help but take offense at her mom’s tone. “It doesn’t mean anything!” she said instead. “Just because Crisanta says it doesn’t mean…”
“She cheated on her Chemistry test today,” Crisanta interrupted her.
Kalina swallowed, trying to sink down into her chair as her parents’ eyes turned to her. “It was just a quiz…”
“Kalina Anne,” her mother said - and nothing good ever started that way, “is that true?”
“It was just a stupid quiz!” Kalina repeated. “It’s not that big a deal.” But, of course, they weren’t going to see it that way. “Fine, whatever,” she said, throwing up her hands and standing up. “I’m grounded! Whatever!”
“Sit down,” her mother ordered. “You can be grounded after you finish eating.”
“I’m not hungry,” Kalina told her.
“Sit down!” Kalina did, reluctantly, readying herself for the lecture. She knew that she deserved it, though maybe not so much because of a stupid quiz, but that didn’t stop her from returning Crisanta’s inflammatory gaze from earlier. Crisanta, having calmed herself - perhaps a little too quickly, Kalina thought - retrieved her towel and went back to work. Kalina couldn’t see her face under the table, but she was sure that she was smiling as, over her head, their parents told Kalina how disappointed they were with her.