Helena's Retreat (Ch. 1-7) [Upd 2-7]

So, to get it out of the way: 1) first story that I’ve felt like sharing (and, who knows, maybe finishing) and 2) this story was very much inspired by “Cultural Differences” by Teekabell. I liked the premise so much that I had to play with it, especially once I considered what could be done with dialog. So if the second chapter seems derivative, I hope you and Teekabell will forgive me and keep reading. This is why I decided to post the first three sections all at once. Hopefully you’ll still be able to get a sense of the characters and where they’re going. If not, let me know! Comments and criticism welcome! -bboots

by babyboots

Synopsis: A personal tragedy results in a case of mistaken age and a chance to start over for a little girl far from home.


Helena pressed her olive toned forehead against the window of the train and watched the fir covered mountains of her home give way to low rolling hills. The early morning fog cast a gray shadow across the unfamiliar land. Her mother and older brother had promised excitement, but Helena hadn’t been allowed out of her mother’s sight more than a few minutes in the past two days of travel. It was no way to treat someone who was almost ten years old - practically in junior high as Helena often insisted. She had read her only book twice in the last two days. There was no TV. The only toy she’d brought was her stuffed monkey, who was just as bored. She was stuck in a tiny two-seat room on a train and now even the new scenery had grown dull.

It was moments like this when Helena felt the reality of how much she left behind. It made her chest ache and made tears spring to her eyes. It wasn’t fair. She didn’t want to move to a new country, where they spoke another language. She hadn’t understood why they had to leave so suddenly, why so secretly. Panic had ruled the last week. Her mother or brother hadn’t the time to answer her questions. Not that she had many. Stress and uncertainty always made her retreat inward and close herself to the world.

She felt a cold finger slip into the waistband of her diaper.

“Mom!” she cried sharply. She hated it when her mother checked without asking.

“I’m sorry, sweetie,” her mother said. “You were crying. I thought you might be wet.”

“I’m not,” Helena said, indignant and sniffling.

Her mother opened up her arms and Helena curled up in her embrace. Ordinarily diapers were Helena’s least favorite part of traveling. She was more than just small for her age, and over the last year she’d twice been shepherded into the kindergarten room when school staff found her alone in the hallway. Her mother had trouble finding her big girl clothes, and even her diapers were the largest baby size. The doctors said her size was the reason she still wet the bed every night. On long trips there was no telling when she might fall asleep so her mother insisted that she stayed diapered.

On the first day of this trip Helena had asked to go to the bathroom, but her mother insisted on accompanying her down the car, past row after row of watchful strangers who Helena was sure were judging the diapered almost-ten-year-old who needed her mother to help her use the bathroom. After a few attempts she’d found it much less embarrassing to simply use her diapers and then ask for a change. At least to pee. Then only her mother would know. Besides, Helena actually enjoyed being changed - even if it did seem to disappoint her mother.

The cold finger had drawn her back to the present and to the pressure in her bladder. She flooded her diaper as she laid her head on her mother’s breast and cradled her monkey. She felt guilty about how easy the act was, but the embarrassment of stepping outside their cabin was far greater.

“What’s worrying you, sweetie?”

Helena wanted to ask her mother to stop the train but knew better. They were in danger. It had something to do with the family business, with her late father. She and her mother had left in the middle of the night so no one would see. She hadn’t been allowed to tell her friends, nor was she allowed to call their old house where her brother remained. She had to memorize a new last name, the name on the new papers her brother bought them. She began to wonder. If she and her mother had to go somewhere safe then maybe her brother would too eventually?

“Will Nico come visit us?”

Her mother stroked her daughter’s thick black hair. “Maybe someday. But it won’t be soon.”

“Why did he have to stay behind?”

“It’s complicated, sweetheart. We shouldn’t talk about it here. Maybe when we get to our new home.”

“I don’t want a new home. I want the old one. We didn’t even say goodbye to daddy’s ghost. It’s not right.”

They’d lost her father only two months before, and Helena was still struggling with the idea that he wasn’t a part of their daily lives, that he wasn’t going to come home to at least check on them. She had insisted they visit his grave before leaving, but they were simply too rushed. At his mention, Helena’s mother looked away and her eyes grew misty.

“No, it’s not right.”

That sat in silence for a while. Helena hadn’t meant to make her mother sad. Her thumb went into her mouth as if to stop her from making it worse. She wanted to console her mother but didn’t know how. Seeing an adult look sad or worried always knocked the words right out of her. Sucking on her thumb pushed the troubling thoughts out of her mind.

“You’re too big for that, Helena,” her mother said as she pulled the girl’s thumb out of her mouth.

“Sorry,” she mumbled. This mistake made the next part harder. “Mom, can you change me?”

“Oh sweetie, of course I can. Lie down on the bed and get ready.”

The bench seat opposite them had been unfolded into a lumpy bed. Helena laid down and pulled her pants down to her ankles. Her mother opened their green duffel bag. Cheeks flushed, Helena waited. She dreaded the next question. As soon as she’d said the words, she knew she’d been too hasty; she hadn’t even pretended to nap when she wet. She’d wanted comfort after that awkward turn to the conversation.

“You really are soaked,” her mother sighed as she undid the tapes. “You were dry when I checked. Did you know you had to go?”

Helena shook her head as her legs were unceremoniously lifted into the air. The touch of the cold wipe made her shiver.

“I wish you’d be more careful, Helena.”

Helena fought the urge to suck her thumb as she was powered and the dry diaper secured. Helena didn’t know why, but she liked these special moments together. A soft, dry diaper was the best feeling in the world. These ones had a cloth-like exterior and purple trim, her favorite color. Rather than being a reminder of her biggest embarrassment, somehow it made her feel safe amidst all the confusion, almost proud of the symbol of her mother’s devotion. She knew her mother worried about these new daytime accidents, but Helena also knew it would all be over when they reached their destination. With the stress and unfamiliarity of travel as an excuse, Helena was going to take advantage of every chance she had.

“There,” her mother said and pulled her daughter’s pants back up.

Helena smiled back. Relieved that the questions were over, she decided to stay lying down for a while. Warm and comfortable, it wasn’t long before she drifted off to sleep.

There came a blast of twisting metal. The world shook and groaned. Something heavy pressed down on her, suffocating her. Helena bolted upright.

She wasn’t on the train anymore.

The room was a dreary beige. Everywhere people were moving and shouting. Most people were covered in blood or bandages. Somewhere someone was crying. Helena was sitting on a white stretcher. The room was freezing. Her head hurt. She felt a sharp pain in her arm. Her diaper had leaked all over the thin vinyl mattress.

“Mommy!” Helena cried.

She couldn’t catch her breath and she toppled backwards.

She awoke again in a dark room. Hands held her down. She struggled against them. Unfamiliar faces were looking down at her. Something made a mechanical noise. Her head felt heavy.

Helena became conscious of the smell of baby powder.

“Mom?” Helena asked as she cracked her eyes open.

She was lying on her back in a brightly lit room painted baby blue. She felt the tug of the tapes being fastened. But the woman at her side wasn’t her mother. By her clothes Helena could see she was a nurse. She was in a hospital, she decided. There must have been an accident. She felt dizzy just lying there. And thirsty.

The nurse smiled. She had a very pretty smile. It made her whole face glow.

“Thirsty,” Helena said ass she propped herself up on the pillows.

The nurse looked at her oddly. That’s right, Helena remembered. She was in another country now. Not everyone would speak her language. She made a drinking motion and winced. Her arm still stung, but now she saw her left wrist - her writing hand - was wrapped in stiff brace.

The nurse seemed to understand. She moved toward a sink in the corner and came back with a paper cup of water. Helena drank it so quickly that she dribbled on her hospital gown.

“More,” she said and held out the cup.

Helena drank the second cup slowly. Her whole body was shaking and she felt a dull ache when she moved her jaw or swallowed. The nurse wiped Helena’s chin and then began to tidy up the room. From the second bed, the nurse picked up a green duffel bag. Helena recognized it as hers. The nurse pulled out a few spare clothes and diapers. She said something and looked at Helena quizzically. Helena nodded. The woman continued to give her the same look.

“Mine,” Helena said as she stretched out her good arm toward the duffel bag.

The nurse smiled and shook her head, but she seemed to understand because she tidied up the bag and set it at the end of Helena’s bed. Helena was glad she didn’t have to talk more. She found it hard to put two words together and harder still to keep her eyes open.

Helena wouldn’t remember it clearly, but she woke several more times. Each time calling for her mother.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)


Helena lurched into a sitting position, swinging blindly at the air. She gasped as the sensation of a weight on her chest subsided. It left her feeling stiff and sore from head to toe.

“A dream,” she said to the dark.

As she rubbed her eyes the brace on her wrist brushed her cheek. She stared down at the brace in the faint glow of the nightlight on the far wall. She began to piece together what had been the dream and what was real. She remembered a train and a hospital. This was neither. The bars that surrounded her told her she was in a crib. In the dim light she could make out cartoon animal print wallpaper and two white dressers, one wide and one tall. This wasn’t her room. Shuddering, she realized she didn’t know where she was, who had brought her there, or whether she was safe.

“Mommy?” Helena called out tentatively as the tears surged forth.

Her thumb went straight into her mouth and she backed up into the corner of the crib. Her weight pressed down on her used and sticky nighttime diaper. She felt along the covers but couldn’t find her monkey.

The door rattled open and a sliver of light stretched across the carpet. A silhouette moved toward the window and opened the blinds. Helena whimpered and shut her eyes tight. A woman’s voice said something unintelligible but cheerful. Helena peeked to find a woman smiling down on her with the prettiest smile.

The nurse!

Dressed in everyday clothes now, the nurse lowered the heavy side of the wooden crib and sat down at the edge. She spoke softly as she brushed Helena’s black hair with her hand. Helena didn’t understand a word but crawled toward the nurse for the security of her arms anyway. The girl sobbed as she was rocked and hushed. When she’d calmed, she felt a finger slip under the legband of her diaper.

Before she could react Helena was lifted up onto the nurse’s hip and carried toward what Helena had thought was the shorter dresser. As she was laid down onto its quilted top she realized it was a changing table. She sucked her thumb as her face was caressed by the woman who spoke reassuringly. The nurse deftly removed the sodden diaper and effortlessly lifted the little girl’s legs to clean her. When the diaper fell into the pail with a dull smack, Helena prepared to be set down on the floor. Instead the nurse unfolded a second of Helena’s diapers and lifted the girl’s legs to slide it underneath her bottom. As baby powder was applied, Helena shook her head and tried to tell the woman that she only wet at night. The woman brushed Helena’s chin before wordlessly taping the diaper. Helena wiggled her hips. The woman had done a good job, and the soft diaper fit snugly. The feeling was too nice to continue objecting senselessly. Maybe they were going to travel soon? Maybe to see her mother?

The nurse carried Helena on her hip downstairs and into a dining room. At a large table sat a girl who looked to be Helena’s age but of average height. As curious brown eyes fell on her, Helena realized that she was dressed in only a long sleeved shirt and a diaper. She wanted to hide but the woman sat her down at the table. A bowl of some sort of warm mushy cereal and a sippy cup were waiting for her. It hurt to use her dominant hand, so Helena took up the spoon in her shaking right hand and tried to eat. Most of the first bite dribbled down and onto her shirt, so the nurse fastened a bib around her neck. Helena objected, but her hand was lightly swatted away when she tried to untie it. She supposed it did look liked she needed a bib. While she ate the nurse and the girl talked until the girl appeared to excuse herself. The cereal was bland. Helena’s face and bib were a mess when she finished. The sippy cup of milk proved even harder and she was thankful for its lid.

The nurse cleaned her face and hands with a damp cloth, untied her bib, and carried her into the room at the foot of the stairs. Helena was set down on a large rug between the couch and a small TV. The nurse set about doing chores in and out of the room. Directionless and a little afraid, Helena stood there dumbly.

The girl tugged a plastic tub into the room. She smiled proudly as she pulled out toy after toy: a set of blocks of different shapes, a ball with a happy sun painted on it, a plastic pull-horse on a string. Helena tried to explain that she didn’t want to play, that she wanted them to take her to her mother. The other girl didn’t seeme to understand a word. She demonstrated how the horse made sounds as one pulled it across the floor then tried to loop the string around babbling Helena’s hand. Helena sat down heavily on her padded bottom wondering what to do. Seeing her playmate wasn’t interested in the horse, the girl ran upstairs and came back with an armful of dolls of every size and shape. One was a fuzzy bunny doll wearing a knit scarf. It had the same short fur as Helena’s monkey. Helena reached with both hands for the doll and whined wordlessly. The girl beamed and handed it over. Helena rubbed her cheek on the bunny’s face. This would do for now.

Helena decided that they weren’t leaving right away and that she might as well play for now. She quickly found the horse boring, but the blocks promised to make a nice house for the dolls. Helena and the girl began to assemble a sprawling estate. Helena became aware of a growing need to pee just as the dolls were finally moving in. Meanwhile the other girl had become obsessed with one doll’s tangled hair, so she took the doll to her mother, whining. The two disappeared into the kitchen.

Helena sat still for a moment until, clutching the bunny, she decided to search for the bathroom. First she waddled through the dining room to peak into the kitchen where the nurse and girl were busy attacking the doll’s tangles. When the woman glanced up, Helena ran back through the TV room to find another room, one full of books and fancy looking plates. She’d only just stepped into the last room when she was scooped up from behind. The nurse gently scolded her and carried her back to the toys. Helena pointed at her diaper and tried to explain that she needed to pee. When that met an odd look, Helena tried to undo the tapes of her diaper. The woman lightly slapped her hand away and repeated the scolding, stronger this time. Helena was beginning to guess one of those words meant “no.” With the woman towering over her, Helena sat back down in defeat. The woman settled onto the couch and watched over the girls. Helena guessed she wasn’t going to get a second chance to leave the room without facing an even worse scolding.

Since the girls’ dolls couldn’t speak with one another, their play drifted apart. Helena’s bladder protested against her inaction, and so, while she changed a doll’s dress, she let herself wet the diaper. Her thumb slipped into her mouth as she waited for another scolding but it never came. She was immersed in play and had nearly forgotten about her accident by the time she felt a finger in her waistband.

The woman carried her upstairs, and Helena found herself on the changing table again. Feeling guilty, she didn’t dare make eye contact until her diaper came off and the woman began to talk in a singsong mommy voice. Helena was confused. The woman acted as if it was fine - even expected -for an almost-ten-year-old to wet diapers during the day. Had the woman’s cheerfulness not stunned her and the dry diaper not felt so comfortable once it was in place, Helena might have remembered to protest.

When back downstairs, Helena sat still as she thought of how her mother might react. A trickle of tears broke free and before too long Helena began to bawl. The nurse took the little girl onto her lap and rocked her until the crying fit subsided. Lying her down on the couch, the woman draped a blanket over Helena and her bunny and then headed for the kitchen.

Helena didn’t know how long she lay motionless on the couch, worrying about her missing mother. Eventually she was picked up and taken back to the kitchen table to be bibbed. The knot in her stomach stole her appetite, and the strange food only made her feel more homesick. When the other girl excused herself, Helena still hadn’t touched a bite. The nurse pulled her chair in close and began to feed Helena, not accepting no as an option. As soon as a few bites settled in her stomach, Helena felt better. She reached for the fork a few times, but the woman would lightly slap her hand away and say that word again: “no.”

After lunch the nurse carried Helena and the bunny doll upstairs. In the rocking chair she cooed at Helena and even sang her a lullaby. It didn’t help her homesickness, but Helena appreciated the woman being nice so she didn’t fight. She must have dozed off becuase she awoke in the crib with her thumb in her mouth. Lonely, she started to tell her bunny about her problems. She wanted to leave. Bunny guessed her mother was at the hospital, but how could she get there? She wished she remembered what it looked like or what had happened there. When exactly had they been separated? Why would the hospital send Helena here if her mother was there? No one understood her here, and the nurse, however nice, was a little weird. How long would they keep her here? Did her mother know where she was?

In time, the woman came to change Helena and carry her back downstairs. A pile of coloring books and assorted crayons were scattered across the rug with the other girl sprawled out in the middle. When Helena was sat down, she was given her own book. Ordinarily she loved to draw and color, but with only her off-hand, she found staying in the lines difficult.

The nurse had disappeared into the kitchen again when Helena felt a movement in her tummy. Wetting was one thing, but there was no way she was going to mess herself. If she wasn’t allowed to leave the room, she’d need to be sneaky. The toilet must be upstairs, she guessed. To buy her time, she’d have to be ready to sit down as soon as she found it. While the other girl was busy coloring, Helena slowly unfastened her diaper. Leaving it on the floor, she crept over to the stairs and crawled up slowly to make no noise. She’d just about made it to the top when the girl cried out and the nurse came running. Upstairs, every door was shut, so Helena bolted for the nearest: a closet. The woman grabbed Helena from behind.

By now Helena was despirate. She was too small to break free, so she stomped her foot and shouted “no!” She tried to point to her bottom, but the woman ignored her and gently guided her toward the floor to re-tape the diaper. Helena squirmed and whined indignantly as she was diapered against her will.

Instead of setting Helena down once they were downstairs, the nurse walked over to another closet. Helena whined more as the woman pulled out a playpen. After exchanging words with the girl, the two of them set it up. Helena was lowered into it, but before her bottom touched the mat she began to howl. Just because she was little didn’t mean she deserved to be treated this way. She was a big girl! She could go up and down stairs by herself. Crying was the only way to express her frustration that this woman would understand, so Helena threw her heart into it. The nurse sighed and pulled Helena back out. She tried to rock her and even tried to bounce her on her knees, but it only made Helena’s urge stronger. Helena fussed until she was finally set back down in the pen to fume. The playpen wasn’t actually tall enough to cage her if she tried to escape, but with her injured wrist and the woman nearby she decided to stay put. Crying had brought her comfort before, but it couldn’t express something as complex as asking to use the toilet. It didn’t look like it would get her permanently out of the pen either.

Eventually the woman picked up the telephone. Without understanding a word, Helena could tell the woman was upset but more sad than angry. Despite knowing she hadn’t really done anything wrong, Helena felt guilty. She never meant to cause trouble for the nice woman. Helena sucked on her thumb. As always the sight of an adult in distress made her retreat into a troubled silence.

Meanwhile, the girl had drawn up closer to the playpen with a book in her hands. She began to read aloud, holding the book so Helena could see. With little else to do, Helena tried to follow along but didn’t even recognize a single letter. She had only the pictures to occupy her mind while the inevitable ticked away inside her. Defeated, Helena pooped in the diaper. It wasn’t a big mess, but the babyish deed was enough to cow her further into passivity. She sucked harder her thumb while waiting for the girl to poke fun or call for the woman, but the girl continued reading as if nothing had happened.

The girls were halfway through the second book when the woman came back into the room with juice for everyone and turned on the TV. Instantly the girl dropped the book and leapt onto the couch. Smiling a pretty smile, the nurse lifted the subdued Helena by her armpits. Helena winced, prepared for the worst, but she was only set down on the couch. The three of them watched two cartoons together. Helena liked the first. It was clearly meant for little kids, but there wasn’t much dialogue so she understood most of what happened. She didn’t laugh but she did smile around her thumb. The second involved a lot of characters standing and talking. Helena didn’t know who they were or what they were saying, so it lost her interest. The sticky lump in her diaper was also becoming uncomfortable. She couldn’t decide which was worse: moving or sitting still.

After a minute of squirming, the woman peered down the back of Helena’s diaper. Again Helena was taken upstairs and changed. Not having pooped her pants in years, she expected to be scolded horribly for doing such an unthinkable thing, but the woman smiled as prettily as ever. The process was as natural and pleasant as a morning change. If anything, the woman was more playful as she made silly noises to cheer up the poopy girl. Helena was bewildered into silence again as she was once more set on the rug to play and drink from her sippy cup.

The smell of dinner wafted from the kitchen. The girl cleaned up the books and toys. Helena was happy to see the playpen folded up and pushed to the side. Not long after, the front door opened and a man walked in, calling out happily. The girl shrieked with joy and hugged him. He carried several bags into the dining room.

Helena panicked in the towering presence of the man. She felt unprotected, robbed of her dignity. Yesterday she had only worn diapers to bed or on long trips. She’d only ever wet during the day to avoid the train bathroom. Never at home. No one but family had ever seen her in a diaper before. Now these complete stangers were seeing her at her most vulnerable. They had made her wet and mess herself. They were clearly not taking her to her mother any time soon. She was lost, powerless, trapped.

She spied the phone across the room. That was her chance! Dropping her sippy cup, she rushed toward it. She picked up the handset and her finger hovered above the keypad. She remembered then that her brother made her promise not to call. It was for her and her mother’s safety. But she was already in trouble. Which was worse?

“No!” The other girl swiped the phone from Helena’s hand before she could act.

The girl’s slap wasn’t as gentle as the nurse’s. Helena sucked her thumb as tears of frustration welled up in her eyes. The man came and took the other girl aside to calmly scold her as they cleaned up the spilled sippy cup together. The nurse pulled Helena toward the couch and removed the child’s thumb from her mouth. Helena was about to apologize when in went a pacifier. Strangely, sucking on it brought her relief. This wasn’t right, she thought. Almost-ten-year-olds don’t use pacifiers. The woman smiled her pretty smile and stroked the dazed girl’s black curls.

While she watched the others talk, Helena finally saw what tied them together. A woman. A man. A girl. Dinner cooking. This was a family. She was in their home. But why? Helena puzzled over the day. The baby toys, the diapers, the playpen. She was the baby. Their baby. She mumbled a protest but it was muffled by the pacifier. Her pacifier. The one that had instantly stopped her tears.

As a wordless apology the other girl pushed a smiling toy telephone on wheels toward Helena, but the smaller girl could only stare at it. It at once underlined her suspicion and her inability to change the situation. Helena sucked harder on the pacifier. In the back-and-forth to establish her identity, she had lost.

The man said something when calm had settled, and all four went into the kitchen. Helena returned from her thoughts to find that dinner was some sort of roast meat with potatoes and steamed green leafy vegetables. Once the bib was tied, the mother reached for Helena’s knife and fork.

“No!” said Helena and took up her own silverware.

The woman smiled and commented sweetly, allowing the girl to try, but Helena found it impossible to cut the meat with only her weaker hand. She sighed. Defeated again. She turned to the woman for help and set the knife down. Her food was cut for her, and without a further word of protest, Helena was fed her dinner. When she felt the need to pee, she didn’t fight it. If anyone knew she’d wet, she couldn’t tell by their reactions.

After dinner, the family watched TV and talked amongst each other. Out of tears for the day, Helena made no fuss and mostly sat on the couch with her bunny in her arms. She tried to piece together what she knew about where babies came from. It had something to do with hospitals. That part made sense. But what about the part where the mommy gets big first? Certainly that hadn’t happened, and Helena was far too big to be mistaken for a newborn even if no one treated her like her age here. Did they even know? They had to take her back to her own mother some time, right? You couldn’t just take children from their real mother. Even babies. Helena wasn’t so sure.

Dark settled and with it came bedtime. Helena let the woman brush her teeth and change her. Lying on the changing table, she realized how thirsty she was from so much crying all day. She whined at the woman and made a motion like drinking a cup. The woman smiled and left Helena strapped down on the changing table. She returned with a bottle of water. Protesting would get her nowhere, so Helena let the woman hold her in the rocking chair. Helena reached up to touch the woman’s mouth. The nurse gave the little girl a confused look. Helena hummed a few notes. The woman smiled her pretty smile and began to sing a lullaby. Helena sucked on the bottle and closed her eyes. So far from home and with her mother missing, Helena didn’t know how she could feel as good as she did. She was too full of questions to see that the one thing she needed more than answers right then was a home.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)


Early in the morning, Helena woke up terrified, screaming. It took the nurse’s rocking and singing to calm the wet girl. The woman had come to the crib quickly, as if she’d known she would be needed. Helena couldn’t have articulated it, but inside it felt good to know she was being watched over with such care. The two sat together until sunlight peeked through the window.

Downstairs at the table, the other girl was wearing what looked like a school uniform. As Helena was spoonfed the same warm mushy cereal as the day before, she wondered whether she might be going to school too and if so when she’d get her own uniform. But when the doorbell rang, the other girl kissed her mother on the cheek and sped out of the house by herself.

The nurse sat Helena down in the playpen and handed her a bottle of milk. Helena was sluggish from a night of fitful sleep. The TV was turned on and Helena and her bunny were left alone. A vague panic began to well up in her while the voices on the TV spoke unintelligibly. She could hear the woman washing dishes in the kitchen. Her eyes watered as she sucked on the bottle. She wanted to be held.

The sudden appearance of brightly colored puppets on the TV caught her attention. A blue puppet picked an apple out of a bushel and set it on a table. It then picked out a second. As soon as the blue puppet’s back was turned to fetch a third apple, the orange puppet stole one from the table. The blue puppet reacted in disbelief. Helena smiled. The routine continued; the blue puppet never managed to count to three and grew increasingly frustrated as it counted.

Helena’s eyes widened. The blue puppet was counting!

“One. Two. Th… One?” It shook its head, confused. “Two.”

The skit ended with the blue puppet finally reaching three and the orange one burping. A little boy’s voice counted as three cartoon apples danced across the screen.

Helena hadn’t felt this happy in days. She understood! She couldn’t wait to tell her mother. She didn’t follow the rest of the show so well but her eyes never left the screen. A few minutes later, the TV showed a cartoon woodland scene. A kind grown-up voice said something. A rabbit darted from behind a tree, blinked, and then hid elsewhere. At the same time a child’s voice shouted a word, laughing. The grown-up said somethng encouraging. The scene repeated with rabbits of all colors running and hiding. Helena’s looked down at the doll in her arm and cried out. The nurse ran into the room immediately, worried. Helena pointed at the TV urgently. For a moment the woman was confused.

“Bunny!” Helena shouted along with the off-screen child. She held out her doll at the same time.

“Bunny,” the mother said, smiled her pretty smile, and poked Helena’s bunny doll on the nose.

Helena coudln’t help but giggle. The woman reached into the playpen to hand Helena back the bottle. Helena guessed she’d dropped it when she got excited. Practically bouncing, she sucked on the bottle while her entire attention was caught up with the TV program. She paid no mind to the woman coming and going. When the need to pee came upon her, she let herself go without hesitation. She had a more important mission.

While the credits rolled, Helena was taken upstairs and into the bathroom. She regretted having wet herself so impulsively. The woman removed Helena’s shirt, brace, and damp diaper, and without so much as asking if she needed the toliet, lowered Helena into the warm bath. At first, the woman let Helena wash herself but she didn’t seem at all satisfied. Once she’d taken the sponge to clean Helena’s back, she didn’t give it back. The nurse insisted on scrubbing far too hard for the girl’s taste. Helena was dried off and swaddled in a towl.

Her thumb went into her mouth as soon as she was on the changing table, but after a light slap it was replaced with a pacifier on a string necklace which was looped around her head. After the new diaper was snugly taped into place, the woman took a red and white dress out of the green duffle bag. It was Helena’s but she hadn’t wanted to wear it on the train for fear that the skirt was so short it might reveal her diapers. She winced as her hurt arm was pulled through the sleeves and her brace re-applied. The dress was now on whether she liked it or not. Once the girl’s socks and shoes were put on, the woman stood Helena in front of a mirror and brushed her long curly locks. Self-conscious at seeing her reflection, Helena sucked on her pacifier harder. The image looking back at her was unmistakably that of a toddler. Wasn’t she too big for anyone to believe that? The woman kissed Helena’s forehead and handed her the doll, who Helena realized now had a name.

“Bunny,” said the woman, echoing the little girl’s thoughts.

Helena looked back at the mirror. No, she didn’t look big at all.

Leading the little girl by the hand, the nurse grabbed a purse and a pink canvas bag and then opened the front door. Helena bubbled over with excitement. They were leaving the house! The woman took Helena to a car and fastened her into a child safety seat. They must be going to see her mother, she thought. She recognized nothing on the way but didn’t expect to. They pulled into the parking lot of a professional office park. The corridors were dominated by the antiseptic smell of a hospital or doctor’s office. The mother guided Helena into a waiting area full of green vinyl couches. This is it, Helena thought. The room was filled with children’s toys, but Helena was too anxious to play and barely registered their presence. She couldn’t imagine another reason to be there unless it was to see her mother. In her excitement she wet a little.

At some point the woman’s name must have been called because she led Helena back into an examination room. The mother lifted Helena up onto the paper-covered table and stood nearby until an older man in a lab coat came in carrying a clipboard. He seemed to be scowling as he squinted over his thin spectacles at Helena. The man asked questions and the woman answered. Helena gripped her doll tigher. She couldn’t understand a word but knew she didn’t like the way the doctor treated the woman. He seemed skeptical of everything she said. Without much warning, the woman removed Helena’s dress. The doctor examined Helena closer then, starting with her eyes and ears, then her scalp, and then by taking her pacifier to hold her mouth open. She could hear him mutter.

“One, two, three…”

Counting! Helena wanted to learn the other numbers but couldn’t keep up. The doctor made a note and then continued the examination. He even hit her knee with the little hammer.

When he seemed finished, he made comments to the woman the whole time. He sounded cold. The woman looked as uncomfortable as Helena felt and drew closer to the little girl. Helena hoped it was to give her back the dress, but instead the woman gently pushed Helena back onto the table and undid the tapes of her damp diaper. Helena whined and squirmed. She knew she hadn’t wet. The doctor huncheed over and seemed to examined her diaper area, holding her legs apart as needed and poking her belly. Helena’s eyes teared up. The doctor made a sharp comment and she was taped up again. Before she could sit up, the woman pressed down on her shoulders. Helena whimpered when she saw the doctor brandishing a needle. As the doctor drew blood, she screamed and kicked and wet.

As soon as the doctor was out of the room, Helena started to sob. Neither the return of her dress or pacifier nor a speedy diaper change consoled her. The woman seemed to want to help but also seemed to be in a hurry. All the way out, Helena clung to the woman and made each step more difficult. Back in the car Helena tried to absorb what had just happened. Part of her didn’t want to trust the woman any more but part of her only wanted to be held again. The woman tried to cheer her up, but she seemed too rushed or bothered to do it properly. Helena could see sadness in her eyes. She was a mother herself; she had to know Helena wanted her own mommy, right? Helena cried all the way back to the house, the sight of which disappointed her further.

Riding up the curving driveway, Helena could see just how large the house was. A well kept wall of bushes surrounded the yard on all sides, and tall birch trees rose all around scattering shade across the green grass and dropping leaves which had yellowed in on cool early autumn days. While Helena was being removed from the safety seat, another car pulled up the driveway. The other girl jumped out and ran up to her mother, talking a mile a minute. By her tone and body language, Helena guessed she was pleading with her mother. Apparently the mother said yes because the girl jumped for joy. Another girl, also in uniform but much shorter than the first, stepped out of the car and together they charged toward the front door holding hands.

As she was led into the house, Helena wondered what it meant that the girl was let out of school so early. Back home, only little kids went to school for half a day except on rare occasions. She had assumed the girl was roughly her age because she was about the height of most of Helena’s friends, but this girl’s friend was much shorter, closer to Helena’s unusual height. They didn’t look like they belonged in the same class.

Once inside, the girls charged upstairs. Helena’s shoes were untied and she was set back down in the playpen. She hoped the TV would be turned back on, but instead she was given another doll, a cloth one wearing a bonnet, a frilly yellow dress, and a pair of lace-rimmed bloomers. It seemed to Helena that the big blue eyes of the doll demanded care and attention so she told Bunny to check the baby’s diaper. Together they cleaned the doll and rocked it to sleep while it fed on Helena’s empty bottle from earlier.

Some time later, the mother called out. The girls bounced down the stairs and into the dining room. Helena was carried to her chair soon after. Lunch was some sort of thinly sliced meet on a bed of vegetables and something that looked to Helena like tiny rice. The first girl practically shoveled their plates into their mouths, but her friend spent as much time watching Helena, who had insisted on feeding herself. Helena found that for the meat and some of the vegetables her fingers worked much better than trying to hold a fork. No one objected, but the new girl stared as Helena dirtied her face and hands. The first girl finished and pleaded with her mother again. When she got her answer, both girls ran into the kitchen. Through a window Helena could see that they’d gone out into the backyard.

The woman made sure Helena had emptied her sippy cup before cleaning her hands and mouth.

“No!” said Helena as she was carried back to the playpen.

She wanted to go outside too, but her complaints only met with a pretty smile and a tickle under her chin. Part of her wanted to throw the baby doll over the wall of the pen, but Bunny told her not to. When the sounds of cleaning in the kitchen ceased, Helena and Bunny were once more carried upstairs. On the way, the woman slipped a finger up a legband of Helena’s diaper. It was apparently dry enough because she laid Helena in the crib and pulled the side up.

Helena wasn’t tired at all. She tried to use the time to concentrate on a plan, but she was full of conflicting thoughts and feelings. Everything in the last day and a half happened so quickly and so randomly that she kept getting thrown off. For one, she didn’t know whether she’d be returned to her mother quicker if she behaved like a big girl or like a baby. It seemed wrong but behaving like a big girl seemed to always get her in trouble. She’d never be given back to her mother that way. Of course, she realized, she had also tended to make a mess of acting big. With her food, mostly, but also by throwing fits and tearing off her diaper like a toddler. But then crying was the only way she ever got what she wanted. Helena felt her bladder complain. Not wanting the distraction right then, she let go.

She tried to piece together what the trip to the doctor meant. Was she not well enough to see her mother? She didn’t feel sick. Most of the examination seemed fairly routine. Except for the counting. Had he counted her teeth? Did he suspect she still had her baby teeth? She hoped not. It was one of her biggest secrets. Everyone else was so proud of their missing teeth. After vacations, little Helena always came back to school pretending to have lost a tooth or two and grown new ones during the break. Helena squinted at the crib rails as more pieces fell into place. They knew about her baby teeth and the nurse had also found her diaper bag, consquently she’d been carried everywhere and fed by hand or bottle. She wasn’t allowed out of anyone’s sight unless she was in a crib or playpen. Being good for these people meant acting like a baby because they thought she was one.

Her diapered area itched fiercely. She wiggled her hips and rubbed at the padding, but nothing helped. Not bothered enough to cry and not knowing how else to express her need, she let her pacifier fall out of her mouth and called out wordlessly.

“Wuaaah? Muuuuh!”

Ugh, she thought. She did sound just like a baby. When the woman came, Helena reached out with both arms. She was carried to the rocking chair and given back her pacifier. The woman made hushing sounds and she stroked the little girl’s hair and tummy as they gently rocked. Helena stared up at the woman’s pretty eyes, smiling whenever she was accidentally tickled. The itch faded into the background. It wan’t so bad to let this woman baby her, she decided. Not if it was only for a little while. When it was time for a change, the woman was much more playful. She tickled Helena and blew raspberries until Helena giggled. She also used a lotion on Helena’s diaper area that felt cool and took away her pain.

Once Helena’s shoes were back on, the woman led her and Bunny out to the backyard where the other girls were climbing on a swingset. It was just what Helena wanted so she beamed up at the woman sand hugged her leg. Helena scooted off toward the swings. Having been kept inside a train and a house for too long, she was happy to just swing alone for a while. She didn’t want to stop when she first felt the need to poop, but with her legs pumping the feeling only became more uncomfortable.

By this time the other girls were playing a game of catch. Helena set Bunny down on the swing so the doll could continue without her. Helena stood near the girls, but they only threw the ball back and forth between themselves and chanted something together. Frustrated, Helena ran this way and that to try to catch the ball each time they tossed it. After a dozen tries, it bounced off the house and Helena snatched it up. Before she could throw it back, both girls charged toward her and shouted. Helena hugged the ball defensively. If they were going to be mean, she was going to keep the ball. They tried to swipe the ball, but Helena held firm.

The new girl ran to the swing set and picked up Bunny. Helena dropped the ball instantly. She tried to take her doll back, but the new girl threw it toward her friend, who held it over her head and out of the little diapered girl’s reach.

Helena was crying now and too bothered to hold her poop any longer. Reaching back to hold her bottom failed to stop the flow. The other girls must have realized what she’d done because they laughed and squeezed their noses. Helena’s thumb went into her mouth. The girls started chanting again. Helena realized it was one word over and over again. It was directed at her. She knew there was a word for a little girl who wasn’t allowed to play catch, wanted her dolly, sucked her thumb, and pooped her pants.

“Baby! Baby! Baby!” they called and danced around her.

Helena ran toward the girl with her bunny, but this time the girl pushed Helena down. Helena bawled as she fell back and landed on her messy bottom.

The mother threw the back door open and, raising her voice, directed the girls inside. The two friends protested and dropped Bunny, but the mother stood her ground. After the girls marched inside, the woman scooped up Helena and Bunny and carried them inside on her hip to set her down on the rug in the living room. After more harsh words from the mother, the girls sat down in chairs facing the wall in the room with the books. Helena recognized the time out procedure. She’d faced it many times back home.

Still crying and anticipating a similar treatment, Helena felt the woman lift the back of her dress and tug the the waistband of the messy diaper. The woman plucked the pink canvas bag from beside the front door and pulled out diaper supplies including a changing mat onto which she lowered the sniffling girl. The woman was still bothered but she tried to be caring as she cleaned up the stinky mess. Helena could make out a few words that the woman seemed to repeat. One of them she thought she recognized.

“Baby?” asked Helena.

“Baby,” said the smiling woman in a much kinder tone than the girls had. She leaned over to kiss Helena’s forehead.

Instead of time out, Helena was returned to the playpen with her dolls. When the woman came back with a fresh bottle, Helena lifted up the doll in the yellow dress. She had to be sure.

“Baby?” she asked.

“Baby,” the woman said and kissed the doll’s forehead.

The woman made a phone call next. Not long after, the friend was sent away with her own mother. The afternoon dragged on. Helena knew what quiet time was and didn’t want to be the next one in trouble. She certainly deserved time out as much as the other girls, but she didn’t know whether she was excluded because the mother didn’t understand or because she’d been demoted to baby. Bunny pointed out that a week ago she might have considered being stuck in a playpen punishment. Had her perspective really changed so much in the past day and half? Helena didn’t want to think about that and made the doll sit in the corner.

When the father came home, he spoke with the girl in a stern tone and then sent her upstairs. The girl made a point to stomp on every step. The father then carried the tub of toys into the room, lifted Helena out of the playpen, and turned on what looked like the evening news. Not knowing him as well as the others, Helena would pause her play to stare at him. Whenever he noticed, he’d reach into the tub, pull out a new toy and show her how to play with it for a little bit. He didn’t say much, but he smiled at her. He didn’t seem to know what to do with Helena, which left her feeling unsure. He certainly didn’t seem as frightening as he had the night before.

The girl joined them at dinner. This time Helena’s food was cut up for her but she was allowed to feed herself. After dinner, the girl stomped back upstairs.

After dinner Helena joined the adults in the TV room. They talked, and it seemed to Helena like a very serious discussion. She even thought she heard the word for “baby” a few times. Toward the end, the mother’s voice wavered and she teared up. She had such a pretty smile when she was happy. Helena didn’t like to see her frown, and without really knowing why, Helena started to cry quietly. When a sob caught the nurse’s attention, she scooped up Helena to hold her on the couch again.

Later that night, as Helena was tucked into her crib, she felt very thirsty. She grunted, reached out, and made a drinking motion until the woman seemed to understand. The woman returned with a bottle. She talked as she held it above the crib out of the little girl’s reach. Helena stretched futilely and wondered why the woman would be so cruel until what the woman was saying caught her attention. She was emphasizing a word repeatedly.

“Bottle?” Helena tried and was rewarded with the bottle.

“Bottle.” The woman said and tapped on the bottle.

Something still nagged at Helena. Babies don’t say “bottle.” She could tell by the way the woman said it that the word had a singsong quality to it, like it was only a little more than nonsense.

“Baba,” said Helena again before happily sucking.

“Baba,” repeated the woman with the pretty smile as she turned off the light.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)

Pretty good start, I look forward to reading more

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)

I enjoyed every aspect of this story, please keep up the good work as always, and thanks for sharing your awesome writing style with us.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)

Awww thanks! :smiley: I’ve mostly finished the fourth lil bit, but it is SUCH a setup for the fifth that I want to edit them together.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)

Nice start please more.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)

this is a lot like a story called cutural differences or something. but it is good.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)

Two chapters as promised!


An hour before sunrise, Helena awoke to the sensation of being crushed once again. The dark seemed more massive than the room, as if it stretched out forever in all directions. Helena felt the entirety of that infinite weight, and it left her unable to move or to even make so much as a squeak. Helpless and with no idea why this was happening, the terrified girl could only listen to the sound of her breath coming short and fast. Was she dead? Was this what had happened to her father? The feeling escaped with an involuntary shudder leaving only a dull pain in her injured arm, the irritating sensation of a soaked morning diaper, and the fear that what had just happened could return. Once her lungs were full again, Helena wailed with all her strength.

The woman opened the door to find Helena already waiting with arms outstretched, hot tears pouring forth. The woman rocked her, talked to her, and sang to hush the little girl, but Helena could not be consoled. She continued to sniffle all the way through breakfast, nearly motinonless. Helena didn’t even register the other girl’s dirty looks as she ate and left in silence. If the woman wasn’t quick with the spoon, Helena’s thumb would be in her mouth between bites. Twice Helena tried to hug the woman’s arm, spilling a spoonful of warm mush in the process. When the woman tried to set her down in the playpen with her morning bottle, Helena bawled as powerfully as she had when she woke. She didn’t want to be alone, not if that feeling came back. She only calmed when she was cradled on the couch and the woman held a bottle to her lips.

The TV played as Helena drank. It was the same puppet show as yesterday. A mouse and an elephant were doing various ordinary activities. The mouse would open a tiny door or remove a tiny cake from a tiny oven and announced each action with a single word. Then the elephant would do the same action on a larger scale and say another word. Most of the time the elephant ended up destroying half the set. In the end a giant mouse came on and said the elephant’s word, which made the elephant faint. Helena cracked a smile. The TV flashed various images and little kids said the same words as the mouse or bear. “Little” and “big”, thought Helena once she sensed the pattern.

When her bottle was empty it was bath time, much like the day before. Afterwards they went into Helena’s room. Bathed now in the sunlight that fell across the changing table, Helena watched as the woman picked up Helena’s duffel bag only to find it empty. The woman tore open a new pack of diapers. Unlike Helena’s brand, these were plain and thin, and once one was fastened one around her, she found the plastic texture stiff and painfully tight around her legs. The woman turned to find Helena clothes for the day. Helena sucked on her pacifier and wiggled her legs in the air in an effort to make the diaper sit right. A tape popped loose. Helena suddenly felt exposed and first instinct was to alert the woman, but a voice told her that she needn’t worry, that she could trust the woman to fix the tape. It didn’t even occur to Helena to use her own free hands.

Helena’s bag must have been out of clothes too because the woman rummaged through the dresser next. She pulled out several outfits and held a few of them up toward the little girl on the changing table. The woman’s brow knit when she spied the broken tape, and she hurried out of the room. Helena had noticed that most of the outfits were for a boy. And for a toddler at that. For the first time she wondered why this family had so many baby things, including the toys and a whole baby room. Where was this boy who used to wear these clothes?

The nurse came back carrying the diaper Helena had been wearing before her bath. It was actually slightly damp, but the woman apparently decided it was better than another of the new ones. Helena didn’t disagree. When Helena was re-diapered, the woman tore the tags off a blue romper that snapped up the back and along the crotch. The belly displayed a duck stitched together from various fabrics, some plaid some with dots. It fit, but it was snug, especially over the diaper. With her mess of black curls, Helena wouldn’t be mistaken for a boy, she decided as her hair was combed. But even if she could count past three she doubted anyone would believe her real age. The fabric of the romper was stretched, but it was still clear the adult who dressed her believed she was little.

An anxious Helena was soon loaded into the car seat. The hope of seeing her mother was dwarfed by her fear of returning to the doctor. Helena swore to Bunny that they would run away together if they were taken back to that office. She plotted her escape every minute of the ride. She remembered bushes outside the office and imagined she could hide there if she could only run faster than the woman. Helena only relaxed when she was led by hand into a grocery store.

Helena sat in the cart with Bunny in her hands and gawked at the sights. People were everywhere, many dressed in strange clothes. The boxes and brands were all so unfamiliar, and again, she couldn’t recognize any of the letters. The woman took her time, judging produce and prices, and she constantly referred to a stack of coupons she’d brought. The novelty began to wear off for Helena after a few minutes, so she decided to test out the words she’d learned that morning.

“Bunny. Little?” she asked and held up her doll.

“Little bunny,” the woman corrected, pausing to flash her pretty smile.

“Little bunny,” Helena repeated, making the doll hop across the rim of the cart. “Little baby?”

“Little baby,” the woman confirmed and gave Helena’s chin a tickle.

As the shopping trip dragged on, the urge to poop crept up on Helena and became quite strong by the time they reached the an aisle of babycare products. Growing restless, Helena looked up and down the rows of diapers. This was going to take for ever if she didn’t help. At last she spied the packages thht were at least the same shade of purple as her usual brand. She pointed and tried to think of the best word she knew to convey what she meant.

“Baby,” she said.

The woman followed the girl’s finger and began to study that selection as carefully as she had every other item. Passing people marked the time as Helena squirmed. She didn’t want to mess herself in front of strangers, and especially not in the diaper aisle where they’d all surely realize who the diapers were for. At last the woman picked two packs from the bottom shelf and set them in the cart. Wipes and more were added, and then it was time to checkout.

The woman sighed, dismayed. Helena turned to see why: every queue was backed up. Helena whimpered and found her thumb in her mouth. By now her need was almost painful. She didn’t think she’d make it to the toilet even if she could ask. Bunny chided her and asked her what she thought she was waiting for. She knew for a fact that she’d be cleaned up without facing a single harsh word. The woman had put her in a diaper fully expecting her to use it, fully expecting that she’d make a mess without it, and right then Helena did in fact need it. Helena turned Bunny to face the other way so she could maintain a little modesty, and, trying not to grunt, she filled her diaper right there in the queue, face red and head down. The woman replaced her thumb with her pacifier but otherwise didn’t react. Helena sucked as if it alone could relieve her shame.

When it was their turn, the cashier cooed over Helena like one does around a baby, but the little girl remained shy. Once everything was paid for and the cart loaded, they were on their way out the doors. Helena whined and even kicked her legs a little hoping that the woman would pick up on her desire to be changed, but the woman only said soft words and stroked the girl’s cheek. Back at the car, Helena squirmed even more as she was fastened into her seat.

“Baba?” the woman asked.

Helena pouted but was given a bottle of reddish purple juice all the same. She sucked idly as the car was loaded up and they left for the next stop. Although she was bothered by the sticky sensation in her pants, much worse was the feeling of being betrayed. She wanted to be in a clean diaper and she wanted it right then. She kicked her legs again in protest even though the woman couldn’t see from the front seat. Helena hadn’t drank half her bottle by the time they reached the next store. The woman paused to refill the diaper bag before leading a waddling Helena by hand across the parking lot.

With great relief Helena found their first stop was a bathroom, and best of all, it was private with only a single toilet, a sink, and a changing table. If the latter was neither as large nor as comfortable as Helena’s, she was still glad to see it. By this point Helena was quite a mess, but the woman was as kind and playful as ever. A repeated word caught Helena’s attention. She tried to imitate it.

“Stinky,” confirmed the woman in a silly voice as she plugged her nose. “Stinky baby.”

Helena couldn’t help but laugh at the way the woman said it, and this in turn prompted a pretty smile from the woman. It made Helena feel silly for being angry earlier.

The new diaper was similar to one of Helena’s old diapers. At this point Helena would have settled for the thin white diaper just to be in something clean, but the new one had the same cloth-like mesh inside that she liked. It was thicker too, especially between the legs, which was somehow extra comforting.

Outside the bathroom, the store was full of clothes of every kind. The woman pushed Helena and the cart into the infant and toddler department. The woman didn’t seem much interested in Helena’s opinions as she picked through the dresses, onesies, nightgowns, and more. Together they tried on a few of everything in the fitting room with the woman dressing and undressing Helena. Of course only the largest or loosest would fit, and this seemed to frustrate the woman who tended to select the more babyish outfits. Meanwhile the pile of outfits accumulating in the cart troubled Helena. Wasn’t it her mother’s job to buy her clothes? Did the woman think Helena would stay with the family long enough to wear all of these? It started to feel like too much.

“No!” Helena shouted and simultaneously slapped the cart to emphasize her point.

The woman hushed her and placed the pacifier in the girl’s mouth. Helena let it fall and repeated herself. The woman tried again, but Helena kept her mouth shut tight, shaking her head. The exhausted woman looked hurt and confused. She had no idea what the girl was upset about and recognizing both the woman’s concern and confusion her made it worse for Helena, who fought back her tears. She wanted her own clothes. She wanted to be out of this store. She wanted her mommy. She wanted to be fed.

Helena hesitantly tried a new tactic. “Baba?”

The woman sighed contentedly once she heard a request she understood. The bottle of juice was returned to Helena, and she drank while the woman straightened things. After a few final decisions, she pushed the cart toward the front of the store. This made Helena happy and she smiled up at the woman. As her independence slipped away, this one little moment felt like quite the victory.

The two had lunch at an outdoor cafe. The nurse seemed to know the man and woman behind the counter and talked with them while the food was prepared. They both smiled at Helena but didn’t try to talk to her. Outside at a table, the nurse kept Helena on her lap and fed her a flatbread sandwich. It was dripping with some sort of sauce that eventually smeared across the girl’s lips. Helena couldn’t quite describe the taste. It wasn’t terribly spicy, but she found she had to ask for a drink frequently. Sitting on the woman’s lap, it was almost impossible to recall the horror of her morning or the minor frustrations of shopping. It didn’t take much effort to dribble in her diaper either time she felt the effects of the juice. While the woman finishd her own sandwich, the man from behind the counter came over to talk. Helena blushed and kept her face buried in the woman’s shirt.

The last stop of the day turned out to be a large daycare center. The woman stopped to talk and fill out forms at the main desk. From there Helena could see two wings. One was full of cribs, high chairs, playpens, and rocking chairs. Two women watched over infants, most of whom looked to be asleep. The other side had several low tables, child-sized plastic chairs, a TV, two rocking horses, and many more toys. Toddlers ran around as two women and one man kept an eye on them. Helena clung to the nurse’s leg. She couldn’t see the other girl and hoped that the nurse wasn’t dropping her off. After the previous day, Helena didn’t want to be around other children, not to mention so many strange adults. The very thought made her feel more alone. Deeper still, she was afraid of being forgotten and left behind, so she fastened herself to the woman’s leg and held on for dear life. One of the staff came out from behind the front desk and kneeled down to talk to Helena, but not a word was understood. The new adult seemed friendly, but Helena was too suspicious to even smile. To Helena’s relief she was soon led out toward the car.

Back at the house, the exhausted little girl was changed and put down for a nap. The day had been so full of little ups and downs that she joyfully accepted the peace and pleasure a warm bed. In the drowsy afternoon, the crib felt familiar and safe. The tightness of the romper still bothered Helena, so she unsnapped the crotch just before falling asleep.

She woke to the woman checking her diaper. The sag between her legs told Helena she was at least a little wet, but the woman snapped up the romper without a change. Having spent most of the day in a damp diaper by this point, Helena shrugged it off. The thicker diaper made being wet about as comfortable as being dry.

Downstairs the daughter was watching TV. It was the same cartoon from two days before that Helena could mostly make sense of. They sat on the couch together, but because she missed half the jokes, Helena’s mind wandered. By the time the next show began, Helena was on the floor exploring the tub of toys. She found a family of round plastic figurines with cars, tractors and a small merry-go-round with slots for the people to go in. The romper pinched in weird ways when she knelt so she started to unsnap it again.

“No,” said the woman as she bowed down to clasp the snaps.

Helena pouted but eventually found sitting with her legs splayed eased the pinching. To her surprise it also must have made holding her pee harder because she was soon wetting herself just as she became aware of the need to go.

During a commercial break, the girl began to talk excitedly. The mom didn’t seem to approve of whatever was said. The girl whined and eventually cried, but the mother held her ground. The situation upset Helena. She instictively lifted her hand to stick her thumb in her mouth but found her hand contained one of the figurines. Its big round head looked as inviting as a pacifier so Helena popped it into her mouth with its body sticking out past her lips. She hadn’t been sucking on it long when the woman gently pried it from her mouth. The mother returned the pacifier to Helena’s lips. That was odd, the little girl thought, but she went on playing like nothing had happened.

The father returned home and it was soon dinner time. When the father and daughter began to eat, Helena paused to look over the strange food which was already cut up for her. Though the mother was sitting close to her, neither had yet reached for her silverware. Helena realized that, aside from holding her own bottle, she hadn’t fed herself all day. She didn’t know if she was supposed to and, quite confusingly, couldn’t decide if she she wanted to. Torn, she looked up with her lower lip sticking out. The woman looked back with both pity and a pretty smile. Neither father nor daughter said anything as the woman began to feed both Helena and herself. Bite by bite, Helena fell into her role, made all the easier by that the woman seeming to glow more with each sloppy bite.

After dinner the mother disappeared upstairs and the other girl brought out the coloring books and crayons. Little or big, coloring was still one of Helena’s favorites. One of the books was of the puppets she’d been watching every morning, so she took that one for herself. She was trying to get the fur of the blue monster just right when the smell of the crayon stopped her. It smelled appealing, familiar. Helena stuck it into her mouth and immediately pulled it back out, spitting. The other girl gave her an weird look, and Helena blushed. Just like with the figurine, the urge had been quick and overwhelming. This time she stuck her pacifier in her mouth on her own to make sure she wouldn’t be tempted again.

A page later, Helena noticed that all her crayons were gone except the one in her hand. Crayon by crayon, the other girl had gathered a hoarde on the opposite side from Helena. Helena reached for one, but the girl rolled on top of them and shielded the crayons with her arms. Helena whined and tried to pry one free, but the girl pushed her back. Helena tried again but was rebuffed once more, whimpering as she smacked her elbow against the floor. The father walked into the room just as Helena threw her only crayon at the girl. He grasped a hand from both girls and pulled them to their feet. He spoke sternly at his daughter who kicked the crayons grumpily before sitting back down.

Standing now, Helena felt a wet sensation on the inside of her thigh. The short leg of her romper was cold and damp. She looked down and saw a wet patch where she’d been sitting. Had she been sitting in something? When the father lifted her to carry her upstairs, Helena could feel her diaper sag. She’d been letting herself pee a little whenever she felt the need but couldn’t believe it had been that much. For a short moment it troubled her that she wasn’t sure what would have happened if she hadn’t been wearing a diaper, but when the father set Helena down on the changing table, the scent of baby wipes and powder made worrying about accidents seem foolish. Including more than two days of traveling, she had’t touched big girl panties in nearly a week. She’d come to trust her diapers were there and doing their job. Catching the girl’s distracted look, the father tickled Helena’s belly. She giggled and squirmed. This time the diaper had failed, but even that wasn’t being treated as a problem.

The father didn’t talk in his wife’s singsong voice, but he did speak soothingly while he changed Helena, dressed her in a new nightshirt, and fed her a bedtime bottle. Helena hadn’t been tired ten minutes ago but found it hard to keep her eyes open while the father rocked her. Far from his frightening first impression, Helena smiled sleepily as she found that with her head against his chest the man’s voice reminded her of a cat purring.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-3)


On the fourth morning Helena awoke from a nightmare completely paralyzed. Tears ran down the edge of her face as she found she couldn’t even scream. Conscious of every lonely second, she watched helplessly as the night subsided and the dawn cast its slow, brittle light through the curtains. Hours passed before the woman finally came into the room to wake her. Wearing the same style scrubs she had when Helena met her, the nurse dried the girl’s tears and returned the pacifier to her lips. Since Helena was so quiet, the soaked nightime diaper was replaced in record time, though no less lovingly.

The nurse only seemed to notice that something was wrong when the tired little girl nearly toppled out of her chair at breakfast. She took Helena onto her lap to feed her and spoke soft praise with each spoonful. The other girl scowled across the table and got up to leave without a word. After breakfast Helena was dressed in one of her new outfits, a simple pink and white striped long-sleeved dress. Once an extra outfit was folded and packed into the canvas diaper bag, the woman loaded Helena into the child safety seat with a bottle and they were off. Helena was disappointed that they hadn’t had time to cuddle but could only manage a feeble whimper on the walk between bedroom and car.

Helena must have dozed off during the ride because it seemed to take no time at all. She only noticed the car had stopped when she was taken out of her seat and led up the sidewalk toward the daycare center.

“No,” she whimpered.

She tried to break free of the woman’s grip. She tugged and tugged and tried to run in the opposite direction, but she was too weak. Her arms and legs felt slow and cumbersome. When the woman was tired of fighting for each step, she picked up the little girl and held on to her tightly as they entered the center.

“Nooooo!” Helena screamed.

Hot tears came quick as she flailed and kicked with all her strength. She managed to land a firm blow against her captor’s leg, which caused the woman visible pain. The screaming stopped momentarily when Helena was handed over to one of the daycare attendants and then she started to babble urgently in her own language. This was a mistake. She wasn’t a baby. She’d just had a few accidents. She didn’t really belong there at all. At the end she could no longer form full thoughts and screamed for her mommy. It did no good. Not a soul comprehended her. The lady from the day care who was holding her kept a firm grip no matter how hard the girl fought. Helena had half slid out of her dress, but the attendant simply hooked an arm around the girl’s thigh.

While the adults all spoke, the nurse stroked the little girl’s face. Helena could see she was crying too but this only upset the little girl more. Clearly the nurse understood. She didn’t want to leave Helena there any more than Helena wanted to be left. She’d make this all better, right? Helena wanted to trust the nurse, but she was plagued with doubt. She didn’t understand what was transpiring between the adults, but she instinctively knew if the nurse didn’t like it then she wouldn’t either. Eventually the nurse was escorted out by another attendant, but she glanced back over her shoulder every step.

Helena sobbed as she was taken into the fenced-in toddler wing. The day care attendant carried her around the room for the grand tour. The attendant had waist-length chesnut hair now mostly gray and a face older than the nurse’s. Her voice was low and scratchy as she made reasurring sounds, but Helena hardly listened. Her worst fear had come true. The nurse was gone. Her own mother was gone. Even Bunny. She’d been abandoned by everyone. She sobbed for some time, but so much crying was tiring for a girl whose sleep had been frightfully interrupted. When Helena was at last quiet, she was set down on the floor.

Helena spent the morning in sullen tears. When she cried loudly one of the adults would try to comfort her, but as soon as she’d worn herself out she was set back down. Feeling unloved, the comforting didn’t have as much effect as the girl’s shyness and physical exhaustian. Most of the kids stared at Helena with unashamed fascination. Some of the bravest came up and tried to coax Helena into playing, but Helena wouldn’t even look at them. Mostly she laid about, unresponsive. She’d entertained the idea of escape several times over the last few days, but it no longer seemed possible. She couldn’t even pretend to be in control of her life. She doubted she’d ever see her mother again. More alone than she’d ever been before, she had neither the energy nor motivation to even sit up.

Snacktime created an audible buzz among the toddlers. Helena didn’t find the smell of sliced apples appealing and had to be carried toward the low tables by the woman with graying hair. Helena wasn’t hungry and let the plate sit untouched. The woman tried to feed her an apple slice, but the diapered girl refused to open her mouth. The woman said some words in a voice firm but not harsh. Helena shook her head fiercely the next time the woman tried. The gray-haired woman gripped the girl’s jaw firmly and squeezed her cheeks. A slice was pushed into her mouth. The woman forced her to eat half the apple slices on the plate before she let the girl down.

Helena sat by the table where she’d been left. Nowhere in the whole center looked any more appealing so she saw no reason to move. Eventually the black haired male daycare worker came by. He bent down and lifted Helena’s dress a few inches to inspect her diaper. He barely seemed old enough to be out of high school and had the biggest brown eyes Helena had ever seen. He carried the girl into a large bathroom with a changing table, a normal toilet, and a toddler-sized potty chair. The man wasn’t unfriendly, but the diaper change was quick and professional. Within a few minutes a blushing Helena was back on the floor as if nothing had happened.

It was the young man who scooped up Helena at lunch time. She was no more hungry than she’d been before, but unlike the gray-haired woman, he didn’t compromise on servings. He scrapped the plastic dish clean with the spoon before he let Helena move an inch.

Not long after lunch Helena entered one of her howling fits. The gray-haired woman tried to hush her, but newly restored by lunch, Helena cried the loudest she had all day. Equally full of energy, the pack of toddlers were becoming too much for the other two attendants to manage. The gray-haired woman was struggling to hold Helena when a fight broke out. Five of the children were throwing blocks at each other and shouting. One boy was hit on the forehead and started to bleed. The gray-haired woman tried to set Helena down so that she could help, but the little girl wouldn’t unlatch. With each try she’d grip the woman’s shirt or hair in her little fist.

Finally the gray-haired woman stepped over the fence and passed Helena to a woman from the nursery wing. Not having any attachment to one person over another, Helena didn’t mind who did it so long as she was held. But the new surroundings threw her out of the crying fit. This wasn’t right, she thought. She’d been one of the tallest in the other wing, but in the nursery she was a giant. What’s the word for “big”? Helena was struggling to remember when this new adult sat down in a rocking chair. Her humming drowned out the ruckus from the toddler wing. The smell of diapers and baby powder was overpowering. The woman rocking her was as tan as Helena with hair equally black and curly. She even reminded Helena of one of her aunts. This at once soothed the little girl but also brought fresh tears to her eyes. She preferred real family, but if she was going to be abandoned to strangers, she could do much worse.

Helena spent the rest of the day in the nursery wing rotating between crib, playpen, and a caretaker’s arms. Neither walking, talking nor playing, Helena’s depressed state meant she fit much better with the infants than with the hyper-active toddlers. She drifted through the afternoon only half-aware of what was happening. Sleeping fitfully when she was comfortable, sucking on her pacifier when she wasn’t, and crying whenever she felt too alone. Though there were only two women working in the nursery, one would always come to Helena just before a fresh set of tears descended into bawling. A cheerful change, a bottle, or simply being rocked would quell the fit before it began.

To Helena’s doubled surprise, the father and daughter came to pick her up late in the afternoon. She instantly felt stupid for having let her fear get the best of her all day. Of course she hadn’t been abanonded. It was only daycare. Not an orphanage. She hugged the father tightly as she was picked up. His daughter was still in her uniform, and if Helena had been able, she might have hugged the girl too simply for the joy of seeing a familiar face. The man lifted Helena’s hand to wave goodbye to the tan woman as she was carried out, and then the three drove back to the house.

The girl ran upstairs as soon as they were home. The father grabbed a few toys and a blanket and carried them and Helena into the kitchen. He arranged a play area for her, turned on a radio, and began to cook. Helena told Bunny all about her day, and how glad she was to be reunited. Together the two watched the man, who sang and danced for her entertainment while he chopped veggies and stirred a saucepan. Dinner was a thick meat and veggie sauce over pasta. Helena sat, waiting to be fed, but the father sat opposite her. The food smelled too good to let it grow cold, so Helena gave in and fed herself.

The mother came home when Helena was on her last few bites. She cleaned Helena’s face and hands, but the little girl refused to be picked up. Helena was angry with the woman for being left at the daycare, for the doctor, and for being kept from her mother. Rejected, the woman reluctantly let Helena leave the dining room herself. Helena could see the woman’s eyes water, but she forced herself to look away. Knowing she could be gone at any moment, Helena wasn’t going to let the woman trick her again.

After dinner the father and daughter watched TV while Helena played with some dolls. The girl grew progressively unhappy with the father’s choice of programming and tried to argue with him. The father remained resolute, but when the girl stole the remote to change the channel, he ordered her into the time-out chair. He turned the TV off and stepped into the side room, the one Helena hadn’t been able to reach her first day in the house. Helena was surprised to be left in the living room alone and yet outside the playpen. She didn’t like the feeling at all. Since she was curious about the other room, she waddled through the open door with Bunny in hand.

The room had been turned into an office. The father was sorting papers at a desk and feeding them into a shredder atop a wastebasket. He smile over at Helena but didn’t stop her. Helena explored the room and made her way toward a row of photos. They were of the family: the father, the mother, the daughter at various ages, and a baby who had apparently grown into a little boy and who wore many of the clothes Helena had seen the previous day. He looked several years younger than the daughter, but the pictures of him stopped when the girl appeared a year or two younger than she was now. Helena wondered what his story was. Was he their son? Or had he been taken in like she had? If the latter, did he stop appearing in photos once he’d been returned to his real family? Or maybe he’d been taken from them somehow? A stream of tears flowed down her cheeks. If the earth had shook at that moment, the house woudln’t have felt less safe.

At the sudden sound of the daughter crying, the father rushed out of the room. Helena followed at a slower pace. She found the other girl standing beside the time out chair. Her pants were soaked. A puddle had formed on the chair and dripped onto the floor. The adults seemed disappointed, but they didn’t get angry. The mother led her daughter upstairs while the father scrubbed the chair and floor clean. Helena stood by, a trickle of tears still falling. Something was very wrong, she was sure of it, but what it was escaped her. The sound of footsteps on the stairs broke her train of thought. The other girl descended wearing pajamas. Helena had half-expected the mother to have diapered her daughter. She wanted to offer the girl a hug but was afraid to try.

The mother moved to pick Helena up, but the little girl ran toward the father instead. She didn’t trust the woman anymore, and so she held onto the father’s leg until he took her upstairs to put her to bed. Helena didn’t want to sleep. There were so many things to think about. The boy. The girl’s accident. Daycare. Bunny. The sensation of the bottle on her lips. The warm blanket. Something…

Helena closed her eyes. Being rocked always cleared her head and left her feeling so peaceful.

The next several days passed as indistinctly as scenery beyond a foggy car window. Helena’s life had fallen into a rhythm beyond her control.

Helena’s mornings were no less terrifying for their regularity. Whether at dawn or well before light, she would wake in her crib feeling crushed, paralyzed. When she’d gained enough control, she howled until someone came. Only being held soothed her, and some mornings there simply wasn’t enough time. After a rushed breakfast, she’d be carted off to daycare.

The nurse came and went at all hours. If one day she took Helena to daycare but wasn’t home for dinner, then the next day was the reverse. One day Helena didn’t even see her at all. All of this reinforced Helena’s suspicion that the woman was going to abandon her, so Helena rejected the woman’s attention as much as she could. If Helena hadn’t cried, she would fight to escape when the woman tried to pick her up or check her diaper. Soon this attitude became the normal reaction to any unwanted adult attention. This was easier around the nurse now that her daughter demand more. Helena fought down a pang of jealousy whenever mother and daughter did something together, but refused to let it show.

At daycare, Helena now spent all day in the nursery wing. She wavered between boredom and depression and was always full of indistinct complaints. No care from the staff lasted more than a few minutes, and being placed with infants meant there was no one else to interact with. Yet she didn’t see any reason to try to improve her situation. There wasn’t anything she wanted that she was likely to receive or even knew how to ask for. Whether in a crib or play yard, she’d do little more than sit and stare. Just like her peers.

Meals were a constant waiting game. A part of Helena wanted to be fed, but most of the time she simply wasn’t interested in eating. The father had the most patience, but generally everyone would give in and feed her. As a consequence though, Helena’s meals were sometimes cut short and she spent much of her day hungry and grumpy. She’d often cry from regret within an hour of failing to finish a meal.

One evening, under the father’s not-so-watchful eye, Helena found the phone unguarded. She cautiously dialed her old home, but the phone made loud angry noises at her and she hung up before she could be discovered. It was the nail in the coffin of her old life. With it, she let go of any chance of rescue. She was inconsolable for the rest of the night.

The next day was very different. First, Helena had remembered in her morning haze to insist that Bunny come with her. These days the doll seemed like her only friend, the only one who understood her. Second, not many children came to daycare that day. In fact only three occupied the nursery wing, including Helena. This meant the curly-haired woman’s attention was devoted almost entirely to Helena. Early in the morning, the young daycare worker tried everything she could to coax a smile out of Helena: rude noises, airplane rides, tickling. The little girl remained unmoved. Once she was left alone for a while, Helena started talking to Bunny, and this may have given the woman her idea.

The curly-haired woman cleared a corridor between the highchairs and playpens and sat Helena and Bunny down at one end. She herself went to the other and sat down with a ball and a big floppy rabbit doll. He was a ridiculous looking thing with long limbs and a bowtie and must have been well-loved at some point in his life. The woman made the doll wave excitedly across the corridor. Bunny insisted on waving back. Helena wanted to resist but couldn’t deny her only friend. She helped Bunny wave. The woman made the floppy rabbit push the ball from side to side, and then as if by accident, he pushed the ball straight toward Helena and Bunny. The floppy rabbit put his paws to his head then waved frantically. Bunny suggested pushing the ball back. With Helena’s help, the ball went rolling back toward the floppy rabbit. He wiped his forehead and went back to rolling the ball from side to side until it again escaped toward Helena. The game of ball continued between the two stuffed animals, and just like that, Helena was drawn out of her shell.

The floppy rabbit joined them at snacktime, and after, instead of taking Helena away from the table, the woman dumped a box of puzzle pieces onto the table and turned the lid so Helena could see the picture of cartoon rabbits and ducklings. The woman made the floppy rabbit start piecing together the puzzle. Helena could tell it was a very easy puzzle with only about a dozen pieces, but the rabbit still had trouble. With a sigh, Helena began to help.

“Bunny,” said Helena once the puzzle was complete.

The woman pointed to one of the ducklings. “Duck.”

Helena’s eyes widened, and, stammering, she repeated the word.

Many more puzzles were completed that day. The pretense of using the rabbit doll as an intermediary was dropped once Helena learned her reward for completing a puzzle was a new word. Helena was so eager that after a few puzzles she pointed to the lid before touching a single piece. The woman just shook her head and made Helena complete the puzzle before revealing the new word. After that, the woman hid the box which make each puzzle more difficult and each word more exciting. The puzzles themselves grew in complexity and in number of pieces. Helena tackled them all with a burning intensity that matched each new challenge. She struggled through every diaper change because it drew her away from the game. Her dedication paid off: by lunch Helena had learned words for fish, dog, goat, and balloon. Some of the words had strange sounds, but Helena did her best. Recognizing the girl’s still fragile state, the woman didn’t dwell on correcting the little one’s pronunciation.

After lunch, Helena fought even harder against being put down for a nap, but a bottle and a spell in the rocking chair worked its magic. When she woke she didn’t even remember being moved to the crib.

After her nap, Helena learned the words for boy, girl, and mouse. She felt so proud for having discerned “boy mouse” from girl mouse" that she ran around the room pointing out the genders of every daycare worker and child she could see. The curly-haired woman laughed, tagging along after the girl. Helena only sat down again when the woman dumped out the pieces to a new puzzle. It took a long time to finish, but once Helena snapped the last piece into place, she proudly pointed at the picture of three bears enjoying bowls of porridge.

“Bear,” said the woman.

“Bear,” repeated Helena. Then, in an effort to show off, she pointed to the smallest bear. “Baby bear?”

“Baby bear,” confirmed the woman before pointing to the other two in turn. “Mommy bear. Daddy bear.”

“Mommy, daddy,” Helena murmered as she committed the new words to memory.

The last puzzle was a nightmare compared to any that had come before it. Helena struggled as the picture slowly emerged as a forest scene. Helena grumbled. There were so many pieces of all shades of green. How was she supposed to know which went where? She was nearly done when it became clear that several pieces were missing. Unfair! She’d been tricked. No wonder it was so hard! Helena screamed and tore the puzzle apart, throwing pieces everywhere. The woman grabbed the little girl’s shoulder, but Helena tore free.

“No!” she shouted before kicking at the table and knocking over her chair.

What had started as a good day fell apart quicker than the broken puzzle. Helena’s tantrum seemed to strike a chord because the whole daycare center roared to life with crying and shouting. As the staff scrambled to regain order, Helena took advantage of the confusion to escape from the curly-haired woman, knocking down chairs and other items to block the path between them. Sparks of pain shot up from her knee when she put weight on it. Maybe she shouldn’t have kicked the table. She knew she couldn’t outrun any of the daycare workers for long, so she crawled under a crib. The woman let Helena go and turned to tend to one of the crying infants.

From her hiding place Helena saw the front door open. She was considering escape for the first time in days when the nurse walked in.

Helena’s heart hit the floor. She had been mean to this woman for days, but here she was. She’d come to pick up the selfish little girl and invite her back into her house. Knowing now how fragile real families were, Helena knew the nurse didn’t have to care for her. And in the middle of her worst tantrum ever, Helena knew she didn’t deserve to be cared for. The nurse frowned as she surveyed the mess that the daycare had so suddenly become. She studied the knocked over chairs, the crying faces. She was looking for Helena, and by her expression of concern, Helena could tell it wasn’t to scold her. She was genuinely worried about the little girl’s safety. Helena didn’t like to see the nurse frown.

If Helena’s knee hadn’t hurt, she might have run toward the nurse. As she crawled out from under the crib, she thought through the words she knew. There had to be a way to get the nurse’s attention over the crying of so many other children. Some way to express that Helena was willing to be good, willing to be the woman’s baby girl again instead of the sullen infant she’d become.

“MOMMY!” she shouted.

The nurse turned, spied Helena, and rushed to the little girl’s side.

“Mommy!” Helena repeated, sobbing.

“Baby!” said the woman tearfully as she lifted Helena into her arms.

Helena cried into her new mommy’s shoulder. She was ready to go home.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-5) [Updated 1-25]


Helena was sitting at the dinner table with her mouth open when the other girl started to complain. The mother and the girl talked as Helena swung her legs impatiently. She was ready for bite number two. The mother set the fork down beside the girl’s plate. Helena closed her mouth when the tone of the conversation became serious. The daughter was angry, nearly enough to cry, and the frustrated mother was trying to defuse the situation. The father hadn’t yet come home, so it was only the three of them. As they pointed and glanced in her direction, Helena formed a guess about what was being debated. The mother and daughter reached a cold middle ground and resumed eating. Still no one touched Helena’s fork.

It hurt to be left out. Had the girl convinced her mother not to feed her? Was it a test to see how she’d react? Helena stared at her fork, that symbol of the big world she’d left behind. It felt good to be little. At least a little bit little. The last few days had not been fun, but before that she’d felt loved. She wanted that feeling again. She wanted to be cared for. Big girls had to do things all on their own, and Helena couldn’t bear being alone. Her tears were being wiped away before she realized she was crying. Her new mother smiled down at her but still didn’t touch the fork.

Fine, Helena thought.

She reached forward and picked up some of the steamed veggies with her bare fingers. A few beans dropped onto her lap, but she ignored them. Her new mother wordlessly nudged the fork toward her, but this only made Helena feel more little as she pretended not to notice. Then in a genuine accident Helena knocked over her sippy cup. Before more than a sprinkle could escape from the tight lid, the mother rescued it and made an “uh-oh” noise. Helena wiggled her toes in glee. That might have fit into her plan beautifully if she had one, but she didn’t. She was only behaving on impulse, and it was earning her the doting attention she desired.

The other girl leveled a cold stare across the table. Since the crayon incident, both girls had managed to exist in the same house without acknowledging the other. Helena had been easy to ignore while withdrawn and depressed, and while she rejected the mother, the other girl received the attention she wanted, the attention the diapered interloper had been stealing. Helena’s reawakening meant they were fast becoming rivals.

Helena had the best night’s sleep she’d seen in weeks. Though sunlight poured through the window, the bed was cold, and so Helena curled up under the blanket. As she moved, her soaked and clammy diaper irritated her skin. She poked her head above the covers. Helena wasn’t sure how to let someone know she was awake. This was the first morning she’d woken in a crib without the desire to scream. She listened to the voices downstairs including her new mother’s. The other girl was with her and they were laughing together. Helena wanted nothing more than to be with them. The voices sounded so distant from the chilly, lonely room. Her tummy growled. A sob shook her.

“Mommy!” she cried.

Helena hadn’t meant to start crying; it had just happened. She heard footsteps ascend the stairs, and then her new mother entered and greeted her with a pretty smile. Helena reached out to be picked up. Her tears slowed to a stop once the two were dancing across the room toward the changing table. The mother talked so cheerfully that, although Helena didn’t understand anything except the occasional “little baby”, her new mother’s tone caused her to giggle anyway. When the mother dried her cheeks she struggled to remember why she’d cried.

“Baba?” she asked while her diaper was taped.

Her mommy poked her nose and smiled, but first Helena was dressed in a red tunic with a heart print and a bright pair of matching leggings.

At the breakfast table Helena didn’t hesitate: she dipped her fingers into the warm porridge and licked them clean while the mother was still fastening her bib. Helena wasn’t very succesful at getting it into her mouth, so the mother quickly intervened and fed the little girl her next spoonful. As the mother talked, Helena tried to repeat her. Halfway through the meal, the mother started holding back the spoon until Helena said a specific word. Porridge? Food? More? Whatever it meant, each time Helena said it the mother made airplane noises and piloted the spoon into the little girl’s mouth.

The other girl was watching cartoons in the living room and still in her pajamas. The father wandered about dressed in casual clothes. This must be the weekend, Helena thought. She curled up on the mother’s lap and was fed a bottle of milk. Helena barely glanced at the noisy cartoon. For now just being held by her mommy brought enough joy. The credits rolled and the other girl ran upstairs. When she came back down she wore an outfit similar to Helena’s except that the other girl wore a diaper on the outside of her clothes. She spun to show off the stretched diaper then got down on her hands and knees. The mother laughed nervously as the girl crawled up to them.

“Baba,” said the other girl in a baby voice then added what sounded like babytalk.

Helena’s hands crept toward her bottle. She wasn’t going to let the other girl take it. The mother spoke, seeming careful in her tone, as if making a delicate suggestion. The girl disappeared from sight and came back carrying a doll and a toy bottle. She threw herself onto the couch next to her mother and began to mimic her by feeding the doll, wiping its mouth, and talking to it in gentle tones. Helena didn’t like the insinuation that this girl was more like a mommy, that she was closer to the mother. Just because Helena liked drinking from a bottle didn’t mean she couldn’t be just as good of a mommy if she wanted. When the father came downstairs, he observed the scene with a smirk and made a short comment. The girl jumped up, tore off her diaper and refastened it around her doll. The dad laughed, patted her on the head then stepped outside. After a while Helena heard a lawnmower fire up.

The mother said something which brought the other girl no end of excitement. She bounced around the room swinging her doll carelessly. The mother lowered a confused Helena into the playpen, made sure she had toys and a pacifier around her neck, and then guided her hyper daughter into the kitchen. The TV had been turned off, so Helena played with her toys. She was curious about what was happening in the kitchen but also annoyed with the girl and tired of being held for now. She’d rather play in peace than be confined to watching the other girl. The family of figurines were fighting over who got to walk the round plastic dog when the sounds of cabinets and packages opening in the kitchen were joined by a running mixer. The other girl was getting to cook! Helena used to love helping her real mother cook. Maybe she had been wrong when she decided to be little. She wanted to play mommy in the kitchen too.

Tears of frustration began to trickle down her cheeks, but Helena tried to stop them. The other girl didn’t cry so easily. Crying was for babies who don’t get to cook. She turned back to her toys to distract herself. The littlest figurine cried and asked to be given the dog’s leash. The mother figurine scolded her: if you want to take care of the dog, you’ll have behave more like your big brother. The boy figurine proudly walked the dog around the playpen. While she moved in a circle, Helena spied the toy bottle cast aside just beyond her reach. She started to form a plan.

Sometime later, the other girl raced by carrying a ticking timer. The mother returned to the living room, and Helena reached upward and whined. The mother repeated a word in the manner that meant Helena was supposed to say it too.

“Up!” Helena said.

The mother smiled proudly and lifted Helena and her yellow dress doll out of the playpen. A hand squeezed the little girl’s diaper in the process, but she barely noticed. When both feet touched ground she raced toward the couch to collect the toy bottle. She stood there, rocking and feeding the doll while the mother opened the pink diaper bag and prepped the changing mat. No, Helena thought, big girls don’t need diaper changes. Helena whined as she was wrestled down onto the mat. The mother didn’t even respond to her attempt to show her mommy skills. She needed to call attention to her plan.

“No,” said Helena. “No baby.”

Her complaint was ignored, so she made the mother fight her each step. She held her leggings up, she rolled when the mother gripped the tapes, and she squirmed when the mother held her ankles up. Yet the tiny girl lost each battle. She was being briskly wiped when the phone rang. The mother stood to answer it and left Helena on the floor with her tunic hiked up and her leggings gathered at her knees. Helena was annoyed over the change but didn’t like it being interrupted any better. The cool air on her exposed skin made her need to pee. So she did. Right on the mat. It wasn’t a lot, but Helena could feel it pool. Despite being done in anger, the act made her feel more vulnerable. When the mother hung up and kneeled again, the additional mess made her pause. She inspected Helena’s leggings to be sure they weren’t splashed then turned a quizzical look toward the little girl whose thumb had navigated toward her mouth. Helena dreaded what might happen next, but the woman smiled and replaced the thumb with a pacifier. Now that Helena wasn’t struggling, the mother cooed at her little girl. Helena was stunned into cooperation as she was powdered and diapered. The mother stood her up and tugged her leggings into place then kissed her on the forehead. She then handed her a bottle of juice.

Helena stood dumbly in the middle of he floor. That had been the most babyish thing she had ever done. Ever, and yet it had won her affection. She might have given it more thought but the girl came back downstairs with a little suitcase. She opened near Helena and proudly displayed that it was full of clothes and accessories for dolls. She slid an outfit toward Helena’s doll. The two began to dress up their dolls together. First they were dressed in nightclothes and fed bottles, then their pajamas were swapped for party dresses and ribbons for their hair. Though neither girl understood more than a few words of the other, they had fun making their dolls fuss and cry and speak babytalk to each other. Helena did her best to keep up with the other girl and follow her lead. She hoped to prove how big she could be. The other girl produced a set of toy cups and plates. Helena knew it wasn’t the same as real cooking, but she was so caught up in play that the earlier slight faded from memory once they started serving the dolls imaginary food. As the smell of real cookies baking filled the house, Helena sipped greedily from her own bottle in anticipation. The other girl checked the timer at least twice a minute. When the last minute came she stopped playing altogether to watch the seconds pass. The timer finally buzzed and she flew across the room and into the kitchen. The mother followed her. Helena could hear shrieks of joy as the smell grew stronger.

The whole family gathered together at lunch. Helena’s food wasn’t served until her bib was in place. The short delay made her reconsider the silverware question again. She knew you had to use silverware when cooking, but the issue was complicated by the fact that acting little at the table always brought attention and made the other girl jealous. The immediate reward won, and Helena decided to eat with her fingers again. She happily made a mess of her hands, face, and even hair. The other girl purposefully missed her mouth once, but the father forced a napkin on her. Helena tried to hide her elation at that turn. Once the other girl finished her meal, she proudly handed out one cookie for each. Her father kissed her on the forehead in thanks and both parents gushed with what sounded like compliments. Helena ate her cookie quickly. It was actually very good. She struggled to remember the word from breakfast.

“More!” she said - or at least hoped she said.

The whole family laughed. The girl pleaded with her parents. Another moist cookie was broken in half and a piece given to both girls.

After lunch, the girl helped pack the leftovers into tuperware then pleaded with her parents. With a cry of joy she ran out the back door. Helena pointed after the other girl and whined while her face and fingers were wiped with a washcloth. She knew she was usually coraled in for a nap after lunch, but she was unusually well-rested that day and didn’t want to be stuck in the crib wide awake. The mother stood Helena onto her feet. The little girl tried to scramble for the door, but the mother held her still, tugged her leggings down a couple of inches, and checked the back of her diaper. Helena whined more. Why did the mother always think she was wet? It wasn’t fair that her play time was always interrupted. Hot tears fell down Helena’s cheeks as she was carried into the living room. She was certain she wasn’t all that wet, so this could only mean it was naptime.

To her surprise the changing mat was laid out and she down onto it. The mother replaced the girl’s thumb with a pacifer and lovingly removed the very soaked diaper. Helena tried to think back. Sure, maybe she had let herself pee a little bit here and there, but she hadn’t flooded it all day. She’d never once felt the need to go that badly. A tickle on her belly brought her back to the present. She wiggled but the mother wouldn’t let up. Helena was gasping for air by the time the tickle attack ceased. She was still snickering when the mother stood her up and pulled the leggings up over the soft dry diaper. Kneeling, she was right within little girl reach, so Helena threw her arms around her new mother. They hugged for a long minute. When they finished, the mother tied Helena’s shoes then led her by hand out the back door.

Helena ran to the swings where the other girl was already on one. The mother stayed outside and alternated pushing them. Helena was overjoyed. The air was cool and autumnal but not yet cold. Golden leaves fell around them. Whenever the mother pushed Helena too many times in row, the other girl would call out something. One of those words Helena was starting to recognize: I, me, my, mine… It was something like that. The other girl said it a lot day-to-day, but Helena hadn’t figured out the details yet.

“Me!” Helena tried when she felt it was her turn and was happy to find it worked.

The mother retired back into the house. The other girl picked up the same big ball from days ago. She bounced it an called to Helena. Timidly, Helena slid off the swing, unsure of whether the pushing incident was about to repeat itself. The other girl threw the ball and miraculously Helena caught it. They both smiled across at each other. As the game of catch went on, each girl bounced the ball off tree or house or swingset while the other scrambled to catch it on the rebound, laughing all the while.

Darting out of the side yard, a big black dog charged toward them and caught them both by surprise. Helena had never seen a dog so big. Her bowels emptied into her diaper while she stood frozen in place. The dog came straight toward her. The other girl imposed herself between them and gave the dog stern orders. The dog began to sniff both girls up and down. Helena’s family hadn’t kept pets, so her tear-streaked face was etched with terror even as the dog wagged its tail happily. She gripped the other girl’s shirt and kept close. But the other girl took Helena’s hand and held it out toward the dog who took the opportunity to cautiously sniff it. Before a horrified Helena could retract her hand, the other girl made her pet the dog. The dog responded by rolling its head into the hand. “More,” it seemed to say. Helena giggled with glee.

“Dog!” she said.

Before long, they were playing fetch with the dog. Their ball was much too big for it to hold in its mouth, so it tried to pin the ball between its mouth and paws which only made it more fun for the girls to try to wrestle the ball away. They played for a long while before a man rounded the corner of the house and called to the dog. He fastened its leash and waved to the girls. They waved back until the dog was out of sight.

“Bye-bye,” they both called.

The other girl took Helena’s hand and led her back into the house. Helena happily followed, wondering what game they might play next. When the other girl found her mother, she pushed Helena forward and made an annoucement the smaller girl couldn’t understand.

“Stinky baby,” said the mother as she brushed Helena’s face and took her hand.

Helena felt ashamed when she realized what was going on. The other girl had just firmly established herself as the big girl and at the same time marked Helena as the baby who couldn’t even be trusted to report her own poopy pants. Helena wasn’t sure how she kept failing so simple a task, but it had felt so natural to play in a messy diaper that it was easy to forgot she’d done it. The worst part came when the other girl watched as Helena was changed in the living room. The mother seemed to narrate each step as if instructing her daughter in caring for a baby. The girl had found a way to steal Helena’s special moment with the mother. Helena needed reassurance that the mess was no big deal. She needed affection. Instead it had become the other girl’s time to bond with her mother, and Helena was left out.

Normally being freshly diapered made Helena feel at peace. This time she was determined to win back the mother’s attention. Her mind raced furiously while her leggings were tugged and straightened. She realized she’d spent the previous day learning words just like a big girl and hadn’t yet shown off her new vocabulary. She knew just saying the words wouldn’t be impressive enough. She needed to prove she knew what each meant. From the living room she could see the bookcases in the room with the time-out chair. One in particular sported a row of brightly colored children’s books. Helena walked over to it and picked through them at random. Though the mother kept an eye on her, she didn’t try to stop the little girl and Helena was thankful for that. After careful consideration, Helena selected the book which would let her show off the most words: cartoon animals were ice-skating across the cover.

“Dog!” she said and held up the book.

She ran over to the couch and hopped up. The mother and daughter took sat on either side and stared over the little girl’s shoulder. Helena flipped through the pages and pointed at pictures whenever she found something she could name.

“Dog,” she said. “Duck. Bunny. Bear.”

She looked up, beaming with pride. Both mother and daughter were smiling but it was more amused than impressed. Her brow knit. She had to do better. The animals drank cocoa, went sledding, crashed into snow banks, and did far more for which Helena didn’t have words. She found a picture of four dogs on a sofa and realized that they formed a family.

“Mommy dog, daddy dog, girl dog, boy dog,” she listed.

The mother’s smile grew. She pointed to the two younger dogs and said a word for each. Helena repeated the words dutifuly but wasn’t sure whether they meant daughter and son or sister and brother. The mother then said something to her own daughter. The other girl flipped some pages and began to read out loud. The mother helped a little, but the girl did it mostly on her own. They let Helena hold the book and turn the pages, but the only reason she knew when to do it was that the girl paused and tapped the next page. Helena despirately wanted to follow along but the black squiggles made no sense to her. Based on the pictures the story seemed to be fairly simple, but the book itself was weird. The cover was on the wrong side and the pages were all backwards.

When they made it to the end, the mother praised her daughter. The other girl skipped over to the bookshelf to return the book. Helena yawned leaned against the mother. She’d grown used to an afternoon nap and was finding it hard to keep her eyes open. The last thing she remembered was the mother wrapping her up a blanket.

Helena was already sucking on a bottle when she awoke. She smiled thinking the mother must be holding her. It was a nice feeling to wake up to. But when she shifted her weight something seemed wrong. She cracked her eyes open. The other girl was staring down at her, holding the bottle. They were on the couch with Helena’s head resting on the girl’s lap.

The other girl smiled warmly when Helena locked eyes with her. She made the cutest noise of adoration.

Helena wanted to bolt but the noise pinned her down. She always found it hard to resist a bottle and a cuddle, and it apparently made no difference if the one holding the bottle was her rival. What had happened? This same girl had pushed her around and given her icy stares. Weren’t they fighting for the mother’s affection? This same girl had stolen toys and attention from her. Had embarassed her in front of the mother, robbed her of her special time. Had stood with her when the dog came, read to her, and shared her cookies and doll’s clothes. This same girl was now holding her bottle without a hint of malice.

Neither girl had yet looked away. The girl sad something and stroked Helena’s hair. Helena recognized two of the words: little sister. Yes, she thought, there was a word for someone who fought with you and yet played with you and took care of you.

“Sister,” Helena said around the bottle. “Big sister.”

The other girl squealed and cried out. “Mommy!”

Their mother was already watching them from the entrance to the dining room. Her eyes glistened.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-6) [Upd 1-31-11]

I enjoyed this story very much, please keep up the fantastic work, and you are an writer as always.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-6) [Upd 1-31-11]

I really enjoy this story it amazing plot youhave here and look forward to see what happen next to her.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-6) [Upd 1-31-11]

This third-to-last chapter is probably going to be edited more than the others before the story is declared complete. It’s a small resolution before the big payoff next chapter, but I wasn’t too happy with the way the ideas came out. So I’m definitely looking for feedback on whether it all worked.


“One. Two. Three. Five.”


“Four. Six!”

Helena pressed the game piece down onto the sixth space. Bouncing giddily with her diapered bottom resting on her heels, she didn’t mind that she’d confused the words for four and five again because she only needed a three to win the game next turn. Her new sister smiled across the brightly colored board from where she lay on her tummy, still in her school uniform. They’d been playing together since lunch. It was a fairly simple game in terms of rules and seemed designed for preschoolers, but Helena didn’t care about the suggested age-range. Playing and understanding the game made her feel big. She had learned to count to six, learned some color words, and was doing it with her new sister’s help. It didn’t matter that only half an hour before she had spilled food on her pants and now wore only a t-shirt and sagging diaper.

Her big sister rolled a six and and counted aloud for Helena’s benefit as she moved her own game piece. This game and many other activities had been her idea, proof that she’d taken well to her new role over the last few days. Part-sister, part-babysitter, part-teacher, she no longer felt jealous. She grinned when she drew a card: a free turn! She rolled again, moved and drew another card. Another free turn! Helena squeezed Bunny in anticipation. They were neck-and-neck now. With one more roll, her sister won the game.

“Yes!” she cheered as she moved her piece forward.

Her victory stolen, Helena’s eyes dampened. It wasn’t fair. She’d been so close! She held Bunny to her chest and sobbed. Her sister made sympathetic sounds, scooted over, and wrapped her arms around the smaller girl. Inside, Helena was all mixed-up. She was upset about the loss, but also worried about what was happening to her. She couldn’t believe she was crying over a stupid board game. She knew winning didn’t matter, but she still couldn’t stop her tears. These days she cried daily, hourly. If she lost control, she’d go from smiling to bawling in a heartbeat. This house, these people, they had turned her into a baby. She liked being pampered, but now she was scared that it was affecting her more deeply than she ever imagined. She wanted her old life back, her old friends, her old school, but her first response to every obstacle now was to cry or throw a fit. She feared all the board games in the world couldn’t make her big again.

When Helena began to cry even louder despite the hug, her sister scampered up the stairs and came back with a big stuffed lion. She was becoming an expert on little sisters and knew stuffed animals were high on their list. She held the lion by Helena’s knees and mewed pleadingly. Helena set Bunny aside to gently pet the lion’s mane. Nearly as tall as she was when sitting, it was so soft and fluffy that it demanded to be touched. The sister pressed the toy into Helena’s arms and the little girl squeezed it. Helena couldn’t resist it any more than she could keep from crying. The feel of the lion’s fur completely erased the defeat.

Her sister took her hand and led her through the kitchen into the adjacent wash room where their mother was hanging wet clothes. They started to talk about “the baby” - which Helena had worked out was their name for her - and gave her sympathetic looks. She sat on the floor with the lion and waited quietly though tears still dribbled down her cheeks. When her sister pulled her to their mother like this it usually resulted in a change, a bottle, or a snack. As expected the mother scooped her up.

“My little baby,” she cooed.

In the bedroom upstairs, her mother sang and waltzed around the room with Helena on her hip. These were Helena’s favorite moments, the highlights of her day. Why had she been so angry about being a baby before? This wasn’t terrible at all. If only she could be held forever. Once the little girl smiled again, the mother laid her on the changing table. Helena played with the lion only half-aware of the scent of the wipes, oil and baby powder or of the touch of the quilted pad and the mother’s hands. Yet it put her at ease. She was almost asleep before she even reached the crib. As the mother whispered naptime wishes, Helena’s eyelids drooped.

Bunny! Helena’s eyes shot open. Bunny was downstairs! Her tears broke free again. She was already alone in the room, but she stopped herself just short of calling out. She felt angry and stupid for forgetting but more so for being upset over a mere toy. The toy didn’t have real feelings. It didn’t know it had been left behind. Helena knew it was all pretend, she swore to herself that she did. But why did it hurt? She turned and the lion’s eyes stared into hers. He had such a calm and protective expression. She could hear his voice in her head.

Call for your mommy, the lion said. She’ll make everything right.

But I’m really a big girl, Helena insisted. I shouldn’t be crying. I shouldn’t need a doll this badly.

It’s ok to cry, the lion said. And Bunny is a good friend. No one will think anything bad. I promise.

“MOMMY!” Helena cried. “MOMMY! BUNNY!”

The mother was instantly at the crib and lowering Bunny down. She stroked Helena’s face until the sobbing stopped then left her to nap again.

Helena felt ashamed. Was this really what her life had become?

Helena had a nightmare of being crushed again, but it was already fading by the time she was being dressed in a pair of light orange overalls with a snap-crotch. Once her shoes were fastened, the mother and the girls walked hand-in-hand out the front door and through the neighborhood. Helena clutched Bunny tightly. This was all too new for her. The mother hadn’t taken them walking before. She nearly dropped her doll when they came upon a massive park with a playground that had everything: swings, monkeybars, slides, a suspended bridge and more. Little kids ran around with their parents or older siblings supervising. In the distance kids were kicking a football across a field.

The sister took Helena’s hand and they ran toward the playground. The spring-mounted rock’n’rides were closest, so Helena climbed onto one and her sister climbed onto another. They laughed as they rocked, but there was so much else to try that it wasn’t long before they jumped off. Helena climbed up the rope ladder to the suspension bridge. When she made it to the top, a boy about her height blocked the way. The boy started talking with a tone that was dark and bossy. Helena clung to her big sister once she’d reached the top too. The boy fired off questions and the sister tried to answer them. Eventually he seemed to stump her, so he leaned forward to peer at Helena.

“Me Piotr,” he said and thumped his chest.

Helena could only stare. Had he just introduced himself? No one else in this whole strange country had done that. It made sense when she couldn’t talk at first, but she found it funny that a five-or-six year old Tarzan fan had just outsmarted everyone. Or maybe, she wondered, was he just the first to see her as an equal?

“Me Helena,” she said and, as an afterthought, thumped her chest too.

The sister stared at Helena in amazement. Her wide eyes revealed that she shared Helena’s thoughts.

“Me Rana. Me big sister.” She thumped her chest too and added the last part as she stepped between Helena and the boy’s suspicious squinting.

The boy grinned from ear to ear then motioned for the girls to cross the bridge. Rana took her new little sister’s hand and they ran across the quivering bridge. Piotr followed and the trio tackled every challenge the playground threw at them, smiling and laughing together for an hour. The best was the merry-go-round. With six legs between them, they kept it spinning faster and faster. Helena hadn’t many chances to interact with another child before and couldn’t have known what to expect. But Piotr accepted her as if she were a toddler without question. Despite their similar size, he treated her like she needed help and protection. As they played, Rana and Piotr were always there to show her how to do something or catch her if she climbed or slid down the slide as if she were too small to do anything on her own. Never without someone by her side, Helena felt free to let go and it filled her with joy.

When Piotr’s mom called him away, Helena was sad but Rana pulled her toward the swings. They dared one another to fly higher and higher. Helena dropped Bunny on accident, so she dragged her feet to slow down and pick him up. In the few seconds it took her to step away from the swing a taller boy stole it from her.

“Mine!” she said and grabbed the swing.

The boy said something and shook the swing. Helena fell back. Rana jumped off her swing and ran toward the boy. She grabbed at the chains, gave them a fierce shaking, and the boy tumbled off, unhurt. Helena crawled away as the two bigger kids shouted at each other. When Rana realized how angry the boy was, she too backed up just in time to dodge his first punch. She hadn’t intended to start a fight but this boy was serious. She’d reached the sidewalk when the boy finally connected a punch. Rana fell to the ground, but the boy kept swinging. She threw her arms and knees up to block the blows and grunted each time she was hit. A teenager came by and grabbed the boy by the collar of his shirt. The boy struggled but the teenager managed to lock his arms behind his back. The teenager seemed to apologize to Rana then led the shouting boy out of the park.

The mother was already at the scene, frowning. Talking a mile a minute, she examined Rana’s bruises and scrapes. Helena gripped the mother’s arm, keeping near. For her part, Rana seemed more angry than afraid or in pain, and Helena couldn’t believe how her big sister took the fall and punches without crying. Even for a big girl, that was impressive. Rana said something that included Helena’s name. Helena smiled sheepishly once she recognized it.

“Helena?” the mother asked and looked at the girl sideways.

“Me!” Helena said brigtly.

The mother let go of Rana long enough to give Helena a big hug, repeating the name again and again.

The three went into the park’s restroom. With wet paper towels the mother cleaned Rana’s scapes, and Rana cried out in pain each time her cuts were touched. Helena stood by, cringing at each cry. Her diaper already sagged some, but she hoped that she wasn’t going to be changed on the mildew-stained floor. Sticking her thumb into her mouth, she hugged herself and realized she’d dropped Bunny again outside. Her mother and sister were busy, so she decided not to interrupt them and slip out. As Rana cried out, neither seemed to notice the door open and close.

Helena couldn’t see Bunny near the swings nor the sidewalk, but she did spy a rabbit at the edge of the wooded area. When it saw her, it darted into the woods. Follow me, it seemd to say. Maybe the rabbit knew where Bunny was? She stepped over fallen limbs and crept into the woods. Within a dozen feet she’d lost sight of the rabbit but came across a dirt trail. She looked back over her shoulder. She could barely make out the park through the trees but she could still hear the children playing. She didn’t want to get lost, so she decided to stick to the muddy trail.

The woods were quiet and still. The shade from the trees made the dim air chilly, but for the first time in weeks Helena was alone but not lonely. As she followed the trail, her head cleared and her little worries and fears began to peel back. She felt such a bubbling sense of adventure as she explored on her own that she didn’t notice when the sounds of the park receded.

She had been walking for a few minutes when the trail led up a hill, the other side of which was steep and muddy. On the way down Helena tried to pass from tree to tree for support, but she missed one and slid all the way to the bottom. Nothing was injured, but her overalls were a muddy mess. That’s going to be fun to climb back up, she thought. When she tried, just to see if she could, she only made it a few feet before losing her footing again. She would have to find a way around.

Nearby, she saw a rabbit sitting only a few feet from her. If not the same rabbit, then identical. They both stared at one another.

“Hi, Mr Rabbit,” she said in her old language.

The rabbit perked its ears but didn’t run.

Helena sat down on a log to rest her legs. She hadn’t walked this much in a long time.

“Bunny didn’t really come here,” she stated after a while.

The rabbit didn’t respond, not that Helena expected it to. She was simply noting a change in her own thoughts. She’d wandered there looking for a stuffed animal. It seemed laughable now, but instead of finding it funny, her chest ached. Not with the desperate fear that she’d known too well recently, but with a quiet grief she’d never felt before.

“I miss mom,” she said aloud once she put a name to the grief. “My real mom. And Nico. And daddy. I… I think mommy’s with daddy. Because of the accident. She would have found me by now. She wouldn’t have given up. Even if the hospital tried to keep her.”

A single tear fell down her cheek. She hadn’t put these thoughts to words before, but now they came rushing out.

"I know I’m supposed to be a big girl, Mr Rabbit. Mom and Nico would be mad if they saw me like this. Disappointed. That’s what mom would say. But it’s hard. It’s hard to be big without them. When I’m little I don’t have to worry. I don’t even remember to miss them. I know that’s wrong. But it helps.

“They have bottles and pacifiers and they take care of me so well. I don’t tie my shoes or put my socks on. I don’t even get to take them off. But I have nightmares. And I cry all the time. When you’re little you don’t know why you cry. Nobody knows why, but it doesn’t matter. You just cry and someone makes it all better. If you knew why, maybe they couldn’t help.”

She wiped the tear from her cheek during a long pause. What she’d said while rambling bothered her. What was it that they couldn’t fix?

“Maybe I’m crying for mommy,” she said in time. “Maybe she knows. Maybe she isn’t be mad. She wants me to be safe. Now I have a whole family.”

Helena looked up. Dust danced in the patches of thin light which broke through the blanket of red, orange, and green.

“I miss you mommy. I hope you found daddy.”

The woods were so cool and quiet, Helena was half tempted to lay down, but before she could, she saw a woman and a little boy approaching. The woman studied Helena with concern. The little boy looked about two, and he mercilessly thrashed at the scenery with a stick as he walked. They stopped near Helena and the woman started talking. Helena knew she was being asked questions but didn’t understand a word the woman said.

“Me Helena,” she said at last.

The woman smiled politely and called her by name when she asked the next question. Helena still didn’t understand but had a good guess.

“Mommy,” Helena said and pointed in the direction of the playground as best she could.

With a light hand on Helena’s shoulder and the other holding the boy’s tiny hand, the woman led them back along the trail. On the way, Helena stuck her thumb in her mouth, but the woman gave her an odd look so she removed it, her cheeks flushed. They came to a clearing with picnic tables and a pavilion, and although it looked like the same park, the playground was nowhere to be seen. Helena guessed they’d come out on the wrong side. The woman leaned down closer to the girl’s level and pointed to each of the families in the park.

Helena shook her head at each question. “No.”

The girl searched the distance for any sign of the playground while, hand on shoulder, the woman pushed her toward the first table. With paper plates piled with food, the large family was enjoying a big picnic. As the woman spoke, they squinted at Helena, who stared at her feet, but everyone shook their heads. The next group did the same. Before the third, the boy tugged on the woman’s sleeve urgently. The woman quickly pulled Helena and the boy into the pavilion’s women’s room.

Inside the handicap stall, the woman pulled down the boy’s pants and pull-up and sat him on the toliet. He started to pee as soon as his cheeks hit the seat. The woman asked Helena a question, but the little girl only blushed, embarassed to be in the restroom with them. When the boy finished, the woman praised him then helped him wipe and pull his pants up. She said something to Helena as she did, calling her by name, but the girl only stood there failing to understand. When the boy was clothed, the woman turned to Helena and unfastened the braces of her overalls and let them fall to the girl’s ankles. She seemed shocked to find a wet diaper beneath and paused for a long moment before untaping it. The woman pointed Helena toward the toilet. The girl’s face turned a deeper shade of red as she sat down. Of course the woman had been asking her if she needed to go. What else would you do in a restroom? Helena didn’t think she had to pee, but after a few seconds she felt a sudden urge. Surprised, she indistinctively squeezed to hold it but found she was already peeing by the time the need had registered. She didn’t have to go as badly as the urge had felt, so she was soon done. The woman spoke more words of priase while she handed Helena toliet paper and helped her into a pull-up and her overalls.

The woman had to hold the boy up to the sink so he could wash his hands. Helena stood by idly until the woman tugged her toward an empty sink. She was embarrassed that the idea of washing her own hands hadn’t even occurred to her, but the pull-up had also been distracting her. It felt thin and airy.

Outside, the woman led the children toward what looked like a police car. She and the two officers inside had a long talk, pointing at the woods now and then. They asked Helena a few qustions, but she didn’t know what to say. Other than her name and “girl” she didn’t understand a word. One of the officers opened the back of the car, and the woman gave Helena a weak hug before directing her into the backseat. It was plastic, uncomfortable, and didn’t feel at all safe. When the door closed behind her, Helena realized the woman and boy weren’t coming too. Where were they taking her? Was she in trouble? Helena pressed up against the window and cried out in fear. One of the officers talked to her in an attempt to calm her, but it had no effect. Helena gazed out the window as silent tears fell.

They circled the wooded area and came upon the playground. Helena saw her new mother sitting on a bench with her arms wrapped around her daughter.


The officers glanced at each other then pulled the car over. One stepped out, opened Helena’s door, then let her lead him by hand toward the mother.

“Mommy!” she shouted as she tugged.


Mother and daughter came running toward Helena, both red and puffy from crying. The officer and mother had a talk, motioning to the woods and in the direction they’d just driven from. Both adults seemed a mixture of upset and relieved. Helena clung to her mother’s leg, but it wasn’t enough.

“Up?” she asked.

The mother picked her up and held her on her hip as the adults continued. When the mother handed over an ID card, the officer stepped into the patrol car.

“Bunny bye-bye,” said Helena to offer what she could as an explanation.

The mother let lose a weak laugh then reached into the diaper bag to pull out Bunny. Helena gasped and clutched the doll to her chest. She wanted to tell her mother all about the woods, the other woman, and the bathroom, but she didn’t have the words. Yet she knew she didn’t need to either. She’d had a chance to be big and it had only confused her. Now she was being held by her new mother. What more could she ask for?

The officer came back and returned the ID card. Both adults said a few last words and then all went on their way.

“Bye-bye,” called Helena as she waved.

Hand in hand, the mother and two daughters returned to the house. While still on the driveway, the mother removed Helena’s muddy shoes and socks. Once inside, she carried Helena straight to the upstairs bathroom.

The mother set Helena down and started the water. She let it run while she brushed the girl’s hair. The fright of losing a child was still visible in the woman’s expression, but the little girl smiled blissfully. The woman looked like she needed a hug, so Helena wrapped her arms around her new mother’s waist. When both let go, the mother unfastened the braces of Helena’s overalls. When they fell to the girl’s ankles, the mother seemed surprised to find a damp pull-up beneath. She gave Helena an odd look then tore the sides, rolled it up, and tossed it into the trash. She pulled off Helena’s shirt, then checked the bathing supplies. She must have been missing something because she stepped outside of the bathroom, leaving the door ajar.

After only a few seconds of waiting, Helena felt a sudden urge to pee. Surprised, she glanced to the trash then the toliet, but a warm stream was already running down her leg before she came to a decision. As the short burst ended, she expected to catch herself crying over the warm puddle at her feet. She expected to feel that she’d done wrong. But she felt only indifference. The mother had left her standing naked for too long. What did she think would happen?

When the mother came back she spied the yellow spill instantly.

“Uh-oh,” she said.

Helena giggled as her legs were dried with toliet paper. She was set in the tub while the mother cleaned the floor. Helena glanced at the washcloth and soap set out for her. She felt just as indifferent about them, so she traced shapes in the bathwater and splashed.

After her bath Helena was put into her strawberry print PJs and set in the playpen. When the father came home, he was introduced to her by name. After smiles and light tickles, the adults stepped into the kitchen and had a long hushed conversation. Helena was alone, but realized she felt fine. She was safe, loved. When later that night Helena watched as the adults set up child safety gates at the foot of the stairs and the entrance to the kitchen, it only confirmed her feelings.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-7) [Upd 2-7]

I like this chapter I see she is starting to take step back way from her age with treatment she was getting from the family.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-7) [Upd 2-7]

I am really enjoying your story, I hope to read more soon!

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-7) [Upd 2-7]

Really enjoyable read, I’m quite intrigued to find out what happens next :slight_smile: I know it’s a long shot but I hope we get to see updates eventually.

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-7) [Upd 2-7]

Enjoyable. I hope this progresses to her eventually understanding them better. I am curious how Helena feels about the diapers at this point

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-7) [Upd 2-7]

I realy like it.Cant wait for more :slight_smile:

Re: Helena’s Retreat (Ch. 1-7) [Upd 2-7]

Considering this was posted TWO and 1/2 YEARS ago. Good Luck!!
I don’t know if the writer is even still here. Do you??