Chapter Six - Away In A Manger
She stood with her back to the wall, panting, for a long time, heart thumping against her rib cage so hard she was afraid her bones would snap. If Kolyada had been just slightly inhuman, whatever it was she’d just spotted - and which she prayed hadn’t spotted her - was downright monstrous, or so she would guess from its shadow. She had no desire to see it in any greater detail. Finally, she worked up the courage to peek out the window again, relieved to find nothing unusual outside, at least that she could see. She knew it could still be out there, hiding behind the house, but with no visible sign of it, she was able to muster the resolve to step away from the window.
She stepped a little closer to the window, trying to make sure, then drew her foot back quickly, her toe having found a wet spot on the carpet. At first she thought some snow had blown in, at least until she noticed the smell of ammonia, and, more importantly - and disturbingly - a similar wetness on her legs. Had she really had an accident?! Sure, that thing had been spooky, but not enough to make her pee herself! Or, rather, not enough when she was nineteen… For a six year old her… Well, she could remember going to the school nurse with wet pants several times.
It had been humiliating then - she wouldn’t want to go through it again, certainly not with her grown-up mind. She was going to have to get out of this place, fast. She had managed to get back to the real world once, and that had been easy enough… Except now, Ded Moroz was nowhere around for her to run away from. She didn’t even have Kolyada. Maybe if she just concentrated on getting away, it would work. This room, however, might not be the best place to do it. She had no way of knowing how anything in this reality spatially corresponded with hers, but she knew starting from an imaginary room on the second floor of a house that might only have one could be a bad idea. She needed to get on the ground, preferably somewhere that would be away from people.
She started to put her bathrobe back on, only to be reminded of why she was in this house in the first place. It was simply too big and unwieldy to do her any good anymore, and would be more trouble than it was worth, especially if she had to run from that shadow. And if she made it back to her own world, it would make escaping from anyone concerned about her well-being much harder. And now that she was even younger, with even smaller legs, that would be hard enough on its own, especially since there would also be more people wanting to help, most likely.
She wasn’t about to put on anything she’d find in a nursery, though. She had more dignity than that. Surely there was some other room in this house with more appropriate clothes. She didn’t need much, just something to keep her covered while she got out of the house and to a safe place. Bunching the robe up in her arms and holding it against herself, she walked over to the door, pressing her ear against it. There was no sound, for all that meant - after all, it had been a pretty large house. Cautiously, she reached up one hand, turning the knob and slowly pushing the door open.
The hall outside was empty, but brightly lit, and full of doors. She waited another moment or two, just to make sure nobody had heard her, then tip-toed across the hallway to the door right across from the nursery. She listened at it, then pushed it open, hoping for a room for someone just a little older. She got a library instead, with a pair of huge, overstuffed chairs and shelves of books stretching up to the ceiling. She sighed and closed the door, making her way to another door. She tripped on the trailing sleeve of the robe on the way there, stumbling as she lost her grip on the garment, cheeks turning bright red as she scrambled to pick it back up.
As she moved from door to door, growing increasingly frustrated at finding nothing wearable, just more books, a complex looking computer room, an exercise room that could have passed as a professional gym, she found herself tripping on the robe more and more, gathering it to herself more and more haphazardly. Finally, annoyed, she simply kicked it out of the way and used her arms to hide her more private parts - though there wasn’t much to look at there anymore. But without having something, anything other than herself, to cover herself, she found herself moving even slower, growing ever more terrified at every tiny creak and squeak, until she simply couldn’t take it.
Abandoning all pretense of modesty, she ran back to the nursery, stopping to grab the robe on her way, dragging it behind her like a security blanket. She closed the door behind her and then, reluctantly, made her way to the closet. Maybe it won’t be that bad, she told herself. After all, she only needed it for a few minutes, hopefully. Most likely, nobody would even see her in it. Which, of course, begged the question why she was even bothering at all, but there was always the possibility that she could, in fact, run into someone. She would rather be wearing something designed for a baby - especially if she got lucky and found something not too infantile - than nothing at all in that case.
She got excited as she first opened the closet, having expected to find tiny things, made for infants, but most of what she saw looked more like it was meant for toddlers. Yet, small as she felt, compared to normal, she was still not small enough for most of the clothes she found, even those that weren’t so overloaded with frills and lace that she wouldn’t be caught dead in them. These people clearly wanted a little girl, quite possibly just to dress up. To be fair, though, she did find herself wishing she could take some of them back with her to see how adorable Maria would look in them. She was surprised, and excited, to find a pair of pants among all the dresses, pink denim and covered in butterflies and flowers, but she couldn’t get them on. She found a blue sailor dress that wasn’t too bad, and she could manage to wriggle into - if the pants had fit, she could have lived with that as an outfit. The dress alone, however, was short enough to leave her bottom half completely naked, which left her in much the same situation as before.
She maneuvered herself carefully out of the dress, setting it aside, in case she found something else she could wear with it. There were a few other pairs of pants in there, and some shorts, but she couldn’t get any of them all the way up her legs. Finally, she ran out of daytime clothes, finding herself faced with a row of night things, mostly footed sleepers that were too short for her to even try. Just when she was ready to give up, she spotted something in the very back of the closet. Pushing everything else aside, she grabbed it, holding it up against herself hopefully.
It was a simple, pink nightgown, nothing special, but it was longer than any of the other dresses she’d seen. She yanked it off the hanger and pulled it on. The sleeves on it were long, and, luckily, designed to be loose, so she managed to get her arms through them, even though they were too short for her. The skirt wasn’t as long as she’d have liked, either - she wasn’t one to shy away from short skirts, but this only barely reached past her bottom. She still felt mostly naked, but scanning back through the clothes didn’t reveal anything useful she hadn’t already tried.
She knew she’d already spent far more time on this than she should have, so, with a sigh, she gave up, resolving to grin and bear it… Until she noticed the changing table. Part of her balked at the very idea of what she was thinking, with another reassuring the first that they wouldn’t fit anyway, and yet another telling the first two that it would be better than nothing, that just putting one on didn’t mean anything more than wearing this nightgown did. She could see them there, stacked high on the top of the table, looking fluffier and thicker than any she’d seen in real life.
Her fingers shook a bit as she reached up, having to get on tip-toe to grab the top one. It felt very odd in her hand, soft and squishy, making her wonder at first if she’d been mistaken as to what it was, until she realized it was a cloth diaper, not disposable. Getting up on her toes again, she found the diaper pins, grabbing a couple with pink, duck shaped heads. Back when they’d first adopted Maria, her parents had planned on using cloth, so Justine had a general idea of how to fold it. It had been a while since she’d actually had to, since her parents had quickly given up on that idea, so it didn’t look quite right, but good enough for what she was doing.
“Well…” she said to herself, “here goes…” She wasn’t sure if she was hoping it would fit, or that it wouldn’t, but either way, she felt quite anxious as she lifted the cloth, raising it up and wrapping it around herself. She had to admit it felt kind of nice, in an odd way, if she didn’t think about what it was. It took a little maneuvering, but if she put it just so, the sides met. Now that it was closer to a reality, she felt a little more embarrassed about what she was doing, and the voice that was repeating its hopes that the pins wouldn’t hold if the cloth was stretched too tight began to overpower the others.
She sat down on the thickly carpeted floor, legs splaying in front of her. Keeping one side of the diaper held closed in just the right way with one hand, she grabbed one of her diaper pins in the other and slid it through the cloth, being careful not to jab herself, and fastened it. The tugged the other side closed a little tighter before securing the other pin, slightly disappointed at how easily it went in, and how they both didn’t instantly pop undone. Carefully, she got to her feet, the unfamiliar thickness making her feel clumsy. The pins stayed closed, though her legs didn’t - she couldn’t quite get them all the way closed now, no matter how hard she tried.
She comforted herself by thinking that at least she wasn’t wearing plastic pants, and it wasn’t like the diaper could be used - well, at any rate - without them, so anyone with any knowledge of diapers would hopefully realize she didn’t need them. That lasted until she dared to glance at herself in the mirror. She flushed a dark red as she saw her image standing there, thick white cloth peeking ever-so-slightly from below her pink nightgown. She tugged down on the skirt, managing to get it down, just barely, over her diaper, but as she turned slightly to her side, she could see the red radiating from under the diaper, making its way partway down her thighs, and it was almost impossible to see anything of her real self in the image. No, this couldn’t be a confident, nineteen year old college student; this was a naughty little girl who had just been spanked, and was now being sent to bed, bottom sore beneath the diaper she needed because she couldn’t be trusted to keep her bed dry. It was a rather horrible image, but one she couldn’t turn away from. Sure, if it had been anyone else, it could have been almost cute, but this wasn’t someone else. It was her. This was what she was now.
She stared into her face, so young now. She lifted a hand, trying to confirm that it was - or, rather, hoping for evidence it wasn’t - really her. It was so strange to see herself like this… She could see the shadow of who she really was there, but it was still so different, so unfamiliar. She looked at herself, wondering if she’d gotten even younger since the last time she’d been at this mirror. She thought it looked that way, though it was hard to be certain what was real, and what was her imagination playing tricks on her, thinking she looked younger just because of how she was dressed.
Even if she hadn’t gotten any smaller, however, she was sure she would if she just stayed there, lost in thought. Tugging down her new dress again and gathering up her courage, she marched back across the nursery towards the hallway. She’d wasted more than enough time here. It was time to go home.