“They’re too big - can’t we just leave it at that?” Jolene called through the door. It seemed rather unlikely, looking back, for half of her costume to only be available in a size too small for her, and the other half too baggy, begging the question of whether they could be called tights if they weren’t.
“Just come on out, Joy,” Hope coaxed her. “Let me see how bad it is, so I can see what we need to do.”
“We need to get a new costume,” Jolene wanted to say, but she didn’t want to sound too demanding, or too whiny. It was her first day, after all, and, whether she wanted to be there or not, she didn’t want to start off on a bad foot. So, with one hand pulling the hem of her skirt down and her tights up in the front, she made her way out of the bathroom.
“Oh, those aren’t that bad,” Hope said, making her way around a nervous Jolene, who kept turning her head to try to see what the other girl was doing, until she pulled out the back of the tights and let them snap back at Jolene’s bottom. Jolene blushed, her eyes going down to the floor. She heard the bathroom door shutting behind her, then Hope giggled. “Sorry, Joy, couldn’t resist. You just remind me so much of my little sister with that cute little penguin.”
Jolene began to open her mouth, to protest that Hope was an only child, before stopping herself. It had been five years - maybe that had changed. If it had, of course, that meant she reminded Hope of a four, or less, year old, which just made her blush more deeply than she already was, knowing someone was looking at her panties, more cutesie than anything most girls her age - or even half her age - would ever be caught in, with their little penguin in a scarf staring out from the back. Either way, there was no reason she should know anything about Hope’s siblings, or lack thereof, if she was sticking with her act of not knowing who Hope was.
“How old did you say you were?” Hope asked, coming back around in front of Jolene at last.
“Umm… Well, I’m turning sixteen near the end of the month,” she lied. “I kinda lied about when my birthday was to get this job… I guess I probably shouldn’t have told you that…”
Hope melted, giving Jolene a quick hug. “Oh, I won’t tell on you, sweetie. Now, you just wait here, and I’ll get this all sorted out.” With that, she was gone, leaving Jolene all alone in the little room, trying to keep her underwear covered. She stood there for a few minutes, dumbly glancing around, before realizing she could just go back in the bathroom and change. Feeling silly, she reached out for the doorknob, turned it…
Or tried to. The knob refused to turn, no matter how many times she jiggled it. She started to feel trapped, as if she were inside the bathroom rather than out, her heart fluttering faster until it spiked at a sudden ‘ding!’ She turned around wildly, feeling slightly better to notice a microwave sitting on the counter on one side of the room. Hope must have been heating something up, she mused. Nothing weird about that.
She did her best to calm herself down, reassure herself that Hope didn’t know anything. She wasn’t acting like she was suspicious, as far as Jolene could tell. Jolene had probably just accidently re-locked the door when she was coming out, and Hope hadn’t realized. She sat down at the edge of the beat-up couch, feeling strange not having anything more substantial than the saggy pair of tights between the furniture and her underwear, making herself as comfortable as she could manage.
It didn’t take long for Hope to reappear, a shopping bag in hand. She paused at the door for a moment, then began to approach. “How old did you say you were, Joy?”
“Fifteen,” she repeated, more confident this time.
“That’s what I thought you said,” Hope nodded. “Which is weird… Because I thought you were more like five.”
Jolene squirmed in her seat. “What?”
“Oh, maybe not on the outside,” Hope continued, walking toward Jolene. “But on the inside… Definitely.” She grabbed something out of the bag, and before Jolene could stop her, had pinned it to the dress. Jolene looked down in confusion, seeing the pacifier now swinging off her costume. “Put it in your mouth.”
“Hope, what are you…?”
Hope lifted the pacifier, popped it into Jolene’s mouth. “Shh, it’s all right…” Hope said. “I’m going to take care of you now.”
Jolene knew she should protest, she should take the pacifier out, should run out of there, should do something… But she couldn’t. She wanted to fight back as Hope pushed her back onto the couch, pulled her tights down, but all she could do was lay there.
“I don’t know if Goodnites would still fit you,” Hope said, “but even if they did, I bet they wouldn’t hold up your tights well enough. These are more fitting, anyway, don’t you think?” Hope smiled, taking a package of adult diapers up, then tugging it open. “I think this is what you really want.”
Hope took ahold of Jolene’s panties. Jolene winced at the ripping sound that came from one side, and then the other. “Those are adorable,” Hope told her, “but you’re not going to need them any more.” Jolene felt something being slid under her, something thick and cushy, that her bottom sank into as her ruined underwear was yanked away. She could only manage a weak wriggle as the diaper was taped securely around her, then followed up with another one, then covered with her tights, which stayed up easily now, with the added bulk.
“Good girl,” Hope cooed, patting the back of the diapers gently, pulling Jolene to her feet. “That’s just about perfect,” she nodded, before heading over to the microwave. Jolene’s eyes darted to the door, to her escape, but it was the only part of her body that she dared to move. There was something soothing about all of this, much as she didn’t want to admit it, something comforting about the feel of the diapers around her, the sensation of sucking on her pacifier, something more comforting than the hundreds of sessions she’d had with her shrink, after that summer, something she’d been too scared to try herself. “Not yet,” she heard Hope say, and then the other girl returned, putting her hands on Jolene’s shoulders and guiding her back to the couch, sitting her down on it and then moving behind her.
Jolene’s eyes closed as she felt a brush being run through her hair, almost forgetting where she was, what was happening. She felt her hair being gently manipulated into a pair of pigtails. “I always knew I’d find you again,” Hope whispered in her ear.
Jolene nodded slowly, in a daze, letting Hope stick a pair of shoes on her feet, a Santa hat on her head. She heard the microwave door open behind her, then stood as Hope tugged at her hand. There was a slight rush of cool air as the back of her diaper was pulled out, only to be replaced with a thick, warm mess that woke her up quickly.
“What are you doing?” she demanded, finally letting her pacifier fall from her mouth, although it didn’t fall far.
“Just adding the finishing touch,” Hope said, letting the diapers and tights snap back into place, patting the rear again and spreading the contents. “You look perfect now!” She set a large measuring cup down on the couch, a bit of thick oatmeal still resting in the bottom, just as the rest of the contents were now resting in the bottom of Jolene’s underwear. “Don’t spit out your paci.”
The pacifier was shoved back between her teeth, and then she was being led by the hand towards that door, the one to the rest of the mall. Jolene began to squirm, to fight against Hope’s grip. She’d almost forgotten where she was, what was going on, but she remembered now, and she knew she couldn’t let it happen. “Stop it!” she said, spitting out her pacifier again.
“Why?” Hope asked. “You’re the little baby elf! You look adorable, sweetie - you’re going to be so popular! And nobody will ever know how much you like it.”
“I-I can’t go out there like this,” Jolene protested.
“But this is what you want,” Hope smiled. “And now, I’m going to give it to you.”
“Uh-huh,” Patti nodded, raising an eyebrow. “So you just ran off then, huh? Finally snapped out of it and realized how crazy it was?”
“Basically,” Jolene shrugged.
“That’s quite a story,” Patti said, leaning against her baseball bat.
“Oh, and yours isn’t?” Jolene asked. “Spending five years hunting fictional monsters because you can’t accept that a human could do something as horrible as what happened at camp? It was just a person! A lunatic, but just a human!”
Patti shook her head. Of course, she’d wondered if that wasn’t the case. When she’d run out of gas in her car, and money to put more in, she’d wondered. When she’d run away from the third straight house of a former counselor because she overheard their parents calling the police to tell them they had a ‘missing person’, she’d wondered. When she’d started having to keep to the shadows as she watched the people from her list, feeling more like a monster herself than the hero she knew she was, she’d wondered.
“There’s always two,” she said again. “He had to know there was a risk he’d be taken down… He would’ve turned someone before going in for the big feast. You.” She lifted the bat, pointing it at Jolene.
“I haven’t killed anyone,” Jolene countered. “Can you say the same?”
“Shut up,” Patti growled. Reminded herself it wasn’t killing, not when they weren’t human.
But was she wrong? Jolene’s story was pretty unbelievable, but, if you thought about it, wasn’t hers as well? Wouldn’t someone have gone public with the fact that vampires were real? In the age of Youtube and Twitter, nothing could stay secret forever.
“He wasn’t a vampire,” Jolene went on quietly. “Just a garden variety psycho… But he did turn someone.”
“Shut up!” Patti yelled, kicking Jolene in the chest, knocking her onto her back in the leaves and snow, poising the sharpened tip of her bat over the other girl’s chest.
But she couldn’t push it down. What was more unlikely, she wondered. Was it someone making up some fanciful quest to deal with what she’d seen? Was it another person drifting blandly through life before allowing herself to find comfort in the loss of control?
She shook her head, raised the bat higher, staring down into Jolene’s eyes, raising it a little too high, enough that it could allow Jolene to roll away, to escape and strike back. Patti’s hands began to sweat, just slightly.
“Do you really have what it takes?” Jolene asked, with the hint of a smile playing across her lips.
Patti’s fists tightened around the bat, raised it again, muscles tensing.
Blood splashed against the white snow, and out in the forest, one girl died.
A tongue darted across a pair of lips instinctively, licking a stray fleck of blood from them before they began to form a slow, small smile.