Lucy followed the Director of Human Resources and the Director of Marketing down the tile corridor, her designer pumps clicking smartly with each step. She forced herself to keep her shoulders back and her head up. She knew she was in deep this time – in fact, she was probably about to be fired. All the more reason she needed to present a mature, professional image, she told herself, straightening her suit jacket as they reached the large executive boardroom and sat in the large leather meeting chairs.
Ken, the Director of Marketing, opened a large manila folder. “Lucy,” he began, “We have given you 3 verbal warnings and 2 written warnings regarding your rude, bullying behaviour towards other associates.
Unfortunately, we have received another compl…”
“From WHO?” Lucy exploded, cutting Ken off before he could finish. “I bet it was that crybaby Sylvia. She’s always been jealous of me. She’s so useless. I had to take the Wright account from her so she wouldn’t screw that up like she screws everything up. It should be her in here getting shit. Not me. I’m the best you have and you know it, Ken.”
Ken watched the young woman’s cheeks flush with rage as she ranted at him. He knew Lucy was right – Sylvia was somewhat incompetent. Lucy’s work was impeccable. However, he couldn’t allow her to continue creating a negative work environment for his entire department.
“Lucy, this is exactly the type of behaviour we are referring to,” he responded calmly, adjusting his glasses. “Sylvia was assigned the Wright account, and you shouldn’t have taken it from her. Furthermore, it is very unprofessional to speak of your coworkers in that manner.”
Lucy huffed loudly, rolling her eyes. “So what are you going to do, fire me?” Lucy knew she shouldn’t speak to Ken – or any superior – in the way she was speaking to Ken, but once again, her temper had gotten the better of her. She tried to calm herself down, remembering her large student loan debt, car payment, and credit card bills. Lucy couldn’t afford to be without work right now, and she knew it.
“Well, Lucy, this is what we’ve come to discuss. You have a decision to make before we leave this room. Helga,” he continued, nodding toward Director of Human Resources,“has researched a professional retreat she believes may help you learn more socially and professionally acceptable behaviours. This course has a fee of $10,000, which we are willing to pay if you complete it successfully. You would be expected to pay back the $10,000 if you failed to successfully complete the course. If you choose not to take the course, we will be forced to terminate your employment here.”
Lucy gloated to herself. Probably just some ra-ra go team bullshit session she could fake her way through. Then she could start looking for another job before Ken could fire her.
“Okay, Ken,” she replied, pretending to give the matter some serious thought. “I’ll do it.”
“I am pleased to hear this Lucy. Your work is excellent. It would be a shame to lose you over something we could change.” Ken took a contract from the manila folder and turned it so Lucy could read it.
Lucy scanned the contract. Wow, 28 days, she thought. I thought this was going to be a weekend thing. And it’s not even anywhere near here. No contact with friend or family during the course. This is pretty intense. I don’t really have a choice though, do I? If I don’t finish this, I’ll be homeless in a month.
She signed the contract with a flourish and pushed it across the table to Ken. He added in neatly to her file, and then pulled out a plane ticket.
“Here you are Lucy. You leave…now. There’s a cab waiting by the front door.”
“Now? I don’t even have a bag packed! I can’t wear the same suit for a whole month.”
“Don’t worry about that Lucy. They will provide your wardrobe.”
Lucy went to her desk and sent a blanket email to her parents, her sister, and her friends explaining that she’d been offered a prestigious opportunity in a remote village in Africa and would not be available for the next month. She knew she’d have some explaining to do when she got back – what the heck would someone in a remote village in Africa need a graphics artist for – but at least they wouldn’t call her workplace when they hadn’t heard from her and possibly find out how close she’d come to being fired. Carrying her coat, purse, and plane ticket, she hurried to the waiting cab to leave for what would be the strangest training course she’d ever attend.
Lucy stepped off of the plane, happy her journey was coming to a close. She glanced around, feeling somewhat out of her element as she realized that Ken hadn’t really given her anything beyond a plane ticket. No credit card, no company name for the company running the course, no address, no nothing.
She decided to grab something to drink and wait for a few minutes to see if a car had been sent for her. She ordered her Iced Venti Sugar-Free Non-Fat Latte and sat on one of the hard airport chairs, impatiently alternating glances at her watch and the nearby entrances. Finally, when she was just about to call Ken and ream him for failing to prepare her, she spotted a stern, middle-aged woman holding a small sign that read “School for Incorrigible Professionals”. Incorrigible, thought Lucy, I didn’t think that term was ever used for anyone over the age of 6. What a stupid name for a business.
Lucy walked over to the stern woman. “Hi. I think you’re my ride?”
“Your name, please, young lady.”
The woman read something from the back of her placard. “Yes, here you are. You may sit with the others behind me. We are waiting for one more.”
Lucy took a seat behind the woman and discreetly stole glances at the people she assumed would be her course mates.
To her immediate left was a man who seemed determined to alert the entire airport to the fact that he was a very important person with a cell phone. He bellowed loud instructions into it, seeming never to allow the person at the other end to respond before starting in on a new demand. To her immediate right was a rather handsome, sandy-haired man of her own age. He didn’t appear to be an Incorrigible Professional, but then again, Lucy didn’t feel she looked like an Incorrigible Professional either, so that didn’t really mean much. Two seats to her right was a bored-looking blonde, pouting and huffing slightly as if it were beneath her to wait in an airport – or anywhere – for anyone.
Lucy sat back and tried her best not to appear incorrigible, but she was beginning to get very annoyed with having to wait. Couldn’t they have sent separate cars? Also, the water she drank on the plane and her Starbucks was starting to catch up to her. She wasn’t terribly fond of public washrooms, especially the kind where only a stall wall separated her from her neighbour. She crossed and uncrossed her legs to distract her from the growing pressure on her bladder, hoping to wait until she arrived at her final destination before she relieved herself.
Luckily, the final student arrived soon after. The four students were directed into a waiting passenger van, and were soon on their way to the next location.
After the van pulled onto the highway, the matronly woman turned from the front seat to face them. “Good afternoon. I am Mrs. Radcliffe, and I will be your dorm matron for the duration of your stay. Each have you have been sent here by your employers to correct deficiencies in your behaviour. Some of you are bullies. Some of you never learned to share. Still others never learned to say ‘Please’ and ‘Thank You’. Most of you never learned the Golden Rule. These are all lessons you should have learned in pre-school, but failed to absorb, so you will spend the next 28 days repeating pre-school.”
Blondie from the airport was the first to object. “Excuse me. I am a grown ass wo…”
Before she could finish, Mrs. Radcliffe interjected. “YOUNG LADY! We do NOT use language such as that. If I hear another naughty word out of anyone’s mouth for the rest of this drive, that person will immediately find themselves in time out when we arrive.”
The blonde, looking marginally subdued but mostly just shocked at being spoken to like an unruly toddler, continued. “As I was SAYING, I am a grown woman. I mastered writing my name and making Play Do sculptures years ago. I really think my skills would be better honed and utilized elsewhere for the next month.”
Lucy nodded at this, silently agreeing with the blonde woman about the stupidity of putting adults through pre-school. Normally she would have been the first person disagreeing, but she was just too focussed on the ever-growing pressure on her bladder to contribute to the conversation.
“That may be so, Ashley, but you will have to convince your employer of this before we can release you.” Mrs. Radcliffe spoke gently but firmly, as if conveying an unpleasant but unchangeable truth to a cranky toddler. “As our fee is non-refundable, I find it unlikely your employer will allow you to leave early. I would suggest you try now, as we are approaching the gates of the school and your phone will be confiscated as part of the check-in process.”
28 days without my cell phone? Is this woman insane? Lucy thought, crossing and uncrossing her legs to distract her thoughts from her bladder. Jesus Christ, I’m glad we’re almost there. This is going to be close. I suppose it would not exactly convince everyone that I don’t belong in pre-school if I started it all by wetting my pants. Not that it matters. Ken’s mind is impossible change once he’s made a decision, and he’s so cheap that there’s no way he’d let me leave early if he couldn’t get his money back.
As Ashley argued heatedly with someone on the other end of her cell phone, Lucy surveyed the red brick building with the swings and sandbox outside. Wow, it looks exactly like a real pre-school, except the swings look a little bigger. Still, from the road, there’s no way that anyone would know it’s not a real preschool.
The van pulled up to the front door with a lurch of the school just as Ashley dejectedly stuffed her cell phone into her purse. Her body posture and facial expression clearly betrayed that whomever she was fighting with had won, and that she was here for the duration. Everyone else looked much like Lucy felt – apprehensive but resigned to their fate.
For better or worse, they had arrived for a second chance at pre-school.
Mrs. Radcliffe led her new students off the bus and into the brick building. The entryway was decorated with cheerful drawings and art projects that appeared to be created by young children, and Lucy could see what appeared to be a bright preschool classroom through an open door. Mrs. Radcliffe led them into this classroom, where a group of smiling college-aged adults greeted them. Some appeared to be alone, while still others appeared to be coupled. Each of them held a sign with a name on it. Lucy studied the athletic woman holding the sign with her name on it. She stood taller than Lucy at about 5’11, with her long dark hair pulled into a neat ponytail.
“Students, please greet the person or people holding the sign with your name. They will be your parents for the remainder of the course,” Mrs. Radcliffe explained, gesturing to the strangers. “You parents are all students at the local university, who have taken the job as your parents for room, board, tuition, and a stipend of spending money. When they are in classes, you will be brought to this room for preschool. Your parents will explain the rules to you as you go. They will report to me on a regular basis, and failure to comply with their instructions can result in failure or expulsion from the program.”
Lucy gasped in shock. A small burst of urine leaked, wetting her panties, but thankfully not leaking through to her pants. She had thought that when they weren’t in pre-school, they would be staying in a hotel or maybe a dorm room. This was simply too much. However, she couldn’t afford to fail, so she shuffled over to the pretty brunette holding her name sign.
“Hi,” she said shyly. “I’m Lucy. What’s your name?”
“I’m Mommy,” the brunette explained patiently. “And I can’t hear little girls who speak like grownups from this point forward. If you want anything, you’ll have to ask for it like a 3 or 4 year old would.”
Mommy grabbed Lucy’s hand. “Let’s go home and get you some supper. My little girl has had a long day.”
“Um, I kinda need a washroom,” Lucy asked, again feeling the desperation in her bladder.
The brunette lead Lucy out of the room, ignoring her request entirely.
Wow, thought Lucy. They really mean business. And I really need a toilet. Well, I guess talking like a toddler is better than wetting my pants like one. Wetting them more, I mean, she chuckled to herself in embarrassment.
“Mommy! Potty!” Lucy exclaimed, dancing from foot to foot.
“What a good girl for telling Mommy! Let’s go quick quick quick to the school potties so we don’t have an accident!” Mommy led Lucy into the girl’s washroom just down the hall. To Lucy’s surprise, there were no stalls, and only one toilet, with a row of potty chairs lined up along the wall. Too desperate to fight, Lucy allowed herself to be lead to one of the potties. Mommy unbuttoned her dress slacks and pulled them down, then pulled down her panties before Lucy could react. Lucy blushed as she realized Mommy could see her hairless genitals, recently waxed in anticipation of her 4th date with a man she was growing quite fond of – a date that would now probably never happen. Mommy could also see the damp patch in Lucy’s panties.
“Uh oh! It looks like someone had a little accident.” Mommy pushed down on Lucy’s shoulders, effectively seating her on the oversized potty. “Better go pee pee now before we have a big accident!”
Lucy was past the point of caring where she peed or who saw her. Normally shy about having others hear or see her pee, she released her bladder into the potty, wincing as she heard the urine hit the bowl within and felt it splash back onto her buttocks.
“Good girl!” Mommy said, clapping her hands excitedly. “Lucy went pee pee in the big girl potty!” Mommy helped Lucy up and wiped her backside with a baby wipe. “Now you pull up your pants like a big girl while Mommy cleans up. I know your big girl panties are wet, but we’ll get a nice dry diaper on you as soon as we get home.”
“D-d-diaper?” Lucy questioned.
“Yes, sweetheart, a diaper. That’s the rules here. Any accident in your big girl pants, and you wear a diaper for 24 hours. Keep it dry and clean, and we can try big girl training panties for 24 hours. Keep those dry and clean, and you’re back in your big girl panties. Any accidents along the way, and we start from scratch.”
Lucy tried to think of a way to tell Mommy that she didn’t need a diaper, but couldn’t think of a way of conveying it in 4 year old words. She stomped her foot. “No diaper!”
Mommy smacked Lucy’s rear end. “Yes diaper, and if you don’t cut out the backtalk right now, you’ll go straight to bed when we get home.”
Lucy pouted, frustrated with the situation she was in, and pulled up her panties and pants as Mommy emptied the potty bowl into the toilet and rinsed it in the sink. After everything was cleaned up, Mommy took Lucy’s hand. “Come along Lucy, it’s time to go home and have some dinner.”
They walked to the end of the hallway and up a flight of stairs. The second floor appeared to be a row of apartments. They walked along to 204, where Mommy produced a key and opened the door. Still leading Lucy by the hand, she took her through a spacious living room, with a healthy collection of toys and Disney videos, and into a cozy bedroom decorated in light pastels. In fact, if the day bed and changing table weren’t much larger than normal, Lucy would have sworn she was in a toddler’s bedroom.
Lucy meekly tried to cover her chest as Mommy stripped her of blouse and blazer. Strangely, this removal of her blazer made her feel more naked than she did with her pants removed. It seemed to Lucy that the shedding of her blazer was the official end of her adulthood, when she later recalled her time in preschool, but Lucy hadn’t really made the connection at the time. All she knew is that she felt terribly naked and vulnerable, a feeling that intensified as Mommy removed her dress slacks, panties, socks and shoes.
Mommy then guided her to the large changing table, laying her on her back. She produced a large fluffy cloth diaper from a shelf under Lucy and slid it under her behind. After gently powdering her diaper region, Mommy brought the diaper up between her legs and fastened it snugly with Velcro. She then produced a pair of pink plastic panties to complete the ensemble. Lucy burned beet red with mortification as Mommy ran her fingers along the leg holes of the diaper, ensuring none of the soft flannel was poking out. Although her humiliation was profound, Lucy found herself enjoying Mommy’s gentle care and the feeling of the soft fabric on her private areas.
“Might as well get your jammies on. It’ll be bed time in another few hours.” Mommy helped Lucy into a short pink baby doll nighty, and then helped her off the changing table. Patting her behind, she pointed Lucy in the direction of the living room. “Go play with your toys while Mommy gets supper ready.”
Lucy half walked, half waddled into the living room, hyper-aware of the increased bulk between her legs. She sat near a large dollhouse and began moving furniture around from room to room absent-mindedly. I have never been more humiliated in my life, thought Lucy. And tomorrow is going to be awful. I’m sure I’ll be the only “kid” in school with a diaper on. What will the others think?
Thoughts swirled around Lucy’s head as she tried to think of a way out of her predicament. What if I just take the diaper off? No, I’ll probably get another spanking then, as well as a negative comment on my report. I can’t fail the course. I need the money from my job, and I definitely don’t have the money to pay the company back for this course. Mommy doesn’t seem the type to let me off in the morning with a warning. I am completely, totally, irrevocably screwed. Luckily, I’ll never see any of these people ever again.
“Lucy,” Mommy called, “Baby, come to the table for dinner.”
Following Mommy’s voice lead Lucy to a smallish dining room. Mommy was standing by a very low chair. Strapped to this chair was a booster seat. Wow, they really go all out. They could have just left the chair alone for me to sit on, but instead they intentionally lower it so I’d need a booster seat. I wonder what other surprises are in store for me. Lucy waddled over to the booster seat and sat down. Mommy fastened a belt snugly over her lap, then tied a large bib around her neck and took the seat next to her.
Lucy looked at her plate. The menu this evening consisted of cut up chicken fingers, mashed potatoes, peas, and a sippy cup full of juice. Lucy picked up the fork and began to eat.
“Nuh uh,” said Mommy taking the fork from Lucy’s right hand and placing it in her left. “You’re not allowed the use of your dominant hand to eat, write, and perform other fine motor control tasks. Only your left, sweetie. This mimics the frustration young children feel when learning new things, so we can help you channel your anger and frustration in more acceptable manners.”
Lucy stabbed a piece of chicken with the fork and brought it to her mouth. Not too hard, but the peas and potatoes proved to be a different sort of monster. Try as she might, Lucy could not get the mashed potatoes onto the fork and into her mouth. They would either fall off on the plate, or down her bib into one of the bib pockets. Finally, Mommy took the fork and fed her the rest.
“There’s a good girl.” Mommy unbuckled Lucy, took the bib off, and handed her the sippy cup. “Now go drink your juice and play for a little while. We’ll have story time and bed time as soon as Mommy is done the dishes.”
Lucy took her sippy cup and waddled into the living room, back to the dollhouse. Thirsty, she went to unscrew the top of the sippy cup to use it as a normal glass and realized these were no ordinary sippy cups. The lid and cup each had a small loop on them, and the loops were joined with a zip ties. Frustrated with being again forced to act like a toddler, Lucy sucked on the spout, downing the juice slowly, while again rearranging furniture in the doll house.
Not long after, Mommy came into the living room. “Okay, Baby Girl, night night time. Let’s go brush your teeth and get ready for bed.” Lucy noticed the clock on the VCR read 7:30, but was feeling jetlagged and decided not to argue with an early bedtime. Mommy led Lucy into the bathroom and watched as she messily brushed her teeth with her left hand. Once Lucy was done, Mommy wiped her face with a soft cloth.
“Does Lucy need to go potty before bed?” Lucy shook her head no, eyeing the oversized potty in the bathroom with irritation. She simply could not handle that humiliation again. Besides, she just went. She could surely make it until morning.
Mommy and Lucy went back to the toddler bedroom. Mommy read The Cat in the Hat to Lucy, and then helped her under the covers in the day bed. To Lucy’s surprise, Mommy the pulled a forth side to the day bed from the closet and latched it to the sides, effectively turning the day bed into an oversized crib. She then left the room for a moment and returned with a bottle of water (again zip tied shut, Lucy noticed).
“In case you get thirsty during the night, baby. Mommy will see you in the morning. Have a good sleep.”
Mommy turned off the light, and Lucy cuddled in to her new bed, trying not to spend any time fretting over her new life. She soon fell into a deep and untroubled sleep.