10 - I’ve Been Hiding Under My Skin
I stared up at my ceiling boredly, waiting to be called to dinner. My mom was still worried that I might be getting sick, even after I insisted that I was fine. I kept expecting her to pop back into my room to check on me, but she must have been busy helping my dad finish cooking.
I had found that staring at the ceiling was about the best thing I could do - even when I’d physically been sixteen, it had still been just as far above me, so I didn’t get the same queazy, dizzy feeling I got when I looked at most anything else. I’d changed into panties as soon as I’d gotten home, of course, but I had to admit that I almost wanted to be in Pull-Ups instead. After all those accidents and close calls, I wasn’t sure if feeling a little more grown up was worth how much worry and concentration I had to pour into staying dry.
I winced, hardly able to believe I was thinking that way. What was wrong with me? I was starting to sound like Lela, who had suggested that very thing to me on the ride home.
My door finally creaked open, and mom peeked her head in. “Dinner time, Skye.”
“All right,” I nodded.
After a couple moments, she asked, “Are you feeling well enough to join us, hon?”
I shrugged listlessly, but I really was feeling hungry, so I followed it up almost immediately with a nod. “I guess.” I stood up and she reached down, laying her hand across my forehead. “I still don’t have a fever,” I told her.
“Nope, doesn’t feel that way,” she agreed. “Maybe it’s…”
“I’m fine,” I said, trying to sound as convincing as possible. As fine as I could be, all things considered. “Don’t worry.”
“That’s my job, kiddo,” she smiled, mussing up my hair. “So,” she said, starting down the hall, “how was your day?”
“I’ve had better ones,” I grumbled. “But I guess…” I stopped as I felt a warm wetness starting to flow down my leg. If I had been smarter, I would have kept quiet, ducked into the bathroom, did -something- other than gasping.
“What’s wrong?” Mom turned around quickly, eyes frantic. “Are you…” I tried to cover up the wet spot with my hands, but I was too late, succeeding only in drawing her attention to it.
Stupid Lela was right, I realized, standing there in the middle of the hall, blushing, while my mother stared at my wet pants. I should have just worn the dumb Pull-Ups.
“Skye,” she scolded, “what is going on?”
“I-It was an accident,” I stammered. She must be used to that sort of thing, considering all the various kinds of protective undergarments there were in my dresser.
And yet, the look on her face was, very clearly, shock. “What have you and Lela been doing?” she asked. “Have you been going to raves?”
“Raves? In the middle of the day?” I raised an eyebrow, wondering just what my mother thought raves were, before realizing, “You really think my babysitter would take me to a rave?”
“Babysitter? Skye, what in the world are you talking about?” She stepped forward, grabbing my wrist, and for a moment, she didn’t seem quite so tall anymore, her hand not looking nearly as huge around my arm. I stumbled, probably would have fallen if she hadn’t been holding on to me. “What have you been doing, young lady?”
“Nothing,” I protested weakly. “I don’t… I can’t…”
The world swam in front of my eyes, the hallway seeming to change size erratically. “I need to go lay down.” I pulled free from her, which took a lot less effort than I would have expected, and wobbled back down the hall.
But then, as soon as I got back yo my room, it all got worse. I saw my posters flashing between what they had been when I was sixteen, and what they’d turned into a couple days before. My computer flashed into being, along with all the other crap I kept on my desk. Everything seemed to shrink, then grow, then shrink again. I felt dizzier than I ever had before, my head and my stomach spinning in opposite directions until I fell to my knees, threw up, and blacked out.
“There she is,” I heard my mother say gently, brushing a strand of hair out of my face, with a hand that no longer seemed gigantic.
“What’s happening?” I asked, looking around. I was still on the floor of my room, which was, once again, definitely my own room, not some kid’s, and which had apparently already been cleaned. I glanced down at my body and, other than the wet spot on my shorts, I looked sixteen again. “Am I sixteen again?” I asked groggily.
“What?” Mom looked up at dad, who I suddenly noticed standing behind her, confused, then back down at me. “Skye, I want you to tell us the truth….”
“No, I haven’t been going to raves or taking drugs,” I rolled my eyes. “Don’t you remember the past couple days? I was a kid again!”
“Maybe we -should- take her to a doctor,” my mom glanced back up at my dad.
“I don’t need a doctor!” I insisted, sitting up. “I just…” Suddenly, I sprang to my feet, hurrying over to my desk and throwing open the drawers. The book still wasn’t there. “Damn it!”
“Skye, I want you to tell me what is going on this instant!” mom demanded.
“I…” I shook my head, not sure how to answer. “I’m just not feeling well,” I said finally. “I just need to lay down.”
Dad nodded, helped mom to her feet, though she was obviously not convinced. “There’s something she isn’t telling us!” she hissed at my dad. “Something is going on!”
“Get cleaned up,” dad instructed me. “We’ll talk about this later.”
I nodded blankly, walking over to my dresser, nearly tripping on my bedpost. My mom was right - something -was- going on, but I didn’t know any more about it than she did. Had it all been some kind of a warning from the book? And was everything back to normal now?
But when I pulled open my underwear drawer, I saw that, in fact, it wasn’t. The tights were still there, but, much worse than that, so were the Pull-Ups, and the diapers. But they weren’t baby diapers, as the ones I had seen the day before had seemed to be. No, on closer inspection, these were the adult - or, I guess, youth - version of those things, decorated to resemble, quite closely in fact, something a baby would wear. But now that I looked at them more closely, I could see that it was just a sticker along the tape panel.
The Pull-Ups, however, seemed to be the real thing, exactly what I had been wearing for the past couple of days. I held one up to my waist curiously, surprised to see that it would still fit me. It might have been a little tight, but, thinking back, they always had been.
What did it all mean? Had the book made the Pull-Ups magically re-size so I could still wear them? If so, why hadn’t it just made bigger versions of actual baby diapers? Something didn’t seem right….
I looked through my other drawers, unsurprised to see Goodnites sitting next to my pajamas. The kiddy shirts were still there, and still big enough to fit me, but now I noticed that my old clothes were still there, too. And, really, I wasn’t sure how they couldn’t have been there all along, since the drawer would have looked rather empty otherwise. I threw open my closet, only to find the same thing.
“I’m not going crazy,” I whispered to myself. “I’m not going crazy.” I repeated that to myself as I grabbed a pair of panties, ones without any cute designs, or frills, or ribbons, or anything like that, and another pair of shorts, and headed to the bathroom.
I stumbled over the stool I’d found - and then left - in front of the sink the night before, almost falling flat on my face. I was surprised neither of my parents had moved it out of the way, but, then again, they usually just used the bathroom off of the master bedroom, so they might not have even noticed it sitting there.
I stripped off my clothes and stepped into the shower, shaking my head. “I’m not going crazy,” I said again, turning on the water and letting it beat down against my skin, closing my eyes and staring up into it as it rolled down my face.
Suddenly, my eyes shot back open - quite stupidly, considering I was still facing the shower head. I turned away quickly, shaking my head to try to get the water out of my eyes.
I -wasn’t- crazy, I had realized. After all, Lela had been there almost the whole time. I cleaned myself off, jumped out of the shower, dried myself hurriedly, threw my clothes on, dashed for my room, tripping on the stupid stool again, this time unable to stop myself from falling.
“Are you okay?” Mom came rushing from the dining room, helping me to my feet. “Why do you have your old bathroom stool out, honey?”
“I didn’t…” I tried to explain, then shook my head. “It doesn’t matter.”
“Skye, you know that if there’s something wrong, you can tell me, don’t you? I’m here for you, no matter…”
“I know, I know,” I rolled my eyes. “I’m sorry, but I really need to talk to Lela right now.” I ran back to my room, snatching up my phone.
It took me a couple tries to dial her number, my fingers constantly trying to hit all the wrong digits. Finally, I got it right, held the phone up to my ear and impatiently listened to the other end ringing. Was she eating? From what I could recall, her family usually ate later than this, but it wouldn’t have surprised me if this once they….
“What’s up, Skye?” her voice came through, loud and clear.
“I-I don’t know,” I said nervously. “I’m not sure what’s going on, Lela.”
“Shh,” she cooed. “It’s okay, sweetie. Did you have another accident?”
I sighed in relief, nearly hanging up on her instantly before realizing just how rude that would be. “No, it’s nothing,” I told her. “Look, I gotta go.”
“Tell your mom and dad I’ll be by early tomorrow,” I heard her say.
So she -did- remember. I wasn’t sure if that made me feel better or not, but it was nice to know I hadn’t imagined it all.
Then again, she apparently still thought I was a kid. Hadn’t I sounded different? I could have sworn that my voice had been higher, squeakier… I knew I hadn’t said much to her right then, but surely she would have noticed something was off. Wouldn’t she?
I sat down on the edge of my bed, burying my face in my hands. That hadn’t helped at all; I was even more confused now than I had been before. I wanted to scream, to cry, to do -something-. But what I really wanted was answers.
I started to pick up the phone again, only to set it back down. If Lela hadn’t noticed anything the first time, why would she a second time? No, I was just going to have to go see her in person.
“I’m going to see Lela,” I called as I headed for the front door.
“Oh, no you’re not,” came my mother’s reply. “We need to talk, young lady. You’re going to stay here until…”
I didn’t even bother trying to argue with her, just continued on my way. I knew there was no way I could explain what was going on, not until I knew for sure myself.
Lela’s mother answered the doorbell. “Oh, hello, sweetie,” she smiled. “Lela didn’t tell me you were coming over.”
“She didn’t know,” I said. “Can I talk to her for a minute?”
“Of course. Lela!” She stepped back, letting me in the door, though I only came in a few steps.
“Oh, hi, Skye,” Lela said when she saw me. “What are you doing here?” For all the time I’d had to think during the walk, I still couldn’t quite figure out what I wanted to ask, or, rather, how to ask if she still thought I was a little kid. “Are you okay? You were kinda weird on the phone… -Did- you have another accident?”
I backed away from her, clearly having my answer, though I still wasn’t sure what it meant. I was looking down at her again, like I always had been able to when I was sixteen, and yet she was still acting like I was little. What was going on?
“Skye, honey, what’s wrong?” she asked, moving closer to me. “Come on, you can tell me. Do you need to go to the bathroom?”
Things started to fall into place, ever so slowly. If she didn’t notice anything different… Did that mean nothing -was-?
I turned and ran as fast as I could. I had to know the truth; I had to know what had, or hadn’t, been happening to me the past couple of days. There had to be someone else I could talk to, someone else who had seen me. There was Olive, of course, and Melanie and that other girl, but, as I thought back, they had never really seemed all that phased by my sudden regression. The parents of the kids Lela had babysat had only seen me for a moment - Olive’s mother had asked Lela if I was the helper she’d mentioned on the phone, but that was about it. I had barely been around my own parents, and, while I thought they had been treating me more like a kid, I wasn’t sure now… My mom always got that way, to a certain degree, when I was feeling sick.
In fact, there was only one other person that had, for sure, treated me like I really was the little kid I’d seen myself as. The one person who I had been sure knew more than she’d let on.