This is a little late (or maybe not, depending on your time zone), but, to be fair, I didn’t start working on it until 11 pm. Hope you all had a happy Thanksgiving!
They came all at once, a fleet of ivory ships descending as one. Amelia looked up with a frustrated sigh from her spot on the couch, staring out through the window. “Can’t we wait until the parade is over to let them in?” she asked with a sigh.
Her parents chuckled, ruffling her hair and herding her over to the door, to the seemingly endless wave of aunts and uncles, grandparents, and, worst of all, cousins, pouring out from their vehicles - all of which, by some strange coincidence, or weird, asinine planning, happened to be white. By the time she was through with the mandatory greetings, the hugs and forehead kisses, Santa had already rolled past, leaving just the boring host people to say goodbye, thanks for watching, have a nice holiday.
It was silly - she was thirteen, way too old to believe in Santa Claus - but it still put her in a foul mood. It was tradition. But then, it was tradition for her and her parents to go to someone else’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, too, to get all bundled up and ready to go, then sit and wait for the end of the parade, daddy reminding them they needed to get moving while staying firmly seated himself, before rushing out to the car. And so much for that.
She saw her kitty, Mr. Banjo, slink out from behind the couch and race back down the hallway to her bedroom. She’d kept the door open just a crack for that very reason, which meant she’d had to endure making her bed, and doing it nicely, not her usual hurried job, in case anybody looked. It was right across the hall from the bathroom, so she supposed it wasn’t completely unlikely, but she didn’t particularly want anyone checking out her stuff. She was kinda hoping they’d all just eat and leave. Or, preferably, that she could go hide with Mr. Banjo.
Coats and hats came off in a flurry of activity, handed to daddy to take back to his bed, while Amelia went to sit back down. Grandpa had taken her seat, Grandma the one beside it, so she had to perch on the other, less comfortable, couch, the one they’d bought at a yard sale rather than the one their neighbors had given to them when they’d moved out, down to Florida.
As soon as they were free from their constricting outer apparel, her cousins were at it, racing around the house chasing one another. She glanced nervously down the hallway, trying to make sure they didn’t go into her room. They were boys, all three of them, one a few years younger than her at nine, the other two a pair of five year old twins. There was a token effort to calm them down, but her parents laughed it off, said they were fine, surely just needed to blow off some steam after the car rides.
She knew it wasn’t true, and knew just as well that it didn’t matter. They were always like this, or so it seemed. She sat there, on the wrong couch, eyeing them with annoyance, squirming in anticipation as the grown ups talked, yakking on about whatever. It was obvious what they were all there for - why didn’t they just get to it?
Amelia sighed boredly, finally reaching over and tugging her mother’s sleeve. Her mother laughed, announced, “Looks like Amelia’s hungry, so I guess we might as well get started!” Amelia flushed bright red, hanging back to let the guests go first before grabbing her plate and picking at the turkey, mashed potatoes, and carrots, the three things she tolerated, though it was only the potatoes that she really loved.
She’d never really understood the appeal of Thanksgiving. Halloween was more fun, and Christmas was pretty much the same thing, but with presents, which automatically made it better, even if she didn’t really like ham any more than turkey, maybe even less. And it was just a month away… What was the point?
She’d been assigned to sit down at the end of the table with the boys, of course. She hopped up into her chair in between them, doing her very best to just eat and ignore them, even when they tried to reach over her into each others’ plates, jostling her plate and nearly knocking over her water glass a few different times. She tried to listen to listen to the conversation the adults were having over at the other end of the table, but it wasn’t any more interesting than the jokes and insults flying between her cousins.
Perhaps the difference in Thanksgiving, she mused, was that it went on for too long. There was always too much food at either occasion, or, really, any time her family got together, but at Thanksgiving, everyone seemed more likely to go get seconds, or thirds. Maybe it was just her imagination, though it certainly seemed that way. She didn’t, despite the urging of her Grandma, telling her there was still plenty of good stuff left. Amelia smiled and nodded, humoring her, but she didn’t get up again until the pies were getting cut, and then just for a slice of pecan - she wasn’t a fan of pumpkin, and, she realized sadly, her grandmother hadn’t made her usual, awesome apple pie.
They stayed at the table too long, too, she noted. It was different at Christmastime, since there were presents to open afterward; at Thanksgiving, they just kept sitting and talking, until at last the suggestion was made to move into the living room, where they did the same thing. She was at the far end of the table, sticking her with the sucky couch again.
She’d been hoping the cousins would be tuckered out by then from all the food, that it would calm them down, but it just seemed to give them more fuel. She sat back in the sofa with a sigh, folding her arms. Now there was really nothing left to do. They’d sit around and talk all day, then eat some leftovers. Seriously, she thought to herself, what a stupid holiday. The only good thing about it was the three days off of school she got because of it.
One of the twins bumped into her, giggling. She kept quiet, giving him an indignant glare and looking up, waiting for some discipline to be administered, but the adults hadn’t even noticed, apparently, weren’t paying her any mind. The boys they’d see, chuckle at. She was just too old now, she supposed, too gangly and awkward, not young and cute anymore. It probably also helped that she wasn’t crawling all over her relatives when they stopped paying attention to her.
Her room was so close, too, sanctuary and blessed quiet, but no, that would be rude, not to mention obvious. Her parents would realize she was gone eventually, lecture her about being a good host, drag her back out. It had been different before, when it was at someone else’s house, but now peace and normalcy were so close, and so unattainable. So she sat there, quiet and still and bored out of her mind, the laughing and squealing of the boys slowly boring into her mind until she was sure she would go insane.
After a while, she got up to use the bathroom, then began to head back down the hall to the living room. She stared at it for a minute or two, watching the backs of everybody’s head, trying to will herself to throw herself back into midst, or at least outer edge.
It wasn’t working. She leaned against the wall, just looking, but her legs wouldn’t move. Why should they? Nobody seemed to notice she was missing. Eventually, she went to her room, petting Mr. Banjo and telling him it would be all right. She knew she couldn’t stay - she hadn’t dared to close her door, afraid that someone would manage to hear over the din - but she didn’t really plan to. She grabbed her purse and her jacket instead and went back down the hall, this time turning at the kitchen, sneaking out the back door. She waited there, making sure nobody had seen or heard her, then went around to the other side of the house, going into the garage to get out her bike.
The sidewalks and streets were empty, though nearly every driveway was clogged full of cars. It almost made her think of the end of the world, everything was so still. It didn’t help that the parking lot of the drugstore was empty was well, but for one, lonely car. She didn’t even bother to chain up her bike.
“Hello!” the lone cashier called, waving.
“I didn’t think you’d be open today,” she lied - she wouldn’t have made the trip otherwise.
“Yeah, open 365 days a year,” the cashier sighed. He sounded annoyed, obviously not realizing how lucky he was to get to avoid the whole thing.
Amelia braced herself, using the skills she’d picked up from her class play earlier that year - she’d played a tree, but that was still something - to say, as non-chalantly as she could, “Where are your, like, bedwetter pants? Do you have those? My little cousin’s staying with me tonight, and he wets the bed, so my parents said you’d have 'em, and sent me down here…” She stopped herself, blushing slightly as she realized how much she was blathering on.
And, for all that, the answer was a simple, “Aisle six.”
Of course, she knew that already. Her parents didn’t come to the store that often, but when they did, she always took a good look down that aisle, tried to come up with some excuse to go through it, even if walking so close to all of it made her blush.
The selection wasn’t huge, but sure enough, Goodnites were there, and Drynites. Her heart beat a little faster as she picked up the packages, flipping them over and looking at the pictures. They were cute, sure, but not quite what she wanted. They were better than nothing, though, and after a moment of debate, she went for the Goodnites, started to head back down the aisle, only to stop dead in her tracks as she saw the Pull-Ups.
There was something so adorable about them, all pink and purple, masquerading as “big kid” underwear. She secretly loved watching the commercials for them, even if they made her blush as well, always pretending she’d mistaken them for whatever show she was watching on Tivo when she was fast forwarding through the other commercials. The Goodnites might have been made for somebody her age, but it was the Pull-Ups that she really wanted. And, to make things even better, to make her even more sure it was fate, they were cheaper, too, and ought to leave her with enough change afterward to get a book the next time she went to Barnes and Nobles.
“I don’t think he’ll be too happy about these,” the cashier joked as he rang up the purchase.
“He? O-Oh, did I say he? No, my cousin’s a girl,” Amelia smiled nervously, handing him her twenty dollar bill.
“Maybe I just heard wrong,” the cashier shrugged, though she could tell he was just being patronizing.
She flushed an even deeper red than she already had been since setting her purchase down at his counter. It didn’t help that he was kinda cute. She barely managed to ask, “By the way, do you have a bathroom?” He pointed her in the right direction. She thanked him, wished him a happy Thanksgiving, and then locked herself into the bathroom.
For a moment, she stared at the package, afraid he’d know what was going on, that he’d somehow hear her ripping open the package from his checkout aisle, through the door, afraid they wouldn’t even fit anyway, that she’d wasted her money.
She took a deep breath, hiked up the skirt of her red dress and kicked off her shoes, sliding off her white tights. It felt so weird, undressing in a public bathroom. She had to let her dress back down and go over to the door, pushing on it to make sure it really was locked and wouldn’t swing open on her before she carefully removed her panties, also white, and plain, boring. She hated going underwear shopping with her mother. Of course, she knew everybody must, but it was always worse with her… She was afraid that if she picked out what she really wanted, the cute, childish designs would tip her mother off, and somehow she’d make the connection, realize that her daughter was just a baby in disguise, that she didn’t even want panties at all, no matter how cute.
She held her breath as she tore open the bag, stared at its contents for a moment or two, nearly in awe. There they were, so close… She pulled one out, half giggling as she looked at the adorable design, the little flowers that would fade at any “accidents” she might have in them.
Then in was the moment of truth, as she unfolded it, stretched it out. They looked so small she couldn’t help but worry this had all been for nothing, but she knew she just had to try it. And, sure enough, once she’d stepped in and pulled it up, it stretched up over her bottom perfectly, surrounding her in its pleasant softness. She giggled, squirming, just letting herself feel babyish for a minute or two, her heart fluttering happily.
She would’ve liked to have stayed there, alone, but she knew that, no matter what it felt like, she couldn’t stay gone forever without somebody noticing, or without tipping off the cashier that she was up to something. She tugged her panties up over top of her Pull-Up, followed them with her tights, put her shoes back on and straightened out her dress before unlocking the door and hurrying out.
Her bike went back in the garage, and the bag of Pull-Ups went underneath her parents’ car, to be retrieved that night. “What’re you doing out there?” asked her mother when she went back into the kitchen, a little surprised to see that she at least had started the evening snacking already. She didn’t sound worried, though, just curious.
“Getting some fresh air,” Amelia answered.
Her mother smiled at her. “I know it’s stressful, sweetie, but you’re doing good.”
Amelia smiled back, gave her mother a little hug, dropped her shoes and jacket off in her room, then ventured back into the fray. Her daddy was sitting next to where she’d been sitting, even if it was still the wrong couch, so she sat down next to him, pulling her legs up onto the couch with her and curling up next to him, resting her head on his side. She squirmed a little, the newness of the Pull-Ups still enough to make her smile as he put his arm around her, hugging her to him.
They’d be gone soon, she reminded herself. She couldn’t honestly say she’d really miss them, or be sad when things went back to normal, though with more cleaning to do. She stared out the window, smiling as she saw the first snowflake dance its way from the sky onto their window, not blocked out the chaos around her, but reducing it to a dull roar, like the sound of the ocean through a seashell, comforting in its own, strange way. That little moment, she thought to herself afterward, maybe that was what Thanksgiving was about. She still couldn’t convince herself that it was worth all the fuss, but she had to admit it was nice, all the same.