The Restaurant

The place smelled of must and hot, still air, but Jillian only noticed because of the distinct lack of breeze. The brick and mortar building, without air conditioning, was still insulated enough so that the insides of the old restaurant wasn’t an oven. It was hot, but so was outside. It only felt hotter because of the lack of airflow. No chance for a breeze in a building that had antechambers before the main dining room and kitchen.

“Okay,” Jillian admitted, “this isn’t nearly as creepy as I thought.”

Rebecca kissed her wife on the cheek and hugged her from the side causing her shoulders to bunch up. “I told you!” she said. “This is gonna be great! There’s so much potential here.” Rebecca walked out into the open dining room and did a little twirl, her dark ankle length skirt fluttering. Regardless of the dust and old tables stacked upside down on top of each other and the cobwebs, she was Belle seeing the Beast’s library for the first time. Positively enchanted.

Jillian didn’t see that part of it, frankly. Rebecca had the soul of an artist. So much of her appeal and personality came from how passionately she threw herself into everything. Centuries ago, she would have been one of those most likely to benefit from the Renaissance system of avant garde creators and the patrons who furnished their lifestyles just so that they could follow their muses and create personalized works. She was an Amadeus in the kitchen and a DaVinci in decorating their home for every atmosphere and occasion yet conceived. Some days, their home felt more like an amusement park minus the rides; especially on festive occasions like Halloween and Christmas.

Jillian did not have an artists’ soul, or so she thought. She had a mind cut from the same cloth as any of Wall Street’s greatest wolves; or that money guy from Moneyball. She had a mind for costs and figures and risks. If time travel ever was a thing, she wouldn’t need knowledge of the future to live in the lap of luxury, only the opportunity. She could have been a mobster on par with Rothstein or Luciano. It was all about making that money.

Granted, since time travel wasn’t a thing, such estimations were the closest Jillian got to flights of fancy. On the more pragmatic side of things, as Jillian inevitably came down on, a black woman and her Latinx wife probably weren’t going to be welcome in most places in the past. Lesbians. Women. Of Color. In some places, that was three strikes in the here and now; nevermind the past.

Forget about the past. Time to live in the here and now.

“What do you think?” Rebecca asked.

What did she think? Jillian thought the place was kind of a dump. It was a dump that could make a lot of money, though. With the right advertising and budgeting, combined with Rebecca’s recipes and flair for decorating, there was a legit chance that this could work. It’s why they’d quit their jobs, taken out a business loan, and invested in this skeleton. That and she loved to see her desert flower smile.

“I think it has potential,” Jillian said. “Good use of floorspace.” Then she tried a joke. “There aren’t any evil animatronics haunting the place, right?”

Rebecca laughed politely. “Don’t be silly, mija.” A sly smirk snuck up on her face. “Chuck-E-Cheese took all the animatronics away like two or three restaurants ago.”

“Good point.” Jillian leaned in for a kiss and got one.

According to local small-business superstition, The Restaurant was cursed. Not cursed cursed; there had been no murders or missing people; nothing that would have brought the price substantially down. It just wasn’t ‘in a good spot’ as far as restaurants went. Which was really weird, statistically speaking. It was a little tucked away; not being adjacent to the highway, or downtown; but it was just a stone’s throw from a church, an Elementary school, and a shopping plaza. Near perfect Mom and Pop location.

Since she’d grown up there, the place had been a pizza buffet, an Italian eatery, a burger joint, a fine dining establishment, and a bar (though not in that order). It’s why locally it was just called ‘The Restaurant’. “That might be why it failed…’ Jillian said out loud.

“Hmmm?” Rebeccah asked.

“Oh. Sorry, babe. I got a couple steps ahead of myself.” Jillian sometimes did that. “Maybe this place always bombs because people associate it with bombing. Like a tradition.”

“Then we’ll just have to change that tradition,” Rebecca said simply. “Come on, let’s see the rest of it.”

The kitchen was fairly standard, if barren. “We’ll have to buy new equipment.” Jillian said. The walls and cupboards were barren. All of the ovens and cooking equipment had been stripped bare. Only the walk-in freezer was still there. “She really did sell everything that wasn’t built in.” Jillian said.

“Diapers are expensive,” Rebecca quipped. “Especially for a thirty-eight year old.”

They quietly laughed together. The last owner of The Restaurant, the woman who had sold it to them at a decent price, had been an odd one to be sure. They’d signed over ownership at her house and her baby boy-couldn’t have been more than one or two; three tops-had been a fussy little thing the whole time. The whole signing, he was crying like his world was going to end.

“It’s a good spot,” the seller had insisted. “Just owning a restaurant was more of my husband’s idea. I don’t have the passion for it like he did.” That sent her son into a bawling fit. Daddy disappeared shortly after they opened; not ‘missing person’ disappeared; just ‘go out for a pack of cigarettes and never come back’ disappeared. Poor thing missed his Daddy. Nothing a bottle of juice and a diaper change on the floor didn’t fix.
When Jillian asked how old he was, the seller finished taping up his diaper and sarcastically replied “Thirty-eight.” Except she didn’t laugh when they had.

Even weirder, after he’d been put away in a playpen, the kid kept yelling “Boppit! No boppit!” That wasn’t the weird part, though. The weird part was that when Jillian had finished cutting the check and signing on the dotted line, the wailing cries coming from the mesh pack an play sounded deep. Very deep. Thirty-eight year old man deep.

Jillian took herself out of the past and dragged her finger across a bolted down countertop and came up with dust. “The downside is we’ll have to purchase all of the equipment ourselves. Upside is that all the freed up space will make it easier to clean. We won’t have to hire anybody.”

“That’s what I love about you,” Rebecca said. “You can find the upside in just about anything.”

Not the upside. Just the opportunity. “What are we gonna cook in here, again?” Already, Jillian was looking at the space and trying to envision what kind of hardware she’d have to buy for her culinary Rembrandt to work her magic. “Mexican from your side? Maybe some barbecue or soul from mine for the yokels?”

“I haven’t decided yet,” Rebecca said. “Just gotta figure it out. You know? Let this place speak to me.”

“Let this place…?” Jillian rubbed her temples and stopped herself. Her wife was going into Artist Mode.

Like a sculptor looking at a block of clay and ‘listening’ to what it ‘wanted’ to be, Rebecca was waiting for the building to speak to her. “How about a burger place?”

“This location tried to be a burger place.” Jillian followed her wife who was practically skipping out of the kitchen back across the main dining room. “Didn’t work. Not for long.”

“People got tired of the burgers, they want burgers, they go to McDonalds.’

“Pizza?”

“Tried it. Remember?”
“Sushi?”

“You can make sushi?”

“How hard can it be?”

The couple speedwalked to the other side of the building. “I swear,” Jillian said, “if it wasn’t for me keeping you stable, you’d get bored and change the menu up every other month.”

Rebecca stopped and mumbled something to herself in Spanish. “What if we did that?”

“Did what?”

“Make this a seasonal restaurant!” Jillian’s wife had a crazy look of inspiration in her eyes. “We could redecorate, rename, and relaunch every couple of months. Keep the best sellers, but rotate the menu and theme again and again!”

Jillian’s brain felt like a needle was skipping on the record of her mind. “Why would we…?”

“Restaurants always have a boom when something new opens, and then things slow down as people get used to it and take it for granted. So what if we keep re-opening on purpose? Turn the failure of this spot into a gimmick!”

“Yeah,” Jillian started, “but we’d have to plan and get suppliers way in advance.”

Rebecca embraced her again, and started pecking her neck with sweet, tender little kisses. That always got her. That always broke her. “You can do it, mija. And if we buy local, changing menu costs won’t be a big thing.”
Jillian ran some numbers through her head. “We…actually might be able to pull that off,” she said. “I’d have to do tons of research but-”

Her words were cut off by the sweet tasting lips of the love of her life. Their self-guided tour of the new property paused briefly for them to make out and press against each other against the nearest wall like they were still in college.

Jillian broke off a final kiss and pulled back. Her own low grade germaphobia was kicking in. Best wait to christen the place after a mop and bucket had been taken to it. “Let’s see what else we got.”

The pair had expected a smaller, private, dining room. Something that could be set aside or reserved for private parties or more intimate gatherings. What they found behind those two heavy oak doors was-

“A ball pit?” Rebecca said. “That lady sold all of that fancy kitchen stuff but she kept a ball pit?”

“Probably made her kid happy,” Jillian thought out loud. She felt a moment of clarity. “That’s what her kid was crying about. Not boppit! Ball pit! He didn’t want to lose the ball pit!”

“Awwww,” Rebecca cooed. “Poor little guy. Maybe he can come visit and play with it once we’re open.

Jillian cocked an eyebrow.“You’re not thinking of keeping this monstrosity are you?”

“Yeah. Why not?” her wife asked. “Could be fun.”

Jillian spread her arms wide. “This is primo real estate. This room is over half the size of the main dining room. We could fit so many tables in here!”

“Yeah, but this has a ball pit.”

“Becky!”

“Here me out, Jilly,” she said. She pointed up to the walls… “See all that padding on the walls?” How could Jillian not? The light gray carpet of the room went up into the walls to just above the waist standing up. Above that was a kind of padded checkerboard of black and darker black, but with rapid hills and valleys. To Jillian’s mind, someone had crossed giant black foam mats with waffle fries and decided to hot glue it up to the ceiling.

Jillian didn’t have much of an eye for aesthetics, but she knew she didn’t like it. “What about it?

“I’m pretty sure that’s sound absorbent padding,” Rebecca said. “With the thick doors, this part could be practically soundproof. Keep the ball pit. Add some pinball machines. Maybe a karaoke thingy, and we could make this a play place for families.”

The less artistic of the two tried to run probabilities through her head that that would make keeping the kiddie play place and leaning into it an optimal use of the space.

Sensing her hesitancy, Rebecca leaned in and said, “And/Or…we set up a bar right outside, set some T.V.s up there, there and there, and book out the room to dudebros wanting to play video games and get drunk. Make it an adult Chuck E Cheese sometimes.”

That had possibilities. It was a very big pit too. Jillian felt her heart flutter. “You really are a mad genius sometimes.”

The couple kissed again. “I know.” Rebecca winced and grabbed her stomach. “If you excuse me, this mad genius needs time to see if one of the bathrooms works.”

“Just don’t bring anything back with you.”

“I won’t,” Rebecca said. She stopped and turned around. “Mad genius! Mad scientist! Laboratories! Lavatories! What if we decorated the bathrooms to look like-!”

Jillian cut her soulmate off with the palm of her hand. “Swing and a miss, babe.”

“For Halloween?”

“Okay. Maybe for Halloween. Go to the bathroom. We’ll talk about what our first reopening is gonna look like later.”

Rebecca trotted out back towards the kitchen. That’s where the restrooms had been. That or the supply closets. Whether bucket or bowl, something was about to get pooped in.

Left alone with only her thoughts, Jillian started to let her mind go over the potential of the place. Pinball machines, karaoke, and T.V. monitors didn’t grow on trees. A general rule of restaurateurs was to take however much something cost and then triple the price. That was for food. What about entertainment? It’d probably be cheaper to hire some guy to come in on saturday nights and play guitar or something. There’s a reason most non-fast food places didn’t have a play place. Play places had fallen out of vogue in general.

Jillian walked up the steps to the edge of the pit. Someone had certainly made an investment in this piece of furniture. Big and sturdy and deep enough that even an adult could swim in it. Which, as far as ball pits went, she supposed, was a sight better than something like an inflatable kiddie pool. The last owner’s baby boy was likely too short to use this; the balls would have overridden him and gone up over the top of his head.

Could be fun, she thought to herself. She pictured drunk twenty somethings getting that hit of childhood nostalgia in between shots of Jagermeister. As long as the food and drinks stayed in the adjoining booths, she supposed…

“Aw,” Jillian said to herself. “Why not?” She closed her eyes and jumped in, propelling herself forward. Not quite belly flopping into the multicolored mass, she landed knees first and sunk down like quicksand. “Haaaaa!” Her laugh was part expression of joy, part shriek of surprise.

Rebecca was right about one thing, this was fun. Speaking of fun, wouldn’t Rebecca be surprised to find her fuddy duddy wife in here? Jillian became a cicada, burying herself in the ground, and waiting for her love to come back to her. She’d pop out and yell ‘Surprise!’ when Rebecca came back.

Jillian closed her eyes, slowed her breathing and waited….

And waited…

And waited…
What was taking so long? Was Rebecca retiling the bathrooms now?

She startled when she heard electronic buzzing and beeping. Like a cat that had just had a bucket of water tossed onto its head, she thrashed and clawed her way to the surface. Had she dozed off somehow?

Feeling like her senses were being assaulted, Jillian waded from the center of the ball pool, blinking away blurriness and rubbing crust out of her eyes. Where had these stupid party lights come from? There was no practical reason to hang red, yellow, and blue spotlights from random places, save to make a place look festive. The shadows that engulfed every other part where the lights didn’t directly shine proved that much. Rebecca and her had only just been talking about pinball machines and video games, but the buzzing, whirring and beeping of electronic entertainment was so incredibly loud that Jillian almost couldn’t concentrate.

Tiny figures rushed by her periphery. She twisted her head and through the wall of black netting saw a twelve year old with a wild mop of hair sit down just long enough to take an enormous mouthful of pepperoni pizza, gulp it down with some soda, wipe his mouth with his sleeve and then run off. What could only be his parents looked at each other and shook their heads good naturedly.

Kids. Middle schoolers at least, high schoolers at best, walked and darted around the room, playing games and leaning on cabinets that no one was using; the noise and music was too loud to hear them chatting, but body language was everything.

Speaking of body language, the booths were filled with parents chatting with each other, eating a hodgepodge of different meals- lasagna, burgers, enchiladas, pulled pork- while keeping a wary eye out to make sure their accompanied minors were behaving. One couple caught sight of Jillian and waved mildly to her, as if their sudden appearance wasn’t the least bit strange. They were smiling at her as well. Friendly. Too friendly.

“Excuse me,” Jillian said, still at the edge of the pit’s inside. No one, adult or child, so much as fidgeted. The music and noise was too loud and distracting for her voice to be heard. She raised her voice, “Excuse me!” One of the kids in a loose fitting baseball jersey, he might have been fourteen, looked back over his shoulder. He flashed her a smile, and then went back to jiggling joysticks.

Jillian felt her temperature rise. She took a deep breath and shouted, “Excuse! Me!” That got some people’s attention. Several parents turned their heads. The kids who were old enough to have their voices crack stared at her the longest. They had gotten to that age where shows of authority were challenges to be overcome. “What are you all doing here?!” Julian shouted over the music. “This place isn’t supposed to be open yet?” A pack of teenagers, some who looked like they barely knew how to shave, walked up to the edge of the big box filled with plastic balls. “I said-!”

“Hey, baby,” A boy winked at her. “Wussup?” A girl who might have been his date or his sister slapped him on the shoulder.

“Baby?” Jillian blinked. “Who the hell do you think you’re calling ‘baby’?” If his parents hadn’t likely been around she might have said worse. “I’m not your momma and I’m sure as hell not your baby so talk to me with some respec-”

A boy who was probably still in Elementary school interrupted her. “Awww look at the baby! So cuuuute!” Cute? Most people don’t pay attention to how they look outside of a bathroom mirror. The senses tend to be focused outward instead of inward, so in a broader sense, Jillian would later forgive herself for not noticing certain details. “Who’s a cute widdle baby?” The kid had the gall to reach up and try to pinch Jillian’s cheeks.”

“Don’t touch me!” Jillian slapped the hand away.

“I don’t think she likes that,” the girl among them said. By way of demonstrating she reached over and pinched the fifth grader’s cheeks. “Do you?”
Jillian had had just about enough of this bullshit nonsense. In her mind, a list had started to form. Step three was finding her wife and getting an explanation as to what in hell was going on. Step two was whooping these kids’ asses and putting the fear of God that their parents had so clearly failed to instill in them. Step one was getting out of this stupid play place.

The co-owner of the building planted her hands on the rim of the box. Something felt off, but she couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Her wedding band’s absence wasn’t immediately missed. Jillian expected the kids to book it and run the moment they realized she was getting out, but they stayed and watched for sport. “I think she’s getting out!” The youngest said. “Come on! You can do it!”

Oh she was gonna do it, alright. With a quick and mighty heave, she swung one leg over the side, and froze: A daisy yellow stocking that ran up to her knee emerged from the plastic morass and Jilian forze. “What in the fu-?”

“Uh oh. She’s stuck!”

“I’ll help.” The girl said. She was a high schooler by the looks of it but just barely; probably a freshman; babysitter age. She reached forward. Shocked and flabbergasted, Jillian took the girl’s hands and finished pulling herself out.

“How the-?” Jillian didn’t have words to properly voice her confusion. Her plain red top and jeans had pulled a vanishing act. Now she wore a bright yellow dress that stopped above the knee. Combined with the yellow knee socks, she realized that she must have looked like a little girl. The bright pink sneakers weren’t helping. Neither was the bow she accidentally felt digging her fingers into her hair.

Something clicked. This. This is why the kids were mocking her, calling her ‘baby’. How she ended up in the outfit was a bigger mystery to her than how all of these people popped into existence. She’d jumped into the ball pit. Submerged herself. Waited. And then….and then….and then what?

“I thought they didn’t allow little kids in here,” the older boy said.

“Little-?” Jillian growled. She had a good three or four inches on this punk.

The girl freshman answered. “I think that’s the owner lady’s kid. Special privileges and all that.” They weren’t talking to her, they were talking over her. Jillian felt her anger rising. This little snot was talking over her. Girl was barely old enough to be out of training bras and she was going along with this rib.

“I am the owner,” Jillian said, fiercely. Despite her childish attire, she stood up straight and crossed her arms over her chest. Her eyes went wide. Anger transmuted into embarrassment. Where the fuck had her bra gone? If this dress were just a little bit tighter upstairs, everybody would be able to see her nipples poking through! And unlike the girl, it wouldn’t be socially acceptable for Jillian to go without one in public.

Not noticing the grown woman’s embarrassment, the trio kept talking to one another. “Is that nobody’s going into the pit right now? We don’t wanna hurt her or something?” The older of the two boys- the one who was either late in middle school or early in highschool-asked.

“Pretty much,” the teen girl replied, much to Jillian’s chagrin. Now they were calling her fragile?

The youngest of the three started jogging out into the main dining room. “I’ll go find her mom!” he yelled back.

“My what?”

The heavy oak doors opened and Jillian craned her neck to try and see out into the main dining room. It was the babysitter who stepped in front of her and blocked her view. “No, no, no,” the girl tutted. “We’re gonna wait here, okay?”

“You shouldn’t even be here!” Jillian said. “Can somebody please help?!” she called out. The other adults didn’t seem to pay her any more mind than one might to a tantruming child at a grocery store. If they looked uncomfortable, it was only vaguely so.

“Sorry, baby,” the girl shushed. “It’s the big kid’s turn to play in there. You can play later. Promise.”

“I don’t want to play in there,” Jillian pleaded to deaf ears. “I want to know what’s going-!”

“You don’t think she peed in there, do you?” The older boy asked.

Jillian felt her nose twitch. Why would they think that? Why would they joke?

“Maybe if her diaper leaked.” The teenage girl said. Matter of factly.

“My-?” Jillian winced. Did they really think that she was wearing a-? No. But the sudden stiffness, the padded feel of her underwear beneath her dress, now that she thought about it, was more than slightly intrusive. Looking down at herself, she hoisted the hem of her dress. “-diaper?!

Hugging Jillian’s hips was something she hadn’t worn in a long long time. She didn’t think they even made Luvs in her size. The purple and white padding taped around her waist seemed to indicate that they did.

The teenager slapped Jillian’s hands away. “No, no, no. Keep your dress down, honey. Big girls don’t show their underwear off to everybody.”

Everybody! Once again, Jillian was reminded of her surroundings. She was dressed like a baby, a literal baby and had just flashed her diaper in front of all of these customers. Her face felt like she was on fire as embarrassment ratcheted up to near catastrophic levels of humiliation. Jillian tried to open her mouth, to ask questions, to shout, to scream, to do anything, but no words were coming right then. The most she could do was back up against the edge of the ball pit, yank the front of her dress down as hard as she could.

Up from one of the booths, a gentleman in his mid forties from the look of it, put a hand on the teenager’s shoulders. “Nobody cares, hon,” he said. “I remember when you were that age. It was hard enough to get you to keep your diaper on sometimes.”

The teenager blushed crimson. “Daaaaaaad!”

“Now if you and your boyfriend want-”

The two remaining kids looked awkwardly at the floor “Dad. He’s not my boyfriend.”

“If you and Trevor want to flop around and goof off, we’ve only got ten more minutes before your mother and I pay the check and get in the car.”

The young pair, a couple evidently, took that as an invitation. They jumped headfirst into the pit. Jillian followed them with her eyes. They seemed no more toddlerish than before when they popped their heads back up.

“Jilly! There you are!” Coming in through the doors to the restaurant’s playroom, flanked by a kid who wasted no time running past and jumping into the pit, was Rebecca. Unlike Jillian, she was wearing exactly what she’d been wearing a few moments ago.

Jillian broke out into a near sprint, closing the distance despite the way the huge Luvs was throwing off her gait. “Rebecca,” she panted, “what the hell is going on?”

The two embraced as passionately and as warmly as if they hadn’t seen each other for years. Jillian felt safer, and stable. “How did you get out of your playpen in Mommy’s office?” she said. “You should be asleep.”

“Asleep? Rebecca, what are you talking about?”

Like all the others before, Rebecca ignored her. “Thank you so much for finding her,” she said to the father who’d just embarrassed his teenage daughter.

“It was my kid, actually,” he said. He thumbed back to the ballpit.

“Thank them for me,” Rebecca said. Even though they were about the same height, Rebecca took a knee and looked up at Jillian. “I knew I shouldn’t have put you down for that nap so late. Now you’re gonna be up all night and cranky the next morning. At least you don’t have daycare tomorrow.”

“I remember when mine were about that size. How old is she? One? Two? Maybe Three?”

Jillian’s wife stood up. “Twenty-nine.”

The man chuckled dryly like it was a joke. The problem was Jillian really was twenty-nine.

A fresh wave of realization hit her, and with it came urgency and more than a little panic. “Rebecca,” she grabbed her wife by the shoulders. “You’ve gotta listen to me. That ball pit? It’s magic! It…it…it dressed me up like this and did some kind of magic thing to open up or rewind or fast forward time…what date is it?”

How much of that Rebecca understood, Jillian didn’t know. She took Jillian’s hand and started to lead her out into the main dining room. “Come on, mija. Let the big kids play in here. I’ll put on a cartoon in my office and you can cuddle with Mr. Fluffybuttons.”

Jillian dug her heels in at the mention of a stuffed animal she hadn’t thought about in years; one that she hadn’t even mentioned to Rebecca. No! This was going too far. “Rebecca! Stop!” She shouted.

“What’s the matter, Jil-?” The shout was enough to loosen her wife’s grip on her, allowing Jillian to slip out the grasp.

The normally calm and collected Jillian stomped up to the edge of the ball pit, shouting at the top of her lungs. “You need to listen! This place is cursed! I don’t know how! I don’t know why! But I-!” Jillian stopped. More than her temper was going over the edge.

Her mouth stopped talking, yet her body took over. She bent her knees, even though she knew that would make it easier for her diaper to poke out beneath the hem of her pretty yellow dress. For a second that didn’t matter. Her thumb slid between her lips and she sucked on it, oddly enjoying the sensation of it, even. For a second that didn’t matter, either. For a second, Jillian’s mind blanked, and she did what most anyone wearing a baby diaper would do; what they were supposed to do…

It took longer than a second for Jillian to finish pooping and peeing her pants in front of everyone, but it only took that one tick of the clock for her body to push past the point of no return. The added five or so ticks lasted an eternity. She was peeing! She was pooping! And everyone was watching!

In the back of her mind, she told herself that this was all a lie. This was just a dream. She had dozed off in the abandoned ball pit of their newly acquired restaurant, and this was some bizarre nightmare. And even if it wasn’t a dream, she hurriedly added to herself, no one was actually looking at her. They’d just seen her walk up, freeze, and start sucking her thumb. That didn’t necessarily mean-

“Ew!” The boy, almost half Jillian’s age shouted. “Gross! She’s taking a dump!”

His little not-girlfriend pelted him for the outburst. “It’s not gross. It’s natural!”

“Do you wanna change her?”

“No! Don’t be gross!”

When she stood up, Mommy…Rebecca lifted up the back of her dress, and pulled back the diaper’s waistband. Anyone who hadn’t seen the dry front a few minutes ago certainly had a good look at the ballooned out back. “Come on, mija,” Rebecca said. “Let’s go to the bathroom.”

“Bathroom?” The youngest of the three who’d harassed Jillian asked, “Why are they going-?”

The teenage girl clicked her tongue and side. “They’ve got a baby changing station in there.”

“Oh.”

Jillian looked down at her sneakers, only vaguely aware of the quieter atmosphere and gentle murmur of more sophisticated diners out on the main floor. For the smallest amount of time, Jillian was grateful. The relative quiet and relaxing piano music would make it easier to think. “Max,” Mommy called to one of the waitresses, “go get my diaper bag out of the back room. Pink. Can’t miss it. Meet me in the bathroom. We’ve got a code brown.”

Jillian flushed even deeper and covered her eyes shut. No admonitions. No comments. Nothing comments came whatsoever from the dining customers. They either hadn’t heard it (though how could they not?) or they hadn’t cared. And that was almost just as bad. No one shared her own disgust. Suddenly, this was normal. Barring health code violations, Rebecca could have laid Jilly down on the floor and changed her diaper right there and no one would have thought anything of it. Just like-

Jilly gasped when Mommy took her into the bathroom, and not just because the wall mounted changing table was big enough to comfortably fit her. “Thank you, Max. You’re a lifesaver. Table three needs their drinks refilled.”

This. This is why this restaurant always failed. At least half of the owners ended up back in diapers, with onlookers seeing and hearing them as toddlers, even when it might not make sense. The cursed partners and spouses tried to run the business themselves, and being hit with two very different sets of responsibilities, inevitably chose their ‘babies’ over business.

While her new Mommy opened up the soiled diaper and started wiping her down, Jilly wondered how long Rebecca could keep the candle burning at both ends? She was very creative and talented, even if she didn’t have the best skillset for budgeting.

That one boy, the fussy thirty-eight year old, might have made it harder on his Mommy. Should Jilly try that or would she be a good girl?
The real question was: did she really think she could break the curse if the restaurant stayed open?
As the cold from Mommy’s wipe touched her again, she somehow didn’t think so.
What was she going to do?

(Fin)

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