It was a good four minutes and forty-five seconds before Wendy stopped cackling like a madwoman into her pillow. She’d done it!
She’d done it, she’d done it, she’d done it!
She looked again at the perfect study guide in her hands, the thing that hadn’t existed until she’d put together that baby puzzle in the universe on the other side of the closet. Wow, that sounded even wilder everytime she so much as thought about it.
Wendy was Aladdin with the lamp. She was Frodo with the One Ring. She was Dr. Frankenstein and it was taking everything she had not to crane her neck and shout up to the sky “IT’S ALIVE!”
A parallel universe-one where her parents thought she was a baby-right there in her closet. That alone was beyond remarkable. The fact that whatever she did in one seemed to trickle out to the other; that was beyond amazing!
“I’ll never have to study again,” she whispered to herself. “I’ll never have to take another test. Tomorrow I can…” She stopped. Never say the best part out loud. Tomorrow was for tomorrow. Today, she could take the whole day for herself: watch television, waste time, literally do whatever she wanted.
Laying back on her bed, the law student felt her veins buzzing deep inside her. The rip in between realities wasn’t the only thing that was glowing. To her, this was better than skydiving or white water rafting. For the first time since middle school, Wendy felt like something more than an ex-Gifted kid. She felt on top of the world, and soon would be at the top of her class with no real effort required of her.
And all it would cost the girl was her underwear thickening and becoming more than a little crinkly for a couple hours. She looked back into her closet and saw the rip, still glowing, if slightly fainter; more than likely because she was getting used to it. It was kind of like stepping out into the sunlight after spending all day indoors. You squinted, blinked, rubbed your aching eyes, and then got used to it.
A knock at the door caught Wendy’s attention. “Come in,” she said.
Her mom stepped in. “Hey, Wendy. Busy studying?”
Wendy smiled like a cat that had just gorged itself on goldfish and gotten away with it. “Naw. I think I’ve studied as much as I need to. Any more and I’d feel like I was talking to myself. You know?”
“Yeah?” Mom said. She took a seat at the foot of Wendy’s bed. “I know how that is. You can only do so much lesson planning before you start working yourself up with butterflies.”
Out of politeness, Wendy propped herself up enough to make eye contact with her mother. “Pretty much.”
“Absolutely. You should take the day for yourself. Just relax.”
“Although…” her mother said.
Wendy’s mouth got just a tad dryer. “Although…? She had a bad feeling about this. Mom was one of those types for whom enough was never quite enough.
“It’s a beautiful day,” Mom said. “Want to go to the park with me? Jog the fitness trail before it gets too hot outside?”
Anxiously, Wendy looked down at herself. Her metabolism and diet were at peak performance. She didn’t really need to exercise to maintain her trim physique. She hated sweating, too. Still, going jogging with Mom might be a good way to spend time with her. “Okay…”
“Great,” Mom patted Wendy on the ankle. “I’ll go get changed.” Then she lowered the hammer. “While we’re jogging you can explain to me the stuff you’ve been studying.”
Alarm bells clattered inside Wendy’s brain. “Hm?”
“No better way to learn than by teaching somebody else.” This! This is why Mom wanted to go jogging. It wasn’t Mother/Daughter time as much as it was a pop quiz!. That was so Mom! She left before Wendy had a chance to contradict her or back out of the outing.
Wendy was on her feet a moment later, pacing only because she was trying to stop herself from running out shrieking into the hallway. The twenty-two year old felt like she was in her late fifties with her chest tightening from panic and anxiety. As though she were clinging to a life raft, she snatched up the study guide and read over it. It was in her handwriting, but everything she’d written on it was completely foreign to her.
She hadn’t remembered writing any of it. Factually, she hadn’t; her parents just remembered her writing it. It had basically popped into existence due to some causal reaction from her tinkering in the closet dimension.
The girl nibbled on her bottom lip. “I could just read this while we jog,” she said to herself. No. That wouldn’t work. She could already hear her mother lecturing her: Note reading wasn’t rote memorization and rote memorization wasn’t comprehension. Wendy inhaled. “I don’t even know how much of this is accurate!” The answers could be complete bullshit as far as she knew.
In the big scheme of things, her mother embarrassing her and telling her that she needed to spend the rest of the day studying material she clearly hadn’t retained wasn’t the worst thing in the world. In Wendy’s scheme of things, however, it felt like the most damning of castigations.
Wendy leaned against her door, and closed her eyes from all the stress she was feeling. “It’s not even gonna matter tomorrow. If I’m right I don’t even have to study.” If she was right… What if the study guide was a fluke?
Her eyes opened and she jerked as though she expected a winged viper to fly out and bite her on the face… Only the faintly glowing rip stared back at her. Perhaps this cause and effect regarding dimensional travel required more study? Ironic since studying (or not) got her into this.
No. No. She was putting her foot down. Kind of. Wendy might not be good at memorizing facts, but she could talk circles around her mother when she needed to. “Actually, Mom,” she whispered to herself, “I think I’ll pass on going jogging with you. I had a late night last night, like Daddy…like Dad said and I don’t want to overexert myself.”
Almost like a game of chess, she could see the conversation play out from there. Move and Counter Move.
“That’s fine. You can tell me about what you’ve learned after your nap,” Wendy said, mimicking her mother as she began walking back and forth in front of her mirror.
Then Wendy would feint and go, “It seems like you’re more concerned with checking on my studying than spending time with me.”
Mom would reply with something to the effect of “I just want to make sure that you’re ready for tomorrow.”
Then Wendy would counter with “Are you going to be in the courtroom for me for my cases?”
Her mother would counter with, “You won’t get into any courtrooms if you don’t graduate Law School.”
From there it would be less like chess and more like jazz music: Structured improvisation around an ever escalating frame until Wendy pulled out her trump card at the argument’s crescendo. Then she’d say something like, “I’m an adult and I’d appreciate it if you treated me more like one. Or are you going to start quizzing dad about his job, too?”
It would de-escalate from there. Mom might resort to pot-shots about who is paying the bills, but that could be disarmed with something along the lines that gratitude is not the same as subservience, and when the offer for her to stay at home was made, no parameters were made where she was required to report directly to her mother.
Mother might flimsily counter that no such proviso was added where she couldn’t change the rules, but that could be easily sidestepped by calling her ethics into question: Only Darth Vader and the other great tyrants of pop culture and history changed the terms of an agreement on a whim and told the people under their rule that they should pray that the rules weren’t altered further.
From there, the conversation would go back into total predictability, Mom would acquiesce and leave her alone. They’d both walk away with hurt feelings, things would be tense at dinner, and then it’d all blow over in a day or two.
Wendy popped over across the hallway and went to the bathroom. Never get into an argument on an empty bladder. She slumped forward on the toilet. She hadn’t even gotten into things with her mom, yet, and already she was feeling exhausted.
After wiping, flushing and washing her hands, Wendy heard her father call from the kitchen, “You about ready, honey? Your jogging buddy is almost done!”
“Almost!” Both mother and daughter called out in unison, their voices coming from opposite ends of the house and meeting in the middle.
“Heh,” Wendy heard Dad chuckle to himself. “Two birds with one stone. I love when that happens.”
Wendy braced herself. This. Was going. To be. Unpleasant. She stopped in the hallway and looked back to her room. Should she meet Mom in her parent’s bedroom or her own? Meet halfway and have Dad bear witness? No. That wouldn’t be fair to him.
Feeling weary beyond her years, Wendy huffed. She hadn’t even started talking to her mother yet and already she felt exhausted. This would have been so much easier if she were talking to her Mom’s doppelganger; the one on the other side of the closet. That version of Mom had all of the love and affection that this one had, but without the strenuous expectations.
Twenty some odd years ago, ‘jogging’ would have just meant jogging. Spending time together. No tests. No nothing. A wonderful idea took root in her brain. “I might not have to go jogging with her either.” Babies didn’t go jogging.
Wendy darted back into her bedroom. Quickly, she removed her top long enough to switch out her regular bra for a sports one. “Not sure why I’m doing this,” she muttered. “It’s not like it’s gonna exist on the other side.”
If the parallel events on either side of the rip worked like she thought it did, her mother would think she went jogging with her anyway. When she came back afterwards, Wendy might be wearing a sports bra regardless. Best not to make the transition back any more jarring than it had to be.
“Just spend long enough over on that side so that Mom remembers me wowing her.” Wendy took a deep breath and closed her eyes. “I get quality time and rest. She gets her wunderkind. Win-win.”
Still feeling the glow coming out of the litteral tear in the fabric of reality through her closed eyelids, Wendy found herself hesitating for a moment. Was she really this afraid of confronting her mother she would rather flee to another world and hide back in diapers? For real? No, that wasn’t why she was going back. Avoiding all that arguing was almost a pretext. Deep down, the college girl knew she was looking forward to some more of that undiluted parental love. There was an entire reality to explore, and such moments to experience. Nothing else right now felt as alluring.
“Who am I kidding? Bluffing Mom is only half the mission. Testing more of those baby sides of things, that’s the real deal.” Wendy straightened up, feeling her building resolution. “Here…we…go…”
Blinding light so intense that she could see it through her eyelids! The sensation lasted no more than two steps before Wendy was sure she was on the other side of the rip.
Roller coasters rely on surprise and anticipation. That first heart-pounding drop, or the surprise loop or corkscrew turn; it’s all thrilling, but nothing quite so much as that first trip. Nothing got your pulse racing as much as that first time. Traveling between parallel universes had that in common, Wendy found.
She rubbed her eyes and took a survey of her nursery. She’d made it through the portal easily enough. She looked down at herself. “Same nursery.” She looked down past her chest. “Same adult clothes…for now.” She had no doubt in her mind that eventually she’d be back in toddler shorts and frilly shirts. Just like last time it was taking a while to kick in. Good. If she could get through this with as much time out of disposable underwear, so much the better.
Wendy had made a kind of calculated peace that her panties wouldn’t be panties over here on this side of the closet. It didn’t mean she was looking forward to that inevitability. She popped open the front of her shorts and stared down at her panties. Feeling silly, she reached down and poked herself. So weird to think that within the hour these would likely be thicker than if she’d balled up and wrapped every article of clothing exclusively around her waist.
Mumbled conversation leaked its way through her bedroom door. Mom and Dad- their alternate universe equivalents, rather- were talking in the kitchen. It didn’t sound too charged. Pleasantly excited more than anything.
The law student shuddered when she felt her bra melt into the front of her shirt just like last time. It was happening already! She’d been done with her oatmeal and was being carried back to her room last time. Morbidly curious, she walked over to the mirror and watched the little ruffles appear on her shirt as the fabric seemed to dye itself pink.
“Huh,” she mused. “Much quicker than before.”
The shorts were next. Instead of turning from tan to a light powder view like they had before, they became transparent. Wendy was reminded of that old movie that her parents loved; the one about the time traveling car. Her shorts were fading out of existence just like the main character’s siblings in that photograph. “How? Why-?”
This gave Wendy a front row seat for watching her panties thicken and bulge out into a giant disposable diaper. Elmo was on the front, smiling from the landing zone with colorful zig zags going all over her nether regions. The number near the landing zone, just barely covered up by the sides indicated that it was supposed to be a Size 3. In reality it was probably closer to a Size 7 or 8. Did they even make diapers that big?
It covered all the right places, modesty wise. Wendy had worn bathing suits that showed more skin. That fact didn’t stop the girl from turning almost as pink as her babyish top. She really did look like an overgrown infant like this; a toddler at best, and that was stretching it.
Again, she poked down at the portrait of elmo and felt the thickness of the padding between her finger and skin. She inhaled and caught a whiff of what might have been baby powder. Or maybe it was perfume. Some diapers were perfumed, right?
Wendy didn’t know. She’d had exactly one surprise period before she got her mother to teach her how to insert a tampon, and she had absolutely no interest in babies before this. Absorbent padding in all of its forms was downright alien to her.
Worlds collided in her mind. Some people’s worst recurring nightmare was being naked in class. After today, Wendy had the sneaking suspicion her embarrassment dream would involve standing in front of a judge wearing nothing but a pink t-shirt and a big fluffy diaper. It felt about the same as it had underneath her shorts. Seeing it there in the mirror, as her first layer of clothing made it different; more real. “What happened to my shorts?”
Still, as the shock wore off, she had to admit- if only to herself- she looked kind of cute. She turned to the side and stuck her butt out a little. Blushing, she put a finger in her mouth, trying to look innocent. The girl in the mirror looked absolutely adorable!
She turned all the way around and looked over her shoulder and wiggled her hips; watching as well as hearing the enlarged diaper as every movement became exaggerated. She turned back and pressed her pointer fingers into her cheeks, giving herself dimples. Pretending to be shy, she pulled down the hem of her shirt and looked down at her feet, looking like a naughty little girl who’d broken a vase or something.
She toyed with the idea of just plopping on the floor, legs spread wide and sucking her thumb. How would she look then? Kind of cute, she bet. More than ‘kind of’ cute.
Maybe this wouldn’t be so bad once she got used to it.
“Okay, baby!” Mom opened the door. Correction: It was ‘Closet Mommy’, this universe’s version of her mother.
Reflexively, Wendy’s hands shot down beneath her waist. She wasn’t used to it! Definitely not used to it!
Had she been wearing panties, she would have been better able to conceal them with her body. Bend over, squeeze her knees together, and spread her hands out to obfuscate the entirety of her underwear.
This universe’s underwear made all of the above much more difficult. The sides and back bulged and bunched out so that bending in any way just left an angle exposed; she couldn’t really close her legs all the way, and had to spread her feet out just to angle her knees so that they barely touched, not to mention her dainty hands were not even close to the task of covering the entirety of the diaper’s front side.
Of course, had she been in just her underwear, she might not have reacted that way to her Mom walking in on her. It was just underwear. Did diapers count as underwear? The would-be lawyer in her couldn’t help but wonder alongside her blushy embarrassment and panic.
“EEP!” She squeaked. “Mom! Private!”
Mommy didn’t seem to hear her, or at least made no effort to fix it. “Ready to go for a jog with Mommy?” In one fell swoop, she scooped Wendy off her feet and onto her hip. Wendy’s feet and arms wrapped around the only-slightly older woman’s waist and shoulder.
In hindsight being picked up by her father hadn’t overly startled Wendy. Howard Merts was still bigger and stronger than either his wife or his daughter. It wasn’t all that jarring or unbelievable that he could toss her over his shoulder or carry her on his hip; especially not one that had been de-aged over two decades.
Jody Merts, by contrast, was of an almost identical body type to Wendy, and her ‘Closet Mommy’ variation seemed even more like Wendy’s slightly older sister. Yet it seemed just as easy and natural for her to pick Wendy up off the floor.
“Oh wow,” Mommy said. “Somebody’s getting heavy!”
“You have no idea,” Wendy replied, knowing that it wouldn’t be properly understood.
“Whatchoo doin’?” Closet Mommy cooed. “Whose ‘dat baby? Whose ‘dat baby?” She didn’t seem to notice or care that Wendy’s face was pink enough to be mistaken for a sunburn.
Unconsciously, Wendy shifted her weight in her other mother’s arms. With equal automaticity, Closet Mommy shifted Wendy and patted her bottom. “Hmm? She looked at Wendy’s diaper and twisted her mouth. “Howard!” she called. “Come in here, I’ve got to tell you something!”
Closet Daddy sauntered in, casually. “What’s up?”
“You forgot to put her shorts back on again,” Mommy said.
Back on? A lightbulb clicked in Wendy’s brain. She’d gone to the bathroom before crossing over. Had that translated to her getting her diaper changed over on this side of the rip?
“It’s a nice day out,” Daddy shrugged. “I know I wouldn’t wear pants if I could get away with it.”
“No shoes, either.”
“She’s gonna be in the stroller most of the time. Let her wiggle her toes.” Daddy smirked. “I know you said she’s a whiz at walking, but you’re not gonna make her jog with you? I don’t think she’s quite ready for that.” He smiled, warmly. “Did you really just call me in here because I didn’t put her clothes back on after changing?”
Mommy looked back in the mirror. “Oh yeah. No, I didn’t.” She placed Wendy back on the carpet and stood back up. “Remember when I told you about her walking earlier?”
“Yeah?” Daddy seemed dubious.
“I just came in,” Mommy gushed, “and you won’t believe who I saw staring at her reflection in the mirror!”
Daddy guffawed. “No kidding!”
“She was standing up, too! All by herself!”
“I believe it,” Daddy said, trying to sound nonchalant. “Ten months isn’t too young to start walking.”
“It’s not,” Mommy agreed, “but it’s still incredibly early. Very top percentile. And I swear she was looking at herself in the mirror. That isn’t supposed to happen until at least fifteen months! That’s super advanced!”
Even here, her mother was helicopter parenting and getting excited that her daughter was ‘advanced’. “Really?” Wendy rolled her eyes. At least on this side of the rip she could meet those expectations.
“Come on,” Mommy cooed. “Show Daddy! Stand up! Stand up!” She made a raising motion with her hands. “You can do it.”
Wendy rolled over onto her hands and knees. She could do it. Easily. She made to gather her legs up under her and push herself up And stopped. A terrible thought occurred to her: Putting together that baby puzzle so fast had resulted in her real parents thinking she was a super whiz.
It might be easy to meet expectations for a ten month old, but what would that mean for her later that day when she was twenty-two again? Best to play it safe.
She jerked her head upward and rocked back on her knees a little bit; doing her best impression of a child who had seen standing up but hadn’t gotten the hang of it.
Closet Mommy looked disappointed. “She was doing it just a minute ago. Maybe if I move her to her crib? Give her something to pull-up on.”
“She’s not even one and already you’re talking about Pull-Ups.” Daddy joked.
For good measure, Wendy took the time to crawl away from her crib straight into the middle of the floor. Let them see her crawling. Let them be comfortable with her crawling.
Closet Daddy put his hand on Closet Mommy’s shoulder. “I know you’re excited,” he said. “I am too. But it’s perfectly natural for kids her age to get things on accident, and then go back. Two steps forward, one crawl back, or something like that. Nobody learns in a straight line; especially not babies.”
Mommy sighed. “You’re right.”
“Don’t push it.” It didn’t stop Mommy from smiling. She stepped over to Wendy and picked the girl back up. “I’m sorry, baby. Mommy didn’t mean to pressure you,” she gave her a kiss on the forehead. “You do you in your own time. No rush. We’ll practice later, but it’ll be at your own pace.”
One universe or another, Jody Merts was still Jody Merts. “Now about her pants…”
“Let her enjoy being a baby,” Daddy said. “She only gets to do it once.” If only he knew the irony of that statement. Perhaps it was best that he didn’t…
Mommy looked back to the not-so-little girl in her arms and back to her husband. “It’s a good thing you’re both so cute and I don’t want to put pants back on a wiggly baby.” She gave him a peck on the lips and then strolled over to Wendy. “Come on, sugar booger,” she said. “Let’s go for a walk.”
“Say bye bye to Daddy, Wendy.”
“Bye, Daddy,” Wendy said.
Mommy reached across and grabbed Wendy by the wrist. “Bye bye, Daddy,” she said in a cutesy high pitched voice, as if speaking for ‘Baby’ Wendy. “See you after our walk.” Wendy found her hand being waved for her.
Daddy gave both of them a kiss. Mommy again on the lips, and Wendy on the cheek. “I slipped the diaper bag in the back of the stroller and parked it in front.”
“Thank you, dear.”
“Of course.” Daddy replied.
Mommy didn’t reply, though Wendy sensed it had more to do with letting him get the last word in than out of anything remotely resembling negative vibes.
The garage door was open, and the stroller was already parked out in the driveway facing the street. Daddy had definitely done prep work. The only thing Wendy gained from being taken outside via the garage was a free peek inside Mommy’s car and the absolutely gigantic baby seat in the back of it.
The stroller itself was a jogging stroller, shiny black with a hot pink trim on the sides and cushions.There was a canopy overhead, but the reclined ramp for the legs stuck out in the sun. By Wendy’s reckoning, it was only slightly bigger than a regular stroller, and functionally was a modified wheelchair, or an infantilized version of something that a disabled person might sit in.
If it were to scale up completely, Wendy reckoned, her Mommy wouldn’t be able to reach the handlebar to push her. Same with the carseat. How’d anybody fit that behemoth in there?
This version of her mother wasn’t a middle aged greying school teacher. She was practically in her prime. She looked to be in her late twenties, early thirties at most. Wendy did some mental math. Twenty-nine. If everything was to scale, her mom was twenty-nine.
Point being even a twenty-nine year old woman couldn’t fit that giant car seat in there. Even if it were as light to her as Wendy the darn thing looked too bulky to squeeze in. It was a matter of volume. Not weight.
“Maybe not everything grows.” Wendy murmured to herself. Then she remembered how the pack of diapers her mom had brought in had started off as Size 3, then ballooned out to fit her. Technically she was still wearing Size 3 if the number on the diaper’s front could be believed. “Maybe the baby stuff grows just enough to fit me when I’m here and…shrinks when I’m gone?”
“That’s right,” Mommy cooed. “We’re goin’ on a jog!”
Closet Mommy was less adept at sussing out what Wendy said than her male counterpart. This might have been a blessing of sorts, since the next few words out of Wendy’s mouth were the kind of thing that her real Mom would definitely have scolded her for at the very least.
A jogger, an attractive one too, had run right across their path, and Wendy instinctively kicked and cussed in a futile attempt not to be seen in just a shirt and diaper.
She wasn’t seen, however. Or rather, she wasn’t noticed. The jogger didn’t even turn his head to the side. To everyone, not just her parents, Wendy was just another infant. And as this universe’s equivalent of her father said, who cared if someone saw a baby in just their diaper? “Oh you always get so excited when you see your stroller,” Mommy cooed to her while she buckled Wendy in.
Wendy exhaled and leaned back in the stroller and her Mommy’s legs disappeared out of view. The stroller started moving. “Just a baby here,” she told herself. “That’s it. Nothing to worry about. Back in the real world, I’m going jogging with my mother. This is the same thing,” she looked again at the Pampers she was wearing, “Only different.”
Experimentally, she poked at the release button on the stroller’s harness. It was big and bright and red; impossible to miss. “Hmm…” she said when it didn’t move. She’d tapped it lightly enough, not wanting to accidentally unbuckle herself, but the button didn’t so much as wiggle.
She pushed down harder. The big red circle between her legs didn’t so much as indent. Even harder, she tried again and got nothing. It was almost as if the release didn’t exist and someone had painted a red dot on solid tempered steel to make her think there was a button there.
Her hands slid up to the latch buckle over her chest. Silently, she grunted trying to press down on the release, pinching at the tops and bottoms to cause the harness to separate. She got nothing for her trouble behind slightly aching fingers.
Interesting. Evidently, the equipment was sturdy enough so that she could only interact with it on the level that an actual ten-month old child could. It made sense, in a way. It wouldn’t do to have a crib that she couldn’t tilt over or a changing table that collapsed under her weight.
Curiosity sated for the moment, Wendy leaned back in her stroller and absorbed everything going on around her.
With the sidewalk zooming past along her periphery, slowly, Wendy started taking in her surroundings. She knew this route. It led to a park with a decent fitness trail and a playground for little kids. It was only about half a mile from their house. The trip would be even easier now that Wendy didn’t have to walk.
The same houses that had been part of the background of her life went by. Same birdbaths. Same yards. Same street corners. Everything was the same, save for her and her parents.
“Hi Jody!” A neighbor waved. “Good day for a jog with the little one!”
“You bet, Kristen!” Mommy said. “Gotta lose that baby weight somehow!”
“Have a good one! I’m out here in the weeds. Maybe I’ll see you on your way back.”
Remembering breakfast, Wendy started taking mental notes. Both her real and her Closet Mommy had gone grocery shopping first thing in the morning and for a jog soon after. Her father remembered having instant oatmeal for breakfast with her, even if she remembered it as her Daddy playing silly games with her in her high chair. It stood to reason that when she got back, Mom would remember the neighbors, passerby and such on her and Mommy’s stroller trip.
“Mommy?” Wendy called out. She got no response. “Mommy?” she called again. Only the light grinding sound of rubber on pavement and the pounding of Closet Mommy’s jogging footsteps came in reply. “Mommy!” Wendy kicked her feet bare, making the stroller jiggle beneath her.
Finally, the stroller slowed to a stop, and Mommy peered around the front. “Yes, Wendy?”
“Who was that?” Wendy thumbed back. “The neighbor? That you talked to? Working on her garden?” Best to find out now and hope she was a better study in this situation than in Law School.
“Hold on, cupcake,” Closet Mommy said. When she came back around, she was already nose down in the diaper bag looking for something. “Your father just changed you,” she said. “And he fed you breakfast. It’s still kind of hot out… So….,” she produced a bottle of apple juice. “Thirsty?”
Wendy wasn’t thirsty. Not at all. Yet her throat felt incredibly parched seeing the bottle of amber liquid slosh around in her Mommy’s hand. Or more accurately, her tongue desperately craved the sweet stuff spread upon it and the pleasurable sensation of it sliding down her throat. She reached forward and the younger version of her mother met her more than halfway. “Good girl! Drink up.”
Wendy grabbed the bottle and stared at it like it was a Rubik’’s Cube. Even that metaphor fell short for the ex-Gifted kid; she’d know where to start on a Rubik’s Cube. It had been decades since she’d last drank from a baby bottle; so far back that she didn’t actually remember. Not that she needed instructions, it was literally so easy a baby could do it.
It just seemed so…foreign to her.
Gingerly she slid the rubber nipple between her lips, taking a moment to half-chew the teat just to see what it felt like. She kept adjusting her hands, too, trying to get comfortable. Should she hold her hands parallel to each other or stack them along the edge of the bottle like she was playing a clarinet? Should she just hold it one handed and let the other arm droop to the side?
In a way it was less about the mechanics of the thing and more about getting comfortable with it, like slowly wading into a pool. The first genuine pull on the nipple was like cannonballing into the deep end! Just one squirt of sweet sweet juice made her shudder in surprise. In spite of herself, Wendy let out a nervous giggle. What was she so worried about?
It was just a baby bottle! She didn’t know whether to feel sillier for her hesitation or at her feeling of accomplishment once she’d taken a sip from it. Soon enough, she’d gotten over herself and was drinking in earnest.
A few more sucks, and the law student managed to work up a steady rhythm. Greedily her mouth gulped the delicious juice down without hesitation as though it had suckled all its life. It had an oddly calming effect on her. Meanwhile her eyes scanned the horizon and periphery, looking at neighbors and strangers.
Speaking of ‘strange’, Wendy thought it passingly odd that there were no other giant babies. No twenty-something’s in Huggies or teenagers being swaddled up. No people who looked like her Mommy or Daddy in Easy-Ups.
The package of diapers she’d seen had a picture of a regular baby on it, not one that looked like her. It might make sense, in that case, if she was the only baby her size here. She was the only person from the real world in this place; she was the intruder.
If the reality she’d come from was the real world? What did that make this one? Her dream world? Her fantasy world? Such an admittance left a taste in her mouth that even the apple juice couldn’t cover up. Was this a bizarre form of time travel or something? That still didn’t feel right. ‘Closet Universe’ would have to do.
Evidently, the jogger that had made Wendy squirm in the driveway was named Nick. He’d stopped jogging. They’d caught up.
“Lookin’ good, you two.” Sweaty and red faced he bent over and looked the babied girl in the eye. “Hey, Wendy!”
“Hi Mistuh Nick,” Mommy answered for her in a childish lisp and falsetto.
The jogger stood up. “You are in great shape,” he said, indicating the stroller. “Especially pushing that.”
“Natural weight training,” the younger version of her mother said. “Sort of. You know.”
“Gotta get me one of those,” he panted, hands resting on his knees. “Seems like great conditioning.”
“If you ever wanna take a turn,” Mommy joked, “just let me know. I’ll let you borrow her for an hour.”
“I might take you up on that offer.”
“Okay. But it’s only for a limited time. Wendy here toddled off to her bedroom so fast that I thought she was a tiny sprinter.”
Wendy finished draining the bottle of apple juice. “How old are you anyway?” she asked the jogger. This was born out of curiosity of multiple types. “And are you seeing anyone?” If he looked like this in the real world, he might be worth getting to know.
“See what I mean?” Closet Mommy said to the jogger. “Babies make great personal trainers. If the stroller stays still too long they let you know. The stroller started picking up speed again. “See you around Nick!”
“You too, Jody!”
And with that the exchange was done. Pure fluff disguised as human interaction. For something often referred to as ‘small talk’ it was the biggest people who tended to make it the most.
Wendy didn’t have to wait much longer to get to where Closet Mommy was taking her. There at the top of a hill, about half a mile away from her house, stood the park. It was a quaint little suburban thing. The perimeter was surrounded by a cool white metal fence arranged to look like the idealistic wooden white picket. It was short enough that anyone older than six or seven could peer over it with ease. Most adults could likely hop the fence in one go if they were even moderately athletic or properly motivated. The fence was mostly for aesthetics, if anything.
That and to keep wandering toddlers penned in. The catch lever on the front entrance meant that anyone could hypothetically go inside the playground. To get out, an adult would have to reach over from the inside and pull the lever again to make the gate swing open. “Adult” was something of an overstatement. That playground had been around for a long time, and Wendy had been able to reach the latch from the inside since she was six or seven by standing on her tiptoes.
Of course, she’d quickly lost interest in the playground by the time she was six or seven. That playground wasn’t built with elementary schoolers in mind. Amongst the grass and mulch scattered around, most of the play equipment was designed with children too young to be Kindergarteners in mind: Rainbow colored spring ponies, swings with baby bucket seats, crawl tunnels, sand boxes, and balance beams that were no more than an inch off the ground. The large tic-tac-toe board made of bright blue steel pipes and yellow cylinders that rotated based on whether a player wanted an X or an O got more use because little kids liked spinning things than anyone wanting to play an outdoor version of a scratch paper game. The most ‘grown-up’ piece of equipment was a purple jungle gym with a firepole, several ladders, and monkey bars. Even then, it was low enough that Wendy could likely pull herself up to the top of the gym with just a slight running start.
Anyone whose age was in the double digits had no business on that playground lest they were babysitting. That’s why the fence was so short. It was designed not to keep adults out but to keep curious wandering toddlers and babies in.
Wendy thought of her enlarged not-quite-undies and wondered, “If I walked over to the fence, would it get taller?”
She was going to get the chance to find out. “We’re heeeeere,” Mommy sang, interrupting her reverie. “Ready to play?”
On any other day in any other reality, Wendy and her mother would have made the jog this far, and then her mother, frustratingly competitive, would have them run along the red dirt fitness trail, stopping only to use the exercise equipment. The playground near the beginning of the trail was more of a landmark than any kind facility Wendy was meant to use.
Under normal circumstances it served as a marker. Seeing it once meant that the run was about to start in earnest. Seeing it twice meant the park trail was looping back around and the run was almost over. Under normal circumstances it wasn’t the reason Wendy or her mother came to this place. Under normal circumstances, people didn’t think Wendy wasn’t quite a year old.
Speaking of one-year-olds, Wendy wasn’t the only baby at the playground, but she was easily the biggest. Toddlers and preschoolers chased each other around a slide, giggling at the thrill of pursuit.
“Mommy! Mommy! Look at me! Look at me!”
A woman on a metal bench sat with a little blob of a newborn in her lap. “I’m looking! I’m looking!” she called back to her preschooler. “Very good Emily! Looks super fun!”
A few regarded the bigger than average stroller and its occupant’s approach, but just like with the jogger or the neighbors along the way, it was more of an unconscious reaction to movement on their periphery than seeing anything wrong.
“I know how much you love the playground!” Mommy chriped.
Wendy inhaled sharply. Logically, Wendy knew, no one would think anything would be weird about her showing up dressed as she was. Logically, Wendy shouldn’t have been in this situation to begin with. “Hm? No. That’s okay, Mommy. You can run on the trail. I’ll just stay here and you can push-”
Diaper bag slung confidently over her shoulder, Closet Mommy kept right on unbuckling Wendy out of the stroller. She had no trouble at all working the harness and buckles. The releases seemed downright flimsy and user friendly compared to Wendy’s earlier attempt. “Let’s go, babykins!” Inhumanly powerful hands scooped Wendy up under the armpits and swung her out into the grass. “Let’s play!”
Staring down at her feet, she wiggled her toes and took a step forward. She’d barely made it five steps when she heard her other mother exclaim! “Awww! You’re doing it! You’re doing it! That’s my girl!”
“Shit!” Wendy cursed. She’d forgotten she was supposed to be a crawler! Remembering herself, she splayed her arms out and started wobbling her knees, like she was pretending she was on a highwire and losing her balance. “Whoah-whoah-whoah!” she feigned.
The girl inhaled and closed her eyes. All she’d have to do is buckle her knees and let gravity and the pillow strapped to her hips do the rest. She could even just lower herself to the ground fast, keeping one leg beneath her and use her hands to cushion her fall even more.
A pair of impossibly strong hands caught her beneath the armpits instead. Her Closet Mommy’s incredibly fast reaction time and strength stopped her planned pratfall. “Ooops! Your little sprint back home might have tuckered your little leg muscles out.”
“Yeah,” Wendy grumbled. “Sure. Let’s go with that.” Wendy huffed. This wasn’t nearly as bad as her regular mother. Still off putting.
“Or maybe the ground is a little uneven,” her mother said. “Doesn’t matter! Mommy’s got ya.” Wendy sighed and braced herself, ready to be picked up and carried again. Instead her wrists were gently grabbed and sent skyward. “Come on. You can do this, baby!”
The young lady’s nostrils flared. Even on this side of the rip, her mother was trying to control everything. At least this would mean that her mother would remember having a perfectly average conversation on their jog back in the real world.
“Okay. Fine.” Like a puppet with its strings cut, Wendy tromped forward, throwing all of her weight into each foot step, practically throwing herself to the ground. She had to sell the idea that she lacked the balance, coordination or muscle tone to keep herself standing. Mommy added to the effect. Not letting her go, and still holding her up, gently by the wrists.
Wendy took another step. And another. And another. “Heh.” Wendy laughed. “Heh. Heheh!” The giggles started coming more freely. The excitement and happy feelings were starting to come with it. In a weird way it was kind of fun. She was getting to throw all of her weight around and it was having zero impact.
“That’s a girl!” Mommy cheered. “There we go! You’re doing it! You’re walking!”
“Look!” The woman with the newborn in her lap pointed. “That baby’s learning to walk! That’ll be you someday. Just like your big sister.”
Wendy sucked on her lips so hard, she felt her face practically implode. The woman pointing at her hammered home again exactly how she was dressed and what she looked like.
It was a young mother, too. Maybe only a year or so older than Wendy herself. Even more so than the attractive jogger, it was a reminder that Wendy should be changing diapers if she was thinking about them at all, not wearing them.
“Let me go! Let me go!” Wendy said, trying to drop all of her weight down to the ground. Had to crawl! Had to crawl! She could look smaller if she crawled. Picking up would be better, though. She could use her mother’s arms as a kind of shield. “Pick me up! Pick me up!”
The ground came away from her feet, and Wendy was back comfortably on Mommy’s hip. “Better?” Mommy asked. “Better.” Clearly, Mommy didn’t need a response. Wendy just hugged the woman with all her might, as if afraid she might slip and plummet to her doom dozens of inches below.
“Okay, baby!” Closet Mommy said. “You’re fine. You’re fine. Poor little thing’s legs must be getting tuckered out.” She clung to Mommy as if the playground were an ocean, the young mother with the preschooler and newborn was a shark, and the de-aged version of her mother was the single liferaft.
“Thank you,” Wendy mumbled, grimacing as the rustle of the Pampers filled her ears like the crunching of potato chips.
“Okay, baby! Okay! You’re fine!” Mommy soothed. “You did such a good job! Such a good job! Let’s do the slide!”
“Yeah,” Wendy nodded. “The slide. Nice, boring slide.” The fact that it was on the other side of the playground figured more into Wendy’s internal calculus than how much she’d enjoy it. In that moment, Wendy needed distance, quiet, and relief, more than she needed enjoyment.
Wendy was carried off to a toddler slide, bright yellow and made of thick sturdy plastic. The universe seemed to hold a magnifying glass up to it as they approached. It was more than just perspective, Wendy was sure, that made the baby slide seem to inflate upon approach. Like her stroller, it was bigger than the normal fair, coming up to Mommy’s shoulder, but not so much as to dwarf the adults. This universe’s natural accomodation for her size made exact scaling impossible.
If her crib and changing table back in her nursery were as big to her as a regular baby’s, they’d dwarf the parents too. Instead, things got just big enough to where they’d fit and accommodate.
Her crib. Her changing table. Her nursery.
Wendy shook the thoughts out of her mind. “I guess that answers my question about the fence…”
“Okay,” Mommy said, setting Wendy back down on her feet. “Let’s try climbing.”
Wendy huffed. “Really?”
Mommy placed Wendy’s hands on the slide’s ladder railing. “Go for it sugar, booger. Try it!”
“Don’t worry, you won’t fall. Mommy will catch you.”
The law student sighed to herself, and lifted her leg. One thing that had scaled decently was the size of the steps. Whomever had designed this slide didn’t want little feet getting caught in the rungs, and Wendy had to compensate by lifting her knee almost past her waist for each rung. Her movements were slow, deliberate, and exaggerated, just like a real baby. The light papery crinkle coming from beneath her with every rung she climbed didn’t make her feel any more grown-up.
“I’m glad none of my friends can see this.”
“Up-up-up!” Mommy cheered, giving Wendy a tiny nudge on her bottom. “That’s a girl!”
Wendy finished climbing the slide and sat down at the top. “Fine. I’m on the stupid slide,” she whined. On the plus side, the railings on the slide were high enough that no one could tell that she wasn’t wearing any pants from the side. Anyone from behind or front could plainly see what she was and wasn’t wearing, however. Best not to think about that, she concluded.
Closet Mommy wasn’t done. She went to the extra trouble of reaching up and positioning Wendy’s hands so that they were gripping the railing… “Now hold on tight while Mommy runs around.”
Wendy blew air out her lips like, flapping them like a horse as the younger version of her mother trotted around to the bottom of the slide. The woman’s eyes never left Wendy. “Come on, sweety! Push!” She bent her knees and squatted, almost like a catcher at a baseball game; or someone preparing themselves to catch a cannonball “You can do it! Mommy’s got you. Come to Mommy!”
It was just a slide. A plastic ramp with a few wavy dips in it. Super easy, barely an inconvenience. But for the less than two seconds it took for her to skid down the slide, Wendy felt a rush greater than anything she could remember. ‘WOOOOOOOOOOO!” She skidded, with the wind in her hair, plummeting safely into her Mommy’s arms!
“What?! The fudge?! Was that?!” Safely down at the bottom of the slide, she looked back over her shoulder at the top of the slide. Even scaled up slightly there was no way, no rational explanation as to why Wendy should feel as stupidly giddy as she did right now. She’d felt calmer, more bored, getting off rides at Disney!
She’d never done serious drugs, but Wendy didn’t think she was far off the mark if she drew parallels to cocaine or speed. How in the hell…?
Closet Mommy asked the question that Wendy had secretly hoped she’d ask. “Do you wanna do it again?”
“Heck yes I do!” Wendy shrieked.
For once Mommy understood. “Sounds like a yes to me!”
The thrill didn’t diminish the second time. Nor the third. Nor the fourth. It was so addictive that she momentarily forgot she was supposed to be embarrassed. Enough so that she had to tense and restrain herself to climb the ladder ‘like a baby’ and let her mother carry her back around to the beginning after she plummeted safely to the ground.
The law of diminishing returns wasn’t applying in his instance. It was the perfect mix of certain death and perfect safety.
Not so perfect that Wendy didn’t want to experiment. “WHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!” Closet Mommy had just placed Wendy at the top of the slide and let go when Wendy had decided to fling herself down once more, this time without Mommy at the bottom Her emotions spiked, her legs kicked in excitement. Her thoughts managed to steady herself.
As expected, the worst that happened was that Wendy went careening harmlessly down the slide and landed butt first in the grass, her oversized padding doing more than enough to cushion the fall. She really could have pulled off that pratfall. The sudden rush, the minute free fall and millisecond of airtime really added something to the experience, too. So pleased was she that Wendy let out a self satisfied titter. “Again!”
Wendy was bowled over sideways, her ears ringing, her face planted in the sod and starting to tear up. She felt like she’d just been hit with a truck. “Sorry! Sorry! Sorry!” A high pitched little voice squealed apologies at her. “Sorry little baby!”
She pushed herself back up, more stunned than anything, and her eyes followed the voice. A chubby faced little boy with curly brown hair- couldn’t have been older than four-kept apologizing profusely to her. “Sorry! Sorry! I’m sorry!”
“Wendy!” Closet Mommy shrieked. She was on her knees and wrapping Wendy up in a hug not half a second later. “Are you okay? Are you hurt?” She started brushing off bits of dirt out of Wendy’s hair, and checking her for cuts and bruises like an ace paramedic.
“I…I…” Wendy stuttered. “I don’t know…?”
Another woman, the preschooler’s mother, dashed up. “Brennan! I told you you need to be careful and look where you’re going. You could have hurt this little girl!” She made eye contact with Mommy. “I’m so sorry, ma’am. Is she hurt?”
Mommy picked Wendy back up and finished dusting the girl off. The right side of her shirt was more than a bit smudged, but otherwise she was clean. “I think she’s just a little stunned, is all,” the strong woman replied.
A little stunned was underselling how Wendy felt. She was more than a little stunned. Physically she felt like she’d been sucker punched by a professional boxer. Intellectually she was completely rattled.
How had a child done that to her? He was literally small enough that Wendy was taller than him propped up on her knees. If she put her hand on top of his head, the kid’s arms wouldn’t manage to reach her face. But he’d plowed over her like he was a Great Dane and her head was just starting to stop spinning.
“It’s not just my parents who are stronger than me,” Wendy said to herself. “It’s not even just the adults…”
The conversation continued without her. “Brennan, did you say you’re sorry?”
The child hung his head in practiced shame. “Yes ma’am.”
“It’s true,” Closet Mommy said. “I heard him. It was just an accident.” She nuzzled Wendy. “Someone went down the slide without waiting for Mommy to catch her, too!” her voice took on that squeaky cutesy motherese quality.
“No harm done, then.” The other mother said.
Closet Mommy gave Wendy an extra hug. “No harm done.” She punctuated the moment by giving her daughter a kiss on the forehead. “Hugs and kisses. Hugs and kisses. Make the baby feel all better.”
Quite suddenly, Wendy did start to feel better. Her breathing was slowing and her nerves became less frayed. This kind of cuddly, hugging, kissing, unabashed unconditional affection wasn’t something that her mother normally did. Not in a long time. To be fair to her mother, women didn’t normally kiss their twenty-something’s boo-boos. Maybe they should, though. Sometimes kissing boo-boos really did make things better.
Wendy waited for the two figures in the distance to retreat. She didn’t want them to feel bad for what she was about to ask. “Mommy,” Wendy started to whine. “I think I wanna go back-”
“Do you wanna go on the swings?”
Wendy twisted around in her younger mother’s arms and took the swingset in. By her assessment, there was a nearly zero chance that any rowdy kids would accidentally bulldoze her. It looked safe. More to the point, the other babies-the real babies-seemed to be enjoying themselves. “Yeah,” she said. “Yeah. Alright.”
This might have been a good thing as the younger, fitter version of her mother had already started walking over to the swing set. “I can tell someone is gonna like the swings! Yes she will! Yes she will!”
Positioned as she was on her mother’s hip, Wendy got a good look at the retreating slide shrinking as she was carried away from it. The curly haired boy had gotten over the accident as quickly as Wendy and was back to playing. By the time little Brennan started climbing the slide, it was a mountain that even a three year old could scale with ease.
Conversely, the nearest empty bucket seat seat on the swingset seemed to engorge itself upon approach, the seat widening while the chains thickened and shortened themselves.
In no time at all, Wendy found herself threaded into a bucket seat harness with a chain just short enough that her feet didn’t touch the ground. She couldn’t remember the last time she sat in anything with her feet dangling so. Maybe at a carnival or theme park? The giant suspended swing rides came to mind, but this felt different to her. Those rides seemed big. This just made the young woman feel awfully small.
She wondered how her real mother would remember today. Would there be memories of a harmless collision with a fellow jogger on one of the exercise equipment, or just of a normal pass through the fitness trail? After all, babies falling over each other while on the playing ground was nothing out of the ordinary, if not even expected. Evidently, not every event translated perfectly from one world to the other. The lines were blurry, and the finer details easily lost in translation.
“Well,” Wendy said, looking down at herself “at least something’s covering my diaper.” It didn’t, not really. Now, it just looked like she was wearing one made of black leather. Even then, the little edges of her Pampers peeked out of all the edges.
Wendy’s quips lasted only as long as it took Mommy. “Here. We. Go!”
It was gentle, truth be told. She didn’t go more than a few feet away before reaching the apex of her first push, but in the moment Wendy felt like she was having the most fun humanly possible without threatening cardiac arrest! The first of many giggling screams rocketed out of the back of her throat just in time.
With every swing, she found herself weightless for a split second, her center of gravity shifting inside the bulky seat and in her shirt. With every swing, the sense of impending fall came back renewed, fresh and intact no matter how many times it had just been fulfilled. With every swing, she was still enough to cast a look down at her surroundings.
Save for the very end, the slide had been something of a roller coaster. Being pushed by Mommy was just this side of bungee jumping. Between spurts of excited chortling, Wendy started to greedily catalog the various bits of playground equipment. The simple push merry-go-round might feel like a high speed tilt-a-whirl. The spring ponies might replicate the rush of the Kentucky Derby as far as this universe was concerned. She was probably too little to effectively make use of the teeter totter…
She’d been thinking too small, Wendy decided. She could do more than bypass awkward conversations with her mother and make study guides. She could also get the rush of a theme park without having to pay a dime in either gas money or admission. Double the rush, actually. These sensations never seemed to quell down. No wonders playing toddlers always seem to run on stimulants.
Throwing her hands up to the sky, Wendy crowed “I’m Queen of the…” The swing backed up and Wendy felt the gentle yet strong palms of her mother’s hands on her back. . “Woooooorld?!” The last word came out as a piercing shriek.
Closet Mommy had started off slow and easy, but had built herself into a rhythm. Comparative inhuman strength, and Wendy’s own momentum sent her flying into the atmosphere; or so it felt.
More than the scream came out of Wendy on that push. From down below, Wendy felt a little trickle of urine spilled out. Shock and excitement compounded with surprise so that Wendy lost control and started wetting her pants. What began as a spurt became a trickle. Muscles relaxed and released and the trickle became a full steady stream. And all of it was happening below the waist. “Wah! I’m peeing!”
Quickly, very quickly, Wendy felt her seat become wet and soaking as her bladder emptied itself and her Pampers filled. “Mommy!” she shrieked. “I peed! I peed!” She’d barely felt it start, and had been too shocked to try and stop it.
At three whole pushes on the swing, the whole ordeal had both been relatively quick and excruciatingly long.
“Yay! Baby loves the swings! It’s her favorite part! Isn’t it?”
Something clicked in Wendy’s brain. She’d peed her pants, pissed herself, wet her diaper…and nobody noticed or cared. Oh yeah. As far as the people at the park were concerned there was nothing to be embarrassed about. Peeing themselves is just what ten-month-olds did. That’s why diapers were invented in the first place.
More importantly, despite her accident bringing her mood down, the swing was as thrilling as before. The diaper was doing a fair job of soaking up the moisture, too. A few more pushes and Wendy realized she didn’t notice the wet feeling unless she actively thought about it.
Wet pants? No one cares? Thrill ride swing set? Fair trade.
“Does baby love the swings?” Mommy repeated.
“Uh-huh!” Like a drunk in the bathroom, Wendy had looked down at herself, taken a mental inventory of everything around her and realized that she didn’t care overmuch at how embarrassed she should be. There didn’t seem to be enough brain time available to handle both her accident and the massive surge of dopamine the swing was giving her. Within two minutes of her accident she was completely over her embarrassment. As long as her normal mother didn’t remember her peeing her pants, everything would be fine. Chances are this would just be remembered as a bathroom break.
Just as Wendy was feeling like she’d gotten the swing of things-pun intended-another unexpected wrinkle presented itself.
“Hi Mrs. Merts,” an unfamiliar woman said. Wendy jolted a little at the voice. She’d been so caught up with the thrill of being flung through the air, the rest of the world had blurred out a bit, leaving only Mommy and her. It didn’t help that the new woman had circled around from behind and that Wendy was in a decidedly fixed location. Luckily, her mother absentmindedly dialed down the force she used, turning her pushes into gentle nudges as she turned toward the newcomer.
The newcomer approached with a baby boy, a real one, in her arms. Wendy wouldn’t have given either a second thought if she hadn’t called on Closet Mommy by name. The two grown-ups knowing each other made Wendy feel a tinge skittish; like she should know the other woman, too.
“Candice,” Closet Mommy laughed, “It’s Sunday. Jody’s fine.” Candice? Who did her parents know named Candice? Wendy quickly realized that as grown as she really was, she still mentally categorized all of her parents’ friends as ‘Mister’ or ‘Miss’.
Comfortably, the newcomer took the spot next to Wendy’s Mommy and slid her child into the baby seat. He looked like he was a year, at best. Probably younger. “You got my daughter through third grade. You’re always going to be Mrs. Merts to me.”
“Where is Missy, anyways?” Mommy asked.
Mommy’s friend started pushing her baby and waited for him to start making the exact kind of happy noises that Wendy had been making moments ago before answering. “She’s having a daddy daughter day with Maurice. So it’s just me and little Petey. Thought we’d get some fresh air.”
“Same with me and Wendy.”
Wendy’s face stiffened. “Petey? Like Peter? From college? How was that possible? It wasn’t. It just wasn’t.” She turned her head and tried to get a better look at the new child; to see past the baby fat and wispy hair, maybe find an identifying feature. Baby faces were so different from adult faces. All babies looked basically the same, though, with chubby cheeks and big eyes, and soft, short, fine hair. It wasn’t until later that bone structure started to define itself. If not for the overalls and lack of anything pink or frilly, ‘Petey’ could have very well passed for ‘Petunia’.
Did Peter- Wendy’s Peter-have any moles or identifying features? Not that she could remember. The constant motion wasn’t helping, either. She’d get a blur here or a blur there, getting barely a glimpse at the apex of each swing.
Her pleas of asking her mother to slow down or speed up so that she and the baby in the swing beside her could more sync up fell on uncomprehending, unlistening ears.
Baby Petey kept giggling and clapping his hands. The mothers kept talking. “Petey! Petey! Look at me! Look at me! Petey! Pete! Peter! Over here!” The baby in the swing turned his head and looked at her, but there was no further memory or recognition that she could see. He was responding to stimulus and a child’s natural curiosity, nothing more.
It took only one more push on the swing for the kid to completely ignore her.
“If I didn’t know any better,” Closet Mommy remarked, “I’d say Wendy is trying to get Petey’s attention.”
“Yeah,” the other mother agreed with a chuckle. “Sure seems that way. Missy is exactly like that at home, always trying to get him to play tea time. Too bad kids don’t really start to play together until they’re closer to two, though.”
Wendy kept trying to figure this out. Did Peter, Wendy’s Peter that is, have an older sister? She didn’t know! He’d never talked about his family or their names in depth either. What college kid did among peers? It was enough for her to want to yank her hair out!
“I think she might just be getting a bit overstimulated,” Mommy said to the other woman. As quickly as the fun had started, the swing started to slow and Mommy picked her up out of the bucket seat.
The young woman’s priorities and focus shifted as soon as the swing started to slow back down. “Heeeeeey!” Wendy whined. “I was just getting the hang of this! ”
Finally, Closet Mommy seemed to get the gist of what Wendy was trying to say. “It’s okay,” she cooed. “Mommy’s just gonna take a quick walk and then we’ll go back home for some cartoons.” She brushed aside a bit of wind swept hair out of Wendy’s face. “Maybe a bath too.”
Once again, she took Wendy’s wrist and gently made her wave goodbye. “Bye Peter!” Mommy said in what Wendy was quickly beginning to identify as her ‘baby voice’ see you tomorrow at school!
Wendy sat up and shifted on her almost-mother’s hips. “I KNEW IT!”
“Awww! She really did say goodbye!” Mommy gave Wendy a kiss on the cheek. “So smart!” Wendy blushed, feeling loved and praised despite the misinterpretation. She blanched slightly when she felt her mother’s hand patting and cupping her bottom. “And soaked! Come on missy, let’s go get you changed.”
Wendy forgot to breathe for a second. Between the thrill of the swing, the minor mystery of ‘Petey’ versus ‘Peter’ and the diaper doing its job, Wendy had allowed herself to forget just how wet she really was. Something that was supposed to be flushed down the toilet had instead been absorbed and pressed up against her.
And now Mommy wanted to change her, right then and there. Wendy didn’t have the words to express how this made her feel, but none of them were pleasant. “Mommy,” she tried. “We don’t have to do this. Not here. You can take me home. I don’t mind being in a wet diaper. Really. I don’t need to be…” she gulped. “…changed.”
Home is not where they were heading. A large brick bathroom with wide open doorways just outside the playground fence, was their destination. Above each threshold was painted in faded white a slightly different drawing of a stick figure. One wearing a dress, another a tie, and the middle one- the one toward which they were headed- had a stick figure leaning over a smaller counterpart lying prone and in a diaper.
“Is that why you were getting so wriggly in your seat?” Closet Mommy asked, her voice taking on that cooing sing-song tone. “Did you know you were wet? Are you gonna be an early potty trainer and an early walker?”
“Yes!” Wendy yelped in desperation. “Take me now! Let me use the toilet!” It was no use. She’d already used the toilet taped to her hips.
“Noooooo!” Closet Mommy’s voice bounced off the changing room walls before they were all the way in. “And that’s okay. Mommy likes taking care of you! It’s her job! Her favorite job!” Inside there was a changing station that miraculously grew and expanded as Wendy approached. Before it was pulled down, Wendy saw the underside had a picture of a cartoon Koala, holding its smiling, diapered baby.
This was happening. This was really happening.
Wendy trembled, while her mother laid her on the wall mounted changing table. Just like at home, this was big enough to fit her. Nothing creaked or groaned, save Wendy. “Mommy,” she grumbled, her voice echoing off the linoleum. “Can’t this wait? I’m only a little wet.” The cognitive dissonance she felt, begging to be left in pee soaked underwear, was nearly overwhelming.
Closet Mommy was preoccupied with the diaper bag, getting out the wipes, the powder, and of course the new diaper. Wendy couldn’t help but stare as the diaper scaled itself up once it was out of the bag. She’d never get used to seeing that, she knew.
“He didn’t even pack a change of clothes,” Mommy said to herself. “That man, your father. It’s called a diaper bag, but it can have more than that.” She clucked. “I suppose if I called it a baby bag, he’d try to stuff you in it.” she chuckled to herself. “He’s right though. It’s getting hot. Oh here’s something.” Right at Wendy’s feet a couple of mismatched scrunchies were placed next to everything else.
“If you don’t have any clothes,” Wendy started to plead, “maybe you could change me when we get home? Maybe after I go and find something in my closet?” It was worth a shot.
“I know I know,” Mommy tutted. “It’s no fun having to lie down and get your diaper changed.” She switched to her cutesy ‘baby’ voice. “You just wanna play and get cuddles!”
“You’re half right,” Wendy remarked. “Or three-quarters right…” The idea of the diaper change might have been more tolerable if Wendy had thought she’d get to go right back to the playground. “So uh…how long have you known Petey’s mom?”
Sadly, stalling with words doesn’t work when the other person can’t understand you.
The tapes of the wet Pampers came off with a scritch scratch as velcro came undone! “EEEEP!” Wendy accidentally bucked so hard that the old diaper partially opened itself, lazily flopping open, exposing its discolored padding and Wendy’s glistening mound.
Mommy pinned the young woman’s legs down with her forearm and took a wipe from the open packet by Wendy’s feet “Wow, you’re squirmy today! No wonder Daddy didn’t want to put your shorts back on!” That’s all Wendy’s shrieks and objections would be to her; a baby being squirmy. “Almost forgot this.”
With preternatural quickness, Closet Mommy reached over and pulled a woven strap over Wendy’s chest, pulling taught and pinning the girl helplessly to the changing station. Reflexively, Wendy tried to sit up, but the flat woven rope might as well have been made of rebar for all the good she was doing.
Pinned, helpless, and with a sopping wet diaper opened and cupping her bottom, Wendy could only lay there as her mother tended to her most sensitive of areas…
The twenty-two year old flinched when the first wipe touched her nethers and then…and then…
Something happened. Her muscles untensed. Her body relaxed. It was cold, sure; it was wet, yes, but it was no more unpleasant than a damp washcloth. That’s what baby wipes were, anyways: single use washcloths. And in the heat of the un-air conditioned public bathroom, feeling the moisture on her skin from both the air and the urine, a nice wet wipe felt very good indeed. “Oh…”
“There we go,” Closet Mommy sighed. “That’s not so bad, is it?” She removed her forearm and started gently cleaning between Wendy’s legs. “That’s my good girl! That’s my good baby girl.”
Wendy lifted her head and stared as her mother began gently cleaning her up. It was like a cool sponge bath in the heat of the morning. “That…” she whispered. “Feels so much better actually.” The wet diaper didn’t feel that bad to begin with, but the coolness of each wipe felt positively cleansing.
The attention felt good, too.
Other than to briefly aim or make sure she hadn’t missed a spot, Mommy made eye contact with Wendy the entire time. “You like that, don’t you?” The woman cooed. “Feels good?” It did. What felt better was the attention, the feeling that in those moments she was the center of Mommy’s whole world. Even when Mommy’s face disappeared behind Wendy’s raised legs she felt the love. If anything, it only increased Wendy’s sense of awe as her Mommy lifted both of Wendy’s legs towards the ceiling so that she could wipe her bottom for her.
Mommy hummed as she balled up and tossed away the used diaper. It sounded a bit like London Bridge Is Falling Down. Her mother never sang to anyone, but now this version was humming a little diddy to pass the time and keep her calm. It was working. She gave the inside of Wendy’s foot a tiny tickle, and instead of ‘My. Fair. Lady.’ she said, “My. Sweet. Baby.”
If Wendy melted any more on the inside, a diaper would have absorbed her.
Speaking of which, she was awed yet again as her mother crossed her ankles and hosted her legs all the way up so that even her bottom was off the changing station. It was only an inch or two, but that was more than enough for Mommy to slip the new Pampers underneath her daughter. Wendy found herself actually grateful at the strength of the restraints; it meant that Mommy wouldn’t accidentally dangle her like a fish.
As she was eased down into the soft, perfumed padding, the building tension inside her vanished again. The baby powder that followed was dry yet cold on her skin, somehow feeling colder than the discarded wipes. She moaned a bit while her Mommy took a moment to work the powder in, massaging it into every crease in her skin.
When the diaper was finally pulled up between her legs, Wendy smiled, managing to look past her breasts and down at Cookie Monster on the landing zone and feeling the diaper become taught while her Mommy secured the velcro tabs over Cookie Monster’s face. Mommy undid the restraint across Wendy’s chest and brought her up to a sitting position. “All done. I bet that feels so much better.”
Wendy grinned. It did, even if she hadn’t overly minded being in the wet diaper. She let out a yawn. “Yeah.”
“Gettin’ kind of tired after all that sliding and swinging.” It wasn’t a question.
Yeah, it was true. She’d felt so relaxed it might be easy to drift off. “No…”
“Lookin’ kind of hot and red too.” Mommy said. “Too much sun? Did Mommy push you to exercise too hard?” She finished putting the other changing supplies away and reached unbuckled Wendy from the table. Then she started reaching for the hem of her shirt. “This will help.”
There was nothing that Wendy could do to stop her mother from undressing her. She might have the body and dimensions of a fully grown young woman, but as far as this universe was concerned she didn’t so much as have the mass and strength of a one-year-old. Her arms flailed helplessly above her head while her Closet Mommy yanked the pink shirt up over her head.
The amount of blood rushing to the surface of her skin was only giving more credence in her mother’s notion that she was overheated. Babies didn’t get embarrassed.
Semi-instinctively, Wendy covered her breasts with her hands. “NO!” She was too shocked, and it happened too quickly to do anything else. By the time she’d thought to make a grab for it, Mommy had already stuffed the dirty, dusty shirt into the diaper bag.
“Much cooler,” Mommy said. “I bet this feels better!”
“I’m practically naked!” Save for specialized beaches, this did not cover up like a swimsuit, as it were. “Public indecency! Public indecency!”
“Enjoy this while you can, baby girl.” Mommy picked up the scrunchies and started fussing with her hair.
The babified woman’s arms were breaking out into goose pimples. “I don’t want to do this now!”
The little peck and nuzzle she felt on her scalp from Closet Mommy only made her feel slightly better, but it helped. She carried Wendy over to a bathroom mirror. “So precious.”
Wendy looked at herself. Topless, and with her hair up in pigtails. “Yeah…” Slowly, she took her hands off her breasts. “I am…”
“Keeping that hair off your face will help you, too.”
Wendy let out one more “EEP” when she was taken back outside, but quickly let the feeling go. “No one notices.” She reminded herself. “No one cares. I’m safe. I’m fine.” And cute. And loved. She didn’t say it, but she definitely felt it while her mother buckled her back into the stroller, disappeared behind it and undid the break.
“We’ll go home in a little bit,” Mommy promised, ‘but first Mommy’s gonna get her steps in.”
So Wendy did what she needed to do. She layed back, exhaled, and let her Mommy push her around in the stroller some more. It was relaxing, in a way, now that she was letting herself enjoy it, kind of like the old timey Model-T car ride at carnivals. The point wasn’t to scream and yell at the speed or the sudden twists, turns and drops. The point was to just enjoy the easy steady pace, appreciate the nostalgic aesthetic, and go where the ride took you. So she did.
To her own surprise, the whole topless thing ceased to matter within half a minute of the stroll start. Neither creeps nor prudes were gawking at her, and any who did would get an earful from Closet Mommy. Mommy took care of her. Mommy kept her safe.
She examined herself. Her skin really did feel much more comfortable, less grimy, with the dirty shirt taken off. The pigtails and keeping her hair out of her face was helping in that department, too. Too bad she couldn’t do something like that normally. Obviously she could still put her hair up in pigtails but…
“I wonder,” she mumbled to herself. “Could I get a tan here?” The idea of coming back in the spring and playing on the playground topless until she had a good and tanned beach bod back in the real world appealed to her. Briefly, she pictured trying to do that in a universe where she was twenty-two, but shook her head so that her pigtails waggled.
She ran a hand over her shoulders all the way down to her knees. “Wow. I really am baby soft.” It felt amazing. No wonder soap and shaving commercials made that the standard. “Too bad it takes at least one other person to help maintain it.” She took a closer look at her legs.
Funnily enough, it was easy for her to grab her legs and bring them up to her chest to inspect; good thing too, considering that she only had an inch or two worth of movement in her torso thanks to the stroller. “No stubble?” Wendy searched her recent memory. “When was the last time I shaved this? Fairly recent, right? Two days tops?” In truth, she didn’t know.
“You havin’ a good time, baby?” Mommy called from behind. “Just chatterin’ to yourself.”
A light, happy, slightly guilty expression bloomed on Wendy’s lips. “Yes Mommy!”
“That’s good!” Mommy huffed, picking up the pace. Did Mommy understand what Wendy had said, or was that just the answer she was expecting? Did it really matter?
“Guess not,” Wendy said. She reclined and just allowed herself to drift a bit. Not quite sleeping, but not even close to being cognizant of her surroundings. Better to get lost in the sensations: The cool breeze. The comfy cushions. The gentle, natural rhythm of the Mommy’s jogging footsteps and the subtle sound of the wheels turning.
Her mother added to the pleasantness, singing- actually singing- “Daisy Daisy, give me your answer true. I’m half crazy all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage. I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet upon the seat of a bicycle built for twoooooo.”
Wendy breathed deep and exhaled. Other than wanting a bit more time on the playground, life was good. Next time, Wendy promised herself. Next time.
“Wendeeeeeee! Do you want ice cream?”
Still in her stroller, Wendy stirred and sat up as far as the restraints would let her. “Hmm?” she took her thumb out of her mouth, wiping the string of drool on her breast. Looking around with sticky eyes, she was surprised to see they were a whole block away from the park, despite still being near it a moment ago. Maybe she had done a little more than dozed off.
Closet Mommy was holding a push pop out to her. “Someone just missed the ice cream man!” She kept offering the treat. “It’s creamsicle! Orange and ‘nilla!”
“Oh… what the hell?” Wendy shrugged. Any self-consciousness Wendy had earlier had long since evaporated. She felt the need to say something about it out of habit more so than a need to preserve her ego. Life in this universe was something of a two way mirror and she was the one on the fun side of it.
Mommy didn’t leave. She stood there, watching, waiting expectantly. “Go on. Enjoy it!” She went so far as to reach in and push up on the bottom so that the popsicle lurched out of its paper tube like a cold orange lightsaber.
The diapered girl looked up and saw that her mother had her phone out, camera pointed directly at her.
“Baby’s first ice cream,” Wendy connected the dots. “Got it.” No reason to turn down free ice cream. She opened her mouth and started to lightly suck on it. “MMMMMMMMMMMM!” She shook so much that the stroller practically vibrated.
“Awwwwww! She likes it! She likes it!” Closet Mommy turned the phone around. “Sorry we didn’t wait for you, Howard, but we’re still about a third of a mile from home and this popsicle wasn’t going to last that long.”
Wendy was only half listening. “MMMMMMMM!” What was in this push pop? It tasted sweeter, more flavorful, more outright decadent than anything she could remember tasting. It was foie gras and kobe beef in frozen sugar form! “MMMMMMM!”
For the first time in her adult life she didn’t quite have the words to properly express herself. So delighted was she that she didn’t overly mind that the juices mixed with her saliva and started dribbling down her chin and past her breasts, dribbling down into her belly button, not quite reaching down below her waist. “MMMMMMM!”
“Let’s get you home, little miss sticky britches!”
The stroller moved back towards home and Wendy kept bouncing; the low papery rustling below her mixing pleasantly with the humming and chomping from her mouth. She didn’t squish; nothing lumpy either, so she likely didn’t need a change. That was good.
“Mmm-mmm-good, is it sweetheart? Baby loves her ice cream!”
Indeed she did. She was willing to bet that when she got back to her own universe/timeline/reality/world/whatever that her mother wouldn’t have gotten any ice cream.
She’d been done about five minutes when her house came into sight. The rest of the trip had flown by thanks to sugar haze and an almost unnatural focus on the flavors. Wendy had missed at least a block or two trying to lick residue off her teeth.
The only thing left of the frozen treat was sticky film dribbled onto her front and a paper wrapper that had been torn apart licked clean, and Wendy wasn’t nearly flexible enough to lick her own navel. “Why couldn’t the food have gotten bigger?” Wendy asked no one in particular. “That would have been awesome!” She might still be sucking on it if she had.
“Looks like someone got more sweetness on her than in her!” Mommy teased, unbuckling her from the stroller.
“Surface area, maybe.” Wendy allowed. “Calories and taste? No.”
“That’s okay,” Mommy said. “You’re sweet enough as is!” She started blowing raspberry kisses into her displaced daughter’s tummy. “Eat the baby! Nom nom nom nom!”
“Noooooo!” Wendy howled with laughter. “No eat the baby!” She cackled and thrashed with all her might, safe and secure in the knowledge that there was no way she could harm her Mommy on this side of the rip.
“Come on, let’s go see Daddy!”
“Yeah,” Wendy repeated. “Let’s go see him!”
Daddy was waiting just inside the garage with a hug and a kiss for each of them. “Whoah!” he said. “Gotta peel this one off of me!” He went so far as to make a sticky peeling sound, pretending to rip himself away from his daughter. “Wow you got more of that popsicle on you than in you!”
“Did not!” Wendy giggled.
“That’s what I said,” Closet Mommy talked over her. “I think we need to go straight to the tubby tub.”
“That’s a ten-four, good buddy,” Closet Daddy agreed. “There’s plenty of Mr. Bubble in the bathroom.”
Wendy started bucking and bouncing again. “Bubble bath?!”
“I think she understood that one!” Mommy laughed.
“Who? Our little genius?” Daddy grinned. “Our filthy, sticky, yucky, messy, little genius?”
This time, Wendy beamed at the praise.
Overwhelmed in the best way possible, Wendy buried her head into Mommy’s neck, her shoulders shaking with a massive case of the giggles. “Just make sure to restock the diaper bag and take out her dirty shirt. Maybe put a clean one in.”
“Yeah. Sure. I can do that.”
Then Mommy rubbed Wendy’s back. “Come on, sugar booger. Let’s go for a bath.”
Wendy bobbed in the younger version of her mom’s arms through the house. On the way to the bathroom she caught sight of the family portrait in the living room. It was the same picture as before, same family portrait with her in a baby dress, white tights, and the big floppy bow. Something was different again, but Wendy couldn’t quite put her finger on it. Had her hair in that photo been as short or as light colored? She’d been so focused on the clothes the last time, she didn’t know.
Upon entering the bathroom, Wendy looked down at herself, wearing nothing but a recently acquired Pampers, with a smudge of dirt on her forearms and an orange trail leading all the way down to just below her belly button. She couldn’t see it, but she could feel the dust and dirt on the bottom of her feet, a twin to the dirt on her cheeks.Sun soaked pigtails wafted just on her periphery
Wendy didn’t have to pee, she soon realized. If she did her diaper would have been wet again at what she saw next. The dimensions of the tub folded outward, staying almost as shallow but twice as wide. Her very presence was turning their regular bathtub into a full blown jacuzzi!
Unphased and oblivious as ever, Mommy turned on the water, plugged the tub and added some bubble bath to the mixture. She sat Wendy down on the counter. “Who’s dat there?” Mommy cooed. “Who’s dat cute baby in the mirror? It’s you! It’s you!”
“Yeah,” Wendy nodded. “It still is.” She didn’t know why she expected anything different.
“Five little speckled frogs,” Wendy’s caregiver started to sing, “sat on a speckled log, eating some most delicious bugs. Yum! Yum! One jumped into the pool, where it was nice and cool, then there were four green speckled frogs. Glub! Glub!”
She took Wendy’s hands in her own and smiling all the while, kept singing.
“Four little speckled frogs, sat on a speckled log, eating some most delicious bugs.” On ‘Yum! Yum!’ she puppeted Wendy’s arms to rub her tummy. “One jumped into the pool, where it was nice and cool, then there were three green speckled frogs.” On ‘Glub! Glub!’ she plucked and flapped her own bottom lip so that the ‘glubs’ sounded like they were coming from underwater.
Wendy was absolutely enthralled. By verse three, she was singing along. By verse four, she was doing the hand motions with her Mommy, not needing to be puppeted. The last verse, for whatever reason, had her doubled over with laughter as if she was watching a comedian at the height of their career perform a new routine.
Closet Mommy looked back at the tub and keeping one hand on Wendy’s knee, reached back and dipped her pinky in. “Full enough and warm enough,” she said. Let’s get that diapee off.”
WIth a scritch and a scratch the tabs were undone and Wendy was lifted out of the extra large Pampers. Her shifting weight alone was enough to send it wafting down to the tile below.
Even though her mother had already changed her diaper and removed her shirt, this was the first time anyone had seen her in the buff. “I’m naked!” she almost shrieked. One hand crossed her top; the other darted downward between her legs.
Her mother didn’t comment except to say “Now somebody’s all chilly. Let’s get you in the tubby! In we go!”
Gently, a still tensed up and trembling Wendy was lowered down into the tub, her body retracting her legs so she did a kind of slow and gentle cannonball into the warm soapy water.
Looking at it from the inside, her jaw dropped open even as the rest of her tensed up. The inside was so big! Had the tub been drained she could have laid back and spread her arms and legs as though making snow angels and she still wouldn’t have touched the sides. Her mother towered above her, standing just to be able to see over the sides and reach her.
Despite all the space, Wendy stayed crumpled up into a tight ball. Manically, the naked girl gathered the bubbles around her, trying desperately to obscure the most strategic areas.
“Ooops,” Mommy said, heedless of her daughter’s discomfort. “Almost forgot to get those scrunchies off.” It took two easy motions for Wendy’s hair to fall back into her face. Wendy stayed still tied up in a ball.
Her Mommy took a washcloth and started gently caressing Wendy’s face. Still covering herself, Wendy’s muscles eased. Were she a kitten she’d be purring, she decided. She hummed, almost moaning in happiness. It was the closest she could get.
“Baby loves her bubbles!” Mommy chirped. She plopped a bright yellow toy duck into the water. “Does she like her ducky?!”
Feeling safer, the now sudzy girl quickly reached up and gave it a squeeze “Aaaah!” She squealed with joy. “It squeaks!”
“Oh she does!”
“I do!” She couldn’t remember the last time she had a bath toy. She couldn’t remember the last time she took anything other than a quick shower.
Bathtime came with a show. Mommy started singing “Rubber Ducky, you’re the one. You make bathtime lots of fun! Rubber Ducky I am awfully foooond of you!”
Wendy tiled her head so far to the side she’d got an ear full of soapy water. Had her mother really sang to her this much when she was little?
“Rubber Ducky, joy of joys. When I squeeze you, you make noise.” Wendy took the hint and gave the duck two prompt squeaks, giggling at her own cleverness. “Rubber Ducky you’re my very best friend it’s true!”
The girl squeezed the simple bath toy even more, providing a high pitched metronome for her mother’s bathtime solo.
“Oh, every day when I make my way to the tubby, I find a little fellow who’s cute and yellow and chubby! Rubber Ducky!”
The twenty-two year old was using both hands to make the duck ‘quack’ louder and louder as Mommy finished the song. The gigantic bathtub filled with waves as she rocked back and forth in time with her mother’s rhythm.
“Rubber Ducky, you’re so fine,” Mommy belted. “And I’m lucky that you’re mine. Rubber Ducky, I’d like a whole pond of…Rubber Ducky, I’m awfully fond of you!” Mommy stopped and lightly clapped her hands. “Yaaaaaay!”
Wendy applauded with her duck waving high in the air, being squeaked with both hands. “Yaaaaaaay Mommy!”
Mommy took the applause as a cue to pivot and reach under the bathroom counter. From it she pulled an entire basketful of bath toys out. “Ducky’s got friends!”
Washcloth in one hand, Closet Mommy dangled a toy shark up above her head, plopping it in with a tiny splash, sending Wendy scurrying to get it. Once Wendy managed to get a hold of it, Mommy started the show back up, singing ‘baby shark’
Even though Mommy couldn’t understand her in this universe, Wendy giggled and sang along.
And so it went…
Mommy would drop a toy in, Wendy would grab and play with it; dunking and diving it as the mood took her; Mommy would sing a song while gently scrubbing and rubbing her with washcloth and bubbles, and then the old toy would be casually pushed aside to float as newcomer entered the luxurious tub.
Lather. Rinse. Repeat. Literally.
The floating tub boat toy was heralded by Row Row Row Your Boat. The bathtime my little pony got introduced with Pony Girl. Deep Sea Diving Barbie splashed in with Barbie Girl; that last one was a bit of a stretch but Mommy hummed all the lyrics that were inappropriate for little ears.
Wendy loved all of it. The attention. The sensation. The singing. Objectively, her mother could sing well enough; good enough for karaoke or church; otherwise not much to write home about. In the moment, however, it was the most beautiful singing voice in the entire world. How could it not be?
Perhaps this is why people sang in the shower, the law student mused. When singing during bathing becomes second nature, but no one is around to serenade you, warbling to yourself becomes the only option.
Wendy felt all the tension leave muscles she’d forgotten about her mother slowly bathed and cleansed every inch of her body. Under her arms, behind her ears, between her legs. Everything done with the care and precision of a nurse and the theatricality of a Vegas stage magician. Special attention was paid wherever the ice cream leftovers had glazed themselves. Soon, her breasts were shining from all the soapy water. What captured Wendy’s attention, however, was the cleaning of her playground-dusted feet, as her Mom began to wash every single of her “tippy toes” as she called them, sending her into uncontrollable giggles.
With all the attention and love she was getting, this was a free trip to an amusement park, followed by a mini-spa day. There was something to be said about simple pleasures, Wendy was realizing.
Wendy scooped up a handful of bubbles and rubbed them on her face, fashioning herself a hat and beard. “Yar! Matey!” She growled playfully, reaching back for the boat. “This here be Cap’n Bubble Beard!”
“Ho-! Ho! Ho!” Her mother said, thinking she was on the right track. “Merrrrrrry Christmas.”
Wendy laughed. “Close enough, Mommy!” She gasped in realization. “Oh that gives me an idea! Wanna hear a story?”
Mommy leaned forward. “Mmmhmm.” It was the quiet, patronizing agreement of someone who didn’t actually understand what a child was saying but was encouraging them to keep babbling.
Close enough for Wendy’s liking. She reached for the boat. “Once there was the brave, brave Captain Bubble Beard.” She pushed and pulled the tugboat on the water while her free hand groped around in the soapy morass. “And Captain Bubble Beard was on the hunt for…” Her hand clasped around another toy. “A SHARK!”
“Oh that’s a shark!” Mommy beamed! “Uh oh! He’s gonna eat the boat!”
The girl was bouncing, sloshing the water all around. “That’s right! You’re getting it!” She’d found a way to entertain her Mommy and communicate! How clever was she?! She continued on with her narrative. “The brave Captain Bubble Beard slammed the meanie head shark head on!”
“Oh, they’re fighting!”
“Uh huh!” Wendy agreed. “And he would have won, too.” She let go of the boat long enough to reach for Deep Sea Diving Barbie. “Except then the shark changed directions and…!”
“Look out, the shark is gonna get Barbie!” Mommy pretended to sound scared.
Wendy started moving the bath toys in slow motion. “Noooooooooooooo! President Barbieeeeee!” Heroically, the tugboat sped in the way of the oncoming shark, tipping over from the force of the shark’s ramming attack (she hadn’t figured out a way to make the shark ‘bite’ anyone).
“Honey, do you see this?” Mommy called as Daddy waltzed into the bathroom.
“She’s playing pretend! That’s super advanced at her age!”
“Cool!” Daddy said. He walked over to the sink to wash his hands. “Gotta freshen up to make lunch.”
Only now noticing his entrance, Wendy sprung up to a standing position. “Daddy!”
Looking at her in the bathroom mirror, Daddy smiled. “Hi pumpkin! Enjoying your bath with Mommy?”
“Uh-huh!” Wendy nodded enthusiastically. “She’s singing me songs and giving me back rubs and arm rubs and leg rubs.”
“I even figured out a way for her to understand me like you can!”
Proudly she held up the shark and the Barbie doll. “Wanna see?”
“Oh really?” Dad dried his hand and nodded politely. “I’m glad you two are having fun. I’m gonna go prep lunch.”
“Daddy?” she called after him. “Daddy? Did you under-?”
“Daddy’s makin’ lunch, cupcake,” Mommy said. “Just enjoy your bath.”
Wendy fought back a strange feeling of confusion watching her Daddy leave. As she watched him leave, still standing, she was able to look in the mirror over to the sink and- for the first time in a good while- saw herself. Naked. Her face and hair bubbled. Holding bath toys like they were trophies or something.
She plunged back down into the water, trying to wipe the bubbles off of her face while moving others onto more ‘strategic’ areas. What had come over her?! She’d been completely naked and playing with bath toys and singing children’s songs? Doing finger plays to Baby Shark and Row Row Row Your Boat. Without a hint of modesty she’d stood up naked in front of her father. She had been acting…no…she had been thinking almost like a…she dared not finish that thought.
“Cold when you get up out of the warm water too fast,” Mommy said. “Isn’t it?”
Wendy closed her lips. Closet Mommy grabbed the wash cloth and started running it over Wendy’s hair… “Let’s make sure baby girl doesn’t get any owie soap in her eyes or yucky suds in her mouth. Blech!”
“I gotta get out of here,” Wendy whispered. “Something’s wrong.”
The bath ended soon after. Her body wasn’t tense, and Wendy didn’t blush anymore. Any damage to do had already been done. It was her mind that was on alert more so than her muscles. It took very little prompting or coaching for her to lean into the big fluffy towel her mother opened up for her and let herself be carried all the way back to her nursery.
“A little oil,” Mommy said after laying Wendy down on the changing table. “A little powder. Aaaaand done.” Wendy was snug and secure back in her fresh new diaper.
Mommy sat her up on the changing table and toweled her off a little more. That’s when she saw the faintly glowing rip in her closet. “Mommy,” Wendy said. “Can I get something back from my closet?” This was only supposed to be a jog.
Her mother’s doppelganger picked her up, oblivious to what her ‘baby’ was staring at. “How about we have some T.V. before lunch?” she asked, rhetorically. Wendy had no choice but to allow herself to be brought out to the living room.
Mommy turned on the television and sat down on the couch holding the diapered girl in her lap, one arm easily snaked around her waist. Wendy heard the rustle of her fresh diaper as she shifted in Closet Mommy’s lap, trying to get comfortable. No way was she getting back to her room from here. “How about some Peppa Pig?
The T.V. flickered on. “PEEEEEEPA PIG! PEEEEEEEEPA PIG!”
Like a dog hearing a whistle, Wendy turned her gaze to the television. “Peppa Pig?” Simple pastel colored cartoons; Flat and jerky like a cardboard cut out. Gentle, British accents.
Wendy stopped fidgeting. “Maybe just…one episode, she said to herself.” Her eyes checked a clock on top of the T.V. Over half an hour had gone by since entering the house… “Wow. Was my bath really that long?” It definitely hadn’t felt like it.
“Yes, baby.” Mommy said. “That is Peppa Pig!”
The law student did her best to think of an escape route. How could she get out of Mommy’s lap and back to her room?
Peppa’s snorting caught her attention, again. “Maybe just…one…episode…”
“Oh! Ice cream!” Wendy said out loud as a pastel colored one appeared on screen, bringing back memories of the delicious stop earlier in the day. “I’ll have to get Mommy to buy some more.” Drool began to fill her mouth as she let her thoughts wander while following the rest of the cartoon. “Does ice cream grow at the north pole?”
That episode of Peppa Pig had gone away for a while, but Wendy was doing her level best to recreate it with the barnyard animal toys in her lap. She only had the one plastic pig, but the flopsy bunny rabbit made for a good Missus Rabbit. She would make do and pretend the Cow was Daddy Pig. It wasn’t so much of a leap.
It was a shame, she thought to herself, that she couldn’t study for her History of Law exam with this much enthusiasm.
She looked again at the clock. It was half past noon! How had that happened? Where had the time gone? She was only supposed to have watched the one episode! She looked down at her lap. Where had the toys come from?
In actuality, she knew that answer: She hadn’t blacked out as much as just gone on autopilot, much like how one can get lost in their thoughts driving home on a familiar route. Mommy had seen her squirming and talking with the cartoons, and gotten up long enough to bring her toys…
And for whatever reason, Wendy hadn’t thought to make a mad dash for her bedroom. She’d waited patiently, staring at the screen, and continued recreating Peppa Pig episodes by playing with dolls in her other mother’s lap.
Daddy came in to check on her. “Okay ladies. Hope you like grilled cheese sandwiches!
Toys tumbled away from Wendy’s lap as Mommy stood up and carried her into the kitchen. “Finally! I’m famished!” Mommy said.
“Good grilled cheese takes time”.
“Um…Daddy,” Wendy started to say. “I think I need to go to my bedroom and…and…”
Daddy wasn’t listening either. “Up you go, kiddo!” he said, transferring her back into her highchair. “Let’s get some more num-nums in that tum tum.”
That’s how Wendy ended up having a highchair lunch of cottage cheese and potato salad while her parents munched on grilled cheese sandwiches; all in a wet diaper that she hadn’t quite remembered peeing in.
This. This was the trade off. She was getting loads more attention and lowered expectations from her parents, but she was also a prisoner. If an adult wasn’t holding her, a stroller or a swing or a changing table or a highchair was holding her still till they could.
Theme parks were fun because at the end of the ride the harnesses and safety bars came up and you could walk around the park freely.
“A picnic lunch indoors,” Daddy said. “Not bad, right?”
“Delectable” Mommy agreed. “Next time come to the park with us and we can eat it there.” After everyone was finished, Wendy went back into Closet Mommy’s arms. “I think someone needs a proper nap.
As if on cue, Wendy bellowed out a yawn. She really was tired. Maybe she’d feel better after a nap. “No!” the girl yelped. “NO! I DON’T NEED A NAP! I DON’T NEED DIAPERS! I DON’T NEED HIGHCHAIRS! I DON’T NEED STUPID BABY SWINGS OR SLIDES! I DON’T NEED ANY OF THIS!” It had been fun while it had lasted, but Wendy was quickly coming to the opinion that this wasn’t meant to last. I’M! NOT! A BABY! I DON’T NEED A NAP! I NEED SOME PERSONAL FUCKING SPACE AND FOR SOMEBODY TO LISTEN TO ME AND CLOTHES THAT DO MORE THAN CATCH PISS AND SHIT! I NEED A PAIR OF PANTIES AND A GODDAM BRA ! I’M TWENTY-FUCKIN-TWO!”
“Definitely,” Daddy agreed with Mommy. “She definitely needs a nap.”
An adrenaline surge burst through the girl. What the hell had she been thinking? She was naked. Her parents had seen her naked for the first time in forever. Her mother had bathed her. And the only thing that she’d been wearing for hours now was something that was arguably more humiliating than being seen naked!
Back in her room, Wendy was placed into the giant crib, and the railing was slid up.
“Nini, honey, “Closet Mommy said sweetly. “Pleasant nap. Do you want me to sing you another song?”
Fuming Wendy snarled. “No!”
“You always get this fussy,” Mommy said. “But you need your rest. That’s how you can grow up to be big and strong.”
“I am a big girl.” She went so far as to pound her fist on her other mother’s back. “I am! I am! I am!” Pounding her fist against the crib railing was hardly making her point for her, but it felt cathartic all the same.
Mommy turned out the lights and closed the curtain before leaving the door. Leaving Wendy alone with her thoughts, the dim glow of the afternoon sun leaking through the curtains, and the almost as dim glow coming from her closet.
The moment the door was closed, Wendy went for the release mechanism on the crib’s railing. Like everything else she’d encountered that day, it was baby proof which in this instance meant ‘Wendy proof’. Grimly, Wendy shook and rattled at it; but the damn thing wouldn’t budge.
Overcome with infinite fucking frustration from an entire day imprisoned, Wendy inhaled only once, and from there didn’t stop screaming. The girl screamed so hard that her throat started to gargle. She screamed and screamed and screamed and screamed; rattling the crib bars like the wrongly convicted on death row. “God damn it! Let me out! Let me the fuck out! Let me out! Out out ooooouuuuuuut!”
She didn’t let up. As tired, physically, emotionally, and mentally as she was, she was afraid that if she stopped screaming, she’d fall asleep. And more than anything, Wendy didn’t want to risk falling asleep here. At one point, she stopped screaming actual words, and just started seeing how long she could hold the same high pitched discordant note.
Scream-thousand-one, Scream-thousand-two, Scream-thousand-three…
After what felt like hours, (but was probably only five minutes) the door opened again. Closet Mommy speed walked in and lowered the railing of Wendy’s crib. “Wendy? Baby? Sweetie? What’s wrong?!” She checked her diaper again. “You’re not poopy. Just a little wet. Are you constipated? Does your tum-tum hurt?”
“I want out!” Wendy demanded, pointing to the carpet. “I want out! I want out! I want out!”
This universe’s version of her mother seemed to understand at least that much. “Honey, it’s your nap time. You need your nap so you can play later.”
“N-!” Wendy stopped herself. She did need a nap. Nap time could potentially be one of the few times where she’d be allowed to exist without her parents watching her every move. More specifically, she needed to be left alone long enough to get back through her closet, and without anything constraining or confining her… “No bars,” she said. She jiggled the back railing of her crib to help illustrate her point. “No! Bars! Do you get that?”
The younger Jody Merts squinted in the same way as her male counterpart had. “You don’t want the crib rail up?”
“I’m sorry, sweetie, but I don’t want you falling out.”
A bit of inspiration struck the ex-Gifted child. “I want to sleep on the floor.” She grabbed the blanket and pillow inside her crib and flung them to the carpet.
“You want…to sleep…on the floor?”
Closet Mommy looked at the pillow and blanket and seemed to consider it. “Hmm…it would be only a nap….”
Wendy made her eyes go full puppy dog. “PWEEEEEEEASE MOMMY!”
Some things were universal. “Hmph…well…” Mommy said. “Okay.” While Wendy was laid down and ‘tucked in’ on a spot on the carpet of her own bedroom, she allowed herself a soft, satisfied smirk.
“Think like a lawyer. Argue like a toddler.”
The door closed, and Wendy immediately got up and ran back through the rip in reality. Her legs felt wobbly, shaky almost. She couldn’t let that stop her. Two steps out and she went to all fours, off balance. She kept going for the closet.
Freedom came in beautiful brilliant light!
Wendy checked herself after emerging through the light on the other side. Her tits were still out and uncovered, and she was wearing a giant diaper, but the style of the furniture in her room gave her all the confirmation she needed to know that she was back where she belonged.
“Come on, come on, come on.” She whispered, hoping against hope it would speed the process up. The diaper, however, stayed the same. “Screw it!”
Like ripping off a band-aid Wendy ripped the giant tabs off, sending the thing to the floor with a sodden plop. She hurried over to her dresser and opened up her underwear drawer. Her relief was palpable when she found it filled with actual underwear. Her heart rate didn’t slow down until she’d stepped into a pair of panties and pulled them all the way up her legs. For once, relief came when she found a bra and put it on instead of taking it off.
Sneering at herself, she looked down at the discarded Pampers. Like water leaking out of a pin-pricked balloon it was deflating, changing color, turning back into something an adult would be caught dead in (but never by her parents). “Taking you long enough,” she muttered as it continued to shrink. It had been wet too. “That’s definitely going in the wash.” No sense in chancing it.
Out of the corner of her eye, by the side of her bed, a plain top, sports bra, and shorts faded back into existence. Evidently this version of herself kicked off her jogging clothes to take a nap just after lunch.
What did her real mom and dad think had happened? Why was she taking a nap? “I don’t even wanna know,” she whispered to herself. “That was a close one.”
Wendy had no idea how close it was.
Going through her drawers, the law student got herself a new pair of pants and a shirt she was relieved to see sporting the name of a music band instead of some goofy smiling cartoon character. As hurried as she was to return to normalcy, Wendy didn’t even realize she hadn’t taken a serious look at herself until fully dressed. Reapplying her clothes, she went on combing her long dark brunette hair in the furthest way she could think from pigtails, unaware that it had just finished shifting from the short and light blonde of a baby hair.
And behind her, the rip glowed a little less brightly and seemed just a little bit smaller.