It was a question she’d been asked countless times, ever since it had stopped being overly impolite to do so. She wasn’t sure exactly when she’d hit that boundary and passed it by, but, at least for a month or two of each year, it became a real nuisance.
The latest person to ask was her best friend, Sara, who was rolling her eyes as she stared at her like she had lobsters crawling from her ears. She knew it had been a risk, and a fairly stupid one at that, to ask anyone along - that had been most of the fun. Sara went on to inquire, “Is this really what we’re ditching class for?”
“It’s just PE,” Ella shrugged. “That doesn’t even count as a class, anyway.”
“And Bio, if we don’t get out of here soon,” Sara prattled on. “And looking at the line, we might not.”
It -was- a pretty impressive line, Ella had to admit, and one she hadn’t been expecting. She thought she was clever, sneaking out during school hours, when surely there wouldn’t be many kids. Except that it seemed the mother of every toddler in town had the same idea. It only proved how good it was, though that didn’t help the line move any faster. While Ella could tell that Sara was uncomfortable there, surrounded by small children, shooting nervous glances at them as if they were going to gang up on her and eat her alive like a pack of zombies or something, Ella herself felt right at home, and for mostly the same reason that whenever someone asked her the question, she couldn’t help but giggle.
Ella was, after all, the Princess of the AB World. Or, rather, that was how she had thought of herself at one time. After all, she’d written the epic, and very well received, story “Edible Panties to Disposable Diapers”, one of the longest and, generally considered, at least by the people she talked to, best diaper stories ever written. She’d written some other stuff, too, though somehow, she just couldn’t find the right idea from which to fashion her next masterpiece. She was a member of all the big message boards, and most of the small ones, and had a pretty good post count on the majority of them. Her blog, which she had updated on a rather obsessive basis, had recently gotten shut down, but before that it had been one of the most well-traveled ones around, at least for her particular community. She’d made a new one, but was still working on getting the word out about it.
And, while most of the time when she was asked the question she was wearing perfectly normal, big girl underwear, this time at least, she was clad in a nice, thick diaper, albeit one hidden by her baggy pants and long, and also rather thick, peacoat. She’d been a little worried, as she paced in a stall in the school bathroom, trying to decide if she was really brave enough to leave, to walk through the empty halls out to her car, that Sara would notice. And Sara had been acting a little strange, but nothing that wasn’t more easily explained by her finding out they were sneaking out of school to see Santa than by her having noticed her best friend wearing diapers.
“Like they’re going to do anything useful the last day before winter break,” Ella rolled her eyes. Sara didn’t seem to have an answer, so she just started looking into the stores around them.
“This is so lame,” Sara sighed, fidgeting boredly in place, worse than most of the children around them. “I thought we were just going to go shopping.”
“We can do that when we’re done,” Ella assured her. “You don’t want to lose our spot now, do you?”
“That would be a tragedy,” Sara said, in a tone that let Ella know just how much she didn’t believe that. She should have known better than to really anything else, but, as it had the tendency to do, hope sprang eternal within her, and in that spring, she kept a little boat that held her idea of Sara finding out about her little secret, and not caring. Or, better yet, really accepting it.
They inched forward, Sara shooting Ella an annoyed look, asking whether the joke was over yet or not. Ella forced herself to keep still, her body and, more importantly, her face, not revealing anything as she watched for a moment or two, then gave in, giving Sara her best smile, fake as anything, but hopefully not obviously so. “I’m just kidding! Come on, let’s go check out the sales!”
Sara chuckled, shoving Ella lightly. “You loser,” she shook her head, stepping out of line and starting for the nearest clothes store. “You had me going there!”
“Yeah…” Ella glanced sadly back at Santa Claus, ho-ho-hoing with a smiling little boy on his lap, then followed.
Ella smiled as she sank down, cross-legged, next to the coffee table, setting down a pair of cups filled with apple juice, where the little girl was hard at work, crayons splayed out in front of her. “So,” Ella said, picking up her own cup, and peering over towards the piece of paper, “how are you doing?”
Harper shrugged, still consumed with her work. She was about eight, a cute kid, and very smart. Ella had never been a big fan of babysitting until one of her teachers had asked her to babysit for Harper, her niece, on short notice. Ella just never quite felt right about bossing around children when, a lot of the time, she wished she could be younger than them again. But with Harper, it was different - she felt, in a strange sort of way, that Harper almost saw her as an equal, rather than an authority figure. Ella supposed that might have been a problem if she wasn’t such a good kid, who actually seemed to like studying. It made for an easy job, and one that she really enjoyed.
It was always a nice surprise to find Harper doing something actually childish, instead of being a bookworm. She never had any problems with letting Ella help her, and Ella was glad to, and even more glad when Harper didn’t just ask her how to do everything. In fact, most of the time Harper would figure it all out, and then explain it to her, giving her the more simple jobs. A lot of people, Ella knew, would probably find that frustrating, but she loved it - it just made her feel even more like she was on Harper’s level, or even below it. She’d never dare wear diapers on her job, but other than when she was doing that, those little group projects were the things that made her feel the littlest.
Of course, there wasn’t a whole lot she could do to help with a letter to Santa. Still, it was nice to sit there and watch Harper, staring intently at the piece of paper, deep in concentration. Ella even considered writing a letter herself, but she couldn’t really think of anything to ask for that wouldn’t seem really weird if Harper happened to glance over at her work, so she’d decided to forgo it. “Are you going to ask for a cell phone?” she asked. Harper loved them, and always wanted to play with Ella’s. Pretty much any gift-giving opportunity, she asked her parents for one, and every time, they’d told her she was too young, despite her protests that plenty of other kids in her class had them already.
“Yeah…” Harper nodded, giving Ella a look that seemed to ask whether she’d hit her head on something recently.
“Well, I don’t know if Santa really does that kind of thing,” Ella shrugged, a little defensively. “I mean, the whole contract thing would be pretty complicated…” She was pretty sure her parents hadn’t yet changed their stance.
Harper gave her the same look again, then continued her work. Ella lifted herself up a little, peering at the paper curiously. “Hey, you know those S’s are backwards, don’t you?”
“I’m not an idiot, Ella,” the girl informed her indignantly. “I know I’ve misspelled a bunch of stuff, too.”
“Oh. Okay. Just thought I’d check… You know, maybe you should have written it in pencil, then you could have gone back and fixed all that…”
“Why would I want to do that?” Harper asked, her voice full of real curiosity. “They’ll think all that stuff is cute, especially in crayon.”
Ella blinked a time or two, trying to decipher the little girl’s words. “They? There’s only one Santa Claus, you know. All those ones you see in the mall or wherever, they just work for him, and….”
Harper tilted her head to one side, staring at her babysitter. Ella could see the question coming a mile away in that look, and in that moment, she wanted nothing more than to be wrong about that, for her charge to ask her something childish, like why Santa would hire a bunch of people who looked like himself. She didn’t get her wish.
“A partial success,” she reported on her blog that afternoon. “There was a bit of a snag as to the actual meeting with Santa - I think his reindeer were sick or something, so here’s hoping they’re feeling better before next week. But not bad otherwise. I did change out of my diaper before I went back to school, but I spent most of the time at the mall in it, so that was something new, and a little scary. Maybe I’ll try it again sometime. ^-^”
She sat at her computer for another moment or two, fingers tapping lightly on the edge of the keyboard as she thought back to her and Sara’s exit from the mall, the fleeting moment she’d spent looking at the little indoor playground, and the toddlers enjoying themselves inside, having gotten to see Santa, tell him all their little wishes. There was a part of her that wanted to join them, to lose all her cares and worries and just have fun.
The screensaver popped up for a split second, until one hand darted over to the mouse, banishing it. The cursor was still there, blinking at her, asking her to put all those thoughts into words. Instead, she typed in her typical sign off, “Stay dry, stay safe, and stay diapered!” and hit the Post button. Her entry popped up in its space, hardly taking up half her screen. There’d been a time when that would have been considered short for her, but the last few weeks, ever since the new shiny-ness of her rebirthed blog wore off, she’d barely managed to make one other post even that long.
She sighed, switching over to another tab on her browser, skimming over one of her forums, clicking on a few threads here and there, glancing over them before going back and finding something different. Her gaze kept sliding unbidden back to the top of the program, where she could see her blog’s title, sitting there, waiting. Finally, she moved her mouse up to it and clicked on it, hitting refresh almost before the tab had loaded.
She knew what to expect - it was what she’d gotten ever since she’d made the new version of her blog, and she always told herself not to hold her breath for anything different. And yet, she found herself doing just that as the page vanished, then rebuilt itself, starting with her wimpy little text, and then the comment section. Empty, of course. She let the air out of her lungs, trying to keep it from sounding like a disappointed sigh, somewhat successfully.
She went up to the Edit button, added in another line or two, saying she’d started working on the basic idea for her next story, that she’d have a preview up soon, maybe before the new year. She hesitated over saving it, not wanting to make any false promises, but, as she reminded herself, it wasn’t really a promise until someone else read it. So it probably wasn’t going to be a problem.
“We’re going to bed!” her mother called through her door after a tiny knock. “Don’t stay up too late, Ella!”
“I won’t!” she called back, getting up from her chair and stealthily sliding closer to the wall, listening as her parents walked down the hall and into their room, the door closing behind them. She pressed in the lock on her door, even though her mom always told her not to, and whenever she tried the door in the mornings and found it locked, she always lectured Ella about how dangerous that would be if there was a fire, or something. Luckily, she’d stopped even bothering to check that often anymore, since, despite all that, any time she tried to get into Ella’s room before she was awake, it was always locked.
Ella walked over to her dresser, pulling open the bottom drawer, where, under some old, paint spattered T-shirts, she kept her cloth diaper. She liked disposables better, really, but on a day to day basis, it was just easier for her to snap herself into this one, and save the tapes on the others for when she was awake to really enjoy them. After all, other than for however long it took her to get to sleep, and however long it took her to go from waking up to being awake, it wasn’t like she could consciously feel the diaper anyway. It was just a nice thought, being able to sleep in diapers every night.
Even so, that night, she found herself just staring down into the drawer, crouching there unmoving. It was as if something had snapped, that inside her something was broken, and without that something, she couldn’t find the will to dig through the clothes to get to the diaper beneath.
‘Why bother?’ she found herself thinking. ‘It’s just an extra hassle to deal with in the morning…’ She pushed the drawer closed and stood back up, changing into her pajamas. They did feel a little weird, without the extra padding beneath them, but she decided it was kind of nice, and a lot cooler - her room always got so much hotter than the rest of the house, after all, and in diapers, it could be a bit sweltering from time to time.
She turned off the monitor and slipped into bed, shoving her teddy bear out of her way as she climbed under her blanket, hardly noticing when it tumbled to the floor.
The stockings were laid out under the tree with care, though they, and the presents Ella herself had put there for her parents, were the only things there. Her parents must have been banking on waking up before her, which wouldn’t have been a bad assumption, if she’d been sleeping normally the past few nights. Then again, she was usually up pretty early Christmas morning, sneaking downstairs to see the presents, so maybe they’d finally realized it didn’t matter if she saw them put her presents there.
She stared at the tree for a minute or two before reaching up and moving one of the ornaments to a bare spot. She was the one who usually did all that, but she hadn’t really been in the mood, so the day before her parents had done it themselves. It wasn’t that they did a bad job - it was pretty difficult to make a Christmas tree look -bad- - but they just didn’t seem quite as good at evenly distributing the decorations as Ella, ever humble, did.
Finally, she slipped back out of the living room, turning the light off as she went, though the tree was still shining and sparkling in the corner, and headed for the kitchen. She wasn’t sure what she was going to find there, but she was hungry enough that it didn’t matter too much. The refrigerator was pretty packed, though none of it really looked right, so she carefully began pulling things out, digging deeper, sure that she really just wanted one specific thing, and that, when she saw it, she’d know.
Sure enough, after nearly emptying out the entire middle shelf, she found herself staring at a jar of peanut butter. She felt a corner of her mouth twitch up, vague memories welling up from years ago, when she’d tried to stay up and see Santa, armed with a plateful of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. She hadn’t even made it to midnight, or through more than one of the sandwiches, but she’d woken up in her bed, with a note on her desk thanking her for the food, saying that cookies were nice, but sometimes they just weren’t filling enough. She’d never shown that note to anybody. It had been a long time before she’d realized that the writing looked an awful lot like her mother’s, and by then, the note had gotten lost, so she couldn’t check to see just how similar they were.
Not that she should have needed to, she thought to herself. Of course it had been her mom. Looking back, she was pretty sure she’d thought that, to a certain extent, even then, but sometimes even the tiniest hope was enough.
She grabbed some bread from the pantry, and made herself a sandwich, before piling everything back into the fridge. She started to head back to her room, until, from the corner of her eye, she saw out the kitchen window, seeing the snow drifting lazily downward. With a little smile, she flipped off the kitchen light so she could see it better, watching it as she ate, and for a long time after. It really was beautiful. Sure, Christmas just didn’t seem the same that year, but she knew, in her mind, that everyone lost that sense of wonder eventually. She’d managed to keep it alive a little longer than most, but nothing lasted forever. Still, there was something magical about winter itself, and while it wasn’t the best substitute, it was better than nothing.
After a long time, she smiled and turned away, heading back towards her room. She glanced back in at the Christmas tree as she passed through the living room, giving it a smile as well, deciding that it was beautiful, too, all those little lights twinkling, casting tiny shadows from the ornaments down onto the presents stacked below…
She stopped. Presents? And, sure enough, when she looked again, there were presents stacked all around the tree. She hurried over, kneeling down in front of the stockings, now fat with all sorts of goodies. How had her parents managed to get all this stuff down here while she was in the kitchen. And without her hearing them? How…?
She thought she saw something moving from the corner of her eye, something that looked black, and a little shiny, like a boot, perhaps. When she turned to look, of course, it was gone.
She could see a faint light under her parents door as she went into her own, but that didn’t bother her. Sure, the logical part of her brain made sure to remind her that it must have been them, just being extra sneaky, or she had just been extra spaced out. But there was a part of her that suggested that they’d just happened to wake up then, just a strange little coincidence, nothing more. And it was to that part that she surrendered, because it was just more fun.
She pulled open her bottom drawer, slipping out of her pajama pants, setting her panties on top of her dresser. She knew she’d have to change again in just an hour or two, at most, but it just seemed right to greet Christmas morning in her diaper. It felt a little weird under her pajama pants, after having gotten used to wearing her regular underwear again, but it was the good kind of weird.
She wasn’t really tired, so she sat down at her computer, turning on the monitor and moving the mouse to wake it up. On a whim, she opened up her blog, knowing better than to expect anything. And yet, there, on her most recent entry, she saw that one reply had been posted.
It was simple, just two and a half words - “Can’t wait :)” - but it was enough.
“Merry Christmas, everyone!” she typed. “I just missed Santa Claus - maybe you guys had better luck. Hope everyone is doing well, and sorry I haven’t written in so long. I’ll do better from now on, I promise! And I’ll see about getting that preview done, too. Stay dry, stay safe, but, most of all, have a happy, diapered, Christmas!”
She looked around at a few other websites, posting Merry Christmases on all her forums, half wondering if anybody would even remember who she was, but by the time she’d posted her last one, on the first board she’d already gotten a reply, telling her “I’ve missed you! What’ve you been up to?”
She decided to save the answer to that for a more decent hour, having found herself yawning through the last couple of posts. A little nap would be nice, she thought, and it’d be nice to really wake up on Christmas morning in a diaper. But before she turned the screen back off, she found herself going back to her blog one more time.
There was another reply there, to her newest entry. “Aren’t you a little old to believe in Santa Claus?” it asked, with a jovial “=P” afterwards.
She smiled as she typed out the reply, and then she crawled into her bed, curling up under the covers and drifting off to sleep, waiting for Christmas morning.
“Not a chance!”