Chapter IX: Day 18; Morning
Emory wakes up in her car seat.
It’s a little jarring, since she’d gone to sleep in her crib, and she’s dressed in comfortable gray sweats and a loose sweatshirt. Her cheeks heat up a little bit at the realization that she must’ve slept through her morning diaper change and getting dressed; she hadn’t thought playing on the playground after story time would tire her out so much.
Opening her eyes, she discovers that it’s a beautiful day outside. The sun is shining, and the fields on either side of the road are full of grazing cows, sheep, and other livestock. Even as a child, Emory had never really spent much time out of the city, apart from a disastrous camping trip with her father one summer. So it’s nice to be able to see a different side of like and breathe the fresh–or maybe not-so-fresh–country air.
“It smells like poop.” Emory realizes, pinching her nose.
“Are you sure that’s not you, little one?” Melody teases from the driver’s seat, taking a sip of her coffee.
Emory pouts. “No!” she says indignantly.
“You’re not sure?” Melody continues, smiling at her in the rearview mirror. Maybe we’d better find a rest stop and make sure…”
Emory huffs. “Mellie, don’t be a butt…I just waked up…”
“You just woke up? Yeah, I know, sweetheart, I’m only teasing you. I know it isn’t you, I changed you about an hour or so ago and you slept through the whole thing.”
“I did?” Emory wonders.
“Yep. You were out like a light. Anyway, it’s the time of year for farmers to be spreading fertilizer on their fields so their crops can grow. That’s why it smells bad.” Melody explains.
“Oh.” Emory replies, looking back out the window at the grazing animals. She wonders idly if the sheep are as fluffy and soft as they look.
“Good morning, by the way, I was just about to wake you up to ask what you wanted for breakfast. We’ve still got a while left to go before we get to my parents house. We can either stop at a nice, sit-down place so you can stretch your legs for a bit, or we can go to a drive-thru so we can make better time. What do you think?” Melody says.
Emory yawns and stretches, thinking. “I wanna get out and stretch.” She says. She isn’t sure how long they’ve been driving for, but her legs are stiff from sitting, so at least a few hours must have gone by.
“Okay. I’m kinda hungry for pancakes, and there’s a restaurant in the shopping center up here. We can get you some swim diapers and some water wings while we’re there too. My parents have a big pond that I used to swim in as a kid, so I can still teach you if you want.”
“Yeah!” Emory says, wiggling excitedly. “I’d really like that Mellie!”
“I thought so. Do you want your bottle for now? It’ll be about an hour until we stop.” Melody asks. “I’m not going to make you wear your harness while we’re at my parents’ house, and I won’t feed you unless you want me to, even though you still have two more days until your punishment is over. You’ve been very good for the whole week, so I’m going to ease up a bit, but expect you to be on your absolute best behavior while we’re here.”
“Yes, Mellie. I’ll be good. And I would like my bottle please.” Emory says, glad that Melody’d thought to bring them. Even though it’s sort of embarrassing to admit, she’d probably be upset about not having it.
Melody passes her bottle back to her, though it’s filled with water and not milk like it usually is.
Emory’s thirsty enough that she doesn’t care, and quickly sucks it down. She leans back in her car seat, looking at the animals as they pass by for a few minutes before speaking up.
“Do you think the sheeps are as soft as they look?” She wonders.
“We can find out if you want. My parents live near a nature preserve that has all kinds of animals, and it’s got a petting zoo!” Melody explains.
“I’ve never been to a petting zoo before.” Emory says honestly.
“Well now we have to go! You’ll love it!” Melody replies.
Emory smiles. “I’d like that.”
They drive in silence for a bit before Emory speaks up again:
“Do you have my phone? I’m kinda bored…” she says. Since her Classification, she’s limited in what her phone will allow her to do without setting off its Parental Controls, but there are still plenty of games and things she can do to pass the time while they drive.
“Here.” Melody says, passing it back to her. “I don’t want you playing on it for too long though, you’ll make yourself carsick. And I’d like you to try to nap for a while after breakfast, we should be getting there a little after lunchtime, and I want you to have energy to do stuff when we get there."
“Aww,” Emory huffs. “I don’t want a nap…It’s so different here and I wanna be awake to see it.”
“There will be plenty of time for that after your nap, little one. You’ll have two whole days to walk around and see the sights. And, it’ll be a lot more fun if you’re not cranky. We wouldn’t want to interrupt all that fun for a time-out would we?”
Emory shakes her head, conceding defeat. And then a thought occurs to her: “What are your parents’ names? What should I call them?”
“Well, their names are Jack and Jill, but you should probably ask them what they’d like to be called. I don’t think my mom will go for ‘Mrs. Melody’s Mom’.” Melody explains.
“Oh, like the nursery rhyme?” Emory wonders.
Melody smiles. “Exactly. I’ve always thought it was kinda funny how that worked out.”
Emory grins. “That is pretty neat…Can I have some more water please?”
Melody passes her another bottle. “Yes, but no more for a bit after this. We still have a little ways to go before we stop, and I don’t want you springing a leak before we stop.” She says.
Emory wiggles a bit as she sucks on her bottle. Now that she’s paying attention to it, she can tell that she’s definitely wet, but she wonders how Melody can tell that from the front seat. “How did you know I was wet without checking me?”
Melody chuckles. “I hate to break it to you munchkin, but your sweatpants aren’t exactly great at hiding your diaper. Plus, I’ve changed enough of your diapers by now that I can tell by looking if you’re wet or not.”
Emory’s cheeks heat up a bit, though she figures she shouldn’t really be that surprised. “Oh.” She says, and goes back to sucking on her bottle and looking out the window, her phone forgotten in her lap.
They make better time than Melody’d thought they would, though they do arrive after lunch.
Her parents’ house is a large one-level with a wraparound porch, a beautiful flower garden, and several trees around the property. The paint is sun-weathered, but it adds a nice, lived-in vibe to the home. The garden is decorated with various old-fashioned props, like a small plow and a wooden wagon wheel.
Melody’s parents are on the porch, clearly waiting for them. Her father is tall and muscular with jet black hair that’s starting to go a bit gray at the temples. Her mother is a bit taller than Melody, with dark brown hair, brown eyes and a kind, open face.
“They’re going to love you,” Melody says as she parks the car. “I know you’re nervous and that’s okay, but I promise, they’re really nice. They’re very excited to meet you.”
“I’m excited too,” Emory says, latching onto Melody once she’s been unbuckled. “I just get nervous…”
Melody kisses Emory’s temple and bounces her gently. “I know you do. But it’ll be just fine, you’ll see. They’re both Caregivers too, so you’ll have lots of people watching out for you while we’re here.”
Emory nods, but is too nervous to say anything else.
The two of them make their way over to where Melody’s parents are standing, and Melody puts Emory down so she can hug her folks.
“It’s good to see you both.” She says. “I’m sorry I haven’t been able to visit as much this year, work has been crazy and with everything going on recently, I didn’t have time until now.”
“That’s alright, I know how that can be. We’re just glad you made it safely.” Jack says.
Both of her parents look toward Emory, who, up until this point had been trying to hide behind Melody to the best of her ability.
“And who’s this little cutie?” Asks Jill in a gentle voice.
Emory gathers her courage and manages to squeak out a greeting. “Hi. I’m Emory. It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Melody’s Mom.”
Jill laughs. “You have wonderful manners, sweetie. It’s very nice to meet you too! But you can just call me Nana, if you want, or Jill.”
“Okay, Nana!” Emory grins. Inwardly, she’s a little hesitant, because Melody still hasn’t committed to being her Caregiver officially, and it makes her nervous to get attached to people that she might not see again. However, Jill is too informal and uncomfortable, so she decides to stick with Nana.
Nana gives Emory a big hug and a kiss on the cheek.
Emory smiles and blushes a little before moving to greet Melody’s dad.
“Hi,” She says. “I’m Emory. It’s nice to meet you too, Mr. Melody’s Dad.”
Jack chuckles. “You don’t have to be so formal, squirt. Just call me Pop.”
Emory smiles. “Okay, Pop.”
Pop reaches down to lift Emory up, and then tosses her into the air.
Emory lets out a squeal of surprise, and then giggles as he catches her on the way back down.
“Again, again!” She cries, jumping up and down, and Pop obliges her.
“Wow! Mellie! Mellie, did you see how high I went? I could almost touch the sky!” Emory babbles excitedly.
Melody smiles at her. “I did, sweetheart, you were definitely super high up!”
Nana looks over at Emory. “Would you like to go on a walk with me while Melody and Jack get unpacked?”
Emory looks at Melody. “Can I? Please?”
Melody nods. “But stay close to Nana, okay? Don’t wander off, I mean it.”
Emory’s hands drift to her bottom at the memory of what had happened the last time she’d ‘wandered off’. “Yes, Mellie, I’ll be good. I promise.”
“Good girl. Have fun, and I’ll see you when you get back, okay?” Melody says, pausing to kiss Emory’s forehead.
Nana reaches for Emory’s hand, and she takes it before setting off down the path that leads away from the house. As they head toward the back of the house, Emory can see the pond that Melody had spoken of down the hill from them. The path they’re on winds around the pond and heads into the forest beyond.
“Do you think we’ll see any deers, Nana?” Emory wonders. She’s surprisingly comfortable with Nana, despite having only met her moments ago.
Emory had never met her grandparents on either side of the family. Her parents hadn’t meant to conceive a child so late in their lives, and both sets of grandparents had already died before she was born. Maybe that’s why she feels so comfortable, if Melody decides to become her Caregiver, then that’s basically what Nana and Pop will be to her. She allows herself to be optimistic as she heads down the path.
“Maybe later on today.” Nana says, her voice warm. “There are lots that live around here, but they usually don’t come out until it starts getting dark.” she explains.
“Oh. I’ve never really been away from the city, so this is all new to me.” Emory confesses as they begin to walk around the pond. “Mellie said she’ll teach me how to swim while we’re here! She even got me swim diapers and water wings, so we’re ready!” Emory tells Nana excitedly.
“That sounds like lots of fun, honey. We even have some inflatable pool toys you can use when you get more comfortable in the water. The middle of the pond is the deepest part, and the water will be over your head. So, until you learn how to swim really well, I don’t want you to go into that part of the pond, okay? And even after you can swim, you are never, ever to come down here and swim without a grown-up.”
Emory nods solemnly. “Yes Nana.” she says.
As they near the woods, Nana pulls her off the path and over toward a copse of tress, pointing at something.
“Do you know what that is, sweetheart?” She asks, pointing to a shiny, three-leaved plant.
Emory shakes her head. “No, I’ve never seen it before.”
“That’s poison ivy.” Nana explains. “It will make you very itchy if it touches you, so make sure to stay away from it.”
“How will I know where it is? It’s kinda hard to see…”
“There’s a little rhyme to help you remember. It goes: ‘Leaves of three, stay away from me!’” Nana tells her. “Not all plants with three leaves are poison, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”
“Okay, Nana. I’ll be careful. Mellie says that blueberries grow here?”
Nana nods. “That’s where we’re going. I thought you might like to pick some. They’re safe to eat, and you can have some now, but we should probably wash the rest when we get home before we eat them.”
“Yay! I think there’s an empty snack container in there that we can put them in.” Emory points out helpfully, with a big smile.
Nana fishes out the container, and together they head into the woods. It’s a short walk to the blueberry patch. She squats down next to one of the plants, pointing it out to Emory. “Do you see these pink ones?” she asks, pointing to the small not-quite-ripe fruits.
Emory nods. “Uh-huh!”
“These ones aren’t quite ripe yet, so we’ll have to come back another time to get them. These purple ones are almost ripe, and you can eat them if you want, but they’ll be really tart. And these dark blue ones, are just right.” Nana explains, pointing out each example in turn.
“Okay.” Emory says “Can we start?” She’s been looking forward to this moment pretty much since Melody told her about the blueberries, and she can barely contain her excitement.
Nana smiles at her. “Of course we can!”
The two of them pick blueberries together until the container is full, though Emory does more eating than picking, her face and fingers smeared with the purple juice from the fruit.
Emory squats down to examine a caterpillar wiggling its way across the leaves and sticks out a finger. The small creature crawls onto it, exploring. She smiles.
“Did you find a caterpillar, sweetheart? Be careful with him, he’s just a baby.” Nana replies, smiling back at her.
Emory allows the small furry animal to crawl around on her for a few minutes, and it crawls up onto her shoulder, perching there contentedly.
Her stomach rumbles ominously, and she immediately regrets eating so much for breakfast, though she had been really hungry at the time. Tears spring to her eyes in response. Even though Nana has been super nice to her, it’s still embarrassing to think about pooping in front of her.
“It’s alright,” Nana says, rubbing her back like she knows exactly what’s going on. “You don’t have to be embarrassed. That’s what Little ones do, sweetheart, it’s not a big deal.
Emory sniffles as her stomach cramps painfully–the reassurance doesn’t exactly make her feel any less embarrassed, but it’s nice to know that Nana isn’t judging her. The mess is firm and difficult to expel, and Emory loses her fight to keep from crying.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Nana says gently, reaching out to take Emory’s hand. “Does it hurt?”
Emory just nods, her face red from effort and from embarrassment. It is nice to hold Nana’s hand though, even though she’d thought it’d be horribly embarrassing. It mostly just feels comforting though.
“It’s okay, I’m right here, little one. We’ll get you some medicine back at the house so it doesn’t hurt so much the next time you have to go, alright?”
“Okay,” Emory replies miserably. It takes her several minutes to finish doing her business, but Nana holds her hand and says comforting things to her the whole time. By now she’s gotten used to messy diapers, and doesn’t mind waiting for a change, especially if she’s doing something fun. But now, she’s mortified to discover that this mess is just as bad–if not worse–than the one she’d made at the zoo almost a week ago. She knows that Nana isn’t upset with her, but it’s still embarrassing to have made such a big mess in front of a new person.
“Are you all done, Emmy?” Nana asks.
Emory nods. “I think so…” She says as she stands up, making a face when she realizes how full her diaper is.
“Good job!” Nana says, smiling at her, and it feels strange to be praised for making a mess in her pants. “Can you walk, or do you want me to carry you back?”
It’d be nice to be carried, but Emory worries that she’s too heavy for Nana and hesitates. She takes an experimental step and frowns a little; it’s going to take her a really long time to get back if she has to walk like that…
“Come here, sweetie.” Nana says, and checks her diaper, even though she knows the mess must be obvious. Nana pats her bottom gently before scooping her up. “I’m not so old that you’re too heavy for me, and I don’t want you to leak from trying to walk with such a big mess in your diaper.” Nana says in a kind, but matter-of-fact tone.
“Okay,” Emory concedes, surprised at how easily Nana had lifted her up.
“ It’s about time to head back anyway, it will be time for dinner soon, and you need a bath. How on earth did you get so covered in blueberry juice?” Nana wonders.
Emory shrugs. “I dunno, Nana.” she says.
“We’ll have to leave your little friend outside, Emmy. He can’t come inside with us.” Nana says gently, removing the caterpillar from her shoulder and releasing it into the flowerbed.
“Bye, Curtis! Be safe!” Emory says, waving as the caterpillar crawls slowly away, disappearing beneath the plants. Nana puts her down, and she waddles inside after her.
“We’re back!” Nana calls out.
Melody comes out to meet them, giving them each a hug.
“Did you have a good time?” Melody asks.
“We had a blast.” Nana answers for her. “Emmy even made a nice present for me.”
Emory can feel her ears turning red at that statement.
Melody reaches out and gently turns Emory around to check her diaper for herself. “Wow,” is all she says. “Do you feel better now, baby?”
“I can change her, if you want.” Nana says, and Emory squirms.
Nana has been super nice to her ever since she arrived, but she isn’t sure she’s ready for that yet…
“I’ve got it this time,” Melody says. “But thank you.” She scoops Emory up and gives her a kiss on the nose.
Emory giggles. “Hi, Mellie! I misseded you!”
Melody pats her bottom gently as she heads toward what Emory assumes is the bathroom. “I missed you too, baby. Let’s go and get you cleaned up.”