This is based off a dream I had, so if the tense is weird that’s why.
It’s a typical day in Florida, in a typical little vacation town. The sun’s out, birds are singing, people are out jogging in their bathing suits, and the drug store’s electronic billboard says that its only 85 degrees. You’d never know that just two states up there was a snow storm, unless of course you decided to watch the news or read the paper.
There’s something else you would never know, one of the young ladies coming out of that drug store is homeless. No it’s not the brunet with the hand-me-down one piece or the blond with tattered jeans over her faded bikini bottoms that don’t actually match the top. Both those girls have loving families and trust funds that would make a grown man cry and chose to dress that way. It’s the red head who looks like she stepped out of a swimsuit mag, who’s our culprit.
Actually, calling her homeless is a little bit false. She has a house, several in fact. Every single one is as nice, or nicer, than her friends’. There is just one small issue, all those houses are actually owned by someone she’s never met.
You see Abby, as our protagonist calls herself, is what you’d call a squatter. Ever since aging out of the foster system, she spends her time jumping from one vacation house to another and living off other people’s wealth. She never actually steals anything mind you. She has her own money and all the services she enjoys are paid yearly out of accounts already set up, the owners having weird, but predictable schedules. Thanks to a summer of pool cleaning, Abby knew those schedules and, even better, the master code for their alarm systems.
Today she is going to add another house to her list. Several months ago, while pretending to be a groundskeeper, Abby had seen a new family move into the neighborhood. Just like everyone else, they had the Security Solutions Alarm system installed and had left a very detailed itinerary, which she taken a photo of. Since they weren’t due in for another two months, she felt that it was a good time to investigate and borrow their house.
Her first stop, was to return her current residence back to the way she found it. Step one: laundry. Nothing says “intruder” like dirty clothes you’ve never worn. Step two: clean out fridge. That should be a given. Step four: clean house with bleach solution. In the off chance that the family gets nervous and calls the cops, nothing usable will be found. Step five: place all trash outside, reset alarm with pencil and lock doors, before placing key back in its hiding place. The final step was to load the trash into the community dumpster. Too much cross contamination.
Having completed her checklist, it’s time to head to work. The house will still be there and unless she’s going to be a thief, Abby has to earn a living. She takes her bike from the bushes behind the dumpster shield and rides it across town. The building she stops at is a medium sized quick service restaurant. Decorated with a nautical theme, it has the appropriate name of “Salmon Burgers”.
Luckily for Abby, the proprietor is very aware of his shop’s proximity to the beach and has made sure to include an employee changing room, two in fact. Inside the women’s room, Abby showers and dresses in her uniform, black pants and a blue top with the store’s logo. She dries her hair and still clocks in ten minutes early, just like her boss likes.
Dave, her boss, is standing with a familiar looking new girl when Abby enters. He waves her over. “Hey Abby, I need you to train Fiona on the register tonight. Bill is doing the accounts, Grace called in sick and I need to go perform crises management at the other store. Can you do that?”
“Of course.” What else could Abby say?
Fiona is a quick study and soon Abby can let her work by herself. The flow of customers is slow and so the two have time to get to know one another. They quickly discover that they have the same interests and are soon friends. By the time their shifts end, Fiona has been invited to hang out the next day.
Back in the changing room, Abby goes through her routine in reverse. She takes off her uniform, showers, puts on her street clothes and she’s done. House exploration, here she comes.
The streets are well lit, ensuring good visibility and soon Abby is back in “her” neighborhood. The bike is placed back in its hiding spot and her duffel retrieved, before she walks the rest of the way, humming quietly to herself. It is a simple task to find the hidden key, the maid service has to find it too. The alarm is a different matter, however, as it takes three very tense tries to get the right code, but she has always had fast hands and the call never goes out.
The interior is much like she expected. It is well furnished and blends modern with nautical in a very pleasing way. There is a kitchen and common room on the ground floor and a set of spiral stairs leading to the second, and presumably the bed rooms. It is up those stairs that she heads.
True to her belief, six evenly spaced doors head down landing on either side. The door immediately at the top of the stairs leads to a bathroom. It is furnished with cute designs meant for small children and Abby can’t help but have a moment of nostalgia. The last time she had a bathroom like this was before cancer took her mom.
That is not a time she wants to dwell on, so she moves to the next room. Pink walls greet her as she opens the door and the smell of baby powder assails her nose. She has found a nursery. It too is well furnished, with the most prominent objects being a matching crib and changing table. That explains the playpen she had seen in the common room.
The next door leads to the room of a middleschooler. Posters of Kid’s pop stars hang on the walls and the bed features a famous pop singer on the quilt and sheets. Strangely this room also has a changing table, though this one is designed for much larger children. It is fully stocked with both regular diapers and kid’s bed-wetting pants suggesting that some days were better than others. The room’s normal occupant must be special needs.
The fourth door opens to a teen’s fortress of solitude, plus one sibling. The twins, for who else would share at that age, have very different tastes. One is a girly girl and has her half of the room bedazzled and draped with variations of the color purple. Her walls support teen dream posters and drawings of fantasy lands. Her sister is a rocker girl. Black and red are her colors of choice and rock bands hold up her walls. She even has a guitar in the corner. There is one thing they share though, a changing table right in the center. Designed for the room’s occupants, it is fully stocked with cutesy and “hard core” padding options.
At the fifth door, Abby breathes a sigh of relief. She has found a normal room at last. Also as an added bonus it appears unclaimed. She quickly moves in. It doesn’t take long, she only owns six outfits and two bathing suits after all. Anything else she needs is usually borrowed and returned before she leaves.
She finds the bed made and says a quick prayer of thanks at not having to hunt for linens. Striping down to her birthday suit, she slips between the covers and closes her eyes. After a moment her breathing evens out and she is asleep. Little does she know that her life is about to get 100% better.
The next afternoon, finds Abby out with her friends. Claire and Sierra, the girls from earlier, have picked her up and are on the way to meet Fiona in Claire’s convertible. Today the girls are going to the local mall and are dressed for walking.
At a stoplight, Claire decides to ask how Abby found the new house. She and Sierra have known about their friend’s lifestyle for a while and think that it’s awesome. “So Abs, how’d you find the new place?”
“It’s nice and has plenty of room.”
“Anything especially interesting?”
“Well, the pool has a wave machine.”
“And all their kids appear to be in diapers, even the teens.”
That gets a reaction from Sierra. “Diapers, really? What self-respecting teen would be caught dead wearing those? You must have found a house of retards.”
Abby doesn’t really agree. She believes that it’s perfectly fine to wear diapers, regardless of need. She would never wear them herself, unless she had to, but if other people wanted to, she wouldn’t stop them. Everyone deserves a chance at happiness after all. Telling her friends that wouldn’t help anything, so instead she pretends to agree and they reach the mall without incident.
Fiona is waiting for them at the food court. Today she is wearing a modest dress and matching tennis shoes. Like the other girls, she is carrying a large tote bag that serves as both purse and shopping cart. She sees Abby and waves the group over to a table.
“Hi guys.” Fiona says, holding out her hand to Claire and Sierra. “It’s nice to meet you.” The other two copy her gesture, introducing themselves. Abby is pleased to see her old friends take to her new one so easily. It looks like the day could only get better.
Unfortunately, things take a turn for the worse. After lunch and a round of nick-knack shopping, the girls decide to head toward the mall’s major clothing store for a fashion show. On the way there, Fiona’s bag gets caught on the kiddie train and the contents spill everywhere. Among those contents, is a collection of very obvious changing supplies. Since Fiona has no kids with her, it is very obvious who the supplies are for.
Claire and Sierra burst out laughing as Fiona frantically gathers everything back together with Abby’s help. Tears run down Fiona’s face as she runs into a nearby bathroom. Abby is left stunned. Not at what she had just discovered about Fiona, but at how her friends reacted. At that moment, Abby makes the best decision she could have possibly made.
“What is wrong with you two?” She explodes, causing Claire and Sierra to shut up instantly. “Fiona just had what was probably her most embarrassing secret revealed because her stuff got scattered across the floor and you just stand there and laugh? If you’re those kind people, I don’t want to be around you anymore.” Abby doesn’t know why she is so ticked off, but she senses she’s doing the right thing. She makes a quick trip into a store before going to check on Fiona.
The younger teen is bawling her eyes out in a stall with her things scattered around her and her torn bag in the trash bin. Abby walks over and gently raps on the door. “Hey Fi, I got you a new bag.” The gift, an almost exact replica, is slid under the door. There is a beat before Fiona picks it up, as she is surprised by the gesture.
“You’re not going to make fun of me?”
“Why would I do that? You’re my friend. Now come out of there, so we can get back to having fun.”
Fiona slowly opens the door and then hugs Abby quite abruptly. “Thank you.” Abby smiles and returns the hug. After a moment the girls break apart and start putting Fiona’s stuff away. It doesn’t take long and soon the girls are back to enjoying their shopping trip, minus Claire and Sierra.
Hours go by and soon Fiona is giving Abby a ride home. After experiencing how good a friend Abby was, Fiona couldn’t let her friend take a bus and feel right about it. They spend the ride talking and soon find themselves in front of Abby’s current abode. Fiona is very impressed. “This is your house?” Abby shakes her head. She might be a squatter, but she is an honest one. “No, I’m just watching the place till the family comes back.” Well mostly honest, but who would admit to squatting?
Fiona doesn’t press and simply says, “Cool” before helping her friend bring her purchases into the house. They exchange farewells and then Abby is alone again. That isn’t a bother, she is used to and would prefer avoiding any awkward conversations.
Abby doesn’t know why, but she ends up using the shower-tub in the kid’s bathroom instead of the master bath’s walk in. She had decided to take a shower after her quiet dinner alone and after gathering towels and her toiletries, ended up going back down the hall. Now as the warm water washes over her, she stops caring about the why and enjoys herself. She even goes so far as to use the kiddie shampoo as well as her own.
Abby steps out of the shower and wraps a towel around herself. She knows no one else is home, but the thought of walking naked to her room is just too weird. As she walks down the hall, she notices that she left the bedroom light on. Odd she thinks, could have sworn I turned it off. She’s not worried though, she probably just missed the switch.
She opens the door and freezes. Fiona is sitting on the bed, but that’s not what catches Abby’s eyes first. The room has changed into something quite juvenile. Before the bed had been a Twin dressed in dull colors, now it was a child’s single covered in princesses. A rocking chair has appeared in one corner next to the chest of drawers that has become white and speckled with pink flowers. The lamp and end-table are still there, only the lamp has a shade matching the bed and the table’s alcove is jammed with children’s books. It looks like a six year old’s room. In fact, Abby has to note, it looks exactly like the room she’d had at her mom’s.
Fiona looks up as Abby enters and the girl can’t help but notice that her friend has gotten older. Gone is the bubbly teen that had started a new job yesterday, in her place is a woman who looks to be in her forties. Something clicks and Abby realizes why Fiona looked so familiar yesterday, this woman has to be Fiona’s mom. Coming to this realization doesn’t help much, as the first time Abby had seen her was when the woman was moving into the house they were both currently standing in. That wasn’t good.
Immediately Abby starts apologizing, mentally thanking Fiona for just telling her mom. “Uh… I can explain, please don’t get mad.” That was weird, she had meant to say “please don’t call the police”. The woman’s face softens. “Why would I be mad sweetie? You were just showing how responsible you are, bathing yourself like a big girl. Mommy’s proud, not mad.” A warm, fuzzy feeling flows through Abby. Her mommy is proud of her!
Woah, where did that come from? The woman in front of her isn’t her mother, she’s Fiona’s. Her mother died of cancer fourteen years ago. Yet, Abby can’t shake the feeling of happiness that’s filling her right now. It’s making it hard to think straight.
Fiona’s mom lays a soft plastic mat on the bed. “You’re growing up so fast, but I think I know something you still need momma’s help with.” She pats the mat. “Lay down sweetie, so we can get you nice and snug for bed.” Abby can’t stop herself. The towel falls to the floor, leaving her naked. Strangely she doesn’t care and obediently lays down on the mat.
Abby knows what’s coming, she’s laying on a changing mat. The last time she had felt this kind of soft squishy plastic, she had been putting a child on one. Now she was the one getting taken care of. First came a cold, wet wipe, making her squirm and start to protest. The woman puts a finger to Abby’s lips. “Hush, Abigale. I know you just washed, but we have to make sure you’re clean.” Suddenly, Abby doesn’t want to struggle any more. Momma’s right, sometimes it’s hard to get everything.
Deep down, Abby knows something weird is going on. The woman should have freaked out, but instead she began treating her like a small child. The twenty year old should be resisting, but that same treatment makes it hard to think. It’s easier to just relax and drift. Abby lets the scent of baby powder take her back to a time when she had no worries.
“There now, all snug and dry. Let’s get your pajamas on and then we can have a story.”
A story! Abigale loves stories. She shouldn’t be this excited but…Story! She sees the wo-no, mommy holding a nighty and raises her arms. The night dress comes down and her diaper barely peeks out from under it. Her momma smiles “That’s a good girl, helping mommy dress you without having to be asked.” Abigale beams, she likes it when momma praises her.
Instead of getting tucked into bed, Abigale is led over to the rocking chair. “Momma, what are you doing?” Momma sits in the chair and places Abigale in her lap. “You know you can’t get to sleep without your night bottle sweetie. Now be good and I’ll tell you a story.” Instantly the girl relaxes and takes the offered bottle. The milk tastes so good. It’s kinda weird that she hasn’t seen the bottle before, but that train of thought stops once Momma starts talking.
“Once upon a time, there was a group of witches. They weren’t nasty, crabby old witches, no. They were nice, kind witches, who enjoyed helping people. Every day they would go into the local village and see what needed to be done. They healed the sick, dug wells, fixed broken tools and performed other good deeds. The people loved them and for a time all was well. Then one day a Great War came and all the adults in the village died. It was very sad.”
Abigale nods, her milk halfway gone. The story continues. “But then the witches got an idea, ‘Why don’t we take care of the children?’ Immediately the witches opened their doors to the orphans and soon everyone was happy again. It was then that the witches learned something. While the children were growing up, the witches didn’t age. Their magic kept them young and able to meet any needs that might arise. Now evil witches would have kept the children from ever growing up, so they could stay young forever and that’s not very nice is it?”
“Uh-uh. It selfish.” Abigale is feeling sleepy, but she wants to hear the rest of the story so she fights it. Momma takes the empty bottle away and carries her to the bed. “That’s right and since these witches were good, they let the children grow up. But even good witches want to stay young, so they went in search of children who needed them. Children like you, Abigale.”
“Yep, like you. You never really had a childhood did you, being bounced around like that?” Abigale shakes her head. She really hasn’t. None of the families that had taken her in had actually cared, they just wanted a tax right off. Momma pulls the covers up to her chin. “I saw that in you the day you cased this house. You longed for the relationship I had with my girls, so I decided to check you out. When the time was right, I pretended to be teenager to get to know you. I liked what I saw. You proved yourself a good girl and I couldn’t ask for more.” She leans in and kisses Abigale on the forehead.
“Now you get a chance to grow up again, taking as much time as you want.”
“Thank you, momma.”
“You’re welcome sweetheart, sweet dreams”
The lights are turned out as momma leaves, but a night light gives off a soft glow. Soon six year old Abigale can’t fight sleep any more, and she doesn’t want to. She snuggles deep into her bed and lets her eyes close. As she drifts off, a pleasant warmth spreads between her legs, but she doesn’t care. She is finally home.