LilBrat (revised edition) Chapter 9-10 added 11/8

A few may have come across the original version of this story over at the other site. I was happy with it at first, but with every reread I got more and more unhappy with it. The narration didn’t work, too many characters lacked depth, and I didn’t really have a good idea of how to go forward. So some revisions were necessary. Weak characters either got fleshed out more or cut out right, characters that previously didn’t have arcs got them, and most importantly, I solved the mystery that is the inciting event where as I previously planned on leaving it an open question. It’s ambitious, it’s my first novel so I don’t expect it to be the ABDL Anna Karenina or anything, but I want to share something with all of you that I hope is better than boring wank fiction. I wanted it not be about the diapers, but rather the girl wearing them and what her being outed does to her, her family, and the people around her. Like I said, it’s a novel and at the pace it’s going, it’s going to top out at over 200 pages. And I think something like that will get better play here since this site has a more literary bent than DD does. With all that said, I hope you enjoy ‘LilBrat’ as much as I enjoyed writing it. As always, criticism (constructive or otherwise) is appreciated.

Chapter 1

Veronica could barely tune into the teachers lecture, she could barely focus on her work, she was shaking with anticipation and anxiety alike. “Soon,” she thought to herself. She kept stealing glances up at the clock. So very close to lunch break. Her bladder pulsed a steady aching pressure through her lower torso. So very close and she’d complete her dare.

When the bell finally did ring, Veronica did her best to appear as nonchalant as possible. She felt like everyone around her must hear the slight crinkle, but yet she’d made it to the middle of third block and no one seemed to have noticed anything unusual. It gave her some relief, but the day wasn’t over yet. The riskiest part was upon her. She carefully, time consumingly placed her books for the class in her messenger bag, taking care to not let how she really felt be seen through the facade she was putting up. She had to keep calm, act normal and be unnoticed.

Her secret weapon for the day was the parka she slung over her shoulders. The coat hung off her like a cape and ended just above her knees. It had been her dads until he… moved, then it became hers. Rather than a normal parka like her classmates wore, this was a N-3B army winter weather gear parka. Dad’s was vintage, from one of the many surplus stores in the area. He’d made quite a few non-regulation modifications to it, such as the extra quilting that had been sewn inside or the patches from 80s and 90s punk and indy bands that lined the arms that were so long, Veronica had to roll them up a few times to get them above her forearms. The coat was clearly made for someone taller than five foot even and enveloped the miniature senior. It still smelled sweetly like cigarette smoke and cologne even though dad hadn’t worn it in almost a year. Veronica was in no hurry to get rid of that nostalgic smell.

Out in the hallway, the nylon parka swished each time the tail bounced off of her knees. Even though it was in the mid thirties today and parka’s weren’t quite necessary yet, the coat helped mask the crinkling sound Veronica knew she made with each step. She fought her way through the throng of students in the hall, side-stepping and weaving and making certain that no even accidentally bumped into her. The nightmare scenario was getting knocked down, falling on the floor and in front of everyone having her tee shirt ride up and expose the periwinkle plastic that peaked just out over the waistband of her jeans.

With a belly full of butterflies, she ducked into the second floor girls bathroom. The bathroom was crowded, but Veronica did find one stall, far the to the back and darted in. She sat down on the toilet with her pants still pulled above her waist, taking deep breaths to calm herself and still the adrenaline blasting through her. There was a hard knock on the door. Veronica’s first thought was to shout occupied, but she stayed quiet. The knocked eventually went away. She gave a wry grin at the idea that stress might cause her to start the dare too early.

After a few minutes of waiting in silence, the bathroom began to empty out. She waited a minute after hearing the last pair of feet walk out, counting to a full ‘60’ before realizing she was as safe as she could hope to be. She stood up and undid her jeans, sliding them along with her green and purple boyshorts down her waist revealing the secret she’d kept hidden all day. A pair of 4T-5T, light purple girls ‘Cool Alert’ Pull-Ups. The Princesses Elsa and Anna smiled up from the juvenile undergarment. With trembling hands, Veronica fished her cell from her jeans pocket and took the first pictures of the dry Pull-Up. Once she found one she was happy with, she opened the photo app on the phone and began the upload to Tumblr.

“Wearing to school! So nervous all day!” #ABDL #TBDL #PullUps #LilBrat #TruthOrDarTuesday" She grimaced a bit at her message that went along with the photo. It was all true of course, but it felt like someone else was typing it. Someone who liked exclamation points and lots of hashtags. Really, someone else was. LilBrat was writing it for her throngs of followers. The followers who loved her and her cute pictures and her cute little persona. LilBrat was optimistic, playful, cheerful, and confident. Veronica wouldn’t use any of those words to describe her self.

With the upload complete, she returned to her camera app and began the next, more dangerous part of the dare. She took a few deep breaths and repeated a mantra in her head, “You’re sitting on the toilet, everything is normal, it’s not going to leak.” Slowly, at first, and then the rivulet became a steady stream. She felt the warmth spread and wrap around her. Veronica didn’t understand why she savored such an odd sensation, but she did. She had first felt it five years ago, during the tail end of a bout with bed wetting. She just knew that it made her feel wild and calm and strong and weak and all sorts of wonderful, wild contradictions.

Weirdly, it made her remember those nights when her dad got up at 3:45 every morning, earlier than necessary to make it to post by his 5 a.m. report time, to check on her, and help her to the bathroom if she was still dry and console her if she wasn’t. Her satisfaction faded whenever she started thinking about her dad. Those memories, all her memories, brought her a deep nostalgia. Not in a, ‘remember how great things were ‘X’ years ago way’, but in the classic Greek way. Every joy became a wound just about one year ago.

She took a few pictures before finding one that looked good. She really had 'Let it Go", all the snow flakes had melted away and the cooling action set in. Still, it wasn’t quite enough to sap the heat that she basked in or that burned deep inside her. It was so simple, so relaxing, so good. No wonder LilBrat was happier than her, this was LilBrat’s life. Adoring fans and the simple, strange pleasure of wet pull-ups. She reopened the picture in the viewer and began it’s upload.

“Wore 'Em and Wet 'Em, So Read 'Em and Weep!” #ABDL #TBDL #PullUps #Wet #LilBrat #TruthOrDareTuesday." She gave a small grin at that. Likes and reblogs were already coming in on her previous picture.

“You are just so cute!”

“What a big brave girl you are.”

"Can I be youre daddy? Your a real cutie :slight_smile: "

"Don’t Get Caught :wink: "

“Nudes?”

“face pix sometime? Please??”

“Messy Pix PLEASE!!!”

Even the weird comments made her happy. Someone out there liked her enough to say so. Even if it was LilBrat they liked, Veronica absorbed some of that self esteem with every comment. There were people out there who liked her. Once the urine had absorbed into the pull-up, Veronica pulled her boyshorts and jeans back up before slipping back into her cavernous parka and opening the stall door.

“Why not give them something else,” she thought? The mood had taken her and after being anxious all morning, the satisfaction of completing the dare laid out by random Tumblr followers gave her the courage to take another, more risky pic. Walking across the the sinks and the bathroom mirror, Veronica fished the phone back from her pocket and opened the camera one more time. She held the phone out, obscuring her face in the mirror with it, and with her other hand she hiked up the front of her shirt, exposing once again the periwinkle sliver that stuck up over her jeans. A second later and a third picture was taken. Before it even showed up on the display screen though, the door opened. Veronica quickly shoved the phone into one of the many exterior pockets of the voluminous parka as the girls walked in. If it had to be anyone it had to be them, The Bitch Clique themselves.

Kim Chandler was their leader and on everyday’s she work pink. At least pink something. A more genial shade of scarlet than Veronica felt herself beginning to sport. Kim had all the ingredients of being a mega-bitch; rich, captain of the cheerleading team, perpetually oranged from tanning. She didn’t have to say anything to be intimidating and put you in ‘your place’, her presence was enough. Flanking her, were her two sidekicks. Emily Duke and Taylor McNamara. Emily was a little less everything than Taylor. A little less blonde, a little less orange, a little less pretty, a little less thin, a little bit smaller boobs.

Veronica had made a good few years by keeping her head down. These three had a reputation for ruthlessness that made anyone want to stay out of their way. She disliked them and was intimidated by them, but her true ire was for the one to the right of Kim. At 5’7 she towered over not just Veronica but stood well above the other two as well. She was pretty in a way that hinted at how hard she tried to be pretty. Her skin was shiny with make up. Her curly blonde hair started out life neither curly, nor blonde. Her smile had obviously made an orthodontist very, very happy at some point in her life. And her body had been sculpted into perfection by years of dancing.

Veronica knew all this, because at one point, she knew the real Taylor McNamara. She had been best friends with a gangly girl with a mousy face sprouting frizzy brown hair and thin lips hiding gaped teeth. Veronica was even beside her in a picture from over a decade ago in their beginning ballet leotards. Veronica moved away first seven years ago, then ended up in Alaska five years ago. The thing that had eaten Taylor showed up two years ago and wanted nothing to do with her former best friend.

Veronica didn’t know if it was fear or urine they smelled, but Kim’s eyes lit up and the daggers came out. “I didn’t know we were doing Junior High visits today? Are you lost little girl?” Kim cooed at her. Veronica burned bright red with humiliation. What shamed her wasn’t the comment, it was feeling the comment so much. She’d felt so good after posting the photos, but here, without her phone covering her face and being mocked by these three girls, her joy turned to ash. The very things that made her like herself as LilBrat; her petite build, flat chest and diminutive height were the things that made her loathe how she looked as Veronica Klein. She became keenly aware of all the parts of herself that she didn’t like. Her Grecian nose became huge and her strong jaw because mannish in her minds eye. Her now wet pull-up made more noise now the factory that made it did.

“Aww, she’s shy.” They all began to fake coo, their voices dripping with condescension. Even Taylor. Even Fucking Hateful-Taylor. “I don’t think you belong here little girl, maybe in a few years you’ll be big and grown up enough to be here.” The all giggled, the trio had organized into a semi-circle behind Veronica, trapping her.

“Say something!” She screamed internally. “Say something! Just stand up for yourself for once!” Veronica washed her hands in silence, with her head down. When she was finished she was forced to push through the half circle of taunting girls. All 90 somethings pounds of her bony body took a body check and bounced off the little bit bigger Emily Duke.

“Oops, look out Little Girl.” She snidely teased in her displaced southern accent. It had a subtle twang to it that indicated Texas to Veronica. She had spent some time in Kileen around Fort Hood and in her ‘travels’ had developed an ear for accents. Rather than pushing through Emily Duke, she pushed through the tall girl who had once been the gangly, mousey girl. With her head bowed, she pushed through and made for the halls, face blazing and ears ringing with the lingering laughs.

“Those eyes” she thought as she made for the common area, “those fucking eyes.” What was behind them hurt and angered and cowed Veronica more than anything. Deep behind those eyes she could almost see the girl she’d adventured around Torii station with saying sorry to her. She hated that part almost as much as she hated the Thing That Ate Taylor.

The commons area was decked out in crimson and gold, banners hung from one wall announcing past sports championships. Paper banners with phrases like “Go Wolves” or “WVHS” or “The Kings in the North!” had been drawn up and hung of the balcony and stair landings by the cheerleaders to get the school excited for hockey season beginning later in the week.

“Idiots, I wonder if they actually know what happened to the King in the North or if they just think it sounds cool” she grumbled under her breath. On the other wall were columns of graduating class photos. “Not too much longer now” Veronica thought as her eyes swept those portraits. “Little more than six months,” she though, “Just six more and I’m free. I get to leave Fairbanks and never have to see any of them ever again.”

She’d already begun looking for colleges, preferably ones that would let her study abroad. She wanted to go back to Okinawa and feel the warm, humid sub-tropical wind blow in from the sea and visit all the shops in Okinawa city where they went at least once a month growing up. She’d lived eight years on the island where all of her firsts remained. Her first crush, first lost tooth, first sleep overs and first friends. Then some so-and-so retired and dad was the only one to get Dix back up to speed. Then it was Hood, then it was Campbell, until it after two more cities it was Fairbanks.

The commons area was crowded with people, most had settled down for lunch at the tables but Veronica was headed for the outside. An snowy early November had dumped some two feet outside and today was the first day where it was warm enough, at a balmy 34 degrees, for the school to allow students outside during lunch. That meant that her friend Alex would be out with her boyfriend at the hackey sack circle that formed every time they got to go out.

Outside, Alex Baldwin was sticking tight to the side of her boyfriend, Benji Machado. She was a tiny, chipmunk cheeked Athabaskan girl with bolts of hot pink streaking through her short dark hair. He was originally from San Diego, his mom joined up with the air force and after being bounced around, he ended up here. He was the prototypical slacker, but Alex liked everything about him, from his lean, muscular body to the fact that he could play guitar in a loose collection of guys that called themselves a punk band.

“I think they even like when they fight”, Veronica thought as the couple were famously on and off.

“Hey Ronnie!” Alex shouted and gave a big, energetic wave. Alex was all energy.

“The better to balance out my lethargy.” Veronica mused.

“Hey yo, Ronica” Benji broke in, “you mind running back in and getting a few of us some drinks?” The circle had swelled to twelve people, and four nodded along with Machado. Veronica shrugged and dropped her messenger bag by the wall and went around, taking orders and two dollars at a time from each person before trudging back into the commons. “Thank’s Ronnie!” Benji shouted over her shoulder as the door closed behind her. She ended up feeding ten dollars into the drink machines and brought back three Mountain Dews, a Pepsi, and a diet Mountain Dew (she assumed for another one of the circle members girlfriends). She got herself a water as well and headed back outside, juggling six 20 ounce bottles in her arms. Halfway back, one slipped and fell to the floor. One of the Mountain Dew’s rolled over towards the table that she would like to go towards even less than the Bitch Clique table. The hockey teams.

Seeing an opportunity to be a jerk, Corey, another brat from somewhere in the south by way of Kansas, stood up from the table and gave the bottle a running soccer kick. The bottle exploded from the force and was shot up, hitting the second floor balcony. Cheers and laughter rang out. He pumped his arms and flexed, making a show of it as he got taken off to the office. Knowing the reputation that the West Valley Wolves hockey boys had, he’d get off free, hell the principal and him might even share a joke. Veronica just stood still with her vision locked on her Converse as the laughter died down, burning again from the inside.

“Hey,” she looked up to see a face that had been a fixture in her mind since sophomore year looking back at her, “that was a shit thing Corey did.” It was Peter Bonham, her brothers former ‘protege’ from when he was captain of the Wolves and the current captain of the WVHS team. “Can I get you something else maybe? Make up for it?” Veronica’s mouth didn’t work in Peter’s presence so she just nodded. Peter was tall, broad shouldered and nicely muscled with an always smirking, always stubbled boyish face coated in the same red gold hair that formed a short tangle of thick curls. He’d always been nice to her because at one point he’d practically idolized her older brother Mark. Nice was all it was though and Veronica knew that Peter didn’t see her the way she’d seen him for three and a half years. As she walked quietly behind him words rung in her mind.

“Sorry for your loss Veronica.” The hug as she cried all alone in the reception room at the viewing. Coming back to school. The note. “You think he likes you!?” The teasing. The mocking. “Someone like him would never like you!” The teasing. The mocking. The kiss on her forehead in a quite room.

“Pepsi again?” Peter shook her out of her thoughts with his question.

“Oh,” she said startled, “Yeah.” He put two dollars into the machine, the Pepsi popped out and he handed it to her and off he went. Off Veronica went too, this time without any jocks punting carbonated footballs onto the second floor catwalk. Back outside, Alex was too busy chasing the hackey sack up and down the snowy hill whenever it was flung away to pay much attention to Veronica. She passed out drinks and slouched down by her messenger bag to read. It caught her eye that her wallet had slid out of the pockets of her coat. She grabbed it and stuffed in an interior pocket this time. The downside to the N-3B was it was so baggy, stuff had a habit of slipping out from time to time. She reached into her bag for the book, it had been one of dads. It was by Arthur C. Clarke and had these aliens in it that looked like devils. They’d just revealed themselves and it was really starting to pick up. If she didn’t have Alex to talk to, she’d rather finish it than gossip and small talk with the girlfriends of the other players in the circle.

Lunch was over soon and Veronica followed Alex as she skipped inside. Alex had no other means of locomotion than skipping, aside from possibly bouncing. Veronica kept pace with a trudging march.

“Did you get you’re Spanish done?” Alex asked as they stopped at her locker.

“Yeah, it was pretty easy. Just some vocab work.” Veronica said.

“Awesome!” Alex cheered, “Can I see it before Mrs. Simmons takes it up at the end of class? Word is were not doing ANYTHING today in there.” She rolled her eyes. Doing nothing in Mrs. Simmons’ Spanish class meant watching telenovellas while she caught up on her grading.

“You can look at it Alex, but it’s vocab. Writing sentences? At least come up with some of your own this time, you got us both caught last time.” Alex frowned, although not because of what Veronica had said or reminded her of, more because what she wasn’t saying in the distant, pensive tone she replied in.

“You OK, V? You seem depressed. Like, more than usually so.” Beneath her sunny, carefree slacker outer shell, she was more perceptive and intelligent that she let on. Veronica sighed and shrugged.

“I fine.” Alex knew it wasn’t true but left it at that.

"Don’t worry, I’ll be back from Korea as soon as I get their mess all sorted out. They just need a good 25B I.T. guy to come in and write the ship and get the phone lines working again. Don’t know how they made such a mess of it. I’ll have to stay another week. How 'bout we all go something as a family when I get back, haven’t had a vacation in a long time. Miss you Ronnie, love you. Yes, we can Skype everyday dear.

Two men in dress uniform at the door. “We’re sorry to inform you but Richard Klein…” Mom crying. Mark punching a wall. Me. Numb. 343 days ago. 11 months and 8 days ago. 11 months, 13 days ago, Peter Bonham in the quiet room. You look lovely. Your father would have loved this. You’re so strong. No.

“How could I expect her to keep up with the date” Veronica thought. In class, she skimmed ‘Childhood’s End’, her mind fixated on the anniversary that awaited her. Her encounter with Peter had stirred memories she devoted a good deal of conscious attention to not thinking about. Beside her, Alex paraphrased the vocabulary sentences as best she could without getting them both caught. The telenovella was playing loudly on the giant, school issue CRD TV that had been wheeled in on the giant, school issue cart. Rather than continue skimming, and with Mrs. Simmons clearly not paying attention, Veronica went to her coat pocket to pull out her phone and begin using the internet.

Her hand probed the outer right pocket of the coat but only found a few dollars in mixed cash and change, a wallet and her house keys. A search of the outer left pocket revealed nothing at all. Veronica checked her jeans pockets, the inner pockets, and even the floor around her. It was gone. Her phone, with her pictures on it, was gone.

Chapter 2.

Veronica was on edge for the rest of the day. It would have been bad enough to only lose the phone, but the pictures on it were what concerned her most. If they got out…she didn’t even want to think about the consequences. After Mrs. Simmons and her telenovellas, she went down to the school principal’s office and made a report with the secretary and, after the requisite admonishment that students were not to have phones outside of lockers during class hours, a report was taken; type of phone, casing, the works. She’d be notified if it turned up in the lost and found.

On the bus ride home, her mind was partially calmed by a fact she previously hadn’t considered. Her phone was screen locked, only someone who could guess her password could even have a chance to see the photos inside. At home, she would use the ‘Find My Phone’ app and track it down. With her phone back and with the password protection in place, there was no realistic chance that any of those photos would be seen.

“Unless someone guessed the password” she thought. It was simple enough to have her birthday be the phone lock password, but unless someone knew her birthday was January 1[sup]st[/sup], 1998 there was little chance of them arriving at “1198” based on a guess. The idea that it was out there and she didn’t know where it was had gone from existentially terrifying to just ruining her day. Worst case scenario now, she imagined, was having to pay for a new phone and listen to her mother lecture her about being more responsible if it didn’t turn back up.

The gray sky was beginning to spit flurries again. It had stopped shortly after lunch, but now it was beginning to pile up. Veronica’s Conserve sunk through the clean white powder, letting the old gray snow creep in through the eyelets on her sneakers and soak her thermal socks. They had been a bad choice, but soon, snow-boots would become the hot new item for everyone in town and she wanted to wear her Chucks until the last possible moment. The walk home was uncomfortable and reminded her of how happy she was that it was all almost over.

"Dad’s Home!"

The thought reflexively burst into her mind when she saw her older brother’s truck parked in the driveway rather than plugged in and left running in the garage. It was a thought that made her curse herself. It just meant that Jordan was having someone over and let them take the garage. Or maybe Jordan had went hunting? He’d talked about making one last go before the season ended for a bit now. Or, likely as anything, he pulled the car out so he could light up in the garage and mom wouldn’t smell it in the house. Typical.

Before coming inside, she checked the mailbox. Nothing, at least for her. Mom got stuff, bank statements and invites to seminars and conferences. Jordan got a few things, a bank statement and video game magazines, but nothing for Veronica. The wait was worse than the SAT had been. Somewhere out there, acceptance letters from Stanford, University of Hawaii, University of Washington and University of Georgia (as well as her fall back letter from University of Alaska, Fairbanks) were out there, taking their sweet time arriving due to a combination of geography and a hateful universe.

The house was just like every other house in their loose ‘neighborhood’, really it was just a street with a few other families scattered at intervals. They spoke occasionally, and Jordan shoveled the old neighbors driveway but that’s as close to neighborhood as it got. Just a stop on the bus route. They all were thoroughly winterized, with steep sloped roofs and detached garages so you could plug in your car and leave it running without the whole house dying of carbon monoxide poisoning, all so the engine wouldn’t freeze when true winter set in. It was a relief that part of her expected scholarship money that would be buying her first car, would be spent buying one that didn’t need battery plug ins, four wheel drive and snow tires. Climbing the steps, she took a moment to brush snow off the Maneki Neko statue that sat by the door and at one point had guarded their shoes when they lived in an area where leaving your shoes outside was possible.

“Momma! Daddy! It’s soo cute! Can we please get it! Please, please, please!”

She smiled at the weathered old thing, as well as her memories of the eight year Brat who made a fuss over it in store in Okinawa city that sold kitsch to servicemen and their families. Wherever she ended up, she’d take it with her so it could guard her shoes once more in a place where they wouldn’t be filled with ice and slush if left outside.

The first noise she heard when she entered the room, was a gun shot. Then her brother laughing and his friend swearing.

“Fucking team-killing camper!” Dalton growled at Jordan who was cackling. Both barely took notice of her quietly come inside, shucking off her shoes by the door to dry. The only one who said anything was Cassie, Dalton’s girlfriend, who sat beside him on the couch with quiet the evident bump under her shirt and a cigarette in her hand.

“Hey Ronnie.” She said over the noise of the boys and their Call of Duty match. Veronica nodded acknowledgment and Emily nodded back. Then she went back to reading her book. After passing all day at school, Veronica became nervous again. The idea of wearing in front of her family was terrifying and yet thrilling. Still, she was in a hurry to get changed. Her sneakers weren’t the only thing now full of cold water. Wetting in public on a 20 something degree day had possibly been ill advised.

“Sup, Ronnie.” Jordan said, not taking his eye of the game as Veronica moved through the living room to the kitchen for a soda. “Hey, don’t get anything to eat, OK? Mom called, she’s doing pizza after work.”

“OK.” Veronica said. Pizza sounded good, but she wasn’t much interested in talking at the moment. At least not until she got changed. Dalton bothered her too. He was Jordan’s best friend and was always OK to her, but he rubbed her wrong. He was underachieving personified, totally happy with working in his dad’s grocery, getting stoned and going hunting. He had been the goalie for the Wolves and taken them to two state championships at a varsity level and one final at a JV level. He was still a legend around WVHS. He was also the guy who still went to prom two years after graduating. Alone it wouldn’t be anything that bothered her. What bothered her were those words also applied to Jordan unsettlingly well.

When she knew that the announcement of the pizza was all the conversation they had in mind for her, she quietly made her way down the hall to her room, leaving the boys to continue to cheer and swear and have a great time. Her mind lingered back to Cassie and the baby. Dalton wasn’t the greatest boyfriend, and still living like a high schooler, with a fiance and a child on the way, further detracted from her opinion on him. Veronica wished Jordan would find new friends. He was as smart as she was, talented too. He had been a lock for a U of A hockey scholarship, but a bad check halfway into his senior season ruined that. Two surgeries and he still had a limp noticeable only if you knew to look for it. He still went to U of A on a partial academic, she knew, but what she didn’t know is if he still went to classes when he visited the campus.

Back in her room, Veronica hung her coat up on the rack on the door. She liked having it in here and smelling that thick nicotine perfume mixed with her, from a bottle, perfume. The walls were covered in posters, a cork board pinned with photos, book shelves and DVD racks, burdened by her original collection and swelled from her father’s inheritance. These fought for space alongside the wall with kitsch accumulated from her travels. Lots of trinkets or mementos from mainly Okinawa city but her other ‘home towns’ as well were crowed onto shelves or dressers. Her bed was full sized and took up much of the small, windowless room. Sitting on the purple and gray comforter was the only stuffie that she let it be known publicly that she owned; a soft, weathered stuffed calico cat named Gypsy Jr. she gotten after the death of her childhood family pet eight years ago. She had a few more hidden away under the bed and deep in the closet, but Gypsy Jr. was her not only her favorite but her most frequent ‘LilBrat’ picture partner. Boxes of her dads old vinyls sat at the floor of the closet where she searched for something new to put on. Eventually, she settled on a gray pullover, with some pajama pants from the dresser. Only with her coat off did she catch a full reflection in the mirrored sliding doors of the closet. The coat had been a wise choice, her dark jeans were darkened further with two, tell tale streaks that traced the curves of her butt.

“Damn.” She muttered. Of course she had leaked. Still, she was thankful for the coat. “Covering up for me like always. Thanks for the help, Dad” she said before giving a nod to the coat and then feeling both ridiculous and sentimental but mostly ridiculously sentimental. The anniversary was less than a month away though, she was counting the days and each day the shadow of that date loomed larger. Her father took up more of her thoughts and reminded her how truly not over it she was.

She slid the jeans down her narrow waist. The boy shorts from earlier were soaked through. Honestly, she was surprised she showed so little on her jeans. It looked to the world like she must have sat in a puddle. If she had the courage that LilBrat had, she’d go to the store and buy some Goodnites. Or at least something better for daytime wear than a 4T-5T Pull-Up or a Size 6 diaper. Small though she was, she still had a bladder capacity that was more than those options could handle. Of course an almost 18 year old buying Pull-Ups didn’t raise eyebrows. It could be for a sibling, babysitting, even their own kid. An 18 year old buying Goodnites or Depends would be much more conspicuous. She judged them as unsalvageable and pulled those off along with the pull-up she had flooded. She was tempted to take a picture of the aftermath, but was bitterly reminded how the location of her phone was currently unknown. She tossed the jeans in her hamper and neutralized any odor with a blast of Febreeze. Both pairs of underwear were tied off in a Fischer’s grocery sack and tossed under her bed to await trash day.

She’d learned years ago, that a shower in the morning was not something practical above the arctic circle, and it only took a few times of having her hair freeze at the bus stop to get the message. Therefore, every day after school was her shower time. In the bathroom mirror, her reflection wasn’t nearly as terrible as she’d made her self out to be. She was cute, she thought, unconventionally so maybe but she wasn’t the manly, big nosed ogre that the Bitch Clique and Hateful Taylor made her feel like. Everyone always told her she looked like her dad. It was true enough, he’d the same strong jaw, prominent nose, and cool blue eyes. They both may have even had the same hair, although Veronica never saw her fathers longer than a few fractions of an inch, her’s was the same coal black but so thick and willful as to be barely manageable as anything but a tied back ponytail or pig tails.

“Daddy. Yeah Kiddo? You know how people always say that I look like you. Of course. Well…Well what? Do people ever say you look like me too?” He laughed, big and booming.

The memory made the seven year old who asked it smile and the seventeen year old who remembered it wince. They only had three milestones left. Three, ‘firsts without dad’; the first was Thanksgiving and that was nine days away, the first anniversary of death on December 10[sup]th[/sup] and the first anniversary of the funeral on December 15[sup]nd[/sup]. She had been too numb to appreciate until after it had happened that her first ‘first’ without her dad had been Christmas. The first anniversary of him going to Korea and leaving them behind hurt bad and with these three big ‘firsts’ so close, Veronica just hoped that after the last ‘first’ she’d have an easier time. Maybe then the memories wouldn’t sting as much?

After her time in the shower, she made for her room and opened up her lap top to open up the Find My iPhone app. The results were less than helpful, a one mile in diameter circle somewhere downtown. So someone had found it. Unfortunately, downtown Fairbanks was pretty much all of Fairbanks. The city straddled the Tanana river but mostly existed as a long string of buildings and homes on Interstate 4, filling in the distance between Ladd Army Air base, the College, and the Airport. Branching off from that strip of interstate, were mostly residential neighborhoods. Downtown, in a small city like this, could mean anywhere. Tension coiled her stomach into a knot again. It wasn’t just lost, someone had taken it.

“They can’t get inside though,” she tried to reassure herself. Only if they knew her birthday. A random hit was unlikely. Still, she had to do something proactive just in case. As much as she didn’t want to tell her mom she’d lost her phone and beg for a replacement, she needed to get a new one and get her current phone turned off as soon as possible. “There may be another way.”

Veronica crept quietly on stocking feet back into the living room. Jordan and Dalton were still team killing in their death match and Cassie seemed to have made more progress on her Marlboro than her novel. Veronica stood silent in the doorway for a moment, unnoticed by the trio.

“Jordan,” she started, “Jordan,” she said again, but louder this time.

“Yeah?” He answered, not taking his eyes from the game. She saw on his screen how he effortlessly picked off targets and heard Dalton laugh at the slurs that came back at them over their headsets. The game bothered her. They both knew enough families with parents or siblings who never made it back home that it couldn’t help but make her uncomfortable.

“Can I borrow you’re phone?”

“Nope.” He clicked his tongue against his cheek while saying it.

“Come on, mine has no battery life and I gotta make a call.”

“Too bad. Plug it in and wait.”

“You can use mine, Ronnie.” Cassie put down the book and fished into her purse, tossing Veronica her phone.

“Thanks, Cas.” Emily nodded and went back to half reading, half watching. Back in her room, Veronica tried twice to call her phone, but both times it went straight to voice mail. No use leaving voicemail, if they couldn’t get into the phone they couldn’t listen to it. She sighed, maybe someone would return it? She thought that only for a moment, more like once they found out they couldn’t figure out the password, they’d sell it and make a few bucks. If no one returned it tomorrow, it was time to start looking for a new phone.

“Might get an upgrade at least”, she thought, trying to see a bright side in all of this, before taking the phone back to Emily. Back in her room, she felt an urge to do anything but homework. In her second block English class they’d been given some reading and questions to answer. It was early, but senioritis was slowly starting to take root. That and the knot of worry in her gut made her want to do anything but write a 3-4 page paper on Ibsen. Netflix, YouTube, Crunchyrole, her 3DS or any of her inherited DVD collection sounded more appealing. Still, Veronica dutifully closed her lap top and began her assignment.

None of those things clawed at the backdoor of her mind like the things she kept under the bed did as she tried to focus on the duller than anticipated assignment. Ibsen might have been saying something radical at the time, but over a century of social progress made it hard to lose herself in ‘A Doll’s House.’ Every time her mind wandered; it did so to videos or computer games or the phone she didn’t have, but Tumblr and her under-the-bed-box held outsizes place in her thinking. Taking a quick break, she put her text aside on the bed and opened her computer again. She sat cross legged on the bed and scrolled through all her new comments. Dozens of likes in a few hours. It was worth it and it made her feel good. Of course, it only drew her more to the under-the-bed-box. Unfortunately she had to be careful while she still lived at home, tossing out only at most three a week in the garbage. That wouldn’t be a problem this time next year, then she could wear as often as she liked. And not just Pull-Ups, but with own address she could get the real thing. But for now, stealth was key. Before she could drag herself back to her homework, she heard the door to the house open.

“Veronica! Pizza’s here!” Her mother shouted down the hallway. She heard the Xbox go silent in the living room soon after. Veronica sat aside her computer and left her room, shuffling down the tile floored hall toward the kitchen. “There you are, slip some boots on please and help with the groceries? If you and Jordan do it, it should only take two trips. Thanks, Veronica.” Mom’s gaze never even turned to Veronica, she was preoccupied with juggling the three pizza boxes and a few grocery bags held around her elbow. Emily had taken some two liter sodas off of her hands and was trying to be helpful. Dalton waited on the couch.

Veronica slid into her snow-boots and followed after her big brother. He was on his way back in loaded with 14 bags hanging from hands and fingers and elbows. Dad had been stocky and strong, and Jordan inherited that in spades. But he was also tall, topping out at 6’3, he was an outlier in a family where Dad was 5’8, Mom was 5’2, and Veronica stood just a smidgen shy of five foot even. He had moms sandy hair, which was shaggy on both his head and on his face but had taken both mom and dad’s eyes it seemed. They were mom’s hazel but needed glasses like Dad and Veronica did. His broad chest and stomach paunch completed the retired high school athlete look. Still, he hadn’t lost any strength.

“Left you the easy stuff sis, hurry up.” He told her as he strode past with his barely noticeable limp, carrying all of those Fischer’s sacks like nothing. It was true. Four sacks remained for Veronica, one of which contained just eggs and the other just bread. She stood on her tip toes to close the hatchback on her mom’s SUV and with some effort pulled it shut. There, staring her in the face even as she tried to avert her eyes, was the red ribbon. A scarlet gash across the back window that always turned her stomach. Mom had become big about stroke awareness, she even wore the red ribbon pinned to her blazer at work. It just made Veronica ill to look though.

Back inside, the boxes were opened on the kitchen island and Jordan, Dalton and Cassie had begun to help themselves. Rene Klein hung back though, preparing drinks and waiting for her daughter to return. Her sandy hair was salted white from the falling snow and frosting from middle age. Snow also dusted the red blazer she wore to her realty job. She was short like Veronica but rather than being rail thin she was plump and matronly. They both finished putting the groceries away before Rene spoke up.

“Thanks for the help Veronica.” Veronica just nodded. “I got a few kinds. The two Supreme’s with the reindeer sausage for the boys and a spicy pepperoni for us. Go get us our plates while I change out of my blazer, OK?” She both got their plates and once Rene arrived at the table they ate quietly while the boys carried on. Soon, a break happened in the conversation for Rene to get a word in.

“So, boys, how was the hunting today?” Rene must have known that any trip out into the woods was either short or nonexistent. Jordan gave a noncommittal shrug before Dalton spoke up.

“Didn’t go. Cas came with me and we didn’t want to leave her alone, so we just stayed and hung out. We’re off tomorrow, we’ll probably go out then.” Rene shook her head and sighed.

“We’ll, you better get something soon. Season’s almost at an end and we’ve got almost nothing in the deep freezer. Unless either of you want to go to Fischer’s on your off day to bring me groceries in a blizzard, then maybe you all should get to it, huh?” Now Rob and Jordan both shrugged. Her tone conveyed more irritation and resignation than perhaps she may have meant it too.

“The pizza’s really good.” Cassie spoke up, “thanks for letting us stay for dinner. It feels like we had to save every penny for months now. I almost forgot how good it all was hot.” Rene was much warmer to Cassie than she was to the two boys.

“Thank you Cassie, although your co-workers at College Town deserve the praise more than me. About how much longer is it now?” Cassie swallowed and smiled and placed her hand across her distended belly.

“Six weeks I guess. Maybe two months. The doctor says she’s ahead of schedule. I don’t know if we’re ready though. I’d really like to be off SNAP before she gets here though.” All eyes turned to Dalton who glowered back at Emily for a second before shifting his gaze to his food.

“You know, there’s a lot of options out there. Richard was in the army for years and it was a good life for us. It’s definitely worth considering.” This time, Rene looked just as much at Dalton as she did at Jordan. With both Dalton and Jordan cowed momentarily and nursing wounded pride, Cassie ate quietly. Soon, Dalton and Jordan did pick up a conversation again which allowed Rene and Veronica to talk.

“How was school today?” Rene began. Veronica could see the exhaustion in her eyes and in the lines of her face. Ancient laugh lines with frown lines built over them and crows feet around her eyes. Still, she was pretty. Her fair features were weathered but not eroded by time and stress and dying and death.

“It was fine.” Veronica lied. School had been stressful, it had been exciting for reasons she couldn’t let her mother know, and it had been frustrating for losing her phone. Rene didn’t seem entirely satisfied with such a vague answer, but she nodded.

“Any homework tonight?”

“Yeah.” Veronica answered.

“Well, get it done soon please.”

“I will, right after dinner.” After a short pause, Rene broached a subject Veronica didn’t think she’d bring up, at least not with company, oblivious to their quiet side conversation as they may be.

“How are YOU doing? It’s almost the first Thanksgiving.”

“Mom, I’m fine OK.” Veronica said, the defensive tone obvious to Rene. Still, she didn’t push.

“Alright, if you say you’re fine, that’s OK. But if you do want to talk-”

“Mom, I don’t.” Veronica interrupted. Rene kept talking though, although this time in a slightly sharper tone of annoyance at being cut off.

“- we can call the TAPS councilor any time. You liked Doctor Fleming at the the Veteran Center right? And I really love Doctor Keith, she’s great.”

“I don’t need anyone Mom, I’m OK, I promise.” Veronica said, before changing the subject away from her. “What are we doing for Thanksgiving this year?”

“Dad said you all were welcome to join us at our place.” Dalton interjected. The thought of spending the Holiday with Dalton didn’t particularly appeal to her. It mustn’t to her mother either.

“Thank-you, Dalton, but we’ll probably do it just the three of us.” Dalton gave a noncommittal shrug and went back to eating.

Dinner continued with Cassie and Rene talked about the new baby and what to expect and Dalton and Jordan discussed future hunting trips, bonfires, and what was going on at work. Once Veronica finished, she took her plate to the kitchen and washed it off. “Thanks for dinner mom.” She said.

“You’re welcome Veronica. Get that homework done please.” Veronica nodded and left the noise of the dining room behind her. She shut the door behind her and flopped face first onto her bed. The last thing her depression and grief needed was people reminding her that she was depressed and grieving. Homework was the furthest thing from her mind. All she wanted was to dig into her secret stash under her bed. A pair of pull-ups to take her to another world. A world of simple pleasure and innocence and peace. A world of humid Okinawa. A world of playing with mousy Taylor. A world where they were a family. They took her to a place where she was beloved and idolized, with hundreds of online fans telling her how great she looked and how much they liked her. Even if they didn’t want Veronica as a whole person, they wanted LilBrat, the giggly, cheery LG who loved her fans and posted often.

She could only wallow in her angst for so long before the work ethic instilled in her by her military family upbringing roused her from her cocoon of blankets to get to work, plowing through her Ibsen review. The review was only paragraphs away from finishing before she heard a knock on her door.

“Veronica,” her mom spoke from the other side, “telephone for you, it’s Alex.” Veronica pulled herself from her bed and opened the door, taking the phone from her mother.

“Hello?” Veronica asked. Alex wasn’t one to usually call. They were generally school friends and if they did anything outside, it was Veronica setting it up. Alex was too flighty to really plan events ahead and had too much of a social life to do much with Veronica outside of classes.

“Veronica!” Alex shouted into the receiver, “Oh my god, what’s going on?” Alex was in full on panic mode which meant this was serious. Alex never got serious.

“I don’t know what you mean, what’s up?”

“Veronica, I don’t know how but, you’ve been hacked.” Horror gripped Veronica.

“What do you mean? What’s happening?” She said with a shaking voice.

“Someone’s on your Facebook, their posting all these weird pictures and saying it’s you.” As much as she knew what was happening, Veronica couldn’t believe it. “You,” Alex said shakily, “you need to see for yourself.” Veronica thanked Alex and hung up within five seconds. She then raced to her computer and opened up Facebook.

They were all there. The three pictures from today and dozens of others from before. All from a sock puppet profile with her name that had tagged her in each of them. Her privacy settings were open and so comments were piled up underneath each of the pictures.

“What the fuck!?! SO disgusting!”

“What the Hell is This!”

“Way to share your pictures slut.”

“What a fucking baby, LOL.”

“Your disgusting.”

“I can’t believe you babysat my brother!!! FUCK YOU PERVERT!!!”

“Your a pedofile”

Veronica slammed her computer shut. Her heart was pounding in her throat and she was shaking violently. With no better option, Veronica through herself onto her bed, buried her face in her pillows, and screamed before she started to cry.

Chapter 3

“Veronica dear? What’s wrong?” Rene stood in the doorway looking concerned at her daughter, curled under the sheets in a tight ball.

“I’m sick.” Veronica said as pathetically as she could muster. She hadn’t slept all night. Her anxiety had left her shivering and the dark sleepless circles under her eyes gave an appearance of someone who was unwell.

“OK, I’ll call school then. You just get better alright?” Veronica gave a weak nod. Her mother gave her a look of concern. “I love you Veronica, if you need anything just call me. Jordan will be in the woods all day more than likely. I’ve got to get to work, get better sweet-heart.” She gave a small wave which Veronica returned before Rene left and turned the overhead light off.

As soon as she was gone and the door out of the house closed, Veronica turned on the bedside lap. Panic had held her in it’s grip all night. Thankfully, a life as a diligent student eschewing convenient skip days allowed her to fake sick today and not face any scrutiny. As soon as her mother was gone she pulled open her laptop.

Opening Facebook was an exercise in self-flagellation. The comments kept coming in. All the joy she felt about LilBrat turned to ash as comments on her photos now attacked, humiliated and threatened her. The same photos that had hundreds of likes around the world were now subjecting her to nothing but torment in her real life. She read each comment before closing the laptop and crying again. Once the tears stop coming, she curled up in a ball under the covers.

Dreams came soon after. In her first, she found herself in West Valley High’s main hall wearing nothing but a soaked Pull-Up. One arm wrapped around covering her breasts and the other making a small attempt to cover her sagging shame. They laughed at her and she begged them not to which made them laugh more. There wasn’t much more to the dream than that.

Her second dream during her early morning nap involved her father. They were in the woods somewhere and she could never quite reach him, but she could see him. His face was an unmoving mask of disapproval. Every time she came close, he turned and went further into the woods. She slipped in mud and got tangled in the underbrush but she never reached him. Finally, they came to a lake. She ran to meet him on the banks of it, but he turned without a word and walked under the water. She jumped in after him. She dove with clumsy strokes but never could reach him. He walked along the bottom like he walked upon the land and all she could do was struggle after, she tried to call out and took in a mouth full of warm water.

“Dad!” She sprung up from her nightmare. That’s when she felt the warm water underneath her. “Of all the days to wear a Pull-Up” she thought and surprised her self with a wry hollow chuckle. Her accident wasn’t big. A small, wet circle on the bed no more than a few inches in diameter. Her pants and her pull-over were wet as well and so Veronica stripped both herself and the bed and put everything into the wash. She pulled on a new shirt and before putting on a new pair of pajama pants, she reached under her bed. She pulled out both the used Pull-Up in the Fischer’s sack and a short, wide grey plastic tote. Her under-the-bed-box.

This was where she hid all of her little things. Two pacifiers shoplifted from Wal-Mart a year ago, small stuffed animals that held no deep meaning other than being cute photo accessories and some of her more ‘little’ clothing; cute, cartoony graphic tees that were great for wearing in her pictures but didn’t fit with her regular wardrobe. The centerpieces of the tightly packed collection were three open packs of girls 4T-5T Pull-Ups and 2 open packs of Pampers Size 7. She originally went to choose the newest design, the Frozen ‘Cool-Alert’ ones she had worn yesterday, but then the thought that those were the Pull-Ups that everyone saw here wearing in the photos made her not even want to look at them. Instead, she took another kind of Pull-Up, the glow in the dark kind especially for overnight. They worked better anyway. Being for night wetting they absorbed more so she didn’t have to be as careful with them not leaking.

Any other day, wrapped tight in a Pull-Up she’d feel at peace. Now it was just a reminder of what had happened. Still, while it wasn’t the panacea for her nerves that it usually was, it did get it her to relax enough to do something other than panic. She played on the Xbox One in the living room for a bit. It was technically both her’s and Jordan’s but Jordan monopolized it 90% of the time. She only played about 45 minutes before she got tired playing. She surfed through the television channels but nothing caught her attention. No book or DVD held her eye either. She wanted to open up Facebook. She knew what she’d find but she wanted to see it herself. The hate kept piling up.

“This is going to be the next eight months,” thought Veronica. She was hardly even upset at this point. She’d been pushed head long into a state of numbness. She shut the computer again and fell back on her bed. Surely her absence today confirmed that it was her in the pictures. Had it not been, she could come in and while it might take some convincing she could sway people to the idea that she was hacked and fetish pics were posted. Not everyone would believe, but it may make it possible to go to school again. “Maybe I can drop out, get my GED and go to college early.” She entertained the idea but knew her mother would never go along with it. Not unless she knew why.

She opened her computer again, this time she stayed away from Facebook and went to Tumblr. More reblogs than ever. More positive comments than ever. For the first time it occurred to her that it was a mercy that they only outed her on Facebook and didn’t vandalize her “LilBrat” page or doxx her from it. The comments were hollow now though. Every reblog was reflected back by a hateful post on Facebook. Why couldn’t she be LilBrat? People loved LilBrat. Yet these same pictures were the ones that brought Veronica was misery. She closed her computer again. How could she be two people, one so loved and the other so hated? Two people so different? LilBrat was cheery and fun, she was flirty and posted pictures with stuffed animals. Veronica didn’t really even know what she was any more. Grief, stress, school and Mom and Jordan’s extended war of passive aggression and disappointment had scoured her and left her hollow and ‘LilBrat’ lived inside that hollow shell like a hermit crab. It really didn’t make sense to her.

The day drug on slowly and boredom set in. She did manage to finish up ‘Childhood’s End’ today and started on another one of Dad’s old books, ‘Slaughter House Five.’ She read for a few hours, getting halfway in before breaking for lunch and finishing up the few remaining slices of pizza from last night. The rest of the day was an ebb and flow of doing something to take her mind of Facebook and then being compelled to check her page again. Then panic and depression setting in. Then doing something to relieve the panic and forget about Facebook for as long as she could before she drawn right back in.

The only time Veronica even left the house was when the mail came at 2:15. This days mail was hardly worth tucking her pajama pants into her snow boots to go get. Junk, bills, statements and a package for Mom from 'Scrappy Camper!". Still, no acceptance or rejection letters. At 3:30 Alex called but Veronica didn’t answer. She called again at 3:35 and 4:10 but Veronica didn’t answer and after a last call at 4:45 she stopped trying to call. It gutted her to ignore Alex, potentially her only friend left in the world, but she couldn’t bring herself to face her friend, not even over the phone. Veronica was back in her room, watching the minutes tick by and putting on a sick act as best she could as it came time for her mother to return. Her anxiety tightened it’s hold on her again when the front door opened

Veronica heard her mother make her way though the house, first dropping whatever she’d brought home with her on the kitchen table before hearing her shoes clack down the hall on the way to her bed room, which was right across from Veronica’s. The bathroom fan came on and soon after it went off again. Then came the knock.

“Veronica dear?” When her mother opened the door and peaked her head in Veronica was back in bed curled under the covers. “How are you feeling?” She asked.

“Bad.” Was all Veronica could say. Faking of not, her nerves were conspiring against her and her anxiety was through the roof, she didn’t have to try hard to convince her mom that she was still sickly. Rene Klein let out an ‘aw’ before approaching the bed and sitting down on it beside her daughter.

“No fever.” She reached over and laid her hand on Veronica’s forehead for a moment, and Veronica unintentionally flinched back. Both of them were aware of the awkwardness. They had never been touchy, and with as withdrawn as Veronica had been in the past year, she had gotten worse about it. Touching just made her more aware of the distance that had grown in that time. For a moment, Veronica saw a glimmer of hurt in her mother’s eyes. Rene Klein pulled her hand back,“That’s good,” she said, trying to move past the awkward tension as much as possible. “We can let you stay home another day if you’re still not feeling well in the morning but hopefully you’re on the mend. You must have slept all day, did you not get any of my messages I sent you?”

“Yeah, I mean, No I slept most of the day, sorry mom.” Rene Klein gave another reassuring, but sad smile. She didn’t like lying to her mom, not twice in one day especially, but Veronica could not bring herself to admit losing the phone just yet. Because then she would have to admit everything else. She hated hurting her mother. She hated it most when she hurt her without meaning too. She couldn’t hurt her like this.

“Alright dear.” Rene said in a way that made Veronica wonder whether it really was alright or not. Now she was desperate to change the subject.

“Is Jordan working tonight? He hasn’t been home all day.” Rene noticeably tensed and took a breath before beginning.

“Your brother went out hunting today.”

“Any luck?” Veronica wasn’t fond of moose but she was no more likely to trudge to Fischer’s in a white out blizza

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

Looks like you hit character limit and cut off… On that note, i love what we’ve gotten so far, its very well done. Keep it up.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

Oh wow, I never guessed their would be a limit to how much I could fit in one post. Makes sense I guess, just something I didn’t plan for. Here’s the rest, from a few sentences back on. As I’ll be publishing a chapter each week, then I hope this doesn’t happen again.

“Any luck?” Veronica wasn’t fond of moose but she was no more likely to trudge to Fischer’s in a white out blizzard than anyone else in the family.

“Yeah,” Rene nodded, “the boys got one. Loaded it in Dalton’s truck and took it to the processor in Nenana, they,” at this point Rene took another pause, obviously irritated at whatever was going to come next, “him and Dalton are having a party tonight, so he’s staying over there for the night.” Veronica knew why was frustrated, the parties that Dalton and Jordan had involved them mixing with their coworkers from Fischer’s, or former hockey team mates, or just people they hunted with to get stoned and black out drunk. Being the son of the owner of Fischer Grocery and the assistant manager himself, Dalton could rearrange the schedules to allow for such middle of week celebrations and procure enough alcohol for everyone despite being underage. “But I’m glad you’re doing better, sweet-heart.” Rene Klein lingered. Veronica knew that she wanted to give her daughter a hug or a kiss on the forehead or some display of motherly affection. But she didn’t. She instead put her hand on her daughters knee and gave it a slight shake before standing up and leaving.

“Mom!” Veronica spoke up, her mother turned around, standing in the doorway looking at her daughter. “I-” she began, “I got the mail. You got some scrap book stuff.” Rene smiled.

“Thank you dear, just some stuff to put the finishing touches on your Birthday Book. I know it’s a couple months away, but I want it to be perfect for you.” With that she turned and left and mention of the damn birthday book made Veronica’s self hatred boil hotter. She’d been working on the things since she started scrap booking when they first came to the states and it was going to be a photographic record of eighteen years of her life. It was sweet. Jordan had gotten his two years ago and never opened it. That had really hurt Rene. All that work and he didn’t even care.

Of course, Veronica knew she was doing her own fair share of hurting her mom lately. Of course her mom wanted a hug, but she couldn’t do it. She couldn’t bring herself to say “Thanks,” or “I love you.” She was always her fathers daughter and looking back that must have hurt Rene too. Now neither of them had him anymore. He died alone in the middle of the night, so far away that it was technically the next day when he died. But it felt so close. It still made her feel hollow and less and weak.

She couldn’t let her mom find out about the pictures. It would devastate her that her ‘good’ kid would do something so horrible. Veronica spent the rest of the night in her room, curled up quietly and feeling legitimately sick with herself. It was only after her mother left she realized she had worn a Pull-Up in front of her. Anxiety rotted into dread and further self loathing. Still, she hadn’t been caught. A simple ‘what’s that sound’ would have done her in.

“Maybe it would have just been easier to get caught?” Veronica thought to herself.

She did stay home again the next day. Her mother checked on her but stayed on the opposite side of the room. Veronica had given up checking Facebook. She’d given up checking Tumblr too. For the first time ever, caught in a maelstrom of self loathing and fear, she thought about giving up entirely. It was never a serious thought, but it danced in back of her mind and occasionally whispered the names of others who’d found themselves in her shoes and taken the emergency exit as it were. She clung on though. The idea of her mother losing a husband and a daughter in one year was enough to still any serious thoughts. The last thing she wanted to do was make her mom hurt anymore.

The day proceeded much like the previous day did. Veronica wandered around the house, distracting herself with video games, or movies, or books as long as each held her interest. She knew she couldn’t skip indefinitely but she had no other plan. If her mom found out, would she even let her drop out and get a GED? Or would she force Veronica to live with her mistake? The thing that scared her most, oddly enough, was that her mother would do nothing. That she would become a second Jordan. A second lost cause that her mother loved but had no faith in. For the first time, in some small way, she was relieved that she no longer had her father to answer to.

Her second day of wallowing in self pity ended when she heard the door burst open.

“Veronica!” Jordan shouted from the entry way and she heard heavy, uneven steps pound down the hall to her room. “Veronica!” He shouted again, this time, as he threw her door wide open while she lay buried under pillows and blankets and cuddling tightly with Gypsy Jr. “Veronica, what the fuck have you done?”

“What-” Even if she had the energy or ability to muster a defense on the fly, she was cut off.

“The pictures. A friend showed me them. Jesus Christ what is wrong with you?” Without any effort or expectation of sympathy, Veronica Klein broke down in tears. Of course Jordan would find out, half of his friends from the hockey team still went to West Valley. If the pictures got to them, they’d get to Jordan. He stood dumb founded for several seconds before slightly limping his way across the room to her and taking the bedridden girl in his arms. He hugged her, but Veronica didn’t return the hug. She just sobbed into his shoulder.

“Oh shit,” He muttered over and over and he held his sobbing sister. “Why Ronnie?” The pet name made the hurt all the more painful.

“I don’t know.” It was all she could say through tears. Truly, she didn’t know, why did she want to be a Tumblr Diaper Girl? Why was it so important? She had no idea. Except that it felt good. It felt that someone, hundreds of people actually, liked her and cared about her when no one else seemed to. The trap of being the good kid was you often became the ignored kid. With Rene having her hands full with work and worrying about Jordan and with her father gone, Veronica felt invisible at home. At least people got to see LilBrat.

“You’re not,” her big brother began hesitantly, “you’re not, Jesus I can’t believe I’m asking you this. You’re not into,” he paused for far too long, “you don’t ‘like’ kids do you.” It brought a second wave of sobbing. She’d wept off and on for two days, but now the damn was breaking and 48 hours of pent up shame and fear were bursting through. “No, no, no,” she said over and over again.

“Jesus.” He whispered under his breath and he held the sobbing girl in his arms. He repeated it over and over again. He whispered platitudes about how 'it’s alright" and how everything would ‘be OK’ as he held his sister. Finally, as Veronica’s tears stopped, he began speaking real sentences. “I’m still a legend at West Valley, the hockey team still respects me, I can tell them to keep the pressure off of you. Most should listen. If the team does their friends and girl friends should too. If the most popular people in school are leaving you alone the rest should lose interest given time. I can do this on one condition.”

“Anything,” Veronica choked out, it was an offer too good to be true.

“You need to tell mom.” Veronica’s stomach dropped.

“You can’t be serious?” She questioned.

“Deathly. This is going to get to her eventually anyway. She will find out. So if you don’t tell her tonight, then I will tomorrow. It would be best if she heard it from you though.”

“No Jordan, please. I can’t.” Veronica pleaded.

“Then I will,” he responded coolly. “You made a mistake Veronica, now you get to see what it’s like to face the consequences.” With that, he left the room and closed the door behind him. Soon after she heard the Xbox One turn on and soon the sounds of Call of Duty boomed down the hall. Veronica tossed herself on the bed and tunneled deep into the sheets, fighting the urge to cry another time today. She lost the fight and eventually fell into a shallow sleep.

It was late when Veronica woke up. Jordan had already left for work. It was four now, mom would be home in a little over an hour. Fear twisted inside of her, each minute another turn of the screw. She had to tell her. Jordan was right, it would be worse coming from anyone else. She tried to imagine what school would be like but every vision was worse than the last. She really had ruined her life, she thought. The Pull-Ups that made her feel all sorts of wonderful things had been bought with money from allowance for chores and sporadic babysitting work for people on their street. That babysitting work was sure to dry up once the rumors and pictures spread further.

Finally, she heard the door open. It was her mother. Tonight she made straight for Veronica’s room. She didn’t come close this time either. Veronica hated herself for it. As much as Rene wanted to hug Veronica, she wanted to be held just as much but she couldn’t tell her mother. It would be to awkward. So she just had to live with the gulf between them.

“How you feeling?” Her mother asked, tired eyes full of concern and something Veronica couldn’t place.

“Better.” Veronica said. In the hours that had passed, she’d come up with a plan, a plan that may keep her from having to tell her mother about what happened. A plan to save her mother the hurt of knowing how awful her daughter was.

“Really?” Rene sounded happy.

“Yeah, I think I’m OK for school tomorrow.”

“That’s good to hear dear.” After an awkward pause, Rene said, “well, I guess I need to work on your Birthday Book,” and she excused herself. Veronica didn’t want to go tomorrow, she dreaded it as much as she had anything, but if she could get through the teasing tomorrow, then there would be no need to tell her mother. If she could get through tomorrow, she would be fine.

Chapter 4

The hush arrived first when Veronica showed up at the bus stop. A few kids had been waiting but and talking among themselves but everyone went quiet when she walked up. Their silence was ominous and oppressive. She pulled her 3DS from one of the huge pockets of the N-3B and locked her eyes on the screens. They began talking again, but it was stilted and awkward. They all knew. Everyone knew.

A second hush came when she walked onto the bus. Everyone was primed, but no one was striking the first blow. The bus returned to normal faster than the bus stop had. Veronica kept her eyes locked on her game and blocked out the whispering as best she could.

At school, there was no hush. The small girl in the huge coat was able to slip in mostly unnoticed. When she opened her locker she knew what the tone for the day would be. It had been emptied and refilled and a loose stack of Pampers newborn diapers to fell out of the locker and down at her feet. Veronica felt her face getting hot but kept her cool, emotionless mask the best she could as the hall broke into laughter. She simply gathered them up, and tossed them in a nearby trashcan. Seeing as her book for World History had been among the things taken, she proceeded to her first class without it.

History, both American and World, were taught by the same man. Mr. Dobbs has a short, thin man who was frequently bullied by his own students. Tests could get pushed back days or made open book and homework checked at the end of class if only the class begged hard enough. He was called “Dad-Joke-Dobbs”, mockingly by most, for his sense of humor that he insisted on injecting into his lessons. They were still only in the medieval period and so, on the board today he had written, “Who officiated the game between Trier and Cologne? The Holy Roman Umpire!” She crept in as quiet as she could manage. This was going to be one of the harder classes for the day.

The reason why soon sauntered into the room, Emily Duke. Emily sat at the desk besides hers and if anyone was going to take the opportunity to humiliate her, it would be Emily. She broke into a predatory grin upon seeing Veronica, the look in her eyes was equally carnivorous. For the first fifteen minutes of class, Emily did nothing. Role was taken, homework was passed in and Dad-Joke-Dobbs began his lecture with the usual mix of history with flailing attempts at humor. Only once Veronica thought that Emily might not attack on her own, did she make her move.

“Mr. Dobbs!” She shouted, as she began gathering up all her books and back pack, “I can’t sit next to Veronica. She smells like pee.” Emily, without waiting for permission or response, got up and walked across the room and took a seat at a desk on the far side. The class was silent. Mr. Dobbs just gawped for a moment. Veronica felt like she’d been struck, and blushed a deep crimson. The long awkward pause was a battle of nerves. Veronica, clearly embarrassed wanted Mr. Dobbs to say something, to punish Emily in someway. Emily, for her part, stared down the teacher, daring him to speak up.

“Oh, um,” Mr. Dobbs swallowed, his already ample adams apple bobbing in his throat. “OK then I guess.” His nature won out. He wasn’t a bad man, just a weak one. If he was easily bullied into changing tests or skipping homework, then what chance was there he’d stand up in such a strange situation. He went back to his lecture and Veronica lay her head in her arms on the desk. She burned from the inside, she wanted to say something back but how could she defend herself? They were her pictures. She had nothing to dispute them, if anything her absence for two days more than confirmed that the girl in the pictures was her, even if in every one of her LilBrat pictures, on the phone or online, you couldn’t see her face. She fought to keep from breaking out in tears again. She’d done too much of that for comfort though lately. She wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

The rest of the class continued, Mr. Dobbs proceeding as if everything was normal even though the whole class’ attention had been lost after the conspicuous disruption. Veronica slouched from her chair toward the exit when the bell rang. Emily was already outside and standing beside the two people who could make this event even worse. Kim Chandler stood there in her pink snow jacket and skinny jeans, with the same evil look that Emily had. Behind them was Taylor. That’s when Veronica knew.

“Oh, hi little girl!” Kim mockingly cooed at her. Kim took one of Veronica’s hands in hers and Emily sidled beside Veronica and took the other. She squirmed but was unable to pull away from them. Both squeezed harder as a result, their nails digging deep into Veronica’s palms. “We wouldn’t want such a little girl to get lost on her way to class now would we,” Kim sing-songingly intoned. Veronica wanted to say something, she wanted to shout for help in the crowded all, but she didn’t. All eyes were on them, if they weren’t helping now, then they wouldn’t help if she called out. She tried to put back on her mask of indifference. Taylor silently flanked them as Emily and Kim pulled Veronica down the hallway.

“The little thing’s shy.” Emily cooed.

“Not shy enough to not be sending out all those naughty pictures though” Kim said with a laugh. “That was a very bad thing for little girls to do,” Kim adopted a tone of mock solemnity, “what if someone saw all those photos? That would be bad, wouldn’t it?”

“Good thing wittle Verwonica has three big sisters to watch out for her,” Emily said. Veronica kept her head down. No one helped. No on stepped up to stop them. Emily and Kim spoke loudly enough so that everyone in the hall could hear, but no one defended her. Some couldn’t believe what they were seeing and watched stunned, others laughed. Most just pretended not to see.

“Here we are!” Kim chimed when they reached Veronica’s English IV class. “Now you be a good little girl in class today. Ask Taylor for help with any hard words, or if you need someone to help take you to the potty. Bye bye now.” Kim and Emily both broke their talon grip on her hands and knelt down in front of her, making waving ‘bye-bye’ to her like they might a real baby. “Come on, wave bye-bye little girl!” Kim encouraged before she and Emily both started to laugh.

“Such a shy baby!” Kim reached out and pinched Veronica’s cheek hard. “See you after class cutie!” With that, they turned and waved ‘bye-bye’ over their shoulder, cackling the full way. Taylor brushed past her as she stood shell shocked at the door to her English IV class. She didn’t even look at her. She’d been silent the whole trip. It took all she had to walk into the English class, sit down, and answer the teacher that she was ‘doing fine today.’

The flames of embarrassment gave way to those of anger as the class progressed. It was Taylor. Hateful-Taylor that knew her birthday. Taylor was the only person who could have guessed 1-1-9-8 in such a short amount of time. Hateful-Taylor. Her phone must have been knocked out of her pocket when Emily body checked her trying to leave the bathroom. She’d been so embarrassed and in such a rush to escape, she didn’t even here the phone smack the tile floor. One of them picked it up and after a few hours, Taylor suggested trying Veronica’s birthday. It had to be her. There was no way it could be anyone else. Now, she wouldn’t even look at Veronica. Class ended and Taylor walked by her desk on the way out. In front of Veronica’s desk, she dropped a tightly folded piece of paper. A note. Veronica picked it up and stayed at her desk long enough for everyone to leave so she could read it. She wasn’t sure what she’d find. Blackmail? Threats? Confession? The note just read ‘I’m sorry.’

“Sorry?” Thought Veronica, she thought sorry was enough? She was fuming now. She stayed until the next class started filling up the room. If she saw Taylor, even if Emily and Kim were with her, she wasn’t sure what she would do. “Damn her.” Veronica swore to herself, Taylor’s note was so ambiguous that even if she took it to the principal then it still wasn’t a confession of anything. It was just enough to let Veronica know that Taylor was behind everything, but not enough to get her in trouble. Even if it was, going to the principal meant confessing as to why all of sudden diapers were getting stuffed in her locker and Kim, Emily, and Taylor were treating her like a toddler in the halls. Veronica finally left. She had waited out Kim and Emily who’d obviously grown sick of waiting. “They’ve got six months to torture me,” Veronica thought, “what’s the rush?” Her next class was thankfully free of any member of the Bitch Clique.

It had warmed up at lunchtime so the circle was forming up outside. Veronica didn’t know what sort of reception she might face there, but it had to be better than what she would face inside, even if she sat the whole period in the bathroom, the Bitch Clique would be on the hunt for her. At least outside she might be safe. Alex would be there and Veronica could finally talk with her. She didn’t know what she would say. Alex hadn’t called again since Wednesday afternoon. She didn’t even know if Alex wanted to talk to her, maybe she had turned on her too?

Everyone stopped talking when Veronica came outside and slouched down the wall. Alex was clinging beside Benji and whispered something to him. He shook his head.

“Please.” She begged him, he shrugged her off and tossed the hackey sack up in the air. It happened so fast, she didn’t have a second to notice or move, and the cloth bag whizzed at her face. She flinched and the sack thudded off the glass wall, barely an inch beside her face. All eyes were again on her, only Alex looked away.

“What do you think you’re doing out here?” Benji thundered at her, all Veronica could do was try and formulate a sentence before he cut her off, “you’re not welcome out here anymore. This is your warning. You don’t want to know what will happen if I find out you’ve been around any kids, I won’t wait for the police!” He was screaming at her now, the crowd in the the circle and the hangers on along the wall all muttering their approval. “You’re lucky I didn’t call the cops on you after I saw what you did! This is getting off easy. So get your shit, and go away!” He spat. Veronica didn’t move for a moment and that was all it took to get a second hackey sack shot in her direction, this one thumping the glass on the other side of her head. “Get out of here you crazy bitch!” Without a word Veronica gathered all her stuff in her arms and walked straight into the nurses office.

“I’m sick,” she told the nurse, “I need to leave.” She lay curled up in the nurses office for forty five minutes until her mom arrived.

“Still feeling rough?” Veronica just nodded, “lets go dear, maybe you’ll be better Monday.” Veronica was quiet all of the way home. Her mother made little attempt at small talk. “Let’s get you inside and back to bed. You need anything?” She asked as they pulled into the garage. Veronica just shook her head. "Alright dear, I took the whole day off just in case you need any help, let me plug the car back in and I’ll be inside in a second. Broken by the day, Veronica could only nod and she lurched her way inside. Even before she opened the door, she heard Call of Duty being played in the living room. Inside, Jordan sat on the couch, eyes locked on the television.

“You didn’t tell her, did you?”

“Jordan please, not after today!” Veronica begged.

“No. This has to happen. You can’t keep pretending to be sick forever. You can stay in here and tell her yourself, or I can. Either way, mom is finding out, and now.” Finally, after a day of holding everything back, of wearing a mask of indifference and of being utterly, emotionally broken; her simmering anger boiled over.

“You’re really enjoying this aren’t you?” She said through gritted teeth, as coolly as her rage allowed her.

“Oh yeah, my sister took fetish pictures for strangers and now they’re all over the internet and I don’t even know who did it so I can kick their ass. I’m just thrilled sis.” His voice had the same sharpness hers did. He kept his eyes on the screen, mowing down enemies on autopilot.

“Fuck you!” She snapped, “you know what I mean. You’re making me do this so you can be the ‘Good One’, so mom will think I’m the screw up and not her lazy, partying, drop-out son who lives on her couch and plays Call-of-Duty with his equally awful friend all day!” She shouted at him.

“What on earth is going on in here? Jordan? Veronica?” Rene Klein opened the front door just in time to here the end of Veronica’s outburst. Jordan paused and looked at Veronica for the first time. Just stared at her, the warning implicit that it was her last chance.

“Mom,” Veronica started, her voice tremulous from nerves and her screaming, “Mom, I,” she could barely get her words out, “I lost my phone.”

“Well it’s nothing to fight with your brother about. I’m sure it will turn up.”

“Actually,” Jordan spoke, “that’s not what she really needs to tell you.” For a moment, they were all quiet, Jordan and Rene’s eyes locked on an increasingly shaking, anxious Veronica.

“Well, what is it dear?” Rene asked. Her concern was obvious, it would have been apparent to anyone that a lost phone was the least of her daughter’s problems.

“Actually, I didn’t- I didn’t lose it. It was stolen and I-” Veronica’s nerves were shaking her to pieces, and her voice trembled as much as she did. “Actually it might be better if I show you.” With tunnel vision and heavy, shaky steps Veronica walked the long hall to her room, Rene followed close behind. Jordan stayed in the living room, whether he was pleased with himself, surprised she’d done it on her own or regretting that he couldn’t out her himself, Veronica couldn’t tell. It could be all three. Still, he didn’t go back to playing his game. He was listening. Rene sat down beside her daughter on the bed and Veronica took out her lap top and opened two tabs. If she was going to come clean, she was going to come clean about everything.

Rene’s initial reaction was shock and horror. Veronica couldn’t tell what it was after that, likely a mix of those along with anger, disgust, and confusion. Hurt had to be there too. The comments were right there for her to see, all those negative, hateful things that random people were saying about her daughter on Facebook along with all the dozens of pictures and the hundreds of positive and suggestive comments and posts on her Tumblr.

Finally she closed the laptop, shut her eyes and took a few breaths. her mother had a great deal of difficulty starting. Every hesitation, every hurt look, were knives through Veronica . “Why? Where did I go wrong?”

“You didn’t.”

“I had too have.” Her mother’s voice was cracking. “This isn’t what normal people do. Why Veronica? I just don’t, I just,” she stopped for a minute, composing herself before her voice broke entirely, “help me understand this.”

“I’m…” Veroncia steeled the battered remnants of her nerves for an admission she hoped she’d never have to make, “I’m a,” she nearly whispered the next part, “a Teen Baby.”

“And what on earth is that?”

“I don’t know, I just,” she was beginning to get flustered with herself again, “I just, I like-” the d-word hung on the tip of her tongue and she had to force it out, “I like diapers, and I don’t know why, I just do. They make me feel safe and good and they’re comfortable. I can’t explain it, OK?” There is was, all out in the open. Rene didn’t scream, she didn’t shout, she barely cried. With nothing left to hide, for the first time since the photos leaked, Veronica felt some degree of peace, uneasy though it may be.

“So,” Rene started again after waiting nearly a full minute to process and compose herself, “you don’t like kids, do you? That’s not what this is about?” That stinging question again.

“No, it’s about wanting to be little again, I guess. Like, you want to go back to a time that was peaceful and calm and everything was fine. You just want someone to love you and take care of you It’s not a kid thing like that at all.”

“So, it’s about being a kid again? Do I understand that right, and you do it with,” she paused and just shuck her head, “you do it with diapers of all things? Just, I don’t understand any of this? I can get connecting with your inner child, dear. You still sleep with a stuffed animal and watch those Japanese cartoons. But this is, it’s, it’s more than I can deal with right now.” She said getting up from the bed.

“We can talk tomorrow Veronica,” and then she said the worst words a parent could say, “I’m not mad, I’m just- well, I’m disappointed. I really didn’t expect this from you. I just, I need some time to think. But we will have a conversation tomorrow. In the meantime, I think I need to have your computer for a while.” As much as she didn’t want to give it up, Veronica accepted Rene’s request without argument and unplugged her laptop and handed it to her mother.

“Just-” Veronica spoke up as her mom started to leave, “please, just do some research? Look up stuff? There’s thousands, maybe millions of people like me, just, just please try to understand.” Rene stood still for a moment, considering her daughters plea.

“I was going to look this up anyway, but,” she paused, “as much as I don’t understand, I’ll try. That’s all I can promise. We’ll talk more tomorrow.”

Veronica spent the rest of the day in her room decompressing from the whole, anxiety inducing experience. The loss of her lap top made any computer gaming, internet, or DVDs out of the question, but she still had her 3DS and she still had her books and she finished ‘Slaughter-House’ off. It was a strange book, it had been one of her dads favorites and it fit incongruously with her view of him. He was a career Army IT guy. with a happy family and one of his favorite books had a noticeable anti-war vibe to it and was about a fatalistic man with a dull, safe life in a small town. It made her uncomfortable because it forced her to wonder if he just liked it because it was funny or if her father saw any of himself in Billy Pilgrim? She wondered what she knew and what she only thought she knew. She didn’t want to read anymore of her dad’s books for now, and started reading one of hers instead.

That night, she had a familiar dream. It didn’t come often, just often enough that she knew it. All the talk about wearing diapers and finally opening up to someone about it must have triggered it. She may or may not have been 12 yet. It was back at Camp Shelby in Mississippi, the last stop before Fairbanks. She had hated Shelby more than she did Fairbanks. It was early. Dad hadn’t woken her up yet. He always did. He had to be at post at 5 but he always woke up at 3:45 just in case she needed him. He woke up early to help her either make it to the bathroom or give a kind word, shoulder to cry on and a new pair of Goodnites if she woke up wet. She’d started wetting ever since they left Torii. By the time they reached Shelby she’d lived in five places in two years.

She lay in bed alone, waiting for her father. She was wet and could get a new Goodnite on her own, but she liked the ritual, the closeness. She slid a hand down to feel how wet she was and felt something a gentle heat. Instead of cool dampness she felt a fire start to burn inside her as she continued squeezing and started to grind herself against her hand first, then rolled over and pressed against the bed. Soft moans proceeded a squeal of release. She wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, but knew it was the Goodnite and knew she wanted to be in them forever.

It was about 2:30 in the morning when Veronica woke up, groaning that she hadn’t only wet in the dream. All the same stress that had caused her to have it, had given her two legitimate accidents in three days. She changed out of her pajamas and as she started to get some new underwear, she paused. She knew what underwear she wanted. She pulled out the under-the-bed-box and muttered quiet thanks to herself that she hadn’t went with her first plan to show her mother it. Had she done that, she may not have her stash anymore. She opened up and stepped into one of the Night-Time Pull-Ups and slid them up her waist before getting one of the cute ‘LilBrat’ shirts, a ‘My Little Pony’ shirt from the kids section, that was neatly folded underneath the loose packages of diapers and Pull-Ups and putting it on.

Veronica sat in the laundry room on the washing machine while her sheets and bedding were being washed, playing her 3DS in her cute shirt and with her beloved Pull-Ups on underneath thick, warm pajama pants. She barely focused on the game, too much was on her mind. Taylor, Alex, Jordan, her mother, Dad, going back to school on Monday; all these doubts and fears fought for prominence at any one time. But a quietude was there that hadn’t existed previously. She was out. There was no changing it. No going back. Strangely, that gave her some peace.

There was a knock at the door. She should have known, the laundry room was right across from Jordan’s room.

“Hey.” He said, yawning. She wasn’t sure whether she woke him or he hadn’t been to bed yet. Either way, she didn’t want to talk to her brother, and ignored him, keeping her eyes on the screens. “I, uh,” he had a hard time finding what words to use, “I didn’t expect you to tell her. I thought I’d have to. That uh, that took guts.” She paused the game and looked up at him. “I called Peter and he’s going to tell the guys to leave you alone. Word will get around this weekend, Monday should be better.” While Veronica didn’t enjoy that her crush of three and half years had seen her pictures along with everyone else, she was glad for him telling his team mates to leave her be. He really didn’t have to, and he might be ignored or the team might turn on him, but he did. She allowed herself to feel a modicum of forgiveness towards her brother. “Yeah well, it had to be done and like I said, it took guts to do it the way you did. I don’t know if I’m proud all things considered, but, yeah, guts. Well, good night Ronnie.” He said on his way out.

“You too.” she said. She wasn’t sure if he smiled or not. He closed the laundry room door and she went back to playing her game. She hadn’t forgiven Jordan entirely, but he had moved down a few spots on her list of people she was the most mad at.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

Is there going to be any more of this coming?

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

Yes there is, Chapter 4 seemed like a good minimum to post at though. I didn’t post my update schedule on here like I did on DD. My goal is a new chapter, written edited, and checked for consistency every Friday. The only exception I see to that is this coming Friday. I’ll be having a minor surgery on Wednesday and whether or not it involves a hospital stay and how much pain I’m in/how loopy from pain killers I am will affect my ability to produce content. I’m trying to start chapter 5 this morning so I may get it out, but no firm promises.

Depending on how closely I stick to the outline, the story is only a fifth of the way done. Chapter 5 should be worth waiting for though, Veronica may think she has the answers, but no good writer would give away the plot at chapter 4. There’s more to this, to Taylor and to everyone else than is apparently obvious…

And that’s all I’ll say for now. :-X

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

Wow, this is extremely well-written and thought out. I really love the believability of this story, and although it is triggering, I like how it acknowledges a lot of the negative stigma we have to go through being in this community. I have never rooted for an abdl character more

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

This story is legitimately scary.

Bogeymen don’t scare me because they don’t exist. This could actually happen to me and the possibility is a terrible thought.

That said, keep going. I’m interested, this is really well done.

1 Like

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

This is one of the best stories I’ve read here in a while. It feels fresh and shows so much potential. It has the right family dynamic (Rene tries and is knowledgeable of the limits in her relationships, Jordan seems like he’s going to be growing up at some point), possibly friendship (assuming Alex comes around), and it has some great bullies. I think bullies (how they tease, what they do, etc.) can make or break a high school setting ABDL story. I nails the realism, at least as far as The Outsiders does; it gives me the same feeling when I read it.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

As someone with a more paranoid disposition, I have imagined many hypothetical “outing” scenarios in my own life, and I must say that you do a very thorough job of hitting the main points of the more negative possible outcomes. There where times when I was reading your first 4 chapters where I felt so bad for poor Veronica that I could hardly bear to keep reading, but your characters are all so compelling that I just HAD to see how it all played out. This story is very good, as the other comments have attested, and I’m sure that no matter how it ends, the other chapters will be done just as skilfully as these first few. Thank you, and I eagerly await your next update.

That being said, as for specifics, I’d like to see whether Taylor’s character gets explored a little more: that scene where she left the note shows us that she isn’t utterly heartless, and I’d like to see where that goes as the plot progresses.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

Just chiming in to say that Chapter 5 will NOT be up by Friday. I’ve done some work on the outline to make established character direction flow more naturally. Expect a big surprise in Chapter 5 is all I can say. Between work, having to retool, stress and going in for surgery tomorrow, it’s a safe bet Chapter 5 will be published next Friday. Expect more of Rene being a (to qoute a destable person from the Klein’s adopted home state)’ Momma Grizzly for her daughter, a revelation about Taylor and don’t think I’ve name dropped Peter Bonham in the last chapter for no reason. :wink:

On a positive note, thank you all very much for the positive and wonderful comments. I confess, I might need to hang around the Bitch Clique for a bit in order to shrink my head. I’m glad everyone seems to be enjoying this.

PS. I litter any of my work with Easter Eggs and meaningful names. Metaphorical points if you can pick any out.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 5,6 added 6/27

So I thought having surgery would lay me out and I wouldn’t feel like doing anything. That lasted a day. Then my thought process shifted to "I’m stuck in the house and have to do SOMETHING. So I wrote and pounded out two chapters in two days. These were originally supposed to be one chapter but Chapter 5 really grew into it’s own and had to be separated.

Author’s note. I made a mistake in the first draft when I called Dalton’s girlfriend Emily. That was her name in the first draft, before I’d named one of the lead antagonists Emily. Her name was Cassie in the second draft so the first four chapters have been corrected and that’s what it is going forward.

Chapter 5

Going out to Nenana on a 22 degree day when another few inches of snow had piled up wouldn’t normally be high on Veronica Klein’s to do list. Still, after her long talk with her mother the house wasn’t exactly a place she wanted to be right now. Jordan had knocked on her door around noon. Dalton was working so he needed another pair of hands to get the processed moose meat back to the house. Veronica originally informed her brother that going out to Nenana was the only thing less enjoyable than hanging out at the house, until Jordan mentioned that he thought they could swing by either Wal-Mart or the Verizon store on the way back and get her a new phone. As part of mom laying down the new law, she’d informed her daughter that any new phone that Veronica expected her mother to pay for would be as basic as humanly possible, with no internet or camera preferably. And so, Veronica put on her long johns, jeans, snow boots, a shirt, sweater, gloves, hat and her N-3B and ventured out with her big brother.

Nenana is the type of town common in the interior, so small you wouldn’t even recognize it as a much of town if not for the houses seeming slightly closer together, a small industrial waterfront on the Chena river, a post office and a bush plane runway. The road most of the way was a set a parallel lines in the snow. The sky spat snow the whole way and the sky was iron gray. They didn’t speak much most of the way there. Veronica had brought her newer book. It had been one of Alex’s from before, Veronica guessed from when they were still friends. She’d begged her to read ‘Hunger Games’ but there were always so many others at the front of her list. So many things her dad was handing her or books she felt she had to read to be seen as smart or just for the sake of having read. Reading ‘Hunger Games’ seemed like honoring a dead promise, but for some reason, Veronica felt it was finally time to crack the books spine.

“So,” Jordan asked 40 minutes into the drive, “Mom really let you have it huh?” Veronica put the book on the dashboard of Jordan’s pick up.

“I guess.” She shrugged. “No computer until I turn 18. She’s not paying for my phone unless it’s as old as I am. I have to delete my blog.” She reflected for a moment, “I guess I got off easier than I thought I would. She’s not making me throw anything out. I don’t know how comfortable she is, but she’s trying. The hardest part is that ‘I’m disappointed’ stuff, its her tone and it’s her eyes.”

“She really does have a gift for making you feel terrible with no effort at all doesn’t she?”

“Tell me about it. Moms.” She rolled her eyes. “She’s making me go to counseling too. Already has an appointment scheduled.”

“Well, all things considered, I can see where maybe talking to someone would help, can’t you?”

“Not really, if everyone thinks I’m depressed all the time as it is, why do they think me going and talking to a stranger about it for an hour every other week is going to make it better?”

“Every other week?”

“Yeah, she’s really serious about it. Say’s she’s trying her hardest to compromise and be comfortable with me on my thing, least I could do is compromise with her.”

“That’s better than I thought it would go I guess. Good to see you finally got to cash in all those brownie points you built up over the years.” He smirked. “No way I’d get away with something like that. Mom wouldn’t have to take me out to the processor, she’d skin me herself.” His laugh was tinged with bitterness. So much so that all Veronica could offer back was a polite smile of acknowledgment.

“Sounds like justice was done. I agree with her on one thing, that blog had to go.”

“Don’t you lecture me about it now too.” She said with a little more snap than she meant.

“OK, OK, I’ve been on the side of things you’re on more than enough. I’m piling on, I know. You heard it all from mom, I was just, oh fuck me, I don’t know what I was just doing. So used to everyone coming at me and all saying the same thing and expecting me to here them out and apologize over and over. I know I hate it. Fine, I’ll drop it, I’ll shut up, I promise.” Jordan could only be held to his word for so long, because he started back up again once the crossed the bridge over the Chena and into Nenana.

“You’re welcome by the way.” He said with a sly smile.

“For what?” She questioned.

“For not telling mom I caught you doing laundry last night.” Veronica furiously blushed.

“It wasn’t what you think.” She protested but her red cheeks gave her away.

“I think it was exactly what I think it was. New shirt, new pants and waiting on the laundry?” He thought about it for a minute, “that’s not what this is really about is it? I mean, you didn’t make up that whole wanting to be little thing just to cover that you started wetting the bed again is it?”

“Can we really not talk about this, please? The little thing is real, OK, I like feeling and acting little. It’s relaxing, it’s exciting, it’s just- why am I even talking about this with you? No it was an accident. Just an accident. Can we please talk about something other than what I like wearing for underwear, please?” Both of them were thoroughly uncomfortable with the topic at this point and were mostly quiet the rest of the way to the processor.

The processor was a middle aged Yupik man and he ran the shop with two of his sons. While the older man’s face was windblown and weathered and actually lacked part of an earlobe due to frost bite; his sons, especially his younger one, were quite handsome. The two sons and Jordan loaded the huge amount of meat in the bed of the truck, Jordan paid, and back on the hour and twenty minute drive to Fairbanks they went. Along the way back, Jordan got talky again.

“So, you said your phone got stolen. We’ll get it turned off when we’re looking for you a new phone at the Verizon store. Do you have any idea who took it? I was doing some research, under age or not, what they did was a crime. If you know who it is, you might want to come forward.”

“I don’t want the cops involved, it’s done. The pictures are out there and Mom’s threatening to come to school Monday to make a federal case out of it as it is.”

“Still, cops or not, I’d like to get my hands on the creep going around in your phone and spreading those messages out.”

“It wasn’t just some creep it was-” she said before she had time to think.

“Oh yeah? Who, whats his name? Maybe Dalton and I can at least put some fear in him so this doesn’t happen again.”

“It wasn’t,” Veronica sighed, “it wasn’t a he.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah, it was, you remember Taylor McNamara? Her parents were posted at Okinawa when we were kids.”

“Oh man, I hadn’t thought of her in years. She was, what, a sophomore when I graduated? Just moved halfway in the school year right? Wait, are saying?”

“The phone was locked with my birthday. Taylor’s been to enough birthday parties to know it. Plus she was one of the ones making fun of me, it has to be her.”

“Those were years ago, Ronnie? Couldn’t it be someone else?” He reasoned.

“No, she, she confessed. Kind of, nothing obvious. She just gave me a note that said sorry.”

“Shit. You’ve got to tell mom. She’s taken it as well as she could so far, but when she hears it was someone you knew, then she’ll-”

“And that’s why we aren’t telling her. OK? There’s just a note that says ‘sorry’, it’s just enough to let me know but not enough to get caught, and if I accuse Taylor than school becomes a million times worse. It has to stay between us, deal?”

“Yeah, sure, deal.” Jordan said with audible reservation. Back in Fairbanks, Veronica found and upgraded to a new model Samsung Galaxy. It would just have to come out of her college fund. Still, with her GI Bill, scholarships abound, her top 10% in the school standing and a great SAT score, those acceptance letters would start flowing in and free or partial rides would be offered. She could splurge on a good phone and still have money for a car once she got to where ever she ended up. Only on the way home, did she finally think to ask a question that she’d been trying to find a good way to phrase all the way back from Nenana.

“Why are you being so nice all of a sudden? Yesterday you acted like you hated me, but today, you’re palling around with me, taking me out, taking me to get a new phone. What happened in the last 24 hours that you’re not being such a jerk anymore?”

“I never acted like I hated you. I mean, were brother and sister we fight, you know?” Veronica wasn’t satisfied.

“No I don’t, it’s been this total 180 from when I got home, and then you were cool last night and you’re acting all cool with everything today. Why?”

“Look, at first, I, look can we talk honest with no hard feelings afterwards?” She nodded, unprepared for what was coming next. “I guess you were right. I did want Mom to be mad at someone else for once. You don’t realize because you can’t see yourself from the outside, that sometimes you can be just as awful as you think I am. Like, take the way you look at Dalton. He’s never been anything but nice to you, and you judge him. You look down on him. I know you do on me too. You said so yourself when you blew up at me. You think I like what I’ve become? You think I wanted to live at home on a couch?”

“When my knee got fucked, that was the end. I’d just wanted so bad to play hockey and if I got to play it at college, then that was great too. Now I can’t. I can’t join the army like Dad did because my knee doesn’t work. What options do I have? I’ve got no degree. I can go work on a boat or on an oil field and wreck my body even more? Or, I can stay home, work with my best friend, and one day help him run the store. You and mom both look at me like shit because I dropped out. Well, Dad dying didn’t just hurt you and mom. Just like you started that blog, I made dumb choices too. And I’m paying for them, every day with every look from mom. I wanted to see you taken down a peg.”

“And then, when you were, when you stood there crying and shaking and faced down everything anyway. I realized I didn’t want to see you knocked down anymore. For as moody, arrogant and judgmental as you could be, I didn’t want to see my little sister hurt. I wanted to protect you. Is that enough? Even after all that bad, are we cool?” It was a lot to take in and she was quiet most of the way home. She didn’t open her book or pull out her 3DS. She just thought quietly about all he had to say.

“You think I’m really a bitch?” She asked quietly as they turned off the main road and onto their street.

“Jesus, Veronica, I thought we could talk about this without hard feelings? Yeah, sometimes you can. Sometimes I can be all the bad things you say I am.”

“Thanks for the phone.” Veronica said coolly as she got out of the car. Jordan shook his head, as irritated with himself as he was with Veronica for not handling criticism. To be fair, Veronica was also irritated from the conversation. If it all hadn’t rung so true to her, then she wouldn’t be as upset as she was. But after a day of treating her great and making her feel like his sister again for the first time since they started drifting apart years ago, he had to cap it with telling her how awful she was. As if she needed more people doing that.

Back inside, Veronica’s glasses fogged over as she began the process of undressing. The living room and dining room were empty. That meant Mom must still be in her room. She’d cloistered herself there after her and Veronica’s ‘talk’ earlier and had probably spent the day working on scrap books, not even just for Veronica and her big Birthday Book, but she made them as a side source of income for other people too, coworkers mostly. Veronica grabbed a soda from the fridge and headed back to her room. Maybe some time alone would let her cool off and accept what Jordan was inartfully trying to say.

“Veronica? Is that you?” Her mother called, the door to her room was open. “Come in here for a moment please.” Veronica sighed at the prospect of a third lecture today.

“Yeah?” She stood in the door way while her mother sat at her desk, covered so thickly and messily with albums, paper, scissors, stickers and photos that the desk beneath could only be seen in a few places. She was still in her pajamas and hadn’t done her hair, opting instead for a ponytail.

“How was the trip?” Veronica just shrugged.

“OK, I guess.” At least until the end.

"That’s good, you got a letter today. Her mother had kept a neutral expression for as long as she could. She rifled around the loose paper on her desk and handed Veronica an envelope reading ‘Stanford University, Department of Admissions.’ Veronica tore into the letter, ripping wildly at the envelope as quickly as she could. “Careful please, I want to save that for the book!” Her mom protested, but it was of no use. The letter was out before she finished.

“Dear Veronica Klein, it is our pleasure to inform you that…” Veronica didn’t need to read more, her bitterness about Jordan’s criticism was washed away and she broke into an ear to ear grin and let out a bit of a cheer. One acceptance down, a few more letters to go.

“That’s not the only one dear, you got another, but please, open it more slowly this time.” Rene handed Veronica a second. This one read, “University of Alaska, Fairbanks; Department of Admissions.” Veronica did take her time on this one, slipping the note gently from the envelope.

“Dear Veronica Klein, we are pleased to inform you…” She was still so giddy over Stanford that being accepted by her last chance fallback was an afterthought.

“I’m proud of you dear.” Rene stood up from her chair and hugged her daughter. Maybe it was her excitement, but she didn’t push her mother away. “I just wish you weren’t going to be going so far away,” she said with a bit of sadness in her voice. Rene Klein knew that even though U of A accepted Veronica, there was no chance Veronica was going to go. Her daughter had said as much herself. Still, she was happy for her child. For Veronica, getting out of Fairbanks meant more than getting out freezing in the winter and boiling in the summer at the far end of civilization, it now meant that she would never have to see anyone from West Valley again. No more Kim, no more Emily, no more Taylor, no more Alex. "Let’s celebrate tonight, once the blizzards come we’ll be raiding the deep freeze enough, lets have something special.

That night, Rene made salmon quesadilla’s and oddly enough, after the day they’d all had yesterday, they all sat around and ate like a normal family. Rene wasn’t the overworked real estate agent, Jordan wasn’t the lazy slacker, and Veronica wasn’t the newly outed Teen Baby. For at least a little bit, they felt like a family and not just people living in the same house.

The mood around the house returned to it’s awkward state the next day, but the mood had been lightened. It was a lazy day, Jordan was off at work and he’d probably be going to Dalton’s afterwards. Rene once again stayed back in her room working on scrap books, and Veronica kept to herself, reading Alex’s book and playing video games on the Xbox in the living room. As good as last night had been, optimism seeped out of Veronica with each passing hour. Tomorrow was Monday and that meant going back to school. After leaving early Friday and showing how easy it was to break her, no doubt the Bitch Clique would be in full force come Monday morning. All day, Veronica flip flopped on whether it would make it better or worse now that she knew what to expect.

Thinking of school made her think of Alex. She hadn’t tried calling since the incident on Friday. She made a few phone calls throughout the day from the family land line, hoping Alex would recognize the number and pick up. Finally, around 6:30 in the afternoon she tried her new cell phone and got an answer.

“Hello, Baldwin residence?” It was Alex’s mother, Jeanie.

“Hi, Mrs. Jeanie, is Alex there? I’ve been trying to talk to her all day.”

“Oh, good to hear from you Veronica, I didn’t recognize the number, let me get her.” She heard her shout for Alex in the background. At one time, Veronica spent almost as much of her time with the Baldwin’s as she did at her house. Alex’s mom was a nurse at the hospital and her father was worked for the railroad. They had two kids other than Alex, five year old twins named John and Matthew. It had been while babysitting them with Alex that Veronica slipped her first Pull-Up into her backpack nearly a year ago.

“Veronica, you still there?” Jeanie picked the phone back up.

“Yeah, where’s Alex?”

“She- she said she doesn’t want to talk to you. Did you two have a fight?” Veronica was disappointed but had expected that it might go like this.

“Sort of, it’s more Benji and I had a fight.” Her mother gave a small groan.

“Oh, him. Well, I’m sure they’ll be broken up again in a week or so, maybe you can try again then.”

“Alright, thanks Mrs. Jeanie.” In a return to form, Veronica moped around the house most of the night. Every minute now was eating away at her, nibbling bits from the pedestal of self esteem rebuilt by her good enough day with Jordan and her college acceptance letters. Jordan came back in around eight. He must have been drunk or high because Veronica could hear him and mom argue about something in the living room. She just put in her headphones and played her 3DS. There went the family unity of yesterday. She couldn’t determine whether Jordan being aware of his flaws and vices and still doing them, even with his explanations, was better or worse than if he wasn’t self aware enough to know why he was doing what he was.

As it got late, Veronica shut her game off, Rene and Jordan had ceased arguing and likely were in their separate rooms cooling off and nursing emotional wounds. She lay in bed for a long time, trying to get to sleep even though she knew that sleep put her that much closer to the Bitch Clique and a second round of humiliation. After an hour of tossing, turning and looking at the alarm clock, Veronica got out of bed and paced the floor. An idea struck her, a practical one and one that would calm her down at the same time. She fished out her under-the-bed-box again and retrieved a night time Pull-Up and slid it up her legs. She pulled her thick pajama pants back up and got back under the covers. Exhaustion and the special tranquility offered by her new underwear allowed her to drift off in no time.

It wasn’t the alarm that woke Veronica up the next morning, it was her mother shaking her awake. “Wake up Veronica, we need to get going.” Veronica sleepily shifted herself into a sitting position. It took only seconds to feel that the Pull-Up was cool and damp. Once again, stress had gotten the better of her.

“What,” she mumbled, “We?” Only now did she realize that her mother was fully dressed for a day at the office, a day which wouldn’t start for at least two and a half hours. Even groggy the pieces began coming together.

“Yes, ‘we’. I’m taking you to school today. Jordan told me about Taylor. I need to have a little talk with your principal.”

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 5,6 added 6/27

Chapter 6

Veronica didn’t know which part of the morning had been worse so far. Getting out of bed only for her mother to see the crescent moon leak lines across the back of her pajama pants or being led on a forced march behind her mother through the commons and into the principal’s office. After some thought while they waiting for the principal to see them, she realized it had to be the second. At least her mother was as embarrassed and uncomfortable seeing her daughter in a wet and leaking Pull-Up as Veronica was being seen in it.

The whole trip to school and the whole wait in the office, she cursed Jordan internally. She told him to keep it a secret. He agreed and yet he still betrayed her. The story she was able to work out of her mother was that last night Cassie had brought Jordan home because he was to drunk to drive. They’d fought about the classic themes; irresponsibility, underage drinking, throwing his future away. In an attempt to deflect, he’d thrown her under the bus. All those nice words about wanting to protect her. They were only just words. Why had she believed in him? He could be cool, he could be nice, he could even buy her a phone but at the end of the day he was still Jordan.

“Ms. Klein,” the secretary chirped, “Mr. Creason will see you now.” Creason was in his late fifties, with a short bushy beard and salt and pepper hair. He was a person always quick with a smile or a pat on the back. A former West Valley Wolf turned history teacher and hockey coach who’d eventually worked his way up the ladder to being principal. While Rene walked in simmering with quiet anger and determination, Veronica kept her head down and shuffled in. Mom had been out of school long enough to not know what she was doing, but Jordan did and he’d gotten her sent to the office anyway. He knew this would make it worse and he did it anyway.

“Ms. Klein, you’re Jordan Klein’s mother right” he said in his warm, friendly voice and giving her hand a quick pump with his own, “what is it I can do for you and your daughter this morning?” All purpose, Rene pulled out her phone and opened Veronica’s Facebook. Creason, always quick with a comment, was for once speechless. “What is it exactly here that I’m looking at Ms. Klein?”

“Those would be pictures of my daughter, stolen from her phone and put out on the internet for your students to mock. She stayed home two days last week because she was afraid of bullying and she went home early on Friday because of it. This needs to stop. My daughter needs to feel safe at school.” He nodded slightly.

“Well, Ms. Klein, there’s not much I can really do. I can’t punish everyone who commented or shared it once it got out. From the looks of it, I wouldn’t have a school left,” he said with a chuckle that neither Veronica or Rene shared. Rene was as stone faced as Veronica had ever seen her but her eyes burned.

“Sir, I don’t find this at all funny. Veronica is being bullied, I was led to believe this school had a no tolerance policy on bullying, is that correct?”

“Well, we do but-”

“But then I expect something to be done.”

“Tell you what,” the conversation had sapped all the joviality out of him, now he just seemed as tired and put-off as anyone might be having this conversation at 7:30 in the morning, “we can tell kids to leave her alone, give you daughter passes to leave class when she needs to, we can have a big assembly about cyber-bullying” that last one made Veronica noticeably cringe, that was the least desirable of many undesirable outcomes, “but unless we have the names of the people who started this, the people with the phone who put up those pictures in the first place then my hands are tied.”

“Actually sir, I have the names; Taylor McNamara, Emily Duke and Kim Chandler.” Rene rattled them off. Veronica knew with each one she named that the abuse to expect today would be twice as bad. By that logic, naming three would make her day eight times as bad as she previously thought.

“Alright,” he nodded, “We can search the lockers and see if we can find the phone. If we do, we’ll punish them for posting your daughter’s private photos. Now however, we need to talk about her.”

“What about her?” Rene bristled.

“These pictures, they’re uh, I’m guessing it’s porn of some kind?”

“Mr. Creason, are you trying to tell me that the only person who might be punished for all the bullying Veronica has faced is her?”

“That’s not entirely what I’m saying, but taking pictures like these, and this last one’s even in the school bathroom, it’s clearly a violation of student codes of conduct. I honestly think suspension might be in order for your daughter. A three day so she can come back after Thanksgiving break.” Suspension didn’t sound bad at all to Veronica. Three days without facing the Bitch Clique or anyone else. Three days at home and then Thanksgiving weekend. Maybe every one would have moved on by then. Rene however, was not having it. Even though she didn’t raise her voice, she didn’t have to, even behind her composed mask Rene Klein was angrier than Veronica had ever seen her before.

“Mr. Creason, if you think I will stand for this, you are very wrong. I will pull Veronica out of your school before you suspend her. She made a mistake and it’s been dealt with. But if you think for a second that the only person whose going to face any consequences from this is my child, you are sorely mistaken and I will pursue legal action.” Mr. Creason leaned back in his chair, taking in the threat, thinking and trying to come to a compromise.

“Tell you what,” he began, “you’re daughter-”

“Stop it, her name is Veronica and you haven’t called her that once since we’ve been in here. You remember my son’s name, you can remember hers.” Just when Veronica thought her mother’s voice couldn’t be more full of ice and steel. Creason, frowned, furrowed his brow a bit and began again.

“Veronica” he said exaggeratedly, “does need to be punished. I won’t suspend her though. How about three days detention? But, if anything like this happens again, then I will suspend her.” Rene looked at Veronica, and without any reaction from her daughter turned back to Creason.

“I can promise you she won’t. That’s fair.”

“Good,” the principal said as relieved as anyone to be done with the conversation. “Now, lets go check some lockers.”

On her way out Rene gave her stunned daughter a pat on the back before leaving. “Good luck today, be strong.” After the show in the principal’s office Veronica didn’t know whether to be furious with her mother or eternally grateful. For someone who just three days ago couldn’t even think about Veronica being a TB, Rene had come out like a lioness for her. The poker face, the determination, bargaining and even that bit of aggression; no wonder mom did so well selling real estate.

At 8:05, before Dad-Joke-Dobbs could settle the class down and before Emily could begin to run her claws through Veronica, and announcement came over the intercom.

“Kim Chandler, Emily Duke, and Taylor McNamara, please report of the principal’s office. Kim Chandler, Emily Duke, and Taylor McNamara, please report to the principal’s office.” The look of pure evil that Emily gave Veronica as she gathered her things made it clear that Emily knew what this was about. The class actually proceeded fairly peacefully without Emily. Whispers and snickers were heard behind Veronica’s back, but there was no repeat of Friday. After class at her locker was when the trouble began.

“Hey wittle girl!” Kim came out of no where and pinched her earlobe like one would a wayward child, squeezing it between her sharp fingernails. Veronica’s knees buckled and she winced, letting out a small cry of pain that her pride forced her to quickly stifle. “I heard you’ve been saying some nasty mean things about you’re big sisters!” Emily Duke was right behind Kim. She bumped into Veronica as hard as she could causing Veronica to drop her stuff to the floor.

“Oopsies!” Emily mocked, “Such a clumsy little thing she is! She really does need her big sissies doesn’t she?” Again, people just watched as Kim and Emily had their way with Veronica. Again, no one stepped up. “And yet, with all the help her big sissies give her, have you heard the nasty things she’s been saying Kim?”

“Oh I have Emily. You’d think the little girl would be grateful for our help. But no, first posting all those naughty, naughty pictures and then blaming it all on us,” Kim tugged Veronica’s ear around so she’d be facing her, “shame on you little girl. Now what ever will we do with you?”

“I know!” Emily answered, “what do you normally do to bad little girls who lie and say mean things?”

“I don’t know Emily, what DO you do with bad little girls who lie and say nasty things?”

“You wash their mouths out with soap!” They both said in unison. Veronica found herself being dragged by the ear by Kim and pushed along from behind by Emily into a nearby bathroom. The second the girls in the bathroom saw Kim drag in Veronica they immediately, wordlessly, left, not wanting to be either party or witness to what was about to happen.

“Now, Veronica, you can say sorry and that you love your big sissies, or we can wash out that potty mouth with soap. What’s it going to be?” Veronica knew they weren’t going to give her a choice though. Emily was pumping pink liquid hand soap into a water bottle even as Kim made the offer. In a bit of quick thinking, she stopped hard on Kim’s foot, causing her to let go. Veronica dashed for the door only to find her way blocked. Taylor had arrived. Veronica stood paralyzed, trapped by the much taller girl who stood in the entrance way.

“Come on Taylor, grab her quick!” Kim urged.

“She’s had enough.” Taylor surprised everyone in the room. “She got the message, and she’s already proved she’s willing to go to the principal. You want to get us in more trouble?” Taylor stepped aside, and after a moment of thinking it was a trap, Veronica found her footing and ran. She made it to her next class just in time for the bell. She was humiliated from Kim and Emily’s latest round of bullying obviously, but she was more confused than anything. She knew it had to have been Taylor that broke into her phone. Her mother had personally named Taylor as the one who took her phone and yet Taylor stopped Kim and Emily from making her guzzle down the hand soap.

Taylor walked in a few minutes late. Again, she spent the class period not looking at Veronica. When English Class ended, Veronica stayed at her desk again, in case the Clique had regrouped and were ready with something else for her. Again, Taylor dropped a note without saying anything on her way past. This one just read ‘Call Me’. All during her next class she had nothing but Taylor on her mind. At least, nothing but Taylor and what she was going to do for lunch. Without the protection of the circle, she’d have no where to hide from the Bitch Clique.

Not hungry as usual, Veronica got a soda from the machine. Her original plan was to keep moving. Harder for them to hit a moving target. That was until a most unexpected person called her name as she walked by.

“Hey Veronica,” it was her brother’s protege, it was the captain of the hockey team it was her three and half year crush; Peter Bonham was calling her name. “Want a seat?” He gestured next to him.

“I don’t know if-” She started to stammer. Not only was she nervous about the idea of sitting next to Peter Bonham of all people at the octagonal table, but among his friends and teammates also sat Kim, Emily, and Taylor. She felt like she was being set up and yet she started in that direction. Her brother had made Peter promise to look out for her, to put the word out that Veronica was off limits. If he had done that, she may have found safe haven even if Kim, Emily and Taylor all sat at the same table. She sat down nervously beside Peter. On her left was Ethan, a tall Athabaskan boy who played forward. Two seats over from Peter, sat Kim but she was too busy focusing on her boyfriend, and one of the teams defenders DeAnthony. Corey, the goalie and the one who punted her soda last Tuesday, sat across from her, between Emily and Taylor. Emily shot daggers at her the whole time while Taylor ignored her, and instead kept her face in her phone.

“Thanks for sitting with us, Veronica.” Peter said and he actually seemed to mean it. “We haven’t talked in what, a year of so?” It had been nearly a year since the funeral when Peter found Veronica in the funeral homes empty dining room, taking a moment to get away because she was struggling to keep from breaking down. Struggling to stay strong as she to stand up beside the casket with her mother and Jordan, shaking hands and hearing condolences during the visitation. It was in that dining room that Peter found her, where she broke down and cried for the first time since she heard the news, and where he kissed her on the forehead.

“Yeah, almost that.” Her eyes were locked back on Emily’s, just waiting for her to do something, just waiting for some revelation that this was all a trap.

“Yeah, it’s been too long. I always thought you were cool.” Even if it was just Jordan putting him up to it, those words made her stomach flutter. “It’s been too long, what are you into now?” Peter said trying to make conversation while also trying to make it seem organic in spite of most everyone watching them.

“Um, I read a lot. Movies, anime, I like video games.” Peter eased up a bit, sensing an inroad.

“Oh yeah, what kind of games? You play Modern Warfare?”

“Nothing like that, mostly like RPGs I guess; Harvest Moon, Zelda, Animal Crossing, Pokemon.” Veronica said.

“Oh yeah, Pokemon, huh? It’s been years since I played that.” The conversation was awkward and stilted, with Veronica intimidated not just by Emily who wouldn’t stop glaring at her, but by Peter himself. Only when the lunch bell rang, Veronica knew it hadn’t been a trap. Kim, who’d been so cruel earlier was so caught up in her boyfriend she went off with him barely paying Veronica any notice, leaving Taylor and Emily to go to class together.

Before she got up, Veronica said just softly enough to be heard over the noise of the commons lunch crowd leaving, “Thank you.”

“No problem.” Peter smiled at her. “You’re welcome to sit with us anytime. I really enjoyed sitting with you today, you’re a pretty cool girl.” She knew the words were a lie from her brothers mouth, but she didn’t care. Peter Bonham said them.

The stress of lunch gave way to a feeling of anxiety as she made her way to Spanish. It was too cold for the Circle today, so they all ate inside, and Veronica had glanced Alex from across the commons. For the first time since she nearly got her head caved in with a hackey sack, Veronica would get to talk to Alex. She was already in her desk when Alex came in. For the first time, Veronica got to see someone intimidated by her presence.

“Hey.” Veronica said as Alex put her stuff down, without saying a word or looking at her former friend. As soon as Mrs. Simmons took roll and began the lesson, Veronica began to whisper to Alex.

“Hey!” Veronica said again, “Alex!”

“What? I’m not supposed to be talking to you.” Alex whispered.

“What is Benji is telling you who to talk to now?” Veronica said incredulously.

“No, well, not exactly, it’s just, I can’t talk to you, OK?”

“No, it’s not.” Veronica said fighting to keep her voice at a hush, “we were best friends, talk to me. Let me explain about those-”

“Ms. Klein, Ms. Baldwin, do either of you have something to share with the class?” Frog faced Mrs. Simmons questioned. Alex shook her head and Veronica said ‘no’ bitterly. Mrs. Simmons resumed her lecture. Veronica watched Alex scribble a on a small piece of paper as Simmons droned on. Quickly, with the teachers back turned, Alex tossed it underhand from under the desk into Veronica’s lap.

“Listen,” the note read, “I’m sorry, for everything, but we can’t be friends anymore. I can’t have people like you around my brothers. I hope you understand.” Veronica looked in disbelief at her former best friend whose hurt expression would be pitiable if what she had written hadn’t been so offensive. She’d been around her brothers for years she’d never harmed them, Alex knew that. Veronica couldn’t even conceive of it. The worst thing she’d done to John and Matthew was swipe her first Pull-Up.

Veronica scribbled a note of her own. “Screw you Alex, if you won’t even hear me out and if you think I’d do anything to your brothers. Some friend you were. Fuck you and Benji both.” She tossed it underhand to her now officially ex-friend. Alex looked heartbroken as she read the note and passed Veronica no note in response. She grew increasingly emotional as class went on, by the time it was over she had tears in her eyes.

“I’m sorry, Ronnie,” she said one more time before leaving as quick as she could. Veronica didn’t care about apologizes. Some best friend Alex had been. Veronica held back hot, angry tears as well.

“Good,” Veronica thought bitterly, “better no friends than one bad one.” Her last class of the day before detention was shared with Emily Duke. Now that she was apparently under Peter’s protection, Emily did little other that give her mean looks. Without any Emily outbursts, class went smoothly. Detention was no big deal either. It just meant sitting in Mrs. Simmons room for an hour, and if anything it gave her a chance to catch up on her missing weeks worth of homework. Once the hour was up, Veronica went to her locker to get the rest of her books for homework that night. Inside, pushed between the slats on the outside of the locker, was a small note.

“Another one?” Veronica thought, before picking it up and unfolding it, expecting it to be from Taylor, Alex, Kim or Emily, or just generally anyone who wanted to harass her. Inside was something she didn’t expect at all.

“I saw your photos and I think were really hot. I think what you’re doing is cute. I don’t want this to come off as creepy, but I’d really like to get to know you better. If you’re interested, meet me in the student parking lot around six. Signed: A secret admirer.” Veronica crumpled the note up and tossed it in the garbage. It was a prank and she wasn’t going to subject herself to more ridicule. She gathered her things and walked out the door where her mom was waiting to pick her up.

“Well,” her mom began with a heavily pregnant pause, “how did it go? Did I make it better or worse?” From the level of concern in her voice, Veronica knew she must have been agonizing over whether she did the right thing all day.

“I’m not sure, better I guess?” Relief swept over her mother’s face. “I’m glad for that. Honestly dear, when your brother told me what happened I went right into ‘Momma Bear’ mode. I didn’t stop to think until after I left whether I did the right thing or if it just felt like I did.”

“It’s OK, Mom. It’s fine. Is Jordan home?”

“Good to hear. No, your brother is stuck working late tonight, he might even stay over with Dalton and Cassie, who knows.” Her annoyed tone let Veronica know that even though Jordan may have saved himself temporarily by throwing under the buss, her mom was still irritated with him. “Oh, I have somethings for you when you get home, I hope you like them.” They made small talk on the way home, Veronica telling her mother about her day while omitting as much of the gory details as possible. After all, she didn’t want her mother making a repeat visit. When they got home, Rene had to stop Veronica from going inside before her, “wait dear, we do need to talk about the things I got for you, so it’s best if we go in together, alright” Rene parked the car in the garage and plugged it up so it wouldn’t freeze when the temperature tonight hit zero for the first time this winter.

Veronica followed Rene down the hall to her room and Rene opened the door. “I suppose I might need to explain,” Rene said. On the bed were two, unopened packages of girls L-XL Goodnites and in the corner was a tall, white thing that looked like a trash can. Veronica was speechless. “So, it seems that the stress from school and the anniversaries coming up is causing you to have some,” Rene stumbled for a good word, “problems, at night again. I saw where you leaked when you woke up and it got on your pants and a little on your bed. I went ahead and put both in the washing machine. I’m learning more about this adult, teen baby thing but I wasn’t prepared to see my daughter in a wet Pull-Up until it happened.” Veronica couldn’t hide her blush at that comment. To be fair to her, she wasn’t ready for her mother to see her in a wet Pull-Up yet either.

“So I took some precautions. I bought you two packs of the Goodnites, a bigger size than you used to wear when you were younger. Those are big packs two so that’s nearly fifty. It’s on you to buy any more packs when they run out. If you also check your bed dear, while I was getting the Goodnites I got a plastic sheet too, just to keep the mattress safe. Finally, you may be used to it, but your room smells a little like urine, so I got a diaper genie too. You just drop your used ones in there and there’s no smell. So,” she steadied herself, “what do you think? I didn’t go overboard did I” Veronica was barely able to form the words.

“No, it’s great, it’s awesome,” Veronica said as she stood dumbfounded. “Thank you, Thank you so much. So does this mean you’re OK with me being, you know, a little and wanting to wear Pull-Ups.”

“It really doesn’t matter does it? I was shocked at first, and I was concerned. But I’ve read a lot over the weekend. You’re not hurting anyone and as long as you stay safe, well, if this is who you are, then I, well I guess I’m alright with it. I love you dear, your choice of underwear won’t change that.” Rene hugged her daughter. Veronica hugged back.

After Rene left, Veronica pulled off her jeans and tore into one of the packs of Goodnites and pulled it up her legs and put on a pair of comfy pants over it before she started homework. She could smell her mother cooking in the kitchen and was almost at a good stopping point when she heard the land line ring in the living room. After a minute of so, Rene shouted down the hall, “Veronica, telephone!” Veronica was confused as to who it might be, but her first thought was Alex, able to tell her something over the phone she couldn’t in school. She was wrong. “Honey, it’s Taylor McNamara. She says she needs to speak to you. I can hang up if you want?”

“No, let me see the phone,” Veronica was genuinely curious as to what Taylor had to say, not just after today, but after two years of ignoring her former best friend to become one of the popular girls. “Hello?” Veronica answered.

“I asked you to call me.” She said, definitely irritated at being blown off.

“And why would I want to do that?” Veronica responded.

“Because I’m the only one saving your ass from Kim and Emily right now for one. For two, you’re wrong, none of us have or had your phone.”

“Then who does?” Veronica questioned.

“Look, I don’t know. Look, I need to talk to you.”

“What’s going on Taylor?”

“It’s,” she groaned into the receiver, “it’s hard to say, I’ve never said it to anyone. I need to show you and I need to do it soon before I chicken out. Will you be home in twenty minutes?”

“I don’t want you coming over Taylor; you ignore me for two years, you bully me, you leave these notes.”

“Listen Veronica, like I said, I’m keeping you safe. I stopped Emily and Kim today didn’t I?” There wasn’t any disputing that, Veronica had wondered about her motivations all day. “And I didn’t do anything when they walked you to class either, in fact I apologized for being part of it so give me the benefit of the doubt here. Trust me, because right now I need your help as much as you need mine.”

“This isn’t a trick or anything, they’re not coming with you?”

“No, no trick, it’s just me. So can I come or not.” Veronica thought about it for a few seconds, “hello, Veronica? Yes or no?”

“Sure” Veronica gave in and Taylor immediately hung up.

“So what’s going on Veronica?” Rene asked skeptically, having eavesdropped on one end of the conversation from the kitchen.

“Mom,” Veronica couldn’t believe she was saying these words, “we better get three plates, I think Taylor’s coming over for dinner.”

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 5,6 added 6/27

You’re an amazing writer! I really like the pace!

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 5,6 added 6/27

Now that is an interesting development. I might need to reread it to see who it could be.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 5,6 added 6/27

To paraphrase ‘True Dectective’s’ creator Nic Pizolatto, everything you need to solve the mystery is in chapter one. There’s one line specifically that sets it up. Other than character development, a big point in Jordan’s chapter with Veronica was to point out how shaky her understanding was, not just of herself and how she interacts with others, but of her theory in general. She got new evidence and tried to force it into a preconceived understanding of how the world works. She let hate and the most human of fallacies lead her to a shaky conclusion.

Having said that, the overt AB/age playing stuff ramps up in the next two chapters, so if anyone is disappointed by the slow burn of the rising action, then I hope they find the next two chapters more appealing. Especially chapter 8. If any chapter takes me past my deadline it will be that one because I want it to be perfect.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 1-4

There actually isn’t a limit, at least not server side :slight_smile:

When a post cuts off like yours did it is either because the server timed out its connection to you or your connection to the server timed out/was aborted while the post was still being submitted. When either of those happens the board posts whatever it has received. It’s really rare to see it happen.

The safest thing to do in the future is only post one chapter per post/reply and you shouldn’t have it happen again :slight_smile:

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 7 added, 7/2

A day early and a dollar….extra? Anyway, I’d planned to write a second set piece for the chapter but it really doesn’t fit the established tone and so it will be rolled into chapter 8. It fits better there anyway. So enjoy a shortened chapter 7 and look forward to a longer chapter 8.

Chapter 7.

The anxious hollow feeling that had come to take up residence in her stomach again as Veronica waited and watched the clock for her one time friend, current adversary and possible future ally to arrive. A quote came back to her, one her dad always told her whenever she was reluctant to settle fights and make nice growing up as a little girl, “we only make up with the people we’re fighting with, that’s why it’s called making up.” Later she read the real quote he paraphrased at sixteen when her father decided she was old enough to read ‘Game of Thrones’. It had never bothered her until Billy Pilgrim went from unstuck in time to stuck in the back of her mind that it was not a hero who said those words.

Veronica practically jumped from the couch and beat her mother to the door when the bell rang. Rene Klein was still in the kitchen, keeping an eye on the whole thing, ready to step in when necessary while stir-fry sizzled on the oven. Alone on the door step, Taylor McNarama stood as snow and wind whipped around her. It was six degrees outside now and Veronica couldn’t discern whether that was entirely responsible for how shaky Taylor was. She had come in a rush, with only a light jacket and no snow gear other than her boots and a hat. Her pick-up sat idling off in driveway. While it wasn’t cold enough to freeze anything solid yet, the temperature was dropping. Veronica’s mother told her the revised forecast was for -5 degree weather tonight.

“Well,” Taylor said impatiently, smacking gum and looking over her shoulder constantly, “you gonna let me in or what?” Veronica only stepped aside and Taylor quickly brushed by her to get out of the cold. She shook and shivered in the doorway as she shucked off her jacket.

“Hello Taylor, it’s been a” Rene began apprehensively, just as unsure as Veronica how to approach the intruder, “a while.” She said as pleasantly as she could muster. “I’ll have dinner done in a few minutes if you’d like to stay”

“Yeah, Hi, Ms. Klein, look Veronica, I need to talk to you alone right now, OK?” She said grabbing the eight inches shorter Veronica by the wrist and dragging her down the hallway. “Which one’s your room?”

“Back of the hall on the left,” Veronica said as Taylor pulled her down the hall. Taylor flung open the door and to Veronica’s dread, both packs of Goodnites were still on her bed, with one clearly opened. It also occurred to her that the whole trip down the hall she’d been wearing in front of her former mortal enemy. Once both inside Taylor turned and slammed the door shut. Veronica positioned herself in front of her new Goodnites to obscure them as best she could. Just for a moment, Veronica’s mind entertained the possibility that it wasn’t a trap at all, that Taylor was just going to come over to her house under false pretenses and do something. Threaten her, beat her up, just something other than what came next.

“Look, before we go anywhere else, I need to tell you something that I’ve needed to say to someone for six years now but I couldn’t because I knew everyone would think I’m a freak and everything would be over for me.” She paused for a while, trying to work herself up, “Fuck!” she shouted and began pacing Veronica’s small room. “There’s no risk, and I still can’t say it.” She started laughing, a sort of hopeless and absurd laugh, a laugh that was odd to hear from someone Veronica associated with giggles and tittering behind her back. “I can’t say it to you, of all people, what the hell is wrong with me. Look, maybe, can I just show you?”

“Go ahead.” Veronica said cautiously. This wasn’t an attack, at this point Veronica had no idea what it was. Taylor fished her cellphone out of her pocket. She opened the browser and went to Tumblr. From what Veronica saw, it looked like a pretty usual page until Taylor logged out of one profile and entered another. When it loaded, Taylor shoved the phone into Veronica’s face. “You recognize this?” The title of the blog was one Veronica knew very well, she’d reblogged some of it’s photos from ‘LilBrat’s’ account even. Some of her pictures had been reblogged from it too. At the top were the school pictures that had landed her in trouble. The banner at the top read, “Off In My Own LITTLE World!”.

For a moment, neither spoke. Taylor from humiliation and Veronica from shock. “So,” Veronica tried to start, “you, you’re a-, you’re one too?” Taylor blushed and rolled her eyes.

“Uh, yeah, I think it’s pretty obvious, don’t you? I’ve been following you for eight months now,” Taylor explained, “If you weren’t so good at not showing your face I’d never have guessed it was you.”

“OK,” Veronica said struggling to process a reality that didn’t seem to fit with anything she predicted may have come from this meeting. “Wait a, what, so OK, let me get this straight, you and I are both?”

“Adult babies, yeah! Or Teen Babies, or ALGs, or whatever. You’re Little Miss Salutatorian, how many times do I have to spell it out.” She said annoyed and upset, but mostly embarrassed. Taylor had burst in all energy but was somehow getting more worked up.

“Alright, calm down Taylor, it’s just. This is not what I was expecting.” Veronica had to sit down on her bed to steady herself. Taylor kept pacing, more and more frantically.

“Calm down? I’m not sure how I can. I’ve kept that secret inside me for SIX years, Veronica. And now I just told, you of all people!” She gestured wildly. “So how can I calm down? It’s just, I needed to do it because after you posted those photos-”

“I didn’t post anything!” Veronica snapped. “My phone was stolen.”

“Whatever, after I SAW” she made sure to exaggerate ‘saw’, “those photos and knew it was you this has been tearing me apart inside trying to get out. I mean, you too right? That’s got to be, what, one in a million chance, right? I mean, it’s always there trying to burst out, but now I can barely focus on anything but just getting it out. I had to tell someone, if I didn’t I’d lose my nerve but I’m not ready to say it but I really want to but I don’t and it’s just a whole bunch of, of, I don’t know, you know? I’m not ready but I just, well, you’re-”

“You weren’t ready for it to come out?” Veronica interjected, with some indignation “try getting outed in front of everyone at school, try being a pariah and losing your only friend! You told one person. Your friends, were going to make me drink hand soap Taylor, hand soap! I’m not sure if it would have killed me, but I’m positive it would have made me sick. And you’re freaking out about telling the one person most likely to understand?”

“Not just any one person!” Taylor snapped, “You! Because I had to tell someone and I thought you’d understand. I hoped you would. But it was dumb because I just spilled my secret to someone who hates my guts.” She said dismally.

“You think I’d out you?” Veronica asked, Taylor didn’t respond. “You know what, maybe I should. Maybe I should let you get a taste of what I’ve been going through.” Her voice getting as uneven and trembling as Taylor’s had been. Even to someone like Taylor, Veronica didn’t know if she could stoop that low, but in the moment, if she let impulse guide her like it had guided Taylor here, she might be able to.

“No!” Taylor said louder than she must have meant too. “If you out me, then I can’t help you and you can’t help me. We’re both screwed. So whatever it is you think I deserve, it might be best to hear me out first. I offer a truce.”

“A truce” Veronica questioned, “what do you mean a truce?”

“I mean,” Taylor started exasperatedly, “a deal, an arrangement, yes? You help me and I help you?”

“And how do you propose to do that?”

"“I can divert Kim and Emily; drive them on to other targets, warn you when they have something planned, just keep you in the know. Help you make the next few months bearable.”

“If you want to help me, just come out, if you do it and I have you on my side then-” Taylor laughed incredulously.

“You’re kidding right? And make us both losers? No way. Besides, then Kim and Emily are picking on me too and I can’t divert them anymore. I’m much more help behind the scenes than beside you.” Veronica hated to acknowledge it, but Taylor had a point.

“So, what do you want in exchange? I don’t know what I can give you that you don’t already have.”

“I want,” Taylor started hesitantly, “look high school’s over in six months. I’ll probably be going to U of A here in Fairbanks but when I get there,” she couldn’t spit it out, whatever she was struggling with was bothering her as much as coming out did. “OK, you want the truth? I did some mean shit for two years to get where I am. I back stabbed you, I made other people’s lives miserable and I thought it was worth it because I was popular. Someone has to be right? I’d rather be a winner than a loser, you know? But, since we came back this year I’ve just been having a lot of doubts. In six months it will all for nothing. I won’t be popular and feared and all that other cool shit anymore! I’ll just be Taylor. A face in the crowd and that will mean I did all that awful shit for nothing.” She’d finely worn out her frenzy and slumped next to Veronica on the bed.

“I just, I want someone to know this part of me, to talk about it with so I don’t have to keep it chained up anymore and because I can’t share it with anyone else. I want to talk to someone who understands. I was hoping we could help each other out that way?” Mist started to form in the corners of Taylor’s eyes. Veronica, unsure of what else to do, put her arm around her one time enemies shoulder.

“I’m sorry Veronica,” Taylor said once she’d regained her composure, “for everything.”

“Girls?” Rene Klein knocked softly on the door but didn’t come in. “Everything alright?”

“Yeah, mom.” Veronica said. Even through the door Veronica could see the uncertain look on her mothers face.

“Well, dinner’s ready anytime you are.” Rene turned and went back down the hall.

“You want something to eat?” Veronica offered, “mom makes pretty good stir-fry.”

“Sure,” Taylor nodded. As they both stood up, Taylor heard the soft rustling and and connected it to the two packs of Goodnites behind them on the bed. Her eyes grew wide, “Oh my god, are you wearing right now?” Veronica blushed.

“Well, yeah. I didn’t think to change out before you came over, so yeah.” Veronica trailed off, embarrassed that someone she’d considered a mortal foe an hour ago wanted to have a discussion about her underpants.

“But,” Taylor hushed as much as it was possible for boisterous Taylor to hush, “you’re not worried about going out wearing those in front of your mom? What if she catches you?”

“She already caught me, the photos remember.” Veronica neglected the part about how her mother and brother had both caught her having accidents recently. “Besides, she bought them for me.” Taylor’s jaw dropped, first she gasped and then she squealed.

“Get out!” She said giving Veronica, what to Taylor might have been a friendly push, but one that put Veronica back on her butt on the bed. “Oh, sorry, it’s just, wow! You’re mom bought you diapers? She’s, like, cool with it and all?”

“Yeah, she’s OK. Just as long as I’m doing it at home and not on the internet.”

“Veronica, you have the best mother ever, you are so lucky! My mom, if she knew, oh my god I’d be dead. Come on, lets go already!” She grabbed Veronica by the wrist again and bounded down the hall, dragging the five foot, 95 pound Veronica behind her. Dinner went as well as could be expected. Rene was unclear on what had happened in the room, but in light of the detente reached by her daughter and Taylor, made pleasant enough conversation with their guest. Even though all was forgiven, eight years of distance, two years of isolation and the burning embers of this mornings anger were too much to cut through for the conversation to not be awkward and forced. Taylor had been talkative as a girl, and without the social pressure of Emily and Kim to keep her in her ‘place’ she was as bubbly and talkative as ever. The awkwardness just made her put more effort into making the conversation work and contrasted all the more with Veronica and Rene’s reservation and bewilderment at the turn of events.

After dinner was finished, Rene got up to clear the table, excusing Veronica from helping under the unusual circumstances. Dishes were washed in the sink and put in the dish washer and a small plate was made and put in the microwave before the main pan was cleaned, just in case Jordan came back in tonight. “Well, you girls can talk out here for a bit longer. I think I’m going to be in my room working. It was, um, nice, to see you again Taylor.” Taylor nodded in acknowledgment and Rene turned and walked down the hall, still unsure as to what exactly had gone on between the two. They hadn’t discussed Taylor’s diaper interests at the table or the truce she and Veronica had struck. Out of the corner of her eye, Taylor eyed the bottle of wine Rene had poured a glass for herself from for dinner.

“Psst, Veronica.” She motioned to the wine and Veronica shook her head. “Come on!” She begged, “a truce isn’t official until you drink to it! One glass each, OK? Then I’ll go home.”

“I don’t think it’s a good idea Tayl-”

“One glass won’t do anything to me. Quick, one drink, don’t be a baby.” Only once her words caught up with her did she snicker at them. Veronica was dragged again to the kitchen island where Taylor poured two glasses and put one in Veronica’s hand. “Truce?”

“Yeah, truce.” Taylor downed her’s happily while the wine made Veronica grimace and sputter. “That wasn’t you’re first time was it?” She took Veronica’s continued sour faces as evidence it was and laughed again. Once she stopped laughing, the two just stood at the island for a while neither looking at the other. Neither one breaking the silence that hung over the table between them.

“You know,” Taylor said, all laughter gone from her now somber voice, “tomorrow I have to go back to being Kim and Emily’s friend.”

“I know.” Veronica responded. She didn’t like it, but she knew that was how it had to be if Taylor was going to be any help to her.

“Good.” Taylor said, she seemed sad to have to say it. Both stood at the island a little longer, Taylor cracking smiles as Veronica tried to down what remained of her wine without gagging “Yeah, well, I need to get going. I’ve got homework and stuff, you know?”

“Yeah,” Veronica said, “me too.”

“I,” Taylor started, “I’m glad I came. I almost turned around on the way here but, I’m glad.” She smiled. “Can I ask one more favor though, just one little thing” Taylor asked as Veronica finished the last sour drops of wine.

“Shoot.” Veronica said with a scowl on her face.

“Can I borrow some of those Goodnites please? I mean, you have a ton and I’ve never had any ever and I-” Veronica started to laugh at Taylor.

“Borrow them? Like, you’ll give them back when you’re done?” They both started to laugh now. Veronica agreed and Taylor raced to Veronica’s room and came back sporting a Cheshire grin and holding five or six Goodnites.

“Thank you, thank you so much. Well, um, good night I guess.”

“Yeah, see you around Taylor.” And then she left. On the way back to her room, Veronica was stopped by her justifiably curious mother wanting to know exactly what was going on. Without spilling Taylor’s secret, Veronica gave her a broad strokes outline of the conversation, at least enough to satisfy her mother,. The two wished each other good night and got back to work on their projects; Rene on Veronica’s Birthday Book and Veronica on her near weeks worth of homework. When Rene turned off the lights in her room at 9:30, Veronica was still at it, half working on her homework and half thinking about the day and especially about Taylor.

It was another sleepless night for Veronica, even in spite of the fact that she now had her Goodnites. Pull-Ups in the past had been enough to calm her when she was tense, but now she was more at ease about school since she had been before the leak of her photos and still, she tossed and turned and the Goodnites crinkled and crackled. It was only around 11:30 that she began to form the rough outlines of what was wrong. When they’d first moved to Fairbanks, their neighbor had a dog that was kept on a leash. The dog chased after every car it saw. Her dad always found it amusing. She asked him why, after so many times, he still found it funny. ‘Because,’ he told her, ‘I’m just thinking about what he’ll do when he catches it.’

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 7 added, 7/2

You know I thought I had hit all of the stories that had been undated over the last four months. Looks like I missed one. Excellent work the three things that hit it on the head for me although of course I can’t speak for others

A. How profoundly stupid the new generation can be about internet security. I know there are still a few (or more then a few?) young people who lurk on this board guys don’t keep starting youtube channels under your given names or other stupid crap that could give away your general location or even God forbid the town you live in. I know this is just a shift in values but when I grew up I knew that rule #1 was tell no one Why? to avoid a situation like what happens to Veronica that is actually a fairly accurate portrayal of how that situation would play out

B. The way the school administration handles the situation some of the stuff I saw during student teaching was exactly like this Veronica’s actions were “inappropriate” as far as the letter of the law goes. To those of you saying “well it seems a little like overkill” exactly according to the discipline policy of any given school district there is no such thing as a proportioned measured response in that situation they would come down like a ton of bricks on anyone involved and the details wouldn’t matter.

C. The line about how Veronica would never hurt Alex’s brothers. Truer words have never been spoken about the fetish in general yes I babysat and I used the opportunity to swipe a pull-up or two in my time but when I think back on those times when I was 12, 13, 14 and maybe pushing it at 15 I just remember enjoying the opportunity to play/read with the kids and where the hell else was I going to get an opportunity to play with that popcorn popper/mow the lawn thing?

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapters 7 added, 7/2

For a guy whose username is in the form of a plausible given name and plausible birth year (just to be clear, not saying it is, just that it could appear to be), I don’t know if you really have justification saying that, especially since someone born in 1997 would be a part of the new generation you speak of.

Besides, there’s a really big difference between getting your phone stolen and posting something under your real name of your own volition.

Re: LilBrat (revised edition) Chapter 8 added 7/15

Chapter 8

If it weren’t for her fitful, uneasy sleep, Veronica might not have heard the front door slamming shut or the stumbling in the hall. She’d been up for twenty minutes or so by her look at the alarm clock by her bed. She got out of bed and put her glasses on and left her room for the living room. This scenario had played out too many times in their house for Veronica to think it was anything other than what it was. She found him where she knew she’d find him, clumsily sprawled on the living room couch. His jacket had been shucked off at the entry way and lay at the foot of the door, he’d managed to get one boot off before giving up on the other. His eyes were red and glassy, he was still awake but it wouldn’t be much longer.

“Jordan!” Veronica said in a harsh whisper, before shoving her brothers shoulder to get his full attention. She didn’t know why she insisted on being quiet. Either her mom had learned to sleep though Jordan coming home late or she just ignored it now.

“Wha- Oh hey Ronnie.” He slurred, “can’t sleep?”

“No,” Veronica said, “we need to talk.”

“Can it wait? I’m just a little bit-”

“No, you had no right to tell mom that I thought it was Taylor that took my phone. You promised me you wouldn’t and you lied to me.”

“I’m sorry, OK? Just, she was yelling and I said one thing and then I said some more and she wasn’t yelling anymore. I wasn’t thinking, I just wanted to get some sleep. We cool?”

“No, were not. Today was worse than Friday all because you had to tell mom.” She carefully omitted Taylor’s revelation for now, as she also did about the protection given to her by Peter. Even if it was unrelated to Jordan’s confession, if Jordan got any idea that spilling her secrets had made anything in anyway better, than he’d entrench upon the high ground and assure himself of how right he was. Whether it worked or not wasn’t the issue that bothered Veronica. “I told you she was thinking about coming already but when you gave her the names, Jordan I’ve never seen her that angry.”

“Sorry, alright, I just, you should have told her you know, then I wouldn’t have to.” He said, turning on a dime from contrition to moral superiority.

“I told you I’d handle it, I told you that telling mom would just make things worse and you promised me you wouldn’t tell, and then, to save yourself, you spilled it all to her. I don’t know why I trusted you with this. Things yesterday were going so good that I thought that maybe there was a chance that you’d changed like you said. Like, this had all sparked some inner hero in you and you were going to grow up and be better.”

“Jesus, Veronica, I said I was sorry alright? I fucked up, I get, I’m a fuck up. And I never promised anything either.” Jordan grumbled loudly at her. “How many times do I have to say it? I didn’t take the pictures so save some of that anger for yourself. Yell at me all you want in the morning but just let me sleep.” He rolled over on the couching, turning inward and burying his face underneath the throw pillows.

“I can’t let it wait. I’ve waited all day. You made me feel like an idiot for trusting you. Today was bad, it could have been worse, but this whole 'I fucked up, but I’m a fuck up so it’s OK, right?” Well, it’s not. If you want to look out for me like you said, if you want to protect me, at least ask me first. I’m an adult and I don’t need you making choices for me!" For the first time Veronica’s voice broke from a whisper into her inside voice.

“Yeah, OK, whatever.” Jordan mumbled getting comfortable. She wished he was in any other state, she was ready to shout him down, to argue like the house had never seen before. As passive and half there as he was, it was a let down. There was no catharsis that came from yelling at a self defeating drunk. She just felt pity and disgust for the both of them. As angry as Veronica was with Jordan, she went to the kitchen anyway and got a big metal mixing bowl out from the cabinets and sat it beside the sofa.

" Here," she said, “turn on your other side.” She said, trying to turn her brother over with her meager strength while he clumsily flopped over towards the bucket. “You smell like a distillery, how did you get home?”

“Cassie, she, she drove me back. Her and Dalton had a fight over something, stupid shit. Baby drama,” he said slurring from sleeplessness and Stolynoychia. Of course they were fighting, and Jordan had led her to entertain the idea that she’d been too hard on Dalton. No doubt it was him making Cassie feel awful about the impending birth. She’d have to struggle through two jobs, one as the head cashier at Fischer’s and the other as a server at College Town Pizza, on top of being a new mom while he coasted, waiting for eventual coronation as boss of the grocery store after his dad retired. “Can I sleep now, please? Just, go to bed alright, and let me catch some sleep before mom yells at me too.” His speech was running more and more together, each syllable becoming less distinct.

“You’re lucky,” he drowsily slurred as she turned to walk down the hall. She rolled her eyes with stunned disbelief.

“And how is that, Jordan?” She didn’t even turn back to look at him. The mere thought that any would call her lucky in spite of everything was something she couldn’t even believe she was hearing.

“Because, mom, mom always wanted another kid. Before, what’s it called, I don’t know. I can’t talk, thing is now she’s got one or doesn’t got one, I don’t, I don’t know what I’m saying, you know. Anyways, she’s got a little kid again. Of course she accepts you.” He turned back into the couch, facing away from Veronica and the bucket she’d brought him. “It was never in doubt, not to me. You’re lucky. Another way for you to be the favorite.” Within seconds after slurring out the last bitter, word Veronica heard heavy snoring.

Her sober mind was able to put together what Jordan’s wasn’t. Not only was it a shock, but it changed her entire view on her family. Her mom and dad had both said for the longest time that all they wanted was a ‘matching set’, and they’d got it. But if her mother had gotten sick or something happened in some way that Jordan couldn’t string together, then maybe they had wanted another child? Maybe that’s why after only three days of off and on research her mother had been so quick to accept her?

Veronica went to bed feeling troubled. Of course, Jordan could be lying. He could be saying what he need to to save his skin and avoided unpleasant conversation. It wouldn’t be the first time. But as Veronica racked her mind about her early childhood, things seemed strange. She remembered when she was eight and her mother was ‘sick’ and she couldn’t go with her and Jordan to Nana and Poppa’s one summer. They’d visited for a few weeks over the summer every year up until Nana died six years ago and Poppa went only a few months later. She had hazier memories of Nana and Poppa’s house too, memories from so far back she couldn’t date them.

Maybe her mother and father tried for another child while they lived on Okinawa? Maybe something happened to prevent that third child from ever being born? Maybe that’s why she didn’t go with them to Savannah to see her parents that one summer? Maybe the ‘matching set’ talk had been a way to cover up the grief and disappointment? Veronica returned to bed. Sleep came uneasy to Veronica.

She dreamed of the Fourth of July, 2006. Families clustered into bunches around blankets, umbrellas, grills and coolers. Country music from an outdoor concert floated down the beach. Her Poppa grilling burgers and hot dogs for her and her cousins. Her Nana making sure no child within view went without sunscreen. Taylor was with her. Her parents had let her come. Something about an extra plane ticket. Half the cousins, mostly the younger ones, thought Taylor and Veronica were cool because they lived far away and had weird snacks and could speak some broken, heavily Southern accented Japanese. The older ones dismissed the two eight years old’s, too weird and too young and too far away to be fun to play with and so Veronica and Taylor splashed around with the younger kids. Taylor being the wild and silly ring leader and Veronica shadowing her, trying to reign in her excesses. She remembered Jordan trying to surf and wiping out, and the older cousins that thought she was strange laughing at him. He spent the rest of the day being taught to grill by Poppa. She remembered telling her Nana how much she wished her Momma could be there and he remembered Nana not looking her in the eye. Telling her not to worry, Momma was alright.

For the third time in three days, Veronica woke up soaked. She hoped it was stress, strange dreams and worry causing her to have her wet spell. She was afraid to wonder what else might be causing her return to bedwetting at 17 and 5/6ths years old. She weighed her options and made the choice to change from her old Goodnite into regular panties for the day. Even if the packs her mother bought still had about 40 something or so left after Taylor swiped some, she had no job and no means of replacing them. At least as long as her sleep-wetting kept up, getting into a pair of Pull-Ups during the day would be for special occasions only.

The next morning Jordan lay convalescing in the living room until around nine when he woke up enough to make it to his room. Mom came out soon after that. She and Veronica ate breakfast like nothing was wrong, neither acknowledging the man that had been passed out on the sofa just an hour earlier. Arguing broke out around noon, when Jordan woke up for the last time, he and mom went at it as usual, barbed comments escalating to a crescendo of shouting, and Veronica retreated to the safe space of her room, putting her headphones in again to block out the noise. While she would miss the high school bullshit least of all, a close second to that would be missing her mother and brother fighting all the time. Doors slammed and each went to lick their wounds.

In their passing interactions later in the day, Jordan had a certain smugness to him. Rene must have told him about Taylor’s visit which convinced him that he had done the right thing after all. He never demanded or requested an apology from Veronica, but the self-satisfaction he walked around with convinced Veronica that he was waiting on her to say ‘thank-you.’ He’d have to wait a lot longer. The odds of Taylor being not just sympathetic, but a teen baby herself where infinitesimal. Even though it had worked out, Jordan took it upon himself to out her in a situation any sane person would agree would more than likely make things much worse. Veronica let Jordan hold onto his smugness, at least for the day. She needed him in a good, talkative mood for tonight. That night, after her mother had went to bed but while Jordan was still up in the living room, she slunk in.

“Hey,” she said.

“What’s up?” He still had the self-righteousness in his voice, even if it was couched in small words and simple sentences. She thought this must be the part where he assumes she apologizes for blowing up and making a big deal out of what turned out to be a good thing.

“You said something last night, I want to talk to you about it.”

“Shoot.” He said, as he did the same and picked off a clean sniper shot on an enemy player.

“You said something about Mom.” Just from the subtle shift in body language that’s when Veronica understood that Jordan knew this wasn’t the conversation he was expecting.

“I mean, I said a lot of things, I was wasted. I don’t remember half of what I said.”

“You said something about her wanting more kids?”

“I don’t think so,” he said, “I was pretty drunk, but I think I’d remember that.” He evaded, not looking at her, only processing the enemies dying on screen in front of him.

“No!” Veronica surprised herself with how raw and desperate that came out. She’d brooded on that off hand comment ever since it was made, she needed to know what was being kept from her. “You said something about her wanting kids and not being able to have them and that’s why she’s OK with me being like I am. What happened?”

“Veronica, nothing happened, please I don’t want to talk about this, I promised-”

"Promised who? What happened with mom?

“I’m not having this conversation, it’s not mine to have.” He turned the Xbox off . “You should know, OK, I agree with you there, but I promised Dad I wouldn’t tell you. I told you, it’s not for me to tell. You want to know what’s up with Mom? Why she is the way she is? You ask her.” Jordan tossed the controller aside and stormed off for his room.

“Jordan wait!” To her surprise, he did. “This doesn’t have anything to with that summer we went to Savannah and mom didn’t come with us does it?” He paused, weighing his answer, and how much truth to put into it.

“Some, at least a bit. But the worst happened before that. You want more, you talk to Mom. Good luck getting answers there. She’s never said a word to me, but hey, you’re the favorite, maybe she’ll let you know all about everything.” He slammed his door shut leaving Veronica alone in the living room. Despite feeling justified, she couldn’t help but feel like she had done something wrong. She had the dream about the beach again, this time when she asked her Nana about her Momma, she suddenly heard her mother crying, screaming in pain. Little eight year old Veronica raced down the beach, after the crying and dove into the deep, warm sea determined to swim back to her Momma. Taking in salty mouthfuls of the Atlantic. To save her. To find out why she was in pain. Sunday was another wet morning for Veronica.

Jordan and Veronica avoided each other all Sunday, which wasn’t hard to do because Jordan got black out drunk after their argument and had to go to work with a splitting hangover. Veronica stayed to herself most of the day but every interaction with her mother troubled her. Each look, smile and kind word; how much was hidden from her beneath each gesture? Did she even want to know if it was something so terrible her Dad had sworn her brother to secrecy?"

After an eventful weekend, Monday back at school was surprisingly easy. The word had spread courtesy of Peter that Veronica was safe. Plus, a freshman crashed a senior party over the weekend, drank a whole bottle of wine and wound up with still faintly visible dicks drawn all over her body in Sharpie, so the school had by and large moved on to making someone else’s life miserable. In a school of several thousand people, something was bound to come along to steal all that car-wreck attention before too long. Veronica guiltily remembered how Taylor spoke of winners and losers and although relieved, felt ashamed at herself for feeling that way.

Not to say things were easy now. Book checks and rude jokes continued on unabated. Someone had obviously heard about the incident Friday and left a bottle of SoftSoap hand soap on her desk in one of her classes. Finally a new and more subtle tactic emerged. Girls following her in the hall or sitting beside her in class would get as close as they could to her and then under their breath whisper, ‘pisssss’ drawing it out into a prolonged, grating hiss. Still, any organized effort at harassment had stopped. The ‘piss’ meme had spread organically as a joke rather than as part of a coordinated, top down harassment campaign. At least it wasn’t absolutely horrible.

Emily did nothing but glare at her. A note had been stuffed into her locker showing her as lewd caricature wearing a dirty diaper. All her facial features were exaggerated to the point of being grotesque and yet her small chest was presented as washboard flat. Veronica only crumbled it up and tossed it in the trash can. Notes passed with Taylor in English indicated that while it was indeed Emily that commissioned the picture in her locker. It had been drawn and delivered by a sophomore, one whose name didn’t ring any bells for Veronica. Likely a girl trying to set up to become Emily’s heir apparent, or at the very least her third in command like Taylor was for Kim, upon Emily’s apotheosis once Kim Chandler and Taylor McNamara graduated.

Alex stayed distant as ever, the hurt in her eyes every time she averted them once Veronica entered the room only made her the more angry at her former best friend. With Thanksgiving almost upon the school, the rule was made that non one could eat lunch outside until spring. This effectively killed the hackey sack circle and many drifted back towards tables that they were more socially suited for than rag-tag collection of players, leaving only a hard core of loyalists with no where else to go, amongst them was Alex. Always clinging to Benji’s side but never looking happy about it. Each of that disenfranchised, forced inside group spent lunch casting evil eyes at Veronica.

For Veronica’s part though, lunch was looking up. Every day, Peter Bonham offered her a seat beside him at lunch. The hockey team had gone from begrudging her presence to accepting that she would be around for at least some time. Veronica too learned a lot. She’d always liked Peter, and some with some players, her entirely superficial judgments about them being idiots and jerks were spot on, but for the first time she realized that beneath the jock arrogance that Shane, DeAnthony and the others swaggered around with, they were actually fairly down to earth people when they weren’t trying to show off and were able to actually let their guards down around one another. She’d devoted her life to studying and making good grades, they’d devoted it to hockey. In a way, she was able to see that they were both freaks. Just one group got more respect than the other.

Peter kept doing his best to make her feel at ease in her new lunchtime home. They may have had few common interests, but he tried every day. He was more loyal to Jordan than she originally thought. She held no illusions though. While the team was starting to tolerate the weird girl in anime and geek culture tees and her baggy army coat, if she ever got on the outs with Peter, her stint at the table was over. They allowed her there because they respected the man who respected the one time JV champion, one time Varsity champion and one time Varsity final four captain whose word still carried enough weight with Peter and the team that it allowed her in their midst.

Kim, by and large, had moved on. The girl with the dicks on her face was fresh target and her boyfriend DeAnthony had been pressured by Peter to pressure her to lay off Veronica. So at least to Kim, Veronica was old news, or at least not a target at school. With Kim paying her no mind, group bullying with Emily and Taylor had stopped. Taylor, acting as an ally, fed Veronica all the knowledge she needed, even if she occasionally laughed at jokes about her with remorse in her eyes. Emily remained an issue. Even without Taylor and Kim backing her, Emily’s delight in harassing Veronica hadn’t declined. She just now had to indulge it without backup using crude pictures, jokes, and 'piss’ing her rather than public humiliation.

The one constant for Veronica was finding letters in her locker after detention. They all were the same. “I know it’s weird but…” or “I hope you believe me because I’m serious…” It took a serious exchange of notes with Taylor before Veronica was able to be convinced the letters weren’t part of some plot and that by all accounts they were legitimate. Veronica still ignored them. Even if Taylor didn’t know whom they were from, it was undoubtedly a trap.

At home, Jordan spent time alternating between work, Xbox and being passed out on a couch either at Dalton’s or the house. After their fights, he had taken to freezing out Veronica, not even opting to start or engage in conversations with her. While at first annoyed that her brother was taking such a childish course, she was grateful that at least they weren’t arguing anymore. Giving up her secret and then blowing up when she questioned his comment about their mother made her just as content to not talk to him as he was to not speak with her.

Veronica was finally making headway on all the homework assigned to her. She was wearing every night now out of precaution, but woke up dry Tuesday and Wednesday mornings, confirming her theory that it had to be stress causing her to wet. Still, every night she tugged a Goodnite up her legs and around her waist just in case. They were less exciting though than they used to be. They no longer awakened that intense, burning urge they used to. Maybe it was because she half needed them now, but she grew more convinced that now that her secret was out, the effortless passion was gone and it took more work than in the past to get the maximum enjoyment out of them. Most of the fun was in the taboo.

It was only on Monday afternoon that Rene Klein realized that the events of the weekend had put the family behind on Thanksgiving planning. She dismissed Veronica’s idea of turkey sandwiches at home out of hand as ‘unfitting’ and caved to Jordan’s suggestion of Thanksgiving with the Fischer’s. Veronica was a bundle of nerves when the day came. Even after Jordan read her about how she viewed Dalton, she couldn’t shake the idea that while he may have had a point on a few things in their talk on the drive to Nenana, she was right about this.

Thanksgiving was her least favorite holiday, by far. It was the one day a year when over a century of feminism got erased and the women stayed in the kitchen while the men watched football. Veronica, for her part, was a lousy cook. So bad that even on the day when gender roles ruled with an iron fist, she was shooed from kitchen, where Dalton’s mother and aunts and cousins all fretted and flitted around, gossiping, making halfhearted efforts to involve Rene in the conversations while she nursed a glass of wine, and dispensing unsolicited cooking and parenting advice to Cassie who was stuck in the eye of the Fischer family storm.

Even less did she want to spend time with Jordan, Dalton, Dalton’s Dad Hank and all the uncles and male cousins crowded around the television watching football and talking hunting. Instead, she perched herself off in a corner stairwell and booted up her 3DS. Veronica played on her system and did her best to stay as out of the way of the crowd of strangers as possible, while the house grew heavy with the scent of food she was only halfway enthusiastic about eating. She always believed that if people liked Thanksgiving food, they’d eat it more than once a year.

Her 3DS wasn’t her only comfort, beneath the dress her mother insisted she wear, despite the fact that she hated dresses, it was 15 degrees outside, and thermal tights tucked into clunky snow-boots looked ridiculous; she wore beneath her thick tights the crinkly underwear that had for so long calmed her nerves. Whether her absorbent underpants were doing their best effort and she was still anxious or they were simply not effective occupied her mind when the call came and she force marched herself to the table. Prayers were said and dinner was served.

It wasn’t great. Dalton’s boastful pomposity evidently came from his father, he talked all about how well the store was doing but also then how Obamacare was going to put the store out of business, and then how they needed to buy a new freezer before spring because they couldn’t keep hiding meat in the snow pack when they couldn’t fix the leak in the Freon hose with duct tape. He bragged on Jordan’s abilities as a stock lead, Dalton’s as an assistant manager, and Cassie’s as a head cashier, but he bragged on himself the most. Everything good was either his or Dalton’s work, and everything bad could be chalked up to ‘slackers’, ‘losers’ or the ‘damn-government-that-should-just-get-out-of-the-way’. His captive audience was content mostly to let him ramble and nod passively while they feigned interest in the gaps in their side conversations. Veronica spent most of the meal checking her phone and browsing the web under the table. No reason to engage at a Thanksgiving she’d rather not be at in the first place.

Only when he talked about ‘that crack head Becky’ that he was sure was stealing out of the till, did someone actually interrupt him. “Not enough she’s on food stamps, but she has to rob me too? What a country, I tell yah, if it was Sarah down there in Washington right now things would be different, but oh no, Hope and Change and now she’s stealing my change-” Rene cut him off before he could descend fully into a rant.

“So, are you hiring?” Veronica perked up at that and cast an uncertain glance at her mother. She obviously knew whom her mother was asking for, not like Rene wanted a job as a cashier. Still, Veronica couldn’t imagine working for the broad, boisterous bull of a man at the head of the table.

“Hell, I’d take anyone over Becky.” said Hank.

“Well, I know Veronica’s had some expenses come up and she’s looking for a job at least until she goes off to college. Isn’t that right Veronica?” Rene cast a look at Veronica that left no uncertainty that Rene expected that to be right.

“Um, well, yeah. A job would be cool.” Hank Fischer frowned a bit at Veronica’s taken aback, on the spot improv answer. “I mean, yeah, I need one. I’m getting too old to babysit and all.” Veronica left it at that, unsure of what else to say in fear of spoiling the whole thing. She didn’t expect her mother to try to get her a job and was caught totally flatfooted. Better to leave it at that than ramble further.

“Well,” Hank leaned back in his chair, “I suppose I can schedule some ‘random’ drug testing, every time Becky leaves the ladies room it smells all kinds of skunky. Maybe we can work something out. Nights and weekends. If you’re half the worker your brother is, I think this might work out. Hell, if you’re half the worker he is, you’d have saved me a lot of trouble applying years ago!” He laughed a big belly laugh and Rene and Veronica both politely smiled, even if Veronica’s was slightly confused as well. Everything about Hank Fischer, from his laugh to his belly was big.

The meal continued until even Dalton and Hank Fischer couldn’t stuff any more food down their throats. They went back into the living room to watch TV with Jordan while the women cleaned up. Unfortunately for Veronica, her lack of ability to cook didn’t spare her from being conscripted for the dishes and she, Cassie, Rene and Alice spent over an over just getting everything put away, rinsed, soaked, wrapped up for leftovers, and put in the dishwasher. Rene and Alice talked a bit once the majority of the clean up was over, leaving Veronica and Cassie to themselves to finish scrubbing.

“So,” Cassie began, “I heard about your, um, your thing.” Veronica blushed a deep scarlet even as her spines went up. She feared another ‘Alex’ situation, with Cassie freaking out and assuming the worst, especially with a child on the way. Veronica feared Cassie’s mommy instincts and feared she’d make a scene.

“Yeah?” She said defensively and with a bit of panic, “what about it?”

“Easy girl.” Cassie reassured, only briefly taking her eyes off the pan she was busily trying to purge the grease from. “I just wanted to let you know it’s cool with me. I don’t mind.” While it took a load off of Veronica’s mind, she couldn’t uncoil from her defensive posture as quick as she’d like to, even in the face of positive feedback.

“Yeah?” She said simply.

“Yeah, everyone’s got their things, you know. If you want, I’ll tell you what Dalton likes me to do to him?” She said with a conspiratorial grin.

“No, no thanks. Not sure I need to know that ever.” The idea of stocky, high-school-has-been body Dalton doing anything was disconcerting. Cassie gave a mock pout.

“You’re no fun.” Veronica and Cassie chatted over dish soap while Alice and Rene talked over coffee and the boys shouted about football in the next room over. Veronica and Cassie talked mainly about the baby. Dalton had wanted it to be a surprise. Cassie told her that was just as much for sentimental reasons as it was to put off buying baby stuff. She had however taken a day off work to get an ultrasound and found out they were having a daughter. “Even if you never babysit again, Ronnie, I hope you can watch out for my little one, OK?” She said, her smile made Veronica feel absolutely perfect inside. For once, someone who not only knew who she was and what she was and not only didn’t raise the question about being scared of her being with children, but wanted her as part of their child’s life. “Besides,” Cassie teased, “who better to change her diapers.” At which Cassie playfully splashed a mass of suds from their shared sink at Veronica and Veronica splashed back in retaliation until a stern ‘Ladies’ from both Rene and Alice brought and end to the water combat.

After dishes were done Veronica floated around the house, mostly staying to the kitchen playing her games until the kitchen became the sight of an impromptu card came among Rene, Hank, Jordan Alice and a few uncles. Veronica wandered from room to room, seeking quiet spaces and lack of companionship. Out of boredom and with the special courage born of anxiety and nothing better to do, she texted Taylor.

“Hey, it’s Veronica. Happy Thanksgiving…I hope. Mine kinda sucks. Sent by Veronica at 4:34 P.M.” Only a short while later a text responded.

“VERONICA!!! I didn’t expect your new # so soon. PLEASEEE KILLL MEEE. T-Gives is the worst. :frowning: :frowning: :(. Sent by Taylor at 4:41 P.M.”. She and Taylor texted back and forth for over an hour. Both were miserable, but took comfort and some laughter in the others misery. Veronica had her terrible brother’s terrible friend’s terrible father (and presumptive new employer) talking politics at the table while Taylor had relatives drudging up feuds and rivalries from before she was born, grudges lubricated with Winter Ale and a year to brood on them. After clandestine note exchanges and whispered conversations, for the first time since that night Taylor barged into her house; called her out, ate her mom’s stir-fry and then drank her mother’s wine and taken a handful of Goodnites, they felt like something that someone might consider a conservation.

“You wearing???” Taylor texted. Off in the dining room, a conversation had devolved into an argument between Hank and Alice and she could hear Hank storm out in the direction of his living room man cave before. Gold was turned on and the volume turned way up. Meanwhile, in the next room over, Dalton and Cassie were going at it as quietly as they could while still being loud enough to hear. She hadn’t caught what must have set it off, but nothing was off the table in their arguing now, each throwing painful, personal blows at the other. Dalton, in a renewal of family tradition, stormed upstairs and slammed his door shut. She didn’t here much from Cassie afterwords. She sat at the table with Rene and Alice, sipping coffee, while Jordan crept off to be with Dalton.

“Yeah.” Veronica texted back.

“OMG, How Cool? SOO Glad You Gave Me These!! Goodnites Mean Good Days!!!” Even If Its A Sucky ‘Kill Your Diet’ Holiday."

“Yeah.” Veronica texted back again.

Jordan stayed at the Fishcer’s that night, so it was only Rene and Veronica going back to the house that night. Veronica made four trips bringing leftovers into the house while Rene spent thirty minutes trying to figure out what should go in the freezer or refrigerator in the house and what should be moved to the nearly packed deep freeze in the garage. By the time Veronica was done trudging in and out, her snow boots were covered in sloshy snow, her tights were damp and the forced choice of wearing a dress had become a nightmare. The temperature had dropped to eight degrees Fahrenheit and Veronica stood in the entry way as she brought in the last pan of leftovers shivering, all red faced and with foggy glasses. Once everything was put away, Rene came over to her daughter, hugging her shivering frame. Even if Veronica hadn’t become averse to hugs, she would have buried herself in this one to share body heat alone.

“I thought we might do something different tonight,” Rene started, with some obvious hesitation in her voice, “you know, just us two?”

“Like what?” Veronica inquired, her teeth still chattering away.

“I was thinking, since your brother’s not here, we do a movie night, yeah? A Momma-Daughter night? Doesn’t that sound like fun?” Rene said, although she tried to sound confident, now, at the moment of unveiling, their was some trepidation in her voice. A fear that maybe Veronica would push her away as she had many times before. But this was different, for the both of them.

“Momma,” Veronica whispered into her mother’s shoulder, using a name she hadn’t since she was little the first time around. It felt so distant and yet so close.

“We can watch movies, we can do whatever you like. Today wasn’t easy for you, I know. But you’re not alone. Come on little girl, go get dressed and your Momma will be ready for you.” Rene shooed Veronica off to her room, where she walked to with uneasy steps, being pulled and floating simultaneously. To her bedroom with her cute clothes and comfortable underwear and full permission to be little. She was excited, but she was also terrified. Her Goodnites were still dry, but sweat had clumped them up enough that she needed a change. She pulled a new pair up and got dressed in her new ‘little’ clothes; one of her My Little Pony tee-shirts, a new pair of white pajama pants laid out on the bed covered with multi colored stars and thick, comfy socks. In a bit of daring foolishness, she snatched a stolen pacifier from her under-the-bed-box and stuffed it in her pocket. With no small amount of apprehension, she walked down the hall in stocking feet towards the living room, where she not only smelt but heard popcorn popping in the microwave.

Rene, for her part, was in a nightgown, standing at the kitchen counter waiting on things to finish. “Almost ready princess,” she said, the words sounded almost natural, even in the awkward way Rene forced them out of her mouth. “Take a seat, Momma will be there in a minute.” Veronica curled up under the quilt her mother had thrown across the leather sofa facing the television. Everything raced through her mind. Fear of rejection, fear of being accepted, anxiety, excitement; she could barely get a grasp on how she felt before her mother sat down beside her, putting the big tub of popcorn on the coffee table in front of them and snuggling up to her daughter under the heavy, warm quilt… Veronica, as much as her ‘don’t-touch-me’ buttons blared an alarm, allowed herself to sink into her mothers body and Rene’s arm wrap itself around her shoulders. In moments, she no longer felt the presence of the distance that had loomed between them for so long. Everything felt right.

“What do you want to watch, princess.” The words came easier every time Rene said them. “You’ve got all of Netflix to pick from.” Veronica ended up picking out one of the ‘Equestria Girls’ movies. For a moment, the day slipped away. Time slipped away. She was little, cuddled with her Momma, and enjoying a kid’s movie. The only time Rene got up was to get drinks for her zoned out daughter. She returned, rubbing her daughter’s back and stroking her thick, dark hair. Soon the movie was over and Veronica was temporarily removed from her trance.

“How’d you like the movie?” Rene asked.

“It was great!” Veronica replied with an enthusiasm she no longer thought she had inside her. “I loved it, the songs, and then how Sunset becomes good in the end!” For the first time in over a year, Veronica let go. She was happy and at peace and very, very little. LilBrat wasn’t an act anymore, or a online persona. This was what Veronica had been chasing, had been emulating for strangers, but now she had it in her own living room.

“That’s great sweetie” Rene clearly had clearly taken notice the sudden change in her daughter, but was amused by it as well. It had been too long since she’d seen Veronica so happy about anything other than getting her college letter. “Did you,” Rene hesitated on her question, “did you make it through the movie, OK?” Veronica, still too zoned out in her little space didn’t get the message at first. After a moment to process, she blushed. That was all the answer Rene needed. “I know we’re playing Momma-Daughter, but I think that’s something you should take care of on your own dear. I’m not sure I feel comfortable helping with that, but hurry along, we can start a new movie when you get nice and dry.”

As curious as she was about being changed, Veronica shared her mothers discomfort with it being her mom changing her thoroughly saturated Goodnite. Veronica was honestly surprised she didn’t spring a leak right on the couch, even if some dribbled into her pajama pants. In her little high, she ditched the pants and came back into the room wearing just a Goodnite. Her mother was surprised, but not overly so. Even if she didn’t fully understand the alternated state her daughter was in, she was prepared to accept what came with it. Veronica snuggled back under the blanket and they began watching the sequel, ‘Rainbow Rocks’, during the movie, Veronica’s eyes began to get heavy. She shifted around and lay her head in her mothers lap. She popped in the pacifier she rescued from her damp pants. Rene just gave a mildly quizzical look but let Veronica do her thing, stroking her daughters hair as her little big girl grew increasingly sleepy.

As sleep came, the buzz of her little euphoria began to wane and calm. Her brow furrowed when she thought about Jordan’s words. About the illness, about Mom wanting another baby, and about what Dad had explicitly told Jordan not to tell Veronica.

“Momma?” She asked. Rene looked down at her daughter and when Veronica saw the look of love, of contentment and of peace that she felt reflected back from Rene’s eyes, she lost her nerve. There would be other times. “Tank you, Momma” she said around her pacifier.

“You’re welcome baby. You know,” she continued, “I don’t think you need the therapist after all. I think we just needed this.” Veronica couldn’t argue with that.