The Art of Squalor. (update 2020-10-25)

My eyes are weighed down by watermelons. Or so it seems. Sleepiness creeps up on me like a mouse behind a table leg waiting to pounce on a crumb of cheese that’s fallen off the counter. I don’t notice it until I’m hallucinating the words of the textbook in front of me.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I really should have turned off that tap.

I crowd all my strength to open my eyelids once more. One more page. One more page and then I can take a nap. It’ll be fine.

“The glial cells are the source of the neuroplast–”

No I can’t. This is too dull. All work and no play…

Tick tock. Tick tock. Tick tock.

Why in the world did Jeff get such a loud clock. It’s so distracting. I can’t read in these conditions. It’s torture. Maybe I’ll make myself a cup of coffee before…

Nope. Fuck it. I’m taking a nap. I’ve decided. The shuffling of my pants only slightly dampens the sound of a distinct crinkle.

I take off my pants, throw them near a mountainon the floor and slip smoothly under the covers.

I switch on my laptop and click on a streaming website. One episode of South Park won’t kill me.

Bang!

Abruptly, my eyelids flutter open.

Was that the door?! Nah…Can’t be. Jeff isn’t going to be home for another 2 days. Must’ve dreamt it.

I summon the strength to turn on my side to grab my phone off the night stand through a sleepy stupor, my awareness shifting to the comforting bulk between my legs.

SHIT! It’s 2:30. I’ve been sleeping two hours.

“WHAT. THE. FUCK, Caroline?!” A voice booms from the doorway.

I freeze.

“Jeff?!” I scramble to get the covers on me to cover my legs. “You weren’t suppose to be home today!”

“What the hell have you done to my house?” His voice is firm. Less yelling. Good sign?

“I didn’t know…I can explain…” I stammer. Words, thoughts. They won’t come. I don’t know how to explain. What do I explain?

“Didn’t know what? Basic hygiene practices? It smells like shit in here.” He walks over and takes my hand, pulling me up. “Get the hell out of bed.”

Then he notices what I’m wearing, and surprise flashes on his face. “Okay…”

I laugh nervously. “Oh no! Of course not! No…!!I wouldn’t!! No!”

“…Well still. This is ridiculous, Caroline. We need to talk.” He pinches his nose. “You smell terrible. Take that off and go draw yourself a bath. Then we’ll handle the rest of this.”

I smile sheepishly. “Jeff…I…”

“I SAID GO. NOW.”

I reluctantly trudge past him avoiding his eyes burning a hole through me. Especially with the crinkle in every step. I can’t even describe the pool of thoughts inside. I just want to crawl into a hole.

I get to the bathroom, turn on the tap, then carefully take off my clothes and my…uh…special undergarment.

I sit on the toilet waiting for the water to fill the tub. Jeff walks in.

“Hey!-” I begin to protest.

“No,” he goes over and picks up my clothes and the undergarment and promptly walks out, “you don’t get to talk. Brush your teeth while you’re at it.”

I oblige. I don’t really know what to say anyways. He’s very angry. I can tell. I’ve only seen him this angry two times before and neither were quite my fault.

It’s his fault for coming home so early. I would have cleaned. I just…This is a nightmare.

I get in the bath and just sit there for a bit in the company of my racetrack of thoughts. Round and round.

Drip. Drip. Drip.

I forgot to close off that tap before I got in. Sigh.

Suddenly I see Jeff at the door again. “Are you kidding?! Listen, Caroline, I don’t have all fucking day. Do you want me to fucking wash you? Get on with it.”

“Okay. Sorry.” I squeak, promptly grabbing the soap and starting to wash myself with it. He’s being so mean to me. He’s never this mean. Is he going to kick me out? He can’t treat me like this. I don’t think.

I shampoo my hair and start to rinse myself off, taking the plug out of the tub drain.

“Jeff?” I yell out.

He appears at the door instantly. “What?”

“I don’t have a towel.”

“Figures.” He sighs, the irritation in his voice sharply slicing the steam from the water.

He disappears and reappears with a fluffy pink towel. “There you go.”

“You don’t have to be this rude.” I protest.

“Just be quiet. I don’t have time for your shit.” He dismisses me and walks away.

I feel a tear well up in my eye and bite my lip ever so slightly. I dry myself off and walk to the bedroom with the towel wrapped around my chest. As I enter the room, I see that he’s cleaned up most of my dirty clothes and put them in the hamper and has made the bed. Then I see it. Propped open lying on top of the covers, near a container of cornstarch baby powder, a fresh diaper.

“Hey Jeff…um…you don’t expec-” I call out.

“Just shut up and lie down.” His voice precedes him as he walks through the doorway. He guides my arm torward the bed

“I don’t want to wear right now. That’s ridiculous.” I stop him, shaking my head. “Jeff, I just want to talk–”

“We will talk. After this.”

“No. I’m not wearing that.” My voice has regained some strength. “You can’t.”

“Well then, I guess you’re free to leave.”

“Yeah, I think I will.” I retort.

“For good. Pack up your stuff.”

“No…” The tone of my voice breaking as my hand trembles. “You’re kicking me out?”

“No. You just have two choices here. Either do this, or go.”

“But I don’t feel like…”

“Doors that way.” I instantly feel like a vaccuum has sucked all of the energy out of me.

I have very little fight left. Just enough to mutter ‘I hate you’ with tears welling up in my eyes as I reluctantly walk over to the bed and lie down.

Re: The Art of Squalor.

Fascinating. Quick fire on the payoff, but you certainly have a direction you seem to want to go…

Re: The Art of Squalor.

I lie there and I simply can’t get out of my own head. I can barely breathe. This is humiliating.

I like this stuff.

I’ve always liked this stuff.

But not like this. This doesn’t feel right. This isn’t…my choice?

“Legs up.” I feel the soft padding being slipped under me.

He finishes up in lightning speed and I’m snugly taped into a cage of my own undoing.

I sniffle softly.

“Shh…” He attempts to quiet me. I don’t want to be quieted. I want to scream. I don’t want him to get angrier though.

“Okay we’re done here.”

I sit up but my gaze doesn’t meet his. I can’t. I notice my whole body tremble.

He brings me a large oversized hoodie and a pair of red plaid colored socks. It’s the hoodie I received after we won the cheer-leading finals in junior year. Bright magenta. My favorite color. I’ve slept in it countless times. It’s so soft and comfortable. I reluctantly pull it over my head.

I’m scared.

Of what though?

He sighs. "Now I’m going to need you to go to the living room and wait for me on the couch.

“What about pants?”

“You don’t need 'em. Go.”

“But…” I softly protest.

“For fuck’s sake, Caroline. Is everything going to be a battle with you today? Just fucking listen!” Every word feels like a slap to my face. If only he would just calm down and talk to me.

I don’t hesitate any more than that. I quickly jump off the bed and walk out to the living room.

I genuinely can’t recognise the person I’ve been living with for just under a month.

Is he trying to punish me? Make my life here a nightmare? None of this makes sense.

I crouch on the couch with my knees tucked comfortably under my hoodie. I could argue it’s too cold for being without pants, but Jeff’s apartment is extremely well heated.

It feels like hours before he finally comes out of the bedroom. I think my mind has fallen asleep. My anxious thoughts have left my company and migrated somewhere else. I snap back to reality when I hear his footsteps.

He walks in, his broad torso being the first thing I notice about him, that T-shirt clinging to his body, outlining every curve, reminding me of all the things I’ve ever found attractive about him. He’s not that person anymore, though. Why?

“Jeff?” My voice is so soft, it’s almost a whisper. “This is silly. We don’t have to do this.” I try to push a smile on my face. Make things normal. Feel a tinge of control here. I want him to comfort me above all else.

“Hmm.” He snickers, a tight smile on his lips, as he sits down on the chair across from me and leans forward with his elbows on his knees.

“What?” I ask innocently, a small nervous laugh erupting from the back of my throat.

“Really? We’re gonna pretend nothing’s wrong?” That twinge of sarcasm just jumps at me, furrowing my brows.

“Umm…I don’t know. I mean…I know you’re mad. I mean…Things aren’t–”

“My house looks like shit, Caroline.”

“Yeah, I know, but you know, I would have cleaned up.” My tone betrays that tiny ray of hope I hold onto so tightly.

“Excuse me?”

“Well, I mean… I would have, if you hadn’t come two days early.”

He forcibly breathes air through his teeth behind a scowl. “Are you fucking kidding me…?” He looks like a rapid dog. Is he going to start foaming around the mouth soon?

“What?”

“If I hadn’t come two days earlier, then what? The house would have caught on fire? Fucking hell Caroline!”

“What do you mean?”

“There’s shit everywhere! This place smells like someone let their cat in here with no litterbox and then just scattered random two month old garbage everywhere. I don’t know how the fuck someone manages to get it to this point in barely a week and a half.”

“I would’ve cleaned.” I sound like a squeaky toy.

“Oh really? Were you planning to call the sanitation department? The sink is full of disgusting dishes, the counter-tops are filled with globs of god-knows what. There are dirty diapers in the fucking kitchen. THE KITCHEN. Who the fuck lives like this. Especially in an apartment that isn’t theirs.”

Not my apartment. So that’s what this is about.

“Oh, so this is just because I don’t pay rent, is that it?” I retort. “You were the one that asked me to move in with you. Now you are acting like I’m a stranger here.”

He shakes his head and his face starts to turn into a tomato. I can see he’s about to snap.

“What the fuck?!” He yells out as he throws his hands up. “Talking to you is like talking to a child.”

“Nooo…” I pout almost jokingly. “You’re just being REALLY mean to me!”

“I’m really not, Caroline. Don’t treat this like a joke. I’m serious. This is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous. That I have to come home to my place being in this state. After I explicitly left you responsible for taking care of it.”

He stands up, looking almost defeated, and starts to walk out.

“Oh and also, no, I didn’t ask you to move in. Your roommates were kicking you out so I offered you a place to stay. I thought you were mature enough to handle it. Turns out that maybe your roommates weren’t the problem.”

I feel a tear sting my eye. I quiver, biting my lip. I can’t believe he just used that against me.

“Where are you going?”

“To the kitchen. I’ll be right back.” I start to get up to follow him.

“NO. STAY.” I freeze and fall back on the couch. It’s like he thinks I’m a dog. And I’m at a loss of how to respond.

I’ve never seen this side of him. I swear he’s never treated me like this. I just don’t get it. It’s just a bit of a mess. It doesn’t take that much to clean it up. Why is he making this such a big deal?

I am so incredibly overwhelmed. This seems so hopeless, I actually do feel like a child.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/19)

Love this. Dialogue-heavy, but just enough internal conversation to carry it forward.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/19)

He does come back quickly. He’s carrying two tall glasses of what I can only presume is iced tea.

“Raspberry flavored.Your favorite.” He sets one down in front of me. I smile. He’s calmer. That’s good.

“Thank you.” I try to reach for his arm affectionately, but he pulls away abruptly. I feel a sharp pain where my heart is. It hurts to be rejected like that.

“No. We’re not done yet.” He sees through it. He sits back down on the seat in front of me, crossing his legs… “You’re trying to avoid talking about this. That’s not happening.”

“No…I just…wanted…” I can’t hide the disappointment in my voice.

“You want to pretend this isn’t happening. You want to go back to your fantasy la-la land where you don’t have to take responsibility for anything you do. Because no one has ever cared enough to confront you on your bullshit.”

“I DO take responsibility.” I furrow my brows. I feel my blood boil as my breathing becomes shallower. “I TOLD YOU I WAS GOING TO CLEAN.” I’m angry now. He doesn’t seem to WANT to listen. I stand up, adamant on showing how angry I am and try to stomp off, but he grabs me and pushes me back down.
I wish I’d started working out at the gym and lifting weights or something. I would be a match for his damn strength.

“SIT THE FUCK DOWN. We’re not done.” He sits back down calm again.

“Don’t worry, you’ll definitely make up for your little mess.” He smirks.

My eyes widen. “What do you mean?”

“Oh you’ll see.” Now he’s just infuriating me more. I don’t want to play these games.

“What? Are you gonna make me wear diapers as a punishment?” Now I’m the one smirking. It’s a mask, though. I’m not at all comfortable with not knowing his plans.

What if he actually DOES plan to make me wear all the time? I feel a shiver down my spine. This is beyond creepy.

He shakes his head and sighs. “You didn’t eat any of the food I left you in the fridge.”

“Well what did you expect? I hate vegetables.”

The conversation is normal again. Yay. Sigh.

“So what have you been eating? Or is the mess in the kitchen just a representation of that?”

“Uh. Just regular junk food.” I shrug. “I was really too lazy to cook.”

“Well, at least your honest.” He calmly says. “I don’t like that, though, Caroline. I want you eating more veggies.”

“Excuse me?” I snort. What the hell does that mean, ‘want you eating more veggies.’

He gestures questioningly.

“You’re not my parent, ass.” I scowl. “You don’t get to decide what I eat.”

His lips twist into a frown. He stares at me in the strangest way. “We’ll see about that.” The words send another shiver down my spine.

Am I living with some sort of psychopath?

Is he about to kill me?

“No, we won’t.” I adamantly reply, eyeing this alien from outer space. “I’m an adult. I can make my own decisions.”

“Clearly, you can’t.” He gestures to the rest of the living room, then specifically to a certain part. I see the red stain on the eggshell carpet from getting drunk two days ago. It was merely an accident, but fuck I should have set that stain or whatever mumbo jumbo they use for that

There’s also dirty towels laying around and random bottles from soda. Eeps.

“This was a one time thing.” I defend myself. “I was stressed by school.”

“Oh?” Surprise flashes in his eyes. “How many online exams did you do this week?”

“I…I didn’t.” I lower my head.

“So you failed them.” He smirks.

“Well, no. I mean…I tried…” FUCK. I’ve dug myself into a hole. Technically tomorrow is the deadline for my biology exam, but I’m barely a chapter in.

“Tried?” He shakes his head. “What the fuck does that mean?”

“I didn’t finish.” I roll my eyes and shrug my shoulders. So many damn questions. This is annoying.

“So how far did you get into it?” His eyes are tearing a hole into my forehead at this very moment. I can feel it. I don’t want to look up.

“I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT.” I yell out. “Can I just leave? I don’t want to talk about anything anymore. Please?” I beg.

He smiles and shakes his head as if he’s figured out every MENSA question without a moment of hesitation. As if he’s better than me. Superior to me.

Asshole.

“You’re mad.” He observes.

“No shit, Sherlock” I take my glass of Iced Tea and start to drink it. The cool liquid soothes my throat and my aching mind. The taste is sweet with just a little tang of bitterness. Just as I like it.

If only it could wash away this moment. If only I could be somewhere else. Maybe stop existing.

He gets up. “So, here’s what we’re gonna do.”

Yay. He’s figured out what’s gonna happen.

Not. I know whatever he’s about to say, I won’t like it. I wish I could move out. Oh, so very badly. I don’t want to deal with his bullshit anymore.

“Firstly, I’m gonna make lunch for us.” He reaches out for my hand and pulls me up off the couch.

“Okay?” I stumble a bit as I get up on my feet, the crinkly sound making me aware of itself once again. This used to be fun.

“You on the other hand. I’m gonna give you a black garbage bag and you’re gonna pick up all this shit that we need to throw out. Start with the living room, then the kitchen, and finally the rec room, bedroom and bathroom.”

He walks away quickly and returns with said garbage bag.

“You want me to do it, wearing just this?” My eyes widen. I thought this was just for the purpose of the conversation that was had.

“You enjoy it don’t you?” A small snicker erupts from his mouth.

“Not cleaning, no.” I’m feeling ridiculously uncomfortable. He hasn’t really explained why he made me wear it.

“Then maybe you can learn to enjoy it. Now get to it.”

I stare at him with a very ‘are you serious’ expression.

“Holy shit. NOW.” He shakes his head.

“No.” Screw this. I’m not cleaning like this.

“One…” He counts.

Is he serious?

“What the hell, Jeff. I’m not a three year old.” I exclaim desperately.

“…Two.” He puts up two fingers. Part of me is curious to see what happens at three.

“Fuck you, Jeff.” I’m not putting up with this shit.

“Three!” He sighs. “Fine then, if that’s what you want.” He grabs my arm so tightly and pulls me with such power that I almost lose my balance in the process.

“HEY.” I yell trying to pull away. He ends up grabbing me by the ear as well and pulls me away from the couch and towards the end of the living room. He pushes me into the corner.

"Since you can’t follow basic instructions, I guess I have to teach you. You will stand here, quietly, facing the corner for ten minutes.

I gulp. “But Jeff…” My eyeballs are the size of golf balls.

“QUIETLY. And if you even squeak or do anything but stand here facing the corner, I’ll spank you barebottomed like you WERE a three year old. Is that understood?” His eyes seem crazy bloodshot at this point. I must’ve really made him angry.

I nod silently and he shifts my whole body to face the corner.

How the hell did this happen? I’m standing here in nothing but a shirt and diaper facing the corner like a fucking preschooler. Nothing makes sense here, but I’m pretty sure Jeff is liable to keep his promises so I don’t talk or move.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/19)

Love it. Some fond memories mixed in here. :smiley:

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/21)

I’m not sure how kids do it. Standing and facing a corner is a really boring affair. It gets old after the first minute or so.

I gently tug on the wisps of hair that make up my bangs, feeling a slight panic absorb my insides. What if I need to pee while I’m standing here? Will he make me do it in the diaper?

That would be ridiculously humiliating.

Peeing myself while standing in the corner in a timeout.

I never fantasize about these sorts of things. My whole roleplay has always been about feeling close and cared for. Not disciplined. Not like this crap. I’ve never experienced it. Jeff is the first person I’ve even admitted to that I am into the whole DL thing. And that’s only because I was moving in with him, and he’d eventually see it whether I liked it or not.

I try to calm myself down. I don’t need to pee.

I focus on my breath. I once had a counselor who told me that anytime I felt panicked to focus on breathing.

Breath in all the way to my abdomen.

Breath out spring cleaning the panicked butterflies out of my stomach and releasing them into the air…

Breath in. Breath out.

In. Out.

After a moment, I feel relaxed again. Things are going to be okay. I’ll explain to Jeff what happened and we’ll go back to normal. I’ll apologize.

Yes. Apologies work. I will do that. He can’t be mad if I say sorry.

Moments pass. How many moments? I don’t know. I don’t have a watch on me and I’m scared to turn around to look at the clock in case Jeff sees.

Where is my damn cell phone? Hmm. I think I left it in the bedroom. I have to go get it once this bullshit time out is done. I have to check on my games.

Finally, I feel a hand graze my shoulder.

“Okay, hon. Your time out is done.” I breathe out a sigh of relief. “Now did we learn a lesson?” Jeff questions.

“Excuse me, what?” I frown intensely as I turn around and am faced with those deep brown eyes that scorn my existence in this moment. “What lesson? I didn’t learn shit except that you’re a jerk and have lost your damn mind!”

He stares back calmly. “Well, then. I guess another ten minutes in the corner might help you with that.” His eyes glisten with pure malevolence.

My voice is caught in my throat. “No…I…”

“What? Hmm?” He tilts his head. “Have you changed your mind? Did you learn your lesson”

“I guess so.” I reluctantly admit. I genuinely don’t want any more of this horse shit.

“So? What do you have to say?”

“I’m sorry.” I sheepishly reply. I’m defeated once again. I guess I have to play along with his game for a bit. But how long is this going to last?

“Why?”

“Cause I should have listened to you and all that.”

“Well, there’s a good girl.” He pats my shoulder.

Good Girl? What am I? A horse?!

“Now get to cleaning. I’m going to be in the kitchen.” He hands me the garbage bag he’s been holding in his hand and walks back out of the living room.

“But Jeff…I wanted to–” He’s already gone. I wanted to discuss him losing his mind.

I really don’t feel like cleaning. There’s so much stuff to pick up. I’d much rather watch some TV or play some games.

Right! My cell phone. I run out of the living room towards the hallway.

I hear a booming voice. “CAROLINE.What did I tell you to do?” He saw me. I guess I’m not supposed to leave the living room until I’m done?

“Uh… I was just going to the bathroom.” I show a slight pout as he stares at me from the doorway to the kitchen.

“No, you weren’t. You’re already diapered up.” He rolls his eyes.

“Wait what? …You want me to use this?” I’m stunned.

“Well, that’s what it’s for.”

“Ugh. You are acting ridiculous.”

So where were you ACTUALLY going?" He thinks he is so clever.

“To the bedroom.”

“Why?”

“Cell phone.”

“No…” He walks up to me and leads me back to the living room by my arm. “You’re cleaning. You can have your cellphone later.”

Fuck. This is so annoying.

I start to clean. I realize this place is in fact pretty disgusting. Under the random magazines on the coffee table I find old spilled icecream. That was last Friday. I was watching a Hilary Duff marathon. Guess I forgot about it. Ugh. It’s dried up already and stuck to one of the magazines, so I guess I have to throw it out.

20 minutes later the living room is done. I move to the kitchen but realize that Jeff has cleaned up most stuff off the counters so I just get the…erm…diapers off the floor. Yeah. That’s pretty bad, I’ll admit. I’m not sure why I did that. I think I was just really tired or something.

I find myself so absorbed in picking stuff up, imagining how wonderful it will be once Jeff is done with his little tantrum, that eventually I forget I’m diapered up like a little kid. He did such a good job too. It’s not sagging or anything, so it feels almost comfortable.

“Hey, look at that. You’re almost done.” A voice interrupts the happy movie in my head. Jeff is standing in the doorway to my bedroom.

“Yeah…” I smile shyly. “Just the bathroom left.”

“Well then, come eat dinner for a bit and you can finish up later.” The offer seems like a godsend to me at this point. I didn’t realize how angry my stomach was with me.

I follow him to the kitchen. The table is cleaned off. I see a steaming plate of spaghetti and a glass of orange juice on the other side. YES! I start to walk towards it.

“No…” He corrects me. That’s not yours." He tells me as he picks up a plastic tray off the counter and puts it on the table nearest to the chair in front of me. “This is.”

I feel my face lose all circulation. “…Wha…” I scowl. “What the hell?”

It’s spaghetti, but it’s on a plastic hello kitty plate, the one they make for toddlers with a matching toddler fork. And next to it… I shudder. Next to it is a sippy cup, Hello Kitty as well, filled with orange juice.

“I thought you’d like it.” Jeff smiles at me.

“Isn’t this going overboard?” My voice is desperate and whiny at this point. This day has been too much.

“Shh…” He chides me. “It’s adorable. I have it from when my sister brought her infant daughter over. And I think it’s very age appropriate for you.”

“But Jeeeefff. I’m not three. For fucks sake. Why the hell are you doing this?” I’m at my wits end.

“Okay, no more complaining. I need you to be a big girl for me and eat all your food.” His voice is stern. What the hell has gotten into him? I’m so hungry that I just stay silent.

I feel so very silly as I fork spaghetti off the plate. I avoid the sippy cup, though. I’m not going to let him go that far. As soon as I finish, I start to get up from the table.

“Sit.” He commands.

“What? I’m done.” I roll my eyes.

“You haven’t drank all your juice yet.” He smiles.

"I don’t want it. All of this is just annoying Jeff. I’ve spent the majority of the day so far without pants. Let’s just finish with this.

I gently let out a small yawn.

Why am I so tired all of a sudden?

“Okay, hon. That’s fine. It’s nap time anyways.”

“What?!” I exclaim. “I’m not taking a fucking nap. It’s 4:30 in the afternoon.”

“Exactly. It’s nap time for you. You’re getting really cranky too, so we both know it will help.” He calmly responds as he gets up and clears the plates off the table.

“You can’t treat me like this.” I protest and I stomp away to the living room and sit down, but moment by moment it feels like the energy is sucked out of me with every breath and my eyelids begin to feel very heavy. “I…I guess it wouldn’t hurt.” I admit to myself. “I am tired. I don’t know why…” I frown. I flop over and lie down on the couch. I make my own decisions. I don’t need someone telling me what to.

I hear footsteps and realise he’s standing in front of me. “No, Caroline. You aren’t napping on the couch. You have to go to your room.” He takes my hand, pulls me up and leads me by the arm to the bedroom. I don’t fight it. All I want is sleep.

He uncovers the duvet and gently directs me into bed. I start to cover myself back up but he stops me.

“Nope, not until I change you.” I groan. I just want sleep so badly, I can barely keep my eyes open and just stop paying attention. Then I feel a weird taste in my mouth.

“Can I have that orange juice, actually?” I pipe up. Within moments he’s back except this time it’s not in a sippy cup, it’s in a pink baby bottle. I don’t care. I’m ridiculously thirsty and instantly start to suck on it, barely paying attention to the grown man changing my diaper, except when he pats my ankles to get me to put my legs up to place a soft pillow under my butt.

As I throw the bottle away, drifting off into a deep sleep, I feel something rubbery inserted into my mouth.

I don’t care anymore. Reality is but a dream world for me.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/22)

V
My mind is awoken to the sound of rattling and banging.

Son of a gun. I’m sleeping here. Can’t whoever is making that noise be even just a little bit considerate of that?

I try to yell, “Shut the hell up!” but my voice is muffled by something in my mouth. I bite on it. Oh. It’s a pacifier.

I don’t remember…

I try to pull it out, but my hand muscles don’t even flinch. Weird.

I touch my stomach and realise that beneath the very soft fabric, I’m wearing a very thick diaper. I didn’t know I even owned diapers this thick. It’s very swollen.

Hmm. I must’ve used it before I slept. That’s a quaint idea. I don’t think I’ve done that before. I’ve always been too worried about Jeff walking in and seeing me in a wet one. As long as it’s dry, it’s still not weird. Right?

Nonetheless, I really need to change out of this.

I get up out of the bed and waddle up to the closet mirror. I’m wearing a very cute blue footed sleeper with little kittens all over it. I don’t think I own one like this. I wonder where it came from.

It doesn’t have a front zipper though. I try to fumble with the one at the back but it seems to be stuck.

Shit. I’m going to need someone to help me with this.

This is so embarrassing. I don’t want to ask Jeff.

I open the door to the bedroom and walk out into the hall and instantly notice the door to the guest room is open. I tiptoe over to take a peek inside.

My jaw drops. The room is painted entirely baby blue. There is pictures of toy blocks and little kittens in diapers all over the border.

Gah. What is this? I swear this room didn’t look like this before.

At one corner is a small rose colored dresser and beside it is a very wide wooden crib in a matching rose color.

As I’m staring in awe, suddenly I hear more thumping behind me making me jump to the side. I hear the sound of an ‘Excuse me, sweetie’ as two men in plaid shirts carry a large piece of furniture into the room. Matching pink color.

My eyes widen as I realise it’s a large changing table. I try to crouch down near the floor to keep them noticing the bulge under my sleeper but they barely acknowledge me.

“Oh no.” Jeff’s voice chimes from the hallway. “Shit, I knew all that noise might wake my little princess from her nap?”

“I’m fine.” I turn to him and try to answer but again my voice is muffled by the pacifier and it comes out as a “mmmmphhhnn”. I groan. Ugh. This is futile.

Jeff has a big smile on his face. “Oh sweetie. I think you need a change!” He exclaims, reaching to touch my crotch. “How do you like your new room?”

WHAT? This is MY room? What in the hell?

“HMM???!” I ask feeling my whole body numb at the words. “Nuh uh.” I shake my head in protest from behind the pacifier, quickly inching out of the room.

“She just woke up so she’s still a little moody.” Jeff explains to the two men as he quickly blocks my way and grabs my arm to prevent me from leaving.

“It’s fine. We’re done here boss. Have a great day.” One of the men pipes up as they both casually walk out of the room.

I’m terrified at this point. Jeff really has lost his mind. I try to get him to let go of my arm but to no avail, he’s way stronger than me.

“Now you, baby girl.” He scoops me up by the armpits effortlessly. “We gotta change that dirty diaper, don’t we?” He laughs wholeheartedly as he lays me down on the changing table, unzips my sleeper and then buckles me down to the table.

“Mmmphmmm.” I protest desperately as he starts to untape my diaper. I don’t want him changing me. I’m an adult here. This has to be some sort of crazy dream.

“You’re still so unhappy, baby. Maybe you didn’t get enough sleep eh?”

I shake my head vigorously.

I’m so freaked out right now. None of this is supposed to happening. Why in the hell did he buy me a whole nursery? Has he lost his mind?

He puts another diaper under me, uses some powder and tapes me back up. Then he unlatches the buckles and lifts me off and stands me on the floor.

“Now we gotta find baby girl something nice to wear.” He goes off the closet. I use this as an opportunity to make a run for it, even though I’m wearing nothing but a diaper. I try to even untape it as I sprint, but my fingers fumble too much.

Unfortunately, just as I’m rounding down the hallways suddenly I feel two hands snatch me up again. I let out a little whine.

“No, Kiki. That’s very naughty, baby. We don’t run away from daddy. You could get hurt.” He carries me back into the new nursery room. He has a sleeveless yellow dress laid out on the beige carpet with happy clouds and smiling suns. He swiftly pulls it over my head and proceeds to put matching socks on my feet. “There’s my little princess. All ready for the day.”

He scoops me back up and carries me out of the room, my legs dangling and all. At this point I have tears stinging my eyes. I can’t even take out this pacifier and try to talk him out of this situation. In addition, for some reason he’s extremely strong.4

As we enter the living room, I see a big playpen filled with silly toys laid out where the coffee table used to be. He deposits me inside. I try to get up but my legs buckle under me with every attempt.

“There we go. Now I know my baby girl isn’t going to get herself into any more trouble.” He winks at me. He pulls out my pacifier and I try to tell him to fuck off, yell at him even, but all that comes out is a very desperate and very miserable wail. He just laughs.

“Poor baby. Maybe now you’ll finally learn how to be an obedient little girl.”

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/22)

Interesting, hope it continues

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/22)

Glad you like it. :slight_smile: It is kind of taking a mind of its own…

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 1/22)

Suddenly my world starts spinning and I feel my feet surrender into the ground disappearing under me in a blurry tornado.

I gasp for air as my eyes wide flip open, sweat dripping off me like my head is a hot erupting volcano. I quickly pull the oversized hoodie off my head, it holding me hostage to the heat of my own body.

“What the fuck was that?” My eyes adjust to the light. Or lack thereof. Why is it so damn dark? I reach for my phone to check the time but my hand touches but an empty night stand.

Weird. I could have sworn I left it charging on the nightstand. I sit up and crawl out of bed, becoming fully aware of the swollen diaper in between my legs.

Gross. I slept in that. I hate waking up in a wet one, so if I use it, I usually change out of it before falling asleep.

That was a seriously messed up dream now that I think about it. I never want that. Any of that.

I walk, or rather waddle, out of the room to the bathroom across the hall, meanwhile grabbing a pair of pants lying on the floor. I turn on the light but it scars my vision with how bright it is, so I lower the intensity. I get under the shower and quickly rinse off.

I dry myself off, put on my hoodie and pants and and go outside into the hallway and living room.

It’s eerily quiet.

“Jeff?” I call out. No one answers. Wonder where he went off to.

I then notice the place is meticulously clean. Like hours worth of work clean. I have no clue how he manages it.

I go into the kitchen and pour myself some orange juice. The clock on the oven flashes 6:30.

Shit. I slept two hours.

I’m bored, though. I need to do something. I haven’t seen my laptop anywhere. I go back to the living room, orange juice and a package of Oreos in hand and turn on the TV.

Big brother is on. I flop on the couch and open up the Oreos carefully taking one out and licking around the edge. This would have been much better with milk, now that I think about it.

Meh. I’m too lazy.

At some point I see lights flash through the window.

Shit. Jeff is back. I’m vaguely curious about what he’s been up to, but more anxious now realising I left some Oreo crumbs on the couch. I try to scoop them up in my hand but to no effect. I need a dustpan or something. I run to the kitchen to throw it into the trash.

“What are you doing?” I hear the door open and Jeff’s voice rings behind me as I open the cupboard under the sink to empty the crumbs.

“Just cleaning up.” I answer meekly as I turn around to face him. He’s got four wal-mart bags in his arms. “What have -you- been up to?” I question.

“Hmm. What were you eating?”

“Umm…Oreos.” I shake my head. “Why does it matter?”

“I don’t want you eating Oreos.” He answers with his brows furrowed. “If you want a snack, you can settle for apple slices or tangerines.”

He’s gone crazy. It’s obvious. This is some sort of nutrition mental breakdown.

“Well. I don’t -like- apples or tangerines.” I frown. “I like Oreos.”

“That’s too bad.” He starts to unpack his groceries.

I skip over to him. “What’d you get?” An innocent smile flashes on my face.

“Just some stuff.” He looks me up and down, seeing my outfit of jeans and a hoodie. “When did you wake up?”

“About 20 minutes ago.”

“Hmm. And what exactly have you been up to?”

“Oreos.” I smile brightly.

He scowls. “Where exactly?”

“Um…the living room?” Oops. Wrong answer. His eyes furrow.

“You mean where I just cleaned up?” The way he says it makes it seems like I just peed on his carpet.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know you didn’t want me eating there.” Just calm down. Please. He makes such big deals out of nothing.

He doesn’t respond. Just walks straight to the living room. I hold my breath. Then I reluctantly follow him.

“Just as I fucking expected. That’s great Caroline.” He’s pointing to the couch. I see the crumbs. Shit.

“But, I swear I was going to–” I protest.

“No.” He cuts me off. "You’re always going to. About to. Intending to. I’m tired of your excuses Caroline. Just clean this shit up. No more eating anywhere but the kitchen. "

He’s constantly angry with me. I am so tired of him being angry with me.

“Fuck you. Seriously. You get pissed off–” A sharp pain erupts in my arm as he grabs me and yanks me towards the kitchen.

“Owww! What the hell, Jeff!”

He pushes me down into a chair. “Shut up. Just shut up.” I don’t even squeak at this point. I’m…scared of him.

“I’m done dealing with your bullshit. You can’t act like a decent person even for a moment. Every time I try to ask you to do something, you have an excuse. You throw tantrums like a little two-year-old. I’m done.”

I feel a tear glide down my cheek. “What do you mean, you’re done?” I meekly ask. He’s about to throw me out. I really have nowhere to go.

“I mean you can’t act like an equal in this relationship. You’re immature as fuck. You act out, you don’t clean up after yourself. You wait around for someone else to fix things for you. You’re like a little kid. No sense of responsibility.”

“But I…I’m trying.” My lips tremble. It’s just like the conversation I had with my ex two years ago. Except it wasn’t about cleaning then. It was about me living with my parents.

“Well obviously you’re not capable of being an adult.” He sits down next to me, no longer hovering over my head like a disappointed parent.

“You want me to leave?” I whisper, a little whine erupting from the back of my throat. Like a puppy that can’t get up the stairs.

“No.” He sighs. “I don’t want you to leave. I really care about you. Love you in fact.”

I stare down at the table.

“But it’s obvious you can’t take care of yourself.” He continues.“You don’t finish anything on time, not even a simple online class. You stay up all night doing god knows what and then you sleep in all day. You haven’t found a job yet and it’s been a month. I’m not sure you’ve even applied anywhere.”

“–I did!” I reply. At least one place. I know I sent in a resume.

“You’re living a fantasy here, hon. Life isn’t like that. I’m not supposed to be the one taking care of you.”

“You don’t have to.” I look up at him. His eyes are so blue, hidden behind an expression of concern.

“No, I do. I have to parent you. Punish you. Remind you when you’re behaving badly. It’s kind of hopeless.” He touches my hair softly.

“What are you saying?” I’m calmer now. I’m not sure why, but I almost enjoy the attention.

“I’m saying that if we’re going to continue this living arrangement, things are going to change. Drastically.”

Shit. I don’t like this anymore.

“Like?” I hold my breath.

“Like we’re going to have to establish some rules. I started writing up a list while you were napping.”

“Rules?” My eyes widen.

"Yes. For you. And you’re going to follow them to the tee. And there will be established consequences each time you break them.

“Like boot camp?” I laugh nervously.

“Not really.” Jeff shakes his head. “We can discuss them today, make any adjustments, but once we are done that, they are set in stone unless we decide otherwise.” He walks over to the counter and opens a drawer and takes out a piece of paper. He hands it to me.

I read the first line and my heart sinks.

“You are fucking crazy.”

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 2/09)

Keep going! This is getting interesting! Great story.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 10/25)

I see a scowl form on his face. “Rule number one. No swearing. Since I don’t officially consider you an adult anymore, but rather a child, you won’t be using adult words.”

“Seriously?! Or else what? You’re not that much older than me. And you swear all the fucking time. You’re being a fucking hypocrite” I grimace.

“One more word like that, and you’ll get soap in your mouth.” I swallow hard. “I mean it!”

“This is such cr–” I catch myself. “This is incredibly unfair. These rules are absolutely ridiculous! Do you not see how ridiculous all of this is?” Maybe I can still reason with him. I stare at the paper. His rules fill up the whole page. My stomach feels queasy. A tear forms in my eye.

“What’s ridiculous is that I’m living with someone who takes zero responsibility. For anything!” He stares me down. “Do you have any idea how much of a disappointment it is to entrust someone with something as simple as taking care of an empty house for a week just to come home to this? Do you think I want to have to enforce this?”

“You don’t have to!” I protest.

“I told you. I have no other choice. You’re obviously not willing to grow the fuck up, so I can’t trust you to make any adult decisions anymore.”

“Yes, you can!” I’m devastated. I don’t know what to say to change his mind. My lip quivers as I try to hold back tears.

“Well, I guess you’re going to have to prove it to me. And you can do that by following the rules I set out and accepting your punishments.”

The lip-biting doesn’t work. I feel a balloon rise up in my throat absorbing all my rational thoughts. The balloon pops at the back of my throat and a sorrowful sob escapes my throat.

“I’m sorry… okay?! I’m sorry. I didn’t know–” My voice breaks with each consecutive sob.

He motions for me to come over. I oblige. He opens his arms, pulls me down into his lap and hugs me.

“It’s okay, Kiki. You’re okay.” I melt in his arms, the warmth enveloping me and making my sobs less intense.

“I’m sorry I disappointed you.” I speak into his chest, feeling his heartbeat next to my temple.

“I know, sweetheart.” It’s like it’s the old Jeff again. Comforting and loving and everything in between. He still loves me!

I linger in his arms for a bit longer as he gently caresses my hair and kisses me on the head. “You feeling a bit better?”

“…Yeah. A lot better.” I stand up and walk back to my chair.

Yay. Maybe it worked? Maybe I melted that stone cold angry bitter Jeff and things can go back to normal!

“I’m glad. Now here’s a question. Do you still want to continue doing your online courses? I was looking over your biology work. The deadline for your exam is tomorrow. Are you ready for it?”

“Umm…no.” I give a sheepish smile.

“Well, how far have you gotten into it?”

I bite my lip. “Uhh…I’m on the first chapter?”

“Hmm…” A look of consternation lights up his face. “I didn’t realise you were so far behind. This is a month-long course so it’s really unrealistic to think that you’ll catch up by tomorrow.”

This time, I’m the one who’s scowling. “…Yeah. I know.”

“So how about we drop that one and you focus on your other 3 courses since those exams are in a month. I mean unless you don’t want to do school anymore.”

“But the next session of it is in three months…” I pout. I wanted to be done with the school stuff by the end of this month. It’s a thorn in my side, but I promised Jeff I’d take a few online subjects as a condition of moving in. He’s giving me a choice, though.

“Yeah. It is. But that’s not really my problem.” He shrugs his shoulders. “You’re the one who decided to slack off on it. I’ll email the notice myself”

“Fine.” I roll my eyes.

“So what’s the plan on the other three then?”

“I’ll uh… study and do them.” I’m confused. What plan? I start to play with the drawstrings of my hoodie looping them around each other.

He draws a deep breath. “Okay, I’m asking when do you plan to do them. How often are you going to study? How many hours each time? What are your goals?”

I shrug my shoulders. “I dunno. When I feel like it?”

He rolls his eyes in exasperation. “Fine. Since you aren’t willing I’ll handle it. We’ll talk about it tomorrow.”

Huh? “What do you mean you’ll handle it?” I’m so confused. Is he going to my courses for me?

“Tomorrow. That’s it.” He starts to get up out of his chair. “So here’s the plan for tonight. Your bedtime is at 9:30–”

“What?” Is he actually still going on about this shit?

He ignores me: “–So that’s in two hours. You can watch some TV until then or just hang out in the living room with a book or something and have some orange juice if you want. I’ll come to help you get ready at 9:15.”

“Jeff…” I plead, getting up from the kitchen table.

“Just stop it. There’s no compromise here.” He cuts me off, his voice sharp. “I’m going to take a shower right now, so I expect you not to get into any trouble.”

I stand up, dumbfounded and watch him leave the kitchen. What trouble?

This is so ridiculous. I won’t fall asleep at 9:30. I’ve been going to sleep at like 4 am every day.

He’s given me a bedtime. The thought sinks in.

He’s really treating me like a little kid. The timeouts, the plates. I thought it was just a ruse, but he’s actually planning to follow through.

My tears didn’t work.

I don’t know what to do.

But if I move out, where will I go? I can’t go back to my parents. They nearly disowned me. And my friends refuse to share an apartment with me ever again.

What the fuck did I do to deserve this?

This is abusive.

Yeah. This is abuse. Of like power or something. I want to go on my laptop and chat with some of my friends, but I’m pretty sure Jeff took my laptop. I have no clue where he even put it.

That’ll have to wait, though. All that sitting, I didn’t even realise my urge to pee. My bladder literally feels like it’s about to burst at the seams.

Jeff’s in the main bathroom so I walk into the guest room that has its own bathroom. I jiggle the handle, but it doesn’t budge. What the hell?

I look at the lock, but it’s some weird star shaped thing. I wouldn’t even know where to look for something to get it open.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

My brain is in overdrive trying to figure out what to do. There’s the kitchen sink but holy mother of gross.

Outside!

There’s some bushes outside. Extreme, but what the hell else can I do?

I quickly put on my sneakers and run to the sliding doors to the backyard and the nice green shrubbery is in full view. Perfect. No one will see me.

As I’m stepping out through the doors, I feel resistance shoe catches on something and I feel my upper body move forward.

It feels like one of those slow-motion scenes in movies where you see the person’s body twist and pivot. I see the cracks in the cement as I fall towards it. I can’t do anything to stop it apart from waving my arms.

Thud! I make contact with the pavement.

“Fuck!” I feel shooting pains erupt down my right leg and hip.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuckity fuck. I feel dizzy and disoriented and want to cry because it hurts so much.

Oh and I peed myself from the impact.

Fucking awesome.

My cheeks are flaming red, tears flooding my face.

Everything just sucks. I’m tired of this shit. I’m tired of everything.

I’m so embarrassed. I manage to get myself back upright. I get back into the house immediately and run to the bedroom to get a change of pants. As I pull the clammy wet material off, I wipe the wetness of my legs with the dry parts and grab a pair of jeans from my closet.

I’m so sick and tired. This is Jeff’s fault. I hate him so much right now.

Since when is the guest bathroom ever locked?

I go into the kitchen and grab the keys of Jeff’s Lexus. I’m getting the fuck out of here. I need some room to breathe and think things through. I grab my purse and take out my wallet. There’s a few dollars in there. Just enough to get me a coffee and whatnot. I still feel lethargic after that nap, though it’s been over an hour.

Jeff’s probably not gonna be too happy about me driving his precious fucking Lexus but fuck him. He deserves a little rough end to the day after the shit he put me through.

I’m out the door and into the car, the engine roars quietly as I start it. I reverse out of the driveway, doing my best to be careful and feel a sense of happiness settles down on me, leaving my troubles behind.

I go to the nearest Starbucks and order myself a Frappucino. I love these coffee shops. The lighting and soft music is so nice and calming. I feel like an adult again.

And perhaps by the time I come back, Jeff will have come to his senses.

He didn’t have to be such a jerk. He didn’t have to overreact like he did. He’s the child, throwing tantrums. I’m still mad about that Biology course, though. I don’t get why he even wants me to do school stuff. It’s all so pointless.

Suddenly my phone goes off. It’s Jeff. Probably worried. Pfft. Good for him. I let it go to voicemail.

A bing sound goes off. I got a text.

You have 15 minutes to get my car back in my driveway before I’m calling the cops and reporting it stolen with a description of you.The car has GPS tracking so it won’t be too hard to find you pretty quickly.

Holy Shit!

Way to fucking overreact.

I text back. I’m your girlfriend. They won’t believe you that it’s stolen. Seriously, what a jerk.

Phone pings again. You’re my ex-GF. I printed out the eviction notice I gave you before I left on vacation. You were angry that I didn’t want you as a free-loader and stole my car in retaliation. 13 minutes left.

What the fuck.

He can’t be serious. This is too much. How can he treat me like this.

I don’t know how to react, but the whole situation leaves me anxious so I drop the rest of my drink to the trash can and jump back into the car.

Six minutes before I pull into the driveway. Well at the very least there wasn’t any traffic.

I get out of the car and cautiously inch towards the house. The lights are on inside.

Obviously.

I’m reluctant to go inside, though. I hate the idea of the confrontation. I’m kind of scared. I didn’t think he’d overreact like that, and I’ve never seen him so angry as to say those sorts of things to me.

I walk in through the door. “Hello?”

No answer. I take off my shoes and put them in the closet. The pristine cleanliness of the house intimidates me.

“Jeff?” I tiptoe towards the kitchen. It’s empty, only the white ceramic floors glistening in the light.

Gah. This is too fucking suspenseful. I feel like the dumb blonde in the middle of a horror movie.

I walk through the hallway leading to the bedrooms.

The door to the bedroom is closed. I knock quietly on the door, hoping that maybe he doesn’t even hear it, that maybe I can avoid this somehow.

No luck. “Come in.” I hear his voice from the other side.

I open the door carefully as the vastness of the bedroom comes into my field of vision along with him standing at the walk-in closet hanging things up. His hair is visibly wet from his recent shower.

“Hi, Jeff.” I say meekly, almost hoping that my innocent demeanour changes something.

“Hi, Keekee.” He doesn’t even glance away from the shirt he is buttoning up on the hanger. “I see that you came back in due time.”

“Heh, yeah.” I half-smile. “Well, it seemed like you were pretty angry from your text.”

He doesn’t say anything.

“Did you really mean the part about me not being your girlfriend and evicting me?” I’m afraid of the answer. I want to stay on his good side. Part of me is really scared of losing him.

“Oh, no. It doesn’t have to go that far. I just had to make sure you came back. Which you have, so it’s good.” He answers cooly.

I’m confused. He seemed so angry, but here he stands to act almost indifferent. Calm before the storm?

“So um. What now?” I ask.

He finally turns to look at me. “Right, so I need a final answer on whether you are staying here or not. I mean, I can’t have you taking my car either, but that’s not the pressing issue.”

“Well…umm. Of course, I want to stay. I uh… like living with you and um… I really care about you.” I genuinely feel like a small child at the mercy of a parent in this very moment. I don’t like it. It sends shivers down my spine.

“Good. Then sign the rules and we can get on with it.” He smiles at me, a glimmer of a smirk momentarily passing through.

“Sign them?”

“Yeah, that you agree to abide by them and thus guarantee yourself a living space for a while. Kind of like a lease.”

“That’s kind of silly, don’t you think? Leases don’t have these sorts of rules attached.”

He shrugs. “Do it or leave. I don’t really give a shit at this point. I’m just kind of tired of your bullshit today.”

“Um…okay.”

“You’ve got until 9.”

“And if I choose to leave?”

“If you need, you can sleep in the guest room tonight, since it’s got its own door to the outside of the house and leave tomorrow morning.”

“Okay. Thanks, I guess” I retreat out of the room wit a frown on my face. I walk to the living room, turn on the TV and try to watch some Spongebob Squarepants, but my mind keeps wandering.

Part of me is glad that at the very least he was calm, despite those angry texts, but I feel pretty crap nonetheless.

Why the hell is he like this all of a sudden. He should understand my circumstances. I’ve never been great at cleaning.

What he’s asking is way too much. He’s pretty much asking me to sign away my adulthood. All because the house was a little messy. He wants to punish me because he’s got issues.

Ugh.

I really have nowhere to go, though. And I really care about him. I keep repeating that to myself.

Maybe he will let up if I let him go with this for a bit. Play along till things get normal again. It’s not the worst thing in the world. And it’s not I like getting attention from him. He’s a lot of fun usually. Not at all like today.

I stand up and go to the kitchen. The printout of his ‘Rules’ is sitting right there on the kitchen table. Next to it is a ballpoint blue pen.

Shit.

I’m really gonna do this.

Fine. Whatever. I can get through this. This is nothing. Maybe it means he won’t be angry with me anymore over silly things.

Tick tock. Tick tock.

That stupid fucking clock.

I take a deep breath in and pick up the pen. One swift John Hancock later and it’s done.

Over.

Shit.

I thought I’d feel less anxious, but I feel even worse. Some of these clauses are pretty ridiculous. It’s written on top “Non-negotiable.”

Clear expectations right?

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 2/09)

VIII

I walk back to the living room to attempt to watch some more Spongebob. I find myself mesmerised in my own world.

Orange juice. I should have some of that.

I’m definitely not going to fall asleep by 9:15. That coffee I had will guarantee that, so maybe I can renegotiate that with him.

My favorite show, “Mythbusters” starts at nine and I really want to see it.

I walk into the kitchen and open the fridge. The bottle of orange juice is on the bottom shelf, but there’s a sippy cup filled with a dry erase label on it “Keekee before bed.”

Well, that’s kind of cute. I take it. It’s not like I have to use it as a sippy cup if he isn’t watching.

I go to the living room and make myself comfortable as the last 10 minutes of Spongebob air. I unscrew the lid and start to sip at it.

So tasty and refreshing.

“What are you doing?” Jeff’s voice startles me.

Eeps. He saw it.

“Oh, I just thought…”

“No. You don’t do that when you’re in the living room. Anyways, did you sign my rules?” I nod. I feel squeamish even thinking about it.

“I left them on the kitchen table.”

“Good.” His tone of voice is sharp and he seems annoyed. “You don’t seem to be able to handle clear instructions. I don’t want you spilling anything on the couches. If you can’t handle being in the living room–”

“You didn’t say anything…” I protest.

“No excuses, Keekee. I catch you doing that again and it’s a timeout and straight to bed.”

Gulp. I nod giving him a sullen look as I tighten the lid back up on top of the container.

“Um. So about bed…?” I’m not sure there’s even a point of trying.

“I’ll come back and get you in 15 minutes.”

“I just…well. I drank coffee when I left, so I’m probably not going to be able to…”

“Well, that was a bad decision and against the rules. Maybe don’t do that.”

“Well, do you think I could stay up for a bit and watch Mythbusters?” I can’t believe I’m actually asking. It’s like I’m an 8-year-old begging their babysitter to make an exception.

He shakes his head.“No chance. Bedtime is at 9:30. No compromise.”

“But…”

“Stop.Right now. No complaining. We can discuss these things tomorrow.”

“I-” His expression is so stern I just shut right up.

“Hmm?”

“Nothing. It’s fine.” I pout ferociously as I watch him walk away. Damn it. I love Mythbusters.

I watch the first 15 minutes, but my focus is off. It seems like there is no room for compromise anywhere. He doesn’t want to listen to anything I say. I finish up my orange juice.

It feels like a blink of an eye before he is back. “Come on Keekee. Tv off.”

“I’ll just put the cup…” I’ll try anything to put things off and feel somewhat in control and not like a little kid.

“Don’t worry about that. We’re following a strict routine from now on.” He takes my hand and pulls me towards the hallway.

Each step feels like I’m closer to losing control and I follow his lead very reluctantly.

We walk into the bedroom and there’s a white mat on top of the bed I’ve never seen. “I got one of these changing mats at Wal-Mart today. Should make things a bit cleaner. Lie down on it.”

Ugh. This part. I look towards him reluctantly with a pout. I feel like his furrowed brows give him the ability to burn a hole through me.

“Keekee, I don’t have time for this bullshit. When I tell you to do something, you fucking do it.”

“I just don’t understand…” I start to say something, but he grabs my arm and pushes me down firmly onto it. “-OW” I lay back on the mat a feeling of helplessness absorbing me whole. This feels too weird for words.

He walks away for a moment and comes back and he dangles a pacifier near my face. “Open.” I open my mouth and he inserts “When I put this in your mouth, you don’t get to speak or take it out.”

Another fucking rule. He’s really milking this cow. I feel shivers throughout my body as he pulls down my jeans and begins to get to work, cleaning me up and whatnot.

“So, Keekee. I noticed the pants you left near the closet were pretty soaked.” Shit. How did I forget to at the very least hide those? Ugh.

I nod.

“Well, here’s the thing. You don’t get to EVER take off your diaper when I put it on you. You ask. Understood?” I nod. “That was also my mistake because I didn’t realise that you’d done that after your nap, otherwise I would have dealt with it sooner. I locked the guest room bathroom on purpose because I don’t want you getting any ideas. You don’t get to use the bathroom without permission.”

Well, now I’m just mad. He did that shit on purpose.

“Honestly, considering your level of maturity, I’m not surprised about any of this.” He pulls my legs up and tapes up the diaper between my legs.

He takes out light blue pyjama bottoms with pictures of pink hearts out of my closet and starts to put the leg holes through my feet. He helps me up and I pull them up over my diaper. He gives me the top part and I take my hoodie off and put it on. “Good job, Keekee.”

I roll my eyes.

“Now I want you to brush your teeth. I’m going to take out your pacifier. Do you think that you can handle that?” I nod. He pulls it out. “Go,” He orders me.

This is all so very stupid and I want it to stop, but I go to the bathroom and brush my teeth anyways. Things might become easier if I go along with this. I see my reflection in the bathroom mirror and I look really cute with the puffiness of my butt.

This isn’t by choice, though, and that makes it hard to enjoy any part of this.

I come back into the bedroom. He’s hidden away the changing mat and he’s sitting on the bed. He motions for me to sit down next to him.

“Now that you’re ready for bed, we can talk for a few minutes.”

I just shrug my shoulders. “I don’t like this.”

“I don’t like to have to worry about stupid decisions you’re going to make.”

I pout my lips. So harsh. “Everyone makes mistakes.”

“Yeah, but most people learn from them. Apparently you don’t. I don’t want to have to treat you like this, but honestly, things are easier this way.”

He stands up. “I was considering kicking you out. Especially after you took my car without permission. That was a serious line you crossed. You don’t even have a full driver’s license. If the cops had stopped you, you’d be unable to get a license for three years.”

“I know that.” I sigh.

“Bullshit. If you knew. If you truly cared, you wouldn’t pull something like that. I’m taking away your learner’s permit for now. No more driving, period.”

“What?! That sucks!” I exclaim. My friend Karen takes me out to drive every weekend and it’s pretty much the highlight of my week.

He shrugs his shoulders. “You’re not responsible enough. I’m sorry. I’m responsible for you now and I’m not taking any chances.”

I turn super red and stand up. “FUCKING HELL, Jeff. NO! Stop saying that. You aren’t responsible for me! I’m an adult.”

“Okay, then.” He walks out of the room.

Uh. What? Did he agree with me?

Nope. He comes back with something in his hand. “Open wide.” It’s a white bar of soap.

“Jeff…Come on.” I plead with him. I’m pretty sure it’s futile, though.

“NOW!” He orders. I open my mouth and he inserts the soap. It tastes absolutely disgusting. I feel nauseated. “Four minutes.” He holds up a timer and sets it on the night table. “Not gonna put up with any more tantrums, sweetie.”

My eyes well up with tears again. This is way too much. I need all of this to stop. He shakes his head. “None of that anymore, love. No more crying. I know this is hard for you, but I’m also REALLY tired of your games.”

I sniffle. He wipes a tear off my cheek. “You’re fine. Just be a good girl and things will get easier.”

I scowl at him. He tells me that he’ll be right back, to keep it in, and leaves the room again. It feels like forever before he finally comes back, just as the timer goes off.

He has a glass of water. “Now I hope that this the last time that we have to do this, Keekee. Right?”

I nod. He removes the soap from my mouth, but the taste lingers. At the very least my jaw has a break. “That was humiliating,” I say quietly.

“Yeah. I bet. You seem to make things more difficult for yourself at every corner, though, sweetie. If you keep this up the whole time, I might have to start using more drastic methods than I outlined. I told you that you could make progress if you were good, but the same goes in the other direction.”

“This is just so unfair, Jeff.” I frown as the remnant of soap taste travels around my mouth. “I don’t think that I deserve any of this.”

He shakes his head and lets out a deep sigh, but doesn’t really respond. “Maybe it is easier to deal with you like this. Clear expectations and proper consequences. It seems to be more on your level.” I pout. That’s all I’ve done all day. Pout. It seems I fit this role too well.

He takes my hand and leads me back to the bed, uncovering the bedspread to make room for me. “Get in, hon.” I climb into bed and get under the covers as he tucks me in.

“Do you want a pacifier to bed?” He asks. I frown as I shrug my shoulders.

“Do I have to?”

“Of course not. Falling asleep might be easier is all.” He puts it on the nightstand next to me. “It’s here if you want it.” He comes up and kisses me on the forehead.

“Goodnight Keekee. Sweet dreams.” He then walks out, turns off the lights, and closes the door. I notice that there’s a white teddy bear next to me. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it before. I bring it closer and hug it tightly. My eyes get wet again.

This isn’t fair.

I’m tremendously upset and I don’t even know how to deal with it.

I sit up and just sit with the bear. I wipe away my tears.

Jeff should treat me better. Why is he so mean to me? Isn’t a boyfriend supposed to be loving and caring and not this crap?

He’s not my parent. He’s barely 5 years older than me. He doesn’t get to impose all these rules on me.

I sit in the dark for a good ten minutes before going to the window. I notice that the lights are out in the front of the driveway. That’s strange.

I tiptoe to the next window and realise that Jeff’s Lexus isn’t in the driveway.

Score! I wipe away my tears and run to the door.

It’s locked.

Son of a bitch. He locked me in.

I have no plans to sleep.

I turn on the light and look through my drawer for something to help me. There’s a plastic card of some sort at the very back.

I wiggle it down the door opening until the door latch opens.

Hell yeah!

Wherever he went, it’s unlikely he’ll be back in the next 25 minutes, so I could absolutely finish the ending to Mythbusters and not get caught.

For some odd reason, I decide to take the pacifier with me as I grab the bear.

I’ve never had one before, but plenty of my DL friends have tried 'em.

I get comfortable on the couch hugging my bear and cover myself with a blanket. Just for the heck of it, I put the pacifier in my mouth and settle in watching Mythbusters.

It seems strange, but my eyes do feel sort of heavy. I blink and suddenly see Jeff’s face in front of me. For a moment, I’m confused.

“Blaghphp” I try to speak but forget about the pacifier. I take it out and try again “Jeff!”

He just smiles at me. “Hi there, Caroline.” He puts it back in my mouth.

Shit. I fell asleep. I was supposed to get back in bed before he came home. I panic for a moment, but he just scoops me up in his arms as I’m holding the stuffed animal.

“Let’s just get my little girl back into bed.” He carries me back into the bedroom and deposits me back into the bed under the covers.

It all feels so good for the moment. “I’m 'thorry.” I try to say behind the pacifier, but my eyes are back to feeling super heavy and I’m barely conscious.

“Shh, sweetie. You’re fine.” Moments later I sense him getting into bed and feel him put his arm around me.

It’s weird, but all of it just feels really good.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 10.25.2015)

I nearly forgot about this. Wonderful that you moved forward with it! :slight_smile:

WBDaddy wonders if there isn’t some element of real-life experience going on here

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 10.25.2015)

Honestly, I’ve genuinely only recently realised just how much my stories reflect my internal dialogues and thoughts. This story is definitely an amalgam of some real life developments in my life vs. fantasy. Some of the early chapters ‘could’ be a word for word conversation I’ve had, which is kind of humorous to reread now, months later. The real-life element is really just the tone of the story through the tumultuous swings of mood and perception between the characters.

IX

I wake up to the sounds of birds and lots of cars outside my window. My eyes feel really blurry and sleepy, but my body feels ready to go.

I rub my eyes until I see stars appear. I look straight ahead to the stucco-filled ceiling.

Much better.

It’s daylight. The sun is shining. I feel happy for once.

Oh all the things I could do.

Wait.

Oh shit.

Yesterday.

Memories of the previous day start to flood my thoughts.

No.

Shit. Shit.

As if timed, the door to the bedroom opens and Jeff peeks in. He’s fully dressed in a American Eagle Hoodie, a plain white t-shirt and jeans. His home clothes.

“Aww. Has my little girl finally woken up?” He nearly coos at me.

Eww. Stop. I grimace at him.

“Is Keekee ready to get ready for the day?” His voice is so cheery I squirm. Shut up. Just shut up.

I pull the covers over my head. “Leave me alone.”

He laughs. Bastard.

"We have a busy day today, darling. It’s probably best we start it on the right foot. Don’t you think?

It’s just so bittersweet. He’s being nice but I still have the memories of the troll he was last night. That troll is in there. Ready to pounce at any moment.

“Can’t I just stay in bed?” I ask very sweetly. “Then I will be out of your way. Guaranteed.” I uncover myself just enough to show him a glimmer of a cute little smile.

I would love to just stay in bed and watch Netflix all day. No joke.

Avoid Jeff until the crazy dissipates.

“Oh no, love. We can’t do that. I have places to be and I have to keep an eye on my little Keekee.”

He walks over and pulls the covers off,and smiles. “Firstly let’s get that soiled diaper changed.”

What?

Again?

Is he putting some magical spells on my bladder?

I try to cover the obviously swollen diaper under my pyjama pants with my hands somehow.

Silly perhaps. But I feel my face flush a beet colored red.

“Maybe I can do it myself?” I again meekly ask. It’s worth a try.

“Nope. Not how this works.” He swiftly pulls me up out of bed to set the changing mat from under on top of it. I squeal in surprise.

“Hey!” Then in just as swift a motion he pulls down my pyjama pants and pushes me onto the mat.

“If you want, you can hold your friend the bear while I do it, so it’s less scary.” He winks at me.

I scowl. “I’m good. Thanks.” It’s annoying how much he seems to be enjoying this.

He rips the tabs open, brings out all his needed supplies and changes me into a freshly powdered up fluffy prison once more.

He’s like really good at this.

None of my DL friends have ever been this good.

I get off the mat and sit on the end of the bed.

He’s a fucking magician at this point.

I hate the word swift.

I just watch him cleaning up and going back and forth to the closet.

“Hmm. Maybe we need a changing table or something…” He starts.

“No.” I respond by reflex.

That stupid dream. I don’t want any of that.

“Huh?” He looks at me, a flat expression on his face as he peruses through my closet. “I just thought that maybe it would make things easier and we wouldn’t have to use the bed, Keekee.”

“Well aren’t you going to get bored of this eventually? Then what are you going to do with all this stuff.”

He gives me the same flat expression. “What do you mean by bored?”

“This whole thing. You’ll grow tired of it and then things will go back to normal.”

I thought this was fairly obvious.

He can’t keep this shit up for too long.

He walks over to me with a bunch of clothes in his hands and drops them off next to me. “Keekee, we’re just getting started here.” He smiles.

It’s almost creepy.

“Up.” I bring my arms up and he pulls the pyjama top off me and pulls down a pink t-shirt with a purple pony on it.

“What do you mean?” He’s being so vague.

“I mean, my little girl still has sooooo many things to learn.” He pulls a grey hoodie with a sparkly owl over my head.

“I can dress myself, you know.” This is all just so annoying. His mood. His tone. Everything.

“Mmmhmm.” He brings over purple striped tights.

Eek. This is terrible. I mean they are cute and all but this whole thing is terrible. I pull them on myself since that’s easier.

“Anyways, sweetheart. You’ll see in time.” He winks at me as he goes back into the closet and gets out a purple skirt.

How fucking weird is this outfit.

“Now we just have to do something about your hair, love.”

My hair? What?

“Um. Why? My hair is fine.”

He’s gonna do something ridiculous like take me to get it cut into silly bangs and curls or some shit. Ahh.

“We have to keep it out of your way and face, sweetie. Just sit still and I’ll get it all.”

Okay. Twilight zone moment.

Since when does Jeff know what to do with hair?

And yet, I sit still. He sit behind me and gently brushes through it and then starts doing god-knows what with it.

It feels kind of nice.

I close my eyes and just enjoy it for a bit.

“Done.” I open my eyes, get up and go over to the dresser mirror. My hair is actually really cute. He’s made little twists and braids and left the bottom part in a ponytail.

It’s the kind of hairdo you give a 7 year old.

“Um…” I kind of stammer out.

“What, you don’t like it?” Jeff stands behind me in front of the mirror. I think it’s very age appropriate.

“I look like a ten or 11 year old when you put the clothes and the hair together.” A really young ten or 11.

Jeff shrugs. “I don’t get it. What’s the issue?”

I give him a really weird stare. “You know what the issue is.”

“Seriously? Are you actually complaining?” He doesn’t look as amused or happy anymore.

Sigh.

I don’t want to provoke him.

I mean I appreciate the effort but I feel pretty ridiculous being dressed like this.

“No.” I respond softly. “You did a great job.” He got what he wanted. I have no clue where any of these clothes even came from.

As if reading my mind he smiles and says. “I got all these at a really nice children and preteen store yesterday. The lady said that my little girl would love them.”

Yep. I’m screwed. Every moment of every day, things keep getting worse.

I sigh and sit down on the bed, feeling pretty defeated. The cushioning from my diaper creates a weird sensation throgh the tights. It makes me feel it with every movement I make.

I kind of like it.

No.

Stop. I hate it.

This would be great if I was doing it for fun.

But this sucks.

Jeff stares at me questioningly. I have seemed to doze off into my thoughts again.

“We gotta get moving. Come and eat breakfast.” He lightly takes my arm and leads me out of the room.

I walk to the kitchen, with Jeff following and there’s the Hello Kitty plates with two waffles and some scrambled eggs and ketchup. There’s also the sippy cup. It’s not the same one, though. It’s labeled “Keekee B.F.”

I sit at the table and pick up my fork. Jeff goes over to the sink and starts doing dishes. “This looks great and everything, but why are the sippy cups labeled.”

“Oh, that’s cause different drugs.”

I almost choke on a waffle piece as I drop the sippy cup in my hand and it hits the table.“Wh-wh-what drugs?!”

This is terrible.

This is so creepy.

He’s like Bill Cosby or something.

I push my food away in disgust.

“OKay. Chill, Caroline.” Jeff rolls his eyes. “They are just supplements to make the transition easier.”

I feel my breathing become heavy. “What transition??” I’m absolutely panicking right now.

“First of all, calm down. You’re fine. Pick your fork up and eat your breakfast, because we don’t have time to waste. Unless you want me to feed you like a little toddler. You might not like that as much.”

“No, Jeff. Not this time. If I’m taking something, I want to know what it is.” I glower at him.

I’m so pissed off. This is such a terrible abuse of trust.

“Oh no, Keekee. Bad idea. Don’t take that tone with me.” He turns to me frowning.

I shrug. “Fine, but I’m not drinking this crap anymore.” I aggressively swat the sippy cup away. It ends up falling off the table and hitting the floor.

But it doesn’t break.

And yet, I feel a bit of adrenaline rush that it almost did.

When I look up to look at Jeff, it’s an entirely different story. He’s practically shaking.

“We do not throw things in this house.” He says under his breath, his teeth nearing a snarl.

Oh crap. I’ve pushed him off the edge.

He walks up to my chair very slowly. I can see his breath. It’s forcefully calm. I swear a vein is about to pop on his forehead.

“Pick it up.” He instructs me. I look up at him and then to the cup on the floor.

Every limb of my body feels paralysed with fear.

“I.I…I” I stammer.

“Caroline. Get the hell out of that chair and pick up the fucking cup.” His eyes remind me of a tiger that has just seen it’s prey, almost translucent and dazed. He shakes his head. “I’m not going to tell you a third time.”

I inch towards the cup, my hand shakes as I slowly pick it up and set it on the table. I keep my gaze away from Jeff.

“I’m umm…I’m sorry.”

“Oh, really.” His breathing is still so forceful.

“Yeah… It was an accident.”

He turns to me and puts his palm to my chin raising it up so that his gaze meets my eyes. “Are you sure you want to go with that story?”

My breath shortens and my pupils dilate as I see the rage seeping through.

Shit. Shit. Shit. I’m fucked.

“I don’t know. I was … angry and um… I…” My voice breaks. I’m too scared to continue.

“You were angry…” He carefully echoes. “…Because I refused to give into your tantrum. So you decided that you would try to destroy something that I bought you. Is that right?” He carefully questions.

“I…umm…” I have to choose my words carefully. “I didn’t want to break it.”

“Okay, then.” He lets go of my chin.

At this point, I know too well how misleading those words are. A storm is brewing.

He takes my arm. “Come with me.”

I’m weary. This doesn’t sound good.

I hesitantly follow him as his grip on my arm is unshaken. He lets go as he walks into the living room and sits down on the big chair. “Come here.”

Oh shit.

No.

Fuck no.

“Jeeff? I honestly don’t want to. Please.” I say, barely whispering the words.

“Excuse me?” He frowns. “I said come here. Do I really have to repeat myself every time?”

He motions for me to come closer.

I walk very slowly. I’m afraid. I really think this is too extreme.

“Jeff…You don’t have to…like you really don’t. There is other things…”

I don’t even know what I’m saying.

“You’re stalling. I can see through it, Keekee. I’m not a fucking idiot.”

I reach him and he grabs my arm to bring me closer. He’s very calm and extremely thorough. He holds up my skirt as he pulls down my leggings. He carefully untapes the top of diaper, just enough make it possible to to pull it down.

“Jeff.” I don’t even know why I’m trying but there’s tears in my eyes.

Once I go through this, nothing will be the same.

“What?” He looks right at me.

“Please.” I bit my lip.

“You don’t leave me much choice. Ten times.” His expression doesn’t waver even for a moment.

He positions me over his knee with his hands and raises his hand before slapping down hard. I whimper to the shock of the impact. I bite my lip.

Each subsequent movement of his hand leaves me quivering, the sounds piercing my ears, the impact leaving me feeling more and more raw. Finally he gets to ten and my cheeks are incredibly wet and I’m quietly sobbing.

He positions me back upright and tapes the diaper back up, pulling up my tights and lowering my skirt.

I look down to the floor, but once again he takes his hand to raise my chin up to meet his gaze. “What lesson did we learn today?”

I feel my body shake. “Um. We don’t…sniff. um… throw things when we’re angry.”

“Good. Now you can go to your room for a bit. Come back when you are ready to finish eating.”

I instantly leave and run to my room, my cheeks still incredibly inflamed and painful.

I go into the bedroom and just kind of collapse onto the bed grabbing the white bear in my arms and hugging it tightly as more sobs erupt from my throat.

The pacifier is next to me on the nightstand.

What the fuck does it matter anymore.

I take it and put it in my mouth and just lie there in the fetal position until a feeling of calmness envelopes my body.

I hate Jeff.

I don’t want to do this anymore.

I am done. I’ll figure something out.

This isn’t worth it.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 10.25.2015)

Wow.

Well played, particularly the internal dialogue component…

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 10.25.2015)

One thing I’ve liked about this story so far is that you can genuinely see why and how she’s earning this treatment, mostly through the fact that SHE doesn’t get why.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 10.26.2015)

I get up and sit there with the pacifier staring at the ceiling, still holding the bear. It’s fluffy. It feels wonderful.

I’ve never really enjoyed stuff animals, but at this moment this bear is my only comfort.

It still stings. The diaper cushions it a bit, but I still feel it.

It’s a constant reminder of how cruel and callous Jeff is.

I want things to go back to normal.

I was hoping that he’d give this up by now, but day two and he hasn’t budged.

Where the hell am I going to go?

I could find one of those abused women shelters. I wonder if they need proof of being hit or something.

But then what? I feel so helpless. Not a single soul wants to help me.

I’m alone and I can’t do anything about it. I wish I could call my mom but after she found out I had stolen her credit card and didn’t come home for five days, she told me I couldn’t live there anymore.

That she couldn’t trust me.

That’s it. I know the PIN to Jeff’s cards. He’s had me buy him things way too many times.

I could easily take those and withdraw enough cash to live off of it for a good month or two. Hotels and whatnot.

He probably would barely notice. And when he did, I’d be long gone.

And then I wouldn’t have to put up with this.

I get up and put the bear and pacifier back.

I need clothes. The ones I’m wearing won’t do.

I peruse the closet, but none of my old clothes seem to be there.

Everything is pretty much colorful and childish.

Where the fuck are the rest of my clothes?

Screw it.

I go into Jeff’s closet. I pick out a navy hoodie, some smaller sweatpants of his and a black T-shirt. I put them in the duffel I got from work 6 months ago before I got fired.

Fuck you, Jeff.

I can buy everything else.

I have to get to his office at one point, without him noticing.

I go out of the room and into the hallway and feel my adrenaline go back up. I’m kind of scared of running into him.

Especially after that.

He had no right.

I bite my lip.

Ugh. Stop thinking about that. I’m on a mission. When I enter the living room, it’s empty.

Hmm. I peek into the kitchen.

Empty too.

Oh. He’s outside. I can see him doing something to his car from the window.

Good.

I go to the end of the living room where the door to the rec room is.

I jiggle the handle and it opens.

Whoo!

He usually keeps it closed since he keeps his most important things in there.

Score. His credit card wallet is right where I last saw it. I pull out three different cards and stuff them in my hoodie.

There’s also about 500 dollars worth of cash. Double score.

I push the bills in my hoodie pocket as well, even though the pockets are pretty shallow so I gotta put these in the duffel right away.

I leave the rec room and gently close the door.

Whoo. Adrenaline feels good.

I go into the kitchen this time.

I see the plate of pancakes and eggs.

There’s a different sippy cup there as the other one is drying near the sink.

A part of me feels a tinge of guilt. I haven’t figured out completely what my escape plan is, but it can wait a few hours.

I can pretend all is normal with Jeff for a bit and maybe enjoy those last moments a bit.

Sigh.

I really do love him.

He just has left me no choice.

Right?

All of a sudden Jeff is at the kitchen door and sees me staring at the eggs.

“Hey, Keekee. You okay now? Gonna finish breakfast?” He almost seems concerned.

It’s all an act, though.

I furrow my brows.

“What do you think?” I feel my teeth grind.

“Sweetie…” He comes closer and reaches to touch my arm. “I know you feel…”

I quickly turn away from him and covertly checking my pockets are tucked in, I pull out the chair and sit at the table.

“I just want to eat.”

“Okay,” He retreats, “That’s fine, hon. Just let me know when you’re done.” He starts to leave the kitchen.

“Umm. Where are you going?”

“Well since you’re not ready to talk or anything, I thought I’d give you some space.”

“No.” I shake my head.

“Sorry?”

“Stay. Please. We can talk.” For some reason, I want the company. I wanted to punish him by being cold, but I want the company more.

“Okay.” He still looks concerned, but he pulls up a chair in front of me.“So how are you feeling?”

I grimace. “I…really don’t want this…this…arrangement. I want you to treat me as an equal. As your girlfriend.”

He starts to say something, but I shake my head. “No, I know. You said that it isn’t possible. You don’t like the way I act or whatever.”

He nods. “I really care about you, Keekee.”

“I don’t think I can do this, though. I mean, I don’t have anywhere else to go, but this is…umm…really hard.” This was supposed to be me pretending, but I feel my heart drop with every word.

“I know, sweetie.” He tilts his head. “It takes some time to adjust. But I really think that it’s for the best. For both of us. For now.”

Gah. This caring act.

No. No. No.

You’re supposed to be mean. This is so much easier if you’re mean.

“I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.” I frown. I start to pick at my eggs.

“Well, here’s the thing.” He takes on a more serious tone. “This situation won’t change until you show me you are somewhat responsible and can own up to your actions.”

I roll my eyes. This again.

“I mean it. And I need you not to lie to me. If you’re going to lie to me about the small things, then I definitely can’t trust you with the big things. I gave you ample opportunity to admit your mistake before…”

“Shut up.” The words escape my throat before I know it. “Just shut up.”

“Excuse me?!” I see his face tense up. “I’m not going to put up with you acting like a rude little fucking brat.” He stands up angrily.

Oh dear. I have to fix this.

Words. Use your words, Caroline.

“I’m sorry Jeff. I honestly didn’t mean to be rude. I just…I don’t think you should ever… umm… you know…do that.” I feel so small all of a sudden that I want to disappear.

His silhouette towers over me though his expression has softened. “I’m sorry that you don’t like that your actions have consequences, Caroline. I’m not going to give you special treatment or let things like that go just because you’re upset. I told you things were going to change drastically. Now, don’t you ever use that tone or those words with me again.”

I nod meekly that I understand.

He leaves the kitchen and I, once again, feel like crying. I want a hug, not him yelling at me more.

I finish up my breakfast and drink the liquid in the sippy cup.

Mmm. Raspberry tea.

I get out of the chair and go back to the bedroom to put the money and cards in the duffel.

When I walk in, he’s already sitting there with a box in his lap.

Shit.

Such bad timing.

“Um, hi.”

“Come here Keekee.” I walk over to him as he motions for me to sit down.

“Give me your left hand.”

I’m about to ask why, but I realise that will just make him angry with me again, so I just move my hand towards him.

“So, I thought that perhaps my little Keekee deserved to have something nice.” He wraps something around my hand. I can’t see past his shoulder, though.

“What is it?” I ask, genuinely curious.

“Just give it a moment, it has to melt together properly.”

“Huh??” When I take back my hand, I’m confused. There’s a blue rubbery bracelet like thing around my hand.

“Yeah, it’s just a small chemical reaction that bonds the two sides together. Just gotta make sure you can’t take it off.” He winks at me mischievously.

I try to pull on it, but it’s definitely held together strongly, just barely enough room for me to put my finger between my skin and the bracelet.

“So…what is this thing?”

“It’s technically a tracking device.”

My jaw drops. “This is the thing they use on small children! There’s like a million commercials on Tv.”

What the flying fuck?

Jeff doesn’t say anything. He just smiles smugly.

Re: The Art of Squalor. (update 10.26.2015)

You’re in a great rhythm here. I have no criticism to offer. Down, down, down the slide goes…