My eyes opened slowly, and my mind felt dizzy. I couldn’t make out what time it was on the alarm clock, but I knew I had overslept.
I tilted my head towards the door. Hanging off it was a long baby blue dress, made of satin and decorated throughout with sparkling beads. It was the most beautiful dress I’d ever seen. Clearly I made a good decision for the prom.
The prom! It was tonight! I still wasn’t sure what exact time it was, but I knew I was already late. Quickly I changed my panties and put on the dress. I had no time to straighten my hair, but I combed it best I could.
While I started to apply my makeup, I heard the doorbell ring. It must have been Darrin! Even though my makeup was only halfway done, hurriedly I went downstairs to answer the door. I was expecting Darrin Mavarick, standing there in a stunning tuxedo with a baby blue vest, holding my corsage and bearing a huge smile. Only it wasn’t Darrin Mavarick.
“Jade!” I exclaimed. “What are you doing here?”
“Your parents asked me to come over and babysit,” my best friend answered.
“Oh, you mean for Tasha?”
“No, silly. I’m here for you.”
Suddenly my legs felt weak and I fell backwards onto the hardwood floor. I was ready to embrace the pain, but instead, my landing was cushioned with something thick and soft. With my legs stretched out on the floor, I hiked up my dress to conclude what I knew was unfortunately coming… I was wearing a diaper. A very bulky one at that.
“No!” I shouted. “I have to go to the prom tonight!”
Jade just smiled at me. “What a wild imagination you have,” she said. “You’re just a baby. Babies can’t go to prom.”
“I’m not a baby!”
“Then how come you’re wearing a diaper?”
I looked down again. The diaper was comically thick and felt like a pillow between my legs. I tried to tell her that they forced me to wear one, but as I was about to speak, Jade shoved a pacifier into my mouth. I fiercely began sucking on it.
“There we go baby,” she said. “Let’s get you to the playpen.”
I tried to stand back up but I couldn’t get my legs to cooperate with me. Instead, Jade guided me as I crawled to a large playpen in a corner of the room. I thought I would trip over my dress, but when I looked behind me, I noticed the dress had disappeared altogether.
But I had no time to think about it as I saw Jade lock the playpen. She looked like a giantess staring down at me. “Now you play with your toys while I go prep dinner,” she said. “Your mommy says you’re eating solids now!”
I really wanted to tell her I should be at the prom dancing with Darrin Mavarick, not sitting in my living room playing with toys, but I couldn’t work my tongue to spit out the pacifier. My entire body was betraying me.
Jade walked into the kitchen, so I looked at the array of toys scattered on the floor. I picked up a Trixie doll and noticed it was wearing a baby blue dress similar to my prom dress. Curiously I hiked up its dress and noticed Trixie was wearing a diaper underneath too. I stared intently at the doll’s face. It looked more like me than a Trixie doll. I began feeling dizzy.
Abruptly I felt the doll being snatched out of my hands. I looked up and saw Tasha, who towered over me as much as Jade did. For some reason, she was now wearing my prom dress. “That’s my Trixie!” she scolded. “You’re too young for that. You can play with this.”
She handed me a rattle with Lola the Voyager on it. With nothing else to do, I started shaking it. But it didn’t rattle. Instead, all I heard were beeps.
BEEP. BEEP. BEEP. BEEP.
I found myself back in my crib-bed. There was no Jade. There was no playpen. There was no prom dress. And there was no comically thick diaper, although I immediately remembered I had a Sleeptite on underneath my shorts. I don’t know what the deal was with these weird diaper dreams, but they were starting to get on my nerves.
I continued to transition into school over the next three days. In history, French, and English, I was doing fine, but something about that geometry class I kept struggling with. I didn’t want to ask Mr. Litman for help, considering how lowly I thought of him. I worried if I would fail the course and have to repeat it next year… or worse, in summer school. On the other hand, I was quite happy in my art class and I had a feeling I would grow to love it. Miss Hart could tell I was enjoying myself too, especially once I started participating in class discussions. It was helpful to have Kamila and Linus around. I felt really comfortable with them and they patiently continued to answer any questions I had about school, though I admit they always gave me weird looks because it seemed that no matter what, everything that I considered “out of the norm” was completely natural to them.
The only thing I continued to have difficulty with (besides geometry, of course) was the diaper thing. Tuesday morning I had to remind myself that I would be wearing putting on a diaper for the next three years rather than my usual underwear, and thankfully this time I was able to fasten it correctly. Now, I could shrug off the other babyish things that seemed to go on at school, as they weren’t really that big a deal, but the diapers still bothered me. I managed to avoid wetting them at school so that I did not have to put up with Ms. Grayson again or the other atts. Of course, that meant I had to hold in my pee all day, but it was worth it.
On a similar subject, Tuesday and Wednesday night I continued to have the weird diaper dreams. On Tuesday, the dream involved Mr. Litman failing me and making me go back to daycare. Wednesday’s dream was a bit less nightmare-ish. I don’t remember all the details but I remember Mom offering me a Leg-Up and me being really happy that I could wear it instead of my usual Squeezies. Then when I woke up on Thursday morning I realized how ludicrous that was that I would be happy to wear a Leg-Up over Squeezies. Then again, all these dreams were ludicrous, and suspiciously cinematic. It was almost if a tiny writer was living inside my head, drafting up these weird situations.
Thursday afternoon was pretty chaotic at home. As soon as Mom picked me up from school, she gave me a whole list of chores to do before Rhonda—the whoever-she-is from whatever-department-she’s-from—arrived for dinner. I questioned how much there could possibly be to clean up, considering we had just moved in a few days ago, but Mom had me vacuuming the carpet, sweeping the kitchen, and even organizing my room.
“Why would she go into my room?” I asked her.
“You never know,” Mom said. Great answer, Mom, I thought. I decided not to point out the fact that a number of unpacked boxes were still scattered throughout the house and there was a greater chance Rhonda would notice those than a mess in my room.
By the time Dad returned home from work, the house was clean and the smell of Shepherd’s Pie masked the entire house from the kitchen’s oven. The table was set, and Tasha and I were sitting on the couch watching a rerun of Showchoir, one of the few shows I could watch without my sister complaining about it. Mom was tidying up the kitchen, while Dad was keeping her company.
Ding-dong went the doorbell, and Dad immediately sprang from the kitchen to answer the door.
“Rhonda!” he exclaimed. “Please come in. Ma maison est ta maison.”
“In more ways than you know, David,” I heard a female voice respond. I turned around and saw a tall redhead in a trench coat entering through the doorway.
Just then, Mom left the kitchen to greet the newcomer. “You must be Rhonda,” she said.
“Which must mean you’re Laura,” answered Rhonda. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“And it’s a pleasure to have you for dinner,” Mom said. “I hope you like Shepherd’s Pie. An old family recipe.”
“It sounds delicious.” Rhonda turned her head and noticed me sitting on the couch in the living room, my head turned completely around staring at her intently. She walked towards me. “And so I’m guessing you’re Natasha,” she said to me, bearing a huge smile, and for some reason raising her voice to a higher pitch than she had used with my parents.
“Uh no, I’m Amber,” I said.
“I’m Natasha!” my sister piped up.
“Well aren’t you two just the most adorable little girls ever? You must be proud, Laura.”
As a teen girl, I didn’t like being referred to as “adorable” or “little”, but as I knew we were trying to show Rhonda how “great” a family we were, there was no reason to argue. My mind was actually more distracted about Rhonda’s whole persona. As soon as she stepped inside, she seemed to make herself at home. She took off her coat and left it on the couch beside me. And then she was the one that suggested we start dinner, rather than Mom, who had gone to great lengths to make it. Even when we began dinner, she immediately served herself without hesitation (or even thinking about the fact that there were two children at the table). I’d never seen a woman so comfortable in the house of people she barely knew.
After we all had food on our plates and taken a bite of Mom’s delicious Shepherd’s Pie, the conversation began. Rhonda explained to us—well specifically my ever-inquisitive Mom—about her own job. “Family Affairs may be one of Timberly’s most important department, as our town prides itself on family life and good welfare. It is my job to make sure each family is doing well, particularly those who have recently moved and may still be adjusting. Of course, it seems like the McCormands have adjusted fine.”
“It was a surprisingly easy move,” Mom commented. “I’ve heard so many nightmares about moving out of town. Even when David and I moved into our first house, that was a stress. But you all were really helpful, sending those movers and all.”
“It’s something we insist upon. We treat all our employees and families with high regard, as Timberly-Marks only employs the best of the best.”
I discretely rolled my eyes. I loved my dad and all, but I never thought of him as “the best of the best”.
Rhonda then turned her face to me. “So sweetie, I hear you have some questions you want to ask me about the town,” she said, in the most sickeningly sweet I’d heard since I moved here.
“Uh, I guess,” was all I could get out. Of course I had questions, and they were all related to each other… why was my room a nursery? Why was I taking naps in high school? Most importantly, why was stuck in diapers for the next three years? But which question should I begin with?
“Well I have a question,” Mom started. “When I went shopping the other day, all my groceries were charged to a family account. Are we going to be billed for that?”
“Not quite,” answered Rhonda. “To put it simply, in lieu of money, you use your family account for any purchases you make.”
“Is that true for everything?”
“Supermarkets, clothing stores, restaurants, the movie theater… everything is paid for with the family account. We’re money-free community.”
I found that answer a bit odd, and clearly so did Mom. She asked Rhonda to elaborate. “Essentially, Timberly is a collective community. Everyone contributes to the company in some way, and thus everyone shares the profits.”
“Sounds like communism,” I chided.
Rhonda turned to me. She continued to smile, but her eyes turned cold. “I’m glad to see the education system is still working satisfactorily. Actually, the town was modeled after the Israeli kibbutz. Are you familiar with that, sweetie?”
“Not really,” I answered.
“Well, a kibbutz is an agricultural community. Traditionally every member of the kibbutz contributes towards the work. Nobody carries money on them or owns private property, but all basic needs are provided. It is a self-sufficient community, and Henry Marks wanted to incorporate its ideals into the town he founded. And you’ll notice that we’ve kept to that ever since.”
“Isn’t that fascinating?” Dad remarked. “I’m almost surprised you don’t find more towns like Timberly.”
“Believe me, we’ve tried to expand our communal company town model to other businesses,” Rhonda explained. “But for some reason it has yet to catch on.”
“Well maybe they don’t want to stick their kids in diapers for the rest of their childhood,” I stated sternly.
“Amber!” Mom called out in surprise.
Rhonda just smirked. “Not responding so friendly to the whole diaper situation, are you, sweetie?”
I didn’t want to answer her condescending question, so I didn’t. Instead, Mom answered for me. “We did have some difficulties on the first day of school, but Amber accepted the dress code fairly quickly.”
“It might surprise you but that’s a pretty common reaction to kids your age that move here,” Rhonda said to me.
Why in the world would that surprise me? I thought to myself.
Rhonda continued, “I’m sure you understand that we like our families to try out and use the Timberly-Marks products, especially before they hit the market. When you wear and use a Squeezie, we learn how efficient the product is and that helps the product’s sale. Think of it like it’s your job, being a full-time product tester.”
“Except they don’t sell Squeezies for teens in regular stores!” I rebutted. “Why am I ‘testing’ a product that isn’t even manufactured outside Timberly?”
Rhonda shot me another cold look with her eyes. It was remarkable how that smile could stay in place, but those eyes could change so quickly. I wondered if my parents could see the change too, or if it was some sort of seventh sense that I had. She answered, “For a girl who hates her diapers so much, you sure seem to know a lot about them.”
I had to clamp my hands to my seat to prevent me from jumping out of my seat and attacking this woman. “All I want to know,” I said, “is why I have to wear them if I’m perfectly capable of—”
“Amber, I’m sure Rhonda doesn’t want to answer questions about your diapers all night,” Mom interrupted. I blushed a little bit at that comment.
“Actually, if we could switch gears, I’d like to ask David about how his job is so far,” said Rhonda, turning her attention away from me.
“Oh it seems I’ve come at an exciting time,” Dad responded. “The marketing department is starting a new campaign to target their maxi pads to twentysomethings. We’re thinking of putting Snipper hashtags on pads, and then they can snip about it when they use them. Seems ridiculous to me, but kids these days and their internet, I guess…”
I didn’t contribute anymore to the dinner conversation, and when Tasha asked to excuse herself from the table after she finished her plate, I did the same shortly after. I barricaded myself in my room and started my homework. But I couldn’t concentrate; all I could think about was that something seemed off with Rhonda, particularly her vague answers to my questions. Was she hiding something from me? It seemed like anyone I asked about the diapers refused to give me a straight up answer.
I could hear from upstairs when Rhonda was leaving, but I had no intentions of saying goodbye to her. I was just thankful that Mom or Dad didn’t come downstairs and ask me to do so.
I continued with my homework—for once I could figure out my geometry—and then got ready for bed. By now I got used to the pattern: changing out of my daytime Squeezie and into my Sleeptite. Every time so far I noticed how significantly thinner the Sleeptite was, even though the thickness of the Squeezie didn’t normally bother me throughout the day.
Thankfully, I did not have any weird dreams that night.
Instead, I woke up the next morning with a wet diaper.