MY FINALS ENDED and I went home to wait for my test scores to be posted online. Addy had driven away a couple hours before Dad had picked me up. Addy and I had made sure that we had a good sendoff for each other before we said goodbye. Fortunately for us it was only goodbye until two days before Christmas, when she was going to come pick me up to go to a company party her parents were hosting. Given my stature, and lack of facial hair now, I had gotten her promise that she’d stay with me the whole time except in bathrooms! I was quite nervous about finally meeting her parents!
I had just finished setting my stuff down in my old bedroom, which hadn’t changed at all in my absence, and walked down to find Dad sitting at the table drinking some coffee. “It’s good to have you home Cameron,” he told me.
“Thanks Dad,” I told him. “It’s good to be here… It’s kind of weird now.”
“Yeah, I remember coming back from college and feeling the same. I don’t mind you going out and doing things if you want, but make sure you let me know where you’re at?”
“Sure,” I told him.
“There’s one…” he sighed, “There’s one place you might want to go, and you might not.”
“Beth’s at her parent’s house.”
“Why didn’t you say so?” I asked. “I have to go see her!”
“I figured, but… Cameron…” he couldn’t finish the story before I was already out the door and walking the few doors down to where she lived.
I rang the doorbell and Beth’s tall dad answered.
“Umm… Hi Mr. Fehler, umm…”
“Cameron, it’s good to see you,” he told me somewhat sadly, “Come in.”
I walked in and immediately knew that things were not good for Beth.
Their kitchen now featured a Little’s high chair - complete with all of the restraining straps that were never on a baby’s. I felt my stomach drop at the thought of her being strapped in, unable to move her hands or feet… or head if he used that one… To my right I looked in the living room and saw all of the signs of a baby living there. A playpen, a swing, a walker, soft toys, and… well, it really looked like a baby, at most a year old, lived there now.
Unfortunately, I knew it wasn’t a real baby, it was instead one of my best friends.
I looked up at him, “I’ll let you see her… we should talk first Cameron,” he told me. “But I know she would want to see you.”
I followed him to a pair of armchairs in his living room. I climbed up onto the tall chair and noticed a rattle sitting wedged in the cushion. I ignored it and looked at him.
“Cameron, I want you to first of all know that Beth considered you her best friend… and maybe more than that growing up. I think her mother and I always hoped the two of you would get together and get married someday… you were good for each other,” the tall man told me.
“I know,” I told him. “I don’t know that I realized it though until she came to say goodbye to me…”
“I think she figured it was probably a true goodbye Cameron. And, in a way, it probably was…”
There was a sadness in his voice that spoke of him being broken-hearted about whatever had happened next. “My dad said you were trying to re-adopt her… obviously that worked?”
“I knew when Beth went to college that there was a good chance that she would end up demeriting out and getting adopted. Honestly, when you have a Little as a child… well, you have to accept that’s probably their future. It’s not fair, it’s not right… but it’s the way the world tends to work. Most Littles tend to come from parents that are the same, so there’s really no chance they can interfere. When she let me know she was going to student services, I immediately started to fight for her to come back home. The problem though is the iron clad student contract that a Little signs when they go to school at Emerson. As soon as you go to Emerson, if you’re under seventy-two inches tall, you have to sign a power of attorney and consent form that makes the university your legal guardian. It supersedes any blood relationship… even for the child of a Big.”
My gut twisted in knots over it, “But you got her back… how?”
He sighed, “I fought with my lawyers at my side for two months Cameron. She stayed in a special ward at the university during that time, while they were also seeking out other options for her adoption. In the end it was a woman who was about thirty, and an alumnus of Emerson, that had… paid the ‘application fees’ for her adoption with a ‘donation.’ I managed to tie things up though to where we were brought in before a judge for mediation. It was… it was the first time I’d seen Beth…”
He honestly seemed heartbroken and I knew things had to be bad.
“She ran to me and gave me a hug before they ripped her away and sat her down in a high chair, and stuffed a locking pacifier into her mouth. We both made our cases for a long while, and the Judge finally said, ‘The university agreed that she would have a choice when she committed herself to the student placement services, correct?’ The university’s lawyer answered in the affirmative, even as the woman was told to be quiet because she was sure she should be hers!”
I sat there, wondering had come next, I suspected it was probably the worst.
“The Judge considered some documents and said, ‘take that gag out of the girls’ mouth.’ Young Lady, make sure you understand if you can’t be at least be a little bit mature and quiet right now, I’ll make this decision completely for you. The way I see it I think you should have a choice, but we also have to acknowledge that you recognized you have a growing case of Maturosis, and going back and becoming your father’s big girl again isn’t in the cards now, is it?’
“‘She meekly said ‘no ma’am,’ and asked, ‘What is my choice?’”
“‘Hmm, well, if you go with the nice lady over there, she’ll do a nice job of re-raising and supporting you the way you need, and she can start off with you exactly the way you are. She’ll be in charge and you’re her baby forever.’”
I watched her dad wipe a tear away, “She continued though, and said, ‘I’m willing to consider though that your daddy loves you very much – so much so that he’s gone through a lot of time and effort over this case to prove that he is by far the best person to care for you. But, again, with your case of Maturosis, you can’t be a big girl, can you?’”
I couldn’t help but think that was the second time she’d said that phrase, and felt my gut twist as I could just see a diaper sticking out of a package to the side of the playpen that was probably tall enough to contain me.
“My little girl answered her respectfully though, ‘No, Your Honor?’ ‘Right then,’ she’d said, and she lined out that she could come home with me, but only if she agreed to be regressed to having no potty training, only able to crawl, and have her teeth replaced with a gum implant so she could only have a liquid and pureed diet, and have a tongue procedure to reduce her diction. She insisted it was so neither of us would be tempted to just pretend she was a big girl… At that moment I wanted her with all of my might to choose the woman – since she might not have all of those things done to her!”
I looked at him, “She chose her daddy though,” I said softly.
“She chose me,” he nodded.
“She can still think and talk though?” I asked.
He shrugged, “When she chooses to? Honestly Cameron, it hit her hard… Her mom wasn’t here when she came home either, which didn’t help.”
“Where is she?”
He sighed, “We got a divorce in the hopes it would help me regain custody without her. Many would consider her ‘tweener mother to be a negative influence that led to her Maturosis… It’s amicable, but she can’t be here and has no visitation rights allowed per the agreement with the judge.”
I sat there in stunned silence before finally asking, “May I please see her now?”
“Sure, she should just be waking up from her nap. Why don’t I go up and change her, then I’ll bring her down so you can talk…?”
I watched him walk up the stairs and felt my gut twist and waited for him to bring her down. I heard an odd sound as there was a high-pitched laughing and giggling baby upstairs… I was glad that she was at least smiling as he brought her down and said, “Why don’t you sit with Lizzie on her blankie? I’ll give you two some privacy,” he told me as he sat her down.
I climbed off of the chair and walked over to join her. Beth was dressed in a short dress with a snapped onesie attachment. A pacifier was bobbing in her mouth. “Am…Am!” she said to me. She tried rocking forward to her hands to push herself to a standing position, but fell forward. I caught her and helped her sit back as she grabbed onto me and hugged me.
We were both crying then. “Oh Beth…” I said sadly. “I’m so sorry.”
She squeezed me though and pushed away, letting her pacifier drop from her mouth, “Is okay,” she told me. “Daddy bes home.”
She couldn’t get her ‘t’s’ out anymore unfortunately without her teeth, but I was glad she could at least communicate still.
“You’re really okay?” I asked her.
“Yeth,” she smiled. “No wi mean wady, wi Daddy. Would be way worse…”
I nodded. “He’s being nice about it?”
“Hurs him more an me,” she told me. “Diapees no all ba…”
“Daycare?” I asked, knowing he worked.
She blushed, “I jus pren complee baby.”
I nodded, “That’s probably smart.”
I had been terrified that Beth was a mindless shell of herself, but clearly her dad had refused to force her to regress any more than the judge had already done. ‘She was probably right in some ways…’ I grimaced at the thought, ‘her dad would have let her earn her panties back and freed her within a year.’
It was possible to free a little you had adopted, but the steps and paperwork were vast. There was a complete legal definition of the steps you needed to prove a Little could handle in order to grant them an emancipation. Among those steps was that you had to demonstrate the Little could care for themselves and function on their own. With Beth unable to walk, use the potty, or even eat real food… well she was stuck.
We talked for a little bit more before I gave her a hug and left to go back home to have dinner with my dad. On my way out I held my hand out to Mr. Fehler, “Thank you for saving her… I hate what the judge did to her, but at least I know you love her and will always take good care of her. You did everything you could,” I told him sincerely.
“Thank you, Cameron. She talked more to you than she has to me in the entire time she’s been home…” he told me. He looked to be nervously wrestling with something, “Look, I don’t have a problem if you come by and drop a present appropriate for under a year-old baby off at Christmas, and maybe come say bye to her before school, but it would be a bad idea for her, and you, to come here on a regular basis…” He nodded up to where I suddenly realized an industrial security camera sat watching the living room.
I grimaced, hoping our conversation didn’t get them in trouble, but just said, “Yes, sir, I’ll respect your wishes…” I sighed, feeling vomit as I said it, “I know she’s not my adult friend anymore…”
He squeezed my hand again and I headed back home to my house deep in thought. ‘The damn judge ordered them monitored too?’
I walked through the door and could see dad was putting something back in the oven. “Cam?” He asked.
“Yeah Dad, I’m back.”
“You… okay?” he turned towards me.
I sighed, “I guess. What the judge did to her…”
“Sucks,” he said.
“Yeah… I mean at least she’s with her dad who’s not going to treat her like some doll to find new ways to torment. But it’s all bullshit!”
He nodded, “I can’t tell you how grateful I was when you grew that bit before you graduated. By now that probably would have been your fate too…”
I nodded. “Yeah, two stupid inches is all that separates us.”
“Well… more than that now…”
I looked up at him, “Huh?”
“Have you actually measured yourself this semester? They say guys may not finish growing until they’re twenty. Clearly that’s true with you.”
“Look dinner needs a few more minutes in the oven, why don’t we go put another mark on the wall?”
I curiously followed him up to the wall we had started when I was a baby and we moved into the house. The first mark was ‘14 months’, and we’d marked at least a few times each year where I was. There were a lot of shorter marks! I took off my shoes and stood against the wall and let him lean down and mark where my head reached. I couldn’t help but notice that distance wasn’t the same as in the spring. He had a tape measure in his hand and ran it from the bottom up.
“Seventy-seven inches,” he said, You’re almost six-and-a-half-feet tall!”
“I hadn’t even noticed I’d grown…”
“I did, can’t you see your pants are shorter?”
“Well, we bought them long… but no… I hadn’t paid attention.”
“How about tomorrow we go buy some new pants for you? And didn’t you say this Addy was picking you up to go to a party in a week or so? Probably need a new suit too?”
I nodded, “Sounds great Dad,” I told him.
I was genuinely smiling about the fact I was now further over the line of safety in height. No one would be able to just ‘adopt’ me off of the street now. Everything for someone like me had to go through the courts, unless something like ending up in Wenig Hall with the university forced me to sign away my rights.
Dad walked off to go pull dinner out and I examined the wall one more time. After age seven another set of initials had an occasional mark. I couldn’t help but run my fingers over the B.F. initials from last year. Beth had been at my house and seen it was still there, insisting on another set of marks for both of us... Thanks to the bitch of a judge, she would never again stand tall like that on her own.