Chapter Description: With only a set of crib bars between them, Clark finally confronts his former teacher's aid, Tracy.
It was a strange scene. The lights were off ( as they usually were), but it was hardly pitch black. The school standard slatted blinds were hardly sun proof, and whirring sensory nightlights lit up the ceiling to compliment the shafts of errant sunlight highlighting patches of floor.
So while it would have been easy enough to drift off in the nap room, much like how on a comfortable day, you could close your eyes beneath a shady tree, there was absolutely nothing preventing either Tracy or me from recognizing each other in the quiet gloom.
She could see me in my sailor suit top and not-fresh Monkeez and sneakers. I could clearly see her white blouse and dark brown skirt with her not quite blonde hair done up in a bun. Through the bars of my crib I caught a peak at her shoes. Were those slightly elevated?
“What do you want?” I sneered at Tracy. Quickly, I gathered up a sheet and pulled it over my waist.
“I wanted to check up on you,” she quietly replied. “Mrs. Beouf said you were in here. Had some kind of panic attack or something? I wanted to know you were okay.”
My scowl mutated into a full blown snarl. “No, Tracy. I’m not fucking okay!” My voice was still down to a whisper. Still, it felt glorious to curse just then. “Nothing about this is okay.”
Tracy had the decency to sigh and avoid eye contact. “Yeah. My bad. Poor word choice. Sorry.”
“Sorry?” I said. “Sorry?! That’s what you’re sorry for?! Tracy! You fucking abandoned me!’
Tracy actually jerked back like my words had struck her. “Abandoned you? How did I abandon you?”
“You were supposed to adopt me!” I almost shouted. “Adopt me and then let me escape!”
“Clark, there was nothing I could do, I swear!”
“Likely fucking story.”
She gripped the bars from the outside. “I promise, dude.” She looked torn up inside. “When you...y’know...Brollish came into our room and told me to go home for the day. She had me escorted off campus and everything. I only figured out what had happened to you when Janet started posting those pics of you in the bubble bath on Friday.” She waited for me to reply, and when I had none, she added, “The plan was never going to work, Clark. They knew we were close enough to shoo me out of the way.”
“But you could’ve….” I stopped. What could have Tracy done?
Tracy reached her hand in between the bars. I didn’t take it. “I’m just a Tweener, Boss. I’m not much safer than you. I just don’t need as much help reaching stuff, and Amazons feel like they’d be settling for me. There’s nothing I could have done.”
I sunk a little deeper into the mattress. “Well fuck…”
Tracy frowned, less out of anger and more out of confusion. “Do you normally swear this much and I didn’t notice?”
“Swearing is still an adult thing I can get away with…” I said. “If I’m quiet.”
Tracy nodded slowly and sad. “I get it.”
A pause. Before it got too big, I pushed forward. “I didn’t do it, you know,” referring to the accident in my pants. “I mean, I did but…”
“Somebody was messing with you,” Tracy said. “Maturosis is just Amazon B.S.”
I gasped in surprise. In all our years of working together, I don’t know that I’d ever heard Tracy so openly express that sentiment. “You know?”
The Tweener looked like she was suppressing laughter. “Of course. Everybody who isn’t an Amazon knows that.”
“But-but-” I stammered. “I’ve heard you talking to Beouf and calling the people in her class ‘kids’.”
“Doesn’t mean I believe it.” Tracy said nonchalantly. “Couple of hubby’s friends have adopted Littles. They’re not babies, either. Just people who got dealt a really bad hand.” I was beginning to remember why I liked Tracy as much as I did. That and having someone taller than me talk to me like I was an adult was a refreshing splash of water on my soul.
I looked at her; really looked at her. Her outfit looked ridiculous on her. Tracy didn’t even get this dressed up on picture day. And when she did she looked a lot better than this appalling getup. “What about you? How are you holding up?”
“I’m holding up okay,” she said. She smoothed out her ugly brown skirt. “Things are changing, but I’m adapting. Still kind of in that..shocked space...you know? It’s not quite real yet.”
I let out a long deep exhale. “Mood. New dress code, I see.”
“Yeah. Miss Ambrose said I should wear something ‘more professional’”. Tracy rolled her eyes and her voice took on a snooty accent when she said ‘more professional’. Miss Ambrose. The pig lady. The substitute who had tried, and evidently succeeded in taking my job. “She had the gall to write one out for me on Friday.” Tracy breathed in. “It’s fine, though. It’s fine. I’ll adjust. There are worse things to wear at school.”
She sucked on her teeth. “Sorry, sir! I totally didn’t mean it that way!”
Damn it felt good to be called ‘sir’ again. It wasn’t okay though, so I didn't say it. “What are you even doing here, Tracy? Shouldn’t you be in the classroom?”
“I’m on break,” the Tweener said smugly.
I frowned; in confusion for once, instead of anger or depression. “Since when do you take breaks outside of lunch?”
“Since Friday,” Tracy smirked. “By contract I’m allowed two a day. I just never took them because of you.”
My voice almost turned into a growl. “Why? Because I needed more help?”
“Because I liked working with you, dumbass.”
That made me laugh. Legitimately laugh. Tracy laughed too. It felt good to laugh and swear and forget, for just a bit. To feel like the old days weren’t the old days and I still had a fully adult life ahead of me. Crib bars and plastic rustling put a damper on that notion.
“How are the kids?” I whispered.
For the first time, Tracy looked legitimately stressed. Her gaze became distant. “It’s not great, Clark. They’re managing. But Ambrose is nothing like you. Don’t get sent to timeout in our room.”
“You know how you’d give the other Littles a kind of pep talk? Tried to find a way to help them adjust or tough it out?”
Slowly, I bobbed my head. “Yeah..?” It occurred to me that my work buddy was doing much the same for me right then.
“I don’t think that’s her, like, at all.” Tracy started to boil. “She’s already put a stack of diapers on the corner of her desk and went on a spiel about how these are for naughty children who are too immature to grow-up and do their school work and make good grades and shit.”
I stood up, suddenly not caring whether or not my ex-assistant could see my diaper or not. “That bitch! That kind of shit can scar kids!” I declined to add in what that might do to a budding mind’s perception of Littles.
“I know, right! One of Beouf’s class got sent over on Friday. I don’t know what she said to him, but she had him sobbing by the end. Changed him right there on the floor in front of everyone. Wouldn’t even take him over to Beouf’s to do it.”
My eyes widened in shock. “Billy?”
“Yeah…” Tracy said. “I think that’s his name. “Anyways, she makes Raine look tame by comparison.”
No wonder Billy was being such a dick. I was already the equivalent of a prison guard and sellout to him. The fact that my replacement was so much worse...oof.
“I’m gonna try and lessen the damage,” Tracy said. “Been giving the kids lots of reminders and potty breaks, and extra hints for work in small group.” She crossed her fingers. “Haven’t had to change any diapers, yet. Thank goodness we don’t have a changing table in there.” She bit her lip. “Yet.”
My face flushed at that and I looked down at myself. “Tracy, promise me you’ll never change my diaper.”
“You’re the only one here,” I interrupted, “that is still talking to me like I’m still...me.” I felt my hands drifting over where my pants used to be. “And my personal space is being violated left and right.” Nervously, I rubbed the cheek where Ivy had kissed me against my shoulder. “You’re the only person from the old group who hasn’t...you know. If you did…” I let the thought linger and didn’t voice the rest. Nervously, I squeezed the front of the Monkeez, feeling the light squish. I had to pee again, but I wasn’t going to do it in the middle of a conversation.
“Clark I…” Tracy hesitated. “I’ll do my best. I’ll try to avoid it, but if it happens it…I’ll do my best. I promise.”
“But you gotta make me a promise, too.” She leveled a finger at me.
I sat back down and covered myself. “What?”
“Take it easy on Beouf, would you? While you’re here? At school?”
The goodwill I’d been feeling was starting to evaporate. “Pfft. Why?”
Tracy’s eyes narrowed. “Because I don’t want to get you sent to timeout…”
I bit my tongue. Chewed on my bottom lip a bit. “Yeah.” I said. “I guess I don’t want that either.”
“Okay. Deal?” One last time she stuck her hand through the bars and offered it.
“This time I took it. “Deal.”
“Good,” she said. “I gotta go for now. My break is almost up and-”
“Tracy,” I said. “Can you do one more thing for me?”
A worried look. She knew the tone. “What?”
“If I asked you to deliver a message...to Cassie…?” The formations in a new plan were beginning to take shape in my brain. “Could you?”
Now Tracy seemed conflicted. “I don’t know, Boss. That could be bad.” She pursed her lips and chose her next words very carefully and deliberately by the sound of them. “People might get the wrong idea. Think I’m trying to help you get out of your adoption or something.”
“You’re one of the only people who knows where she lives,” I started to plead. “Tweeners and Littles are allowed to be friends. And Cassie could use a friend…” Time to choose my next words carefully. As far as I knew, we weren’t being listened to, but wasn’t that always the case with being spied on? “She could use a friend. To tell her where I am. How I’m doing. Ask her what she’s up to. Nothing wrong with that.”
The Tweener bowed her head and slumped her shoulders in defeat. “Fine,” she whispered. “I’ll do it. Tell me what to say and I’ll tell her. But this isn’t gonna be an everyday thing. I’m not going to play telephone.”
“No no,” I promised. “Once or twice a month. Tops.”
She huffed. “Fine. Only because I’m your friend. Now I really need to get back to work. You hang in there.”
I smiled. I actually sincerely smiled. “I’ll try.” My assistant went to the door. “Oh, and Tracy?”
“Can you call me, ‘Boss’? One more time?”
“I’ll see you around,” she smirked. “Boss.”
Tracy slid out the door and closed it gently. If she said anything to Beouf and Zoge, it was muted by thick walls and drowned out by air conditioning and the electric whirring of nightlights. For the first time since I’d woken up that day, I’d found a measure of relief. Today I’d find Cassie and tell her to keep an ear out for Tracy. I didn’t have a solid plan yet, but with a friendly messenger to the outside world, I felt my life as Baby Clark Grange would be temporary, if not exactly short lived.
Temporary was tolerable.
My panic attack was officially over, but I was in no hurry to get back to class and have whatever inane Maturosis propaganda shoved down my throat. I crawled to the other end of the crib and picked up the rattle. I gave it a shake and felt my entire face buzz. Yikes, this was strong stuff!
It surprised me that Beouf had one of these in her possession. She was very much against subliminal messaging and hypnosis. Same with physical pain and punishment to ensure compliance.
The rattle wasn’t really either, though. It was my choice to shake it. My choice to stop. My choice to induce whatever frequency sent my equilibrium sprawling and my pleasure sensors dancing. My choice.
That tracked more with Melony Beouf’s philosophy. Her Littles might not be outright mind fucked with cartoons, but she was still very much about shaping and conditioning them to like their new life. Toys like this rattle did just that.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a form of stress relief.
Speaking of relief, I finally remembered to relax my bladder. Maybe now I’d be soggy enough to merit a dry diaper and shorts for lunchtime.