(Silverstone Household, Morning of July 17th, 1994)
Amanda stood in her crib, clinging to its bars while facing the baby monitor resting on the nearby dresser. She waited a few seconds, then heard the sound of footsteps approaching. Her heartbeat quickened, knowing that her favorite person in the world was coming to her. As the door to the nursery opened, Amanda smiled in delight.
“Momma!” she exclaimed, excited to be taken out of her crib to begin another day of playing and fun.
“Good Morning, pumpkin!” her mother sang as she walked towards the crib. She reached in, picked Amanda up and began walking her around the nursery as the morning sun poured in through the window.
“Do you know what we’re doing today?” she asked, laying her daughter down on the changing table. Amanda stared up at her mother with a puzzled look.
“Pway Meggy?” she asked, reaching for the pacifier that was clipped to her shirt and putting it in her mouth.
“Well, Meggy is going to be there, but it’s not just to play with Meggy,” her mother said cryptically as she began to change Amanda’s diaper. Amanda sucked her pacifier, trying to understand what her mother was talking about.
After diapering Amanda, her mother took her downstairs for breakfast. As Amanda was placed in her high chair, she realized her mother hadn’t dressed her. Her mother always dressed her in at least a t-shirt after her morning diaper change. Puzzled, she began to eat her breakfast as her mother read the morning paper.
Amanda began to drink from her sippy cup, then looked up at her mother. “’Manda cwothes?” she asked, slightly lisping through her sippy cup as she looked down at her nearly naked body.
Her mother looked over at her, then smiled, brushing some of Amanda’s hair out of her face. “Such a smart little girl! Mommy is going to dress you, but she wants to wait until after you go potty in your diaper, sweetheart. She doesn’t want your party dress to get dirty during your changing!” she explained cheerily.
Shortly after breakfast, Amanda did her morning business and was changed in her nursery. As she sat on the changing table in her fresh diaper, her mother went into the dresser and took an outfit out from the top drawer. Unlike her usual daytime attire, which typically consisted of overalls or shorts, this was something different: a party dress. The pink and white garment, dotted with black polka dots was slipped over her head. Afterwards, her mother put a white headband adorned with a flower on top of her head, packed her diaper bag and carried her downstairs. She retrieved a bottle from the refrigerator, filled with breastmilk that she had pumped early that morning and placed it in Amanda’s diaper bag. They headed for the front door, her mother retrieving a wrapped present from the nearby entryway table. Amanda wondered where they were going as she was carried outside to the car and buckled into her car seat. As her mother backed the car out of the driveway, she turned on the radio.
“Helllloooo and good morning, folks, it’s Captain Dan DeLeon on WAHH! You know how it goes, everyone! As the day goes on, we bring you from the 60’s all the way up to the 80’s and even some of today’s hottest hits! So, let’s start off today with a hit from 1963! You’ll know it when you hear it!”
Amanda stared out the window as her mother drove down their block. By the time they reached the first traffic light, the chorus of the song on the radio had begun.
“It’s my party and I’ll cry if I want to, cry if I want to, cry if I want toooooooo……..”
(Campbell Household, July 17th, 1994, 10:00 a.m.)
Amanda’s mother pulled up to the Campbell household, parking in the driveway behind a row of cars that had already arrived. As she unbuckled Amanda from her car seat, she noticed another car pulling up behind hers. It was Meghan and her mother.
“Ooooo, look honey, Meghan and her mommy are here!” she exclaimed, taking Amanda out from her car seat and holding her up so she could see.
“MEGGY!” Amanda excitedly squealed, clapping her hands as Meghan’s mother took Meghan out of her car seat. Meghan waved to Amanda as her mother threw her diaper bag over her shoulder, grabbed a small gift bag and then walked towards them. After exchanging compliments on their daughter’s outfits, Meghan’s mother drew closer to Amanda’s.
“So, how do you want to do this, Rachel? Do you want to go in together, or………” she began, speaking in a low, hesitant tone of voice. “I already had…….you know…….’the talk’ with Meghan. I think she understands. Right baby?”
“Ya Momma” Meghan replied, putting her thumb in her mouth and clutching the stuffed animal that she had ridden in the car with. Amanda looked at Meghan with confusion, wondering what she was talking about. Meghan returned a mischievous smile that she often used as a teenager, suggesting that she knew more than she was letting on.
“Why don’t you go ahead, Jenn. I’m going to talk to Amanda for a bit before we go in,” Amanda’s mother said, kissing Amanda on the cheek and brushing her hair with her fingers. Meghan’s mother nodded her head, then walked towards the front door of the house. Amanda’s mother set Amanda down behind their car, crouching down to eye-level with her.
“Mommy ok?” Amanda asked, a look of concern and confusion on her face.
“Yes, honey. Mommy is ok, but she needs to tell you something. Do you know where we are?” she asked as the sound of the front door opening was heard, followed by the din of conversation emanating from the house. The front door closed and once again it was silent outside.
Amanda peeked around the bumper of the car and realized for the first time where they were. It was Jocelyn’s house. Amanda began to fuss, stomping her feet rapidly and whining as she clung to her mother in fear, still traumatized from the time Jocelyn babysat her. The awful memories of that day began to flood into her mind, causing her to begin to tear up. Her mother hugged her close, whispering in her ear.
“Shhh, shhh, shhhh, it’s ok, honey. Everything is ok. I know you’re scared, but there’s nothing to worry about, ok? I promise.”
“Jossey there?” Amanda asked, her eyes wide with fear.
“Hey. Hey baby girl. Look at Mommy,” her mother instructed, gently placing her hands on either side of Amanda’s head and looking into her eyes. “Remember when Mommy said Jossey wasn’t going to hurt you anymore? Remember when she told you that she would protect you no matter what?”
Amanda stopped fussing as she looked into her mother’s eyes. It was an intense, powerful look that caused Amanda to suddenly feel as if she was safe from anything and anyone. She nodded her head as her breathing slowed, her anxiety and fear dissipating. Her mother kissed her forehead, then began to explain why they’d come to Jocelyn’s house.
“That’s my brave, sweet little girl. Now, we were invited to Jocelyn’s party. We’re going to go inside and pretend like Jocelyn never did anything mean to you, ok?”
“Why Momma?” Amanda asked in a whisper.
“Baby, you just need to trust me. Mommy will tell you one day, she promises. For now, you just need to trust mommy, ok?”
Amanda nodded her head, then looked past the car bumper again towards the house. “We hafta?” She asked wearily.
“Yes, we have to baby. Just hold onto Mommy. You don’t have to say anything to anyone. You can play with Meghan, sweetheart. It’ll be over before you know it” she assured, picking Amanda up from the ground. “Are you ready?”
Amanda nodded her head wearily and with that, she was carried towards the front door of the Campbell household. Her mother rang the doorbell and after a few moments, Jocelyn’s mother appeared.
“Rachel! You came!” Jocelyn’s mother exclaimed, leaning in to kiss Amanda’s mother on the cheek. She then turned to Amanda and her face turned to one of theatrical fawning. “Oh. My. Gosh. Amanda’s such an adorable little girl!” she gushed, stepping outside and shutting the front door behind her. “Oh, her dress is just so cute!” she commented, grabbing the hem of Amanda’s skirt and running the fabric through her thumb and index finger. “Did you get it at Yup-E Baby?” she asked, staring at Amanda’s mother expectantly.
“Um, no actually. Target,” Amanda’s mother began. “Their baby section has some cute things and………”
“Oh, of course! Look, they’re just going to grow out of it anyway, so who cares if the colors fade and it falls apart after a few washes, right?” Jocelyn’s mother said with a look of complete seriousness devoid of any trace of self-awareness.
Amanda’s mother took a deep breath and swallowed. Unfortunately, this was Caroline Campbell. Caroline Campbell and her husband, Chris were not exactly known for their tact. They were the quintessential yuppies, worshipping at the alter of materialism and prestige, real or imagined. This was the part that Amanda’s mother had been dreading more than anything, even more so than returning to the place where she had deceived Jocelyn into thinking she was going to have an exciting fling.
“Right, well, thank you so much for inviting us, Caroline” Amanda’s mother offered, doing her best to bite her tongue.
“Oh, of course! Close friends and family only! Oh, by the way,” she began, lowering her voice and stepping closer. “I’ve been talking to Jenn since your daughters’ treatments started. I explained everything to Chris and Kelly, but nobody else in there knows what happened to them,” she assured. She leaned forward, giving Amanda a patronizing look. “Not that you care, widdle girl! You probably don’t know what us grownups are talking about anymore, do you?” she said, tickling Amanda’s tummy with her finger. Amanda pushed it away, turning her head and burying it into her mother’s neck.
“Awwww, someone’s shy, isn’t she?” Caroline suggested, flashing her fool’s gold smile once more. Amanda’s mother was now compelled to cut through the miasma of obvious bullshit and get down to business.
“Caroline, I’m glad to be here but if this is just for close friends and family, why invite me?” Amanda’s mother asked bluntly, causing Caroline’s faux smile to melt away. Her lips straightened and a look of stern seriousness now overtook her face.
“Look, this whole thing with Jocelyn and the police……it’s embarrassing to us. We’re the Campbell’s for Christ’s sake! We’re the perfect family! If people knew our daughter was a drug addict? The thought is just abhorrent! Simply abhorrent, Rachel! The country club would be abuzz about it, which would mean we simply couldn’t show our face at the holiday party. I’m sure it’s not embarrassing for you and Jenn. I mean everyone knew your daughters weren’t exactly on the Dean’s List….”
Amanda’s mother cocked her head and shot Caroline a look that telegraphed “Are you fucking kidding me?” without her having to say a word. Caroline cleared her throat, then straightened her back, clasping her hands in front of her waist.
“Well, that came out awkwardly, didn’t it? I’m sorry, my nerves have been getting the best of me lately,” she offered in a tone that was about as apologetic as she was capable of. “Let me explain,” she began.
“The night Jocelyn had her little ‘encounter’ with the law, she said she was going to your house to babysit Amanda. Well, I know the police came to ask you if that was true. I’m sure they told you what happened to Jocelyn,” she explained.
“Well, they said Jocelyn had drugs in her car…..” Amanda’s mother began, before she was cut off by Caroline.
“We don’t need to say it out loud, Rachel,” she snapped, looking around nervously once again.
“Regardless, we were able to keep things quiet and our lawyer was able to make an arrangement with the state. Jocelyn won’t have a criminal record. She won’t be going to Harvard this year but things could have been much worse, all things considered” she explained, biting her lower lip. Then, her faux smile returned. “That being said, Rachel, we would really, really appreciate it if you never mentioned this embarrassing little incident to anyone, ever. Can we agree on that?” she asked, looking at Amanda’s mother expectantly.
Amanda’s mother grinned, nodding her head. “Oh, I don’t think you’ll ever have to worry about that, Caroline. As far as I’m concerned, it never even happened.”
“That’s just what I wanted to hear,” Caroline said, looking relieved. “Now, why don’t you come inside? The catering is to die for! Just Desserts makes the most incredible macarons in the world!”
(Campbell Household, July 17th, 1994, 10:16 a.m.)
Amanda played with Meghan on the living room floor of the Campbells’ house. She had managed to distract herself from her anxiety of being in Jocelyn’s home by playing with the toys her mother had brought with her. Still, she found herself looking around every so often to see if Jocelyn had entered the room. Amanda found it odd that Jocelyn still hadn’t appeared at what was presumably a party for her. Still, as long as she was close to her mother, she felt safe enough.
Suddenly, the sound of glass being struck sounded out through the living room.
“Ok, everyone,” Caroline announced as she clinked a teaspoon against the crystal glass holding her mimosa. “First of all, I just wanted to thank you all for coming, especially my new favorite person in the world, Rachel Silverstone!” Caroline announced, flashing a patronizing smile towards the woman. Amanda’s mother looked around the room at the guests, then forced a half-smile while raising her glass.
“So, I’m sure you’re all wondering where the guest of honor is. She’ll be here soon, but first we wanted to show you all a little video to set the mood!”
“They made a video?” Amanda’s mother whispered as she leaned in close to Meghan’s mother.
“Are you surprised?” Meghan’s mother whispered back, rolling her eyes.
Amanda and Meghan sat on the floor at their mothers’ feet as the video began.
“Jocelyn Campbell: A Journey Towards Greatness” appeared in white cursive lettering against a blue background. A picture of a smiling Jocelyn holding her Harvard acceptance letter materialized under the title.
What followed was a photo montage memorializing all of Jocelyn’s celebrating various academic achievements, from pre-school through high school. Olympic-style music played throughout as various milestones were shown: her first time making the Honor Roll, her third-grade science fair victory,
The first photo of Jocelyn holding her Harvard acceptance letter reappeared, but a different title now appeared on top of it.
“We Are So Proud of You, Jocelyn! But, Even The Greatest Journeys Sometimes Have A Little Detour…….”
The triumphant music that had been playing slowly faded out, while a sweet, childish melody that sounded like it was playing from a music box faded in. New pictures began to appear on the screen, which looked much more recent than those that had been shown before.
“Week One: The Detour Begins!” the first one said, depicting a confused-looking Jocelyn who was sitting on her bed with a band-aid on her arm and a dour expression on her face. The picture slowly dissolved as another took its place.
“Week Two: It’s Working!” the second one said, which now showed a much-younger looking Joceyln. She looked to be about twelve years old, her eyes wide with confusion as she sat in her father’s lap.
“Week Three: Almost There!” the next one proclaimed, while a five-year-old Jocelyn clung to her teddy bear and stared back at the attendees from the screen, her thumb in her mouth and looking rather fearful.
Amanda and Meghan turned and looked at each other in shock, realizing what had become of their former friend as the attendees whispered to each other in confusion and shock.
That’s when Jocelyn’s mother and father stood up, turned off the TV and announced in unison “Everyone, welcome back Baby Jocelyn!”
It was then that a two-year-old Jocelyn Campbell was rolled out to the living room by her younger sister in a pink bassinet, wearing nothing but a white Huggies disposable diaper and a white baby bonnet. The little girl’s eyes grew wide as she saw the attendees assembled in the living room. Family members, neighbors and former friends alike. She sat up on her knees, surveying the room. After a few seconds of silent realization, Baby Jocelyn struggled to suppress her urge to cry, her lip trembling as tears began to well in her eyes. Her mother walked over to the bassinet and picked the distraught little girl up.
“Oh, I’m sorry she’s so shy, everyone. She’s been getting used to this whole ‘being a baby again’ thing! She’ll settle down in a bit. Kelly? Why don’t you get your baby sister her bottle?” her mother suggested.
Kelly ran off to get her older (younger) sister’s bottle as Jocelyn was handed off to her father. A playpen was rolled out to the middle of the living room and Jocelyn was unceremoniously deposited inside with her bottle while her mother proceeded to recount the embarrassing details of Jocelyn’s “treatment” and explain to the guests how her formerly college-bound daughter came to be a diaper-clad toddler.
Jocelyn sat in her playpen and began to suckle from her bottle as her mother publicly chronicled her daughter’s descent into babyhood. Joceyln had no choice but to sit in the infantile prison, helpless to do anything but listen as her mother spoke about her openly as if she wasn’t even in the room. When the discussion turned to Jocelyn losing her potty training, the little girl toddled to the side of the playpen, held onto the rail and looked at her mother with pleading eyes. She desperately used what few words she had left to express her displeasure.
“Momma no! No tell!” she protested, to which her mother responded by casually inserting a pacifier into her daughter’s mouth.
“Shush, Jocelyn! Drink your ba ba while Mommy tells everyone about your treatment!” she commanded in a firm, perturbed tone. Amanda’s mother silently observed the scene and noted the contempt in the woman’s voice. Her instincts were right. Caroline didn’t view Jocelyn’s predicament as an opportunity to reconnect and bond with her daughter, to correct wrongs that could now be righted. Instead, she saw it as an embarrassment and blemish on the family’s image and reputation. For a moment, Rachel almost felt sorry for the beleaguered toddler trapped in the playpen.
Jocelyn began to suck the pacifier, a look of pained indignity on her face as she let go of the railing and crawled to the other side, reaching for her teddy bear for comfort. She looked over and saw Amanda and Meghan sitting side-by-side, staring at her with satisfied looks on their faces. Jocelyn realized that she was now no better than the two girls she had hoped would take the fall for her. She could barely talk, just like them. She wore diapers, just like them. She drank from a bottle and was fed in a highchair. Her former academic achievements and accolades no longer meant anything. She was back to square one, just like them. She looked away from her former friends in shame, then realized that several of the neighborhood children had gathered around the playpen to gawk at the toddler who had formerly babysat many of them.
Jocelyn stared up at them, clinging tightly to her teddy bear. She realized that they’d probably be babysitting her now. She felt trapped. There was nowhere to look or go that didn’t invite indignity and humiliation. Overwhelmed, she instinctively toddled back to the side of the playpen towards her mother.
“And what about her acceptance to Harvard?” one of the neighborhood mothers asked as Jocelyn drew near. “Will they hold her spot when she……..grows up again?”
Caroline rolled her eyes, gulping down another swig of mimosa. “Oh, we obviously withdrew her acceptance from Harvard. She’ll have to earn it all over again, but we’re going to make sure she gets off to an even better start than last time. I just received her acceptance letter for Edmunson Daycare, which is the top daycare in the state her mother boasted, straightening her posture and looking down at her daughter.
“I…..no go caw…caw-wedge momma?” Jocelyn stammered.
“No, honey. You won’t be going to college for a long time. Kelly will be in college before you, sweetheart. Maybe she won’t embarrass the family before she does” she replied dismissively. “After all, how can you go to college when you can’t read anymore? Oh, which reminds me…….” she trailed off, reaching beside the couch and taking out a bucket filled with baby blocks. Her mother emptied the bucket beside Jocelyn, spreading them out on the floor of the playpen.
“You’re going to have to learn how to read alllll over again! In fact, why don’t you start with these, honey?” her mother suggested, handing one of the blocks to Jocelyn. Jocelyn looked at the block, stared at it and for the first time realized she had forgotten her ABCs. As she stared at the block in horror, she heard a voice behind her.
“Hi baby girl!” one of the children whom Jocelyn had babysat several times exclaimed, peering down at her from the playpen. The nine-year-old girl whom Jocelyn had babysat only a few months ago was no towering over her. “Is your diaper clean and dry?” she asked, smiling down at her. Jocelyn looked down at her diaper, unsure if it actually was.
It was then that Kelly joined the group of girls gathered around the playpen.
“Um, Kelly? We were just wondering if Jocelyn needed a diaper change! Can we help change her if she does?” one of them asked hopefully.
“I’ll check her!” Kelly announced, picking Jocelyn up from the playpen and standing her in the middle of the group of children. Jocelyn groaned through her pacifier as her diaper was checked by her younger sister. Amanda watched with amusement as her former tormentor was reduced to a living doll, completely at the mercy of her younger sister and her friends.
“Let’s play house with Jocelyn! She can be the baby and we can be the mommies!” one of the girls exclaimed.
“Good idea!” Kelly exclaimed. “Mommy, we’re going to play house with Jocelyn!” Kelly announced, prompting her mother to indifferently nod her head.
Amanda and Meghan watched as Jocelyn was carried away by her sister, the neighborhood children eagerly following behind. Jocelyn stared at them as she was carried away, her eyes pleading for help. Amanda and Meghan turned to each other, then turned back to Jocelyn and waved “bye bye” in unison. Amanda and Meghan returned to their toys as Jocelyn pleas of “No! Noooooo!” faintly cut through the din of the party.
A few minutes later, Kelly was heard calling out to her mother.
“Mommy! Jocelyn pooped her diaper! Can I change her?”
“Sure, honey, sure…..” her mother drunkenly replied, half-asleep on the couch.
Jocelyn was laid down on a changing mat by her sister as the children gathered around to watch their former babysitter get her diaper changed. Jocelyn sat in her dirty diaper, sucking her thumb and struggling to hold back tears as the neighborhood children pointed and laughed. Kelly returned from Jocelyn’s nursery holding a fresh diaper, baby powder and wipes. Jocelyn tried to get up and toddle away, but Kelly easily prevented her from doing so.
“Now, now! Be a good girl Jossey or Big Sis Kelly is going to have to spank you!” she scolded, laying her sister on her back for her diaper change.
Jocelyn stared up at the ceiling as Kelly began to change her. Inside her, a damn had burst. She couldn’t hold it in any longer. The finality of what she had become had finally set in, just as her sister removed the tapes from her soiled diaper and began to change her.
“Ewwww! She pooped so much!” one of the children commented.
“You’re a stinky little baby, Jossey!” another exclaimed.
As her sister lifted her legs in the air by the ankles to wipe her dirty bottom, Jocelyn screwed her face, let out a few choked sobs and began to cry.
And why not? It was her party. She could cry if she wanted to.