Daycare. She had literally been put into daycare.
With Audrey’s threat still looming, Cassidy knew she couldn’t simply run away. Her feet felt like lead, anyway. Taking one nervous step at a time, she stepped through the gate. She jumped slightly when she heard it slam close behind her.
“Sorry,” the girl said, “It just does that.”
Cheap metal or not, the clanging sound had been effective in making Cassidy feel a bit more trapped than before. She was on this side of the fence now, and her startled little gesture no doubt added to the list of things that made her appear more twelve than nineteen. “It’s fine,” Cassidy mumbled. As badly as she wanted to burst into an explanation of why she didn’t really belong here, it dawned on her that there was no point in trying. If this is where Audrey wanted her to be, then she needed to stay put or risk being abandoned. Cassidy had relied on her cell phone for most of her teenage life, which meant the only contact info she still had memorized were her parents’ numbers. That wasn’t an option. Although, maybe there was another way . . . “Can I use your phone?!” she blurted out.
The condescending smile on the girl’s face wasn’t a good sign. “It’s the Renaissance Faire, sweetie. Don’t worry, there’s plenty to do here. And there are some girls your age here, too. This spot isn’t just for kids!” Pausing for a moment, she added, “Oh, and the service here is terrible. I can’t even use my phone most of the time.”
Cassidy knew exactly what the girl was doing, but wasn’t in a position to talk with her like an equal. The potential plan had been to use the borrowed phone to log into her own Insta and message a friend. As painful as it would be to let an old high school friend see her like this, it was just barely preferable to letting her sister constantly dangle everything over her head. The more Cassidy thought about it, however, the more holes there were in the idea. It would be a 45 minute wait, minimum, plus she’d have to pay the friend back for the ticket–especially brutal, since saving money had been the whole point of demeaning herself like this to begin with–and what if Audrey was the only one who could check her out, as her ‘guardian?’
Resigned to her fate, she just sighed. “Whatever.” A second later, she blushed at how immature the teenage word must have come across with her current appearance.
“I’m Margot, by the way,” the girl said, “And don’t be embarrassed, but your sister told me about your daytime accidents.”
“I-” Cassidy’s voice caught in her throat. Audrey said what? It was ONE time, and only because of an impossibly desperate situation she ended up being stuck in. Now Margot was apparently under the impression that it was a common occurrence. “It’s not like that . . .” she finally managed to get out. Sucking it up and staying in the restricted kids’ area was one thing, but Cassidy wasn’t about to let her sister get away with everything.
“Cassie. Are you wearing pull-ups right now?”
Whatever flicker of fight she had found vanished immediately. How could she claim she didn’t have accidents like that when she was literally wearing the babyish underwear Audrey had tricked her into? “It’s not like that,” Cassidy quietly echoed. Just like that, she found herself in a completely new predicament. Margot knew about the pull-ups, but she obviously didn’t know that Cassidy was wet. The squishy bulk between her legs was mortifying; was it better to ask for a change, and verify that she indeed had accidents during the day? Or should she quietly suffer to avoid the humiliation?
The former option meant actually being dry and clean, which made it a lot more appealing. But what kind of twelve year old wets herself? Even with seven years taken off her age, Cassidy’s middle school self would have never been in a situation like this.
Apparently, the choice was out of her hands. “It’s not a big deal,” Margot said, “Seriously, I babysit girls like you all the time.” As if that made it better. “Anyway, one of us will just have to check on you every half hour to make sure you’re still dry. That’s the standard routine for anyone wearing ‘protection;’ no exceptions. We’ll be discreet, don’t worry! None of the others will know. Promise!”
Would Audrey be back by then? Cassidy seriously doubted it. Before she could talk herself out of it, she lowered her voice to almost a whisper. “I’m wet right now . . .” If Margot or one of the others was going to find out anyway, then now was the time to fess up. What was the alternative? Be miserable for thirty minutes only to suffer the same embarrassment that she was about to deal with?
“Oh, Cassie,” Margot cooed. At least there was no mockery in her tone, like the other girls her age had in line earlier. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I . . . I don’t know,” Cassidy blushed. What was she supposed to say?
“Here, come with me.” Taking Cassidy’s hand, not unlike the patronizing way Audrey had been doing all day, Margot walked her away from the area where kids and tweens of all ages were participating in various activities. Despite the way she had basically just confirmed her sister’s lies in a way that was a lot more damning than simply wearing pull-ups, Cassidy was a little bit relieved. Not only was she going to get out of the sagging underwear, but going this way meant less time spent with ‘peers’ that would no doubt believe her false age as easily as everyone else had today.
As she was led to a corner with a few folding screens that explained how she’d be able to change in an otherwise somewhat public area, something struck Cassidy that she hadn’t considered when weighing her options a minute ago:
The only way to take off the pull-ups would be to strip completely naked.
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