A couple shares a curse that bonds them together while keeping them so very far apart.
We sat next to each other on the couch, a glass of wine before him, bottle of water nearest me. I longed for a similar glass with my name on it, but not tonight. “Bad for baby,” he’d joke, then probably stammer and apologize for being a dork. I didn’t mind, but it didn’t make the craving any less. I wasn’t pregnant, but his point wasn’t far off the mark. On nights like these, a few sips of red would have me up all night.
The mood was always somber as the clock ticked the minutes on. We’d tried to be light about it, have a nice meal before hand, but after a while we found it was a lot easier hitting it head on, mentally steeling ourselves for what lie ahead. He was so supportive, right there for any ask I might have, but honestly, his company and the latest episode of whatever we were binging at the time were enough for me.
Tonight though, the atmosphere was almost crushing. I felt like I was about ten steps away from a panic attack, though I felt an icy calm weave through me as I took deep, steady breaths. Henry looked over at me, feeling the apprehension in the air, and put his strong arm around my shoulder. I didn’t say anything, but allowed myself to be led into his embrace. I loved that I knew he loved me. Like this. He didn’t have much of a choice with...the other me.
Beyond the beverages, a few scattered items we had picked up to make the night go smoother. Staring down at them gave me a shiver I couldn’t quite suppress. Henry tightened his grip and I relaxed once more. A sturdy bra, plain and unadorned, a bottle of gas relief for infants, a blanket and pillow set I had begged for that he was probably going to veto once he ‘switched’, but I felt like trying anyway. It was cute, with hearts and little puppies on it, an ode to the nickname his alter gave me.
“I should get the pack and play going,” he finally said, loosening his embrace. I sat up and nodded, letting him up. I admired the view; Henry was well toned and trim, a by-product of days spent on the basketball court with this friends. Tonight he was wearing a loose, long sleeved, sweatshirt over orange checkered boxers. The outfit screamed college kid who didn’t give a fuck, but he made it work. On any day other then today, wine on board warming us both from the inside out, I might have pounced him out of those boxers.
I was certainly dressed for it, wearing a long, oversized t-shirt over simple, unadored panties. I wasn’t what you’d call overly leggy, but I enjoyed my curves and pilates, and I knew I was probably driving him a bit crazy too with my minimal attire. I had made a vow to stop wearing anything I’d miss on these days, as it was never a guarantee that things would revert to the way they had been before the events of the night. Given the conditions of the curse, we had decided picking up a cheap pack of undies for me was the way to go. I did not have any desire to go fishing an expensive pair out of the diaper pail in the morning.
With a snapping sound, Henry got the last wall of the playpen-like pack and play set up. It was basically a fabric cage, but it did provide a bit of safety and comfort for later. As he pushed it into our bedroom, I called after him.
“Can we try a note with the blanket set? Maybe she’ll, I don’t know, give me a pass tonight?”
“Yeah, Amanda, you know how that goes. I’m going to put the pillow and blanket in here, but don’t grump at me when she goes citing some internet page or Dr. Spock and yanks them out of there. You know I’ll do what I can, but...”
I took the moment to hide my disappointment by standing up and going to stare out our front porch window. Our apartment was small but cozy, and the view from the balcony was a lot nicer then other places we had lived. The sun had just slipped behind the mountains, and the moon wasn’t far behind in taking it’s place up in the clear, black sky. It was almost time.
Almost on queue, I felt the queer feeling that ran through my body that preceeded the changes. Henry let out a small yip from our bedroom as he felt it at the same time. It was somewhat reassuring to be linked this way, having that bond, even though what came next was terrifying.
“Hun?” He called, returning to the living room. “Did you feel...?”
“Yep yep,” I said, flopping back onto the couch and pounding the cushion next to me. “Get over here and cuddle me, dang it.”
Henry sat down on the couch but didn’t take the spot I demanded with my impatient gesture. “I will...but...I mean...you know how tingly I get...”
I crossed my fingers and held them up like a good scout. “I solemnly swear not to tickle you this time. Something I should not promise you, as she can’t seem to stop tickling ME.”
He chuckled and looked down. The colors on his dark sweater were already beginning to swirl, like watery paint. “Sorry about that. You’re just so darn cute when you giggle.” His eyes snapped up to me worry and concern filling them. “Oh man, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean-”
“Oh shut up, I know what you mean.” I said, getting up on my hands and knees to crawl over to him. The tingling had begun settling in all over my body as well, a tickle that wasn’t quite a tickle. It felt good, sensual, and I wanted to touch and be touched. It was always like that, the pleasure before the pain. It helped banish some of the consuming anxiety, and turned it into chaste desire.
As always, Henry sat in the corner of the couch, all limbs tucked in and close to his body, arms over his chest in some oddly misplaced modesty. We’d been through this almost a dozen times now, once a month for a year, and we both knew what was coming. He could still be a bit mortified by it, but I wasn’t going to let this moment go by bashful and shy. I didn’t know how many more days I had where I could take advantage of this.
Taking his arms in my hands, I gently but firmly lowered them away from his chest. Inside the sleeves of his sweater, I could feel the definition and muscle tone begin to give way to squishy puffiness, as though exercise and working out was something always dreamt up but never accomplished. His breasts had already begun to expand, filling the sweater in a way my own modest b cups could never.
“I hate when you get bigger than me,” I growled in mock outrage. I didn’t really, but knowing what came next, I wanted to keep things as light as possible. Henry turned a deep red and looked at the ceiling as I reached under his sweater and took his swelling tits in my hands. He closed his eyes tight, allowing a little moan to escape his lips. He’d always had a higher voice, so I could never really tell the difference when he changed, but it was there, ever so subtle, a feminine touch to his gasp of pleasure.
“Y-you know why they’re like that,” he managed in a shuddering voice, a very silly thing to say. Of course I knew why. “If you want a pair I-I'm sure we could figure something ouh-out.”
We’d discussed it at a low point when we were despairing and willing to try almost anything to break this...whatever this was that affected us both under the light of the full moon. The thought was at once tempting and insanely horrifying...would the curse still trigger if I were pregnant? What would happen to our child? The possibilities had kept me up with nightmares for a week, and we hadn’t spoken again about it since. I’d be a little put off that he’d say something like that, but I knew he’d had a bit of that wine earlier and the change made us both a little loopy, so I ignored it. Besides, my own changes were starting.
It’s somewhat reassuring that whatever cursed us had a sense of humor at least. For me, the changes were always to my clothing first. My oversized t-shirt began to shrink at a rapid pace, quickly becoming form fitting as it raced from knee length to resting just over my belly button. The color on it changed as well, darkening from a pale lavender to a darker pastel purple. Frilly trim knitted itself into existence around my wrists, the sleeves tightening as well, held in place by elastic in the trim. It looked as through it’d have some writing on the chest when it was done, and while I probably wouldn’t be able to read it, I’m sure she’d find some way to tell me what it said.
I leaned forward to kiss Henry on the neck as his hair had begun to thicken and turn wavy. It wasn’t too much longer than how he usually kept it, but the style was completely different, long bangs beginning to creep down in front of his eyes. I had to brush it out of the way to get in a quick nibble on his ear, grinning as I got another shudder out of him. Maybe this was payback in advance for knowing that I wasn’t going to get my way with the blanket.
The feeling of satisfaction was short lived as the changes made their way down to my panties. Writhing around my waist, I could feel them began to plump out and swell, pushing my legs apart. I took a wider stance on my knees, arms still in Henry’s lap, resting my head on his breasts. The extra clearance seemed to embolden the change, and my panties thickened even more, crinkling as the material shifted from cotton to whatever baby diapers were made of these days. A smell began to fill the air, the indescribable scent that most diapers were perfumed with. It was my turn to redden a bit as I was left wearing the attire of a giant toddler.
“You’re so cute when you pout,” Henry said, and this time, his voice was unmistakably female. I looked up from his chest into the eyes of my husband, but not his face. Her face stared back at me, cheeks a bit rounder then Henry’s had been, thinner eyebrows, fuller lips pulled into a warm, inviting smile. It should be scary, but a part of me only felt relief. Momma was coming. But before that came the hard part. I searched for and grabbed Henry’s hand and squeezed it tight. His nails were now much longer, his hands delicate and doughy, but the squeeze back was familiar, beloved.
“You ready, Mandy?” he asked. His hair had continued to lengthen, and now rested comfortably on his slimming shoulders.
“Down we go!” I said in a sing song voice, sitting back on my padded butt with a loud rustle. I put on a wide smile and took my hand back before he could hurt me. This next part was bad for both of us. Hard to tell who got it worse.
With a sudden, agonized groan, Henry leapt up and grabbed at his crotch, falling to his knees beside the couch. He had told me the pain of his penis reshaping into a woman’s genitalia was excruciating, with the wine only serving to dull the pain a little. He said it felt akin to someone ripping him open where his legs met and painfully shoving his manhood inside the slit that was formed. It was a quick, brutal process, and it always left him shaking and sweating. I would have given anything to have been able to comfort him during the change, but I had my own issues to deal with.
Scrambling off the couch as I felt the changes begin to course through my body, I laid down on my side pulled up my legs, gripping them tight. The position seemed to help lessen some of the pain that was to come, but I refused to call it a fetal position. That felt like someone walking over my grave.
The pain began subtly in contrast to poor Henry, but lasted a lot longer. It began in my mouth, where my adult teeth began to recede forcibly back into the gums. The sensation was like someone exerting an enormous amount of pressure on each one, only stopping once the tooth was no more. Unlike dental work, there was no numbness, no nitrous, and the pain was blinding.
My own breasts went the opposite way of my husband’s, shrinking down until I was left flat chested and tube shaped. Fat seemed to be drawn from my limbs as they shortened, puffing out my belly and then returning as baby pudge to my arms and thighs as everything fell into proportion. I’m not sure if this part hurt, the pain in my mouth thankfully obscured any other discomfort at this time. I will say that I was somewhat grateful to have a good bit of wispy chesnut hair on my head, though the sensation of my long adult hair receding into my scalp felt a lot like ants burrowing their way into my brain.
As I continued to shrink, I slowly released my legs, half by design so I could flop onto my back, and half by the fact that I no longer had full control over my limbs. When the process was over, I’d be left around five or six months old, old enough to sit with some assistance, but a far cry from finer motor skills. It was scary, even after everything else, to feel like a passenger in your own body, the conductor drunk or asleep at the wheel. At best, I might be able to creep along like a snake on my belly. Words, impossible with a fat tongue and a toothless mouth. Having had the ability to walk and talk, it didn’t feel like some big accomplishment when I could scoot a bit or manage to squawk out something vaguely resembling a word. It felt like I’d been robbed of something vital. Disabled. I was completely helpless, totally dependant on...her.
Turning my heavy head to see my husband, it looked like his change was done. Wheras he was once a fit young man in his twenties, a woman in her early thirties knelt by our coffee table, rubbing her head and blinking. She was pretty, though she always looked worn, in need of just an hour more sleep at night. The sweater and boxers had transformed into a button up nightie and comfortable looking spandex tights. Her breasts strained the buttons on the nightie, but she wouldn’t keep them buttoned for long. She was shorter than Henry had been, with wide hips and a bit of fat around her midsection, no doubt left over from delivering the baby such a short time ago...me.
My clothes had shrunk along with me, the diaper now thick enough to force me to lay in a bow-legged, cowboy stance as though I were riding a horse. The purple t-shirt now slid down my thighs and wrapped my feet up in comfortable fleece, becoming a baby girl’s footed pajama set. I was unable to exert any control over my core muscles to sit up; the best I could do would try and flail my legs a bit to roll onto my stomach, but after everything that just happened, I had no energy or desire to try.
Heavy footsteps thundered around me as I felt every one of them like mini tremors. I felt my feet kick out as excitement began to course through my body, because both it and I knew what was coming. I felt more then I saw the strong hands wrap themselves around my tiny waist and lift me from the ground. A cooing sound escaped my lips as a line of drool dripped from the corner of my mouth. Henry. Mama.
“Oh goodness pretty girl, I must have fallen asleep,” she said, holding me up to her face so I could stare into her eyes. No longer were they the gray blue orbs of my husband, but rather lively green eyes that mirrored my own. Crow’s feet lined the edges of her eyes, proof of long nights with a fussy infant. She brought me to her shoulder, lightly patting my back, and I felt the last of my teeth suck back into my gums. More drool poured out of my mouth in response.
Henry patted my bottom. “Doesn’t feel like I need to change your diaper just yet hun, but I think it’s time you get fed, huh? Ooh, I think it’s about time,” she said, patting her chest. “This is what I get for not pumping,” she said to herself, talking to the air like she usually did. “I’m about to burst here, hope you’re hungry!”
I tried as always to say something, get some point across, even some sound made in the affirmative, anything to let Henry know I understood her, but today, like so many other days, it wasn’t going to happen. A high-pitched squeal left my mouth instead, though I was no longer embarrassed by the fact I sounded more like a small animal then a woman.
My tiny stomach made up more of my torso then it did when I was 26, and as it gurgled and groan, I shifted uncomfortably trying to get relief. It felt like a giant hand was wrapped around me, each finger digging painfully into my stomach with increasing pressure. This body was hungry, and as such so was I.
It was a lot easier to let loose and cry, wailing my head off as giant tears ran down my face then it was to attempt intelligible speech. I suppose we just came pre-programmed to cry, and our parents programmed to give us what we needed when we did so. Since Henry had already signaled our next stop, the rocking chair we had purchased three months ago, I didn’t have to inform her of my needs. Her own body was telling her it was time to feed the baby.
Holding me tightly in the crook of her arm, Henry flipped the light on and settled into the rocking chair with a groan. Even if this version of Henry carried on like she had no idea we had been husband and wife just five minutes ago, I could tell he was still buried within her, that under different circumstances and alternate realities, this is just how Henry would be as a mother. It was small comfort, but I clung to it. Any bit of hope or positive thinking went a long way to try and balance some the true horror of our situation.
There was no warning, no wronged gypsy woman, no cursed artifact dropped and broken that we were aware of. One night, it just...happened, the changes tearing us apart for the evening as the full moon rose above us. How ridiculous a thought...were babies? Were parents? It’d be absurd, something to laugh about if it were happening to anyone else. I still don’t know if I’m lucky to keep my mental faculties while an infant...part of me wishes I went to the same happy and warm place it seemed that Husband Henry went off to. He’s described the feeling as something like a dream, or paradoxically, both being very drunk and lightly tipsy at the same time. He said it was him saying all these silly things, cooing down at me, singing lullabies I never knew he’d heard of, but it also wasn’t. I never really pressed him to explain further, I could always tell there was a bit of fear and more then a little embarrassment recounting the night’s events. After all, in a minute here, I’ll be drinking thin, warm milk from Henry’s generous boobs, and when my stomach digests the meal and ends up in my diaper, it’ll be Henry wiping baby poop off his wife’s chubby rear. I got it.
We seemed to follow a pretty specific script after the changes, with very little deviation as the months went on. The transformation would occur, Henry would pick me up for a cuddle and a meal, and if I was still awake after that, I'd get a nice session with her of bedtime songs and bedtime stories. The changes always seemed to happen around 8-9pm, though I was worried as the days got shorter and the moon came up earlier what that would entail. I certainly didn’t want to leave the house as an infant. The giant world outside terrified some part of my baby brain, as much as it also wanted to see it all in infantile wonder.
Rare were the days I’d manage to get through a whole feeding and remain awake. Henry’s milk, the smell, the warmth of her body, it was ecstacy, and my tiny self was engineered to find the most comfort in her embrace. Most nights, I’d snooze, and as the sun rose into the sky, I’d wake as myself again, with my husband looking down at me with weary, sad eyes. I’d pull myself out of the pack and play and embrace him tightly before dragging him off to the bathroom for a hot shower. I used to cry, but now, the relief I feel in his arms, the hot water raining down on us brings me nothing but bliss and joy.
Things were changing though.
When the changes began, I could barely lift my head up, and rolling over was quite out of the question. Now during the rare tummy time sessions we fit in, I can prop myself up on my weak but willing arms. It’s exertion like I’d never known, and I’d fall asleep almost immediately after the effort. My eyes were sharpening, and where I once was only able to make out Henry’s face as she pulled me close, I could now see almost as well as my adult self. I was getting older, and while I could probably take some pride in my growth, instead it scared me more then anything. What if things were settling down, the curse evolving? What would happen if one of these times, I didn’t take the express elevator back to adulthood? Could I retain myself until I could speak, and tell Henry everything? Would she, could she understand?
I had good reason to be scared. Our time under the spell was lengthening with each month that went by. Wheras it used to fade before day had truly broke, I’d now been able to see a few sunrises, held in the crook of my mama’s arm as she bleerily peered out the window, humming in satisfaction at the beauty of the dawn of a new day. Some aspects of Henry’s mothering personality persisted as well, at times breaking through and causing some mutual embarrassment in public as he would refer to me by a silly pet name far more childish then the ones adult couples usually gave each other. At the very least I was happy that he didn’t pull the waistband of my pants back to see if I was in need of a diaper change. I probably would have slapped the shit out of him, honestly.
The snapping sound of nightie buttons broke my reverie and caused another line of drool to escape my mouth. I felt my hands open and close rapidly, and unbidden, a fuss crept out of me, hastening my breath in a mini sort of panic attack.
“Oh, I know, I know baby. One sec, these buttons like to fight, don’t they?” Henry sang lightly, still struggling to get out of her top. I didn’t know if she’d notice the nursing bra we had picked out this morning, but I knew her chest was giving her back issues, and more than once she’d lamented aloud about ruining another shirt with leaking milk. It was only for the night, but the pain was apparently enough for Henry to agree to pick it up before the next Night.
Finally she was able to pull her left boob out of her nightie, gathering it up in her right hand as she prepared to offer it to me. She held me like a football, tucked into her left arm as she brought me up across her side so I could reach. Her dark areola pulled my attention and held it, hunger and instinct causing all else to fade away. Despite my mouth hanging open, she gently rubbed her nipple on the side of my face, a gesture that got my mouth open even wider. As I did so, she suddenly pushed my head forward onto her nipple, the feeling of it hitting the roof of my mouth like pleasant electricity. There was no taste at first, only smell and warmth. I couldn’t see anything from my position, and I closed my eyes to focus on sucking. It was all almost automatic, and I probably could have let my mind drift away, but after watching a few videos on the subject matter, we realized it was best for both of us to have a proper technique and latch. If I managed to feed properly, it was less soreness for Henry for the rest of the evening, and if she had positioned me right, it’d cut down on the air I’d swallow, limiting the gas bubbles that could wake me screaming. It wasn’t just like needing to burp or fart, it was more like...this body only had so many things it was required to do at this age, and if something threw that off, it was a hundred times worse than anything you’d experience as an adult, or even an older child. We had gotten the gas relief there on the table after a particularly awful time last month.
Henry’s milk suddenly let down, filling my mouth with the faint taste of vanilla almond milk and copper. It was delicious, it was everything, but more importantly, it brought immediate relief to the churning pain in my stomach. The warmth hit the bottom of my tummy and spread throughout my entire tiny body, bringing calm and a sense of rightness. I used to hate how...right it made me feel, getting so much pleasure and happiness from what should be an incredibly disturbing act in an incredibly disturbing situation, but now, after the transformation, it felt like a boon, a little gift from whatever was causing all this. I wouldn’t know if the act was as pleasurable for most mothers, I’d heard horror stories and read about a few, but from the way Henry laid back contentedly and hummed happily while I fed, I could tell that she enjoyed this as well, at least until my latch slipped and got a hold of the tip of a painfully chapped nipple.
The research we had done said that most babies will signal they were full by slowing their sucking down or stopping entirely. Henry always seemed to have just enough milk in both breasts for me to get my fill; no matter how often I’d want to stop early and try and get to sleep to hurry things along, my body wouldn’t allow me to show any such signs of fullness, continuing to have me suck away with gusto until both of Henry’s breasts were drained.
As the last drips from her other breast slid down my throat, I could feel the heaviness in my stomach begin to migrate to my eyelids. Before the dry sucking became painful, Henry gently inserted a finger between my mouth and her nipple, breaking the latch. My mouth kept working though, seeking that sense of comfort, and I was relieved when she slipped my shell pink pacifier between my lips. It wasn’t my favorite one, I had to work to keep it in my mouth, but we’d been unable to find my purple butterfly one in time. As she moved to set me on her shoulder, a loud burp shook free, bringing further relief.
“Oh my, excuse you!” Henry laughed, tapping my pacifier with her nail. “Good one, Mandy.”
My pacifier. It was frightening on it’s own how easily these thoughts came to me, even though I was still thinking as a fully cognizant adult. One of my many fears was all this feeling more like reality than the life I had spent twenty-six years living. This body wasn’t mine, but it was. Henry wasn’t my mama, but she was.
Between the pacifier and the full stomach, I didn’t have a lot of energy to think too deeply on the matter. I could feel the meal working it’s way through my insides, twisting through my intestines to inevitably end up down in my diaper. I had read that most babies my age don’t poop all that often, especially while only breast fed. Turns out an infant’s body is using just about all of that to grow, to develop senses, brain cells and bone matter. I’d be lucky to get away with only a wet diaper this evening, but it wasn’t something I could predict. Like the gas, it was something I had to do, otherwise the discomfort and pain would force the issue anyway. It was gross and my adult thoughts recoiled in disgust the first few times, but as with so much else, I was far more resigned. It wasn’t all that bad anyway, and Henry was ever so quick to change me when I needed it. She really was a great mommy.
Lifting me to her shoulder, Henry stood and walked into the living room, still humming a quiet melody. I found myself not quite ready for sleep, wishing a strange, alien wish to be allowed more time with her. I didn’t want to give myself to the darkness just yet. It was scary, unknowable, and the thought of ‘what comes next’ brought a sliver of anxiety piercing through my contented baby self. It was discord, it was dissonance, a clear split between the terrors my adult self harbored and the stubborn happy lethargy that drinking from Henry brought on.
It manifested as tears at first, as my face reacted to my inner turmoil to signal that something was wrong. My chubby face seemed to pinch together and a few hiccuping, halting cries began to escape from my lips. I was in no pain, no discomfort as the food began to pool down as a pleasant sensation near my rear, but...I wasn’t happy.
“Oh, oh oh...oh no, baby girl, what’s the matter?” Henry asked lightly, beginning to bounce me gently on her shoulder as she rubbed my back with her other hand. “Shh shh shh, you’re ok puppy, you’re ok.” I buried my head into her neck and tried to stop fussing, but it was hard to stop once it began. She just held me tighter and kept patting, which got another burp out of me. It surprised me enough to stop carrying on, and with a triumphant air, Henry smiled down at me as though she had accomplished some great thing. Maybe to a normal parent, this was.
She adjusted her grip around my tiny waist and turned me around to sniff at my bottom. “Saving the dirty diaper for midnight again, are ya? You sure you don’t want to just get it over with, so mommy can get you all clean and dry for bed?”
I managed a gurgling squeal in response. A feeling kind of like shame coursed through me, but faded quickly. There was nothing I could do about my body’s demands, not at this age.
Laughing, Henry carried me into the bed room and laid me down on our queen-sized mattress, pulling a new diaper and some wipes from the shelf that we had set aside for these nights. I might not have pooped yet, but my former panties were definitely full and puffy. Mama Henry never remarked on how sparse the house was, or how there was no nursery or crib for ‘Baby Mandy’ to inhabit, but maybe that was just part of the curse. We’d tried leaving notes for each other, detailing everything to Mama, but she either never noticed them, or they changed along with us to electric bills and coupons for baby formula.
After changing me, Henry carried me over to the rocking chair again, dimming the lights down to the one lamp on the nightstand, and pulled a book of bedtime stories down from the shelf. We had no idea where they had come from, but it was well used, and the quiet tones of her reading voice usually sent me off if the meal hadn’t.
I didn’t catch what story she had decided for us tonight, and wasn’t really listening as she began to read. Her soothing voice was all that mattered, and I didn’t even notice when her words stopped making any real sense to my brain. My heart was heavy, my eyelids droopy, and things were starting to blur into a miasma of encroaching sleep.
Despite my fears, sleep came with a twinge of hope...if I could make it through the night, I’d be myself again. I’d be grown. I’d take my husband in my arms, hug him tightly, and put away all of Baby’s things for another month. We’d take a drive like we usually did, celebrating our triumph over this curse and laughing over anything silly that had occurred the night before. It’s all we could do. I’d tell him that his milk was spicy on account of the indian food we had had for dinner, and his eyes would go wide, firmly believing me but not wanting to inquire further, least he die of embarrassment. I’d laugh, he’d chuckle, and then we wouldn’t say another thing about the curse for another month. Back to normal. Back to adult. Back to reality. On this thought, I let my grip on the waking world slip. Good night, Baby Mandy. Hope you’ll forgive me taking us back.
It’s been over a year since the last time Henry and I had been our proper selves. I haven’t given up hope that someday I’ll wake up and Henry will be there, my old Henry, and we’ll be free of this curse forever. It’s a dimming hope though. Every day, every minute I spend in this body makes it feel more real than the memory of the person I was. I can walk now, halting steps but improving every day. Each waddling step feels amazing after six months of crawling on my knees. My balance gets better by the hour, only hindered by obstacles in my path or a drooping diaper hanging low enough to throw off my center of gravity. And best of all, mama’s beaming face so full of praise for every new milestone I tic off.
Words are still mostly beyond me, even with nearly a full set of sharp, uneven baby teeth filling my mouth. Each new tooth that came was its own spectacular agony, and the dull buzzing pain that I almost constantly felt while they were pushing through shoved aside bigger concerns, like the life I longed to return to. What could I care about the career and life I’d lost in the face of a molar coming in? There was no competition.
I had done my best to ensure my first word was ‘Henry’, both as a tribute to my poor husband buried underneath my mama, and as a possible attempt to break through the spell and let her see that her baby girl was something a lot more than what she appeared to be. Unfortunately, at best, it came out sounding like ‘kitty’ and now most of my outfits were feline-themed. Ma-ma was obviously so much easier to say, and I said it a lot. Her smile and attention eased even the worse of the throbbing tooth pain.
My stomach, still potbellied and round like any other toddler, churned and gurgled, and without hesitation I began pushing, filling my diaper with soft baby poop. There was no point in trying to hold it, not yet, as babies my age were often still a few months from starting their potty training journeys. There was no shame left in me to feel; a year of this had made the act as normal as if I’d never known any better, and besides, if I didn’t get it out, I’d pay for it with the tummy ache I’d have later. I wished mama had invested in some baby sign language books so I could tell her I when I wanted a diaper change, but the inelegant solution was simply to walk up next to her and let her nose tell her what needed to happen.
We still lived in our two bedroom apartment, but now one of the rooms held my nursery instead of our shared office. It was pink and yellow, bright and vibrant, with oranges and lemons and limes painted up on one of the walls. There was a bit of writing to go with it, but I couldn’t make out the lines from the floor or my crib. Something about the cursive scribbling made it impossible to discern. At least that’s what I tell myself. I have better luck with the picture books mama reads me, pointing to doggies and kitties and birdies when she asked. It was nice, really.
I didn’t know too much of the what else had changed in this reality. Henry’s mom had started coming by and watching me while she went to work, and while she was no mama, I enjoyed her company and the fact that it kept me from some daycare with a bunch of other babies who were just…babies. Though they talked around me like I wasn’t there or couldn’t understand, it was never anything meaningful that could hold my suddenly shortened attention. As much as I longed for a decent conversation or someone to talk to, I couldn’t seem to stay interested in what they were saying. I had no idea if they talked about my ‘daddy’ or who might have filled that role in this universe, or what had happened to adult me. I tried to stay concerned about it, but toys and games and brightly colored YouTube videos teaching me about barnyard animal sounds were far more arresting.
I made my way back into the living room where Mama sat on the couch, listening to some audio book she had gotten from a friend. Cocomelon stayed paused on the TV, halted when I left the room to toddle into my nursery for toy.
“Why hello again!” She said cheerfully, noticing my arrival. “Did you go get a friend? Do you have your buddy?”
I looked down and realized I’d grabbed my stuffed doggie, clutching it tight to my chest. So many things this body did were automatic, made without my thought or input. I tried to say doggie in agreement, but instead made that ‘kitty’ sound again. Mama just smiled wider.
“That’s right! It’s a doggie!” She said, clapping.
Instantly, I dropped the stuffed animal to clap along with her. It was one of my favorite things to do. Soon though, as I shuffled nearer, her bright expression soured, and she bent over to pull the elastic waistband of my shorts back. “Uh oh! Somebody’s stinky!” She sang, and I giggled and tried to run away from her. We were clapping, I could always get my diaper change later. It didn’t matter though. Mama always caught me.
Maybe someday this dream will end and I’ll be normal again, with my husband, with the life I’d worked so hard to build. I miss it, I miss him, I miss him and his silly jokes and political rants and long winded opinions about every movie we watched together.
But then I think about losing Mama, and tears come quickly to my face. She’s there in an instant, turning back from depositing the dirty diaper in the pail. Her words are soothing, and fall like summer’s rain on me.
One day at a time.
AMANDA’s WRITING JOURNAL
Kindergarten / Mrs. Temple
WHEN I GROW UP I will ride my bike and my car to work like mommy. I love mommy because she makes good pancakes and waffles and sagetti. Daddy loves her too. Mommy laughs when I say I was big. She says I have a great imgi-imagin-ation. Mommy helps me with big words because she is very smart. I love mommy. I love daddy. Blue is my favorite color. I have a blue bunny. His name is Henny. I have a yellow ducky. His name is Henny too.