Under normal circumstances, I would have argued.
Except that isn’t possible when you don’t have a voice. While it would have been possible to mumble a complaint through a pacifier, or simply take it out to have a real conversation, Kate had essentially rendered both of those options useless. After everything I had subjected myself to, after all of her games that I had reluctantly played along with, I wasn’t about to trip at the finish line. If the only way to keep her lips sealed was to do the same with mine, so be it.
Thankfully, I had my phone back. Sitting in silence with nothing to do would have been a lot worse. True to her word, Kate also kept her mouth shut. As usual, honoring the deals she made. However, she pretty quickly found a loophole. More than once, she tapped my shoulder and showed me her phone. Written in bold in her Notes app, she reminded me that I had to actually suck on the pacifier.
It was obvious why she wasn’t texting me. No evidence. This way, she could be as pushy as she wanted while still putting on her innocent act to our parents. Begrudgingly going along with it, mostly so she would just leave me alone, I made an effort to actually suck on the bland silicone. Exaggerated at first, to get Kate off my case, but eventually I just settled into idle lip movements as I sat there killing time on my phone. It was surprisingly more natural than letting it just awkwardly sit in my mouth, though it would have been even more natural to not have it there at all.
Unfortunately, being in the back seat didn’t make us invisible. Eventually, our mother noticed, and asked about it. But Kate was ready. “Annie said one of her friends dared her to bring it. She apparently has to keep it in for the whole drive. And the drive home, too! Honestly, I think it’s a little immature, but you know how Annie can be.”
My eyes slightly widened at that addition. Seriously? But I was in no position to push back on it. Instead, I just awkwardly nodded to Kate’s lies. About the dare, of course. Not the fact that I was immature, even if it definitely looked like it at the moment.
Our mother just mumbled something to herself and turned to face forward again. The second she wasn’t looking at us any more, I glared daggers towards Kate. She just smiled and gave me a wink.
Then we were back to silence. Both texting on our phones, though I was in a way more uncomfortable position in comparison. Doubled pull-ups, sucking on a pacifier, and constantly reminded about the braided pigtails every time I shifted in my seat and felt them sway. No bra, either, and my small mounds were constantly perked up by the damp tank top still clinging to my chest. Little by little, I allowed Kate to make me look like a total mess. Thankfully, she refrained from taking pictures like she said she would.
The bigger issue, however, was how much of this I could fix before we arrived? It had been so long since we had seen our cousins, and this would be quite the embarrassing first impression. My padding was lost to the interstate, so putting my bra back on would only succeed in giving me a small boost thanks to the push-up design. Unless I could find a way to grab my make-up bag and get through my whole routine with a small hand mirror while standing outside their house, I was stuck with my stupid freckles on display. Maybe I could undo the pigtails and put my hair up in a messy pony?
Ugh! I looked so put together in the morning, and my current appearance was a far cry from the mature college girl looking back at me in the mirror a few hours ago.
With all the mental turmoil and stress about how I was going to come across to our relatives, yet another problem managed to sneak up on me. I really had to use the bathroom. Drinking three full water bottles in a short amount of time is bound to have that effect, especially when it compounds on what might have already been an issue anyway. After a thermos of iced coffee this morning, and a glass or two of water for lunch, I had been too distracted by Kate’s dare at the rest stop to think about using the restroom for its intended purpose before putting on the pull-ups. And, let’s be honest. I’m a small girl, which doesn’t lend itself well to so many fluids back to back.
Normally, I’d just pipe up and ask for another stop. Kate had already done a splendid job of making me look immature to our parents. At this point, what harm was there in looking like the weak link on a road trip? Except, of course, I had the damn pacifier to deal with. No talking, according to my sister, or I’d be in trouble.
There was one piece of good news amidst these overlapping deals that were making everything a mess–I had my phone back. If Kate could use loopholes and promises to her advantage, then so could I. ‘No speaking’ didn’t mean not communicating at all. So I typed out a quick text to my sister, hoping she would give me a break.
‘Ask for another rest stop.’ Direct and to the point. Not a question, either. There was also the afterthought that this could work out in my favor. If Kate asked, then it would be their perfect angel making the request instead of the sister who always seemed to take the fall.
Kate was already on her phone, so I knew that she would see it right away. When she did, however, she just flicked the notification away and rolled her eyes. I had to fight the temptation to blow up her phone with notifications, as letting my emotions get the better of me would just give her more ammo to use against me. She didn’t end up ignoring me completely. It just took a minute or two for her to get around to opening my text. In response, I was simply given a ‘Why?’
‘Because,’ I began typing, then stopped. Because I need to use the bathroom? It was the truth, but speaking of ammo . . .
With a demeaning prank/dare like this, I could only imagine what kind of idea that would spark in her devious, insensitive mind. Considering that she was the one who came up with the water chugging idea, I wouldn’t put it past her to capitalize on the result. But I needed to think of something, before she got distracted again. ‘Because I want to change shirts,’ I typed back. The damp tank top honestly wasn’t the end of the world, but it would be nice to put on something dry. And, if Kate didn’t attach herself to my hip during the process, maybe I could run in and get rid of the pull-ups.
This time, she replied right away. ‘You’re fine, Annie. We’ll be there in an hour or so.’
The dismissive attitude of the text made my lips purse around the pacifier in annoyance. This was SO frustrating! And I couldn’t just blow her off and disobey the earlier directive. I had already come this far, and I was determined to keep all of this under wraps. Just a little longer, and our parents would be out of the picture and I’d have a private bathroom at our relatives’ place to get myself sorted.
In the meantime, however, I shifted in discomfort. Not just from the bulky underwear, but also to bring my legs together. It was actually impossible to fully do so, thanks to the second layer Kate insisted on earlier.
Trying to push the thoughts of needing the restroom away turned out to be as difficult as trying to not think of a purple elephant. Now that the faint urge had hit me, and now that I had texted Kate about it, clearing my mind in favor of something else never fully stuck. Time also seemed to drag on, but I eventually found a temporary cure by distracting myself with card games on my phone. Sucking on the pacifier while idly stressing about how I literally let my younger sister take away my voice, I began counting down the minutes.
Exactly fourteen minutes passed, and then Kate reached over and got my attention with a sharp pull on one of my pigtails.
“Mmm!” I whined into the babyish accessory, shooting her a glare that I imagine didn’t look particularly intimidating in my current get-up.
“Hey, Annie,” she said, holding out her pinky, “If you chug two more bottles, I’ll talk to our parents for you.”
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