I groaned. “Your help for what? You’re the reason I’m in this mess!” Literally and figuratively; the thought renewed my blush from earlier.
“And I’m the only one who can get you out of it!” Kate grinned. “Think about it, Annie.”
“It’s Annelise.” For hours, I had begrudgingly let her get away with ‘Annie.’ In the back of my mind, I knew it was temporary. An annoying price to pay in order for her to back off this weekend. A lot had changed since then, however, so I wanted to make sure she remembered before we knocked on the door. Or until someone opened it for us, as anyone could have seen the minivan pull up.
The look on Kate’s face wasn’t a good sign. “Don’t you remember, Annie? I made a promise that I’d call you a certain something as long as you were in pull-ups. And we always keep our promises!”
FUCK. My eyes widened at the memory. Ever since the rest stop, I had framed things in my mind as ‘pull-ups in the car, Annelise at the house.’ But that wasn’t quite the case. Now that I was going to be stuck in the filthy, bulky underwear for a little while longer, she was technically within her rights to call me by the childish name. Not. Fair. Wasn’t my current predicament bad enough??
“Then don’t call me anything!” I blurted out. A loophole, maybe. “Just ‘sis’ is fine.”
“Hmm,” she mused, “What’s in it for me?”
Letting out an exasperated sigh, I asked, “What do you want?”
“I’ll think about it,” she winked, “How about this? Be a good little sister, and we’ll talk.” Before I had time to ask for specifics, or push for another promise, she rang the doorbell. “Now behave, Annie.” Out of nowhere, she reached under my skirt and pushed up on the sagging pull-ups.
Squirming as the mess shifted underneath me and temporarily pressed against my skin, I quickly slapped her hand away. That might have been her intention, because suddenly the sag was a lot more noticeable after feeling it drop more dramatically than when I had gotten out of the car. There wasn’t time to deal with my sister or the reminder of the mess between my legs, however, as the front door opened a second later.
The twins were together to greet us.
Luna and Lilah. They were both eighteen like my sister, and I immediately could tell there wouldn’t be any confusion about which was which. While the girls were identical, one of them had shoulder length hair and the other kept hers long. Similar to me and Kate, in a sense, except they were the same age and had black hair instead of red. Their casual outfits were unique as well, unlike the way their parents used to dress them.
My heart sank a little bit as I took them in, as they were both almost as tall and almost as curvy as Kate. Despite being the oldest in the group, I was easily the smallest. And I didn’t have any of my enhancements to at least bridge the gap.
“Hey!” the short haired twin said, “Luna, by the way. Come on in!” Thank God they didn’t make us play a guessing game about it. The last time we were all together, they were six years old and wore matching outfits. “Annelise, can we help with any of those bags?”
But I wasn’t holding anything. Kate had been annoying and patronizing about how I couldn’t be trusted with any of my stuff, which meant . . . They thought Kate was the older sister. Of course they did, considering my current get-up. For a second, I was too dumbstruck to speak. This kind of mix-up had happened before, but not with people that already knew us. Ten years was a long time, however, so how could I blame them?
Thankfully, she didn’t pretend to be me. “Oh, I’m Kate. This is little Annie!” she said.
“Oh!” Lilah chirped. Stepping forward to take my duffel bag off my sister’s shoulder, she responded, “For some reason, I remember Annelise being the older one.”
Before I could confirm her memory, Kate giggled and gave my pigtail another tiny flick. “She wishes! All Annie wants is to be a high school girl, but she still has a couple years to go.”
I looked at Kate with wide eyes, beyond offended at what she was implying. That I was in fucking middle school? No way. For starters, RUDE. I knew I was small, but to suggest that I was still going through puberty? I was about to berate her, until I caught the warning look. Her friendly smile had a slightly knowing look to it and, even though we weren’t that close as sisters, I could interpret it well enough. ‘Play along.’ This was her definition of me being a ‘good little girl’ like she told me to do before announcing our arrival.
Quickly shifting my gaze towards the twins, I waited for one of them to question it so we could all move on. After all, Kate and I were their ‘older cousins.’ Surely that phrase had come up before this weekend. Right? Plus we were eight and nine years old when we last visited. It wouldn’t make sense for me to suddenly be younger than Luna and Lilah.
My hopes were dashed when Luna shrugged. “Huh. I totally had you two confused with our other cousins!”
That hit me harder than Kate’s offhand lie. Way harder. Just like that, Luna believed that I was that young?! Lilah, too, based on her lack of skepticism. I knew I had a lot of youthful features, but did Kate’s little makeover really push me that far in the opposite direction? Since my phone was still in Kate’s possession, I hadn’t had a chance to check myself out in selfie mode.
Suddenly feeling incredibly self conscious, I felt the need to set things straight regardless of Kate’s subtle warning. This was so, so embarrassing! To be mistaken for someone so young? With barely any doubt? “Luna-” I began, focusing on the twin who had spoken last.
“You know,” Kate said. Cutting me off, she sidled up next to me and discreetly slipped her hand under the waistband of my skirt. Just like that, I was put in a situation where I had to either act like nothing was wrong, or make a scene and risk the babyish underwear coming into view as my sister began fiddling with the two layers. For a moment, I thought she was just threatening visibility. I had no idea that she had something much worse in mind. With a few sharp upward tugs, I could feel the previously sagging mess start to push up against me. “Annie was just saying how no one gets her age right. If you two had to guess, what would you say?”
All I could do was stand there and keep a casual expression, to the best of my ability. Where was Kate going with this?! I was feeling more awkward and uncomfortable as each second passed, and I was going to have to find a hole to crawl into and die if these girls learned what I was wearing and what I had done. Much more awkward than them simply assuming that I was in middle school; maybe that was the point.
Almost in unison, the twins guessed, “Twelve?”
“Exactly!” Kate exclaimed. Giving one more sharp upward tug, she let go and glanced my way. “See, Annie? You’re not going to get ‘ten’ and ‘eleven’ any more now that you’ve started growing. Although honestly, you really need to start wearing training bras. Back me up, girls?”
When she let go, I could instantly feel the effects. For a second, the base of the innermost pull-up clung to me. Then, gravity did its work. The mess slowly detached from my skin and dropped back down to recreate the sag that was there before. In other words, it felt like I had just used the pull-ups again. And, thanks to Kate’s trick, the bulky underwear was all I could focus on.
“ . . . in the basement! Want me to check?” Lilah said.
“Yes, that would be great,” Kate said, “What do you say, Annie?”
I blinked in confusion. What were they talking about? I was only just registering the fact that the twins assumed that I was in the youngest grade of the range Kate suggested, all while reeling from my current underwear situation. “Sorry, what?” I asked. Great. Poor listening skills and/or a weak attention span was just going to add to the immature image.
“Seriously, Annie?” Kate sighed. With an exaggerated eye roll, she summarized for me. “Lilah said you can have some of her old clothes. Want to see what a bra feels like?”
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