http://patreon.com/personalias Set in the Diaper Dimension, where Littles live under the constant threat of being adopted by Amazons and forcibly babied and mentally regressed. Clark is a Little who is doing pretty well for himself. He has a wife, a job, and a good home in a small town. All the trappings of adulthood that a Little could want. But as a teacher, his job is always walking a razor's edge for when Faculty and Staff might see him and think he deserves to go from teacher to less than a pre-k student. Read on to learn about Clark, his world and worldview, and how everything gets turned on its head.
Chapter Description: Beouf surprises Clark with a new arrangement for their relationship.
The rest of that day was a special kind of tense for me. It’s difficult to describe. In one long shouting, screaming, crying, fight, I felt like I had gotten through to Beouf in a fundamental and emotional way. Over the course of a single day, I felt like I had gotten my best friend back. I felt raw and relieved like some strange invisible barrier between us had been lifted.
For a brief but precious few hours I was euphoric. I’d made her cry. I’d cried too, and I’d destroyed my enemy. My enemy didn’t go away like I thought she would; she just turned back into my friend. Let me see that part of her that had been closed off in the name of cognitive dissonance and so-called professionalism. ‘Mrs. B.’ was gone and in her place was Melony Beouf, and I had no idea just how much I’d missed her until she was back.
Sadly, the first fact of a Little’s life is that the world isn’t fair. Good things don’t last.
I had my best friend back, and for a few amazing hours I felt more whole than I had felt in a long long time. Then the reality of it kicked in: Melony Beouf was still Melony Beouf. She still believed in Maturosis with all her heart and could not be dissuaded. That hadn’t been a dealbreaker before, but she had long convinced herself that I had Maturosis, too.
She was still technically my teacher. She was still in charge of forcing me to accept my infantile state. Highchair feeding and bottle feeding, diaper changes, naptime, and baby toys were still the order of the day. Her recognizing my personhood or that I had thoughts and feelings beyond a fictional disease did nothing to make her recognize my adulthood.
Therein lay the problem.
As soon as school let out and Janet handed me off to ‘Auntie’ Jessica, my mind went to war with itself.
Now that Beouf and I had experienced some kind of breakthrough with each other, how did that factor into my other plans? Did I try to convince her that Maturosis wasn’t real? Or at least that I didn’t have it? My designs at long term freedom hadn’t factored in any kind of Amazon assistance. Having Beouf actively aid me in some form or fashion could speed up the timetable significantly. It wouldn’t be that different from all the times she defended me as my union representative.
That wasn’t going to happen. I wasn’t going to undo decades of self-delusion in any kind of realistic timeframe.
What if I could convince her that my Maturosis wasn’t as severe as she thought? I could get myself back into regular underwear; training pants at least. A toddler bed in place of my crib would be sweet sweet freedom by comparison (and the extra mobility at night could have some interesting implications).
Something didn’t feel right about that either. Not that I didn’t want to get some semblance of outward maturity returned to me, or that I wasn’t quietly anxious about my steadily declining independence. I quietly sighed in relief every time I woke up in the middle of the night having to pee so that I could get back to sleep. It meant I wasn’t a bedwetter yet.
Being allowed underwear I could remove myself had other benefits: Like the status of being the ‘biggest’ Little in a room full of diaper dependent dolls. That idea gave me a kind of joy. Every other Little in class, from the A.L.L. to the most mindfucked down to Ivy would see my success and have to acknowledge me. Big kid undies would mean that I was able to manipulate the bullshit system to the point where I’d convinced both a professional brainwasher and a full blown Yamatoan that I didn’t need diapers anymore. Now that was power fantasy!
Now how to get Beouf to give me another chance at potty training and make her think it was her idea?
Nuh-uh. No. That wouldn’t work.
I couldn’t explain why. It just didn’t. It was almost like baby monitor programming that kept me from telling Janet how much I hated her to her face was now giving static to my thoughts. Every time I started to think of a way to manipulate Beouf the gears in my head stopped spinning. It wasn’t the same as not knowing what to do, like before, more like my brain was digging its heels in every time I started to plot.
Maybe I was overthinking things. I didn’t need to make Beouf an accessory to my escape or trick her into elevating my status. Now that we were on good terms again, things could go a lot easier for me. I could get preferential treatment. Play teacher’s pet. Just because I wasn’t going to stay imprisoned didn’t mean that I couldn’t make my temporary stay as comfortable as possi-
No. No. No.
I couldn’t do that either.
I wasn’t sure why I couldn’t do that, but I couldn’t.
I blinked myself out of my own plotting and planning. I was in my highchair in the kitchen. Janet and Jessica looked at me concernedly. “Hm?”
“You’re not eating,” Janet pointed to my tray. A plastic bowl with meatballs lay untouched in front of me. They had been freshly made and cooked from scratch so that I could handle them and eat them with one hand. Janet and Jessica ate their own larger versions. Jessica had cooked dinner and had rolled them individually to size.
In all honesty, they looked and smelled delicious. Compared to school cafeteria food, they were amazing. Other than being an Amazon Janet had many good talents; but she wasn’t a particularly good or fancy cook.
“Is it okay?” Jessica asked, seeming worried. “I hope I didn’t put too much spice in yours.” Her head turned back over her shoulder towards the pantry. “You got any spaghetti sauce, Janet? He might like that. We could mash it up and stir in some sour cream. He’ll get messy, but bathtime is soon, right?”
“I don’t think that’s the problem,” Janet said to her bestie. She looked like that classic mix of cautiously suspicious yet caringly concerned. “Are you feeling okay, honey? Not getting sick again?”
She leaned forward and I let her hand press against my cheeks and forehead. “No J..Mommy,” I said. We weren’t in public, but Jessica technically counted in my mind. Oh. Janet! Maybe I could get Beouf to talk to Janet so I could call her Janet instead of…no. “I’m fine.”
“You look like something’s bothering you kiddo,” Jessica said. “Does your tummy hurt?”
Mutely I shook my head, and kept trying to puzzle things out inside myself. The puzzle wasn’t getting solved, however, afternoon had blinked into evening and bedtime was fast approaching.
“You’ve been awfully quiet,” Janet said. “Did something happen at school today?”
Yes. Something very big. Unpredictable. A minor miracle. How did she not know? Why didn’t Mrs. Beouf tell her at the faculty meeting? Or was this a test of some sort? Another plot?
Maybe I could redirect the conversation to Skinner. That, however, would have required retelling her slip up about Cassie and revisiting feelings that I did not have the internal strength for. Truthfully, beyond getting chewed out by Janet - an admittedly satisfying proposition- I wasn’t sure what else would come of it. Maybe she’d get written up or something, but I found it hard to justify imagining her getting fired for that. It’s not like she hit me or something.
I gave the only truthful answer I could. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
Janet considered. “Okay. You can tell me if you want to. You know that right?”
“Yes,” the lie came out naturally.
“Is this something we should discuss at the conference tomorrow?”
A ‘no’ would send up a red flag. I just shrugged.
“Do you want something else to eat?” Jessica butted in. “Fruit? Or yogurt? Or…?
Janet’s attention immediately turned to Jessica. “I don’t want him spoiling his dinner or wasting food.”
“It’s meatballs,’ Jessica said. “They’ll keep.”
“I’m not comfortable with that,” Janet said. Her tone was rigid, bordering on tense. A warning had been issued.
My honorary Auntie leaned back. “Okay. Okay. Sorry. Trying to help. Not to interfere.”
“I appreciate that but I want Clark to at least try a meatball before he decides he doesn’t like it.”
“Sure, sure. I’m just saying, sometimes babies…”
“I saw some of that jarred food that has all the right nutri-”
In that millisecond sparks went off in my brain. In what was practically second nature, I started envisioning scenarios on how to escalate this fight between them. Imagine how awful Janet would feel if I started leaning into Jessica’s arguments and taking her side. She’d managed to listen to me when it was just the two of us. Would my opinions have as much weight if there was another Amazon to lose face in front of.
This could be a wonderful time to find…
I realized what was wrong with me.
Melony Beouf was my friend, again. My wonderful, honest, well meaning, protective, Maturosis crazy friend. Every angle and possibility I’d considered that afternoon factored that in. I knew how to manipulate, agitate, and frustrate Amazons who were my enemies. Littles too. It was all about seeing them as a collection of behaviors, delusions, impulses and insecurities while turning off the part of my brain that registered the giants as people.
I could poke at and misdirect enemies all day long. It gave me life some days. I just didn’t know how to do it to Beouf now that she wasn’t my enemy anymore. She was my friend. And every scenario I started to scheme still relied on me needing to convince her of a truth she would never ever believe in or me using our relationship and my knowledge of her to manipulate her in some form or fashion.
I had my friend again. I felt just a bit less alone in this fucked up world. Why couldn’t that be enough? Why did there have to be a step two and three? Why did my brain have to immediately start thinking of plans that would take advantage of her in some way?
Why couldn’t I just have my friend back?!
“Can I please have some milk?” my voice croaked.
Janet and Jessica stopped their argument. “What’s wrong?” Janet asked. “Honey, you sound like you’re about to cry.”
“I just want to go to bed,” I said. “I don’t feel sick. I just feel…I just feel.”
Janet tilted her head. “Big emotions?”
I hung my head in shame. “Can I please have some milk to help me sleep?”
“Can you please take a bite of one of Auntie Jessica’s meatballs?”
I picked up one and crammed it in my mouth. Even lukewarm, it was delicious. Savory with just a hint of spice, but nowhere near the volcano temperatures. Some sweet spaghetti sauce would have perfected it.
“Thank you, Clark,” Jessica said. “I appreciate it.”
Janet walked to the refrigerator and removed another premade bottle of goat’s milk. I crammed another meatball into my mouth and swallowed it down. It really was that good. “Do you want me to hold you while you drink it?” she asked.
I nodded, just barely. Some form of touch sounded good right then, and I could at least comfort myself knowing that I was using my captor in some small way while tugging at her heartstrings. In Janet’s lap, the milk went down easy, and her body flared up like a heating rock for a pet reptile.
Janet skipped bathtime and changed me straight for bed. It was easy to get to sleep after that.
Awkward and uncomfortable cannot begin to describe that Wednesday. On the outside, it appeared as any other day in the Maturosis and Developmental Plateau Classroom. We had a full day of the same numbing activities and propaganda designed to desensitize us to get to the point where we either believed we were infants and toddlers or at least didn’t object to the treatment.
Underneath it all there was the tension of walking a highwire. Beouf kept checking on me, and I don’t mean the status of my pants. She would ask “Are you okay?” and “Doing alright?” and “How are we feeling?”. To which I would reply, “Yes, ma’am,” and “Mmhmm?” and “Hanging in there”, as well as a mixture of awkward smiles and an inability to maintain eye contact on both ends.
Sometimes when Cassie and I would fight, we’d do this. The dust settling and the smoke clearing, we would think of all the horrible things we said to each other and inwardly recoil at what we’d just said and done. We’d check in on each other; overcompensate for the loudness and cruelty with a gentle shushing and a constant reassurance that yes, we still loved each other.
Beouf and I had just spent an entire report card period warring with each other. Our relationship was based on nothing like what Cassie and I had, but love comes in many different forms and flavors. So we walked on eggshells around one another and kept reassuring that yes, Tuesday’s screaming match had happened and that things were going to be different now.
It was still awkward.
That awkwardness spread to the class. Chaz tried to start up another Why Day and love bomb Zoge, but it didn’t pick up any sort of steam. For obvious reasons, I wasn’t into it, and without me stoking fires the rest of us lost interest. Who knew: You give someone an immersive environment that treats them like a child and they start developing one’s attention span.
Beouf seeming less tense put everyone else on guard, too. It made the day go by faster and drag simultaneously.
The dismissal bell rang, the buses came and went, and much too soon I was being picked up and put in Janet’s arms.
“Ready?” Beouf asked her.
“Sure.” Janet said. “Your room?”
Beouf smiled. “I think that’d be appropriate. C’mon.”
Looking at her face I saw that Janet was plainly confused. I don’t think she’d seen Beouf smile quite like that in a while. Neither had I. Beouf led the way back to her classroom with an almost lightheartedness that I had forgotten. I was actually glad that Janet was carrying me this time. I don’t know if I could have kept up otherwise.
Nothing much had changed in the five or so minutes since we’d been corralled. With how Beouf and Zoge managed things all the tiny props, games, centers, and toys were cleaned up and put away by lunch time. Naps immediately followed lunch, recess followed naps, and dismissal followed that.
Outside of changes in the adjourning bathroom, the classroom proper didn’t see any use by the end of the day. That gave the teacher and her assistant plenty of time to keep things clean, orderly, and have the room set up for the next day. The only difference between Beouf’s room before school and after was the position of the sun and the amount of stress in its main occupant.
“Go ahead and have a seat guys.” Beouf said. “I just need to get something out of my closet.”
“Okay…” Janet looked at me, searching for answers. Just as confused, I shook my head and shrugged.
She set me down and I took what had informally become ‘my spot’ at the kidney table. Janet maneuvered the Amazon sized one from behind Beouf’s teacher desk and scooted up. We sat there, casting nervous, questioning glances at each other and back towards Beouf’s walk-in.
A terrible thought: We were about to do some kind of therapy using stuffed animal proxies again.
All told we weren’t kept waiting longer than a minute, when she finally came out of her closet carrying a tremendous pot of steaming, freshly brewed, black coffee. My nostrils tingled at the smell of the stuff. Coffee tastes like chalk, but smells like mellow comfort and love. I will never stop loving the smell of coffee for as long as I live.
Beouf went over to the counter sink where sippy cups and bottles were washed and rinsed, set the steaming pot down and reached up above into an impossibly high cabinet to get a giant pair of mugs and a clean bottle. “Can I get you a cup of coffee, Ms. Grange?”
“No, thank you,” Janet said. “If I have some now I won’t get to sleep until midnight.”
“Oh,” Janet said. “Okay. Sure.” She still looked confused. Which was good because I had completely lost the plot. Whatever was going on, Janet and Beouf were not on the same page this time. No predetermination had happened.
Beouf filled both mugs to near the brim and set them down on the kidney table. “Give that just a minute.” She went back to the pot and grabbed the baby bottle. Like watching a stage magician doing the set up for their grand illusion, I stared in a kind of wonder and awe as my oldest Amazon friend filled the bottle to about the halfway point, and filled it near to the top with water from the sink. “Almost done.”
She opened up another cabinet and took out a shopping bag. She reached in and took out sugar packets, non-dairy creamer, and flavored syrups.
“Mrs. Beouf?” Janet said. “Mel? What are you doing?”
“I’ll explain,” Beouf replied. “Just give me a second to get this mixed up.”
All of the heavenly sugary sweet junk that I used to cut my morning coffee with was summarily dumped into the bottle. The cap was put on, and Beouf shook it and swirled around until the whole concoction was a creamy tan.
Without further explanation she took her seat across from us. “Should be good by now,” she slid the coffee mug across to Janet. Janet raised the mug to her lips and took a polite sip. “Can I give Clark this?”
My Mommy looked uncertain. “I don’t see why not…?” Beouf plopped the bottle down in front of me. I’d seen her prepare everything and mix it together, yet still I tilted my head and stared as though it were suspicious.
“Sorry I didn’t call you last night,” Beouf said and took a gulp of black bean water. “I had a lot to think about.”
Janet took another tiny sip; a matter of ritual more than thirst. “No problem. This week is crazy. Faculty meeting yesterday. Fall festival. Report cards. Were things okay yesterday?”
“Mmmmhmmm…” Beouf agreed. “I don’t know what Brollish or the School Board is thinking. They just keep piling everything on.”
“Tell me about,” Janet agreed. Then a light came on behind her eyes. “Oh. Sorry I couldn’t help out yesterday. I couldn’t get away from my classroom.”
Beouf waved her off. “Don’t worry about it. I get it. It’s crunch time.”
“Thanks.” Janet’s next sip was slightly more in earnest.
I watched the exchange, arguably the first I’d been allowed to watch between them that wasn’t scripted in some way. Almost unconsciously, I held myself very still in my chair. If I didn’t look at my clothes or move so that I crinkled, I could almost imagine I’d traveled back in time.
Because someone had to and it wasn’t going to be me, Janet cut the small talk. “So? Clark?”
Beouf moved her already half drained mug off to the side. “Yes. About Clark.”
“How can I help?” Janet rose up, a good Little Voices member eager to get her baby on the right track.
“I think we should revisit some of the expectations and procedures we have for him,” Beouf said plainly. My temper didn’t flare. I didn’t feel anger as much as let down.
Why Mel? Why?
Practically reading my thoughts she held out her hand to me in a gesture telling me to wait.
“Okay,” Janet said. She nodded and tensed, ready for the next task that would no doubt be torturous to both of us in some degree. “Why? What’s happening?”
“I was up all last night reviewing everything I knew about Maturosis,” Beouf said. “Trying to figure out the best way to help Clark adjust and develop.”
“Yeah?” Janet said. “Did you find something? Some technique? Some therapy?”
My teacher was smiling but shaking her head. “Nope. Nothing like that. You can know everything there is to know about Maturosis and it’s still a case by case basis.”
“Okay…?” Janet bit her lower lip nervously. “Then what can we do?”
“Honestly?” Beouf told her. “I took a step back, and started listening to what I’ve been saying, and I had a lightbulb moment.” She looked at me and gave me the warmest, kindest smile I could ever remember. “He’s still Clark. He might be my student and your Little boy, but he’s still Clark. So what do we know about Clark?”
Janet’s answer came in the very next breath. “He’s a cheeky brat,” she said.
“Uh-huh,” Beouf nodded along. “He is. What else?”
“He can be very emotional, but sweet when he wants to be.”
“Yup. That’s our Clark.”
It was like the night of the monitor switch, all over again. I was just in the room with them and in the present tense.
Janet kept going. “He’s nosey and paranoid and slow to trust.” She spared me an apologetic look. “But he’s spent a lot of time around people like Brollish, Ambrose, and Forrest. So I get it.”
“And who are his two best friends in the world?” Beouf asked. Janet looked confused. Her head edged to the side, like she was trying to remember my classmates. “You’re overthinking it, babe.”
Beouf put her finger to her nose. “Got it, Mommy. Clark’s a baby. But he’s still Clark. Remember that block tower talk I gave last week? The early years are up at the top, but there’s still thirty-two blocks.”
The younger of the two Amazons, the youngest in the room technically, seemed to be understanding. “Yeah. Yeah. We have said that, haven’t we?”
“I think we’re leaning too hard on him. It didn’t work before, why would it work now?”
Janet took a long drink of coffee. “What do we do?”
“Three basic things,” Beouf said. “Number one is you stop visiting the classroom in the middle of the day. We tried it, it’s not working, and it’s not fair. It’s not fair to you. You’ve got your own kids to teach. I shouldn’t need this much help for just one.” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“It’s not fair to him, either.” Janet agreed. “Nobody else has to deal with their Mommy and Daddy checking up on them in the middle of the day.”
“Except Ivy,” I interrupted.
“Except Ivy,” Beouf agreed, “but that’s different and you know it.” A cheeky grin was coming to me and I couldn’t help it.
Some tension left Janet’s body and she sat back in the chair. She liked the idea of getting her planning period and lunch breaks back as much as I did. “Two?”
“Two? Change the routine. I miss spending time with the cheeky brat.” Her cheeks turned rosy.
“Absolutely,” Janet agreed. “I can get him here as early as you need.”
“Why early?” Beouf asked in response. “Let me just take him back here after dismissal. You can get rid of the cramped playpen by your desk and do paperwork in peace.”
I was shaking with something besides rage or fear. I looked at the bottle across from me. Was I really hearing this? Was she suggesting what I think she was?
“What are you going to do with him?” Janet asked. “I don’t want to be a bother.”
Beouf grabbed her mug and took a sip. “Not a bother. We’ll just hang out. Drink decaf. Play with toys. Watch UsBox Videos. Some of what we’ve always done. Some of what we do now. Whatever he feels like.”
It was happening. It was really happening! I was getting more than an old friend back. I was getting a piece of my old life with it! I couldn’t wait any longer. If there was a trap or catch to this, I needed to know. “What’s three?” I’d meant to blurt it out but it came out as closer to a stage whisper.
“Three,” Beouf said, “Is your Mommy and me get better about talking to you about important stuff. You should be able to talk to us, and we should listen.” So bizarre, I realized. She’d been talking this entire time in her regular voice, not her chirpy teacher voice. None of this was measured or performative. It was all Beouf.
“We might still decide on something you don’t like,” Janet added. She paused but Beouf didn’t object. “That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t see how you feel about it or try to come up with a better solution if we can. We should still talk to you and ask.”
Beouf turned all the way so that she was directly facing me instead of Janet. “Starting now. What do you think, Clark? Does this sound like a plan?”
I snatched up the bottle and put the rubber nipple to my lips. The coffee was weak, watery, luke warm, and tasted more of artificial sweeteners than anything else.
Best damn coffee I ever had.
“I’ll take that as a yes,” Beouf chuckled. She raised her mug in cheers and finished the cup.
I didn't need to attack or hurt or manipulate my friend to get something nice from her. Because she was my friend. She was as crazy as ever, but not so deep down, she was still looking out for me.
If by some chance you're sitting down, reading this: Thank you, Melony.
End Part 8