Joy pulled her minivan up in front of Sara’s house the next morning, tooting the horn twice and then glancing at her kids in the rear-view mirror. They seemed to be fine, though Rachel was still looking cranky. Joy hoped her little girl would get over her sour mood soon, her constant whining was getting tiresome.
Rachel sat in her car-seat in the middle row of the minivan with her arms crossed and a scowl on her face. She was going to daycare now, daycare! Kindergarten had been bad enough. What kind of boring, mindless activities could she be expect to be subjected to now? In the car-seat beside her, Danny had no such worries of course. Dressed in a Toy Story t-shirt and loose blue sweat pants his feet were still free of shoes or socks. Danny was perfectly content to swing his dangling legs back and forth and munch on his thumb.
Meanwhile Rachel was again disgusted with her outfit. Today Mommy had put her in a blue and white checked dress with short sleeves and a hem that fell to her mid-calves. Underneath she wore a Tangle inspired cartoon print pink pull-up. She couldn’t take solace in the fact that she had shoes today because they were ugly white kiddie sneakers with Barbie decals. The laces were covered in glitter and her clumsy fingers meant she’d need to ask for someone’s help to tie them. The frilly white socks only added to their silliness. Though they matched the girly dress and the big pale blue bow Mommy had fixed atop her head.
As they waited in the car the front door of the house swung open and Sara appeared leading Brian out by the hand. Rachel felt slightly better upon seeing her friend in his toddler getup. Sara had dressed the young man in a pair of blue and white pinstriped train engineer shortalls over a bright red t-shirt. A Thomas the Tank Engine decal was even visible on the bib of his shortalls. Once again Sara had seen no need to put shoes on the twenty-something, so he padded barefoot down the front steps, holding his mommy’s hand.
Joy hopped out and slid open the minivan door so Sara could help her boy inside. She had a big car-seat for him in her free hand and she and Joy set about placing it in the back row. Rachel could see there was no real need for such seats. After all the world hadn’t gotten any larger, the normal seatbelts would fit them as well as their parents. No, the purpose of the seats was to keep the ‘child’ constrained and unable to undo the seat-belt.
“There we go! Okay big guy, come to Mommy,” Joy beckoned once the seat was in place.
Without a word Brian let Mommy strap him into the car-seat, leaving him sitting high enough so his bare toes just brushed the floor of the car. “Good boy!” Mommy praised, leaning in and pecking a kiss on his cheek.
Sara and Rachel stepped outside and the door slid shut with a bang. While the two mommies chatted Rachel twisted around as best she could and looked back at Brian. “So, where’s the book?”
Brian frowned and shrugged, looking defeated.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Rachel demanded.
“It means I looked everywhere last night and the book is gone. After Mommy went to sleep I snuck all over the house but there was no sign of it.”
“So you just gave up?” Rachel snapped.
“Well what else could I do?”
“Keep looking! This is our lives we’re talking about Brian! Nothing is more important than finding that book.”
“Well did you search your place?”
“Of course I did! It wasn’t there of course. We left it at your place after all.”
Brian just shrugged as a beeping noise alerted them to Joy opening the door and hopping back in the car. They spent the rest of the ride in tense silence.
The car soon pulled up in front of what appeared to be a normal house. However, there was a sign on the fence that identified it as Grow Together Daycare and Nursery. Indeed the front yard was cluttered with children’s toys. An aging metal swing-set was placed near the side fence and a deflated pink bouncy ball sat in the driveway.
Once Joy had the three freed from their seats she led them up the paved footpath to the front door. There was a sign placed on it which matched the one on the fence, save for the addition of the words “Caring for Little Ones Age 10 to 24 Years.” Of course neither Brian nor Rachel could read the sign, nor recognise the numbers on it. Somehow that information had seeped out of their brains.
The moment they stepped over the threshold into the daycare Brian and Rachel were bombarded with a cacophony of sound. Someone was crying loudly, other voiced screamed and screeched in the distance. They could hear the pounding of heavy footsteps here and there in the house. The walls of the alcove were decorated in sheets of colourful construction paper with glued on macaroni designs and glitter. Running along the wall just below the ceiling was a line of linked coloured paper cut-outs in the shape of balloons, each with a name on them. Some were clearly written by an adult in black marker. Others had childish scribbles in crayon, barely decipherable as names.
They all looked over to see a thirty-something woman entering the alcove from the main room, glowing at them.
“Hello Pam,” Joy greeted. Then she looked Brian and Rachel in the eyes and said, “Well come on kids, say hello to Miss Dever.”
“Hi,” they mumbled.
The woman nodded and replied in a syrupy sweet tone, “Hello children! Are you ready to have fun today?”
Rachel just stared at the woman coldly, but Brian managed a feeble nod. Danny on the other hand was clapping his clumsy hands gleefully.
“Okay then, say bye-bye to Mommy and we’ll join the others.”
They waited while Danny gave his mother a bear-hug that seemed to last forever. When she at last managed to separate from him she guided his hand right to Pam’s, letting her lead him away, still vigorously waving his goodbyes to Mommy.
The playroom the woman led them into was noisy and cluttered. In the far corner of the room a half dozen ‘children’ who looked to be in their early twenties were sitting on the floor at the feet of another adult carer. She was reading to them from a big picture book, holding open the pages so they could all see the illustrations. The young men and women gaped up at it in rapt attention. They appeared to be a bit ‘older’ than Rachel and Brian.
A second group of even ‘older’ kids were seated in a circle in the middle of the room. There were no overalls or pull-ups peaking out of skirts among this group. These former young adults rocked eagerly back and forth on their butts while one young man in a red Cars t-shirt circled them, patting heads and singing “Duck, duck, duck, duck... goose!”
He bopped the pig-tailed head of a young woman and then took off running around the outside of the circle while she gave chase. Their giggles echoed through the room.
Brian took in the room as the carer led them across it. Tonka trucks and Matchbox cars were scattered across the carpet. Stuffed animals were discarded here and there. The walls were a bland crème tone, and the carpet originally must have been brown. Both the walls and carpet were tarnished by stains.
This room wasn’t meant for toddlers though. No, the carer was leading them past this play room and into an adjoining one. As soon as they entered this second room it was apparent that it was meant for younger kids. The walls were painted in a mural of rainbows and bucolic scenes of fields and playful animals. It was so saccharine sweet it made Rachel want to gag.
They had barely entered the room when a man rushed up before them, blocking their way. He was a big man, at least six feet tall with buzz-cut blonde hair, a square jaw and thick neck. He was built like a marine. But the way he walked was off, his gait a bit uncoordinated and halting. He was wearing a green cartoon print t-shirt which just reached his belly-button and pair of bright blue pull-ups. He had no shorts to cover them up and he eagerly hopped up and down making the whole room shake as he exclaimed, “Lookie! Maked all gone!” as he raised his arms and showed his empty palms to the carer.
“Yes Timmy, I see you ate all your crackers. Good boy!”
The well-built man beamed and then began to wriggle and squeal as she reached in and tickled his exposed tummy with her free hand.
As Timmy scurried back to his toys Danny pulled free of Pam’s grip and toddled off after the larger man. Rachel and Brian didn’t move though, they were still taking in the occupants of the room. Some of them were kids they recognised from Kindergarten the day before. Now though they were mostly sitting on their butts on the floor or lying on the tummies, playing with silly little toys. Aside from Timmy a couple other boys wore no pants or shorts over their pull-ups. The rest wore shortalls, frilly dresses and other toddler wear. One man was creeping along the carpet on his hands and knees right at their feet. He had a toy horse held with both hands and he was simply banging it on the floor. As they stared down pitifully at him he looked up into their faces, raised the toy in the air and announced, “Go moo! Moo-moo!”
“Aren’t you a smarty,” Rachel commented sarcastically.
Brian brushed Rachel’s arm to get her attention. “What?” she asked quietly, turning to him.
He looked at her with concern as he admitted, “Rachel, the toys they have here. They’re baby toys, stuff for stupid little tots. But... but a big part of me wants to try them out. I dunno why, but I kinda want to play with ‘em.”
Rachel returned his look of concern, frowning. “Well don’t give in to it. We’re not like these drooling idiots,” she reminded him.
Pam returned from getting Timmy and Danny settled, smiling at the serious-looking duo. She looked them up and down quickly and chirped, “Why the long faces you two? Don’t you wanna play with your friends?”
They managed to give her a hesitant nod, playing along.
“Okay then, Rachel sit on your bottom for me please,” she directed.
“Because I said so, silly. Now be a good girl and sit on your bottom.”
Rachel frowned again but did as she was told. She didn’t want to make a scene. Pam knelt before her and took her right foot in her hand, undoing the glittery laces of sneaker. “What you doing?” Rachel asked.
“Shoes make the carpet dirty Rachel, you know that. We’ll just put these in your cubby till your mommy comes to get you.”
Looking around Rachel noticed that nearly all the other ‘kids’ were indeed barefoot, only a couple wearing socks. “But... but you’ve got shoes!” Rachel insisted, hoping to stay one level above the rest of the mindless tots in this place.
Pam chuckled as she slipped one sneaker off and started on the other. “Yes dear, what a smart girl you are. I need my shoes because I have to go out and do grown-up things. Children have no need for such things. Don’t worry, you’ll be much more comfy this way,” she assured, slipping the second shoe off.
Rachel felt so powerless. It was silly to be so wounded by simply having her shoes taken off her, yet it made her really sad. She knew she shouldn’t be getting so worked up over it, that she was acting like a dumb little kid, and yet she felt her nose clogging with mucus, her eyes tearing up. She fought to maintain control, sniffling and blinking her eyes to hold back the tears. It was just shoes, she reminded herself. And stupid kiddie shoes she hated anyway. Of course it was more than that. Rachel was crying because she was powerless to stop the woman, because she felt trapped and dependent.
Pam left with Rachel’s sneakers as the girl wiped her eyes with her arm and sniffled loudly. Brian squatted beside her and rubbed her shoulder. “It was just your shoes. I don’t even have any to be taken away,” he reminded her.
Before Rachel could tell him off, tell him it wasn’t just about silly shoes, they were distracted by the arrival of a new ‘child’ in the room. Megan had just toddled into the room, not from the doorway they entered by, but from a side room. Apparently she had arrived here before them. She was dressed in a light pink sleeveless dress that fell just below her knees. Her pig-tails bounced as she hurried through the room with an immature gait.
“Megan!” Rachel called out, forcing her tears back and standing again.
Megan looked over at her friends and a big smile appeared on her face. She scurried over to them, and Brian felt somehow disquieted by her broad grin. It wasn’t like she was happy or relieved to see them. It was like she was actually very happy about being here, like she was really enjoying herself. Megan stopped before them, cocking her head a bit to the side and blinking wordlessly at them.
“Megan, how long have you been here?” Rachel asked, trying to ignore the goofy grin on her friend’s face.
“Meggy pee-pee!” the college-girl replied gleefully.
Brian and Rachel shared astonished looks. “Megan, don’t play around. This isn’t funny,” Rachel told her.
But Megan was still looking cheerful as ever. Apparently incapable of standing still she was playing with the hem of her skirt and twisting back and forth. “Meggy go potty-pot!” she announced, ignoring Rachel’s admonition.
Now Rachel and Brian were genuinely frightened. What the hell was wrong with Megan? She’d been fine the last time they saw her. Well, as fine as one could be in the circumstances. Yet now she was acting like peeing in the potty was an exciting accomplishment.
“Megan, do you remember who we are?” Brian asked, trying to be gentle.
Megan’s wide blue eyes remained blank, empty of recognition. “Gotta dowwy,” Megan told them, pointing in the direction of a pile of toys no other kids were near.
Rachel couldn’t take it anymore. “Megan, cut this out right now! You’re not a dumb little kid Megan. You’re an adult, a grown-up! You don’t use a stupid potty chair, you don’t wear pull-ups and play with dolls! You’re bigger than that!”
Megan stared at the angry woman with worried eyes, as though afraid Rachel might reach out and hit her. Then she blinked and seemed to be trying to think. For a second they held out hope that somehow they’d gotten through to her, reached out to the part of her that still knew who she really was.
Megan grasped the hem of her dress with both hands and insisted, “Meggy bi’ guwl!” flipping the dress up to expose her Winnie the Pooh pull-ups. She twisted back and forth with her dress pulled up to her chest, then began chewing absent-mindedly at the hem, wiggling her bare toes together, eyes tracing the ceiling.
Brian and Rachel knew they had lost an important ally. Megan was gone, there was no doubt about that anymore. All that was left was Meggy, a silly potty-using, thumb-sucking little toddler with an exhibitionist streak. What was worse, they had no idea how Megan had ended up this way or how to avoid a similar fate themselves.
While Meggy skipped back over to her pile of toys Rachel and Brian settled on the floor where they’d been standing. “She’s gone,” Rachel lamented.
“Do you think that could happen to us?”
“Of course it could,” Rachel snapped, angry. “Look at what’s already happened!”
“So what do we...”
Brian trailed off as a pantsless young man crawled up to them with a toy in his hands. It was an eight-sided yellow plastic ball with different shaped holes on each side for matching plastic blocks to be fit through. The young man banged it repeatedly on the floor, making the couple blocks within it clatter about. Then he thrust it at them, sitting back on his bottom with bare hairless legs spread wide. He sucked his thumb and stared at them hopefully.
“I think he wants the blocks out of it,” Brian suggested.
“So how is that our problem?” Rachel asked callously.
“Let’s just do it so he’ll go away,” Brian told her.
He picked up the toy and shook it to get a look at the blocks. The sounds this action produced were quite satisfying actually. Brian gave the toy another good shake and was rewarded with more sounds. Somehow, knowing he was producing those sounds made him feel good, like he was in control. He sat back on his butt and continued shaking the thing, banging it on the floor over and over. It didn’t get old, in fact he liked the repetition.
“What are you doing!?” Rachel demanded, grabbing his arm to stop him.
Brian paused, realising Rachel was still sitting there. Then it hit him what he was doing. He was sitting there in his shortalls, toes wiggling back and forth, shaking a plastic toddler toy with a big stupid grin on his face. The smile was wiped from his face and he stammered, “I... I just... I dunno what happened.”
Rachel was shaking her head. “I’ll tell you what happened. For a minute there you looked just like a real toddler, grinning away while you made noises with that dumb toy!”
Brian nodded in shame, blushing. “Let’s just get the blocks out and get rid of this thing,” he mumbled.
“Fine,” Rachel agreed, taking it from him.
For a fleeting second Brian felt an overwhelming urge to seize it back from her, to scream out that it was his. He didn’t want to share the toy, he wanted to keep making all the noises!
It took all his will-power not to yell out, “Mine!” but he held it together. Rachel shook the toy lightly, producing smaller noises. The pull-up clad young man facing them clapped his hands in glee, and Brian shivered in disgust as he realised how he must have looked a moment ago.
“I can’t get it out!” Rachel complained.
“The stupid shapes, they’re stuck.”
“You just have to match them, that’s all,” he assured her.
“I know that dummy! I just... I can’t.”
Brian looked closely at the shapes within. There was a red square block and a green triangle, though for some reason the names escaped him. Still he recognised the shapes and he recognised the same shapes on the outside of the yellow toy. But as soon as he looked back at the blocks inside he lost track of which shape matched which hole. Something in his mind was missing and he couldn’t make the connection. It was terribly frustrating and concerning.
Angry at her inability to fit the shapes through the holes, Rachel slammed the toy into the floor, pouting and crossing her arms. “It’s a stupid little kid toy anyway!” she huffed.
“Rachel, what’s the matter sweetie? Why the frowny face?”
They turned to see Pam had returned and seen Rachel’s disgust with the toy. She knelt beside them and ran a hand through Rachel’s hair. The girl grimaced and pulled away. She didn’t like being petted like some kitty. Pam drew back and frowned at the fussy girl.
“Are you feeling okay Rachel? Does your tummy ache? Do you have an owie?” she prodded in a sing-song voice.
“No!” Rachel snapped back. “Just leave me alone!”
“Now Rachel, we don’t talk to grown-ups like that. Be a good girl and use your inside voice.”
Rachel seethed but kept her mouth shut.
“Hmm, well, you’ll be feeling better soon honey. We’re going to have some real fun now,” she promised.
While Rachel sat fuming Pam and another carer fetched a large rolled-up sheet. They spread it across the carpet in the middle of the room until it covered half the space. The other carer than brought in a bundle of white garments. The duo watched as Pam and the other woman began slipping smocks over children’s heads, covering up their clothing. Baggy arm-holes left their hands free. Rachel watched Brian accept his smock willingly and decided not to put up a fight as Pam threaded the girl’s arms through the appropriate holes. She even bit her lip and stayed silent as the woman slipped her socks off so the “pretty princess” socks wouldn’t get messy.
The reason for their new wardrobes was soon revealed. Pam and her colleague brought in several painters’ bucket filled with various colours of paint. They also had large sheets of paper for each child. They set these down in the middle of the protective sheet and then clapped their hands to get everyone’s attention.
“Okay children, we’re going to do something really fun today!” Pam announced. “It’s time for finger-painting!”
Several young men and women screeched happily and clapped their hands. Meggy could be seen hopping on her bum in excitement. Rachel groaned, the last thing she wanted was to get all messy. She hated being dirty and now she was going to be forced to actually dip her hands in icky paint! Rachel sat resolutely still while the others crept and toddled over to the paint buckets. Brian shrugged and made his way over as well, leaving Rachel alone.
Soon the kids were all quite messy. Bright purple, red, green and yellow paint were everywhere, splashed across the sheet, rubbed all over the smocks, on face and in hair. The marine built man had moved beyond finger-painting, dipping his feet into the green bucket and slapping his bare soles back and forth on his canvas to create lots of green footprints. To Rachel’s dismay even Brian seemed to quickly get absorbed in the game. He had yellow hand-prints all over the front of his smock, green paint smeared across a cheek, his toes covered in blue, yet he was smiling.
“C’mon Rachel, don’t you want to have fun?” Pam called from the middle of it.
“I’m fine,” Rachel replied.
Pam didn’t take no for an answer though. She headed over to the college girl and took her hand. “You can’t just sit there like a bump on the log, silly goose. Now let’s make some pretty pictures for your mommy. You don’t want your mommy to be the only one without a pretty picture do you?”
“I don’t want to,” Rachel whined, trying to stay put but failing. Somehow the woman seemed exceedingly stronger than Rachel even though she was the same height.
“Don’t be silly, you’ll have lots of fun!”
“I don’t wanna get messy!” Rachel insisted.
“It’ll all wash out Rachel, I promise. Just have some fun. Look how much Brian is enjoying it.”
Rachel grunted with disdain as Pam sat her down in the middle of the gaggle of screeching messy ‘toddlers’. A fleck of purple splashed across her cheek and she recoiled as if slapped. But Pam still had her hand and she was pulling it down to a bucket of yellow paint. She couldn’t resist as she felt her hand dip into the smooth cool liquid. It wasn’t a viscous as house-paint, it was more gelled, less likely to splash all over or drip into sensitive eyes. She felt it squish between her fingers, across her palms.
Pam lifted her hand out of the bucket and guided it to a blank sheet of paper, placing it down and then lifting so she’d made a hand-print. Rachel looked down at the results. There was no picture to paint of course, no design to follow. It was a simple sensory exercise for small children. And yet it felt so nice. Far from feeling dirty and sullied the paint on her hand squished delightfully as she flexed her fingers. Rachel looked around at the other colours. They were all familiar, but their names escaped her, much as with the shapes. One triggered a memory though and so she dipped her clean hand into a bucket of blue then rubbed her two hands together. Aside from the pleasant squishing sensation she was delighted to find that both her hands were now a brand new colour, green!
“I made a new colour!” she announced out loud.
“Very good dear!” Pam praised.
Rachel giggled to herself and placed her hands back on the canvas, smearing them about. Her skin seemed super-sensitive now, nerves lighting up with pleasure as she dipped her hands back in more paint and smeared it more. Feeling mischievous at getting so messy she leant over and rubbed brown paint all over the back of another child’s smock. Then she felt foreign hands on her bare arm. She turned to find Meggy smiling wickedly as she coated the arm in pink paint. Rachel had to get her back! So she wiped her now purple hand on Meggy’s cheek. A finger-paint war had begun.
It was only fifteen minutes later as one carer removed the paint buckets and Pam led the children outside to get cleaned up that Rachel became aware of what a fool she looked like. She was covered in finger-paint. It was in her hair, across her cheeks, down her arms and all over her smock. To her chagrin she saw that Pam was right to take her socks off, as paint was even squishing between her toes. Pam was right, little kids here were better off barefoot, and that clearly included Rachel herself.
In fact as they stood to head outside she saw that even Brian wasn’t as messy as her. Somehow clean, mature Rachel had ended up among the dirtiest of these overgrown tots. She wished she could escape to the bathroom so Pam and Brian wouldn’t see how far she’d fallen. It was bad enough when Meggy gave her that goofy idiotic grin and declared “Awll methy!”
Outside Pam was stripping the children out of their smocks after washing the paint off them with a garden hose. Rachel stood in line sulking and trying not to make eye-contact with Brian while Pam washed Timmy’s buzz-cut hair clean of the green paint he’d gotten in it. When she lifted his smock off though, Timmy started to grab at the crotch of his visible pull-ups, knees bending inwards.
“Timmy gotta potty!” he announced loudly.
“Oh, okay, just hold it in for me like a big boy and Miss Cawley will be right out to take you to the potty. Can you hold it like a big boy for me?”
Timmy nodded and moved to the side as Pam took the next girl to be cleaned. But behind her back Timmy toddled away across the small back yard to a bush that sat in the middle of the grass. There he inserted a finger in either side of his pull-ups and yanked them down to his ankles. Rachel watched in disgust as he proceeded to pee-pee on the bush. When he was done he simply kicked his feet free of the pull-up and turned around, ambling happily across the lawn towards them with his equipment dangling out for all to see.
“Oh my gosh,” Rachel gasped.
The marine built young man skipped along the grass, his wee-wee swinging and bobbing about freely without a hint of shame. Soon he was back next to Pam and eagerly tugging at her sleeve.
“Wen’ potty!” he told her happily, his free hand playing idly with his former manhood.
Pam looked down at his nudity and chuckled. “Looks like we have a little streaker here,” she joked. “So you went potty did you?”
Timmy nodded emphatically.
“Where’d you do that hon’?”
“Dere!” Timmy announced, pointing to the bush.
“Honey, that’s good that you didn’t use your pull-up, but big boys use the potty chair. Can you try and wait till you’re on the chair next time? For me honey?”
Timmy nodded solemnly now.
“Okay, now where are your big boy pants ya little jaybird?”
Timmy pointed wordlessly at the bush again.
“Well go get ‘em if you’re a big boy.”
Timmy hurried across the grass again, bending over and picking up the pull-ups with both hands, and giving everyone a look at his big bare bottom. Then he returned and handed them to Pam, who praised him for keeping them dry and then helped the six-foot tall half-naked man slip them back onto his legs and up to cover his privates again.
Rachel was aghast at the whole scene but it only got worse when Timmy skipped back into the house. Pam then turned to her and said, “Okay Rachel, your turn.”
Rachel cringed as the woman looked her over and clucked her tongue. “My oh my it looks like someone had fun after all!” Pam declared.
Rachel kept her eyes on the ground as the woman took her hand and began to scrub it clean. The cold water of the garden hose poured over her arms and then her head while Pam cleaned her. “My what a messy girl you are Rachel!” she exclaimed more than once.
It was all too much for the woman and she began to cry in earnest. Tears streamed down her blushing cheeks. She could taste their saltiness as they reached her lips. Pam heard the girl’s sobbing and stopped scrubbing for a moment, kneeling to look into Rachel’s eyes.
“Oh Rachel, don’t cry sweetie. I was just teasing dear. You’re not a dirty girl. You just got messy playing, like you’re supposed to. It’s your job as a little girl to get messy and my job to clean you up.”
Rachel only cried all the more at being reminded of her new station in life. Pam brushed her cheek and shushed her quietly. “C’mon Rachel, no more crocodile tears. When you’re all cleaned up I’ll give you a big snuggle.”
That idea was humiliating and appealing at the same time. She didn’t want to be hugged and fawned over by another adult woman but at the same time the need to be held and cuddled was very strong. She wanted to feel safe and warm and comforted.
Rachel’s adult side won out in the end and she pulled herself free as soon as she was clean, hurrying back into the toddler playroom. There she collapsed to her knees and cried into her hands until she felt and arm wrap over her shoulder. Brian was at her side now, pulling her close so she could weep onto his shoulder. “I know Rach, I know it sucks.”
“I... I got so messy,” she whimpered.
“Me too. I couldn’t help it. Once I started playing...”
“You couldn’t stop,” Rachel finished his sentence.
The sliding door to the back yard slammed shut and Pam strode to the middle of the room.
“Okay everyone, it’s potty time! Let’s get all you big boys and girls on your potties so you can make your wees and poos.”
With that she went over to the door at the other side of the room and gestured for the kids to follow.
“C’mon Rach, we gotta do it,” Brian told her, pulling her to a standing position.
“Not all at once,” Rachel disagreed.
“I... I can’t control mine anymore Rach. I don’t wanna go pee-pee in my pull-ups in front of everyone. I gotta use the potty just in case.”
Rachel nodded and followed Brian into the line. The room they entered was not a bathroom though. It was a plain white walled room with a linoleum floor and a dozen oversized potty seats placed in a circle. They weren’t all identical. A couple looked almost like real toilets aside from being made of plastic and having bright primary colour designs. Others were simple big red buckets with yellow seats and a few had backs for kids to lean back against while sat on them.
One by one Pam pulled down shorts and skirts, hiked up dresses and yanked down pull-ups to seat the kids on the potties. None of the young men or women seemed any more bothered than Timmy had when their privates were exposed to the group. They twisted back and forth distractedly as Pam sat their adult-sized forms on the big potty chairs, tucking penises behind slash guards and warning them to stay put till they’d made their pee-pees and poopies.
She reached Brian, undoing the buckles on his shortalls and letting them drop to his ankles, then slipping his pull-ups down too. Unlike any of the other boys he immediately covered his weenie, making Pam snigger at his modesty. He also insisted on slipping his own pee-pee behind the guard, trying not to think about all the people watching him sitting here.
Rachel didn’t go so easily. It didn’t matter that the other kids were too busy picking their noses and twiddling their toes to be staring at her, she was not about to be stripped half naked before a dozen of her former friends and classmates. When Pam approached she stepped back and shook her head. “No, I don’t have to go right now. I’ll tell you when I need to pee-pee.”
“Honey you know the rules. All children have to sit on the potty before nap time. You don’t want to have an accident and end up back in diapers like a little baby do you?”
“I won’t have an accident. I just don’t wanna go in front of everyone.”
“You’ve got nothing to hide sweetie. Just be a good girl and you can have a treat after nap.”
“So do you use a toilet with in front of all the other women here?”
“There are different rules for grown-ups sweetie, you’ll understand when you’re older.”
Rachel shook her head again and this time the carer moved towards her quickly, ready to force her. Brian couldn’t sit by and watch his friend be man-handled, so he stood quickly and started to move towards them, hindered by the clothing around his ankles. He’d only made it a step when he felt warm liquid splash across his knees. He felt dizzy with shame, he was making tinkles all over the floor and his bunched up shortalls, a golden steam of wee spurting from his dangling weenie. He froze in horror.
“Brian! You need to stay on the potty dear!” Pam called out, forgetting Rachel as she rushed over and put her hands on the boy’s shoulders, guiding him back onto the potty.
Brian was still too embarrassed to speak as he felt the carer’s cool fingers grasp his penis and push it below the splash guard. The sound of pee splashing on the plastic filled the room but it was too late to save his pride. Several of the other children were smiling and giggling as they fidgeted on their potties. Pam had her hands on her hips and was shaking her head back and forth.
“Brian, look at the mess you’ve made,” she chided, gesturing to the yellow puddle on the linoleum floor.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
“It’s okay dear, learning the potty isn’t easy. You just need to remember to stay put if you feel the urge to tinkle. Now you’ve gotten your nice outfit all dirty,” she said, crouching and drawing the soaked shortalls off his feet.
“I’ll get you a new pair of big-boy pants, but these will have to dry out for a bit,” she remarked, carrying them away.
As Pam left the room Rachel thought she’d actually escaped for once. She did feel truly awful for Brian but at least she’d been spared. Or so she thought. Then the sound of several grown men and women tinkling loudly in their potties began to affect her. The urge to pee hit suddenly and violently. Rachel grabbed her crotch and crossed her legs sharply, seized by the need to empty her bladder.
“Oh no!” she shrieked, waddling cross-legged to the one empty potty seat.
She didn’t want to do it, but the alternative was far worse. So she hiked up her dress and pulled her big-girl pants down, plopping her bare bottom on the plastic seat and letting go. She sighed with relief at having made it, glancing over at the shaggy haired boy of about twenty seated beside her. He was staring at her blankly, picking his nose with one hand and playing with himself with the other. She refused to become his equal. Whatever she had to do she would remember that she was better than these dumb brats.
Upon returning Pam hadn’t said anything to Rachel, but she had given her a knowing smile. Then the children were stood up one by one so the carer could clean them. In most cases this consisted of Pam dabbing the ends of pee-pees and wiping privates clean then pulling the pull-ups back up. But when she stood the boy next to Rachel it revealed his smelly, poopy bottom. Rachel gagged and very nearly threw up as the carer lead the boy to the wall and had him spread his legs so she could wipe his bum clean. Rather than wait Rachel stood and yanked her pull-ups back on, rushing out of the potty room.
It was nap-time next and Brian, now clothed in just his t-shirt and pull-ups, settled on a mat beside Rachel, facing her.
“You okay?” she managed to ask.
“I guess. You?”
“Wanna hug?” Brian asked, sounding timid.
Rachel couldn’t resist the urge anymore, she nodded.
Brian wrapped his arms around the girl and the two cuddled close. “It’s not a boyfriend/girlfriend thing y’know,” Brian whispered to her. “I just... I need this.”
“I know, you wanna feel safe and warm. I feel it too. I can’t fight it. I... I want my Mommy,” Rachel told him.
“Me too,” he admitted, feeling drowsy as the lullaby Pam had put on helped the kids drift off to sleep.
Soon he and Rachel were both peacefully asleep in each other’s arms.