The sun was hanging low in the early evening sky. There was maybe an hour of daylight left and the street lamps had already come on, ready to pick up the slack for when the sun went down. Most of the shops in the downtown area weren’t closed yet, but they’d already done the bulk of their business for the day.
Either that or they were just starting up. Much like the sun and the moon, when the cozy little Mom and Pop shops were wrapping things up, a handful of restaurants and bars were just prepping for their rush.
Mom drove once around the square, past the gazebo in the main town square looking for a parking spot before finally settling for a mostly empty lot a block away, just by the bus stop that Lynn had regularly used to get to this part of town. She gritted her teeth when they passed by the old bank; the one that had been so many storefronts since but was more recently being called “Lost Things Found”.
Lynn needed to get in there. More than anything she needed to talk to the old man who ran the store. Get him to take this away. Get him to take all of this away.
The side door to the van opened wide. Lynn didn’t immediately get out because she couldn’t. Just every other piece of equipment, “baby-proof” meant “Lynn-proof”, and she was helpless during the half-hour ride from her house to the downtown square.
Mom wouldn’t let her hold the diaper bag, either. If she had, Lynn might have busied herself trying to tear it apart with her nails and teeth or else devising an impossible way to toss it out the window. What she got though was being strapped into what was essentially a roller coaster harness and forced to along for the world’s least adrenaline inducing car.
“This was a good idea,” Mom said. She unbuckled Lynn from one mobile prison and switched her over to another; the adult sized stroller was probably the least macro-sized thing she’d been exposed to, more like a posh wheelchair-recliner combo (but wasn’t that what regular strollers were anyways?). “A little fresh air, some walking on the sidewalk, some window shopping. Maybe we’ll even get dinner. Would you like that?”
“Sure.” Lynn said. “Can I hold the diaper bag?” The sidewalk would be close enough that she could fling the cursed thing into oncoming traffic. Might be worth a shot. Return the cursed item. Destroy the cursed item. Same difference, right?
“I don’t think so,” Mom said. “Wouldn’t want to lose it.” Dang it! How did she know?! “There’s room in the back of your stroller for it anyways.” Mom took a second to stick two fingers past the leg cuffs of Lynn’s diaper before strapping her in. “Still dry.”
“You could just ask me if I was wet, y’know.” Lynn said
Lynn was getting the distinct impression that “I know” meant, “I’m not really listening.” She did, in fact, have to pee. Mom insisted on having her drink a whole bottle of apple juice before putting her in the car. Like a good mother she wanted her “little girl” to remain hydrated.
It wasn’t a great need. Not yet. Something that she could have held in for a while, in fact. The kind of thing that would be easy to ignore if she were working on something...or in class...and not wearing a diaper.
It was a strange inverse from her experience on the playground: When she was padded up and playing, she barely noticed her bladder and didn’t think twice about it. It was little more than scratching a mild itch. Now that she was trying to avoid using her Huggies for its intended purpose, she couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Mom vanished behind her and the stroller moved forward out of the bumpy parking lot and onto the smooth paved sidewalk. Cars wooshed by, creating miniature breezes in their wake.
The stroller slowed as they approached the first store window. Lynn looked up and saw a bunch of dressmaker’s dummies wearing old fashioned ball gowns. “So pretty,” Mom commented. “Don’t you think so?”
Lynn was about to roll her eyes, but then took a good long look at them. There was a kind of beauty to the gowns, very Disney Princess-esque. “Yeah…” she admitted
“You’d look super cute in one of these. I wonder if they have anything in your size.” Another effect of the magic no doubt.. It was a tailor’s shop. Of course they had something in her size. Stores like these were where at least fifty percent of prom dresses came from locally.
What Mommy had meant was “I wonder if they have anything babyish in your size.”
“Just use the bag, Mommy,” Lynnie said. “It’s magic. Has anything in it.” Lynn bit her lip. Egad, was she trying to help? She pictured herself in a Cinderella ball gown, crinkling with every step and in extra thick padding to compensate for the layers and layers of fabric.
“Oh you.” Mommy laughed. “That’s not how diaper bags work. You just don’t see Mommy packing yours often enough. Why don’t we go inside and talk to whoever is behind the counter?” The stoller started moving past the window and to the door.
Lynn looked over her shoulder to the sun. Images of an old man with a cane hanging a closed sign and walking away for the night shot into brain. “NO!” The stroller stopped.
“Mommeeeeee,” Lynn made herself whine. If she was going to be seen as a baby she might as well play the part for maximum results. “I don’t wanna go insiiiiiide! Inside boring!”
She heard the resigned sigh from her mother and knew she had won that round. “I did say window shopping and fresh air, didn’t I?” Lynn’s field of view straightened out as the stroller no longer threatened to turn.
The sidewalk continued to roll by quietly. A few other people walked by, giving too friendly waves to Lynn. No matter the size, everyone seemed to want to wave and babble at a baby. Her face flushing and blushing, Lynn smiled and waved back, halfway dreading and halfway loving the attention.
The balance definitely shifted over to dread when she heard the next voice speak out. “Laura? Lynnie?” The stroller stopped. Lynn’s knees locked and her arms tensed up.
A second stroller wheeled around. This one, with an actual child in it. A child that Lynn knew very well. “Bradley?” It was Bradley all right. Same hyper-energetic, whiney, fussy, bratty bradley. Being out on the town, he was trussed up in overalls and restrained in a stroller instead of being allowed to run around almost naked.
“Lynnieeeeee!” Bradley screeched. Bradley had never called her “Lynnie” once. Not once. “Lynnie! Lynnie! Lynnie! Lynnie! Baby! Baby! Baby! Baby!” Bradley was bouncing.
“We thought that was you,” Bradley’s mom said to Lynn’s. “Our Bradley just loves his favorite playmate from daycare!” She looked down to Lynn. “Hi Lynnie! Hiiiii!”
Daycare? Daycare? Lynn was in daycare now? Or rather, always had been as far as everybody else remembered. That was something new that sunk in….all of her clients, all of her charges...they were peers now. Except that they were all one and two...and she was “the big baby” at nineteen. Lynn wanted to shrink down and die right there. “Awwww,” Bradley’s dad said, noticing her embarrassment.
“Someone’s a shy baby.”
“Shy?” Mommy laughed. “My Lynnie? Get out of here!” Bradley’s parents joined in the laughter.”
“LYNNIE LYNNIE LYNNIE LYNNIE!” Did Bradley remember? Did the magic not affect kids? Lynn shuddered at that thought.
“That’s how we know all of his little friends.” His mother said. “He learns their names and won’t stop saying them.
Lynn wanted to speak up, to tell them that just two days ago she’d been Bradley’s babysitter, but something in her wouldn’t let her interrupt. It was rude to talk when the grown-ups were talking...
That didn’t stop Bradley. “PEE-PEEEEEE!!” His face broke out into tears and he started tugging at his overalls.
“Uh-oh,” his dad said. “Looks like we gotta go change him.”
“He’s started doing this thing where as soon as he’s wet he yells about it and tries to take his diaper off. It’s why he’s in regular overalls instead of the kind with snaps in them. Otherwise he’d be half way to flashing us right now.”
“Oh,” Lynn’s mom commented. “Lynnie’s never had that problem. She keeps her diapers on like a good girl.” Lynn did not particularly enjoy the following pat on her head. More than ever she related to the little twerp sitting across from her.
“We think it’s a sign that he’s about ready for potty training.” Bradley’s dad said. “We just gotta get him to tell us when he needs to go. Maybe if we switch to Pull-Ups…”
“Oh, Lynnie’s not at that phase yet. She could sit in a wet diaper all day and not be bothered as long as it doesn’t leak.”
Lynn’s indignation went ignored over Bradley’s cries. That tore it. No way was Bradley going to get potty trained before she did! This had to end, today!
“We gotta get going,” her former clients said. “Gotta find a place to change him.”
“I’ll let you get to that.” And the two strollers and their drivers went their separate ways. After the crying had died down, Mom leaned over and whispered in Lynnie’s ear. “Little boys like Bradley might be easier to potty train, but I’ll take you any day of the week.”
That made Lynnie feel good inside. Almost good enough to not notice that they were passing a certain set of stairs. “Mommy!” Lynn yelped. “Stop!” The stroller kept moving. “STOP!”
“What is it, baby?” Mom asked. “Do you need changed, too? Do you want to be like your little friend Bradley, too?”
Lynn balled her hands up into fists. “No! I mean yes! I mean…” Lynnie pointed up the steps to Lost Things Found. “I wanna go in there!”
“I thought we were just window shopping, today.” Mom replied. “Fresh air, remember?”
“But we can’t window shop if the place has no windows. We gotta see what’s inside!” It was flimsy logic, but so was the idea of a nineteen year old baby.
Mom wasn’t having any of it. “I don’t think so. I don’t see a ramp, either.”
“I’ll walk up!” Lynn pressed. “You can hold my hand and we’ll walk up!”
“I like walking out here, just fine.” The stroller started moving again.
“IT’S A TOY STORE!” Lynn lied. “PLEASE MOMMY! I WANNA GO SEE THE TOYS!”
She could see her mother’s face again. Mom walked around and hunched over so that the two were at eye level with one another. Her eyebrow cocked. “This place is why you really wanted to come for a walk, isn’t it?”
The ex-babysitter felt the glare of her mother’s patented “look”. She had no hope of lying. “Yes, ma’am.”
Mom nodded, and started to unbuckle the big baby. “Okay. But after we see what’s in this new store, we go back to the dress shop. Deal?”
Lynn took her mother’s hand and stood up out of the stroller. “Deal.”
“We can leave the stroller here and off to the side for a few minutes. I don’t think anyone will steal it.”
Two eyes laser focused and searched for a hint of aquamarine in the back. “Don’t forget the diaper bag.”
“What is it with you and that bag today?” If only Mommy knew. After today, she might.