Chapter Description: Clark and Cassie try to have a "normal" date night out.
The Tweener waitress came over to our table, balancing on lifts that were practically stilts. “Hi there, I’m Gwendolyn, and I’ll be taking care of you, tonight.” Cassie and I shot each other looks across the hi top. “Can I get you two anything to drink? Coffee? Soft drinks? Milk maybe?” Everything about her demeanor was super positive, and friendly. Still, words like “taking care” and offering us milk got my hackles up. At least she didn’t ask us where our Mommy or Daddy was.
We were in public. In public, a Little’s outrage often gets labeled “tantrum”. Having a tantrum wouldn’t do. Still, better to nip this in the bud. I reached into my wallet, “Just water to drink, please.” I slapped down a twenty dollar bill.
The Tweener looked down, confused. “Oh no, sweetie,” she said. “You don’t have to pay till after the meal.” The barbecue joint was busy that night, and pretty loud. Good thing or else she might have heard how loudly my teeth were grinding behind my big, professional, super polite, and very fake smile.
“It’s gratuity, Miss,” I said. “A tip.”
Tweener still wasn’t connecting the dots. “Tip comes later, too, darling.” She smiled, but I could see the condescending expression behind it. Some Tweeners were like that. They might have had an Amazon parent, bought into the propaganda, or just adopted Amazon attitudes as their own method of survival. Better to be seen as a short Amazon than as a tall Little. Bitch thought she was gonna have to explain non-fast food restaurants to a couple of poor dumb babydoll Littles.
“I know,” I told her. “It’s just that my wife and I are celebrating our anniversary.”
The Tweener nodded and looked to Cassie for confirmation. Cassie just smiled and flashed me a pair of her lovey doveys. She could be completely unreadable when she wanted to be.
“Congratulations!” she said. Now it was her turn for a big fake smile.
“Anyways,” I pressed, “it’s our anniversary but the portions here are SO big.” I made a show of holding out my arms as if one of us didn’t understand spoken language. “So we were planning on ordering just one single meal and splitting it between ourselves. We figured that’d be slightly unorthodox under normal circumstances, so we decided to pass the money we were saving onto you. As gratuity.” I paused. “To show our gratitude.”
Like one of my students’ recognizing their own name in print, I saw the lightbulb of recognition. Gwendolyn pocketed the money. “Oh thank you very much, sir! That’s very generous of both of you!” I was sir, now, so she could be Gwendolyn and not just the Tweener waitress. “Do you already know what you’d want or would you like a moment to decide? I can also tell you about our specials if you want.”
I relaxed and smiled a little more genuinely this time. “No specials,” I said. “We were thinking about the rotisserie chicken, a half order.”
Gwendolyn whipped out her notepad. “One half of chicken, split two ways.” she said.
I held up my hands for her to stop. “Don’t worry about splitting it,” I told her. “We don’t want anything special. No need for special treatment at all. Okay?”
The waitress was picking up what I was laying down, now. “Don’t worry, sir,” she said. “Our food is good, but none of it is special. Usually if anyone wants to eat anything special here, they’ve gotta bring it from home.”
I made a show of laughing, knowingly. We were two old pals, we were. Me and Cassie were practically regulars thanks to an extra twenty. “No home cooked meals tonight,“ Cassie said. “Just some good old fashioned barbecue.” It was paranoid of us, admittedly, but it was a lot harder to slip fast acting laxatives or any other drugs into half a chicken and not have it be noticed.
“Yes ma’am,” the waitress said. “Sides?”
“Double order of fries,” I said. We’d divvy up those between us. If I had the willpower, I’d give a good chunk of mine over to Cassie. Still had to lose some weight.
The waitress jotted it down. “Do you want the chicken basted in any sauce?”
“Plain’s fine,” Cassie said, thumbing over to the row of sauce bottles against the wall. “That way when we split the half chicken ourselves, we can each get our own flavors.”
Truth be told, we’d probably both go for the sweet sauce. Real reason? Our waitress had taken the bribe and the hint. Didn’t mean our cooks would. Finally, Amazon, Tweener, or Little: A barbecue that didn’t have bottles of sauce at every table wasn’t worth spit it took to swallow.
“Okay,” the waitress said. “I’ll make sure to tell them no sauce. I’ll be right back with your waters.”
Cassie and I just looked at each other, our chins just past the high top, until Gwendolynn came back with our waters. We’d probably have to stand for most of this meal, balancing precariously on the leather upholstered stools all the while, but it’d be nice for neither one of us to have to cook. “Anniversary?” Cassie said to me as soon as our waitress had left. “Really?”
I shrugged and grinned a little bit. “What?” I said. “We are married. We’re not expecting anything free, and this,” I flashed the little gold ring on my left hand, “is the only proof we need, at best.”
Cassie rolled her eyes, but she was smiling. “Then why bring it up?” She was humoring me.
“Because babies don’t get married,” I said.
“I think you just like lying to the talls. Gives you a thrill.”
We both laughed at that.
The hightop where we sat had four stools gathered around it. Cassie and I hated booths. Too easy to get pinned in, trapped. Same reason we sat across from each other. This was our lives. This was normal. Fair? No. But normal. So normal we were oddly comfortable with it.
“What do you think?” I jerked my head backwards, indicating Gwendolyn. “A or L?” It was our private code. As a couple. Not Littles. When two people have known each other for close to half their lives, shorthands and in-jokes came easily.
A or L: A for Amazon or L for little. If push came to shove, who would this waitress help? Us or Them? Something Cassie and I talked about. People watching. People judging.
Sometimes, it came up if I ever thought an Amazon could really, truly be trusted. “I really think Mrs. Beouf could come around to the L’s.” I might say.
“She’s a regressor, Clark.”
“She’s helped Littles before.”
“She’s helped you, there’s a difference.”
Rarely, Cassie might use it to describe Littles she didn’t like. “That asshole on the news is such a Helper. Might as well just tattoo a big ol’ A on his forehead.”
Mostly, though, it was in reference to Tweeners. Our own little biased observation of the People Caught Between Two Worlds. In hindsight, this is one of the things I might feel the worst about, but it’s who we were.
I’m getting off track again. Sorry.
“A or L?” I repeated.
Cassie scoffed as if I’d just asked the dumbest of questions. “She’s for the A’s, obviously. You heard how she was talking. I’m surprised our waters aren’t in sippy cups.”
I agreed with Cassie, but I loved to debate with her. “Yeah, but she changed her tone.”
“After you bribed her.”
“All tips are bribes,” I said, smugly. “And she could have taken the money and kept talking down to us.”
Cassie huffed a bit. Not angry, but definitely a little bitter. “Sometimes it feels like everyone just wants us to crinkle.”
“Then isn’t it fortunate that money crinkles, too,” I said.
Gwendolyn and another Tweener came back with a couple of phone books in their arms. “Didn’t think ya’ll would want the booster seats,” she said. “So we brought these.” They placed the heaping piles of paper on the stools beside us. “It’s what we use when we’re on break.”
The stools were close enough that Cassie and I could hop from a flat stool to the phonebook boosted one. Cassie and I exchanged looks. We moved. Not the classiest looking thing, sitting on those phone books but the edge of the table was now comfortably below our chests.
It was a surprisingly decent thing to do “Thank you,” Cassie said. She sounded genuinely surprised.
“You’re very welcome, Ma’am.” Gwendolyn said. “Figured ya’ll would want to be able to see a little more of each other, it being your anniversary and all.” Cassie was good at hiding her emotions, but when she let you see them, it made her all the more beautiful. It’s one of the reasons I fell in love with her.
I couldn’t help myself. After the two Tweeners had left. I leaned over the table and half-whispered, “So? Think she’s splitting the tip with the other waitress?”
Cassie’s smile lost a bit of its luster. “Doubt it. That was nice of her, though.”
.”Maybe she’s with the L’s after all.” I said.
Cassie twisted and took a look around. People’s ears burned when you talked about them. “Took a twenty dollar bill to bring the niceness out,” she said. “Maybe she’s not an A, but I don’t think she’s an L, either?”
“I think she’s an M.”
I hadn’t considered there might be a third side. “Middle?” I asked, referring to the Tweeners’ less common nickname.
Cassie grinned. “No, dummy. Money.”
Not quite an hour later we had torn apart our chicken, and had plenty of leftovers for the next day. I don’t know how Amazons ever managed to breed or raise a bird that big but it’s a goddamn miracle. Delicious. Roasted to savory perfection, with just a dab of sweet sauce for a perfect flavor combination. The grease from the fries really hit the spot, too. More Yoga was definitely in my future, but that was a “tomorrow” problem.
“NO DADDY! PLEASE NO! NOT IN PUBLIC! NOT IN PUBLIC! NOOOOOOOOOO!”
I whipped my head around. The Amazons and not quite a dozen Tweeners eating looked up from their meals towards the entering family, and then went right about their business, tuning the pleading and screaming out. Everyone did that, save for me and Cassie. We kept looking...
An Amazon family, a fussy kid hanging over the man’s shoulder, entered the restaurant. Nothing surprising there. This was a mostly Amazon town. The kid was not happy. To Amazon eyes, it made sense. Slung over her Daddy’s shoulder, anyone could see the pretty yellow dress and the soaking wet diaper poofing out from underneath it. Her diaper almost matched the dress in color. Poor thing was probably about to leak.
A warning pat to her wet bottom was all that was needed to get her to quiet down. Then came the usual: Table for three. Yes they’d need a highchair. And then “Where’s the men’s room?”
That set the kid off. “PLEEEEEASE! LET MOMMY CHANGE ME AT LEAST! GIRL’S ROOM! GIRL’S ROOM! PLEEEEEASE!” Her last few cries came out in a bouncing sob. Like “PLE-E-E-E-E-E-E-EEEEASE!” and “NO-O-O-O-O-O-O-OOOOO! ”
That’s because this kid wasn’t a kid at all. She wasn’t a baby girl, just a Little one. It was hard to tell how old she was. She could have been anywhere between twenty and fifty for all I could tell. It was always hard to tell. Hair got dyed and pulled back into pigtails or cut into bowls. Freckles and blush got added with next gen cosmetics skin dyes- tattoos softer cuddlier cousins. Wrinkles were reduced with special creams.
Plenty of non-Littles think we age slower than the Amazons. Our morbidity is so compressed that it’s not until the very end that we start to look “old”. All you really needed to spot the lie was a daring eavesdrop in an Amazon beauty salon that “caters” to us, (or, y’know, just hang out with Littles that weren’t baby dolled up). We really were just dolls to them.
Cassie and I froze in place; Cassie remembering to wipe a dab of sauce off her mouth, just in case. It was almost nine on a school night. We thought we had come late enough to avoid seeing this. Captured Littles have early bedtimes.
She didn’t kick. She didn’t struggle. She’d been broken enough already. But something about tonight caused her scream like a branding iron was being pressed against her thigh. She hadn’t been “adopted” long. Just long enough... “THE CAR!” She screamed as the Amazon man took the diaper bag from his wife. “THE CAR! CHANGE ME IN THE CAR AT LEAST!”
He wasn’t listening. No one was. “PLEASE! I’M NOT READY TO BE CHANGED IN PUBLIC! I’M NOT READY! DON’T LET EVERYONE SEEEEEE-EEE-EEEE-EEEE!”
Tears were in her eyes when we averted ours. “I DON’T DESERVE THIS! I DON’T NEED THIS! I’M A REALTOR! I’M MARRIED! I’M A MOTHER! I’M NOT A BABY! I’M THIRTY-FI!” Her pleas were cut off by the closing of the men’s room door.
I called for the check, slapped another twenty into Gwendolyns palm and Cassie and I got out of there. When Amazons saw diapered Littles, things tended to domino out of control. I had to pee, but I was going to hold it all the way home. Had to. There was a changing table in the men’s room.