Chapter Description: Clark is plagued by nightmares and things are getting more tense at work.
I couldn’t sleep for several nights after the “bus incident”. I fell unconscious, I’m sure, but I never felt like I was sleeping. I’d just lay in bed, hear Cassie quietly snoring, and be completely unable to drift off myself.
I’d close my eyes, and talk to myself, make lists and do mental prepwork for the next morning, but I never slept. I’d never dream. I’d roll over. Flip the pillow. Roll over again.
But I wouldn’t sleep.
At one point I tried masturbating; rubbing one out to help me relax. Grabbed an old sock, snuck into the bathroom and beat off into oblivion. All that got me was more tired and a brain thinking about sex in the middle of the night in addition to lesson plans, jouska’s with Cassie in my head, and the restless anxiety that I was guilty of some unspeakable crime.
Sleep would not come.
Guilty consciences can do that, I guess.
I just kept replaying what happened on the bus the other night. Reliving the shock. I can’t claim that I’d known Amy all that well, but I had known her. She hadn’t been like that in the few times we’d interacted early on back at Oakshire Elementary.
She’d been miserable. She’d been despondent. At best, I’d thought of her as resigned the last time I got a chance to talk to her one-on-one. Inevitably, she got with the program. All the diapered Littles did with Mrs. Beouf, eventually. They learned to keep things to themselves and to find small ways, Little ways, at rebelling and making life work for them. Hadn’t they? Or did they all end up like Amy?
No hypnosis. No drugs. No pain punishments. And still the Little woman had seemed every bit the child. Not a doll. A child. Just like Ivy. Full Native.
Ivy, I could wrap my mind around. As near as I could tell, Ivy was close to me and Cassie’s age, and had gotten a free ride into Beouf’s class for as long as I’d been working there. Zoge must’ve gotten to her young. By this point in her life Ivy had probably been in diapers longer than not, poor thing.
Amy? Five years in captivity is long, but it’s not that long. It’s not “full native long”. Especially without the crazy nonsense and mental conditioning that Amazons are so fond of. The woman that Amy used to be had had a degree in veterinary medicine for goodness sake! On the bus she had the vocabulary of maybe a four year old, the impulse control of maybe a two year old, and insisted that all animals said “rawr!”. The girl couldn’t walk and had no front teeth!
AND SHE WAS HAPPY ABOUT IT!
What? The? Typical? Fuck?!
And for all I knew, she was living next door to me. Cassie and I had run home in the rain over half an hour later when the bus looped back around, our hearts pounding and both of us more than a bit worried that some do-good giant would see two drenched Littles and decide not packing an umbrella was an adoptable offense. It would have been nice, comforting even in a messed up way to know exactly how close a baby crazy Amazon lived to us. (They were all baby crazy though, and that was part of the problem)
Even after pissing victory into the Amazon sized toilet in the master bathroom, even after the shared shower, even after the adrenaline fueled we-just-dodged-a-bullet-sex with my wife, I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d heard; what I’d seen with my own two eyes.
Where was the line between a woman a bit older than me crying out for help as her Daddy took her to get changed and another woman a bit younger than me gleefully eating a wad of gum off a bus floor? Had Amy’s Mommy been telling the truth? She seemed to think she was. In many ways, Helena Madra reminded me of Melony Beouf. Just like Mrs. Beouf, Amy’s Mommy made an odd distinction between diapered and free Littles, talking to me and Cassie as equals even as she bounced her adopted daughter on her hip. I should have been relieved about that.
But without protections, without titles like “teacher”, and “student” and “coworker”, I just felt naked on that bus. The fact that Mrs. Beouf had quietly cultivated her own group of parental disciples to compliment the parents that I’d quietly converted over the years should have given me some satisfaction.
I just kept thinking about that “Fankyoo,” I’d received. Had I done that to her? Had I accidentally doomed a fellow Little? Was I responsible; an accomplice to a more subtle form of reconditioning, regression, and absolute mind-fuckery? While I was slowly teaching Amazon parents and children that Littles could be every bit as “mature” and “grown-up” as they saw themselves, was I at the same time accidentally teaching less fortunate Littles that they belonged in their playpen prisons?
Was I a Little Helper?
More than that, there was something else that I found deeply troubling. Were Beouf and Zoge right with all that pseudoscience bullshit about Maturosis and Developmental Plateaus? Was there something besides Amazon crazy to what they were doing? Even a tiny bit? Even if they’d drawn completely erroneous conclusions from the data they’d received? Did Littles like Ivy and Amy not succumb to their treatment as much as they wanted and enjoyed it?
I couldn’t accept that.
After Amy and her adopted mother, however, I couldn’t completely wave it away, either.
It consumed me. Even when I wasn’t thinking about it, I was thinking about it.
That’s why I couldn’t sleep. Eyes would close. Body would eventually give in and rest. But mind would never stop.
I sat there with all of these thoughts spinning circles in my head one morning after. I’d been so slow out the door, so sluggish in general, that I’d just finished the breakfast shake that Cassie had given me as I rode into the school parking lot. My stomach was too full and queasy for coffee and the last thing I wanted to do was look Beouf in the eye.
Routines and rituals don’t stop easily, no matter how I might have wished. I was rubbing the sleep out of my eyes and staring down at the hard flat surface of my kidney table. The stack of blank worksheets for my students to do that day was looking an awful lot like a pillow to me in the early morning hours.
“Mr. Gibson?” Mrs. Beouf’s shadow fell over me. “Clark? Everything okay?” I looked up at her, feeling all the worse for her presence. “Yikes!” She hunkered down in one of my student seats and slid an Amazon sized mug of coffee, hers, towards me. “You look like hell. Are you okay, hon?”
Hon...she called me hon. A pet name? A childish nickname? She said I looked like hell. Adults didn’t use that kind of language in front of children, did they? Fuck it. I reached for the coffee with both hands and lifted it to my lips. “Oh god!” I nearly gagged. “What’s in this stuff?”
“Nothing.” Beouf took her mug back and took a long, hearty gulp. “It’s just coffee. Black.”
“How do you drink this stuff?!” Even as I said it, I felt the caffeine starting to kick in. Better. Not good. But better. Needed sugar. Lots. Cream too. Maybe caramel. It helped, though.
Beouf offered me another sip. “Your eyes look almost as red as Mrs. Zoge’s.” Hearing Zoge’s name invoked woke me up more than even the caffeine. I still wasn’t over her snaking her fingers into my waistband like I was a toddler in need of checking.
She offered me another sip of coffee and I steadfastly refused. “What’s wrong with Zoge?” I asked. “She sick? Baby keeping her up at night?“ It was shady, but the subtle dig at Ivy made me feel better.
Somewhat predictably, the joke went over my colleague’s head. “No. Nothing like that.” She waited and stared at me expectantly. I’m not stupid. I knew she wanted me to ask why Mrs. Zoge’s eyes were so red that they looked like an insomniac’s. Problem was I was already in a foul mood, and Zoge’s problems were not anywhere on my list of things to care about. “She’s been crying.”
I arched an eyebrow. “Crying?”
“Crying because of you.”
If the straight black Amazon Prime Coffee hadn’t woken me up, that last part finished the job. “I made Zoge cry?” This had to be some kind of joke. Beouf wasn’t laughing. “How did I make Zoge cry?”
“She’s afraid of you. You scare her.”
I scared her? I scared her? I scared her? Nope. No matter how many different ways I thought of it, the idea didn’t make sense.
My incredulity must have shown plainly. “She’s never had a Little slap her hand away and talk to her like that.”
“Good!” I said. “She had no right to get in my space like that!” I could feel the heat rushing to my face. The idea that I was hurting other Littles by my very existence was draining. The notion that even one of the giants was afraid of me? That was damn empowering! It made me angry remembering the other day with Chaz and Zoge. Anger was an emotion I could get behind, just then.
Beouf held her arms out to me in a gesture of calm and peace. “Clark,” she told me. “You don’t understand.”
“I understand that she sees me as a baby,” I practically spat the b-word out like it was a curse. Not a curse word; a literal curse.
“You’re absolutely right.” I was ready to stand up right there and raise my fist to the ceiling. FINALLY! An Amazon admits it! “And she’s desperately trying not to.”
I stopped myself. “Excuse me?”
“Zoge is Yamatoan,” Beouf said. “So’s Ivy.” Yamatoan? Why did that sound familiar? I didn’t have the words, just a vague sense of unjustified familiarity. I just scraped my hand over my head. Whoosh.
My mentor and colleague leaned in close and lowered her voice, like she was giving me her assistant’s deep dark secret. “As a country, Yamatoa doesn’t believe in things like Maturosis,” she said. “OR Adult Littles,” she added hastily. “All Littles are babies over there. By law.”
That’s where I knew that name. Yamatoa had popped up on MistuhGwiffin.web several times in the past. I wanted to say that’s where that airplane had made the emergency stop the last time Cassie and I had gone conspiracy spotting. Before now, it had been one of those words that I didn’t read as much as recognize in print.
Yamatoa. End of the line. One of those places where Littles got diapered and never got away. And Zoge was from there. “That adds up,” I said, feeling smug.
“Clark, think about it.” Mrs. Beouf placed a hand over mine. “Mrs. Zoge grew up there. She spent most of her life over there. The idea that Littles are...are…” she paused. (Please don’t say mature). “Capable of maturity-” (Typical) “-has been a literally alien concept to her for the majority of her life.”
I said nothing, letting my silence speak for itself.
“She’s good at her job. She’s a natural with my kids. She’s got none of the bitterness or pettiness that a lot of locals have towards Plateaued Littles. And you know what I’m talking about there.” I did. Raine Forrest and Brollish came to mind. “She treats them how they need to be treated; loves them how they are.”
Still nothing from me. I didn’t care that Zoge was good at her job. After the bus ride, those were points against her.
“Clark,” one of my few Amazonian friends, maybe my only one, said. “You’ve got to believe me. She feels awful. She’s been beating herself up about it for days.”
“Maybe she should…”
Beouf was getting exasperated, I could tell. “Clark, it’s been close to ten years,” she said. “One slip up in ten years is pretty good.”
I stood up. I walked to my door. “In my world, Mrs. Beouf.” I said, pulling on the chord and pushing out. “I’m not allowed one slip up. Why should she be any different?”
That day I walked to the front office alone.