Part I: Drink Me
"Firsts. You will now be selected by your Sister Seconds. Stand by the wall to the left, hands to your sides and say nothing." The stern woman looked at her clipboard and waited for the line of boys to do as instructed before looking up at the doorway. "Girls. You may enter. Selection will be in merit order. Staycee, you placed first. Make your selection." I didn't need to be asked twice before making a beeline for the slight, slender boy standing third from the left. "I name you Audrey. Please follow me." I hadn't finished my statement as the other seconds began to file in and make their choices.
Audrey…? I was pulled behind the girl in front of me, led by the wrist, and out into the bothersome white hallways. It wasn't where I expected to go… Staycee - that was her name, right? - led me through the hallway, down another, to a door, and helped me inside. A bedroom… almost normal, even. A little girly with the mesh curtains around the bed and the obnoxiously pink walls, but it wasn't a cell… "I'm Colin… Staycee, right?"
"Uhhuh~" I had a distracted little smile on my pretty face as I wandered over to the closet and swung open the doors. The short-alls that I wore were hardly age appropriate; bright yellow and white with ruffled detail around the leg holes and a large bulge around my bottom. My pigtails bounced a little as I hummed and flicked through clothes. "This is our room, everything you see here is yours now, too." As I turned around and held up a plain white nightie, the perfect complexion of my skin and my sparkling blue eyes became evident. More evident, however, was probably the relative flatness of my chest. "Take off your clothes, Audrey, we don't have much time."
"Colin," I corrected her, though she'd used that name twice now. Was she deliberately messing with me? I sighed and ignored Staycee's request, looking around the room. It was very decorative - teddy bear stickers and pink walls - the white comforter on the bed and the mesh around it. I fiddled with the hair ribbons on the dresser and looked into the vanity mirror. My hair was dirty having been denied a shower for three days now, though it still hung past my eyebrows and over my ears. I could see Staycee's reflection in the mirror, though, and I turned back toward her. Her outfit really suited the room. "I'm not undressing in front of you." Though with her at least a couple inches taller, I wasn't entirely sure I had a choice in the matter.
I crossed the distance between us in only a few steps and pushed the boy down onto the bed through the gap in the curtains. "Please. I don't have time to mess around; we're due at induction and introduction in twenty minutes." Standing above the boy laying sprawled across the bed I was momentarily proud of my selection. But I wouldn't be if he kept arguing!
My cheeks took on a little color and I sat back up, my feet on the ground now, Staycee towering above me. I didn't dare risk standing again - having been pushed down once by a girl was embarrassing enough. I took another look around the room, maybe as a distraction. "What did you mean that all this stuff was mine now, too? Why would I want a room like this?" I wouldn't request a new one - I knew the kinds of things that could happen in prison to a short boy like myself, and I guess the fact that I'd roomed with a girl was a blessing.
"We're pair bonded. Everything that's mine is yours. Everything that one of us does right is rewarded for both of us. I'm number one and got to choose first for a reason, so you're lucky I chose you. Life here will be easy for you if you just do as I say." I held up the nightie and a pair of plain white panties before looking at the clock on the wall. "Seventeen minutes. Come on. Please..?"
They were very clearly not boy's underwear, but the nightie hardly looked different to one of the smocks I was given at the first building. I was in scrubs now, though, which I'd received before leaving, and I'd been in them two days now. "I'm sorry, Staycee, but I'm not wearing that. I mean it." My tone left absolutely no room for debate, though I stayed on the mattress.
"Look. Some of the other girls got beaten and forced and hit and all sorts of nasty things happened to them, myself included. I don't wanna do that. I wanna be sweet. Please don't argue? I don't want to be that sort of person. I want for us to be friends. Please?" Another glance at the clock brought a sense of slight desperation to my voice.
"I'm not wearing them." She was trying to be kind, and I guess I shouldn't really abuse that. The bottom line was that she was likely only doing what she was told. This was probably mandatory. And it was true, with her size, she could probably beat me up pretty easily though I was sure I was stronger. Still, I should extend a courtesy, too… "I'll wear the gown. Not those." I nodded toward the white matching underwear.
"I'll give you a kiss if you do." Coercion wasn't what I'd planned on, but I needed my perfect score. I did. "They're just plain white undies anyway. What's the issue? Nobody will see them." Sweet smile. Hint of worry. But very kissable lips.
I blinked up at the girl standing above me and looked down at my feet very quickly. I knew my cheeks were lighting up and I bit my lip a little. They were just white underwear. And no one would see. And if we followed the rules, we could get parol or something, right? I was here for twelve months, but it could very easily be nine instead… but it would be a lie to say that a kiss wasn't at least a bit of the incentive. It wouldn't be a real kiss, I knew, but it had been a long time since I'd even gotten that, even from my Mom. Affection really would be nice… "Yeah, alright…"
My hand slid along the boys cheek to cradle his face as I leaned down and pressed my lips pressed to his. Soft. Gentle. Sensual. Sweet. "Please get changed now? You can face away just this once." Another glance to the clock. "But please hurry, Audrey. I wanna be first there."
I sighed and climbed off the bed, looking up at the clock. It wasn't in our room, technically, but in the hall just outside our door. And with the windowless door and the windowless room, I suspected the clock's placement had a purpose. I turned around as I slid my shirt off, then put the nightgown on, then slipped off my pants, and finally the underwear were pulled up my legs. It was… strange. Very unnatural. Still, the tingling on my lips was still present and I found that it meant a lot more than I thought it did. Actual affection… it felt so foreign.
"Good girl, come on." My fingers laced into the boy’s hand as I tugged him out into the hall with a gleeful smile. We were first! Our bare feet didn't make a sound as we wandered down the white corridor and through the doors into a room that most resembled a school cafeteria, apart from the podium at one one. The stern woman from earlier looked at us and smiled. "Well done, Staycee." I felt a glowing pride. I was a good girl.
Girl? She was clearly fucking with me. I felt my cheeks light up at the woman's gaze, examining my gown, and given she was administration, she very likely knew what was under it. I looked at my feet, following Staycee to a place at the table - pairs of chairs all around it. There would be more people? We sat down in our pair and I played with my fingers anxiously. I didn't want to be seen like this.
My hand slid under the table and resumed its place holding the boy’s fingers. One by one, pairs of youth followed in and took seats ~ always one boy and one girl and all the boys wearing the same nighties; though some of them had bruises on their arms or scratches or other signs of struggle. "You're a First, and so are all they." I was careful to whisper softy as I spoke. "I worked really hard these last few days to keep my scores perfect because I saw your profile and knew you'd be mine." I was giddy with glee as I whispered, but like most of the boys in the room Audrey didn't say much.
Boys and girls filed in - always paired together - and I found myself a little relieved that I'd gotten stuck with such an attractive partner. Still, the fact that the Firsts - as Staycee put it - were all boys and what I assumed to be Seconds were all girls made me wonder if there was another area working on the opposing rotation. As the seats filled, I stayed silent. And it wasn't until the doors closed that I counted three empty locations at the table.
The woman took to the podium and smiled. "Welcome, wayward children, to your new home at Mt. Calibeen Reform. You all know why you're here, you all know your personal crimes against society. But here at Calibeen, we're not interested in your past. We seek only to give you a future. Reduce. Reform. Reeducate. Reborn. You'll find our ethos ever so simple. You'll be expected to follow the instructions of any administration staff, and those of your Sister Second. Compliance will be rewarded. Disobedience will be punished." Nobody dared speak as the woman spoke, and the eerie silence that hung over the hall as she finished was palpable.
It was different than I imagined, but it wasn't worse. I had a real bed to sleep on and a roommate I trusted not to stab me; that was more than I could have hoped for. The rewards and punishments system was expected - most all places like this would have them. But above all, I guess I was just glad to be in a… what did they call it, reform? Better than prison…
Staff dressed in long white coats began to file into the room and lay trays of food down in front of every pair; each tray containing a plate of chicken nuggets, a sippy cup of juice, and a baby bottle of slightly off white milk. I spoke softly as I explained. "The bottle is yours." There was a twang of something on my voice: guilt? "If you're a good girl and drink it - all the other Firsts will, too, so no need to be shy - I'll give you another kiss when we get back to our room, okay?" Gotta be perfect, Staycee. That's all. You're not a bad person. Follow rules.
A… bottle? I wasn't the only person surprised by this. With a glance around the room, all the Firsts looked very off-put. The Seconds started to eat the food, but the Firsts didn't… they only had their bottles in front of them. Staycee started eating her nuggets, too, and I looked at her tray of food. "None of those are for me…? I can't live on just milk…" Around the room, the Firsts with the bruises and cuts were the first to pick up their bottles and start drinking. The others, like me, hesitated.
"It's more like a formula. You can live off it. I did." I smiled as I popped a nugget into my lips and gave a sympathetic look. "I know it sucks. But the quicker you adapt to the rules as a First the sooner you become a Second and get real food." As much as my childish meal could count as food.
I sighed and lifted the bottle to my eyes as a few other Firsts had. Tim - across from me - didn't do anything, though. He was very stubborn on the bus ride over, and I suspected it would cost him. He looked at me a little incredulously and I put the bottle back down, my pride getting the best of me. "Not really hungry, anyway…" Though I was. I really was. And I wasn't sure how long being a First lasted, but I probably couldn't survive without liquids. The other Firsts, though, didn't take the bottles out of their mouths once they entered. So it didn't taste bad?
I'd noticed the exchange between my Audrey and the boy across the table and my hand squeezed hers. "Please? It's important to me. Even if you just have a little bit? I promise you a kiss when we get back to our room, remember?" There'd be no 'little bit' once he tasted the milk, the chemicals lacing it would make sure of that. I hated this part the most, and vividly remembered my own resistance.
Tim just stared at me and I looked down at the bottle in front of me. Him and me were the only two not drinking, now, and two people in the white coats were looking at us and talking quietly to themselves. I lifted the bottle again, both the administrators watching me, and looked through the foggy liquid. It was darker than milk. I bit my lip and looked at Staycee who put a small smile on. "One sip, right, and we won't be in trouble…? I don't have to finish it?"
"You have as much as you want to have." I smiled happily. Not a lie; he'd only have as much as he wanted to. The men in the coats had started writing out notes and the boy across the table stood up. "This is bullshit! I'm not drinking from a fucking baby bottle!" I squeezed Audrey's hand tight. "Quick. Before they come over. Please."
One sip, symbolic. So I quickly tipped the bottle into my mouth, a drop hitting my tongue, and pulled the bottle out again. Except it didn't come out. The nipple stayed between my lips and more drops touched my tongue. It was the most delicious thing I'd ever tasted. Well, rather, it wasn't… it was warm and almost sour tasting and it might been likened to a melted milkshake, but I kept drinking it anyway and I wasn't entirely sure why. A warmth washed over me and elation took over. The colors in the room became brighter, almost hypnotic, and I found myself in a small giddy daze. I kept the bottle between my lips, sipping contently.
By the time Audrey's bottle was half finished, Tim had been dragged away by the orderlies and the only noise left was the Firsts around the room sucking their bottles. And then there was another sound. The sound of dripping water hitting the tiled floor. And then it got a little louder as more streams joined the sound. One by one, each and every First started to wet themselves, yellow spreading on white nighties, and not a single one of them cared. Those who'd finished their bottles just smiling happily and contently. I knew Audrey would be joining them soon, and I felt a slight flutter of happiness on my tummy - all the Seconds did.
The warmth became far more potent a few minutes later - a blanket of damp heat covered my bottom and liquid dripped down from my chair. It wasn't until I'd finished wetting myself that I noticed and then I only giggled. The dampness beneath my bottom, the heat, the carefree bliss of it all… it was intoxicating. I finally finished my bottle with a small pout and looked up at Staycee with sparkling sleepy eyes.
"Come on sweetie." I stood up with my sippy in one hand and the boy holding my other and smiled down at him. "Let's go back to our room, Audrey. I'll get you changed into proper clothes. Pretty clothes. Won't that be lovely? You want to be pretty, don't you?" I knew my words would be heavy to him so I kept them simple. The scene was playing out around the room, Seconds stepping over puddles of pee as they led their charges out.
I followed Staycee down the hallway - or two, or three, I didn't really know - and into our bedroom. By now, though, my underwear were starting to get cold and I whimpered like a needy child. I wasn't really sure what else to do; I just wanted out of the uncomfortable underwear. But Staycee said she'd get me changed. She said so.
When we got into our room, I closed the door behind us and then stripped the boy of the stained and sodden panties and nightie, using a dry corner of the fabric to dry up the excess moisture before tossing the bundle into the laundry chute. "Lay down beautiful, over there on the bed, go on." I smiled happily as I started picking out his outfit.
I hurried over to the bed, sitting down on the edge of it and kicking my feet, though they still scraped on the ground as I did so. This room was euphoric compared to the dining hall and the hallways. So many colors. So much happening. I sat naked on the comforter and blissfully watched the walls, smiling at the girl in the closet every time she poked her head out. This felt so serene… I never wanted it to end.
The effects of the milk would last a little while and I knew I had time, so I picked out something very cute. A blue diaper, a lovely blue and white babydoll dress and endless ribbon to accessorize with. Blue would be her color. And she'd love ribbons. I decided that the moment I saw her pretty face. I approached the bed and pushed Audrey down onto her back before unfolding the diaper and retrieving the powder from the bedside. "Special undies for Firsts." I held up the diaper and smiled. "Excited?~"
"Uhhuh..." My words were so incredibly detached and I was almost certain I hadn't even heard what I was supposed to be excited about. Did she even tell me? It just didn't matter right now - I was smiling, I was happy, I was blissful for the first time in almost two months. I loved this feeling. I didn't want it to go away, even when Staycee taped the diaper in place around my waist. It was strange… thick, but so soft and so warm and it made sounds every time I moved that I couldn't help but giggle at.
"Good girl!" Had I been so compliant? I couldn't help my smile at the boy’s elated giggles as I helped Audrey to her feet. "Arms up, come on." I took the dress off the hanger and began to slide it down over the boys body with no resistance. As it fell past his head and I adjusted it into place I felt my heart race a little. He was so beautiful. "You're beautiful, Audrey. What are you?" I had lengths of ribbon ready now to put through his hair and tie around his wrists and ankles.
"Beautiful…?" There was no way to describe the tone I had used. It was somewhere between inquiring and exclaiming with a heavy dose of exhaustion and burning pride. But at the end of it, I giggled again. I'd never worn a dress before, but I played with the hem like any other shirt. It would occasionally flash my diaper at Staycee, but I couldn't have cared less. I felt so serene.
After fixing the ribbons in place, I pushed the boy back onto the bed and climbed on top of him, repeating the kisses from earlier. Soft kisses, pretty kisses. And by the time I was done, my gloss was shining on his lips. It was so strange - although Audrey would be a girl soon, he was still a boy and I'd never kissed a boy before. I had never even liked boys before. But this felt so right, so I kissed him again.
I honestly thought the euphoria couldn't get any better, but when Staycee's lips hit mine, I was proved very wrong. It might have been the semi-delusional haze, but I felt… loved. I kissed her back, my hands on her sides, and laid on the bed with the most blissful expression. Nothing could interrupt this, nothing could make this moment bad.
After the kiss had faded and while the color still burned in my cheeks, I stood up off the bed and helped Audrey do the same. I led her to the mirror so she could see her beautiful reflection and stood behind her, cuddling around her tummy. "Look in the mirror and tell me what you see. Tell me your name, tell me how you feel." Reinforcement was an important lesson we'd been taught in our mentoring glass, and I was determined to get a perfect score.
"Uh… I…" I was very pretty, I could give me that. With the ribbon tied around my hair in an almost Alice-esque fashion, and the dress down my body, my legs parted slightly more than usual… I couldn't have looked any older than ten, especially next to Staycee. But with the haziness clouding my mind, I wasn't entirely sure what she wanted from me. I kept looking at myself in the mirror, expecting the answer to appear, but I only looked up at Staycee in frustration.
"My name is Audrey and I'm a pretty little girl. I love ribbons, diapers, and my sister Staycee." It was a lengthy mantra, but one I planned to have her repeat as often as she would. The kisses hadn't been planned ~ we were allowed to play with our Firsts, but attachment was discouraged due to how this place worked; she'd be a Second with her own First one day.
"My name is Audrey - I'm a pretty little girl. Love ribbons, diapers, and Staycee." The words were slow and almost an automated repeat of what Staycee had told me, but I just wanted to make her happy. She'd made me so happy. So I smiled up at her and put my head on her shoulder, her fingers in mine. I liked being this close to her. I so rarely got to be close to anyone…
"Good girl~" My voice was light an airy. I'd get top marks for today, I knew. There were no classes today and dinner was a few hours away. So I took her hand and I led her back to the bed. "Wanna cuddle for a while, Audrey?"
"Uhhuh..." I climbed into the bed after Staycee - I hadn't noticed until that moment, but we'd be sharing a bed from now on. There was only one, after all. But I cared so little at this moment. I put my head on Staycee's chest and smiled absently, my sleepy eyes drifting closed. But the warmth never left me.
There was so much that would happen when we woke up; firstly, I was wet already, as she would be upon waking up. And the baby haze would have cleared by then, so her resistance would return too. But it was nothing I couldn't handle. I smiled and played with Audrey's hair as I closed my eyes. "Remember this feeling. Right now. Hold onto it when things aren't so fun. And know I can give it to you any time."
I didn't forget anything, and fuck, I wished I had. I shot upright in bed, looking down at the dress on my body, the sound of the diaper crinkling beneath it, and the distinct warmth and moisture between my legs… no, no, no. I tore off the bed, searching the room for my clothes - well, not my clothes, but my scrubs - but I couldn't find them anywhere. "Where the fuck are they?!" I must've woken Staycee up when I climbed out of bed. "Where are my clothes?!"
"You're wearing them, beautiful girl." I smiled groggily as I sat up in bed and rubbed my eyes, shifting a little to determine the state of my diaper. "And don't yell, they're always watching, always listening. Yelling isn't allowed."
"I don't give a fuck what's allowed! Where are the clothes I came in with?! Where are they?!" But Staycee was still half asleep, still slow on the uptake, and I started tearing through the closet, looking for anything for me to wear. But it was all girl's clothes. And not even girl's clothes but little girl's clothes. I was seething by the time I came out of the closet and started tearing through the drawers of the dresser; diapers, pacifiers, baby powder… "...what the fuck is this place?"
"Please calm down, Audrey. Cursing is against the rules." I tried not to let the panic in my voice show as the boy stampeded through our room. "It's a reform center. They take you and they remake you as a productive member of society. You're a First and some of the stuff is weird but it's better when you're a Second like me. I rebelled as a First, Audrey. And I was punished. And eventually I learned that its easier just to go along with it."
"Well I'm not! Okay? I'm not doing this! I don't care if they beat me or… or rape me or whatever the hell people do in prison, but I'm not dealing with this bullshit! Dressing like a fucking toddler. Fuck!" I tore the diaper off - clearly wet - and left the dress on to cover my otherwise naked self. I'd find other clothes, though, and then I'd speak to an administrator about this. "And I swear, if you call me Audrey one more fucking time… it's Colin, okay?!"
"Please stop..." I bit my lip hard and winced, the panic setting firmly into my voice now. "Touching our own diapers is a Five Point Strike..." I had to get her under control, but I wouldn't use violence the way that Alex had on me. But I couldn't get punished again. I couldn't! I wouldn't! So I stood up, pressed him to the wall, and kissed him again. "Please. If you get punished, so do I..."
I frowned and looked away from Staycee, pushing her off me and freeing myself from the wall. But my momentum was gone, and I guess that was the point of all this. Always listening, she said… which meant they could hear me now. Still, I had no intent of keeping my plan secret. "I'm going to find some clothes and I'm going to talk to whoever runs this place. And I'll get sent somewhere I belong." I moved past Staycee and dug through the piles of clothes. There was nothing to wear…
"You don't get a choice, Audrey. Boys aged 16-25 are sent here. It's just how it is. Just like the rest of us. You think I didn't try?" My perfect score was gone. I knew it. I just didn't wanna be punished now and maybe if she understood...
"Fuck. I don't care. But I'm not staying here, alright? This is all bullshit. Maybe you can deal with being dressed up like a child and drink that milk and piss yourself, fine. Fine. But I'm not." I finally gave up on clothes and stormed out of the bedroom. I guess I'd do this in a dress. But my anger was enough to keep me going - enough to push me past that little factoid. "Where the hell is the admin desk…"
I followed the boy out of the room and tugged on her arm, tears in the corner of my eyes. "Please! Please!! They'll punish us both and I don't wanna be punished again... please... please..." I let out an exacerbated sigh and shook my head. "I was like you. Arrogant. Angry. Stubborn. I didn't wanna be a girl either. But it’s not our choice..."
I froze in place and turned around, looking Staycee top to bottom… ‘didn't want to be a girl, either…’ Not our choice…? All males 16-25… fuck was I dense. But she couldn't… no, definitely not. She was gorgeous. She had long hair. Longer than mine. And… well, she didn't have boobs, but she… she wasn't a boy… no, no, no! "I… I gotta get out of here…"
"They'll be coming already. You've earned ten points of strikes. They'll be coming and they'll punish us both..." My hand took Audrey's and I frowned, rubbing my eyes with the other. "Please say you're sorry to them. Tell them you'll be a good girl. What they take you can never have back... please... they took so much already... I don't wanna lose more... please... "
I shook my head and looked down the hallway: no sign of anyone. Still, I believed her. They'd find me just fine. They'd find me and I'd tell them to take me to who was in charge. This could end now. "I'm sorry, Staycee, I am. You're really nice, and I'm really sorry. But you're not worth me staying here."
"Didn't you like kissing me? Cuddling with me?" I was trying to control my sobbing as I squeezed Audrey's hand. "Please... they took eight years... if I get punished... there'll be nothing left... none of the person I was..."
"It's not my problem…" I wanted to ask what she meant by eight years, but I didn't want to show interest. I liked her - I really, really did. But I wouldn't let this happen anymore. I wouldn't sit here and let them dose me with that milk or turn me into a fucking girl. I am me. I am Colin. They can't change that. I'll never wind up like Staycee… or whatever her real name was.
The orderlies came and by the time they did I was sobbing on the floor, shaking my head. I'd been so perfect. So perfect. And now this. The two men picked me up and another grabbed Audrey and I shook my head in a fit of tears, screaming at the boy. "I've been such a good girl! So good. Perfect. So good. I was so sweet to you, kissed you, made you feel loved when you haven't felt that way in so long. I wanted to be your best friend... something I never had in this place... and you... you let this happen! Please apologize... please..." The orderlies said nothing as we were dragged along the white corridors. "I can't... please don't take any more..."
I wasn't dragged, but an orderly held my shoulder sternly, guiding me. I felt very guilty; she'd made me feel so special, and now I was doing this to her. But I didn't have a choice; I needed to get out. I needed a way to escape this place, even if it was to some place worse. I didn't want to lose who I was… I couldn't…
We were thrown into a room with white walls and two padded beds in the center. One of the orderlies lifted me onto the bed and began fasten the straps. I knew better than to struggle, but apparently Audrey didn't. "Please... please say sorry... they go in and they take away your memories... take away who you were... I have nothing between age ten and now... don't even remember my first kiss..."
Take away… my memories? What sense did that make? But I'd seen a lot of movies, and I'd seen what this place could do to someone… and with Staycee being strapped in one of the chairs, and me into the other, though me more forcibly, I was wondering if I was doing the right thing. "I… I'm… er…" I shook my head and looked away from Staycee and stopped struggling. Maybe… this was good… "Sorry, Staycee…"
"Please... please..." My voice was more a whisper now. "They can make you look and dress different... but at the end of Fourth, you can always still know who you are. But if they do this, you lose that, you lose you! Please... I'll do anything... please apologize. We can go through here... and be friends... start a life... please..."
"What makes you think I'd want you." My voice was calm now, though, despite the rude comment. But she was a boy; I didn't like her. She'd lied. What could she possibly give me? "I'm sorry you're dragged into this… if I could, I'd get you out. But I don't want to remember… and if they can really make it go away…"
"Because you want to feel close to someone. It's in your profile, it's why I chose you. Because I don't have anybody... don't remember anything. So I picked you because I knew you wanted somebody too... thought we could be there for each other after this. I never hit you or lied to you or hurt you like the other Seconds!" The orderlies had gone now and we waited for the doctors to arrive. I couldn't help the tears; I was going to lose all of me...
I looked at the ceiling and closed my eyes. "I really am sorry. I know you've been nothing but nice - I know it - and I guess I'm just an asshole, I don't know. I just… this might be good. This might be why I'm here, Staycee. This memory thing: it sounds… like a miracle." But she wouldn't understand that; how could I expect her too. She remembered up until she was ten years old - this transition must have been so easy for her after that. She never became an adult. She couldn't understand…
"Please...." I squeezed my eyes shut and shook my head as a man in a white coat entered the room with a chart and looked at it with a frown. "Staycee. Oh Staycee. Again? But your behavior has been so good since your cleaning." My chest heaved in sobs as he spoke and then looked at Audrey. "And you must be Audrey. Staycee has been talking about you for over a week now, ever since we got your profile. She'd picked out the name the moment she saw you, so it must have meant something to her as a child. We don't know really. Are things not working out well? Such a shame. Staycee was one of our problem cases, you see: rebellious until the end. But that part of you is all gone now, isn't it, Staycee?" He smiled and looked back at the chart. "Just a perfect doll for some handsome man." I shook my head softly and sniffled. "Please... no more... please..."
"Please leave her alone…" Unlike the orderlies, this doctor seemed to be… well, human. He talked to us, even if it was condescending. I decided not to go into the Audrey/Colin debate though, given I was asking a favor. "She did everything right; it’s not her fault I'm an asshole, right? She warned me again and again. She doesn't deserve this. Only I do."
"Oh, I'm sorry Audrey, but those are the rules here. Pair bonding. See, many of our guests will refuse to the point of death, but they won't cause pain to each other. It's very effective." I remembered when I was a First, when I'd caused my punishment to be inflicted on another: the memories she’d lost because of me. The doctor spoke again with a smile. "For you, Audrey, we'll take your first ten years. After all, that's what we'll be taking from Staycee today. Any questions?"
"Wait, what?! No - you take what you took from her before! My life since I was ten! Take all that way!" There wasn't even logic… why take younger years? It wouldn't help them in their goals. They wanted to turn us into children, right? So what good would be taking away memories of when we were children… it would only cause more resistance. I didn't understand!
"We take the best years of your life to soften your grip on who you were. It's simple logic, really. For Staycee, she lived with abusive parents who molested her as a child. It wasn't until she was eleven that she was out in foster care and started to enjoy her life." I opened my eyes a crack and listened to the man - I hadn't even considered why they’d taken what they'd taken. They took the years I loved...
"I…" I shook my head, slow at first, and then quicker. No, no, no! I didn't want to lose who I was! I just wanted those memories gone! I wanted them to go away! I struggled on the table and shook my head over and over. "I don't… I don't want this. Please… please let us go… please…"
"You have to apologize... you have to mean it more than anything you've ever meant. You have to make him believe you want to be here..." My whispered words only brought a smile to the doctor’s face as he looked at Audrey. "Oh, but you don't want to be here, do you, Audrey? You want to speak to someone and "sort all this out", isn't that right?" It was a word trick: a way to trick Audrey into saying she didn't want to be here.
"I… I do… but…" I shook my head, tugging again at the restraints. What was I supposed to say? If I lied, told him I wanted to be here, I'd never get to see who was in charge, I'd never get to sort it out. But would he ever let me anyway? I felt sick to my stomach… "I mean, I… wanna be here. Please… let me stay… please…"
"Are you sure you want to stay, Audrey?" The smile on his lips was worse than any beating and I couldn't look him in the eye. "Staycee gave you a mantra earlier in the day. Repeat it to me, oh... ten times. And I'll assess then whether you truly want to be here or not."
"Mantra…?" I looked over at Staycee with absolute confusion. Tears kept rolling down her cheeks and I looked back at the doctor with his smile. I really didn't know what he was talking about… but Staycee spoke up. "In front of the mirror…" In front of the - oh... "I… um…" I barely remembered it. It was my name. And… and ribbons… and… "My name is… um… Audrey…" I honestly thought I would throw up as the words passed my lips. "I like… umm…" "Love." It was the doctor that spoke that time.
My voice was a hushed whisper through the tears that left me utterly exhausted. "My name is Audrey and I'm a pretty little girl. I love ribbons, diapers, and my sister Staycee." The doctor shot me a disproving look and my gaze fell back downwards, trying to avoid his stare.
"You've gotta be…" But the doctor's face was maniacal; his smile sat at such an awkward angle it seemed almost inhuman… "My name is Audrey… and I'm a pretty little girl." Everything I was saying was a blatant lie, but I thought my words pulled it off convincingly enough. That was, until I got to the word "diapers", where I hesitated. Still, I pushed through. And I pushed through nine extra times. And by the time I'd said my tenth Staycee, I was nearly sure a part of me had died.
"Now, Audrey. You will make mistakes. You will mess up. That's why we have a strike system, to allow for that. But you now have a special caveat; if you use the name Colin even once, you'll be granted a ten point strike and you'll be back here. Do you have any questions?" I didn't dare look up, but my hand managed to wriggle enough in the straps to link my pinky around Audrey's.
"Yeah… got it…" I didn't feel like me anymore. They didn't need to take my memories, it seemed. The doctor let both Staycee and I off the tables and ushered us out into the hallways again. Neither of us talked as we walked back to our room, and when we returned, I didn't say a word to her. I sat at the vanity and put my head on the white painted wood.
"I'm sorry... it's my fault. I should’ve taught you better. I just didn't want to hurt you the way my Second hurt me." I wrapped my arms around the boy from behind and held him close, kissing his neck softy. "Talk to me? I bet if you tell me what you're thinking, I can help you make sense of it."
"Just leave me alone." I shrugged Staycee off me and looked up into the mirror. But that didn't help. I reached up and tore the blue ribbon from my head and threw it to the ground with all the other clothes. I didn't feel like moving. I didn't feel like anything. The clock read five fifteen, but I hadn't seen a single person out in the hall. Where was everyone?
"We can still make dinner if you’d like." I tried to force the chipper tone into my voice, but it was difficult. So I took a breath. "Callum. That was my name. That's one of the things I remember. I don't know why I'm here, just that I am. On my second day I stabbed an orderly with a colored pencil. It's why they took my memories...." There was a great deal of shame and guilt in my voice as I spoke.
I didn't say anything. I didn't want to talk. I actually wished she'd just leave me alone. He'd just leave me alone. If I started calling her she, then he could call me she just the same. And then where would our names be? Callum and Colin. Except my name didn't exist anymore… not for another twelve months. And it left me so alone…
"What's it like out there...?" There was a little hope in my voice as I sat up on the edge of the vanity with a smile. Despite the tears, I knew I was still remarkably beautiful - they'd made sure of that - and with my bare creamy legs swinging off the edge of the desk it was hard to overlook that fact. "When they took what they took, I pledged to myself to be perfect here so I could get out as soon as possible and be able to experience the world for the first time."
"I'm not the person you should be asking…" Even my voice sounded lost. Pathetic. Concluded. I kept my head down, feeling sick to my stomach. I couldn't get over the lies I'd said in that room. They weren't true, then, and they weren't true now. And still, I wasn't Colin anymore. I couldn’t be. I hated this… I didn't want to change… I just wanted to go home…
"You're my only friend. The other Seconds when I became a Second are Thirds now. And the current Seconds don't like me because I told them I wouldn't hit you or rape you or hurt you. Violent girls." I took the boy’s hand and smiled a little. "The shortest time anybody has ever gotten out of here is nine months. That's a perfect score. You wanna try for it with me?" I bit my lip and frowned in recollection. "You wouldn't wanna know me out of here though, huh? Why would you? You have family and friends to go back to."
I took my hand from Callum's and shook my head. I wasn't sure what I'd do yet, but I had very little intention to play by their rules. And still, I wasn't looking for a way out, I wasn't working out a solution. I was sitting here and doing nothing. And maybe that's what I should be doing… how long would it take to die if I refused to eat? Wouldn't that just be easier…?
I sighed and got off the vanity, pushing Audrey off the stool and onto the soft rug below, before climbing atop the boy, taking his cheeks in mine and leaning in to kiss him. And I didn't stop at one. He had no hope; I'd seen this before, I'd seen this and then never seen those people again. Not this time. So we kissed. If he had no hope, I'd be his hope.
I pushed Callum off well before he got a third kiss on my lips. I scurried back up to my feet and looked furiously down at him on the floor. "What the hell do you think you're doing! That's disgusting…" I wiped my mouth and turned away from him, shaking my head in frustration. He wouldn't understand… I didn't expect him to. So I sighed and sat down on the bed, my chin in my hands and my knees to my chest. I felt so lackluster…
"You didn't think so when you thought I was born a girl." I bit my lip and looked down. This was something for Fourths. I didn't know how to handle it. "I didn't choose this body. I mean. I was never a very boyish boy... but what they did to me leaves me no choice but to be a girl. I couldn't convince someone I was a boy no matter how hard I try. Why does it bother you...? Do you look at me and honestly see a boy...?"
I looked up at Callum, and then away. "No… but you are. Same way I am. And if someone started seeing me as a girl, I'd be upset. So I'm not gonna do it with you, alright? So I'm not calling you Staycee either." It was a simple rule - do unto others what you'd want done unto you. Every religion had their own way of saying it.
"Except we get punished here if we don't embrace our rebuilt genders. And there's talk of something worse than the memory procedure: something called Phase Zero." I looked somber as I looked up from the floor. "I'm always going to be a girl now, Audrey. I don't much like it, but it’s the reality. It's not like there's any way out of here anyway..."
I winced at the name and looked at my feet again. "I don't care what you say… I'm not doing it. I'll keep it to myself, if it keeps us out of trouble, but I'm not calling you that name. And I wish you wouldn't either…" But he would, because he followed the rules. I felt sick even at the thought.
"You know you'll be here forever, perpetually a First, until embrace yourself. But if you... if you wanna get out of here in the shortest possible time... do it with me. And when we get to the end, if you never wanna see me again I understand." I bit my lip and smiled.
"I haven't even been here twelve hours, Callum… and already I'm losing myself. And I'll lose more of myself, won't I? And I'll be like you and I won't even want to use my normal name… and then where will I be? Who will I be?" I shook my head and laid down on the bed, curling up under the blanket. "I'm tired…"
"I don't like my old name because I don't know who that person is. But if you’d like... I'll remember your name for you, and remind you of it every night before we cuddle up for sleep. That way you won't lose it. And no rules will be broken..." I sat up on the edge of the bed and ran my hand over the covers. "Do you think I could cuddle with you tonight?"
"I'd rather be alone…" But there was only one bed, only one blanket, only one pillow, and I guess that made the decision for me before I even had a choice in the first place. "Yeah, that's fine… just… not too close…" I shifted over to the other side of the mattress, facing away from Callum. To not know who you are… I'd be able to sympathize really soon.
I crawled under the covers and lay as far apart as I could, but the nature of the bed meant that within a few minutes I was cuddled up to Audrey in the big spoon position. I whispered in his ear as he was half asleep. "Remember that bliss I told you to hold onto?" My free hand wrapped around and I slipped the teat of a bottle from the mini fridge between the boy’s lips, a squirt of milk splashing on his tongue. "Sweet dreams, beautiful girl."
It was horribly uncomfortable waking up in a wet bed, and I almost wished I'd worn a diaper. Almost. Still, I didn't react nearly the same way as the day before, and with the door having been closed sometime in the middle of the night, I had no idea what time it was. I crawled out of bed in a miserable haze and rubbed my eyes clean of sleep. The room was dimly lit by a nightlight in the wall - one I couldn't unplug - and it left the whole room looking very void of life. Still, I knew I was being watched… I changed out of the dress, careful to cover myself best I could in the process and put on a less formal nightgown looking thing. Callum was still asleep, though, and I decided not to wake him until I needed to. More importantly, I couldn't figure out why I'd wet the bed. I'd never done that before - not since I was a kid. Maybe more left-overs from the milk… it did mess me up pretty bad the first time. I made a note not to drink it again. I sat down at the vanity - the same as I had before bed - and looked at my dim reflection in the mirror. Where was Colin… I couldn't see him anywhere…
"Breakfast isn't for another two hours..." my eyes weren't open as I spoke and rolled over, yawning. I had a knack for reading my body clock with no time instruments in the rooms. "You should sleep until then, pretty girl. The withdrawals from the milk are pretty bad when you're awake..."
"…withdrawals?" Like with alcohol? So the milk was addictive, too…? I didn't care; I'd make it through them. I had no intention of drinking that milk anymore, not after everything it did to me last time. It made me want this. It destroyed me. And I was almost certain a part of me never came back, either. I shook my head and fiddled with the stuff on the vanity. There wasn't any makeup or anything - just coloring books and crayons. I guess Callum wasn't allowed colored pencils anymore…
"It's very addictive, worse than cocaine. The withdrawal can be deadly. I don't know anybody who has fought through; they get picked up and taken away and I never see them again." There was a chilled tone in my voice as I spoke and finally sat up. "When you become a Second, they detox you and you don't have the addiction anymore. But until then, you shouldn't fight it."
"I don't care…" I really didn't, either. Actually, it might have made things easier for me. I gave myself a small smile in the vanity mirror and looked over at the bed. I'd thought about it last night, after everything. Suicide. But in a room like this, without even colored pencils, there wouldn't be any way to do it. I guess it was a lot like a prison after all, huh? And the scene brought back so many memories… I shook my head and decided in that moment - no milk. And if I'd die, then all the better. "The bed is wet."
“I know. I’ll clean it when you go to breakfast. If you don’t have your milk, I’ll be punished.” My words were simple and matter of fact. It was my job to clean up after my first. And my diaper was stinky anyway. I figured it would be better that I have the privacy to take care of that before Audrey noticed.
"I'm not changing my mind." I spoke quietly, but I spoke with certainty. I wouldn't be drinking that milk today. And if Callum was honest about the milk being as addictive as he'd said, then I would die in a few days - maybe less. And then Callum and his problems would be his own again. But I didn't want this anymore; I didn't want to be alive in a world where I couldn't be me… "You're eighteen, right…?"
It was an odd question to me and it shouldn't have been, but the only way I knew my age was by what they told me. So I shrugged as I stood up, blushing at the mess in my diaper - another of the prices I'd paid. "I think so. Why'd you ask? Wanna take me on a date? You can be my boyfriend."
"Just wondering… 'cause you said eight years were gone, and you could remember until you're ten. So I assumed." It was a pathetic degree of small talk, but it would be enough to get me through until breakfast. The more she brought up the milk thing, the more likely I was to give in. And I wouldn't this time. I wouldn't have last time if he'd have wiped the proper memories… "I'm sixteen."
"I know. May 14th, 1995. 3:29am, St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville. Your family isn't from there, though; they were on holiday and your Mom went into labor six weeks early." I bit my lip and looked across at the boy with a smile. "Would you… have ever considered dating me, if I were a proper girl and we'd meet outside of this horrid place? I mean… do you think I'm pretty? I wonder if I am, or if it's just what people here tell me because it reinforces my new self image. Strange the things you think about in here, huh?" Like wondering if you're pretty while trying not to have your new friend smell your messy diaper.
"Yeah… I mean…" I looked away from Staycee again, looking at myself in the mirror and messing up my hair. I really needed a shower, especially having pissed myself three times now. "I think you're cute. And if you were born a girl, sure. Maybe." I wasn't sure how I felt about her reading my file, though. It meant she knew everything about me… wait. "That file… did it say why I'm here?"
"No, that's confidential. Some people talk about it. Like, Tanya? She ran someone over… but Lainey’s just a petty thief. There doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason or anything, everybody gets the same punishment. Phase One: become a baby girl. Phase Two: become a toddler girl. Phase Three: become a twelve year old girl. Phase Four: become an adult girl. Simple and efficient. The system says they've processed over six hundred of us at this facility alone." I wanted to get changed, but I preferred a shower after changing out of messiness, and the showers were communal and at the end of the hall. "Why are you here, anyway?" It wasn't something I liked to ask -especially given I couldn't answer it myself - but I was curious.
I shrugged my shoulders and looked myself in the eyes, trying to find a hint of real color behind the dull green. "I robbed a store. Not a big one - just a gas station. Thought I got away with it until the police showed up at my house." I put my hair back in front of my eyes and set my head back down on the desk. Seriously, why weren't there clocks in here? At least then I'd have something to stare at…
"You robbed a gas station?" I looked across the room with an odd smile, as if waiting for the punchline to a joke to be delivered. It didn't come, though. She was seriously trying to tell me that? "Your hands tremble, even when we're holding hands. You're jittery. There's no way you'd be able to pull a gun on someone. You just don't have the nerves for it." I slipped off the edge of the bed and walked over to the boy to hold both his hands in mine. "You're not one for confrontation or violence. You would've overthrown me yesterday if you were. I'm a few inches taller, but I'm also a girl so far as you knew. You could've taken me, but you didn't." The thing is… Audrey didn't strike me as the lying type, either; she'd been so forthcoming with her thoughts so far that it came across so odd that she'd outright lie to me. "Something happened. Something bad. It's why you wanted your memories wiped. At first I thought it was because you were just giving up who you are, but when Doctor SeVille threatened to take your childhood you panicked. So you're running from something. Right?"
"What time is it, anyway?" I climbed up off the vanity stool and made my way over to the door. But as I expected, it was locked. I sighed and made my way back to the mattress, starting to strip off the sheets. I'd wet the bed, after all, though it was no surprise when I found a waterproof liner under the mattress pad. I guess they would need that, huh? Given what they do here…
"It's 5:45ish." She'd dodged my question though and I decided to switch the topic to something different, though maybe no less uncomfortable. The topic of her crime would come back up in time, but she was stonewalling me for now. "You said before that if I'd been born a girl, you'd date me. Why does it matter that I'm not? Would you be ashamed to hold my hand in public or to show me off to your friends?" At first I thought I was asking out of a sense of curiosity and education, but then I realized why I was. Oh my god, Staycee, you're insecure about your femininity!Really?
I balled the sheets into a pile and tossed them into the corner of the room. The room was still trashed, though, and I decided to spend some time cleaning up. It smelled pretty awful, but it was probably my fault… fucking milk. "No, I wouldn't be ashamed. I mean, I just don't like boys. And you are a boy - you're just brainwashed or whatever they do here - so I don't like you that way. It's really not that complicated…"
"What if…" I picked out a clean sheet from the drawer beneath the bed and began to spread it across the mattress protector in a manner altogether too well practiced. "What if I like being this way? Like… I mean… what if this is who I wanna be, if every part of me is happier as a girl, as the kind of person who doesn't do the sort of horrible things that I must have done to end up here?" The thing was… she might have been right. I might be brainwashed. I might not feel this way. But when everything feels like my own feelings anyway, how would I know? "What if… I want to be a girl. And if you weren't here, and we met after all of this, and we started dating and you found out I was born a boy, would you still break up with me?" It was introspective drivel, I knew it was. Why did it matter so much? God, why did I care?! But I frowned and looked at the boy. "I… " And that's all I got out. I decided just to let her answer my questions before bouncing ahead.
"I… don't know… I don't, okay? I just…" I sighed and stopped cleaning up the clothes, standing up and looking over at Staycee with mild exasperation. "I just don't think I could be with someone who is brainwashed, right? Like. What if you really don't want me, deep down, and just this brainwashed Staycee wants me. When Callum is like 'what the hell?' And then it… it just feels wrong. If you were born a girl or you weren't brainwashed into this, then, sure… maybe. But I don't even know you." Why was she so obsessive over this?
"…come with me. Please?" They listened. Everywhere, they listened. Everywhere except one place. I was still in the gross diaper and the last thing I wanted to do was to share that little fact with my new friend, but there was a rushing water sound in the back of my head that was desperate to make a noise and I couldn't do it here. Audrey stood there looking at me, dumbfounded, and I frowned. There were a lot of thoughts in my head now, stupid thoughts; am I brainwashed? Am I even attracted to Audrey? Why'd I latch on so quickly to her? Why her? I told myself it was because her profile rated her with a high 'clinginess' factor - a 9/10 - and I wanted someone who'd need me the way I needed them. Maybe it was just because I saw the pretty girl she'd become. Or maybe… they made me want her. How would I even know?
"With you where?" But he clicked open the door to the room and I looked at him incredulously. It was locked! I wasn't crazy! He pointed up at the clock, though, that read just after six in the morning. So it was time locked? I stepped out of the room in my nightgown and followed Callum down the corridor, the hallway very bare and dimly lit. No one was up, it seemed. "Where are we going?"
"Showers." They'd be listening, but my voice was chipper and airy and every bit my usual as I explained the rules - but my gaze gave a seriously 'just trust me' look. "We have communal showers because we're supposed to abandon shame about our bodies. It helps make proper decisions as to whether we want surgery at the end of Phase Four. Love your body, right? And we become girls but we're allowed to decide certain things about our bodies. Breast size. Girl parts or boy parts. Sexuality. We're all inherently made bisexual, but we can choose at the end if we'd prefer one or the other." Most of what I was saying was for the benefit of the microphones and cameras - it was facts I'd picked up from listening to Fourths; they had their own wings but we saw them occasionally if they were on the Mother education stream; diaper changes and the like. We got to the end of the hall and stepped into the large tiled room that was the shared showers. There was a set of changing tables on each of the side walls and a dozen shower heads that hung from the ceiling without any dividing walls. "Come on, let's shower." I smiled and turned away, my cheeks burning as I slipped out of my clothes and hoped I'd somehow be able to change out of my diaper without Audrey noticing.
"Wait - you mean shower with you?" That meant seeing her… him naked. That meant him seeing me naked! Nope, not happening. But Callum started taking his clothes off and a moment later I noticed the white plastic of a diaper. I very quickly turned my back from him and looked onward into the shower area. "Oh… I didn't know… um… thought the whole… diaper thing was a Firsts deal… not… uh… yeah…" I felt so blatantly awkward. What was the big deal? He saw me in one...
"Shower times are the only time we're allowed to touch our own diapers. And no, Firsts and Seconds wear diapers, or rather, Seconds wear pull-ups. Seconds are mostly potty trained though. I'm…" I looked down at the diaper as I balled it up and taped it, before dropping it into the trash can. "An exception. Part of my punishment." She hadn't seen me, s'far as I could tell, and I wandered over to the shower area completely naked. My body was probably a sight; milky white perfect skin from head to toe, little puffy beginnings of breasts with puffy nipples befitting a twelve year old, and then what might only be described as a somehow obscurely pretty penis. Symmetrical, hairless and cute; but still... well… I was probably popular with the girls when I was a boy. "Come on, you have take off your clothes; I've seen you naked before, yesterday, remember?" I smiled, hoping that it would help. It probably wouldn't, but we needed to shower so we could talk.
"I… I don't think…" I shook my head and faced back toward the changing tables once Callum moved over into the shower area. I really wanted to shower, too… but I couldn't like this. Not with him right there, not naked. I couldn't even do that in gym class. "I'm gonna go back to the room, tell me when you're done and I'll shower."
"Audrey!" My voice was stern as I tried to impart the importance of all this onto the ditzy girl. "Please? It's important that we shower now. Very important." The microphones were always on, but someone had once told me they couldn't hear things over the sound of the shower and so we used shower time to talk about things that weren't allowed. Well, the others did. I wasn't popular enough to have gossip at shower times.
I blushed a bit at the stern voice as it said my not-name. I froze in my tracks, but I was careful not to turn around. He's naked. Naked. No clothes. And you're not about to shower with a naked boy, Colin. I stood frozen and awkward a minute, hearing his footsteps on the tile floor. I didn't turn around, though.
My hand slipped into the boy’s and I squeezed it, wanting so badly to say what I needed to say but knowing I couldn't. "Know what a leap of faith is, Audrey?" Standing behind her, I slipped my free hand down to the hem of her nightie and began to lift it up, slowly, gently, as my lips touched the back of her neck and I whispered. "I'll reward you with a kiss." Truth of the matter was that I was putting a lot of faith into this girl who'd already proven she didn't care about me, and I didn't know why. But the least she could do was trust me.
"I don't want a kiss from-" But her lips… his lips! pressed against my neck. And I felt tingly, but I shook my head. "Callum, I mean it. Cut it out." I turned around to face him, finding his very girly face surprisingly close to me. Well, at least I couldn't see his body… "Callum. I said stop."
My hand took Audrey's and I pressed it to one of my budding breasts. Oh my lord… I felt my cheeks burning at the idea that someone was touching me, even though I'd made it happen. "You can touch more in the shower. Please just trust me?" Her reluctance and my insistence would raise suspicion if I couldn't get this happening soon and I tried not to sound desperate. So I whispered in the sweetest most seductive voice I could muster: a voice that a Fourth had once shown me could melt hearts. "...please? For me?"
I didn't quite know when, but I was almost sure Callum had taken off my top and led me into the water. I looked anywhere but at his body, though, and did my best to keep my back to him at all times. I observed the ceiling as the water cascaded down on me, but I didn't see any cameras… I didn't see any in our room either. So how did they listen in?
With the water cascading over us, I knew they were still watching - perverts! - so I started doing what was expected and squirted some body wash lotion onto a puffball and began to lather up Audrey's body. "What if… there were a weakness in the system. Something a Third once mentioned. A way out." The sweet smelling lotion foamed over her body - she had little wisps of body hair but by tomorrow it'd all be gone.
I quickly grabbed the little puff ball from Callum's hand and felt the heat on my cheeks, looking away from him and starting to wash myself. So presumptuous… "Yeah? Like what? You really something like that exists? Seems like a pipe dream to me…" But I'd given up. A way out would probably be better than suicide though… "Tell me more."
I snatched the puffball back with puffy cheeks and frowned. "For one, you gotta start fitting in. That means you gotta let me wash you or they'll know somethings up." I ran the lather down her back and then down one leg, and up the center with a little smile on my face as it slid up between her tushy cheeks, but I spoke at the same time to distract her. "Phase change: at the end of Phase One, they take you to cure you of the milk addiction. There's no orderlies, no guards, just a nurse. One nurse. I'd be there with you because Seconds are always there when Firsts progress. There's two doors: one that goes to the corridor that splits into Phase One and Phase Two - we share a wing - and the other, I think, goes to the Phase Three area. A Fourth told me that their wing is connected with the Thirds, and that the Fourths have day trips so there's a door there, a way out. I don't know much else. Just what I hear from others and what they hear. And to be honest I never planned to escape…"
"Seems like a risk…" I was horribly uncomfortable having Callum wash me down, but I kept my eyes closed and let him do it anyway. He was the smart one, here; I was the new kid. "If we get caught… and still, that's months away. I can't, Callum. Not for that long…" I sighed and kept my eyes closed tight, my voice still a whisper. And if we fail to escape, we're as good as dead anyway…
"If we get caught, we'll either be wiped clean or Phase Zero'd anyway. Either way, I doubt we'll be in any position to care what happens to us." I still didn't know what Phase Zero was, but it was like the monster beneath the bed; the story was probably more scary than the actual reality of it. "I'm at peace, Audrey. Whether they brainwashed me like you're afraid they did, or whatever else… I'm looking forward to Phase Three and Four and getting out of here. But for whatever reason… and I don't know why… I'm really attracted to you. I was before I even knew you. Like it was fate or something, I don't know. This place made me better… but I'm worried it'll destroy you. So I'm willing to risk it. I want to risk it. Because…" My voice dropped. "So far as I remember now, you're my first kiss. And I guess as awkward as it might be for you, cause you'll never ever see me as a girl... I think I have a bit of a crush on you."
I felt my cheeks get a little hot underneath the shower and I bit my lip, still facing away from Callum. "Don't leave… okay? I can get out on my own." With her idea, I wasn't sure how yet. But I could fake sick, right? I'd go to the nurse then. Because I couldn't wait months to be let out; I couldn't. But I didn't want Callum to go with me… "I can't give you anything. So you stay here and live out your life the way you want. And I'm gonna do things my way. Thanks for the info." I stepped away from Callum, then, before he had a chance to retort. I went to a different shower head and started to rinse off there, then wash my much needed hair.
My cheeks puffed out in frustration and I followed the boy to the other shower head, then pinned her to the wall, looking straight into her eyes. "You listen to me, missy, and you listen well. I have nothing out there. Nothing. I don't even know who I was, or my family, or where I lived or anything. You're the first good thing to happen to me in the four months I've been here and…" I looked down and frowned, biting my lip. "…please don't leave me. Please?" Wow. Did I really sound that pathetic?
Callum let me down and my feet slid back onto the floor, though my whole body was shaking. Maybe it was from the cold tile on my bare back, or maybe it was from shock. She didn't let me go, though, just down on the ground again. It was so difficult to stand. I stared up at her… him incredulously and I felt my cheeks get very warm. I'd never been thrown around like that, even in high school…
"If we're getting out of here, we're getting out of here together." I didn't realize I had such abandonment issues, but I guess being abandoned by my own self was bound to have that sort of impact. "And maybe in time you'll see that I'm not brainwashed, that this is who I am, and you'll stop thinking so poorly of me." It was stupid. Stupid stupid stupid. I had a good plan! Stay here. Do perfect. Leave. Start my life over. Be a good girl. Lead a good life. Why was I throwing it away on this girl who didn't even want me?! I didn't get it.
"Uh huh…" She finally let me go and I slid down to the floor. I still had shampoo in my hair, but it wasn't a concern at the moment. Callum… or… Staycee… I didn't know anymore… whoever it was, he or she went back to the shower and finished washing up. I joined a minute later when I found the strength to stand again, though I didn't say another word to him or her until we made it back into the bedroom. I was in my nightgown again and Callum/Staycee was wrapped in the towel. Once the door closed behind us, I managed to speak, though my eyes didn't look up from the floor. "I'll… um… call you whatever you prefer… it's up to you." It was more choice than anyone ever gave me…
"Staycee, please." I began to towel off, not a scrap of modesty in the world - though Audrey looked away instinctively from my body. Maybe she was disgusted, or maybe she wasn't and that was what bothered her. Either way, I was just this strange amalgamation of a person now, I could understand the discomfort. I just didn't feel it, myself. "Hey, what's your surname?"
My last name wasn't in my file? Or maybe she forgot. It was strange that I found it so much easier to call her a "she". Still, I hoped she'd never do the same to me. I didn't want to be Audrey; I just wanted to be me. And once we got out of here, I would be. "Nicholls." I couldn't say my first name with it - it wasn't allowed - but I found no reason to lie about my last name.
I had an official last name - when my new ID was printed at the end of all this I presumed it would be present, just as everybody else had ID with their new first names on it. But that boy, that whole name, was something I wasn’t anymore. Even if I had the last name Harper for the rest of my life, I’d much rather think myself closer to the new girl beside me than the old boy I was. "Then I'll be Staycee Nicholls. I think I like the sound of that."