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What Happened to Ella Marsh?

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What Happened to Ella Marsh?


 

“Ella, would you come in here, I’ve got the bath running.” a female voice called out from the bathroom in a flat monotone pitch.

 

Wake up! Please wake up! Not this dream again, please!

 

As if on cue, dream Ella lifted her head out of the bucket before wiping the vomit from the corner of her chin with the back of her hand. It was another rough night thanks to the chemotherapy. Her legs shook as she slowly stood, trying to resist the urge to vomit from the effort. She grasped the bedpost to steady herself and surveyed the damage. Regurgitated chicken covered her nightgown, as well as the bed covers. This had almost become a nightly ritual.

 

“The bath is ready.”

 

“Coming!” Ella yelled back in response.

 

Don’t go in there! Wake up!

 

Ella took one shaky step, then another, holding onto every surface she could along the way for support. She stopped for a moment, taking in her frail  form in the mirror. Her eyes were sunken. Her skin gave off a ghostly white glow. Her cheekbones protruded from her face. And of course, her bald head. She slid her hand over the top, missing the black curls that had been there two months before.

 

She turned her attention once again to the light coming from the end of the hall. Ella’s heart hammered as she inched forward. In her mind she wanted to stop and turn back.

Her feet had other plans. They propelled her body forward despite the owners objection. She stood in the doorway to the bathroom as the feeling of dread washed over her, more intense with every passing second. She felt a hand tighten around her arm and she let out a yell of fright.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………….

 

“Hey, you, it’s time to wake up.” Ten year old Ella jumped and let out a startled moan. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” Rose said, with a slight smile. Ella turned to see the nurses hand still on her arm. She breathed a sigh of relief as she began to come to her senses. “Were you having a bad dream?” Rose asked. Ella nodded her head. “I’m sorry, sweetie, do you want to talk about it?” Ella shook her head. It had been almost a year since she had last spoken.

 

She sat up in bed and looked around her hospital room for what she hoped would be the last time.  She was going home with a new family today. As if reading her mind, Rose asked.” Are you excited?” Ella made a “so-so” motion with her hand by turning it side to side. “Nervous?” Ella pinched her fingers together leaving a small space in between. “It’s not going to be the same here without you.” Ella smiled slightly. It had taken nearly six months to find someone willing to take her in givin her medical history. Nobody wanted a child with cancer, even if she was officially in remission. Not to mention she came with more baggage than an airplane.

 

Rose ran her fingers through the short stubble on Ella’s head as Ella leaned her head toward her. She loved the sensation of fingers on her scalp. “Heather and Danielle will be here in the next hour, so let’s start getting you ready. First I need to check your vitals.” The small girl held out her left arm as the Rose placed her middle and index fingers on the inside of Ellas wrist. “Pulse is good.” Rose said before writing the number 76 on the whiteboard next to the large letter “P” Next came her blood pressure. Ella stared at the words written on the board as the navy blue cuff began to fill with air.

 

“Daily Goals”  

 

  • Eat at least half of every meal.

  • Draw a picture.

  • Take medication.

  • Use the toilet at least once a day

 

“Long Term Goals”

 

  • Gain twenty pounds

  • Talk with Words not gestures.

  • Become famous artist

  • Use bathroom unassisted


 

Ella squirmed as the nurse finished with her vitals. “Looking good, kiddo.” Rose said as she wrote down the results of her blood pressure. “Breakfast will be here soon, but before that.” Ella gave her a pleading look, but Rose shook her head. “I know you don’t like it, but you need to start getting used to it. “

Ella could feel the tears starting to fill her eyes. She waved her head from side to side defiantly. Rose sighed and sat on the edge of Elle’s bed. “I wish you would tell me what’s going through your mind.” Ella shook her head again, letting the tears spill down her cheeks. “How can I help you if you don’t tell me what the problem is?”

 

 

Chair, Ella signed with her hands. She was starting to fidget more.

 

“I know you want the chair, but you need to start using the restroom.”

 

Ella stuck her palm out facing forward to indicate NO!

 

“Yes, look at me” Rose said. “You’re going home with your new family today. The chair isn’t going with you. What will you do when you have to go to the bathroom?”

 

Hold it.

 

“Forever?”

 

Yes.

 

“I think you’ll have an accident before forever comes. Do you like having accidents?”

 

No, gross.

 

“Those are your options now. Bathroom or accident.” Ella sniffled as she placed a hand in between her legs. “C’mon, take my hand. You can do it.” Ella cried silently as she placed her free hand inside Rose’s. “That’s a good girl. You’ll be in and out in less than a minute.” Rose pulled her to her feet and led her across the room to the closed bathroom door. She frowned as she felt the cold sweat in the young girls hand. Out of curiosity, she stopped and checked her pulse. 130 bmp and rising. “Honey, there’s nothing to be afraid of. Nothing’s going to hurt you in there.”

 

Ella shook her head, nearly bawling.

 

“What if I let you use the chair in the restroom. Would that help?” Ella shook her head no. She tried to turn and run, but Rose held her by the arm. “Don’t run away. We’ve been through this at least ten times now. The sooner you go in there and take care of business, the sooner you can leave.”

 

No! Please no! Ella mouthed.

 

“Then tell me what it is you’re so afraid of. Is it using the toilet? Does the toilet scare you?” Ella shook her head, still trying desperately to pull away. “Is it the flushing noise?” Ella shook her head again, closing her eyes tight as Rose opened the bathroom door. Rose sighed as Ella became dead weight. She looked in the small unit bathroom for some possible sign or clue as to what would cause her such fear. There were no shadows lurking in the corner, not a single sign of bugs. Just a sink, toilet, and bath surrounded by white linoleum tile on the floor with a cream color wallpaper.


 

Are you going to try to bite me again if I pick you up?” Rose asked. “Do I need to put your mouthguard in?” Ella didn't respond. “Honey, open your eyes. It’s okay.” Still no reply. “Will you walk to the toilet at least?” Rose sighed in defeat. This was as much progress as they had made in the last week. At least she wasn’t clawing and biting anymore.

 

Rose bent down and picked her up with minor difficulty. At a mere 55 pounds, Ella was severely underweight and malnourished. The cancer treatment had delayed her growth, but as for her behaviour, Rose was at a loss. Did she somehow correlate bathrooms to being sick? Was her mind reliving the memories of chemo nausea when she stepped inside? No, that wasn’t it. She was fine using the portable commode, or what she referred to as the chair, but she had spent many nights with her face inside its pink bucket regurgitating her stomach’s contents.

 

“I’m gonna set you down now, okay?” Rose lifted the girls hospital gown up and set her down. She tried to back away, but Ella still clung to her sobbing. “I need you to let go, I promise I won’t leave.”

 

Ella shook her head, heaving and sputtering for air while clinging to the front of Roses scrubs. It broke Roses heart to do this to her, but it was what the Doctor wanted. Exposure therapy.

 

“You’re fine. You’re fine. I’ve got you.” Rose whispered, rubbing the top of Ella’s head. The poor child was shaking now, and she doubted Ella would relax her body enough to pee anytime soon. She tried to distract her by talking about other things. She asked her what she was most looking forward to, but her question went unanswered. Her questions always went unanswered. She tried turning the faucet on, but it only seemed to heighten her anxiety.

 

Five minutes went by, followed by ten. The hospitality staff had already come and gone, leaving Ella’s breakfast to grow cold on the table. “Anything?” Rose asked. Ella shook her head from in between the crook of Roses arm. “How about I get you back into bed then?” Ella nodded enthusiastically. “I think you gave it your best shot, but you’re just having a rough morning.”

 

Rose grabbed her waist and lifted her back up. She peeked inside the toilet bowl, but it was as she expected, not a single drop. She set her back down on her feet outside the bathroom after closing the door, and Ella scampered off towards the bed, trying to put as much distance between her and the door as possible. Rose figured by the time she calmed down and finished her breakfast she’d have to go again. But then what? Repeat the process until something finally happened? And what if Heather and Danielle showed in the middle of one of her fits? They were aware of her issue, but what if it really hadn’t sunken in yet?

 

“Go ahead and eat your breakfast. I’m going to go grab a few things.”

 

Chair, Ella signed looking hopeful.

 

“Dr. said no more chair, remember?” Rose said giving her a sympathetic smile. Ella let out a barely audible whimper. Rose took a quick glance behind her to make sure they were alone before leaning in close. “I’m not going to make you go back in there today, I promise.” The look of relief washed over Ella’s face, followed by confusion. Rose backed out of the room instructing Ella to eat.

 

Ella looked down at the soggy looking toast and scrambled eggs. She  poked at the eggs briefly with her plastic fork before taking a single bite of each. She pushed her plate aside resisting the urge to “ accidently” dump it on the floor. The morning's events left her feeling a bit ornery.

 

She reached by the side of the bed for her art supplies and pulled out the picture she had been working on. She wanted to have it done before her new foster mom, Heather, arrived. She had just finished putting the finishing touches on the horses mane when Rose came back pushing a cart of tubs and washcloths for her “bath”.

 

“Is that all you’re going to eat?” Rose asked with a disappointed scowl. Ella just shrugged before placing her colored pencils and picture back in the shelf by her bed.

 

Rose pulled the curtain around Ella’s bed giving them privacy. She helped Ella out of her dirty hospital gown, leaving her naked. “Go ahead and turn on your right side.”

 

Ella frowned. This was not part of her routine. Was she about to get a shot in the butt? She tensed up expecting the worst, but instead of a needle she felt something hard and plastic cup her bottom half. Once instructed, Ella rolled back with the plastic pan resting under her. Once her brain registered what it was, she gave a slight push to get her bladder to start emptying.  

 

“He only said no commode,” Rose said with a wink. “Cheating I know, but I didn’t think you’d mind too much.”    

 

Ella grimaced slightly, feeling the urine run down the inside of her thighs and down her butt cheeks, before finally settling in the pan below. It was one of her least favorite methods, but her need to go outweighed her disgust.

 

Rose nodded her approval at the sound of sloshing liquid. Ella didn’t mind the noise, in fact, she preferred it. She let the noises her body made speak for her. Rose didn’t have to ask if she’d gone pee yet when it trickled and drummed in the hollow basin. Even now she didn’t care that Rose watched her trying to squeeze out the last little bit before wiggling the droplets off her bottom . She had grown so accustomed to Rose’s presence when it came to her personal needs. Rose was the only one Ella trusted, and that trust had taken a long time to build.

 

Ella gave the signal she was done.

 

“Try and go number two.” Rose said. “You have a long drive ahead of you.”

 

Ella scrunched up her face, and made a show of effort. She found they asked less embarrassing questions this way. Since nothing was going in, nothing was coming out so Ella signed she was ready again.

 

“Let’s get you cleaned up before they get here.” Rose said. She rolled Ella off the bedpan before dumping the contents in the toilet.

 

Ella listened to Rose talk about all the fun she would be having in her new home while she wiped her down with a warm, wet washcloth. It would be a six hour car ride from the hospitals’ children center she was staying at to her new family’s house, but Rose insisted it would be worth every minute.

 

As Rose was helping her into a shirt, she commented on the picture Ella had been drawing. “You draw pretty well for your age.” Ella shrugged. She knew it was the only thing she did well for her age. She had missed the last two years of school, and the only way she could communicate was through baby sign language. She hadn’t always been like this. She used to talk, but something had changed. Was it from the cancer, or was it something else? Had something happened? She couldn’t quite remember.

 

Ella looked down as Rose was putting socks on her feet.

 

Pants.

 

“We’re gonna hold off on that until I talk to Heather and see what she wants to do.” Rose explained. Ella gave her a puzzled look. “I’ll just cover you up with the blanket until then.”

 

Ella passed the remaining time working on her picture. She was admiring her artwork when there was a knock on the door and in walked Heather. She beamed at Ella and Ella smiled back shyly. Danielle, Heather’s twelve year old daughter, came in after her giving a small wave. The group exchanged pleasantries and idle small talk until Rose suggested Ella show Danielle some of her pictures while herself and Heather talked.

 

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………...

,

Rose led Heather down the hall and into the small conference room.

 

“Are you all ready to take Ella home today?” Rose asked.

 

“Oh yes, we’ve got half of Danielle’s room cleaned out and made a space for her. Danielle’s not too happy about having to share a room, but she’ll get over it. How’s she been doing? Have you been able to make any progress?”

 

“We’ve been trying, but we haven’t gotten far. I wanted to bring up a few issues we’ve been having. You understand she’s non-verbal?”

 

“Yes, and we’ve prepared for that. I know she’s only ten, but I decided to go ahead and get both her and Danielle cell phones. That way she can communicate through text if need be. So was she born non-verbal?”

 

Rose shook her head. “Only for the last year. I was also working pediatrics when she was brought in during her chemo treatments. That girl could’ve talked your ear off, but then when she came back, she was completely different.”

 

“Did something happen? Was it the cancer?”

 

Rose shook her head again. “Her dr. thinks it’s all psychological. It’s some kind of post traumatic disorder.” She paused for a minute as she thought of the best way to explain. “You know her mother commited suicide, right?”

 

“Oh no, I didn’t know that.” Heather said frowning. “I knew she had passed away but…”

 

“Right in the middle of Ella’s treatments. She was never the same since, so I think a large chunk of her behavioral issues stem from that.” Rose said before letting out a sigh. “But for the life of me… the bathroom thing, I just can’t figure it out. She acts like going in a bathroom for anything is going to kill her. She’s terrified.”

 

“I’ve never heard of a child being afraid of bathrooms, but hey, a mailbox closed on my fingers once when I was little. Wouldn’t go near one for two years.”

 

“Ella was in the house when her mother shot herself.” Rose said grimly. Heather covered her mouth.

 

“Did she see… anything?”

 

“She must have, she hasn’t spoken ever since. You don’t walk away from something like that without a few screws loose. I’m really happy to see her going to a real home now. Maybe that’s what she needs, some stability.”

 

Heather nodded. “Poor kid.” The two women sat in silence for a minute. “Any ideas how we should handle the bathroom situation?”

 

“I’m not going to sugar coat it. It’s going to be rough at first. I’m hoping she’ll move past this if she’s put in a routine. She hasn’t been able to go alone yet; she’ll honestly cling to you the entire time and cry. I’d suggest start slow, give her time to adjust to her new surroundings. Maybe set up a camping toilet somewhere if you don’t want to deal with accidents.” Rose said with a shrug. “Or you could jump right into it, if she has to go she uses the bathroom.”

 

Heather bit her lip. “It’ll be like potty training all over again.”

 

“In a way.” Rose admitted. “To be honest, I’d stick with plan A. Give her time, and you can always encourage her to use the bathroom, but I don’t think it wise to force it. The dr. has been trying to force it, and she’s only taken a step back. She’s very young for her age.”

 

Heather nodded again. “And what about the car ride? Six hours is a long drive.

 

“Well that’s up to you. It’s your car. I wouldn’t trust her to speak up, and I’d be quite shocked if you actually got her to use a toilet on the drive back. Like you said, six hours is a long drive. I think we should diaper her.”

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7 hours ago, Yellow⚤Rain said:

Sasha, you're back! I've missed reading your works. This is the perfect way to return with a fantastic story. 

Thank you. I know it's been awhile. 

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Poor Ella. Something tells me she is not going to respond to the idea of being diapered well. :( Then again, it may be just as possible that she’ll be willing to go diapered if it means that she doesn’t have to step foot in a bathroom. I guess we’ll have to wait until the next chapter to see how things go.

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Chapter Two




“Thank you.” Heather said, accepting the luke warm cup of coffee from Rose. She sipped on it periodically as she weighed her options. Heather had heard Ella’s story from a friend, and her heart had broken for her. Now she began to realize how little she actually knew about her. Sure, Heather had talked to Ella’s case worker on the phone, but the information she had received seemed incomplete now. She had come to collect this girl only knowing a small fraction of her backstory. Her mother was deceased, her father wasn’t in the picture and she had previously had leukemia. That was all she was told.


So why was she only now being told Ella had obviously witnessed some kind of horrific trauma? Had Ella walked in to find her mother's deceased body in the bathroom? Had she heard the gunshot and come to investigate? Is that why she wouldn’t talk? Heather shuddered as she pictured a young girl coming across her mothers brains splattered across the bathroom. Would Ella ever be the same again?


And then, the toileting issues. This she had not expected. She was way past the stage in her life where she was willing to change diapers. She hadn’t had to change a diaper in ten years! And babies were one thing, but a ten year old? Heather sipped on her coffee again trying to take it all in. Was Rose trying to dissuade her from taking Ella?


“I just want to make sure you’re prepared.” Rose had said. Prepare her? More like making her second guess herself. Heather felt more like a witness on the stand, with Rose as an attorney poking holes in everything she said she had planned.


“A cell phone isn’t a good idea, it’s not good for her to rely on that for communication.” “No top bunk, Ella is prone to nightmares and could roll off.” “Ella doesn’t like watching tv, maybe try a board game night instead of a movie night.”


Every Friday night was movie night, it was Heather and her daughters time to curl up together on the couch and relax. Who was Rose to come in and tell her to change just because they were adding a new member of the family.


“Is there anything else I should know?” Heather asked, trying to keep the mild irritation out of her voice.


Rose stayed silent for a moment, seemingly deep in thought. “I’m sorry if I’m being pushy.”


“I could be wrong, but It’s almost like you don’t want me to take her.” Heather admitted.


“No no, it’s nothing like that!” Rose said, waving her hands back and forth. “ My biggest fear is that, you’ll take her, decide you can’t handle her and bring her back. It would crush her. She’s been through so much. I want her to have a stable family. ” Rose paused and twirled a finger through her brown curls. “Ella is...” She paused again, seemingly fighting to find the right word. “Young for her age.”


Heather nodded. She took another sip as an awkward pause filled the small break room. “How young?”


“Well, she’s two years behind in school, but since she came back. I don’t know, I’m not a psychologist.”


“If you had to guess.”


“Six or seven. The stress you know, of whatever happened. Finding a good child psychologist in your area would probably be a good first step.”


Heather nodded. This she agreed with.


“Have social services been by yet?”


“Yes, all the paperwork's been signed. Charlie, Danielle and I are ready.”


“Shall we then?”


…………………………………………………………………………….


Ella was a tad bit anxious when Heather and Rose hadn’t returned after ten minutes. Once half an hour had passed, she was down right convinced Heather had decided she didn’t want her anymore and Rose was just stalling for time.


It had taken less than five minutes to show her new foster sister her drawings she kept in a binder. Danielle had nodded politely and smiled at all the right times, but Ella had the sinking suspicion she wasn’t as “good for her age” as the staff made her out to be. With every turn of the page the possibility was looking more and more likely, Ella decided. Ella looked at her drawings with a more critical eye and let out a small sigh of disappointment. With only a limited number of crayons, a dull handful of colored pencils and a blue pen, he pictures were anything but professional.


Three months ago, on the one year anniversary of her hospitalization, Rose had bought her a box of 64 count of crayons. The big box that every kid dreamed of having. The one that even had a sharpener on the back! Ella had her suspicions it was less out of the goodness of her heart, and more to get her to stop stealing them from out of “Kids Korner” where they kept all the games, toys and coloring books. Ella had made the mistake of bringing them with her where another nurse forced her to share. The small children promptly broke them within the hour. Those crayons had been one of her sole possessions and she was inconsolable as a result.


“Kids Korner” was supposed to be a playroom of sorts so the kids could interact instead of feeling trapped and isolated in their rooms, but all Ella saw it as was a breeding ground for germs, and ever since the crayon fiasco she harbored a dislike for small children. Remission or not, she didn’t trust her immune system enough to risk it, lest she end up the in ICU again with walking aspiration pneumonia.

Rose said she got it from throwing up so much she had breathed it into her lungs and that’s what “aspirating” meant. Ella had written on a piece of paper she thought it meant “butt sweat” and showed it to her. It had taken Rose almost a solid minute to stop laughing and explain “ass” and “perspiring” were two separate words and were not usually used in the same sentence. It had from that moment on become their inside joke to say, or in Ella's case write, that “it was so hot in here she was aspirating”.



“What are these?” Danielle asked, flipping through the very back of Ella’s binder. Most of her pictures were realistic images ; Animals, sunsets, people, but these were different. Ella didn’t show these pictures off, and she couldn’t really explain why she had drawn them, but when she was in a bad mood she went to town with that black crayon making nonsensical patterns.


Ella shook her head and reached for the binder back before putting it back in the cubby hole. Anyway, she was done showing off her childish doodles, although a part deep inside (well maybe not THAT deep) longed for the praise and attention she gardened when she showed them off.


“So, uh.” Danielle stammered. The passing seconds were becoming more and more awkward. Ella pointed to the tv, then to Danielle as a way of asking what her favorite shows were, “Oh, you want to watch tv?” Ella tried to shake her head “no,” but Danielle reached for the remote and turned it on.


It took Danielle all of ten seconds to realize she only got channels 1 through 10. Three of those were nothing but static, one was a local news station, two were public access channels, another two in Spanish, and one that played nothing but “Judge Judy” and “People’s Court” reruns. Danielle settled on the only one that seemed bearable, Family Feud with Steve Harvey. On three separate occasions Steve told the “Roger’s” family they couldn’t say that on television, and all three times their answers were on the board. Danielle laughed the hardest when the question “Name something that gets passed around” and a contestant answered “your mom.” Ella didn't understand what was so funny, but she grinned when Steve threw his cue cards in the air and walked off the stage.


Just when Ella had almost given up on getting to go home with Heather, a knock on the door announced their return. A nervous excitement filled Ella's stomach, This was it, she was finally leaving this place! No more sick little kids, no more IVs, no more shots, no more doctors, no more Ro- her heart sank a little. No more Rose. She looked at the plump, middle aged, Hispanic woman fondly. Ella would miss her most of all. She tried not to think about it as Heather began collecting what few possessions Ella had.


“Hey, Danielle,” Rose said, handing her the now packed box. “Why don’t you load this in the car while we finish getting your new sister situated.”


As soon as Danielle left, Heather pulled up a chair and Rose stood next to her bed. She felt Rose gently place a hand on her shoulder and heard her whisper, “Please don’t fight.” Ella gave them both a quizzical look.


“We have a long trip ahead of ourselves, and I know your having some. . . problems.” Heather said. Her smile was kind, but Ella saw it was one full of sympathy. Something was about to happen, something she knew she wasn’t going to like. “I know it’s going to take time to work through them and it’s going to take time for you to trust me, so we figured it would be best if for the car ride, and maybe a little longer, if we didn’t push you too hard.” Ella was confused. What were they talking about? She looked to Rose who was holding a piece of clothing in her hand. She set it on the bed before drawing the curtain around herself and Ella.


“Lay back, hun, I’ll get you situated and then you can head out.” Ella did as she was told, It wasn’t until a skirt was removed and a diaper fell out that she put two and two together. The were going to put her in a diaper for the car ride! She sat bolt upright and backed as far as she could from Rose while shaking her head. “ Ella, please.” Rose said.


Ella shook her head again while hugging her knees to her chest, She pointed to herself and signed “toilet.”


Rose smiled, but had her doubts. “Will you or are you just saying that?” Ella didn’t respond, just continued staring at the floor. “Can we trust you to speak up?” Ella signed toilet again. “She’s driving, how will you get her attention?” Ella tapped Rose on the arm and signed toilet. Rose thought about it for a moment. “Alright, prove that you’ll use the toilet right now and I won’t diaper you.” Ella stared at her then slowly shifted her gaze to the closed bathroom door. Ella scowled. Feeling determined to prove them wrong, she got out of bed only stopping once she reached the door. She looked back at Rose, sending her a pleading look. Rose only nodded and said, “go on”.

Ella took a deep breath and opened the door. She took one step inside and froze. Ella felt like she couldn’t breathe. Her legs felt paralyzed. She had to do this or else she’d be in a diaper in front of her new family. She just had to…


Ella hung her head in shame and walked back before collapsing on the bed in a fit of tears. She couldn’t do it.


“Shh. Shh. It’s okay.” Rose said rubbing her back. “See, it will be better this way. Less stressful for everyone.” Ella didn’t respond, just continued to cry into her pillow. “No more tears, little one. This is supposed to be a happy day.” Rose gently lifted her up and put her on her lap, periodically bouncing her as one would a small child. Ella wrapped her hands around Rose and buried her face into her.


“Danielle doesn’t have to know. It can be our secret.” Heather said.


Rose waited for Ella’s sobs to turn into sniffles before lifting her up and putting her down on her back on the bed. “You better behave now. You wouldn’t want the monster to come out.” Ella quieted down almost immediately and gave her a look as if to say, “you wouldn’t”. “Duh nuh.” hummed Rose. She continued humming as her hand inched her way closer. “Duh nuh.” Ella slowly backed away. “Duh nuh..Duh nuh Duh nuh Duh nuh.” Her hand shot forward as fingers made their way across Ella’s ribs. Ella let out a squeal of laughter as she tried to curl into a ball to fend off the attack. Rose finally stopped after a good minute, leaving the girl panting and gasping for breath albeit with a large smile on her face.


“Okay, it’s time to calm down and get this over with.” Rose said. “Lay out straight.” Ella reluctantly stretched her legs out and laid back down on her back. She winced as she heard the crinkling.

Sure, it wouldn’t be her first time being diapered here, but that was different. She had pneumonia then and couldn’t control her bowels when she coughed. She was too sick to even feel embarrassed when an orderly walked in and nearly gagged at the smell. She vaguely remembered Rose scolding her about not telling her she had had an accident. Several accidents actually, but she really didn’t care that she was lying in her own waste. She was that sick. She had fallen back asleep while Rose was trying to do damage control and woke up in a diaper. It hadn’t bothered her then, but now. . .


Ella could feel her face burning as Rose lifted up her legs and slid it underneath her. She had no fever to distract her, no pounding headache or nausea. All she could feel was the soft material under her butt and the hyper awareness of her foster mother just a foot or two away. Was she having second thoughts? What did she think of her now? Ella could feel Rose rubbing powder in between her legs and butt. She didn’t mind Rose doing this, but the thought of Heather changing her made her eyes sting with fresh tears.


“What happens at the hospital stays at the hospital” Rose would say when Ella had been a new patient. Of course she had been embarrassed then, for a little while at least. She had gotten used to having no privacy rather quickly, but this felt different. Wrong even. She would be leaving the hospital in it. She was going out into the real world, and in the real world, ten year olds didn’t need diapers.


“All done,” Rose said finishing with the tapes. Ella couldn’t even put her legs together.


“It won’t, you know, leak in her booster seat will it?” Heather asked. Ella’s mouth hung open. Booster seat!? She mouthed the words to Rose. Wasn’t that for little kids? She hadn’t needed one since she was five!


“Just give her a change at the halfway point and you should be fine.” Rose said to Heather, before turning to Ella. “You’ve lost a lot of weight kiddo, and you haven’t grown like a normal ten year old. You don’t want your new mom to get a ticket do you?”


This, Ella thought, was not a good start to her new life. She shook her head as she finished getting dressed. Danielle had come back in the room and was standing in the doorway waiting.


“I have something to give you before you leave.” Rose said. Ella watched her open a closet and come back out with a wrapped box. Ella’s eyes grew big as Rose handed it to her. She smiled as she tore at the paper. Her smile turned into a wide, beaming, grin as she revealed the contents. A large 83 count set of art supplies. It had colored pencils, oil pastels, watercolors, brushes, a sketch pad and drawing pencils.


Ella flung her arms around Rose’s neck as Rose laughed and returned the hug. In a voice so small she wouldn’t have heard if the room hadn’t been absolutely silent, Ella said, “I’ll miss you.” Rose eyes prickled with tears. She had spoken!


“I’m gonna miss you too.” and with one more hug farewell, Rose watched the small girl leave with her new family. She only hoped she’d never have to see her here again.

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Ella’s heart fluttered with nervous anticipation. She was leaving! She was finally leaving Loma Linda Children’s Hospital and going home! When was the last time she had even been outside? Was it months? Maybe it was even years! She couldn’t remember, she was just so happy to be leaving.

She stepped out the elevator with her new family and had her eyes set on the front door, when a sudden thought flashed through her mind. She looked down at the medical bracelet still strapped to her wrist. Would they even let her leave? She eyed the security desk wearily. What if they thought she was making a break for it? It wouldn’t be the first time security had chased her.

Ella could clearly remember the incident. It had been the first night in the hospital after her mom died. She had been lying in bed, still numb from shock, when Rose had begun to undress her. She had taken Rose’s hand when offered and let her guide her into the restroom for a bath, and that’s when it hit her. As soon as she took just a single step in the doorway, a sudden indescribable terror had washed over her. She had never felt such a strong fight or flight reaction before. With adrenaline coursing through her, the only thing she knew was that she had to get away. Without knowing just what she was running from, she bolted, catching Rose off guard. She had run down the hall in all her nine year old glory, dodging nurses and staff along the way. Ella vaguely remembered a man cackling as she streaked by and he shouted, “We got a runner!”

After a brief lock down of the facility, they finally found her cowering in the closet some 10 rooms down the hall. She had never forgiven Amelia Masterston for shouting at the top of her lungs. “She’s in here! “She’s in here!”

 

Ella walked closer to Heather as she tried to paw at the bracelet. They were getting closer to the front door where she saw two large ,white pillars standing opposite ends of the door. To Ella, they looked like the kind of things in stores that prevented shoplifting. Ella was certain they would buzz and screech if she were to walk through with the bracelet still on her wrist. If these were like store alarms, did that mean Ella had to be rung up and paid for?

Maybe Heather already had a receipt for her in case the alarm went off. But what if Heather was shoplifting her? She imagined her new foster mom shouting, “Run! Every women for themselves!” if they got caught. Ella doubted she’d be able to keep up, but she got ready to run if need be as they neared the white electronic pillars. She held her breathe, expecting the worst, but as she passed by them, nothing happened. She let out her held breath and relaxed. Maybe Rose had already rung her up when they they left to talk. She wondered for a brief moment how much Heather had paid for her, but all thoughts of human trafficking left her mind when the double automatic doors swung open.

 

Ella was finally free! Freedom was beautiful! Freedom was hers! Freedom was… holy crap… freedom was hot! As soon as Ella walked outside she was greeted with a blast of sweltering San Bernardino heat. Ella had been used to being in the air conditioned confines of the hospital, and had completely forgotten how hot it could get here.Within a few minutes of walking she could feel her upper thighs beginning to chaff from the diaper. She hoped she wouldn’t have to walk much farther. She felt like she’d either melt or collapse at any moment. Just as Ella was wishing she was back in the cool comfort of her hospital room, they stopped in front of a grey minivan.

 

“It’s a rental,” Danielle said. “I wish it was ours. It even has a DVD player in the back. Hey, mom, do that thing with the doors.” Ella looked on expectantly as Heather pressed a button on the key fob. Ella watched in amazement as the side door slid slowly open by itself.”Neat, huh?” Ella nodded in agreement. Her mom’s car hadn’t even had automated windows.

 

“We need to let the van air out; it’s gonna be hot inside.” said Heather.

 

Danielle jumped in the back and jumped back out with a, “Nope.” Heather got in the front and started the van’s engine.

 

“I’m going to let the AC run for a bit.” said Heather. “Can you give Ella something to drink from the cooler? Maybe one of those Carnation Shakes and a bottle of water.”

 

Danielle led her to the open trunk and rummaged around in a large, red ice chest before producing a few drinks. Ella accepted the can and bottle of water, but instead of opening them, she held them up to her face as a makeshift ice pack.  “Right!” said Danielle as she did the same. “It’s supposed to get up to 114 degrees here. No thank you! It’s not nearly as hot at home.”

 

Ella was thankful for that. She tried to recall what town they said they lived in, but she couldn’t remember. Santa something or other. All she knew was that it was going to be a long long drive.

 

“Let me help Ella get situated and then we can go.” She heard coming from the front. Heather turned off the engine and climbed out of the front seat. Ella walked back to the open side door and peered in.

She frowned while staring at the booster seat. She had hoped it would just be a little thing she could sit on and hide with her body, but this looked more like a full on car seat. Ella let out a defeated sigh before setting her drinks on the back seat and crawling over. When she sat in it ,the first thing she noticed was that she was much higher as she looked out the van window. It almost felt like sitting in a bus or a truck.

 

Heather climbed in behind her and started fiddling with the straps. “Ella,” Heather suddenly whispered. “Rose is right. I don’t want you to worry or be stressed. We can worry about’ what  we’re going to do when we get home. For right now, I want you to just take it easy. I know it scares you, sweetie, that’s why I’m not going to force you right now. Especially not out in public while we’re just getting to know each other. And I know you’re not thrilled about this arrangement, but I think it’s for the best. You don’t need to be embarrassed if you end up using it, that’s what it’s there for. Just let me know when you need a fresh one. I’ll check and see how you’re doing when we stop.”

Ella felt her face flush with embarrassment. She hadn’t been planning on using it. She could control her bladder just fine. There was an awkward pause as Heather seemed to struggle to find her words. “But I have to admit, I’m out of practice… with the other kind of...you know. I’d really appreciate it if you let let me know if you have to...really go. Wet diapers is one thing, but…I know it scares you, but, if you’d be willing to try. Even if you can’t, we can figure something out.”

 

Ella quickly nodded her head. There was NO WAY she would willingly do that in the car. There would be no hiding that kind of accident. Heather looked relieved. More than relieved even, like a huge weight had been lifted off her shoulders. “We’ll figure something out for you.”

 

Ella didn’t know what she meant by, “something” but it sounded better than sitting in her own waste for god only knew how long while Danielle held her nose and shot her dirty looks.

 

Heather handed Ella her drinks back, “Doctor Richmond says he wants you to drink three of these a day.” she said, holding up the can of meal replacement shake. “They're supposed to help you gain weight since you don’t seem to like to eat.” Ella scowled as she looked at the can in her hands. “They're surprisingly not bad. I had one the other day.” Ella was doubtful. “It’s very hot, so I want you to stay hydrated.” Heather pointed to the shake and bottle of water. Please drink those before we make our first stop in LA.” Ella opened up the bottle of water and took  a swig. “Good girl.” Heather praised, rubbing her hand through the girls short hair.

 

“Would you like your art box up front with you?” Ella nodded her head eagerly. Heather reached into the back and handed it to her, but not without a warning of, "absolutely no paint." Ella tore into the box, quickly retrieving the drawing pad and as many colored pencils she could fit in her lap before setting the rest of the contents by her feet. Once Danielle had climbed into the seat next to her, Heather slid the door closed and climbed back up front. Ella watched out the window as Heather backed out of the parking spot and drove onto the main road. As much as Ella detested the fact that she still needed a booster seat, she had to admit it was fun riding so high up off the ground. It felt like she was soaring over the open road and towards her new home.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………….

 

Once they had hit the freeway, the excitement of looking out the window quickly turned dull. The scenery of tall buildings had almost at once turned into a monotonous desert scene. Ella tried to entertain herself by counting cactus, but soon there were too many to count. Instead she began counting Denny’s. In the last hour she had counted six of the big, yellow signs off the freeway.  

 

Danielle had zoned out almost as soon as they had hit the road, her attention completely transfixed to the Dvd player. Ella had given her several glances in the hope they would make eye contact and could have a conversation, but she had soon given up on the idea. She tried to follow along with the movie, but as usual, she soon grew restless and bored. Movies and tv had never been able to hold her attention for long.

Ella reached for her water bottle, but found it empty. In an attempt to please her new mom, she had guzzled it down within the first ten minutes. She eyed the health shake. Was she really that thirsty? She was. She pulled the tab and gave it a sniff. When nothing foul reached her nostrils, she tentatively took a sip. A slightly off after taste, but it really wasn’t that bad. She’d had worse in the hospital. She sipped on her shake as she tried with one hand to draw the scenery on her sketch pad. Her cactus ended up looking more like pitchforks she thought, but it was something to pass the time.

 

Once her shake was gone, she let the empty can fall to her feet. With both hands free, she was able to put her full concentration into her drawing. Ella would switch on and off between gazing at the landscape and trying to recreate it on paper. It was still mostly cactus, but at least now they weren’t so uniform, nor did they look like they should be held in the hands of an angry mob of villagers. Next she drew a billboard with with a little fork  and knife symbol next to a gas pump. Over it she drew a sign for Denny’s. It seemed only fitting since they had passed one in almost every town they seemed to drive by. It wasn’t until she made a second smaller sign saying “Rest Stop Next Exit” did she notice her bladder give a small twinge.

 

Great, she thought to herself, not even two hours into the drive. She’d have to hold it until… until… how long would she have to hold it? Until they stopped somewhere? And then what, actually use the bathroom like a normal person? She laughed bitterly to herself. Wouldn’t that simplify her life. Not a single shrink, psychiatrist, or hell, even herself knew what the problem was. She’d just have to distract herself until the feeling went away.

 

Ella threw herself back into her drawing, only periodically looking up at the screen when Danielle let out a chuckle. She was so focused she hadn’t realized the movie had finished and her foster sister had begun watching her draw. Ella had been particularly focused on a single cacti stalk with a pair of nearby boulders when Danielle’s voice made her bolt upright.

 

“Are you drawing a dick?”

 

“No!” Ella said loud and clear. Danielle’s eyebrows shot up.

 

“Oh? So you can talk.”

 

Ella turned to the very back of her sketch pad and ripped out a page before writing her response. “You surprised me is all.” Danielle looked at it puzzled.

 

“So you don’t talk on purpose?” she asked. Ella shook her head.

 

“Words get stuck in my throat and won’t come out.”

 

“But… But you just said ‘no’. I heard you.” Danielle insisted.

 

“You scared it out of me.”

 

Danielle read the note, a feeling of annoyance rising inside her. Little kids and their lies. Did her mom actually buy this bullshit? How long was she going to pretend to be mute for? Clearly she could talk just fine. What else was she lying about? Danielle wondered to herself as she flipped through the binder of movies she had brought with her. Her age probably. She couldn’t be ten, there’s was no way! She had a seven year old cousin bigger than her. Not to mention she was 90% sure Ella was wearing a diaper. She had seen a peak of it under her skirt when she had gotten into the van.

 

“How about you let Ella pick the next movie.” Heather said, glancing at them from the rear view mirror as Danielle was in the middle of sliding her next choice out of its sleeve.

 

Ella tried to sign, ‘ no thanks’, but the binder had been thrust into her lap before she could object. She halfheartedly flipped through the pages trying to find something she recognized. Worried she was taking too much time, she hastily pulled out a dvd and handed it to Danielle.

 

“Heh, haven’t seen this in forever.” Danielle said before sliding it in and pressing play.

 

“Whatcha girls watching?” asked Heather.

 

“Mulan.”

 

“Dishonor on you!” said Heather.

 

“Dishonor on your family!” Danielle replied.

 

“Dishonor on your cow!” They said in unison before bursting out in a fit of giggles.

 

Ella’s gaze went from Heather back to Danielle with an expression of mild confusion. “Haven’t you seen this before?” Danielle asked. Ella shook her head. “What? Where you been living?”

 

Ella wanted to answer, “the hospital” but instead shrugged and sat back in her seat as she tried to take her mind off her uncomfortably full bladder. Ella found she was more amused by Heather and Danielle singing all the songs than she was by the actual movie. It wasn’t bad though. She assumed she would have enjoyed it more if she hadn’t of had to pee so bad. She was crossing and uncrossing her legs by mid movie, and by the time the credits were rolling, she could hardly sit still longer than a minute or two.

 

“Ella, are you okay back there?” Heather asked. Ella gave her the thumbs up, even though she felt far from it. “Are you girls about ready for a break? I know I could sure use a break from driving.”



 

“Yes!” Danielle said. “My butt hurts.”

 

Heather took the next exit and pulled into a Denny’s parking lot. Ella would have found it humorous had it not been for her current situation. Heather shut off the engine and the automatic back door began to slowly slide open.

 

“Bathroom!” Danielle called hopping out of the van.

 

“Go on ahead of us. We’ll meet you inside.” Heather said. Danielle wasted no time in scampering off into the diner without a single glance back. Heather came around and began to un-clip the harness securing Ella in. “You okay back here?” she asked. Ella shrugged and fidgeted in her seat. “Need a change?” she asked in a lower voice. Ella blushed but shook her head again. “You sure? It’s okay if you do, we’ve been on the road for a while.” Ella looked away.

 

Heather offered Ella a hand up and they both exited the van. “Do you want to try and use the bathroom before we sit down and order lunch?” Those were her only choices now. Face her fears and use the bathroom or have an accident in the diaper and have to be cleaned up by Heather. With her heart thumping she nodded her head. “That a girl.” Heather praised as she took the girls hand and led her inside. Rose must have told her she had a tendency to bolt, Ella thought.

 

Ella gripped Heather’s hand tighter as they neared the door that said, “Women,”. “Oh, honey, it’s okay. It’ll be okay.” Heather whispered, feeling Ella’s hand begin to sweat. “Would it help if you closed your eyes and I carried you?” Ella shook her head. That’s what Rose usually had to do, but Ella doubted it would help. She began to breathe harder as Heather opened the bathroom door.

 

“What’s wrong?” Danielle asked stepping away from the sink as she dried her hands with a paper towel.

 

“She’s scared.” Heather said, as Ella had stopped walking and stood transfixed to the spot.

 

“Of what?”

 

“The bathroom.” Heather replied.

 

“Uhh, what, why? That’s weird.” Danielle said.

 

Ella could feel hot tears begin to prickle in her eyes. All she had to do was walk in and sit on the toilet. She had done it a million times in her life, so why?

 

“Aww honey, it’s okay.” Heather said lifting her up. She was astonished at how light she was. “It’s okay, you don’t have to worry about this right now.” Heather whispered. Ella buried her face in Heather's shoulder and let out silent sobs. “Can you go get us a table please, I’m just going to take Ella outside for a minute.”

 

Danielle shrugged and walked to the hostess booth as Heather walked back to the van. She opened the side door and set Ella down on the seat. Ella squirmed and planted herself on the edge. “Ella, honey, don’t do that, it’s okay.” Heather said, leaning over her. “Do you need to..umm… GO go?” Ella shook her head. “Then what’s the problem? Just go ahead and go if you need to.”

 

Ella picked up a pencil and wrote in the back of her book. “It’s gross and embarrassing.” Heather couldn’t argue with her there.

 

“I know, but if you can’t use the bathroom, you don’t have any other options.” Heather said. She waved a hand through Ella’s hair and down her tear streaked face.

 

“I tried.” Ella mouthed.

 

“I know you did.” Heather said. “Tell you what, how about we walk around the building a bit, and after a lap, we come back and I can get you cleaned up. Or, if you want some privacy, you can stand on the other side of the van by yourself, take a deep breathe, and just relax and get it over with.”

 

Ella thought about it for a moment, until she realized she didn’t have a choice. She wished she could just take the stupid thing off and squat beside the van, but it was a busy parking lot, and people would wonder why she couldn’t go a couple extra feet inside and use the bathroom. She sniffled and got up out of the van, before motioning that she’d be on the other side. “I’ll be here if you need me.” Heather said.

 

Ella paced back and forth for a bit before stopping. Was she really gonna do this? A spasm from her bladder told her she didn’t have a choice. She looked left and right to make sure no one was watching her. Once the coast was clear, she leaned her back against the van, spread her legs a little, shut her eyes tight and let nature take its course.

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Ella stood helpless as her body’s need took over. She was as still as a statue, horrified and unable to move a muscle as the garment between her legs did little to absorb her emptying bladder. She knew she was in trouble mere seconds after beginning to relieve herself. Urine had began to stream down the left side of her thigh, down her leg and into her socks and shoes. She could do nothing about it as a puddle began to form at her feet. Her body was not willing or able to stop despite the pleading of her mind.

 

It wasn’t until she had finished did the tears begin to fall. She was soaked from the waist down. Either the diaper had been too loose, or it had shifted to the side from all her squirming. Ella didn’t know what to do. After a full minute of standing shell shocked, Heather had begun to ask if everything was okay. Everything was not okay. All she had was the clothes on her back, and now they were ruined. She couldn’t go into Denny’s like this.

 

“Ella, I’m coming to check on you.” Heather said. She knew it had only been a matter of time, but Ella just couldn’t get herself to go to her, so after five minutes, Heather had come to see what the problem was.

 

“Oh.” Was all Heather had said. Ella hung her head. She didn’t say anything or make any attempt to communicate with her new mom. Ella’s face grew warm. Without warning, Heather had lifted up her now ruined skirt. “This did not work as planned, did it?” She gave a light tug and the diaper plopped off onto the ground. Ella looked down at it, most of it hadn’t even been used. “Did you try to take it off before you went?”

 

Ella shook her head. She wanted to tell Heather it was loose, but as usual the words wouldn’t come.

 

“I won’t be mad if you did, just tell me the truth.” Ella shook her head again, feeling a tad bit annoyed. She pointed at the diaper, moved her hands apart to show it was too big, but Heather didn’t seem to understand. “Well, let’s see if we can get you cleaned up.”

 

Ella stripped off her shoes and socks after being prompted to do so and watched as they were unceremoniously thrown in the back. After a few seconds, she audibly whimpered and jumped from foot to foot. The hot pavement had began to quickly scald the bottoms of her feet. Heather stopped searching the trunk and rushed to pick her up.

 

“I’m so sorry, I wasn’t thinking!” Heather said. She set Ella down feet first on the carpet. Ella began to whimper in pain. “I know, I’m so sorry, I’ll get you off your feet in a second. Shoot, where is it?” Heather said. She quickly tore through the contents in the very back before pulling out a blanket. “I got it!” She hurried back around and draped it over the back seat, motioning for the teary eyed girl to lay down. Ella did so, whimpering as Heather examined the bottoms of her feet. She could already tell blisters were forming.

 

“Oh, Ella, I’m sorry. This is a rough day, huh?” Ella sniffed and nodded. The tears finally subsiding as the burning settled down into a dull throb. “I’ll bet you’ll feel better once you’re cleaned up.”  Ella blushed, feeling her skirt slid off her body. Now naked from the waist down, with only Heather partially blocking the view from the outside world, Ella shut her eyes and pretended it was Rose. She was used to this kind of treatment from Rose, but that had been in the privacy of her hospital room. She jumped a little as a cold, wet wipe ran up and down her leg, but she quickly relaxed as the coldness felt heavenly compared to the scorching outside air. Ella didn’t even care that Heather had now reached more private areas. She just laid limply on the seat, letting Heather move and position her as she saw fit. Part of her wanted to ask if Heather would rub one up and down her back, but a clean wet wipe of course. The temptation was too much, once Heather had finished, she rolled onto her stomach and pointed at her back.

 

Heather chuckled and obliged. Ella was practically drooling as the cold wipe went up the back of her shirt.

 

“Allright, it’s time to get you dressed. Flip back around.” A pang of sadness filled Ella’s chest, but did as she was told. Heather opened up the diaper as Ella looked away, feeling embarrassed once again. “Will you promise to keep this one on?” Another surge of annoyance rushed through her, ruining her small moment of bliss. She reached down for the note pad and a pencil and began to write a note.

 

“I didn’t try to take it off. It was too big.”

 

“Ah.” Heather said in realization. Looking at the new diaper as she taped it between Ella’s legs, she lightly tugged at the straps and gently moved the crotch as it easily slid off to the side. “This is a bit big on you.” Heather agreed. Ella nodded, happy that Heather finally believed her. “It must have moved when you were squirming against the seat.” Ella nodded again in agreement. “So I guess we need to keep you from moving.”

 

Heather went into the back again and came back with a pair of shorts and flip flops. These are Danielle’s. We spent the night in a motel last night on the way up here, so she has a spare set of clothes from yesterday. They will probably be a bit big on you though.” Ella didn’t mind as long as she didn’t have to go out in public in just a shirt and diaper. Once dressed, she sat up to meet Heather’s gaze. “Ella, here’s what  needs to happen for the time being.” Ella looked at her, worried she was about to be scolded. “You’re going to have to pee is small intervals. Do you understand what I mean?” Ella shook her head. Intervals? “Sorry, it’s been a while since i’ve been around small children. Like, in small amounts. Don’t hold it until you can’t anymore, the diaper can’t handle it; It doesn’t fit you right. Since we don’t want a repeat of last time, and it’s really not fun having to hold it, just relax every so often and try to pee. Let it absorb in small amounts, do you get what I’m saying? Don’t wait until you have a full bladder.”

 

Ella nodded, but was unsure she could do it. She definitely didn’t want to disappoint her new mom, or ruin her new sisters clothes.

 

“Danielle’s probably wondering what happened to us. Let’s get some lunch.”

 

Heather hadn’t been joking about the shorts being too big for her. She literally had to hold them up by the waist to keep them from falling down as Heather carried her into the diner.

 

“Aren't those my clothes?” Danielle asked when Heather set Ella down in the booth.

 

“She needs to borrow them for the time being until we go shopping.” Heather answered.

 

“What took you guys so long? I’ve been waiting for like twenty minutes. The waiters been by like three times to ask if I’m ready to order.”

 

“Sorry, we had some things that needed taking care of.” Heather said picking up the menu.

 

“Here,” Danielle said sliding a kids menu and crayons over to Ella. Ella frowned, she hadn’t ordered off the kids menu since she was like seven. As an active soccer player, she had had a high metabolism and ate like a horse, but that had been before she had gotten sick.

 

Ella thought fondly of going out for pizza after a game with the team. She hadn’t sat in a restaurant in what felt like years. She briefly looked over the menu, but nothing really struck her fancy. She didn’t eat much anyway. Instead of deciding on something to eat, she worked on the word search as Heather and Danielle talked about what looked good. When the waiter came by, Heather ordered a cobb salad and Danielle chicken strips. Ella merely shook her head when asked what she wanted.

 

“Ella, aren't you hungry?” Heather asked. Ella shook her head. She felt too emotionally exhausted to eat. “You’re not feeling car sick, are you?” Ella shook her head again, only for Heather to order a kids cheeseburger for her and a cup of milk.

 

While her new family seemed to be lost in conversation about the school Danielle went to, Ella continued working on the puzzles on her menu. Once she had finished those, she flipped over the page and began doodling patterns. She wasn’t paying much attention to what she was doing, just filled the page with little different colored squares as a way to pass the time.

Once the waiter brought the drinks did Ella notice how thirsty she was. She eagerly reached for the cup that was handed to her and began gulping it down. She wasn’t really a fan of milk, but the cool liquid soothed her parched throat. In less than a minute, she had downed the kids drink portion and looked around the table for something else to quench her thirst.

 

“How many soda’s did you drink while you were waiting for us?” Heather asked. Ella looked up, noticing for the first time just how many empty cups were on the table.

 

“It’s hot.” Danielle shrugged, sipping on the brown liquid in her glass.

“Why don’t you drink some water instead,” Heather said. “Soda is just going to dehydrate you faster.” Danielle wrinkled her nose, and Ella shuddered. She remembered what it was like being dehydrated from getting sick too much. Dehydration meant I.V. fluids, and I..V. fluids meant a needle. Ella reached for the unclaimed glass of water that was closest to her and began to down it.

 

“So what school will Ella be going to?” Danielle asked in between sips of her soda.

 

“I’m not sure we can get her into a school right now.” Heather said after a pause.

 

“Why not?” Danielle asked. “Is it because she’s not potty trained?” Ella nearly choked on her straw.

 

“Something like that.” Heather admitted. Ella felt her face blush bright red. She wanted to say she was to potty trained, but her throat closed up once she tried to summon the words. She almost never had accidents unless she was sick! She could use the bathroom just fine as long as it wasn’t...in the bathroom.

 

“So that's why she;s in a diaper?” Danielle asked bluntly. Ella’s mouth nearly dropped open. Why were they talking about her like she wasn’t here?

 

“Just for the ride home, i’m not sure what we’re going to do once we get there..” Heather said.

 

“I’m not changing diapers!” Danielle said wrinkling her nose.  

 

Ella began furiously scribbling on the page. “I don’t need diapers! I don’t have accidents!” She shoved it into the middle of the table feeling frustrated.

 

Danielle seemed to relax at first, but asked with a smirk, “So then why are you wearing one now? And why are you wearing my clothes?”

 

“Because they made me!” Ella wrote.“I can use the bathroom just fine!” she lied.

 

“Then why were you crying earlier?”

 

“Danielle, please knock it off. Don’t antagonize her. She’;s in a new environment and has trouble speaking up when she needs things, that’s why she’s dressed the way she is.” Heather said.

 

“You just admitted she wasn’t potty trained.” Danielle said back.

 

“Look, can we not discuss this here. It’s a complicated situation.

She just needs time to adjust to her new surroundings.”

 

Ella hung her head, twirling a crayon in her hand. Her eyes burned from the tears that wanted to break through her defenses, but she fought them back. She had to prove to her new sister she wasn’t some little kid. Heather seemed to sense she was upset, as she felt a large hand begin to stroke her head. “It’s okay, she just doesn’t understand your situation. Don’t worry about what she thinks.” Ella heard whispered in her ear. Ella shrugged and pretended it didn’t bother her, even though it did.

 

Once the food came, the others dug at their meals, but Ella merly picked at her fries. They were good, but she didn’t really have much of an appetite. Butterflies seemed to fill her stomach to the brink. She was going to live with these people who were practically strangers, one who thought she was just a little kid. A sudden pang of despair filled her chest. She missed Rose already.

 

“Will you at least take three bites of your hamburger?” Heather asked. “The doctor wants you to gain some weight, remember?” Ella nodded, feeling a bit relieved. As long as she didn’t have to eat this huge thing at once. If this was only the kids size, she’d hate to see how large the regular portion was.She took a small bite, surprised at how much better it tasted than anything that was served to her at the hospital. Was this what flavor tasted like? She took another bite and then another. Soon she had consumed half without even realizing it. Ella felt like she was going to burst. She hadn’t eaten this much in years. She pushed her plate aside, and leaned her head against the wall.

 

“You did good!” Heather said, nodding approvingly at the dent she had made in her meal. Ella gave her a weak smile and closed her eyes, a sudden wave of exhaustion hitting her like a ton of bricks. She was just about to doze off, but stiffened when she heard Heather whisper in her ear, “It’s been thirty minutes, have you gone yet?.” Ella blushed, but shook her head. “Please try. If you think you’ll need a change before we get back on the road let me know. I don’t want you to leak in the rental.” Ella didn’t think her face could glow any brighter. She was used to bluntness in the hospital, but for some reason this felt different.”

 

Ella looked away from her, pretending she hadn’t heard anything. Instead, she picked up a french fry and dragged it through the ketchup making circles on her plate. “Would you rather give the bathroom one more try?” Ella dropped her french fry. She froze at the thought of going back in there, despite wanting to prove to Daniel she was potty trained. Ella dropped her head in defeat and gave it a small shake. “I want you to go one more time before we leave. You too, Danielle.” Heather said raising her voice.

 

“Huh?” Danielle asked, looking up from her phone.

 

“Bathroom, go.” Heather said pointing towards the back of the restaurant. “We’ll be driving through that stretch of desert again. I don’t want any accidents because you drank half your weight in soda.”  Danielle seemed to grumble in embarrassment, but got up and headed towards the bathroom.””We’ll meet you back at the van!” “

“There, will that make it easier?” Heather asked, turning back to Ella.” You’ve also had quite a bit to drink.” Ella didn’t respond. “How about while I’m in the restroom, you head back to the van and wait for us? Would you rather try alone?”

 

Ella nodded her head eagerly. Maybe she could just say she went while outside. She scooted herself out of the booth once Heather stood up, the diaper crinkling under her. Ella walked briskly back to the van, wincing at the dry heat wave that met her face once she opened the door. Once there she stood debating on what to do. Maybe she should do as Heather asked, and at least try. She inwardly groaned. All this thinking of peeing had made her actually have to pee. She glanced around, spotting a large bush. Another thought of ripping the damn thing off and squatting behind it crossed her mind. She had peed off the side of the trail several times when hiking with her mom.

Her heart ached as she thought of her mom. She usually tried to avoid thinking about the past; it hurt too much.

 

“You all ready?” A voice asked behind her. Ella jumped a little and turned to find Heather and Danielle. While her new sister hopped in the front this time, Ella was suddenly lifted into the air, blushing as she felt a hand go down her shorts. “Ella,” Heather said more sternly. She slunked down and buried her head in Heather’s shoulder. “I’m trying to be as patient with your situation as I can, but if you won’t use the diaper I’m going to have to take you into the bathroom whether you like it or not.”

 

It was like a switch had suddenly been flipped. Ella cried and tried to force her way out of Heather’s arms, thrashing and clawing at anything she could reach. “Ella! Ella, stop! I’m going to drop you! Calm down! Please! I take it back, I won’t force you! Please calm down!” Heather tightened her grip around Ella until she could hardly move. Ella’s breathing was erratic as she continued desperately to get away.” Please calm down, I’m sorry,” Heather whispered, trying to rub the thrashing girls back. “Shh. breathe, Ella.” Heather continued to rock her back and forth. “I think you’re having a panic attack.”

 

Ella continued to cry, but no longer fought Heather’s arms. It had only been a few hours and she was already in trouble. What if Heather didn’t want her anymore? What if when they got back in the car, she drove her back to the hospital?

 

“It’s ok. It’s ok.” Heather said. “Does it really scare you that much?

Why? What happened to you, little one?” They remained silent. “Tell me, what do you want? If you won’t use the bathroom or the diaper, then what?” Ella moved and Heather let her down. If it would make her new mom happy, she’d do it but first- Ella made sure no one was looking before she let go of the waistband on Danielle’s shorts. letting them fall to the ground before stepping out of them. She walked a few steps over to the grass and sat in it. At least if it leaked, it wouldn’t make such a mess. She gave a small push and relaxed. The crotch of the diaper grew warm as she watched it expand. She was pleased to feel this time it hadn’t leaked. In fact, it hardly felt as if she had gone at all other than feeling a little heavier around her waist.

“Was that so bad?” Heather asked. Ella shrugged and stood back up. Her face burned as Heather knelt down and began poking and prodding at it. “I think this will work this time. I only have one spare left, so let’s make this one last a bit longer.    Remember, no squirming and go in small amounts every so often. Ella frowned at the thought of being stuck in a wet diaper the rest of the way, but said nothing. Once she was buckled back in the booster seat, Danielle hopped in the back beside her and they were off. Now with a full stomach and empty bladder, Ella quickly drifted off to sleep.

 

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Ella woke with a start and gasped for air. A distant voice echoed in the back of her mind. “Let mommy make it all better.” She struggled to remember what she had been dreaming about, but it quickly drifted away like sand running through her fingers. In seconds it was gone completely. She felt an unsettling chill run through her.

 

Mommy, why did you leave me?

 

Ella quickly forced her mind to other things, but it kept going right back where she didn’t want it. Back to the day of the fight between her soccer coach and her mom.

 

……………………………………………………………………………………………………..

 

She had been seven years old, long black hair tied into a ponytail that swayed in the wind. She ran up and down the field, dribbling the ball between her feet and around the orange plastic cones before stopping when she came to the end. She felt utterly exhausted. Ella used to be able to run these drills with ease, but now she struggled to find the energy to even stand after running only a few laps. Her face gleamed with sweat. She pulled up her shirt a little and wiped it away. She hurried over towards the cooler, her mom and coach in serious conversation nearby. They were off to the side, talking in hushed whispers. She filled a little paper cup and took sips, pretending not to notice.

 

“Look I’m not accusing you of anything,” Her coach was saying. “but some of the other parents and I have started to grow concerned. She’s just not the same player she was last year.”

 

“She’s just been feeling a little under the weather lately.” Diane said.

 

“Look, I need to ask, has everything been ok with her home life?”

 

“Yes, everything’s fine. I don’t know what you mean.” Diane said sounding confused. “She sleeps more. Usually passes out after school and practise.”

 

“Well, is there any reason she might be depressed? Sleeping a lot could be a sign of depression, or using it as a way to escape a bad situation at home maybe.”

 

“She’s seven!” Diane said, raising her voice. “Maybe she’s just coming down with something. She’s not trying to escape from anything!”

 

“Mrs. Marsh, please, it’s just, the others and I have been noticing some bruising on her and-”

 

“SHE’S SEVEN!” Her mom yelled back. “Of course she has bruises! She plays sports, climbs trees, goes hiking! Are you trying to imply I am abusing my daughter?” Ella had never seen her mom this mad. She looked down at the massive purple and green bruise that wrapped around her knee cap and half way down her leg. She had fallen last week riding her bike. Another brown and green one roughly the size and shape of a dollar splotched across her forearm. She wasn’t sure how she had gotten that one, but she was positive her mom had nothing to do with it.

“I fell off my bike.” Ella said speaking up. They both looked at her.

 

“I am a good mother!” Mrs. Marsh hissed through gritted teeth at the coach before grabbing Ella’s hand and leading her towards the car.

 

“Mom, we’re not done with practise!” Ella said.

 

“You are now, I’m taking you off the team!”

 

At first Ella had thrown a fit. She liked playing soccer, and going to away games. She basked in the praise every time she scored a goal, and loved going out to eat with the team after every win. She was so mad, she hadn’t spoken to her mom for the rest of the day, even though she hadn’t really been enjoying it this season. She wouldn’t admit she was kind of relieved she’d no longer have to struggle as she fell behind her other team mates. Last season she had been one of the best players, but this season, she spent more time on the bench during games than not. Who would have known not playing soccer was the least of her problems.

 

The real trouble came just a week later. Her mom had scheduled her a doctor’s appointment after school. Bribed with the promise of ice cream, Ella held still and tried not to cry when her blood was drawn. An hour later, with a large smile plastered on her face, she held her half chocolate half vanilla cone in hand, relieved now that the worst was over. She’d never have guessed that the very next day she would be told she had cancer.

 

Ella hadn’t really understood what that meant, but her mom had immediately broken down in sobs. At first she thought she had done something wrong, but the next thing she knew, she was being held in a vice like grip. Her mom rocked her back and forth, “Not my baby, please no, not my baby.”

 

She remembered her whole team coming to her first chemo appointment, coach and all. They had all signed a giant get well soon banner that took up half the wall. Her coach had spent most the time begging her mom for forgiveness and told Ella her spot on the team would be waiting for her once she felt better.

 

Ella had originally thought the worst part was the IV. She hadn’t had a clue what this was going to do to her. All she had understood was that she would be coming to the hospital everyday for a needle. It wasn’t until an hour in to her treatment did the nausea hit her and without warning, she projectile vomited on Ernie Miller. Once her mom wiped her down with a washcloth, she distinctly remembered her whispering, “I didn’t like him anyway.” She had gotten many letters that week from classmates wishing her well and congratulating her on her aim. Apparently her mom was not the only one who didn’t like him.

 

The nausea had quickly replaced her fear of needles. Unable to keep anything down, the pounds had begun to fall off her frame, leaving behind a ghost of who she had been. On the days her mom would have to leave for work, Rose would come up periodically and keep her company. She had really talked her ear off back then. So why couldn’t she talk now? She also remembered Rose helping her steer her IV pole into the bathroom. Had she been scared then? She didn’t think so.

She found it mildly unsettling she had to pee with an audience, but soon she had become so weak she needed the help. Once she had even wet herself just from the effort of walking and left a trail from her bed to the bathroom. Ella had mumbled an weak apology, shaking and hanging on to the older woman’s arm for support, but Rose told her not to worry about it. From then on, Rose would pop in every couple hours and have her use a bedpan.

 

 Sometimes on the weekends she would fall asleep in her bed at home, and wake up from a nap only to find she was now in the living room being held and gently rocked in her mom’s arms. Diane would then lightly run her fingers through Ella’s hair, trying to hide the clumps that came out as she did so. Sometimes it was her humming that would wake her up, but on other days it was her sobs. She started going to work less and less, and soon she was at home taking care of Ella full time. Diane would drive her to chemo first thing in the morning, and then they’d have the afternoon just the two of them. Ella’s favorite would be to curl up with her mom in the Lazy Boy recliner and be read to, letting the rocking of the chair and her mom’s voice lull her to sleep.

…………………………………………………………………………… …………………………….

 

Ella jumped when she felt Danielle grab her hand. Her new sister looked at her with mild concern in her eyes.“What’s wrong?” she asked.

 

What? Did she have something on her face? Why was she looking at her like that? Ella rubbed at her face, surprised to find fresh tear streaks. Had she been crying? She turned her face away and dabbed at her eyes. Why had she been crying? She dried away the evidence, and tried to plaster on a fake grin. No wonder, Ella thought. She had been thinking of her mother.

 

“Ella, are you ok back there?” Heather asked. “Do you need a change?” Ella blushed, but shook her head. “Are you sure? You’ve been asleep for a while. I can get off at the next exit an-”

 

“Yes please!” Danielle nearly shouted. Ella looked over at her to find her legs crossed.

 

“I told you not to drink all that soda.” Heather teased. “We’ve got another diaper back there if you need it.”

 

“Ha. Ha.” Danielle said sarcastically.. “Please, can you get off at the next exit?”

 

“No can do.” Heather said.

 

“What, what do you mean? Don’t joke like that.”

“I’m serious. Read the sign.” Heather said. Danielle groaned as she saw the Road Work warning signs and Freeway Exit Closed Ahead. What was worse, traffic had come to a complete stand still.

 

“You’ve got to be kidding. Just my luck!”  For every couple minutes, the van seemed to only move an inch.  It was Karma for her earlier comments, Ella thought. When she had noticed the clock in the dashboard, it had been nearly three hours since they left the restaurant and she hadn’t gone at all either like she was supposed to. Heather was sure to check if she had gone. She felt kind of bad for getting to pee while Danielle was suffering, but she didn’t want to find out what would happen to her if she again hadn’t done what she was asked. So Ella closed her eyes and pretended she was asleep as she tried to relax as best she good. She had only meant to let a little bit out at a time, but once she had managed to get a stream going, it wouldn’t stop. She felt the diaper expanding underneath her shorts as she anxiously watched for leaks. She felt a little begin to pool under her butt, but compared to last time, it was nothing. It may not have leaked a lot, but this diaper was definitely done for.

 

She cringed. It felt gross to sit in it. Everytime they hit a bump, the unabsorbed liquid seemed to slosh against her. Whatever discomfort she was feeling, it was nothing compared to Danielle, who had taken to squirming and holding herself.

 

Ella managed to pick up her drawing pad off the floor with her feet and managed to get close enough her hands to grab. She pulled the pencil out of the ring on the side and began to draw the grey Honda next to her. She began to make a few lines when she suddenly stopped and doubled over in her seat. Her stomach making its displeasure with her hamburger known. What had she been thinking? Her stomach wasn’t used to greasy foods! She let out an audible groan that surprised both Danielle and Heather. She had to go and she had to go now! Her stomach continued to groan as she liquid pressure trying to escape her backside. No! Not in the car! Not in the middle of traffic! Her eyes began to water.

 

“Ella, what’s the matter? Are you feeling sick?” Heather asked, looking at her through the windshield mirror. Ella held up two fingers. “Did you have an accident?” Heather asked worried. They had made a deal that she wouldn’t do that in the diaper, but she wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep her promise. Ella shook her head, her eyes wide and pleading. Ella was pretty sure Heather had swore. “Not now.” Heather moaned.


 

“What’s wrong?” Danielle asked continuing to squirm herself.

 

“She needs to go number two, and by the looks of it, badly.”

 

Dannielle scrunched up her face. They couldn’t keep the windows rolled up if she did that in the car, but they’d melt if they rolled them down. Danielle looked around outside before speaking up. “I’ll take her on the other side of the barricade.” she said pointing at the roadblock that went at least waist high. There’s some shrubbery over there.”

 

“I don’t know.” Heather said, looking over and biting her lip, but Ella was already trying to unbuckle herself.

 

“I really gotta pee, mom. And I really don’t want to smell dirty diaper all the way home.”

 

“Fine, but stay close! Don’t wander off.” Heather agreed. Ella was already out of the car seat before Heather had even pressed the button to open the door. “Help her over the barrica- never mind.” Heather said before Ella launched herself over with ease, before she and Danielle raced towards cover. Danielle squatted down with her shorts around her knees almost as soon as she reached the plant. By the time Ella had managed to catch up to her, Danielle had already finished and was pulling her pants back up.

 

Ella let the shorts drop as she hurriedly stepped out of them, revealing the diaper underneath. She desperately tried to pull at the tapes, but they wouldn’t come undone. She whimpered, she didn’t have much time left. Just when she thought she was going to have an accident, Danielle came at the nick of time, and with one strong tug, the whole thing fell away. She barely had enough time to point her butt in the bush before showing the desert ground exactly what she thought of this heat. Danielle had quickly turned around and pretended to be fascinated by the distant horizon.

 

Once Ella was sure she was done, she reached over and plucked the diaper off the ground, using the driest part she could to clean herself. Once she was satisfied she wouldn’t track any residual back into the car with her, pulled the shorts back up and they headed back to the van. It had only moved about ten feet in their absence.

 

“You girls feel better now?” Heather asked.

 

“Trust me, you did NOT want Ella to do that in the car.” Danielle said. “I feel sorry for that bush.” Ella felt her cheeks grow red.

 

“I’m sorry you had to do that, Ella, but we appreciate it. Do you think you’ll be okay now?” Ella nodded and patted her stomach, relieved it was no longer doing flips. “Do you think you’ll need another diaper? We should be home in another 2 hours, if traffic ever clears up.” Ella shook her head. “Are you sure? I can still get off whenever I get to another off ramp and help you.” Ella shook her head again, glad to be rid of it. She had made sure to pee in the desert earlier. “Well let me know if you change your mind. I called Dad and sent him to the store with a list of supplies to pick up for you before we get there.”

 

“So you really don’t need diapers, right?” Danielle whispered to Ella as she finished buckling her back in. Ella shook her head. Danielle seemed the breathe a sigh of relief. “Cause you know, we’re sharing a room and everything. I was afraid it would smell like dirty diaper.” Ella shook her head again. “So why are you wearing them now?”

 

“Just for the car ride.” Ella wrote on the side of the page.

 

“So, what happened back at the Denny’s? You were freaking out outside the bathroom.”

 

“I don’t want to talk about it.” Ella wrote, before closing her notebook.

 

“O...kay” Danielle said with a bit of attitude.

 

The rest of the car ride went by in silence, Danielle watched another movie, and Ella went back to sleep. The day so far had been exhausting. It seemed she had only just closed her eyes before she found herself being shaken awake.

 

“We’re here!” Heather said. “Welcome to your new home, Ella!”

 

Ella’s eyes went wide taking it all in. The outside lawn looked like a professional landscaper took care of the place. A bed of small colorful flowers lined the walkway leading to the green front door. The house itself was a modest size, but Ella thought it was perfect compared to the hospital. The inside had dark hardwood flooring, and the biggest tv Ella had ever seen. She looked around taking in all the furniture and family portraits.

 

“Hi, I’m Charlie,” a red headed man said suddenly, making Ella jump as she scooted closer to Danielle. “A little shy, but that’s okay! I only bite a little!”

 

“Ignore him.” Danielle said, rolling her eyes playfully. “And don’t laugh atl his lame jokes, you’ll only encourage him.”

 

“I’m hurt!” Charlie said, feigning insult. “Oh, the stuff is in the girls room by the way.”

 

“Oh good, thank you for picking that up by the way.” Heather said, giving him a small peck on the lips before heading down the hall.

 

“Was it hot out today?” Charlie asked Ella. She slowly nodded, while Danielle groaned.

 

“I thought I was going to die!” she exaggerated.

 

“Honey! What’s this?” Heather called from the back of the house. Charlie and Danielle went to investigate, so Ella tagged along behind them and peaked into the room. Sitting atop the bed amongst the pile of clothes, was a small colorful chair of some sorts.

 

“Oh, that’s the portable commode you asked me to get.” Charlie said matter of factly.

“This isn’t a portable commode, this is a training potty.” Heather said, raising her eyebrows.

 

“Yeah, you said we needed to work on that with her.” Charlie said. “So I got a training toilet.”

 

“This is for toddlers.” Heather said stifling a laugh. “I think she’ll be too big for this. I meant the medical commode, the pink thing with the rails so you can move it.”

 

“They wanted over a hundred bucks for that. Seemed awfully expensive for a temporary problem. “ Charlie said. “That was ten.”

 

Danielle snorted. “It has butterflies on it.”

 

“C’mon, Ella, have a seat.” Charlie said patting the top of the chair.

 

“What am I going to do with you?” Heather said shaking her head. “Out, both of you. I’d like to talk to Ella and get her ready for bed.”

 

Ella was relieved when the two of them wished her good night, and headed out the door.

 

“Would you like to soak in the tub for a bit and get washed up?” Ella quickly shook her head. “So it’s not just the toilet then, is it?” Ella didn’t answer, but stared at the floor instead. “ I guess it would be too much to ask tonight to give the toilet a try as well.” Ella bit her lip refusing to make eye contact. She wasn’t ready for all this the moment she walked inside. “Well, I had planned on having something ready for you so we could start slow and work our way up to it, but as you can see.” Heather waved her hand at the children’s potty and Ella couldn’t help but smile. It was kind of funny.

 

“Well, the bathrooms down the hall to your left, when you feel up for it. For now though...Do you want another diaper for tonight? I got some just in case. I’m sure they’ll fit better than the last ones.” Ella quickly shook her head no. “Well, if you’re not going to wear one to bed, I want you try going...somewhere.” Heather said. Ella picked up the plastic toilet and opened the lid. “I think you’re a little too big for that.” Heather chuckled. Ella agreed and set it down on the floor. She sat on the bed, beginning to feel sleepy. She wanted nothing more than to lay down and close her eyes. She didn’t care at this point. Ella pointed at the package of diapers.

 

“Ok, were both tired, we’ll start working on this tomorrow.” She pulled a pull up out and laid it on the bed. “I’ll be right back. I’m going to go grab a washcloth.” Ella stretched out on the bed and closed her eyes, only opening them once she felt her shirt getting pulled over her head.

 

“Here, this will probably help you sleep better.” Heather said running the warm wet rag over her chest and down her stomach and arms. “Let’s get all that sweat off you.” Once Heather deemed her front half cleaned, she had her roll over onto her stomach and did the same for her back. Ella stiffened once she felt her shorts being pulled off but didn’t fight. She tried to think of all the things she would draw tomorrow while Heather cleaned her lower regions. Next she tugged the pull on up Ella’s legs and helped her into a long night shirt. Heather rubbed the top of Ella’s scalp as Ella settled under the covers. “Welcome home, Ella ,I think you’ll be happy here. Good night.”

 

Ella was fast asleep before Heather had even finished closing the bedroom door.

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1 hour ago, monkeyboy said:

Glad to see you writing again sasha

 

 

12 hours ago, OmoLem said:

This is still really good. I'm loving this story.

Thanks guys! I really appreciate it!

 

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5 hours ago, OmoLem said:

You're a great author. I would love to read this story, even without the onorashi. 

Thank you! That really means a lot to me. I try to write more than just fap material, (although I do have a few of those on here lol )

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While Ella had quickly fallen asleep the night before, she had not stayed asleep for long. Recurring nightmares still plagued her dreams, leaving her with a looming sense of dread. She could never quite recall the images her mind whipped up in the night, but they were enough to make her uneasy. It always started the same. Her mother’s voice calling her from the bathroom, and the never ending walk down the hallway that seemed to stretch on forever. Usually after that, nothing. This time was different though.

 

Ella hugged her knees to her chest as she recalled the voice still ringing in the back of her mind.  

 

“Let mommy make it all better.”

 

It was soft, gentle, and a little unnerving.

 

Ella had awoken to a chill creep down her back she was sure had nothing to do with the weather. Now she sat up, with her back against the headboard, watching the sun begin to slowly trickle in as she listened to the caws of the crows perched in the trees. She found their calls calming. It was a reminder of her freedom. She had forgotten what it was like to listen to the early morning birds, or perhaps she had never taken the time to appreciate it before now. Her usual morning greeting had consisted of only the incessant beeping of the clothespin like device that had fallen off her finger at some point in the night.

 

Ella looked down at her arms in realization. There was nothing tethering her to this bed. No cords, no iv’s, no blood pressure cuffs. She could get out of this bed if she wanted to and explore. She took in her surroundings. While Ella had the bed underneath the window, Danielle’s was pushed up against the opposite wall, with its owner still fast asleep. A small bookcase and two nightstands separated their beds. A cell phone sat charging a top piles of papers and empty cups on Danielle’s nightstand while Ella’s was bare. She pulled open each of the drawers to find them all empty. A few shopping bags full of clothes and a torn package of diapers leaned against her bed, along with a trash can.

 

A thought occurred to her. She reached up to the waistline of the diaper and pulled it down, before pulling it back up. Her bladder had been nagging at her, ruining her good mood despite waking up from another nightmare. She had two options. She could get up and try and use the bathroom on her own, or wait for Heather to tell her what to do. Ella was so used to having to wait for one of the nurses to tell her where she would pee depending on what medications they had given her. All Ella had to do was tell them she had to go. Sometimes they’d bring a bed pan, while other times they’d disconnect her from the monitors and help her onto the chair. Sometimes she’d even use the bathroom, but that was rare and usually involved a fight.

 

“You know most kids only put up this much of a fight when they’re about to get a shot.” Rose had once said while she nursed a scratch to the face. “You’d think we were asking you to march to your death rather than sit on the toilet for a few minutes.” It wasn’t the toilet. It had never been about the toilet.

Ella knew if she wanted a fresh start she’d have to get over it; whatever “it” was. Maybe it would be easier without the added pressure of another person. With her mind made up she slowly and quietly got out of bed and tiptoed across the room. Wearing just a t shirt and diaper she snuck down the hall, pausing only once she reached her destination. Her heart fluttered as she looked into the dark room lit only by a nightlight. She could see the outline of the toilet ahead. She could do this! All she had to do was run in, pee, and run back out. No one was up yet, she wouldn’t even have to close herself in.

 

The fear began to set in like vines coming up from the floor and wrapping around her legs. No matter how much she struggled to move forward an invisible barrier kept her in place. She wanted to cry. There was nothing there! All she had to do was move forward a few steps, and yet, she couldn’t. She wanted to do it, and yet, part of her would rather swim through an ocean full of sharks.

 

“Ella, what are you doing?” Heather asked.

 

Ella jumped feeling startled by the sudden appearance and began to leak. She crossed her legs, attempting to gain control. Her heart beat frantically and a feeling of guilt began to overwhelm her. Had she not been allowed out of bed?

 

“Were you trying to use the bathroom?” Heather asked sounding hopeful. Ella nodded despite not being able to get past the doorway. Heather flipped on the bathroom light and held out her hand, but Ella shook her head. She had lost control the moment Heather had scared her, the evidence of which had begun to run down her legs. Heather let out a defeated sigh and wrinkled her nose.

 

“C’mon, let’s get you cleaned up before anyone else wakes up.” She grabbed Ella’s hand and begun to pull her toward the bathroom, but Ella stood rooted to the spot, eyes wide as if seeing some kind of invisible monster. “If you’re scared, you could wake up Danielle or I to come with you. You don’t have to wait until it’s too late.” Ella shook her head, and began to back away. “Maybe things will get easier once you get adjusted to your new surroundings. You’re in a new house, with a new family. I don’t blame you for being scared.”  

 

Heather bent underneath the sink and retrieved two wash cloths. She ran one of them under the faucet and dropped the other on the floor by Ella to mop up the small puddle. Next Heather grabbed a trash bag and handed it to Ella. “Go ahead and pull that off and put it in the bag.” Seeing that the hallway was empty, Ella awkwardly pulled down the soiled diaper and dropped it into the bag leaving her in nothing but a t-shirt. Heather then traded the bag for the wash cloth with instructions for Ella to wipe herself down and meet her back in her room while Heather threw the bag away outside. Ella quickly cleaned herself before hurrying back into bed and hid under the blanket.

 

Ella had a feeling Heather was annoyed with her. She curled into a ball and waited, time seeming to tick by more slowly. Just when she thought Heather wasn’t coming back, a light flicked on overhead. She could hear Danielle groan and roll over.

 

“Go back to sleep, I just need to help Ella with something.”

 

Danielle grunted her approval and retreated back under the covers to block out the unwelcome light.

 

“What to do.” Heather mumbled to herself before grabbing another pull-up. “Go ahead and pull this on. Maybe they’ll fare a little better during the day rather than overnight.” Ella held it up, trying to tell the difference between the front and back. She gave up after a few attempts before lifting up her butt and sliding them on. “Try not to wait so long next time. If you’re scared just come get me. Or Danielle.” She added.

 

“Hey.” Danielle mumbled. “What are you volunteering me for?”

 

“Ella needs help in the bathroom at the night.” Heather said.

 

“She has diapers.” Danielle groaned back.

 

“For emergencies. We want her to use the bathroom like a big girl so she can get back into school.” Heather said looking down at the other lump.

 

Ella cringed. Why were they talking to her like she was a little kid?

 

“I need you to be a good big sister and show her there’s nothing to be afraid of.” Heather said, before clearing her throat. “I was hoping you’d take her with you and-”

 

Before Heather could finish Danielle threw off the blanket and sat up. “No.” she said flatly. “If you’re suggesting what I think you’re suggesting…”

 

“I was hoping she’d... follow your example.” Heather said. “Please.”

 

“Mom, that only works for toddlers! She’s ten! Not really what I had in mind when you said you wanted me to bond with her! I thought you meant I’d be doing her nails or something.”

 

“And you can. “ Heather said with a grin. “In the bathroom.”

 

“Then why don’t you, ‘show her there’s nothing to be afraid of’.” Danielle said with air quotes. “You’re her mother now.”

 

Heather stammered. “Because I’m an adult...and it’s different...it would be...inappropriate. Besides I think it would work best if it was someone around her own age. ”

 

“The answer’s still no, and it’s not like she’d even be willing to follow me in, right, Ella?”

 

Ella nodded and pointed at Danielle to show Danielle was right.

 

“See, she said she would! That settles it!” Heather said, but both Danielle and Ella were on their feet protesting in their own way. “I’m kidding. Calm down.”


“What makes you think that would even work?”

 

“The nurse taking care of Ella said she tried just about everything in the hospital. Even bribery.”

 

“What did she do? Hide in the bathroom and wave a candy bar out the door?”

 

Pretty much, Ella thought. She looked around until she found her sketch pad and art supplies at the foot of the bed. She couldn’t explain with words what it was she was afraid of, but maybe she could draw it. She furiously scribbled as the two of them argued back and forth. Once she finished a rough sketch, she took a black crayon and filled in some of the blanks. As Ella finished, she held it up.

 

Danielle and Heather looked it over, both of their faces creasing in concern. “See this is why I want you to show her there’s nothing to be afraid of!” Heather insisted.

 

There on the canvas was a sketch of a bathroom, but in the center stood a tall black silhouette with many arms reaching out of the drains towards the girl who was held in place by an additional pair of hands coming up out of the ground.

 

Ella wasn’t sure why she had drawn what she had, the idea  just popped into her head and she needed to get it out. She had only meant to draw the hands holding her in place, but the rest just seemed to flow out.

 

“What is that supposed to be?” Danielle asked. “Slenderman?”

 

“I don’t think so.” Heather mumbled quietly. “Look at the hair. It’s a woman.”

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