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What Happened to Ella Marsh?

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Guest Sayono

Great story. Bring us more :) 

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“But why do I need to go to the doctor too?” Danielle grumbled as they rode in the car. “I’m not sick.”

 

“I know you’re not, but you need a physical to play soccer, and since I need to bring Ella in I figured it would be easiest if I brought you along too.” Heather said. Danielle grumbled something else from the front passenger seat Ella couldn’t quite make out before moodily staring out the window.

 

Ella inwardly groaned and scratched at her neck. She knew it had something to do with the picture she had drawn. She had only meant to show them she felt paralyzed while standing in the doorway. Drawing all the other stuff just felt right at the time, but now she was regretting it.

 

They pulled into a parking lot across the street from a park. Ella had to crane her neck a bit to see out the window. Since the booster seat had come with the rental, it had been returned with the car. She didn’t want to admit it, but she kind of missed sitting higher up. Now she struggled to keep the seat belt away from her neck which was irritated and itchy.  Once she had freed herself from the restraints, she gave the side and back of her neck a few good scratches before she took a look at where they were heading.

 

This area looked a little shabbier than where they had come from. The parking spots all had faded lines. Ella could hardly tell where one spot ended and another began, but Heather had seemed to have figured it out. As they walked, Ella had to avoid stepping in crater sized pot holes and nearly tripped over a chunk of asphalt. She checked her pockets to make sure the miniature notepad Heather had given her to communicate with was still safely tucked away along with a pencil.

 

Ella frowned when she saw the building they were walking towards. It was large, reddish brown, and designed to look like wooden planks. The color reminded her of dried blood. It felt ominous.

 

“Mom, I’m not getting a shot, right?” Danielle asked.

 

“That’s up to the doctor.” Heather said, before turning to face Ella. “She’s afraid of needles.” Danielle shuddered. “Last time it took three people to give her one little shot.”

 

Danielle scoffed. “There was nothing little about it.”

 

“One itty, bitty, teenie, weenie shot.”

 

“That was a huge fricken needle!” Danielle protested.

 

“She cried the entire time.”

 

“Mom! Seriously! It was huge and painful. That lady just jabbed it into my arm!”

 

“She wouldn’t have had to jab it into your arm if you hadn’t been struggling to run away.”

 

“I was like seven or eight.”

 

“She was ten.” Heather whispered to Ella who grinned.  While not a fan of them herself, Ella had grown accustomed to them over the years. Shots were nothing to blood draws, and blood draws were nothing to ivs. Nowadays, she hardly even flinched. She would be glad to swap fears with Danielle.

 

Ella was surprised to find that the inside of the building was quite a bit nicer than the outside. From the street, Heather opened a door that led into a courtyard. Lots of plants and flowers grew on either side of a man made waterfall and into a pond that trickled underneath a red bridge. A few ducks swam by underneath them while they were crossing over. Ella would have found the area relaxing if it wasn’t making her have to pee.

 

Heather had told her that morning she wouldn’t force the issue when they were in public, but in exchange, she’d have to make an effort at home. Rose would have been proud of her for trying on her own, but Heather wanted more from her than peeing herself in front of the doorway apparently. Ella had felt discouraged. She thought she was trying her best, but after needing another change before they left that afternoon, Heather seemed frustrated. While it was tempting to just go in the pull up, she didn’t want to put her in a bad mood, even if Heather had said she could. The idea of being introduced to a new doctor in a wet diaper didn’t thrill her either.

 

Once inside, Heather ushered her and Danielle to a couple of seats before making her way over to the receptionist desk.

 

“Hi, can I help you?” a voice asked that Ella couldn’t see.

 

“I’m here to check in my daughters. Danielle Graceland and Ella Marsh.”

 

Ella’s heart thumped. Heather had called her her daughter! She couldn’t help but smile a little.

 

“What are you so happy about?” Danielle asked. Ella shrugged and tried to catch more of the adults conversation.

 

Heather appeared to be writing a check and talking in a low whisper to the lady behind the counter. She strained to listen, but frowned when she made out the words, “difficult to handle” and “in over my head.”

 

“So, are you like, afraid of getting sucked down the drain or something?” Danielle asked. Ella gave her a puzzled look. How old did she think she was? Five? She shook her head. “Then what’s the deal with that picture?” Ella shrugged again. “So are you really scared of the bathroom?” Ella nodded. “Why? That’s weird.”

 

Ella sighed and pulled out the notepad. “Wish I knew.” She wrote back.

 

Danielle bunched her eyebrows up in confusion. “You don’t know why you’re scared? Didn’t you draw some kind of she demon in our bathroom?”

 

Ella shrugged again before writing her response. “ It just does.”

 

“What if you closed your eyes?”

 

“Makes it worse.”

 

“Why?”

 

Ella ignored her. She didn’t want to talk about it. Instead of answering anymore of Danielle’s questions, she busied herself as she tried to scratch her backside by rocking back and forth in the chair. What she really wanted to do was stick her hand down the pull up and scratch, but she’d have to make due with this.

 

“Ella, are you okay?” Heather called out from the front desk. Ella gave her a thumbs up and tried to sit still. “I don’t know what to do. Even if I took her back...” Heather said turning back to her conversation. Ella pretended to be interested in the magazines on the table next to her.

 

“Hold off on that, the doctor will want samples from both of them anyway.” the receptionist said.

 

“I can’t promise you I can get either of them to cooperate. Danielle’s about as scared of needles as Ella is of a toilet.”

 

Ella wanted to protest. She was not afraid of toilets!

 

“Let me talk to the nurse practitioner, she might have an idea.” The receptionist got up and left so Heather came back and joined them in the seats. They sat in silence for a few minutes before a door to the back opened.

 

A woman in medical scrubs in her mid thirties appeared and propped the door open with a stopper. In her hand was a small, white, specimen cup. “Oh, Danielle, I have something for you.” Danielle got up and took the cup from her. “I assume you know what we want from you.”

 

“Yeah.” Danielle mumbled.

 

“First door on your left. Put it on the counter when you’re done. We’ll let you know if you’re pregnant or not.”

 

Danielle snorted and disappeared down the hall.

 

“You are so grounded if you are!” Heather yelled after her.

 

“Hi, you must be Ella!” the nurse said. Ella nodded but sunk down into the chair. “Don’t worry, honey, there’s nothing to be afraid of. I don’t bite.” Ella gave her a weak smile. “My name is, Paige, i’m the nurse practitioner here for Dr. Lawson. It’s nice to meet you, Ella.”

 

Ella nodded her head again, unsure what they wanted her to do. She looked nervously between the two women who seemed to be whispering to each other.

 

“How would you like to play a game while we wait for Danielle?” Ella shrugged before Paige brought out a large strip of gauze from her pocket. “Would you mind moving those chairs back? Yeah against the others is fine. Perfect.” she said once Heather had opened up a large space in the waiting room. “The object of the game is to not get caught by the one who’s blindfolded. One person will keep the blindfolded person from walking into anything, and the other will try to escape. Does that sound fun?”

 

Ella nodded. She had never heard of doing anything like this in a doctors office.

 

“How about we have Heather be ‘IT’ first. I’ll guide her by the arm, and you try to escape. I’ll set my timer for three minutes, and if you can avoid getting tagged, you win.”

 

Ella watched curiously as Paige blindfolded Heather with the gauze.

 

“Ready or not here I come!” Heather said, stretching her arms out like a zombie as Paige led her towards Ella.

 

“You better move or she’ll get you and you’ll be it!” Paige said.

 

Ella quickly scooted back away from the two as Heather blindly groped the air.

 

“I’m close, I know I am!” Heather said as she reached in the completely opposite direction. Ella smiled and side stepped away again before bounding to the other side of the room.

 

“Uh, what are you doing?” Danielle asked standing in the doorway of the waiting room.

 

“We’re playing tag.” Heather said walking to the sound of her voice. “And you’re IT now.” she reached out and tapped Danielle’s arm before peeling off the blindfold. Ella silently laughed as Paige tied the blindfold onto a very confused looking Danielle.

 

“Seriously?” Danielle asked giggling. “For real?”

 

“Come get us. You’ve got three minutes.” Heather said as Paige took Danielle’s arm. Ella smirked and danced around the room weaving in and out of Danielle’s reach. She didn’t think she had ever had so much fun in a doctors office before. Soon she and Heather had managed to trap themselves in a corner with Danielle inching her way closer to them.

 

“Age before beauty.” Heather said before lightly pushing Ella into Danielle.

 

“Hey!” Ella said as she gently collided with her sister. She was surprised the words had come out.

 

“I told you she could talk!” Danielle said. She ripped the blindfold off her face. Ella looked sheepishly at Heather, but Heather merely smiled.

 

“She’ll talk when she’s ready to.” Heather said.

 

“All right, Ella, you’re turn to be blindfolded.” Paige said. Ella grinned wide as Paige tied the cloth over her eyes. She attempted to make a beeline to where Danielle and Heather had been standing, but Paige had begun to spin her around and around until she didn’t know what direction was which. She giggled as she staggered forward, now out of breath, with Paige leading her by the arm. She reached out waving her arms left and right.


 

Ella stopped laughing as Paige continued to guide her straight. She didn’t think the waiting room was this long. “Oh no, they moved left!” Page said. Ella eagerly turned left, grasping at the empty air as Paige led her on. Suddenly they stopped. Ella was about to reach for the blindfold, but Paige began to spin her again. She giggled as she gasped for air, her side hurt from laughing so much. She wobbled a little once she stopped spinning, now tired and disoriented. And then it happened so suddenly Ella’s brain didn’t have time to process it. She felt her pants and pull up unceremoniously yanked down to her knees before Paige had lowered her onto something cold, and hard.

 

Alarm bells began to ring inside Ella’s head. She had been blindfolded and led into the bathroom! The familiar feeling of panic began to rise in her chest. She tried to bolt, but Paige was holding her down by the shoulders. She was crying now and fighting against her, but she was no match for Paige’s grip.

 

“Shh, shh, Ella, it’s okay. We just need a urine sample and then I’ll let you up. It’s okay. I’ve got you, nothing’s going to hurt you. ”  

 

Ella was bawling now, fighting with all her might. She couldn’t breathe! Something was reaching for her in the dark! She ripped the blindfold off and met Paige’s eyes. How could she do this to her?

 

“Aren’t you tired from all that running around?” Paige whispered. Ella was tired although she continued to fight, but with every second that passed she felt weaker and weaker. Despite the adrenaline, she knew she couldn’t win. Ella slumped against Paige’s hands and cried.

 

“Let me up!” Ella pleaded.

 

“I’m sorry, Ella, but I can’t let you up yet, but good job on using your words. Heather says you don’t talk much.”

 

“You’ve gotten farther than I have.” Heather said coming from the hallway. “Any luck?”

 

“No, she’s too uptight. Something in here definitely has her freaked out. Would you mind turning on the faucet? Maybe that will help. I think she’ll bolt if I let go.”

 

Ella whimpered at the sound of the rushing water and shut her eyes tight. “The hardest parts already over, honey. You’re already in here, and the more you struggle the longer you’ll be stuck here. This is the easy part, all you have to do is pee. You’ve done it thousands of times. You just need to calm down a little and relax. Try and match my  breathing, okay? Take a deep breath in through your mouth...and exhale. That’s it. A few more times. Take a deep breath. Good job.

 

Now picture you’re on an island. You’ve just woken up from a nap. You’re so groggy and the warm sand is so comfy. You sit up and listen to the waves…”

 

Ella tried to picture herself on the beach as Paige whispered in her ear. She was shaking less and less. Her breathing was evening out. She pictured the waves crashing on the shore as Page continued to whisper. “You’re so comfy, but then you realise as you sit and listen to the waves you have to pee. You have to pee more and more with every passing second and with every wave that hits the shore.”  

 

Ella found herself unconsciously jiggling her legs as she listened.

 

“You begin to feel desperate, but you don’t want to get up. You look left and then right. You’re all alone. And then you realize... you don’t have to get up. You’re in a bathing suit, and no one’s around. You can just rinse off in the water later when you’re not so tired. Your eyes are so heavy and your bladders so full. The temptation builds with every crashing wave until it all becomes too much to bare. You spread your legs out in the sand and give in…”

 

Ella looked down at the sudden realization of what was happening. Her legs, that were cinched tight in a ball a moment ago, had relaxed and opened in time with the story. Imaginary Ella, who sat on the beach peeing into the sand, had become real life Ella, sitting on a toilet peeing into a plastic tray tucked underneath the  seat. She sighed in relief as the weight inside her drained away. She hadn’t realized she had had to go so bad.

 

Once she had finished, she tapped Paige on the arm. She wanted to get the hell out of here. Paige was skeptical at first, but once she saw the full tray between Ella’s legs, she let her go. Ella tried to make a break for it, but tripped over her pants still around her knees. Heather had caught her mid fall before she hit the floor. She jumped back up and streaked out the bathroom and into the hallway uncaring who saw her.

 

“You did good, kid.” Paige said dumping the trays contents into a specimen jar. “Now I’m just going to test this an-” She stopped mid sentence as Ella began to take the opportunity to scratch at the part of her butt that had been driving her crazy. Ella suddenly felt a hand pull up the bottom of her shirt. “Uh-oh, mom.”  

 

“What?” said Heather taking a look. “Oh no, are you serious?”

 

“Afraid so. She’s covered in them.” Once Ella had managed to hoist her pants back up, she took a look at her skin in the better lighting. Little, red, raised bumps covered her arms. “Poor things got the chickenpox.”

 

“But don’t they vaccinate for that now?”

 

“Not if she was undergoing chemo. We need to go over her records. She might need the MMR as well.” Ella shrugged.

 

“Well speaking of chickens.” Heather said looking at the door of the room Danielle was waiting in.

 

“You’re not the only one facing your fears today.” Paige said giving Ella’s shoulder a gentle pat. “Someone needs some blood work and a tetanus shot.”

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Only took me a year to update this...

 

Chapter 8

 
Sitting in nothing but a paper gown was bad. Listening to Heather and Danielle fight was worse. All illusions of what a mother daughter bond should look like quickly dissolved before Ella’s eyes .The tension in the air was so thick she could feel it wrap around her lungs and begin to squeeze.
 
“Why can’t I see the doctor by myself?” Danielle demanded. She stood in the corner, arms crossed and still fully clothed.
When the medical assistant had led them in and handed them each a gown, Ella had wasted no time stripping down. Danielle had merely scoffed at the idea.
 
“Because I said so!” Heather hissed. The reasons seemed to change every time Danielle asked the question. At first, the answer had been because she was too young, then it had switched to the doctor being male. “He’ll be here any minute. Get changed!” An exacerbated Heather growled.
 
“I’m not changing in front of you guys!” Danielle protested.
 
“Nobody cares what you look like in your underwear! Why are you pretending to be shy? I caught you streaking down the hall last week!”
 
“Mom!” Danielle whined, drawing out every syllable. “I don’t want to change in front of her! I’m on my...you know.”
 
“So what! You’ve seen her in a diaper! I doubt she cares if you're in a pad!”
 
“But it leaked…” Danielle mumbled.
 
Heather groaned and swore under her breath. “Just get changed!’”
 
Ella looked from Heather to Danielle as they glared at each other, each silently fighting a battle of wills. Danielle was the one to finally cave. She grabbed the gown off the table and spun around while mumbling under her breath. Ella was at first relieved in a way when she had seen the bulge in Danielle’s underwear. At least she wasn’t the only one who needed some kind of diaper. Perhaps her situation wasn’t that weird. Speaking of weird though, she eyed Danielle’s underwear for a second before she inwardly gasped and looked away. She could feel the color draining from her face. What she had thought was a tie dye design was none other than splotches of blood.
 
Ella groped blindly in the air until she felt Heather’s arm. She anchored herself to the woman, ignoring Heather’s worried concerns and waited until the room righted itself again. Her stomach began involuntarily doing somersaults. She stared at her bare feet as she felt a hand press against her forehead.
 
“Poor thing,” Heather said. “You’re running a fever.”
 
Why was she worried about her? Couldn’t she see her daughter was bleeding? Her mind flashed back to the time she had pneumonia. She had been coughing up blood then and it had caused a panic. Was it like that? Was she hurt? What kind of disease did she have? Was she terminal like Ella had been once labeled? She looked up at Heather with a face full of concern and panic.
 
“I know, being sick is no fun, huh?” Heather said. Ella shook her head and pointed at Danielle.
 
“What’s wrong?” Ella silently mouthed.
 
“I ask myself that everyday.” Heather grumbled. “ Don’t worry about her, she’s just being ornery because she knows she’s getting a shot.” Ella shook her head and pointed more frantically.
 
Heather hadn’t seen! She didn’t know Danielle was sick! “What’s wrong? I don’t understand.”
 
“Did little Timmy fall down the well?” Danielle threw in sarcastically.
 
“Danielle!” Heather hissed before turning back to Ella who was now pulling the notepad out of her shorts pocket that were on the floor.
 
She’s bleeding!
 
Heather looked at the note perplexed until realization dawned on her. “Don’t worry about that.”
 
Is she sick?
 
Heather smiled a little and shook her head. “No, she’s not sick.” Ella looked at her puzzled.
 
“What? What’s wrong?” Danielle asked. She got up and looked at the notepad before burying her face in her hands. “This is exactly why I didn’t want to get changed! This ones on you! I’m not telling her!”
 
Tell me what? Ella thought.
 
“There’s nothing wrong with Danielle. I promise. How about we worry about you. You’re covered in chicken pox!” Heather said as she attempted to change the subject. Ella wasn’t taking the bait.
 
Why is she bleeding?
 
“I’ve had her for one day. One day and I already have to have this conversation.” Heather moaned.
 
“If you just would have listened to me and-” Danielle started but was cut off with a glare.
 
“What’s happening to Danielle is perfectly normal. She’s not hurt or sick, she’s just growing up is all.” Heather explained. Ella cocked her head to the side confused.
 
“I’m fine, I’m just on my period.” Danielle said.
 
What’s a per Ella had begun to write, but jumped when the door had suddenly swung open.
 
“Miss Danielle!” An elderly man said walking in and giving her a handshake. “Hop up on the table and have a seat!”
 
Ella noticed the color of Danielle’s face drain as she did what she was told.
 
“Wish she’d listen to me like that.” Heather said. Danielle rolled her eyes.
 
“Uh-oh! Has someone been giving their mom trouble?” Dr. Lawson asked.
 
“When is she not?” Heather said.
 
“Stop it.” Danielle grumbled.
 
He smiled as he glanced through a small white folder. “Looks like someone’s headed into their teenage years So let's see here. You are here for a physical, yes?”
Danielle nodded as she hugged the paper gown to her chest.
 
Convinced that Danielle was ok afterall, Ella picked up the notebook she had dropped and began using the spiral edges to get at the hard to reach itch on her back.
 
“Don’t scratch.” Heather whispered to her before taking the notebook away. Ella frowned as she tried not to focus on the crawling sensation in her skin. She examined her arms. How had she not noticed all the red bumps that now coated every inch of her skin?
 
An audible moan coming from the table made Ella lookup. The doctor was filling out a form and Danielle looked none too pleased about it.
 
“Blood work.” Heather whispered as he tore off the form and handed it to her. “We’ll go get this done as soon as we get out of here.”
 
“No.” Danielle whimpered. “Please no.”
 
“The sooner you get it out of the way the sooner you’ll feel better,” Dr. Lawson said, He put down the thin chart and picked up a much larger collection of paperwork. “Now who is this little lady?” He wheeled around on his stool and slid in front of Ella. She blushed and slid down further into her seat.
 
“This,” Heather said placing her hands on the cowering girl's shoulders, “is our foster daughter Isabella, our newest edition to the family. We just picked her up yesterday.”
 
“Congratulations, how long will she be staying with you?”
 
“Well, depending on if things go in the next couple of weeks, hopefully permanently.” Ella frowned at this. What did Heather mean by If things went well? Was she or wasn’t she part of the family?
 
“Ah, I see.” He said. “Well it’s very nice to meet you, Isabella.” Ella reluctantly took his extended hand and shook it. “Well according to all this paperwork you’ve had quite the childhood so far, poor thing.” Ella merely shrugged. “The good news is, according to your latest labs, your blood count looks normal. Very good. Very good. What’s not so good,” He said, before stretching out her arm. “Is this.”
 
“Twenty four hours with us and she’s already picked up some disease.” Heather said, sounding depressed.
 
“Not to worry, she probably picked it up at the hospital. Just bad timing really. Unfortunately, nothing I can really do for her. It’s one of those things where it’s just going to have to run its course. I can prescribe an ointment for the itching though.” He explained while examining her arms.
 
“There was something else I wanted your advice on.” Heather said. “ A few things really.”
 
“Go on.”
 
“I haven’t been successful in getting her to use, or even go in, a restroom. Not even the one at home. I really don’t know what to do.” Heather said.
 
“Yes, I read about that in her chart. Some kind of toilet proximity anxiety disorder.”
 
“She drew this this morning when I asked her about what she was so afraid of.” Heather said, pulling the picture out of her purse. “What do you think it means?”
 
He studied the picture a long while before responding. “I think I agree with her original psychiatric assessment. Isabella most likely endured some kind of emotional or physical trauma that’s being repressed and is manifesting in the form of an irrational fear of restrooms. My suggestion would be finding a good psychiatrist and family therapist.”
Heather bit her lip. “You don’t think she was abused in that way, do you?”
 
“Unfortunately, it is possible. I could give her a thorough examination if you’d like. Check for any signs of sexual abuse. I imagine they would have done that in the hospital, but I’m not seeing any notes or findings in the information they faxed over.”
 
“If you wouldn’t mind. I’d feel much better knowing just what we’re dealing with, but God, I really pray she wasn’t.”
 
Ella watched a bit apprehensive as Dr. Lawson opened the door and yelled, “female exam!” down the hall. She liked the situation even less when he donned latex gloves. It was never a good sign when someone put on latex gloves. “Danielle, you would mind trading places with Isabella please. Thank you.”
 
Ella stood, feeling awkward as she watched Dr. Lawson lower the table. “Go ahead and lie down on your back. Paige will be coming in just a moment, ah, here she is.” The nurse practitioner from earlier stuck her head in. “Please come in, I need to examine Miss Marsh here.” Once she heard the door close he continued. “Isabella, would you be okay if I took a quick look? I promise I will be very gentle and very fast.” She looked at him uneasily. In her experience, whenever someone said they’d be gentle, they were usually far from it. She looked at Heather, looking for some kind of sign as to what she should do.
 
“It’s okay, Ella, go on. He just wants to make sure you’re not hurt anywhere.” Ella grimaced, but nodded her consent before lying on her back.
 
“Now i’m just going to push your gown up a bit, there we go.” She heard a sudden ripping noise as her soggy pull-up was taken off and thrown in the trash. She grimaced as the cold air chilled her bottom half. “Is she having trouble controlling her bladder and bowels, mom?” He asked as he took some wipes from a drawer and began cleaning her.
 
“I’m not sure to be honest. The hospital sent her home in diapers and she’s been using them so far, well reluctantly.” Heather answered. “I think it’s because she’s afraid.”
 
“I wouldn’t suggest it.” The doctor said, throwing the wipes away. “I think it will do her more harm than good. She might regress, or become dependent on them. Our end goal is to get her used to the idea of the restroom. We want to show her, no matter what may have happened in her past, she is safe. What we don’t want is to encourage her to go whenever, and wherever she is.”
 
“So then what do I do if she won’t use the restroom? We can’t have her having accidents all over the house.”
 
“Well, there’s a good chance there will be accidents. Bed wetting is quite common in children following a big life change. So if you wanted to keep her in pull ups overnight, that would be understandable, but for the day, it would be better to use some kind of container. A bucket even would be better than a diaper. As long as she is associating a specific item and place she can...eliminate. I think the key here is safety. Maybe once she feels safe and in a routine, you can begin moving closer and closer until eventually you have her inside the bathroom. Then ultimately she won’t need it.
 
It’s like someone who avoids public restrooms because of germs; it all comes down to their personal safety. Even I have avoided quite a few unsanitary gas station restrooms in my time. Eliminating waste, across all species, drastically requires letting your guard down and for some unknown reason, Isabella here does not associate restrooms as a safe place where she can let her guard down.”
 
“That’s an understatement.” Heather said. “She bit me when I tried to take her this afternoon.”
 
Danielle let out a snicker.
 
“Just give her time to adjust to her new surroundings.” Dr. Lawson said before turning his attention back to Ella. “Now, Isabella, I’m going to press around your stomach. You let me know if anything hurts.” She closed her eyes as he pressed around her upper belly and sides. “Good, you’re doing good so far, oh- Does this hurt?” Ella nodded, wincing as he pressed again below her belly button.
 
“What? What is it?” Heather asked as he continued, more gently to feel around.
 
“Do you know when your last bowel movement was?” Ella blushed and stared at the ceiling.
“Umm, yesterday, on the way home.” Heather said, looking to Danielle for confirmation.
 
“Did she soil herself?”
 
“No, uh, we were stuck in traffic. Danielle took her to some bushes on the side of the road.”
 
“So you do know when you need to go one and two?” Ella nodded. “So how did you handle taking care of business in the hospital? Were you in diapers?” She shook her head. “Did you use the toilet? No? How about a bedpan?” She turned her hand side to side. “Sometimes?” She nodded, before making a circle with her arms and holding on to imaginary handles. He looked puzzled for a moment before realization dawned on him.
 
“Good good, it’s what I thought. And you had no trouble with this, correct? No fear?” Ella shook her head again. “So do you think you could use that at home if you had the option over diapers?” This time Ella nodded her head eagerly. “What if it was in the bathroom? Is it the toilet you're scared of?” She shook her head. “So you wouldn’t use it if it was in the bathroom?” She shook her head again.
 
“Isabella, when was the last time you spoke? More than one word. When was the last time you had a verbal conversation?” She thought about it before lifting up a finger on one and two in the other. “One to two years ago?” She nodded. “Why is that?” She shrugged. “If I gave you something to write with would you explain? Are you just feeling shy?”
Ella motioned in the air like she was writing and Heather gave her back her notepad and pencil.
 
Words won’t come out. Even when I want them to.
 
“So you do want to communicate? It’s not that you won’t talk, it's that you can’t?” Ella nodded.
 
“But I’ve heard her talk.” Danielle said. “I’ve heard her say ‘no” and, ‘hey’”
 
“Well, let’s focus on one thing at a time here. Isabella, I’m going to take a quick peek at your privates. I promise I’m not going to hurt you, I’m just going to make sure you aren't hurt anywhere, ok?” Ella nodded. She counted the ceiling tiles as she felt herself being spread open, and then it was over. “I didn’t see any sign of external injuries or scaring, but that doesn’t mean she wasn’t abused, unfortunately.” He said to Heather. “90% of sexually abused kids won’t show any external signs.”
 
“That’s very high.” Heather said.
 
“Alright, I just need to check one more place. Can you turn on your side and get into the fetal position? Yeah, just like that. I’m going to do the same thing with your back side, just a quick peek and… done. Good job, Isabella. The hard parts are over.”
 
She breathed a sigh of relief when she saw him pulling off the gloves.
 
“Now then, let’s talk about the first issue. Your belly. When you last went number two, was it normal?”
 
“N-oo-oo!” Danielle answered for her. “Explosive. It was nasty! Nothing’s going to grow there now!”
 
“Shush.” Heather said.
 
“No, this is good to know. When was the last time before that?” Ella shrugged. She didn’t keep track. “You don’t remember? Ok, so I felt quite a bit of stool in your colon and I think that’s what’s giving you belly pain and giving you the runs. Do you need to go number two?”
Ella shook her head.
 
Please don’t make me go back in there, she thought.
 
“If we brought in the commode you used in the hospital, do you think you could go if you tried? We have one.” She shrugged. “Would you be willing to try?” She grimaced a little.
 
“Better you go here than at home where we don’t have one.” Heather pointed out. She had a
point, Ella decided, before nodding her agreement.
 
“According to her chart they did give her a laxative in the hospital a couple days ago, but it sounds like nothing happened. They made a note that they suspect she’s been purposefully holding it. Sounds like she might have enupresis. I’d like to prescribe some laxatives, but not if she’s just going to hold it in. She might start having fecal leakage if she doesn’t clear the blockage.”
 
Heather wrinkled her nose. “I hope she goes while we’re here. I’ll have Charlie swing by the pharmacy and get a portable toilet, but that won’t be until later tonight.”
 
“Well, if she doesn’t go on her own, I can have Paige administer a you-know-what.” He said before mouthing the word to her. “It’s pretty compressed.”
Heather grimaced as Ella looked from Heather to Dr. Lawson.
 
“Here you go, hun.” Paige said wheeling in the all too familiar commode. “Hop on up.” Ella was about to obey until she realized a problem. Four problems in fact. She shook her head taking a few steps back. She motioned her hand around the room. Sure she was willing to try, but was the audience really necessary? She could probably go in front one, but four people? Even she had boundaries.
 
“How about you and Danielle go work on that blood work downstairs? Leave Isabella here with us, hopefully we’ll be all situated by the time you come back.”
 
“I guess that would work. Are you okay with us leaving for a bit, Ella?” Ella nodded her head and gave the thumbs up, just to make sure she got the point across. “Well, alright. And if you feel she needs it, go ahead and give it to her. Better to get it over with I guess.”
 
“We’ll give you some privacy.” The doctor said, leading Danielle and Heather out.
Give me one what? Ella thought as the door shut leaving her alone with Paige, “This doesn’t scare you, right?” Ella shook her head, shifting from one foot to the other. Now that it was in front of her and most of the crowd had dispersed, she realized just how badly she had to pee.
 
“You were pretty freaked out back there earlier, so how about you show me you can sit on it before I go work on paperwork for a few minutes. You look like you gotta go.”
Ella shrugged as she opened the lid, revealing the few inches of water Paige had already put inside. She bunched up the paper gown toward her stomach and sat down on the plastic seat. Ella inwardly cringed as urine trickled down almost immediately. She had meant to just sit, only going once Paige had left, but it seemed muscle memory had won out in the end.
 
“Good job, that was a lot easier than earlier. I didn’t even need to turn on the faucet. You must have really had to go.”
 
Heather had been practically forcing water down her throat.
 
“I’m going to step out for a bit and give you some privacy. The doctor wants you to try and go number two. I’ll be back in ten minutes to check on you.”
 
They sure were making a big deal about this Ella thought. As long as they didn’t make her go in there though she was happy. And she tried. She really did. She didn’t want to be desperate to do that at Heather’s. She didn’t want to have that kind of accident, and she had promised.
Something Heather had said flashed back in her mind. If all goes well.
 
What had she meant by that? She would be a permanent member of the family if all goes well. What if she had that kind of accident after she had promised not to? Then that would mean things had not gone well. Would Heather drop her back off at the hospital for doing that?
 
Ella redoubled her efforts, but still, she couldn’t go. She couldn’t do as Heather wanted. Then came the knock and Paige came back.
 
“Hey there, any luck?” Ella shook her head and stared at the floor.
 
“Hey, hey, what’s the matter?” Paige said, squatting down next to her. “Are you not feeling well?”
 
Ella sniffled and wiped at her face. She had gotten herself so worked up she had started to cry.
 
“Here.” Paige said, handing her the notebook and pen. “Tell me what’s wrong.”
 
I don’t want to go back to the hospital!
 
“You’re not going to go back for this. We’re going to give you some medicine to make your tummy feel better.”
 
They were going to give her laxatives. Those wouldn’t work for several hours. She would be back at Heather’s by then and then… If All Goes Well… She’d have to go number two and… she couldn’t go in the restroom. ..If All Goes Well… She wouldn’t be able to hold it. She’d have that kind of accident. She’d break her promise. If All Goes Well...
 
Ella burst into uncontrollable sobs.
 
“I know the medicine’s not going to be very fun, but it’ll be worth it. I promise.” Paige said. She tried to rub Ella’s back, but the girl shook her head and continued to write.
It’s going to make me have an accident after I promised I wouldn’t! Heather is going to take me back to the hospital and leave me! I don’t want to go back!
 
“Ella, no! Why do you think that? She isn’t going to change her mind and take you back. Especially not over an accident.”
 
She said I would be a part of her family only if things went well. I tried to use their bathroom! I’ve tried to use all the bathrooms! I can’t! I can’t do it! I can’t breathe!
 
“I don’t know why you feel like that, but that’s why we’re here. We’re here to help you figure it out and move past it.” She placed a hand on Ella’s scalp and gently rubbed her head. “It’s gonna be okay. Moving in with a new family must be scary, huh?” Ella sniffled and nodded her head. “I can promise you one thing. The medicine I’m going to give you won’t make you have an accident at home. It’s gonna make you go here and now. It’s gonna make your stomach feel a lot better too. You wanna give it a try?”
 
Ella nodded as Paige patted the table. “Hop up. Lay on your side and bring your knees to your chest like you did before. That’s it, just like that.” Ella silently groaned as she heard the sound of latex gloves being put on. Just what had she agreed too? She glanced behind her and saw what looked like a bag of water connected to a hose. Ugh, an IV Ella thought, before she felt Paige lift up the back of her gown and exposed backside. All Ella had time to think was, this doesn’t seem right, before the nozzle was inserted into her rectum. She let out an audible moan as she felt the liquid begin enter. I’d rather have the IV, she thought as she grabbed her stomach. The cramping had begun. Paige had been serious when she said it was going to make her go here and now.
 
She wanted to go! She needed to go! Badly! She let out another moan.
 
“Almost done, you’re doing good, just a little bit more.” Ella didn’t think she could take it anymore. Sweat poured out of her, making the paper gown stick to her skin. Her stomach violently cramped and churned. She’d probably be even to use the toilet if they set her on it.
 
“Good job, it’s all done!’ She whimpered as she felt the nozzle being pulled free. “You can go sit on the bucket now and let it out.”
 
Ella moaned. She couldn’t move! If she moved even a fraction of an inch it would come out. Every muscle was tensed and trained to hold the fluid at bay.
 
“Think you can make it?” Paige asked. “Ella gave a tiny shake of her head. She wasn’t going to make it even two steps! She barely registered the sound of something being slid across the floor and before she could even process what had happened. she was lifted up and sat on the bucket just as her body said no more!
……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
Twenty minutes later there was a knock on the door followed by Danielle, Heather, and Dr Lawson. Ella was passed out on the table, now fully dressed. The bucket was now nowhere in sight. “Did it work? Did she go?” Heather whispered.
 
“Ohhh yeah.” Paige said eyes opened wide like one who had witnessed a terrible battle . “She must have been backed up for weeks. She’s gonna be a bit raw down there for a bit. Fell right to sleep after.”
 
“Thank you.” Heather said.
 
“There’s something I want to show you though.” Paige said, handing Heather the messages Ella had written.
 
“Ella, no.” Heather said gently caressing the young girl's face. Ella opened her eyes and found Heather standing over her. “Ella, I’m not taking you back to the hospital.” she whispered, rubbing the girls back as she helped her sit up. “No matter how many accidents you might have. It’s okay. You’re part of this family now whether you like it or not. You’ve been a part of this family since the first time I met you six months ago. When I said “if all goes well” I meant with Child Services, not with you. Yes, there’s still a few hoops we have to jump through to make it official, but that’s nothing for you to worry about.” She leaned down and pressed her forehead against Ella’s before softly kissing the top of her head. “You're my daughter now and I love you.”
 
Ella sniffled as the tears ran down her face. “C’mere.” Heather said as she wrapped her arms around Ella and picked her up. Ella threw her arms around Heather and rested her chin on the woman’s shoulder. “I don’t know what happened in your past, Ella Marsh, but we’re going to get through this together.”
 
How long had it been since she had been held like this? She was the happiest she had ever felt. She was about to close her eye.s and drift back to sleep when something snapped her out of her moment of bliss. It was there and then gone in a flash. Maybe she had imagined it, but deep down she knew she hadn’t. Across the room was Danielle, and in her eyes, even if just for a brief moment was a look of hate

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35 minutes ago, ju48 said:

Great chapter, good to see your work again Sasha!

Thanks! Haven't written in like a year so I'm a bit rusty. I kinda like writing medical drama/ mysteries if you couldn't tell lol

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On 3/11/2020 at 12:20 AM, SashaButters said:

Thanks! Haven't written in like a year so I'm a bit rusty. I kinda like writing medical drama/ mysteries if you couldn't tell lol

yes been missing your wriitng for awhile noe stories like the sphere and the pokemon ones were great

 

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Chapter 9



Danielle had been quiet since they had returned to the waiting room. If she had been angry with Ella before, she didn’t show it. Her attention was now drawn to the fold of her left arm, cradling her elbow in her right hand, as if it might pop off at the joint at any second. A small, white pad of gauze stuck to the inside crease by a clear line of tape.



“The doctor wants to follow up with Ella in two weeks since she can’t have a live vaccine yet.” the secretary said.



“You’re lucky you didn’t have to get a shot.” Danielle said, looking away from the offending injury for the first time. Ella noticed her face looked ashen and pale, as if she had been held down and tortured downstairs. She supposed to Danielle, she thought she had been.

Ella wanted to point out that she had just been violated by what felt like a garden hose, but didn’t have the energy to fish out her notebook. It hurt to walk. It hurt to sit. It just hurt. She wondered why they had bothered to check for an injury before turning her into a human water balloon and not after. It made no sense. Instead, she lifelessly gave her head a small nod at Danielle, who seemed pleased that Ella understood she had gotten off easy.



“He also suggested you pick up a tube of Lidocaine topical ointment from the pharmacy. He’s written her a prescription for that as well to help with any pain or irritation. As for the chicken pox, he suggests an oatmeal bath to help alleviate the itching.” The secretary said. Suddenly she stood and beamed at Ella.



“I heard you did really well in there!” She praised. Ella sunk down a little lower in her seat. The secretary laughed before turning back to Heather. “She’s such a cutie! How old is she?”





“Ten!” Heather answered turning to smile at Ella.



“Ten!?” the lady said, sounding shocked. “She’s so tiny though!”

They both stared at her now. Ella hid behind her arms. The sudden attention made her uncomfortable. The only people she normally interacted with were a rotating staff of regular nurses, and they usually didn’t find her so cute after she had sunken her teeth into the flesh of their arm. Rose was the only one who had been up for the challenge and she had learned very quickly to wear long sleeves.



“Well, I better get this little one home. She looks beat.” Heather said. Ella nodded, wanting nothing more than to just curl up in bed.



“Before you go, since you were such a trooper, would you like a treat?” The lady held out a box towards Ella’s direction. Ella looked blankly at her followed by Heather. Her new mom smiled and gave her a nod of encouragement.



Ella slowly stood up, grimacing as she hobbled over to the chorus of, “Aww’s,” and “Poor Thing.” Without looking, she pulled out the first thing her hand came in contact with. It was a Ring Pop.



She smiled weakly, placing her palm on her chin before moving it outward. “Thank you,” was only one of the few things she knew how to properly sign. The rest she tended to mime out the best she could. “Fake it ‘till you make it!” as Rose used to say.



Danielle rose to her feet. “Can I have one too?”



The secretary glanced up, looking surprised as if noticing Danielle’s presence in the room for the first time. “They’re for the younger kids.” She hurriedly thrust the box back under the desk and busied herself with paperwork.



“O-oh,” Danielle said softly. For a split second a look of hurt flashed across her face at the abrupt denial. Ella wondered for a brief moment if she had imagined it as well as it had come and gone as quickly as the earlier look of malice. “It-Its okay, we always go out for Baskin Robbins after.” She held up her bandaged arm for clarification.



“Not today, Danielle, I need to get Ella home.” Heather said, turning to leave. “We have plenty of junk food at home.”

Ella felt a small surge of gratitude. Unless that trip to Baskin Robbins included a scoop down the back of her pants, the thought of ice cream sounded about as unappealing as Paige walking through that door and saying she couldn’t leave until she pooped one more time. She felt even more grateful when Heather scooped her up after she saw her attempting a painful waddle.



The sour look stayed on Danielle’s face a few seconds longer than last time, before returning to its usual self, albeit with a tinge of a frown. Ella had to hand it to her; she could sure bounce back. Maybe she felt as terrible as Ella did and decided ice cream didn’t sound that great after all.



“I’m supposed to watch what I eat anyway; I've got soccer tryouts next week. Fingers crossed, right?” Danielle said to the secretary. She got no reply. Three strikes and she was out. By the time they made it to the car, Ella took back her original assessment. Danielle looked absolutely heartbroken.



They rode in silence for the next ten minutes as Ella closed her eyes, grimacing at every bump in the road. When the car stopped, she lifted her head expecting to be in their driveway, but instead found herself in the drive thru of a Walgreens.



“Will you stop sulking?” Heather said suddenly, sounding irritated.



“I am not sulking!” Danielle snapped back.



“You act like it’s the end of the world every time you have to get a simple test done!”



“I was dizzy and I fell!”



“No, what you did was put on a show!” Heather said, her voice rising.



“Everything went dark; I got scared.” Danielle mumbled.



“You’re the big sister now. You should be setting a good example. Ella put you to shame in there! I’m sure she didn’t have fun with what she had to do, but you didn’t see her crying about it. You need to start acting your age! You’re almost 13!”



Ella inwardly groaned. She wished Heather would leave her out of this. Besides, Heather was wrong. Ella had cried plenty. Heather just hadn’t been there to see it.

She stole a quick look at Danielle, who was practically shaking in her seat as she bit into her knuckles, eyes cinched tight.



That’s when Ella remembered Emily Masterson, the girl who had ratted her out to security on her first night after Ella had decided to take an impromptu run down the hall naked and hide in Emily’s closet. Ella had never considered her a friend, but she remembered Emily having to go lie down after any kind of injection. Once, they had had to get Iv’s together, and she got all sweaty and started swaying side to side. The nurses had to bring her a pint of orange juice and a cookie to make her feel better. “Squeamish” was what Rose had called her.

She thought back to how Danielle had looked in the waiting room, all quiet and pale. Her new sister may have a flair for the dramatic, but she hadn’t looked like she was “putting on a show.” Emily had fallen once, so maybe Danielle was “squeamish” too.

Ella reached into her pocket and felt the Ring Pop. Maybe Danielle needed sugar? She pulled it out and began to hand it to Danielle, but Heather’s voice startled her into dropping it on the floor.



“Don’t! She’s just upset because we’re not stopping for ice cream. She needs to learn that life will not reward her everytime time she faces a minor inconvenience.” Heather snapped.

Ella shuddered. Danielle smiled weakly at her, but she couldn’t hide the tears anymore, and Ella knew this had nothing to do with getting ice cream.



“Thanks,” Danielle mumbled, bending down and handing the sucker back. “But it’s yours.”



Ella looked at the sucker and frowned. She was confused. Sure she had had a rough time at the drs, but hadn’t Danielle too? They had both faced their fears, so then why? Didn’t it make more sense to be afraid of needles than bathrooms? They had both done unpleasant things, so why was Ella being coddled and Danielle chastised? Why had she gotten the candy? She wasn’t a little kid either. Did two years really make that much of a difference? Ella thought of the blood. Danielle’s just getting older. She shuddered. She didn’t want to get older, and yet... she had. Those two years that meant the difference between punishment and reward.. It was the same amount of time that had passed her by. If these two years were so important, just what had she missed out on?

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

When they got home, Ella made a beeline for the bedroom. Heather and Danielle’s constant bickering was giving her a headache. She was itchy, sore, and overall just plain miserable. When she got to her side of the room, she kicked her shoes off, peeled off her socks, and let her too-big shorts fall to the floor with a dull thud. It felt too weird going around commando. She searched around for underwear, but was dismayed to find none. All she could find was the torn open bag of pull ups sitting on the floor by her dresser.



Figuring it was better than nothing, she stepped inside the leg holes and hoisted them up to her hips. Feeling slightly more at peace, she kicked her clothes into a pile on the floor before climbing onto the bed and letting herself fall face first into her pillow.

Her body felt like dead weight. She was so utterly exhausted, but she couldn’t seem to fall asleep. She had over shot tired, and now as a result ,was unbearably restless. She turned from one side to the other in an attempt to get comfortable. Her shirt kept getting twisted as she moved helplessly about, so without a second thought, she pulled it over her head and let it fall onto the floor with the rest of her clothes.



Ella laid spread out, wearing nothing but a Disney princess themed pull up on the top of the comforter. The stifling heat and stuffy air made the idea of getting under the covers sound about as unappealing as another round of chemo. She was vaguely aware she was running a fever, but all she could do was keep flipping and rotating her pillow in search of a cool spot to rest her burning face.



She wished she could push a button and have someone bring her a fan like she could in the hospital. Even for someone to come open the window would do. The thought of doing it herself crossed her mind, but the idea of getting up and dragging herself across the room seemed a monumental task in her current state. Rose would have had a cow if she caught her out of bed sick.



Ella remembered the last time she had been running a fever. Santa had come early that year and had left all the good little boys and girls of floor three, Influenza type A. The nurses had also given them an early Christmas present two weeks prior. Flu shots. For type B. The call buttons had been chiming like Christmas bells ringing in the holidays.



Ella had knocked a crayon off her tray and it had rolled off the bed and onto the floor five feet away. She thought nothing of it until her picture required a certain shade of blue, and only that shade of blue would do. The sea and the sky were not the same color after all. She pressed the call button and waited. And waited. And waited. No one came.



She looked across the room willing the crayon to roll back, but as it turned out, the trade off for radiation treatments was not super powers. Unless projectile vomiting on school bullies counted, Batman (who was really just Pedro from janitorial in a cheap batman costume) was wrong. She wasn’t a hero. What kind of hero couldn’t even get a crayon to roll back to them?

Her frustration level rose with every passing second. She had had a terrible few days. She was coughing up hail sized chunks of phlegm the same color of the christmas tree in Kids Korner.

Her chest ached and rattled with every cough, and as for her throat... it wouldn’t have surprised her to learn that her lung butter was the same hue as the pine needles from the christmas tree in Kids Korner because she was coughing up the pine needles from the christmas tree in Kids Korner.



Rose had told her to distract herself from how miserable she felt and snuck her a fist full of crayons. It was as if Rose had handed her a fist full of gold. Sure, Ella could get a hold of the basic eight staple colors, but in this handful was magenta, silver, blood orange, three different shades of green and two of blue. The excitement had given her just enough energy to sit up and color.



She wondered how Rose had gotten her hands on this? Word in Kid’s Korner was Steve Mason, the 13-year-old with the trach tube, could get you anything you wanted within reason. For a price. He had a fairly successful black market going on for a bit before he got moved to a different floor. Ella had even got up the nerve to slip him a note once asking for a few markers and colored pencils. She was ecstatic when he had slipped her a reply back underneath the table...that was until she read his demands. A number 10 from Mcdonalds with a large coke.



Money wasn’t the currency here. The currency was food. Specifically food from the outside. You wanted a favor? You paid for it in chicken nuggets and type 2 diabetes.

Her heart had sunk. It was an impossible request. Black market trading she had learned, was for kids who had parents and visitors. Her visitors had dried up long ago when the awkwardness of sitting in silence had become too much to bear for them. Then they sent letters. But now, even those had stopped some months ago.



Visitors, contraband, and chicken nuggets were the farthest thing from Ella’s mind. “Small steps.” and “Divide and conquer” was Rose’s advice to her. If she focused on conquering small goals, she wouldn’t feel so overwhelmed with her slow progress. Her small goal now was that damn sky blue crayon across the room. If no one was coming to help her and telekinetic powers (or lack of) didn’t help, she’d just have to get up and get it herself. She wasn’t allowed out of bed, but rules be damned.

She had made it halfway there, but froze when Rose opened the door. Ella knew she was in trouble when Rose pulled out her green key chain of a flip-flop and shook it at her before chasing her back into bed. Rose had begun muttering under her breath in Spanish. Ella didn’t have to be bi-lingual to understand what she meant. “If I had a real sandal; i’d smack you with it.”

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



“I see you’ve made yourself at home.”



Ella was brought back to the present to find Danielle leaning against the doorframe staring at her spread out nearly naked on the bed. She was miserable and modestly was the furthest priority at the moment.



“Here” she heard before something landed next to her on the bed. “Mom told me to tell you to drink it.” Ella reached out her hand and groped blindly until it landed on something cold. Instead of drinking it, she drew it into a hug keeping it pressed against her chest.



“You hot or something? It’s kind of cold in here.” Danielle remarked. Ella was flabbergasted. Cold? It had to be a 100 degrees in here at least. Ella nodded, pulling at an imaginary collar around her neck. She heard the window slide open. Although there was no breeze, she found the fresh air to be refreshing.



“Oh man! Does it itch?” Danielle asked. Ella opened her eyes again and found Danielle hovering over her and examining her body as one would something gross, yet oddly fascinating. Ella nodded again before flipping on her stomach and burying her face in her pillow. She didn’t feel like trying to communicate. She just wanted to be left alone- that was until she felt fingernails begin to run up and down her back. She quickly decided she didn’t mind the company after all. In child black market standards, this kind of service would have cost her an M&m Mcflurry easily.



She had almost managed to fall asleep when Heather's angry voice from the doorway made both of them jump. Her heart hammered and she could feel the pull-up between her legs growing wet. “What do you think you’re doing?!” What little peace and relaxation she had been able to obtain was gone in the blink of an eye.



Danielle sat on the edge of Ella’s bed stammering. “Huh? Wha-”



“Look at her back! It’s full of finger nail scratches!”



“Sh-She said she was itchy! I- I was just trying to make her feel better!”



“I’m supposed to keep her from scratching! I send you up with a bottle of water and find you’ve taken what looks like razor blades to her back. What do you think CPS is going to say if they see that?”



“I-I didn’t know! I’m sorry!”



“Don’t you ever think before you act?” Heather snapped.



Ella curled up into a ball on the bed. Something that felt like hands was squeezing her lungs again. She wanted to get up and leave, but couldn’t move. She could hear Heather’s angry footfalls coming towards her. She felt a cool hand trace the bumps on her back. Any other time and place but now, she would have found the gesture soothing. Suddenly the hand went lower and made contact with the now sodden garment. She heard Heather's breath hitch.



“You’re not supposed to use these any more.” While the voice had been gentler than the one used with Danielle, it still caused her to hide her face under her arms. “I was going to bring up the mop bucket. You can just kind of, I don’t know, keep it under your bed until you need it I guess. At least until we can figure out a better idea.”



“A bucket? Really?” Danielle couldn’t stop herself from asking. “In my bedroom? It’s going to stink up my room!



“Then just empty it!”



“Eww! No, that’s disgusting!’



“It is not just your bedroom anymore. When we decided to take Ella in we all agree-”



“No, mom! I didn’t agree to anything! You decided to chop up my room and make me share it instead of converting the office into another bedroom. Now you’re expecting me to be okay with someone taking a dump in my room! This is my space!”



“Where am I supposed to put it?” Heather said, throwing her hands up.



“Oh, I don’t know. How about the office that should have been her room in the first place!”



“I am not moving her into the office. End of discussion!”



“Then just put the bucket in there!”



“No, I work there.”



“I sleep here!”



Ella’s head was pounding.She couldn’t take their arguing anymore! She wanted to tell them they could just leave it in the backyard for all she cared. She grabbed the blanket off the top of the bed and began walking off with it while ignoring Heather’s questions about where she was going. Her nerves were completely shot.



“You need to get cleaned up!” Heather yelled after her. “Don’t sit on anything, I’ll be right there.” Ella slammed the bedroom door closed behind her and went into the next closest room. She hadn’t explored the house yet and now seemed a good enough time as any. She didn’t care if Heather chased her with a sandal later, she just needed to be alone.



The room she had entered must have been the office Heather and Danielle had been talking about. There was a desk on the far side of the room with a laptop. On the other side of the room was a couch facing a small flat screen tv mounted on the wall. She thought about snuggling up on the couch, but knew Heather would quickly find her. What she wanted more than anything was to be alone, so she made due with the best hiding place she could find. Under the desk.



She used the blanket to make herself a little place to curl up, before crawling in and sealing the entrance to her “cave” with the computer chair to hide her. She thought she had been well hidden, but Heather had immediately spotted her the moment she walked in.



“Ella, what are you doing? Come out of there.” Ella shook her head and scooted herself away as far as possible. Heather moved the chair out of the way and squatted down in front of her. She dropped the notebook and pencil in front of her before saying, “Talk to me.”



Ella shook her head. She had nothing to say.



“Ella! You’re dirty! You need to get cleaned up!”



She shook her head again as she fought to see through her tear streaked eyes. Urine had come in contact with her raw skin and was burning her. She couldn’t deal with the pain, fever and stress of the fighting at the same time. She could feel herself short circuiting.



“Ella, if you don’t come out in the next three seconds i’m going to pull you out myself!” Heather warned. “One. Two. Three.” Ella didn’t move a muscle, only continued to stare at her.

“Fine!” Heather said.



Ella felt an arm grab her, and so she did what she always did when she felt scared or cornered. She sank her teeth into the woman’s arm.



“ELLA! NO!” Heather cried out in pain before quickly withdrawing her arm and eying the damage. “You do not do that!”



“What? What’s wrong?” Danielle said coming into the room. “What happened?”



“She bit me!” Heather said. Ella could hear the mix of surprise and pain in her voice.



“Seriously? Where is she?”



“Under the desk.” Heather swore. “I’m going to go wash this.” When Heather left, Danielle followed her out before quickly coming back in and shut the door. She knelt down a safe distance away and saw Ella bundled up in the corner. Ella was prepared to bite her as well if she tried to pull her out, but Danielle didn’t.



Instead she slid a few things toward her and quickly withdrew her arms, before giving her a wink and standing back up. Her peace offering appeared to be her pillow, a trash bag, wet wipes and a clean pull up. Ella quickly pulled the loot into her den. With a bit of twisting this way and that, she managed to change, threw the used pulled up and wet wipe in the bag. The cool, wet cloth helped ease the burning and she felt grateful to Danielle. Even more so when she saw what she was about to do.



Danielle unfolded a sheet and threw it over desk, leaving Ella in semi darkness in her new desk fort.



“What is this?” Ella heard Heather ask. She could hear her approaching and stiffened.



“Don’t! Just let her be. She’s sick. She probably just wants to be left alone.”



“So why doesn’t she just sleep in her bed? Why is she hiding under the desk?”



“Because you came in and started yelling! That’s why. Remember when we got Ribbit and he wouldn’t come out of the closet for a week?”



“Ribbit is an animal! Ella is-”



“Sick and probably freaking the hell out..Just let her come out on her own when she’s ready.”



“But she’s wet and-” Ella heard the crinkling bag shake.



“Let her be.” Danielle said walking out of the room. Heather gave a defeated sigh and followed her out.



Ella felt herself finally relax in the semi-darkness. It was cramped, warm, and absolutely perfect. She drew her knees into her chest and curled back into her blanket nest. She was about to drift off to sleep when a new visitor decided to peek its head under the sheet and investigate. Ella was delighted when the tortie shelled cat rubbed up against her outstretched hand and began to loudly purr. After deciding that the stranger was friend rather than foe, the cat entered the fort and plopped down in the nest of blankets. Ella smiled as she laid down next to her new friend and stroked its fur.



You must be Ribbet, she thought before finally drifting off to sleep.

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Chapter 10


 

Please, stop! It hurts! I have nothing left inside of me! 

 

Ella continued to cough and gag. Her throat burned down all the way into her esophagus. With every lurch of her stomach, her vision became spotted with black dots that threatened to eclipse everything. She was going to pass out. She couldn’t keep this up. She groped blindly in the air for something, anything, to hold on to. 

 

“Help!” Ella croaked. She was falling. And then hands wrapped around her torso and gently lowered her onto the bathroom tile.

 

“I’ve got you. It’s okay, I’ve got you.” Her mother sat with her on the bathroom floor gently stroking Ella’s head.

 

“It hurts!” Ella said in a raspy voice between gasps for breath. 

 

“What hurts? Your throat?” 

 

“Everything,” Ella said before letting her head fall onto her mom’s shoulder. Her joints ached. Her skin burned. There were open sores in her mouth and throat that refused to heal. 

 

Ella didn’t have to find a clock to know what time it was. It was a little after 10:00 pm on a Tuesday night. Chemo was on Tuesdays and Thursdays and by 10:00pm, six hours after treatment, she would lose the fight to her gurgling stomach. 

 

“I know, sweetie, I know.” She felt her mother's arm tighten around her. “I just wish I could make it all better.” Her voice was choked with sobs. “No eight year old should have to go through this. I’d do anything to make it all better.”  

  

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

 

Ella awoke from her dream feeling dazed and confused. This was not where she had fallen asleep, she was sure of it. Instead of being pretzeled under the desk, she was stretched out on the black leather sofa in the office, covered by the sheet that had once hidden her from view.   She tried to sit up, but a weight on her chest kept her pinned down. She reached a hand up and stroked the furry lump that seemed more than content to suffocate her in the name of its comfort. 

 

“He hasn’t left your side all evening.” a voice said startling her. The cat had blocked her view of the other occupant on the opposite end of the couch by her feet. “C’mon, Ribbit, let her sit up. You can mooch off her body heat later.” 

The pressure was suddenly lifted off her chest followed by an indignant, “mrow!” Ella sat up and scooched as far away from the couches occupant as possible. The red haired man merely smiled. She eyed him suspiciously. 

She didn’t have much experience in dealing with men, apart from Batman (A.k.a. Pedro from janitorial) and her soccer coach. Since her mom had stopped liking her soccer coach, Ella had decided she hadn’t liked him either. She couldn’t even remember his name now. Pedro was alright though, sometimes he snuck her a piece of candy when Rose wasn’t looking from the nurses station. 

 

Once when Ella had been really sick, Pedro had come in her room and “accidentally” dropped a few jolly ranchers in her bed. Rose had caught him and chased him out with one of her shoes while yelling, “Get your nasty man germs outta here!” while hopping on one foot. They had both been laughing, so Ella knew he wasn’t really in trouble. Ella had been laughing too, until she had spotted them kiss outside her room a few minutes later. She quickly realized that had not been something they had meant her to see when Rose waggled her shoe at her. She had quickly pretended to be asleep after that.

 

“Was I surprised to find a little sleeping girl under my desk tonight.” Said Charlie. Ella studied his face, but he didn’t seem mad. “Reminds me of Danielle when she was little, used to fall asleep in the strangest of places.” 

 

They sat in silence for a few minutes with Ella curled up in the sheet as she hugged her knees unsure of whether she should stay or make a break for it. She thought back to the dream she was having and a stab of guilt pierced her heart. Had she really been so ready to throw away her own mother in favor of the first woman who had picked her up and hugged her? 

 

She didn’t want you. You were broken. No one wanted you. That’s why you sat alone in the hospital for so long. 

 

She tried to shake the thoughts out of her head. She felt sick enough without the added stress. 

 

“So, um, there's dinner downstairs if you’re hungry. I can reheat it if you’d like, we figured you’d rather sleep.” said Charlie. Ella shook her head. The last thing she felt like doing was eating. “Danielle said something about you wanting to be alone for a while.” Ella shrugged. 

 

“I heard you had a rough day at the doctors.” 

 

Ella shrugged again. She had been through worse. It was just different. Usually the projectiles came from the other end. 

 

“I know it’s only been a day, but are you settling in okay? I mean, I know going to the doctor first thing wasn’t exactly the greatest welcome home celebration but…” 

 

She gave the so-so motion with her hand. She didn’t want to seem ungrateful. She was finally in a real home with a mom, a dad, and a sister, but it had not been the dream she had expected. She wanted to bring it up, but she didn’t know how. Fortunately for Ella, Charlie had seemed to read her mind.

 

“Is it the fighting?” Ella widened her eyes and nodded. She was not used to being around this much conflict.

 

“Those two…” he said letting out an exasperated sigh. “They’re best buddies one minute and at each other's throats the next. It’s just extra bad right now with the, uh, change.” 

 

You’re the change. It’s your fault. 

 

“Danielle’s heading into her teen years along with the attitude that comes with it and she wants her independence. As for Heather, she still sees Danielle as her baby. She’s having a hard time letting go. We tried for years to have more children, but…” He trailed off for a second trying to find the right words. “It just wasn’t meant to be.” 

 

But why her though, Ella wondered. Of all the kids they could’ve taken in, she was like the broken doll on the bottom of a clearance bin. Before she could ascertain why she was in the situation she was the “Thump Thump Thump” of heavy footfalls came down the hall. 

 

Ella grimaced. The approaching footsteps was like the sound of hammers being struck into the ground to her over stimulated senses. She wanted to dive back under the desk. 

 

Heather stuck her head in and beamed. “You’re up.” Ella sat up straight and let her feet dangle. They were still a good couple of feet from reaching the ground. She stared at her toes as Heather moved closer and squeezed in between her and Charlie. “How are you feeling? Any better?” Before she could respond a cool hand pressed against her forehead. Heather let out a disapproving moan. “Poor baby. Still running a fever.” If Heather was still harboring any ill will about being bitten, she didn’t show it, Ella relaxed, feeling the tension drain out of her as Heather wrapped an arm around her and held her close. At first, her instinct was to get the hell out of there, but she was too tired to fight. 

 

Heather and Charlie talked amongst themselves as Ella slowly nursed a cold calorie shake she had been ordered to drink. She didn’t feel like pressing her luck with Heather anymore.. She had been given a lot of “suggestions” the past two days, but her fluid intake Heather had pointed out before, was not one of them. When that was gone, the empty can had quickly been replaced with a bottle of water. Ella frowned at the bottle before unscrewing the lid and downing enough to make Heather return to her conversation. When she was no longer being watched, she set the half full bottle aside, closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around her fluid filled tummy while occasionally shifting this way and that in order to get comfortable. She could hear the water gurgling and sloshing about as she moved. 

After about thirty minutes or so, Ella couldn’t really tell, Charlie got up and left the two of them alone. They sat in silence for a moment before Heather asked if she wanted to go to bed or stay up and watch a movie with them. Ella mimed that she wanted to go to bed. She wanted this day to be over with. “We’ll get you settled in a bit.” Said Heather. Ella watched as her fingers clicked over the keys on her cellphone. “Finish your water while we wait for Danielle to finish.” 

 

Ella inwardly groaned as she took the last few gulps of water down “like a champ” as Heather had put it. She could hear distant water running somewhere in another part of the house awakening her bladder. She tried coyly snaking her hand between her legs. She couldn’t remember peeing in the pull up earlier, but it felt damp. She couldn’t risk leaking on the couch here, and what if peeing into it made noise? She couldn’t remember if it did or not. The thought of Heather hearing her pee made her skin crawl. She was so used to doing literally EVERYTHING in front of someone. She had never had privacy before. She’s changed in front of people. She peed into cups held by other people when her hands were too unsteady to hold it without dropping it. Hell, she had even had a full conversation ( Well Rose talked, Ella listened and nodded along)  while having diarrhea in a hollow bucket without blinking an eye. And not the quiet kind either! The machine gun kind! Pedro, who had been mopping in the hall at the time, yelled about having “Vietnam flashbacks” from the other side of the curtain. Whatever that meant. 

 

Now though Ella seemed hyper aware of her actions and surroundings. Now that she was out in the real world, she had a sinking suspicion this was far from normal. That she was far from normal. She tried to think back to before she had been sick. Did she know anyone in diapers Not past the age of three. Why else would the doctor try to force her to use the toilet so much? She wanted to be normal damn it! 

 

She gave a not so subtle squirm. The running water was really getting to her now. She decided she’d hold it until she was alone in the bedroom. She’d just pee in the pull up, clean up any leaks and change herself then. At least that was what she had planned, but Heather seemed to have zero’d in on her current state.

 

“Do you need to go potty?” Ella inwardly cringed. Baby talk made her agitated. It wasn’t that she was being treated younger. She didn’t mind that. She was even kind of a sucker for it in the right circumstances. Did she want a lollipop after getting a shot? Damn straight she did. A sticker? Why the hell not? A bedtime story after a really long day to soothe her to sleep? Yes please! 

What she despised was being talked to like she was… slow. Just because she didn’t talk didn’t mean she didn’t understand. She found it insulting so she pretended not to have heard her. 

 

“Or are you wet?” Heather went on. Ella chose to stare ahead, grimacing as she felt Heather pull away the sheet and check for herself. “A little damp.” Ella squirmed again, moving away. “Potty, definitely.”   She stood up and offered a hand to Ella. 

 

“It’s full!” Danielle yelled from down the hallway.

“Ok, thanks!” Heather yelled back. “Be there a minute! Just need to do something first!” Ella wrapped herself back in the sheet and allowed herself to get guided out to the hallway. The bathroom was to the right and she was getting ready to dig her heels in, but Heather guided her to the left and back into the bedroom. Once they were there Heather closed the door behind them. Ella shifted from foot to foot, no longer able to hide the effect of the copious amounts of fluids she had drank. She was ready to pee in the pull up whether Heather saw or not. She seemed to have read her mind. “I know you need to go, but hold on just a minute longer. I need to know if this will work.” Ella crossed her legs and shuffled from foot to foot as Heather bent down behind the bed. 

 

“Ta-da!” Heather set the white bucket and seat down in the center of the room. “What you’re used to is a bit out of our price for something temporary. Until we can get to the bottom of all this, hopefully this will work for the time being?” Ella nodded her approval. She looked from it back to Heather pleading. Heather took a few steps back and sat on Danielle’s bed. “Go on, show me you can use it.” 

 

Ella lunged forward, her previous anxieties about being thought of as slow now unimportant in her current state. She struggled with the pull up, but Heather reached forward and ripped it off in one swift motion. She threw herself down on the seat just in time. The feeling of relief was pure bliss. She didn’t have to let it out in small spurts, or worry about accidents or leaks. She could sit here and pee as much as she needed and it felt heavenly.

 

“Were you able to go?” Heather asked. She sounded worried. Ella realised what was missing as a horrible thought crossed her mind. What if she was missing the bucket and peeing on the floor? She looked down between her legs to investigate the lack of sound, but was relieved to see her stream merely hitting the inside of the bucket and quietly flowing down. She re-adjusted herself and spread her legs a little more so it drummed noisily against the bottom of the bucket until she was finished. 

 

“We are one step in the right direction!” Heather cheered. Elle wiped herself before standing back up. Suddenly she was met with a ferocious hug. “You did it! Good job! We will work our way up from here and hopefully we can get you enrolled back in school in the fall!” Ella watched Heather pick up the bucket and move it back behind the head board. Ella then noticed her bed was now closer to the door by several feet to make room. “It’ll be here for you whenever you need it. You don’t need to wait for anyone, or ask anyone. We’ll keep it here behind your bed so you can have some privacy. In a few days when things have settled down and you’ve gotten more used to your surroundings we’ll try for the bathroom again, okay?” 

 

Ella doubted a few days would make much of a difference, but she just nodded along. 

 

“Now, you know what will make you feel even better?” Heather asked with a smile. “A bath!”

 

And that was how Isabella Marsh became known to the neighbors as the infamous Chicken Pox Streaker of Cedar Circle. It was about to be a long summer. 

Edited by SashaButters (see edit history)

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1 hour ago, mikutothe3rd said:

Lovely chapter, but is there any way you can change the text so it's readable on nightime mode?

I've been trying, but it keeps coming out as black. 

 

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Chapter 11


 

Heather sat staring at her laptop screen. She had been staring at it for the last few minutes unsure of how to even begin to respond to the email. It was from Rose checking in on how Ella was settling in, not from her work email, but from her personal one. 


 

Hi, Rose


 

It’s been good. We are slowly making progress. I can’t believe it’s already been a month! 

 

We’ve gotten her set up with Kaiser and it’s been going much smoother than in the beginning. My insurance was a nightmare and had us running all over town trying to see this specialist and that specialist. Now she has a team of doctors in one place and they are much more accommodating to her specific needs. She’s been going to speech therapy twice a week and we run through our vocal exercises every day. It’s slow going. It’s almost like she has to physically strain to get any kind of noise or words out. They’ve checked her throat for any kind of damage but haven’t found anything. 

 

The neurologist says he’s concerned she may have suffered some kind of TBI incident, so we are waiting on an MRI. The CT scan came back negative, but after a series of tests the doctor says she is showing lower cognitive functioning in the left hemisphere. We are working on basic addition, but she is struggling to understand. She seems to be at a first grade level. He seems confident enough that if there was an injury, it didn’t cause any permanent damage. It is simply a matter of her relearning. 

 

Besides the speech therapist and neurologist, she has also been seeing a child psychologist once a week, and a psychiatrist every other. She’s been on an anti-anxiety medication, and it seems to be helping. She no longer bites and claws, but the panic attacks have yet to fully subside. The doctor wants to give it more time until she adjusts the dosage. Danielle says she is still having nightmares and thrashing in the night, but Ella still refuses to tell us what they’re about. She  insists she doesn’t know, but I have a feeling she isn’t being completely honest about it. The psychologist says she is very sensitive, especially to what is going on around her. She picks up on any tension in the house like a magnet.

 

Getting her to use the restroom has still been a battle, but we’ve made some progress here and there with a lot of coaxing and a little bribery. She mostly still uses the bucket though. Her daytime accidents have been reduced to only once or twice a week, and mostly when we have been out and about. She did have one major blowout at home, and that was when Danielle had had friends over in her room. It hadn’t crossed my mind to move the bucket into a different part of the house, and Ella isn’t very forthcoming about when she needs something. I don’t think she had meant to do it on purpose. I think she had tried to wait until they left, but they never did. I found her crying in the laundry room huddled in the corner. I ended up having to hose her down in the backyard. 

 

Hygiene has been more of a hurdle than anything so far. I knew you told me her issue wasn’t limited to just the toilet, but it hadn’t really clicked until the first time I tried to get her to take a bath. She took off streaking out the front door. She made quite the first impression on the neighbors. “”Hello, Mr. Bryant, but have you by any chance seen a naked girl run past here?” wasn’t how I had planned to share the good news of our families latest addition. I wish I could say that was the only time that happened. Our next door neighbor thinks we adopted an exhibitionist and I’m starting to think she’s right. 

There’s conversations I never thought I’d have to have with a ten year old. Things like, “I know it’s hot honey, put please keep your clothes on in public.” and “No, you can’t pee in the grass; you need to wait until we get home or use your pull up if it’s an emergency.” She’s usually good about making it home in time, unless it was a rough day. She seems to be more prone to accidents under stress. She’s doing well, but they’re still a little too frequent for me to be comfortable letting her leave the house without them. Despite one of the doctors concerns, we’ve decided to keep her in pull ups for the time being. She hates using them, so I know when she’s wet, it truly was an accident. 

 

Except for two times, Heather thought. The first was when Heather and the girls had had many errands to run that day, but they were only at their second stop when Ella had begun doing the dance. They still had to go to the grocery store, the bank, and the Verizon store. They were thirty minute drive from home and Heather couldn’t justify turning back around. It was still her first couple weeks home and Ella was having a rough start. She was still dead set again setting foot inside a restroom, and Heather knew she’d never make it all day. While she had packed spare clothes and pull ups, changing her was going to be another story. The car was too full, and the parking lot was out; she was still trying to break her habit of public nudity and didn’t want to send mixed messages. The answer came when she saw the dressing rooms.

 

“Danielle, you can go look at the books if you want while we finish up.” Heather suggested. Her eldest daughter wasted no time making a beeline as far away from them as possible. 

“There’s something I saw that I thought would look cute on you.” Heather said. She picked up a child sized shirt off the rack without bothering to look at it and guided her into a stall before locking the door behind them. 

 

Pants off.” Heather said. Ella looked at the shirt in her hand in confusion, before Heather hung it up and unzipped the bag. Ella shook her head when she saw what was inside.

 

I didn’t! Ella mouthed silently before dropping her pants to reveal the dry pull up underneath.

 

“You need to though.” Heather said, dropping her voice to a whisper. It wasn’t a question. “I’m giving you a pass just this once. I know you can’t hold it until we get back home, and I don’t know if we’ll have another opportunity to change you until then. You can either be miserable all day, or you can get it over with now.” Ella looked down at her feet, something Heather noticed she did when she was embarrassed, and continued her dance. 

 

I don’t have to go.


 

“You have thirty seconds to decide if that’s your final answer.” Heather said before she started her countdown. It only took fifteen seconds for Ella to begin waving her arms to stop the countdown. “Oh, what’s that?” Heather whispered, a sly smile on her face at a quick victory. “You do have to go?” 

 

Ella slowly nodded and looked away. Heather knew she should be thankful Ella wasn’t as brazen with what came out of her body as she was with her body itself, but she couldn’t help wish Ella would just come out and admit what she needed to do and when. She wondered if that would be asking too much too soon.  Beggars can’t be choosers.


 

I’m sorry. 

 

“Are you sorry that you lied, or sorry that you have to pee?”

 

Both.

“You don’t need to be sorry that you have to pee, that’s normal and healthy. Everyone pees. What matters is time and place. That’s why I want you to tell me so I can find you the right time and place. Trust me, everyone tries to time it so they won’t have to go when they’re out and about, but our bodies don’t always work that way. I know you went before you left and that’s what matters. It’s okay you have to go again, it means you’re doing what I asked of you and drinking water.”

 

Ella nodded her head, but continued moving in place. But you said not to. 

 

“I know I said not to use it on purpose, but right now just this once, it’s okay.”

 

Why? 

 

“Because it’s more convenient for both of us if you do.”


 

But…

 

“Ella,” Heather said, gripping her shoulders. “Now or never.” Ella grimaced, before burying her head against Heather's stomach as if to hide. “There you go, that’s it.” Heather whispered encouragingly as she made sure Ella’s waist was far enough away from her. Ella may have a change of clothes, but she did not. 

 

It only took a few more seconds of coaxing until Heather could hear Ella’s breath hitch followed by a faint hisssss. She gave her back a few reassuring rubs to keep her from crying and waited for her to finish. When all had gone quiet and Ella still hadn’t moved, Heather looked down to survey the damage. Other than a few droplets coasting down her legs, it had held up.

 

“That wasn’t so bad. Don’t you feel better?” 

 

When she had offered the trash bag, and Ella had still made no move to clean herself, Heather took the initiative and pulled off the sodden garment. The ripping noise seemed to have awakened her out of her trance and brought her back to reality. Instead of handing her the wet wipe, Heather finished wiping her down front and back. When she had grabbed a new pull up and looked back up, she was dismayed to see a new trickle running down her leg. 

 

“Ella!” Heather whispered, while wiping her leg again. “Did you not finish all the way?” Ella shrugged. Heather hurriedly stuffed the used pull up and wipes into the bag. “What about now?” She shrugged again. “Please don’t be a UTI.” Heather mumbled. “Squat.” She ordered before pressing the half full bag of dirty accessories underneath her. “See if you can get anymore pee to come out, push a little if you need to.” Heather inwardly groaned when she heard a few seconds of trickling liquid fall onto the wet wipes in the bag. “Just one thing after another with you, isn’t it? Poor kid.” 

 

Another trip to the doctor and another round of medication forced them to confront the bath problem. When Heather had tried to take them to the pool only for Ella to refuse to get anywhere near the water, Heather thought for sure she knew what the problem was. Ella wasn’t  afraid of restrooms. She was afraid of water! She was almost positive… until the very next day she walked in the backyard to find Ella and Danielle having a grand time running through the sprinklers and spraying each other with the garden hose. She stood there beaming up at Heather, water dripping from her clothes and hair.  Heather sighed in defeat before returning into the house to fetch a bottle of body wash and a loofah.  “Garden hose baths and a bucket for a toilet. She just wants CPS called on me.” 

 

She looked fondly at the framed picture of her two girls. One butt naked covered head to toe in bubbles while the other chased her with the garden hose. She smiled at the memory. 

 

The second time Heather had given her permission had been a few days ago at the movies. With thirty minutes left, her squirming and shuffling about was beginning to annoy the other patrons seated around her. When Heather had locked eyes with a mom who had flashed her a dirty look, she leaned close to Ella’s ear and whispered, “Just go in the pull-up.” With eyes still fixed to the screen, Ella uncrossed her legs and leaned back in her chair, a look of relief and contentment spreading across her face. 

 

I’ve got Ella enrolled in a special sort of school for kids with special needs. It’s a small class size and they offer more one on one attention. She starts tomorrow, I’m nervous for her. I hear there’s another girl her age there named Kaylee with some kind of neurological disorder. They didn’t say what, but I hope they get along. I tried to get her enrolled in regular public school, but their program couldn’t meet the attention she would need, or understand her non verbal cues. 

 

You know, now that I’ve got you here, I was hoping you could send me any information on her past, or even how I could get ahold of the police report of how they found her? I’m a little unsure of the exact details, but I thought you had said something about her being found in the bathroom. It got me thinking, what if she had been left in the bathtub? I thought maybe she was afraid of water, but then I found her playing in the garden hose. Now I’m not sure anymore. Just a theory I wanted to dig a little further on. Anything helps!

 

P.s. Was she always prone to streaking? I swear every time I turn around she’s naked. 

 

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

 

Ella sat upright in her booster seat, jiggling her legs with excitement and nerves. It had been years since she had gone to school. She smoothed her skirt down, hoping it concealed the pull-up well enough underneath. She had wanted to go without them, but Heather wouldn’t let her. 

“Let’s see how you do first.” she said. “This isn’t like a regular school where I needed you 100% independent and out of diapers. There’s people here who can help you if you’re too scared to go alone or have an accident.”

 

Ella scowled. She wasn’t in diapers. And she could go to the restroom now. Sort of. Sometimes. With help… When there was no other option.

 

“Lets go over your vocals one more time.” Heather said from behind the wheel. “Ahhh.”

 

“Ahhh,” Ella repeated quietly. 

 

“A little louder.”

 

“Ahhh!” 

 

“I-”

 

“Iiiii”

 

“Keep holding it.”

 

“iiiii” 

 

“As long as you can.”

 

“Iiii.” Ella chanted until she couldn’t anymore. 

 

They followed through various notes until they pulled up in front of the school. Ella held Heather's hand as they walked inside, her heart now hammering with excitement. They walked towards the front office until they came to a locked door. Heather pressed the intercom button and announced Ella was here for school. 

 

A lightly brown skinned woman with black hair and glasses opened the door to greet them.

 

“You must be Isabella!” the woman said smiling down at her. “Hi sweetie, are you ready for your first day?” 

 

Ella nodded shyly and clung tighter to Heather. The woman, who introduced herself as Mrs. Hernandez, exchanged details, but Ella wasn’t listening. She was focused on what was behind her new teacher. A young man in his early twenties was pushing a teenager in a wheelchair down the hall and into an elevator. The teenagers' face seemed a bit different. She knew what it was, but couldn’t quite remember what it was called. She had met a girl who looked like that before. She thought it might be called Drowned Syndrome, but had a feeling it wasn’t quite right. 

 

She was always so happy, Ella remembered from her time in the hospital. Her name was Dawn. She was fifteen, and made it a point to tell everyone they were pretty, even Ella with her bald head, and complexion so pale she looked mostly dead already.  She hadn’t realized how much she had liked Dawn until she learned she had died from complications from the flu that had made them all sick that December.

 

“You ready?” Mrs. Hernandez asked before offering her hand. Ella nodded before turning back to Heather.

 

“You’ll do fine. “ Heather said. She knelt down and gave Ella a hug. “You have fun. I love you.”

 

Ella quietly croaked, “I love you too,” that sounded more like “I rum eww.” 

 

She took Mrs. Hernandez’s outstretched hand as they walked inside, up a flight of stairs and went inside a door to the left. The room looked a bit different from any classroom that Ella had been in before. Instead of twenty to thirty desks, there were only eight. Two sets of three desks, and one of two. Ella was led to a set of three and set next to a girl who appeared to be around her age, but much larger. 

 

“This is Kaylee. Kaylee, this is Ella. You two are going to be partners. Your aide, Jasmine, should be here any minute. I’ll take your backpack, how about you take a seat and get to know one another, while I get everyone situated.”

 

Ella nodded and took a seat next to the brunette girl, who appeared to be reading a book. She looked up briefly and Ella gave her a shy smile, but Ella’s smile quickly fell into a look of shock and hurt when Kaylee glanced her over before telling her to “Fuck off.” 


 

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

 

“Hello?” Heather said into her cell phone as she pulled into the driveway in front of her house.

“Hi, this is Dr. Patton, Ella’s neurologist. I was giving you a call to go over the results of Ella’s MRI.”

 

“Yes, thank you for calling!” Heather said, sounding eager. She had been waiting to hear back with mixed feelings of apprehension and curiosity.


 

“So I did notice a small spot on Ella’s scan that does indicate some sort of minor brain damage in the past. The good news is that I compared it to an earlier scan and it does appear to be healing.”

 

“Brain damage? What? When?..How? If she had already had an MRI before wouldn’t they have noticed?”

 

“It is minor, but it might explain why she’d fallen behind, or regressed in some of her milestones. I’m going to give my best educated guess and say this happened maybe two to four years ago. It doesn’t seem related to her radiation treatment. I’m not 100% certain on the cause, but it could have been caused by either oxygen deprivation, or a fall. She could have easily fallen during treatment and hit her head on something. That’s my best speculation. The good news is that she can recover from this, it’s just going to take time. The best course of action would be to continue with the speech therapy and specialized learning until she catches back up.”


 

Heather sat stunned for a moment as his words played over in her mind. Oxygen deprivation… She thought of her earlier theory. There was something there, she was almost certain of it…

 

“When you say oxygen deprivation, is it possible that maybe she almost drowned?” 

 

“Uh, yes, that is a possibility actually. Why do you ask? Is there an event that comes to mind?”

 

“Well, when her biological mom committed suicide and Ella was found alone in the bathroom, I’m wondering if at the time Ella had been taking a bath. Maybe she had expected her mom to come back and get her, but had fallen asleep when she hadn’t and went under for a bit.” 

 

“Oh wow, I didn’t know, that’s tough. It’s definitely a possibility, but I think it’s more likely she hit her head. The simplest answer is usually the correct one. Either way, give her time and you should begin to see improvement. “ 

 

“Okay, thank you for calling.” Heather said before hanging up. Simplest answer my ass, she thought. The pieces to the puzzle were almost there, and she was going to get to the bottom of it.

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5 hours ago, ju48 said:

Your writing is amazing as ever Sasha, keep up the good work! (at your own pace of course)

Thank you ^^ I really should get back to it. It's not like I have anything else to do during the pandemic. 

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On 8/6/2020 at 11:18 PM, mikutothe3rd said:

Late to the party but this is coming along quite nicely. I love it.

Thanks! ^^

Ella sat motionless, too stunned to think of a reply, verbal or otherwise. She didn’t think she had ever been told to “fuck off” before. She wasn’t even entirely sure what “fuck” meant, but knew it wasn’t something you said when meeting someone for the first time. Ella turned and stared straight ahead at the empty desk that sat directly in the middle facing theirs. She could feel hot tears begin to prickle the backs of her eyelids as she fought to restrain them. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all.

 

“Eat shit, you little bitch!” Ella heard come from beside her, followed by a noise that resembled the revving of a motorcycle engine.

 

Ella blinked and tried to clear her vision, but now tears were streaming down her cheeks. What had she done to this girl she had met only five seconds ago?

 

“Oh great,” a male voice said from across the room. “She’s in this class too!” She could hear the sarcasm dripping from his words. Ella turned around to see who he was talking about, only to realize he was looking directly at her! He was a few years older than her, maybe thirteen or fourteen and much larger by comparison.

 

Kaylee threw her head back and let out a loud exaggerated, “HA HA HA HA!” before sticking her tongue out.

 

Ella let out a choked sob before burying her head in her arms on top of the desk. She didn’t understand! She wanted to go back home! This had been a mistake.

 

“Hey, wake up, sleepy head.” a new voice said. Ella jumped when she felt a hand touch her back. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to scare y- Oh honey, what’s wrong?” a woman asked when she saw her tear streaked face. Ella shook her head and wiped her face with the back of her hand.

 

“Go home!” Kaylee shouted, making Ella dissolve into fresh tears.

 

“Will you tell me what’s wrong?” the woman asked. Ella shook her head. “Did you have an accident?” Ella shook her head harder this time feeling mortified. “No? Did someone say something to you that upset you?” Ella sniffed and nodded her head. “Who? What happened?” After several seconds of gentle coaxing, Ella hesitantly pointed next to her.

 

“Weiners are for hopscotch and tapioca pudding!” Kaylee yelled.

 

The woman looked from Ella to Kaylee and back to Ella before a light of understanding flickered in her eyes. “Oh, honey, no. I’m sure whatever Kaylee said had nothing to do with you.” Ella looked at her doubtfully. How would she know? She hadn’t been there! “Right, Kaylee?”

 

“Huh?” The other girl asked, glancing up from her book.

 

“Why don’t you share a little about yourself?”

 

Kaylee grimaced and shook her head back and forth a few times before raising her hand like she had a question. She let out an annoyed sigh as if she’d had to do this a hundred times in the past. Eventually she mumbled something unintelligible that sounded like, “I have turnips.”

 

Ella looked at her puzzled before looking back to the woman for clarification.

“Kaylee, do you mind if I explain? I think it will make her feel better.” Ella doubted it, but let her go on.

 

“Your butt smells like spearmint gum!” Kaylee said before looking away embarrassed. “Fine.”

 

“Do you know what Tourette Syndrome is?” Ella shook her head. “It’s a neurological condition where her brain tells her body to move and speak on its own. We call them her “tics’. Most of what she blurts out doesn’t make much sense since they’re just words at random, but sometimes the words are arranged in a way that sounds like she's calling people names when really she’s not.”

 

“I think,” Kaylee said with a pause sounding a little guilty, “I might have said f- off, or something like it earlier.”

 

“Kaylee!” the woman said, sounding exasperated. “Why didn’t you explain then? Is that what upset you?” She asked, turning back to Ella. Ella slowly nodded her head.

 

“What? I didn’t mean it!”

 

“I know you didn’t, but she didn’t know that.”

 
 

“Sorry,” Kaylee mumbled before throwing her head back again and barking.

 

“Sweetie, it’s okay. I think I understand what upset you.” She crouched down in front of Ella and handed her a tissue. “Can I give you a hug?” Ella nodded and accepted the embrace.

The woman then sat down in the chair across from them and introduced herself. “My name is Jasmine, and I’m going to be working with you two. I’m here to help you with anything you might need, whether it’s with classwork or any special assistance with-”

 

“CHANGE MY DIAPER!” Kaylee shouted, making Ella jump. She glanced over to find the girl with her hands over her mouth, eyes wide and face growing crimson. She could hear the boy from earlier snickering and even Jasmine had a sympathetic smile.

 

“For some students, yes, if that’s the kind of help they needed.” Jasmine said. She met Ella’s eyes and gave her a wink. Now it was Ella’s turn to blush.

 

Jasmine pulled a folder out of her bag and looked over it. “Same address, let’s see, anything new that needs addressing...”

 

“Don’t mind her, she talks to herself a lot.” Kaylee whispered. Ella gave her a weak smile. “Sorry about earlier…” Kaylee mumbled. “I really wasn’t telling you to fuck off.”

 

“Language!” Jasmine warned without looking up.

 

“Oh, what’s the point?” Kaylee groaned.

 

“The point is none of the other kids are allowed to swear. We understand if it’s a tic and you can’t help it, but that doesn’t mean you get to swear like a sailor whenever you want.” Jasmine said. “We talked about this last year, remember. We don’t want another repeat of you and Brian.”

 

“Ugh, Brian.” Kaylee grumbled. “How’d we end up in the same class again?”

 

“Because you’re both mid-level and we don’t have enough kids for a second mid level class. He’s on the complete opposite side of the room, he won’t bother you.”

 

“He’s already complaining I'm here.” she grumbled. Ella felt a little better when she realized the guy hadn’t been looking at her, but at Kaylee. She wondered what had happened between them to make them each mad at the other's presence.

 

“Looks the same as last year,” Jasmine said, putting down the file. “Any new issues we need addressing, Kaylee?”

 

“No.”

 

“Any behavioral issues we need to talk about?” Jasmine gave her a coy smile while Kaylee sunk a little lower in her seat.

 

“No.”

 

“So you won’t cause me any problems this year? No throwing things at the aids you don’t like? No more Tic-O-grams?”

 

“They were tics!” Kaylee said defensively. “Most of them.” she grumbled quietly under her breath when Jasmine gave her a disbelieving stare.

 

“So I will not be hearing you call Mrs. Garcia a ‘Fat Heartless Bitch’ and ‘Queen of Ogres’ or whatever unoriginal thing the other kids come up with everytime she walks past you? And I will DEFINITELY not find other students slipping you dollar bills in your desk in return for such phrases ‘accidentally’ slipping out of your mouth?” She asked, throwing up air quotes around “accidentally.”

 

“No,” Kaylee grumbled, before throwing in a, “I’ll do it for free.”

 

“Kaylee!”

 

“I’m kidding!” Kaylee said smiling innocently. A look of sudden pain crossed her face before her neck craned hard to the left and she let out a loud “MRS. GARCIA IS A SLIMY BALL OF POTATO SALAD, DICK SHAPED, POPSICLE STICKS!”

 

The handful of kids present erupted in a fit of giggles. Ella could even see Mrs. Hernandez up front clamping down on her knuckle in order to stifle a snort of laughter. The only one who didn’t seem amused was a blond lady in the back glaring daggers in their direction. Ella took that to mean she was the infamous Mrs. Garcia.

 

Ella turned back around in her seat to find Kaylee slumped in her seat staring wide eyed at Jasmine. “That… that really was a tic! I swear!”

 

Jasmine studied her face for a second before letting out a sigh. “I know. Only your brain could come up with something like that.” she said before smiling.

 

Jasmine picked up another folder and read it. “Now who do we have here…Isabella Marsh.” she clicked her tongue as she read occasionally muttering to herself. “Wow, you’ve been through a lot these last few years. Ten years old, mostly non-verbal, please encourage speaking when possible.” She scrolled down the page until she saw a small hand written note at the bottom.

 

Student has severe anxiety. Please encourage and accompany to restroom during breaks. May try to run. Parental Consent form has been signed for cleaning and changes as needed.

 

“Hello, Isabella, it’s very nice to me-”

 

“Are you really ten?” Kaylee interrupted. “You look a lot smaller than ten.”

Ella shrugged and nodded her head

 

“You look like Tony, he’s in first grade.”

 

“Kaylee,” Jasmine warned.

 

“Sorry.” she mumbled back before craning her neck and shouting, “Elephants!”

 

“Would you like a tour, Isabella?” She cocked her head to the side as Ella mouthed something to her. “I’m sorry? Can you repeat that?” She bent her head down lower.

 

“La.”

 

“La?”

 

Ella shook her head. “El.” she paused for a breath. “La.”

 

“El la?” She nodded her head. “Oh, your name is Ella?” She nodded her head again. “Well alright then, Ella, would you like me to show you around?” After another nod, they stood up.

 

“Kaylee, why don’t you stay here and read? You already know where everything is.”

 

“Eat shit, Santa!” Kaylee said, before shrugging and picking up her book.

 

“What did Santa ever do to you?” Brian called back. “Did he not leave you the special helmet

 

under the tree that keeps you from licking windows?”

 

“Eat shit, Brian!”

 

“Both of you knock it off!” Mrs. Hernandez said. “Do you want to lose your recess on your first day back?”

 

“But he-” Kaylee started.

 

“Or would you rather have detention with Mrs. Garcia? I’m sure she’s missed both of you very much.” That seemed to silence them.

 

“It was one time.” Kaylee mumbled into her book.

 

Jasmine guided her around pointing out various things in the room. There were several pairs of noise cancelling headphones sitting on chargers that she could come grab whenever in case she ever got overstimulated. “We try to cater to each student's unique needs. We have had kids who, when stressed, can’t handle very much external stimulation. Kaylee’s condition isn’t always helpful, not that we have them because of her mind you, but if she does ever get to be too much you can always come grab a pair. We try to avoid meltdowns whenever possible. We also have PlayDough for those who feel they need to be doing something with their hands.”

 

“After lunch is twenty minutes of quiet time where we turn off all the lights. You can color, draw, rest your head on your desk. Whatever you want as long as you're being quiet. Over here we have a library where you can pick out something to read. We have books and magazines for all reading levels.”

 

Ella followed her around examining all the things she was shown. She was especially interested in the headphones. She wished she could take some home for when Danielle and Heather were going at it. Next she was led out a door onto a balcony that overlooked a playground with sand. She loved the feeling of sand running through her fingers. She was already looking forward to recess when she could go play in it.

 

After Jasmine finished showing her the outside area, they went back inside where she was led to another set of doors. “Here’s the bathroom. You are free to use it whenever you’d like.” Ella instinctively took a few steps back when the door was opened, as if to narrowly avoid the clutches of some unknown monster lurking inside. Jasmine shut the door without a word, and opened the second. Ella cautiously peeked inside and relaxed. It reminded her of the locker room at the gym they went to.

 

Heather had been thinking of joining a gym, so she had taken Danielle and Ella with her on the tour to see what they had thought of the place. Heather wanted to lose weight, Danielle needed to stay active for soccer and Ella had been told she needed to do light exercises to build her strength back up. So off they had gone to their local Planet Fitness just to check it out. Ella had lost interest a few minutes in as they walked along the rows of treadmills and exercise bikes. She hadn’t been paying attention when the female tour guide began leading them down a hallway. Ella looked up in time to see a fork in the path. To the left hung a sign that said, “Women’s Restroom,” and to the right, “Women’s Locker Room.”

 

Ella had hung back as Heather and Danielle poked their heads around and checked out the restroom, but had followed them to the right out of curiosity. She had never seen a locker room before. She wandered around the tiled room, in between the benches and looked at all the different stickers and locks on all the different metal cages. She could feel Heather’s eyes on her as they walked into the shower room.

 

“Yes, individual shower stalls! I was afraid it was going to be a room full of naked people like at the water park.” Danielle said. Heather hadn’t replied, her eyes were still trained on Ella as she peeked behind a door to check it out.

 

“Ella, does it bother you being in here?” Heather asked. Ella shook her head. It really hadn’t. She didn’t feel that chest crushing anxiety at all. That was all it took for Heather to sign them all up. From then on Heather had taken her every evening. Usually to work out, but sometimes just to have Ella take a shower. Heather had been ecstatic, stumped, but ecstatic. Ella didn’t see what the big deal was. She had liked bathing under the garden hose.

 

Ella walked in with Jasmine, who closed the door behind her while Ella examined the cabinets and lockers. She noticed one of the lockers had her name on it, so she opened it to find a change of clothes and a few pull ups inside.

 

“This is the changing room.” Jasmine said. “From time to time we do get kids who need more… personal care than others, and that’s okay.” Ella bit her lip and eyed the bed on the edge of the wall. It was like a bed in the nurse's office with paper covering the top. “And this room is also…” She turned a knob and a stream of water came crashing onto the tiled floor from a shower head Ella hadn’t noticed. She watched the water flow down the drain in a corner. “The floors are a little slanted, so be careful when walking in here.” Jasmine said while removing the shower head nozzle to show her. “For when wet wipes just can’t do the trick.”

 

Ella shuffled from foot to foot wishing Jasmine would turn off the water. She hated the sound of running water, it always made her have to pee.

 

“And here,” Jasmine said after turning off the water and opening another door. “This room and the bathroom are connected.”

 

Ella looked, but couldn’t hide the fear that darkened her face. She knew her bucket wasn’t here, so she’d have to use the bathroom eventually. Heather had been trying desperately to wean her off of it. Yes, she could use the restroom, but only as a last ditch resort. She still had a habit of holding it until the very last second, and sometimes on bad days she couldn’t work up the courage in time and ended up having an accident.

 

The last week or so Heather had been even more pushy than usual about it. She had been getting Ella up at the crack of dawn and making her sit on the toilet before her brain had enough time to wake up and process what was happening. Ella insisted on leaving the door open a quarter of the way, and made either Heather or Danielle promise to stand guard by the door and protect her from whatever demon seemed to be lurking in the bathroom's shadows ready to pounce.

 

The mornings and early afternoons were the easiest, but as the day progressed the monster that lived in the small tiled room seemed to grow more and more powerful. In the evenings, it was all but impossible. The monster, as Ella referred to it as, physically restrained her outside the door and refused to let her in. On most nights, when Heather wanted her to try, her pants were soaked before she even took a step in. After being bitten one too many times, Heather just let her use the bucket after 6pm. Until then, it was locked away in Heather’s room.

 

Ella called it The Monster, but Heather knew it was just her anxiety. Danielle had taken to calling it Spicy Deja vu. No matter the name Heather, Danielle, and Rose all agreed on one thing. Something, most likely at night, had happened to Ella in a bathroom on the night of her mother’s death, and that memory was trying to resurface in the form of nightmares. Even the psychologist had failed in getting any information out of Ella as to the contents of her dreams, not through talking, writing, or pictures. Finally, she had suggested that Ella truly didn’t remember, and maybe this was one suppressed memory that needed to stay that way.

 

“Honey, did you hear what I asked?” Jasmine said. Ella shook her head. “I asked if you wanted to try going potty before class started. You’re awfully ancy. Your file says you sometimes need help, and that’s what I’m here for.”

 

Ella shook her head out of habit, only to realize she had been dancing in place. Damn it! She did have to go.

 

“How about you try for me anyway?” Jasmine asked, offering her hand. Ella let out a frustrated moan, but took her hand and let her guide her into the bathroom. “It’s okay, we’re almost there. Just a couple more steps. You can do it.’

 

Ella gave Jasmine’s hand a death grip as they walked toward the toilet.

 

“I’ll be right over here when you’re done.” Jasmine said, as she walked toward the other room.

 

“No!” Ella yelled, for her anyway.

 

“Okay, don’t worry, I won’t go anywhere.” Jasmine said, sounding surprised. When Ella made no move to undress, Jasmine offered her a hand. “Here, let me help you with your clothes.”

She swiftly pulled everything down to her thighs and Ella sat. And then...nothing happened. She could feel her chest tightening. She tried the breathing and relaxation techniques the psychologist taught her. Still nothing. She was too stressed and it was only getting worse.

“Are you all done?” Jasmine asked after a minute.

 

“Can’t. Go.”

 

Jasmine gave a sad frown. “Is your tummy upset?”

 

Ella shook her head again. “Can’t. Pee.”

 

“Did you have an accident?” She looked down at the pull up. “Nope, still dry.” Ella tried getting up, but Jasmine put a hand up to stop her. “Give it another minute, if you still can’t go we can always try later. Maybe it was just a false alarm.” Ella was starting to panic. She had reached her limit of being able to be in here.

 

“Up!” Ella begged.

 

“Okay, you tried. You did good, Ella. I know you’re sca-”

 

Ella bolted, barely getting her skirt back up before she burst through the door. She sucked in a lungful of air as she stopped to breathe by her desk. Relief flooded her body as the invisible hands of The Monster stopped squeezing her chest.

 

“Um...Jasmine.” Kaylee said, staring at Ella.

 

“Yeah, what’s up?” Jasmine peeked her head around the corner of the bathroom, clipboard in hand as she finished writing a note.

 

“Got a problem over here.”

 

“What kind of problem?” Jasmine asked heading over.

 

“A leaky problem.”

 

“Oh, Ella!’ Jasmine whispered laying a hand on her shoulder. “You tried.”

 

Ella choked out a sob. Tears were spilling from her eyes, and urine was streaming down her legs. She couldn’t stop peeing! She hadn’t gotten the pull up on right in her haste to get out. The moment she had stopped running The Monster had pulled the cork. She could feel all eyes on her, including a set belonging to the infamous Mrs. Garcia. Her lips were pulled back

in a disgusted snarl as she glared at her.

 

“That’s so gross!” Brian said.

 

Ella began to sob for real

 

“Shh. Shh. It’s okay. It’s okay.” Jasmine whispered. “C’mon, let's go back to the changing room and we can get you all cleaned up.”

 

Ella hadn’t remembered walking over, but the next thing she knew she was laying out half naked on the table, vaguely recalling Jasmine rinsing her lower half off with the shower head. She was now patting her legs dry with a towel as she tried to console her.

 

There was a knock and suddenly the door inched open. “How is she?” Mrs. Hernandez asked.

 

“Still pretty upset.”

 

“What happened? I thought her mom said she was in pull-ups.”

 

“She is, she just didn’t get them up all the way. She sat on the toilet for a bit, but she started panicking and bolted.”

 

“Her mom says she has some kind of PTSD related issues with bathrooms.”

 

“Huh, so what do you want to do? Should I give her another pull up?”

 

“Ella, do you think you’ll try and use the bathroom again today?” Mrs. Hernandez asked. Ella didn’t answer. “I think she’s had enough. Tape her. Give her the headphones and keep her lying down for fifteen minutes and see if she calms down. If she asks for the restroom later, take her, but give her the compression vest.”

 

“Okay,” Jasmine said before the door closed. Ella could hear cupboards being opened and closed. “I know you’re having a rough morning, but I’m going to try and help you feel better.”

 

More tears fell from her eyes when she felt her legs get lifted, but she didn’t fight it. This was her punishment. Jasmine was quick and gentle. Her hands moved as if she had done this 100 times before.

 

“We’re gonna take it nice as easy today, alright?” She had just taped up the sides when the door creaked open again and in walked Kaylee.

 

“Please give Ella some privacy and go back to your desk.”

 

“I came to see how my new friend was doing.” Kaylee said, ignoring Jasmine and pulling up the shower chair next to the bed.

 

“Friend?” Ella asked with a sniffle, not bothering to hide her current state of dress. She had hit her embarrassment limit already. There was no shame left to feel.

 

“Yeah! Brian got detention for his reaction earlier, and Garcia’s on her hands and knees scrubbing your pee out of the carpet. You’re my hero!”

 

“Kaylee! Out! Get out! You’re not supposed to be here!” Jasmine snapped. “Ella doesn’t need to hea-” she stopped, before shaking her head. Ella was curled in a ball, not crying, but laughing.

 

“Fine, you can stay until I get back, but then you’re going back to your desk and starting the Math packet.”

 

Kaylee watched her leave until she was out of ear shot.

 

“Remember that thing I yelled about Garcia being slimy potato salad, or whatever that was?” Ella nodded as Kaylee stuck her hand in her pocket and pulled out a few dollars. “Snacks from the vending machine on me!” Ella let out a snort of laughter.

 

“Anyway, don’t feel bad about what happened. If you couldn’t tell, we’re all a little messed up here.” She whispered, before letting out a loud. “FUCK!” Ella smiled. “Not me though, I’m totally normal. You guys are the weird ones. ASK ME ABOUT BREASTFEEDING PUPPIES FOR FUN AND PROFIT!”

 

“Okay, You and your unhealthy relationship with puppies need to head back to your desk.” Jasmine said, standing in the doorway holding a pair of headphones. Kaylee snickered and stood up, but not before pulling her pants an inch down from the waist and flashing Ella the band of a pull up.

 

“Tics,” she said with a shrug as if that explained everything. “Hey, remember that kid last year who got mad Garcia took away his Switch so he pooped on the rug?”

 

“OUT!”

 

“Legend!” Kaylee said before closing the door behind her.

 

“I swear that girl!” Jasmine said, shaking her head. “What she means is that we have all sorts of kids with all sorts of problems come through here. You are not the first and certainly won’t be the last to leave your mark on the rug out there. ”

 

Ella grimaced and made a mental note not to lay on the floor here.

 

“How are you doing? You look like you're doing better.” Ella shrugged. “Here, just close your eyes for a bit and listen to this. I’ll be back in a bit to see how you’re doing.” Jasmine slipped the headphones over her ears and pressed play on her phone. Ella closed her eyes as Jasmine flipped off the lights and listened to the nature sounds coming through.

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………

Ella sat at the dinner table later that night, absentmindedly chasing a meatball around her plate with a fork. As per usual, she had taken three bites and claimed she was full. This time she was though. She had filled up on candy and applesauce during lunch. Kaylee had gotten her a packet of Peanut Butter M&ms. She wasn’t used to eating that much candy at once and had been on a sugar high all afternoon. They didn’t get much classwork done either, especially when Kaylee had unexpectedly grabbed Ella’s head in her hands and given her a large lick up the side of her face.

 

The three of them had sat in stunned silence looking from one person to the other before Jasmine finally asked, “Kaylee...was...was that a tic?”

 

“Yeah.” she said quietly sinking low in her seat before all three of them had burst into laughter. Ella had jokingly pleaded with Jasmine to switch seats with her, but she had vehemently refused.

 

“No way, girlie, I ain’t sittin in the splash zone.”

 

“So, Ella, how was your first day of school? Do you like it? ” Heather asked.

 

It was awful at first, but it got better, she thought.

 

“Yes.” she said.

 

“You looked like you were having fun when I picked you up. Who was that you were playing with?”

 

“Kay. Lee.” She croaked. She took a sip of water and massaged her sore throat.

 

“You’re a little raspy tonight. Were you using your voice a lot today?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Oh good! I’m glad to hear! It’s good practice! The more you use your vocal cords the sooner your voice will come back. So Is Kaylee your friend?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I’m happy to hear that! You could use some friends!”

 

“Is yes all you can say?” Charlie asked with a grin.

 

“Yes.” Ella said back.

 

“Don’t encourage him, Ella.” Danielle said.

 

“So what did you learn? Math, Vocabulary?” he asked, poking a meatball with a fork.

 

“Words.” Ella said.

 

“Oh yeah? What kinds of new words?” Heather asked.

 

“Fuck.”

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