EDIT: Following feedback I'v re-done the ending of this first chapter. CTRL+F "Summer awoke to" to go straight to it. The original ending is in a post further down if you want to compare.
"These grades are abysmal," her father said. "I didn't raise a dullard. Do you expect your tutors to be pleased to find out you've wasted their time?"
"It's not what?" Father said, his lips curled into a sneer. "Not that the work was hard? Was it just laziness, then?"
"No!" she said. "Some girls in my class, they needed help-"
"Then next time you will deny them," Father snapped. "You have enough problems of your own without contributing to others' failure."
Summer closed her eyes and cried as her father's tirade continued. She begged, prayed to be somewhere, anywhere else.
Summer opened her eyes. Then blinked as nothing seemed immediately familiar.
Where am I? Summer asked herself.
She wasn't sure what had just happened. One moment her father was berating her for getting C's in school. The next she was someplace else entirely. Looking around she saw she was sitting on her knees on a carpet in front of a coffee table. A child's coloring book was open in front of her, overlarge crayons scattered around. A green one was in her hand. Further in front of her was a television. It was currently turned off. Reflected in the screen was the sofa directly behind Summer, as well as Summer herself.
What am I wearing? Summer thought. She looked down at herself. She needed to see it with her own eyes because the image reflected the screen was simply too absurd. Yet when she looked down she saw exactly the same thing that was in the reflection.
Seventeen year old Summer was wearing a pastel pink one piece dress. Its hem, sleeves, and collar were ruffled. It would've been adorable… on a preschooler or something. Which brought to mind what else she was wearing. Sitting on her knees she could tell the ruffly pink dress went barely halfway past her thighs. As a result, it was easy to see her underwear poking out. Her thick, white, padded underwear.
Why am I wearing a diaper? Summer thought.
Any further questions were interrupted by a woman entering the room. Summer immediately recognized the short black bob of her Aunt Jennifer, or "Aunt Jenn", as she had insisted on being called. Summer watched as her uncle's wife moved about the room, dusting the shelves. She paid Summer no mind, going about her task as if Summer were not even there.
Summer kept quiet, terrified of drawing attention to herself. She liked Aunt Jenn, she really did. Yet even knowing Aunt Jenn was one of the nicest people Summer had known her mind imagined the woman seeing her and demanding to know why Summer was sitting in her home dressed like a toddler.
Butterflies gathered in Summer's stomach as that image filled her mind. She found herself leaning forward to try ease the feeling. She heard a crinkling noise as she moved and realized it was the diaper wrapped around her. Aunt Jenn noticed, too. She looked directly at Summer when she heard the crinkle. Rather than the screaming tirade Summer had anticipated, Aunt Jenn smiled at her and finished her dusting without a word. Summer watched her aunt, wondering how she could take Summer's outlandish appearance in stride.
Summer tried to speak up, tried to tell Aunt Jenn this wasn't what it looked like. She opened her mouth, but no words came out. She couldn't bring herself to even make a sound as Aunt Jenn went back into the kitchen.
Summer's stomach had begun to feel better, so Summer straightened out of her hunched over pose and sat back down. That was when she felt something squish against her bottom half. Summer's face turned pale, then became completely red as she began to realize what a squishy sensation from a diaper had to mean. If she had any doubts, the odor that began to hit her nostrils took care of them.
When… when did that happen? Summer thought. The only thing she could think of was when she leaned forward moments before. She had just thought she was nervous. Apparently it had been more than that.
Now a sound did escape Summer. A soft sobbing as she began to cry. It wasn't loud, Summer had never been loud, so no one responded to her distress. Summer's self-pity was interrupted by the sound of a door opening and closing, followed by a voice calling out.
"I'm home!" it said, breaking Summer out of her daze. She looked up an saw a young girl walk in from the front hallway. She looked just like Summer's younger cousin Bailey, except she seemed an extra foot taller than Summer remembered. She also didn't recall her cousin wearing glasses. Judging by the bag slung over Bailey's shoulder, Summer assumed she had just returned home from school. At the sight of the bag, Summer let out an involuntary whimper. Bailey's head turned to look at Summer, her head tilting one side.
"What's wrong, Summer?" Bailey asked with clear concern.
She dropped her backpack and approached her crying, diapered, stinking cousin. Bailey's nose wrinkled as she noticed the last part. Then shook her head and sighed.
"Is that all it is?" Bailey ruffled Summer's hair and grinned at her. "You had me worried."
Bailey walked behind Summer and lifted the back of Summer's dress. Summer felt a tug and realized only then that Bailey was checking her diaper. She heard Bailey "tsk" after a moment.
"Mom!" Bailey yelled out. "Summer needs a diaper change!"
Summer thought she could not possibly be more mortified. Then she heard her aunt's reply.
"I know. I saw her in her pooping pose earlier," she called back from the kitchen. "Does it seem like she's done?"
"Pooping pose"? Summer thought. Her mind reeled at the implication. Was she referring to when Summer had been bent forward?
Bailey looked at Summer for a few seconds before answering.
"Well, her face is still red, but it looks like it," she called to the kitchen. "She might have a rash, though. She's been crying."
"Okay," Aunt Jenn called back. "Take her to the nursery and I'll change her when I'm done here."
"Alright!" Bailey replied. She took hold of Summer's left arm. "C'mon, Summer. Let's go to your room."
Bailey pulled on Summer's arm clearly trying to indicate the girl should stand up. Summer refused to move. She didn't so much fight as sit there as dead weight Bailey was not strong enough to move by force.
"We have to go upstairs so Mommy can change you," Bailey said as she tried to get the older girl to her feet. "Don't you want clean pants, Summer?"
Summer desperately wanted just that. She just as desperately wanted to avoid moving around in dirty pants. She could feel the mess in the diaper shift and squish just from Bailey's attempts to move her. She dreaded trying to walk, let alone go up a flight of stairs, with a messy diaper smushing every step of the way.
Fortunately, after a few more attempts to tug Summer to her feet, Bailey gave up.
"Mom! She won't move!"
Summer's aunt came back into the room and saw Summer right where she'd been last, Bailey still holding her arm.
"In that case," she told Bailey, "go upstairs, please, and bring her changing supplies here."
"'Kay." Bailey let go of Summer and got up to do as she was asked.
Summer's aunt knelt down in front of the girl and smiled.
"It's all right, Summer," she said soothingly. "Mommy and Sissie are going to get you out of those icky pants and into a clean diaper in just a little bitty bit."
She gave Summer a firm yet gentle push on her shoulder. Unlike Bailey, Aunt Jenn was strong enough to force her to move, so Summer soon found herself lying down on her left side. At that point Aunt Jenn took hold of Summer's legs, using them to help Summer turn onto her back. Summer whimpered as the motion shifted the mess around. Aunt Jenn whispered soothing nothings at her until Bailey came back down. With her head resting on the floor, Summer felt as much as heard her cousin's footsteps on the stairs and carpet as she returned.
"Perfect timing," Summer heard Aunt Jenn say. She then lifted Summer's legs until her bottom was off the floor. "Slip the pad under her, please."
Summer's dress was hiked up past her waist as she was lowered back down. She heard something besides her diaper crinkle. She moved her head to try and see and found a plastic changing pad had been placed under her.
"Do you want any help?" Bailey asked as her mother got everything Bailey had brought down organized to her liking.
"I can handle the dirty work," Aunt Jenn replied, patting the front of the diaper Summer wore as she said it. "Keep Summer occupied, though. She's really distressed about something. Some attention from her Sissie might help."
"Sure thing." Bailey sat down next to Summer's head.
"Hey, Summer," Bailey said in the sing-song people reserved for speaking to infants. "Look what I got!"
She held a rattle over Summer's head and shook it in front of her face. Summer found herself enthralled by the jangling of the rattle. So much so she was only vaguely aware of the sound of tapes being torn. She immediately noticed the rush of the house's air conditioning on her bottom half as the diaper was opened. She closed her eyes and shuddered a little at the sensation.
When the rattle stopped moving she looked at her cousin and saw her face scrunched up, clearly trying not to gag. Obviously the smell from the open diaper was getting to her. Summer couldn't help laughing at the expression on her face.
"You think that's funny, do you?" Bailey asked. She then started making faces at Summer, some with sounds. Summer started laughing as Bailey kept it up. Summer felt a hand grip her ankles as she started to kick.
"Sorry," Bailey told her mom.
"It's fine." Aunt Jenn pushed Summer's feet forward until her knees were at her chest.
"Hold her for a moment," Aunt Jenn instructed Bailey. Bailey took hold of Summer's ankles and held her legs in place. Summer couldn't see what was going on but yelped when something cold started moving across her lower body.
"It's weird…" Bailey said.
"What is?" Aunt Jenn asked.
"Summer's face. It's all red. It's not a sunburn and she isn't pooping anymore. It almost looks like she's blushing. Like she's embarrassed."
"That is odd," Aunt Jenn replied. "I honestly can't remember Summer being embarrassed during a diaper change."
Summer herself couldn't imagine not being embarrassed by a diaper change, since she didn't normally wear them at all in the first place, let alone need them changed. Obviously, her aunt and cousin thought differently. As far as they were concerned, she soiled herself often enough to earn a nickname for when it happened.
Summer wanted to tell them to stop. To stop wiping her rear end. To stop talking like she wasn't even there. To tell them that, yes, she was embarrassed at being stripped down in front of her younger cousin after soiling herself.
Say something! Summer screamed at herself. You're seventeen years old, for Heaven's sake, not seventeen months!
She said nothing. She did nothing. Summer laid there, with that younger cousin holding Summer's legs so her dirty bottom was on full display to her aunt. That aunt was cleaning her niece's most private areas like it was the most normal thing in the world.
"All clean!" Aunt Jenn announced. Bailey continued to hold Summer's legs. Summer heard more crinkling noises and only after they stopped did Bailey lower Summer's lower body back down to the floor. Summer felt her bottom rest on something soft. Before she could register the obvious, Aunt Jenn was already sprinkling powder on Summer's lower half. After that she took the front of the clean diaper and folded it over Summer's front.
Once it was secured, Aunt Jenn took Summer's hands and pulled her back up into a sitting position. Before standing up herself, she gave Summer a kiss on the forehead.
"All better now, huh?" she asked. She stood up before Summer could think of answering, revealing to Summer she was likely not expecting one.
"Do you have homework, Bailey?" she asked, turning her attention to her daughter.
"Just a little," Bailey said. "I'll have it done before dinner."
Aunt Jenn agreed to that and went back to whatever she'd been up to in the kitchen. Bailey didn't leave. Instead she got her backpack. Summer flinched when Bailey plopped it down next to the coffee table. Bailey sat on her knees on the carpet next to Summer and began working. Summer sat passively and watched as her cousin worked on math. It seemed more advanced than the fourth grade math she remembered taking. That was when she noticed one corner of the worksheet Bailey was using. On it was what looked like a teacher's name. Below it were the words "sixth grade."
"Sixth?" Summer asked out loud. Bailey looked up, then back down at her paper as she followed Summer's gaze.
"Yep, that's a six." Bailey smiled at Summer. "That's there to show I'm in sixth grade."
Summer stared, but said nothing further. Bailey went back to her work, leaving Summer to her thoughts.
Since when is Bailey in sixth grade? Summer thought. Then again, since when is Bailey suddenly a foot taller than she used to be? Since when did she wear glasses?
Summer began looking around the room more. This time she was looking for something specific. She saw a clock and a few digital displays on some of the electronics, but all of them only had the time. That alone wouldn't confirm what she had begun to suspect.
The kitchen! Summer thought. She stood up from the coffee table and began walking to the kitchen where her Aunt Jenn was currently cleaning the counter tops. Summer winced as she heard the diaper crinkle with her every motion. Bailey watched for a moment then went back to her schoolwork. In the kitchen, Summer looked around, trying to find what she was after.
There, Summer found a calendar on the wall next to the pantry. On the bottom was the month and various little notes written in, such as Summer herself having a doctor appointment on the sixteenth. On the top page, mixed in with a picture of frolicking puppies, was a four digit number. Summer looked at the last digit and began to panic.
Two years? she thought. The calendar's year was two years ahead of what she could last remember. She had been right, there was a gap. A gap of two years. Two years in which her cousin had hit at least one growth spurt and entered the tail end of elementary school. Two years during which she had been prescribed glasses. Two years during which Summer had become an overgrown baby.
Summer tried to remember anything she could from before today. Everything was hazy at best. She could remember Mommy-no, Aunt Jenn singing to her. Bailey playing with her. Daddy… no, Uncle Henry managing to carry her. None of the memories were clear. Rather they were apparently things that happened enough she could remember them through sheer frequency. The first memory she could recall with any clarity involved her father.
As the memory of his scowling face entered Summer's mind, she squatted into a fetal position, burying her head in her legs and starting to sob.
"Summer?!" Summer heard her aunt's voice as if it were far away. She didn't even notice the woman bend over and wrap her arms around the girl.
"I'll do better, Daddy," Summer moaned.
"You always say that," she heard her father's voice answer, "and you always fail to keep your word. You often do worse than before. Does that make you an idiot, a liar, or both?"
Summer sobbed loudly. Instinctively leaning into Aunt Jenn's embrace.
"I'll do better!" she sobbed.
"It's all right, sweetheart. Everything's all right." Soothed by her aunt's voice, Summer gradually quieted down.
"Mom, is Summer okay?" Bailey asked from the kitchen doorway.
"I think she had some kind of flashback," Aunt Jenn explained. She helped Summer to her feet and helped her into the living room. She laid Summer down in on a blanket on the floor. She went back to the kitchen, leaving Bailey with the older girl just long enough to return with a bottle.
"Drink this, sweetie, you'll feel better." Aunt Jenn handed Summer the bottle and helped hold it to the girl's lips. Inside the bottle was sweet juice that Summer began to suck down greedily. As she did, she heard Aunt Jenn start to sing, and everything become hazy again.
Summer awoke to a smell much nicer than a dirty diaper. I'm the distance, she heard sizzling she realized was coming from the kitchen. Someone was cooking.
"Look who's awake," Summer heard a man's voice ask. Her eyes went to the sofa where she saw her Uncle Henry. He had something in his hands. Next to him, holding the same thing, was Bailey. She was intently focused on the television. Summer turned her head in that direction and saw a colorful video game on the screen. She got caught up in it herself for a moment. So much so she didn't notice the game pause nor Bailey kneel down where she lay.
"Hey, sleepyhead," Bailey tickled Summer lightly across her belly. Summer laughed and tried to pull her dress down to cover herself.
"Don't excite her too much," Uncle Henry told her. "Her late nap is already going to make her impossible at bedtime."
The ticking stopped. Once Summer blinked away the tears she saw Bailey looking at her father with a serious expression on her face.
"You didn't see her this afternoon," Bailey told him. "She needed that nap. She's already in a better mood now."
"I know that, sweetheart." Uncle Henry pressed buttons on what Summer now realized was a game controller and behind her the TV went dark. "You and your mother were quite clear. How's Summer's diaper?"
Bailey rested a hand on the front of Summer's diaper for a moment.
"Wet, but just a little," Bailey said. Summer tensed. "Mom's giving her a bath tonight and she's already pooped, so she'll keep."
Summer moved around a little, squeezing her legs together and squirming. Indeed, the padding felt different than she remembered when Aunt Jenn had diapered her before. Summer realized she had wet herself in her sleep.
An image entered Summer's mind at that realization. A memory of herself, late at night. A memory of a maid wordlessly stripping sheets off a bed. Standing at the door, silhouetted by the light in the hallway, was her father. She didn't need to see his face clearly to know it was scowling, or maybe sneering at his ten year-old daughter's lack of control. He blocked the door, preventing the maid from leaving until Summer, already full of shame from her accident, removed her wet panties and nightdress and handed them over.
"Bubble kissie!" A shout suddenly interrupted Summer's thoughts as Bailey blew a raspberry on Summer's stomach. Summer squealed in a way she couldn't remember ever doing before.
"You keep that up and you're the one staying up with her if she doesn't want to go to sleep," Summer heard her Aunt Jenn say from the kitchen door. "Dinner's about ready, so get Summer seated."
Bailey complied, taking Summer's hands in her own and helping her sit up. This time Summer didn't resist when Bailey pulled on her to suggest she stand up. Bailey let Summer to the dining room, where four chairs were set up.
Summer was guided to one chair and told to sit down. She did and was promptly reminded of her wet diaper as it squished under her.
"Oh, please," Bailey said dismissively at the expression on Summer's face. "You've sat in worse."
Says you, Summer did not say out loud. Of course, if she had indeed spent two years as a baby, Bailey was probably right about that.
Bailey tied a bib around Summer's neck while Aunt Jenn and Uncle Henry brought plates over. Summer immediately noticed three differences between her plate and the rest of the family. Her meat was already cut up, her drink was in a plastic sippy cup, and there was a noticeable lack of metal silverware. While even Bailey used a knife and fork to cut into what looked like chicken, her elbow precariously close to her glass of juice, Summer had an oversized spork and the next closest thing to a baby bottle. She took a few stabs at the meat and eventually managed a couple bites. Then she started getting frustrated and began just eating her chicken by hand.
"Two bites before abandoning the fork," Bailey said. "That's a record."
"She's feeding herself this time, at least," Uncle Henry said.
"She's been a lot better lately about needing to be hand fed," Aunt Jenn said.
Summer froze, suddenly self conscious with everyone's attention on her eating habits.
"You're fine, Summer," Uncle Henry assured her with a smile. "Keep eating."
Reluctantly, Summer continued eating her food by hand. Summer didn't take part in any of the conversation, nor was she apparently expected to. The grown-ups talked about their days at home, work, and school respectively and left the baby to herself except to wipe her hands and face when she finished. Summer stayed in her seat, unsure whether she was excused and not sure how to ask. Everyone else, slowed by conversation and having to actually cut up their food, was still eating. Bailey seemed to hit a particularly stubborn bit of chicken as she was struggling to cut it. When she finally succeeded, her arm slipped and sent her elbow right into her glass, sending it crashing to the floor.
"Bailey!" Aunt Jenn exclaimed.
"Sorry!" Bailey said as her father moved to start cleaning the glass and spilled juice off the floor.
Summer felt a hand clamp on to her shoulder and turned to see Aunt Jenn holding it, pushing down if Summer tried to move, and risk her bare feet around broken glass.
"How many times have we told you to be careful about your glass?" Aunt Jenn scolded.
"Sorry!" Bailey said again. "I didn't notice it was right there."
"That's my point, Bailey. You've said over and over you'd be more careful, now look." Aunt Jenn sighed in frustration.
As Summer watched her cousin's expression fall as her mother scolded her, a strange sensation came over Summer. She blinked several times, only for her vision to blur each time. She brought a hand up to her face and felt the tears running down it.
"How many times have you been told?" A voice rang in her head.
"Obviously you weren't thinking!"
"Is this all your promises are worth?"
"Bailey's good!" A voice cried out. Summer realized it was her own.
"Bailey's good," she repeated. "Bailey played with me! Don't yell!"
Everyone stopped to like at Summer. Then Summer, her voice much quieter, said "Please don't yell."
Summer closed her eyes and began to sob. For a moment the only sounds were her crying and her uncle's continued collecting of broken glass. After a few moments of that, Summer felt a weight on her legs. Summer opened her eyes to see Bailey sitting in lap, looking up at her. She grabbed a napkin from the table and dabbed Summer's tears with it. Summer wrapped her arms around Bailey and squeezed.
"Don't cry, Summer," Bailey said. "Mommy's not yelling. She's just a little upset, that's all. Sissie isn't in trouble…" Bailey hesitated at that, then looked to her mother. "Um… I'm not, am I?"
"No," Aunt Jenn replied. Then took one of Summer's hands in hers. "Even if you were, I certainly couldn't punish you now, could I?" Mother and daughter chuckled. "Still, if this happens again, Summer won't be the only one using a sippy cup at the dinner table for a while."
"Mom!" Bailey's face went red.
"I'm not kidding," Aunt Jenn insisted through a big grin. "If you don't start shaping up, Summer will graduate to big girl cups again before you do."
Bailey glared, but Summer didn't feel that same tension from a few moments ago. While they spoke Uncle Henry had finished cleaning the glass and the spill, brought Bailey a new drink, this time in a plastic cup, and everyone soon resumed eating. The only difference was Summer couldn't bring herself to let go of Bailey, forcing Bailey to finish her meal from Summer's lap.
After dinner, the family moved to the living room and sat together. The television was on, but Summer didn't pay it any attention. Bailey insisted on playing peek-a-boo with her. Bailey spiced it up by doing things like funny faces or "bubble kisses" when she uncovered Summer's eyes. Summer's aunt and uncle watched a movie, content to let the children entertain themselves.
Some hours later, the movie was done and Bailey had gone through more rounds of peek-a-boo, some pattycake, and rolling a ball. Aunt Jenn took Summer to the bathroom and gave her a bath. The bath was uneventful, other than Uncle Henry walking in to ask her aunt something. Nobody noticed Summer's embarrassment, as nobody really looked in her direction or seemed to care she was naked as the day she was born. Similarly, after the bath, Aunt Jenn dried Summer then led her, still nude, to her own room to be dressed for bed.
Once Summer got a good look at her room, she became too surprised to be embarrassed.
It was, for all intents and purposes, a gigantic nursery. Against the left wall was a bed with a raised mattress and bars that raised or lowered on tracks set into the headboard and footboard. To Summer's eye it looked like those bars could go nearly to the ceiling to make sure no large errant babies got out of bed without supervision. On the opposite wall was a long bench or table. Summer saw underneath there were several large diapers, boxes of wipes, and bottles of lotion and powder.
On the floor in the room's center was a playmat with a few soft toys and blocks scattered around it. On the wall opposite the door, under the window, was an open toy box. Baby cartoon characters decorated the walls all around, which were painted a pastel pink. Other furniture, such as a nightstand and bookshelf, were lined up around the room.
Summer was so busy gawking at it all she paid no attention to Aunt Jenn leading her to what she was only just realizing was a changing table and made her lie down on it. Just like in the living room, Aunt Jenn put a new diaper underneath Summer and taped it onto her after applying powder and lotion. As her aunt had her stand up, Summer was quick to notice that this diaper was even thicker than the ones she had worn already.
As she marveled at that, Aunt Jenn got Summer dressed for bed. The first thing her aunt did was guide Summer's arms through the straps of a bra that, once in place, Aunt Jenn fastened from behind. Summer giggled at the idea of a baby in a bra, then realized there were probably practical issues of physical support or comfort that could not be ignored just because she didn't act like a young adult.
Lost in her thoughts, Summer didn't pay attention as Aunt Jenn pulled another piece of clothing from the dresser. This one she knelt down and navigate Summer's feet into one at a time. Summer supported herself with her aunt's shoulders. Once that was done. She lifted the garment up the length of Summer's body and guided the girl's arms into sleeves on the front. That was when Summer realized she was being dressed in an adult sized footed sleeper. One that zipped up in the back, as her aunt's next step was to stand behind Summer and zip her up. Summer's attempt to reach for the zipper herself got her hands lightly slapped away, but not before she felt a button where the zipper was supposed to end.
Finally, Aunt Jenn led Summer to the bed and had her lay down on it. As she raised the bars, Bailey entered the room with a baby bottle in her hands. She passed it to Summer through the crib bars. This time the bottle was just regular water. Regardless, Summer was thirsty enough to put the bottle to her lips and start drinking.
"You go get your pajamas on, too, Bailey," Aunt Jenn said softly. "Tell Daddy I'll be down as soon as I give Summer her lullaby."
"Sure." Bailey reached through the bars one more time before she left. She brushed Summer's cheek and wished her good night. Soon after she left, Aunt Jenn began singing, just like the living room. Summer didn't fall asleep right away like before. Instead she started to think about the past several hours.
So much had happened in that span of time. Summer had found herself in a diaper, a sight nobody except her seemed to find unusual in the slightest. She had soiled herself without knowing she'd done it until she sat down, only for her aunt and cousin to clean her up without a fuss. She'd lost two years of her life to what she could only assume was this second babyhood, yet when she had reacted by freaking out Aunt Jenn and Bailey had stayed by her and helped calm her. Bailey had played with and entertained her, even if they had been baby games. At dinner no one had so much as cared that she had eaten with her hands when everyone else had been using silverware.
Then there was this nursery. This nursery filled with baby furniture sized to fit Summer. The adult diapers, sippy cups, and baby toys were one thing, but there was no way they just had anything like the nursery's furniture just lying around. That meant Aunt Jenn and Uncle Henry needed to have had it made specifically for Summer. She could not imagine her father doing anything even remotely like this. If she has begun acting like a giant toddler around him, he would have had her committed.
"Just get her out of my sight!"
Summer screwed her eyes shut at the imagined sound of his voice. This time, her father's voice seemed quieter in her head. Lesser. As if it were being drowned out by something. Then Summer opened her eyes and saw that Aunt Jenn had stopped singing and was looking at her with concern.
Summer should tell them. Reveal that grown up Summer was back or, at least, coming back. She should let them know she wasn't the baby they were treating her as anymore. She should show her family her gratitude by explaining they didn't need to take care of her like this anymore. She knew that she should.
"Sing again!" she said instead. "Again!"
Aunt Jenn smiled and began her lullaby anew. Summer found a stuffed animal in her crib and hugged it tight. This time she felt her eyelids begin to droop at the sound of her aunt's song. She knew she should speak up. But…
Would that bring an end to all this? Summer asked herself. An end to feeling cared for, instead having to earn her place in this household. An end to being free of expectation, as she resumed the life she had been nothing but a failure in. An end to being unafraid?
That question was the one that decided Summer. Whenever she thought about anything Before, she felt fear. She saw she the man she called father ready to pounce any error she made. Be it failing grades, misbehavior, lack of manners. Summer had lived knowing any fault would be presented to her as soon as her father knew of it.
Now, she could poop her pants and nobody would scold her. Nobody cared if her table manners were subpar. She wasn't even expected to know what a six was! In her mind, she knew that was absurd. Her aunt and uncle and cousin wouldn't change if she did. They wouldn't go through all they clearly had if they didn't care for Summer.
"Again…" Summer said softly as her eyes closed. Her aunt cleared her throat and sang one more time.
This time, Summer feel asleep before Aunt Jenn finished.