"Can you go potty, sweetheart?" Vivianne's employee asked in a melodic, lilting voice. She stood beside the squatting girl with a grin as plastic as her companion's training potty, a box of baby wipes in one hand and her son's wrist in the other. The kid - Jeremy - sucked his pacifier without comment, looking bored with the whole scene. Vivianne wished she could say she felt the same.
Of course, it wasn't really a request, and of course, she was going to do it if she wanted to collect her pay, but Vivianne still died a little inside as she nodded sweetly and lisped out an agreeable "Yes mummy!" like she always did. She had sat here dozens of times in the same position with the same audience over the last month, but she didn't think she'd ever get used to it. She was always going to be red-faced as she emptied her bladder into the hollow swan beneath her, and really, could anyone blame her? Here she was, a twenty-three year old woman potty training just like her boss' toddler. Anyone in her position would feel the same.
Still, she did her part, and a moment later the room was once again serenaded with the gentle hiss of her pee and the splash it made on the plastic bowl beneath her. She did her best to maintain her smile behind her pacifier, and even managed to give her rattle a half hearted shake, but she knew her enthusiasm probably looked as strained as it was. It wasn't even just down to the fact she was doing what she was doing; there was more to it than that this time. Her assignments were meant to have an average length of a week, two at the absolute most, and this one wasn't supposed to be any different...yet here she was, weeks overdue. At Teacher Tots, they prided themselves in the speed they could get involved with a client's family and show the kid how to do their business like a big kid. It was why they were as popular a company as they were, and she was failing.
She was weeks overdue, and despite her best efforts, this kid somehow still had no clue.
"Good girl!" Alicia cooed patronisingly. "Good girl!" She squeezed her son's hand, kneeling down to his level to look at him with false excitement while gesturing to the still-peeing Vivianne. "Vivi made it! Isn't she a big girl?"
The squatting girl blushed furiously, even as she continued to empty her bladder, but managed to keep her smile alive. She wasn't sure if that was going to make a difference anymore, not after she'd been here as long as she had, but she was representing an esteemed organisation. It was in the contract.
Jeremy looked totally non-plussed. He watched his mentor with round, hazel eyes, but didn't say anything. The closest thing to a response his mother got was a dedicated suckle of the pacifier.
Alicia was determined, Vivianne would give her that much. She might be getting frustrated with her son's lack of progress, but she never gave up. She let go of the kid, produced a wipe from the plastic container, and fixed Vivianne with a flat stare. "Are you done yet?" she asked.
Vivianne had never felt so small as she shook her head no.
Her stream tapered off to nothing a few seconds later, and she agreeably lifted her butt as Alicia came up from behind to wipe it clean. She bit the nipple of her pacifier and squeezed her eyes shut as the woman that had been posing as her mother for the last month ran her hand over parts of her body that should only ever be touched by herself or a lover, refusing to so much as utter a peep. That would be unprofessional, and if there was one thing Vivianne saw herself as, it was professional. This particular client might be a lost cause, and she might still be as awkward about this job as the day she started, but she wasn't going to give this woman any reason to think she was doing a poor job.
The moist chill of the wipe tickled her lady parts before reversing back, eliciting an involuntary shiver and a particularly violent gnaw of the nipple, and then it was done. Vivianne gratefully stood up as Alicia binned the wipe, waited patiently for her to produce a new pull-up, and finally lifted each leg obediently as the lady helped dress her. It was all routine by now, and she knew the drill. Before long, she was dressed and decent again, and she stepped away from the potty to make room for her peer. She didn't like to think of the kid as that - it put her on the same level as a three year old, after all - but it was part of her training at Teacher Tots. The best mentor was a knowledgable peer.
"Do you want to be like Vivi, champ?" Alicia asked gently. She knelt back down level with her son and attempted to lead him by the hand to the swan. "Come on, I think we should try."
"I don't wanna."
Vivianne felt her heart sink. Over the last month, her and Alicia had discovered that 'I don't wanna' was basically synonymous with "I'm not doing anything while I'm sitting on that thing, but the moment you leave me alone I'm gonna piss all over the carpet and leave you with the mother of all cleaning bills."
Alicia's face hardened. "I think you should try anyway. Maybe we'll all get a nice surprise."
He shook his head, but his mother was having none of it. With the speed and precision of someone well acquainted with their job, she'd stripped him of his pants and underwear and sat him down on the potty. She offered him a small smile. "Come on. Be a big boy for mummy."
He stared blankly at her.
The minutes ticked by without comment from anyone involved, stretching longer and longer till Vivianne was sure she could take the suspense no more. The kid wasn't going, and the two adults hunched over him were achieving nothing. He wasn't interested. They were wasting their time.
At last, Alicia came to the same conclusion. She sighed and shook her head. "At least you tried," she said without much conviction. She grabbed Jeremy under the arms to stand him up, then dragged his training pants and shorts back up his legs. "Maybe next time." The look of disgust on her face said it all. She wasn't happy.
"Can I go play now mummy?" he asked around his pacifier. His training potty (my training potty, Vivianne thought bitterly) was housed in his room so that he didn't have to run very far if the urge hit him. Not that that had even been a problem, considering how little interest he had in making an effort to acknowledge the urge, but that was the thought process. His pacifier bobbed a little quicker in anticipation as he eyed off his teddy bear on the far side of the room.
"I guess so," Alicia reluctantly conceded defeat. "You let me know if you need to go potty, ok? I'll come help you."
"Yes mummy!" He wouldn't.
"Vivi, can I talk to you for a minute?"
Vivianne tore her attention away from the boy and back to his mother. Alicia gave her a strained smile and pointed to the door.
She instantly felt her heart rate pick up. Alicia had made it blatantly clear in the past that she wasn't happy with her son's progress, and although she'd never outright come out and said it, she made it no secret that she held Vivianne responsible for that lack of progress. She had been nice to her adopted 'daughter' for the first week - she had done her best to make the girl comfortable with the 24/7 baby treatment that was a part of Teacher Tots program, and was incredibly understanding at first about their lack of progress. The longer it went on, though, the less impressed she got, and they were at the point where Alicia was going out of the way to be mean to the girl at every opportunity and embarrass her about her situation. At some point, she stopped being "the kind lady making a fool of herself for my son's benefit" and in her boss's eyes and became "the fool of a lady who acts like a baby and is doing fuck all for my son's benefit." Vivianne had been waiting for The Talk™ about her lack of success for at least a week now.
Was this it? She thought it might be.
Alicia turned back to her son. "Me and Vivi are going to go outside and talk for a minute," she said sweetly. "How about you go play while we do that?"
The boy's pacifier bobbled rhythmically between his lips. His eyes never left the bear.
The baby-woman winced, but headed out of the room with Alicia hot on her heels.
Alicia turned on her the moment the door to the bedroom was shut behind them. Before Vivianne could open her mouth to reassure her client for the hundredth time, she was under attack.
"One month," she snarled. The patient, understanding mother was gone in the blink of an eye - in her place was a woman with frenzied hair, bared teeth and a bone to pick. "One month, 'Vivi,' and my son has peed where he's meant to a grand total of three times. Your company explicitly advertises success within two weeks. Where the fuck have we got in twice that long, hmm?"
"We advertise that they'll get the idea in two weeks," Vivianne protested, removing the pacifier from her mouth and nervously squeezing the nipple in her right hand. This was looking like it wasn't going to be as bad as she was expecting; no, it was going to be much worse than that. "Not that they'll be potty trained in two weeks. He has the idea, doesn't he? He knows what he has to do, he just...doesn't."
It was true. His protest was 'I don't want to,' not 'what am I doing.'
"He has the idea, does he?" Alicia growled. She jabbed an angry finger in her employee's face as she began to pace back and forwards in front of the door. "Vivianne, you've made yourself at home in my house. You've eaten my food. You've slept in my guest room. You've done everything but give my son 'the idea.' I've had to wipe the help's shitty ass more often than my three year old son's, that's not what I call him GETTING THE IDEA."
She was spitting mad, and Vivianne instantly realised she was on incredibly thin ice. It was bad enough in a normal industry to have a customer dissatisfied with the service provided. To be dissatisfied with the service when the face of that service was eating your food, occupying a room in your house and needing their toileting needs attended to was a hundred times worse. This lady had the potential to put a black mark next to her name, and a lady in this condition was not someone you wanted to have that power. Especially when a black mark would be a particularly bad thing to have at this point in time, considering her current financial status and standing in Teacher Tots.
She tried again. "If you want my opinion, he's - "
"Do I want your opinion?"
"Well you're paying for it out of your own pocket."
Alicia opened her mouth to retort, then shut it again slowly. A vein twitched high on her forehead.
"If you want my opinion, he's just not ready for toilet training. Alicia, he's just not interested. I could stay here a year, and if he's not interested then he won't - "
"Not interested, huh?" Alicia said flatly. "Let me put it this way. Your company has a unique method of toilet training kids, right? And you guarantee that you'll see progress within fourteen days? Yes?"
"We guarantee they'll get the idea within fourteen days."
She was promptly ignored. "Well, we're at the one month mark, and we've seen pretty much no progress, AND - " she fixed Vivianne with a querulous look as the potty-training woman opened her mouth to retort. " - we've seen no getting-the-idea-ness. That says to me that the service being provided is inadequate and that I'm not getting my money's worth, don't you think?"
"Alicia, he's just - "
"You think I don't see your reaction every time you sit your ass down on that thing?" Alicia hissed. She took a step forward until they were almost nose to nose, furiously gesturing back to the door. Her breathe was hot and pungent on Vivianne's cheeks. "Do you think he doesn't see it? Vivianne, why are you even in this industry? I'm sorry, but you're a shitty actor. You're terrible. You can't get past your own awkwardness to get into character for the life of you. You think you hide it well but it's blatantly obvious that you're uncomfortable, and I'd bet all the money I've thrown down the drain with you that he sees it too. Don't tell me he's not ready. You're just doing a shit-poor job."
Vivianne felt her face redden, even as a cold sweat broke out on the back of her neck. This was her worst nightmare. "Alicia. Listen to me. He isn't ready. How I feel about this job - "
"I asked you a question. Why are you in this industry?"
"That's none of your business."
"It became my business after a month of helping you go to the potty like a big girl," Alicia shot back, her voice dripping with scorn. "It became my business after I spent good money on you and got nothing in return, both in fees and in putting you up. It became my business - "
"Because I'm fresh out of uni, I can't find a job anywhere else, and I have bills to pay," Vivianne sighed. She felt like crying. She had known this conversation had been coming, and she had known it was going to be bad, but this was worse than she could have possibly imagined. Jesus, she hadn't predicted needing to justify her own failure...but was Alicia totally out of line? Maybe she had done a poor job. She was still as uncomfortable with it as she had been on day one, after all. Surely that said something about her?
Either way, she just wanted this conversation done with. "Teacher Tots pays well - really well - and it's not as easy as getting a degree and finding somewhere that'll take it, you know. I've been looking, but in the mean time..."
"In the mean time, you're playing the babysitter and the baby. Simultaneously," Alicia finished. She stepped back and crossed her arms. Some of the fury had left her, and now she just looked tired. Tired and upset.
"Something like that," Vivianne agreed weakly. "But I really don't think the service is the problem. You can cancel the plan if you want, or ask for someone else from Teacher Tots to replace me, but at the end of the day your son - "
"At the end of the day, the service is the issue," Alicia said flatly. "You are so unbelievably stiff and awkward about everything you're meant to be doing, Vivianne. You don't even interact with my son outside of potty training sessions. Isn't that the idea? To build up trust with the kids so they want to be like the big girl who uses the potty? How can you not realise that you're absolutely atrocious at this?"
Vivianne could only shrug awkwardly. Shamefully. Alicia wasn't wrong...but she hadn't been that bad, had she?
She suddenly feared that she had.
There was a moment of awkward silence as both women pondered the last few minutes of conversation.
"I don't want to replace you or end anything," Alicia sighed at last. "No, that would be a waste. You need the money, don't you? That's why you're doing this in the first place."
"I guess so," Vivianne admitted.
"Then you're not going anywhere until my son starts to piss in the God damn swan," her employer went on. "And we're going to make you into the best potty trainee there ever was. My son will be potty trained, and you'll be good enough at your job that you won't have a repeat of this. How does that sound?"
If she was totally honest, Vivianne had no idea what to make of that. "I guess that sounds good," she agreed cautiously. It meant she kept her job. No black mark! "Really though, Alicia, I don't know how much good it's going to do."
"Oh stop lying to yourself, Vi. You know as well as I do that he isn't the problem."
She had no answer for that. When you got down to it, Alicia was right and they both knew it. "So how does this differ from what we're doing now?"
"Well," Alicia said slowly. She looked deep in thought. "The issue is that you're not comfortable with this, right? That you can't get into character."
"You would suppose correct. Ok. This is what we're going to do." Her face was slowly clearing, and a small grin was beginning to break out. It made Vivianne uneasy - considering the context, this couldn't be a good thing. "We're doing this my way now. First, you're going to email your Head Office and tell them that your current client is giving you grief. You're going to tell them that you need another month."
"Let me put it this way, little miss," Alicia shot back. "You've already wasted a month of my time and a month of my money. You're lucky I'm not throwing you out on your ass. You're lucky I'm nice enough to consider the position you're in as well as my own. I'm sure your superiors won't like being told their employee couldn't act their way out of a paper bag. That she's wasted a month of a client's time and money."
Point taken. Vivianne nodded meekly.
"We're cutting that month into two phases," Alicia went on. "The last two weeks, you can try potty training again. After all, that's your sales pitch, isn't it? Two weeks is all you need for them to start using the - I'm sorry, get the idea."
"Exactly," her client said. She looked positively exuberant now. "And you'll do a much better job in those two weeks, because for the next two weeks, you're going back in diapers and you're going to be a baby, not a toddler. You'll be my son's little sister. All your toileting will go straight into your baby pants, not the swan. By the time the next two weeks are done, you'll be so thrilled to use the potty that it'll be a much more natural performance when the time comes."
"Alicia, you can't be - "
"Oh yes, I'm deadly serious," she said grimly. "I don't know how the hell you managed to do this for other kids before my own, but I don't care. That's not my problem. Your way isn't working now, so we're trying it my way, unless you'd rather take it up with your bosses. That's your choice."
The truth was that Vivianne actually had yet to successfully potty train anyone. Alicia's son was her third assignment, and the fact was that she been sent away from her first two. Neither of them had actually had a go at her like Alicia had - as it turned out, both of them had found hiring someone to come out and act like a baby to potty train their toddler much weirder in person than they had found the idea itself - but she had been sent away all the same. Her bosses at Teacher Tots saw that as a failure, and two prior failures meant she had two black marks next to name already.
She couldn't afford a third. The alternative to Teacher Tots was to starve. She was cornered.
"So I'm like," she began cautiously. "A diapered toddler?"
It didn't sound too bad. Her life had been pretty cushy the last month - potty sessions were humiliating, but that was really the worst of it. Toddlers really had the best life someone could ask for.
Alicia was shaking her head, though. "No, you're a diapered baby," she said. "Toddlers get pull-ups. Babies get diapers. If you're going to do a believable job for Jeremy, you can't half ass it. You need to actually enjoy being promoted to a toddler. You can...we'll have you...fuck, I don't know. Why couldn't you have just done your job right the first time? Why am I even offering to help you?"
Vivianne nervously bore this admonishment without a word. Alicia didn't owe her anything after the last month. It was a miracle that she still had it in her to offer Vivianne a second chance.
"Because I'm too nice to let you end up living on the streets, that's right. Silly me."
She decided that nothing was still the best thing to say.
"Well for one, you're done talking," Alicia began, brainstorming and improvising with a thoughtful look on her face. "I guess that's something. You can babble like an idiot for the next two weeks."
She could live with that.
"And no walking. You can crawl...and how about we throw a few bottle feedings in there? And...and...I'll get Jeremy's old bed rails from the basement, we'll make your bed into a crib. And...well your clothing is a bit mature, don't you think?"
Vivianne looked down at herself. She certainly thought no such thing.
"I'm hardly going to be able to pull that out of my ass, though," Alicia went on, seemingly to herself. "The diapers from the pharmacy, sure, but that...can your guys help out with that?"
"Well I guess you can go around in just a diaper then," her client concluded grandly. She looked quite proud of herself. "Babies have no modesty, last time I checked. Jeremy doesn't care about boobs, and it's nothing I've never seen before. That'll work."
That list suddenly seemed a lot less attractive. Vivianne bit her lip. Did she really want to agree to this?
"I can just call your boss, if you'd rather not," Alicia said. Her voice had returned to the same sing-song tone that she'd used in front of Jeremy when she was helping the girl on the potty. She was warming to the idea the more it was fleshed out, and it made Vivianne glower. She was still an adult, and didn't need it. Especially when Alicia knew she had the girl cornered. It was just cruel, justified or not.
Still... "Deal," she sighed. What choice did she have?
This was going to suck.
Alicia extended her hand, and Vivianne reluctantly shook it in her own. "How is Jeremy going to take this, though?" she asked. "You can't just tell him I forgot how to use the toilet."
"If he can believe a grown adult needs to be potty trained, he can believe she also needs to go back into diapers," Alicia answered. She squeezed Vivianne's hand before dropping it. "Look, I know this isn't going to be fantastic for you...but you did kinda bring it on yourself."
So she had. "How about you go tell him while I call my boss?" she sighed, defeated. "They'll need to know ASAP, they're probably already wondering why it took a month as it is."
"I have a better idea," Alicia offered. "How about you go tell him yourself?"
Vivianne stiffened. It wasn't enough to reduce her to a diapered infant? She had to embarrass herself in front of the toddler verbally too? "And what am I telling him, exactly?"
Alicia's grin could have ended world hunger. "You're going to tell him the truth," she sang. "That you're not ready to be a big girl and that he's going to have a baby sister for a little while."
Are you really going to do this?
For a second, Vivianne considered protesting. She considered telling this arrogant woman where she could shove this baby nonsense, come hell or high water. So what if it meant the end of her career at Teacher Tots? She hated the job anyway, and it was time spent as a toddler (baby) that could be better spent searching for a job that her degree had prepared her for.
But what if she still couldn't find one?
She sighed. "Whatever you say, 'mummy,'" she answered with as much sarcasm as she muster.
She had her hand on the doorknob when Alicia stopped her. "No, Vivi," she said sweetly.
It was impossible, but her grin widened. "Babies don't walk," she said. She pointed at the floor. "They crawl. You know, like on their hands and knees. They also don't talk. Or wear anything to hide their...ahem, 'underwear'."
"Now?" Vivianne said weakly. "Really?"
"No time like the present!" her voice could have charmed the birds from the trees.
There were tears in her eyes as Vivianne once again considered leaving it all behind her. Nothing was worth this. Nothing.
But it was.
Tears at last began to leak from her eyes as she began to strip.