LINE-UPS ON LABOUR DAY
It was Saturday afternoon and Penny was out with her daughters to buy them some new clothes. Edith kept growing and Esther refused to wear her sister’s “gross” outfits from previous years. To be fair, Esther was much skinnier than her sister at the age of nine. Penny was thankful that they had school uniforms and their choice of outfits for weekends were kept to a minimum.
“Mommy, I’m hungry!” whined Esther, “Can we get McDonalds?”
Penny gave her younger daughter a piercing stare. “Esther, I fed you lunch two hours ago. Can you wait until we get home please?”
“Can I just get fries?” Esther pleaded, “And a drink? I’m really thirsty.”
“Can I have a drink too?” Edith quietly asked.
Penny sighed. It was two against one at this point. She rifled through her purse to find cash for the girls, discovering a wadded up ten dollar bill at the very bottom, crinkled beside a used tissue. “Fine. Don’t be too long, remember we need to be home in an hour to start dinner…” Penny warned, but the girls were already running off towards the food court. She caressed her slowly swelling stomach, wondering if her twins would be anything like Edith and Esther. Penny pictured them both with long, dark curls, not unlike her other daughters. They wore matching gingham sundresses and giggled as if they knew something she didn’t…
“Oh my gosh, Penny Dolman,” said a familiar, slightly nasal voice.
Penny turned around, dazed by her vision. “Oh… hi Camille.” She fake-smiled.
“Penny, I haven’t seen you at the PTA meetings in… well, since last spring,” Camille accused, itching her nose.
Penny shrugged, feeling uncomfortable, “I’m sorry…”
“It’s just too much for you to show up once a month, I guess,” Camille scoffed.
“Honestly, Thursday nights aren’t the best. I have to bring Ezra to physio and-”
“How are your girls, Penny?” Camille interrupted, not wanting to hear anymore about Penny’s tragically disabled boy, “Edna and Ellen, was it?”
Penny tried hard not to be offended, gritting her teeth. “Edith and Esther? They’re… they’re doing well. Esther has developed this phobia of public bathrooms… Edith is, well, becoming a teenager.”
“Fear of public toilets? Kids are funny.”
“How are Becky and Rachael?” Penny asked, feeling somewhat ashamed that she remembered Camille Moreau’s daughters’ names.
Camille beamed. “Becky is going by Rebekah now. She says it’s much more grown-up. Just turned nine, you know how it is.”
Penny nodded, thinking of Esther’s plea to work at McDonalds to pay for extra dance lessons.
“And Rachael is taking on some AP courses through the high school,” Camille boasted. “She’s also joined a cheerleading squad through the Solomon Center.”
“Oh wow,” Penny tried not to yawn. Camille got a hefty payment from the government when her husband was killed in Afghanistan, which helped her out tons when paying for her daughters’ extracurricular activities. The Solomon Center was one of the most prestigious gyms in the country; Esther would’ve killed to take dance or gymnastics there. Penny tried her hardest not to hate Camille for having extra time and money to spend on her kids, or for boasting about her privileges. She couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to lose Jack, “And what about you? What are you up to?” Penny interrupted her own jealous thoughts.
Camille looked to the ceiling and half-smiled. “You know, just overseeing the PTA. Making sure my girls grow up with everything I can provide for them. Doing a little shopping…” Camille rustled around in her purse and finally found what she was looking for, passing Penny a little piece of paper with a low-resolution picture printed on it, “And this is Marco!”
Penny raised an eyebrow, “Who?”
“My new boyfriend! I mean, we haven’t met in person yet. I don’t really have time, what with the girls’ activities and being at school, planning…”
“What do you mean you haven’t met?”
“We met online! Oh Penny you have to try- Never mind,” Camille backpedaled, remembering that Penny was still married to someone living.
“You’re so brave,” Penny replied, handing back the poor quality photo, “And he’s really good-looking! You should try and meet him-” She suddenly felt a wave of nausea, squeezing her eyes shut and slowly breathing in.
“Penny, are you feeling alright?”
“Oh God, it’s just morning sickness. It’s been really bad this time,” Penny confessed, “It comes in waves and all throughout the day I just feel nauseous. I know every pregnancy is different, but-”
“You don’t think there’s something… wrong, do you?”
Camille had articulated Penny’s worst fears. “I mean, we had the ultrasound and everything seemed normal with the twins, but…”
“Oh my goodness, twins?” Camille’s shock morphed into a sickly smile, “How are you going to manage that?!”
Another one of Penny’s fears played out in plain speech. She felt another wave of nausea. Penny’s hand covered her mouth as she tried to hold back the vomit that was creeping up her esophagus.
“Mommy!” Esther shouted, “Look what we got!” The soon-to-be big sister held up a giant fountain drink and a large fries.
Penny gave her daughters the thumbs up. “I’m heading to the washroom. You girls stay here. I’ll be out shortly.”
“It was lovely seeing you!” Camille lied, heading off towards the row of tween themed stores that were just beyond the food court.
Penny waved and abruptly darted off to the ladies. Her throat was burning with sick. She tried to swallow it down, but her efforts were fruitless. She fell to her knees in the first stall and emptied her insides into the bowl of the public toilet. She held onto the dirty bowl for stability as she felt herself heave breakfast in its chunky glory back up. Penny flushed and went to the sink where she washed her face and hands. Her mouth was still stinging with stomach acid. She sighed and stared at herself. What if there was something wrong with the babies? What if she was in over her head? Who was she kidding? She was already in over her head. Penny gasped, feeling more out of control than she had in a while. Her breathing was shaky and she felt tears well up in her eyes. She went back to the empty stall, sat down, and began to cry as quietly as she could muster.
Esther looked inquisitively towards the bathrooms. “Is Mommy okay?” She shoveled another handful of fries into her mouth.
Edith shrugged. “I think so. She’s just sick because of the babies.”
“I don’t want to have babies if you end up puking the whole time,” Esther mused.
Edith took a long sip of her soda and finished her fries as their mother emerged from the bathroom.
“I’m sorry girls,” Penny apologized, clearing her throat. “Now finish up your drinks. We don’t have tons of time…”
“I’m done with mine,” Edith said, “I can’t finish it.”
Penny could still feel the burn in her esophagus, “I’ll finish it, Edie.” Penny chugged the rest of her daughter’s soda, joining Esther in a race to finish their drinks.
Esther won, surprisingly, and let out an obnoxiously loud burp.
“Honey, that’s not necessary,” Penny scolded.
Esther glared at her mother, but didn’t argue.
“Can we go to Planet Girlz?” Edith asked.
“If that’s where you want to go…” Penny replied.
“And then can we see what plans they have for cell phones at Mobo?” Edith raised her eyebrows in desperate hope, knowing full well she’d be knocked down.
“Edith, you know we can’t afford that right now. And those things give you brain cancer-”
“But mom! All the other girls have them!”
“Edith, only Ruthie has one. I know Pearl’s parents would never spring for one unless it was a necessity and Bea’s mom feels the same as me about the situation…”
“But Rachael Moreau has one. And so does Conner Watts. And Sean Winters. And Ashleigh Oberman. And-”
“Edith! That’s enough! When you have a job and you can pay for your own phone, we will help you get one. But until that day, you will just have to suffer with the landline.” Penny felt only mild regrets about her harsh words. She didn’t wish to hurt Edith, but at the same time she knew the family couldn’t afford that extra cost per month, especially with twins on the way.
Edith knew she had gone too far. She hoped her mother would still buy her a new outfit. She shied away from conversation and walked silently behind her mother and Esther.
“Mommy, I don’t even need a cell phone,” Esther piped up, holding her mother’s hand.
“Esther, we don’t need to keep talking about it,” Penny shut her down. With her other hand she caressed her stomach as if to hug her unborn daughters.
“Penny!” came the once again familiar voice of Camille Moreau, “fancy seeing you again.”
“Yeah, Edith and Esther wanted to check out Girly Planet.”
“Planet Girlz, Mom!” Esther corrected.
Rebekah and Rachael emerged from the store, fresh blonde streaks illuminating their nearly black hair. Rachael was wearing sparkling blue jeans with a black t-shirt depicting the Australian boy band “The Outback Boys.” Her sister, who was once referred to as Barfy Becky because of an unfortunate incident in early elementary school, was wearing the same shirt but with a deep purple velvet skirt.
“Wow, you got to see The Outback Boys?!” Esther gasped.
“Yeah, Mom got us tickets. It was pretty cool, I guess,” bragged Rebekah.
Esther remembered when they were in town and her mom couldn’t buy tickets because they were sold out.
“Nothing but the best for my daughters,” Camille cunningly remarked.
Edith rolled her eyes and considered mentioning that only little kids liked The Outback Boys. She definitely wasn’t jealous of the t-shirt, but the sparkly jeans Rachael was sporting were something she envied immensely. She looked down at the old romper she was wearing. It was a touch too small and she found it annoying to take on and off because of the size. Esther didn’t look much fancier – wearing Edith’s baggy, hand-me-down overalls from the second grade. Esther was still too skinny to fit the clothes Edith wore when she was in grade four.
“It wasn’t as lame as I thought it would be,” Rachael sighed, checking out her fresh manicure, “I didn’t even want to go, but none of Becky’s friends could go on a school night.”
“My name is Rebekah,” Rebekah corrected.
The last thing Penny wanted to hear was Camille and her children bragging and fighting amongst each other. She was glad the nausea from before had gone away, but was definitely regretting chugging the rest of Edith’s pop. Her bladder had shrunk significantly in the last week and she felt herself constantly needing to use the restroom. Penny couldn’t remember it being this bad so early on, but everything seemed different with this pregnancy so far. She didn’t have to go too bad for the moment. Hopefully Edith and Esther would find something quick.
“Come on girls, let’s see what they’ve got. We only have an hour or so before we need to get home,” Penny rushed Edith and Esther into the store.
After a few minutes of looking through racks of sparkly designer jeans, Esther seemed to be getting restless. She was dancing around the store, not really looking for clothes.
“Esther, sweetpea, please focus,” Penny warned her daughter.
Esther obeyed, still dizzily flitting about, but looking at outfits. She adjusted her overalls and crossed her legs as she dug through racks of jeans.
“Esther, do you need to go to the bathroom?” Penny asked.
“No,” Esther insisted, shaking.
“Esther, if you need to go, I can go with you. I know you don’t like to use-”
“I don’t have to go right now,” Esther lied, tugging at her crotch.
“Okay then,” Penny gave up. She was feeling the urge though. Penny pressed her thighs together and exercised her kegels. She could hold for a bit longer while the girls looked. Penny began to feel concerned for Esther, who was looking very desperate and unable to disguise her potty dance.
“Mom, can I try these jeans?” Edith held up a pair of sparkly blue jeans, much like the ones Rachael was wearing.
Penny checked the price tag. “Edith, these are over a hundred dollars.”
“They’re so cool though!” Edith insisted.
Penny looked to the discount rack and pulled out another pair of (much less sparkly) jeans. “These are only twenty-five. Try them.”
“Try them both, Edie. You can decide which one looks better,” Penny gave in. Spending over a hundred dollars on jeans for a twelve-year-old didn’t seem like a wise investment, but Penny couldn’t stand letting Edith down twice in one day. Even if it meant working a few extra hours at the bakery. Penny shuffled through the racks and found two more pairs of jeans for Esther to try on as well as a mass-produced Outback Boys t-shirt. “Esther, come try these on please,” Penny called.
Edith grabbed the two pairs of jeans and headed into the change room with her little sister in tow. There was only one free room, but it was large enough for both girls to go in and try on their new pants. Edith struggled with her romper, trying to unzip the back. “Ess, can you unzip me?”
Esther held herself with one hand and yanked down the zipper. Then she sat back down on the bench, wiggling her legs.
“Aren’t you going to try on your pants?” asked Edith.
Esther shrugged and looked worried as she dug her hands deeper into her crotch.
“Come on. Mom says we don’t have all day to do this. Just try them on and then we can go.”
Esther shook her head, thighs shaking. “It’s fine. They always fit.”
Edith sighed, pulling on the normal jeans her mother had picked out. They fit well, but weren’t anything interesting. Then she tried on the second pair. “These are so cool,” she said to herself, taking a moment to admire her figure in the mirror, “I can’t believe Mom said she’d buy them for me.” Edith felt guilt burrowing into the pit of her stomach. She thought about the new babies and her mom having to work extra hours. She thought about Ezra’s expensive physiotherapy and Esther’s dance classes, not to mention feeding and clothing all four (soon to be six) kids. She took one last look at herself in the sparkly jeans before putting them back and pulling on her romper.
“Are you done yet? I wanna go home!” Esther whined.
“Yes,” Edith huffed, “Can you do up my zipper?”
Esther yanked the zipper up with one hand and held herself tightly with the other.
Edith sprung open the door to the change room.
“How’d it go?” Penny asked. She was trying hard not to potty dance in front of her daughters, but it was getting obvious how desperately she needed to pee.
“I only want the one pair,” Edith lied, “The sparkles don’t look good on me.”
Penny winced. “Great! Esther, did you have any luck?”
Esther couldn’t hold still anymore. “Both are fine. Can we go home please?” she begged, legs twisted around each other like the cables behind the TV.
“Let’s pay. Before we leave, I’d like to use the bathroom,” Penny suggested.
“Mommy!” Esther whined, “I want to go home right now!” She was shaking.
Penny patted her daughter’s head, “Are you feeling alright, sweetpea?”
“I knew we should’ve skipped McDonalds,” Penny muttered regretfully. Her swelling bladder was begging for a release. She crossed her legs tightly as the cashier rang them through. Penny was thankful that it was just the two girls today. Elias would spend about three hours testing demos in Electric Arena and trying to schmooze with the staff in hopes of getting a job at the video game retailer. It was nearly impossible to get him out of there. Penny’s groin was throbbing at this point. “Do either of you need to use the bathroom?” Penny asked as they exited the store. “Traffic might be bad on the way home.”
“Um…” Esther squeezed her legs together, trying to figure out if she could hold it until they got home. Coming to the conclusion that she could make it, Esther responded with a firm, “No.”
Edith looked at her little sister, not believing her lie. She was starting to feel the pressing urge to go and she’d only drank about half of what her sister had. “Are you sure you don’t need to go? You drank a giant pop…”
Esther shook her head. “I don’t have to go pee! Stop asking!” She tried unsuccessfully to stop potty dancing, which didn’t help her argument. Esther didn’t want to set foot in that mall bathroom. Elias said they never cleaned the mall toilets and one time a rat had bitten Willis on the butt when he sat down in the mens. She wasn’t sure if she believed his story, but also wasn’t willing to take her chances. Esther clenched tighter, sure she would be able to make it for at least until they got home.
The three ladies made their way to the food court bathroom, where Penny was starting to feel like a regular customer. Thankfully, there wasn’t a line. “Sweetpea, are you sure you don’t want to at least try and go? I would hate for you to have an accident,” Penny asked Esther. She took a deep breath and squeezed her legs together.
Esther crossed her arms and angrily stared at the ground. “I don’t have to go!” she shouted, “I just wanna go home!”
Penny sighed. There was no convincing Esther. Penny began to feel the urine seep out of her and moisten her panties. She held tighter and made her way into the bathroom with Edith in tow. There was only one open stall and Penny dashed into it, yanking down her soiled underwear and rapidly letting loose into the porcelain bowl she had previously vomited into. She suppressed a deep, blissful moan.
Edith stood next to the sinks, looking at the two other “out of order” stalls. The bathroom was in dire need of a remodel; some of the taps were dripping in hastening rhythm. With each dribble, she felt herself growing more desperate to go. Edith pressed on her urethra and crossed her legs. She wished she had gone ahead of her mother into the only working toilet. She looked behind her – nobody else was in line. Maybe she could just go in the mens? No! That’s gross. Maybe she could just go in the sink? No, no. She could hold it for another minute. How long could Mom be? Edith reached for her zipper in anticipation, realizing that she couldn’t reach it. She thought of shouting out for Esther, but didn’t want to bring attention to herself, being that she was ready to pee herself. Edith was about ready to burst. “Mom…?”
“Don’t worry, love. I’m almost done,” Penny called back.
“It’s okay, I just need help with the zipper,” Edith responded, still trying to reach it. She was trying hard not to potty dance. She was almost twelve, for goodness sake. Edith squeezed hard and folded one leg over the other. She closed her eyes, hoping Mom would hurry up.
Edith heard the lock jiggle open and out walked her mother, looking overjoyed with relief. “Let’s get that zipper…” Penny fiddled with the zipper at the back of Edith’s romper, “I think it’s stuck on the fabric. Just hold on a little longer.”
Edith breathed in rapidly through her nose.
Penny felt instant guilt, fumbling with the zipper. She should’ve let her daughter go first. Penny felt like a terrible mother.
Edith could feel pee spurting out. She tried to hold on, clenching and holding herself with both hands, but still the flood came. Her panties were soaking before she managed to stop the stream.
“Edith, can you hold on a little longer? I think I’ve almost got it,” Penny said, tugging at the zipper and making some progress.
“I… I think so…” Edith lied. She didn’t think she could hold on for even another five seconds, “P-please hurry…”
Penny gave the zipper another fierce yank as it broke off of the garment. She swore under her breath.
Edith couldn’t hold it any longer. She felt her pee gush into her soaked underwear and stream down her legs, out of the romper.
“Oh my gosh, Edie-” Penny gasped. It was her fault. Her daughter was far too old to be having these kinds of accidents. She handed her daughter the shopping bag from Planet Girlz, “It’s okay, sweetie. You can just change into your new clothes…”
Edith tried not to cry as she pulled off the old romper and soaked panties. She couldn’t believe she had lost control like that. At least Esther didn’t see. She would’ve laughed and made fun of Edith’s small bladder. Edith slid into her new jeans and came out of the stall to wash her hands. She opened the stall door to see none other than Rachael Moreau.
“Nice jeans,” mocked Rachael.
Edith tried not to make eye contact, awkwardly shrugging her shoulders.
“It smells disgusting in here. What did you do, piss all over the floor?” Rachael plugged her nose. “God, if I didn’t have to go so badly, I’d be outta here so fa-” It was then that she noticed the wet, wadded up romper in Edith’s hand. “Oh my god, what is that?”
“Nothing,” Edith lied, tossing it into the trash.
Rachael went and fished it out with an unsure hand. “Oh my god. This is hilarious.” She held up the wet romper. “Did you pee-pee in your onesie?!” Rachael taunted in a sing-song baby voice. She laughed and threw Edith’s romper back in the garbage and washed her hands. “You’re totally gross, Edith. You should wear diapers if you can’t get to the toilet on time.”
Edith said nothing and shuffled out the door, holding back her tears.
She exited the bathroom to find her mother and Esther waiting for her. Mom was holding Esther’s hand and Esther was desperately trying to keep from peeing her pants.
“Let’s go let’s go let’s go!” Esther begged, tapping her feet and wiggling as she pulled her mother’s hand and awkwardly marched towards the parkade. Esther knew she could make it. If she could just sit down, maybe her bladder would settle…
They were almost at the parkade when Esther stopped in the middle of the hallway and grabbed herself. She knelt down and started shaking.
“Come on, Esther. We need to get going,” Penny told her daughter. She knew Esther needed to go, but she’d missed her chance. They were already going to be late.
“I can’t,” she whispered.
“Yes you can,” Edith shook her head, “Come on.”
Esther shook her head and wiped the tears away. “I c-can’t! I have to go pee really badly…”
Edith groaned. “Esther! We were just in the bathroom! Why didn’t you-”
“I didn’t have to go!” Esther moaned.
“Maybe we can go back…” Edith suggested.
Esther shook her head. “It’s too late!” she insisted, standing up to reveal a growing wet spot on the backside of her overalls. Dark lines began to appear as her pee ran down her legs. Esther was shaking, mortified that she had let it get to this point. A small puddle began to form at her feet, urine splashing up onto her white sneakers.
Esther grabbed her mom’s arm, “Mom…”
Penny sighed. “Come on, sweetpea. It’ll be okay. You can change when we get home.” Penny removed her cardigan and wrapped it around Esther’s waist, covering most of her accident.