“I've already measured you three times. That's two times too many.” Mel rested her hand over the pitted wooden ruler she'd found in a drawer in the back of the coffee shop sandwiching it between her palm and the table. “I know you've gotta be freaking out being so small, but checking every five seconds isn't gonna make you any bigger.”
“I'm not worried about …” Sara let it go. It was hard enough explain her need to be small to herself. She'd already confused Jackie; she didn't need to trip through the same conversation with Mel.
“It's all right, sweetie.” Mel ran a reassuring finger over Sara's back, scared she might break the little woman.
They huddled together at the table furthest from the window. Mel with her back to the front of the shop; Sara sitting crosslegged on an overturned coffee cup looking up at her huge friend. It was the dead part of the afternoon so there weren't any customers to overhear them. And the Closed sign had gotten flipped at some point so there weren't any rude looks. Mel wasn't sure if she'd been the one who did the flipping or if it'd been Jessie. She'd been more than a little freaked out when he pulled Sara out of his pocket.
“Where's Jackie?” Sara didn't dare tell Mel how much she liked being touched like that. Like a wee tamed mouse getting petted by her owner. Even thinking about it like that made Sara feel vaguely guilty.
Mel lifted her hand from the ruler and tapped her phone until the map came up. “Only a couple miles. Traffic must be crap.”
“If it was going to work, it'd've worked by now.” Sara arched her back as Mel continued giving her soothing strokes.
“Let's give it another mile first.”
“That's not how his aura works. If I was going to snap back to normal that'd have happened a long time ago. Face it, Mel, I'm going to be this way for a very long time.”
“Maybe this would go better if you let Jackie take you to the lab,” Mel tried to make it sound reasonable even though she knew how hard Sara had objected before.
“Do you want me to get probed, cause that's how I end up getting probed.” And cured, Sara added to herself. Mel didn't need to hear that.
“I know, but they've gotta be super smart. Look at what they did to Jackie.”
“Yeah, he's stuck in traffic when he could be getting to know his shrunken girlfriend better.”
“Jump the gun much?” Mel asked.
“You didn't even make it all the way through your first date and now you're his girlfriend?”
“This kind of experience bonds people, Melissa.” Sara leaned forward under Mel's finger. “In powerful ways that don't always make sense to those who haven't lived through the same events.”
“Or maybe he's just a hot dude who silver plattered your prime fantasy.”
“'Silver plattered'? Since when do you verb nouns?”
“About two minutes after we started hanging out. You wanna talk about strong bonds.”
“Aww.” Sara wrapped her arms around Mel's finger and rested her cheek against the swirl of the fingerprint. “Have I told you how awesome you are lately?”
“You need anything while we're waiting?” Mel didn't respond to Sara's question, but she didn't pull her finger away either. “I know for a fact you haven't had anything but coffee all day. You have to be hungry by now. Or crying for a pee.”
“I went earlier, but you're right, my little tummy is empty.” Sara let go of Mel's finger and rubbed her belly with both hands.
“You're not going twee on me, are you?” Mel asked.
“What's wrong with twee?”
“I don't even know where to begin.”
“I'm cute and tiny right?” Sara crossed her arms defiantly over her chest.
“I'm not answering on the grounds you'll use it to win.”
“Like a sugar plum.”
“I'm one complex carbohydrate and don't you forget about it.” Sara nodded her head sharply at that.
“Now that we've settled that whatcha want?”
“I've spent my entire life imagining my first meal as a tiny.” Sara stood on the cup and made gestured Mel in closer with both hands. “Gimme your finger again.”
“Tiny?” Mel held her index finger close to her shrunken friend.
“It's what we call ourselves.” Sara pulled herself up until she was dangling from Mel's hand feet waving above the upturned cup.
“Wow,” Mel said. “You never used to be able to do that.”
“Well I did lose 99.8% of my mass.” Sara twisted around until she was no longer over the cup. “Can you even feel me?”
“You're using my index finger like a cross between a diving board and a full body pillow. Of course I feel you.”
“I mean the weight.”
“Honestly … I've worn gloves heavier than you.”
“You have no idea how happy that makes me.” Sara dropped barefoot to the table.
“How can they call themselves tiny …”
“Tinies,” Sara interrupted.
“How can they call themselves anything. You're the only person this has ever happened to. Right?”
“So far.” Sara strolled over to the salt shaker and rested her forearms on the pitted metal. “But there are hundreds of us out there who want this. Maybe even thousands. No one knows cause no one's ever bothered to study us. There may have been tinies in Colonial times or ancient Rome. The technology just wasn't there until … now. Literally today.”
“We'll never get you fed getting sidetracked. Tell me what you want and we can share deep thoughts while you nosh.”
“Give me one of those cookies. The ones by the register that are bigger than me.”
“No.” Mel gave her a look.
“Do you have any idea how frickin' cute I'd look eating one of those? And who doesn't want baked goods they have to hug?”
“You have not eaten a thing all day. There is no way in Hell I'm gonna pump you full of pure sugar. You'll get sick.”
“Please!” Sara gave Mel her patented puppy dog eyes.
“Sorry, but no dice.”
“It's ok.” Sara shrugged her shoulders and the sad puppy washed out of her eyes. “I don't want this to get weird, but I kinda like it when you take charge. It's like you're watching out over me. Makes me feel protected.”
“You're gonna feel like the gold in Fort Knox you stay this small much longer.”
“Yes ma'am.” Sara stood to attention as best she could barefoot in a bathing suit and saluted the giant waitress. “Anything you say ma'am.”
“I'll be back with your lunch, private.” Mel smiled down at her friend before heading back to the kitchen.
The coffee shop wasn't a full restaurant. It didn't even have an oven or grill. They got a few baked goods brought in when the owner thought they'd sell and there were some sandwich fixings for the retirees who came in when the senior center bus rolled by. There wasn't much, but Mel put together a plate.
Sara was wrestling a sugar packet out of the holder by the time Mel made it back to the table. It was obvious the little woman was having trouble. To Mel it only weighed a few ounces, but at Sara's scale it must've been a fifty pound bag. Fifty pounds wedged tight between dozens of other equally heavy bags.
“Not so easy being tiny, is it?” Mel said pulling the packet casually from the bowl. Sara misjudged her grip and landed indignantly on her butt.
“Never said there wasn't a downside.” Sara pulled herself to her knees and dusted off her backside with the side of her hand. “What's for lunch?”
“Cheese slices, veggies, and some nuts I found in my bag. I pinched off some bits of bread in case you want to make micro-sandwiches. There's smears of condiments to chose from on this edge of the plate. ” Mel put a plate on the table in front of her, several inches from where Sara knelt. “If you have trouble chewing the nuts I can run 'em through the coffee grinder. We can split a muffin for dessert once I'm sure you've had a well rounded meal.”
It took Sara several steps to get to the plate once she got to her feet. Mel had done a decent job of making sure everything was in easy reach, but that wasn't the experience Sara was after. The lip of the plate was level with her knees. It wasn't the hardest climb, but Sara took her time making sure her feet didn't slide on the smooth surface.
“This is incredible.” Sara gathered up the most appealing veggies and nuts holding them against her chest with her arm. She had more than she could eat by the time she sat down on the slice of provolone in the center of the plate. “It's like I'm sitting on a homogenized picnic blanket.”
“Happy?” Mel picked up a piece of green pepper and popped it in her mouth.
“The only thing that could make it better is if you were to roll me up in this cheese. Like Cleopatra got rolled in the carpet and delivered to Cesar.” Sara rolled around on the cheese to emphasize her point. “Only instead of Cesar you'd give me to Jackie. You could tell him I had to leave, but you made him a snack for all his troubles. And he'd be super sad he didn't get to see me again. And later on he'd get so hungry he almost forgot how sad he was and he'd remember the cheese rollup he stashed in his pocket and he'd bring it to his mouth and I'd look out from my little cheese hole and see his beautiful lips opening up wide and I'd call out 'please don't eat me' and he'd stop and he'd hold me in his hand and we'd talk for hours sharing his cheese snack.”
“Stop playing in your food.”
“Yes mom.” Sara rolled her eyes and stopped rolling her body.
Sara sat up and grabbed one of the peanuts. The thing felt like a coconut in her hands. One without milk or a hollow center; shell all the way through. She didn't bother trying to bite it. Sara may have only been this small a few hours, but there were some things she could just tell weren't possible any more. Eating a peanut out of the bag was no longer an option.
She crawled to the edge of her cheese picnic blanket and found an uncluttered piece of plate. She raised the peanut far above her head and slammed it down hard on the porcelain ground. The first hit split the nut in two down its seam. Sara kept slamming smaller pieces down until she had something she could chew.
“So you're saying tinies are kinda like trans people?” Mel asked after watching her friend struggle to eat a simple nut.
“I don't think I did,” Sara said around a mouthful of lettuce.
“When you were talking about tinies before. Some of what you said reminded me of stuff I've heard Brian and Alicia talk about. How there were always trans people, it's just most society didn't know what to do with them. How they weren't really recognized until medicine and psychology caught up. If they had been born a hundred years ago they'd've been screwed.”
“I'm not sure I'm comfortable making that comparison. I'd need to … I don't even know what I'd need to do.”
“That's a first.” Mel's phone dinged when Jackie messaged. “It's Jackie. Your giant maybe-boyfriend just crossed the Henniker town line. Technically he's a county away and you're still pocket-sized. Want to call this experiment a dud?”
“Tell him to drive back. If he goes much further it'll be midnight before I see him again.”
“Done.” Mel hit send and stared at the phone till she got a response. “He's seen it and … he's sent me a thumbs up emoji.”
“Would it be a super dick move if I asked you for another huge favor?” Sara gave Mel another round of puppy dog eyes.
“Like anything about you counts as huge anymore.”
“You have no idea how good it feels getting talked down to like that.” Sara pulled off a piece of her cheese blanket and popped it in her mouth. “I feel it right here in my little heart,” Sara said, talking around the mouthful of cheese and patting her chest with her palm.
“Skip the Hallmark feels and tell me what you'd like me to do.”
“Would it be too much trouble to get me a shower?” Sara scrunched her face up like she was asking the impossible. “I'm still kinda on my first date with Jackie and I'm more than a little gross.”
“You don't look too bad to me.” Mel leaned down and squinted at the woman resting on their lunch.
“The sunscreen dried and I've got stuff sticking to me.”
“From Jackie's pocket.” It was a statement, not a question.
Sara nodded her tiny head.
“There's a spray nozzle out back in the real kitchen, but that's got two speeds – off and blast the dishes into submission. If it didn't drill holes in you it'd knock you flat on your butt.” Mel paused a second to think. “I could put you under the faucet and only open the tap a little. It'd be more like a waterfall than a shower.”
“That sounds amazing.”
“Only thing is our sink is … is there a word worse than abomination? I think you'd catch something if I made you stand on it. What about a nice warm bath?”
“In abomination sink?” Sara gave Mel a skeptical look.
“Of course not, doofus.” Mel tapped the back of her fingernail against the upturned coffee cup Sara had used as a seat. It gave a low ring. “In a nice clean cup.”
“That wouldn't be too much trouble?” Sara asked. “Cause bathing someone sounds like an awful lot of effort.”
“One. I don't see anything wrong with your hands; you can bathe your own damn self.” Mel ticked off the count on fingers longer than Sara's body. “Two. All I gotta do is pour water in a cup. That is literally what I do six hours a day, six days a week. Three. You've been through a lot today and it ain't getting any easier. Let me pamper you a little.”
“You're the best.”
“You keep telling me that.” Mel rose to her feet and picked up the cup. “Now finish your lunch while I get things set up. If you're a good girl we can share a cookie after bath time.”
“You are really getting into this mom domme thing aren't you?” Sara decided lunch was over and left the plate.
“I have no idea what you're talking about.” Mel didn't turn back as she walked up to the counter and filled the cup from the tap.
“I'm calling bullshit.” Sara took a seat on the table resting her back against the salt shaker as she watched her giant friend prepare her bath. “You've had this protective mama bear vibe long before I knew ya. And you've NEVER been shy about telling me when you think I'm wrong.”
“M.K.B.,” Mel said. “Melissa Knows Best.”
“See! That's exactly the mom kinda attitude I mean.”
“You'd rather I didn't look out for you?” Mel made her way back to the table carrying the cup and a metal cream dispenser.
“Don't get me wrong. I am loving the fact you're taking care of me right now. Loving It! That's a huge part of the fantasy. At least for me. I just find it a little … I don't want to say weird cause I don't want to hurt your feelings and you're being amazeballs right now, but it is a little odd that when I'm plopped in your lap completely helpless you go into mother hen mode. Right down to ordering me around like I was a little kid.”
“If you don't want to be treated like a little girl maybe you should stop acting like one.” Mel placed the cup on Sara's right, the dispenser on Sara's left, and took a seat.
“I can't even tell if you're joking right now.” Sara pulled herself to her feet staring at her friend's expression. “I swear to god you've got resting mom face.”
“Is that like resting bitch face only you replaced bitch with mom?” Mel asked deadpan.
“You even ruin jokes the way my mom does.”
“That's nice, sweetie. Now hop in the tub like a good girl and we'll have you squeaky clean in no time.” Mel laid flat wooden coffee stirrers against the lip of the cup and the table. It only took five of them to form a plank wide enough Sara could walk up.
“You're enjoying this, aren't you?” Sara tested her weight on the rough wood.
“Immensely.” Mel's eyes flashed bright. “I've got more common sense than all my friends put together, but none of them ever do a dang thing I tell them. Your thing is being made tiny and helpless and getting ordered around. You've shrunk; I figured I'd lean into it. Tell me you don't like it when I tell you what to do.”
“I hate you.” Sara slowly lowered herself into the warm water. She glared at Mel, but it was a friendly pouty glare.
“Cause you're a proud little mouse who doesn't want to admit the truth?”
“Are you fishing for me to say those three little words?”
“I think I'm being pretty obvious, don't you … little girl?”
“That's not fair.”
“Ordering you around like you want or teasing you?”
“Cause my little Barbie likes it?”
“I'm not Barbie.” Sara crossed her arms over her chest. She hoped it looked defiant and not like she was hugging herself.
“No. You're not big enough.” Mel smiled down on her tiny friend. “I could ask Jackie to stop at a toy store on the way back and pick up a real Barbie and we could see how you measure up.”
Sara shook her head violently from side to side while hugging herself tighter. She had no idea why Mel had decided to be this way, but it was feeding into her fantasy in ways she'd never imagined.
“We are going to need a sitter for you. When I'm at work and Jackie's in the lab. We can't leave you alone. That'd be irresponsible. And putting you in a cage … that'd be cruel. We could have Barbie look after you.”
Mel stared down at Sara. It was obvious the shrunken woman was doing her best to hide the reaction Mel's teasing was having on her.
“I don't want Barbie looking after me,” Sara said like it was a reasonable option. “I want you. Or Jackie.”
“And why's that?”
“Cause I'm fucked in the head.” Sara wanted to submerge completely, but left her face above water.
“No. No you aren't.”
The words came softly from Mel's lips, but they buried themselves like a bullet in Sara's heart. The tiny writer let herself go under long enough for the tears to blend in with her bath. She floated there silently for a very long time trying to put her thoughts into words that wouldn't mess everything up.
Mel kept the bath warm while Sara did what she had to do, pouring fresh hot water from the metal dispenser.
“When someone I trust, someone I like, gives me an order,” Sara said after collecting her thoughts. “It's like I'm covered in their love. Like a warm blanket. Like they're pushing me around because they care. And I want to obey cause it shows how much I trust and care about them.”
“Would you do anything I told you to?” Mel asked.
Sara nodded and added a “yes” when she wasn't sure Mel could see the miniature gesture.
“Then I'm going to give you a very special order. The most important order you'll ever get in your entire life. Do you promise to be a good girl and obey me?”
“I will.” Sara closed her eyes and let herself slip further into subspace.
“I know this is your fantasy being tiny like this. I know you love being treated like a toy, or a doll, or a pet. And I hope you can enjoy some of that while you can. But I'm going to need you to promise me you're going to do your best to become normal again.”
“You're using my fantasy against me,” Sara said, her eyes still closed. “You sure my mom didn't hollow you out and wear you?”
“If you have a chance to become your old size again you will take it.” Mel ignored Sara's attempts to deflect. “You will do everything in your power to get back to your old life.”
“Yes, ma'am.” Obedience flushed through Sara like a powerful narcotic.
“And why is that?” Mel asked.
“Because Melissa's always right,” Sara said contritely.
Sara stuck out her tongue at her giant friend.
“I'm gonna give you some privacy while you finish up. I'll get the water as hot as you can stand, give you a couple drops of hand soap, and let you get out of that suit to take a proper bath. Toss it over the lip and I'll collect it off the table. A couple minutes under the hand dryer in the women's room and it'll be dry as new. Let me know when you're ready to come out and we'll get you into it.”
Mel turned her head enough she could see the table but not its occupant. After a few seconds a tiny piece of cloth landed with a wet splat on the old wood. Mel had to pick it up and unfold it to recognize it as Sara's bikini top. It seemed so unreal holding a piece of doll clothing knowing it fit someone she knew.
And then Mel was holding a normal bikini top. Wet and warm like Sara had just taken it off and handed it to her. Like the last hour had been an elaborate joke. Some stress induced hallucination.
“Sara … honey. Did you do … anything?” Mel had no idea what else to ask.
“Just took my ladies out of boob jail,” Sara said. “I'm not doing anything dirty. Honest.”
Mel just held Sara's now normal-sized top by the straps over the coffeecup bath.
“That's not …” Sara let the sentence fizzle out.
“It is.” Mel held the top between her and the cup blocking her view of her half naked friend. “It turned into this five seconds after you took it off.”
“And tossed it away.”
“Like what's supposed to happen when things leave Jackie's field,” Mel said.
“So anything that leaves me turns normal?”
“I guess.” Mel carefully draped one of the bikini cups over Sara's bath. The larger woman needed to reach her phone, but she wanted to give Sara her privacy. “I need to call Jackie.”
“So what you're saying is, if I were to shimmy out of these bottoms and toss 'em over the edge I would have absolutely no normal clothes left. All my stuff would be too big for me and I'd be forced to wear napkins or doll clothes. Or whatever.”
“Why would you …” Mel was tapping Jackie's number when the answer hit her. “No! You keep your pants on! That's an order.”