The drive home was a long one. By the time we finally made it back to her home, the sun was beginning to set in the distance. Rachel smiled and looked at me as we began to near her home. She reached over and unbuckled my seat so that I could stretch my body a little. I gave a gentle yawn and stretched my arms and legs.
“Are you getting sleepy?” She asked.
“Maybe a little.” I admitted. Rachel parked the car and climbed out, walking around the front, opening up the passenger door for me. She reached in and picked me up out of the chair and held me up against her chest.
“Don’t sleep yet, sweetie. We gotta show mom and dad what you look like now.” I grimaced a little. I had met her parents before when I had first come to Korea. They were very sweet people and they had been very kind to me. Letting them see me like this would be rather awkward…but not quite as awkward as the rest of the day had been. “I’ll come back and get the rest of the stuff from the car later, after I put you to bed.”
“Put me to bed? I don’t need a bed time.” Though I thought this, I found myself yawning again. I didn’t want to admit it, but I was unbelievably sleepy. Why though? It couldn’t be any later than 6 o clock. Rachel walked to the door and opened it up wide enough to walk inside with me. In her free hand, I noticed she was carrying my clothes from the park, before I had become a baby.
“Mom, Dad?” She called. “Are you there?”
“Hello, dear! We’re in the kitchen!” Rachel’s mom called back. Rachel smiled and hurried off to the kitchen. Sitting at the table were both of Rachel’s parents. They looked like they had been talking. They turned when Rachel walked in, smiling happily…until they saw me. Their reactions were…pretty much what I had expected.
“Rachel, what is this!?” her father shouted. Rachel’s mom gasped and jumped to her feet.
“Where did that baby come from!? It’s not…”
“No, mom! It’s not mine.” Rachel laughed. She bounced me lightly in her arms. “Do you remember my friend James?” Her parents nodded, looking from her to me.
“And no, I’m not the father to…myself…” Even as I thought these words, I was confused by them, so I let it go.
“Well…here he is!” Rachel announced, holding me out. There was a long moment of silence as Rachel’s parents stared at me. I just gazed back at them, smiling sheepishly.
“Rachel, are you insane? James isn’t a baby!”
“That’s what I kept telling myself…until I was put in a diaper.”
“It’s true!” Rachel cried. “James is really a baby!”
“Yeah, she keeps reminding me of that.” I could see that Rachel’s folks weren’t buying this, and they were starting to get angry.
“Look, these are his clothes!” Rachel said, showing the clothes that I had worn at the park. “They fell off of his body when he changed."
“Please tell me you have more evidence than that.” I groaned. Rachel set me down on the table, and I sat on my diapered butt and looked up at the two adults.
“Just look at him, doesn’t he look a lot like James?” the two stared at me intently for a long time, and I felt like they were trying to probe me with their eyes.
“In answer to your previous question…yes, she is insane.”
“Rachel, that’s enough.” Rachel’s mother said firmly. “This child is not James…now tell us the truth.”
“Rachel, you might wanna come up with something fast.” Rachel looked stumped. She began to pace back and forth, leaving me concerned…and sleepy, on the table.
“Alright…how about if I let James write it out!” I suddenly widened my eyes a little. Write? Could I still write?
“Mom…please!” Rachel begged. “This will work, I’m sure of it!” She turned to the counter and grabbed a pen and a piece of paper, laying both out in front of me. “James…please…write for them! Show them that you’re really James.”
"Alright, alright!" I stared at the paper and at the pen for a long time…I then reached out and started to grabbed the pen in my tiny hand. My hand grasped it firmly and I looked back at the paper. If I could maybe write my name…then I might could convince them who I was. But how to do it? I set the pen down and glared at the paper. My arm didn’t have enough muscle power to do this…did it? Suddenly, I heard a gasp from above me. I looked up to see that the parents were staring at me in shock.
“The pen…” they muttered. I looked down and realized that the pen was no facing the other way. I had turned it with my pinkie. It was an old habit of mine when I struggled with what to write on a test or essay. I would set the pen down and absentmindedly start spinning the pen with my pinkie. I never really thought much about it…I just did it. But then it hit me.
“Babies don’t do that!” That old habit of mine had saved my case!
“You see?!” Rachel cried. “That’s James’s old habit!”
“Hold on…so….if he has James’s habit, do you think that he might be able to understand us?” Rachel’s dad asked. He leaned forward and looked at me. I stared back at him, feeling so small and helpless to this taller man. I was only the size of his head!
“Were you born in Korea?” He asked. I shook my head no. As I did, Rachel’s father leaned back in stunned amazement. His wife’s eyes looked as big as dinner plates, and she was fixed on me. “Where you born in the United States?” I nodded my head yes this time, but keeping the same serious expression on my face. This seemed to convince them.
“How did this happen, Rachel?”
For the next hour, Rachel retold the entire story about how she had made a wish at the park wishing well and how I had regressed down to an infant. She mentioned how she had picked up her things at school, gone shopping for baby materials, and then brought me home. As they listened, they would occasionally glance in my direction, as if expecting me to speak up and confirm what she was saying was true. Truth was that, even if I could speak, I’m not entirely sure I could fully believe everything that had happened to me in the past few hours. I simply sat quietly and patiently on the table, glancing around me at the kitchen and back at the parents from time to time.
“So, a wishing well turned James into a baby?” Rachel’s father asked.
“Yeah, it sounds really stupid when you put it like that.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty much what we think happened…and I suspect he’ll turn back in a month, when my project finally starts.” Rachel continued.
“That’s what we hope, anyway.”
“So, in the meantime, you’re going to take care of him?” Rachel’s mom asked.
“Well of course…I have to. I’m responsible for what happened to him, and I should take this opportunity to better prepare for the project.” Rachel said firmly. Rachel’s mom shook her head.
“Rachel, sweetheart…this isn’t a baby doll that your teacher handed to you for an assignment, this is a real baby. A real baby who also happens to be far from his real parents and with very real needs. That means that this is a REAL responsibility.” Rachel’s mom pressed. “James needs to be carefully looked after. He needs your undivided attention. A baby isn’t a toy, Rachel.”
“Okay, I’m not that pathetic, you know.” I grumbled defensively. However, I also recognized her point. Though I still had my adult mind, my body couldn’t sustain itself…I wasn’t strong enough. As much as I hated to admit it…I did need to be taken care of until I turned back.
“Mom, James is more than a baby.”
“He’s my friend. It’s my fault he’s like this, and I promised him that I’d get him through this.” Rachel assured her. I couldn’t help but smile at Rachel for this. For the first time since this had happened, she had referred to me as her friend rather than her infant.
“Well, since you’re insistent about doing this…I guess we don’t have any other choice but to take care of James until the month is out.” Rachel’s dad said. “However, for James’s own sake, we’re going to help you care for him. It’s not that we don’t trust you to care for him…but you don’t have nearly as much experience with babies as we do.”
“Yeah, I’d appreciate that.”
“I don’t mind.” Rachel said with a smile. “In fact, I’m gonna need all the help I can get.” I suddenly felt my body stiffen and I let out a long yawn, making my body feel even more sleepy than before. Rachel’s mother leaned over the table to look at me. I tried to keep my eyes open to look at her, but they were half shut.
“James looks exhausted.” She noted. “You’ll need to put him to bed.”
“Just gimme some coffee in a sippy cup, and I’ll be fine.”, I giggled jokingly. Rachel leaned down and scooped me up off the table and cradled me gently.
“I’ll put him to bed, Mom.” She assured her. Rachel turned to head out of the kitchen. Suddenly another person ran into the kitchen. He was quite young, probably no older than 10 years. He had black hair and had a very happy look on his face. He ran into the room and saw Rachel.
“Rachel! You’re home!” He laughed. Before he could run in to hug her, he stopped in his tracks at the sight of me. “Is that a baby?!” I knew this boy. He was Rachel’s younger brother, Minseong. He was a nice kid, and I’d never gotten to meet him in person, but Rachel had told him who I was in the past. Would he believe that I was James?
“Yes, this is a baby, and I have to go put him to bed. I’ll come back and talk to you later.”
“But where did he come from!?”
“Well, when a mom and a dad love each other very much…”
“I promise I’ll tell you all about it later, Minseong.” Rachel assured him.
“It’s quite the story, I assure you.”
“Go put James to bed, Rachel…we’ll explain everything.” Rachel’s dad called. Rachel nodded and moved past Minseong quickly to go to her room, leaving her brother very confused.
Rachel walked into her room and sat down on her twin bed. She rocked me slowly and used her free hand to fluff the pillow on her bed.
“I don’t have a crib for you yet, so you’ll have to sleep in my bed for now.”
“You’d better not roll on me.”
“So, you ready for bed?”
“Do I have a choice?” She turned and lay me down on the pillow and wrapped me up in a small blanket, tucking it around me and rubbing my tummy.
“Would you like a lullaby, or a bedtime story?” She asked.
“I’d like to be 19 years old again, please.” She sat down next to me and stroked my head. I felt my eyes growing heavy as she began to hum a lullaby to me. I fought the urge to sleep, but the humming was hypnotic. I felt myself losing the war with myself. It was soothing…my body felt heavy and my eyelids began to shut. I let out a yawn and with that, I lost the last of my strength. My thoughts and my body drifted away into a deep slumber. Just as I was passing out, I could have sworn I felt a soft kiss touch my forehead. “Thanks…Rachel.”