Suddenly becoming wealthy at age 33 taught Valene Hawson some real life lessons. The most important was that money couldn't buy happiness. You could use it to place a rather substantial down payment on happiness, but it would only take you just short of your goal.
For Valene, the down payment included an apartment on the top floor of the exclusive Ocean Point Towers with a balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean. She had a housekeeper come in several times a week to keep things tidy. A closetful of fabulous clothes allowed her to go in style anywhere in her PT Cruiser auto.
Her ultimate goal, however, was Rob Corboy, a physical fitness technician with the McCauley Health Club. His title belied the fact that his job was to lead group aerobics sessions. But what wasn't to like about Rob, with muscles bulging from beneath his tank top down his arms, his lantern jaw, bright blue eyes, perfect white teeth, and short groomed pepper brown hair. Valene had wanted to get him in her arms in her boudoir since she first spotted him at the beach nearly two months before.
But Valene realized she was in no shape to pursue Rob. She knew his tastes from close observation. Rob only returned the flirts from the best-looking, toned and well-endowed women. And Valene was 30 lb. overweight with a rounded face, flabby legs and a B-cup chest. She especially knew that Rob wouldn't settle for oranges when grapefruit was available.
"Why won't men like Rob go for a woman with merely a good personality," Valene thought. It was her personality that resulted in her inheriting nearly $30 million from her grandfather.
According to the will, Valene was named sole heir because her grandfather remembered how during her girlhood she frequently visited him, bringing small gifts like dandelions from neighbors' front lawns. He remembered how she sat in his lap and listened to his stories about his adventures as a rail-riding hobo in the late 1930s, his exploits in Europe during World War II, his vacations in Latin America, even how he built from scratch his now-defunct plumbing supplies business. He especially remembered how cheerful Valene had been, and how she always tried to cheer him up.
"In that Valene Hawson was the only one of my grandchildren to regularly visit me during my retirement and seemed happy to be with me, I hearby bequeath my entire estate to her," the will he wrote in 1983 read. Who knew that the old man living on monthly Social Security checks would be worth so much? Who knew that his efforts to supplement his income with dividend checks would result from his buying IPOs from companies he thought had quaint names, like Wal-Mart, Netscape, Microsoft and Starbucks? He willed his assets to the only person who cared about him when everyone else thought he was near broke.
The executor had only one bit of advice for Valene. "With this fortune, you could become like that little girl who so captivated your grandfather; being carefree, having fun while having others perform the necessities for you," he said.
But a good personality only works with grandparents, Valene believed. She knew she would not be happy until she won and married Rob; but Rob wanted more. So Valene enrolled as a member in the McCauley Health Club, and visited several times a week to reconfigure her physical assets into a shape more pleasing to Rob. She worked very hard to thin and tone her body, but progress was extremely slow.
On one particular day, Valene was working up a sweat on the exercise bike. Covered with perspiration, she turned to the occupant of the adjacent bike, a brown-eyed brunette with Roman features who appeared to shop at the same spare tire store as Valene.
"Race you to the bakery and back," Valene challenged the woman. "I think that's why we're in the shape we're in," the woman replied, adding, "Looks like you've had enough." Valene puffed furiously, then responded, "There must be a better way than this to get fit - and sexy."
Later in the ladies' locker room, the woman approached Valene smiling and offering her hand. "I don't think I introduced myself. I'm Uxia Santos." Valene returned the greeting, adding, "You-SHE-a. How do you spell that?" The woman grinned more broadly, and said, "Any way you want."
This friendly exchange resulted in the two ladies joining each other over a couple cups of McCauley's house-blend Tangerine Health Punch. At this point, Valene repeated her gripe that "There must be a better way than this to get fit - and sexy."
"There is a better way - a much shorter way to get fit and more youthfully beautiful," Uxia noted. "But I've never been able to afford it." Valene was intrigued. "What is this way?" she inquired.
"Izumiwakai mineral water! It comes from an underground cavern in the Kuraihebi Springs area of far southern Japan. The water is supposed to have amazing - and near immediate - rejuvenative properties," Uxia noted, adding, "But there is a hitch. A liter of Izumiwakai mineral water costs $10,000. And it isn't available through regular sales outlets. You have to know a friend of a friend to get it. I've located a source, but cannot afford to buy any."
"What proof do you have that this water does what you say?" Valene countered skeptically. Uxia reached into her large handbag and produced a brochure and a reprint of a report supposedly from a prestigious medical school. And there it was in full color before Valene - all the proof she'd need. The price was a bit steep, but Valene really wanted to complete the furnishing of her boudoir.
"Could you get me a bottle of this Izumiwakai water?" Valene asked, as she produced her checkbook. "I don't know…" Uxia started. "Tell you what. You get me a bottle, and I'll buy one for you too. You look like you can use it, just like me. Consider it my tip." Valene said, as she scrawled a check for $20,000.
"I'll bring it to your home by morning. What is your address?" Uxia excitedly said. "Just bring it to the health club tomorrow evening. That'll be soon enough," Valene replied.
Uxia entered the McCauley ladies locker room the following evening with a small brown bag. Valene looked plaintively, expecting to get more for the sizable amount she had paid. Uxia handed Valene one bottle, hoisted the other, grinned at Valene and said, "Bottom's up!"
Valene was disappointed that there was no immediate effect. She wondered if Uxia had pulled a fast one on her. She hauled her cellulite-encrusted rear to the treadmill machine and set it for 2 mph. Uxia occupied the machine next to her.
But as the two ladies began to pick up steam, the miraculous occurred. Valene could feel her body tingling from shoulder to ankle. As she trotted along the backward moving band, she could feel her exercise clothes becoming looser with two exceptions - her chest and forearms. The more she ran, the easier it got. She upped the treadmill speed to 4 mph, then 5 mph. "I feel great!" Valene told herself.
"You ladies have certainly made fast progress," a female employee complimented Valene and Uxia.
Off the machines, the two ladies rushed to a full-length mirror and were amazed at what they saw. Valene saw almost a stranger staring back; one with a thin, well-tone body. Her face was more angular with high cheekbones. Her waist was pencil thin. Her legs were long and curvaceous. And she now had a D-cup chest.
Uxia also had experienced a similar change. Her arms and legs lost their flab and became shapely. Her waist had gone from 30 to 22 inches. Most remarkable, her breasts had enlarged so that they were pushing out her sports bra, giving her bottom cleavage. "We're young - and gorgeous now," she giggled. Valene then pulled at her old exercise clothing, which now hung on her svelte frame. "This will never do," she said to Uxia, before running to the health club's clothing store. She emerged a few minutes later wearing a form-fitting purple leotard with gold racing stripes that accentuated her every curve.
Uxia watched Valene closely as her new friend grinned in the direction of Rob. "I have life and liberty," Valene said. "But tomorrow, I begin my pursuit of happiness."
South of the Boudoir (part 2)
At home, Valene couldn't stop admiring her slinky new body in a full-length mirror. Rob was as good as installed in her boudoir. And she owed it all to Uxia.
She finally had her first friend since becoming rich whom was more interested in helping her than vice versa. Uxia, she thought, wasn't like her friends from the days when she was a receptionist. On learning she had money, they all - with the exception of once close coworker Marjorie - asked for loans or gifts. Yet soon after meeting Uxia, she was given this voluptuous body.
Valene began the following day by cleaning out her home closet and gave the contents to charity. She then went on the biggest shopping spree of her life, acquiring all sorts of new clothing that had only one thing in common - they hugged and flattered her newly minted supermodel-like body. These included strapless gowns, tailored suits, and even wispy-thin lace lingerie. She capped the day by getting a complete beauty makeover, including a trendy hairstyle.
That evening, all eyes were on Valene as she strut into the McCauley Health Club. There were even some whistles from energetic young men, some of which were followed by head bopping noises, obviously produced by their wives or fiancees.
Entering the hall of exercise machines in her tight leotard, Valene spotted Rob. Tussling her long auburn hair backwards, Valene fluttered her long slightly curled eyelashes and demurely smiled at Rob.
"I wonder if he saw me flirting," Valene wondered. She didn't have to wait very long. Two long arms sprang from behind and wrapped around her lithe body. "Hello, beautiful," she heard from Rob's voice. As she turned her head to meet Rob's, his hands suddenly squeezed the bottoms of her ample breasts.
Valene giggled. Nothing like this had happened to her since she was a high school senior. And the boy who did that deed was rewarded with a slap to his face. She never saw that boy again. Valene would not make the same mistake with Rob.
"Sorry, but cantaloupe is out of season," Valene giggled. "I just dropped by for a cup of…" Rob snorted. "You don't know?" she replied. "The hell I do," he grinned.
Valene had never been more excited in her life. Rob spent as much time as he could, helping Valene do sit-ups and build muscle tone with weights. By then, both had worked up a real sweat, and Valene was enjoying every minute of it - even when Uxia sauntered into the scene.
"Getting exactly the kind of workout you've always wanted?" Uxia asked. "Not completely," Valene responded as she grinned in Rob's direction.
"Look how wet your hair is getting from all that exercising. Here! You can borrow mine," Uxia said as she dropped a towel on Valene's head. Valene patted her hair with it and then placed it on the floor. "Have fun," Uxia grinned as she left.
As Uxia vanished into the next room, Rob grinned slyly at Valene and invited her into a backroom where he had set up a secret "office" where he could goof off.
Valene sat on a folding cot as Rob poured two cups of the Tangerine Health Punch. "It's my own special recipe. I put a little more (hehehe) punch into this punch," Rob grinned.
As Valene finished her drink, Rob moved closer to her on the cot. "It will take more than punch to quench the thirst I have," Rob said. Valene smiled. Rob was beginning to sound like he lifted dialogue from those supermarket romance paperbacks, but hey, Valene thought, this was Rob Corboy!
Rob quickly moved even closer and planted a wet kiss of her neck. Valene's pulse raced! Rob planted another kiss under her chin, then on her ear, then…nothing!
"How old are you?" Rob asked. "I'm 22," Valene replied nervously. "No you're not. You've got some gray hairs. You're in the earliest stages of going gray. You have to be at least in your early 30s," Rob said, adding, "I don't know whom you are trying to kid. Rob Corboy doesn't date older women."
Valene stumbled into the locker room, nearly in tears. She stared into a mirror. She did have what looked like a few stray gray hairs. Not as many as before she drank the Izumiwakai water, but a few none this less.
She then spotted Uxia leaning against a nearby wall smirking. "Your stupid water is wearing off. I paid so much, and only 24 hours later, I'm aging again," Valene moaned. "Calm down," Uxia said. "Sometimes it takes two doses to make the changes permanent. I can get you a second bottle and bring it to your home tonight. What's your address?"
Valene wrote another $10,000 check, but insisted that Uxia bring the Japanese mineral water, as before, to the health club the following evening. Uxia agreed, but Valene thought she saw a look of anger in Uxia's eyes as she turned and left the club. On her way out, Uxia dropped into the used towel bin the one that Valene used in the weight room; the one that contained residue from a few tiny rills of platinum blonde hair coloring.
The following evening, Valene sat impatiently in the locker room until Uxia appeared with a plain brown bag. "It's about time," Valene said as she grabbed the bottle of Izumiwakai from the sack and quickly downed the contents. "That was refreshing," Valene said on finishing. "Now I feel like taking a swim."
South of the Boudoir (part 3)
Wearing a lilac-colored Olympic-style body-hugging swimsuit, Valene made a perfect dive into the McCauley pool. Stroking her way the distance of the pool, she began to feel tingling throughout her entire body. "The water is working," she smiled.
But before long, the suit began to feel loose. Water began to cascade over the top of the suit into her cleavage area. Water then began collecting in the suit's seat, creating a drag on her swimming. Valene twitched and twisted in the pool, but progress toward the other side was slowed almost to a standstill. She paddled harder, but the drag increased. She floundered in one spot. Suddenly, a shoulder strap slipped. Valene grabbed for it, only to have the other strap slip. Valene registered horror as she swam out of her swimsuit.
Uxia stood at poolside grinning as another woman held up Valene's swimsuit and yelled, "Anybody lose this?" Other swimmers burst into chuckles.
To avoid embarrassment, Valene dived to the bottom on the pool and swam along the floor. She bobbed up near Uxia, whom she quietly paged for attention. "Get me out of here. I lost my suit," Valene whispered at a grinning Uxia, who answered, "Quick, jump into this towel."
Valene complied and quickly wrapped the huge towel around her body. "Let's get out of here," she said, tilting her head toward her friend. A quadruple whammy pounded Valene's head as she found herself looking into Uxia's stomach. She then looked upward and saw Uxia peer back at her through her cleavage.
Uxia snatched Valene's tiny hand and quickly marched her back into the ladies' locker room. "What in hell did that water do to me," Valene cried, finding herself talking in a much higher pitch than before. "I'd say you acquired too much youth. You look no older than an 8-year-old girl," Uxia smiled back.
Peaking into the towel, Valene was rattled by what she saw. Her sylphlike body was gone, replaced by one that was almost shapeless. Her 38D chest was board flat with almost no hint of nipples. Her arms and legs were like reeds. Everything smacked of prepubescence.
"I can't live like this. What's going to happen to me now?" Valene whimpered. "Let me help you," Uxia said as she removed the towel and placed a large sweatshirt over the newly minted 8-year-old's body. It covered Valene to below her knees. Uxia rolled up the sleeves to expose Valene's hands.
Stuffing Valene's street clothes and leotard into her gym bag, Uxia again took the girl's hand and dragged her through the health club's exit. "I can't go outside. I'm not wearing any underwear. It's embarrassing," Valene protested. Uxia scowled back at her reduced friend. "How can I help you if you won't let me," she said, adding, "Now you're finally going to have to tell me where you live."
Valene thought about it, but still hesitated. She had kept her residence a secret, fearing she'd by inundated with people seeking only to relieve her of her money. She didn't even tell her old co-worker Marjorie, whom she once prized as her best friend.
"Never mind," Uxia said as she found Valene's wallet among her clothing in the bag. She also found the keys to the PT Cruiser. "I always wanted to drive a rare limited-edition car," Uxia chuckled.
Opening the vehicle, Uxia seized the driver's seat and ordered Valene into the rear. "You know what Big Bird says in the commercial, 'Kids in the back seat,'" Uxia sarcastically sneered at Valene. "Yeah, and Big Bird in the freezer 'til Thanksgiving," Valene shot back.
Valene sat in the back, her lip curled down in a pout with her arms folded over a section of her anatomy where a Playtex once crossed her heart. She sourly pondered the turn of events. Only hours earlier, she had been a quite sexy woman in control of her own destiny. Now she had the body of a child and was being ordered around by a woman whom she had not even known days earlier. Something was very rotten.
And things would get more rotten. Pulling into a nearby mall, Uxia yanked the barefoot Valene unwillingly through store after store, buying her some basic items of girl's clothing over her protests. At the first stop, Uxia bought Valene girl's underwear and socks, then escorted her into a restroom to put on one of the pairs of panties. "This isn't Victoria's Secret, but it should stop your squawking about feeling naked," Uxia said.
At the next stop, a bargain store, Uxia bought Valene a couple of cheap girl's dresses, shorts, tops, baby doll pajamas, and a tankini bathing suit. After that, she got Valene a pair of off-brand girl's sneakers. And finally, Uxia stopped at a toy store and acquired for Valene "one luxury" - her very own Barbie doll. "Oh, you lucky little girl," Uxia kept saying. But Valene had no reason for gratitude. At each stop, Uxia was charging the purchases on Valene's credit cards, and was forging her name onto the purchase slips.
Arriving at Ocean Point Towers, Uxia tipped the doorman to bring the night's purchases to Valene's apartment. On entering, Valene watched as Uxia behaved like a kid in a candy store, checking out all of the luxuries in the apartment. Uxia finally stepped outside of Valene's boudoir, holding before her the strapless evening gown Valene had purchased the day before.
"Don't you think this will look so lovely on me," Uxia gushed. Valene just folded her arms across her chest again and glowered. "Now tell me, is there an antidote for Izumiwakai water? I'd like to get some tonight," Valene sternly implored.
"Of course there is, cutie," Uxia said as she pinched Valene's now chubby girl cheek. "But you need me to get it, and well…you're going to have to earn it." Valene stared intently at Uxia's face, her pique rising. "And what will I have to do?" she inquired.
"Not much. Just be my perfectly behaved little daughter for a few weeks," Uxia snickered. "I'll be the mommy and you be my daughter. You do everything I say and I may just let you become a 'gwown up' again," she added with a laugh in her voice.
"Well…okay, but this is my home," Valene retorted. "No it's not," Uxia countered. "I'm your mommy, so this is my home. I run it and everything in it is mine. That includes your designer clothes, which now fit me better than you, and even your boudoir. You'll move into the smaller guest bedroom. You're just the little girl now. If you don't like it, you can remain a little girl. I'm sure Rob will like that…"
A queasy feeling fell over Valene's total being. She realized Uxia had her over a barrel. She couldn't remain a girl. She couldn't continue to function as an adult at this size. Relatives who were jealous that she got all of grandfather's estate could now declare her a minor and take her money after being appointed her trustee or guardian. Worse, while Rob liked his women young, she was way too young to be considered by him now. Also, she didn't know who Uxia's contacts were. If there was an antidote, only Uxia could get it. Valene very reluctantly agreed to Uxia's terms.
"I knew you'd see things my way," Uxia said. "And are we going to have fun."
South of the Boudoir (part 4)
Well, at least Uxia had fun. For the next two nights, Uxia hosted parties in Valene's apartment. All sorts of obnoxious people turned out for the free food, liquor, and drugs; all involuntarily paid for by Valene through Uxia's repetitive forgeries. In the process, furniture got thrashed. Burns appeared in the carpets. Lamps, stereos, and even Valene's Barbie doll were stolen.
Despite her paying the tab, Valene was forbidden attendance to these parties. Uxia explained that they were adult parties, so as her "young daughter," she was exiled to her bedroom under orders to be in pajamas and in bed by 8 p.m. But the parties still came to her. Guests traipsed in and out of her bedroom. On one occasion, Valene was pushed out of her bed by a couple looking for a place to makeout.
Valene had been reduced to an easily ignored petty annoyance in her own home.
While Uxia spared no expense on herself, she was very stingy when it came to Valene. The girl's meals consisted mostly of off-brand canned pastas and convenience foods. While Valene ate Spaghetti-Os, Uxia had gourmet dinners delivered.
Uxia also was determined that all eyes be on her; not the little girl whom she dragged with her. On the second morning, Uxia ordered Valene into the bathtub, where she scrubbed her thoroughly to remove the last vestiges of face creams and other toiletries that might improve her complexion. She further used a strong shampoo to take the curl from Valene's hair. Once dry, Uxia pulled Valene's hair in back of her head, tied a white-bowed ribbon around it to form a ponytail, and then trimmed the hair to an arbitrarily shorter length. "Hey, 'daughter,' people will think, once they compare glamorous me with plain you, that you probably inherited the regressive genes of your father," Uxia giggled.
The third morning, Valene found a strange woman cleaning her apartment. "Who is this woman? And what happened with Mrs. Tolliver?" Valene demanded. "I fired her," Uxia said. "Mrs. Garcia is cheaper, and she can double as your babysitter while I'm away."
"How dare you!" Valene yelled. Uxia frowned deeply. "Is my little daughter showing temper? If you are, I can always extend your return to childhood," she sneered. "Forget I said it," Valene shrieked as she tromped to the next room.
Spotting the telephone, Valene decided it was time to get some help from a real friend. Looking around to verify that the coast was free, Valene dialed a number familiar to herself.
"Hello, Marjorie? This is Val," Valene whispered. "Val? You sound different," Marjorie said. "You don't know how different. I need your help. Can you come to Ocean Point Towers, Suite 1801 right away?" Valene asked. "I'll be right over," Marjorie answered.
Valene shivered when she looked up. It was Uxia, who pushed down the hang-up button. "I thought I told you that you couldn't use the telephone without my permission," she glowered. Uxia swung and hit Valene's pint-size rump with a rolled up newspaper as she ran away.
Valene waited all day for Marjorie to arrive to rescue her, but she never arrived. "Must still be mad at me for interrupting our friendship when I inherited the money," Valene sniffed, fearing that she had ditched a true friend for the new one that was now trying her damnedest to control her life and fortune.
That evening, Uxia packed her gym bag and headed for the health club. Mrs. Garcia came to babysit. Valene was excited to hear she'd be treated to a Mexican dinner, but only received tamales from a jar.
Valene was sitting on the sofa watching television when Uxia returned and sent Mrs. Garcia home. Soon, Uxia returned to the door and whispered, "Coast's clear." In lumbered Rob.
"It was 12 long minutes! I missed you, darlin'," Rob told Uxia as he buried his face into her cleavage. He began to kiss Uxia everywhere on her face and shoulders except her lips. Uxia took Rob by the lapel of his shirt and walked him into the boudoir. She turned to smirk at Valene as she closed the door.
Getting over her mortification, Valene ran to the boudoir door, but it was locked from the inside. She first tried pounding on the door, but decided her girl-size fists weren't making much noise. So she rifled Uxia's bag and swiped one of her own credit cards, which she stuck in the crack of the door to manipulate the lock. Succeeding, Valene ran to the foot of the bed, where she found the two still in the process of removing each other's clothing. Jumping onto the bed and landing painfully on Rob's legs, Valene, by now in tears, cried, "Stop it! You can't do this to me!"
"Oh, yes I can," Uxia, now only in her underwear, said as she grabbed Valene's arm and excruciatingly marched her from the bedroom.
"You can't steal my man. Rob is mine. And as soon as I get the antidote…" Valene tearfully yelled. But her tears were silenced when Uxia coldly replied, "There is no antidote."
Now totally aghast, Valene quietly responded, "No antidote?" Uxia copped a crooked smile. "Never was," she said. "I only told you that so I could solidify my seizure of your wealth and possessions.
"Don't look so dumb," Uxia told Valene. "I knew you had a fortune. It took me weeks to strike up an acquaintance with you so I could steer you toward taking a double dose of that Izumiwakai water. I thought it would take several more weeks to get you interested, but you were so moonstruck with Rob the Hunk that you bit within hours of our meeting. You were so easy to manipulate. And now look at you. A little girl who no longer controls her wealth or destiny. I have your wealth. I control your destiny. I even have your boyfriend, thanks to this new body you bought me. And there's nothing you can do about it, except maybe go back to grade school."
Seeing Uxia snicker in her face was too much for Valene. With her hard-rubber-toe sneaker, she gave Uxia a forceful kick to the ankle. Momentarily wincing, Uxia exploded in a mass of motion that pulled Valene over her knees and removed one of Valene's shoes. "So you like hurting people with shoes," Uxia said. "It's time you learned that you're just an insignificant little girl," she added as the shoe's heel made initial contact with Valene's pantied bottom. "Eeeeeee!" Valene screamed.
"And this will teach you what to expect from now on if you cross me, or don't obey me," Uxia said as she lowered the shoe in harder blows 11 more times on Valene's rump.
Finally released, Valene scrambled under her living room lamp table and tearfully trembled as Uxia returned to the boudoir, smirked, and then toss her bra out the door before closing it. This final gesture to show who was in total charge hit Valene hard. She was utterly devastated. Rob was finally in her boudoir, but with another woman. And Valene herself was just a gangly unattractive little girl.
As loud giggles and shrieks reached a crescendo inside the boudoir, Valene tried again to call Marjorie. A recorded message said that her number was forbidden on that phone. Uxia had used the phone's memory feature to discover Marjorie's number, and had it blocked out.
South of the Boudoir (part 5) By
During the next few days, Valene lived in acute fear of Uxia. Seeking refuge under her bed, Valene made no attempts to escape. While under the mattress and wood slats, she contemplated how she had descended from a self-confident woman of wealth to a frightened and dependent little girl. She realized that as the days progressed, she was increasing reacting more like a small child than a rational adult to the now out-of-control events that were ripping her world to shreds. But she was emotionally unable to fight back these creeping changes in her psyche. The child in her feared the punishments she'd receive for crossing the woman who inserted herself as Valene's "mommy." And what remained of her adult side didn't want to leave either. To do so would abandon her wealth to Uxia, who was spending it at an alarming rate.
The stays under the bed grew longer as Valene began to hate walking around the apartment. That usually resulted in her viewing Uxia making a big deal out of enjoying Valene's property, while taunting her. "What's a matter, baby? Somebody steal your dolly," Uxia would ask while trying on some of Valene's adult clothing or jewelry. These excursions from her fortress of solitude only left her feeling browbeaten.
Late one morning, Uxia reached under the bed and yanked Valene from her spring and foam roofed redoubt. "We're going to the beach," Uxia said as she forcibly stripped Valene and stuffed her into the tankini bathing suit.
Uxia pulled Valene down Ocean Avenue so hurriedly that Valene had trouble keeping up, almost losing one of her sandals at one point. All the while, Uxia threatened Valene not to "try anything funny" like trying to escape or "telling false stories about your mommy" to strangers. She especially warned her unwilling ward of the penalty for not addressing her as "mommy."
To Valene's distress, Uxia exiled her to the kiddie pool area, which was surrounded by a chain link fence and had a park employee stationed at the gate to keep the children from leaving without permission. It was like Stalag 17 with a water slide, Valene thought.
Standing by the fence, her face pressed against the crisscrossed links, Valene watched Uxia as she spread out a blanket on the sand and removed her robe to reveal herself wearing a lime green bikini - the same one Valene had bought for herself after her first dose of Izumiwakai water. Rob soon joined her.
Valene sadly contemplated of how she provided everything that Uxia was now enjoying. Even Uxia's toned and sexy body had resulted from the Izumiwakai water Valene had purchased, and she was using that body to snare the man she so desperately wanted.
Valene's efforts to listen to Uxia and Rob's conversation was interrupted as a boy her age crept up behind her, pulled back the elastic band on the bikini bottom of her suit, and let it snap back onto her keister. "Yow!" Valene screamed before she turned around to push the boy away. His twin brother soon joined him. Each grabbing either Valene's arms or legs, they carried her screaming to the pool and tossed her in. Thrashing in the water, Valene soon regained her bearings, allowing her to bob to the surface. Gasping for breath, she saw the boys seized by the lady lifeguard.
"It's not their fault. The girl started it," the boys' mother screamed from the far end of the fence.
Valene returned to the fence, only to see that Rob was gone, and Uxia was carrying on an acrimonious conversation with another woman. Valene knew the other woman. It was Jeneane Lozano, whom she remembered seeing infrequently at the McCauley Health Club, but also at Uxia's parties in the apartment. Jeneane and Uxia always seemed happy to be in each other's company at the parties. Jeneane even once gave Uxia an envelope with a "commission." But now they appeared intensely angry with each other. And Valene could vaguely hear Jeneane claim Rob as her boyfriend, warning Uxia to lay off. But Uxia only laughed, claiming that she was "stealing Rob fair and square."
That night, Uxia put on Valene's most expensive party dress. "See how this diaphanous gown compliments my every curve? You should be glad I'm making it look so good," the sexy woman told the involuntary 8-year-old, who sat looking cross on the sofa. "Oh, mommy's little girl is jealous," Uxia retorted, dripping with sarcasm. Valene continued to glare.
"So you think you'd look better in these clothes?" Uxia sneered. She pulled Valene off the sofa and into the boudoir. She unceremoniously yanked off Valene's play dress. Valene squirmed mightily as Uxia pulled over her legs a pair of woman's pantyhose, which she knotted in the back to adhere to Valene's girl-size waist. The stockings drooped baggily on Valene's legs. Uxia then dropped over Valene's head a woman-size silk blouse. It hung down to Valene's knees, with the plunging neckline exposing her navel.
"Still think you look better in mommy's clothes?" Uxia snickered as Valene looked up helplessly. "Oh, maybe if you wore some of mommy's makeup," Uxia added as she dragged Valene to the vanity. Uxia ground ample quantities of face powder and rouge on the girl's face, topping it with a broad swatch of lipstick around her mouth. Viewing her image in the mirror, Valene thought she looked ready for Ringling Brothers.
The sound of the doorbell brought Mrs. Garcia, ready for guard duty. She brought Valene's dinner, a nearly cold Happy Meal.
The next bell brought Rob in an ill-fitting polyester suit. He viewed the curiously dressed and made-up Valene in the living room, the heels of her stockings following at least eight inches behind her feet. "Isn't my daughter silly, trying to look like mommy?" Uxia told her broad-shouldered beau. Rob chuckled, "She's nothing like her mother." Totally humiliated, Valene retreated tearfully into the kitchen.
Valene listened intently as she heard Uxia instruct Mrs. Garcia to keep a close watch on her while she and Rob dined at Chateau Onc Marcel, the most expensive French restaurant in town. Valene found her Happy Meal hamburger especially dry that evening.
Late that night, Uxia returned walking on air. She danced from the front door into Valene's tiny bedroom and interrupted her sleep. "Wonderful news," she told the girl who was still wiping her eyes, trying to get her bearings. "Rob proposed to me tonight. Won't it be wonderful to have him as your daddy?" Uxia added as Valene, suddenly jarred fully awake, sat petrified.
After Uxia danced from the room, Valene pinched herself. "Ouch!" she said, proving to herself that she had not died and gone to hell. She was living in a worldly hell, one in which an ordinary woman could be condemned to be the young daughter of a grinning monster and the man of her dreams.
Clouds of doom hung over Valene the next day as she merely went through the motions of living. She picked at her breakfast and just stared at her lunch. Much time was spent glaring out at the ocean from a chair on the balcony. Her life had become one gigantic nightmare that even Wes Craven wouldn't touch.
But by evening, she noticed that Uxia was no longer happy. She had become nervous, pacing the apartment while repeatedly placing phone calls that weren't answered. Viewing this, Valene decided that maybe life was still worth living - at least for a few more days.
South of the Boudoir (part 6)
Uxia's foul behavior continued for nearly a week. Then Valene found herself back in the tankini bathing suit and imprisoned in Kiddie Pool 17 at the beach. She again watched from the fence as an anxious Uxia waited for somebody or something from her beach towel on the sand.
The tension soon broke as Jeneane arrived with what appeared to be a disoriented and worried 7-year-old boy in tow. She let go of the boy as she stopped to confront Uxia.
The boy stumbled forward, eventually ending up outside the fence at the kiddie pool. Valene took a good look at the lad. His facial features somewhat resembled those of Rob, scrunched to child configuration. But the boy before her, who stood only as high as the bottom of her nose, just couldn't be Rob. He wasn't a boy hunk. Wearing only maroon swim trunks and sandals, he appeared scrawny. His arms and legs were thin and devoid of muscles, while his torso still retained vestiges of baby fat. He looked gawky.
At a distance, Jeneane could be seen heartily laughing into Uxia's now violently perturbed face. Jeneane appeared to say, "You'll never get him now. I fixed it so if I can't have him, neither can you. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach - if you put the right stuff in his stomach!"
The boy finally looked Valene in the eyes. "It's you!" he said taking four quick steps backwards. "You're the brat who jumped on my legs in the bedroom. You kicked your mommy. You…please, don't hit me."
"Rob?" Valene asked in astonished realization. Tears welled in his eyes as he nodded "yes." Valene pressed against the fence. "I won't hit you. I like you," she said. "We met at McCauley…"
Rob squinted his eyes as he moved closer to the fence. "I can't…" he began. "You don't remember our meeting at the club - in your 'office'?" Valene reminded him. "Purple leotard with gold stripe?" Rob replied. "Yes! They did it to me, and now they did it to you," Valene noted, as she put her hand over the junior Rob's hand clutching the fence links. "Maybe together we can…" Valene started.
But Jeneane, who yanked Rob away from the fence, unexpectedly terminated this chance meeting. "Time to go, Robby," the woman ordered. "You leave me alone, Jeneane," he defiantly retorted. Giving him a fast smack to the rear, Jeneane sternly admonished him. "I told you to call me 'mommy' from now on. You'll behave like a good little boy - or else!" He meekly left with his new mommy.
Valene was utterly shaken. Those unscrupulous water-peddlers were not above destroying what they could not have. In doing so, they had taken her muscular dream man and reduced him to awkward little squirt who didn't look capable of punching his way out of a paper bag. Rob must feel even worse than she did for him, Valene judged.
Her introspection was abruptly shattered as Uxia appeared at the kiddie pool fence and ordered Valene out immediately. "That monster," Valene thought as she backed away from the fence. "Come here right now," Uxia demanded. Valene turned and ran. "Get my daughter," Uxia yelled at the people maintaining the pool. Valene sought shelter under the water slide. "I know you're having fun, but you got to go home now," the lady lifeguard urged Valene, who shook her head "no." The lifeguard froze at the fearful look she saw on the girl's face. But the employee keeping watch on the gate to the enclosure grabbed Valene and carried her to Uxia. The faux mommy walked away, with Valene, a shocked and puzzled look on her face, visible over Uxia's shoulder.
"There's something horribly amiss in that girl's relationship with her mother," the lifeguard told the gatekeeper. He replied, "But it's none of our business."
Valene's fear of Uxia increased ten fold following her return to Ocean Point Tower. Uxia had fallen into a dark mood, kicking things, smashing glassware, screaming off the balcony, and cursing freely at Valene. Now totally terrified, Valene, her child emotions having nearly taken over her being, hid under her bed until she heard Uxia go into the bathroom. Quietly sneaking out, she reached into Uxia's handbag and pulled out her cell phone. Punching in Marjorie's number, she heard a ring. The blocking program was only on the house phone, Valene grinned.
"Hello," responded the voice on the other end of the connection. "Marjorie, this is Val. Help! Get over…" Valene said, only to have the phone ripped from her hand. Valene screamed as Uxia, now standing above her dressed only in her underwear, clicked the conversation over.
"Can't I trust you?" Uxia thundered, with fire burning from her eyes. Letting out another uncontrolled scream, Valene tried to run, but was stopped as Uxia latched onto her hair. "Let me go!" Valene yelled as loud as she was able, her whole scalp in pain. "I have ways of dealing with you," Uxia coldly droned.
Still holding Valene's hair, Uxia gave her two hard slaps across the face. She then dragged her into the bathroom, sat on a stool and threw Valene across her legs. Grabbing Valene's own hairbrush, Uxia pulled down Valene's panties and administered 20 hard hits to her exposed backside. Valene let out a piercing scream with each blow. Finally let go, Valene, bawling uncontrollably, quickly retreating under her bed.
A half-hour later, after Valene's crying had degenerated into a few tearful sniffs, Uxia answered a knock at the door. It was two police officers, who said they were answering reports of child abuse from neighbors. Uxia denied that she had a child in the apartment. Too scared to leave the safety under her bed, Valene did not contradict the statement, so the officers left.
Uxia quickly got dressed and left the apartment, all the while mumbling about how she'd "fix that brat once and for all." Quivering with dread, Valene stayed put. But an hour later, Uxia returned - with a brown paper bag. "Oh no," Valene thought. "She's purchased another bottle of that Izumiwakai mineral water."
South of the Boudoir (part 7)
A visibly disturbed Valene slowly emerged from under her bed and tiptoed into the living room. She cringed as Uxia unexpectedly popped out of the kitchen.
Striking a forced smile, Uxia droned in honey-laden tones, "Come on, dear. Mommy has a nice gift for her darling little girl." But Valene would have none of it. Doing a reasonable imitation of The Flash, she darted through the boudoir, out onto the balcony, and back into the kitchen; all the while closing doors and toppling furniture to slow Uxia's progress. Reaching the front door, Valene opened, then slammed it shut; and darted into her room and under her bed. She watched Uxia exit the door in search of her phantom.
Rushing to the kitchen, Valene pulled the bag-hidden bottle from the refrigerator. As she suspected, it contained Izumiwakai water. Preparing to dump it into the sink, she noticed a feature of the Japanese-lettered bottle she had only lightly noticed earlier. To the lower left of the logo was a circle. On the first bottle she drank, the circle was light blue and contained the number 21. On the second, the circle was green with the number 8. This one had the number 2 in a yellow circle.
It then registered that she had become a sexy woman in her early 20s after drinking the first bottle, and an 8-year-old girl after the second. It was not how much Izumiwakai water one drank that determined how young you became, but the quantity of mineral mixed into it. This would mean that whoever drank the new bottle would become a 2-year-old.
Returning to the refrigerator, Valene saw several bottles of Uxia's favorite domestic mineral water, one of which had been opened and partially consumed. She emptied the rest of the bottle, then transferred the Izumiwakai water to that container. After rinsing out the Izumiwakai bottle, she filled it with tap water, replaced its cork, and returned it to the fridge.
Walking back into the living room, she saw a very frazzled Uxia reenter the front door. Viewing her quarry, Uxia again adopted a false smile. Her voice dripping with sweetness, Uxia said, "Oh, hi, darling. Mommy has something for you that you really like. You sit on the sofa and I'll bring it to you."
Valene complied. She carefully listened to Uxia in the kitchen, detecting the pop of a cork, then the sound of a spoon clinking repeatedly against the side of a glass. Walking from the kitchen, Uxia handed Valene what looked like cherry Kool-Aid.
Valene stared at the concoction. "You have some too," she told her faux mommy. "Mommy only likes plain mineral water," Uxia replied. "You drink with me?" Valene pleaded in a whining girlish voice. "I don't wanna drink alone." Uxia went into the kitchen and returned with the opened bottle of her favorite brand of mineral water. "Cheers!" Uxia said, clinking the bottle to Valene's glass.
Both sipped their respective drinks, each grinning at the other between swallows. After both were finished, they stared intently at each other.
Within 15 minutes, Uxia began to tingle. The sensation began in her chest area, which was covered by a tank top with built-in shelf bra. Uxia patted her chest area and found the shirt collapsed well into her body. Her shelf was suddenly barren. She had become flat-chested. "What is hell is hap…pening?" Uxia protested, her final two syllables cracking an octave higher that made her sound like a little girl. Her scalp immediately began to tingle big time. Uxia was unnerved as her brunette hair began to grow into her scalp, leaving only an inch sticking out.
Valene began to openly snicker as Uxia's head began to deflate. The mirth turned to a loud guffaw as Uxia ended up with a baby-sized head on her still mostly adult body. She was getting younger, but the affects of the Izumiwakai water had not yet spread to all parts of her body.
"Eeeeeek!" the tiny head screamed as her legs began to contract upwards out of her shoes. Pushing herself out of her chair, Uxia found it hard to balance herself on her now young girl-sized legs. She had to steady herself with her forearms, which reached the floor when she leaned forward a bit.
Valene's astonishment at Uxia's change was tempered by her fear that the same partial transformation may have happened to her in the McCauley pool. She must have grossed out some of the other swimmers.
Panicking, Uxia tried to flee. But with her contorted body, her locomotion resembled that of a wetland gorilla. Valene ran after her. The trail was not hard to follow. One sock, then the other, then Uxia's khaki skirt, a pair of orchid lace panties, and finally the tank top. Valene got one last look at a now fully compacted Uxia as she crawled into the boudoir.
Without warning, a piercing baby cry emerged from within. Valene entered to see a naked 2-year-old girl bawling out her eyes before the full-length mirror. Valene walked up behind her.
"What are you crying for? That you are no longer an adult, or that you're now too small to boss me around?" Valene asked. "Neither! Look at this," baby Uxia said as she pinched with both hands the ample ring of baby fat that now encircled her torso. "I'm too fat! No man will ever look at me again."
Valene smiled as Uxia burst into serious tears. "Naw! Everyone - men especially - won't be able to take their eyes off you. They'll wink, smile and even make funny faces at you all day long. Nobody can resist a cute little baby girl," she explained.
Picking up the cell telephone, Valene finally completed that phone call she had been trying to make for more than a month.
"Marjorie? Val here. Come over immediately to Suite 1801 at Ocean Point Towers," Valene said. "No, they'll let you in this time. It wasn't me who barred you. It was somebody pretending to be me. I'll introduce you to her once you get here. Now I have a deal to offer you. I'm in need of a live-in companion. You'll have a few duties, but I think you'll find the pay excellent. See you in an hour."
South of the Boudoir (conclusion)
Two months later, Marjorie found herself up early in the morning, preparing a pot of hot wheat cereal.
"Val, get out of that bathroom right now," Marjorie yelled. "You've had enough time for a bath. You hurry and get dressed or you'll be late."
"Grouse, grouse, grouse," the 8-year-old girl said as she emerged from the bathroom in a hurry, letting go the elastic band on her panties so it snapped tightly to her waist. "You'd think you were my mother or something."
"It's in my contract, Val," Marjorie noted. "But only as a form of address outside the apartment. You forget who's working for whom," Valene replied as she scampered into the large boudoir she reseized from Uxia.
Ten minutes later, Valene came to the breakfast table dressed in a white blouse, green plaid skirt, white knee socks and green-top sneakers. Sitting at the table, Valene turned up her nose at the wheat cereal. "Couldn't I just have some prosciutto frittata al fonduta some morning?" she plaintively asked.
Marjorie didn't hear the complaint, as she was too busy trying to get the 2-year-old baby in the high chair to eat some of the concoction. "Come on, Uxia. This is yummy stuff," Marjorie said. Turning her back on the baby for a moment, Uxia pushed the bowl onto the floor.
"Sometimes you deserve a good spanking," Marjorie threatened Uxia, who gave her a raspberry.
Placing a sippy cup before Uxia, Marjorie turned to Valene. "I don't understand why you insist on going to St. Olaf Elementary School. Technically, you don't have to. You already graduated in 1981," she said.
"It's all part of my dream," Valene explained. "The executor of the will suggested that I use my money to become like that little girl that captivated my grandfather. He suggested I do things that please me, while having others provide my necessities.
"Well, you're doing the things my mother used to do for me," Valene noted. "And it pleases me to regain some of the learned knowledge I lost through rejuvenation. I'm doing much better during my current trip through third grade. I'm earning A's instead of C's. I've always dreamed of being considered brainy."
Pointing to Uxia, Valene added, "It seems that the younger you get, the smaller your cranium gets. There is less room for brain matter. I got off easy at 8, but look at Uxia. About all she remembers from before is that she was a sexy woman with a svelte figure. She needs help with everything else."
Uxia finally put the sippy cup to her lips, pulled a half mouthful through the stem, then spit it out. "No like. This who' milk," Uxia protested. "And what's wrong with whole milk?" Marjorie countered. "It make me fat, got skim?" Uxia angrily noted. "No skim milk. That's not good for growing babies," Marjorie slowly explained, feeling weird be having a food debate with an infant.
"Soy?" Uxia asked. "She thinks soy formula is better than milk," Marjorie told Valene. Turning to Uxia, Marjorie explained. "Big girls drink milk from sippy cups. Only little babies drink formula. If you get formula, you get it in a nipple bottle like an itty bitty baby." Uxia tilted her head and answered, "Bottie."
After guzzling down her glass of milk, Valene slipped on her PowerPuff Girls backpack. "I'm off to school," she said. "Don't have dinner ready until 6:00. This is the day I visit the nursing home for the Foster Grandparents program. Mr. Walz wants to show me stuff he brought back from the Korean War.
"Oh, and remember! Have all the household accounts ready. I'd like to inspect the books and sign all the checks after I'm done with my homework," Valene concluded.
Marjorie merely looked weary. "It's a shame the detectives never found the source of that Izumiwakai mineral water. Had Uxia realized how fast her brain would regress after rejuvenation, she would have remembered more than that she got the water through Jeneane Lozano. We got only as far as Jeneane's contact when both disappeared. Now we'll never know if there is an antidote, or if drinking water with the '21' notation would age you back to womanhood," she said. "Or if the '21' formula was only a prep for giving someone one of the pre-adult mineral mixtures," Valene added.
"Maybe this is for the best," Valene said, as she kissed Marjorie goodbye. "Bye, Mom," Valene said. She then kissed baby Uxia, who was busy sucking on the nipple of her bottle of formula. "Bye, baby sister," Valene snickered as she raced out the door.
Marjorie continued to bottle feed Uxia, wondering to herself what happened to Jeneane. About two weeks before, she just disappeared, as if off the face of the earth. Marjorie then noticed the bottom of Uxia's Pampers increasing in warmness.
"So you still won't tell me when you feel the urge," Marjorie growled. "I think we're going to have another potty training session this afternoon."
Uxia looked startled, coughed out her last mouthful of formula, and screamed "Nnnnnnooooooo!" before breaking into tears. "I've had enough of this from you," Marjorie said. "For heavens sakes, you used to be an adult. I'm going to potty train you if it's the last thing I do," she added, as she plopped Uxia on the changing table and began to detach her extremely soaked diaper.
Hearing the bawling from the apartment while waiting for the elevator, Valene merely smiled. Poor Uxia just can't get used to not getting her way on everything, she thought.
Valene walked the several blocks to St. Olaf. It was a nice early fall day and she loved it. And after being helped across Pacific Avenue by a crossing guard, she met a familiar 7-year-old face.
"Robby! Don't tell me you're going to St. Olaf too," Valene excitedly remarked. "I was enrolled yesterday. I'm in the second grade. I hope it's not too hard. I don't seem to remember as much as before," he replied.
"You'll catch on," Valene said, adding, "So where are you living now?"
"My kid sister took me in a week ago," Robby explained. "She tells everyone I'm her son, even though she would have been 16 when I was theoretically born. She's been nice to me, considering the hell I put her during our earlier childhoods."
Valene couldn't help notice that all the while they talked, Robby kept looking away from her. "Don't be so shy," Valene said. "You still don't have that thing about older women?" the 8-year-old girl added.
"It's not that. I'm looking for my new little sister. She dawdles a lot. I've got to drop her off at St. Olaf's pre-kindergarten," Robby explained. He then excitedly said, "Here she comes!"
Rounding the corner from behind the scrubs was a 4-year-old girl with short brown hair wearing green shorts and a Blue's Clues T-shirt. Her thumb was firmly planted in her mouth.
"Hurry up, Jenny, or we'll all be late for school," Robby urged his sister. "Jenny?" Valene thought as a smile crossed her face. A close inspection of the child's face confirmed that this was Jeneane, reduced into a 4-year-old. Like Uxia, she was paying the ultimate price for her participation and profiting in the Izumiwakai underground. Play with the water, and sooner or later you get soaked!
"She's still traumatized by the events of two weeks ago," Robby said. "She doesn't speak and has been very withdrawn. My older mommy/sister has been trying to bring her out of it. She thinks having her meet other kids her own age will help." Valene smiled more broadly, adding, "I'm sure she'll enjoy that."
Robby moved closer to Valene and whispered in her ear, "Jenny was mumbling something about the cartel being out to get her hours before this happened. What do you think she meant by that?" Valene replied, "We're too young to contemplate such things.
"But I tell you what. Why don't we arrange to bring Jenny over to my place to meet my baby sister Uxia on a play date," Valene offered. "I think she'd like that," Robby grinned.
"Come on, Robby, I'll race you to the school," Valene added. As the kids took off, Valene grinned to herself. She now had Rob - er, Robby - all to herself, and maybe 15 more years to make him love her. She'd finally get her dream man - provided he grew up to be a hunk again.