- Part 1 -
Sheldon looked carefully at himself in the mirror. He had made sure his hair was well groomed, and that his long ears stood up straight and erect, like a fine young bunny’s ears should stand. He wore a casual but neat polo shirt, short trousers and long white socks with an attractive design woven into the soft wool.
He wanted to look impeccable for his first date with the cute girl he had met, a young bunny by the name of Marigold. Marigold was quick and clever and cute, very much unlike the girls Melvin had dated when his family had lived in the Porcine Lowland. He closed his eyes and sighed as he thought of Marigold.
He waved goodbye to his Mama and left his house, slightly ahead of schedule for his date. He held in his paw a small bouquet of yellow and white jonquils, which he hoped would please his new sweetheart.
When Marigold heard Sheldon whistling merrily to himself, she pulled her baseball cap down over her curly hair and scurried out of her room. Over the last few years, she had blossomed into a lovely young woman, lithe and energetic, her mind filled to bursting with mischievous thoughts.
Marigold usually turned down the many males who sought to court her, but her intuition told her she could have some fun with a boy like Sheldon. She finished packing the baby oil and other surprises into the large picnic basket, then carried it downstairs with her.
She pushed open the front door to see Sheldon standing on the stoop, smiling shyly at her. “Hello Marigold!” he said with an anxious note of urgency in his young voice, then leaned forward as if hoping for a quick kiss from his date. As he hovered closer to Marigold, he opened his eyes and scanned the front window of the house, to be sure there weren’t any witnesses about. For an instant, Sheldon spotted the face of a mature rabbit with long eyelashes staring out at them, then the curtain was pulled shut.
Sheldon smiled and blushed. “Oh gosh, Marigold, you look so beautiful today!” the boy gushed enthusiastically. “That skirt of yours looks so attractive, I think red is a perfect color for you!”
Marigold covered her lips as she smiled. “Oh Sheldon, what a sweet thing to say! I had no idea you appreciated girl’s clothing so much!”
Sheldon’s mouth turned into a small circle of surprise. “Girl’s clothing? No, Marigold, that’s not what I meant!”
“Just teasing!” Marigold laughed loudly. “Wait right here, cute boy, I forgot something.” And with that she turned on her heels and scampered back inside her house. She was back a moment later, holding a very frilly lightweight pink nightgown in her hands.
Sheldon’s jaw dropped in amazement as his mischievous date asked, “Do you like this, Sheldon?”
“Do I like it?” Sheldon repeated nervously, his voice cracking. “Oh yes, I’m sure it’s a very nice pajama for you, very comfortable and sweet.”
Marigold impulsively rushed forward and gave the hesitant boy a big hug. “Oh Sheldon! You always know exactly the right thing to say!”
Sheldon enjoyed the hug, and when they parted, he realized she was holding up the nightgown against his slim shoulders! “Hey, stop that! What are you doing?” he protested.
“Oh, I’m sorry, I just was wondering what your shirt size might be, just in case I buy a gift for you some day,” Marigold said innocently.
“Okay, well – put your pajamas away now, and we’ll go on our date,” Sheldon said. Then he looked up to see the smiling face of Marigold’s mama.
“You must be Sheldon! Hello!” Samantha said loudly. “I’m Samantha Bunney -- you may call me Mrs. Bunney.” She smiled down at the bashful lad and gently shook his paw in greeting.
Sheldon smiled, but was distracted as he watched Marigold carefully folding her nightgown and placing it inside the large picnic basket. “Oh, hello, Ma’am, it’s a great pleasure to meet you, Mrs. Bunney!” the boy stammered.
“I saw you with your family the other day, I think,” Samantha said with a friendly smile.
Sheldon thought back to yesterday, when he had seen Marigold walking through town with several other rabbits that were evidently in her family. He had seen two older sisters, and two adult females but no males with them.
“Oh yes, I do recall seeing you all. That was my family’s first real walk through the town together. Sham is such a pretty place, with many lovely shops.”
“I noticed that your mama was admiring some of the items in the shop I own,” Samantha said with a wink. “Please let her know she’s invited to drop in at any time. I will be glad to give her a discount.”
“You own a shop? Oh, I had no idea.” Sheldon said. He felt his initial discomfort with Marigold’s mother slowly easing away, thanks to Samantha’s easygoing manner. “Is it the comic book shop? I would love to go shopping in there.”
“No, Sheldon, I run the dress shop for women and girls -- I don’t suppose you would love shopping there as much,” Samantha said with a grin.
“Oh mama, don’t tease him!” Marigold objected. “Sheldon is very sensitive, especially when it comes to skirts and dresses and such.”
“Oh dear, I’m sorry, Sheldon,” Samantha stared deeply into the blushing bunny’s eyes. “Anyway, please tell your mama she is welcome to visit my shop, okay?”
“Okay, Mrs. Bunney,” Sheldon nodded as his face growed red and hot. Why were Marigold and her mama teasing him about girl’s clothing? He had never entertained thoughts of wearing such things, and found the idea very disconcerting.
Marigold put her big picnic basket on one arm and grabbed Sheldon’s sleeve with her free paw. “I’ll be back around dinner time, Mama, please don’t let Toto and Peanut play in my room!”
Samantha smiled and waved goodbye to the youngsters. Sheldon and Marigold held each other’s paws as they made their way toward the woods.
“Toto and Peanut,” Sheldon asked curiously, “Are they your sisters?”
“No, they’re my brothers! But sometimes boys can be overly curious – and naughty!”
The two bunnies walked up the gradual slope of the hill. The path ahead cut straight into shadowy depths of the forest.
“So where is this place you wanted to show me?”
“It’s a cozy little spot in the woods, perfect for a picnic. It’s called Harpers Thicket.”
Sheldon gasped in surprise. He had only lived in the town of Sham for a short while, but he had heard of Harpers Thicket from some of the older kids. It was where couples went to enjoy wooing, making out and heavy petting.
“I’m sorry about my mama,” Marigold said softly. “Once she starts with her teasing, she can be relentless! Don’t worry, now that I know you are easily embarrassed, I’ll protect you.”
“What do you mean, easily embarrassed?” Sheldon objected. “I can take a joke as well as anyone else.”
“Oh? You looked very defenseless and humiliated when I teased you about liking girl’s clothing before,” Marigold explained. “It’s okay if you feel that way, Sheldon. Not everyone can be tough and resilient.”
Sheldon felt frustrated at how their talk was going. “Now see here, I’m as tough as any other bunny!”
“Yes yes, I’m sure you are. But you see, I used to be quite a little rascal when I was a kid, and sometimes I can still be quite a prankster. You may not like that side of me.”
“Oh, don’t you worry about me, Marigold! I can take of myself just fine!” Sheldon insisted.
“Oh yeah?” Marigold said slyly. “Well I brought that pretty nightgown with us – I’m sure you noticed that.”
“Well, now that you mention it ... what are you up to, anyway?”
“Oh, nothing,” Marigold replied, her virtuous expression showing no trace of duplicity. “But, if you want to prove that girl’s clothing doesn’t bother you, then I’ll give you a chance.”
“Of course it doesn’t bother me! I never even think about that!”
“Aww—never?” Marigold asked.
“Humph! Of course not! What kind of boy do you think I am, Marigold?”
“I guess we’ll find out soon enough,” the clever girl grinned.
The couple made their way to the crest of the hill, where a thick grove of tall trees stood. The bright afternoon sun was almost completely blotted out as they walked along the dirt path into the thicket.
They came upon a large hammock swinging between two oaks. Marigold stopped and put the big basket down on the leafy path. “Do you want to rest in the hammock?” she asked, batting her eyelashes prettily.
“Aww, you look so cute,” gushed Marigold. She reached into her basket and pulled out a thick pink blanket, which she used to cover Sheldon from his chin down to the tips of his toes. At that moment, her phone rang.
“Oh, it’s Zephyr! – I’m sorry, baby, but I have to talk to her. HEYYY GIRRRL!” Marigold stepped a few feet away from Sheldon, and continued the conversation with her friend.
Sheldon struggled under the heavy pink blanket, trying to arrange it to his liking, as Marigold chattered noisily with Zephyr. He couldn’t hear most of her conversation, but there was a lot of whispering, and a lot of very loud laughter. He did hear Marigold say “babysitting” several times and at one point she said, “No! Don’t bring the plain diapers! Didn’t you say you have cute ones with kittens?”
The phone call seemed to go on forever. Sheldon began to feel warm under the blanket, and his eyes began to blink. The next thing he knew, Marigold was standing right next to him, pushing him to sit up in the hammock. “Here now, baby, paws up over your head,” she said as she gently pulled his polo shirt off.
“Umpf – done with your phone call? Who is Zephyr?” Sheldon asked sleepily.
“Oh she’s my bestest friend! You’ll love her! We’re going to start a business together this summer – we just need to figure out a few things.”
Sheldon’s fur tingled as he felt a soft ruffly fabric float down around his upper body. Marigold carefully straightened her nightie around the sleepy boy’s shoulders. “There, now you look very sweet.”
“What?” Sheldon squirmed and tried to get out of the hammock, but the blanket weighed him down heavily. Marigold placed one paw on his knees.
“Now, don’t be agitated, honey. You fell asleep, and I wanted to make you feel comfortable.”
She smiled as Sheldon reached down under the blanket to realize his trousers and underpants were gone.
“Aww, don’t pout. I was curious to see your daffodil, that’s all,” Marigold said with an angelic smile.
“You looked at my daffodil?”
“Oh yes! It’s very curvy and graceful! It’s almost feminine!” she whispered teasingly. “I wonder what it would look like if ... you know, if it was all puffed up?”
“Hmph! That’s very private, Marigold!” Sheldon told her. “Now please give me my clothing back!”
“No! I like you in your nightie, baby! And you can be very helpful for the new business I’m starting.” She gave him an impish grin and reached under the pink blanket to fondle him gently.
“What do you mean? What business?”
“A babysitting business, of course! Run by me and Zephyr. But Zephyr needs to practice her childcare skills, see?”
“Yes! Because I know all about feeding babies and getting them ready for nap time and dressing them up – I’m the youngest in my family, but I’ve taken care of several naughty boys over the years. But Zephyr’s an only child, so we need to show her how to do some stuff.”
Sheldon’s head spun as Marigold’s soft paw circled his drowsy little daffodil and began to play with it. “But Marigold, I can’t teach your friend about babysitting! I don’t know anything about that!”
“Silly silly!” giggled Marigold. “You’re gonna help, but you won’t be the teacher.”
A short while later, Zephyr entered Harpers Thicket. A lithe and slender zebra girl, with lovely exotic dark eyes and a luxurious mane, Zephyr was much more shy and reserved than her boisterous friend Marigold. Their friendship had grown gradually over the years, fueled by the zebra girl’s natural curiosity over Marigold’s unusual family arrangement. Zephyr’s mama and papa were famous circus performers, and their daughter had inherited a very fertile imagination and an appreciation for all forms of theatrical entertainment. Over the years, Zephyr had suggested dozens of wonderful ideas for Marigold to try on her two brothers.
She gasped as she entered the grove and saw Marigold gently rocking Sheldon back and forth in the large hammock. Sheldon was tightly wrapped in the heavy pink blanket, his face red with heavy blushes. A large pacifier filled his mouth.
“Ohhh, he looks so adorable like that!” whispered Zephyr in her thick exotic accent.
“Shh, he’s very sleepy – like Princess Aurora,” giggled Marigold.
“Oh Mari, after I called you, I heard from Scamper! She wants to see everything as well, so I invited her along. I hope you don’t mind. She’ll make a great babysitter, once she learns how.”
“Scamper? Oh my -- I’m not sure we’re ready to train one of the wildcat twins!” Marigold fretted.
Sheldon’s eyes flickered open. He felt quite intimidated by the sight of the tall girl in her modest-length cream dress, which made her look several years older than she was. Her ears and thick black mane were decorated with heavy gold jewelry. Her spicy perfume of rosewood and cinnamon made her seem even more attractive and grown-up.
Zephyr smiled at the blushing boy and reached down to tickle him on the chin. “Hello, baby princess!” the zebra girl greeted him merrily, her eyes filled with lighthearted mirth.
“I’m not a –” Sheldon mumbled, his words garbled by the pacifier.
“Oh he’s so cute! Koochie koochie koo! Yes! Who’s a good baby?” Zephyr giggled and held his head between her hands.
“Say hello to Miss Zephyr, Sheldon,” Marigold introduced her friends to each other.
“Umph, herro,” said Sheldon bashfully, squirming under his blanket. His daffodil was still standing straight up, and he hoped the pretty zebra girl wouldn’t notice it.
“Now, Miss Zephyr has promised me that she won’t tease you, so you don’t have any reason to feel uncomfortable or scared, okay?” Marigold explained.
Zephyr turned and opened her bag to show a large crinkly item to Marigold. “Here’s his diaper. I only have two with kittens on them so I brought them both.”
“They’re adorable! Where did you get ‘em?”
“My niece was staying at our house last summer. But she’s a big girl now, so even when she comes back, we can’t practice on her.”
“Aw, they grow up so quickly, don’t they?”
“Girls do. The boys ... not so much,” Zephyr smirked as the two girls looked down at Sheldon.
Sheldon cringed when he heard the loud crackle and crinkle of the large pink diapers as Marigold took them in her paws. He closed his eyes, hoping that somehow this was all a bad dream, and that he was actually safe at home in his own little bed.
Why did he feel so sleepy? He felt fine earlier, even though he had stayed up late last night to watch a spooky movie on television. Sheldon loved spooky movies, and this one was about a young bunny girl who was trapped alone in a haunted house. He had been on the edge of his seat while enjoying the suspenseful story, as the pretty young girl circled around the house, wearing a flowing white nightdress and holding a single lit candle. Throughout the spine-tingling movie, Sheldon found himself completely identifying with the vulnerable female. He admired her bravery in the face of the sinister, supernatural spirits that haunted the old mansion. Would I ever be that brave? he wondered to himself. Oh goodness, could I?
“That bunny is such a dope!” Sheldon’s little sister exclaimed. “Why doesn’t she just leave that crazy house already?”
“Hush, Gingersnap! You shouldn’t be up at this hour, and you’re too young to understand a movie for grownups,” Sheldon scolded her.
He ushered his little sister back to her room and put her to bed, then returned to watch the hair-raising conclusion, which scared poor Sheldon so much that he was unable to get to sleep for many hours after the film was over. He had many fitful dreams that night where he saw himself as that pretty young bunny, wandering bravely through a haunted house with one single lit candle.
Suddenly he heard Marigold whispering in his ear. “Don’t be scared, baby. I’ll be here with you the whole time. I love you for helping me with this project, you are the best boyfriend I ever had!”
The boy’s eyes popped open in surprise. “I am?” he mumbled through the large pacifier filling his mouth. “You love me?”
While Sheldon had been sleeping, Marigold had woven the jonquils into a wreath, which she was wearing around her curly hair. She looked even more lovely in the shady darkness of the forest.
“Yes, baby! Marigold loves her baby princess!” Marigold reassured the blushing boy and kissed him on his forehead.
Zephyr reached down and gently took one of Sheldon’s toes in her fingertips. “Sheldon, you really don’t have anything to be embarrassed about,” she said soothingly. “It’s very admirable that you are willing to help us like this. Most boys would be too cowardly.” She smiled shyly as the pink blanket slid off one of Sheldon’s shoulders, revealing the lightweight ruffled nightgown he wore. “Oh Sheldon, I wish I had a boyfriend who was as selfless and daring as you!”
Sheldon let the pacifier slip out of his mouth so he could reply. “Honestly, Zephyr, I don’t feel all that brave. In fact I feel silly as a one-legged moose in a kickboxing contest!”
The two girls giggled as Marigold placed his pacifier back in his mouth, “Aww, honeybunch! You shouldn’t feel silly for being such a nice and cooperative helper!” the clever girl reassured him, and she gave him a gentle tap on the tip of his nose.
Sheldon looked at Zephyr pleadingly. “Oh, please promise you won’t tell anyone about all this, once it’s all over.”
Zephyr began to nod, but was interrupted by Marigold. “Now baby, it’s just not right to make demands on Zephyr like that. She’s perfectly capable of knowing when it’s appropriate to keep your secret.”
“Of course!” nodded Zephyr. “It’s not like I’d go around telling everyone about how we made a boy wear pink diapers. People would think I was kinky or something!”
“Wait a minute! You’re going to—?” but then Marigold replaced his pacifier again.
“Try to understand, baby. Zephyr isn’t a gossip. But sometimes it’s important for girls to confide in each other, and it isn’t fair to make her promise to never talk about this. It isn’t just your experience, it’s Zephyr’s too.”
At that moment, there was a deafening rustle in the underbrush, and suddenly a small black wildcat leapt up and somersaulted through the air, landing neatly on all fours. Her fur was jet black from her nose to the tip of her long ropy tail. Her eyes shined a bright and fiery orange. She wore a short sapphire blue dress with a circle skirt and covered with sparkling sequins. She held a small radio, which she set on the ground and switched on. Raucous dancing music blared out from the radio at high volume.
The wildcat began to spin in a circle, hopping in time with the music, then breaking out into a series of quick cartwheels, stopping inches away from colliding into Zephyr, then spinning back and barely missing Marigold. No motion in her dance routine seemed unplanned or accidental.
“Announcing!” the wildcat threw her arms out wide in a theatrical gesture. “MYYYY SISSSTERRR!” she clapped her paws together rhythmically as another wildcat burst out of the undergrowth and began her own acrobatic routine of somersaults and cartwheels. This wildcat was white as snow, with piercing cobalt blue eyes, and lithe and powerful as her twin. She wore a similar sequined dress in bright hot purple.
“Both of them are here?” Marigold asked Zephyr nervously.
The wildcats joined paws and spun in a furious circle together as the dance music throbbed and thumped.
Sheldon sucked nervously on his paci as he watched the girls’ breathtaking display of precision and vigor.
“Yup! We’re both here!” The black wildcat said proudly, as they spun to a halt and clicked off their radio. “Sister Pounce and Sister Scamper! Best babysitters in the world, one hundred percent!”
“We love babies!” exclaimed the white cat, who was named Pounce. “We love to pick ‘em up, and rock ‘em to sleep, and feed ‘em, cuddle ‘em, play with ‘em -- all that stuff! We’re the best!”
“So where are the babies at?” asked the black cat, Scamper. She got down on all fours, close to the ground and peered around. “Where the babies?”
“Pounce, Scamper – we’re just practicing today,” explained Marigold with a slightly strained smile. “This is my friend, Sheldon. Sheldon, this is—”
“Oho! He is our practice baby?” asked Scamper, standing upright again.
“He is a biiiig baby!” Pounce said. She smiled, showing all her tiny sharp teeth to Sheldon.
“In a pinky blankie! He is big girlie baby!” laughed Scamper.
“Okay girlie baby, now we take care of you!” said Pounce, drawing close to Sheldon. “You need a good bath, baby! We give you a niiice kittycat bath!”
Sheldon gasped as the two wildcats began licking his face with their warm sandpapery tongues! “Noo! Stop that!”
“Wait! Scamper! Pounce! That’s not how we bathe a bunny baby!” Marigold said firmly.
“Hahahaha! --No?” asked Scamper, licking her lips in disappointment. “What you do? Dunk her in the water like a fishie?”
Pounce giggled. “Fishie fishie! Baby fishie!” She pulled the pacifier out of Sheldon’s mouth and gave him a big kiss on the lips.
“Hey! Don’t be kissing my Sheldon like that!” Marigold yelled. “And you don’t dunk babies into water! Good heavens, I have a whole package of baby wipes here to help keep our princess clean and fresh, and if she needs a bath, you use a proper baby tub! You should know all this already, if you two are such experts!”
“Uhoh, boss is mad,” Pounce replied, shrinking away timidly.
Scamper pouted. “Sister? Maybe we don’t know babysitting at all! So many different critters, who knows what is what?” she squatted down against the side of the oak. “Scamper is sad,” she sighed.
“It’s okay, Scamper,” Zephyr said gently. “Marigold will teach us all we need to know, and Sheldon will help. I’m sure you and Pounce will be qualified babysitters in no time.”
“Zebra’s right!” Pounce said brightly. “Don’t be a sack of sad sorrow, Scamper! You and me, we be sittin’ on them babies one hundred percent! Look at me cuddle, look!” she exclaimed, grabbing Sheldon by the shoulders and giving him a strong hug.
“Ohh, that was very nice,” Marigold said. “Wasn’t that a nice cuddle, Sheldon?”
Both wildcat girls smiled at each other and, before Sheldon could even answer, they were both hugging and cuddling him, running their paws enthusiastically over his fur and mussing the hair on his head. Sheldon, whose upward-pointing daffodil was still quite noticeable under his blanket, squirmed helplessly, and the ruffles decorating his shoulders slipped into view. Needless to say, he felt totally intimidated by these wildcat twins and dreaded being seen by them in such a humiliating predicament.
“Don’t forget – be gentle with the baby! Always be gentle, girls!” Marigold insisted.
“What you mean, boss? We are gentle as kitty kittens with the big girlie baby!” said Scamper, as she carefully licked Sheldon’s nose.
“Aagh! Stop!” cried Sheldon, kicking his feet under the blanket.
Zephyr reached in her purse and took out a large comb, which she used to straighten Sheldon’s long hair. She quickly parted it down the center and gathered his hair in short pigtails, which she decorated with pink satin ribbons. Then she backcombed his hair expertly, fluffing up his pigtails and making them fuller.
“Oho haha!” laughed Pounce.
“Now, now! We really must thank Sheldon, for being willing to help us, don’t you agree?” said Zephyr as she finished up his new hairstyle. “He’s been very courteous and polite and gracious, hasn’t he?”
“Yeah great, so we can do whatever we want to him,” beamed Scamper.
“Shouldn’t we feed him, so he grows up some day?” Pounce asked. “What you feed bunny babies? Carrots, right?”
Marigold reached into the picnic basket. “Bunnies drink formula from a bottle, like most babies do.”
“Wildkitties just eat meat! Piles of meat! Yumyumyum!” laughed Pounce as she rubbed her belly and licked her lips.
“Hmpf! Well, I certainly wouldn’t eat meat, and neither would any other bunny!” grumbled Sheldon.
Pounce wiggled her eyebrows at him. “Hey! Don’t be a grumpy-pants!” She grabbed the bottle from Marigold and pushed it into Sheldon’s snout. “Here ya go, baby! Mommy Pounce knows just what you need!” she shouted.
Poor Sheldon wasn’t thirsty at all, but he had no choice as the baby formula flowed quickly out of the oversized bottle and down his gullet. He tried to push the bottle away, but Marigold intervened.
“No no! Pounce dear, we always cradle baby’s head and shoulders like this, and make sure her pretty head is at the proper angle, like this.” Marigold made the boy lean forward a little bit as she held the bottle firmly against his muzzle. Zephyr took a soft cloth from out the basket and placed it under Sheldon’s chin, to catch any stray drops of formula.
“Oho, what a pretty dressydress!” laughed Scamper loudly as she watched the pink blanket fall back from Sheldon’s upper body. “This baby princess is top rank one hundred percent! Whahahahaha!”
“Hush now, don’t laugh at my baby!” scolded Marigold.
“Heehee, sorry boss!” pouted Scamper. “He real funny though!”
Poor Sheldon could feel his belly filling up with the heavy formula. It was a thick mixture of whole milk, cream, coconut oil and a generous dollop of honey. Marigold kept the bottle pressed firmly against his muzzle until he drank about half its contents. Its taste was pleasant and sweet but Sheldon hated the belittling way his meal was being forced on him, with no control over how much he drank.
Marigold put the bottle aside and leaned her baby a little further forward in his hammock, tapping his lower back firmly until he let out a loud belch.
Sheldon blushed at the realization of how thoroughly Marigold was controlling his body functions. He had never been burped like that – at least not since his infancy! He pulled his pink blanket back into place around himself, feeling very subdued by the lively girls.
“What we do next, boss? Diaper time?” asked Pounce.
Sheldon looked anxiously from Marigold, to Zephyr, to the wildcats. They all were nodding with a confident smile.