My friend, Alex, and I were supposed to be going to the end of year dance at school, yet for some reason he was ignoring me. I'd been waiting outside his house for 10 minutes now. I rang the doorbell for a third time. "Come on dude, I can see you standing there, open the door!" I glared through the frosted windows, waiting for the blurry figure in the corridor to move. "The dance started half an hour ago. You've spoken non-stop about it for the past month!" I waited a few more moments until I sighed in faux-disappointment. "Oh well, I guess you left me with no choice but to use the spare key you keep under the-"
"NO!" he shouted, suddenly rushing to the door and slamming his weight into it to prevent me from opening it. "I already told you. I've come down with something, and I don't want you to catch it." He coughed a little before continuing "It's a shame I can't go, but don't worry. Just go without me."
I weighed up my options. He did sound unwell. his voice was rough and gravelly. But he once went to Six Flags with pneumonia, so I know even illness wouldn't keep him away. "I'm not leaving this doorstep until you're by my side bro, you know that."
He sighed and said "I do... But it's hard to explain. I can't leave the house, not like this..."
"What is it, a huge zit on the nose? Horrible haircut? Ugly rental suit?"
"It's difficult to put in words..." There was a moment of silence until he sighed loudly and grumbled "fine. I'll show you. But don't freak out or anything! It's going to be a shock."
He shifted away from the frosted windows, and unlocked the door before stepping away. I opened it and stepped inside. I was surprised to see that Alex wasn't there. Instead there was a dignified, yet unfamiliar, older man standing in the hallway. He wore a dashing black suit with matching bow tie, a stark contrast to his white stubble, and salt and pepper hair. Yet he looked younger than the hair suggested. Mid-fifties maybe. I noted that he had the same style glasses as my friend, yet it wasn't until I looked him in the eyes did I realise it was more than that. I knew it was impossible, yet I still softly asked "Alex..? Is that you?" The man nodded his head sadly. I inhaled sharply before saying "But you look so-"
"Don't say old, I know I'm old." Alex interrupted. "I can't go to the school dance because I'm not a student because I'm too old!" He collapsed onto the staircase and buried his face into his hands with a pitiful moan.
I reached out and rubbed his shoulder, trying to make soothing noises. "Nooo, I was gonna say you look very dapper! It's a beautiful suit, and the beard's a nice touch, makes you look more mature. Uhm, not in an old way of course! Not that you're old!" I cringed, trying to turn the conversation around. "Uhm... I didn't know the dance would be so formal, I just put on a shirt and jeans. I feel under dressed compared to you."
Alex mumbled through his hands "Well I wouldn't be in this mess if I followed your lead. But noooo, I just had to rent a suit! You ever heard of Costume Plaza?"
I nodded my head. "The place with the supposedly magic clothes? Wait, you mean it's legit? Duh, of course it's legit, you're old now. Older, I mean. Not old. You look good!"
Alex looked up and rolled his eyes at my continual tripping over sentences. I could tell he regretted letting me see him now. He exhaled sharply, then said "They opened a new store where that mattress place used to be. They had an opening sale going on, so I figured I'd check it out. It's literally unbelievable in there, I don't know how they manage to fit so much inside! Anyway, I found the formal wear section and this one happened to catch my eye". He tugged at his suit jacket, which I must admit was a stunning suit. "It was hanging in a section for 50s male suits but it didn't look old fashioned to me. I figured it was misplaced. So I took it to a changing room to give it a shot.
"It was kind of big at first, and I was about to take it off until I literally grew to fit the suit... I had a feeling something would happen, I'd read all the reviews before visiting, but I was still surprised, you know? And it was quite cool at first. I put on some muscle and the stubble made me look like I was in college. But it just kept going, and I couldn't take the suit off no matter how hard i tugged! I watched myself age decades in minutes, man... My hair and beard losing its color, my skin getting all rough and weathered, until I stopped at this. I stripped out of the clothes straight away, and the change was all over. I'm pretty buff for my age, and I've even got white chest hair. it's kinda weird. Anyway, I checked the label and it said "55 year old daddy". Turns out I misunderstood the section, and it meant a suit for a man in his fifties..."
I snorted unintentionally. No wonder he looked so good for his age, the suit was tailor-made for it! Alex raised an eyebrow, probably thinking I found the situation funny. I cleared my throat and mumbled "You think they'd have better signage in there. Or something!"
"Yeah, well what they also don't keep clear is that once you try on a costume, you're pretty much stuck with it. My first thought was to put my own clothes back on to turn back to normal. But no luck. They didn't fit anyway. I'm a lot bigger now than I was at your age." His nose wrinkled in disgust. "Ugh, I'm starting to make old man comments... My chest is too broad, I couldn't even do the buttons up on my shirt.
"Next, I decided to try on a suit from the prom section since the costume was what made me older in the first place. I picked out the classiest suit but it didn't fit either, and it didn't turn me back into a kid again. I was just a man wearing an ill-fitting suit."
I interrupted him for a minute. "Wait, they had a prom section and you didn't think that was the best place to look for a magic suit?"
"Of course I did, it was the first place I checked. The prom suits were all so ugly, and this one looked so nice! I eventually found the store owner, and he said the effects don't wear off until tomorrow morning. Plus, I need to be wearing the suit the reversal time comes, otherwise I'm stuck looking like this. My parents organised a date night which means I have the place to myself. So I'm staying here all night, instead of going to that awesome dance. Just my luck right?"
"That's rough buddy" I said rather bluntly. I'm not that good with comforting people... But I did know what I had to do. I sat down with Alex and put an arm around his shoulder. "So if you can't go to the dance, then I'm not going. I'll stay here with my best bro!"
He smiled weakly. "Thanks, but you should go! I'll be fine, I promise. You don't want to hang when I look more like a teacher than a fellow student."
"You do have that teacher look to you..." I said. Alex frowned, practically making my point. Which gave me a great idea. I jumped off the step and said "Hey, why don't you just be a chaperone! The principal was practically begging for them this morning! I'll just tell the teachers that you're my uncle or something, then we can both enjoy the night!"
Alex scratched at his chin in thought. "Yeah, I guess it's an option... But it's not as fun if I'm the adult enforcing the rules. And what if the other chaperones talk to me? What if they flirt with me? Eww!"
I chuckled and said "Just forget all that and come with me. It's better than waiting around the house for some curse to be lifted right? Plus, you can sneak the booze in for the rest of us!"
Alex grabbed onto the bannister and pulled himself off the staircase with a grunt. Then he straightened his suit and bow-tie with a grin. "What the hell, I'll do it! It's not like I have anything else to do at home!" He held his arm out, and I looped my arm around it. He looked down at me with a smile. "This is going to be a dance to remember!"