There aren't enough birthday candles for the cake.
"You’re getting old now, Angela!" said Charles Halleck, as he and his wife Betty walked into the Parker’s house. They were the last of the five couples to arrive for Angela’s party.
"Yeah, thirty-one today," said Angela’s husband Paul. She shot him a dirty look. "But she still looks as young as the day we met." he continued. Angela stood so her figure was displayed to the fullest, she had short blonde hair and a moderately slender build. She could have stood to lose ten pounds, but she was still an attractive woman verging on middle age. Everyone at the party was over thirty and it pretty much showed. Except Betty Halleck who was 5 years younger than Angie - they often joked about her being the baby of the group.
Dinner went smoothly, even though Paul didn’t often take over the kitchen from Angie except on special occasions. There was much beer and wine consumed and a lot of stories of past get-togethers as well as stories about their children. Soon it was time to serve the cake. Angela could tell there was something wrong, because there was a buzz of activity from the kitchen and Paul came out and quietly got a couple of the ladies from the party. Had he dropped the cake?
After a minute He walked out of the kitchen with the cake covered in lit candles. "What happened?" she asked him. "Oh, we didn’t have 31 candles," he said, "Betty came up with a clever trick to solve the problem." Angela looked at the cake. They had taken the few candles they did have and used them to make the outline of the number 31. Then everyone sang "Happy Birthday" to Angela, she always hated this part because she didn’t know what to do but sit there and look stupid while they sang to her.
When the song was done her husband said, "Don’t forget to make a wish, honey."
"I wish this was the right number of candles!" joked Angela and everyone laughed. Then she blew them all out and a chill passed through her - she quickly looked and everyone had felt it. "That was weird," she said, and Paul dragged the cake toward him to cut.
"You forgot to get plates," said Betty, "I’ll go grab them." She walked through the door into the kitchen. Angela had nothing to do, so she plunked down on the sofa. Another chill passed through her and she was going to ask Charlie about it but got distracted by a couple of the guys who were having a beer-slamming contest, they hadn’t done that in years. If Angela hadn’t known better, she would have sworn that the two men looked just like they had in college, just wearing the docker shorts and button-shirts of thirty-year-olds instead of tee shirts and cut-offs.
Then Betty Halleck walked out of the kitchen with the plates. "My God, she looks like a teen-ager," thought Angela, jumping off the couch and following Betty back into the kitchen. As she walked through the door, Angela thought, "does this outfit feel a little loose?" But when she got into the kitchen and saw Betty up close that thought was forgotten. Betty was now a slim teenager of maybe 14. She was trying to get a wine glass off the top shelf of the cupboard but couldn’t reach. Angela stepped up and grabbed it for her.
"Here," she said, handing the glass over.
"Thank you," replied Betty, in a girl’s voice as she looked at Angela. Her eyes opened wide and her hand flew to her throat. "My voice," she said, "and look at you!" Angela looked at the reflection in the sliding glass door at the back of the kitchen. She saw two teenage girls, one a few years older and half a head taller than the other, their clothes baggy and too old for them. "We’ve got to get help," cried Angie as she guided Betty through the door into the other room. Part way there, Betty stumbled because her pants and underwear fell down around her ankles. She kicked them away and kept going. Betty’s blouse hung low enough on her girlish frame to maintain her modesty. Angie noticed that her friend didn’t even come up to her chin, then she looked at the occupants of the room.
Her husband Paul was a half-grown boy of fifteen swallowed up in oversized adult clothes and no one else in the room looked much older. "Betty?" he said, when he saw the 10 year old girl in front of Angie. They all crowded around her, holding up their pants with both hands or stepping out of the giant garments. Angela took a good look at Betty Halleck. Her friend was maybe four and a half feet tall, her long black hair had dwindled into a short girl’s cut with bangs and she was as lineless as a boy. She was sobbing in a little girl’s voice. Angie looked at herself in the mirrors of her dining room. She had almost no chest, especially swallowed up in the giant blouse she wore. The girl in the mirror looked about 13. Her husband had a pimple on his face and no razor stubble, and Charlie Halleck was a young teen himself, comforting an eight year old Betty Halleck.
"What the hell happened?" cried Angela, in a high, childish voice.
"Eleven, twelve, thirteen," counted Paul, looking at the table by the cake. "There were thirteen candles on your cake."
The only other sound in the room was the sobbing of a child and some young teens.