Chapter Description: Tests.
"And when the little mermaid gets her voice back at the end, she marries the prince!"
"Oh my, that sounds exciting," Dana humored the beaming six-year-old happily seated in a silk pajama hill on the floor. It was uncanny the speed with which Mackenzi settled back into her giggly, inquisitive elementary school self. The previous half-hour’s drama already long forgotten, completely erased from memory in fact. The resulting image - her daughter safely returned to the confines of childhood - proved compelling enough to blunt any feelings of guilt for Dana. Instead, she found herself transfixed and fascinated by every movement, every toothless grin on her inviting little face.
"Can we watch it right now?" Mackenzi begged, eyes wide.
"No, honey. It’s still early in the morning. We’ll need to wash up and have some breakfast," Dana instructed, easily slipping back into an old routine herself. "And we need to get you in some clothes that fit."
"But then can we watch the movie after that?" The requests continued unabated.
"And you can watch it too, Mommy!" Mackenzi assured her. "You’ll like Sebastian. He’s really funny."
"I’m sure he is," Dana answered, her knees cracking as she raised up to notice her husband’s outline leaning in the doorway.
"Um, Dana?" he queried, eyebrows arched. "Are you back to babysitting again? You didn’t tell me-"
His question immediately interrupted by his much younger daughter, sitting cross-legged and half-naked on the opposite end of the room, Chris was barely able to choke out a coherent response.
"I... uh... How...?"
"Chris, you’d better sit down for this," Dana said, guiding her perplexed hubby toward the couch and pressing him into the cushions. All the while, his gaze locked on the specter playing contentedly on the carpet.
"This is too weird."
Now well-practiced, Dana narrated the incredible events that had unfolded that morning, explaining how, by some strange technological magic, Facebook had altered the bodies and minds of its users in seemingly impossible ways. Profile pictures and settings now held sway over reality itself, reducing Mackenzi to the unconcerned child before him. (She was careful to omit certain key details.)
"So, let me see if I have this right," Chris cleared his throat. "Mackenzi happened to have an old school photo as her profile picture and now she’s just like any regular six-year-old. And you have her laptop and she’s logged in to Facebook. So why can’t we just upload a recent picture and change her back?"
"Just wait a sec," Dana said, turning his head back toward girl busy building towers out of the coffee table coasters. "Think about it. Take a good look at Mack. Look at that face. She’s happier than she’s been in years. We could just let it be and she won’t know the difference. Chris, we could post pictures of ourselves in our 20s and start over again."
"I don’t know," Chris replied, far too rattled by the entire paradigm shift to rationally consider all the options. Messing with the natural order just seemed... unnatural.
"Mommy, can I play in my room?" a high-pitched voice called.
"Of course you can," Dana answered. "Don’t forget to brush your teeth."
"Okay!" Mackenzi said, leaping up from her spot, unfazed by her now total lack of clothing. They had to stifle the impulse to laugh. Less than 12 hours ago, Mackenzi would have crucified anyone who dared enter the bathroom without knocking.
As the unselfconscious little one dashed down the hall, she could hear Dana faintly in the distance. "And cover yourself up, sweetie!"
With that, Dana turned to Chris with her familiar "amiright?" expression. And the evidence proved difficult to deny. Last night they had gone to bed with a stuck-up, rebellious daughter on the cusp of legal drinking age and now a bright-eyed kindergarten graduate sat patiently in her room awaiting the next showing of The Little Mermaid.
"I’ll tell you what," Dana proposed. "I’ll be the guinea pig. Let me dial up my Facebook account and I’ll show you how safe it is."
"Okay, but if Mackenzi thinks she’s six, won’t you forget that you’re really 45? I don’t want to have a confused wife on my hands who thinks Bill Clinton is still in office."
"I, um..." she foundered for a moment, trying to formulate a believable excuse. "I think that only happens when you’re talking about really young ages. Like, how much do you remember from when you were six?"
"I’m not sure about this," Chris cautioned. "We don’t know the medical effects."
But Dana already had her hand on the mouse.
For a middle-aged woman, she had little to complain about when she looked in the mirror. Sure, Chris had noticed the crow’s feet and the hints of bags beginning beneath her eyes, but otherwise Dana remained what the internet would undoubtedly label a MILF. Sporting an enviable figure, unmissable breasts, and the same shoulder length chestnut hair he fell in love with, she had certainly kept up her end of the bargain physically. Granted, it hadn’t been enough to dissuade him from straying from the path back in 2009. And with Katy Sullivan, of all people. A former co-worker of Dana’s. But that chapter of their marriage seemed like the distant past when he pondered the endless possibilities presented by the day’s events. Could they really start over?
"Here," Dana announced, clearly pleased with her selection. "A picture from our trip to Mexico after college. You remember, the one where Anne and I got plastered on tequila and missed our flight? I think I’d be about... 25. That sounds right."
"I guess I can’t stop you," Chris shrugged, while secretly brimming with curiosity.
"Okay," she said. "The picture is loading."
And right on cue, the tingling sensation swam from her core all the way out each extremity - first the arms, then the legs, followed by her neck and head. The feeling announced itself so rapidly that a brief moment of doubt overtook Dana. Maybe she hadn’t thought this through.
Still, just as quickly as it came the surge of panic subsided, as she could see Chris’ eyes lighting up. It was happening. A glance at her right hand showed veins disappearing and younger, healthier skin arriving. Sagging breasts lifted, shifting inside her bra. Creases on her face steadily vanished. From her husband’s perspective, she looked like she was being photoshopped in real time - only this was legit.
"Ta-da!" Dana said, as the rush died down and the process finished its final touches.
"Honey, it’s incredible," Chris exclaimed, moving in to judge his wife’s new and improved features. "You look... gorgeous."
"Why thank you, old man," she joked. A remark that already made Chris uncomfortable.
"I... I still don’t know," Chris hesitated. "The whole idea makes me nervous."
"Come on," she prodded, flashing a sexy smirk he hadn’t seen in decades. "Give me your password and we can get this party started."
After another round of hemming and hawing, Chris finally relented and divulged his Facebook login info. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to be younger. The proposition was more than tempting, especially with the episodes of intense lower back pain he’d suffered since February. Winding back the clock would undoubtedly save some pricey trips to the chiropractor. The whole plan just struck him as inherently risky, toying with every bodily system in unpredictable ways.
"All right, one handsome young man coming up," Dana announced like a chef prepping her utensils.
"You’re absolutely sure about this?"
"Look," she said, leaning over, newly pert breasts testing the limits of her poor robe. "Do these look sure?"
"I guess so."
Right on time, Chris detected the pins-and-needles covering his flesh, worming their way in a spiral fashion up and down his arms. It feels like I slept wrong on my entire body, he thought. Though the process never came close to painful, the strange brew of anticipation and fear set Chris’s heart racing with the same momentary panic that had affected his wife. Only his episode would last a bit longer, considering his anxiety level going in. Within 30 seconds, the changes began revealing themselves one by one. His paunch slowly shrinking, as if he were sucking it in Hasselhoff style. Brownness cascading through his silver temples.
"I can’t believe it," he raved, hoisting his drooping pants and tightening the belt. "You were right. This is awesome."
Once the prickly feeling dissipated, Chris wasted no time with his first request.
"Hey, we need a mirror," he said, taking note of how suddenly energetic and awake he felt.
Dana complied, grabbing one from the bathroom. "Here you are, sir."
Chris held it up and gasped. "Wait, honey. This isn’t what we agreed-"
"I’m sorry, I just couldn’t help myself," Dana chuckled. "I wanted to see what my man looked like before we met."
"I can’t be more than 18 years old!" Chris panted, a nearly hyperventilating high school senior looking back.
"So dashing! I’ll bet you had to beat the ladies away with sticks."
"The deal was to make ourselves 20-something," he said, concerned but still vaguely entranced by the effects. 27 years. That’s how long it had been since he wore such a fresh face. The experience possessed all the hallmarks of a dream, but he couldn’t wake up.
"Geez, calm down, hon," Dana shushed him. "We can change it. Can’t you just enjoy a few minutes of being a teenager again? It’s gotta feel great, right?"
She grinned, grabbed his butt, and planted a Friday night football game worthy kiss on his lips. His brain multitasking at a ridiculous rate, he could hardly muster a sexy reply. So, not that different from his actual high school days, Chris had to admit.
"Okay," she said, finally releasing her tight grip on his rear. "We can find another picture. Just give me a second."
"Whew," Chris sighed, working overtime to tamp down the rush of hormones that threatened to turn him into a real teenager. At 18, he’d still been a virgin and, even though he remained an experienced adult where it counted, sex suddenly felt new and forbidden again. While admittedly enticing, he told himself he’d still be more comfortable with another few years padding and a little more self-control.
"Remember the deal was mid-20s," he reiterated, eying his dutiful wife at the computer.
"Gotcha," Dana replied, smiling mischievously as she opened a folder labeled "Elementary School Photos."