Chapter Description: After spending some time looking like a child and being treated as one, you start to adjust and even begin acting like a child. That is when you reach an epiphany: you ARE a child again.
Graham and Jared had to find out at some point. That opportunity came one Friday after school when Graham invited me to sleep over at his house that night. Tempted as I was to say yes, I instinctively told him I needed permission first. When I got inside Reed's car and told him, he was a bit hesitant to allow me. "What if he starts asking about, you know, your situation?" Reed asked. "Well, Graham wanted to come to my house twice and both times I had to lie to him about why he couldn't come," I replied, "I just don't think I can keep up the act anymore." "So, you think you're ready to tell your friends you used to be an adult?" Reed asked. I thought long and hard about what I was going to say, before one word left my mouth: "Yes".
Later that day, Reed drove me to Graham's house. Jared had already arrived, which meant I had to tell him as well. Right as Reed and I entered, we requested to talk to both Graham and Jared in private. Graham's mom was puzzled about that request since Graham had always told her everything, but soon shrugged it off as "guy talk". With Reed supervising us, I decided to break the news to Jared and Graham.
"This may be hard to believe, but this is the truth. I used to be an adult; until a couple of months ago, I was the same age as Reed. I dunno what happened, but I just woke up one day and looked like this," I stated while pointing at my body, "Not a single person knew what happened to me. I'm also adopted. Reed used to be my best friend, but he's my brother now."
It took a few minutes for both boys to take it in, but I was surprised at how they reacted. They thought it was cool to be hanging out with someone that used to be a grown-up, which was all we were talking about that night. They wouldn't stop asking me what it was like to be an adult, being able to drive, drink, stay up as late as I want, and eat whatever I want whenever I want. They even wanted to wrestle me to see if I had grown weaker after getting younger; both Graham and Jared pinned me down within seconds. I did my best to explain what my adult life was like, but right before we were told to go to sleep, I made them promise to never tell anyone else unless I said it was okay. It was hard to tell whether they planned on keeping their promise, but no one else in school confronted me about being an adult yet.
Not long after the sleepover, Reed moved out once again. He had accepted a new job and found a new apartment in the downtown area, which meant he could no longer drive me to school. Cameron was more than happy to reclaim the bedroom that was supposed to be his, but this meant Jacob would once again be sleeping in his room alone. I knew what it was like to feel alone, so I tried everything I could to be there for Jacob just like how Reed was there for me. If I wasn't helping Jacob with his homework or putting his bullies in their place, I would be spending time with him whenever Cameron had to babysit us. Well, more like ignore than babysit.
I was also the only kid in the family to not tease Jacob about his bedwetting, but that was because I recently wet the bed myself. In an effort for Denise to get rid of my problem, I have had to share the GoodNites with Jacob. I never expected to like how it felt on my ass as much as I did, even though they also made me feel more like a 7-year-old than a boy on the verge of double digits. Sometimes, Denise would let Jacob and I sleep in the same room. On some nights, I would have to sleep in the same air mattress Cameron slept on, but Jacob slept on my bed most of the time. My bed was the same queen-size bed from my old apartment with different sheets, but it was still big enough to fit the both of us.
My second childhood was sounding too perfect, but that all changed one Monday during recess. Somehow, word had spread throughout the school that I used to be an adult. It was harmless for the most part, with plenty of kids asking me to do their homework for them. However, there were the few jerks out there who pushed their luck by checking to see if I was still tough or if I turned into a wimp. Among those boys was Ricky, who said I might as well go back to pre-school with Jacob. I was angry at everyone, including Graham and Jared. I accused them of telling the whole school, but they both denied everything. I ran away from them, going back to the very corner that Graham pulled me out of when he befriended me. The teasing was so bad I had Denise call the school to stop all of it, and an assembly took place the next day where the principal addressed all of us.
"As most of you know, we have a new student this year. You may have heard that this student, Kevin Murray, used to be an adult before turning into a kid one day during the summer. Personally, I don't know whether that claim is true or not. However, this does not give you the right to treat Kevin differently from everyone else, nor should it allow you to behave the way you all were behaving. Kevin is a student at Stone Bridge, and he is to be treated the same way as the rest of you are to be treated." The assembly took almost a full hour, with some of the staff members talking about how we should treat each other equally and re-educating us about bullying and its effects. All I could think about was who was the one that told everyone. Word had spread like wildfire, so someone must have started it. I thought about Miss Holbrook, but I bet that she would have been fired for doing that. Jessica and Libby had no business getting involved with my dilemma, and I couldn't think of a reason to believe that either of them did it.
I told Jacob that Cameron might have told everyone at school, which he believed. Cameron, who was in earshot and heard us, was offended by my accusation. Both Jacob and I thought him spreading the word made sense since I thought Cameron had always hated me.
What followed was a screaming match between me and Cameron, with Cameron swearing at me and Jacob and wishing that we had never been born. The fight was about to get physical as Cameron pushed me to the ground, but it ended with Denise intervening. As punishment, Denise forced Cameron to take us trick-or-treating for Halloween that Saturday and banned him from attending some dance he was planning on going to. Denise did remind me not to jump to conclusions, and that it shouldn't matter who told everyone at school.
Cameron hated that Jacob and I ruined his plans for Halloween, but all either of us cared about was how much candy we were going to get that night. I already don't remember who Jacob and I dressed up as, and Denise was too busy to take a picture of us, but the two of us had a blast going door to door begging strangers for candy. It was the first time I had done this in years; I stopped trick-or-treating when I was 12.
I hadn't expected the pillowcase I was carrying to be that heavy to carry. Jacob eventually convinced Cameron to carry his bag, but I sucked it up despite my arms getting very tired. It was during that night that I ran into Jared and Graham. I hadn't spoken to either of them since the entire school heard about my problem. My question was answered just as Cameron went back inside the house with Jacob.
"I feel terrible for saying this Kev, but I was the one that told the school you used to be a grown-up," Jared confessed, "I know you might be mad at me, but hear me out."
At that time, I was pissed at Jared. I made him and Graham promise not to tell anyone, and Jared broke that promise. I could have walked away then and there, but Miss Holbrook once taught me not to walk away when someone else is talking.
"Graham and I thought it was cool to hang out with you, especially because you were a grown-up once," Jared continued, "I didn't know better. I just thought that if everyone found out, they would think it was cool too. It could have been mega popularity for all three of us! I mean, we're gonna be in middle school next year, and doing this really could have helped!"
I didn't want to listen to Jared's nonsense. I thought he was being insensitive, caring more about being cool and popular than keeping a friend's promise.
"I thought the same as well, but seeing you run away that day and seeing those jerks call you a wuss and a baby made me feel terrible," Graham added, "What was the word that grown-ups use whenever they have that feeling?" That would be his conscience, which I was surprised either of them even had.
I didn't say a word the entire time they tried apologizing. "It's okay if you're still mad at us, but we just want you to know that we messed up and we're sorry," Graham told me as I was walking back to the house. Once inside, I went straight to my room in silence.
Denise and Cameron were too preoccupied with checking our candy for razor blades and cyanide, Jacob was distracted by what was on TV, and no one else was home. I came around and forgave both Graham and Jared around two days later. Even though we were friends once again, I made a note to myself to never tell either of them another secret again.
On the week before my birthday, Reed came over to visit and check in to see how I was coping. I proudly showed off the A that I got on my social studies test, which Reed congratulated me on. He also appreciated how I had always been there for Jacob lately. Reed pulled me aside for a private conversation, where he had a confession to make.
“I’m not sure if this was a coincidence, but I may have had something to do with why you turned into a kid,” Reed announced. “What do you mean?” I asked, blindsided by the news. “I wished for it,” Reed replied, “But I didn’t word it in the way that you think.” We both sat down on my bed and Reed continued to explain.
“This whole thing started at a camping trip during the summer. I was at that trip with mom, dad, Jacob, and Cameron. On our last night there, we saw a shooting star. Mom and dad were tending to the fire, and Cameron scoffed at the premise of a shooting star granting a wish. I was only playing along when Jacob saw one pass by. I never knew what he wished for since he wasn’t supposed to tell, but he never really knew you at the time. I do remember what my wish was, and it did involve you. I remembered when we ran into each other last spring. We hadn’t seen each other since college so we caught up. You were very miserable that day, telling me how much you hated your job and how you were always short on cash. You kept telling me how life was simpler when you were younger and how you didn’t want to be stressed out. That was what motivated my wish that night: for you to be happy again.”
“Then how does me turning into a kid make sense?”
“I guess because of how stressed out you’ve been, maybe making you younger would have made you happy. After all, you told me at some points how you wished to be younger again. I know it’s a bit of a stretch, but you’re doing well in school so far, right?”
“I’ve been getting some Bs, but I seem to be doing okay.”
“You also made some new friends, and you have a family now.”
“I guess that’s true.”
“Did I mention that you don’t need to worry about keeping up with your rent or sucking up to your old boss anymore?”
“I’ve stopped worrying a while ago, and I haven’t really been stressing lately.”
“If that makes you happy, then I guess my wish wasn’t a bad one after all.”
“It does. I just didn’t expect you to do this to me.”
“Believe me, I was just as surprised as you were when I first found out. I didn’t believe the wish came true until I saw you in those oversized clothes, and I saw how happy you’ve been lately.”
Reed didn’t stay over that night. I didn’t remember wishing to be younger until he explained everything to me. Maybe that slipped my mind due to everything else that I was thinking of at that time. I went to bed that night, complete with the GoodNites I took from Jacob, content with my status as a grown-up in the body of a fifth grader.
This brings us to today, a relatively cold Saturday night in November, but not just any Saturday. Today is my birthday. I was supposed to be turning 25 this year, but it is instead my tenth birthday. I don't know why, but there's something about transition from single digits to the big 1-0 that sounded more appealing and more like a big deal. I had already accepted that I would have to grow up again, but at least I wouldn't have to grow up alone. I never had any siblings the first time, and I was never that close with either of my birth parents. Heck, I never really had any friends until I met Reed in high school. We were drifting apart only a few months ago, but he's my brother now, and he's gotten used to being my role model.
Surrounded by my family and new friends, I blew out the ten candles on the cake while making a wish. What did I wish for, you may ask? If my birthday were the day after I regressed, I would have wished to be an adult again. That wasn't what I wished for; I had long since adapted to the life of a child, and it would be fair for you to say that I am, by all accounts, a child. Did I wish for Cameron to be the little brother, for him to wake up regressed tomorrow just like I did? Maybe yes, and maybe not. Maybe my wish was for something else, but I'm not telling!