A/N: For those wondering why this story was randomly updated years after its completion, I simply decided to revise it in response to feedback from my Creative Writing college class. These revisions mainly consist of removing filler, adding clarity, and toning down some of the more unlikable character traits. So for anyone who's already read this piece, hopefully it'll read better now than it did before.
Our story begins on an average late-summer morning in 1988 Grand Rapids. Still snoozing soundly within his master suite was a black, forty-five-year-old gentle-giant of a man named Jay Lewis. The door to the bedroom creaked open, but it only made his face twitch.
"Oh, Jay! Wake up, sugar," Ruthie cooed, before seeing Jay slowly open his eyes. "Well, that sure woke you up! Heh, your mama wasn't kidding when she said your trigger word was 'food'."
Sitting up, Jay continued to stare blankly at his wife. To him, she looked just as young, healthy and beautiful as she had in the old, sepia wedding picture on his nightstand, minus the dress. Instead, she was wearing a very flattering butter-yellow bikini that clashed greatly against her dark skin. In her hand was a breakfast tray topped with a basket full of buttermilk biscuits, a bowl of sausage-gravy, and a tall glass of freshly-squeezed orange juice.
Despite his love for food, however, Jay was not paying attention to this, and was instead pondering about that picture. Not only did his wife look good in it, but so did he. He was thin, his hair was done up in a jet-black flat-top, and his face was free of both hair and wrinkles. Being a twenty-three-year-old newly-wed at the time, Jay was proud of his look, and held the belief that he would look this way for the rest of his life, and he thought the same about his wife too.
"Uh, dear?" Ruthie continued, prompting him to snap out of it with a few blinks.
Snapping out of his trip down memory lane, Jay realized that she was merely wearing her nightgown and a wine-colored robe and was just as middle-aged and overweight as she had been yesterday, though the breakfast was still real. As she set down the tray, Jay got a good look at her head and face, only just now noticing that both her hair and skin were showing signs of aging. The sight both horrified and angered him at the same time.
"Get off me, woman!" he said sternly.
"For the love of God, Jay, what was that for?" Ruthie replied.
"I don't like what time has done to you," Jay replied.
Ruthie was taken aback for a moment, utterly shocked by how out-of-character Jay was acting. Just a few days back, he had told her that she would always be beautiful and lovable to him no matter how many decades passed, so why would he suddenly recant that statement? Thinking on it a bit harder, she then remembered the scene he had caused last night. Putting that next to his comments this morning, it dawned on her: was Jay going through a phase? A midlife crisis perhaps? If so, then she figured it was that talking, and not her husband.
Assuming that the phase would pass soon enough, she chose not to get into an argument and simply shrugged. She walked over to the dresser and opened a box on top of it that was full of over twenty rings (both she and Jay each had a ring to commemorate each wedding-anniversary) before pulling one out and slipping it on, finally leaving to help the kids get ready for school.
As Jay got himself ready for work, the amount of changes he noticed only grew exponentially. Though he had never once neglected his hygiene, he had always been so absorbed in that task that he never had the chance to just take a long, hard look at himself. Only now did he notice that the hair on the very top of his head had vanished without a trace, and a few scattered grays were visible among the sea of black that covered the rest of his head as well as his face. The skin on every exposed part of his body had started to wrinkle, his eyes were sinking in with their shine partially lost, and he noticed a large ring of fat around his neck that bulged out to the point of obscuring the collar of his shirt. Once all of that day's clothes had been put on, he headed down the hallway that led to the stairs.
While he walked down the hallway, he passed by a series of eight framed family pictures that were hung along the wall to his right. The earliest picture in this sequence was another wedding photo, consisting of only himself and Ruthie. With each passing photo, changes were present, most notably the addition of new family members. Starting with a Newfoundland puppy named Reverend, followed by his three children: his only daughter Loretta, who sported a white streak in her Diana Ross-esque hair, Logan, who sported a jerry-curl and thick glasses, and Toby, who wore an afro.
The eighth and final picture simply consisted of everyone in the household including the dog posing and smiling for the camera, looking exactly as they had last night. However, something was off to him, prompting him to retrace his steps and glance over the photos again. He noticed that as he moved further along the line, everyone in the pictures was slowly aging in various ways.
Praying that he was only seeing things, Jay headed downstairs to bid his family adieu, noticing that he didn't have the energy he'd felt during the other times he'd done so. And to his shock, what he had seen in the pictures was correct; visible signs of aging had affected almost everyone in his house like the Spanish Influenza outbreak of the 1910s had affected the entire nation.
As he hugged Logan and watched the fifteen-year-old leave, he noticed that his son had lost some of the childlike innocence on his face, and some stubble was visible on his cheeks and above his lip. Now that she was eighteen, Loretta had changed too, now with wide hips, a protruding chest, and the full capability of starting the very process that led to her inception. Even Reverend had let his age get to him; at twelve years old, his curly coat was now flecked with grays, the spring in his step was all but gone, and the amount of energy he put into bidding him goodbye was much smaller. After one more kiss from his wife, Jay left for work and didn't answer anyone who greeted him as he walked.
As he strolled towards the distillery, he was in deep, continuous thought about what he had been witnessing and what else was going on. Then it dawned on him: Jay had been so blinded by his mad love towards his family, and his constant efforts to protect and provide for them, that he never took time to realize just how old or unhealthy he was. He had a pot-belly, he had both types of diabetes, he had arthritis in his fingers, his pants could no longer fit as tight as they could before (for more reasons than one), and his entire body and household were showing signs of increasing age.
It was also then that he realized that he had been running his company for even longer than he had held his marriage, and he remembered some signs of aging that he noticed on a sizable chunk of his staff the day before (most of the workers had kept their jobs ever since the distillery opened). By the time he got to his headquarters, Jay was breathing heavily. The fact that his reality had been long blurred by his own attitude did nothing more than make it worse.