Posts Tagged ‘short story’
Happy Halloween everyone! Here’s a short story for you! I’d love some feedback!
The house glittered and glowed in the twilight. JoElle hugged herself, smiling in the waning light. On the front walk, outside the wrought iron fence that surrounded the property, she knew the house was impressive. Smugly, she knew that, once again, her Halloween party would be The One people talked about.
In their small town, the Peterson’s annual Halloween party was legendary. Babysitters were booked months in advance. Costumes were planned months ahead of time. Trick or treating ended earlier for the children of the attendees. Everyone wanted to be involved in the Halloween party hosted at the town’s sole haunted house.
The Peterson’s house isn’t really haunted. But years of abandoned vacancy fueled the imaginations of children and adults alike. Teenagers brave enough to explore the vacant house often fled with stories of specters and sprites, fueled by friends and adrenaline. Neighbors saw flickering lights in the empty house, but shook their heads and found other explanations that made better sense.
That all changed when the Peterson’s moved in and made the house their own. Once the house had been renovated in a way meant to capture the historic charm of the old Victorian, JoElle immediately began planning the first Halloween party. Both of the Peterson’s were tickled at the thought of hosting a Halloween party in a house once believed to be haunted.
JoElle hugged herself once more, then hurried up the front walk. Ever the conscientious hostess, she rapidly scanned the vast yard, looking for decorations not lit up perfectly or that had shifted in the strong breeze that sprung up earlier in the day.
At the bottom of the large porch, she turned to get a view of the yard from another vantage point. Satisfied, she turned. Lifting the long skirts of her sexy witch costume, she ran up the steps.
Absently patting a scarecrow seated right inside the front door, she slipped into the brightly lit house to make one more round before the guests arrived.
After a quick tour through the first floor, JoElle stopped in the entrance hall to study herself in the huge mirror. The perky witch’s hat sat atop her curls, not detracting from the corseted focus of her chest. In case the tight corset was to subtle, she reached into the bureau under the mirror and took out the shimmer powder to apply to her cleavage. Tonight was not a time to be shy.
Guests arrived in groups, laughing and prepared for fun. After all, the Peterson’s had never failed before.
The first hour flew by as JoElle greeted guests and prodded the catering staff to keep up. She laughed and flirted. Husbands couldn’t help it when their gazes were drawn to her chest. Wives didn’t worry because it was JoElle Peterson, who was harmless.
“Where’s Ted?” guest after guest asked.
JoElle wrinkled her adorable nose and sighed each and every time, “Can you believe he had to travel for business on Halloween? Apparently, corporate America doesn’t understand how important this holiday is to some of us!” Tinkling laughter trailed after her as she moved to the next group.
“It’s a shame Ted’s missing this great party!” more than one guest pined, quickly forgetting their absent host when something or someone else caught their attention.
JoElle made one last trip to the kitchen to check on the caterers. After giving last minute instructions and telling them what a great job they were doing, she left with a glass of champagne. After absently patting the scarecrow seated right outside the kitchen door, she took a long drink and moved into the sea of bodies filling her first floor to capacity.
Brad Martin reminded himself to smile. It wasn’t easy as person after person asked after his wife, Catherine. When he told them, they were quick to pat his arm and offer condolences for Catherine’s mother, making promises to get in touch with her when she returned. That’s when Brad told his closest friends he didn’t think she would be back.
There was more shoulder patting and more condolences, but no one was really surprised. The Martin’s marriage had been on the rocks for ages. But the Halloween party wasn’t time for sad news, so no one dwelled on Catherine’s defection.
Brad caught JoElle’s eye after a round of shoulder patting and lifted his glass in a silent toast. She nodded back and lifted her champagne flute.
“JoElle, you’ve out done yourself this year!” Ally Carlisle sidled up to her neighbor and shook her head. “How do you do it? You must start planning this party as soon as we all leave!”
“Sometimes it seems that way!” JoElle bumped shoulders with Ally. Pointing with a long, glittery fingernail across the room, she asked, “Did you notice what’s new this year?”
Ally’s eyes widened and she turned her back to the crowd. “I noticed that Catherine Martin isn’t here. Someone told me she’s probably gone for good. They just can’t make it work,” she sighed dramatically.
“I know, I heard that too. But I meant, what’s new with my decorations!”
The older, rounder woman elbowed her, “I’d like to have Brad decorating my house. My, he’s handsome. Do you think he’s into the geriatric thing?”
JoElle laughed, “He is handsome.”
“I guess your eyes are full of your handsome husband. So sad he can’t be here tonight.” The pout was out of place on a milk maid’s face.
“I know. He’s really sorry he’s missing this.” JoElle smiled, barely able to mask her frustration at not having her question answered. Trying again she asked if the year’s new decorations had been spotted.
Ally spun around once and then stopped, a broad grin covering her face, “The scarecrows, of course. His and hers! A matching pair! I checked them out and I have to tell you they are exquisite. Where did you get them?”
“You know I never reveal my sources!” JoElle teased before moving off to find a dance partner.
People ate. They drank. They checked out the multitude of Halloween-themed decorations that filled the house. Upstairs rooms were lit by candlelight and soft, haunting music was piped throughout the house. From candles that dripped blood to “finger” sandwiches, the Halloween-theme was evident.
Joelle was the perfect hostess, ensuring that her guests were well fed and that drinks were plentiful. She made her way around the room, time and time again. And even though it seemed like she was concentrating on the people present, she was keeping a close eye on the scarecrows which were the year’s central decorations.
She stopped breathing for a millisecond each time someone bent closer to study them. The curious poked and prodded, then laughed as they declared how life-like they were.
The grandfather clock in the foyer donged twelve o’clock, signaling the end of All Hallow’s Eve. Responsible party guests finished plates of food and took one last gulp of drinks. Murmurs about working the next day and getting kids off to school replaced the laughter and tinkling of glasses.
JoElle positioned herself next to the front door and said good bye to each guest.
“Ted will be so sorry he missed this!” she assured more than one departing guest. “Of course I’ll give him your best!”
When the last person was hugged and thanked, she closed the heavy front door and leaned against it. Wearily, she pulled the hat from her head and shook loose her curls. Bone tired from preparation and hostessing, she found the conclusion of another Halloween party bittersweet. Thoughts of a bubble bath and long soak gave her the energy to move away from the door.
A movement from the dining room made her gasp. Then she sighed, “Bob.”
“Nice party.” He swirled the ice cubes in his glass, mesmerized by the amber liquid within.
“Perfect party,” she corrected.
Leaning against the door jamb, he absently patted the head of the scarecrow, still focused on the contents of his glass. “They were missed.”
“They were,” she agreed, knowing that he referred to their absent spouses.
After he drained his glass and pushed himself away from the doorway, he squatted next to the scarecrow and studied it closely. Eyes and mouth had been drawn with crude stitches. Bright blush brought color to the waxen complexion. Straw hair had been tightly sewn on to the head.
“Do you think anyone knows?” He straightened, finally looking directly at her.
“I don’t think anyone has a clue.”
My friend Jan and I challenged each other to write a short story. The only sentence we had was “she spills a drink on him.” Here’s mine!
Flashing lights, too-close bodies, and pounding music only exacerbated Julie’s headache as she pushed through the nightclub crowd. Keeping the pleasant look on her face was growing increasingly difficult as the throbbing of her headache was matching the beat of Usher filling the club.
Ignoring her discomfort, she moved along the perimeter of the club. Eyes flicking over each face in the ever-moving crowd, she was on high alert. It didn’t help that most of the people tended to look alike in the dim lights and their black leather jackets.
Twice she thought she saw him, but was disappointed when she got closer. None of the dark-haired men was the one she looked for. If she didn’t find him tonight she was going to have to rethink her strategy.
After stopping at one of the bars, she continued her prowl through the club. When she realized it was impossible to drink her club soda while moving through the crowd, she fought the urge to shriek. Her frustration level was growing along with the intensity of her headache.
Giving up after her third trip around the bar, she moved out of the crowd and looked for a place to sit. Settling on a precariously high bar stool, she took a long pull of her drink. Among the reflections of the booze bottles on display, she caught site of herself and stifled a groan. The winter dryness had caused her hair to frizz and, apparently, she had raccoon eyes.
“Damn,” she muttered, swinging off the bar stool.
“Damn!” she repeated louder as she found herself pressed against someone’s chest, with the remains of her drink dripping between them.
Strong hands wrapped around her and she strained her neck to look up at the man wearing half of her drink. “Whoa!” he grinned.
Opening her mouth to speak, she forgot what she was going to say when she looked into his deep blue eyes. While she stared, she noticed that he smelled of leather and pleasant cologne. Then she noticed that her mouth was still open.
“I’m so sorry!” She picked an ice cube off his crisp shirt and dropped it back into her glass. “I’m such a klutz!”
His smile broadened, crinkling the corners of his eyes. “No problem. Why are you in such a hurry?”
Between his eyes and his slow, warm voice, Julie found herself mesmerized. Her headache started to fade as she absently wiggled a little closer to his warmth. Realizing he expected an answer, she forced a laugh and stepped back. She moved far away from him so she could easily see his face, but not so far that he was forced to move his hands.
“No hurry! I was just going to walk around a bit.”
“Mind if I join you? I’ll get you a refill.”
She missed his warm hands the moment they were gone from hips. “Thanks…”
Watching him order their drinks, she caught sight of a dark-haired man out of the corner of her eye. Immediately, her attention returned to tonight’s mission: find him.
“It seems easier to go with the flow,” he murmured and guided her back into the circling crowd.
She craned her neck, hoping to get another glance of the familiar dark-haired man. Realizing she had lost sight of him, she let herself be propelled back into the sea of moving bodies. As they slowly moved with the other people, she concentrated on the warm hand lightly gripping her elbow. Several people passed without her noticing before she shook her head, bringing her attention back to her quest.
“Are you here with anyone?”
The sound of his voice so close to her ear gave her goose bumps. She shook her head. Since the chances of her being heard amid the cacophony were slim, she left it at that.
“I just thought you might be looking for some one. You seem to be looking.”
Realizing her search was futile in the crowded nightclub, she shook her head again.
“Maybe we can find a place to sit. Keep your eyes open.”
She didn’t know how he did it, but he managed to move them easily through the crowd. He easily propelled her through the crow. By the time he pointed out the small sofa tucked into an alcove, she was more than a little annoyed.
“I had to push and shove my way through the crowd and it just parted for you. Who are you, Moses?” She sounded too loud in the sheltered alcove where the music and voices were a murmur.
He smiled and held out his hand, “Peter Jakes, at your service.”
“Nice to meet you, Peter. I’m Julie Maxwell.”
Peter settled on the sofa and studied the woman over the rim of his glass. She looked tired and more than a little nervous. Her eyes kept flitting to the people passing by. Everything about her body language said she was looking for someone.
“Do you come here a lot?”
She shook her head, “This is my first time. I thought I’d take a look around. I haven’t been in a club in a long time.” Her explanation sounded lame. She kept her expression neutral, fighting the urge to cringe. Or to blurt out what she was really doing in the club.
“So you came alone?”
She caught his bemused expression and was irritated by it. For some reason, she didn’t want him to think she was a night club regular. “I’m looking for my brother-in-law,” she blurted. “I think he’s cheating on my sister. She’s pregnant.”
His eyes narrowed slightly, “That’s tough.”
“Yes, tough.” Her eyes flicked over the passing crowd, missing his frown.
Peter’s eyes were covering the crowd also. But his years of experience hid his interest much better than Julie hid hers. Her every movement was designed to cover up the fact that she was searching the crowd, drawing even more attention to herself.
Unable to hide his amusement any longer, he drawled, “Don’t keep turning your head back and forth. Try moving just your eyes. It makes it less obvious.”
Her head snapped toward him. “What?” She wasn’t sure she had heard him correctly.
“He’s not here tonight. So you’re not scaring him off. But if you don’t learn to be more subtle, everyone in the club will know that you’re looking for someone.”
Again, she stared at him with her mouth hanging open.
He grinned, “Less obvious, Julie.” He leaned forward, removed the glass from her hand, and placed it on the table before them. Then he grabbed her hand once again was propelling her in front of him through the crowd.
Julie was sputtering by the time they were back on the street in front of the club. She spun around and tried blocking his movement, but her attempt to appear threatening was futile.
Instead of answering any of her questions, he reached into the front pocket of her jeans with two fingers and withdrew the parking stub. She fumed as the valet took it, running across the street with her keys jingling in his palm.
Before she managed to form a coherent sentence, he manoeuvred her into the passenger seat and was driving her car away from the club. They were two blocks away before she had the sense to be scared.
“Wait!” She reached for the steering wheel, but he blocked her with his right hand.
“Stop it!” He glared at her and pressed her against the seat with his arm. “We’ll be there in two minutes. Unless you manage to kill us by being reckless!”
Julie was surprised when he parked her car outside a brightly lit diner. Only three people were inside, but none of them paid any attention when they opened the door. The waitress behind the counter made a sweeping motion with her arm and told them to sit wherever.
Peter pushed her toward the back of the diner. Childishly, she thought about struggling, but decided it wasn’t worth the effort. She wasn’t completely helpless, but he had managed to hold her tight against the car seat with one arm.
While he ordered, she studied him, gauging his danger-level. Realizing the odds were against him being a rapist or murderer, she started to relax a little. But her hackles rose once again when he ordered coffee for himself and an iced tea for her.
“You just look like an iced tea kinda gal,” he grinned when the waitress left and he saw her gaping.
“Bullshit,” she hissed. “What the hell is going on here?”
He watched her mentally running through her options. Her every thought and emotion was transparently displayed on her pretty face. When he saw a flicker of fear, he felt a flicker of guilt.
“Peter Jakes, FBI.” He slid the wallet holding his badge across the table toward her. When she didn’t move, he flipped it open to show her. “It doesn’t bite,” he chuckled.
“Why would an FBI agent kidnap me from a nightclub?” Her chin lifted and her sapphire blue eyes challenged him. Now her game face was in place and he could no longer easily read her.
“I didn’t kidnap you, Julie.” Tucking his badge back into his jacket, he held her gaze, “We’re both looking for the same man. I think it’s time we combine forces. Before you get yourself hurt.”