You may have noticed … today is HALLOWEEN! In celebration, I wrote a short story. Consider it my super-spooktacular gift to you. I present Part I of “Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?” Don’t get scared, now.
Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
PART I (of VII)
By Sara Dobie Bauer
Angie Duncan pulled her long, black hair into a ponytail in front of her bathroom mirror and shouted into the hallway, “I need a date for Halloween.”
She heard her friend, Tanya, flip through the newly arrived Victoria’s Secret catalogue out on the couch in Angie’s diminutive living room. “Who doesn’t?”
Angie sighed and leaned forward to apply deep red lip stain to her pouty lips. She ran her fingertips beneath her blue-violet eyes, removing remnants of charcoal black eyeliner. Properly pleased by her look, she pulled down on her black tank top, did a little spin, and clasped her mom’s silver locket around her pale neck. She then joined Tanya in a disorganized living room, covered in theater textbooks and Stephen King novels.
“What are you going to be for Halloween anyway?” Tanya didn’t look up from the catalogue.
“A witch. Keeping it simple.” She fell back into a thrift store armchair that still smelled like cigarettes thanks to the previous owner. Having just moved to Tarrytown three months prior, Angie’s apartment was a conglomeration of found objects. Since she was a poor college student, those found objects were in pretty crappy shape. “What are you going to be?”
Tanya shrugged. Tanya was the closest thing Angie had to a friend so far. Strange, upon transferring to Tarrytown College from an even smaller college in Massachusetts, Angie had not expected to encounter cliques. Yet, entering Tarrytown as a junior felt distinctly like being the new kid who just didn’t fit. Everyone already had their group of friends, so where was a newbie to go?
Tanya threw the catalogue on the crooked coffee table that fit snugly between the couch and Angie’s chair. “Any dating prospects for Max’s party then?”
“Care to share?” Tanya twirled her finger around the edges of her curly, brown hair. Like Angie, Tanya was a theater major, which was how the girls met. They connected over high school memories of Rocky Horror Picture Show. Other than that, they had nothing in common. Where Angie was petite, Tanya was lumpy. Where Angie was flashy, Tanya was morose. Perhaps that was part of Tanya’s motive, though; already, two months into fall semester, Angie was famous with the male members of the Tarrytown College Theater Department. Tanya, usually so invisible, felt much less invisible with Angie around.
“Hell no. Too skinny.”
“No. Too cocky.”
Tanya sighed. “I’m not going to name every guy in our class.”
Tanya almost fell off the couch. “You can’t ask Jonathan Crane to go out on Halloween!”
“He never goes out on Halloween.”
“Uh. Why not?”
“Well. Because …” Tanya’s eyes moved to Angie’s scuffed, permanently beer-soaked floor.
“He’s a Crane.”
“Yes, his last name is Crane.”
“Yeah, like, Ichabod Crane.”
Angie chuckled. “What?”
“Uh, ‘Legend of Sleepy Hollow?’”
“Yeah, I know who Ichabod Crane is. What does that have to do with Jonathan Crane?”
“Ichabod Crane is a fictional character, Tanya.”
“Not in Tarrytown.”
“I thought I moved to New York; not the nineteenth century.”
“It’s for real, Ange.”
She let out a huge yawn. “I need coffee.”
“You can’t ask him out.”
“Well, I’m going to do it after stage design class today, so yes, I can.” She pushed herself up from the chair. “Speaking of which, we’re going to be late.”
Tanya leapt to her feet. “Angie, do not ask him out.”
“He’s the hottest guy on campus, sweetie, and I’d like to someday sleep with him, but to do so, I have to ask him out first. Baby steps.”
“He’ll turn you down.”
“He’s too nice to turn me down. Plus, I caught him checking me out once.”
“Angie, I know you’ve cast some kind of spell on all the other theater guys, but Jonathan Crane is different. He’s not even allowed to go out on Halloween.”
“Not allowed?” She scooped her heavy bookbag onto her right shoulder.
“His family, they all go into hiding on Halloween. Plus, he’s the last male heir of the Crane fortune; they particularly can’t let anything happen to him.”
“Okay, enough.” Angie held her hands up in front of her and dug in her bag for a clove cigarette. “Let’s go to class. And we’ll see if he turns me down.”
The fact was, Jonathan Crane checked out Angie Duncan as much as he could. Not only was she the new girl in the Tarrytown Theater Department, but she had something other girls at school didn’t. She was … different, although Jonathan could never put his finger on what was so different about her. She had long black hair, and she was rarely seen without her trademark red lipstick. Although new to campus, she was already rumored to be wild at parties—the first girl to jump on the bar and dance. She had the body to match the personality, and when she walked, Jonathan often found himself incapable of looking away. Which was probably why he barely spoke to her; she made him nervous.
Of course, Jonathan Crane was nothing to slouch at. As Angie acknowledged, he was one of the more attractive young men at the school. Well over six-feet-tall, he ran five miles every morning and swam laps on the weekends. He had dark brown hair and scalding blue eyes that made most women blush with just a glance. He was also seemingly unattainable. Jonathan never dated. He never took girls home post-party. Generally, he rarely spoke at all to members of the softer sex, and no one—no one—had ever asked him on a date for fear of the inevitable rejection.
Then, there was Angie Duncan, transfer from Massachusetts and already rumored to be the director’s favorite. She was Jonathan’s favorite, too. He hoped she would get cast in the upcoming production of Macbeth. Jonathan was a senior set design major, so it was his senior project to design the entire set for the Shakespearean tragedy—which could also entail time spent with the young woman who made his head tingle.
Students rumbled down the third floor hallway of Irving Hall, named of course for the famous author and historian, Washington Irving, who spent some time there as a young man. Although the classroom behind him was practically empty, Jonathan hated being one of the first to arrive. An early arrival necessitated small talk, and Jonathan Crane hated small talk. Therefore, he stood, hands in his jeans pockets, bookbag on his back, and waited a requisite three minutes, or at least until the professor showed up. Jonathan could at least speak to his professors.
He sighed. The next day was Saturday. The next day was Halloween—a much dreaded event in the Crane family. He contemplated a night of drinking scotch with his uncle, alone, while other kids his age had fun. Then, she arrived.
The door to the staircase swung open as if shoved by a great force, and the frame surrounded her like some kind of eighteenth century portrait. Of course Jonathan immediately looked away, but he looked long enough to know she wore a tight black shirt beneath a red hooded sweatshirt. Dark jeans covered up black boots on her feet, and her luminous black hair was pulled into a high ponytail on the top of her head.
His head swooned the closer she got, until she walked right past him, her crony, ugly Tanya, in tow. Angie said his name quietly, “Hey, Jonathan,” and damned if she didn’t wink before walking past him into class.
Unable to help himself, his head turned to watch her walk away, his head bobbing with every swing of her slim hips.
Then, a hand smacked his shoulder. “Take a picture, dude.”
“What?” He stood up straight.
Max, the theater department’s perpetual leading man, smirked. “She does fill out a pair of jeans, though, doesn’t she?” He made a clicking sound with his tongue and sauntered inside.
Damn it, Jonathan wanted to punch guys like Max Hedwig. Max was blond, buff, and confident as the biggest bull in mating season. If he wanted a girl, he got her. It made Jonathan’s stomach ache to think Max might go after Angie, but why wouldn’t he? She was fresh blood.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Crane. Coming to class today?”
“Yeah.” He shook his head, still dizzy from Angie’s arrival, and followed his professor inside.
Through the full hour of class, Jonathan swore he could smell Angie’s perfume: something floral with maybe a touch of vanilla? No, lavender? He was so busy trying to decipher her scent, he didn’t even notice class was over until other kids picked up their books.
He looked toward the front of the class.
“Can I talk to you for a second?”
“Sure.” His professor always wanted to talk to him; he was the guy’s favorite pupil.
“Would you be free tomorrow to throw a little something together for my kid’s Halloween recital? Just something small for behind the little ones. They’re dressing up like pumpkins. I’ll give you extra credit.”
Jonathan’s hands clasped tightly to the straps of his backpack. “I’m sorry, I can’t. I …” I’m not allowed to leave the house on Halloween. “I already have plans.”
“Well, it was just a thought. I imagine everyone has plans for tomorrow, it being Halloween and all.”
“Have fun then.”
Oh, how Jonathan hated Halloween. He practically stomped out of the classroom and into the hall, but then, a small, soft voice made him take pause. He turned, and Angie stood there, leaning against the wall in the near empty hallway.
“Hey.” She took a step toward him, and up close, he realized she couldn’t be over five-foot-five, couldn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds. “Wanna go on a walk?”
He had trouble breathing. “Sure.”
They walked down the three flights of steps in silence and out into the late October air. It was practically frigid already; New York weather could be that way—unpredictable and generally cold. The majority of orange and red leaves had already fallen, leaving spindly skeletons in their wake. Yet the sky still burned blue, almost as blue as Jonathan’s eyes.
“So. I’m Angie.”
He laughed. “I know who you are.” He looked toward her, and she smiled, amused.
“And you’re Jonathan.”
“I am.” He nodded.
“You don’t talk much.”
“This is the most I’ve ever heard you say.”
She was picking on him, but he liked it.
“You’re designing the set for Macbeth.”
“I am. Are you auditioning?”
“Of course. Although there aren’t very many good female roles. Damn Shakespeare.”
“You could be a witch.”
“Only if they let me wear a fake, warty nose.”
“I hear they’re doing Electra next year. I think you’d be perfect in that role.”
She stopped walking, her feet half-planted in a pile of leaves discarded by the wind. “How do you know?”
“I know things.”
She smiled and kept walking. “I was wondering …”
“Well, I need a date.” She stopped walking again and turned to face him, halfway across College Green, in the direction of Main Street, Tarrytown.
“A date?” His head was in the clouds.
“Yeah.” She played with the locket around her neck. He wondered if it was a nervous tic. “To Max’s party tomorrow. I was hoping you would go with me.”
His head went from in the clouds to in the dumpster. Oh, Lord, he wanted to say yes. He wanted to say yes times one million. But … “I can’t. I don’t go out on Halloween.”
She looked like she’d been punched in the chest. “Oh. Okay.” She immediately smiled. “Well. I’ll see ya.” She spun on the heel of her boot and jettisoned herself toward home.
Jonathan held his fists to the sky and shook them. He buried his head in his hands, but if he could have buried his head like an ostrich in sand, he would have.
Part II goes live on Friday. Until then, have a wonderful evening! Scare some little kids for me!