Do You Have a Head I Could Borrow?
PART II (of VII)
by Sara Dobie Bauer
Angie met Tanya for a beer, because they had agreed to meet after Angie’s talk with Jonathan. Angie had hoped to toast her success; Tanya had apparently known better, because as soon as Angie walked into the quaint, townie bar known as Tony’s, there was already a shot of whiskey and a bubbling beer waiting for her.
Angie threw her bag on the nearby booth and sulked.
“He said no. Didn’t he?”
“Yes, he did.” She threw back the shot of whiskey. “That’s never happened to me before.”
“Oh, I feel so bad for you.” Tanya rolled her eyes.
“No, seriously, that’s never happened before. What the hell is wrong with him?”
“I told you, Ange, he’s a Crane. They don’t go out on Halloween.”
“I don’t buy it. I mean, the Headless Horseman? Really?”
Tanya shrugged. “Welcome to Tarrytown.”
“That’s it. I’m making out with …” She threw a hand in the air. “Everyone tomorrow night. Maybe even you.”
“Just hit on Max. You know he’d go for it.”
Angie sipped her beer. “I don’t want Max. I want Jonathan Crane, the quiet, humble, sexy type. I mean, he looks like he’s made of rock.”
“Mmhmm.” Tanya nodded.
“This isn’t over. Nope. Not over.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“I bet he comes out tomorrow.”
Tanya chuckled. “I bet you’re wrong.”
Angie spun on her chair, hand already extended. “Oh, yeah? What’s the bet?”
“No, no.” Tanya shook her head left to right. “I don’t like this.”
“If Jonathan Crane shows up to Max’s party tomorrow night, you have to flash Max.”
“Poor boy will have to sleep with the lights on.” She finished her beer and gestured for another. “Fine. If you’re wrong, you have to make out with Max.”
They shook on it.
Jonathan stomped all the way across town, up the hill near the river, through two cemeteries, and finally, to his grandmother’s mansion, where he knew his whole family would already be convened for their annual shut-in weekend. He didn’t bother knocking; the door was always unlocked on the thirtieth of October. He slammed it behind him, which made his aunt drop the book she was reading in the study. He joined her, tossing his bookbag on a sofa older than him by three decades.
“What’s got your goose, boy?”
He groaned loud enough to wake the dead.
“You look all in a tizzy.”
“A girl asked me out today.”
“Is that a problem?” His Aunt Marie leaned forward in her seat. In her mid-fifties, she looked better than most women at thirty-five. She was svelte with expensive fashion taste and gray-streaked raven hair. She always wore the most top of the line makeup, and thanks to the family dough, she had never worked a day in her life.
“A problem? No. Yes. Yes, because she wanted me to be her date to a Halloween party tomorrow night.”
“Ah, I see.” Marie leaned back in her chair and continued to read while Jonathan fumed. “Why don’t you just ask her out another time, honey?”
“I don’t think she’s the kind of girl who takes kindly to being rejected.”
“Most women don’t.” She licked her finger and turned a page.
“Why do we still do this anyway, Marie?” He gestured to the high ceilings and antique bookcases.
“Why do we still hide in this house every Halloween?”
She turned another page but then paused. Quietly, she closed the book and set it on the table to her right. “Jonathan?”
“You like this girl.”
“She’s like nobody else.”
With her elbows on her knees, Marie leaned forward and whispered, “I have an idea.”
Saturday afternoon, Angie was perfecting her witch ensemble when Tanya walked into her bedroom, clad in head-to-toe orange. Angie gave her one look and said, “I don’t know how you’re going to flash Max in that thing.”
“I borrowed it.” She gestured down at the smiling Jack-o-Lantern face on her stomach and the orange tights that covered her thick legs. “Do I look like an idiot?”
“Well, you don’t look sexy, that’s for sure.”
“We’re not all size zeroes, Ange.” She shoved against the stuffing in her pumpkin suit and sat heavily on the edge of Angie’s unmade twin bed. “Don’t you look spiffy?”
“I’m doing my best. To impress Jonathan.”
“He’s not gonna show.”
“Yes, he is. I know it.”
“Even if he does show, hypothermia is not a good look. You’re going to freeze in that outfit.”
“I have a velvet cape, silly.” She shook her head back and forth, making her tiny spider web earrings shine in the dim lamplight. Her black hair was in a high bun, and a miniature, pointed, purple witch hat was pinned jauntily on the side of her head. She wore a choker with a spider at the center, a black corset, and a short black skirt, made mostly of tulle. On her feet were a pair of her favorite platforms, decorated with black glitter. “Oh, almost forgot.” She clasped her mom’s locket behind her neck.
“I feel like a cow.”
When Angie turned around, Tanya’s face was buried in her orange-gloved hands. “Oh, sweetie. I know what will make you feel better.” Angie scampered to the jewelry box in her closet and pulled out a couple drawers before she found it. “Look.” She held a glamorous gold and emerald ring up to the light.
“What is that?” Tanya was on her feet, practically drooling.
“It was my mother’s, and I think you should wear it tonight.”
“I can’t wear that. What if I lose it?”
“You won’t, and the boys will love it.”
“Boys never love anything about me, Ange.”
“Shut up, pumpkin.” She tapped Tanya on the head and held out the ring. “Just put it on. You’ll feel better.”
Carefully, Tanya plucked the priceless gem from Angie’s outstretched fingers. She slid the ring over her ring finger and took a deep breath. “Wow. I feel better already.” She held out her pudgy hand and turned it back and forth, back and forth. “Look how it twinkles.”
“I know.” Angie smiled.
“Thanks, Ange.” She wrapped her in a big, orange hug, and together, they headed to the kitchen for their first pumpkin beer of the night.
The girls arrived soon after at the Alpha Psi Omega fraternity house where all the theater boys lived. Well, not all the theater boys; the actors lived at the APO house. The actors were the top of the food chain in the theater program. They ruled the roost. They threw the best parties. They got their own frat house, led of course by Max Hedwig, who greeted the ladies at the front door.
“Angie! Tanya, right? Welcome to our house of horrors!” He adjusted the crooked crown on his head and extended his arms wide, lifting his red velvet cape with his elbows.
“A king. Of course.” Angie was pulled into a not so welcome hug.
“You look hot.”
She sighed. “Thanks.” Max was everything Angie avoided in men: cocky and aware of their good looks. It would be a serious drag if she had to kiss his slimy mouth that night.
“And Tanya?” He paused. “Tanya.” He tilted his head. “You look … wow. I barely recognize you. Can I get you some Hairy Buffalo?”
Angie elbowed Tanya to get her talking. “Um. What?”
“Hairy Buffalo. We pour a bunch of liquor in a garbage can and throw fruit in to soak overnight. It’ll get you messed up.”
“Come on in.” He grabbed the hand adorned with Angie’s mother’s emerald ring and dragged Tanya inside, leaving Angie alone on the front porch.
Angie smiled knowingly and glanced down the sidewalk outside. There were people everywhere, of course, dressed to the nines in costumes ranging from Hangover characters to ghosts in white sheets. Still no sign of Jonathan.
Inside, Angie had to admit the APO house did resemble a house of horrors, but it didn’t require decorations. It was your basic frat house, complete with sticky floors, crooked furniture, and posters of Al Pacino and the Rat Pack on every wall. Techno played from an invisible stereo system, and Jamie Leigh Curtis screamed over dead friends on the big screen TV. Being early, there were only about twenty or thirty people milling about, each one holding a red Solo cup.
Angie wanted whatever they were drinking, so she headed to the kitchen, where a boy she knew from class was bonging a beer from beneath a Richard Nixon mask.
“Angie, Angie.” Max waved her over and handed her a cup of her own. He had his arm around Tanya’s shoulders, and Tanya giggled into her drink. “I heard you invited Crane to the party.”
“He’ll be here.” She took a sip from the Solo cup. It was like fruit punch. But uh-oh. She couldn’t taste booze, which meant this Hairy Buffalo was dangerous stuff.
“Didn’t everyone tell you, the guy doesn’t come out on Halloween.”
“He’ll come out for me.”
A boy from her stage movement class scooted up beside her, dressed as Dracula. “I would come anywhere with you.”
The double entendre wasn’t lost on Angie. Max gave the vampire a high five, while Angie grabbed the front of his shirt. “Let’s dance.” She winked at Max before she left and waved black-tipped fingers at Tanya.
Jonathan had been to parties at the Alpha Psi Omega house before. He’d actually been offered the chance to live there, which he’d blatantly turned down. No way he wanted to be around theater people all day; being in class with his fellow majors was hard enough. Still, he felt nervous, standing outside. Not only was there the inherent fear of being a Crane on Halloween; there was the fear of rejection. What if Angie had already forgotten about him? Oh, and of course he didn’t have a costume. He’d never needed one before—no Crane ever had—so there weren’t even old outfits hiding around his grandmother’s mansion. If anyone asked, he would say he was an unemployed actor.
Climbing the front steps of the two-story, broken down old house, he could hear music and the sound of multiple voices laughing, screaming, and singing along. He pushed the door open. It was dim inside, lit only by strings of colored Christmas lights hung around the edges of the ceiling. People were everywhere, jamming the front foyer and the living spaces on either side. Even the staircase in front of him was covered in bodies, a couple of which were joined at the lips. How would he find her in this mess?
Then, a hand grabbed his arm. “Crane?”
“Hey. Max. Nice costume.”
“Didn’t think you’d show.” The boys shared a fancy hand shake and high five.
“Yeah, well, Angie invited me.”
“Right, I heard that. I just didn’t think …” He chuckled. “You’re out on Halloween. Wow, man, uh, you want a drink?”
“Is Angie here?”
Again, Max laughed. “Is Angie here?” He nodded toward the makeshift dance floor. “Look over there.”
She was hard to miss. Angie danced in the center of about six young men, all trying to make a move. Her ensemble left little to the imagination, and her pale skin glowed beneath the twinkle lights. It was especially hard to avoid the locket around her neck that bounced back and forth as if pointing to her corset-supported breasts.
“Lucky bastard.” Max patted him on the back. “I’m trying to make it with her friend, Tanya.”
“Tanya? The chubby girl?”
“Yeah. Something about her tonight, man, she’s on fire. Gotta go, but get a drink.”
“Yeah …” He couldn’t take his eyes off Angie. And then, over the crowd, he noticed her noticing him.
A smile warmed her face, and she shoved past the hungry masses surrounding her. She stopped about six inches from his body and tilted her head up to look at him. “You came.”
“What’s your costume?” She took in his plaid collar shirt and jeans.
She laughed and touched his arm. Heat shot into his shoulder and neck.
“You make a very good witch.”
“Thanks. You want a drink?”
“Good. I’m empty.” She grabbed his hand and pulled him through the crowd to the kitchen.
He noticed the place was crawling with costumes. Like a two-year-old trick-or-treating for the first time, Jonathan took it all in. He’d never seen an actual Halloween party, outside of a movie screen. This was something new, and frankly, strange. I mean, how often did you see a king humping a pumpkin on the dance floor? When he realized it was Max and Tanya, he looked away, spurred onward by Angie’s warm hand. She stopped moving once a kitchen sink was in view—a kitchen sink overflowing with dirty dishes and empty beer cans.
“So this is a Halloween party,” he whispered.
She leaned up on her toes and spoke in his ear: “Yes, this is a Halloween party. Would you like a Hairy Buffalo?”
She stepped back, smiling. “Just say yes.”
“Yes. I would love whatever you just said.”
“Elliot!” A boy dressed as a vampire jumped at the sound of her voice. “Gimme two refills, would ya?”
“Anything for you.”
“An admirer?” He put his hand on her upper arm; he could barely believe he was allowed and even welcome to touch such a captivating creature.
She leaned her body back against him. “He’s got nothing on you, sweetie.”
Never, never, in his twenty-one years had Jonathan Crane ever been treated like this. It made his head float … or maybe it was just his ego.
Within moments, two filled-to-the-brim red Solo cups floated back to them across the crowd. He took a sip. “This doesn’t taste like booze.”
“I know.” She toasted him. “Dangerous. I’ve had three. So how’d you sneak out?”
“What makes you think I had to sneak out?”
“Cuz you look sneaky.”
“All right, I snuck out, but it was all my aunt’s idea.”
“What’d she do? Lock the rest of your family in the basement?”
“No, she and my uncle, her husband, they fed me scotch, and then, told everyone I was too drunk and sent me to bed. I jumped off the roof into a tree.”
“You jumped off a roof to come to a party?”
“No. I jumped off a roof to see you.”
Finally, it was Angie’s turn to blush—quite an accomplishment, he imagined.
“Angie!” The noise was like a howling cat.
(End of Part II. Part III goes up Monday! Have a great weekend!)