I had this Halloween story sitting around, and I figured I’d share it.
When he tripped over her cat…her black cat that’d just crossed his path, Ron couldn’t help but think, “There was never a second date. Why was there never a second date?”
He hadn’t pushed for one, but neither had Teralyn—or Teri as she’d asked him to call her. She would’ve suggested a second date if she’d been at all interested. There’d been no obvious signs she’d say yes if he asked.
What if she said no, and they were stuck living side-by-side for eternity?
The date that they had been on…was perfect, not that he believed in perfection, but it went great. In fact, when they were standing beside her door, saying goodbye, there’d been that awkward “should we kiss” moment. At least, that’s why he’d felt awkward. Not that feeling awkward was unusual.
He should have asked then, but he was stupid and now it’d been three weeks, and they started avoiding each other two weeks ago. Well, she’d been avoiding him.
She would have given him some sign…something. Women were like that. Significant looks. Throat clearing. Code words. Subtext. They did all that stuff. And he’d worked up the guts to ask her out three weeks ago, so it was only fair that the next step—even if it was signaling him to make a move—was hers.
But that was three weeks ago, and the time had passed, and he should have done something then. Maybe it was too late. Maybe with time to think it over…she just wasn’t interested.
Her cat, Midnight, followed him down the apartment stairs, winding in and out of his legs.
“Stop,” he said and tried to give the cat shaming looks.
It really didn’t care. It’d been his shadow for three weeks now. It seemed the less Teri was interested, the more her cat was. Midnight had crossed his path so many times that, if there was anything to the adage about black cats, he’d be the unluckiest guy on the planet.
Maybe he was.
Why hadn’t he asked for a second date?
They were painting the lobby again. It seemed they were always painting the lobby. He stopped to wave at the building’s super.
“Hey, Carl,” Ron said, stopping beside the ladder the other man stood on.
“You just missed her.”
Clenching his teeth, Ron shook his head. A month ago, they’d run into each other a dozen times a day. It was what gave him the courage to ask her out in the first place. It couldn’t be just luck…not with how often they bumped into each other. So, conversely, it was logical that this wasn’t just bad luck that they never saw each other.
They’d only seen each other once in three weeks. Once. In three weeks. It was the day after their date. They’d both been at their doors, and his phone had started ringing inside his apartment. He’d answered it, telling them he’d call them back, and gone back outside. She was gone. He’d left his door open—that was clearly a sign he was coming back. The phone had been audible outside his apartment, especially after he’d opened the door. Clearly he was coming back to talk to her. His logic was sound then. If she believed otherwise, it was irrational.
“Midnight is out, though,” Ron said to the super, gesturing at the cat.
“She leaves a window open.” Carl set down his roller and eyed Ron. “You’re going to have to knock on her door and be straight with her.”
His stomach started eating itself at that. Carl had been spectator to the switch from uncomfortable flirting to avoiding each other. The old handyman was full of advice. Do this. Don’t do this. Yes, she likes you…probably.
“I can’t ever tell when she’ll be home.” It seemed as if she was never home until late at night.
“Well, she’ll be home tonight. She bought candy.”
“Candy,” he repeated, squinting. Was she planning some sort of sugar rush party? Did they have those?
“Ron! I swear, boy, you’d miss the sun going down and just wander around in the dark.”
That hardly ever happened anymore.
“It’s Halloween.” Carl pointed around where there were the occasional fake spider webs, complete with plastic arachnids. Huh. Look at that…they were fake. He hadn’t examined them enough to notice that. He’d thought they were really letting the place go.
“So, if she bought candy, she’ll be answering the door to trick-or-treaters.” Ron ran a hand through his brown hair.
She’d be home. So, if Teralyn answered the door to trick-or-treaters, but not to him, he’d finally know.
The super shook his head.
“Oh, she won’t?” Well, so much for that.
Carl shook his head again. “No, she will. I just forget that you two being geniuses seems to kill your common sense. She asked me three times what day Halloween was.”
“October thirty-first.” Wow, even he’d known that. He knew she was Mensa level intelligence like him, but….
“What day of the week, you idiot.” The older man pointed at the front door. “Now, go, buy candy, otherwise you’ll have to pretend to not be home, and that’s just pathetic.”
Ron nodded. Okay. He could do that.
Carl muttered under his breath, “I swear…nobody is home.”
He went to go by and Midnight wove around his feet. Ron stumbled underneath the ladder. He’d just walked underneath a ladder—well, fumbled through it, nearly face-planting.
“Hell,” Carl said. “You didn’t need bad luck too.”
“It’s fine,” he said, recovering. “I don’t believe in bad luck.” It didn’t make sense. Okay, so he believed a little.
At least Midnight left him alone once he was outside. The store wasn’t so far away, but they organized the whole thing so randomly that it took him a while to find the ravaged shelves where only a few bags of candy remained.
He grabbed the ones with the optimal amount of dark chocolate bars—just in case there was any left over, and turned to go, knocking over a display of more than a dozen small hand mirrors. The mirrors were meant to look ghoulish and eerie—their handles made out of faux skeleton bones. Dropping the candy, he caught three of them, but more hit the floor, shattering.
The sound echoed in the store, sending twitches down his spine. This store was already too loud.
A store employee came jogging over and then stood there, staring in open-mouthed shock.
“I’ll pay for them,” Ron said, setting the three remaining mirrors on the shelf. Why would you ever put fragile items in a display that could be easily knocked over? It was nonsensical.
“Uhh,” she said, still staring. “I’m not cleaning that up.”
Another employee joined her. “What? What happened?”
“He broke a bunch of mirrors. I’m not cleaning that up. That’s bad luck, and it’s Halloween…isn’t that like double the bad luck?”
The other employee shook his head and snorted out a sound of disbelief.
Exactly. There was no such thing as bad luck.
“It’s only bad luck if you break them,” the male employee said, finally.
“Look, I’ll pay for them,” Ron said. He counted quickly. “I’ll pay for all thirteen of them.”
They both sucked in hissed breaths.
“I’m not cleaning it up either.” The male employee backed away with his hands in the air.
Picking up his bag of candy and the handle of one of the broken mirrors, complete with barcode, Ron went up to the front of the store to buy his candy…and thirteen mirrors. They could figure out who had to clean it up without him. Plus, now there were only twelve mirrors.
He wasn’t unlucky.
He wasn’t unlucky.
If there was one thing he knew, it was that he wasn’t unlucky.
Midnight was waiting for him when he came back and crossed back and in front of him several times, meowing.
He still wasn’t unlucky.
“She came back right after you left,” Carl said. He was moving the ladder away, but looked at Ron with shrewd eyes. “Did anything unfortunate happen to you while you were out? Maybe you ought to wait to ask her out until another day.”
Well, he’d bought $100 worth of broken mirrors…
“Why are you carrying around an empty sack?” Carl asked before he could answer.
Ron held up the sack of candy in his hand…well, the sack in his hand. One of the shards of mirror must have cut a hole in the bag. He’d left a trail of candy from the store back to the apartment. Damn. Maybe he was unlucky.
Carl shook his head. “Maybe you can borrow candy from Teralyn…give you an excuse to knock on her door.”
“Yeah. Sure. I can do that.” He wouldn’t though. He’d turn off all the lights and pretend to not be home. Or he could not be home. Midnight was still crossing back and forth in front of him as he trudged up the stairs. He didn’t believe in luck. He didn’t believe in bad luck. He only believed enough to write off asking Teralyn out.
“I’m being a coward,” he admitted to Midnight as they reached the second landing. Maybe he should knock on her door. He could do that. Maybe.
He turned the corner and stopped and stared.
Teralyn was not only there, but she was wearing a robe—a robe caught in her door, and she was trying to reach his door while clutching the robe closed. She turned and saw him. Her skin flushed pink even as she said, “Oh thank goodness.”
“Why?” He gestured at her robe as he went toward his door.
Teralyn’s eyes narrowed and she glared in his direction. “You! You purposefully shut me out.”
Ron stopped. “Whoa, I was going to ask you out again. Tonight. I swear.” Shut her out? She was avoiding him. She’d shut him out and shut him down.
Teralyn blinked and her brows drew together. “No, I was talking to Midnight. He slammed the door closed behind me. I thought I heard a noise at the door, so I went out to check and he shut the….” She bit her lip. “You were really going to ask me out? Again?”
He cleared his throat. She sounded uncomfortable…like she was trying to figure out how to say no. “Uhh…maybe I’ll just get your key then.” They’d traded keys a month ago just in case the other got locked out. He went by her and retrieved her key. As he went to hand it to Teri, Ron stopped and asked, making eye contact, “What would you have said?”
“If I’d asked you out again…like I’ve wanted to…since our date…what would you have said?”
Footsteps sounded on the stairs.
She snatched the key from his hand and opened her door.
Midnight snuck inside with her, and Ron turned to go. Guess that was his answer. No. She would have said….
Leaning out, Teri grabbed him by the collar and pulled him into her apartment before slamming the door behind them.
“Yes. I would have said yes.” She sounded breathless as she brushed her blond hair from her eyes.
Oh. Well, that was helpful. He might be able to ask her now—while she was being so forthcoming.
“What would you have done if I’d tried to kiss you? That night?”
A moment later, his back was slammed against her door, and she leaned up into him, pressing her mouth against his. He dropped the empty bag in his hand to wrap his arms around her.
“I’m definitely going to try that then,” he murmured in between brushes of their lips against each other.
She smiled against his mouth.
He’d never kissed anyone wearing a robe before.
The door thudded against his head as someone knocked.
“Oh! Trick-or-Treaters,” she said, dropping down to the flats of her feet. Her lips looked all soft and as kissable as he now knew they were.
“That reminds me…I was going to borrow some of your candy. My bag…had a hole.” Ron gestured down at the empty bag at their feet.
She clutched her robe closed and stared over his shoulder at the door. “Could you pass out candy here—I need to put on clothes?”
“You want me to pass out candy while you get dressed?” She had a bowl right next to the door. He could do that.
“No. For the night. I want you to stay here and pass out candy tonight. With me.”
“With you,” he said—with a smile. “Okay.”
Tipping forward, she brushed another kiss against his lips before rushing to her room.
He waited until the bedroom door had shut before he opened her front door. He handed candy to a ghost, a vampire, and pumpkin before saying, “Don’t bother next door…there’s no one home.” And that was very lucky.
Copyright © 2014 by Wendy Sparrow
If you liked this short story, consider checking out my novella about poor Tilly…who really is cursed: Cursed by Cupid.
Or leave me a comment–I love comments! Comments are cool.