A Little Halloween MagicbyMagicaPractica©
"Why did I agree to do this? I'm not even here to study music!" Rose said to the empty air of the practice room.
She knew she had a pretty good voice, one of the better voices in high school, but this was a big pond at a college with actual music students. The main problem was that she had a solo. She liked to sing but she didn't like to be singled out. That had happened too much growing up, and not in a good way.
All the same, she hadn't been able to resist when she saw the posters around campus asking for people to take part in a Halloween benefit concert for a fellow student. It had seemed like a good idea at the time. She didn't have much of a social life, since it was her first semester away from home at college and she was busy working part-time in a department store downtown. Here was something she could actually do to help someone that wouldn't require extra money.
A knock at the door startled her out of her reverie. How could I have been disturbing anyone? I wasn't even singing!
Then she saw the face peeping through the little window and went to open the door.
"This is all your fault," she told him. She tried to scowl but it was hard. Michael was of medium height and medium build with medium brown hair and the most amazing smile she'd ever seen on a guy. That smile took him from average attractive to absolutely gorgeous. He also had a calm confidence that many men lacked and tried to cover with swagger. She had fallen for him in high school.
He smiled and laughed. "Me?"
"Yes, you volunteered me for this solo." She poked him in the chest with the sheet music she was holding.
He shook his head. "You agreed to it. Can I come in?"
She moved back and let him in. "What's up?" Had he been looking for her? The thought made her warm, though she was sure it wasn't for the reason she wished.
"Nothing, don't mind me." He pulled out a paperback and sat with his back to the wall, reading.
Really? She was supposed to practice with him sitting there?
As if aware of what she was thinking, he said, without looking up. "You're going to have to sing in front of a whole lot of people soon. Better to sing in front of one friendly face who isn't even looking at you first."
He had a point. She ran through a couple scales and sang her piece from The Phantom of the Opera then the noise of a commotion in the hall came through the door. She couldn't make out the voices but she took the excuse to go to the tiny window in the door and look out.
"What is it?"
Rose turned and found herself face to face with him, mere inches away. She swallowed. She'd known that he had walked over but she hadn't realized how close he was. She could kiss him if she just... leaned... forward... a little... bit.
"I, I don't know," she said, taking a step back. Her foot came down on something and she wobbled.
He stepped closer, sliding an arm around her waist, and pulled her back toward him to steady her. "Careful. Somebody left a bag on the floor behind you."
Damn. "Yeah, it's mine," she said flatly.
For just a minute, she thought he was about to kiss her. It was as if he kept moving toward her in slow motion.
Someone tapped on the window. Rose and Michael both looked up to see the choir director's face. "The practice rooms are not for making out." he said loudly through the window.
Rose felt a flush spread up her neck and Michael laughed as he let go of her.
A surge of anger joined the embarrassment. Was it really so ridiculous, the idea of kissing her? Yes, it probably is. "I've got to go," she muttered miserably and gathered her things.
Michael stood in front of the door with his arms crossed, blocking it. He was staring at her, again. It always made her nervous when he did that, as if he might figure out what she was thinking.
"Excuse me," she said, as neutrally as she could.
Silently, he stepped aside. "See you later?"
"Sure." She hoped it wouldn't be too soon though, she needed a bit to get over this latest embarrassment.
Outside the building, she breathed deeply in the warm Indian summer air, filled with the scent of dry leaves and the sound of people laughing as they enjoyed the last of the good weather.
Sometimes Rose thought Michael was being friendly towards her because he felt sorry for her, because she had been picked on so much in high school. She was an easy target - a shy and sensitive fat girl. She'd like to have blamed it all on the fact that she was fat but a friend who was bigger than her had been very popular.
The difference, Rose suspected, was that her friend acted happy and jovial while Rose felt rather angry and bitter. She recalled once standing in the kitchen at home as a teenager, her back against the fridge, crying disconsolately because she was sure she was going to be a virgin for the rest of her life, probably never even get kissed.
Her mother couldn't understand. "You'd be pretty if you just lost weight," she told Rose.
That proved a limited fix at best. Rose had lost 30, then 40, then 50 pounds by graduation from high school. Somehow, she always found it again.
There had been a boyfriend for a brief time and Rose had enthusiastically done away with her virginity but when she regained the weight he dumped her and she was very glad that she hadn't completely lost her senses. She had always insisted that they use protection.
Now, she was away from home, independent, going to college and working, but she was still just the fat girl when it came to guys. Rose sighed deeply and headed for her next class
Michael watched her walk down the hall then grabbed his own bag and headed in the opposite direction. His enjoyment of the retreating sway of her hips was somewhat hampered by the confusion she caused him. Sometimes he couldn't figure her out. For a minute there it had seemed like she wanted him to kiss her, then she just withdrew.
He had been so excited when he saw her on campus for the first time, at the Halloween benefit meeting.
Michael stared. He had seen her at graduation the spring before because his sister was in the same class, but he hadn't thought to ask what college she would be going to. Now, she was right in front of him. Well, across the auditorium, with a crowd of people between them. Same difference. The meeting was over and he saw her get up to leave.
He stood up abruptly. "Gotta go. I'll catch up with you guys later."
He was momentarily frustrated by the crush of people in the room but in the hallway he started making progress. Outside, he was able to weave through the crowd and catch up.
"Hey! Rose!" He called after her when he was ten feet away. The head of long dark hair turned and their eyes met. He felt a surge. It was really her. She was here.
A moment later he had her in his arms again. He had to resist the urge to press his lips to hers, pressing his face into her hair instead. Rose, my Rose.
When he released her, she took a step back but he held onto her hand. "Please tell me this means you're going to school here now?"
Michael saw her cheeks turn pink as she nodded.
Rose gestured to the girl she'd been walking with. "This is my roommate, Dottie."
Michael said, "Hi." He hadn't even noticed her.
Michael thought about that day, over a month before, and what had happened in the music room a little while ago as he kicked through dry leaves, crossing the quad to his dorm. Maybe she had been embarrassed again. Sometimes he got a little over enthusiastic when he was with her.
He wanted her sexually, that was true. She had the kind of curves that would make a man imagine all sorts of ways of bringing their bodies together. Sometimes he ached to hold her in his arms and sometimes he woke up, sweating with hot dreams of doing more than hold her.
It was more than that though. Her sweet smile, her caring nature and warm voice made him just want to spend time close to her in any capacity. He really thought she more than liked him too, but he wasn't positive and it held him back. She was the sweetest girl he'd ever met and the longer he knew her the more beautiful he realized she was. He wanted to take things to the next level, but how to be sure she was interested in him the same way without losing her as a friend?
They had a rehearsal the next day and Rose was a little nervous about seeing Michael again so soon.
She took her seat among the folding chairs in the choir room. The choir director, who was donating his time as well, had rearranged them yet again, and she was singing soprano instead of alto now. Rose didn't really mind. She could do either.
Dottie bounced in, her eyes big and her cheeks flushed. She darted between the chairs and sat next to Rose. "Did you hear what happened?"
Rose thought it seemed like Dottie was enjoying her secret a little too much. "No. What happened?"
"Michael got in a fight over you in the locker room!"
That did not compute. "What? You must have heard wrong."
Dottie shook her head emphatically, the curls in her ponytail bouncing all around. "No. I heard that some boy said something about you in the locker room and Michael grabbed him and slammed him up against the lockers."
Rose frowned. A number of thoughts chased each other through her brain, vying for attention. What did it mean? Didn't guys usually do that when they liked a girl? Well, she knew he liked her, but not "liked" like.
"Who said something about me? What did they say?" Do I really want to know? She could imagine. Fat cow was something she'd been called before, more than once.
"I don't know. Isn't it exciting? He was defending your honor!" Dottie wiggled her eyebrows.
Rose shook her head. She was flattered that he'd gone to the bother of defending her, in a way. Why would he have done that? Either he was just being nice, feeling sorry for her again, or he was trying to impress someone else. "I'm sure he was just defending me because we're friends."
Dottie rolled her eyes and went to take her seat.
Then he walked in. Rose was a little uncertain. She supposed she ought to thank him for taking up for her, or should she just ignore it? No, I couldn't do that. Besides, he was headed straight for her. He slid into a chair next to hers, with that smile that so devastated her sense of equilibrium.
"Hey," she flashed a quick smile back. "I heard what happened. Thanks for taking my side but." She looked around. He is way too cute for my comfort level. "What I'm trying to say is, I appreciate you defending me but guys are always going to say rude things about girls like me and I wouldn't want you to get hurt." Shoot, that sounds like I don't think he can take care of himself. She hastily added, "or get in trouble for it or something."
She frowned at the floor and peaked up at him. His face was impassive. She had no idea what he was thinking, but the smile was gone. Not a good sign.
"S'okay, no big deal. I've got to join my section." Michael got up and moved over to a seat in the male section.
Rose sighed. That could have gone better. She liked him so much as a friend. She couldn't help wishing for something more. Fat chance. She almost groaned aloud at the unintended pun.
Michael stared at the phone in his hand. He wanted to ask Rose out and he knew she liked Jackie Chan movies so this seemed like a good time but he wasn't sure what her reaction would be, after the "fight." Hardly that, Jerry's already over it.
He admitted to himself that he hadn't simply been defending her like a brother. More like warning off a potential competitor for his lady's hand. It had been an instinct and he knew, if his feelings were that strong, he couldn't give up without at least trying. He dialed the number.
The sound of her voice brought a smile to his face. "Hey, it's me, Michael."
"Hi. What's up?"
Her voice was warm and cheerful, as usual, so he went ahead and asked. "I was wondering if maybe you wanted to go to a movie tonight? There's a new Jackie Chan playing downtown."
She didn't say anything for a minute.
He wondered if she was uncomfortable with the idea of it being just the two of them. "You could bring Dottie along, if you want," he offered.
There was another long pause. Was she upset over the fight? Not interested?
Finally, she spoke. "Sure. I'll see if Dottie's available."
That was a little less than enthusiastic than he would have liked but at least she'd said yes. "I'll meet you at the clock tower? Say about 6:30?"
"Okay, sure. See you in a bit." She hung up.
Okay, Rose and Dottie. It was a step. They were going out together. He looked at the phone in his hand. Maybe he could find someone to make it a foursome, distract Dottie and give him some alone time with Rose. It's worth a try.
Maybe he'd have to work a little harder to win back her positive regard. It might be suffering after his outburst with Jerry. She was a gentle person and a kind heart.
And she's going to be my girlfriend, if there's anything at all I can do about it.
Rose hung up and went in search of Dottie.
She hadn't been able to help the flush of pleasure that rushed through her system when she heard his voice but he really wanted to go out with Dottie. That was why he had been spending so much time with them. Why, oh why, did he have to have this affect on her? It wasn't fair!
Why should I go out and subject myself to them flirting? Oh God. What if they start dating? The jealousy might just kill me. A tear formed in the corner of her eye. The problem was that she liked them both and wanted them to be happy.
She wiped the tear away and pasted a smile on then knocked on Dottie's bedroom door.
"Come in!" Dottie trilled.
Rose opened the door. Dottie was sitting on her bed, reading a textbook.
"Michael just called. He's going to a movie and wondered if we wanted to go. He's going to be at the clock tower at 6:30."
Dottie's eyes flicked up from her book as she opened a highlighter pen and swiped at the page. "Sounds good, you sure you want me tagging along?"
"Actually, I don't think I'll go." She tried to sound nonchalant.
Dottie popped the cap back on the highlighter "Oh?"
"I think he really wants to go with you." Rose said.
"With me?" Dottie looked perplexed.
"Yeah, I think he really likes you."
"Positive," Rose said softly.
Dottie stood up. "And you're okay with that?"
Dottie looked thoughtful for a minute. "I do like him, but I wouldn't want to go after someone you're interested in?"
Rose smiled. Dottie had become a good friend since they met. The least she could do was be one in return. "He's all yours."
Dottie looked surprised. "Okay then, I'll go. I guess I was misreading things. You don't want to come along?"
"No, I think I'll stay home. I've got some pumpkin pie ice cream and Practical Magic is on T.V. tonight. It's my favorite Halloween movie. I'd just be a third wheel."
"Well, okay." Dottie started pulling some fresh clothes out to get ready as Rose closed the door.
About two hours later, the phone rang and Rose went to get it. "Hello?"
"Rose? It's Michael."
She forced a smile into her voice. He was such a nice guy, calling to check up on her. "Hi Michael, what's up?"
"Did you tell Dottie that I like her?"
She realized that he sounded upset, his voice cold and clipped. She had a sinking feeling in her stomach. "Well, yes, I was just trying to help."
"Do me a favor, don't help. Just, don't, okay?"
"Okay, I'm sorry." She started to explain but he had already hung up.
There goes that friendship. She had really thought he liked Dottie. She knew Dottie liked him. That was the only reason she had said anything. Damn. Me and my big mouth. What was I thinking?
The door opened and Dottie walked in. She glared at Rose.
"What happened?" Rose asked.
Dottie just walked past Rose into her bedroom and slammed the door. Rose decided it might be best to give Dottie some time to cool down.
The next morning, Rose knocked on Dottie's door with a peace offering of pumpkin pancakes and maple sausage links in a Styrofoam container from the diner two blocks away from campus.
Dottie frowned but took them anyway. Rose followed her into the room and sat at Dottie's desk while Dottie opened the container and sat on her bed.
Rose was contrite. "Listen, I'm really sorry about what happened. I really thought he must like you... otherwise, why would he be hanging around so much?"
Dottie rolled her eyes. "To be around you, obviously!"
Rose shook her head adamantly. "No, he likes me but not that way."
"Um, obviously he does or he wouldn't be spending so much time here."
Rose shook her head again. Dottie was wrong. "But he's never said anything!"
"Why would he when you rebuff him so completely? My God! You told me to go after him. Why would he think you had any interest in him whatsoever?"
Rose blinked. "Well, I only told you guys that because I wanted you both to be happy."
"All hail the martyr."
She glared at Dottie. "It wasn't like that," she snapped.
Dottie's expression softened. "I know, because I know you. You really just wanted us to be happy because you thought you couldn't have him. Admit it though, you wanted to live vicariously through us, if just a little bit."
Rose scowled. "What's so wrong with that?"
Dottie stood up. "It isn't it healthy, and it isn't necessary, not by a long shot." She grabbed her jacket and put it on. "Come on."
"Where are we going?"
"I think it's time to pick out some costumes for Halloween."
"What for? Besides, I don't have any money," Rose protested.
"For the party we'll be going to, and the concert, and you won't need any money." She grabbed Rose's hand and pulled her toward the door.
Rose stopped in the middle of the floor, resisting Dottie. "I'm not going to any party and I'm not into shoplifting."
"Yes, you are, the same party Michael was invited to by his friend last night and no, of course not. I know somewhere we can get costumes, borrow them, for free."
"Where?" Rose let Dottie pull her forward again.
"You'll see." Dottie pulled Rose through the door.
Twenty minutes later they were in front of the door to the props room of the theatrical department.
Dottie knocked the first half of "shave and a haircut." Thirty seconds later "two bits" came back and the door opened.
"Dottie!" A tall thin man with golden skin and perfect blond hair stood in the doorway with his arms open. Dottie and he air kissed. "What brings you by, my schnitzel?"
"This is my friend, Rose." Dottie indicated Rose with a flourish.
"Charmed, I'm sure," the man replied smoothly.
"Hi," Rose replied.
Dottie filled him in on why they were there and the whole situation with Michael.
"Oh, what fun!" He clapped his hands together. "It's a Cinderella story and I'm going to be your fairy godmother! Come in, girls, come in. We're going to find a little spell to make your Halloween positively magical."
"I doubt you have anything that would fit me," Rose said.
"Will you tell her that she is not fat!" Dottie cried, exasperated.
Jeffrey looked Rose up and down. "Well, she is," he said bluntly.
Rose felt like she'd been slapped. She stared at the floor as tears pricked the back of her eyelids.
Jeffrey stepped in front of her and tipped her chin up with two fingers. "But beautifully and curvaceously so. I may be a gay man, but I can still appreciate a woman's beauty aesthetically and you, my dear, are beautiful."