An Aria for Anniebycrystalspring©
Annie had a problem.
"What's your sign?"
Her mouth practically dropped at the question. It had to be the lamest line she had heard all night. Next to her at the bar, typing away on her phone, Breanne audibly scoffed, rolling her eyes and not even turning to look at the man who had dared to open with such a cliché.
But it was almost midnight on Saturday the 24th. The bar would be closing soon, and Annie just could not leave without finding someone to take to this year's Halloween Party. The pickings would be even slimmer tomorrow night, and she'd have no opportunity to go out hunting for a date the rest of the week. It was finally her turn, and she was absolutely not going to let it be ruined just because that stot of a boy she'd been putting the moves on for months decided to find someone else a week before the biggest event of the semester. Quickly tossing her dark red satiny hair off of her face, and holding back her frustrated sigh, Annie put on her best sorority smile and turned to see her next prospect.
"I'm a Sagittarius!" She practically shouted, putting as much fake cheer in her voice as she could muster after this disappointing night, clasping her hands in front of her to give an air of gleefulness. It made her feel pretty silly, but it was the only way she could respond to a line like that without sounding incredibly patronizing. The man stood there, a bit taken aback by her bright demeanor. Maybe even he knew what a terrible line that was, standing there in his loose-hanging, pale blue collared shirt. At least he seemed close to her age, unlike some of the men who had walked up to her earlier in the night. And where had she seen him before? That tightly cropped, feathery brown hair sparked something in her that was at once recognizable and a little upsetting.
"And what's yours?" she offered. If he wasn't going to get things moving, she would. He was kind of cute, at least.
"Well...I'm a Libra, that makes us totally compatible!"
Annie had seen this coming from miles away, but was still disappointed. "Really?" she asked, cocking her head, her false smile dropping for a second. "Oh what a charming coincidence!"
She clearly hadn't pulled that line off well, as his face quickly turned to nervousness. "No no, really I can prove it!" The man said, fumbling to the pocket of his light blue jeans. He pulled out a black leather flip wallet with a symbol embossed on the front. Annie recognized it as her school's crest. This guy might not be such a bad choice after all. Her shoulder length hair fell in front of her face again as she leaned forward to stare at the ID he pulled out.
"See here, it was just last week, October seventee-" He stopped. She was staring at his ID a lot more intently than he had expected. Her eyes had shot open and that smile from a few seconds ago was bursting back out.
Annie couldn't help the smile that came across her face. This. Would. Be. Perfect!
"Timothy...Ryan? From Poe Circle? Tim! Oh, Tim Ryan!" She practically leapt at him. He leaned back a bit, caught off guard by her sudden friendliness. He hadn't been expecting to have this beautiful girl in his arms so quickly, especially after the laughter at his table when his roommate had dared him to open with "What's your sign?" He thought he could just make out the incredulous shouts from his friends over the din of the bar.
"It's me! Annabel Whelan! Annie! From Rosemary Lane?" She practically squealed, pulling him out of his daze as she let go of him. He had a searching look in his eyes, as if he'd just been called on without having done the reading. Perfect.
"Oh....oh! Annie! Yeah! I haven't seen you since...since..."
"Since my family moved to the other side of the state when we were in middle school? That's me!" Per-fect! Annie punched him on the shoulder with a grin, surprisingly hard for how her arms looked under that black blouse. He couldn't help thinking how athletic she must be.
"Oh, I've certainly missed you! Look Breanne," she said, turning quickly to her friend at the bar. "It's Tim Ryan, from my neighborhood growing up!" Breanne turned to look at the boy, gave a curt, unimpressed nod, and went right back to her phone. "Gosh Tim, what brings you here?"
"I just transferred here this semester actually! They have a much better Pre-Med Biology program than the-"
"Bi-ol-o-gy huh?" Annie asked, pronouncing each syllable smoothly as she circled around behind him. He started to turn around to follow her but was stopped by her arms on his shoulders and her breasts pushed against his back. She had certainly filled out since middle school. Looked like he had lucked out on this dare! "I'm a neuropsych major," she said, "I bet we have LOTS to talk about..." she trailed off, caressing his collar as she spoke. Then suddenly she spun him around, "Are you free next weekend? My sorority is having the biggest Halloween bash around and I could use a date."
"Oh- I uh-" Tim stuttered a bit, momentarily flustered. Was she coming on too strong?
Over Annie's shoulder Tim could see his friends back at the table watching. Well, he didn't really have any plans for next weekend, did he? He was probably just going to sit in watching horror movies with his roommate like they'd spent half the month on already.
"-I think I'm up for that, Annie! " he finally pulled himself out of that nosedive of a response, "Where's your sorority at...?"
"Oh you're the best!" Annie shouted, pulling him close again. She was not letting him get away. "I'm one of the fiery Phi Rho Mu," accenting the the last syllable with a kissing motion.
"If you haven't seen our house, it'll be the one with the wall of pumpkins and giant bonfire. If they try to stop you at the door just tell them you're there for me..." Annie said, pausing surreptitiously, "...the party is invite only." She turned him around again, clasping his hands in hers.
"I appreciate the invite then," Tim offered, pulling a grin to his face.
"I am so glad I ran into an old familiar face. My last guy was all set- " she was cut short by Breanne clearing her throat loudly. Breanne had good ears.
"It's midnight Annie. I think it's time we left," she said sharply, standing up and turning to the door.
"Aha...I guess I'll see you Friday then," Annie said, not looking over to Breanne yet, "we can catch up more at the party." She leaned in quickly, and touched her lips to his. For someone caught so off-guard, Tim responded quite well to Annie's taste. He didn't push back aggressively, or try to slip his tongue in her, he just let their lips melt together briefly. She was eager to see how he would respond to more intimate treatment.
Seconds later Annie had turned, grabbed her purse off the bar, and practically skipped out the door. This night had worked out better than she had imagined.
Tim was feeling much the same, but a lot more confused. He did his best to compose himself, a little mystified by what had just occurred. He vaguely remembered an auburn-haired girl who had lived on another street in his neighborhood, but it had been at least eight years since he'd seen hide or hair of her. If he played his cards right he got the impression he'd be seeing a lot more than that next weekend, as this girl was clearly not one to waste time. Annie certainly had a clearer recollection of him than he did her, though what he'd done to deserve such an aggressively positive reaction he couldn't guess. Making his way back to his table with an unanticipated smile, and taste, on his lips, Tim was greeted with a chorus of incredulity.
"She confuse you with her boyfriend?" "How much did you tell her you were worth?" "You slip something in her drink while we weren't looking?" "Nah, I bet these two set that up beforehand, she's probably one of Neil's exes!"
"Alright guys, that's enough," Tim's roommate Neil cut them off. He was always good at corralling people. "Give Runt a break, this is a big occasion- his first catch on a new campus! Let's raise some glasses!" A resounding clink and some further laughter at Tim's expense. The way their encounter had gone it felt more like he was the catch.
Runt was a nickname that had followed Tim much of his life; ever since a substitute teacher in middle school had misread "Ryan, T." The name had caught on quickly among his peers, and had become firmly attached by the time he had met Neil in high school.
"Sorry to interrupt, Tim."
Tim jerked his head back to find Annie behind him, leaning over his left side, close enough to leave her dark red hair falling over his shoulder. Her piercing green eyes quickly had the attention of everyone at the table. She turned to Tim as soon as it was silent.
"I forgot to mention -- be sure to wear a costume to the party." Her eyes quickly darted around the table as she moved in closer to Tim's ear and said more softly, "The theme is -- The Animal Inside."
Closer still, he could feel her breath warm on his ear, and her hand gently squeezing his right shoulder. She whispered now, but still loud enough that everyone at the table could hear. "Make sure it's something easy to take off."
And with that Annie stood up, turned around, and sauntered out the door. Half the table wasn't sure what to think, and the other half couldn't contain their laughter at seeing Tim's reaction.
Annie didn't need to see it though. Things were back in her favor for the big day. She knew Runt would be the perfect choice.
Annie sat at her desk, reading over the book she had been given. It was late on Tuesday night, and there were still so many things she had to do to finish preparing for this Friday. The whole house had been a flurry of activity all month, and Annie had to have a hand in every part of it. Right now though, what she most needed was to memorize her speech and the rules that went with it. There weren't too many that she didn't already know, but every part was very specific, and if she got even word wrong...
"...through our coming trials and prevent that which would lead us astray. We ask you-"
Annie was interrupted as, not waiting for a response, Breanne flung the door open.
"Good to see you're practicing, Annie," she stopped to pull the edge of her black dress off of the floor, covered in saw dust, discarded streamers, and pumpkin juice like so much of the house was this time of year. Since mid-October though, whenever Breanne was in the house she would wear thick, flowing black dresses, with dark hairpieces, as if she were in mourning. She never explained why, but no one there was going to question her. Annie used the break to stand up and face her, leaving the book on the desk. Annie felt much of her confidence waiver when Breanne was around. Even though they were close in age, talking to Breanne gave her the same feeling of worry as being called to a Professor's office the day after an exam.
"Oh yes, nothing to worry about with-" Breanne stared at her disparagingly and stepped behind her. Breanne's dark hair shined in the lamplight from the desk as she circled around Annie.
"Oh but honey, I think there's something wrong here," Breanne started, shaking her head disapprovingly. "You aren't going to be wearing this, are you?"
Annie was a little worried. She was dressed casually, in a tight, dark grey sweater and jeans, her hair tied back in a ponytail. She knew Breanne preferred things more formal, but all Annie was doing was memorizing her lines. This wasn't anything like the real thing. It couldn't be, really. Breanne came back around in front of Annie, with her back to the open doorway.
"Well, no, I'm not going to be wearing this, of course not." Annie said, trying to laugh.
"And what are you going to be wearing?" Breanne said, lowering her head, the dark half veil pinned to her even darker hair slowly falling over her eyes.
"You saw the costume I picked out, Breanne. You know it will be appropriate for the event."
"Well of course it will, Annabel." Full names were never a good sign. "But that isn't what I asked. I don't need to remind you how important this is. I'm sure your sisters have told you. I'm sure your parents have told you, seeing as they were there the last time someone made a mistake. Now," Breanne's eyes gleamed in the light from the lamp, as her shadow seemed to stretch in the harsher light from the hallway. "When you recite those words, what are you going to be wearing?"
"I'm..." Annie knew what Breanne was looking for, but was afraid of where this was going. "...Nothing. I'm going to be wearing nothing."
"Then why, darling," Breanne said, taking a menacing step towards her, "are you rehearsing in anything less?!" With that she lifted Annie's sweater up and over her head, so forcefully it nearly tore. Annie gave only token resistance, but was quick to cover her chest. She was already mostly covered by the green camisole holding in her otherwise prominent bust, but she expected that would be next to go. She saw Heather, whose room was next door to hers, poke her head in, alerted by the shouting.
"Could we at least close the door first, Breanne?" pleaded Annie. Her request was met with a grin.
"The door is not going to be closed on Friday, is it? Don't try to back out of this now," and her voice dropped to a whisper "if you aren't ready yet, we will make sure you are."
Breanne turned to the open doorway. "Heather, would you come in here?"
"Yes Ms. Doyle?"
"Oh just call me Breanne, dear. Annabel needs your assistance practicing for her big day."
"Oh of course, Breanne." Heather said cheerfully. Heather was the girl after whom Annie had modeled her chipper response to Runt, only Heather usually meant it. She had tanned skin, messy, short bleach-blonde hair, and a small ('but fun!' she would exclaim) chest. "Anything I can do to help out!"
"I just need you to stand there and watch her study. We don't want Annabel getting stage fright when the moment arrives, do we? And make sure the door stays open." Breanne turned back to lay her full gaze on Annie. "Now, do you need help with the rest of it?"
Annie shook her head ruefully and slipped out of her jeans. Annie was in remarkably athletic shape and her similarly casual black boy shorts did little to hide her toned legs. It used to be difficult to keep the boys away.
With a glance at the impatient Breanne and the inappropriately chipper Heather, Annie knew she wouldn't be getting out of this. She decided it would be best to get it over with now. Without another word, she removed her top and let her 34D breasts hang freely.
Breanne let out a slight smile at the sight of the bright red vertical barbell piercings through Annabel's nipples. They served as an important reminder of her position. Heather smiled for a different reason. Annie mistook Breanne's expression as a sign she could stop taking her clothes her off and lifted the book back off the desk.
"Heather, it looks like Annie needs more help," said Breanne, turning to the door just to see another woman passing by. "Oh Gwendolyn! You have perfect timing! Come in here and hold the Book for her."
Gwen stepped into the room and walked over to Annie nonchalantly, giving her a lightly sympathetic look. Gwen was taller than anyone else in the sorority, with luscious legs and long, dark hair. She was a senior, and it had been her turn last year, so she knew better than anyone else in the room what Annie was going through. Gwen took the book from a clearly embarrassed Annie as Heather cheerfully tugged her underwear off. Annie went to cover herself but was stopped by another glare from Breanne.
"Now Annabel, be sure to practice properly for the rest of the week." Breanne said, turning to leave. She made sure to leave the door open.
Gwen sighed. "Don't worry Ann, they did this to me too. It's all for the best."
Annie nodded, but glared at Heather, who hadn't moved from her position kneeling next to her. Heather quickly stood up, the ever-present grin not moving from her face.
"Just start from the top Ann, you have a few days to memorize the whole thing."
Ann nodded sheepishly. "I, Annabel Whelan, do request an audience..."
Thursday evening, Tim and Neil had dashed down to the local Halloween shop for some cheap costumes.
"Something about animals?" Tim responded to Neil.
"Right! And what kind of animal do you want her to think you are?" Neil asked as they looked through a bin of costumes. "You want it to be an animal that makes her want you. A gorilla? A fox? An elephant? These are all dumb." He concluded, tossing them aside as he pawed through the lot.
Tim nodded dimly. He'd been the kid who went with the same plastic-fanged, black-caped vampire costume every year. Less effort, same candy, right?
"I don't think anyone's gonna pay that much attention to it, it's just a party."
"Nah, listen Tim- you said she's Phi Rho yeah? They take this seriously. Who knows why she invited you," Tim was asking himself this after some of the things Neil had told him already. "but even if she doesn't, you can bet the chicks hosting will. Wait 'til you see the pumpkins they put out front. Whoever runs that place, they mean business."
Tim shrugged again and looked at the wall. He was in a rush to get out of here and get to dinner.
"You want something fierce man, something powerful. Girls dig that." Neil paused while scanning over the costumes on the wall. "Something that says, 'I am going to devour you, and you're going to like it.'"
"Something like..this?" Tim picked a costume off the wall.
"Haha! Classic, yeah. Get that one."
A werewolf costume, in five pieces. Fingerless gloves, boot covers, shorts, a vest, all covered in short, gray fake fur on the outside, black, stretchy, cheap fabric lining, and held on with velcro. The costume probably wouldn't last two days from the looks of it, but at least it would be easy to get off. The top piece modeled the top of a wolf's head, worn like a hat and trailing down to his shoulders like a hide rug.
Tim headed for the register while Neil examined some costumes for the separate party he would be going to. He was already having second thoughts, but he knew he'd never hear the end of it if he let a girl so enamored with him get away.
The Phi Rho Mu house was big. Like many of the houses at the school, it had been bought from an old, established family that had moved away decades ago. As such it was in the forest that bordered the northern side of the campus, largely obscured by oak trees. Three floors, with the third floor windows jutting out of the steep, tiled roof. The roof was painted black, so black it could barely be seen at night. The building itself was made of limestone, from its arched double doorway to its Victorian Gothic chimneys, and nominally painted a dull white.
Tonight though, the whole building was orange, because it was surrounded by pumpkins.
Big, small, thin, wide, tall, short, every kind of pumpkin and every kind of expression, they sat in a huge ring, thirty feet out from the main entrance and all the way around the building. Every pumpkin faced inward, shining its grin, or smirk, or bared teeth on the house, bathing it in the orange glow of over a hundred candles. The exterior of the house had no other decorations.
The scent of heated pumpkin had filled the air long before he came in sight of the building. Tim now understood what Neil had meant about how seriously Phi Rho took this holiday. For the second time that week, Tim considered turning around. He was especially concerned at seeing that all of the windows in the imposing building were dark. The only light around was the great orange ring, a small, untended bonfire not ten feet from the short steps leading up to the door, and the dim lights of the other houses, many yards through the forest.