Twenty-five bucks a day. That's what I was making at the Fall Fun Fest out at the county fairgrounds, for a bunch of demeaning labor like herding little kids through a maze of hay bales, and selling pumpkins to their parents.
But it was easy work and we got paid in cash. (I was trying to save $500 to get the alternator fixed on my POS car, and my parents weren't helping. They said, "We can pay for next semester's tuition, or we can fix your car and give you a Christmas present. Your pick."
So, yeah. Halloween was sucking and Christmas would suck too, but I definitely don't want to drop out of college after one semester like every other loser from my loser high school.)
I'd made $225 so far and would make $25 more the next night. Halfway there.
So here I am at the Fall Fucking Fun Fest on a Friday night. Yippee.
>> OMFG Kara!!!! Stop with that face already. I can see you from here.
I looked up from the text on my phone. My roommate Kristin was across the pumpkin patch, sitting under a tent selling cider to the Fall Fun Freaks, smirking at me. I laughed. My thumbs flew as I typed back.
>> whatever. shut up. im so f'ing bored.
>> me too. come over here and sell juice w me
>> like anyone's buying...
But I walked her way. Kristin stood up from her folding chair and stretched. She has a perfect body. I hate her. I guess my hair is better though. Hers is brown but it's sort of chopped short and her bangs are growing out awkward. I have long blonde hair that gets naturally curly-messy -- which is the look everyone wants right now, only I don't have to spend two hours trying for it.
Kristin looked across the pumpkin patch toward the big barn that served as the festival headquarters. "If Nelson comes out and we're gabbing again, he's going to be mad as fuck," she warned.
I followed her gaze. I wasn't concerned. There were big trucks near the entrance, and people bustling around. "He's too busy setting up the haunted house for tomorrow. He won't even notice."
I sat down on a hay bale behind the cider table. "So, what's going on with you and Chuck?"
"Not Chuck. Chase."
I rolled my eyes. Of course. Chase. I love Kristin, but the guy she's seeing is a total douchebag. He still lives with his parents. Which is okay, not everyone can afford to live in the dorms... but, he seems to be living at home so his mommy can clean up after him, if you know what I mean. Loser.
And he was annoying her too. Chuck-I-Mean-Chase never liked to go out, just wanted to stay in and play video games. And apparently he wasn't a very good fuck. "We'll spend two days making out and then I'm crazy horny, but then we have to find a time when his mom is at the grocery store? And then we only get like half an hour and it's not even worth it." Kristin sighed and flicked a piece of hay off her jeans. "I'm not sure this is what they meant when they told us not to give it up to high school guys."
I tried to laugh knowingly, and hoped I didn't sound too awkward. I've only had actual sex one time... of course with a high school guy, and it was awful.
I mean, I've had practice at just about everything else. Handjobs... the occasional BJ. But at senior prom a few months back, I decided to let my date go all the way.
We went upstairs in the hotel and snuck into someone's room during the after-party, and he was too drunk to figure out how to undo the hooks in the back of my dress and I didn't want him to rip it. He pulled up my skirt and I laid down on the bed, and I figured we'd make out a little but he climbed on top of me immediately, put his dick in me, came and passed out. I had to push his drunk ass off me. So disappointing.
I left the party, just left him there on the bed with his fly open, jizz all over his rented pants. Thinking about the whole thing still makes me cringe.
"Sure, that sounds like a totally meaningful first time!" Said no one, ever.
I agree this isn't what they meant when they told us at school that nice girls wait. What are we waiting for, exactly?
I tuned back into Kristin, still talking about Chase. "...there's a guy I am kind of crushing on in my Western Civilization class. But I don't know if I want to break up with him for this other guy when there's nothing really happening there yet..."
"Why do you have to go from one guy right to the other?" I asked. "Why not just be single for a while? Go to more parties. Actually stay on campus and have fun, meet some people, rather than running to Chase's house every night?" Kristin tilted her head and gave me a look like "you can't be serious."
I stared back. "What?"
"Kara. Being single... you make it look easy. But I need a boyfriend." She looked at the ground suddenly. "I'm too awkward and weird when I'm alone."
"Oh, whatever. You're amazing all the time." I blew off her serious tone.
Kristin is pretty, and she has an incredible body, and she never has to work out, and guys have been following her around since we were in middle school.
Versus me, who was basically a wiry beanpole tomboy until about junior year, and then practically over one summer I got a little bit of curve, but I don't know what to do with it. Inside, I'm still that skinny, gawky unpopular kid. I don't know how to dress, or make myself look pretty. I've tried, but I feel like I'm playing dress-up in mom's closet. I look trashy, and I act all wrong. I'm the Queen of Awkward.
Kristin seems to know exactly what to do with guys. I just get myself into sticky, clumsy situations, like prom. In one second, I would trade my confidence with adults, for her confidence with guys our age.
I'm nineteen years old and I'm practically a virgin, and it's embarrassing because I don't know how to get to the other side of it. It sucks to suck.
I didn't mean to shut down my friend, when she wanted to vent. But I didn't know how to reply to someone who seems to want what I am, when I want what she is.
"Hey!" A male voice boomed behind us. We both jumped.
Mr. Nelson, our boss. Ugh. He was old, older than my dad, probably 50-something, tall and mean and big. He had a wrinkled, rusty face and his hair was mostly gray. He smelled like old cigarettes, though I never saw him smoking. His hands were on his hips and his work boots were planted apart. "What the hell is going on out here?"
"Just talking, Mr. Nelson," I said in my most polite parent voice. I gestured to the empty field. "It's dinner time on a Friday night and folks are home for the evening. We haven't had any traffic in an hour."
He looked back and forth between us. "All I know is I come out of the barn to find you, and it's goddamned empty out there in the patch, and I'm thinking why am I bothering to pay you lazy college kids to sit on your ass and dodge work."
He grunted and tossed his head at me. "Anyway. Kara, I need you to close this down and come up to the barn. Kristin, count out the cider cash and get on home. Tomorrow is the last day, and I want you here right on time. No dragging in late."
Nelson turned on a boot heel and clomped away. Kristin and I looked at each other, holding our breath for a few seconds until he was out of earshot. She exhaled and laughed. "What an asshole. I hate that guy... I don't know how you're so good with old people. But I get to leave early, so thanks for that."
I sighed. "Yes, you do. I'm jealous." I could see the lights on up at the barn, and several men milling about around the trailers. The sodium lights began to buzz on around the fairgrounds, and the sun was almost gone. "Guess I'll go see what they want now. I can't believe we only make twenty-five bucks a day for this."
"I know. But it's almost over, right? Halloween is tomorrow."
Kristin counted the cash, dumped the box with me, and took off fast. I put up the lame hand-painted "Pumpkins Are Sleeping, Come Back Tomorrow!!!" sign on a rope across the pasture entrance, and carried the cashbox up the dirt path to the barn.
The sky had gone from pink to purple, and the October wind had picked up. I was stupid for not bringing a jacket. I was in a thin sweater and leggings -- which had been fine earlier in the sun of the pumpkin patch, but neither was really keeping out the autumn chill now.
Three workmen stood talking near a brightly painted truck-van that read, Ernie's Events and Entertainment. Their conversation trailed off as I approached, and all three looked me over, stopping at my chest. I realized my nipples were hard from the cold and sticking out through my sweater. I couldn't cross my arms to cover myself because I was carrying the cashbox. I hurried past them and went into the barn.
Long past its days as a home for hay and livestock, the dusty open space was used primarily for dances and local weddings. Even during the annual county fair, they only used the barn for the baking and canning contests. But it had transformed radically since I arrived to work the pumpkin patch.
The pervs from Ernie's Events and Entertainment apparently had some skills, because the entire space had been draped in black material. There was creepy purple lighting and colored glow from all over. The entrance was marked off with ropes. A huge black curtain extending to the ceiling separated the ticket area, and a wrought-iron-looking gate would admit visitors.
Beyond the curtain, I could hear noises, and people talking as they continued to build the haunted house.
Suddenly, at my right ear, a scary woman shrieked and cackled loudly. I jumped away, the hair on my arms standing up on end.
Nelson stood behind me, chuckling. He held up a small black box. "It's a recording. We've got these playing all over the funhouse, with motion detectors for when the kids walk through."
I wanted to hit him for scaring me. Instead, I gestured around the barn. "This looks good, Mr. Nelson."
He smiled; apparently his earlier irritation with Kristin and me was gone. "Yeah. Come on, take the tour." He took the cashbox from me, and gestured toward the gate into the haunted house. Was this why he wanted me to come to the barn?
Black curtains and draping swallowed the light, separating the space into walkways, a burrow of rooms and spaces where groups of kids would be led from one scary place to the next by a zombie-costumed tour guide. The cozy barn I'd practically grown up in was barely recognizable.
We walked through the "graveyard" area, and he showed me where the "dead" actors would be lying in wait, ready to pop up as guests walked past. The cages full of "monsters" that would reach out through bars to clutch at shrieking kids.
Then, the witches area. A huge black plastic cauldron sat over a fake campfire. There would be dry ice in the pot to create "steam" for witches' brew, and three women would stand around it wearing nose warts and hats and such.
Red eyes lit up on the plastic statue of a hunched black cat as we walked past, and it screeched, a yowling, cat-fight sound. I looked at Nelson. "Motion detector," he nodded. We pressed on.
Around the corner, the next scare station was cold and dark. I slowed down; I don't like walking into something I can't see. Behind me, Nelson put his hand on my back and urged me in, and I jumped ahead because I didn't like that creeper touching me.
I could feel bursts of frigid air blowing into the dark room from different directions. Suddenly, light began flashing, and I caught my breath.
A man stood a couple of feet in front of me, testing a strobe light. He was looking up and around at the walls. He seemed young -- not like my age but more like a professor's age, maybe? He turned to Nelson.
"I think I'm going to need another extension cord for this area. The whole effect is ruined if there isn't constant strobing. The scene is spoiled if the guests see it in steady light." Nelson looked around. "Turn the floodlight on, I can't see shit for what you're talking about."
The man stepped over to a wall and clicked on a big bulb, illuminating the area with white light. Immediately, I exhaled. Don't know why but the flickering strobe had bothered me. (Jesus, I hoped I wasn't going to have a seizure right here in the barn or something.)
Strobe Guy turned his attention to me. I could finally see him clearly. Not too old. Maybe 30-ish. He had shaggy brown hair and glasses, but underneath that was a strong serious face and cold blue eyes. He was hot in an asshole kind of way, if that makes sense.
He looked me up and down, and I realized that once again, my nipples were hard and poking out clearly through my thin bra and sweater. The cold bursts of air in the room made it as chilly as the night wind outside.
My hands twitched instinctively, ready to fold my arms... but suddenly, I was tired of being stared at and I was too proud to cover myself. I locked my arms at my sides. I arched my back toward the lighting guy.
You want to look, perv? Then, have a good look. Last time you'll ever see me so you better enjoy it.
Instead, Strobe Guy stared at my hair. Wait, now he was trying to keep his eyes off my tits? So confused. I'm practically inviting this guy to stare at me and he looks somewhere else. WTF?
He looked from me to Nelson. "So is this my patient?"
"What's he talking about?" It was my turn to look at Nelson.
The older man looked slightly sheepish. "Hadn't asked her about it yet. If she looks good for it, you can have her... but only if she's available all night tomorrow."
I looked back and forth. "Hi, I'm standing right here. Can you please tell me what you're talking about?"
Nelson opened his mouth to speak but Strobe Guy interrupted. "The finale scene of the haunted house is a mad scientist's laboratory. I play the doctor, and another actor is needed. It's the most important part of the show. We had a girl ready to play the autopsy patient, but she quit yesterday. We need someone that can commit to the whole night on Halloween."
I frowned at Strobe Guy. "I'm not an actress. I'm an education major. I can't act."
"I don't care if you can act. I want your hair," he said. I raised my eyebrows. "That long blonde hair will look good on the table, as people see the doctor standing over a dead body. We usually offer a wig, but the wig gets itchy after a while so real hair is better."
I thought for a couple seconds. He said dead body... sounds like I'd only have to lie there and do nothing.
Nelson mistook my hesitation. "The pay is a hundred bucks. But you have to be available all night tomor--"
Strobe Guy interrupted him. "It's $200 for tomorrow, I told you. The actors all have to be paid the same rate or else I'll get a ration of shit from the drama department. Especially since she's apparently also a student at the college."
The old man fumed. "She's nineteen fucking years old, she's lucky to be getting twenty-five right now to push pumpkins in a pastu--"
It was my turn to interrupt. "Two hundred, you heard him. I can stay late. But tomorrow's Halloween and I've got the good blonde hair, and it sounds like you don't have much choice."
I folded my arms, finally. Strobe Guy looked away to hide his smile. I didn't care if he was laughing at me. If I made $200 more this weekend, I'd have practically the money I needed for my car. All thanks to my hair.
"Fine," Nelson groused. He narrowed his eyes at me and stomped out. I smiled at his back as he left. I was pretty proud of myself.
I turned to Strobe Guy. He was staring at me curiously, no longer smiling. I wiped the smirk off my face. Guess we were no longer co-conspirators.
"Your shift tomorrow is twelve hours. You need to be here right at 2:00," he told me. "The haunted house doesn't open for tours till sundown, but everyone else walked through their costumes and makeup earlier today, and I'll have to start from scratch with you. When you get here, come around the back of the barn."
His tone had become abrupt, almost rude. He turned back to the light box, as if I didn't exist. I walked away.
Later that night, back in my dorm room, I lay in the dark looking at shadows on the ceiling. I thought about the strange evening, and how much money I would be making on Halloween night.
I thought about Strobe Guy, at how he had interrupted Nelson and been forceful with him to make sure I got the right pay. I thought about how I don't even know his name but apparently, I work for him now. I thought about how rude he was at the end of the conversation.
I thought about how he ignored my body as I arched my back toward him, practically daring him to look at me. I thought about him noticing my hair. I thought about his face and blue eyes.
Kristin was at her parents' for the night, so I didn't have to worry about her seeing me, as I closed my eyes, pulled up my t-shirt and touched my nipples.
I arrived at the fairgrounds the next day at 1:30. I had to see Kristin and explain what had happened.
I was wearing tight jeans, tucked inside knee-high leather boots, and a thin blouse. The top was way dressier than I would normally wear to work the pumpkin patch, and I had more makeup on too. And I'm not great at makeup so I'm sure I looked slutty and obvious.
Kristin eyeballed me as I approached the cider tent, and instantly knew something was up. "Sit," she hissed. She pointed to her folding chair as she finished checking out a customer. She handed some dollar bills across the table, thanked them and turned to me.
"So... what the hell, Kara. Do you have a date tonight? Why are you so late? I thought you were coming at noon, but when Nelson didn't come around bitching that you hadn't showed..."
"I got a promotion." I explained to her that they were asking me to fill in for someone inside the haunted house who quit. I didn't mention Strobe Guy.
"Yes. But the hours are different. It's tonight instead of daytime, and I have to be here like super-late."
Her face fell. "I thought we could go to the Kappa Beta Halloween party tonight. I wanted us to dress as angel and devil! You know, all sexy? Fishnets and bustiers?"
I looked at her eager face. Kristin was trying to get away from Chase, go to more campus parties like I'd suggested. Was I letting her down?
"I'll find out if I can leave early." But even as I said it, I knew it wouldn't fly with the men. I looked at the clock on my phone, and jumped up. "I have to go to the haunted house. I'll call you later." I waved as I walked away.
I never made it to the Kappa Beta party. I'm sure Kristin figured I'd be the angel and she'd be the devil.
I walked around to the back of the barn. A door was standing open, and faint music was coming from the inside. I peered in. I didn't know if I was in the right place, and I couldn't exactly yell "Hey Strobe Guy!"
I stepped in out of the sunlight, and my eyes tried to adjust. The back of the barn was separated from the funhouse section and had become a pop-up dressing room. There were folding tables covered with lighted mirrors, makeup stations topped with grease paint tubes, spirit gum, wigs and witch hats on Styrofoam heads. A radio was playing, plugged into a power strip that was overstuffed with extension cords, orange snakes winding away under curtains and black walls. A rolling rack of clothes and costumes stood against a wall.
I still didn't know where to go or who to look for. This whole situation was bizarre. I sat down in front of one of the mirrors. The bulb lights were flattering, but my face is so uninteresting and plain. Sigh. I looked at the clock on my phone. It was 2:03 pm.
I watched silently from the hay loft as Kara walked in. She was gorgeous. Probably 5'5" or 5'6", long legs, little waist and incredible ass. (Unlike that sickly-skinny, flat-chested buddy of hers, who would snap like a twig the minute someone touched her)