AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is my entry into the 2012 Halloween Erotic Story Contest. All characters engaged in sexual activity in my story are 18 years of age and older. Before reading I invite you to listen to the song "Final Breath" by Pelican, it's after this song that I got the title for my story, and the song plays a part in an important scene as you'll read below. You can Google it or find it on YouTube. You may like the song, you may hate it, but I hope you at least get a sense of why I had the thought that it would fit in well with a Halloween-themed story. I hope you enjoy the story, and please vote and/or leave comments, I would appreciate it very much.
Some of my football teammates often wondered how I could ever be friends with her. At least one of them even went to great lengths to convince me to change my mind and refuse her invitation to the Halloween party she was hosting with her friends.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
The "her" in this case is Erin Callaghan, a right proper Irish name if there ever was one. Even at 18 years old, as she was going into Halloween, she was a little thing, just about five feet tall and, if I were to guess, lucky to break ninety-five pounds soaking wet. I was also 18 at the time, but I was well over six feet tall, so when she was standing next to me, we looked like a mismatched set. Maybe she wasn't your prototypical cheerleader with the stunning body to match, but she was definitely attractive.
Or, at least, I thought so.
My opinion was not shared by many at our high school, largely because she immersed herself so heavily into its goth scene.
Her hair had been dyed jet black for at least a couple of years or so, maybe longer. She wore plenty of black makeup and nail polish, though not quite as much as some of her peers, and she sometimes applied white foundation on her cheeks to make her pale skin look even... well, more pale. Her jewelry choices were interesting, to say the least; many pieces were shaped like a funky-looking cross (she later taught me this design was known as an ankh, a symbol of life in ancient Egyptian times), and when she really dressed to fit the goth part her centrepiece was a thick black, metal-studded collar she wore around her neck. And then there was the black clothing... seriously, I don't think she currently owned any clothing that wasn't at least almost totally black.
So Erin looked different than most of her peers, and definitely different from the "cool" kids. And that meant she would never be thought of as pretty by the high school population at large. No, the harsh truth of it was that most kids, if they thought of her at all, considered her a freak.
But I considered her to be beautiful.
And I had insight that few others had. Erin's family grew up next door to mine. I remembered what she originally looked like. Her hair was naturally blonde, and she wore it long for as long as I could remember; by the time she was eight or nine it had flowed all the way down to the small of her back. Her bright blue eyes sparkled with life. She had a smile that could charm the most heartless of men. With the little-boy innocence I had then, I thought she was very pretty.
Girls in general didn't interest me then. But Erin did. She was my playmate when we were very young and we grew to be great friends. I took some grief from my grade school mates about having a girl as such a close friend, but it didn't bother me a bit. We did everything together as kids. Our parents would host joint parties every summer because our July birthdays were only two days apart. She even had her parents sign her up for co-ed softball and soccer teams just so we could play together, even though she didn't care too much about sports. In return I played house and tea party with her more times than I can count. Even though I often complained out loud about how girly such games were, the secret truth was I enjoyed them because it meant more time together with Erin.
It broke my heart when, during the summer before we were to start sixth grade, Erin and her family moved to another city, one that was at least an eight hour drive away by car, on account of her father getting a promotion at work. The last night together before her move, Erin and I did little except hold on to each other and cry on each other's shoulder. My parents were concerned and tried to tell me that we could still write to each other, but otherwise I would make other friends and life would be just fine. My ten-going-on-eleven year old mind didn't have that kind of perspective, so at the time it felt like my world was collapsing around me.
But my mother and father, as good parents so often are, were eventually proven right. The rest of my grade school experience was nothing special, but that all changed with my transition to high school. I met a lot of new people in my freshman and sophomore years due to the varsity sports teams I joined, and soon enough I developed some great friendships. My burgeoning athletic abilities, aided in part by a significant growth spurt, and, if I may be so bold as to say it, casual good looks made me very popular in my new surroundings. I had my fair share of attention from girls and went out on quite a few dates, but nothing seemed to click, and as I was about to start my junior year I found myself without a steady girlfriend. I would have liked one, for sure, but at that point I felt I had no reason to panic.
Some people who didn't know me may have thought I was just a popular, dumb jock, but nothing could have been further from the truth. I was smart and worked hard in school to maintain a good average, just as my parents wished and demanded of me. That combined with my easy-going attitude allowed me to get along well with schoolmates of all kinds, the "nerds" and "outcasts" as well as the popular crowd.
As for Erin, we did write back and forth religiously for a while. Then one day the replies just stopped. She had seemingly dropped off the face of the earth, as far as I could tell. No more letters (we joked while writing them about how "old-school" we were being), no more e-mails, no more communication of any kind. Eventually I realized it had been several months since she last wrote to me. After thinking about it for a while, I supposed she had simply moved on with her life, so I figured I should do the same.
So imagine my surprise when Erin showed up next to my locker at the end of a school day, just barely a week into that new junior year. Of course, I didn't recognize her at first. If I knew I was going to see her again I would have expected an older, more developed version of my childhood blonde best friend, not the mousy, nervous little creature dressed in black and with medium-length, black, wiry hair that I saw out of the corner of my eye. I thought nothing of her standing there when I opened the door and stuffed the books I needed to bring home in my backpack.
But when I snapped the lock shut, she was still there. She had an earnest look of concentration on her face that kind of unnerved me at the time, like she was trying to probe the depths of my mind. And despite her off-putting appearance, there was something vaguely familiar about her. Instead of saying excuse me, brushing by her and carrying on with my life, my curiosity got the best of me.
I turned to look at her and asked, "Hi, is there something I can help you with?"
She simply replied, "I remember you."
"Really? Because... I'm pretty sure I've never met you before." I'm still not exactly sure why I lied to her then. I may not have completely recognized her by her looks alone, but that voice... I knew it anywhere. I guess I was just being too damn proud to admit it right away.
Erin sensed I was lying... or maybe she just guessed, I'm not sure. Either way the world-weary pose she struck was unchanged. "Come on, Garrett. I know I must look a lot different now, but it's me, Erin."
"As in, Erin who used to be my best friend until she had to move away with her family? The Erin who had long blonde hair and loved to play with dolls?"
"I can't remember the last time my hair was blonde or when I last played with dolls. But yes, it's me."
"Wow." It wasn't the smoothest response in the world, but at that moment, it was all I could think of to say.
She gave me a quick motion with her head, indicating she wanted me to walk with her and keep her company. I took only a few steps before Billy Jordan, a junior like me but already the football team's two-year starting middle linebacker (at the time I had to settle for being the number two wide receiver), passed by. The permanent smirk he wore on his face widened, and he called out, "Hey Garrett, who's the freak?"
Before I could respond, he laughed and kept walking. Erin had stopped, and her expression became even darker. "That one of your friends?" she asked, the wounds from Billy's words evident in her voice.
"He's just an acquaintance, Erin. He's on the football team with me..."
She rolled her eyes. "So you're one of 'those' now, huh?"
"What? Hey, wait, let me explain..."
"Don't bother, Garrett. I guess I'm not the only one that's changed. I'll see you around."
With that, Erin fled the scene. I was upset that I didn't get a proper chance to defend myself, but what bothered me more was her cynical attitude. It pained me to see her that way. It was worlds away from the Erin I used to know. I sighed, figuring that was the last straw. My childhood girlfriend would never again be a regular part of my life, and that was that.
Except it wasn't.
Turns out this version of Erin had a special skill for surprising me. The very next day at the end of classes she was standing at my locker again and apologized to me for running off so hastily the day before. I smiled and forgave her, though it did little to outwardly improve her mood. There was no one to interrupt us this day, so we walked together, leaving the school and eventually wandering around a park in the centre of downtown. The walk was conducted mostly in silence, the couple attempts I made to start conversation failing miserably. I guessed she wasn't much for small talk anymore. Still, it felt good to be near her again. I snuck a few peeks at her and never noticed her looking back at me, so I couldn't read her expression and could only hope she felt the same way.
I had a million questions I wanted to ask and was about to go with one when she abruptly stopped walking. I halted myself and followed her eyes. A tall, thin male was purposefully striding towards us. He wore dark sunglasses, black Doc Marten boots and a long dark trench coat. When he reached us I could see that he looked about our age. I guessed he was a fellow student, though at that exact time, even if under oath, I would not have been able to identify or remember him. He slipped an arm around Erin's waist, which caused a sudden, inexplicable stab of jealousy in my heart.
"Hey Erin," he said. "I wondered where you were, we were all waiting for you at the coffee shop."
"Sorry Jackson. I lost track of time," she replied.
Jackson nodded his head towards me. "Is this pretty boy giving you any trouble?" I frowned but didn't say anything. But I was more than a little pleased when Erin snapped at him.
"He has a name, you know! He's Garrett. And he's harmless, by the way. I know him from before." She looked at me then, and I thought I caught just the smallest hint of a smile curling from her lips. "We were friends as young kids."
Jackson frowned at me before turning his attention back to Erin. "Well, you'll excuse me if I wait to judge for myself just how 'harmless' he is. Can we go now?"
"Give me a minute," she answered.
He looked irritated but he did at least step back a few paces to give Erin and I a modicum of privacy. I didn't like the mistrustful look that he had but I held my tongue.
In a soft whisper that I almost didn't hear, she said, "Garrett, we need to talk, just the two of us."
"Yes, I want that as well. I have so many questions, you know."
"I know. "
Erin and I exchanged cellphone numbers and said our goodbyes. I watched her walk away with Jackson, he tried to put his arm around her again but she brushed him aside. It wasn't a completely unfriendly gesture, but it still made me smile to see how easily and casually she resisted him. Still, as I watched her walk away in her extravagantly puffed out black skirt, I couldn't help but wonder who this version of Erin was, and what had she done to the sunny little blonde I knew so well from my childhood days.
She called me later that night, and we agreed to meet on Saturday, at a coffee shop that she said she often frequented with her friends; presumably it was the same one she and Jackson went to earlier in the week. When I arrived I saw her sitting at one of the tables, looking lonely and impossibly small. My stomach churned. I was nervous about what we would talk about, and I was still confused and distressed over her radical change in personality. I didn't know how this could possibly be the same person I knew all those years ago.
I called out to her to announce my presence and sat across from her. She was silent at first, only stirring some sugar into her coffee. The look on her face suggested she was trying to figure out where to start, and was struggling mightily with that decision.
When she finally did decide on her conversation-opener, she dropped a bomb on me.
"Garrett? Do you think I'm a freak?"
It felt like all the air was sucked right out of me. After a moment I tried lightening the mood with humour.
"Hey, Erin, whatever happened to 'Hi, how are ya?'"
Her expression didn't change. Her stare burned a hole through my forehead.
So much for that approach.
I tried to re-compose myself and just said what was on my mind. "Erin, I would never go so far as to call you a freak. But I am very confused and very concerned about you. You seem so depressed all the time. You left a few years ago as a blonde happy-go-lucky young girl, and you've returned as... well, other than being totally dressed in black, I'm not sure what you are now. Please don't be too upset with me, but I have to ask, as a friend... what the hell happened to you?"
She reflected on my rambling speech for several moments, though it seemed like hours had passed. She started and stopped a few times. I was dying for her to just spit it out but I didn't want to push her. Finally she gave in to her frustrations and pounded on the table with a small clenched fist.
"I'm sorry Garrett," she said in a pained, quiet voice. "I just can't do it. I thought I was ready to tell you what happened, to tell you everything, but I just can't. It still hurts too much."
I swallowed back my disappointment and gnawing curiosity. "OK, Erin. It's OK. I don't want to force you to do anything you're not ready for."
She unclenched her fist and took hold of my hand. The touch was very unexpected. Those huge, expressive blue eyes focused on mine as she spoke. "I need you to promise me something, though. It's really important to me."
"What is it?"
"I want to be friends with you again. But I'm not the same person I was as a little girl. All this... my appearance, my attitude and outlook on life, the world, everything... this is who I am now. One day, I hope I'll have the strength to tell you everything, but right now I need you to accept me as I am. And I need you to accept my friends. Treat us as real people and accept us for who we are. Please."
I made sure my gaze on her didn't waver when I answered. "I can only promise I will do my best. I hope that is enough. It may take some time, because everything about you is just so different from what I remember. I hope you can be patient with me. I'm sure I will make mistakes and say dumb things, not because I want to hurt you but because I don't know any better. And I know it's easy for me to say it, but please give me the chance to prove myself. You have my word that I will respect who you are, I promise. And that goes for your friends too, even if that guy from a couple days ago..."
"Yeah, him... even if he seems to have it out for me already."
"He'll be fine. I'll try to make sure he goes easy on you. And for you, I'll be patient. Even if your friends look down on me like that thug did the other day."
"Don't even worry about him, Erin. He's certainly not my friend."
She considered this, and nodded. "OK. If you say so, then I trust you."
So began the second phase of our friendship.
This phase wasn't natural, free and easy like it was when we were little kids. This was work. Work and effort and misunderstandings and the odd argument thrown in for good measure.
My initiation into Erin's new life included meeting her friends. There was Melanie, or Mel for short. But she certainly wasn't short... easily six feet tall and built, as my grandfather used to so eloquently say, like a brick shithouse. She certainly intimidated nearly all the girls in school, and probably half the guys too, come to think of it. The other girl in Erin's closest circle of goth friends was Scarlett. Whether that was a nickname given to her because of her fondness for dying her hair a shockingly bright red, or whether it was her real name... to this day I'm not sure which is the case.
As for the guys in the group, besides Jackson, there was Alejandro, or Al; his family had moved here from the Dominican Republic when he was ten. Amazingly enough, by the time I met him he spoke perfect English with only a hint of a Spanish accent. Last but not least were Kory and Kris, and yes, with names like that, they could only be twin brothers. Seeing someone dressed in goth gear when you're not accustomed to it can be strange enough; my initial reaction at seeing the twin brothers dressed like that was that it was downright fucking creepy.
It took some time for me to warm up to Erin's friends, and vice-versa. They weren't bad kids but were naturally mistrustful of anyone outside their circle, because many of those people rarely tried to understand them and instead went for the cheap jokes and insults. A lot of time in my first encounters with them was spent staring at the ceiling or the floor, with absolutely nothing to say.
And, of course, there was Jackson. He seemed especially hostile towards me in a passive-aggressive way. Nothing I ever did, whether for myself, Erin or someone else, ever seemed to be good enough in his opinion. He had no shortage of smart remarks and too often I was on the receiving end of his sharp tongue. His favourite term for me was 'pretty boy', and oh how I loathed him when he insulted me like that. I can't count how many times I wanted to kick his skinny ass, but because of Erin I resisted that particular temptation.
I introduced Erin to my friends in order to return the favour as she had done for me. Like my early experiences with hers, the results were mixed. My best friends were all on the football team. There were my fellow wide receivers, Torrey, Brandon and Ricky, and Jamie, the starting running back. He was the self-appointed ringleader of our crew, and for me at least, the best friend a guy could have.
Unfortunately, Erin was left with a terrible first impression of the guys when I introduced her to the group. Ricky, a really good guy but prone to occasionally making boneheaded comments, said something dumb about "goth kids"; I can't even remember what it was. In any case it was bad enough for Erin to tear him a new one and leave in a huff. I apologized on his behalf a number of times before she agreed to finally talk to him again; she was very reluctant to let it go. I guess I underestimated just how difficult it was for her to trust people she didn't know and how proudly she would fight and defend her and her friends' goth identities and lifestyle choices.