Better late than never, here's my entry in the Halloween Contest. Please enjoy, and take the time to vote for this and the other stories that have been entered.
Robert unwrapped his turkey sandwich, real roast turkey, not the crappy cold cut excuse for turkey that most people settled for, and enjoyed the smell of the meat as it wafted up to his nostrils, mixed with the caraway seed aroma of the fresh Jewish rye bread. He took a bite, chewed it, savoring the taste of the roasted meat, the slightly sour tang of the bread and the way that the unctuous Russian dressing enhanced the flavor, and swallowed. He looked across the break room table to his regular lunch companion, Joan, a cute strawberry blonde who worked in his department.
"So, Rob, what are you doing for Halloween?" she asked in her soft voice, the remnants of a Southern accent still remaining even after attending college in the northeast, and working in the New York area ever since.
"Halloween? Nothing," Robert responded with surprising disgust. "I think that Halloween sucks. It is the stupidest holiday we have—for adults, at least. Don't you agree?"
Joan took a bite of her tuna sandwich and said, "Um, yeah. Unbelievably stupid."
Robert took another look at Joan. Since she joined the company about 8 months ago, they had developed a little friendship—lunch almost every day in the break room, the occasional joke as they passed in the hallway. He replied, "I mean, it is great for kids—I used to love going trick or treating, getting candy and stuff, but for grownups, it just seems forced and undignified."
Joan swallowed a bite of sandwich and took a drink from her bottle of Diet Pepsi before answering. "Yeah, you're so right."
"I mean, seriously, adults have to buy costumes, dress up and stuff? I don't get it," Robert responded, continuing with increasing vigor, "Not to mention the fact that every costume for women is overtly sexual—slutty nurse, slutty witch, slutty maid."
Joan took another bite of her sandwich, her small white teeth chewing thoughtfully. She was impressed by Robert's comment—it was pretty enlightened for a guy who didn't seem to have a girlfriend. She wondered if he was gay, but he never mentioned that during their lunches. Still, she thought, with some disappointment, it was possible. "I know," Joan replied, finally breaking the silence, "it is pretty offensive, I guess."
They chatted idly as they finished their lunch, cleaned up their table and went back to work.
Robert walked back to his cubicle, shaking his head at the skeletons, pumpkins and other decorations that his co-workers had posted around the office. Every year, he marveled at how a group of adults felt it necessary to decorate their workplace like it was a kindergarten class. He was happy that Halloween fell on a Saturday this year, so that he wouldn't have to see Mary from accounting's witch costume, or Bill from shipping dressed as a pirate, yelling "Yaar matey" to everyone who walked by his cube. Or have to take crap from everyone about why he dressed normally on a work day. He was tired of saying, "I'm dressed as an employee of Tompkins Industries," and laughing uncomfortably as his costumed inquisitor shook his or her head slowly in disbelief, or more likely disgust.
He turned back to his computer screen and immersed himself in his work. He loved dealing with numbers, because he understood how they worked. He never had to worry that 2+2 might equal something other than 4, or be worried that 17 might have a problem with 43. And yet, he found his mind wandering to Joan. It had been nice when they started eating lunch together. He remembered how he was polite, but nothing more, when she imposed herself on his traditional solo lunch. But he found Joan to be pleasant company, able to talk about many different subjects, but not gossipy, and she enjoyed some of the same music, TV and movies that he did. He was happy to hear that she shared his rational position about Halloween, and what was appropriate behavior for adults.
Robert was surprised that, for the first time, he started to think of Joan as potentially more than a lunch companion. He had noticed immediately that she was pretty and had a nice body, although she never wore particularly revealing clothing. She was smart and funny. But it had been some time since he had been out with a woman, and had lost evenf the minimal confidence he ever had with the opposite sex.
His stomach churned as he recalled the scene his last girlfriend made, breaking up with him in public, at a restaurant, when he apparently was insensitive after pointing out that her favorite reality show was not only incredibly unrealistic, but also inane. But he didn't think that Joan thought of him that way, and he forced himself to get back to work, not looking up again until it was time for him to log off and go home.
The next morning, as Robert drove to work, he kept thinking about Joan. As he usually did before making a decision, he decided to do a mental pro and con list about this issue. On the "pro" side, Joan was pretty, smart, funny, seemed to enjoy spending time with him and also found Halloween to be silly. On the other hand, she was a woman, probably out of his league and never had made any sort of indication that she was interested in him. Which, to Robert, clinched it. He decided not to do anything, but to monitor the situation and see if any further evidence could be deduced.
He parked his car in the lot, and took the elevator to the 5th floor. As he entered the dark wood doors, he was crestfallen to see that Betty, the receptionist, was dressed as a slutty nurse. Not only was he annoyed that it appeared that Halloween was still going to be celebrated in the office a day early, but Betty had no business dressing as a slutty anything. Moving quickly past her desk, he couldn't help but grab a Hershey's bar from the candy-filled pumpkin before flashing his ID card at the magnetic sensor and passing through the security door.
And there was Mary, dressed as Wonder Woman this year, apparently tired at last of her usual witch. Pretty much everyone was in costume—Stan, probably the least funny person in the office, dressed as a clown. Tina, dressed as a slutty witch, which Robert had to admit she pulled off. Larry was a vampire in full makeup, and yes, Bill was in his pirate costume waving a plastic sword and yelling "Yaar matey." There were superheroes, athletes and even a Headless Horseman.
No one was working, and except for the mature bodies and bald heads, for better but mostly worse, it could have been a 5th grade classroom. Robert was disgusted with the foolishness and turned toward his cube, almost bumping into Joan. He apologized, and was pleased to see that she was wearing a normal, blue sweater and patterned skirt that ended midway down what Robert noticed were very nice calves. No costume.
"Can you believe everyone?" Robert said, with a bit of a sneer in his voice.
"Yeah, crazy," Joan responded, shaking her head.
"See you at lunch?" Robert asked.
"Of course," Joan said, smiling.
The walked toward their respective workspaces, and Robert quickly turned his head to check out Joan's shapely butt as it wiggled down the aisle. He smiled appreciatively and headed to his computer and the security of his figures.
A few hours later, Robert smelled pizza. The one good thing about Halloween at Tompkins Industries was that the office sprung for pizza and wings, and later in the day there would be cake, inevitably with orange and black icing. Robert put aside his disgust for the revelry in favor of free pizza, and he made his way to the break room at the usual time. Joan was already there, looking cute, and normal, in contrast to the rest of the bizarrely clad coworkers. He grabbed a slice of meatball, a slice of pepperoni and some wings, and sat next to Joan, who smiled at him.
He forced himself to make small talk with the others at the table, Jimmy, dressed as Superman, Paula in her usual milkmaid costume and Barry dressed as a Mafiosi. Everyone seemed jazzed, and Robert stole a look at Joan, rolling his eyes, as he carefully ate his wings, wiping his hands completely on a paper napkin between bites so as not to stain his clothing.
After finishing his slices, Robert carefully gathered his garbage, and Joan's and placed it in the cans, separating the recyclable bottles from the other trash. He followed Joan out into the office, and before they went their separate ways, Robert was surprised to see Joan turn and face him.
"So, Rob," she started haltingly, "if, um, you aren't doing anything tomorrow night, um, would you be interested in coming over to my apartment?"
Robert was quite surprised by this, and stood silently, trying to formulate a response. He noticed that she called him "Rob," which normally would have annoyed him, but for some reason, it didn't.
Before he could say anything, Joan continued, "I'm kind of worried that the kids in my building will do something stupid, and I'd love to have some backup."
"Of course," Robert said, understanding why a small woman like Joan might be worried about idiot teenagers on Halloween. "Where do you live?"
"Burton Towers, Building A, Apartment 275—On the 2nd floor," Joan responded. "You know where that is, right?"
"Yes," he replied, knowing that the complex had once been almost luxury housing, but now was past its prime and filled with young office workers and families. "What time?"
"How about 7?" she asked.
"Fine," he replied, and was surprised when Joan smiled, grabbed his hand and squeezed it before turning to her cube.
Robert was surprised that he had trouble concentrating for the rest of the afternoon. Where he expected to just see numbers, he found himself imagining Joan's chest. Or her legs. Or her ass. And every time, he shook his head and returned to work, until visions of Joan pushed the spreadsheet out of his consciousness.
Eventually, though, it was time to go home, and he navigated his way past the ghouls, pirates, superheroes and various slutty whatevers until he got to the elevator. His chest tightened when he noticed that Joan was waiting, and he could see that she was smiling to herself.
Robert coughed as he approached, so as not to startle Joan, and she turned, and looked a bit surprised, although Robert was certain that she knew that he left the office at the same time every day. She composed her pretty features and smiled.
"Well, we survived," she said.
"Yeah," Robert replied, "I still don't get it."
"I know," Joan agreed, as the elevator door opened. Robert indicated that she should go first, and he followed her into the car. Joan pressed L and they began to descend.
Robert broke the silence. "I remember when I was a kid, all I wanted was to grow up, and now, it seems that every grownup wants to be a child again."
Joan thought before responding, "I guess they want to have fun."
"But there are ways for adults to have fun," Robert replied.
Joan cocked her head and smiled. "Really?" she said, in a somewhat more flirtatious tone than she had ever used with Robert, who reddened as he realized his apparently unintended double entendre.
"Um, you know, um, what I meant, I mean not that," he spluttered as the elevator came to a stop.
Joan flashed Robert a huge smile, lighting up her face. "That's O.K. I know."
They left the elevator and the building, separating as they reached the parking lot. "See you tomorrow at 7?" Joan said.
"I'll be there," Robert replied. "Can I bring anything?"
"Maybe some wine?" Joan responded, "You know, for an adult evening."
Robert wasn't sure if she was teasing him, but he didn't care—she looked so cute. "Do you prefer red or white?"
"Red is fine," she replied, and turned to open her car, getting in and starting the engine.
As Robert drove home, he understood that Joan was flirting with him, and it made him uncomfortable. He had come to realize quite clearly that Joan was an attractive woman, very attractive, in fact, and seemed to understand and even appreciate his particular ways. He began to wonder if her invitation was more than what was represented, and the prospect caused him to begin to feel warmth in places that hadn't felt anything in a long time.
He reached his neighborhood without even realizing how he had gotten there, and drove past the houses, all bedecked in Halloween knickknacks, ghosts, and witches, cobwebs and pumpkins. He knew for a fact that many of these houses no longer had children, and he shook his head at the thought that adults wasted their time with such nonsense. Robert pulled into his driveway, past the well-manicured lawn and carefully tended shrubs and plants, pressed the button to open the garage and pulled his car into the immaculate and well-organized garage.
Waiting until the car was fully off, and any fumes had dissipated, he left the car and entered the house. He put his keys in the bowl, turned on the light and went to his bedroom to change. After making sure that the creases on his slacks lined up perfectly before hanging them on a wooden hanger and placing his shirt into the bin to be washed, Robert walked to the toilet and began to urinate. Unexpectedly, Joan's pretty face appeared in his mind as he held his cock in his hand, and he felt it stiffen. Shaking his head like an Etch-a-Sketch to erase the vision, he finished his business, put on some comfortable sweat pants and returned to the kitchen to heat up the dinner that he had prepared over the past weekend.
As he ate in silence, Robert found his mind wandering to Joan, and he began to worry that he was reading too much into the situation, but also realized that he would be disappointed if he was. After finishing dinner, rinsing his plate and silverware and placing them in the dishwasher, Robert sat down on the couch and tried, unsuccessfully, to watch television. But Joan's curves, and her hair, and her eyes kept making him lose track of the plot.
Joan, on the other hand, knew exactly what she was going to do, and set about to prepare. She cleaned the apartment and made sure that she had all of the ingredients for cupcakes before finally getting ready for bed. She made sure that everything was in place, before getting under the covers. She knew that she was taking a bit of a risk with Robert, and that there was a good chance that he would not react properly, and that would ruin everything between them, but she was willing to take a chance. He was, she believed, exactly the right type of man for her. He was smart, he was thoughtful, he was a hard worker, and she believed that he liked her. And, she thought to herself, feeling increasing excitement, he was very good looking. It took a while for Joan to fall asleep, and when she did, she dreamed that everything went exactly as planned.
Robert was up early, as usual, and he performed his morning routine of pushups, crunches and squats before showering and having his usual simple breakfast of fruit and cottage cheese. He spent the morning doing various things around the house that needed doing, all the while trying to block out the distraction that was Joan. Before he knew it, it was 4:00, and he went into his pantry and pulled out a few bags of Halloween candy and dumped them into a large metal bowl, their colorful wrappers clashing wildly. As much as he thought Halloween was ridiculous for adults, he still enjoyed seeing the kids—especially the little kids—excited in their costumes as they trick or treated. It was the sullen teenagers, who barely put any effort into the day and just wanted a candy bar, and especially the adults, who sometimes even out-costumed their kids, that took the fun out of it.
He realized that he needed to shower before going to Joan's and wanted to make sure that he was ready before the kids started to ring his bell. He ran up the stairs and disrobed, folding his sweats neatly into the drawers and tossing his underwear and socks into the hamper before turning on the water. When it was hot, he stepped in and let the hot water cascade over his skin. He relaxed, and that let thoughts of Joan seep into his mind. Which led, almost inescapably, to thoughts of Joan, nude, in the shower with him. And Robert found himself aroused by the thought. He quickly washed himself and shampooed his hair before violently turning off the hot water, turning the cocoon of warmth into a freezing shock, immediately ending his aroused state.
Revived, Robert left the shower, shivering, and dried himself off before dressing for what he clearly now hoped was more of a date than just a friendly evening. But he was careful not to get his hopes too high as he walked down the stairs and waited for the bell to ring. Which it did, a number of times over the next few hours, and Robert was mostly greeted by parents and cute little kids, who needed to get their Halloween goodies before it got dark. Robert was pleased that most of the parents were not in costume, although he did scowl briefly at the young mother who was in a French maid costume, her ample breasts nearly spilling out of the top, accompanying her cute little daughter dressed as a princess.
About half of his candy was gone when Robert looked at his watch and realized that he needed to leave. Joan had asked him to arrive at 7, and he prided himself on punctuality. Rather than leave himself with the temptation of all of that candy, in small, easily eatable packages, Robert decided to leave the bowl outside the house. If that meant that a few greedy kids took it all, then it was no matter to him, and even an empty bowl would signal that he was participating in the festivities, discouraging damage to his house from disappointed ruffians.
He took one last trip to the bathroom, washed his hands carefully, grabbed a nice bottle of Merlot from his rack, locked up the house, got into his car and began to drive to Joan's. The radio, unfortunately, was filled with novelty songs, so he rode in silence, which allowed his mind to wander to what might happen when he was alone with Joan.
Joan had taken her time preparing for the evening, and she waited for Robert with surprising anxiety. She had a sense that this was her chance, and that if it failed, not only would she not be together with Robert, who she had been attracted to almost immediately upon meeting him at work, but she would also lose her only friend at the office, which would be uncomfortable. Nevertheless, she was excited, and she was animated when the kids in her building came by in costume to get their due. Joan admitted to herself that she had a slight pang when she saw an adult in a fun costume, but she understood that certain sacrifices had been necessary to even have a chance with Robert.
At 6:59 by her phone, her intercom buzzed, and Robert announced himself. She looked at herself in the mirror, and was pleased to see that her hair and makeup were perfect—she thought she looked good, but not like she was preparing for a date. And her cotton sweater and loose fitting slacks flattered her figure, but were casual. She took a deep breath and waited for the doorbell to ring.
Robert stood outside Joan's door. Not long ago, he would have rung the bell without hesitation, but now he had convinced himself that this was some sort of a date, and he was frozen. He knew that the reason that he had been so hurt the last time was that he had allowed Michelle to pierce his defenses, and he was afraid that it would happen again. But Joan seemed so nice, and so reasonable. And maybe he was reading too much into things. He stood there, thinking, and realized that he had to do something, or it would seem odd. So, he rang the bell.
When he saw that Joan had dressed simply, Robert was of two minds. On the one hand, he was pleased that she wasn't dressed up, because that would have ratcheted up the pressure, and even happier that she wasn't in costume. On the other hand, he felt some disappointment that this appeared to really be just a friendly evening. But overall, he felt happy that the pressure seemed to be off, and he could relax, have a glass of wine and enjoy himself.