“Rori, are you even listening to me? Get your head out of that damn book. It’s lunchtime for Pete’s sake, ” Cathy complains, pushing my tray at me.
Sighing, I put my book in my side bag and pulled out a hair clip. I fluff my long curly hair and twist it up, then clip it in place. It’s relatively hot for October and, my cousin, Cathy takes a keen interest in pulling me out of a good book any chance she gets; just another way she invades my quiet time.
My name is Rori Payne. I turned 18 today, October 31st. I live with my Aunt Beatrix and Uncle Arthur Slade. I have lived with them ever since I can remember, but I’m told my mother died shortly after my birth due to an illness.
I may not have any siblings, but my cousins, Cathy and Bart, are like my sister and brother since I grew up with them. Cathy is a popular socialite. Her long, pin straight and natural blond hair makes her very popular among the “in crowd”. She is gifted with a slender figure and blessed with a large bust. She has an expensive taste from her clothes to the school accessories she floats even the gourmet food, demanding attention at her every whim. Cathy keeps the most sought-after guys in school on their toes, like Mark Waverly. Mark is her current boyfriend; he is the Mayor’s son and likes everyone to know it; he indulges Cathy’s every desire and she loves it.
Bart is the high school’s best athlete. He too has pin straight, natural blond hair. He is well-built for his very tall figure and smart as well as charming. These characteristics make him popular, as well, though he would never admit it. Bart is smart, kind, gentle and strong, so he appeals to most girls in one way or another. Every girl wants to be with him and every guy wishes he could be him. It’s probably why Mark is so close to Bart. I think it’s a lot of pressure for a senior in high school.
In my family, no one talks about my parents. In fact, they go out of their way to avoid talking about them. All I know is what my grandma told me when I was little before she died. She said that my mother and Father’s love was a forbidden love. So you can imagine how my life has been full of secrets and whispers surrounding my parents and I. Even though I have always held a strong desire to know more about my parents, I do what I can to keep it hidden from my family.
My Aunt Beatrix is my mother’s younger sister. Although my mother and Aunt Beatrix grew up together and were very close, Aunt Beatrix won’t talk about anything that involves my mother. The only picture I have seen of my mother was when she was young and in high school with my aunt at a pep-rally. I snuck a peek at it when I had overheard my aunt talking to Cathy about finding old childhood pictures, but I was only able to look at it for a few seconds. I’ve always hated the fact that I’ve had to sneak around to look for pictures of my mother. I feel so proud when I see her picture. It’s painful to have to hide such things, much less that these things would be hidden from me.
“Oy, look what the cat dragged in!” Bart laughed, waving over a friend.
“Hey, are you coming to the Halloween party tonight?” Bart’s best friend Carter asks, sitting down at the table next to Cathy; Carter looked at me, awaiting an answer.
Carter has deep blue eyes, brown hair, and a nicely toned body. Carter came to James A. Garfield High our freshman year. We met during the first-hour biology and he has been trying to get me to go on a date with him ever since, and with him being my cousin’s friend he is around all the time, so his persistence can be annoying. For a guy who takes all advanced classes with Bart, he seems oblivious to the fact that I’m not interested. “Carter, you should know better. Like my parents would let Rori go out at night by herself,” Bart chimes in. At the lunch table, all everyone can talk about is Carter Dale’s Halloween party. I want to go, but I am never allowed out at night. My aunt and uncle see to that personally. I have to live by many rules that Bart and Cathy don’t.
“Here is the best part, Bart; both you and Cathy are invited. Everyone in the senior class is.” Gazing determined at Bart, Carter stands up. “I expect you three to come tonight. I am not taking no for an answer. I’ll see you all at the lake house. Come on Rori, we have a gym. We should go get ready.”
Carter is right, though; if Bart and Cathy went, I have a good chance of going, as well. “Ugh, I hate the gym!” I groaned as I stood up. I play with the charms on my necklace as we walk to the gym.
“Rori, what is up with that pendant?” Carter asks, pointing to my necklace. “It looks like a warped piece of metal or something.”
I smile. “This is the only thing I have of my parents. My grandmother said my Father gave it to my mother when they fell in love. She gave it to me last year on my birthday,” I say. Imagining the exchange my Father had with my mother—of the love they shared—made me smile.
“Yeah, okay. Just dress up for the party. It’s a costume party, after all.” Carter doesn’t seem to share the same sentiment of the symbol this pendant meant to me. “Hey, we should dress up in matching costumes.” Carter got excited and smiled at me.
I think about it. Hm. It is the senior year after all; what would be the harm in giving him a chance? He has always been nice and there when I needed someone. “Why not? What’s the costume, Carter?” He looks at me and beams with delight. “I’ll have it dropped off at your house. So no worries, okay?” I nod and go into the girl’s locker room to change. I hear Carter jumping up and down in the hall. Probably a victory dance or something, I chuckle, imagining Carter pumping his fists in the air.
After school, I walk home with Cathy and Bart. They talk about the costume party and those who said they would attend. Cathy is upset because she has to go shopping for a new costume to match Mark’s Egyptian Pharaoh costume. Originally, she had planned on being a Lady Gangster for Halloween and bought enough foil to line the walls of her room. Now she is sour over having to go get a new costume.
Bart is now mad because his girlfriend didn’t want to dress up in a couples costume. I always thought it served him right for dating a snobby, high maintenance, two-faced girl like Heather Lotis. She always wants every guy’s attention and flirts with any guy that will flirt back when Bart isn’t looking. I wanted to punch her in the face when I caught her flirting with Carter and suggesting that I would never give him what she could. Poor Bart, he never sees the true colors of Heather Lotis.
“What about you, Rori? What will you go as?” Cathy asks.
“Oh, Carter has taken care of my costume.” I don’t need to look at them to know what they are thinking. Carter and Bart have been friends ever since high school started.
“Wow, are you finally going out with Carter, Rori?” Bart asks.
“Who knows?” I reply. We walk the rest of the way in silence.
Aunt Beatrix is already home when we arrive. “Mom…” Cathy calls as she closes the front door behind us. “...Mom. We all got invited to a Halloween celebration for the seniors. We already said yes, so can we go?” Aunt Beatrix thinks about it for a time as she pulls out a cake from the oven. “Go do your chores and we will talk about it after they are finished. Oh, Rori, you have a package in on your bed, sweetie. You’re in for a surprise.” I nod. “Thank you.”
“What?” Bart moans. He hates doing chores.
I quickly start my chores beginning with watering the plants, putting away the clean dishes and feeding the fish; Friday chores aren’t all that bad for me. Making my way to my room I pick up my basket of laundry from the kitchen. Aunt Beatrix and Uncle Arthur had turned the entire attic into a living space before the twins were born for a playroom; now it’s my room.
Closing the door behind me I placed the basket on my desk. Remembering that Aunt Beatrix had told me she put something on my bed I glance over. Sitting on my bed I notice a big white box with two small boxes on top. I decided to start by opening the big box; inside I find a Victorian style black dress. I hold it up in amazement. It has red trimming and black lace. I open the next box; it contains a pair of bright red shoes, just like the dresses trim, and a fan. Upon opening the third box I pull out a black cloak made from cotton. For a second I thought the outfit has to be a dream. This must have cost him a lot of time and money. I can hardly believe Carter got this for me as a costume for his silly Halloween party. Just why did he get me such an extravagant gift? I knew he came from old money but I had no idea that he would just spend money like this on a whim.
“Ahh!” I hear Cathy screaming as she runs up the stairs. “Rori! Rori! Mom said yes!”
I’m amazed. I didn’t think I would be allowed to go. So many times before, only Bart and Cathy could go. “What? Really?” I gasp. I have to be dreaming.
“Yes, mom said as long as we all three stay together and it’s Friday, so we don’t have to be home till Midnight! Ahh!” Cathy runs over excitedly.
Cathy and I jump up and down, screaming in excitement. “I have to go get my costume. I’ll be back. Let’s get dressed and leave before dinner, okay?” Cathy says, running back downstairs. She leaves before seeing the beautiful costume Carter sent over. Then again, I’m glad she didn’t. Cathy would have tried to get it for herself.
Cathy goes out and gets herself a Cleopatra costume to match Mark’s costume. It suits her well; she already has a Princess complex and now she gets to act like a queen. Bart dresses like a gladiator; being a huge fan of the Roman Empire, I can see him in nothing else. It suits him; he is always protecting people and getting into fights.
“Rori, you’re not dressed yet” Uncle Arthur yells. “It is getting late, you three should be going soon, right?” “Yes, I’ll go get ready.” I run upstairs and look at the dress, shoes, cloak, and fan. I feel like I’m about to walk into the Victorian era. Somehow it feels right. I struggle to get the undergarments on that were sent with the dress. After finally getting them on properly the dress is my next obstacle. It’s taking longer than I had originally planned to get ready. With my hair already curly, all I have left is to pin it up and add a bit of makeup.
I walked down the stairs quietly in the heels I was wearing. “There you are. Mom and Dad went out already, so it’s just us.” Cathy barked at me as she put on her wig again.
“Wow, Rori, you look amazing,” Bart said, gawking at me. It felt weird having someone call me pretty, much less say I looked amazing.
“Oh, Rori, is that the costume Carter sent you?” Cathy wonders as she touched the cloak. “It’s real,” Bart exclaimed. “Yes, and yes, I know.” I twirled around so they could get a good look. “Well, let’s go,” Cathy said. “Yeah,” Bart said, walking us to the door. “Wait, we have to take a picture. Mom and dad insist we document our first-night outing together.” Bart took the picture and the camera flashed. He put the digital camera on the table and we headed out.
We arrived at the beach house an hour later. The two-story rustic house looked elegant, even at night. Everyone heading into the house was dressed in different costumes and some were matching. There were outfits ranging from anime characters to Barbie to Playboy Bunnies. Bart escorted us inside like a gentleman. His girlfriend Heather sat on the couch in a Roman noblewoman costume. Next, to her, Heather’s ex, George, was in a drag queen costume. It was funny to see them that close. George tenderly moved Heather’s hair out of her face as they talked.
Bart jolted to his feet, anger etched on his face. He clearly caught George trying to put the moves on his girlfriend. Instinctively I grabbed Bart. “Hey, keep your cool. Don’t go and get into a fight tonight, please,” I pleaded with him. “I’ll go get Heather for you.”
Cathy took Bart to get a drink to calm his nerves.
On my way over to talk to Heather, I spotted Carter. He looked dashing in his Victorian gentleman’s costume. It matched mine right down to the red trim. His cane had a skull on it that looked like it was yelling. I smiled at his attention to detail in both our costumes. I walked up to Heather and stood there in front of her for a moment.
She looked at me. “What do you want, loser?” she asked as she took another sip of her beer. George laughed at Heather’s words. “Great! The shut-in loser is here to save the day!” he scoffed. “Well George, at least I can catch a ball during P.E. and score points for my team,” I smiled at him. George scowled at me.
I redirected my attention and energy to Heather. “By the way, Heather your current boyfriend is here. Might want to pay him attention unless you are looking to lose that Prom Queen title you are using Bart for.” Heather glared at me. “Where is he, dweeb?” I smiled at her. “Go find him yourself. You are good at sniffing out guys, right?”; and with that, I walked out of the living room and back onto the porch which I noticed, as we drove up, that it wrapped around the house and was enclosed by fly netting. I started to walk around toward the back of the house and saw plenty of people drinking and running around on the beach. There were a zombie and a bunch of naughty Bunnies running up and down the pier laughing and clearly having a good time. The moon is bright, radiating downward on this dark chilly Halloween night. It’s mesmerizing to watch the light dancing on the water of the lake. I almost don’t want to leave this place. This is the first time I had ever been allowed out to a party. It feels so freeing. I love this feeling of being able to enjoy the night out with friends.
“There you are,” a voice called from behind me. I turned and smiled. “Carter, you look dashing on this Hallow’s Eve.” Carter looked down and smiled. “Well I had to match my lady this evening, didn’t I?” I nodded and smiled sweetly at him. “I must say, Carter, you have been after me for quite some time. Yet, this might be the first time I have seen such a direct display of interest.” I shook my head a little. “I guess what I’m trying to say is thank you for the costume.” He looked at me, confused. “That wasn’t my idea. But I did pick out the dress myself; that I can take credit for. However, that is no costume. It is the real deal; a completely handmade dress.” Carter pointed to the small red embroidery inside the hood of the cloak. “See, this symbolizes the authenticity of it being handmade.” Wow, he had it handmade. He really went above and beyond. I looked at him skeptically. “What’s the catch, Carter? The dress, the shoes, the entire outfit...What do you think you will get in return for such a gift?” I watched him intently. He seemed like he was about to panic. His breathing got heavy and he looked pale. He even began to fidget with his hands.
“How about a kiss as payment? I’m not looking for anything in return, but I can see how you would think that with the society you have been raised in.” He looked off to the pier when he spoke to me. “Nothing comes free so they say.”
“A kiss, that’s all? Something is off about you lately Carter.” I stated as I walked over to him. He turned to speak to me again as I leaned in to give him the kiss he won’t be expecting. I had intended to give him a kiss on the cheek, but he turned his head and I accidentally kissed his lips. I noticed they felt like they were burning up. I pulled back in surprise. I looked at Carter. He seemed to be just as surprised by the kiss as I was by his lips were hot. “Rori,” Carter paused. A look of shock faded to fear. “Carter, what’s wrong?” I asked. He looked scared. I had never seen him like that before. “You...you kissed me,” he stumbled to speak. “Yes, you said it was a kiss you wanted as a payment, didn’t you?” I was beginning to get confused myself. That was not the reaction I expected. Usually, if a guy gets a kiss he’s blushing and happy. But Carter is paler than a ghost over it.
“Rori, Carter. Hey, there are guys on the beach by the bonfire dressed like you guys!” Cathy called, stumbling up the porch steps. Carter looked at the bonfire slowly. I peeled my eyes away from him and look to Cathy. She was stumbling over to me. “Look, they are hot and dressed a lot like you two. You should have told me you were going to be part of a group. I would have joined.” Cathy started to pout. She had already begun drinking. That was just great; she had never been able to hold her liquor. What was she doing drinking this early? I turned back to ask Carter about the guys, Cathy’s incessant mumblings are about. “Hey, Carter...” I looked for a second in bewilderment. He’s gone.
Down at the bonfire, I see Carter with the guys that Cathy had been talking about. Carter looked like he was begging the tall guy for something like he was in some kind of trouble. Cathy almost puked on my dress, briefly distracting me from what was going on. “I need more,” Cathy repeats “More drinks. More.” I looked at the guys on the beach dressed like Carter and I. He must know them. But he never said anything about us all having the same theme. “MORE!” Cathy screamed at me. “Okay, fine, let’s go find a quiet room for you to sleep in. I’m not going home just yet,” I told her. I tossed Cathy’s arm over my shoulder and headed inside to find a quiet room I could drop her off in. The library seemed quiet enough and some others were already inside sleeping off their drinks too. I helped Cathy lay on her side on the sofa in the corner. “More,” she moaned as I covered her with a throw blanket. Pushing her hair out of her face I gazed at her. She looked so peaceful lying on her side, curled up and sleeping off the booze. It was a true sight of peace; she has never looked so relaxed. I walked out to find Bart to let him know where I left Cathy and see when he wanted to leave. With Cathy already passed out, my night out just got limited. I’m sure Bart will want to leave right away. I wish Cathy could hold her liquor better. Oh, well; nothing to be done now.
“Rori! Baby!” a voice yelled at me. Oh no. I looked up to see a drunk Bart falling over Heather and trying to keep his beer upright. Not you too, Bart. I thought, sighing to myself. How am I going to explain this to your parents? “Come here,” he called. I walked over. Bart grabbed me and held me against him. He smiled, turning me around and putting me in a headlock. “Rori looks, we’re all drunk. But you. So drink,” he yelled in my ear. Bart tried to pour his beer in my mouth. I carefully ducked out of his attempt at a second headlock and tried not to knock him off balance.
I hadn’t noticed it before. Yet, in the short time that we had been here, everyone had gotten drunk. Bart, who could out-drink anyone, is among the group of extremely intoxicated people. If they weren’t falling over and struggling to stand, they were already passed out. I felt a pain in my stomach. Something was very wrong here. This was not right; we hadn’t been here for even an hour yet. I turned back around to look at Bart. He was taking another swig of his beer. Heather fell down onto the floor, passing out in just moments.
“Bart, Bart listen to me we need to go, okay?” I tried to reason with him. “GO? No…we no go…we’re here to drink, so drink Rori…you hot minx…my cousin, I wish you weren’t…I’d date you.” So Bart is a plushy drunk. His drunk brain is not as fun as I once thought it would be. Bart looked down to see Heather on the floor. “Hey baby, wake up, we got all night to sleep.” Trying to talk to Bart seemed useless. I looked around, deciding to go find Carter. He would help me get them to the car. Running back outside to the bonfire, all I could think was how I needed to get them home. If my aunt or uncle found out about this, they will never let me out of their sight again. I arrived at the bonfire shortly. Everyone out here is passed out as well. My heart sunk to my stomach. What’s going on? No one here had a cup or a beer that I had seen. Yet, they are all passed out just like most of the people in the house. I looked for Carter but he’s not among the sleeping attendees. What should I do? Just about everyone is passed out or is about to be passed out. Carter is nowhere to be found and I have this uneasy feeling. Maybe I should call someone.“Rori,” I heard Carter call to me from by the house. I turned to look behind me. I saw Carter and those other guys from earlier walking my way.
Good, they all look sober, I thought. “Carter, everyone...” I paused. In his hand, it’s a bit hard to see, but there was a white cloth. Did he do this? “Rori, wait right there, I need to talk to you,” Carter requested. I slipped off the heels. He did this; he made them all pass out. Carter invited me and gave me this dress. Something is wrong with this entire thing. What’s going on here, a cult offering? He has a plan that I have no intention of being caught in. The dress is heavy but I could still run in it. No one in my school could catch me. I place first on track every time. So that’s what I am going to do. Run. It’s all I have right now. Any idea is better than no idea. I dart off down the beach. Refusing to look back, I push myself harder and harder. I want to take this dress off to help me go faster, but if I do, I might trip. “Rori. You can’t outrun us,” Carter calls from behind me. I dare not look back. Even if he’s gaining on me, how long could I keep it up? I spot a ship at the pier just ahead. I can lose them there, I tell myself. I ran for the pier with my heart beating so loud I could hear it pulsing in my ears. Glancing back as I made my way onto the dock, I saw Carter and another guy chasing after me. They just won’t give up, will they? The end of the pier is in sight. The ship is too far to jump onto. What should I do? I have cornered myself. I’m an idiot. I stopped just before the last plank. I turned around and watched as Carter and the other guy slowed down too. All out of breath they stopped and panted for a moment. “Rori, I told you...you can’t outrun us,” Carter said trying to catch his breath. “Come with me, Rori.” The stout man next to Carter called out to me too familiarly. His short red hair is so bright it appears to be on fire in the moonlight. The green eyes he gazed at me with offset his bright fiery red hair in the black suit he stood in. In his hand, he too sports a white cloth just like Carter’s.
“I’m not going anywhere with you,” I scoffed at them. The red-haired guy with Carter smiled. “I’m not asking, little girl.”They both started to advance on me. The gap between us started to shrink at a steady pace. I would rather die than to find out what they have planned for me. I could try to swim, I am a fast swimmer. Carter lunged at me before I could decide, however, placing the cloth over my face forcefully. I pushed him away and fell backward into the water. I tried to swim but my body would not respond. I could feel my limbs grow heavy as I sank to the bottom of the lake. My eyes began to close. This had to be a better way than whatever it was they had planned for me. Yes, I thought as the world began to blacken. Yes, this will be better.