After our time hanging out at the diner, Faith grew noticeably more comfortable with me, speaking a little more when she got the chance, snapping at me a little less...although she still acted clearly guarded whenever I tried to get her to talk more about herself. All I really figured out was that she didn’t like talking about her family, other than briefly commenting that they were doing fine, and she only mentioned her old school maybe once or twice.
“I like it better here,” She admitted, chewing on the end of one of her hoodie strings.
She totally clammed up whenever I tried to get more details, only turning away with this strangely sad look on her face every time.
I wasn’t sure why yet, but there was something she wasn’t telling me.
But I didn’t want to press her.
A few more weeks passed by, and we were getting along pretty well. I even got her to laugh out loud a few times, and she seemed to have gotten used to me being there.
Before I knew it, it was just a week before Halloween. The leaves outside had turned gorgeous fall colours in a blend: red, gold, brown.
I was excited, and had already planned out my outfit for our school’s annual Halloween Party. It was kind of a big thing at Laken March, since our Student Council and Board were probably insane, and we had a whole festival event lined up. This festival was set outside our school and included a mirror maze set up by the students, a haunted house, bobbing for apples, and all sorts of other seasonal things. All the money from tickets went to children’s charities for cancer research.
There was a reason Laken March was considered one of the most popular schools in the province.
Faith seemed to be excited too, and filled me in on what she was planning to wear. She was going as some anime character this year. “It’s from a really good show,” She promised, her eyes lighting up with a glow of excitement I had not seen in awhile. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. Faith had always been head over heels for anything anime back then, and it looked like her love for the topic had never really gone away. From what she told me about it did sound pretty cool. It seemed to involve a sword, at the very least. “Made of foam,” She specified, although she looked a little disappointed. “Obviously, I don’t think they’d let me bring a real one.” She sighed, looking glum at the fact that she couldn’t bring an actual weapon to school.
She was adorable when she pouted, looking more like an actual twelve year old than a high school student.
I patted her head. “Don’t worry. I’m sure you can find a lethal weapon someplace else.”
She swatted my hand away, but smiled slightly. “We can only hope.”
“And besides, I’ll still love to see the rest of your costume,” I told her.
She flushed, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear nervously. “Yeah...I hope so.”
I squeezed her hand. “Guarantee it.”
She ducked her head, her dark hair covering her eyes before giving me a hesitant smile.
I was happy that we were starting to get along like we’d used to, but I still wanted to talk about our last time together. It was something I thought had changed our relationship in some way, and I felt like if we could just discuss it, it might help.
It would help me, at least. I was happy, but still pretty damn confused.
“Why don’t you come over right before the festival?” I suggested. She looked wary. “Are you sure?” I shrugged. “Yeah, then we can just go there together. Sound good?”
She looked down, biting her lip. I had seen this same reaction before. It looked like she was still figuring out whether she could trust me or not. She always had the same kind of hesitation about her, like she thought it could be a bad idea, but couldn’t resist.
I nudged her with my shoulder after a minute or so. “It’s a yes or no answer, Fay.”
“Don’t call me Fay,” She grumbled, bumping me back in revenge. “That sounds stupid.”
“I think it’s cute,” I declared, chuckling. “Kind of like you.”
She stopped scowling and ducked her head, but I could swear her cheeks were lighting up.
“I’m not cute.” I heard her mumble under her breath.
“Well, I think you are,” I paused, then slid an arm around her shoulders. “But you don’t have to be if you don’t want to.”
I waited another minute before she looked back up. “Fine. I’ll go with you.”
I gave a squeal of joy. “Yeah!”
She held up a hand, silently warning me that if I didn’t hold back on the enthusiasm, she was most likely going to gut me with her foam sword. I calmed down, but couldn’t resist giving her a huge grin.
She crossed her arms. “You were gonna drag me there anyway even if I said ‘no’, right?”
I smiled sweetly at her, trying to look innocent. “Naturally.”
She sighed, pushing a hand through her already messy hair.
The night of the Halloween Party finally arrived, and I was rushing around getting everything ready. My parents had always said that it was just like me, “always racing around, fashionably late”. Well, I wasn’t going to be “fashionably” anything if I couldn’t find my other shoe.
“God damn it all,” I ranted as I ran around my room, trying to find my missing red high heel.
I checked my reflection in the mirror quickly. I was wearing a cute short-sleeved navy checked dress over warm black tights, a black velvet choker around my throat. My hair was brushed out and tied in two loose pigtails. I had put on pale cream foundation on my face and neck, heavy dark eyeliner in large rings around my eyes, and a dark red lipstick to finish the look off.
I looked pretty good, I had to admit. I looked like a perfect blend between seductive vampire and innocent country girl. It would be even more perfect if I didn’t look like some Cinderella wannabe with only one shoe on.
No time to lose. I began the search once again.
I was a neat freak, or so my friends called me, so my room was usually spotless, but not in the past week. I had been so busy with schoolwork the teachers had thought a really good idea to pile up on, and now my room looked no better than a junkyard.
I threw open my closet door, scrambling through piles of books and other clothing. Sweaters...jeans...shorts...flats...sneakers…
I looked up at the sound of my phone buzzing on my table. I didn’t want to give up, but I had to see who was calling.
I stumbled over to the dresser and picked up my phone. I was greeted by the contact profile pic of a pretty girl, dark hair sweeping across her eyebrows, eyes wide, frozen mid-laugh. I frowned, confused at who exactly it was, then I looked at the contact name and it hit me. “Ghost Queen,” I chuckled to myself. It was Faith. Of course it was.
Looking at the pic, I felt a twinge of disappointment, and it was because of the same reason I hadn’t recognized it was her at first. It was an old photo, and it was the last time I had seen her look so happy, so at ease.
I swiped the screen open. “Hey.”
“Where are you?” She said immediately, sounding very annoyed.
I cringed, wrapping a hand around my elbow. “Uh...sorry?”
“We’re going to be late!” She continued, and I could hear what sounded like her pacing on the end of the line.
“Sorry,” I repeated sheepishly. “I didn’t realize.”
She paused. “You OK?”
Great, now I had gone and made her worried.
“Yeah, no, I’m fine,” I assured her, meanwhile continuing to hunt for my other shoe. That stupid high heel...where was it?
I caught a glimpse of red in the corner of my eye and ran towards it, but after unearthing it, realized it was just a bandanna. I groaned loudly.
“Lucy?” Faith sounded even more concerned now. “You sure you’re OK?”
I gave up. “No,” I mumbled.
“Why?” Her voice rose a little.
“...I can’t find my shoe.”
There was a pause, then Faith started laughing. Not just a sarcastic laugh, no. A real, actual laugh, that, like it always had before, made me want to join in. When she finally stopped, she gave me the most heaving, pathetic sigh I had ever heard.
“Well, you better hurry.” I thought her voice grew suddenly dark. “You don’t want to keep your date waiting, or whatever.”
“Huh?” I said aloud, confused. “Oh, I don’t actually have a date.”
There was another pause. Faith’s voice came back hesitant. “Oh. You...don’t?”
I shook my head. “Nope.”
“Oh,” She said again, sounding distant now. “I...I see.”
I shifted from one foot to the other, hoping it would get less awkward.
“Anyways, are you still coming over?” I asked, changing the subject.
I saw another flash of red, and sprinted over to it. Yes! There it was. It had been hidden underneath a pile of books and an old college sweater my older brother had given me.
“I’m outside your door, idiot.” I heard her say as I pulled on my shoe at last. She sounded very exasperated now. “I’ve been here for the past 5 minutes.”
“What?” I jumped up and ran down the stairs. “Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I knocked twice already,” She huffed. “And then you had me worried about your little shoe crisis.”
I must not have heard her when I was trying to find my other shoe. “Shit, I’m sorry.” I apologized, racing to the front door.
“It’s fine.” She said on the other line as I hung up and yanked the door open.
I gaped. She looked amazing.
She was wearing a tight black leather jacket and leggings, and tall laced boots. She had a white mask on, which covered the top half of her face, and her eyes were dramatically lined with black. She had done something with her hair, it was spiked out and her bangs were pushed back. The previously mentioned foam sword was a katana, and it was belted at her waist. She also wore--and here I might have blushed--a tight white tube top which hugged her chest and revealed washboard abs.
It was usually difficult to note what her figure was like under all the baggy clothing she usually wore, but wow. She looked fit, not unlike some of the girls on my soccer team in terms of muscles.
The thought made my cheeks feel like they were burning. Faith bit her lip and took a tiny step backwards. “What?” She looked down, fidgeting with her fake sword.
“Uh…” I played with a strand of hair, feeling very much like I was about to die. “Nothing. You just--” I took a step forward, down the steps. “--You look incredible.”
She blushed, and her fidgeting grew even worse.
“You look incredible.” She blurted out, looking back up at me with a half-terrified half-awed expression. “You, and your...dress, are you--”
“Yeah,” I shrugged, smiling. “I’m supposed to be like a goth Dorothy...or something. It popped into my head. What d’you think?”
I did a little twirl on the spot, silently noting how Faith’s eyes never left me for a second.
“’Goth Dorothy’?” She repeated, looking a little less flustered.
I shrugged again, picking up my basket under my arm and mock-skipping down the steps. “Yeah, was watching the Wizard of Oz a couple weeks ago. Popped into my head.”
She shook her head. “You are a weirdo.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Coming from the edgy artist who prefers the company of her hoodies to actual people?”
I laughed at that, grabbing my purse and stuffing it into my prop basket before locking the door behind me. I skipped forwards (which was pretty hard to do in heels, by the way) and looped my arm through hers. “Ready to go?”
She rolled her eyes. “As long as you don’t make me sing like the Munchkins.”
“I make no such promises.” I answered, as we began to walk to the bus stop.
By the time we got to the party, I was buzzing with excitement. I couldn’t wait to get started.
My friends had given my brief descriptions of what they had dressed up as, but I still had a hard time picking them out from the crowd that had clumped around the school’s entrance.
“There!” I pointed finally, grabbing Faith’s arm. “Slutty witch at 2:00.”
I didn’t say it to be bitchy, but it was just that Layla had clearly spared no expense when it came to her Halloween costume, just like every other year. Her dark purple chiffon dress was ripped strategically in all the right places, including all the way up her right thigh, and she was getting an appropriate number of stares because of it. Her tall pointed hat was tilted at a perfect angle on her head, over her long brown ringlets. She clutched a broomstick in one hand, excellent for beating off swooning admirers--not that she would. Beside her stood Willow, Crystal, and Liz, dressed as, at a guess...some Game of Thrones character, an angel, and a frankly scary-ass looking banshee.
“Hey!” I called, running over, somehow managing not to trip in my heels. “Nice costumes!” Crystal beamed. “Thanks!” She was wearing a silvery dress with flowing sleeves and blue flats. She wore little feathered wings and a fluffy white halo which was attached to the back of her dress. Willow’s was more detailed, including a long white wig, a light blue dress with a low neckline and black boots, with a stuffed dragon toy strapped on her arm. But Liz’s costume beat all three of theirs at once. She had on stark white face paint with yellow-green on her cheekbones, giving her face a sickly image, and wore an absolutely shredded black robe with long black and green hair extensions in her wavy blonde hair. Dark green lipstick oozed down her chin like dried blood.
“Goth Dorothy?” Willow caught on right away, as I thought she would, being a musical theatre geek. “Nice.”
“Thanks.” I replied. “And...you are--”
“I am Queen of the Dragons.” She said ominously, lifting her chin in a ‘mightier than thou’ gesture. We both cracked up.
“I didn’t get it at all,” Liz shrugged. “But then again, never seen Game of Thrones.”
She smiled at me with green-stained teeth. “Jesus,” I shook my head. “Liz, you are horrifying.”
She grinned even wider at me for that, and held up her arms like, ‘I try’.
“Damn right, she is.” Layla shuddered as Liz raised a thin eyebrow at her in dark anticipation. “Oh, you don’t want to see me when I’m really trying--”
Her eyes widened as she focused on the person behind me. “Faith!”
“Hey, Liz.” Faith greeted quietly, stepping towards her old friend. “Long time no see.”
Liz shook her head and grinned. “No kidding.”
Layla looked between the two of them as if trying to figure out some weird puzzle.
“Wait.” She held up her hands. “Faith? As in Faith Lin from a few years ago?”
Faith looked up at her defensively, one hand on the hilt of her sword as if it would protect her. “That’s right.”
“You go here now?”
“It appears so.” Even Layla couldn’t miss the distinct sarcasm in her tone.
“So that little private school not good enough for you?” She said with pursed purple lips.
I wanted to tell her to shut up. This was so not a good time for her to show off her natural rudeness. Faith looked like she was going to gut her with her sword any second. I knew she was uncomfortable talking about her old school, and now Layla was just being a bitch about bringing it up like that.
“Layla.” I said, trying to stay calm. “Why don’t you--”
“Shut up.” Liz said bluntly to her. “How about you stick to things you understand?”
Layla recoiled at Liz’s statement. She tossed her long hair. “Then how about you, Elizabeth, go and find yourself a new--”
“Whoa, OK, guys.” Willow looked between the two of them, uneasy. “Just chill.”
“Yeah,” Crystal chimed in. “There’s no need to be like this. Faith is here now, and there’s no need to have to ask any awkward questions.”
She smiled warmly at Faith, extending her hand. “I’m Crystal. It’s nice to meet you.”
“Faith Lin,” Faith said quietly, looking relieved that at least someone was making an effort to be friendly. “Nice to meet you too.”
“And I’m Willow.” Willow jumped in. “Don’t worry about these two--” She gestured at Liz and Layla who had since turned moodily away from one another. She sighed. “They’re always fighting anyway.”
“That’s healthy,” Faith commented, getting a short, surprised laugh out of both Crystal and Willow. Even Liz cracked a smile, but Layla just rolled her eyes like the stubborn cheerleader she was. “Yeah, OK. Are we going to go in anytime soon?”
“Of course, your Majesty.” I mock-curtsied in front of her. “And if the rest of us fall down in your shadow, it will be for good reason.”
“Watch it, Luce.” She warned, but it was more playful than spiteful. “Otherwise you’re going to find yourself stuck in Kansas forever.”
I rolled my eyes. “She wanted to go back to Kansas, Beauty Queen. That was kind of the whole point of the movie.”
“Did she?” She wrinkled her nose. “Can’t imagine why she’d go back to someplace so dull and gray after being in someplace like Oz--”
We headed in through the entrance, where tons of other students were pretty unrecognizable in their various costumes, some bright-coloured, some dark, in all different kinds of outfits. I waved to a few people I could just barely recognize, and they greeted me back. The overall noise was almost deafening and Halloween-themed music played loudly over the speakers. “Where should we go first?” I yelled.
“Doesn’t matter,” Willow shouted back evenly.
I turned to Crystal, who nodded her agreement.
“Let’s try the Haunted Maze first!” Liz suggested, with a rather evil smile. “I heard it’s going to be way better this year.”
Faith put her hand on her sword. “Do we have to?” She muttered.
I put my hand over hers. “Why?”
Her dark eyes betrayed her nervousness.
I grabbed her hand tightly. “Don’t worry.” I promised. “I’ll be right in front of you.”
“Promise.” And with that, I tugged her towards the maze entrance. “This is gonna be fun!”
“You are a literal 8 year old,” She complained, as the rest of the group followed.
The moment we entered I knew letting go of Faith’s hand was a mistake. The door shut behind us and we were now at the mercy of whoever had been assigned to hide around corners and scare the shit out of people like us. I stood in front of Faith, as promised, and warded off the first few jump-scares from teachers and students dressed up as monsters.
It wasn’t long before we got split up, which I would later say was totally Crystal’s fault for saying we should go right and ending up going left like the directional-clueless person she was. Before I knew it, I was chasing only reflections, and another ten minutes later, I was alone.
My adrenaline kicked in, and I began sprinting around the maze, trying to find Faith.
Crap. I hoped she was going to be OK without me acting as her personal bodyguard.
Then again, she was the one with the weapon. Foam or otherwise, she could probably take care of herself.
“Faith!” I called, trailing my fingers along the glass, but none of the running images were actually her. The music inside the maze was starting to really creep me out--not that I would ever admit that to anyone. Ever.
Just as I turned the corner--
I jumped about a foot in the air and realized I was the one who screamed. I recognized Willow’s voice cursing, and followed it along until I found an opening.
Willow was sitting on the ground, rubbing her forehead while Crystal giggled and Liz crossed her arms, smiling crookedly.
“You OK?” I bent down to help her up.
“Yeah.” She winced.
“Did you hear that noise back there?” I asked the other girls. “It scared the crap out of me--”
“That was Willow,” Liz informed me, smirking.
I was confused. “Wait, what? It wasn’t an actual jump scare?”
“Nope.” Willow rolled her eyes in embarrassment. “I ran into my own reflection.”
I couldn’t help cracking up, and soon all of us were laughing our heads off, even Willow.
“Where’s Layla?” I asked eventually.
Liz rolled her eyes. “She found a cute zombie to hang around with, and ditched.”
I sighed, but I really wasn’t surprised. “Figures.”
“At least she knows her own priorities.” Willow noted.
“Faith?” Liz raised an eyebrow at me. I shook my head, glaring pointedly at Crystal for her screw-up with the directions earlier. She scratched her head sheepishly. “Yeah...might be better in the future not to ask me for directions.”
We started to pick our way through the maze again, which was much bigger than I first thought. The Student Council had really outdone themselves this year, going all out with decorations and expenses. I tried to remember the way from the beginning...but I’d been more interested in our missing group member than the maze itself for the time being.
Liz kept making the most grotesque faces she was capable of in the mirrors as we passed by, which kept her entertained for the most part, but still creeped the hell out of the rest of us, which only made her laugh harder.
We didn’t find Faith until we were almost out.
She had apparently gotten over her fear of the Haunted Maze, and posed in front of one of the trick mirrors as we were coming out, dim light flickering over her dark form and pure white mask making it look like she had no eyes or face, only blank black holes.
I jumped half a foot, realized who it was, and cursed her all the way out of the maze while she laughed.
We were definitely more awake by the time we went into the Haunted House. The lines were shorter because more people had decided to go home, but that seemed to tell the actors to be that much more intense on the remaining victims, which Faith did not appreciate.
I continued to stay in front of her this time, and she refused to let me out of her sight for even a second.
Even when I told her when something was going to happen, I think it made it worse for her, because she would tense up, scream even louder, grab me from behind like a telephone pole, and begged me to get her the hell out of there when the scary thing actually happened.
The rest of our friends went in first, so they were already waiting for us as we came out, Faith trembling and waving her sword around weakly like trying to ward off demons.
I patted her head and told her it was OK, and that the monsters wouldn’t dare come near her if they didn’t want me to whack them to death with my basket.
She calmed down a little after that.
The last thing we did was the Graveyard, and after expending all that energy screaming in the Haunted House, I thought Faith was going to keel over and pass out between the fake gravestones just like that. After a moment’s hesitation, I asked if she would like me to give her a piggy-back ride. She rolled her eyes and told me I was stupid if I thought she would ever let me do such a thing.
Five minutes later, to all-too-knowing smirks from Liz and Crystal and a slightly confused smile from Willow, I was carrying Faith into the Graveyard.
She jumped involuntarily every time at the sight of a zombie popping out from a tombstone, and we both almost fell over nearly 8 times in total.
One zombie grabbed Crystal’s arm, and she screamed two octaves higher than her normal voice, which was actually pretty impressive.
Another tried to latch on to Liz’s ankle, and I swear to God, she almost torpedo-kicked them in the face.
At the end, all of us were laughing and in good spirits, but Faith looked so tired, I offered to walk her home. She told me I didn’t have to, but I insisted, saying it was no problem at all.
It was quiet for most of the walk home. The wind had picked up a bit since before we had left, and now I was starting to feel it. Faith shivered as we walked down the dark street. I glanced over at her, concerned. “Are you OK?”
“Just cold.” She muttered.
I was disappointed to see that she seemed to be drawing into herself again. Like she didn’t want to be closer than we were now.
Like we were almost strangers.
“Here.” I wrapped my fleece jacket around her shoulders. She protested at first, but eventually gave in after I told her I didn’t want her getting sick anytime soon.
“Thanks.” She mumbled, the cold making her cheeks light up.
It was a longer walk than I remembered. Was it always this far? Maybe it was because it was so dark out. I had never been to Faith’s house before during the night.
Faith seemed to be lost in thought, staring out at the distant sky.
I still wanted to have that talk, the talk we should have had when we first met again.
I wanted to stop being so confused about all this.
Were we friends? Were we not? Were we...even more?
Now was as good a time as any to finally find out.
I opened my mouth to speak, but before I could, Faith said, “Thank you, Lucy. For tonight. It was a lot of fun.” “You’re welcome,” I responded quickly. “I’m glad you enjoyed it. You didn’t seem like you wanted to come before.” She shrugged. “I guess I’m not…” She looked down, pulling the jacket a little tighter. I resisted the urge to put my arms around her to warm her up.
“...Not really a people person, is all.”
“I don’t care.” I said, before I knew what I was saying. I stopped walking.
She turned back to look at me, startled. “Lucy, what--?”
“I mean, I don’t care if you’re good with people or not. I like you the way you are, Faith. I just thought you should know.”
She chuckled dryly, and it was hard to see her expression underneath her mask.
“Which is why it hurt that you never bothered to keep in touch.” I continued bluntly.
There. I said it.
She looked up at me, eyes widening. “Lucy, I--”
“I know you may not want to talk about this,” I said, my heart pounding. “But I need to understand.”
“You could never understand.” She shook her head, a little sadly.
“Try me.” I challenged her. She looked down at the ground, hands fidgeting desperately with her sword. I sighed, running a hand through my hair. “Look,” I began. “The last time we saw each other...you kissed me.”
She might have been shaking her head, but all I could hear was my frantic heartbeat.
“I know you thought I might...hate you for it, and so you ran off.”
“Didn’t you, though?” She whispered, and I hated how certain she sounded.
“No.” I shook my head firmly. “I never would hate you or distrust you because of something like that. We were both emotional, and it happened. You were going through a rough time.”
She chuckled again, and I never heard such a sad sound. “So?”
“So,” I said. “So, I don’t care about that. What mattered is that you never talked to me again after that, and you know it. I want to know why.”
She sighed, a long exhale. “Lucy...it’s like you said. I thought you hated it. I thought you hated me.”
“I could never--”
“But that’s what I thought at the time.” She looked back up at me, looking more tired than I had seen her in a long time. “I was too scared.”
“Of me?” I was surprised.
“Yes,” She might have rolled her eyes. “Yes, of course of you. You were one of the closest people in my life, and I was scared I’d ruined it for good.” She took a shaky, deep breath. “So...that’s why. I didn’t think you wanted to talk to me anymore. I didn’t want to face you again after that.” Her voice broke on the end, and I saw a tear slide down her face.
“...I see.” I whispered at last.
She looked back up at me. “Y-you do?”
She was crying again. I hated to see her cry. I approached her, and reached out.
She let out a muffled sound of surprise as I hugged her. “I don’t care about that,” I murmured, as she rested her head on my shoulder. “I missed you.”
“I...I missed you too.” She breathed back.
“But I’m glad you’re here now.” I continued honestly. “Tonight, and these past few weeks has made me realize how happy I am you’re here. And I want us to be comfortable with each other. Do you think that’s possible?”
I waited. She took several shaky breaths as she thought. Finally, she whispered. “Yes. I think...I think I would like that.”
“So we’re good?” I dared to ask.
“We’re good.” She whispered back, and finally, I felt like something, no matter how small, had been resolved at last.