It’s the first Friday of the month. Time for another installment of short fiction. You can, at any time, find this work or any of the First Friday Fiction Features (#FFFF), by going to the My Work tab, clicking on Freebies, and selecting the story you wish to read.
Remember that 2014 is the year I’m trying serial work. This is part 10 of 12.
Laci and Del: Hallow-Why-Me?
The first thing Laci did when the cast came off was recoil in horror that anyone would see her with that much hair on her leg. Calling it stubble was like calling the Grand Canyon a small valley. That was full blown hair. Braid-able hair.
Then she didn’t care. She could finally scratch all the itches she’d suffered through for eight weeks. It was pure heaven. Until the itching was gone and she was back to sasquatch-city. She yanked her pant leg down, checked out of the office, and went straight home to shave.
That was pure heaven.
With newly silken legs and unencumbered foot, she was finally able to try on her Halloween costume. One of Del’s coworkers was throwing a movie-themed party, and they decided to go as Sandy and Danny from Grease. She felt kind of foolish in the blonde wig. Some brunettes could pull off blonde, but she definitely wasn’t one of them. And the curls! But it suited the costume. And boy was she delighted to see that the pants fit.
Well, if you want to call skin-tight fitting.
She had been looking forward to this party for weeks. Tensions between her and Del had been getting worse; their relationship had grown quite strained. They’d spent less and less time together, and when they were alone, they never discussed the job-shaped elephant in the room. Every time one of them brought up the subject, the other changed the topic or found a reason to leave. It seemed neither was really ready to have that discussion.
On Halloween, she didn’t have to be Laci. She got to be Sandy, and stepping into someone else’s shoes for the night sounded wonderful.
Even if those shoes were red, high-heeled, open-toe pumps on a wooden platform.
She briefly wondered if her broken bone was ready for that kind of torture, then proceeded to practice walking in them. They kind of hurt her feet, but she was used to street shoes. One night wouldn’t kill her.
Laci took her time getting ready, and was just smearing on lip gloss when the doorbell rang. She rushed through her apartment, only rolling her ankle once, and flung open the door.
Del was a knockout, dressed all in black, right down to his shoes. Except for the signature white socks. He even had something rolled in his sleeve to look like a pack of cigarettes, and he held a leather jacket over his shoulder. His hair was greased back into a ducktail and a few locks flopped forward onto his forehead in a similar curled fashion to how Travolta wore his. Laci harbored a not-so-secret love affair with the movie and a slightly more secret crush on Danny Zuko, so it was no wonder her heart fluttered when she opened her door.
Del was even sexier than Danny.
He looked her over and smiled.
She said, “Tell me about it, stud.” And they left for the party.
Joe’s apartment was in the South Side, and the subway ride there garnered them some strange looks. But Laci didn’t think anything could dim her spirits. Her cast was off, she was with her gorgeous boyfriend, and she was going to a party. A few strange looks were nothing. Most people just smiled or ignored them, anyway.
When they finally arrived, she headed straight for the bar, stopping only briefly to say hello to a few acquaintances. She didn’t know many of the people Del worked with, but she’d know them all better once she had a drink and started chatting with them. She was through with her first beer when she noticed the karaoke machine in the living room. She had finished the second when people starting singing duets. Most were cringe-worthy, but that was the fun of it. Snacking on pretzels and making small talk with Abby, Del’s secretary, she was startled to see someone dragging Del to the microphone.
Abby said, “Don’t make me drag you, too. Just go.” And she nodded toward the living room.
“Someone signed you and Del up to sing, and looking at the screen, I can see why.”
Laci glanced at the TV screen, where the lyrics were displayed for everyone to see. They were expected to sing “Summer Nights.” She laughed, slid off her stool, and tottered toward the living room.
Del was still trying to get out of it, but someone started the music and he shrugged and started singing.
Laci joined in and had a blast. She loved every song in Grease, and seeing Del singing to her dressed like that made her whole month.
Until she started paying attention to the words.
By the end of the song, she was trying so hard not to burst into tears that she barely made a sound. Luckily Danny’s voice was stronger than Sandy’s, and Del overpowering her just seemed like part of the performance.
Everyone broke into applause and called for a second song, but Laci was a wreck. While Del got stuck singing “Greased Lightning,” she maneuvered as carefully as she could through the throng of people and stepped onto the patio for some fresh—if not freezing—air.
Del’s boss was just stubbing out a cigarette butt and nodded his greeting to her. “That was some performance.”
“Oh.” What did one say to a comment like that, anyway? “You could hear us from out here?”
“Can’t you hear Del?”
She stood and listened to the noises around her. In addition to the cars and some occasional raucous laughter from the pub-crawlers down the street, she could hear Del singing. “Yes, I suppose so.”
He lit another cigarette and took a long drag, the end glowing bright orange in the darkness of the patio. “You know, I thought Del would be in California by now.”
Laci didn’t answer. She kind of thought, on some level, that Del would have left already, too.
“He could do great things out there. It’s the next logical step in his career. He’s already a year behind.”
She could feel her cheeks burn. “No one’s stopping him.”
He tipped his head up and blew a stream of smoke into the dark sky. It hovered for a second like a specter, then dissipated into the night. “Oh, someone’s stopping him. Just like that same someone did the last time.”
She looked at her feet and suppressed a shiver. “I never told him not to go.”
“You never told him to go, either. I don’t know what you’re playing at, but this is a man’s career at stake.”
“You aren’t worried about Del. You’re worried about your company.”
“The two aren’t mutually exclusive, Laci.” He stubbed out his cigarette and headed for the door. He nodded at Del who was just stepping outside, and made his way back to the party.
Del walked over to Laci and put his leather jacket around her. “I wondered where you ran off to. There was a request for “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” but you were already gone.”
“I couldn’t have sung that right now if I tried.”
He scoffed. “You probably know that song better than Olivia Newton John. Of course you could.”
She shook her head and swallowed past the lump in her throat. “No. Not tonight.”
She knew he knew what was wrong, but this time she wasn’t going to let him change the topic. “Del, we have to talk.”
“Not here. Let’s just go inside and get something to eat.”
Her fairytale was over. Clock struck midnight, carriage a pumpkin, clothes back to rags. There was no escaping her life. Costume or not, she was still Laci and he was still Del. And no matter how much she wanted it all, she wasn’t being asked to try on that glass slipper.
“I’m not doing this here, Laci. And I’m not doing it now.”
“Then I will. I can’t keep seeing you. Not when there’s so much involved, and so much unresolved.”
“So we’ll resolve it. Later.”
“I’m resolving it now. Your company needs you. And California is something you want. I can’t stand in the way of that. Certainly not twice.”
“If that’s really how you feel, then come with me.”
“I can’t. I tried before. I can’t. I love it here. This is my home. This is where my family is.”
“And you can’t leave all that to be with me?”
She shook her head, and the tears ran down her face. “It’s just too much.”
“Then I’ll stay. For you.”
“And resent me for it five years from now, when we’re married and have kids?”
“You think about that?” he asked.
“Marrying me. Having kids.”
“Of course I do. I love you. I’ve loved you for years.”
“Then I’m staying. I want that, too.”
“I love you too much to ruin your life like that,” she said, then gave him his jacket. “Please, don’t follow me. I can’t keep arguing with you.”
She heard him calling her as she wove through the crowd and out the door. On her way to the subway, she thought she heard him behind her, but it was just someone in a clown costume. Creepy, but not as scary for her to face as Del would have been at that moment.
She managed not to cry until she opened her apartment door and slunk to the floor. She kicked of those wicked shoes and thought about Sandy and Danny, Cinderella and her prince.
Why didn’t she get a happily-ever-after?