(They thought that the skeleton was just one of those plastic ones, brought along by one of the party guests ... who knew that he'd invited himself to the party!)
"Penny! My darling ... good to see you again!" Greg declared extravagantly, as she opened the door to him.
"Hello Greg – I'm so glad that you could make it!" She smiled up sweetly at him, as she braced herself for his bone crushing hug, and he didn't even notice her lack of sincerity.
"Am I the last one to arrive?" he asked hopefully as he scooped her up and looked over the top of her head at the mass of people coming and going through her house.
"Pretty much." She mumbled into his chest, as she fought to breath.
"Sorry about that pet." He grinned a little smugly as his arms tightened around her a little more.
Penny stood it for as long as she could, but in the end the need to breath became her biggest goal, and so she began to struggle.
Greg's body pushed against her just that little bit more, and for a panic stricken moment she thought that he wasn't going to let her go.
Penny lifted a foot and kicked him sharply in the shin, and Greg gave a little grunt of pain and then stepped away from her.
"Sorry about that Greg, I didn't realise that your leg was so close to me!" she smiled falsely from a slightly flushed face.
Greg's blue eyes were shining a little brighter; and she realised with a sense of revulsion that he'd 'got off' from forcing her to squirm against him, as she fought to breath.
"Come inside Greg," she invited in her best hostess voice, even though it was a little more stilted that usual. "Help yourself to food and drinks, and I'm sure that you'll soon find someone that you know around here."
"Oh I'm certain that I will!" he grinned confidently.
'Don't be quite SO sure of yourself!' she muttered under her breath, knowing how most people who knew Greg did their best to avoid him!
"I say; what a terrific Halloween gimmick!" someone shouted suddenly, and Penny looked curiously to where they were pointing.
Right in the corner, almost totally hidden by the masses of coats that were piled there, was what looked like a long metal coat stand thing ... with a human skeleton hanging from it!"
"Well I wonder where he came from!" Penny exclaimed as she rolled the coat stand out on its wheels, so that she could get a better look.
"What? He's not yours? And how do you know he's a man?"
"I did anatomy in biology ... once ... way back when..." she mumbled as she eyed up her gate crasher.
Rachel, her work mate and very good friend came up behind her, and slung an arm across her shoulders. "Who's the dish?" she slurred with a grin.
"Gees Rache!" someone exclaimed. "Shouldn't you at least go for a guy with skin?"
Penny laughed. "Oh I don't know ... he was certainly a hunk ... you can tell that even without the skin. She reached up to stroke along the smooth, white bones of his shoulder. "I mean look how wide those shoulders are ... and that chest! And how long his legs are ... He must have been well over six foot in height..."
"Big feet too!" Rachel slurred approvingly.
There was a chorus of laughter, and Penny stepped back to look around questioningly.
"Okay guys it's time to 'fess up', who brought him?"
There was a general looking around enquiringly and everyone shook their heads and shrugged their shoulders blankly. "Sorry Penn I've no idea?" was the overall response.
Penny looked up speculatively at the gaping cavities that were eye sockets. "Oh well," she sighed. "I've got a party to host!"
The Halloween party was in full swing, and everyone had donned their scary masks, which had been the theme; 'dress casually but find a mask to terrify!'
Penny circulated, mixed, and chatted, and laughed with her guests, and had a merry old time of it ... except for that skeleton.
She didn't know who thought they were being clever, but every time she turned around, that skeleton was loitering by the wall, or lurking in a corner, or just near a door; but always he seemed to be looking towards her, as though he was following her around and watching her.
In the end it began to give her the 'willies'.
"Oh I've so had enough of him!" she snapped impatiently, as she marched over to him and grabbed a dangling wrist. "Come on you!" she muttered as she pulled him along with her.
She dragged him down her hallway and opened the door that led to the little cupboard under her stairs.
"In there with you!" she snapped as she swivelled him around and began to roll him into the little space.
There was just enough room for him and his coat stand, and Penny dropped his wrist so that it swung back, with a rattle and clink.
She moved back to close the door just as the arm swung back up and the wrist seemed to flick up at the last minute.
"Oh!" Penny cried out in surprise as she felt the sharp jagged bones, catch her arm and scratch the skin.
The arm dropped down again and she slammed the door too.
"Everything alright Penn?" someone asked from behind her.
She turned around putting her hand to her injured arm.
"Oh it's you Mark ... Yes I'm fine thanks ... just a little scratch.
Mark frowned at her arm. "You probably want to get a plaster or something on it though, to help stop the bleeding."
"I suppose that your right!" she smiled as she headed for the kitchen and her little first aid box.
Luckily for her there were several fully trained and qualified first aiders in the kitchen, all eager to show off their expertise; and so in no time at all her arm had been bathed with antiseptic ointment, and a brightly coloured patch now covered her wound, which only seemed to throb once in a while.
The party carried on, with the local 'trick or treaters' coming to the door, at very regular intervals; and before long Penny's goody bowl was empty, and she had to resort to giving cash – begged, borrowed, or pinched from any of her party goers, who happened to be on hand at the time.
The evening grew late, and her guests began to leave...
"A great party as usual Penn old girl," Greg the last to arrive and one of the last to leave, reached out to hug her, and Penny who had had enough by then stepped back.
"Thank you for coming Greg ... I'll not keep you since the hour is late."
He looked disappointed but he accepted her rejection easily enough.
"I'll see you next week at work then."
Rachel and a couple of the other girls, who she worked with; were the last to leave; and they were just shrugging into their coats, as she walked back into her home.
"Thanks for a great party Penny!" Rachel grinned at her. "We've tried to tidy up a little bit for you!"
Penny reached out to hug her. "Thanks Rache, but you didn't have to; I'll sort it in the morning, with a couple of large black bin bags!"
"That is the beauty of using disposable crockery and cups and stuff, it sure does cut down on the washing up!"
She saw them out to her gate, and was tiredly waving them off when Rachel turned suddenly when she was only half way down the road.
"What ever happened to our hunky friend?" she called out.
"What?" Penny called back confused.
"The skeleton darling – the skeleton!" Rachel laughed.
"Oh! I put him under the stairs!"
"Oh! You sneaky thing you! Trying to keep him all for yourself! Still you did throw a good bash – so I guess I can't begrudge you!"
"Night Rachel!" Penny laughed back at her.
"Night night love ... sweet dreams."
Penny was still smiling when she entered her home and began the business of making sure everything was locked up for the night.
Despite having said she would leave the clearing up until morning, she found her roll of bin bags and walked around scooping things up and dropping them into the sack.
It was a fairly straightforward process, and so it didn't take her too long to finish.
She opened her back door and switched on the outside light, and dumped her bulging sack into one of her bins.
"Brrrr!" she shivered as she came back inside and locked the back door. "Time for bed I think." She yawned as she switched off the kitchen light.
She was just about to walk up the stairs when a slight movement caught the corner of her eye, and she spun around in alarm.
The door under her stairs had swung open, and it was that which had caught her eye.
"Oh don't you start that again!" she snapped as she marched over and pulled the door the rest of the way open.
The skeleton was still hanging from his coat stand, exactly as she had left him; but where his bones had been bleached white before, now there seemed to be a faintly pink cast to them.
Penny peered sleepily behind the skeleton to the bright red blanket hanging up behind him.
"Must be that reflecting on you!" she yawned.
She looked up at the gaping holes of his eye sockets again and on a silly, half drunk, totally sleepy impulse, she reached up and kissed him on his cheek.
"Night night – you handsome devil – you!"
She pushed the door closed in his face and turned for the stairs.
She had actually made it to the first step when the creak of the door froze her.
She looked back over her shoulder, to see the door swing open, to reveal the light red skeleton rattling in the door way.
"Oh god!" Penny gasped in terror as she fell up a couple of the stairs to land heavily on her bottom.
.... There is more of this story ...