October 2002 - Burn the Witch
Hansel and Gretel finally pushed the evil witch into the big oven and latched the iron door. From inside, the witch's pitiful cries could be heard, but the two children did not show any mercy. They took more gingerbread from the house and traipsed towards the back of the stage where they disappeared behind the curtain.
The audience, mostly parents, applauded good-naturedly while the students of Edna Monrose Junior High School came to the front of the stage and bowed. Of course, Hansel and Gretel were the main characters and they were played by Zach Adams and Julia Monrose, the kids of two prominent local families who contributed heavily to the school. Both kids received their applause, but when Emily Brewer who had played the witch stepped forward, the clapping went up one notch. Emily, with her copper-red hair, her green eyes, and her pointy nose was perfect for the role, and she had played it with enthusiasm and considerable acting talent. She was one of the cutest girls in the class and certainly the smartest. She bowed one more time, beaming with pride, before she stepped back to where Mrs. Monrose already fussed over her precious daughter.
Mrs. Monrose looked at Emily with a smirk. "You did quite a good witch, Emily," she stated regally. "Then again, with that nose, what else can you play?"
Emily could only stand and stare at the woman.
"What? Did nobody ever tell you?"
There was a mirror to the side of the stage entrance for the performers to check their costumes, and Emily looked at herself. A long, thin nose with a bump was all she could see. Tears welled up in her eyes, and she fled the stage. Emily could already imagine how the next days would be like, with Julia Monrose repeating her mother's words ad nauseam. She wanted nothing more than to hide for the next weeks or even years.
In the following nights, lying in her narrow bed in the small bedroom that she shared with her two younger siblings, Emily racked her brain to come up with a solution. She knew about the possibilities of plastic surgery. Straightening or shortening a nose was no magic at all. Yet when she used the ancient computer in the community library to find out more about rhinoplasty, she quickly realized the folly of that idea.
Talk about sticker shock! Prices were in the range up to $ 8.000, and no surgeon would touch her before she was sixteen. Her father's health plan at the sawmill did not cover anything beyond basic health care, and her father was just a foreman with five mouths to feed. No way he could come up with that amount of money.
In the small West Virginia community where they lived, jobs for junior high school students were rare and they payed only pittances. There was no way for Emily to come up with the money for the rhinoplasty. The prospects were dim, too. Scotstown did not even have enough jobs for all the men, and women had an even harder time finding employment. Emily knew that her own mother was looking for ways to supplement her father's wages by sewing dresses for people. The sound of the sewing machine was a constant companion in the trailer where they lived. Yet, her mother earned barely enough to finance her own and her kids' clothing.
No, if Emily wanted her nose fixed, she had to get out of Scotstown, and there was only one way – finish school at the top and get a scholarship for college. Get a degree, get a job, earn money, and then find a topnotch plastic surgeon! In those days in November 2002, 13 year-old Emily Brewer committed herself to a plan.
October 31, 2006 - A Friend for Life
Emily Brewer was preparing herself for the annual Halloween party at Henry Monrose High School. She had spent more than a week to obtain the cloth she needed, to cut the patterns, and to sew her costume. Now she tried to judge her appearance in the smallish mirror in the shared bedroom. A smile spread over her face. The costume was picture-perfect.
In some way, Emily had taken the words of Mrs. Monrose to heart. If she was limited to playing the witch, she would play the witch. Every year so far, Emily had won the costume contest over Julia Monrose. Not even the tailor made princess costumes her mother had made in Raleigh could change that. Halloween was Emily's night, no matter how shy, how withdrawn, how bookish she was during the rest of the year.
Now for the piece de resistance! At a flea market two towns over, Emily had found Fido. Fido was a raven. A stuffed raven. Her father had fashioned a wire contraption to affix the stuffed bird on Emily's left shoulder, and tonight would be Fido's premiere. Grinning, Emily attached the wires to the lashes on the shoulder of her costume and studied her mirror image again. Yes! That ought to do it. Emily nodded to her image.
Her father drove her over to the gymnasium where the ball was held. Emily alighted from the truck and quickly ran over to the entrance. She had not many friends at school, but Marty Connolly was a kinda-sorta friend, or maybe he was just a fellow nerd. Predictably, he had a felt pen lightning on his forehead and was wearing horn-rimmed glasses. He was too tall and skinny to pull off a convincing Harry Potter, but Emily had not the heart to tell him. He looked like he was bursting with news.
"Hey, Marty! You look like you'll pop a stitch if you can't get it off your chest."
"Just heard it from Duke Holloway. Monrose Construction is going belly-up. Tucker Monrose filed for bankruptcy this afternoon."
"Oh shit!" Emily aid softly. That was the worst of news for Scotstown.
Tucker Monrose owned Monrose Plywood, Monrose Timber, and Monrose Construction in Scotstown, a business inherited from his father and grandfather. He was Scotstown's inofficial dictator providing more than half of the jobs and sixty percent of the town's tax income.
He was married to a woman from a good Virginia family, a real charm school-bred Southern Belle, and together they had ruled over the small town. Unfortunately, in the last winter, the good Tucker suffered the mishap of a small coronary while dipping his wick into another man's inkwell, namely the Reverend Calhoun's young wife. With the EMTs responding to the emergency call, the scandal became public within hours. Leonora Monrose immediately filed for divorce. She tried to take her husband to the cleaners, tried to drain him of all his assets, but it came out that there was not much to drain – Tucker Monrose was deeply in debt.
With his separated wife dragging him through the mud and with the medical troubles on top of it, the construction company lost a lot of work, and now it was crunch time. Emily felt a little guilty. Her father was safe for the time being. Monrose Timber was not in trouble. Other families would suffer badly, however, while Tucker and Leonora Monrose slugged it out in court and in public.
"That sucks, Marty," she said sympathetically. "What do you think? How many will be laid off?"
"Don't know. Jeez, it's time to graduate and shake the dust off our shoes." Like Emily, Marty wanted out of Scotstown right after graduation.
Just then, the door opened and Julia stepped in. Emily caught a glimpse of Leonora Monrose's car as it drove off, and there stood Julia. She was wearing a stupid princess costume again, but this year she did not show her trademark pearly-whities to her court of friends. She looked as if she had cried.
Emily and Julia had buried their hatchet two years before. Though Emily felt self-conscious in the presence of the picture-pretty blonde, she felt no animosity anymore. At one point during freshman year, both had sat in the bleachers during PE class both suffering from menstrual cramps. Julia had surprised Emily by apologizing for her mother's tactless taunt after that school play more than a year before. Emily had not thought that the blonde princess would even remember the incident, but apparently it had weighed on Julia's conscience ever since.
That afternoon, the two girls agreed on a nonaggression treaty. They were not friends as both moved in different circles. After all Emily's father was a mere foreman at Monrose Timber. Yet they never spoke bad of the other either, and one time, Julia had driven Emily to the hospital after her father had had a work site accident.
Julia saw Emily and Marty. "H-hey, Em. You ... you look great ... you always do ... I..."
Emily was a kindhearted girl and she sensed the state Julia was in. With an apologizing glance at Marty, she stepped up to Julia and wrapped the surprised blonde in a hug.
"I just heard, Julia. I'm so sorry. I can't imagine how you must feel."
"I-it's s-so t-terrible! Mom and D-dad have been fighting all day. She c-called him a d-disgrace and a ... Oh God, she was like a madwoman. S-she's going back to Virginia, imagine that! She leaving me behind. All because I asked her to back off and th-think of the workers and their f-families. Sh-she's ruining everybody, and sh-she doesn't even c-care! How c-can I look p-people in the eyes now?"
"Sshh! Julia, this isn't your fault," Emily soothed the sobbing girl. The she espied Frances Denham, one of Julia's friends, and she waved at her.
Frances came over reluctantly. "Hey Em. What's up with her?"
Emily rolled her eyes. "Didn't you hear?"
Frances shrugged. "It's not like the world will go under."
"To Julia, it feels that way," Emily returned. "Listen, can you look after her?"
"Shit, no! This is the Halloween Ball. I'm not going to babysit Julia all evening."
Emily's eyes narrowed into angry slits and her posture changed. It was Halloween, her night, and she would not take shit from nobody, least of all from Frances.
"Until yesterday, you were her friend," she snapped.
"Until yesterday, she was fun," Frances answered dismissively.
"Oh, boy! You really are a cold-hearted bitch," Emily shot back with venom.
"Mind your own business, hook nose!"
In a heartbeat, Julia was on her feet. Her eyes were still wet with tears, but her voice belied her unhappiness. "You fucking bitch! Get lost and don't show your fat ass anywhere near our house again! We're through. And tell your mother that I'll rather join a convent before I'll marry your stupid brother! Scram!"
Frances mumbled a few things, but she did not dare to face down her former friend. In the end she turned and left Emily and Julia alone.
Julia nodded sadly. "Yeah, well, she was never a good friend, just some leech I tolerated out of stupidity. That's over for sure."
For the next hour, the two girls sat and talked, and slowly, Julia calmed down. Emily even talked her into dancing with a boy, and she accepted invitations herself. This was her night after all. Her nose did not matter this night. She danced and talked urgently to each of the boys. Some protested, some were reluctant, but most of them agreed to follow Emily's wish.
A little before midnight, the polling began for the best costumes. Emily sat with Julia who was suddenly a little sad again. She forced a weak smile on her lips though.
"Better get prepared, Em! Your moment is about to come."
Emily just smiled back at the girl, feeling for once self-assured. "Who knows? There are some neat costumes tonight."
"But yours is the best, Em! It always is, but this year ... You're just wonderful!" Julia blurted.
"We'll see," Emily answered serenely.
Then, when Mr. Hicks, the principal, announced that the prize for the best female costume went to Julia Monrose, she smiled with satisfaction.
Julia cried all the way to the podium, all the time on the podium, and all the way back to their table. She cried when she hugged Emily.
"You are a wonderful person, Em!" she managed to say.
Emily just smiled while holding her new friend tight.
Normally, after the rush of Halloween night left Emily, her life returned to normal. This time, it was different. There was no school on the next morning, but at eleven o'clock, Julia Monrose drove up at the Brewers' trailer. The Brewers lived on their own little patch of land, and they owned the trailer, but it was still a part of Scotstown where one rarely sees a European sportscar.
Emily's mother was raking leaves when the unexpected guest arrived and she was a little worried at first. "Good morning, Miss Monrose," she offered. Julia was still the daughter of her husband's boss.
"Good morning, Mrs. Brewer. Is Emily still sleeping?"
"No, she's up and working on her college application. Why don't you go in and see her?"
"Thank you, I'll do just that," Julia answered politely.
She found Emily at the table in the main room of the trailer surrounded by application forms. "Hey, Em! Busy?"
Emily nodded shyly. Halloween was over, and Emily was back to being the wallflower. "I ... I'm working on the financial support papers. I may have to apply for student loans."
"Where do you plan on going anyway?" Julia asked.
"M-Marshall," Emily answered shyly.
"For real? I'm also going to Marshall! How great is that!" Julia gushed. "We could be roomies."
Emily's eyes bugged a little. "You'd want me as your roomy?"
For an answer, Julia stood close and hugged the sitting Emily. "After last night? Emily, you'd be my dream roomy. You're pretty, you're crazy smart, and you're a good person. Oh, wait! Would you want me at all?"
"I'd love to," Emily almost whispered. Pretty?
October 31, 2007 - Getting Screwed
With the Wednesday classes finished, Emily Brewer returned to Commons where she roomed with her best friend Julia Monrose. They were both freshmen at Marshall after graduating from Henry Monrose High School in June.
They had vastly different backgrounds. Julia was the scion of a family that had de facto ruled their hometown, Scotstown, for over a hundred years. Her mother was a Southern Belle, her father employed most adults in the town. By contrast, Emily was a rube, the daughter of a sawmill foreman. Her parents were hardworking people, but money was tight, and there were two siblings to feed and clothe. Julia had a trust fund from her grandfather that paid for her education, while Emily had worked hard to earn a full scholarship. Yet and undeniably, they were best friends.
She found Julia sitting on her bed and drying her glorious blonde mane.
"Hey, Jules! Why are you even blow-drying your hair?" Julia would wear a skintight catwoman costume to the Halloween party this evening, complete with black hood. Her hair would be plastered to her head in no time.
"I'm vain, what can I do?" Julia laughed back. "Go hop into the shower, girl. We need to get going!"
They planned to attend a Halloween party at Commons organized by the students council. It would also be the first anniversary of their friendship. Not that they had became lovers. Neither of them felt the inclination to go beyond hugging. Yet, it felt good for both of them to have each other. With her family in ruins for all practical purposes, Julia relied on Emily for emotional support. On the other hand, Emily learned many social graces from Julia.
Oh well, Emily mused, almost four years to go for a college degree, another year or two of work, and she could be pretty, too. Just $8,000 for a rhinoplasty.
Even so, Emily planned to have fun this night. It was Halloween, her night. She dumped her bag and stripped quickly. Wearing panties and bra only, she opened the bathroom door and slipped in. Thank God for a neat roomy! Julia had showered before her, but the shower stall was free of hairs and soap residue. Emily quickly shed panties and bra and stepped under the shower.
An hour later, after a few hasty bites to eat, the two girls walked the short distance to the dinner hall. They were early. The music had not even started yet and they laughed about their lack of cool. What could they do? They were freshmen after all and they were supposed to be a little dorky.
The dinner hall filled slowly, and a junior by the name of Walt Mason took over the DJ duties. At first Emily and Julia danced together. Few other people shared the dance floor, and they were quite a sight. Catwoman and Madam Mimh swaying in harmony quickly attracted a group of solo guys who tried to show off their moves. Grinning at each other, Julia and Emily left the dance floor and returned to their table. They found the free seats had been taken by two guys, and a third chair was blocked by a purse. One guy was dressed as Batman, while the other was clearly uncomfortable wearing a pirate costume. Captain Hook was easy on Emily's eyes though. He had brown eyes and straight black hair tied back in a pony tail. His nose was narrow and straight, not too long, and his smiling lips revealed a set of movie star quality teeth. Emily sighed involuntarily.
Meanwhile, Batman was already focussing on Catwoman. "Hey, you look cool. You want I show you my cave?" The line was delivered with an outrageous grin, a grin that revealed two missing incisors.
"Been tangling with the Joker?" Julia shot back with a grin.
Batman self-consciously touched his front teeth. "No, more like an evil linebacker. It's hard to get on the team, and those damn implants will take another month or more."
"So, your playing football?" Julia asked, while Emily's attention shifted back to Captain Hook.
"You're playing, too?" she asked, just to say something.
"No, God forbid! I'm too lazy," the pirate laughed easily. "One jock per room is enough. And that crow is just too cool!"
"It's a raven," Emily corrected him with a sniff. "Its name is Fido."
"Pleased to meet you, Fido," Captain Hook grinned. "I'm Tyler, Tyler Ambrose."
"Emily Brewer. You're a freshman, right?"
"Yep. I saw you at orientation. You're kinda hard to overlook with that hair."
Yes, Halloween was her night! This night, she could forget about her nose. It was her night, her power, and – please, pretty please! – her guy for the night. For Emily was desperate to finally get her cherry picked, now that she was a hundred miles from home. Tyler just seemed like the perfect picker. She tossed back her hair.
"I did not see you. Where are you from?"
"Raleigh," he answered.
"Big city boy, huh?"
"Yeah, my father has a job there. He's a bank manager. You?"
"I'm from Scotstown. It's a small town, mostly timber and plywood industries. Marshall offered me a free ride, and so here I am."
"Full academic, wow! So you're not just gorgeous, you're a genius too."
She gave him a cuff. "I'm not gorgeous, and I know it."
"But you are! You..."
He stopped and looked up sheepishly. Emily looked up too, and into the angry face of another girl. This one was tall, with big boobs, but not particularly long legs. To Emily she did not look very pretty, but that could have been the angry scowl.
"Gorgeous, huh?" she asked snidely looking Emily over. A cruel smile appeared, but before the remark about Emily's nose could be uttered, Tyler found his voice.
"Emily, this is Penny, Penny Edwards. She's my girlfriend."
"Hey, Penny," Emily offered, trying to be conciliatory. "I didn't know that Tyler wasn't alone here. Sorry."
"Well, he isn't. And even if he were, he wouldn't waste his time with some rube. Good God, don't they have plastic surgeons where you come from?"
"Hey, that's not..." Tyler started, deeply embarrassed, but he did not have a chance to finish. Julia shot up from her chair so fast it toppled over.
"Listen, you bitch!" she snarled. "I'll count to three and if you're still here, you're gonna need a plastic surgeon yourself! Take your cheap hair extensions and your bolt-on tits and beat it!"
"Why, you tramp!" Penny started, but Tyler was up now, and he pulled her away from the table.
"I'm sorry for the mess I caused," he said over his shoulder. "Really sorry."
Batman stayed back. "God, what a nasty piece of work she is!" he exclaimed. "You're lucky you've only met her tonight. Me, I have to deal with her whenever she shows up at our room to gripe about some stuff."
"I'm gonna pull her hair out!" Julia steamed. "Em, she was just being nasty. You really look gorgeous, doesn't she, Tom?"
"You're the cutest witch I've seen in my life," Tom smiled at her showing his missing teeth again. "Don't let Penny get to you. She's just jealous and her bitchy self."
Emily shook herself to get control of herself again. The evening was ruined for her.
"I'm okay," she lied. "Let me go to the bathroom for a moment."
She left the table and walked aimlessly around the gymnasium. Suddenly, this was not her night anymore. She contemplated to leave and turn in early. Just sleep and try to forget this.
"Hey, baby! Where have you been all my life," a voice close to her ear sounded, and she almost jumped out of her skin.
It was a guy. He was not half bad looking, no scratch that – he looked great. Blonde hair in a crew cut, a button nose, and a square chin. He was wearing a tennis outfit, Adidas, no less, and for a moment, Emily asked herself the reason for this peculiar "costume". He wore a chunky wristwatch on his well tanned wrist. A Rolex Emily saw. Money, probably a trust fund kid, and a bit of a poser too. She shrugged.
"In Scotstown," she replied.
"You're a freshman, right?"
Emily nodded. "Yeah. Why?"
"Because I never saw you before, and I would have noticed if I had," the guy answered suavely. One of his pals at the table snorted.
"Hey, why don't you sit with us for a minute or two. We're juniors, and we've got some real stuff to drink."
Emily shrugged. It would beat going back to her room. She sat down beside the "tennis pro" and faced him.
"Brent. Here, have a glass of the good stuff."
Emily had only very limited drinking experience, and she did not register the vodka in the juice Brent offered. She took a sip and liked it. She took another sip. Okay, maybe this could still be a fun night.
Emily woke on the next morning with a bad taste in her mouth and a bad headache. She also had a feeling of discomfort between her legs. She opened her eyes. Okay, she was in her room. Across from her, Julia was snoring softly in her bed, her blonde hair fanned out like a golden halo on the pillow. Emily looked down at herself. Her pajama was put on haphazardly with the top buttoned wrongly. Carefully, she swung her legs out from under the cover and tried to stand. Dizzy! She sat for a minute and tried again. A little better.
Suppressing the sick feeling in her stomach, she staggered into the bathroom and switched on the lights. Her makeup was smeared all over her face, and her hair looked caked on the left side. She lifted her hand and tried to feel the texture of the caked hair. It was sticky. With sudden urgency, she reached down with her hand and under her pajama bottoms. When her hand came up again, she saw traces of blood mixed with a sticky white goo.
Nausea welled up, and she had barely the time to bend over the toilet before her stomach heaved up its contents. She was shivering by the time it was empty, and she quickly stripped her pajama and cranked on the shower. She stopped. Hot water would be a bad idea for her caked hair. Better rinse it first with lukewarm water. She bent over the sink and doused water over the left side of her head with her hands. It took some time, but then the stickiness washed off. Still shivering, she stepped under the hot shower.
Standing there under the pelting droplets, she tried to remember the last night. Tyler and his bitch of a girlfriend. Herself wandering around afterwards until this guy – yes, Brent! – talked her into sitting at his table. The orange juice had tasted well, too well, and she became a little loose. Then other memories flashed before her eyes. She in a car, a BMW, in the backseat, her skirt bunched up around her hips and Brent between her legs. The stinging pain when her hymen burst, and shortly after that, Brent's grunting and humping. The next memory was of Brent helping her upstairs, even unlocking the door for her. She leaning against him while he stripped her awkwardly. He must have helped her into the pajama, too.
Emily exhaled and relaxed. Brent had dropped her off at her room and looked after her. That was nice of him, right? He must be rich, and he was good looking. A junior, too. Perhaps she could see him again later, perhaps at lunch?
Emily finished her shower and rubbed herself dry. She felt better already. If only she could remember the sex! This was a bit disappointing after all the hoopla. Then again, Brent would not be averse to a little repeat performance with a sober Emily, would he?
Two hours later, Emily and Julia walked over to the cafeteria. Julia was a little bit hungover, too. She, too, had gotten lucky the night before, with Tom the football player, and she'd only gotten back to their room in the wee hours. According to her, Tom was a good guy and a gentle lover in spite of his rugged appearance. She would see him again later.
Emily told her friend only little about her nightly escapades. She wanted to see and speak to Brent first before she made any announcements. She only told Julia that she had spent the rest of the evening with a good looking junior.
They were standing in the food line when Emily heard voices from behind the partition between the food line and the tables.
"Freshmen are the best!" a guy claimed. "Hey, Brent, how did it go with that redhead?"
Emily cringed when she heard Brent's voice. "What do you think? Nailed her in the backseat. She was still cherry, would you believe it! Thank God I opted for leather seats. God, it was messy."
"You're the man! Jeez, but that nose! Didn't she poke your eyes out?"
Laughter rose at that table and Emily felt her sickness well up again.
Brent laughed smugly. "Man I simply pulled her skirt up over her head. From the neck down there was nothing to complain. A little small around the tits, but man, her nipples are something else."
"Still, that nose!" somebody protested.
"Shaddup, Markinson! I still shudder when I think of the ugly broad you nailed last year. At least, little Emily didn't give me the clap."
"Think she'll remember?"
"Ugh! I hope not. I mean, she was really out of it. Well, I'll just tell her that she must have mixed me up with someone."
"So, did you mark her?"
"Yep. Full facial and into her hair."
"Score, man! You have the pics?"
"Well, I most certainly do."
"Show them, show them," at least five guys chanted.
At this point, Emily was violently sick and trembling and almost paralyzed. Julia had heard the whole thing too, first with disgust, then with alarm, and finally with fury. She stormed around the partition.
"Hey, are you crazy? Gimme back my cell!" Emily heard Brent shout.
"Oh yeah? Make me!" Julia's challenge could be heard. "You wanna explain to the Provost how you have pornography on it? You wanna explain how you made a freshman drunk so you could fuck her? Be my guest, asshole!"
Silence followed Julia's last words, and she appeared around the partition and steered Emily out of the cafeteria.
"Oh, Emily, darling! I'm so sorry. What a stupid asshole!"
Emily walked beside her friend like a zombie.
"Em, I've got the cellphone. I'll delete everything, okay? Oh, darling, I'm so sorry that I left you alone!"
Emily shook herself to will away the sickness. "It was my fault. How could I be so stupid? Why would any guy want anything of me except to put something over my head and fuck me?"
"Em, how many time do I have to tell you..."
"It's no use, Jules. I know you mean well, but I have to face the facts. I've got to finish college, then earn enough money for a nose job. After that, I can find a guy. Before? No way. Not with this face fin!"
Julia was also crying now, but she also kept grumbling things in between. Back in their room, Julia made her friend some tea and persuaded her to lie down. With Emily in bed, Julia put on her coat and went out in search of her new friend, Tom.
A week later, Brent Thurgood III. ran into a smallish sophomore student named Elmer Hargrove while taking a corner. He was annoyed and he pushed the little runt into the wall. Turning, Thurgood suddenly found himself face to face with six pissed-off looking varsity players.
"Hey, shithead! Why'd you push our kicker around?" Mr. Tom Carruther, offensive lineman, asked belligerently.
Brent Thurgood barely had the time to think 'Oh, fuck!' before Tom and one of the linebackers did tackle practice with him in the middle. Lying on his back in pain, he heard the angry whisper in his ear.
"You touch Emily one more time, and you won't get up again after we're finished with you, asshat!"
Oh, shit! She must be that troll's girlfriend!
"I didn't do any..."
"Shut your mug! Remember: you touch her and I'll bury you!"
Right then, feeling the pain of his broken ribs, Mr. Brent Thurgood III. decided to pursue his further education in a healthier environment. He also decided to ask his future conquests whether they had six foot five boyfriends before he messed with them. It took him a few minutes to get on his feet and to stagger into the nurse's office. The nurse did not believe his story that he had run into a door, but she had him transported to the ER to get his ribs taped. Two weeks later, Thurgood transferred to WVU.
October 31, 2009 – No Pain
There he was again! Tall and trim, definitely not skinny, but not too muscled either. He wore his longish black hair in a pony tail again. The checkered woodchuck shirt was far too wide, and the blue jeans were a comfortable fit. Tyler Ambrose was definitely cool! Not to mention that he was smart too. He aced just about any test that came his way and Emily was pretty much the only person in the junior class to keep pace with him.
Only, Emily wasn't cool. Emily wasn't good looking. Emily had her hair in an unruly mop to make sure that it covered her face. If only her hair had not been so freakishly red! She stood out like a sore thumb with that copper top, always had. And the worst part was that even with that hair obscuring most of her face, her monster nose was still peeking through like a shark fin over choppy waves.
It was still her curse, that nose was. Long and thin and with a bump it ruined what could have been a pretty face. Almost two more years of college, and then a job! Her plan was still to save up enough money to pay for a decent nose job.
College should have been a fresh start. However, the Brent disaster had burned her badly. Emily had become a recluse afterwards, refusing any invitations and limiting her social contacts to a few female friends, the less-than-pretty ones, the ones with issues. She accepted that any real social life would only start after college, when she could finally afford the coveted downsizing of her beak. That was the goal, but when she looked towards the dais where Professor Merrill read Macro Economy, she could not help but notice Tyler Ambrose and imagine what it would be like to go out with him or with guys like him after her nose job.
They had spoken to each other a couple of times over the course of the last two years, and he had always been friendly. Oh well, he was just a good guy who tried to be nice to the ugly chicks. He was even nice to Martha Potts, and poor Martha looked like a beached whale on her good days. Emily made it a rule to brush him off. She did not need any further humiliations. Still, when she heard the rumors that he had been dumped last summer by that bitch Penny Edwards, her crush on Tyler was hard to control.
Finally, Merrill wrapped up his lecture. To her own surprise, Emily discovered that in spite of her fruitless daydreaming she had pretty much kept up with the material. He was a flashy lecturer who presented his material with enough flourish to keep the students awake. Still, she would not apply for his course. Rumors were he was a real jerk with his students. She dumped her notebook into the satchel bag and hurried towards the exit.
Emily turned around halfway and saw Julia, her closest friend and room mate. She caught up with Emily, a stunning girl with short blonde hair.
"Hey Jules!" Emily smiled, for once feeling comfortable. Julia was her rock.
"We're set to go trickin' and treatin' tonight, right?"
"I don't know," Emily hedged. She had skipped last year's Halloween activities completely after the disaster the year before.
"Oh, please! It's going to be fun. Come on! What can happen with Tom around?"
Julia was her best friend and frequently on the receiving end of Emily's nose-related rants. She did not ask much in return and Emily had not the heart to refuse her. She sighed. Going trick and treating had always been one of her favorite things. With her thin, long nose and her mop of red curls, she had been going as a witch for as long as she could think. It was one role where her face fin actually helped. Wearing a witch's costume made her comfortable. It was like having an excuse for her nose.
She shrugged at Julia and forced a smile on her lips. "Okay, I'll be along. Start at seven?"
"Tom will pick us up," Julia beamed.
Emily had a new costume that she had sewn at her mother's machine during summer break. It included a formfitting bodice accentuating her trim waist and a skirt that was wide and flowing. Instead of a high witch's hat she wore a violet headscarf over her red curls, and she had accented her eyes with black liner. She was more Brothers Grimm than Disney. When she inspected herself in the mirror she could see nothing amiss. Finally she fixed Fido who normally adorned her book shelf onto her shoulder.
Julia squealed with admiration when Emily presented herself.
"God, you look great!" she gushed. Julia herself was dressed as Catwoman again, and since she had a trim, catlike body, she pulled it off very well.
"Ready?" Emily laughed.
"Yeah, let's go. I heard some of the others are also out there tonight. We better get hopping before folks run out of treats."
As if on cue, Tom showed up. Ever since the fateful night in freshman year, Tom and Julia had been an item. With his front tooth implants in place, he was a good looking guy, if a bit on the gigantic side. He and Julia were an unlikely couple, but Emily knew how much her friend felt for Tom.
"Hey, gorgeous!" he greeted Catwoman before he gave Emily a hug. He was about the only male with whom Emily had any meaningful contact. "Listen, girls. I hope you won't mind, but I brought Tyler along. He's at loose ends."
"Well, as long as that bitch is not with him anymore..." Julia shrugged. Then she looked at Emily. "Are you okay with that?"
Suddenly very self-conscious, Emily nodded silently.
Tom had moved in with Tyler in his off-campus apartment after the split with Penny, but Tyler had kept his distance from Julia and Emily. Now he was waiting downstairs. He was wearing a very convincing "Professor Snape" outfit, his black hair hanging into his face. His eyes lighted up when he saw Emily, but he also seemed apprehensive.
"Thanks for taking me along, guys."
They took Tom's venerable Honda Accord for the drive to a housing neighborhood where they spent the next one and a half hours pestering the residents. Julia and Tom had a ball, but Emily was self-conscious around Tyler, and it seemed that Tyler was similarly insecure.
They all climbed into the Accord again for the drive back to campus and the Halloween party at Commons. It started at eight. The admission fee covered drinks, and as upper class students they were allowed to drink beer or wine. Emily had a glass of decent California Cabernet while Julia preferred beer. The girls made their rounds through the haphazardly decorated hall, greeting those whom they knew and recognized in their respective costumes.
Emily received much attention for her costume, and for once she felt like she was accepted and acceptable again. She even danced with a few guys, but she always drifted back to the table where Julia would wait with Tom and Tyler. She also drank more Cabernet than planned, just to do something while sitting there with Tyler at the table. After the third or so dance, when she returned to the table, Julia and Tom were still dancing. Emily sat down reluctantly opposite Tyler.
"Umh, Emily, I would really like to apologize to you," he said into the silence.
"For what?" Emily asked.
"I ... I guess I flirted with you back then. It made Penny mad, and you had to take her shit. I'm really sorry."
Emily shrugged. "It happened. I screwed up too, that night."
"Yeah, I heard some stories about Julia going apeshit on a bunch of juniors. Are you still mad at me?"
"M-mad at y-you? Why?"
"I don't know. I mean, you always look away when we meet, even in class."
Emily took a big gulp of wine to mask her confusion. "I guess I'm a bit shy," she offered.
"Why? You're gorgeous." He smiled. "I hope the Sorting Hat will place you in Slytherin."
Emily pointed at the raven on her shoulder. The red wine was getting to her. "That's a raven, and I plan to be a Ravenclaw!"
"Fits," Tyler smiled. "Will you give your old potions teacher a dance anyway?"
With a giggle, Emily agreed. That was uncharacteristic for her, and she sort of watched herself as she stood with Tyler. She felt a little awkward dancing with the stuffed bird on her shoulder, but she pulled it off. When they returned to the table, Batman and Catwoman were sitting close. Emily and Tyler settled down at the other end of the table, but Emily jumped up immediately to visit the bathroom. She really had to check her appearance. Once inside the ladies room, she realized her stupidity. What if Tyler took this the wrong way? She rushed through her make up, but when she returned to the table, he was indeed gone. Emily just slumped down on the chair and groaned. She had fucked up. For once, she'd had a chance to talk to Tyler, and then she did something stupid! 'Idiot!' she scolded herself.
"Hey, Em! What's the matter? You're upset or something?" There was Tyler, bless his heart, with two glasses of Cabernet. "I thought I'd get us fresh drinks?"
A great big brick dropped from Emily's soul. With her eyes still brimming, she beamed at Tyler.
"Gosh, I'm sorry! I thought that I'd given you a wrong signal or something, you know, running for the restroom without even saying a word."
"I just assumed you had to pee badly," Tyler grinned.
"Ladies don't have to pee," she informed him. "Ladies go to freshen up!"