Anyway, here's what I've written today (this includes last night's midnight writing and today's exhausted, coming off of four hours of sleep and eight hours of work writing).
39127 / 43827 words. 89% done!
This would be the first Halloween since I was born that I have not had a costume. Do not think less of me. Usually I spend months thinking up and putting together a costume. It's the thing that gets me through school starting again and having to deal with classes and human interaction and all that stuff. But this year, I just didn't feel any motivation.
I don't know if you've noticed this, but the older you get, your candy haul dwindles. The more you look like an adult and less like an adorable little kid, the less likely people are willing to offer you their candy bowls. I even had a few people last year ask me if I was too old to be trick-or-treating. Is there a cut off age? How old is "too old"? Such a thing never occurred to me.
Anyway, that whole experience kind of soured the excitement of this year. So there I sat, Halloween Saturday, waiting for inspiration to hit me regarding how to handle the approaching evening, when my mother knocked on my bedroom door.
"Yeah?" I called.
"May I come in?"
She opened my door and I looked up from the nothing I was doing to occupy my spinning brain. She held, in her hand, a Rainbow Brite costume. A rather saucy Rainbow Brite costume, I might add.
"Um. What's that?" I asked her, hoping she might tell me it was actually a penguin she had adopted for me. A cute, baby penguin I could name Ephraim and would keep me company in my devastating, boyless and losery loneliness.
"Well, I couldn't help noticing that you don't have a costume for Halloween."
"So you got me a space suit?"
"You used to like Rainbow Brite when you were little! I thought it would be cute." She held it out to me, encouraging me to take it from her.
"Mom, I love you dearly, but what part of my personality has ever lead you to believe that I'd feel comfortable wearing a costume like that?"
Mom shrugged. "Maybe the same part that motivated you to get that tattoo," she pointed out.
I looked down at the thing. It had been fairly silent the past week or so, but now it was screaming, "YEAH!! Wear the skimpy Ranbow Brite dress! Get out there and party tonight!"
I sighed, reaching out to take the costume. "Thanks," I said, even though I only felt vaguely thankful but mostly terrified at what I would look like in this thing.
"Think about it," Mom said, then she left.
I thought about it. I mulled it over, if you will. I considered the plans I had for the evening, weighed the pros and cons, and then I said, "Fuck it," picked up the costume and put it on. I went to the mirror to check out how I looked.
The truth is? I didn't look half bad. In fact, one could almost say I looked...sexy? I shook my head, as if the very thought might cause me to develop a raging case of syphilis. I tried imagining how people might react, seeing me in such a get up. I felt only a slight sense of shame picturing Wake looking at me as more than just the girl with a tattoo. Instead, he would look at me like Rainbow Brite. With a growth spurt and a much more revealing outfit. Rainbow Brite on a Miley Cyrus-esque venture into adult photography. I don't know if that would really be any better, but you know. Might make me feel good.
I had no idea how Alec would react. I had no idea how I wanted him to react, honestly. For some sick reason, all I could think about was making Wake drool. Where the hell was this coming from? Quite possibly my new fear of actually going over to Alec's house today. I'll be honest, I'd come up with about thirty reasons why it would be better to just boycott him. Let him think about what he'd done. I mean, he had to know. Maybe he'd think twice about falling back into old relationships while he was wooing a new girl. Especially a new girl as hot as I was in this costume, anyway.
That's it. I'd made my decision. I would go to Wake's party, at least long enough to see Miriam's band, and maybe make a few senior guys notice what they've been missing, and then...I don't know. If Alec really wanted to see me, he knew where I lived. If he really wanted to spend time with me and not his new (old?) girlfriend, he could come to me, damn it. I would not be the girl that follows some guy around like a lost puppy, waiting for him to make up his mind. Nope, this was Halloween! The night where you get to be a whole different person! And the person I wanted to be tonight apparently dressed in slutty outfits their mother gave them and went to parties thrown by boys they didn't really like that much anymore.
** ** **
My newly forged confidence decided throwing on some haphazard makeup should be in the evening's plans, so I did that. I swiped on some blush, brushed on a bit of two-year-old mascara, and stole some lipstick from my mom. Then I twisted my hair up into a couple of pigtails, considered running the curling iron through them and then figured that would be too much effort. A few minutes of needless posing in front of the mirror confirmed that I was, in fact, highly attractive. Then I made my way down the stairs.
Mom looked up from her TV program and watched my decent, wolf whistling.
"I can't believe you're encouraging this," I said.
She shrugged. "Sweetie, you're a good girl. Other than getting that tattoo, you've never caused me any grief. You don't stay out late getting smashed with your friends, you haven't gotten knocked up yet, and you typically get good grades. You get one night to be a bad girl, and at least I know you're not going to do anything stupid in that outfit." She smiled at me, and I felt myself blush a little.
"Of course, if you do decide to do something stupid in that outfit, I will be waiting here, awake, ready to punish you in every embarrassing and painfully mom-ish way I know how."
I nodded. "Got it. No tomfoolery."
She stood up, wrapped me in a very mom-like hug, and squeezed me hard.
"I love you, Madeline."
"I love you, too, mom."
I squeezed her back and wished her a happy Halloween as well.
** ** **
Okay. So in my heart of hearts, I knew that I should have just gone to Alec's and talked to him, but by this point in the evening, I was full of a maddening sense of pride, which was actually fear that I had morphed into pride in an attempt to make myself feel better.
It wasn't working. I made my way through the neighborhood, dusk encroaching on the streets, watching little kids scooting down the sidewalks with their buckets waiting to be filled with candy, on my way to Wake's party. But in my stomach sat a swoopy, guilt ridden feeling. "Quiet, you," I whispered to my stomach, and a passing fairy looked at me with confusion. Yes, little girl, sometimes I do stupid things like talk to myself when I'm having emotional issues. You'll understand when you're in high school. Enjoy your night of frivolous candy retrieval.
I shook my head. Wake's friend's house was really not that far away, if I could just get there, things would be better. I could get my head out of my butt. Not that it was actually in my butt, but you know what I mean.
My feet dragged a little bit as I walked past Alec's street. My legs felt like they wanted to walk in that direction, they were practically begging me to turn and join Alec for a nice night of handing out candy and general laziness.
It sounded nice.
NO. I'm being a strong, independent woman tonight. "He can come to me," I chanted to myself, then made sure no trick or treaters had overheard my self ramblings.
Just a few more blocks and I'd be there.
I watched the little kids running around, excited about the night ahead, and I thought back to when I was a kid out trick or treating. Before my age had ever been called into question. A simpler time. Ah, youth. I remembered going out with Miriam and Colleen, my mom following us around and chaperoning. We all wore matching costumes, or costumes that went together. One year, we were all different types of fruit. I was an apple, Miriam was a pear, and Colleen was a banana. My mom got into the spirit of it by dressing as one of those ladies with the fruit baskets on their heads. I envied these kids. Again, I felt the injustice of the trick or treating age limit. It was so unfair and stupid. I wanted to be carefree like this. I wanted to spend this evening going from house to house, people complimenting my costume, and collecting candy from the legions of trusting souls willing to hand it out to passing children. Halloween was a time for community, a time for neighborhoods to come together and bond, and here I was, being shunted out of those proceedings because I was an unruly teen.
I sighed, feeling slightly miserable on account of these thoughts. But drifting off into ruminations of Halloweens past got me the rest of the way to Wake's party without further stress about Alec.
I walked up to the door, and the party was already in full swing. I heard bass heavy music thumping away inside. The house itself was decorated with cobwebs and orange and black lights strung from every tree and overhang. I recognized a few people from school, and tried to scan the place for Miriam, but to no avail. I must have been early, because Interrobang Widdershins wasn't even playing yet, it was still canned music.
Now that I was actually here, I felt a new wave of anxiety at the idea of actually going inside. This was not my party, I thought to myself. I do not belong here. Nobody even knows me here. I turned around, thinking I could maybe just slink off and no one would ever need know that I'd been here at all, when I heard someone yell, "Hey, Rainbow Brite! I love your costume!"
Dang it. I'd been spotted. I turned around slowly, ingesting the face of the person who'd spoken.
"I used to watch this show all the time as a kid. You look great!"
It was Janell. Wake's Janell. Dance team Janell. I wanted to throw up.
She was touching my costume now. I felt like this might be crossing some sort of personal boundary or something. "Where did you get this? It's so nice!"
"My mom got it for me. Actually."
"Wow, that's awesome."
You'd think she would go away. You'd think she'd feel the billowing waves of discomfort pouring off of me and leave. But she didn't. She just kept fondling my costume, oohing and ahhing over it and making me feel terribly out of place. I mean, she was so freaking pretty. Her hair did that whole curly, bouncy, dance team thing. She was dressed as a witch, which really always struck me as something of a cop out costume. But that didn't keep Janell from looking incredibly hot in it. I was trying very hard not to hate her in this moment.
"So, do I know you?" She asked it so innocently. She held some sort of drink in a plastic cup, and with the cup holding hand, she pointed at me, as if pointing might help jog her memory regarding her knowledge of me. "Do you go to school with Wake?"
I rolled my eyes. On the inside. I wanted to say, "You mean, the school you went to up until last year?" But I didn't. Instead I just nodded.
"Yeah!" Her eyes grew wide and excited. "Yeah, I think I know you...Madeline? Is that right?"
Did...did Janell just admit that she knew my name? I nodded dumbly.
"Well, listen, you look hot in that costume. It's awesome to see you here. Have fun tonight, okay?" She smiled at me, and then wandered off.
I stood there, dumbfounded. Dance team Janell was...nice. And she knew my name. Me. Who never spoke to her at all, someone she didn't ever interact with. She knew who I was. And she thought my costume looked hot.
I found it very difficult to hate her in that moment.
** ** **
My encounter with Janell encouraged me to stay at the party. If any other people I'd previously hated decided to come up to me and provide a compliment, I was willing to stick around for it. I glanced down at my tattoo, wondering if it knew what was going on, or if it was pulling any strings for me.
"Hey, bitch," rang a familiar voice over the loud thrum of pounding bass.
"Hey, Col," I replied.
"I see you decided to come to the good party. Good call. Feeling any guilt over ditching your man?"
I felt a stab in my stomach. "How did you know about that?" I asked. I didn't remember telling Colleen about possibly hanging out with Alec tonight, but maybe I had when we'd gone shopping together.
"You told me, remember? When we went shopping together?"
Well. That settles that, then.
"Listen," she went on, no longer interested in my Alec ditching, "have you seen Dan around? He said he was coming tonight but I haven't seen him."
"I don't know," I said. Which wasn't entirely true, I did know, and what I knew is that I hadn't seen Dan at all since I'd been here, nor did I have any desire to do so.
"Okay, well, if you see him, let me know, and I'm going to go to the opposite side of the room now, because Miriam and Bret just showed up."
"Colleen, seriously, why won't you just get over it and make up with Miri?"
Colleen waved my comment off and began walking. "Nope, I'll see you later, okay?"
I stared at her as she drifted off, feeling vaguely irritated by the whole situation with her and Miriam. And then I felt Miriam's arms (which were covered in spider web fishnets) wrap around me in a big hug.
"How did it go?" she asked, concern filling her tone. "It must have been bad if you're already here. Tell me everything."
Way to really drive home the guilt, Miriam. Thanks. I appreciate it to no end.
"I, uh, didn't go."
Miriam's face shifted abruptly from concerned friend to evil demon with laser vision. "You didn't go?"
I nodded. "Right."
"What possessed you to not go?"
I tried to dredge up the reasons I'd concocted for not going to see Alec, and all of them seemed so weak and pitiful when held up to Miriam's death glare.
"Did you chicken out?" She accused.
"I mean, no, I decided if he wanted to have another girlfriend other than me, that he would just have to deal with what that entails."
She crossed her arms in front of her chest. "You chickened out."
I sighed. "I...want him to think about what he's done."
"That's my cue to check on the band," Bret saluted, and dissolved into the throng of party goers.
Miriam took my hand. "Mads, you're not being honest with yourself. Now, I want you to repeat after me: I, Madeline, did not go see Alec tonight because I am a big fat chicken."
I pulled my hand away from her. "That's not true!" I said, even though it was probably a little true.
"I think you should get out of here and at least hear his side of the story!"
"But aren't you guys going to play soon?"
Miriam rolled her eyes. "Oh, no. You're not using me as an excuse to be a big fat chicken. I won't stand for it. There will be other gigs. And you've already seen me play. Now get out of here." She gestured emphatically at the door.
I looked deep into her eyes, the eyes of one of my best friends in the whole world, and I saw only care and concern. And maybe a little bit of evil demon overlord, but that's to be expected from a goth. The knots in my stomach held tight, but I knew I wouldn't be able to talk Miriam into letting me stay. It was face my fear or suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous second hand guilt.
"Okay," I nodded. "I'll go."
Miriam smiled at me, and I smiled back. I took a deep breath, turned to walk to the door, and ran straight into Wake.
"Oh! Hey!" He said, startled by my sudden closeness. "I'm glad you came! You look great."
Wake said I looked great. My stomach did a swoopy thing, and I cursed it for being so stupid and crush happy.
"She was just leaving," Miriam said pointedly, fixing me with a look that said, "Right, Mads?"
"You were? Why?" Wake asked.
"I...um...have a thing," I explained lamely.
"Well, you can't go yet, I want you to meet someone." He grabbed me by the arm and I felt like I might throw up my intestines. That would be beautiful, very Halloween-y. Literally spilling my guts. I'd be the belle of the ball. I didn't have much choice but to follow after him as he pulled me along. I glanced back to Miriam, who glared at me even harder. I shrugged, hoping to convey my helplessness at being carried by momentum and that there was nothing I could do about it.
And so I got dragged through the party, the cool people, everyone having fun and dressed to the nines, and I was left to trail along with no idea where I would end up. At Wake's mercy. Part of me felt like this is what I'd wanted my whole life, somewhere in the depths of my shallow, teenage soul. Somewhere inside, we all want a taste of popularity, right? That feeling of specialness? I felt pretty darn special right now, being the girl on Wake's arm at a big party. Even if I wasn't really his girl, even if this moment didn't last much longer. I tried to shove Miriam's face out of my mind and enjoy it.
"Yo! Chris!" Wake called across the room to someone. "You got a minute?"
I watched as the tallest guy I've ever seen waved back to Wake and headed in our direction. I swear, his head nearly scraped the ceiling.