Halloween Mystery Date
A cold gust of wintry wind hit my face. The snow had not yet begun to fall. Autumn leaves crackled under my feet giving the illusion that ice was shattering. I bundled myself up tucking my hands in the pockets of my trench coat. I was cursing every higher power in the universe, “Why the fuck did Vicki insist that we dress like Playboy Bunnies!?” I asked myself. It’s too damn cold to dress like a high-class prostitute.
Vicki was standing on her ridiculous Halloween-themed welcome mat, waiting to greet me. When she embraced me, it felt warm and I held the embrace a little too long. “Is this your first time seeing a pretty girl or did you just get out of prison?” she asked jokingly.
I rolled my eyes. “Please tell me who, besides you, would have the idea to have you and your friends wear a leotard when it’s 30 degrees out?!”
She handed me a bottle of warm beer. “Sexy people like us. You should come inside, I got the DVD of Nightmare on Elm Street, and I know you like that one.” She grabbed me by my hand and pulled me inside before I had a chance to protest. “Also, there’s someone I want you to meet.”
She was grinning from ear-to-ear, showing off the coffee stains on her teeth. “Vicky, I told you a thousand times, I just want to get settled first before I start dating again. I just started my new job and I’m looking for a new apartment. I’m tired of the noisy drunks keeping me up all night, and I don’t need distractions!” I did my best to sound intimidating, but I’m sure I failed. She pointed to an empty folding chair by the bowl full of green, foggy-looking punch. I shrugged my shoulders and sat down.
A man came up to me, wearing a pinstriped suit and fedora. He had a cigar hanging haphazardly from his pointer and index finger, but it wasn’t lit. He sat down next to me, put the prop in his other hand, and extended his right hand to me. “Hi, I’m Chad!” he said, his smile seemed a little too big.
I swallowed what remained of the pretzel in my mouth. I was thinking that I used too much onion dip. It would have been uncomfortable to swallow a partially masticated pretzel without onion dip.
“You don’t have to pretend to be excited to see me.” The thoughts spilled from my mouth before I could catch them.
“So, I take it she talked to you when you came to the party as well.” It sounded more like a statement than a question.
I nodded my head yes while chewing on another pretzel.
“So, is your Halloween costume supposed to be a mass shooter or a creepy guy living under a bridge?” I smiled, took the black bunny ears out of the pocket of my coat, and placed them on my head. He smoothed out his long black hair and placed the ears on his head.
“Do I make a good Playboy Bunny?” He smiled at me. I laughed.
I rolled over in bed. The sun was shimmering off the newly fallen snow. “Happy snowfall, darling.” My new acquaintance rolled over in bed next to me and kissed me on the forehead.
“I think I had too much to drink,” I said as I drunkenly tried to piece together the events leading up to this awkward moment.
Before I knew it, the strange man was standing in my kitchen with a frying pan in hand. “How do you like your bacon cooked?” He was nonchalantly adding some black pepper to an egg and milk mixture.
“I’m not hungry!” I was sure that he could hear the panic in my voice.
“Nonsense.” As he handed me a cup of black coffee, I shot him a confused look. “Black coffee will help the hangover.” He smiled, but I know from experience that sugar and milk do not mix with alcohol.
I took a sip of the Maxwell House. My stomach was turning as I forced the hot coffee down my throat.
“I’ll pick up some new coffee at the store today while you’re at work.” He smiled as he watched me scrunch my nose. “I really don’t like having to make a whole pot of coffee every time. The first thing I did when I moved out of mom’s place was to buy a single-serve pot. I know Walmart is a bit of a drive from your work, so leave that to me.” He put a plate of scrambled eggs and peppers down in front of me. “You don’t really have time to have any bacon, but that’s okay, we can have BLTs for dinner.” He kissed my cheek as he walked over to the sink. “Oh, and what’s your internet password?”
I ran into the bathroom with speed that would put any cheetah to shame. I frantically texted my boss, “Please come to pick me up early. I know the carpool doesn’t get here till 9, but this is more important than a caramel latte. This is life-or-death, please come soon.” I slipped into a pair of dress pants that I found in a pile close to the hamper, then pulled a Mickey Mouse t-shirt over my head.
Once I was safely inside a car full of my coworkers, I was able to stop shaking. George looked at me. “I hate to be that person,” he avoided eye contact, “but Joanna, are you wearing a bra?”
I looked down. “I guess not.”
George laughed. “So, I take it you had a lot of fun at that party last night?”
I shot him an evil look. “There’s some crazy guy in my apartment. I barely remember how we got home, and when I woke up, there was some dude in my bed offering to make me breakfast.”
My boss, Gina, laughed at me. “I wish I could get my husband to make me breakfast after a passionate night. Ever since we had Lily, that part of our lives has been non-existent. Be thankful you got a romantic guy.” She slurped loudly through a straw.
When I arrived at work, I was happy to sit in my cubicle where I would get some peace and quiet. A couple of hours passed, and I was happily checking emails, munching on a blueberry muffin when Gina knocked twice on my cubicle and waved before sitting down a bouquet of freshly cut sunflowers.
Gina smiled, ”Okay, I need you to see if he has an older brother who likes babies and doesn’t mind cleaning the litter box. If he does, I’m willing to leave Ben.“ She was laughing at the anxious expression on my face. “What’s the big deal? You have a guy who makes you breakfast, brings you flowers, and he’s obviously really into you. Roll with it. I know you haven’t been on a date since like senior prom, but this is a good one. I know you’re not really the one-night-stand type, but maybe he isn’t either if he really likes you.”
“Gina,” I said my eyes wide, “ I never told him where I worked.” I grabbed the trash can as I felt like I was going to be sick.
“Maybe your friend did. You’re making too much out of this, just give the guy a chance okay?” And with that she made her way down to the coffee machine.
Maybe she was right, I thought. Maybe Vicki told him a lot of things about me. Maybe she was hoping we would hit it off and she wanted to help.
“I’ve made up my mind,” I said allowed to no one.
Before leaving work, I made my way to the local pizza place. Maybe I could give this guy a chance, but first I had to sit him down and tell him that things were going way too quickly. He was a sweet guy, but there was no reason to be talking about replacing my coffee maker. So, we could just start fresh and see how things went.
As Gina’s Honda pulled into my parking lot, I could see my mystery date from the Halloween party standing in the corridor. He opened the car door for me. Gina smiled a big cheesy smile and gave me a thumbs up from the driver side window. My supposed dream date took the pizza box and we walked up to my apartment.
“I wasn’t sure what you like on your pizza,” I said as I smiled awkwardly. “I bought Coke, I hope that’s okay. I know some people prefer Pepsi.”
The mystery man busied himself by setting paper plates on the kitchen table and pouring the cola into red Solo cups.
“I know what you like on your pizza,” he said. “You prefer tomato paste to tomato sauce, and you top it with provolone cheese as opposed to the traditional mozzarella. You also like it with cayenne, and when you’re feeling really adventurous, you dip the entire slice in mayonnaise and sriracha.”
“Well, this is basic cheese and tomato.” I didn’t feel like eating anymore, but I took the pizza anyway.
My unwanted guest folded a slice of pizza and a bit off half of it in one go. “This is good pizza,” he attempted to say as bits of cheese and dough came flying out his mouth.
I nodded in agreement.
The strangest thing happened then. Before I knew it, this man who I thought to be odd but harmless growled, “you will speak when spoken to!”
“What the fuck,” my voice quaked. “I barely know you, why are you in my house?”
I stood there, my eyes wide, my hands shaking, as the strange man in my kitchen stumbled around for a butcher knife. He never took his eyes off me.
I grabbed my cell phone off the kitchen table and dialed nine-one-one. Before I got off the phone with the operator, my unwanted house guest made his way out the window.
I had the police drop me off at the restaurant where Vicki worked.
Vicki set a mug of coffee down in front of me. It was already doctored up with cream and sugar. “Baby, you got to tell me what’s going on.”
“You should know!” I shot back as thick lines of mascara trickled down my face.
“What the hell are you talking about?” she took a step back.
“This is ridiculous. I told you many times I was happy being single, and now there’s some crazy man basically living in my apartment.” She stared at her, her eyes were wide and her mouth was almost on the floor. “Yeah, it’s that guy from the party. The one you were pressuring me to meet.” She stood in stunned silence. “The mystery date that you had for me, he’s psychotic. I really thought I was overreacting, that he might just be clingy or something, but he’s not just making me breakfast or sending flowers to my work anymore. He pulled a knife on me because I guess I wasn’t paying enough attention to him at dinner. He hasn’t left my apartment all day.”
“Honey, Brian never showed up. He couldn’t find a ride. I have no idea who your “Mystery Date” was.”
The coffee cup shattered in my hand. Bits of scalding liquid and shards of shattered glass embedded in my palm.