This story is by Lisa Querido and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Elizabeth strutted down the sidewalk, boot heels clicking, skirt swinging from side to side, along with the rhythm of her curvy hips. She’d been single too long to let her anticipation of the evening settle. She paused to throw on the jean jacket that had been draped over her arm. The air now felt cool in the setting sun. Glorious hues of orange and pink lingered on the horizon, imparting an otherworldly effect on the newly turned leaves, that covered the trees and sidewalk. The store fronts reflected the season with fantastic displays of crooked nosed witches with missing teeth, Dracula’s with slicked back widow’s peaks, and skeletons hung in contorted positions. She breathed in the smell of half rotten pumpkins, carved too soon before Halloween. The air crisp and invigorating, only added to her excitement. Two years since her last date. A long time for a women who longed to have her hard earned looks admired.
She approached the festively decorated restaurant patio, extending its use with outdoor space heaters. Elizabeth felt her nerves set in as the hostess approached. Maybe he’s already here, she wondered. In her enjoyment of the process of getting ready, she had started early, and arrived early as well. Oh well, she thought. I’d rather be out on a beautiful evening people watching anyhow. “Has anyone asked for a table already under the name Jonathan?” she asked the hostess awkwardly. Being told no, she requested for a table for two – outdoors. She sat in a cozy spot facing the main street. Elizabeth took off her purse and placed it in her lap, then strung it along the back of her chair, finally placing it on the ground beside her, next to a miniature pumpkin, spotted black from candlelight.
Halloween was Elizabeth’s favorite holiday after Christmas. She effortlessly passed the time, reminiscing over the thrill of trick or treating, taking turns with one parent while the other stayed back to hand out candy. She remembered Halloween themed shows from her childhood; a still vivid memory of “crazy Blair” from an episode of The Facts of Life, and the theme song from a Casper the Friendly Ghost special. “Am I interrupting?” She was startled out of her day dream by Jonathan’s arrival. From her seated position he looked even taller and more broad than usual. His slicked back, dark brown hair, appeared even darker now in the night. His grey blue eyes held hers. “You’re early,” he said, embracing her. His arms felt strong and defined wrapped tightly around her waist – electric.
Elizabeth and Jonathan had met several months earlier at work. She was there every day, but him only occasionally. He worked as a consultant mostly from home. For this reason, it took a while to get to know each other. By the time Jonathan asked her out she’d had a schoolgirl crush for nearly two months. She would find excuses to be near him, a sudden need for more details about a particular assignment, or making a point of escorting him to meetings. She noticed the same from him, dropping by her office seemingly needlessly, and checking in before appointments.
Strangely though Elizabeth still didn’t know much about Jonathan, his interests, how many siblings he had. At work she would try and casually ask when it seemed appropriate. “Any plans this weekend?” “Will you be the one cooking Thanksgiving this year?” His answers were usually vague. Mostly he seemed more interested in her. “Are you ready to order,” the waitress asked. “Yes, I’ll have the butternut squash lasagna,” Elizabeth replied. “And for the gentlemen?” “Steak please, rare.”
The time sped by while they talked over dinner. Elizabeth, though decent at small talk, prefered to get serious. “Have you ever been married?” Why, not? “It makes me curious if a man hasn’t been married and doesn’t have any kids by 35.” While his answers were only somewhat satisfactory, it didn’t seem so important right now. Infact she could barely eat, afraid to unravel the appearance she had spent the hours before putting together. Finally after nearly two hours, they requested the bill and decided to continue the evening with a walk along the nearby canal.
The water rippled in reply to the gentle breeze. The trees looked magnificent under the glow of the park lights. Joggers passed by crunching leaves under their feet. Couples strolled along holding hands, leaving Elizabeth feeling both hopeful and lonely at the same time. The houses became increasingly more majestic, as unkempt converted walkup apartments turned into single family Victorian era homes.
Finally reaching the street Elizabeth knew Jonathan lived on, they paused, equally expectant. Invite me in, she thought, Don’t invite me, she second thought. I don’t want him to be the type of guy who invites me in on the first date; I desperately want to be invited in on the first date, her inner dialogue groaned. In the privacy of a burnt out street light that hid them from view, Elizabeth distracted herself with the image of a couple across the street dragging a decorative coffin and corn stalks onto the lawn. “I really had a great evening,” Jonathan sighed, as almost a whisper in her ear. Invite me in, she thought again, letting the electricity shoot up her stomach and through her throat. He stared deeply into her eyes, searching for permission, though he looked almost sad, or regretful. He opened his mouth to speak but said nothing. Instead, he pulled her in tightly, caressing the side of her cheek and throat gently. She felt herself sink into a blissful trance, until her body was almost limp… so much so that she couldn’t bring herself to scream as she saw the fangs protrude and felt them sink deeply into the flesh of her throat.