This story is by Frank Anthony and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Cold hands. Black pea coat. Chapped lips. I had to think about bathing in a volcano to keep warm. The air would have made you believe a storm was approaching, but the leaves in the trees were still changing colors. The red leaves reminded me of the auburn locks of my best friend Marissa who moved to New York City last year. I was filled with excitement, waiting to reunite with her at the annual fall festival in town.
In previous years, Marissa and I would do the following: Consume the same food item from each food stand until one of us gave up, go on the bumper cars, and pretend to be in a horror movie while traveling through the corn maze.
Pacing back and forth in front of the entrance, I regretted not bringing a pair of gloves. Blowing might have worked for the big bad wolf on the three little pig’s houses, but it was unsuccessful in warming my fingers. But I knew that in the end, the waiting game was worth it.
A Black Chrysler rolled up, a few feet away from me, where my beautiful friend escorted herself out of the passenger side of the vehicle.
“Marissa!” I hollered through my smile.
She turned her head in my direction and returned the expression. “Tom!”
I ran down the dirt path and smothered her with a bear hug. Her perfume made a reservation to enter my nostrils and remained significant. We unlocked the embrace simultaneously.
“We have so much to talk about.” She said, her green eyes wide open.
I ran my hands through my dark brown hair. “I know, it’s been too long.”
Marissa adjusted her medium wash skinny jeans and tightened her pink Banana Republic scarf. “We just have to wait for my boyfriend to park the car.”
My eyebrows perked up when the words left her breath. I wasn’t informed that she had a boyfriend. Due to elapsed time, I was looking forward to spending the day with my best friend, not compete for her attention. But I had to sound optimistic.
“You’re dating someone? That’s great!”
I began to scratch my neck out of nervousness. “So, it’s going to be the three of us today?”
“Yeah, you don’t mind, do you?”
I hid selfish emotions “Of course I don’t mind! The more the merrier!”
I pondered the reasoning behind her secrecy. Had the trust between us began to diminish over the course of painful distance? I would tell her everything over the phone like she was sitting in my kitchen, eating the last of the cashew nuts I kept stashed away in the cabinet above the fridge. Thousands of stories with only two pairs of ears that could hear the laughs, the compassion, and the chaos.
Maybe her boyfriend was a bad guy. A master manipulator that was trying to break our friendship in half like two siblings fighting over a wishbone. Maybe she didn’t want to tell me he was emotionally unstable or is holding a gun to her back. Over analyzing was my closest friend.
The man began to walk towards us, both hands in the pockets of his leather jacket. He was average height, light skin tone, slim, but muscular body.
She blushed and grabbed the man by his arm. “I would like you to meet my boyfriend, Jack.”
“Nice to meet you.” Jack responded after his introduction.
We firmly shook hands. “Nice to meet you too.”
“Let’s go enjoy the festival!” Marissa shouted with both hands touching the sky.
She skipped towards the admission line, Jack stared at me. “Let’s not keep her waiting.”
“Yes.” I agreed.
Before meeting Jack, I was afraid that he wasn’t going to be interested partaking in our fall festival rituals, but he was open to the idea. His personality felt welcoming as the three of us conversed. Jack decided that he would consume two foods at each stand, resulting in him barfing next to an old woman with a peacock feather in her burgundy hat. Her grimace could have knocked a professional boxer out with one punch.
“I have to go to the bathroom, I’ll be right back guys!” Marissa exclaimed as she ran off into the crowd of people.
“So.” Jack’s eyes were glued to my presence. “What do you like to do for fun?”
I had pondered for a few seconds. “I like to spend time with family and friends, workout, sing, play video games.”
The corner of his mouth lifted. “What type of video games?”
“Mario games are always fun, but I also like fighting games like Mortal Kombat.”
“Dude, I love that game. Marissa and I are staying at her sister’s place for a week. Maybe we can play it together sometime.”
I grinned “Yeah, sounds like fun.”
Marissa’s perfume walked into the conversation. “Who’s ready for some bumper cars?”
“You’re both going down.” I replied with a competitive spirit.
“The yellow car is all mine!” Marissa hollered when we approached the small electricity-powered cars, driving around in the enclosed space. “Choose your cars boys.”
I examined my choices and decided on the blue car in the far back corner since it was my favorite color. Jack hopped into the red car that was parked in the middle, and Marissa was already seat belted in her yellow buggy, ready for victory.
When the cars began to move, Jack slammed directly into my left side. My perception spiraled into slow motion, but laughter swam up my lungs as I watched Marissa and Jack’s faces filled with enjoyment. During each lap, Jack jerked my car into submission. When the ride had finished, Jack was declared the winner in my book. Jack had won me over.
Our group entered the corn maze next. I began to feel the cold again when a giant gust charged through our jackets. As I was readjusting my scarf, I noticed Marissa growing closer towards Jack.
“Hold my hand babe.” Marissa said with rosy cheeks.
“I would love, but I have something to tell you.” Jack pulls out a stick from his back. “I’m the killer.”
Marissa and I pretended to scream through our laughter as we darted into different directions through the maze. I started analyzing as I jogged down the dirt path, surrounded by nothing but corn and silence.
“Maybe this was their way of getting alone time.” I hypothesized. “I mean, I am kind of a third wheel in this situation.”
Within deep thought, I felt a mysterious force tackle me to the ground. I noticed the right arm to my pea coat had torn. Infuriated, I was about to scream until I noticed Jack was lying on top of me. My face softened; I could feel the pressure of his smooth, strong hands pushing into my shoulders. The enticing look in his eyes made me want to melt into his cologne. His alluring smile was undeniably unforgettable.
“Looks like you wouldn’t survive long in a horror movie.” Jack boasted.
I began fishing for words from the air. “Maybe you should become a football player.”
He bit his lip slightly. “Never too late for a career change.”
It was difficult to comprehend if my feelings for Jack were simply lust that was released from the catacomb in my mind or if he brought true emotion to life. But as this handsome spirit hovered over me, I also considered my love for Marissa. Our friendship was as strong as armor of the strongest warrior, prepared to protect from the deadliest of blows. To take off that armor and run onto the battlefield would have been detrimental to our platonic sanity. I was faced with two roads: Ignore my feelings or indulge in them.