Party Time

Joan returned once again to the land of the living. “I love the little werewolf!” She giggled, “he’s adorable.” Tal eagerly agreed. The two of them cooed and ‘ahh’ed over each child that passed through the entrance to the community centre for the party that evening. It had been organised by all the local families. Within the walls of that bland, weather worn hall awaited treats and tricks, all laid out on long tables hidden beneath long white sheets.
 
They tantalised the children as much as the costumes they saw each other wearing. Naturally they hovered – like the supernatural beings they played – as close to those tables as possible in the hope of sneaking a peek at the tasty and colourful delights that stretched in deathly silence along them. A tiny witch almost succeeded but she cried with frustration as her mother pried a corner of one of the sheets from her hand and led her away.
 
Joan and Tal sat by the doors, wrapped in shawls, huddling closer together instinctively as the air grew colder. To Tal it felt as though the air had grown colder more as a result of their nearness than of the darkness creeping over the sky. They watched, waited, and welcomed a little longer as the tins they held rattled with coins dropped in by the children as they crossed carefully over the welcome mat, one by one. Once in though, they broke unholy ranks and raced through the genuinely spooky corridor toward a garish backdrop of crescent moons, stars, and hanging bats. Smaller children were accompanied by one or more parents while older ones braved the short walk in pairs and groups.
 
“I think Jack Wells is the last of them.” Said Tal as the final pumpkin-head on a black cloak floated down the corridor toward the excited mayhem beyond. Joan looked at her, distracted again. “How do you know that was Mrs Wells’ boy? We haven’t seen Carly Jane yet. Have we?”
“Ah, Carly’s already here, she was the first Dracula. Don’t you remember?” Joan bit a nail in contemplation.
 
“That’s why I said we had to come up with a system to tell them apart.” Tal went on, “Remember – I said we should call Darren ‘Draculad’ and Carly ‘Draculass’. No?”
 
“I must have been under a spell.” Joan replied with a sudden forcefulness.
 
“I’ll say you were, you’ve been in and out of it since we sat down.” Tal replied, relieved to be able to close the door now that the guests had all arrived. Still, she felt a chill and shivered. “Shall we sort the money out now or later?”
 
“You’ve been under a spell too, haven’t you?”
 
“What do you mean?” Tal tensed.
 
“Well you’ve certainly been under something, or should I say under some-one?”
 
Tal stared at her in stunned silence, a rabbit caught in the headlights.
 
“I should be devastated really, shouldn’t I? Crying. In a mess about the whole sorry affair. But it’s so hopelessly funny too, isn’t it? I mean, it’s a small community; people see, and then they talk. And I can just imagine what they’ve been saying. Perhaps you’ve been saying it too, laughing about it with Henry.”
 
“Joan, I…” Tal croaked.
 
“When you’re having it off with the local butcher it’s hard NOT to laugh, even for me. So it remains for you tell me, to confirm my suspicions; to tell me in no uncertain terms – has he indeed had his pound of flesh? Has he had his prime pork on the slab, his bit on the side, his…his…”
 
She began laughing uncontrollably, manically. Tal ran up the corridor where several children lingered noisily outside the hall and shooed them in before pulling the door shut. She hurried, almost on tiptoe, back to the foyer where Joan was now leaning against the doorway holding her sides, laughing, crying, trying to keep herself together, falling apart.
 
“Joan please,” She pleaded, “not here.”
 
“Then where? At Home? Your home?” She paused to catch her breath. “My home? I take it you can find your way around it as well as you can find it.”
 
Tal looked away and then back. “I’m sorry.”
 
“For what? Being younger than me? Being prettier than me? Being free, being single?”
 
“I didn’t mean…”
 
Joan cut her off with the raise of a hand. She straightened up, still breathing heavily as though her heart had burst inside her lungs, “Don’t – ” She looked at directly at her. “Don’t.”
 
“When did you find out?” Tal asked calmly.
 
“I knew months ago.”
 
“How?”
 
“Where do you think? In the joke shop. By which I mean – in HIS shop. I saw your necklace. Your stupid bloody necklace. It wasn’t on the slab but it was in the shop, in the back room of all places, now how do you think it got there Tal, hmm?” At these words Tal raised a shameful hand to her neck in a futile attempt to hide the obvious.
 
“Yes.” Said Joan, “The necklace you’re wearing now. I tell you what; I won’t ask exactly how it made its way into Henry’s shop and back to your scrawny little neck the day after. I won’t ask because I know the answer to that question – and in all honesty I don’t want to hear it again.”
“He told you?”
 
“He told me. Everything. He had to really. I had the kitchen knife to his balls. Have you seen him this week? No?” Tal silently shook her head.
 
Beyond the dark corridor, above the sliver of light stretching toward them across the linoleum floor, the sound of a disco began to thump against the door. Shadows danced up and out from under, skipping loosely in time to the music. In the Moonlit foyer the fading body heat finally succumbed to an onslaught of cold air as it blew from outside between lintel and lock. Tal shivered and hugged herself. Joan turned to face the gusts.
 
“Don’t worry.You’ll see him shortly.” Joan announced cryptically. “In all his naked glory.”
 
Tal shuddered. “What do you mean?” Joan turned quickly to face her.
 
“What do I mean? I mean you’ll be seeing him again, in the manner to which you have become accustomed. You’ll see him stripped to the waist – even lower, though some parts I had to dispose of for the sake of public decency.”
 
Tal followed her icy glare.
 
He’s in there if you want him; he’s all yours; he’s been dying to give you his all; his mind, his body, and…well I can’t vouch for his soul, but the rest of him is there. You’ll have to get in quickly before everyone else has a piece though. He’s a good husband really. Especially for promising to liven up the party with offcuts and sundries from the shop.”
 
Tal clutched at her mouth, covered it, smoothed out waves of nausea, walked backward toward the hall. “You haven’t…please say you haven’t” she begged.
 
Joan ushered her toward the hall. “See for yourself.” She smiled. “He was always the life and soul of the party Tal; you know that. Now he’s more; he’s the life, the heart, the brain, the liver, the kidneys, the eyes: Tal my darling little whore – there simply wouldn’t BE a party tonight without him.”
 
Tal ran straight to the door, flung it open, raced into the middle of the room…”Don’t touch anything!” She cried. The music stopped. Mothers bent over squirming children stood upright and stared. Some were halfway through re-applying death-mask white to peach smudged faces while others busied themselves at the long tables most of which had already been unveiled.
Little vampires, ghouls, and Frankenstein’s monsters looked up from apple ducking buckets and barrels with granny smiths wedged between their jaws; witches, werewolves, Supermen stopped spinning bats and skeletons on elastic strings about their heads and ogled her wide-eyed. Many of them already held a plate in their free hands with various sweets and treats piled high. Many were gorging already on candy eyes, jelly brains, trifle kidneys, nougat lungs, rolled pork intestines, and chocolatey hearts.
 
The seconds-long silence ended in a cascade of shrill reports from several of the zombies and banshees dotted around the hall. Already greasy and lip-smacked they called out, “These eyes taste funny…my brain isn’t jelly…no chocolate inside my heart, there’s no chocolate inside my heart…” Tal covered her ears and screamed. And screamed. And screamed.

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