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The gray-haired woman looked up from behind the register, peering over her reading glasses at the two giggling young women rifling through the wedding gowns. They had come to the thrift store in search of unique costumes for Anna’s Halloween party.

“Ooh, Winn, this looks like your size,” Anna said, pulling a dress from the rack. She held the dress up to her friend’s chest. “This would look awesome. You’ll get Jake’s attention for sure.”

“Shut up!” Winn blushed. “It’s not like that and you know it.”

“I know you want it to be ‘like that,'” she teased. “And that ain’t gonna happen with your usual jeans and t-shirts, the way you hide your body. How’s he supposed to know there’s a girl in there?” she asked, plucking at the other girl’s sleeve. “Look!” Anna turned her friend and guided her to a full-length mirror across the store in the furniture section.

Winn’s eyes were wide as she peered at her reflection, the dress against her body. She reached up to touch the white lace of the long sleeves, and held the dress up to her shoulders. The neckline was low, the bodice low-waisted so it would fit snugly across the hips, then the skirt flared out and looked like it would sit just above the ground on her. The woman who had worn this must have been a little shorter than her height of 5’8″, but you really couldn’t be picky when you were a freshman at the community college with a tight budget.

Plus, she was planning to smudge it with dirt and fake blood, so it in no way needed to be perfect. She was going to be a zombie bride.

Nothing caught Anna’s eye, so Winn paid for her dress and they left. After dropping Anna off, Winn’s thoughts turned to Jake, as they always did.

Even though they had grown up in the same small town their entire lives, Winn had never had a conversation with Jake until their junior year in high school. She knew who he was, but they had different circles of friends. Always very shy around new people, Winn’s friends were the few she had made in elementary school. She hadn’t made a new friend since her age was in single-digits. Part of what had piqued her interest in Jake was that he was also quiet.

She had been sitting behind him one day in English class and they were paired up for an assignment. They worked well together, and she started sitting behind him every day. Chatting online after school helped them overcome their shyness and they grew to know each other well.

Soon, they were inseparable. People at school thought they were dating, but the relationship never went in that direction. They spent time together every day, after school and over the weekend. It didn’t take long for Winn to become infatuated. Many times, she had fantasized about how his light brown skin would look pressed against hers. His mother was white, his father black, and in her opinion they had made the most beautiful boy she’d ever seen. She wanted nothing more than to be with him, but she didn’t think that he felt the same way.

Guys never seemed to notice her. Perhaps, if they did, they mistook her bashfulness for seeming aloof. She had never been asked out on a date. She hadn’t even had a male friend before him, and she didn’t have a clue how to tell if someone was interested in her. She certainly didn’t want to risk losing his close friendship by admitting feelings of unrequited love.

She was pretty sure it was love. And that it was one-sided. Still, she couldn’t stop thinking about him. They still talked every day, and saw each other nearly as much since they both attended the community college.

Her phone rang as she parked her ’99 Honda Civic in front of her parents’ house.

“Hey, Jake.”

“Doing anything?”

“Just got home from the store. I got my costume for Anna’s.” She glanced at the dress across her back seat, and smiled, thinking that maybe it would get him to see her differently, like Anna said.

“Are you still keeping it a secret?”

“What are you going as?”

“I have that suit I wore to my cousin’s wedding, so I’m going to get a hat and mask and be the Green Hornet.”

She thought of how hot he had looked in the wedding pictures he was tagged in on Facebook. “Can’t wait.”

“Wish you’d just tell me what you’re going to be. You could be my Kato.”

She laughed. “Sorry, my mind’s already made up.”

“Are you coming over later? I need help with my homework.”

“Last time I helped you, you sat drinking coffee while I did all the work.”

“Yes.” There was a moment of silence that seemed to say, ‘and the problem is…?’

“Jesus christ, Jake.”

“See you later.” He hung up the phone, laughing. She couldn’t help smiling, knowing she’d do pretty much anything for him if it made him happy.


Butterflies flip-flopped in her stomach as Winn drove to Anna’s house to help her set up for the party. She was unused to wearing snug-fitting clothes, and the neckline was so low… She hoped that she looked nice. For a zombie.

She had powdered her already pale face and chest, shadowed around her eyes, casino siteleri and added some fake blood at the corner of her mouth and on her fingers. She had teased her hair out and it looked like a crazy wig. Glancing in her rearview mirror after she parked, she had to admit that her eyes looked creepy.

Anna pulled open the front door and a huge grin spread across her face. “Winnifred, my dear, you look amazing!”

“Don’t call me that or I’ll eat your brains.”

“Chelsea brought incense and candles and stuff to have a seance later. Doesn’t that sound fucking awesome?”

“Definitely! I’ve always wanted to be part of one of those. Your parents are cool with it?”

“They went to my aunt’s house for a party. They’re going to get hammered and spend the night,” she laughed. “So we can conjure all the spirits we want, they’ll never know.”

“What do you still need help with?” Winn offered. They finished putting out snacks and hanging decorations and soon the first guests started to arrive.

Winn was pouring herself a cup of punch, which had eyeballs floating in it, when she heard the door open and turned to see if it was Jake. Her eyes met his, which peered through his black mask, and they stared at each other for a long moment.

Her gaze traveled over his 6’3″ frame; the suit fit him perfectly from his broad shoulders down to his long legs. She thought he looked so sexy with that hat and mask on that it made her face grow warm. She saw him look down at her dress, and could have sworn that his stare lingered over her breasts. But he did have a mask on, so she thought she may have imagined it.

Finally, that crooked smile she knew so well settled on his face. “You look great! Very creepy,” he said, stepping over to her. “What do you think?” He held his arms out and spun so she could take in every angle of his outfit. She especially liked the view from behind.

“Dashing,” she said, smiling up at him. “Ready to save the world from criminals. Punch?” she offered. “Or there’s some beer in the fridge if you want one.”

Jake went to the kitchen and she went to join the others. About a dozen people had arrived so far, milling around in a wide variety of costumes. Anna, who was a very alluring mermaid, joined Winn, whispering in her ear, “Did you see how gorgeous your friend looks?”

“Yes, Anna, we’re all looking at your boobs,” she replied dryly. Anna’s long, auburn hair made her look like a real life version of Ariel.

“Don’t be a smartass. You know who I’m talking about. And I saw him checking you out, too.”

Again, Winn felt herself blush. “You’re full of shit.”

“Am not! Oh, here he comes,” she murmured excitedly, leaving Winn to stand alone as Jake sighted her from across the room and approached. Several feet in front of her, he paused to pull his phone from his pocket and read a text. He smiled as he replied, then looked up at Winn.

“Be right back,” he said, and left the room. She was confused, but she decided to find somewhere to sit and wait for him to come back.

She almost spat out her punch when she saw him reappear, a fairy stepping up behind him, carrying her wings and removing her coat. She felt a stabbing pain through her chest, and this strange ache in her hands as she watched them approach.

“Winn, this is Erica. Erica, this is my best friend, Winn.”

The girl smiled so brightly at her that she found it hard to hate her. She wanted to hate her.

“It’s great to meet you. Jake doesn’t stop talking about you.” Erica looked from one to the other. “You guys look like the bride and groom at the weirdest wedding ever,” she laughed.

“You can’t tell I’m the Green Hornet? Don’t I look like I could kick some ass?”

“Well where’s Kato? He’s the one with all the skills,” Erica teased.

“Winn wouldn’t be my partner,” Jake said. She wanted to yell at him that of course she wanted to be his partner, she wanted to be with him always, and she hated herself for not telling him. Now, it was too late.

“Too bad. Where can I get something to drink?” She wandered off in search of the refreshment table. Winn watched her go, jealous of how well she filled out her sparkly lavender dress, and how pretty the color looked against her flawless, mocha skin. She was beautiful. It made her heart ache.

“How come you never mentioned her before?” Winn asked, hoping she was hiding her inner turmoil. She wanted to run up to Anna’s room and let the sobs rip out of her chest.

She kept telling herself that she had known he didn’t love her the way that she loved him. Still, it hurt to find out the truth, because part of her had hoped. She tried to shove her feelings down deep and keep them from the surface. She couldn’t let him know that he was killing her.

“We worked together recently on a project at school. She’s cool, you’ll like her.”

“She seems nice.”

The silence growing between them became the first awkward silence they’d had in years.


Chelsea had lit the incense and left it on the fireplace mantle slot oyna in the dining room. In the center of the large table were three white candles that had not yet been lit. Five other people had volunteered to be part of the seance and sat around the table. Several others had taken seats against the wall, curious enough to watch, but not participate. Someone had Anna’s father’s video camera to record the seance just in case something did happen. The room was very quiet except for the muted sounds of the other party-goers across the house. The room was dimly lit by the hallway light.

Chelsea sat at the head of the table. To her right was Anna, Anna’s boyfriend, Drew, then Erica, Jake, and Winn. Under normal circumstances, Winn would have been tingling all over at the chance to hold hands with Jake. But knowing that Erica would be holding his other hand, and apparently holding his heart as well, was making her want to cry.

“I need to know that everyone in this room, even those who are just witnesses, have an open mind. If you are a skeptic, please leave now.” She paused, and when no one stirred, she continued.

“This circle of friends is seeking to communicate with the other side. Let our journey be safe, guided by light.” She reached for one of the candles. “Before we light the candles, we should take a moment and imagine them as a beacon to draw friendly spirits to our table.”

She passed each candle to Anna, and they passed from hand to hand until Winn gave them back to Chelsea to be lit and placed back in the center of the table.

“It usually helps people focus and remain calm if they hold hands, so let’s do that,” Chelsea instructed. “Close your eyes, and try to open your mind to those on the other side. Does anyone have someone they’d like to call?” Anna asked if they could try to contact her grandmother, who had passed away several months before.

“Everyone take a few deep, calming breaths,” Chelsea began. After a few minutes, she spoke again. “Grandma Jane, we call to you to join us this evening.” She repeated this in a slow chant, five or six times.

Winn felt a chill, and Jake squeezed her hand. “Does anyone else think it’s a little colder in here?” he asked in a hushed tone.

Chelsea spoke. “If there is someone here who wishes to speak, please give us a sign.”

The candles flared brighter for a moment and there was a rap on the table. A few nervous giggles were heard around the room. Everyone had opened their eyes when Jake had spoken, and everyone’s hands were clasped with the person next to them, resting on top of the table. It did not appear that someone was faking this.

“Thank you for coming to speak with us. If this is Anna’s grandmother, please knock once for yes, twice for no.”

There were two raps this time, and a couple of people gasped.

“It’s okay everyone, just relax,” Chelsea spoke quietly to reassure the others. “Are you a relative of someone at this table?” Two raps: No. “Are you drawn to someone here for any particular reason?”

There was a slight breeze, suddenly, and the flames of the candles twisted in Winn’s direction as though someone across from her was blowing on them. Her head fell forward, chin resting on her chest. Startled, Jake opened his mouth to say something, but then Winn raised her head and smiled.

The voice that spoke was her own, but in some way, it was different. “It has been a long time since I’ve spoken.”

Erica muttered, “Oh, fuck.”

Winn started turning her head from side to side, as though she were fighting it, and Jake felt panic rising from his gut as he felt her grip tightening on his hand. “Chelsea, stop this,” he pleaded.

Chelsea spoke in a loud, commanding voice. “We thank you for joining us tonight, but we ask that you leave. Please go in peace.” She let go of Winn and Anna’s hands and extinguished the flames, then turned on the lights. Everyone at the table stood, looking pale and frightened.

“That shouldn’t have happened,” Chelsea stammered. “We didn’t offer to speak for the spirit, that shouldn’t have happened like that.”

Jake was still seated, holding Winn’s hand with both of his own. Her chin had fallen to her chest again. He reached forward to pull her hair away from her face. “Are you okay?”

A low moan escaped Winn’s throat, and she jumped out of her seat to run to the nearest bathroom. Several people followed, including Jake and the guy with the camcorder.

The door slammed in Jake’s face and they heard Winn vomiting loudly in between sobs.

“Turn that fucking thing off,” Jake scowled, swatting at the camera. “Winn, can I come in?”

“Go away,” she called weakly. He opened the door anyway because she had been in too much of a rush to lock it. As he closed the door behind himself, she dabbed at her mouth with a piece of toilet paper and flushed the toilet. With a sigh, she leaned against the bathtub and laid her head back, savoring the coolness on her neck.

“Are you feeling better now?” Jake crossed the small room and knelt next to her, stroking her canlı casino siteleri matted hair.

“I’m disgusting. Why are you in here?” she asked with her eyes closed. Her face was streaked with tears, her throat sore from stomach acid.

“Because I’m your friend. Let me help you up so you can brush your teeth and wash your face.”

She let him help her to her feet and he held her hair up for her to wash away her make-up and tears. After she had rinsed the soap away, she rinsed her mouth.

“Here, Anna can get a new toothbrush,” he said, handing her a toothbrush and toothpaste. She brushed her teeth twice, then found some mouthwash.

“I feel a little more human now,” she said, smiling up at him weakly.

“Between whatever you did to it before the party and you sweating from when you were channelling that… whatever it was… your hair is a mess,” he laughed.

“Thanks, I feel really good about myself.” She felt exhausted.

“Do you want me to wash your hair for you to get the tangles out? Come lean over the side of the tub.”

Jake pulled the removeable showerhead down and grabbed bottles of shampoo and conditioner off the shelf, then knelt next to his friend and turned on the water.

“I’ll try not to get your dress wet.” Once it was warm, he began to wet her hair. “What was it like?”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” she mumbled. Winn was recovering quickly from her ordeal and starting to get back into herself. She was aware of his body pressing against her as he leaned over her back, and the hot water jetting onto her scalp felt wonderful. When he lathered shampoo into her hair, she almost moaned with pleasure.

What stopped her was the stabbing memory of his fairy friend, Erica.

“Erica’s going to wonder what you’re doing,” she mumbled.

He started rinsing her hair. “Why do you say that?”

“Isn’t she your girlfriend?”

She heard him snort, and water splashed the back of her neck and dress. “Hey, watch it!” she yelled.

“I’m sorry, Winn,” Jake apologized, putting a towel over her back. He massaged a generous amount of conditioner into her hair, trying to work out the tangles. “We aren’t dating. I’m not her type.”

How could anyone say he wasn’t their type? “What do you mean?”

“She’s into chicks. She actually has a girlfriend, but she’s away at school, out of state. She was telling me how much she misses her and I asked her to come out tonight to take her mind off it.”

Winn suppressed a scream of pure joy. She dared not speak, or else he’d surely hear the foolish smile stretched across her face.

He rinsed her hair in silence, combing his fingers through the long, dark strands. He wrung out the excess water and wrapped her head in a towel.

She sat up, turning towards him. “Thanks for putting me back together,” she smiled.

“Is that why you were acting so funny? Because you thought she was my girlfriend?”

“Acting funny?” She tried to play dumb, and averted her gaze. At some point, Jake had removed his jacket, and she could see hints of the muscles of his arms through the thin dress shirt. She felt her heart beating faster.

He knows. And now he’s going to have to let me down, she thought.

“You know, you look really pretty in that dress,” he said softly. “I was really scared for you before. Winn, look at me.”

Reluctantly, she complied, looking into his deep brown eyes.

“I’m really glad that you’re okay. I…” He let the thought die off. “You know I love you, right?”

She nodded. She couldn’t disguise the emotion in her voice as she replied. “I love you, too, Jake.”

He smiled, and suddenly his face was moving closer. Before she could panic, his soft lips met hers, and she felt like she was melting into him.

After a minute, they separated, and Winn slowly opened her eyes with a dreamy smile on her face. “Never thought my first kiss would be on a bathroom floor.”

Jake’s eyes widened. “That was your first kiss, Winn?”

She blushed, nodding. “Can we do it again?” she asked shyly. When their lips locked a second time, it became more intense. Winn felt aroused, and her desire to feel every inch of him was overcoming her insecurities about her inexperience. She tried to focus on every minute detail, but her brain felt addled and overstimulated.

His hands were on her face, neck, and in her damp hair, and the towel fell to the floor. She ran her fingers over his short curls, down the back of his neck, across his shoulders and arms. She couldn’t believe how hard his shoulders and arms felt beneath her curious touch. She had never touched a man like this, and she was finding herself turned on by the unyielding strength in his muscles. She ran her hands over his chest, and before she could think twice, she began unbuttoning his dress shirt. He had removed his tie hours ago.

Jake broke their kiss, his hand finding hers and halting her progress with the buttons. “What are you doing, Winn?” he murmured.

“I want you to be my first everything, Jake.”

“Right now?” She nodded. “Are you sure?”

“Jake, I’ve loved you for years. I’ve wanted this for so long. Now that I know you feel the same way about me, I don’t think I can wait. And I don’t want to.”

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