Dakota 7

Val had finally convinced me to go see the Halloween show, and demanded that I uphold tradition and arrive in costume. I hadn’t had time to really make costume, since Halloween wasn’t for a month and a half, but I pulled pieces out of my closet to make myself look like a character from a web comic, and that would have to do. No one would recognize my character, but oh well. The goth makeup highlighted my eyes and the shape of my lips. I had slicked my hair back into a stubby ponytail and curled my bangs, highlighting the angles of my face (all faked with contouring, but it worked). The fitted black jeans and sky high black heels showed off my legs, and the tailored suit jacket over a crisp white blouse brought it all together in some semblance of classy coherence. Add a pair of diamond earrings and I was set. And honestly? I felt gorgeous.

With Kimmy at class and Emmy at work, I had no one to send a “check me” text to, no one to get a second opinion from, I decided I’d have to wait until Val saw me and hope that I didn’t need to change anything before we got to the theatre. We were headed there early to visit our coworkers, get drinks and dinner, and maybe see the cabaret show before the Halloween show, so it was still considerably early when I climbed into my car and headed toward Val’s dorm.

Val lived across campus, in the cheaper student apartments, where she was trapped with five other girls in a weird clique that had been one girl short of a full apartment. Lucky Val to get thrown in with that train wreck; one of the girls seemed to like her fine, two were neutral, and two were downright rude to her whenever the opportunity presented itself. I’d met three of them, and in all honesty, I got weird vibes from all three of them. Val was sassy, no nonsense, and determined to do her very best in every way possible. Her roommates… not so much. If I had the space, and if Kimmy had been okay with it, I’d have already had Val move in with Kimmy and I.

She came out dressed as a steampunk version of Alice from Alice in Wonderland, a long blonde wig trailing down past her shoulders, an overnight bag draped over her arm. I could see her eyelids sparkling with bright blue glitter that matched her dress, shining in the afternoon sun. She stopped in her tracks as soon as I got out to open the car door for her, her mouth hanging open. “Damn, Piper!”

I frowned at her, then looked down at myself. “What? Is it too goth? Too weird? What?”

“Too nothing, you look hot as fuck!

I laughed. “Thank you. You look pretty sexy yourself.” I emphasized my compliment with a wink.

A bright smile spread across her face and she saucily strutted toward me, doing a turn to show off her own costume. “I only hope I measure up!”

“At least you have a recognizable costume,” I pointed out. “I have a character no one’s gonna recognize.”

“It won’t matter because you look like sex. Classy, classy sex.”

I snorted as she got into the car. “Maybe Dakota will notice.”

She let out a sharp laugh as I shut her door and went back to the driver’s side.

The theatre was already crowded with attendees for the evening cabaret. We decided against going through the guest route and snuck in the back– at least, we were as sneaky as we could be, considering we were immediately hounded by our coworkers.

The team today consisted of most of the usuals– Mindy, Ruby, Rick, Aimee, Kiki, and one girl I’d seen before but never worked with. Chloe, I believe her name was; she had beautiful golden skin, long dark hair that curled more and more near the bottom, and ample curves. She could rock makeup like no one’s business, and boy was she. Her eyeliner was sharp enough to kill a man.

“Aren’t you a couple of cuties?” Mindy grinned as she led the Brigadoon team out, and Val and I struck poses.

“Of course we are,” I said, “It’s Halloween!”

“There’s more than a month left,” Chloe said, pointing a finger at us, though her smile proved that she was teasing. “You stop that.”

“Hallow-month,” I said, pointing back. “It’s my favorite holiday.”

“And Steph’s too,” Ruby pointed out. “Which is why we start in September.”

As they left, a couple of the Brigadoon– only performers came out, and upon seeing us, made noises of approval and surprise. We got plenty of compliments, which Val took with an air of approval– she knew she was a hottie– and I took with quiet politeness. Compliments made me vaguely uncomfortable, but I’d learned how to take them graciously and with a smile.

Bowie was one of those performers, his dark eyes glistening when he saw us. He’d promised to come with us tonite, and he didn’t disappoint– though his costume looked a lot like mine: thrown together last minute. He wore a brown hoodie, with ears and antlers coming out of the hood, over jeans and a white tee shirt. A bright clown nose sat atop his forehead, held on by a thin string of elastic.

“Hi girls,” He cooed, hugging each of us so hard he lifted us off the floor. I loved getting hugs from Bowie; his hugs meant something. They mattered. When Bowie hugged someone, if they didn’t leave feeling warm, loved, and important, then they were just plain stupid. Bowie’s hugs never failed to lift my mood.

“I love your costume,” I told him, tugging at the little puffs on the strings of the hood. “It’s a little Christmasy for Halloween, but it’s adorable.”

“It was in my closet so I grabbed it,” Bowie said, laughing as he spoke. “It’s from last year’s Christmas show. It’s signed by our cast and crew on the back!” He spun around and sort of squatted, sticking out his ass and wiggling it as he flattened his back. I couldn’t help but laugh– his hoodie had a fluffy little tail on the back that shook when he wiggled. The autographs on the broad expanse of his back were exciting, too, but not half so much.

Arm in arm with Bowie in the middle, the three of us strolled down the street toward what was fondly referred to as restaurant row, a street where at least five buildings in a row were all varying places to eat. Probably more, if cafes counted.

“Where would you lovely ladies like to eat?”

At Bowie’s question, I scanned the options. A steakhouse, Italian, Mexican, a seafood joint, and Applebee’s… “Applebee’s will have something for all of us, and it’s not too expensive.”

Bowie glanced down at me, then over to Val as she immediately agreed with me. “I like their two for twenty deal.”

“I think it’s two for twenty-two now,” I corrected, “but same.”

“I forgot you’re both in college,” Bowie suddenly said.

“Yeah,” I said, understanding– I hoped– what he meant. “We think in terms of money first, food second.”

“And we never sleep,” Val agreed. Her smile– no, that was a grimace– somehow spoke of deep internal suffering. I snorted.

Dinner was downright lovely with Bowie for company. He could keep a conversation going for hours without boring us or losing us, and he listened patiently and enthusiastically whenever Val or I spoke. At seven we all filed out of the restaurant and back into the theatre, greeting our regular patrons and fellow coworkers with hugs and cheek kisses. I particularly appreciated the overwhelming amount of people who had, in the spirit of Halloween, come in costume.

I sat on the end, since Val and I couldn’t decide who got to sit next to Bowie, with him directly in the middle. I had always loved the tangible anticipation before a show, that slight hum in the air, the murmurs of the audience. It pulsed in the air, electric, as the lights dimmed and the music began.

I don’t know what I’d been expecting, but it hadn’t been this. The music that swelled sounded, impossibly, like parade music, as though Steph had somehow managed to take what should be a walk and wave performance and put it into a theatre. I frowned, looking around as a voice began to speak, welcoming us to the show and making the usual announcements. The underlying music was downright creepy, appropriate for Halloween. Dancers began to file in with the music, all cloaked in black, practically slithering onto the stage. They crouched down around one performer, a woman who suddenly threw back the hood of her cloak, and welcomed us to– I was right– a Halloween Parade. The music picked up and became the most cheerful and exciting kind of creepy I’d ever heard. My pulse picked up with glee as I realized what was going on– the dancers on stage weren’t the only performers; more cloaked figures were stalking their way down the aisles, hunched over so that the hoods completely obscured their faces. Those on stage began to twirl out of their cloaks, throwing them aside to reveal the cutest Halloween-themed costumes I’d ever seen, purple and orange and green and black all swirling together, in short dresses on the girls and pants and tee shirts on the men. They were simplistic, but somehow appropriately festive.

Those in the aisles snuck to the front of the audience, stopping just in front of the stage. They, too, cast of their cloaks, only to reveal characters everyone recognized. They stayed in the aisles, greeting people in time to the music, giving compliments to young pirates and princesses, pretending to be startled by toddlers dressed as vampires, and flirting outrageously with adults old enough to be their parents. I watched with charmed delight as they exited once again, and the dancers on stage began a new routine with a new section of music.

Those dancers disappeared, replaced with a wave of pirates all sporting (painfully fake) swords. The girls flipped their skirts as they twirled and kicked, the men mock-fighting, and then their section was over. I turned as the pirates made their escapes into the wings, watching the next batch enter– and my jaw dropped.

A wave of elegantly dressed, ghostly couples seemed to float down the aisles, swiftly gliding onto the stage and into a circle. I saw them begin to waltz out of the corner of my eye, but was distracted by what was following them. Zombies– I hoped– marched in time to the music, their faces set in stern frowns, their faces angular and gaunt from makeup. The black suits they all wore were delectably tailored to their forms, both on the ladies and the gentlemen. In their hands they carried spades, much in the way I’d seen the Marines carry their rifles. I would have appreciated all of that much sooner had I not been hyper-focused on one of the people marching with the undead army.

Dakota.

He managed to make the undead look drool-worthy, his hair slicked back, the suit showing off his athletic frame. His cheeks and jaw had been sharply contoured, giving him cheekbones so sharp they could cut someone. My heart beat wildly, banging on my ribs like it wanted to jump out and throw itself at him. I felt my face flush and blinked rapidly in an attempt to focus on the rest of the performance.

My attention was snatched back to the present when the performer in front of him slammed her shovel on the ground by the row in front of me with what sounded like a war cry.. I jumped, jerking back in my seat, and was rewarded by Dakota slamming his shovel down right beside me, cackling at me. I mimicked his laugh back at him, leaning toward him for a split second before reclining back in my chair. He sneered at me, quite in character, and then stalked away down the aisle.

“He likes you,” Val whispered, leaning across Bowie, whose focus was (I hoped) glued to the stage as the ghostly couples waltzed. I rolled my eyes at Val. “Sure, like an annoying brother, maybe.”

Val just grinned at me and sat back up to watch the rest of the Halloween show.

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