It Happened One Night at the Orpheum

I have had the most wonderful/busy/crazy week.  Though I could spend hours talking about the lovely Gillian Welch and her partner, I’ll let the video suffice.  Her music playing through the great hall of the Orpheum Theater has stayed with me for days.

On that note, I’ve had a story in my head for a month or two.  I’ll be sharing this first part with my fellow KWA members in my critique group tomorrow.  Though it’s silly and a tad cliche, This will develop into a Young Adult ghost story.

It Happened One Night at the Orpheum

             Madison Lake took a deep breath and stuffed her hands into the pockets of her Levis.  The chilly October air curled under her light jacket.  Should’ve worn a costume, she thought.  Could I possibly stand out more? Everyone else in line outside the historic Orpheum Theater in downtown Wichita had dressed to the max.  From the hobo clown a few feet away, to the man dressed as Voldemort further down, these people took Halloween seriously.  So far, she had seen a pregnant cheerleader, several terrorists with turbans made from towels, and a giant pack of cigarettes.  She had no idea how that guy was going to sit down.

It seemed dumb to ask mom for money for a costume, and her own savings was blown.  Her house was full of barely unpacked boxes, and her mom seemed totally stressed out enough as it was.  Besides, she thought, dressing up for Halloween is for little kids.  She snorted.  Tell that to these people.  She’d never seen so many grown folk acting like freaks. 

Maddy flinched away from the tall guy in the full-on Pin-Head costume, the needles stuck in the face of his mask casting long shadows.  She tried to stand as close to the brick wall of the old theater as she could get.  The flashing marquee cast blinking splashes across the painted and masked faces. The eerie effect made even the Tinkerbell a few people down the line look ghastly.

A shadowy figure loomed near and she clutched at her jacket.  The figure bumped into Maddy’s hip, and she realized it was Stephanie, even as the girl squealed, “Maddy!”  She was a little dazed, and the next few words were lost in Steph’s giggling enthusiasm.  “… made it! This is gonna’ be so much fun! I can’t wait for you to meet Chris!”

            Chris?!  Christopher Ryan? The guy from Maddy’s geometry class? Tall, dark, and way out of her league?  With the deep brown eyes and the smile that lit up the whole room?  That guy was the hottest thing since Edward Cullen!!  How could Stephanie NOT tell me HE was coming? she thought frantically.  Would she look stupid without a costume?  Stephanie clearly had on a costume, although Maddy couldn’t figure it out. 

            Stephanie continued to babble, pulling her toward the back of the line, gushing on so fast that Maddy had a hard time following her words.

            “… and you like my costume, don’t you?”  She looked at Stephanie, considering the purple dress straight out of 70s polyester heaven, the purple tights and a neon green scarf.  It all seemed vaguely familiar.  The hair was the best part, teased and feathered into a strange bouf tied back with a headband.  Stephanie posed for her.  “So, what do you think?  Pretty good, huh?”

            “Uhhh,” Maddy struggled. 

            “Oh come ON, Maddy! You don’t get it?”  Stephanie’s impatience was palpable and she tried not to squirm.  Finally, Stephanie just shrugged.  “Don’t worry.  You’ll figure it out.”  She hooked Maddy’s arm and pulled her on toward the art deco stained-glass doors. 

            From behind them, they heard a voice: “Hey, new girl.”  The tone had Maddy hunching her shoulders even as she turned around in line.  She sighed.  She was sure that every high school across the country had at least a few Page McElroys sprinkled in.  These girls always had the latest hair styles, the most expensive clothes, and the snottiest attitudes.  Maddy hated clichés and stereotypes, but if the shoe fit? she thought philosophically. 

            For once, though, Page wasn’t dressed in the latest fashion.  In fact, that sweater she was wearing had to be the ugliest color orange Maddy had ever seen.  The wool skirt wasn’t much better for the coolness factor, although it was definitely short and skimpy.  And her sweater certainly had a deep V down the front!

Too bad Page was draped all over Christopher, and she was clearly making sure he had a view.  But he didn’t seem to notice.  He wasn’t even looking at her.

“Hi,” he said, looking straight at Maddy.  He had this little half-smile, and his eyes seemed to be crinkled up with humor, and Maddy forgot about everything else.  It was like she’d hit the world’s mute button.  She noticed his olive green tee-shirt, the brown corduroy pants, his mussed-up hair.  She sighed, answering “Hi,” back.

“Great,” said Page, her grating voice breaking the spell.  She thrust a bag at Maddy.  “Here.  You can be our ‘Scooby.”

With dawning horror, Maddy realized the paper bag now in her hands was clearly marked SCOOBY SNACKS in black Sharpe marker.  They were all dressed as characters from the cartoon: Stephanie as ‘Daphne’, Chris as ‘Shaggy,’ and Page as the sluttiest ‘Velma’ Maddy had ever seen.  And apparently she had been invited on this little outing for a very specific reason.  The gang just wouldn’t be the same without the dog.  She wanted to die.

Before she even had time to react, before she needed to blink the tears out of her eyes, Chris snatched the bag out of her hands.  “You’re such a bitch, Page.”  He shifted his body away from hers and she immediately pouted.

“Come on, Chris, where’s your sense of humor?  I was only kidding!”

His muttered, “whatever,” was drowned out by Stephanie’s scream of excitement, “Blake’s here! Blake’s here!  He’s Fred, you know,” she said to Maddy, clapping.  “The gang’s all here.” 

His costume was the best.  He even had on a silk Ascot.  And in his arms, he carried a stuffed animal.  “Brought your Scooby,” he said, passing the toy to Chris.  Page rolled her eyes at me and then smiled a little, like she was saying, “A joke’s a joke. No hard feelings?”  I stared at her.  But Chris was suddenly beside me and I could feel his warmth through my thin jacket.  I shrugged, following Stephanie and Blake into the theater.

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