“You want to do what?” Eric’s voice pitched an octave as he questioned his girlfriend, Allie, over the cell phone.
Eric was not a thrill seeker in any way, shape, or form. Allie, on the other hand, enjoyed a little excitement on a regular basis. Never anything extreme, she re-assured him many times over, just good fun with an elevated heart rate.
Allie was the best thing that ever happened to Eric. He bent to her will on issues like these, not because he was afraid of losing her, but because she was fiercely loyal, unequivocally his match, and intensely beautiful to boot. It was one of few ways he felt like he could match what he believed to be her sacrifice of coming down to his level.
In the beginning of their three-year relationship, he nearly lost her because of these feelings of inadequacy. He no longer voiced them. On top of the rest of her unbelievable traits, she was also incredibly persuasive and comfortable to be around. Instead, he seized opportunities to make her happy, even if a few of them were well outside her comfort zone.
“I just don’t know. Camping on Halloween? Do you know what kind of crazy-assed people are going to be running around, acting like deranged maniacs?” Eric rubbed his temples with his free hand.
“Oh, come on, scaredy cat. I promise I will protect my little man from the big, bad, boogie men. Plus, Sandy, Abe, Lorna, and Tim will be with us. The little freaks rarely mess with big groups. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They throw eggs at the cabin? Play Jason?”
“That’s not funny.” Eric stated.
“Chi chi chi chi ah ah ah ah…”
“Ok, then, I’ll talk to you later!” Eric raised his voice this time.
“Ok, ok, I’ll stop. But we are going, right?” Allie cooed.
Eric pulled the phone away from his face, gritted his teeth, and shook his fists at the Gods.
“Yeah, we’ll go.” He finally replied.
“Yay!” Allie squealed. “I love you! I’ll see you tonight?”
“I love you too. And yes, I’ll be home. I just need to tighten up this project. It’s due tomorrow afternoon.” Eric answered.
“Don’t be too late. I don’t want to eat by myself again.”
“I promise. See you in a few hours.” Eric pressed end on the phone and stretched. He really only had about an hour’s worth of work left, but he knew he’d find parts that needed last minute adjustments. There were always last minute adjustments.
Two and a half hours later, Eric closed the spiral bound cover of the Economics report, tossed it on his books, and exclaimed “Boom!” After glancing at his watch, he hurried to stuff all of his materials in his messenger bag and get across town to their duplex. The night prior, he was at the library until nearly 1a.m. Allie told him she didn’t want to eat alone again tonight. Eric wasn’t sure if he had eaten at all last night. He would have dinner with her, then enjoy his “post-major-assignment” ritual of an evening cocktail and knockoff Cuban cigar on their small, backyard patio. He remembered they still had to work through the details of the camping trip. Maybe it would be two cocktails.
Halloween night was upon them before Eric was ready for it. During the hour and a half drive to the Westlake Cabins and Resort he became edgy—almost on the verge of irritable. Westlake had been a favorite haunt of Elder University students since the lake was built in 1958. Halloween tended to be a little less busy time of year due to the dropping temperatures, but for those who enjoyed bonfires and crisp nights, it was just the place to let down their hair. Eric was indifferent about the lake or bonfires, but he did not care to be around the drunken weirdos that came out of the woodwork on nights like Halloween.
“We’re heeeeere” Tim uttered sinisterly as he parked the Tahoe in from of cabin eight. Everyone laughed but Eric. Eric was focused on the cabin’s solitary window a few feet from the door. Allie snapped her fingers in front of his face.
“Earth to Eric!”
He glanced at her, only half paying attention.
“Eric, what is the matter? You look like you’ve seen a ghost.” Allie’s face turned from curiosity to concern.
“No, no, it’s ok. I… I just thought I saw someone in the window is all. Probably just my imagination. I’m sorry, I’m just not feeling this trip.” Eric shook his head as if trying to clear cobwebs from his mind. Allie looked at him, then the others. Tim responded by shrugging his shoulders. They all piled out of the SUV and walked toward to cabin, their idle chit chat once more unceasing.
Lorna reached the door first. She rented the cabin the week before and had already made the trip to pick up the keys so they didn’t waste time Halloween night. She slid the patinaed key into the lock and turned the knob, simultaneously pushing the door open. Then she screamed at the top of her lungs.
To be continued…