This outtake takes place the Halloween before main characters Melissa Williams and Jason McAlister meet in person. Melissa and Jason got to know each other online first. After a couple formal emails, they fell into a comfortable, if not lewd, conversation.
Here’s Jason’s side of the conversation regarding Halloween.
Ann Arbor, Michigan
I checked my watch. We’d been studying for a couple hours. While I enjoyed organic chemistry, I’d had enough.
“I think I’m done,” I announced and closed my book. “You?”
At the desk next to me, my study partner, Greg Lawson, slowly turned toward me. His slate gray eyes didn’t stray from the page in front of him until the last second. “Damn, you’re fast, Jason. I have one more chapter. Just a few more minutes.”
“No problem.” I stretched. My arms were tight—it’d been a couple days since I’d had a chance to swim. Tomorrow, I promised myself. I should be able to fit in some laps between class and the party.
Making sure Greg had gone back to reading, I pushed my book away and opened my laptop. I had email. A thrill made my fingers tingle…and a guilty twinge settled in my gut.
It’s just email. It’s not like you’re cheating. Besides, it might not even be her.
It’d been a while since I’d heard from Melissa. Her midterms had to coming up—just like mine were—and I figured she must be busy. My email buddy for almost a month, Melissa Williams had kept me in stitches with her naughty humor. If she weren’t two thousand miles away in California, I’d be in big trouble.
Greg flipped a page, causing me to jump. I should’ve closed the laptop, but instead I angled it away from him. The last thing I needed was for him to find out about Melissa.
I clicked on the email icon. Two new messages had arrived, one from my brother, Mitch, and the other from Melissa. Her subject line made me snicker: Dress Up
“I can’t get through this if you’re laughing. Take it in the other room,” Greg said.
“I’ll shut up.” I pressed my lips together. My girlfriend was in the next room, so that was out of the question.
I repeated the mantra I’d adopted when our conversation had gone from business to social. This girl, Melissa, was nothing to me. Just a screen full of words. I’d never seen her, never would see her. And yet, those words—her light, witty, laughing words—were the highlight of my day. But if my girlfriend found out, I’d have to stop. All fun aside, I wouldn’t risk my relationship with her, no matter how much I liked my phantom Melissa.
But that didn’t mean I had to give her up just yet. Skipping Mitch, I clicked on Melissa’s name.
This email, like most from her, started without a salutation.
Sooooo, are you looking forward to playing dress up tomorrow?
I quickly covered my snort with a cough.
It’s taken me a while to come up with a good Halloween costume this year. But I think I’ve got it now. It’s a little dirty, so I don’t know if I should show it to you.
Do you have plans for Halloween, or is it too cold in Michigan to go Trick-or-Treating?
The thought of finally seeing Melissa sent all kinds of conflicting feelings through me. I wondered for the tenth time if she had a boyfriend. Was she hiding my emails just like I was hiding hers? Something in me said no. She was best friends with my brother, and he hadn’t said anything about her dating. He hadn’t said anything about her at all since he found out I was talking to her. Selfish bastard.
I hit REPLY.
Dirty, huh? I paused. Melissa loved words, which probably meant she wasn’t going as a French maid. I’d be happy to clean you up. You’d like my costume. It’s got a sports theme, sort of. Your favorite—hockey. The worn goalie mask I’d used for a costume for the past three years hung on the wall above me. The Halloween movies had made my holidays easy. Mitch had always teased me that going as myself was cheating.
Without thinking, I continued typing.
I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.
We’d never talked about sharing photos before. Something inside me told me it was a bad idea, not because seeing Melissa would ruin her mystique, but because it might do just the opposite.
I erased the last line.
Unlike the kids, I don’t have to brave the cold for candy. We’re having a party here. It’ll be nice and warm.
I thought about attaching photo of my costume, but decided that was just another way to invite her to send a picture. Instead I pressed SEND.
Greg slammed his book shut. “Finally. I wish I had your memory. You’ve got it so easy.”
I closed my laptop. “Not as easy as you think.”
* * *
Two days later, I was convinced Melissa was gone. She hadn’t replied to my last email, and since Mitch was knee-deep in midterms, I assumed she was too. I knew it was for the better, but I missed her sexy teases.
I wished I had something like midterms to distract me, but they were another week away. I still checked my inbox way too many times a day. This afternoon I was in class, trying to take notes, but kept my eye the corner of the screen, watching for the NEW MAIL icon to appear.
When it did, I switched windows. Next to me, Greg continued to type. I’d get the notes from him later.
Unfortunately—or not?—the message was from Mitch.
Look, I went as you this year.
Beneath the words was a photo of about fifteen people. In the center stood Mitch, hands on hips and red cape billowing. Across his bright blue chest were the letters SA.
The caption had been added by someone else. It was a list of names, including “Smart-Ass-Man Mitch.” The bastard. But it was another name that caught my eye.
I scanned the photo again. On the left was a girl with pompoms and long dark hair, but after counting the names, I realized she was Beth somebody. Next to her was someone in a mud-covered green football uniform, complete with shoulder pads and helmet. Melissa.
“It’s a little dirty,” she’d said.
I tried to zoom in on the helmet, to get a glimpse of the girl inside, but only got blurry gray squares.
It’s for the best. You know what you need to do.
I clicked DELETE, and the photo disappeared.
“Happy Halloween, Melissa,” I whispered. “Goodbye.”