The Val & Kit Mystery Series

Friday, October 11, 2013

Trick or Traitor

“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
“Of course. You look hideous.” The teenage Kit handed me a wart she had fashioned out of Play-Doh. “Here—take this and put it on the end of your nose.”
I stuck the protuberance on the perfect spot as she came up behind me, spinning me around so I could get a good look in the full-length mirror attached to the back of my bedroom door. We’d spent the last half hour turning my face green and fixing the long, gray, ratty wig she’d gotten from somewhere-or-other.
“Ghastly,” Kit said.
“Scary,” I agreed, hardly recognizing myself. “But . . . maybe we should have gone for something a little less obvious . . . like Laverne or Shirley.”
“Pedestrian,” Kit said. It was her new favorite word. “Everyone will be Laverne and Shirley. We’ll be the only two witches.” She plunked the conical black silk hat on my head. “Perfect.”
“You should go and get dressed.” I turned away from my grisly image. “But I don’t know why you couldn’t get dressed here.”
“I told you. I have to pick up some candy for my mom, but I’ll run home, get my costume, and be back in twenty minutes. Twenty-five, tops.”
Kit gathered her belongings and ran out of the room. “Thirty minutes, Valley Girl,” I heard her yell as she ran down the stairs. “I’ll be back in thirty minutes.”
“Okay,” I called, shutting the door and staring at my reflection. I had to admit, it was almost magnificent in a frightening way. Taking a sip from my lukewarm Tab, I put my new Hall & Oates LP on the turntable of my record player. Rich Girl filled the room, and I couldn’t resist grabbing the broom and dancing around my bedroom.
Aargh!” It was my mother, standing in the doorway, shrieking. “Valerie, what are you doing? Turn that music down, for heaven’s sake. Do you want Daddy and me to be completely deaf? And what are you wearing?”
“Well, take a guess, Mom. What does it look like to you?” I had stopped twirling and was leaning on my broom handle. Witch-style.
“It’s not attractive, Valerie. And I can guess whose idea this was. Why couldn’t you be Dorothy from the The Wizard of Oz? Now, that’s a costume.”
“It’s pedestrian, Mom. That means—”
“Lacking in excitement. I know what it means.”
“This is fun.” I caught a glimpse in the mirror of my green face and protruding nose. “I like it.”
“Well, Buddy is downstairs, with Tom Haskins. Come and say hello.”
“Oh.” I hesitated, not comfortable about my brother and his friend seeing my witchy persona. “Tell Buddy I’ll see him tomorrow.”
“He won’t be here tomorrow. He and Tom are driving to Kings Island tonight.”
“Well, I . . . I’m not sure if . . .”  Suddenly I felt so juvenile. What would Buddy and his sophisticated friend Tom think of me? Why had I agreed to this horrible costume? And where was Kit, when I really needed her? She could make a witch fun, no matter how hideous. But my mother had come fully into the room, and with her arm around my waist, was pushing me toward the door.
“Here she is,” she yelled from the top of the stairs. “Here’s our little witch.”
At the bottom stood Buddy, my nineteen-year-old brother. Beside him was Tom Haskins, looking groovy in his rugby shirt and bell-bottoms.
“Hey, Sis,” Buddy yelled up at me. “You look cool.” Dear Buddy; he was better than a dozen Kits at making me feel good. I stood up a little straighter, leaving my mother’s grip.
“Hello, my little pretties,” I said, in as croaky a voice as I could manage, twisting my finger in their direction. Then I resumed my normal voice. “Hello, Tom.”
He gave me a crooked smile and dug his hands into his pockets. No comment.
The boys left, and Kit phoned to say she was running late (no big surprise there), but she’d meet me at the party. And yes, she was dressed. No problem.
My mother gave me a ride, four blocks away, insisting I not wear my hat in the car in case we were stopped by the police. Kit was already there, wearing a long, blond, layered wig; hot pants; and white knee-length boots. Farrah Fawcett. Damn her. Farrah Fawcett. The most glamorous woman on the planet.
“What the hell happened?” I asked, as soon as I’d made my way through the crowd to her side. My wart had dropped off my nose during the car ride over, and my green face was starting to itch.
“Sorry, Valley Girl,” Kit whispered, still managing a smile that Farrah herself would have envied. “But I heard Larry James is gonna be here tonight, and I wanted to be sure he noticed me.”
Really?” I said, scratching under my chin and then leaning on my broomstick. “’Cuz I passed about six Farrahs on the way in here. Do you really think he’ll notice you?”
“Hell yes,” she said, breathlessly. “He’ll notice me. If it’s the last thing he ever does.”
Years later, on a different Halloween night, when Tom Haskins and I were having a drink after work wearing normal street clothes, he reminded me of Halloween 1976.
“By the way, how did you like my costume that night?” I asked him.
“What costume?” he asked. As I knew he would. He never disappoints me.