A Jewel for All Hallows’ Eve
The air was ripe with smells of autumn as Ruby walked with her new friend Wilhelmina, Mina for short, to their next class, Mythical Literature. Smoke from a fireplace in one of the houses near campus wafted in the air and mingled with the crisp fragrance of the cedar tree they passed and the cinnamon aroma from the cup of spiced tea she carried. Not knowing a soul on campus, Ruby’s launch into college had been a bit bumpy, but things were better now that she had met Mina. She didn’t need many friends as long as she had someone as great as Mina, but, luckily, Mina’s friends soon became her friends. Now their little clan included three more – Martha, Shaw, and Boris.
“I’m glad we finally finished the Greek mythology section. Sooooo boring. Snooze city. What do you think about the new section we started? I wasn’t expecting to study about monsters like vampires and the undead.”
“I love it,” Mina’s reply was enthusiastic, “but they’re not really monsters, you know. Not like the ghouls and ghosts that come out at Halloween. Speaking of Halloween, are you excited about the party tonight?”
“Yes! But what should I wear? I mean, I think it’s supposed to be quite the affair, and we’re to dress up for it? I don’t remember the last time I went to a party like that. I would have thought we’d wear Halloween costumes.”
“Oh, you have to wear your red dress! It matches your name, and everyone you meet will remember Ruby, the lady in red.”
“But it’s strapless! You don’t think that would be too...too…exposed, too risky?”
“Definitely not,” Mina stopped and grabbed Ruby’s hand. “It’ll be perfect. You have such a beautiful long neck,” Mina was staring at her, “and you must wear your hair up tonight. The room will be warm, so you won’t get cold. Just wear a short jacket you can ditch when we get there”
“Up? I don’t think I have a necklace that would work with a strapless dress and my hair in an up do,” Ruby hesitated.
“No necklace! A necklace would ruin the effect. You’ll look sizzling hot. You’ll be the center of attention. I can guarantee that.”
Mina’s laugh made Ruby wonder if her friend was leading her down the wrong path, but she quickly dismissed the idea. Mina might be a little different, but she wasn’t evil spirited.
“Class is about to start. What time will you pick me up?” Ruby asked as she slid into her desk.
“A little after eight? It’ll be good and dark by then.”
Their conversation ended with the sound of laptops opening as the teacher entered the room and began the class. “Today we will discuss Romanian mythology.”
Clouds obscured the moon as they drove to Boris’s house for the party that evening. Boris opened the door at the first knock, making Ruby think he had been waiting impatiently for them to arrive. Ruby was astonished when Boris held a long stem red rose over their heads as they walked through the door.
“What in the world? I’ve never seen anyone do that before.”
“Just trying to add a little festive flavor to the event. We do this for all first timers. Let me take your coat, Ruby,” Boris offered. “You look absolutely ravishing.”
“Doesn’t she?” Mina added. “Just perfectly delecto.”
“I’ll have seconds, please,” Shaw joined their small group by the door. “Ruby, let me introduce you around. We’ve been telling everyone here they must meet you. Why, by the end of the night, you’ll be one of us,” he winked at Ruby. The blood rushed to Ruby’s face, and she blushed intensely at Shaw’s flirtatious gesture.
“Now look what you’ve done, Shaw, but she looks even prettier now, doesn’t she?” Her friend Mina attempted to cover Ruby’s embarrassment. “Now, shoo! Go meet!”
Shaw grabbed her hand and dragged her into a room filled with mostly young people. “I love the Halloween decorations,” Ruby observed “Someone did a lot of work. Look at the punch bowl! It’s smoking like a witches’ brew!” The cut glass bowl shimmered in the light of black candles set in matching silver candelabra on each end of a table. A pristine white tablecloth covered the table, which was laden with sandwiches, cakes, cookies, and pumpkins filled with Halloween candy.
“It certainly does look delicious,” Shaw remarked, but Ruby noticed he barely glanced at the table, but instead, his gaze was fixed on her. “If I know Boris, that punch will be nearly lethal. Care for a nip?”
“You mean it’s spiked?”
Shaw cringed, “Don’t say that so loud,” he whispered.
“Oh, sorry, I get it. Boris doesn’t want his folks to know.”
“Something like that,” Shaw agreed, as they made their way to the table.
Ruby couldn’t keep up with all the people she met that night, people of all ages dressed in their finest. By her second cup of punch, she felt positively giddy. Later, when Boris and Mina joined them, Ruby giggled and whispered to Mina, “Look at that man over there – the man in the tux.”
“Most of the older men are in tuxedos, silly goose. Which one do you mean?”
“Him,” Ruby indicated with her punch cup. “He’s so distinguished looking, almost like royalty…. maybe a duke.” The man she discretely pointed to was now staring back at her. He raised his champagne glass to her, and Ruby blushed again.
“Or a count?” Mina asked.
“Yes, that title fits him perfectly.” The man was tall, over six feet, and slim. His black hair was graying at the temples, and his green eyes gave him an exotic look. “Is he okay, though? I mean, he’s so pale. I think he may be ill.”
“Oh, nothing serious. Sometimes he has a little problem with anemia.” Mina grabbed her hand and pulled her across the room. “You’ve got to meet him. He’s Boris’s uncle and extremely cool. Mina gave her a little push toward the man in the tux.
“Mina, this is Victor. Victor, my friend Ruby.”
Victor took her hand and brought it to his lips, something Ruby had only seen done in movies. His lips lingered there as he gazed into her eyes. “Enchanting. Most enchanting,” he said as he lowered her hand. “I do hope you are enjoying yourself at our little bash. I understand it’s your first time with us?”
“Oh, yes. I love Halloween, and I can’t wait ‘til tomorrow. The dorm mother will let children come to our rooms to trick or treat. I have some really nice treats all ready for them.”
“Ah, yes, indeed. That will be thrilling, I’m sure. But you know, it will actually be Halloween at midnight, and we won’t wait until the sun comes up. We'll start celebrating when the clock strikes twelve, almost like New Year’s.”
“That sounds like fun,” Mina replied. “Do you have any special treats to celebrate with or am I going to get tricked?” she said with a laugh.
“Maybe a little of both, but, yes, we will have one of our favorite treats tonight,” Victor smiled mysteriously. “Until then, I think I’ll just grab a little bite.”
Mina stepped forward, “Victor! The table is over there. It’s still early. Go ahead and get you something.”
Victor looked at the table of food. “Some toothsome succulents, to be sure, but I’m afraid it’s not what I am craving,” he sighed, “I’ll have to be satisfied with it for now, I suppose.”
“Yes, you will. It’s not long until midnight, Victor,” Mina reminded him. “Come on, Ruby, let’s find Martha. We’ve hardly seen her tonight.”
Ruby was compliant and followed after her friend. “There she is. She’s talking with Victor.”
“We’ll wait then. Victor is charming, but he can be impetuous. If it were up to him, he’d ring Halloween in at ten o’clock! We have another thirty minutes to go. Look, Boris and Shaw are over there. We want to make sure we’re with them at midnight.”
“I was getting worried about you two,” Mina said to the boys. “We certainly don’t want to lose you now when midnight is so close. You don’t want to miss the fun,”
Shaw reach his arm around Ruby and drew her to him. “Not a chance. I’ve spoken for this one,” he placed a light kiss on Ruby’s cheek.
Ruby noticed the crowd was slowly drifting out of the room. “Where is everyone going?”
Shaw still held her close. “To the basement. It’s been prepared for the Halloween celebration, too.”
“Well, I don’t know why this wouldn’t do,” Ruby looked around the room at all the decorations. “It’s perfectly lovely.
“You’ll have a big surprise when you see the basement. Come, let’s go,” his hand slid to a firm grip on her elbow. They stopped just outside the door to the basement. “Wait, it’s more fun if we wait until we’re the last ones. We can savor the feeling of anticipation. Anticipation always whets the appetite, don’t you agree?”
“Uh, if you say so. You seem to be an expert.” Ruby couldn’t imagine what addition to the party would be added at midnight, but she was game.
“I am. I am. I was an initiate to the midnight celebration last year – my first time at the party. I wouldn’t dream of missing it now.”
“This will be a first for me. It sounds fun, though. I hope I will get to come next year.”
Shaw looked at her intently. “I’m sure you will be here. You’ll see,” he ushered her down the stairs into the dark basement room. “You’ll be changed forever.”