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Fiction Sad Friendship

I loved the first morning of October each year. I had my box of Halloween decorations ready to snazz up my office cubicle. Spiderwebs to line the partition walls, a cauldron filled with candy, orange lights to sparkle around my computer, little trick-or-treater figurines, plenty of pumpkins with long, twisting stems, and a cd of creepy music to play on repeat. Every other month, I felt as invisible as a ghost haunting my work space, but this month, people stopped by my desk and acknowledged my existence. 

Women would stop by to take a small piece of candy and joke about how they were being so bad for eating so many snacks, or they’d walk over to tell me they’d need to pass since they were on a diet. These same dieters always returned from lunch with fast food bags they said were salads. Maybe they were salads but those salads are often worse for a person than the burgers. A few men also acted like I was pressuring them to break diets simply by having candy in view, but most took handfuls and told me stories about their kids or the elaborate lawn displays they practically pulled a back or broke a limb to craft. Not necessarily pleasant conversations, but still conversations which I craved. 

Everyone needs their little thing to make them special, and mine was Halloween. I liked hearing my decorations were so cute or that I seemed so fun. I always hoped this appearance of fun would lead to them inviting me out after hours for a drink or something. It never did. Maybe they thought a fun lady like me would be too busy for their frivolous little complaint sessions. 

This year, I outdid myself a little. I baked a plate of sugar cookies decorated to look like jack o’lanterns. A smile stretched across my face as I basked in the warmth of my pumpkin chai tea. Yes, today would be a good day. 

When I arrived at my office, something unusual caught my eye. On Belinda’s desk sat a jack o’lantern with a witch's hat on top. She also had a plate of black and orange fortune cookies with a little sign saying “look into the future, if you dare.” 

My jaw dropped. No one else ever decorated for Halloween. Nancy stood in front of Belinda’s desk, snagging a cookie without even mentioning her usual, “oh I couldn’t possibly,” spiel. Nancy never accepted my candy. 

“This is so adorable, Belinda,” Nancy gushed. 

“Thank you, my son carved the pumpkin. He’s eight. Want to see a picture?”

“Oh, how precious!” 

My heart thumped loudly, and my hearing dulled. I told myself to shake it off. One little pumpkin and plate of cookies meant nothing. Wait until they all see my work of art. I clutched the box tightly and walked to my cubicle. I quickly set up my little display, and then started the music to call attention. 

“Oh, Cindy, can we not play that music today?” Todd called over from his desk. “I have an awful headache and it’s only October 1st. Maybe save it for the 31st.” 

“Oh, uh, sorry.” I turned off the eerie instrumental music with a frown. 

The day turned into a usual one for me. Unsocial and filled with work. Everyone stopped at Belinda’s desk and I couldn’t understand. By lunch all she had was the one stupid pumpkin since everyone took her “fun” little fortune cookies. They all had positive messages inside that made everyone feel all warm and gooey. That’s not what spooky season is about.  

Feeling as deflated as my neighbor’s saggy ghost inflatable that had yet to be turned on, I sulked through my kitchen. How was my little thing so easily ripped from my hands? 

I mostly did the same thing every year, maybe things needed to change. A fresh update. I did a search for fun Halloween things online and came up with a great idea. I ran to the store and the next day brought a talking skeleton to work. I figured people would have so much fun hearing what he had to say when they walked by. 

Belinda had a tray of Halloween fruits. Ghostly bananas, orange pumpkins, and apple mouths. Nancy was there again. 

“Oh, Belinda, how creative! These are delightful.” 

Belinda looked at me and smiled. “I thought it was so generous that Cindy brought in all that candy, but not everyone can eat that stuff. I figured I’d bring a healthy alternative so everyone can take part.” 

Healthy alternative? Halloween isn’t about being healthy. With a huff, I lugged my skeleton friend in and set him up. 

The skeleton laughed menacingly when Todd walked by and I watched him jump in the air and drop his handful of papers. “C’mon Cindy. What’s this now? That’s too much of a distraction. This is a workplace.”  

I knew Todd was grumpy from being scared in front of everyone, but to my surprise others agreed. 

“Yes, please take that creepy thing away,” Nancy added. 

My eyes stung with preparing tears. I grabbed the skeleton and ran to my car. After a good cry and a few moments to freshen up, I returned like a dog with their tail between their legs. Not that anyone noticed. They were too busy chatting with Belinda about how thoughtful she was. 

I should’ve stopped there, but I didn’t. I thought if they want healthy things, I know what I’ll do. The next day I set up apple bobbing. Belinda had little crocheted ghosts. 

“What’s this?” George asked me. 

“Apple bobbing! Try it out.” 

George looked at the pail of water and apples uncomfortably. 

Belinda stood and said, “Cindy that’s a cute idea, but so unhygienic. Maybe we can rethink it a little.” 

Before I could even think of a response, the manager walked in. He called everyone’s attention to him. 

“It has come to my attention that something brilliant has been happening in this office.” 

I felt my heart perk up. The manager had never acknowledged my displays. What was brilliant? The apple bobbing? The fact that we now had two people celebrating Halloween, obviously inspired by me. 

He continued, “Belinda’s kindness and thoughtful actions have been such an inspiration to everyone in here. How festive this desk is and how she thinks of everyone. People keep telling me they feel happier coming into work. I’ve been inspired to start a kindness reward. Belinda will be the first recipient, of course. I’m hoping everyone will win at some point. These good deeds–” 

I tuned him out. Couldn’t listen anymore. I slumped in my chair, distractedly clicking around on my screen. Everyone cheered and congratulated and then went back to work. 

I stayed later than everyone else at the end of the day, and packed up all my Halloween supplies. What was the point? I only liked it because it kept me from being invisible and now I was again anyway. 

A part of me hoped someone would complain the decorations were gone and wonder what happened. That maybe at least Bob would ask what happened to the candy since he took handfuls each time he walked by. No one said anything. They were busy being fake nice to each other to win awards and praising Belinda for her growing number of decorations. 

I stayed later than everyone else again, because I had fallen behind on a project. My heart wasn’t in it and my mind had gone all foggy. The cleaning lady, Gloria walked in. 

“Hey, Gloria. I’ll be out of your hair in a minute. Feel free to do what you need to,” I said with a smile. “Hey, how are Luke and Lilly?” 

Gloria beamed. “They’re doing well. Luke got a blue belt in karate, and Lilly came in third in her dance recital.” 

“That’s so exciting for them both! They’re talented little ones. You must be so proud.” 

“Where are all your spooky decorations? I love seeing them.”

My smile dropped to a frown. “Eh, people kept complaining about them. I figured they’d serve better somewhere else.” 

“Oh, no. Why would they complain? You love this holiday so much.” 

I shrugged. “It’s okay.” 

Gloria looked concerned, but didn’t say more about it. 

“Well, that’s all for me. I’ll leave you to it. Have a good night!” I said. 

“You too, Cindy.” 

It felt good to hear her say that she missed my decorations. At least they mattered to someone. 

That night I went home, prepared my frozen dinner and sat down to watch a spooky movie. I couldn’t stop thinking about the office. Each year I did all this decorating in hopes of having a conversation that wasn’t really about me. No one asked how I was or showed real interest. Maybe my decorations weren’t the special thing I thought they were. Maybe it was time to find something real. 

I took out my planner and searched the web. I wrote down a bunch of fall festivities happening in the area. Looking at my boring frozen dinner, I added in some autumn cooking classes too. All this time I’ve spent trying to win over people who never really cared anyway. What if I could find people who paid attention all year round? Maybe I’ll even ask Gloria if she wants to try one of these with me. She could be a good friend, and that's really all I've wanted this whole time. Just looked in the wrong places. 


October 05, 2022 15:13

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18 comments

Michał Przywara
21:21 Oct 11, 2022

The way this started off, I was expecting an increasingly silly Hallowe'en arms race, but it instead turned rather sad. Partly because of what happened to Cindy, but also because Belinda was just better at it. I think the core issue was that Cindy had an ulterior motive here. Belinda was just adding some fun to the office, but Cindy was trying to catch a friend. So because of that, the ending is actually a good one, because it seems like Cindy realized this. And when she was talking with Gloria, when she was being herself, she was a tota...

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Annalisa D.
00:17 Oct 12, 2022

Thank you so much for such a thoughtful response to my story! I appreciate you taking the time to read this and leave encouraging feedback. I'm glad you saw it that way with Belinda. While I'm certainly happy people can connect with Cindy, it was also important to me to write this in such a way that no one is a "bad guy" because I wanted to reflect a different type of conflict. It's nice to know that plan worked. Thank you!

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Graham Kinross
13:05 Oct 13, 2022

“That’s not what spooky season is about.” Exactly. She sounds like she should be teaching instead of working in an office, that kind of effort works out well for teachers most of the time. Probably not as well paid but that’s the trade off. It’s good to get to read your stories again. Sorry I didn’t keep up.

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Annalisa D.
13:53 Oct 13, 2022

That's true. I think kids would definitely appreciate it more. Some places are more fun and creative than others. Thanks for reading! These are all new because I took a break for a while. I found some good motivation to work on my novel and decided while I had it to dedicate to that for a while. I missed these stories. I have a lot of catching up on yours and am hoping to start that today. I'm excited to read them!

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Graham Kinross
21:06 Oct 13, 2022

You’re welcome and thank you. It was good to see you had new stories. Nice to hear you got some work done on your book.

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Kate Winchester
21:23 Oct 09, 2022

It’s a testament to your writing when the reader can feel sympathy for a character and that’s just what you did. I felt sad for Cindy because she just wanted to be loved and accepted. I’m glad though that she’s friends with Gloria and I loved the end.

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Annalisa D.
01:25 Oct 10, 2022

Thank you so much! I really appreciate your comments. I'm glad the ending worked for you and that you felt for her. Thank you for reading and letting me know what you thought. It makes my day to see comments!

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Kate Winchester
02:43 Oct 10, 2022

You’re welcome ☺️

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Charlie Murphy
16:46 Oct 09, 2022

Great story! Cindy did the right thing by stopping to try to impress her coworkers and finding a new hobby.

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Annalisa D.
01:10 Oct 10, 2022

Thank you! I appreciate you leaving a comment and reading it!

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Thom Brodkin
02:37 Oct 09, 2022

I think this is the first story of yours I read. It was really well written. I love stories that make me feel and identify with the characters. I think you accomplished that. Great job. Keep writing.

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Annalisa D.
19:59 Oct 09, 2022

Thank you so much! I really appreciate the nice comments and you reading it. It's very encouraging to see comments like this. I'm glad you liked it.

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Eric D.
19:11 Oct 07, 2022

Aw I'd like to give Cindy a big hug those ideas were very cute and disregarded, I know what it's like to be the outcast in work space so I got her 😊 reminded me bits of deck the halls or Elf those Christmas decoration competition movies but in Halloween form was unique very nice decoration ideas haha I kind of liked the fortune cookie thing a lot too (sorry cindy) 😜

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Annalisa D.
19:35 Oct 07, 2022

Thank you for reading and the nice comments! Those Halloween fortune cookies are a real thing haha. I did some google searching for ideas and you could order some online if you wanted. I think they would be fun. I've had those moments in jobs too. It's sad it's relatable, but nice to know you could connect with her character.

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Danny G
22:47 Oct 05, 2022

This was such a bittersweet story. I felt really bad for Cindy. All she wanted to do was matter and make people happy only for the more popular people to take what she started and become a ghost all year round. It was a nice ending though. To see the hope she had in bettering herself and not trying to please others. Really well done :)

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Annalisa D.
22:50 Oct 05, 2022

Thank you! I'm glad the ending worked for you and inspired some hope. I'm glad to see she was sympathetic and someone you'd root for.

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Trebor Mack
02:56 Oct 13, 2022

This is the first submission of yours that I've read. Perhaps I am being too pedantic but I found an interesting story offset by grammar issues. e.g.: the overuse of vague and abstract words (60); punctuation errors (19); overuse of adverbs (15) and suchlike. I can see you write your story as it comes to you without worrying about the pros and cons of sticking to meticulous guidelines.........Best of luck TM.

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Annalisa D.
03:44 Oct 13, 2022

Thank you

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