A Pair of Black Heels

Submitted into Contest #21 in response to: Write a short story about a work Christmas party that goes... awry. ... view prompt

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The oven clock read 5:02 and the smoke alarms blared. I had managed to burn yet another casserole. My mother used to make them constantly, specifically for our family’s annual Christmas Eve gathering, and I always watched in speculation. With my mother in mind, I had wanted to cook up a casserole for my work’s Christmas party. The wait staff at Higgin’s, a low-key brunch diner, planned to all meet up at coworker Charlie Zeatod’s house for a little holiday bash. Everyone was told to bring an item of food, and we’d kick back and eat and watch movies and partake in our Secret Santa gift exchange. Now, I’d have to settle with being the loser who brings nothing. 

In the blink of an eye the clock read 5:13; I had to start getting ready. On my bed, I had my outfit all planned out: a red dress, tight on top but with a bit of a flare at the bottom, coming up to about my lower thigh. With that I would wear a cropped, white cardigan, its blandness perfectly balancing out the brightness of the red. My hair was still curled from when I curled it yesterday, but more loose and giving, releasing a wild yet casual look. I wore my favorite necklace, a long chain with a tree-charm hanging into my cleavage, and a few bracelets I found scattered in my dresser. For makeup I never really go hard. I simply brushed back my eyebrows with clear gel, holding them in place, then curled and applied mascara to my lashes. I smeared a pink, shimmering gloss onto my lips, and finally called it a day. I walked to my door-length mirror that isn’t actually attached to my door yet, but placed next to it, and studied my appearance. Pretty, I initially thought. A bit overdressed, perhaps, but pretty indeed.  My eyes lowered to my bare feet. I was still undecided on what shoes to wear. The night before I had been contemplating between rounded, black flats and rounded, black heels. The heels raised my height only about two inches, so there would consist of no walking troubles. However, the flats would make my outfit seem less flashy, which I probably needed. I looked at myself one more time when I heard the doorbell ring. I called out “Come in!” but she already knew the drill. The door creaked open, and I yelled “Upstairs, Frankie.” Frankie is my best, more laidback friend; she works with me at Higgin’s, and luckily was my ride to the party. Her shoes went “plonk plonk plonk” up the stairs, and in less than a minute she was with me in the mirror.

“I love the ‘fit, Bethie. Super cute. You ready to head out?”

“Help me decide which shoes to wear,” I told her. “I’ve been stuck since last night.” I motioned to the bed, where both pairs lied.

“Hm,” she pondered. “The flats would look nice, but the heels would look NICE, you feel? You’re already in a bright red dress, just go for it at this point.” I looked at her attire and frowned. She wore a black, almost hippie-style jumpsuit, with a red shawl and black flats. I started to worry that I'd be way out of place. “What’s wrong? No, do not even compare. You look gorgeous.”

“Overdressed?” I asked. 

“Not at all,” she said. “Let’s get out of here.”

We arrived at the party at 6:27 precisely- right on time. Charlie’s house was located in the suburbans of Rhode Island, the North Kingstown area. The outside of the house was a dark brown with wood siding and limited lights and accenting pieces- not very inviting- but the inside was vast and brightly lit. When we walked in I noticed Avery was already there. She looked over at us and waved.

“Hey!” she said. “The party’s just getting started!” A second later Charlie walked into the living room.

“Well, hello ladies. Frankie. Bethany.” His eyes lingered on mine for a moment longer. He smiled, and I smiled back. He was always one to make a home truly feel like a home. Frankie slid her coat off her shoulders and I followed suit. He took them voluntarily and led them to the closet. I sat on the couch next to Avery. She wore a white turtleneck sweater and a red, plaid skirt, dying out my anxiousness of being overdressed. The television was off but the radio was loud, radiating holiday music from all corners of the house. Lights were hung around the perimeter of the room, where wall meets ceiling, and the window sills held full and fluffy garland. With even three guests present the party screamed of Christmas cheer. Wanting to initiate conversation, I turned to Avery and asked when she arrived.

“Oh, not long before you,” Avery began. “Maybe around 6:20. I think Anthony and Jessica are coming together, they should be here soon.”

“Great! I was going to bring a casserole but to no surprise I burned it.”

“Hey, we make mistakes”

“Yeah,” Frankie chipped in. “But I brought brownies, you’re welcome.”

By 6:45 everyone else had arrived. We sat on the couch which circled the coffee table. It did not take long for Charlie to crack open the alcohol. I was enjoying myself a tall glass of vodka mixed with a tropical punch. It didn’t make me drunk, but definitely enough to push me over the edge of tipsy.

“Where’s Mrs. Zeatod?” Jessica asked Charlie. Despite my controlled sobority, it was clear that she was out of it. “Did you kick her out for the party?

“I did, actually. She’s with her friends tonight, so it’s no big deal. She understands.” He smiled, again. I bet he was born smiling.

“Woah, you’re expecting anything tonight you wouldn’t want her to be here for?” Anthony questioned. All lightheartedness included, of course.

He chuckles, patting his hand on Anthony’s shoulder and leaning over. The alcohol’s getting to him, too. “She’s been my wife for 3 years, buddy. I’m not planning anything else tonight but a fun little gathering with all the folks who make my 9 to 5 feel not so much like a 9 to 5.” The room erupted in laughter, and I saw what he meant. The group of people in front of me really was my second family. Hell, this job gave me my best friend. The smiles on everyone’s faces and the laughter- alcohol infused or not- burned a feeling in my brain I would never forget. And I wouldn’t trade anyone here for anything. Especially in the beautiful time of the holidays, when the worn fabric of furniture and stains on the floor never matter, because the vibrations of love and companionship drown it all out.  

“I’m going to go grab a water,” I announced. “Don’t make too much trouble without me.” I trapezed into Charlie’s kitchen in search of a water bottle. He said he had them around. 

I hear a shuffle behind me, and when I look, it’s Charlie. “Didn’t mean to scare you,” he said. “I put the bottles in the fridge.” He motioned to it, so I placed my hand on the handle. But his hand followed, placing itself over mine. Like he didn’t mean to, he drew it back quickly, dragging his fingers up my forearm. “Oop, sorry. Yeah, you got the water.” He stepped back, but he smiled as his eyes went down to his feet. He began to walk into the living room, but his eyes came back over his shoulder to glance at me again, smiling ever so slightly, then continuing forward. Did he just make a move on me? No, he has a wife. I’m being paranoid. He apologized. He didn’t mean it. 

Everyone was still laughing when I returned. I sat in my spot next to Frankie and the conversation chattered on. Oh, we hate our boss. Oh, customers are so rude. You know, casual wait staff talk. We didn’t need to be at a party to compare our views of it all; it’s practically routine. As it neared 8 o’clock, Frankie brought up the Secret Santa. “Are we going to do it or what? I have to say, my gift is phenomenal.” 

Everyone placed their gifts on the center coffee table, the music blurring into background noise. “Who wants to go first?”

“That will be me!” Jessica sang. She picked her gift up and handed it to Anthony. “Merry Christmas AN-TONY.” Classic inside-joke. Anthony ripped open the paper and started at a brand new coffee machine. “You always talk about how yours has been broken for months and how you dread going out to buy some. Now you can make your own again!”

Anthony expressed his gratitude, and gifts continued to be exchanged. I gave my gift to Avery, a set of slippers and a container of hot cocoa mix. A default holiday gift, but she loved it nonetheless. The second-to-last person to hand out there gift was Charlie. He picked his gift bag off the table and trotted over to me, where he placed it in my lap. “Merry Christmas, Bethie.” And he winked. At me. A joke, yeah. I tore out the tissue paper and picked out a little gingerbread-man ornament. 

“Aw, this is super cute. Thanks, Charlie.” I looked up at him- he was kneeling on the foot-rest in between me and the table. 

“Is there anything else in there?” he asked. His eyes were squinting and he was slurring his words. He was certainly drunker than any of us. 

“Nope, that’s it. Did you forget something?” I lied. I had seen a glimpse of the box as I took the ornament out, but didn’t dare check to see if what I saw was true. I checked again at his mention, and I became so sick I wanted to throw up. I tried to look up at him, to see his smug face, but I wouldn’t let myself. I think I would have vomited all over his beige rug.

“C’mon,” he slurred. “I know you saw it. The-”

“No, there’s nothing in here, Charlie. You look like you’ve had too much to drink. Anthony, get him some water.”

Anthony, to my rescue, took Charlie away, and I was left with the girls. A safe haven to say what the gift was, but I didn’t even want to think about it. 

“Bethie,” Frankie asked, leaning onto my lap. “What was that? Are you okay?”

“Yes, I’m fine.” I sighed, and saw Jessica and Avery studying me as well. It seemed all their eyebrows were scrunched and lips pouted. “I can’t right now. Let’s just, get back to the party. Why don’t we put a movie on?” Frankie patted my thigh and got up and choose a film. She would let me be for now, but I knew she was concerned. 

By the time the boys came back, Frosty the Snowman was playing. Anthony mouthed to me, “I think he’s good.” I nodded, but the pit in my stomach had yet to cease.

I felt it for minutes. When you can just sense someone or something staring at you, that’s what I felt. As the kids placed the hat upon Frosty and he came to life, I looked to my left and caught Charlie staring at me, and I died. I quickly looked away, but I don’t think he bothered to do the same. If this had occurred after the hand on the fridge incident, I would call myself paranoid. I would say I was piecing things together that had no business being together because I was scared. But it was all too creepy. And that box, that was no coincidence. I gave him a break, but nearly every five minutes I would catch him in the same act. I scooched closer to Frankie each time, and soon I was practically on her lap. She asked me many times if I was okay, if I wanted to leave, but I never wanted to disturb the party, so I reassured her and continued to watch the film. I must’ve gone to the bathroom at least three times. I couldn’t take it. It would be that same, seemingly-delightful smile, but near the end of his little act it began to come across as a smile an insidious clown would make, one that stretches the entire face to no end, gums bleeding and everything. Halfway through the film he gestured to me, saying “come here” with his hands. I looked away, but looked back twice as fast. He pouted at me, patted his chair. No, I do not want to share a seat with you. Maybe it would dilute the tension. Frankie’s head snapped down to me at my shuffling, then to the side where my eyes held Charlie’s, then back down to me. Her face scrunched, conspicuously wondering what was going on. She leaned down and whispered, “Is Charlie bothering you?” For the sake of the party, or maybe trying to convince myself, I said no, but I had never felt more bothered than this. Avery looked to us as our voices disrupted the silence, cocking her head. She leaned back in her seat and whispered to Jessica. Great, the one time people actually stay silent and watch a movie, and I’m the center of attention. I check my phone; it’s 9 o’clock. Can this night go any slower?

The end of the movie marked the end of the party. Most of us had to work the next morning, so there was nothing much left to do but leave and go to bed. I had never wanted to leave so bad, but I could not for the life of me find my shoe. A bold, black heel, missing in a house filled with six people- not my best moment. I denied anyone’s help to look for it; at this point in the night I didn’t want to be in close proximity of anyone. Jessica and Anthony, although last to arrive, were the first to leave. Charlie convinced us all to relax a little bit, that my shoe was not a big deal and that as long as I wasn’t driving home I could come pick it up another day. However, I never wanted to come back. The white walls turned a musty manilla, and the rug seemed far dirtier than it was at the beginning of the night. 

Charlie was in the kitchen cleaning up, while us girls chatted a bunch on the couch. Nearing 9:20, Avery purposefully locked eyes with me. “I think I’m going to get going,” she said. “Are you okay if I leave? What was going on anyway?”

I really didn’t want to shine light on it, but they might have been able to give me some clarity. “I don’t know, Charlie just kept staring at me during the movie and he wanted me to come sit with him. His hand rubbed up against mine earlier and I thought it was by accident but now I’m not so sure and- oh, I don’t know. It’s probably nothing.”

“Beth, no, that’s really inappropriate. I’m glad he didn’t really touch you, you know? But you’re okay now? I really need to get going. I told my babysitter around 9:30.”

I reassured her to go. Then my name was called from the kitchen. “Bethany! I may have found your shoe.”

“I’ll be right there,” I sighed. Frankie looked at me consolingly, silently asking if I needed her to come with me. I didn’t want to be a baby, though. “I got it, thanks.” I smiled. And I went into the kitchen.

I walked in, and it was empty. “Charlie?” My stomach-pit returned. Then he popped up from behind the counter.

“Oh, hey, just putting dishes away.” He raised up a black heel. “I got your shoe, though. How’d it get in here?”

I chucked nervously. I forced it to be more nervous than nervous, so maybe he would take a hint. “I don’t know, I guess it grew legs and wanted a little stroll.” How did it get in here? “But thanks.”

He walked around the counter to give it to me, but it fell mid-transfer. The clud noise evoked an “all good?” from Frankie. “Yes,” I called, and bent down to get the shoe. However, Charlie did as well, and fortunately for him, got to it first. As he bent back up his hand grazed up my thigh, hoisting the edge of my dress up just a little, then letting it fall down. 

“Red looks fantastic on you, Bethany.” His eerie smile returned. “And these heels,” he handed me my shoe, “well I’m glad you decided to wear them.” He smiled, and winked again. I’m pretty sure my face was redder than my dress, and my stomach had fallen into my ass. I suddenly noticed everything about him. His hands rubbing on his khakis, the mustiness of his breath, the scruff left over from yesterday’s shave, the way his eyes stayed lingering on the hem of my dress. 

“I really should go…” I said softly, turning towards the door. In what seemed like less than a second, a hand was grabbing my dress and another was over my mouth. The tips of his fingers were just able to touch me before I bit down hard on his fingers, causing him to release me. I took my shoe and ran, ran as fast as I could. I didn’t even stop for Frankie, I just ran to the car, through the slush, and only wearing one, black heel.

I heard him, though. It was soft, and right before he fell to the pain of my bite, but I heard him: “Did you like your vibrator, Bethany?”

The cop placed his notebook down, and looked me in my eyes. “Thank you,” he said, “for your story.”

December 28, 2019 03:30

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1 comment

Taylor Crosby
05:25 Jan 02, 2020

You did a good job displaying Bethany's discomfort and Charlie's creepiness throughout the story. I hope Charlie gets slammed for a long time. What an a-hole.


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