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by beetle
Rated: 13+ · Short Story · Holiday · #2016720
I invited only friends and family to my Halloween party. So who was that in the - costume?
I only invited friends and family to my Halloween party . . . so who was that person in the lady gunslinger costume?

I stared and stared unabashedly at her from across my living room, watching as she chatted with and nodded sagely at my best friend Harmon, who was dressed as the Grim Reaper (complete with a real scythe . . . but that was Harmon for you: He was all about the authenticity).

At any rate, the lady gunslinger’s costume was pretty authentic-looking, too, from head to toe. She wore a brown Stetson with a low crown, over ash-blonde hair pulled back in a functional ponytail; a blue chambray workshirt, tucked into distressed-looking blue jeans; a brown waistcoat (buttoned), and all under a long tan duster. On her feet were dusty, broken-in boots of brown leather, complete with silver spurs. On her narrow hips, crisscrossed, were two gunbelts with the requisite guns, which were old looking, with cream-colored grips. The shells in the gunbelts sparkled and winked in the ambient light every time she moved.

She was a masterpiece, and reminded me of no one as much as she did one of my favorite characters in all of literature: Roland Deschain of Gilead.

Straightening my own costume—Tauriel from movie versions of The Hobbit—I plucked up my courage and strolled through the crowded room, garnering greetings from my friends and family as I did.

When I reached Harmon (who’d somehow managed to arrive without me noticing. Uncle George must’ve let him in) and the lady gunslinger, I waited for them to notice me. Harmon did, almost immediately and grinned under his death-white make-up, which really only rendered him a greyish-brown.

“Hey-Hey, Lucy!” He pulled me into a careful hug and pecked my cheek. “Great costume!”

“Ditto,” I replied, laughing and squeezing him tight before letting go. “How are you? Where’s your better half?”

Harmon rolled his eyes. “Dev’s at work, where else? Overtime. But he should be here by ten-thirty. Probably not in the costume I got him.”

I laughed again. Harmon’s boyfriend, Devon, was such an adult. His inner child was so repressed, it, too, probably wore suits, if it existed at all.

Harmon’s inner child, however, was almost always present and accounted for—which was why we got along so well—but I guess it’s true what they say about opposites attracting.

“He’ll be in costume,” I said reassuringly. “He’ll be dressed as a paralegal.”

Harmon groaned. “But that’s what he dresses as every day! Even on Sundays!” he complained.

“Well, then, that must be his favorite costume. That’s how Devon lets his freak-flag fly.” I batted my eyes flirtatiously at the lady gunslinger, who smiled a little, her cheeks turning red. “So . . . gonna introduce me to your rugged friend, Harm?”

“Of course—where’re my manners?” Harmon grinned mischievously. “Lucy Burton, this is my work-wife, Jenn Hamilton. Jenn, this is Lucy, my bestest friend since ever and the hostess with the mostess of this party.”

“Pleased to meet you, Lucy,” Jenn Hamilton said quietly, holding out her hand. Instead of taking it, I winked at her and placed my right hand over my heart, bowing. “Hile, gunslinger,” I said, then added: “Mae govannen.”

Jenn-the-gunslinger’s eyes widened in surprise and then she was smiling again, slow and pleased. “You’re the first person who’s guess what I am. Most people just assume I’m a cowgirl.”

“I can’t imagine why. You’re missing a horse,” I said, chuckling. Then I waved at her costume. “You’re so obviously a gunslinger from that fabled last bastion of light and order called Gilead. And you look smashing.”

Jenn blushed and tapped her throat with her first three fingers three times. “Thanks. I finally feel justified in the money I spent on this costume.” She looked down at her dusty boots, smiling self-deprecatingly.

Grinning, I reached out and brushed the cool grip of the right gun. “Are these real?”

Jenn nodded. “Antiques. They’re not loaded, and even if they were, they wouldn’t fire. They’re no longer functional. But they’re gorgeous, aren’t they?” she said with a sigh. Then she deftly took the right gun out of its holster and offered it to me. “Here. Go on and have a look.”

I took the revolver carefully, with both hands—it looked heavy and was—and examined it. The grips weren’t ivory, like Roland of Gilead’s, but were wooden, and intricately carved with baroque designs. The grips, barrel, and chamber shone mellowly, and all in all it was obviously a very well cared-for machine.

“Wow,” I breathed, ridiculously impressed with the authenticity of Jenn’s costume—her attention to detail. I handed the gun back to her almost reluctantly, and she reholstered it with a showy little spin. “Wow,” I said again, laughing delightedly. Jenn was the one to grin, this time.

“Cool, huh?”

“The coolest,” I agreed, and Harmon put a hand on both our shoulders.

“If you two gun-nuts don’t mind, I’m going to get a drink. Either of you want anything?”

“Nah, I’m good,”I told him without taking my eyes off of Jenn, who was also not taking her eyes off of me. “But there’s plenty of Jack Daniels and cola, so go to town.”

“I will. Jenn? Anything for you?”

“Nothing for me,” Jenn demurred.

“Okey-dokes. Continue mingling, nerds, and I shall return presently.”

Then he was melting into the crowd of partyers, leaving Jenn and I to stare at each other. Then laugh a bit awkwardly and look away . . . only to sneak glances at each other and smile shyly.

“Tauriel?” she finally said, gesturing at my costume. I dimpled and did a model spin.

“Hey, who says short, zaftig Korean chicks can’t be woodland elves?”

“No one I know,” Jenn said firmly, and I laughed. “I think you’re the most authentic Tauriel I’ve seen, yet. You even have the daggers.”

I looked down at my own crisscrossed belts and shrugged, taking out one of my erstwhile daggers. I dragged the edge of the blade across my palm. The metal didn’t so much as raise a welt. “Yeah, but unlike yours, mine are fake. Good fakes, but fakes.”

“Well, they still look pretty real,” Jenn said, running a finger across the side of the blade.

“Thanks.” I put the dagger back in its sheath and eyed Jenn critically. “Still, I doubt I’ll be in the running for Uncle George’s Best Costume Contest. I think you will be, though.”

“You think so?” When I nodded, Jenn looked thoughtful. “Hmm. What’s the prize?”

“That’d be telling.” I dimpled and batted my eyes at her and Jenn laughed again, blushing. “But it’s a very cool prize. And not the only one. There’re prizes for second and third place, too.”

“That’s pretty neat. But then, Harmon said it would be.” Jenn paused and gave me a look I couldn’t read. “I’m glad he convinced me to come.”

“So’m I,” I agreed, gazing steadily into her eyes, and that blush deepened, and her eyes darted everywhere but at me.

“If I didn’t know better, Sai, I’d swear you were flirting with me,” she murmured, her lips twitching like she wanted to smile a lot more than she was. I made another elven bow.

“Well, who says you know better?” I asked playfully. Jenn met my eyes and did smile wider. She had a great smile and nice teeth. Her features, long and square, were quite handsome.

“You know,” she began reluctantly, her voice rich with unvoiced laughter. “Harmon brought me here mainly to fix us up. You and me, I mean.”

Rolling my eyes, I snorted. I wasn’t surprised. Not at all. “That sounds like Harmon, alright.”

Jenn’s eyebrows lifted gently and she chuckled. “You don’t seem surprised.”

“Nope. He’s always on the look-out for my future ex-girlfriend. What are best friends for?” I ran a hand over my hair carefully—it was already long, and I’d dyed it red to look like Tauriel’s. Keeping the combs in it in place was a bitch, though. “Are you surprised?”

“Well—not really. He’s kinda been talking you up to me for months, now. Trying to get me to come hang out with you, him, and Devon after work or on weekends.” Jenn looked down and studied her boots for a minute. “I’ve kinda been putting him off and making excuses.”

I quirked one eyebrow and struck a sexy pose. “Because who knew I’d be this awesome in person, right?”

“Right,” Jenn agreed, chuckling again. Then she was looking out across the crowd, toward the kitchen. “Say . . . did you maybe want a drink, after all? I’m feeling a bit parched. Care to join me?” She offered me her arm very gallantly.

Letting go of my sexy pose, I crossed my arms over my chest—no mean feat . . . I’m a busty lass—and gave her a look. “Why, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear we were about to prove Harmon’s matchmaking skills right,” I said, taking her arm. Jenn’s smile turned cryptic and a bit smug as she led me through the crowd.

“Well. Who says you know better?” she served back to me with a wink.

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