Post by Graveyardbride on Oct 31, 2016 8:30:02 GMT -5
Halloween Party at Trowbridge High
The day couldn’t have been more perfect. It was cool and still with the occasional breeze sending leaves of orange, red and gold dancing across the lawn of the sprawling red brick high school. Chip had just finished football practice and was on his way home when he heard someone call, “Hey! Wait up! What’re you doing this weekend?” It was Billy, who lived just a block farther up the street and they sometimes walked to and from school together.
“Hey, man,” Chip called back, stopping to wait for his classmate. “What’s happening?”
“What’s happening is I met some girls in the band from over in Dawsonville and they’ve invited me to a party. Wanna’ come?” Billy was a drummer in the high school band and not in Chip’s league, but the boys had grown up together and every once in a while, Billy came up with a good idea. He wasn’t dumb or stupid, just lazy, one of those kids who does what he has to do but no more.
“Dawsonville? When? We have a game Friday, ya’ know.”
“Yeah,” Billy replied. “But it’s a home game and the party’s Saturday night. You should be recovered by then.”
“Oh, okay. I guess that’d be okay. It’s not as if I have a date or anything like that.” Cindy, the girl Chip had been dating since last summer had dumped him a few days ago and everyone knew it. Everyone also knew he had broken up with Peggy, his longtime girlfriend, after Cindy, the most popular girl in school, let him know she was interested. A lot of people were saying he had gotten what he deserved and maybe he had. At least Billy wasn’t kidding him about it. He got enough of that from the team.
By thus time, they were at his house and the two teens stood on the sidewalk making their plans. “The girls said around 7:30, so come over around 6, Saturday,” Billy instructed as he continued up the tree-lined street.
He wasn’t in the best of spirits when he knocked on the back door of the rambling old house Billy’s family called home. The team had lost their game last night and now he and Billy were going to a party in Dawsonville, another team his school played.
“Come in!” Billy’s kid sister called out. Billy’s been getting read for the past hour. Where’re ya’ll going?”
“A party in Dawsonville,” he replied absently as he walked into the hall and yelled up the stairs, “Billy, are you ready? It’s 6 o’clock. Let’s go!”
Twenty miles later, it was dark and they were entering Trowbridge. “I didn’t get a chance to fill up the car,” Billy lamented. “We need gas, but I don’t see a station.”
“This is Trollbridge. They fold up the sidewalks after 6,” Chip laughed. “Just drive around, there’s bound to be one open at a convenience store, or something.”
“What convenience store? I haven’t seen any convenience stores. Have you? Never mind. There’s a gas station!” Billy pointed in the direction of a place that looked like it hadn’t changed since the ‘50s. They pulled in and a friendly attendant came out to fill the car. Then he proceeded to wash the windshield and asked if they needed an oil check.
“I think we’re in the Twilight Zone,” Chip said, then turned and called out to the attendant, “Hey, we’re off the main road, how do we get to Dawsonville from here?”
“Just keep driving west on Stonewall and turn left on Forrest Street just after you pass the high school. You can’t miss it. Two big white buildings on both sides of the street,” he advised. “Forrest will take you back to the main highway.”
They drove along the dark street until they came to what had to be the high school – two old buildings from another century. “This is their school?” Billy derisively remarked.
“I guess so. The only part of Trowbridge I’ve ever seen is what’s on the main road and their football field and it must be in another part of town.” Chip replied. Three girls dressed as cheerleaders from another era stood on the sidewalk waiting to cross the street. He lowered the window. “Are ya’ll on your way to a party?"
“Yes,” a perky brunette said as she came close to the window. “A Halloween party in the gym. Want to join us?”
Billy tugged at his friend’s sleeve. “Dawsonville, remember? We’re going to a party in Dawsonville,” he hissed.
“Come on man, let’s check it out,” Chip argued. “Where’s your sense of adventure? If it sucks, we’ll leave and be in Dawsonville in 30 or 40 minutes. So what if we’re a few minutes late.”
They entered the gym and were asked to check their shoes at the door. “Why?” Billy asked.
“So you won’t damage the floor, of course,” a kid in Buddy Holly glasses explained.
“Wow!” Billy whispered to his friend. “Everybody’s in costumes that look like they’re from the ‘50s and nobody brought their cell phone. They’re really into this retro-thing, I guess. But heck, let’s dance!” He turned to the dark-haired cheerleader and the two began dancing as the disc jokey played “It’s Only Make Believe.”
Soon Chip was dancing with a girl in a swirling pink skirt with a black poodle design. “I’m Chip. I’m from Midland and I’m on the football team,” he told her, hoping she liked jocks. “I’ve never been to a sock hop before, but this isn’t bad.”
The dance ended and he guided his fresh-faced partner through a door into the cool night. “So, what do you do for fun in Trowbridge?” he asked the girl who had told him her name was Nancy, as they walked into the dark shadow of an ancient oak. The only illumination was from the distant lightning streaking across the sky at intervals.
“Oh, you know, the usual,” she said in a cherry voice. “I’m in the band and the library club and I just joined the debate team ....”
Her complexion was what his mother would call “peaches-and-cream” and she wasn't wearing much makeup. In the intermittent flashes of light, he couldn’t help thinking she was just about the prettiest girl he’d ever seen. Suddenly, he moved in front of her, pulled her close and was about to kiss her when she jerked away. “What do you think you’re doing? I don’t kiss on the first date and I certainly don’t kiss a boy I just met! What kind of girl do you think I am?”
“Hey, wait, Nancy, I’m sorry,” he called out, hurrying after her. “It’s just that ... Hey, I’m sorry. I’m a jerk.”
“Well, okay,” she paused and turned around. “I’ve never had a boy act like that. I guess you’re older than I thought. I’m only 16 and I, well, I’m not what you’d call experienced, I guess.”
Now he couldn’t help thinking this was the girl he wanted to marry. She was nothing like the skanks back in Midland who dressed like sluts and acted like divas. There was something about her that was almost unreal. Maybe it was all the dancing. Or the coming storm – he’d heard that storms make some people crazy. Or maybe someone had spiked the punch.
On the rainy drive back to Midland, Billy and Chip compared notes and decided they had to see the girls again. “Did you get her number?” Billy asked, because I completely forgot to get Evelyn’s.”
“Damn!” his friend exclaimed. “I didn’t. We can’t very well call Trowbridge High and ask if they have two girls named Nancy and Evelyn. How’re we going to find them?”
“Yearbooks! We can look in last year’s yearbook!”
“And where are we going to find a Trowbridge yearbook?” Chip asked. “Besides, yearbooks are sort of a thing of the past. Maybe we can find them on Facebook. What’s Evelyn’s last name?”
“I don’t know,” Billy admitted. “Do you know Nancy’s last name?”
Chip shook his head.
“Okay, I’ve got an idea,” Billy said. “Next Saturday, we can go back to Trowbridge and go to the library. Libraries have yearbooks.”
The following Saturday found Billy and Chip on their way to Trowbridge again with a Google directions to the library.
They easily found the old two-story building that looked almost as ancient as the high school. A clerk directed them to the basement and soon they were perusing the most recent yearbook. They looked at every picture of every girl in the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th grades, but didn’t find the two they met at the Halloween party.
“Could they have been in middle school?” Chip whispered. “Nah, I guess they were lying. They were from some other school ... Wait, Nancy never told me she went to Trowbridge High. But when I asked what they did for fun in Trowbridge, she answered, so I just assumed ....”
“Yeah, me too! Oh, well, that’s what we get for assuming,” Billy concluded. “We screwed up. Next time, we’ll know better. Let’s go home.”
They were about to take the stairs to the main floor when Chip grabbed Billy’s arm. “There!” he almost yelled, pointing to a grouping of pictures on the wall and getting a strong “Shush!” from the librarian. “That’s them!”
“Well, damn, it is,” Billy agreed, reading the caption under the photos. They’re Nancy Reynolds and Evelyn Burke. They must have won some kind of award. What does that plaque say?”
“In memory of the 11 students of Trowbridge High School who died in the gymnasium fire of October 25, 1958,” Chip somberly read.
Both were silent until they got into the car. “I’ve never been so freaked in my life. This can’t be happening,” Billy remarked as he fumbled to start the engine. “But hey, since we’re here, why don’t we drive by the high school? It’s on Stonewall Street.”
“Yeah, I remember,” Chip said. More silence. “There’s Stonewall!”
In a few blocks, they came to the two big white buildings on both sides of the street. Billy pulled over and they got out. Neither said a word as they stood on the cracked sidewalk – the sidewalk where the three cheerleaders had stood just a week earlier – and surveyed the overgrown grounds, the peeling paint and boarded-up windows. It was apparent the two old schoolhouses had stood empty for years.