Her Halloween Treat, p.20Part #1 of Men at Work series by Tiffany Reisz
The sign—black text on white tin—simply read, All you have to do is write one true sentence. —Ernest Hemingway. That had been her idea, too, putting a few inspirational quotes in the cabin from artists and writers. Chris had listened to her ideas and implemented them in forty-eight hours. That said love to her more than his postsex declaration he’d made right over there by the wall. He’d listened to her, he valued her ideas, he made them come to life. And here was proof of it right at her fingertips. A manual typewriter. He’d picked out the one she would have picked out because it looked like the sort of typewriter one would use in a dream.
One true sentence, Hemingway said. Joey knew just what to write.
She put her fingers onto the keys, took a breath and slowly, carefully, typed out six words without a single typo.
I love you, too, Chris Steffensen.
CHRIS PULLED ON his pink Oxford, tied his red rain jacket around his waist and triple-checked that he did indeed have Joey’s polka-dot bikini panties in his pocket. He did. Dillon and Oscar were holding their wedding at a waterfront reception venue on the Willamette River. They weren’t bothering with a church wedding as neither of them went to church. No groomsmen or grooms-women, either. All guests were the wedding party. All the wedding party were guests. No dais. No altar. The wedding and the reception were one in the same. Dillon had told him he could even be late as the ceremony itself wouldn’t start until about half an hour after the party started.
But Chris arrived a few minutes early in the hopes of finding Joey waiting for him. No such luck. No Joey. Not even a Jolene, although there was one very impressive-looking Dolly Parton walking around in a sequin dress and high heels, passing out glasses of champagne. Dillon and Oscar had gone all out on the ’80s thing. Tears for Fears currently played in the background and a sign over the door read Enchantment Under the Sea. Back to the Future reference, right? Long time since he’d seen that movie. A Boy George look-alike handed him a wedding program. It was neon green and on the front it read, Dillon and Oscar—Two of the ’80s Greatest Hits. According to the wedding program, Oscar had been born in 1980 and Dillon had been born in 1986 ergo they wanted their wedding celebration to also celebrate the decade of their births. Also they’d take any excuse to play the Purple Rain soundtrack and force their friends to feather their hair.
It was by far the most Portland wedding Chris had ever seen in his life. It could only be more Portland if the wedding were held in Voodoo Doughnuts with Elvis officiating.
But where the hell was Joey? He looked all over for her. She wasn’t in the time machine telephone booth with Bill and Ted. He didn’t find her in or by the mini Rocky boxing ring. She wasn’t hanging out with The Outsiders who were, in fact, inside. She might have been standing behind the Poison cover band but he couldn’t see past their hair.
He turned around ready to make another circuit of the room when Dillon came up to him.
“Happy wedding day, dude,” Chris said, giving Dillon a hug.
“Looking good, man,” Dillon said when he let Chris go. “Farmer Ted, right?”
“Joey’s playing Sam but she’s not here yet. Maybe she had trouble finding an ugly bridesmaid’s dress.” Chris looked Dillon up and down. Then he looked Oscar up and down across the room. “You’re kidding, right?”
“Come on, you know they were secretly in love with each other,” Dillon said.
Dillon wore gray pants, a white T-shirt, a leopard print vest and a leather jacket. Oscar wore a number nine Gordie Howe Detroit Red Wings jersey. Chris recognized the costumes immediately.
“Ferris Bueller and Cameron?”
“Ferris offered to take the blame for wrecking Cameron’s dad’s car, man. That’s love. That’s true love.”
“What about the girlfriend? Sloan Whatever?”
“My theory is that Ferris was probably bi,” Dillon said. “I’m not, but I think he was. Or she was his beard. Possible, right?”
“You’ve given this a little too much thought.”
“No, I have given it way too much thought. Anyway, better go get my future husband away from my future mother-in-law so we can get this wedding thing started.”
“Don’t start yet. Joey’s not here.”
“She’s not? She didn’t come with you?”
“She wanted to meet me here.”
Dillon narrowed his eyes at him. “Trouble in paradise?”
“I told her I was in love with her. It didn’t go over well.” Chris winced.
“You told her you loved her like a week after her breakup with that Ben guy? That Ben guy she was with for two years?”
“It was more like eight days. Bad idea?”
“Just ballsy, man. Very ballsy. Look, I love my sister with all my heart, and she’s the greatest woman alive. But she’s on the rebound now. She got her heart smashed up pretty bad and her pride. Might take her more than a couple weeks to get over that, you know?”
“I know. I do know. Just wishful thinking, I guess.”
“Give her time. She’s smart and you’re the second best guy I know. She’ll come around eventually.” Dillon squeezed the back of Chris’s shoulder. “Now, excuse me. I need to go marry the first best guy I know, and if my sister misses it, her loss. I’m not waiting another second.”
Dillon walked away, and despite his dark mood, Chris couldn’t help but smile. He remembered too many nights in high school when Dillon confessed his fears that not only would he never find anyone to love or anyone to love him, but that he might not even survive to adulthood to even give love a shot. And here he was, getting married. Legally married surrounded by friends and family and nothing but love. It gave Chris hope and he could use a little hope tonight. Joey left tomorrow. Hope was all he had.
Chris needed a drink. He walked past two John McClanes in bloody T-shirts and gray slacks, one Kevin Arnold from The Wonder Years in a vintage Jets jacket, the entire cast of The Facts of Life as played by guys in drag—Tutti even had her roller skates on—and four women dressed as The Golden Girls. They were probably coworkers of Oscar’s. Dillon and Joey’s pretty, young-looking mom was dressed as Andy from The Goonies. Their dad had on plaid pants and a Hawaiian shirt—not a good look for anyone but a spot-on Chunk costume. One woman walked passed him wearing a suit with shoulder pads so massive they almost reached her ears. She either had to be the blonde lady from Night Court or Cagney and/or Lacey. He couldn’t recognize all the other costumes except maybe a Ghostbuster by the wedding cake and Baby from Dirty Dancing. Oddly enough Baby was in the corner. Seemingly by choice. Someone must have put her there.
Just then President Ronald Reagan—or a reasonable facsimile—tapped a fork on a champagne flute. The room fell silent.
“Mr. Gorbachev,” Reagan said in a very good Reagan voice, “marry these two men.”
A man in a fake bald wig with a painted-on forehead birthmark and a gray suit stepped into the center of the floor.
Ferris/Dillon and Cameron/Oscar stepped into the center of the circle created by the guests. They were smiling so broadly it made Chris’s cheeks ache just looking at them. He wanted this for himself. Maybe not a wedding where half the guests were dressed as members of the A-Team but he wanted this—his friends everywhere, his parents, Joey’s parents and a life together with her. Four days ago he’d strained a muscle in his shoulder while climbing a cottonwood to cut down some dead and overhanging branches. When Joey caught him taking ibuprofen, she’d put him on the bed and rubbed his shoulders and back for two hours.
It hadn’t even been foreplay, although they did have sex later than night. Joey had felt that he was hurt and she’d spent two hours trying to make him feel better. How could he not fall in love with a woman who was that sweet? And she gave damn good backrubs, too. God, he missed her.
With an instrumental version of “Time After Time” playing softly in the background, Dillon and Oscar exchanged their vows. Out of t
With the ceremony over, Dolly Parton once again walked the room distributing drinks. Chris grabbed a glass of champagne and turned around, intending to head for the deck.
And standing by the door to the club was a girl dressed in a green sweater vest and jeans.
A green sweater vest and jeans.
A green sweater vest...
The girl raised her hand and waved at him. Chris laughed. He laughed so hard it hurt.
Joey shook her head and walked over to him.
“You’re messing up the scene, you know,” she said, reaching out and grabbing on to the lapels of his pink Oxford shirt. “You’re supposed to say your line.”
“If you remember correctly, when we watched the movie last week, we didn’t get to the end because someone started chewing on my earlobe and we know where that always ends. You have to remind me—what’s my line?”
“After the wedding, Sam sees Jake Ryan standing outside his car waiting for her and she points at herself and mouths, ‘Me?’ And Jake whispers back, ‘Yeah, you.’”
“But if I remember right, doesn’t Jake come and get Sam after the wedding? Not Farmer Ted?”
“We’re starring in the sexy gender swap remake of Sixteen Candles called Twenty-Six Candles, where Joey Ryan tells Farmer Chris she’s sorry for flipping out when Farmer Chris said he loved her.”
“This is a much better version of the movie.”
“I hope so,” she said. “I hope I’m not screwing everything up here. But I—”
“What? Tell me,” Chris said.
When Joey took his hand in hers, Chris’s heart balled up in his chest like a fist and hit the inside of his rib cage. Talk about good pain.
“I saw the cabin you fixed up like I said you should. The desk and the typewriter and everything.”
“You like it?”
“Love it,” she said. “I tested the typewriter. See?” She dug in her pocket for a piece of paper and passed it to him.
“Joey, this is an invoice from Northwest Vintage Furniture. I’m touched.”
“Flip it over.”
Chris stared at the words, the beautiful words in black on white.
“Joey...” He looked up at her, his heart in his throat, his throat in his feet.
“I kept thinking about what I should do instead of about what I wanted to do and what I should feel instead of what I did feel. Obviously you shouldn’t start dating again two weeks after a bad breakup. And obviously you shouldn’t fall in love with the guy you were seeing on the rebound. But obviously I did.”
“I’m...” Chris shook his head. “I’m speechless.”
“Then find a better use for your mouth than talking.”
He took her face in his hands and looked into her eyes. Joey, his Joey, the same Joey he’d loved when he was eighteen and loved now at twenty-eight and would love when he was eighty-eight, ninety-eight, a hundred and eight. He pressed his lips to hers and held her close, her body falling against his, soft and warm and all his. All his now, and if he were the luckiest man on earth, all his forever.
Joey pulled away, laughing and grinning.
“What?” Chris asked.
“My cousin Lionel Ritchie just gave us a dirty look. We are kind of making out in the middle of someone else’s wedding.”
Chris waved at him and mouthed, “Hello.” A man walked passed them, a very familiar-looking man.
“Is that guy dressed as Ron Jeremy?” Joey whispered in his ear.
“No,” Chris replied. “That’s actually Ron Jeremy.”
“Portland,” Joey said.
Joey grabbed Chris’s hand and he let her drag him over to Oscar and Dillon. She threw herself into Dillon’s arms and hugged him hard.
“That was the best wedding ever,” she said.
“Yes, I know. Why are you wearing my sweater vest?” Dillon asked, looking her up and down.
“I stole it to seduce Chris. It worked.”
“Damn,” Dillon said. “Sweater vest kink? You are a deviant, aren’t you?” he said to Chris. Chris shrugged but didn’t deny it.
“Consider it a birthday present to me that I stole from you since you stole my birthday from me,” Joey said, poking him in the chest.
“Oh, shit, it is your birthday,” Dillon said. “Totally forgot. You know, because of my wedding. I’m married, by the way. Have you met my husband?”
“She has,” Oscar said. “Also, your brother is a liar. We didn’t forget your birthday at all. We simply borrowed it. Now you can have it back. Present?”
“Present,” Dillon said. “Chris? Are we doing this present thing?”
“We’re doing it.” Chris reached into his pants pocket and pulled out a key ring with ten keys on it.
Joey looked at him and at Dillon and at Oscar and back at him.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Your real birthday present,” Dillon said. “Not a sweater vest. Pick one.”
“Pick one what?” she asked.
“These are the ten keys for the ten cabins of Lost Lake Village Rentals. One is yours.”
* * *
JOEY’S MOUTH FELL open for a second; she was dumbfounded. She wasn’t sure she’d ever been dumbfounded before. Shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted, yes. But never dumbfounded.
“You’re giving me a cabin?” she asked. “But I haven’t even said I’d take the job yet.”
“You should take it,” Dillon said, grinning. “But it’s not about the job. First, sorry about stealing your birthday to use for our wedding. And second, I just want you to come home more often. I miss you. We all miss you. And no pressure. We’ll sign the cabin over to you and you’ll be the sole owner. When you’re in Hawaii, we can rent it out as part of Lost Lake Village Rentals, or you can lock it up and Chris will check it every couple of days to make sure the pipes don’t freeze or whatever happens out there in nature. You get a cabin to own and stay in as often or a seldom as you want. Chris fixed up eight of them and he’s got two more to do by spring. But you can pick any one of them.”
Chris could see Joey’s shaking hand when she reached for the key chain.
“I want the one we grew up in,” she said. “Our cabin. Mom and Dad gave it to you so we’ll keep it in the family. Our family.” She looked at Chris when she said it because when she said “our” she meant the one she and Chris had shared all week, made love in all week, ate breakfast together in all week. “Our cabin” meant hers and Chris’s.
“All yours,” Chris said, and gave her the key.
“Happy birthday, Jo,” Dillon said.
“Yes,” she said.
“That wasn’t a yes or no question,” Dillon said. “It wasn’t even a question at all.”
“Yes, I’ll take the job,” she said. “Chris talked me into it.”
“I did?” he asked.
“Okay, you didn’t talk me into it but the artist’s retreat cabin did. Seeing my ideas turned into reality in forty-eight hours? You got me. This could be my dream job.”
“You start tomorrow,” Dillon said. “But don’t call your bosses for a week or more. We’ll be on our honeymoon. Starting now.” Dillon kissed Oscar so passionately and dramatically Joey could only roll her eyes.
“You want to get out of here?” Chris asked in her ear.
“Leave my brother’s wedding reception?”
Chris glanced over at Oscar and Dillon, who were still making out, and then back at her.
“There’s a back room here,” she said. “The door has a lock on it.”
“I can’t get a boner to ‘The Safety Dance.’ Let’s go outside.”
Her Halloween Treat by Tiffany Reisz / Romance & Love have rating 5.5 out of 5 / Based on44 votes