“Goodnight loves. Won’t be out long”, Elsie whispered as she locked up. Her pets mewled quietly in response from behind the closed doors. Elsie walked into the foyer and stepped into the coat that Marco held open for her.
“You look beautiful.” Marco commented as he reached for the outside door.
Elsie smiled happily to herself. The women in the office loved to taunt her about her plain appearance and quiet mannerisms. Martha Nelson who’d exalted herself to Queen Bee status --she was dating the office manager-- had taken an instant dislike to Elsie and often initiated the torment. Elsie bore it all, quietly and efficiently focusing on work, but this only seemed to stoke the hatred. In the weeks before tonight’s Halloween party, there had been many jokes about her RSVP being “minus one”, and her lack of real prospects.
Walking the street in search of a cab, Elsie took stock of her date. Marco was a stereotype, a Latin Lothario; square chiseled jaw, immaculately combed jet black hair, pencil thin mustache and impeccably dressed in a new tuxedo. Like all the men in her life, at first he’d found it impossible to keep his hands off her. Eventually he’d come to realize that he simply could not escape her charms and that had led to him being the most attentive of boyfriends. Handsome looks and doting ways; Marco was the perfect choice to accompany her to the party. He was the kind of man the women in the office would drool over; exactly the kind they were sure she could never have.
At the party, Elsie pretended not to hear the whispers that followed her as she and Marco mingled with the crowd. It was like being the new girl at Bohunk High again, except this was her place of business.
“Is that the mouse’s date?”
“Why is he with her?”
“Do you think she paid him?” The commenter quickly followed with “I doubt she could afford someone like that.” This last was accompanied by a chorus of laughter.
Tonight however, Elsie held her head high and letting the whispers roll off her back, resigned herself to having a great time. Soon, thanks largely to the friendliness of the other store employees and the general reaction to Marco, she confidently left the comfort of his orbit to go mingle on her own.
---There is a cosmic joke played upon the unwary at all office parties. In a moment predetermined only by fate and alcohol, any given reveler will find themselves the object of a co-worker’s unwanted and often embarrassing attentions.
It was this humor of Chaos’ that led to Elsie being trapped in the manager’s office, under attack by Mr. Briggs.---
“Show me what ya do to keep a man like him.”
“Mr Briggs, you really don’t want to do this.”
---Had the music been less loud, Briggs’ drunken advances would’ve been witnessed; Elsie’s repeated curses would’ve been overheard; and the screams coming from the manager’s office would never have gone unnoticed.---
Finally able to escape Mr. Briggs’ sweaty attentions, Elsie picked her purse up from the floor and went looking for Marco. The tiny clutch purse, which had been so delightfully whimsical earlier on that evening, dangled heavily on its thin leather straps. It now felt like it weighed a ton and banged against her side as she half walked, half dragged her exhausted body in search of her date.
Pushing through the crowded party, she found Marco in the corner closest to the food, hemmed in by the other ladies from the typing pool. He smiled widely when she appeared, grabbing her hand and pulling her into his broad chest.
“Ready to go?” He asked, always in tune with her slightest moods. Elsie nodded mutely and Marco made his excuses to the women gathered around him. Martha Nelson could not let the moment pass without a snide comment.
“Marco, you should call me up when you want a real woman.”
Marco barely glanced at her in response, “My heart beats only for Elsie.”
The women exchanged jealous glances as the couple walked to the elevators. Once in a cab, Elsie rested her head on his perfect shoulders and drifted off.
Marco woke her when the cab reached her house. Supporting her, tired from her encounter with the office lecher, he walked her through the house and into the bedroom.
“I heard him screaming. You did the spell again, didn’t you, Elsie?”
“He tried to force me. I had to protect myself. Get comfortable Marco, you’re welcome to stay on tonight.”
The handsome man smiled and started to undress. It was very rare that Elsie allowed any of her pets to sleep with her. He watched her as she made her way to her closet, purse still in hand.
“Hello, Loves. I’m back and I brought a new friend.”
Elsie removed an impossibly large and heavy object from her tiny clutch and placed it on the dresser.
“This is Mr. Briggs”, she said, shifting disembodied heads around to accommodate the newcomer.
“He’ll have to resign from work tomorrow, but after that he’ll keep you company until he learns to respect me. Like you have.”
The heads on the dresser smiled at her, mewling in mute agreement. Briggs just looked at her in distress, futilely trying to form words.
“Hush you! You had your chance to save yourself.”
Closing the closet on her collection, Elsie crossed the room and dropped into her bed.
“The house needs some maintenance, Marco. Remind me to bring another mannequin home tomorrow.”
Marco nodded, but did not move to join her.
“Oh! Lie down, Marco. I’m going to sleep, that spell always takes a lot out of me. ”
Henry “Marco Marelli” Zuph, former grifter and fortune hunting gigolo, lay on his side of the bed listening to Elsie breathing. As her magic faded, he contemplated reaching out and choking the life from her exhausted body. The thought was quickly squashed as his heartbeat faded with her powers and he was once again just a head attached to a department store mannequin.
“Well,” he thought, “at least I’m not in the closet.”
A silver lining to be sure, but if he had to do Monte Carlo all over again, he would’ve found some other lonely, unattractive woman to con--anyone other than this deranged and powerful witch.