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At Globe University, romance is not going smoothly. Lenore likes Dmitri who likes Mia who likes Zander who, okay, likes Mia, too. When these mismatched couples are paired off for a summer school "parenting" assignment, trouble is...
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At Globe University, romance is not going smoothly. Lenore likes Dmitri who likes Mia who likes Zander who, okay, likes Mia, too. When these mismatched couples are paired off for a summer school "parenting" assignment, trouble is clearly on the horizon-even before a spooky, old-fashioned carnival rolls into town.
The mysterious carnival-boasting sideshow freaks like the Wolf Boy, the Human Torso, and the seductive Lizard Woman-attracts the bored and unhappy college kids like the lurid purple glow of fresh cotton candy. But more than harmless chills and thrills are in store for the gang as dark occult forces mess with their minds, turning true love into murderous hate!
Before this warm summer night is over, not a guy or gal may be left alive...
Summer clung to Lenore like a sumo suit after a championship match. She would have been thankful simply to feel sweaty, rather than coated in hot slime. As she trudged across the Globe campus, she could feel the coverup under her eyes melting away. This July had so far been the hottest on record, and of course the dorms had no air-conditioning. For the past several evenings, she had lain awake on top of her sheets, basting more than sleeping.
Worst of all, the stifling weather was depriving her of the pathetic satisfaction of at least dreaming about her unrequited love. And her wilted state would hardly recommend her when she saw the object of her affection in class.
Lenore unconsciously clutched her books to her chest as she thought his name, her lips silently forming each syllable. Dimitri had a superhero jaw, with shoulders to match, and a smile full of teeth expensively whitened and straightened.
They had gone out on exactly one date. He'd been sullen to begin with, not much of a conversationalist, but after a few shots of Jägermeister, he'd become a touchy-feely drunk. Later that night he'd touched her in several ways and places no one had ever touched her before, and she'd been smitten. He'd never called her after that, but at least he continued to acknowledge her when they ran into each other on campus and at the bars. And after a few Jägers, if no one else was around, there was always a kiss.
But nothing more. In recent weeks, since he had developed an infatuation for her friend Mia, he barely even acknowledged her presence.
"Oww!" she cried as mascara ran into her eyes. She closed them to avoid further pain as she rummaged through her handbag in search of tissues.
Careful, she thought. Last time you did this, you superglued your hand to the lining.
Finally her fingers closed around a soft, plastic-wrapped packet.
Suddenly, there was another hand in her bag. It was rough, like the claw of a giant lizard.
The thought made her scream in terror and pull away. Her heel hit an uneven section of pavement and she nearly fell on her ass, but she steadied herself.
Out of reflex, she dabbed her face quickly with the entire packet of tissues, plastic packaging and all. Her eyes still stung when she opened them, but at least she could see. Mostly.
Lenore let out a surprised squeal.
Before her stood a man with a ragged, matted beard. Shaggy hair framed his face, which was deeply lined and the hue of motor oil. His clothes were a mismatched collection of shreds turned various shades of brown by dirt and probably various bodily fluids. Even his face was stained brown, which made the violet of his irises even more arresting. They would have held her mesmerized had not the stench rising from the man broken the spell. It confirmed what his appearance suggested: He was a vagrant. She had seen him around before, just never up close and personal like this.
His expression seemed to mirror Lenore's terror and confusion, along with a great deal of embarrassment and sadness. He held one of the hair scrunchies that had been in her purse.
"Please. I need money." His voice was as ragged as his appearance. "For some cotton candy."
"Why didn't you just ask...what did you say?" Lenore asked, suddenly forgetting her shock, her anger and even her stinging eyes.
The violet-eyed vagrant took a sudden step forward and clutched her shoulder desperately.
"They're here, you know," he croaked at her. His breath was nearly overpowering. "They took Audra last night."
Lenore struggled to pull away, but his grip was firm.
"Hey!" she yelled, more out of surprise than fear. "Let me go!" Then she tried to twist away, but he held her tightly. Now she was afraid. "Help! Help!"
"Hey! Get away from her, dude!" she heard someone yell in the distance; a group of burly students had seen the commotion and had started running her way.
Fearful, the homeless man released Lenore.
"I'm sorry," he said, desperation in his voice. "I just need some cotton candy. I just..." His voice trailed off, and his violet eyes glazed over for a moment. Then he returned to the present and realized that in moments, the burly students would be upon him. He dashed away around the side of the Science Building and disappeared.
Assuring her saviors that she had not been harmed, Lenore continued to class. In truth, Lenore was fine. And though she had been frightened, she was certain he had not intended to hurt her. He had only wanted money.
For cotton candy.
What the hell?
Checking her watch as she entered the Science Building, she found herself with just enough time to touch up her makeup.
In a nearby bathroom, she smeared the quasi-flesh-colored stick under each eye. The face of her best friend, Mia, loomed up in the mirror behind her, interrupting her in the act of blending away her dark circles.
"Hi-eee!" she chirped. The smile she wore evaporated when she saw what Lenore was doing. "Puh. Leaze. You are not gussying yourself up for Dimbulb, are you?"
"I'm not!" Lenore said, resuming her blending of coverup with rickety nonchalance. "Not that you care, but as it happens, I was just attacked!"
Mia didn't even look up from the mirror, where she examined her face for faults. Of which there were none.
"What, did Dimbulb wanna ravish you on the Lawn?" she said, lightly pressing a fingertip to her face as if touching up her makeup. She wore none. "I wish Dimbulb would go for you, then maybe he'd give me a break."
Mia stepped back from the mirror to examine her outfit. The look screamed post-punk slacker: black leather mini, lace-fringed tube top and thick-sole boots. The labels within the clothes smugly whispered rich post-punk psuedo-slacker.
"No. I'm serious," Lenore said, trying not to compare her relatively frumpy fashions to Mia's. "Some homeless guy. Reached right into my bag when my eyes are closed and took one of my scrunchies."
"Just goes to show you even the homeless can have fashion emergencies." Mia tugged the bottom of her tube top, exposing an extra half-inch of her breasts. "Perfect," she told her reflection.
Lenore turned to her friend angrily. "Mia, I could have been hurt!"
"Oh, sweetie," Mia said, switching to doe-eyed sympathy in an instant. "I'm so sorry." Then her eyes lit up again with her devil girl glow. "Which one was it?"
"Which homeless guy? Was it Ass-Face? You know, the one-eyed guy who doesn't wear a patch, and the scar tissue makes his eye socket look like an anus?"
Lenore mock-choked in genuine disgust. "No, it wasn't him. It was the guy with purple eyes."
Mia's eyes went wide at this news. "Oh, him! He's my favorite. If you just look in his eyes, you can almost forget he's homeless. Hose him down for, like, a week, wrap him in a Brooks Brothers suit, and he'd be ever so yummy."
"Great. I get attacked, and you get the hots for my attacker. Sounds like a Gerry Springer show: My Best Friend Fell in Love with my Rapist."
This made them both laugh, and any worry over the attack evaporated. Together, Mia and Lenore left the bathroom and headed to class. As she walked, Lenore pulled at her dress so it didn't seem stuck to her like papier-mâché.
"Wow, that near death experience got ya all hot and bothered, didn't it, sweetie?" Mia started to help adjust Lenore's dress as a tease, but Lenore batted her friend's hand away.
"Stop it! It's like a fucking sauna out there. I don't want to go to class looking like a Night of the Living Dead extra."
Mia remained unconvinced. "I bet Ole Purple Eyes pawing you was as close as you've come to gettin' some in months. You're like, all Spanish fly and pheromones. You gonna go in there and bop Dimbulb in the head with your club and drag him off by the hair?"
"Stop it, Mia, just stop it!" Tears threatened to well up behind the dam of Lenore's coverup stick. Mia often played at some form of harsh, but now she was just being cruel.
Apparently sensing she had crossed a line, Mia held Lenore back just before the door to their biology class.
"Look, sweetie." Mia softened her voice and cut both the sarcasm and the melodrama. "I love you almost enough to do you myself, if I swung that way." Lenore tried to pull away but had no better luck escaping her friend's grasp than she had her attacker's. "Seriously. Dimbulb...Dimitri...is bad news. I know that because I can't get the bastard off my back, even though I've made it very clear that I'm taken. This should be easy for you. He's a jerk. He doesn't even like you, let alone love you. Forget about him. Once you do, you'll have time for Mr. Right, whoever he really is."
Lenore stood silently for a moment. Then, quietly, she said, "I can't change the way I feel."
Mia just shook her head. "Yeah, but you can't change reality either, honey."
The only response Lenore could come up with was a sulk.
"Come on," Mia said cheerily, throwing an arm around Lenore's shoulders. "Let's forget this crap for now and get to class."
Lenore gave in and allowed Mia to march her toward the lecture hall door.
"Just think," Mia said. "If that homeless guy had wacked you, you would have missed the first day of summer session Human Sexuality. And quel tragedy that would have been!"
Copyright © 2003 by David Bergantino