Royal Aademy of Bards Halloween Invitational 2007.

A Wish to Build a Dream On

Copyright 2007 by Texbard

Carson stood in front of the mirror, applying one last coat of mascara to her lashes.  She fluffed her bangs with her fingertips, and then smoothed back her long, blonde hair, pulling it into a ponytail.  With a flick of her wrist, she dropped a silver toy sword into a sheath strapped to her back, and stepped back to appraise the effect.  "Not bad," she mused.  "Not bad at all for a lady crusader."  She adjusted a long chain mail shirt worn over a black body suit.  Knee-high black boots completed the outfit.  "Okay, maybe I can even say 'nice', now." She laughed at herself.

An insistent knocking at her dorm room door drew her away from the mirror in the tiny bathroom.  Her roommate had already left for a party, the clothing she'd worn to class scattered across the floor in a trail to the admittedly spacious closet that held their clothing.  Spacious by dorm standards, at any rate.  Since her costume required her to be purse-free, she quickly shoved a slim wallet into a small chain-mail pouch at her waist.  One final spritz of perfume, and she was out of the bathroom, trotting through the common room that connected the three rooms that she, her roommate, and four suitemates shared. 

"Alright already!" she yelled, as the banging from the hallway grew louder.  She flung the door open and burst out laughing, as she came face to face with Monica Lewinski and Ariel, the Little Mermaid. "Oh god."  She snorted, gasping for air.  "You two look hilarious."

"You look great," Monica, more commonly known as her friend Amber, replied. "As always.  The guys are going to be all over your hot little ass tonight.  They love that tough-but-feminine thing you have going."

"Hmmm." Carson hummed softly.  "We'll see."  The comment caught her off guard.  Until that moment, it had been a night out with the girls.  Boys hadn't figured into the picture in her head.  It was bothersome, really, and recently she admitted privately that girls' night out was a lot more fun when boys didn't enter the picture at all.  "Y'all ready?"

"As I'll ever be."  Dana, fussed with a jeweled bathing suit top she was spilling out of, and side-stepped a few times to avoid tripping on her own tail.  "Oh, this costume was a really bad idea.  I need to pee and you guys have no idea how much trouble it is to get in and out of it.  Do you mind waiting on me while I go one last time?"

"Not at all."  Carson stood back and held the dorm room door open.  She shared a brief giggle with Amber, as they listened to Dana's muffled curses coming from the much-too-small-for-her-costume bathroom.  In relatively short order they were on their way out the dorm's front door.  Carson stopped at the front desk to sign out, a rather archaic method of keeping track of the women who lived in the small, private dorm.  Its only purpose was to make sure everyone got home safely but really, the night security guard's hands were tied.  Unless a girl stayed out all night, or until 7:00 a.m., she wasn't considered missing.  A lot could happen between midnight and seven.  Everyone knew that.  Everyone but her, Carson suspected.

"Okay, we're all dressed up."  Amber tugged at her navy blue dress, complete with fake stain.  "Where to first, ladies?"

"Oh, oh!"  Dana bounced up and down in excitement, her long foam-rubber tail swinging back and forth, whacking first Carson and then Amber on the behind.

"Move it, fish chick."  Amber stepped out of the way.  " 'Oh, oh' what?"

"The law school frat, what is it? -- Phi Delta Phi? -- they're having a big Halloween party at a mansion over on Town Lake.  It's for charity - costs like $10 to get in, but it sounds really cool. The house is on a bluff looking out over the lake."  Dana prudently stepped from between the girls so as to avoid further costume assault.  "You wanna check it out?  If it's a bust we can always go hit Sixth Street."

"Sure.  Sounds fun," Carson quickly answered.  Amber had mentioned a regular fraternity party earlier in the week, and she wanted to head her off at the pass.  Somehow, one hosted by law school students sounded a bit tamer, and perhaps a little less juvenile.  Carson had never understood the fun in guzzling trash can punch until you puked, much less sitting around watching a bunch of guys smashing beer cans against heir foreheads. 

"Oh, but what about the Sig Ep party?" Amber whined, her high-pitched voice grating on Carson's nerves.

"Majority rules." Dana lightly slugged her on the arm.  "You lose.  Unless you want to go face the Sig Eps all by yourself.  I hear they have freshmen girls for dessert."

"Maybe I'd like to be dessert."  Amber huffed slightly, and then smiled.  "Oh, alright.  Maybe I'll meet a third year law student and fall in love and get married."

"Lord."  Carson rolled her eyes, reaching Amber's Jetta and climbing into the front passenger seat.  Dana's costume would require the entire back one.

"What?" Amber stuck her keys in the ignition and started the engine.  "Don't you want to meet you dream man and get married, Carson?"

"Well, someday, I guess, but not now.  I'm only eighteen." She shrugged.  "I'd like to finish school first and maybe start my career."

"I want to be a kept housewife," Dana purred.  "A well-kept one, that is."

"You go, girl!" Amber held a hand over the seat for a high five.  "My father told me the bachelor's degree was optional, but the MRS one wasn't.  He figured his investment in this university should seal that deal, especially living on our side of campus near all the frat houses.  I'm going through rush in the spring, too.  My mother's a Pi Phi legacy. She was the Sigma Phi sweetheart. That's how she met my father."

Carson leaned against the car door, peering out the window at the gathering dusk.  Dana and Amber's conversation about guys, and husbands, and perfect dates, drifting in and out of her conscious hearing, and when they began discussing how to please a man in bed, she tuned them out completely.  'Been there, tried that, didn't like it much,' she mused silently.

Not soon enough, they made a turn onto a long, steep, winding driveway.  Music blared from the house at the top of the hill, and a string of orange and white lights were laced through the tree branches on the wide, sloping front lawn.

"Awesome!" Amber found a place to parallel park and set the parking brake.

"Super!"  Dana bounced some more, her tail bobbing up and down in time to the music, which was ten times louder outside the car.

"So much for less juvenile," Carson muttered under her breath.  Two empty kegs decorated the long front porch, and as they made their way to a side entrance marked 'enter here,' she spotted two more floating in the swimming pool.  "Great.  Oh well, at least I like beer."

They were greeted by a Beetlejuice wannabe, who collected their $10 in a large tin bucket, and a woman dressed as blind justice, who promptly handed them cups of beer from her scales, which doubled as trays.  "Punch is in a big bowl in the kitchen, if y'all would rather have that." Justice smiled, peeking at them from a hole cut so she could see through her blindfold.

"Thanks."  Carson sipped the beer and made a face. "Coors lite.  Yuck."

"Let's go get some punch."  Amber nudged both of them toward the center of the house.  Soon all three girls held large plastic mugs of a beverage in a very unnatural shade of electric blue.

"Scary."  Carson sampled it.  "And dangerous."  She took another sip.

"Sounds like the dancing is downstairs."  Dana led them through the kitchen to a staircase, and on into the basement, which was the size of the entire first floor. Colored track lights were rigged to blink in random patterns, and techno club music kept a steady beat, pounding up through the floor.  "Wicked."

"Men."  Amber licked her lips.

Carson looked around.  The space was packed, and fully two-thirds of those in attendance were male.  Before she could think, a man dressed as what appeared to be Robin Hood tapped her on the shoulder.  "Hey Joan of Arc, care to dance?"

She gave him the once-over, and deciding he was harmless, smiled.  "Sure."  She decided a man brave enough to wear tights probably had a good handle on his ego.  He led her out to the wooden dance floor, and they began to dance to the steady stream of tunes spun by a DJ in a booth in the far corner.  The bass was so loud, Carson could feel it shaking her bones and pounding in her chest.

"Nice party."  Carson commented loudly, over the music.  She never knew what to say to all the strange boys she met at the parties she'd been to since starting school at The University of Texas two months earlier.  And there were so many of them.  Dorm parties.  Fraternity parties.  Tailgate parties.  After-game parties.  Freshman mixers.  It seemed like someone going to so many parties should be having a lot more fun than she felt like she was having.

"Nice costume."  Robin stroked the soft leather sword strap at her shoulder.

Carson tried not to shrug him off.  "I'm Carson."  She held out her hand awkwardly as they danced.

"Mike."  The man shook her hand and yelled.  "Or Mikey.  I answer to both."

"Mikey?"  Carson cocked her head to one side.

"Nickname I got from the two girls in my study group."  He grinned.  I’m the only guy in it.  I'm kind of outnumbered, so I let them get away with it.  Everyone calls our group the smokers and the tokers."  He winked.  "Get it?"

"Yeah."  Carson just managed to avoid making a face.  Of all the guys at the party, it figured she'd get the law student who was a pothead.  She could smell it now, the familiar sickly sweet scent, though whether from his clothing or some other, fresher source, she couldn't tell.

"You want a joint?"  He offered her one, drawing it from a pouch attached to his costume's belt.  "We've got ex, too, if you want some."

"No thank you."  Carson wrinkled her nose.  "I'll stick with the punch."

"Punch'll make you silly a lot faster than weed."  He placed the joint back in the pouch.  "But suit yourself.  I'm just here to have a good time."

"Me, too."  Carson found a smile and even allowed him to move closer, as the music slowed for the next song.  A little too close, she realized, too late, as it became apparent Mikey had feelings for her below the belt.

Her mind screamed a mental 'ick!' and as soon as the song ended, she managed to pull away.  She could feel the heat of her own blush, and stepped back, almost stumbling over her own boots.  "Sorry.  It's a little warm in here.  I think I need to step outside."

"You want me to go with you?"  Mikey followed her from the dance floor and back up the stairs. 

"No, that's alright.  Actually, I think I need to find the ladies' room," Carson lied.  Anything to escape, if only for a while.

"Oh, that's upstairs, end of the hallway.  At least that's the one I know of.  There's probably half a dozen of them in this house."  Mikey pointed to a curved staircase that led up to the second floor.

"Thanks."  Carson dashed away, practically running up the stairs.  When she reached the top and was out of Mikey's sight, she leaned against the flocked wallpaper for a moment, mentally re-grouping.  She'd slow-danced with dozens of boys since junior high school.  Why, oh why, did that particular situation still gross her out so very much?  It wasn't like they could help it, was it?  "Ick," she mumbled again.

Deciding perhaps upstairs was safer than the basement, she set out to explore the large, old house.  She knew better than to open any closed bedroom doors; it only took once at a party to never make that mistake again.  At the end of the hall she did find the bathroom, and decided to make use of it.  It was huge, with a long marble vanity, a separate closet for the toilet, and an oval garden tub in the corner.  Large windows on one side faced the lights and rolling hills of Austin.  After re-adjusting her ponytail and costume, and properly tucking her tights into her boots, she stepped back out into the hall and noticed a set of double stained-glass doors at the far end.  "Freedom!" she exclaimed.

The doors led out to a wide balcony, overlooking the lake below, or river, as Carson privately believed it should be called, though the locals never failed to argue.  It was a nice night, with a soft breeze and a full moon, lighting a completely cloudless sky.  She finally relaxed, taking in the peace of her new-found sanctuary.  Two stories up, the music wasn't quite so loud, and she no longer felt like she was having a heart attack with each beat of the drums.  Over to one side in the shadows, she spotted a set of iron patio chairs, and, too late, realized one of them was occupied.  "Oh.  Sorry."  She started to leave, when a smooth, deep voice stopped her.

"I can share."  The voice was feminine, and somehow comforting.  Slowly, a figure rose partway up from a chair in the shadows, and pushed another chair in her direction.  "Take a seat."

"Thanks." Carson sat down in the padded seat, noting she could still enjoy the view from her chair.  "Feels good to get off my feet for a moment."

"Not a dancing queen, huh?"  The woman took a drag from a cigarette, and fished a pack from her jacket pocket.  "Cigarette?"

"No, thanks," Carson politely declined.  Why did everyone want her to smoke something? Still, she was outside and could tolerate it if her new-found friend felt the need to indulge.  It was a better option than going back inside.

"Drink?"  The woman secured a bottle from a cooler next to her chair.  "It's Fat Tire - amber micro-brew I stocked up on in Colorado this past summer. Good stuff.  I wish they sold it here."

"Oh, cool."  Carson accepted the bottle.  "I love Fat Tire.  Some of us snuck away during our senior ski trip last year, and we drank this at a pub in Breckenridge."

"Last year?"  The other woman laughed lightly.  "You a freshman?"

"Yeah." Carson could feel herself blushing again, realizing the woman must be a law student, making her probably at least four years older than Carson.  She probably thought Carson was a baby.

"Guess I shouldn't have given you that."  The woman leaned forward extending a hand as if to take the beer away, but instead reached for Carson's other hand.  "I'm Shea.  Keep the beer.  Just don't tell anyone, okay?"

"Oh, okay.  Thanks.  Nice to meet you.  I'm Carson."  She took the proffered hand and held it a bit too long.  It was warm and strong, but gentle as well.  Reluctantly, she let go, hoping her face hadn't betrayed her thoughts.  Thoughts she was having all too often of late.  The woman was dressed as some kind of punk rocker, her hair long and an interesting shade of bright purple, an obvious dye job for the costume.  "Will that wash out easily?"  She gestured toward the woman's hair, making conversation.

"Hell, I hope so, but I guess I'll find out after the party.  Gonna be an interesting time at my mock trial next week if it doesn't." Shea laughed again and retrieved a beer of her own, casually popping the top with a bottle opener sitting on the patio table between their chairs.  "It's usually black."  She tugged at a purple lock and then let it go.  "So, Carson, why aren't you down dancing with all the law school boys?  I was sitting up hear earlier and heard a group of 'em talking about you the minute you rounded the corner to come into the house."

Truth?  Carson pondered her options for a moment, realizing that for some reason, she felt comfortable with this relative stranger, and further realizing it really didn't matter, as she'd probably never see her again.  She took a deep breath.  "Honestly, I came upstairs to escape from a slow dance with Robin and his merry manhood."

Shea's eyes grew wide and then she laughed again, long and hard. "Oh, god!  That's my friend Mikey.  He's harmless, but hell, Carson, he's a red-blooded guy and you're a very attractive girl.  Can't say as I blame his manhood for getting a little merry around you."

Finally, Carson saw the humor in the situation, and her eyes twinkled, as she joined in the laughter.  "I'm so glad I'm not a guy," she spoke on a breathless note.  "I'd have to cover myself half the time."

"Oh, me, too."  Shea studied her speculatively.  The girl was very pretty, and very tempting, but much too young, and despite her comment, there was something innocent about her that warned Shea away from anything beyond the present conversation.

"So why are you out here?"  Carson unconsciously scooted her chair closer.  Shea had beautiful, sparkling eyes, but they were almost colorless in the moonlight, and she couldn't figure out what their true shade was.  Asking was almost on the tip of her tongue, but then she decided the question might get her into trouble.  It was too revealing.

"I haven't volunteered for anything yet this year and was pretty much told I had to come."  Shea lit another cigarette, taking a long, slow drag, tiny sparks flying up into the air as she flicked away a bit of ash.  "I hate parties.  At least these kinds of parties."

"What kind of parties do you like?"  Carson could feel the beer going to her head.  She'd forgotten how strong Fat Tire could be, especially on her empty stomach.

Shea sat back in her chair, contemplating her answer.  Finally, she replied, her eyes never leaving Carson's.  "Ones with just my girlfriends.  Maybe chilling out at the lake or on a boat or something.  But just the girls.  No guys."

"Oh."  Carson's teeth lightly clicked together as her mouth closed on her response.  Shea's answer tickled something inside, at once making Carson uncomfortable and at the same time settling over her in an oddly familiar way.  "Come to think of it, those are the kinds of parties I like best, too."  And she realized she meant it.  Ever since she could remember, Carson had always preferred slumber parties with her girlfriends to spin-the-bottle ones with the guys.

"Really?"  Shea's eyebrows edged up and she sat forward, sipping slowly from her beer as her cigarette burned down almost to the filter, untouched.  A part of her wanted to pursue the conversation further, but there was something in the girl's expression that made her stop.  "Hey, you want to see something cool?"

"Sure."  Carson jumped a little at the abrupt change of subject, some strange spell between them suddenly broken.

"I knew it was going to be a long night, so I brought my telescope and set it up over there.  Figured I'd take advantage of the clear sky." Shea rose and motioned for Carson to follow her. She was incredibly tall, and she moved with an easy self-confidence, her walk a cocky, sexy swagger.  "Just a hobby I picked up at home out in west Texas.  The sky is real big out there and there isn't much to do but get drunk or stoned. I had to find something to do on the nights my parents were too close by to sneak out."  She winked at Carson.

"Neat."  Carson politely followed, ever so grateful for this stranger, this beautiful woman who was rescuing her from the madness of the party below.

"Take a look."  Shea made a few adjustments to the scope, as she peered through the finder scope and then the eyepiece.  "You can almost see astronaut footprints on the moon, it's so big and full and bright tonight."

Carson stepped up and looked into the eyepiece.  "Oh, wow.  That's amazing.  Look at the detail."  She looked up for a moment, and gasped in surprise as a shooting star streaked across the sky.  "Oh," she repeated softly.  She looked over at Shea who was standing much too close.  Their eyes met and locked, and for a moment the house and the party faded away and it was just the two of them, floating in space with the stars.

"Did you make a wish?"  Shea nodded toward the night sky. "On the star.  It's good luck.  Supposed to come true if you do."  She stepped back and then around, drawing closer.  It was a dangerous game and she wasn't sure just how far she wanted to take it.  The signals were all there, but once again, something held her back.

"I'll make one right now."  Carson closed her eyes.  It was a mistake.  This close, she could hear Shea's breathing, and smell her perfume on the breeze, caressing Carson's skin -- something sweet and clean.  Her wishes were going to land her in Hell someday.  She looked up.  "Did you?"

"Absolutely."  Shea's eyes grew melancholy for a moment, the light from the moon dancing across them, creating sad, silver liquid, that threatened to spill over, and then she blinked, the mood broken.  Slowly, she moved closer, her arms around Carson on each side, as she adjusted the telescope in a different direction.  "Look over there. See that star?"  Carson nodded.  Shea's breath fogged the air slightly, scented with menthol.  "That's Pegasus.  Now, follow up at a diagonal.  See that fuzzy blob?"  Carson nodded again.  "That's what I have the telescope trained on.  Take a look."

Carson peered into the scope again.  "Oh, Wow.  That's beautiful.  What is it?"

"The Andromeda Galaxy.  It's the closest one to ours."  Shea pointed to the sky again. "See the three squares?"  She touched Carson's arm and took her hand, guiding her as she pointed upward.  She never wanted to let go, Carson's hand a perfect fit in her own.  "The one to the right is the Big Dipper, and the one in the middle is the Little Dipper.  At the end of its handle is Polaris, the North Star.  But over to the left, see that square with the one yellow star and the one orange one?"

Carson could barely pay attention, the electricity between them was so great, and their joined hands making her brain cells melt.  Her heart was pounding harder than it had been next to the speakers downstairs, and she fought to control her breathing.  At the moment she was very, very glad she wasn't a guy.  Finally, she shook her head a little and focused.  "Yeah.  What is that?"

"It's Draco, the dragon."  Shea smiled, forcing herself to remember names of stars and constellations she usually knew like the back of her own hand.  "Did you ever see Dragonheart?"

"Yeah."  Carson grinned.  "One of my favorites."

"Well," Shea took Carson's hand and pointed finger, and together they traced a curving caress across the sky.  "Those stars are his tail. See it, curling between the two dippers?"

"Oh, cool."  At Shea's urging, Carson peered back into the scope, which was still trained on Andromeda.  "I still like this one best, though.  It's so pretty."

"It's my favorite, too," Shea agreed.  She was still very close, and as Carson looked back up, something passed between them, a subtleness of emotion, and something settled deep inside Shea, a sense of peace like she hadn't felt since childhood. 

"Why don't you like guys at your parties?" Carson whispered, her breath tickling the skin on Shea's arm, which was resting on Carson's shoulder.

"Because I like girls," Shea whispered back.  It took every bit of willpower to not grab the girl and kiss her, but she clamped her jaw and forced her hands to remain still.  'Not yet,' a voice inside her echoed.  Not yet?  She shook her head slightly. Where did that come from?

Carson looked at her, her startled eyes searching Shea's face. It was the first time she'd come face to face with herself, seeing her own emotions reflected back at her.  It was too much, and quickly, she looked down, swallowing hard.  A gentle hand tilted her chin up, and she reluctantly met those silvery eyes again.  They didn't look through her, they looked deep inside her, connecting with her soul.

"Hey.  It's okay, Carson."  Those same gentle fingers stroked her cheek once, before Shea removed her hand.  Despite her calm, soothing voice, Carson detected the slightest tremor in Shea's touch.  "Everything's going to be okay. It's not an easy road, but if it's your path, you have to take it.  Choosing a false path will only lead to misery.  At least that's what my father says, and he's the smartest person I know."

"He's okay -- with you and all?"  Carson couldn't imagine her own parents being so easy-going, should she ever find the courage to tell them.

"Completely."  Shea smiled, a warm and soft radiation of light that cut through Carson's fear.  "Give yourself some time, kid.  I'm in my second year of law school and I'm still finding my way."

"Do you think you ever will?"  Carson stammered.  "Find your way completely?"

"I don't know.  Maybe it's not the endpoint we need to focus on, but the journey itself."  Shea stepped back and looked up, as the doors to the balcony opened.

"Shea." Another tall woman approached them.  She was dressed as a lady pirate.

"Carson, this is my best friend, Heidi." Shea introduced them.

"Hi."  Heidi was unsteady on her feet, her words slightly slurred, a large, open bottle of plain vodka clutched in one hand.  "Great costume, Carson."

"Thanks."  Carson smiled shyly.  "Better than Baby Spice."  She wrinkled her nose.  "That's what my friends wanted me to dress as, I guess because of my height and my hair."

"Ah, no." Shea tisked.  "The lady knight fits you much better.  Somehow, I don't think you're the platform shoes bimbo type."

"Ew."  Carson grimaced.  "You can say that again.  Well, I guess I'd better be going.  I have a feeling I'm going to have to play designated driver for Ariel and Monica in there.  I just hope Monica hasn't found Bill."

"You okay to drive?"  Shea studied her with genuine concern.

"Walk the line."  Heidi pointed to a distinct line in the tiling of the balcony.  "Heel-toe, and then touch the end of your nose with both fingertips, while your eyes are closed."

"Heidi, you couldn't pass those tests right now," Shea chided her.

"True, but I don't have to drive anywhere," Heidi retorted.

"Alright."  Carson quickly toed the line and touched her nose, not missing a beat.  "Satisfied?"

"Satisfied?"  Shea winked at her.  "Not completely, no."

"Well then what else do you want me to do? -- Oh."  Carson felt the annoying blush heating her cheeks again.

"Sorry."  Shea sincerely apologized for her teasing.  "Thank you, Carson, for sharing the night sky with me.   It was the best evening I've had in a long time."

"Really?"  Carson's gut clenched in a mixture of desire and hero-worship.

"Really."  Shea nodded fervently.

"I should thank you."  Carson stepped closer and in a moment of complete courage, stood on her toes, placing a simple kiss on Shea's cheek.  "For lots of things."  She quickly darted out the door and disappeared.

"Whoa."  Heidi stared after her, then stared at Shea.  "What did I miss here?"

"Nothing," Shea snapped.  "Not a damned thing."

"Didn't look like 'nothing' to me."  Heidi nudged her.  "You kicking Sarah out of your bed?"

"No."  Shea vehemently shook her head.  "And you know Sarah and I are just friends with benefits.  I don't have time for anything else right now, and neither does she.  Besides, Sarah's not my type."

"But the little blonde is."  Heidi teased.

"The little blonde is all of eighteen years old."  Shea located her lighter and quickly lit another cigarette.  "Baby dyke, just figuring things out.  I won't go there with someone who isn't sure, and I sure as hell don't want to be anyone's lesbian experiment."

"Too bad," Heidi replied softly.  "She's cute."

"Yes, she is."  Shea sat back down in the corner and quickly finished her beer, fishing around for another one.  "Go on, I know you aren't done inside, yet."

"I'm done with vertical dancing."  Heidi grinned slyly.  "I'll be in the room at the end of the hallway with this gorgeous redhead, doing the horizontal tango, so don't call for me unless the house is burning down."

"Go on," Shea waved her away, watching as Heidi sauntered back inside.  She stood, moving back to the telescope, studying first Andromeda and then Draco.  Looking up at the stars, she closed her eyes, remembering the shooting star, and more than one magical moment.  There was so little magic in her life anymore.  "I wish someday I'd meet --" She paused, her heart balanced on the edge of a dream.  "-- a girl like you," she quietly finished.  "A girl just like you."  She released a breath, her dreams floating away on the night breeze to join with the starry sky.


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