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Young Punk in Search of a Pumpkin

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"You destroyed my pumpkin," I accused Tommy Warneki, who was standing at the bottom of the stairs to my house, dressed as a vampire, and trying to look innocent by the remains of my smashed Jack-o'-lantern.

"I did not," he argued.

My eyes went to the sneakers of the boy, horribly out of place with his Dracula costume, now covered in something else besides dirt, mud and oil.

"Well what's that on your sneakers then?" I asked, as I folded my arms and offered him a glare worthy of the night.

Tommy looked down and saw his shoes covered in pumpkin goo. It reminded me of pumpkin pie and would have made me hungry if it hadn't belonged to the pumpkin I had spent all evening carving. I had never expected the fate that would befall the poor thing when I had placed it by the door that evening. Now the pumpkin was lying there in a desecrated pile of mush and broken pieces of the babyface it had once worn. Once it had been too cute for words. Tommy Warneki had dubbed it too cute to live and broken it.

Just as he had done with my heart when he had started dating Robin Crew about a year before.

I started to break down then. Seeing something I had created destroyed so heartlessly by a boy I had always loved was just a little too cruel.

"Oh, jeez, Erin," he said, suddenly appearing to be truly remorseful. "Look, I didn't...I didn't mean to..."

"What?" I asked between sniffles. "You just happened to kick my pumpkin down the stairs and then jump up and down on it by accident."

"Actually, I threw her down the stairs; I didn't kick her," Tommy corrected as if this made it much better.

Picturing him tossing my Baby pumpkin down the stairs and then demolishing it, I burst into a new storm of wounded tears.

It shouldn't have surprised me really.

Tommy Warneki had always been kind of troubled. He'd taken his clothes off once in class, to his teacher, Miss Bukowski's, dismay. Everybody viewed him as a dumbass punk whom would never amount to much. When he'd graduated from High School, he'd stayed at home, just like me, and gone from job to job in the local mall. Every fourth weekend you could find him in a different store, knowing it wasn't long before he was fired and moved on to some other store down the line. He might have been a punk but he was a charming punk, at least, whom weaseled his way into being hired, even though it wouldn't take long before he lost that job too.

But recently he'd gotten worse and I suspected it was because he had just broken up with his girlfriend, the afore thought of gymnast named Robin. She had also been his crush and friend for years before they had actually started dating.

And doing it.

When I'd heard rumors throughout school that she'd stayed over at his house while his parents had been away, I had cried for a week or two. Having a crush on Tommy, thinking of him with the perky little blonde had tormented me. Especially whenever I passed a mirror and saw my chunky, mousy brunette self.

But now the relationship between the flexible young gymnast and the handsome, goofy young punk was reportedly on the skids. She was off doing competitions but Tommy had been left behind. While she had found her wings again following a car accident, which had almost derailed her dreams, Tommy Warneki had found his own ones clipped and his fellow lovebird flying off without him, leaving him all alone.

"Would you just quit crying, Erin!" Tommy pleaded, grabbing me suddenly and unexpectedly and holding me closely to him.

The move shocked me out of my tears and I just stayed frozen in the fake vampire's arms for a second or two before melting into the embrace rather helplessly. He felt so warm next to me on the chilly final night of October. When I had heard the ruckus outside, I had rushed out in only a sweater and pair of thin black pants and had instantly felt the cold seeping in to my plentiful flesh.

Tommy was rubbing my back and I realized something I hadn't before. "Where did your friends go?" I asked.

Warneki laughed. "They hightailed it after the pumpkin had met its untimely demise. I got caught because I felt bad. They took the candle too, Erin. Sorry. I'll replace it, along with your stupid squash."

"You're gonna replace my pumpkin?" I asked, Tommy's chest comforting against my cheek.

"Yeah."

"On Halloween?"

"Yeah...how hard can it be?"

* * *

Together we started the search for a pumpkin. I told my mother and sister that I was going out while I had grabbed a coat. It wasn't too much of a disruption to their nightly plans. I rarely answered the door for Trick or Treaters, being too shy and aware of my weight and the fact that many children didn't possess self censor buttons. But it was also so late that the last of the pint sized witches, mummies, ghosts and goblins had already come and gone.

Now the streets were becoming bare, except for the pranksters with their rolls of toilet paper and dog poop inside of paper bags.

Going out with Tommy was dangerous, but I knew that if I was with him my chances of being harrassed were lessened. He was accepted by most of the revelers our ages out on the streets, besides the wealthy kids that was, and as long as he was by my side, I was safe. Tommy was like that. He was a jokester and a wise ass but mostly everybody liked him because he was rarely ever mean to anybody.

Not unless they deserved it.

I guessed, that was one of the things that had made me fall for him.

He never had teased me about my weight during high school, although many others had. Instead he was kind and respectful to me, friendly despite my shyness and I had always enjoyed the times we had been paired off in any of our shared classes to work on school projects or lab experiments together. Even if I always knew he would have preferred having Robin as a partner instead.

As if reading my mind, Tommy piped up saying, "I guess, this is just like another school project for us."

"Yeah," I said.

"You ever miss school, Erin?" he asked, stuffing his hands in his pockets and looking at the ground.

"Being teased every day?" I said. "Not really."

"Sorry, I forgot," he said turning to look up and down my plump body. "I keep forgetting you're..."

"Fat..." I finished insulted and pleased all at once.

Tommy looked embarrassed. "I guess, I should have taken classes for my big mouth. You just move well and you're pretty so it's something I don't really think about."

I thought of Robin Crew. She wasn't as thin as some of the other girls but she certainly wasn't big like I was. Her bulges of fat were in all of the right places, where as mine weren't. Looking to my friend, I saw the same sad expression on his face again and ignored my insecurity. "Do you miss school, Tommy?" I asked.

He shrugged, an act which made his cape billow out behind him. "Well, when I was there, I couldn't wait to get out. Now that I'm free, I kind of miss the main responsibility in my life being getting to class on time, handing in an assignment and trying not to get an F in History."

He walked a little faster ahead of me and I heard him mumble, "And then Robin was actually there and I thought we could work out."

Seeing in him the same sadness I had felt before, I walked up behind Tommy and threw my arms around him, giving the dumped boy a hug. He froze about as badly as I did at the start of the comforting action and then similarly thawed in my embrace.

Although when he spoke you couldn't exactly tell.

"What the hell did you do that for?" he asked, all macho and seemingly affronted.

"It's cold," I said.

Accepting this answer he melted a little further into my pudgy arms.

* * *

We began by searching the local supermarkets for pumpkins, only problem was that most of them were closed by then and the few which were open were all sold out of the giant orange squash.

"Sorry, Tommy," a Mr. Dawkins, a scowling man in his sixties, stated, placing tins of Campbell's tomato soup on the shelves. "They're all gone. By the end of yesterday you'd be hard pressed to find one in the city. You can try a few of the pumpkin patches, though."

"Out in the middle of nowhere?" Tommy exclaimed. "We'd have to walk all the way there!"

Mr. Dawkins looked at the boy's sneakers and noticed the remains of my pumpkin on them. "TOMMY WARNEKI, YOU YOUNG PUNK!" the store manager spat. "YOU GOT PUMPKIN GUNK ALL OVER THE FLOOR I JUST CLEANED!"

Both Tommy and I cringed as the man stomped over to a mop and pail resting by the shelf. He pushed the former into my companion's hand and dropped the latter by my feet. "Clean it up you two and get out of here! We close in thirty minutes."

"She didn't have anything to do with it!" Tommy tried to defend me. "Its her pumpkin all over my shoes!"

"She's an accomplice then!" the older man spat and kicked the bucket, splashing some of the water on to both Tommy and my own shoes. I watched as a little bit of what use to be my pumpkin Baby spilled away from me.

* * *

We finished just in time to be shoved out the door as Mr. Dawkins closed up. During our combined effort of cleaning the floor, Tommy had told me about how he had used to work for the old grouch; his words not mine.

"What happened?" I asked.

Tommy had shrugged, the mop moving back and forth on the floor in front of him. "He got mad just because I got the boxes mixed up with the expired canned goods and the newly arrived ones. He threw all the good ones out and kept the bad."

"Oh," I had said, moving the pail because the mopping vampire had finished and moved forward.

Back on the street, mostly everybody was gone by then. Passing a house, Tommy disappeared only to come back clutching a pumpkin tightly to him. A little too tightly to him. "Here's a pumpkin, Erin!" he stated proudly.

I eyed him in suspicion. "Turn it around," I commanded, my hands on my hips.

Frowning, the boy did and revealed that the pumpkin had already encountered a knife and was bearing the face of a Smurf. "You put that right back where you found it, Tommy Warneki!" I exclaimed and watched the boy sulking back to the house he had robbed of one squash.

"They would have just tossed it in the morning," he complained when he returned. "I don't know...Maybe we should just go out to the pumpkin patch, after all!"

I wanted to tell him that there was nobody else that I'd rather sit with in one but the words stuck in my throat and I felt too embarrassed to actually say them. I thought that there was no way Tommy would ever want me to be his Sally Brown. Of course, Linus usually didn't fancy Sally much either. Only his strange belief in the Great Pumpkin made him look on her more favorably.

Small religious cults welcomed all newcomers, I supposed.

"Hey, you wanna go back to my place and watch Charlie Brown?" Tommy suddenly asked happily, reading my mind once again.

I was beginning to think that he was a vampire, after all.

"I think it would have aired by now," I remarked.

"Doesn't matter," he said with another shrug. "I got it on tape."

"Okay," I said and started walking with Tommy back to his house.

* * *

By the time we reached the Warneki house, Tommy had already informed me that he was alone again, as he usually was. After we entered the door, I shortly looked down to see something sitting by the threshold. "Tommy, what's this?" I asked holding the unmutilated object.

"Oh, that's the pumpkin mom bought for me to carve for Halloween. I never got around to it, though."

I stared at him blankly for a few seconds before realization crept across his adorable features. "Oh yeah," he said. 

* * *

It was long past twelve, no longer Halloween but now All Saint's Day, as we sat at the Warneki kitchen table. Tommy was sitting on a backwards placed chair, eating an apple loudly with his fake fangs and getting his face paint on the fruit in the process. He had helped me gut the pumpkin and we'd both laughed and complained about the way the pumpkin goo hurt any papercuts or knicks on our fingers and hands. Tommy had called it the pumpkin's revenge.

When he saw the face I was carving into it, however, the boy was far lessed amused. "Shit! Not that stupid babyface again, Erin."

"I've been carving it since I was seven years old," I retaliated.

"Time to change then. It's what made me throw it down the stairs and jump up and down on it," he revealed in a grumpy grumble. "It reminded me of Robin."

"A baby reminded you of...She didn't get pregnant did she?" I exclaimed. "And that's why you two split up."

"No," Tommy said folding his arms over the back of the chair and resting his chin on them. "That little subject broke us up though."

"She wants kids and you don't?" I asked finishing the Baby's curl on its forehead.

"It was the other way around," he pouted. "It had never come up before in high school...but after graduation..."

The boy sighed and grabbed the sides of the chair, leaning back. "Turns out, she didn't want to wreck her body. She said that after the accident it was hard enough for her. A baby would make it even worse, Robin claimed. I told her it wasn't for NOW...she said that was a good thing with my career prospects being what they were."

Tommy rose from the chair and went to stare out the window. He was obviously wounded as much by the remark, which might have been a thoughtless joke, as much as by the fact that his lover wasn't looking to ever become a mother.

I stared at my Baby pumpkin and suddenly felt bad for having chosen the design. "I'm sorry, Tommy," I apologized.

"Why?" he asked turning around. "It's not your fault I can't find a job that sticks. And you didn't make me break up with Robin."

"You dumped her?" I said in shock.

"Yeah," he said with a sigh. "I might not be able to hold a job but I'm adult enough to avert a potential disaster...and to know that people change. Or, maybe, you just learn a bit more about each other as you live. It's like all those jobs I lose...I don't want to keep 'em if I'd be miserable for the rest of my life doing 'em. I just gotta find the right one, is all."

Our following few seconds of silence made the clock sound very loud before I found the strength to talk.

"I think I'm finished," I announced.

"I'll get a candle," Tommy said and started to look through the drawers.

I watched him and smiled. He wasn't really a punk. Everybody just wasn't willing to look close enough to find that fact out. Eventually, he found both a candle and a match and brought both over. "Hit the lights, will you?" he asked, placing the candle inside of the pumpkin and lighting it.

I walked over to the switch and flipped it before coming to stand by his side. "You're really something, Tommy Warneki," I said, staring at his sweet face, dancing with a campfire glow over the still open pumpkin.

"Is that good or bad?" he asked, returning the top to the Jack-o'-lantern.

"Good," I said softly. "It's all good."

Tommy turned to look at me. He blinked a few times and his expression suddenly looked almost surprised as he swallowed audibly. I knew he had finally noticed me, really noticed me, in the candlelight and blushed.

"You don't have a costume," he commented, looking at my pink sweater and the swell of the breasts underneath.

"It's not Halloween anymore," I stated. "It's All Saints' Day. Old ghosts no longer have the chance for revenge. They have to move on to heaven. Those are the rules."

The boy's hand rested on my cheek and as he smiled at me I smiled hopefully at him too. I could read in his eyes, catching the light from the lantern in an odd yet beautiful way, that he no longer needed to be haunted by the ghost of his old love; he could look forward to a new chance at happiness now too.

"Too bad," he said. "I was gonna ask if you wanted to be my next victim."

I softly grasped his wrist and replied, "Well, vampires aren't technically ghosts; they're just undead. And it would be fitting...you see, I'm a virgin."

Tommy's eyebrows raised at the candid confession and he took a step forward. I placed my hands gently on his shoulders and met his eyes. "But Mr. Dracula...I'm only up for a little kissing and necking for now...I'm not ready for anything else."

"That suits me fine," my longtime crush confessed. "I'm tired of cleaning bedsheets anyway. Besides sometimes sex just complicates things. It certainly doesn't mean forever or make things any better. I learned that from my mistake with Robin."

Although hearing his own private revelations about his sex life with his first girlfriend stung, the way that Tommy was looking at me made that stinging fade. I knew then that his past wasn't something that should hurt me anymore. I pushed into him a little closer, mildly embarrassed by my tummy touching his flat stomach but happy that he did not share the same shame.

"There are no mistakes if they lead you to where you're meant to be," I whispered, the vampire's lips dangerously close to my own. "All the lost and found souls will tell you that."

"Will they?" Tommy asked, his breath entering through my parted lips.

"Yes," I answered.

"Well then I have nothing to regret," Tommy remarked with a large fanged grin. "Because this is where I'm meant to be...And this is where you supposed to be too."

Tommy Warneki suddenly raised his cape and made me disappear under it with him, claiming the woman whom already had him running deeply throughout her veins.