Where Sea Meets Sky(2)

By: Karina Halle



“I wholeheartedly disagree,” I say, trying not to ogle her all over again. I pause. “Wait, your first Halloween?”

“First proper Halloween. The North American kind. We don’t really celebrate it the way you guys do.”

I cross my arms, insanely curious now. “And who is we?”

“New Zealand,” she says. “I’m from Auckland.”

“Nice,” I say. “I was going to ask if you were from New Zealand.”

Her lips twitch and she gives me a shake of her head. “No you weren’t.”

“Well, I definitely wasn’t going to ask if you were from Australia. I know how you’d feel about that.”

For a moment her features look strained, then it passes. “Kind of like if I asked if you were American.”

“Exactly.”

“So,” she muses and steps closer. She lays her hand on my bicep and I suck in my breath. “Are the tattoos real?” She removes her hand and peers at her palm, which is streaked with bronze shimmer shit. “Because your tan sure isn’t.”

Damn, I hope I’m not blushing. I clear my throat. “The tattoos are real, I assure you. I needed a bit of, um, help to get that Dothraki tan going on.”

“And this?” She reaches for my face and I am frozen in place while she gently fingers my goatee and beard. She grabs the end of it, which I had attempted to braid, and gives it a little tug.

“Ouch,” I say, though it doesn’t really hurt. It turns me on instead. Big surprise.

“So it is real,” she says. She sounds impressed.

I shrug. “I had a month to grow it in. I say, it’s all or nothing. But tomorrow everything is getting shaved off.”

She frowns and lets go. “Pity. I love a scruffy guy.”

I can’t help but smile. “Lucky for you, I’m scruffy for at least twelve more hours.”

Her mouth twists into a wry smile. I realize I’m being kind of forward with her, but at the same time she just felt my biceps and fondled my man hair. Then again, I’ve never been very good at reading women. Half of them seem to love my tats and black hair and piercings; the other half seem to think I’m a delinquent from skid row.

I’m wondering what she thinks about me when I realize I don’t know her name.

“I’m Josh, by the way,” I say to her, holding out my hand.

She gives me a surprisingly firm shake in return. “Gemma.”

“That’s a beautiful name,” I tell her. Even though I’m sincere, I’m aware that it’s very much a pickup line.

Gemma snorts and it’s absolutely adorable. “Right. Well, in New Zealand, Gemmas are everywhere.”

“But I bet they don’t look like you.” Okay, so now I’m totally swerving into pickup line territory. I push it further. “Can I buy you drink?”

And there the question sits, floating between us along with the haze of pot smoke that hangs in the air. The rejection might come fast, or if I’m lucky, not at all. But it’s Halloween, I have a three-beer buzz going on, and I’m feeling pretty good.

Still, when she nods and says “Sure,” I feel my whole body lift with relief.

We make our way through the crowd to the makeshift bar setup in the corner. It’s a house party we’re at, one I try and go to every year. My friend Tobias rents the whole house with three other dudes who go to the University of British Columbia nearby, and every Halloween they go all out with mind-fuck decorations, elaborate costumes, and a haunted house in the basement. This year they even applied for a liquor license since last year ended with a police raid and all of us running for our lives down the street.

While we get in line behind a guy dressed as a one-night stand (complete with a lampshade head) and a girl dressed as some Disney princess, I ask her, “So, Gemma from New Zealand, how did you hear about the party?”

She fixes her yellow eyes on me and I wish she could take out her contacts so I could see their real color. I’m assuming they’re brown, based on her skin tone, and I feel like I could get lost in them if she’d let me.

“At the backpacker’s hostel I’m staying at. I made friends with the guy who works the front desk,” she says, and I can’t help but feel my entire back bristle. A guy? Of course she’d be here with a guy. “He invited me and another backpacker but I haven’t seen them all night.” Her eyes sweep the room then come back to me, sparkling knowingly. “Not that I’m surprised; she’s from Holland and has legs up to here.” She makes a slicing motion with her hand across her neck. “He obviously wanted to shag her.”

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