Because Erin visited without anything to drop off, Taylor had no idea how long he would have to wait until her next visit. The days crawled by. Aside from homework, he spent much of his downtime drafting text messages to Erin. Other times, he found himself pulling out his phone to check on the status of his costume order. With every passing day, his anxiety increased. He was eager to let Erin know about his new plans to accompany her to the main campus. He also found it difficult to avoid thinking of his Red Riding Hood costume. Attempts of his boss to pep him up only lasted until Taylor was left alone. He longed for a visit from Erin, yet he lacked the courage to visit her office.
As Friday afternoon rolled around, Taylor had lost hope that Erin would come around. It was customary for Friday afternoons to be quiet, but today Taylor had little to do aside from staring at the clock and waiting for visitors. Finally, the long-awaited shipping notification arrived. His costume was sitting on his doorstep. He decided to pack up and make a break for home half an hour early. Just as he had finished packing his bag, the door chime sent its shrill sound through the shop. Once again, the footsteps were instantly recognizable from upstairs.
"Taylor! I got off a little early to pay you a visit. Sorry, I went all week without visiting. Our equipment has been unusually reliable. I had a hard time finding excuses to drop by." Taylor's smile of the week came across his face, and he went red. "I guess I am pretty good at that," he remarked. “I suspect you're free of misbehaving equipment again today,” Taylor observed. She shot back quickly: “Haha! Yeah, you got me there.” Taking advantage of the rare opportunity to beat Erin to the start of a conversation, he quickly briefed her on his plans to transfer to the main campus. “Don’t let your boss hear you!” she whispered to him. “Not to worry; he already left for the day. Do you want some ice cream?” “Sure", came a polite response. "I won't turn down ice cream.”
After Taylor locked the front door, the two strolled casually down Main Street. They talked about the logistics of their schooling. Erin told him of her apartment building. It was a group of co-ed towers on campus, close to the library and engineering buildings. They would be near most of Taylor’s classes. He knew she had already attended a campus tour, but invited her to go with him anyway. Secretly, he hoped Erin would turn down his offer so he could experience the Halloween party. “I'd love to, but I really shouldn't take time off work to go again.” However, she was fully on board with Taylor's backup offer of video calling during the tour.
It seemed like their mile-long stroll lasted for hours. After giving the server five dollars and a quick thank you, they enjoyed their double-scooped ice cream cones with only an occasional conversation. The walk to Erin’s car was substantially quieter than the first leg of their journey, and once they had given their good nights, Taylor headed back toward his own vehicle in somber silence.
It was not until Taylor was alone with his thoughts that he remembered his package on the doorstep. Although he was considerably later than usual getting home, Taylor had thoroughly enjoyed his visit with Erin. Some of his anxiety had been relieved. He loved Erin's approving reaction to his news, but he had mixed emotions about the denial of his invitation. He would be much more comfortable on the tour if Erin were there, but he was glad his plans of attending the Halloween party could progress undeterred. Pulling into his driveway well after dark, Taylor could see a faint silhouette of a sizeable box sitting on his porch. With his hands shaking from excitement at the thought of finally being able to try on his costume, it was all he could do to turn his car off, grab his bags, and fumble around for his house key. Picking up the box, Taylor walked down the stairs and into his dark basement apartment. Flicking the light on, he quickly dug out a pocket knife and opened his package.
Sitting right on top was his brunette wig. He tore the plastic packaging off. Careful not to tangle the wig, he unwrapped it from the fishnet. It felt silky and smooth, unlike his coarse, somewhat neglected hair. Most of all, Taylor enjoyed the feminine look of the blonde stripes accentuating its brown fibers. Setting the wig aside, he picked up the pink shoe box. As he flipped open the lid and dug through the tissue paper, he was taken aback by the magnificence of his black Mary Jane flats. His mind wandered back to the nightmares of his recent past. Why would he have been so upset about getting to wear something so captivating?
Removing the shoe box, Taylor exposed his white, lace-lined socks. Anxious to try on his new shoes, Taylor ripped off his current foot coverings. The socks smelled new and fresh. Taylor loved how they slid right on his moderately-sized feet. Much to his dismay, neither shoe would go past his toes. Frustrated, he set them aside, determined to press forward with his early Christmas presents. Finally, he pulled out the red outfit. Out came the hooded cape, followed by a red dress, accentuated by a white, frilly apron. Now, the reality of what was happening started to sink in. Taylor doubted his mental ability to wear this dress. It was just so girly. He found it difficult to control his emotions and decided to set the dress aside for later.
After a quick ramen noodle dinner, Taylor sat on the couch, staring at his costume. Still unable to bring himself to try it on, he decided it was time to get to bed. Saturday typically was spent doing chores, so Taylor liked to get up early, reserving the afternoon for fun. Once in bed, though, he could not stop thinking about his costume. Taylor pulled out his phone and scrolled through the listing to his shoes. He quickly discovered the sizing to be different between men's and women's shoes. Almost sheepishly, he calculated his appropriate size, requested an exchange, and submitted his new order. After what seemed to be an eternity of tossing and turning, Taylor finally drifted off to sleep.
Replays of Taylor's Halloween nightmare again occupied his sleep time. However, instead of being dressed as a clown, he became Red Riding Hood. Additionally, Taylor observed that he was helping his mom pick out the outfits. Instead of being embarrassed in class, he was frustrated his classmates could not appreciate his clothing choices. After just a few dream replays, interrupted by struggles to get back to sleep, Taylor again found himself lying in a wet bed.