Monday, 31 October 2011

Short Story: Trick Or Treat

Trick or treating was a nice enough idea in theory, as long as you didn’t factor in the icy wind and aching feet after traipsing door after door all evening. Sam had thought her five year old daughter looked adorable as a pink and black sparkly witch as they’d left the house an hour ago but now she couldn’t wait to strip Evie of her costume and replace it with a pair of pyjamas before tucking her into bed. There were still a few hours left to settle down in front of the tv with a glass of wine. A foot rub would have been appreciated too but there was nobody around to offer such services anymore.
                “Can I eat my sweeties now?” Evie asked as Sam closed the gate of the latest house.
                “You can eat one when we get home. The rest can go away for another day.”
                Evie was silent as she took Sam’s hand, her small yet cunning brain figuring out which was the biggest sweet in her pumpkin-shaped bag. But the debate over lollipop over mini bag of Haribo was halted when she spotted the house across the road. The iron gate had been covered in what Evie hoped were fake cobwebs and spiders.
                “This one, Mummy. This one.” Evie tugged at Sam’s hand, urging her towards the house. Sam had made a rule before they left the house that they would only knock at the doors of decorated houses, to ensure they were didn’t bother those not entering into the spirit of Halloween. The rule, however, had little to do with manners; Sam had assumed this would leave only a handful of houses to call upon, meaning she would be home within the hour.
                Sam had been wrong. It seemed there had been a surge of Halloween popularity and at least every other house was adorned with spooky skeletons and ghoulish ghosts. And this latest house was the worst offender so far with pumpkin lights draped across the bare branches of a small tree in the front garden, polystyrene headstones littering the grassed area and a giant inflatable Frankenstein’s monster loomed by the front door. Candles flickered from within a row of carved pumpkins and a sign warned passers-by not to enter. Sam marvelled that none of it had been nicked.
                “Please, Mummy. Can we knock?”
                “Ok but this is the last one.” If they hurried, Sam could catch Coronation Street.
                The gate creaked as it opened but Sam was sure it simply needed a bit of oil and wasn’t an added sound effect but Evie’s grip tightened on her hand.
                “Remember, this is the last one,” Sam whispered as Evie tapped at the door. The door opened but instead of the expected kind-hearted middle-aged woman, it was a man. A tall, broad-shouldered man with collar-length brown hair and a smattering of dark stubble.
                “Trick or treat!” Evie mustered all her enthusiasm, knowing this was her last chance for another whole year.
                Trick or treat indeed, Sam thought as she subconsciously licked her lips.
                “Daddy, can I give out the sweeties please?”
                Of course, Sam realised as the glossy haired girl popped her head around the door. It had been foolish to think a single man would go to such efforts for Halloween.
                “Evie!” The girl bounced up and down and tugged at the man’s sleeve. “Daddy, this is my friend from school.”
                Sam recognised the little girl from the playground. She was a year older than Evie and, if Sam recollected, had a stunning mother. The kind who turned up to school in skinny jeans, stilt-like heels and jackets nipped in at her tiny waists. Hair and make up had been done to perfection, as though she were about to step onto the catwalk. The kind of mother Sam despised because she could never keep up. She couldn’t even be bothered to wash her hair in the morning, let alone blow-dry and straighten it. She had better things to do, like enjoying an extra half an hour in bed.
                “Do you think we should give Evie two treats?” The man asked his daughter. He winked at Sam and she was glad of the excuse of the cold night as she blushed.
                “Thank you, Lily.” Evie beamed as her friend dropped two lollies into her pumpkin bag.
                “Do you want to come in and see our house? We’ve got loads of Halloween stuff.” An answer didn’t seem to be required as Lily tugged Evie inside without waiting for one.
                “Sorry about that,” Lily’s father said as Sam was abandoned on the doorstep. “Do you want to come inside out of the cold for a minute?”
                Sam dithered. It wasn’t every day she was invited into the home of a handsome stranger but what about all those rules she’d had drummed into her as a child? The same rules she drummed into Evie? But Evie was already inside the house so surely it was Sam’s duty to ensure she was safe. She really had no choice in the matter.
                The house was warm and bright, lit up with yet more pumpkin lights. The surfaces were stuffed with shop-bought and homemade pictures and models.
                “I went a bit crazy,” Lily’s father explained as Sam took in the spooky grotto. “It’s my first Halloween with Lily since she was a baby so I went a bit overboard.”
                Ah, so he was separated from Lily’s mother. Sam was sure she should have felt sympathetic towards his situation yet the information made her glow inside.
                “This is the first time I’ve taken Evie out trick or treating. Her dad promised to take her but he cancelled at the last minute. He has better things to do with his new family apparently.” Quite why she’d had to make it clear she was also single was baffling. It wasn’t as though he could ever fancy her, not when his type was the Barbie look.
                “That’s a shame. Not all men are like that though.”
                Sam took another glance around the room. Clearly not. She couldn’t imagine her ex going to so much effort for Evie.
                “I’m Richard, by the way.”
                “Sam.” They shook hands and the formality made Sam giggle, which in turn caused another blush.
                “Would you like a drink?” Richard either hadn’t noticed the school-girl effect he was having on Sam or was doing a good job of hiding it. Either way, Sam was grateful.
                From the laughter vibrating from upstairs, Evie was in no hurry to go home and funnily, Sam wasn’t either anymore. Accepting the offer of a drink, she sat down next to a giant inflatable skeleton. Over coffee, Sam learned she had a lot in common with Richard. Mostly the girls but they also had similar taste in films and music. Without either realising, an hour raced by.
                “I’d better get going,” Sam gasped when she noticed the time. “It’s way past Evie’s bedtime.”
                “I’d better get Lily to bed too. I don’t want another black mark against my parenting skills.” Sam couldn’t see how he’d ever earn anything other than praise. He seemed pretty perfect in her books.
Richard shouted the girls from the hallway and the pair thundered down the stairs.
                “Thanks for the coffee,” Sam said after Evie had said a reluctant goodbye to her friend.
                “Thanks for the company.” Richard ran his fingers through his hair and Sam fought the urge to reach out and do the same. “I’ll be dropping Lily off at school in the morning. We could meet up and go for another coffee if you’d like.”
                Sam would like. Very much so. “That would be nice. I’ll see you in the morning then.”
                Evie wasn’t sure why her mum was smiling on the way home. She’d been a bit grumpy about Halloween earlier but had cheered up somewhere along the line. Perhaps it was the thought of all the goodies in the pumpkin bag.
                “Did you like trick or treating, Mummy?”
                Sam’s smile widened. “Yes, Evie. I did. It was good fun.” The evening had turned into something of a treat and she couldn’t wait until morning.

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