It had been a little over two years since Sarah and Robert had begun trying. At this point Sarah considered herself an expert in compartmentalizing the sorrow she felt every time another negative test found its way from her hands and into the seemingly bottomless trash of all her maternal dreams. The insensitive chattering from friends and family that had once rattled her to the core was now simply an incessant buzzing she shoved to the back of her mind to the best of her abilities.
"Oh when are you two ever gonna have children?" all the aunties used to croon at her and Robert. A polite smile and a soft "soon" had once appeased the nosy nellies. But as time wore down, patience ran thin, and no bundle of joy made a miraculous debut, the intrusive questions began to become more of a large irritant than a small annoyance, but luckily one side eye from Robert would typically shut their families down.
But as holiday meet-ups and family dinners pushed on, soon ridiculous phrases like biological clock and womanly duties were being thrown around, and Sarah knew she needed to block out the noise- if only for her own sanity.
So no, normally Sarah considered herself an expert in compartmentalizing the sorrow she felt. But days like this, as she peered out the front window of their quiet living room watching the first groups of little trick-or-treaters begin to merrily scatter down the street, Sarah let the grief engulf her. Each little Elsa, Vampire, and Spider-Man alike felt like little stabs to the heart that simply couldn't be sealed no matter how hard she tried. The children's laughter and squeals of joy flitted through the jarred door leaving Sarah to sit on her couch, turn on It's The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!, and wallow a future she had begun to believe simply would never be. Closing her eyes sitting in the living room dimly lit by the light of the television, Sarah imagined the floating bubbles of laughter to be that of her own child, and that she and Robert would find themselves on this very couch hours from now, laughing at the aches in their feet, with eyes full of mirth and joy after a long night of following their little one scavenging the neighborhood for candy.
If only, she thought to herself. With a whole pity party under way, Sarah knew the next course of action to her pitiful Halloween tradition.
Wiping the distant fantasy away Sarah shook her head and paraded off in search of her 100% That Witch goblet which thanks to the generosity of her all too intuitive husband, she planned to fill to the brim with a nice red wine in which she would drown her sorrows through tomorrow, just in time for he to repackage her grief in a neatly tied box to sit in the back of her mind until next time.
As she made her way into the kitchen she couldn't say she was surprised to find her husband red handed, hand deep in a bowl of candy that was supposed to have been sitting out on the front porch for the children to be taking from. "Sorrrryyy" Robert sang, a mouth full of his favorite snack sized Snickers.
"You told me nearly twenty minutes ago you put the bowl out front" Sarah scolded with a face that meant business. "We are lucky children haven't been banging down the door for this stuff yet."
"I know, I know. Hon, I'm sorry I know this is a rough night for you and I really was not meaning to press it. But c'mon you gotta admit you're surprised that our onlyyy bag of Halloween candy lasted this long before one of us snatched it up!" Robert mischievously grinned.
Looking back at the clock on the stove, he said "Twenty minutes to prime trick or treating time? I think that's a new level of impressive." Grabbing another two chocolates, he pushed the bowl across the counter towards her, and said "here, go put that outside and I'll pour you a nice glass full of red. How does that sound?"
His smile infectious even on the worst of days, Sarah couldn't help but give a small smile back as she pivoted and made her way towards the door. With wine on the mind, and a pity party for one ahead, Sarah couldn't wait to snuggle back up on the couch.
Swinging the door open she shouted back to her husband, "Hey Rob! Make sure to grab me the salt and vine-" Only to stop abruptly at the sight of her seven year old niece Amelia on the front porch fully decked out in her Tinkerbell costume.
"Aunt Sarah!!" she squealed, "I'm soooo excited for us to go trick or treating together!" She clasped her hands in glee jumping up and down, before barreling past the bewildered Sarah in search of her Uncle.
Frozen to the spot with confusion, Sarah stayed looking at the spot Amelia had run from just a moment ago, before looking up to see he brother-in-law Jacob making his way up her lawn, with baby Grace in tow on one hip.
"Hey Sarah," he greeted with a sheepish smile.
"Hey Jacob, what's up?" Sarah greeted with a warm hug and a little kiss to Grace's chubby cheek, trying to ignore the pang in her heart as she did so.
"So, Amanda came down with this nasty fever last night and we know Halloween for you is well..." he scratched his head and looked away trying to come up with a less awkward way to phrase his request. "Well we get it...so we asked my brother to cover the whole trick-or-treat situation but he wound up getting stuck closing at work tonight. So I was wondering if you could please please please save the night and go out with Amelia?"
A little flustered Sarah began to try to find a way to wiggle herself out of the situation.
"Not to sound rude but-" Sarah began. "Reading your mind Sarah, don't worry. One word. Teething. This is the first ten minute span today that Grace isn't screaming her head off. I can't leave this little gremlin with Amanda tonight."
Sarah gave a chuckle of understanding, stopped by the comedic glare of her brother-in-law. "Seriously. You don't understand. I won't even need to wear a costume with how much this one has been screaming because I'll be shocked if there isn't blood coming out. of. my. EARS." he finished with a dramatic sigh. "BLOOoooOOD." He repeated in a silly vampire accent while making goofy faces at little Grace.
While smiling at Jacob's antics, she quickly sobered up at the thought of roaming streets endlessly crowded with little munckins up and down the sidewalks.
"Jacob, like you said, I don't do," Sarah began only to be stopped as little Amelia came barreling into her legs.
"Pleassssseeeee Aunt Sarah" the little Tinkerbell begged her semi toothless smile on full display.
Sarah looked in the doorway to see her husband a little behind her, who gave a small nod of encouragement. She turned back to Jacob and little Amelia, and with a slight sigh gave a nod.
Amelia began to jump up and down and darted back inside for her trick-or-treating bag.
"Thank you so so much you guys" Jacob exclaimed while already beginning to make his way back to his car, probably afraid Sarah was going to change her mind. "I owe you BIG time Sarah" he shouted as he buckled Grace into her car seat and zoomed away.
"Okay!" Robert exclaimed, tenderly grabbing Sarah by the shoulders. "Looks like we are going trick-or-treating".
All Sarah could think was What did I just get myself into?
In all her angelic visions of trick or treating with her own imaginary children, she certainly never anticipated so many things could go wrong. But four blocks and twenty-five minutes in, she knew otherwise.
Between bratty children pushing Amelia out of the way on neighbors doorsteps, or houses being out of candy, or the neighbors with endless plots of land that felt like they took a year to walk across, Sarah was over trick-or-treating. She told herself that this is what she would remind herself of next year when she wished to be roaming the streets with her own child. The achiness in her feet, the headache she was beginning to get from all the screams and tantrums from the neighborhood kids, and the overpowering smell of sugar that had her nearly plugging her nose from its potency.
Yes, this is what she would remind herself of come next Halloween.
But each time Sarah thought that, she'd find the thought whisked away as Amelia turned and barreled down the driveway towards her Aunt and Uncle, jumping with excitement to show them what candy she had collected at the house they were at.
"Oh my gosh Uncle Rob!" Amelia exclaimed, "Piper from my class at school told me she was gonna get more candy than I could, but my bag is nearly FULL already! If we go to your house in a couple minutes and get another bag there's no way she can beat me!"
Unable to say no to the little Tinkerbell on a Halloween sugar rush, Robert looked back to Sarah and said "Well, it's up to your Aunt Sarah" with a little mischief in his eyes. Amelia clearly knew this called for the full dramatics and got on her tiny little knobby knees in front of Sarah and began to beg " Oh pleasssse Aunt Sarah! Oh pleassse don't make me be the laughing stock of the second grade!"
Robert then joined in behind Amelia, and of course soon enough all the kids and parents alike seemed to be staring at the seven year old girl and thirty year old man on their knees in the middle of the street as they walked by. Feeling embarrassed, Sarah looked around and said "Oh fine!", which was met with big cheers from little Amelia.
"I'll head home and grab a pillowcase, and meet you two on Birch Street in 10 minutes, how's that sound?" Sarah said.
With the agreement to meet up in a few minutes, Sarah turned around and began trecking back towards the house as Amelia skipped off with Robert, mind set on topping off her bag. As she continued to make her way back to the house, a sudden bout of nausea overcame her, and she found herself bent over in front of a neighbor's mailbox, willing the feeling to pass. Just as she was about to stand up and continue on, she felt something crash into her legs and leave her tripping backwards until she landed on her butt on the pavement.
Looking up she saw a little witch who couldn't be much younger than Amelia, also on her butt clutching her arm with her bag on its side, and candy splayed all around the two of them. The little witch looked up and her, and back at her arm, and then back at her, and that's when little crocodile tears began to come out of this little girl's eyes.
Looking around to see the girl's parents nowhere to be found, Sarah scooted forward and began to console the girl.
"Aww there's no tears on Halloween" Sarah began, unsure of how to proceed, glancing around for the girl's parents. "Oh did you get a boo boo?" she asked the little witch as she gently grabbed her arm. Luckily it was nothing more than a little scratch, but seeing the girl was on the edge of a hysterical fit, she looked around and grabbed a tootsie pop that had fallen out of the girl's candy bag.
"Oh well no worries here my spooky little friend" Sarah began in a fairy godmother-esque voice. "I can fix this with my candy wand" she exclaimed, holding up the little red pop for the girl to see. "Now the magic words, hmm let me think" Sarah pondered.
"Oh I know! Abracadabra zip zap and POP!" Sarah said as she gently bopped the lollipop gently at the spot on her arm where she had been holding. "All better?"
The little girl nodded and looked into Sarah's eyes with pools full of wonder and disbelief. "Wow that was like magic!" the little girl shouted grabbing Sarah's hands and examining her palms as if looking for evidence of some sort of superpowers. It was to Sarah's great relief that she saw two parents running down the street in a frenzy towards Sarah and the little girl.
"Julie!!" the girl's mother shouted as the little girl stood up and wrapped her arms around her mother's waist. "I TOLD you not to run ahead without your father and I. It's unsafe to be roaming alone, even if it is Halloween."
"I'm sorry Mom" little Julie replied. "But I met this super cool lady here" she exclaimed while dramatically pointing towards Sarah and said "I ran too fast and fell down, and she used MAGIC to make it all better!! She's so cool"
Bashfully Julie's mother smiled at Sarah and began to apologize. "Oh, thank you so much, I'm so sorry about that" she said vaguely gesturing towards her daughter. "You know how kids can be on nights like tonight."
"Oh...yeah of course. No problem" Sarah replied, the pangs in her heart returning full force. "Nice meeting you three" she said as she stepped aside and began to continue walking towards her house.
"Wait!" Julie yelled stepping around her mother and dashing over to Sarah. With innocent little eyes she looked up at Sarah and asked "When do I get to meet your daughter?"
"Oh" Sarah sadly replied "I don't have any children" the throbbing in her heart full force at this point.
"Oh Julie" the mother interrupted, " It's not nice to assume thin-", only to be interrupted by Julie who adamantly stomped her foot and cried "But I know she does!"
Looking despondent that nobody seemed to believe her, Julie gave a small wave goodbye to Sarah and walked back over to her father who then began to walk with her up the driveway to the next house.
After watching them go, Julie's mother turned back to Sarah with a smile and reached out her hand to introduce herself "Hi, it's nice to meet you. I'm Sarah".
"Oh that's so funny!" Sarah exclaimed "My name is Sarah as well. My husband and I live in that house down the block with the silver car."
"Oh that's super close to us! My husband Robert, Julie and I just moved into a house four doors down." she said pointing towards the end of the block.
Woah. Her husband has the same name too? This is getting weird. Sarah thought to herself.
But she plastered on a fake smile, and bid farewell to her neighbor. As she began to walk away, the woman yelled out "Oh Sarah, I know you're gonna make a great mom". And with a little wink the woman was gone.
Confused as can be, Sarah turned and began to walk towards her house. But, as she began to walk up her driveway, like pieces of a puzzle things began falling together in her mind. The nausea, the weird signs from the little girl- hell even the neighbors' name. She didn't know how it could be possible, but with her last glimmer of hope she raced in the front door and up the stairs to find the one last pregnancy test sitting in the back of the cupboard upstairs.
With shaking fingers she tore the box open and sat down on the toilet. Somehow Julie had known, and now Sarah did too. And with this gut feeling in her stomach and the magic of this Halloween in her heart, she took the test.
Two minutes later, she peered over the counter and looked her fears right in the eye and saw the most spooky and yet positively magical moment of the wildest Halloween to date.