Carved pumpkins crowd the front of the doorways, spider-webs drip from porch railings, skeletons loom out from the shadows.
Every neighborhood goes out of their way to contribute to the festive spirit. Stores scramble to stock their shelves with jumbo bags of candy as parents and grandparents come early to prepare for trick-or-treaters. Armed with fun masks, various Halloween costume party’s handout fliers promising spooky decorations, fruit punch, and a great turnout that you wouldn’t want to miss.
As if knowing what to do, the weather predictably cools down until there is an exciting kind of crispness to the air.
Halloween is on a Saturday this year and the town doesn’t fail to show appreciation.
With the weekend just around the corner, everyone has plans. Everyone but one singular teenage girl.
Or so she thinks.
Kyla: The evening before Halloween
Kyla lies in her bed staring out the window. She stares as if looking hard enough will make something interesting happen. Instead, the tree in her yard shudders as it drops the last of its leaves, adding to the pile gathered at the trunk.
After a while, she sits up and decides it's too cold.
Wearing just a t-shirt and last year’s Christmas pajama bottoms, she pulls a blanket over her shoulders to warm up.
She’s very ordinary; more of a people pleaser than a main character. As a sophomore in high school smart for her age, and unpopular, she feels distant from the other kids in her class. Her dull blonde hair, short eyelashes, and bony build don’t help her case.
Even though Kyla has a few friends, they didn’t consider inviting her to any Halloween activities, and she isn’t confident in herself enough to find something to go to.
So she will be at home Halloween night, avoiding social media and watching movies until midnight. Forgettable and uninteresting.
That had been what Kyla was thinking about as she had been staring out her window a second earlier. She tried not to let it bother her, after all, it’s not that big of a deal and no one will know or care what she did. She could just as easily make up a good story.
She hears her mom call and gets up to go eat dinner, intentionally leaving her phone on her bed. It’s a habit by now, the only notifications she gets are weekly screen time reports and software updates; it’s better to just not check.
Walking into the dining room, she finds her whole family there waiting for her.
“Hey, Kyla.” They say.
Roasted chicken. A classic dinner in the family.
Kyla never cared much about which part of the chicken she got but her younger brother likes the drumsticks and wings, so it was a tradition for him to get first pick.
“Are you doing anything tomorrow night?” Her mom asks.
“Um, I don’t know actually. I was thinking about just staying home and answering the door for kids.” Kyla says, trying to make it sound like it was her choice.
Her mom looks at her with an annoyingly elated look. “That’s great! I wanted to have a date night with your dad and I was really hoping you would be able to take your brother trick-or-treating this year!”
“Oh.” Kyla slumps “Yeah I guess I can do that.”
Denton: The evening before Halloween.
Denton creaks open the door to the basement. His twin sister, Jean brushes past him and less cautiously throws it open.
It’s dark and drafty down there. Not a place that Denton ever wants to be in his whole life.
The night before, his parents had let him stay up past his bedtime to watch a tv show. No one else had thought it was scary but he had. In the show, the main character went down into his dark basement and found some really ugly talking trolls roaming around bumping into things.
He was currently worried that he would walk into a similar scene in his own house.
Jean didn’t seem concerned about this though, and she just flipped on the light and marched down.
Denton reluctantly followed her. Even though they are the same age, Jean had always seemed to be the bolder, more mature one. Now that they are nine, nothing had changed.
Their mother was in the kitchen making dinner and she had asked the twins to go find the “nice” table cloths instead of the plastic ones the family usually used.
When Denton reached the bottom of the stairs he saw that Jean was already pulling the box down off of the shelf. He shuffled over to help her.
“I can’t wait to wear my costume.” She says to him. She is going trick-or-treating as a porcupine (her favorite animal).
“Me neither.” He replies. He had settled with a much more classic spiderman outfit.
Halloween was always a little scary for him even though he knew that everyone is pretending and that there are regular people behind the masks, but he is easily set on edge and he hoped that being spiderman would make him seem braver and keep the older kids from trying to spook him.
The real reason he wanted to go is because he gets to eat as much candy as he can carry in his pumpkin bucket.
Jean pulls four place-mats out of the box and slides it back where she found it. Then she gives Denton a quick look before running up the stairs.
Denton is close behind her, slamming the door behind him in case any spiders try to follow them.
When his mother finally sets the chicken salad and potatoes in the middle of the table, Denton eagerly picks up his fork.
“Time for dinner!” His mother called to his older sister.
She comes out from her cave of a room and sulks to her seat.
She’s a highschooler and always seems to be in a mood lately.
Jean and Denton exchange a look.
Their mother picks up each plate in turns and piles on the meal.
The twins focus on their dinner as the rest of their family discuss the weekend. They only start listening when they hear their mother ask their older sister to take them trick-or-treating.
“Please say no.” Denton hopes. She would make it boring and she would make them go home at like 9:00.
Against his prayers, she agrees.
“Why would she do that? She doesn’t even like us!” Jean whispers to him across the table. She is obviously just as opposed to the idea as he is.
Their mother must have heard them because she tells them to quit it.
The rest of dinner goes by slowly without much talking.
Kyla: Halloween Day.
Kyla is yet again alone in her room, this time reading a book.
Reading is her secret passion, but she doesn’t want people at school to know about it because she is afraid of being grouped with the nerds.
Still, she can’t help being sucked into her book, especially when there is nothing better to do.
It’s nearly four p.m. Time to start getting ready for the evening.
She still doesn’t have any other plans than taking her younger siblings out for the night but who knows, she might run into someone from her school and the last thing she needs is to look as well as feel like a loser.
Kyla puts her book face down on her bed and goes to her dresser.
She won’t dress up in a real costume, but it might be a good idea to wear something that will blend in more to prevent questions.
She chooses black leather pants and a long-sleeved black crop top. That way, if anyone asks, she can say she dressed up as a cat.
Denton: Halloween day.
Denton and Jean went to bed early the night before, wanting the day to come faster. Now that it is here though, it drags by. It’s only four p.m. and the twins plan to leave at 6:00 (prime-time for collecting candy) but it feels ages away.
The twins had been wearing their costumes all afternoon in anticipation, not able to wait any longer. They wanted to be ready to go as soon as the clock hit 6:00.
Jean still needed their mom to put on her porcupine face paint but she had promised she would get it done by 5:30.
“Let’s play snakes and Ladders.” Jean proposes. “The loser has to let the winner choose 3 pieces of candy from their bag!”
“Okay.” Denton agrees. He might not be brave, but he’s always had good luck with board games and he’s confident he’ll win.
By 7:23 that night, the air had cooled down and every kid in the neighborhood was out on the street knocking at doors.
On one side of the street an old lady (probably someone’s grandma), answered the door and dispersed her candy generously into the open bags.
Forget Christmas, Halloween is when the people show their true colors. Will they be the grinches handing out vegetables, toothpaste, and business cards, or will they more charitably pass out king-sized bars to anyone who comes to their door.
Kyla’s younger brother comically trips over himself as he runs down the street. She trails behind, holding both of their jackets in case it gets cold.
She has no intention of staying out past 9 p.m. but it’s not as bad as she thought it would be. Everyone is too busy watching their own kids to be paying her any mind and that is fine with her.
The excitement the kids radiated was contagious.
Nearly every yard had creative scenes like the grim reaper with clown shoes, or fake fog and spider webs floating around pumpkin snowmen.
As Kyla kept one eye on her brother (he’s not allowed to be more than two houses in front of her), She walks past a strangely realistic ghoul a little closer to the sidewalk than is comfortable. She tried to duck under it when it lunged out mechanically.
She let out a surprised gasp and flinched.
It must have seen she was caught off guard because it came running at her with its arms held out. Kyla screamed and hid behind a car.
After a minute, she came out and saw the ghoul had moved onto other victims.
She shook her head at herself, a little embarrassed, and spotted her brother watching, laughing at her for being scared.
She grinned. It was pretty funny.
The evening had started off on the right foot when a nice lady that reminded him of his grandma gave him and his sister a whopping pile of candy that made their buckets a lot heavier.
He couldn’t stop himself from eating some when he looked in and saw gobstoppers right on top.
Jean laughed and did the same.
They had to stay close to their sister which was hard because she was slow, but they had a pretty effective system either way.
Anyone who is a Halloween fan knows that being first at houses isn’t a good idea because the best candy is at the bottom of the bowls.
Going in a zigzag pattern, the twins run across the street yet again and again.
Denton's arms were getting tired, but he was nowhere close to giving up.
“Look Denton!” Jean yelled, pointing towards their sister.
She was passing the ghoul that had chased them and made them drop a couple suckers on the way.
It looked both realistically and fake, but there was a man inside trying to scare people. Denton wanted to see how his gloomy older sister would react.
She didn’t disappoint. Their sister didn’t even look at it as she stepped past it so when it tapped her shoulder and jumped, she screamed and tripped over a stocky pumpkin.
The twins laughed.
Kyla: The end.
It was 8:45, a couple more hours to go before she would make her brother go home.
Not that she was keeping track. She was starting to enjoy her night even if she was lonely. It was nice getting away from her room and her thoughts and being around the happy laughs and shouts of kids.
Kyla made eye contact with a girl about her age dressed in a sweatshirt and leggings.
This sparked her interest. “Why wouldn't she be in a costume?” She wondered despite not being in one herself.
The girl looked as lonely as she felt.
The other kids her age she had seen had all been surrounded by groups of friends, this was the only person she had seen alone.
She decided it wouldn’t hurt to try and talk to her.
“Hey,” she said a little too loudly.
The girl turned and looked confused.
“Do I know you?” The girl asked.
“Uh, no. Sorry.” Kyla stuttered nervously. “I just saw that you weren’t with anyone and uh, I am too, so I just wanted to say hi.” She felt stupid and embarrassed for thinking she could make a friend out of nowhere.
However, the girl didn’t turn her down; she introduced herself. “Oh, thanks I think. I’m Hannah. And yeah my mom made me come out here to watch my siblings, they’re twins and always a lot of work but I had nothing better to do.”
Kyla admired the girl for being able to admit to not having any plans. Her forwardness encourages her to do the same.
“Oh my God, me too! That’s my brother over there.” She pointed.
Soon enough Kyla and Hannah were laughing and talking as if they had known each other for years.
“I can’t believe you got scared by that ghoul too! At least you didn’t face plant into the sidewalk!” Hannah giggled.
Kyla smiled and then a thought hit her. “It’s so weird that we live in the same neighborhood and we’ve never met. You should come back with me after this and we can binge-watch scary movies together!”
Hannah didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation.
Denton: The end.
By 9:00, Denton could all but drag his bag behind him. Jean was struggling as well but not as much.
“Let's go to three more houses and then we’ll go home,” Jean said. “I’m pretty sure we won’t be able to stuff any more candy in here anyway.”
“Yeah, but do you think Hannah will let us go any further, she’s probably really grumpy by now.”
The twins look behind them for their sister. To their surprise, they see Hannah laughing with another girl.
“I didn’t know she had a friend coming,” Jean said.
“I don’t care, as long as she’s happy we can do whatever we want!” Denton responded.
He smiled at Jean and they walked up to the next house.
It was a good night.