“Well, isn’t this a surprise,” my step-mother said. “You’re not even supposed to be here.”
My friend, K., and I were standing on the porch with our trick-or-treat bags in front of us. I’d told a lot of lies to get to my own door on Halloween. I still thought of it as my house even though I’d been living with my mom for several months. The custody case wasn’t over and I wasn’t allowed anywhere near my step-mother. Judge’s orders.
But I’d talked K. into it. When I’d left home at the beginning of summer, I could take few of my things because I had to look like I’d be back soon. My mom had since tried to talk my step-mom into arranging for me–or a lawyer–to come and get items that I missed. My step-mother refused. If I wanted them so bad, I could damn well come home.
“I wanted to say hello,” I said, in my princess costume, which was really my grandmother’s evening dress, evening gloves, and rhinestone jewelry.
“Your mother know you’re here?” she asked.
“I’m spending the night with K.,” I said. My step-mother let us in. She was alone.
“I’m going to the bathroom,” said K. I wandered into the Floridaroom and my step-mother followed and talked about how hot it was. I nodded and asked her about work. About N. I could tell she was uncomfortable and annoyed. I made sure she was never between me and the door.
A few minutes later, K. came into the room and I said I had to go to the bathroom too. Then I did what K., had done. I didn’t go to the bathroom. I went to my old room and started shoving things in my trick-or-treat bag. Jewelry. Horses. Books. The bag didn’t fit much, but I made it bulge. I had, after all, brought the largest bag I could find.
I darted to the bathroom, flushed the toilet, and poked my head in the Floridaroom. “We probably should be going,” I said. K., flushed and trying to hold her bag behind her, scurried by my step-mother and to the front door. I gave J. a wave and turned my back on her as if I weren’t in a hurry. As if I didn’t care.
K. and I sped away on our bikes. My princess dress, flapping around me, got caught in the bike chain and my trick-or-treat bag and I went sailing into the grass. We were out of sight of the house by then, and I stayed on the ground and looked at the cow pasture across the road. Paperbacks and plastic horses were scattered around me. One of the horses had belonged to my mother when she was a girl, so I picked that one up first and cleaned it off with the now shredded hem of my grandmother’s dress. K. laughed at me. I laughed too.
I like sending my characters on foolish adventures. I like discovering what they will risk and what they will risk it for. It doesn’t have to be a cursed object that contains the fate of the world. It just has to be something she can pin her heart on. Then the reader must believe what she will do. Not that the reader has to find value in a plastic horse, but perhaps the reader ought to believe the character does.
Making the reader believe–I’m still working on that.