The smell of fresh paint hit Maddie’s nose like a slap to the face. Dust motes danced in the sunbeams that flooded through the windows like planes of solid light. The tassels of the wool area rug were perfectly straight, the cracked ceramic lamp with its torn shade was standing sentry on the end table like a wounded guard, and the sofa cushions were aligned straight and upright, like striped soldiers.
Nothing was the way Maddie had arranged it before she’d left for work that morning. Everything in the living room was back in their old places – even the broken old lamp, though Maddie could’ve sworn she’d set it outside for tomorrow’s garbage pickup.
The old lamp , the furniture rearranged – everything just the way Dorothy Kilgore had liked it.
The words “schizo” and “mental” and “crazy” bounced inside her head like a carnival barker’s dialogue. “Step right up and take your chances…. Let’s see if you can keep the little lady dead and buried. Are you crazy enough to try? Or are you ready for your own circle of hell?”
This had to stop.
A flicker of movement in her peripheral vision made her heart go bobooboom! But then she saw it – only a shadow’s dance on the wall. October’s winds shook the birch trees outside and scattered its leaves over the yard – and her neighbor’s. She figured she had a little over an hour before dusk and tonight’s Trick or Treaters tromped them even further on everyone else’s yards – especially creepy Lewis’ yard next door. She shivered and goose bumps raced up her arms remembering what he’d said at last week’s gathering after her mother’s memorial service.
“Check the site Maddie – Famous Last Words.com.”
Lewis Bishop had become “Creepy Lewis” when she discovered he’d authorized remote access for himself on her mother’s desktop computer. Now here he was, boldly double dipping his cracker in the sour cream dip after Maddie had told him to never access the desktop again. ” It was your mom’s idea. She asked me to –”
“Maddie! You doin’ alright?” Maddie’s Aunt Lucille burped and elbowed herself between the two of them, crushing her in a boozy hug. Maddie and her mom always joked that if Lucille wasn’t pickled, she was fermenting. “Sweetie! I am so sorry! But we knew she was a goner after that last episode, right? I mean, going on with the treatments would’ve been futile, wouldn’t it?”
She was squeezed between Worse and Worser….
“Trick or Treat!”
The calls outside her front door snapped her back to the here and now – so much for getting yard work done. She snagged the bag of chocolate peanut butter cups – amazingly some were still left – and hit the mouse to the computer —
“Happy Halloween Madison.”
The words were spoken through the computer’s speakers –
In her dead mother’s voice.
“Girl, you look like you’ve seen a ghost! Come on in and let Mimi pour you a cure.”
After hearing her mother’s message- from- the- grave via desktop, Maddie grabbed USB drive and the rest of the peanut butter cups (it IS Halloween after all) and raced through her backyard, through Creepy Lewis’ backyard, and finally up to the back stoop of her life long bff Mimi Davenport. Maddie & Mimi, Mimi & Maddie… the two of them were inseparable growing up one house apart from each other. Their mothers joked during their high school years that they were interchangeable – it wouldn’t matter which of them was in the house or at the dinner table, they were that much alike. That is, until they were separated in college, with Mimi going to the state university, and Maddie’s father paying the tuition for her to go to the private college in his city. It had been a no-brainer to her parents, but Maddie had never forgiven her father for taking her away from her bestie and the city where she’d grown up.
“More like I heard a ghost. And since when did -” she held the label up to her face to be sure she was reading it correctly – ” ‘Full Moon Juice’ become a cure? ”
Mimi grinned and handed her a cocktail glass. “Since when you drink it, you want to fully moon someone.” Maddie sipped and felt liquid flames burn her throat and spread through her chest. And make her eyes water.
gasp!hack!cough!wheeze! “Damn Mimi! I guess you would get nekkid with enough of this in your system!” She dabbed a paper napkin to her nose, now as wet as her eyes. “I’m pretty hot after one sip!”
“You always were a lightweight.” Mimi smiled. “And how pathetic are we, with Halloween and nowhere to go. It’s like, warm New Year’s Eve, without the tv specials.” She downed her liquor. “Now, out with it. How did you hear a ghost? Were you calling up spirits, like we used to do at slumber parties?”
“No. And I don’t think any more spirits need to be called up tonight.” Maddie set her glass down and got some water out of the kitchen faucet. “I heard my mother on the computer. She must have recorded a message – I don’t know. I ran before it played through all the way. But worse than that Mimi…,” Maddie’s voice trailed off. Would her best friend understand? Or would she think Maddie had completely lost her marbles?
“Spill it. Wait – not the drink!” Mimi reached out and nabbed the glass.
“You must have a cast iron throat.”
“Nah… just a stronger constitution than you. And I haven’t gone through all that you’ve gone through this year.” Mimi settled herself on a barstool and fixed her gaze on her friend. “Now. Spill.”
Lewis Bishop never liked Halloween. He preferred salty snacks to sweets, science fiction to horror movies, and playing online role playing games on his computer to going out with other people to noisy parties or door to door trick or treating.
Lewis Bishop had G-E-E-K written all over him. Literally.
“Why do I have to wear this? I’m not the one asking for candy.” He pointed to his chest and the neon letters his niece, aka “Beauty”, had painted on his favorite grey t-shirt with ‘Kiss n’Tell’ pink nail polish.
She huffed and fisted her hip. “Puh-leese. I’m Beauty. You’re Geek. Don’t you get it?” She rolled her eyes as far back in her head as was biologically possible and gave another exasperated huff. “This isn’t my choice. You’re the one who won’t take me to see Torture Rack — ”
“–Because it’s rated NC17 and it’s a gorey, bloody movie and your mom would kill me, then you, then me again –,”
“–Then you’re just gonna have to be happy taking me trick or treating and wear the shirt. Besides, Mom and Dad say all the time you’re gonna have to catch the rest of my childhood before it’s slipped off… or something like that.” Tacoma folded her arms over her sequined blouse that Lewis was pretty sure had been pilfered out of his sister’s dresser and stomped away.
Thank God she belonged to his sister and went home after these fiascos known as babysitting. Payback was gonna be sweet – if he ever got close enough to the girl he loved who didn’t know he was alive. Damn Mimi and Maddie’s constant girl-mance, he thought as he spied Maddie running though his yard from Mimi’s back to her home.
“Come my beauty,” he smiled at Tacoma, who was primping in her reflection in the microwave’s door. “Let us away! There’s candy to beg off neighbors and strangers, and pranks you must try.”
Tacoma rolled her eyes again. “That was so lame, and it didn’t even rhyme.” She grabbed her pillowcase and slung it over her shoulder.
At least she’s got the optimism going for her, Lewis thought as he followed her outside.
“Let’s go to Madison’s first.”
The contrary tween took a right – to Mimi’s.
Putty in my hands. Lewis smiled as he dodged cowboys and spacemen. He was on his way to Maddie’s house.
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And thank you for reading!