The Words You Used

by Rebecca Irle

After the old rotten flower tree was chopped down I would sit and count the rings lurking in the pulp. When I reached 79 the circles nestled too tightly for my eyes to see, or my fingers to feel. I was curious at how it had grown, and how much rain each year had provided.

I'd sit atop it, and gaze at the pumpkin patch. The vines stretching over into the grass comfortable in the summer. As the days stretched onward, the vines grew closer, and I'd watch the daddy long legs walk down their length. I was afraid of a lot of things, but never spiders.

The flowers, alive with bees, greeted me every morning. As the pumpkins came in, the grass underneath wilted away. All I was left with was the anticipation of the coming holiday. Carefully monitoring them to make sure they didn't show signs of blight, and were coloring evenly.

At 13 I wasn't sure if I should go trick or treating. I was tired of my costume requests being refused and recycled into more suitable options. The sequins like crystals carved out from geodes. Years of costumes with most of the mass missing from formations that took thousands of years to make.

Pumpkin seeds littered the cookie sheet, while I penciled in my plans for Halloween. They were joyous, smiling, cross-eyed, and two were missing stubs. I crafted handles out of corn skewers, so that I could easily remove their lids. They sat happily on the porch for weeks.

We lit tealight candles as my mother left for work, the light flickered softly in the excitement of dusk. A candy bowl set out among the characters I'd created. I had a handful of movies picked out for the night, but I got a suit out of the closet.

I smudged mascara on my cheeks; folded my hair, and rolled the bun I'd made under, securing it against my scalp. My fingers touched the sleeves. I pinned them into place with a pair of cuff links. I found a clip-on tie. Blue, with pink squares; it hung slightly off center, between the beige lapels.

A businessman would never wear sneakers. I pushed through the clothes on my closet floor and found my cowboy boots. Brown leather with pastel pink stitching outlined the flowers; only the tip of the boot showed under the rolled-up slacks.

I smiled at the reflection.

I took out a briefcase and an orange pumpkin bag.

As I opened the door all the people appeared. Across the street a grim reaper, ghost, princess, and parents. My godfather lived five houses down, about a block away. I almost never saw him. I thought he'd find me clever.

The fabric caught under my boot as I walked down the gravel driveway. I sat on the brick fence at the edge of the yard and re-rolled up the slacks- revealing some stitching. As my feet hit the pavement I looked for the first house with lights on.

They laughed and gave me candy.

I turned to leave and passed a family headed in the opposite direction. I smiled, a bag at either side of me. The neon pumpkin glowing yellow in the dark swinging softly.

The second house had decorations up. Spider webs and skeletons cluttering the doorway.

"Trick or treat?"

They smile and hand me candy.

I skip a house, pass a darkened driveway. Skip a step, and pass another family. There are pumpkins at the fourth house.

I laugh at the mother dressed as a mummy.

The weight of the candy matches the briefcase, I can feel it shifting as I walk up to the driveway. The light is on, and there are cars lining the sidewalk. I slide between them and head towards the door mat.

Knock- knock- knock.

The door opens, his face turned sideways talking to someone loudly past the entry way. As he turns he flashes a smile and puts his arm around my shoulder.

"Welcome to the party."

I laugh, "you know it's me..."

As we step through the doorway, into the living room I see into the kitchen. His friends, dressed up for a party, oblivious to me. Not in costume, but celebratory.

His eyes, blue, become still. Fixed on the brown lines outlining my jaw. I follow his gaze to the floor, and look up as his face shifts, our eyes quickly meet again. His smile gone; my head goes forward as we swivel around.

His forearm once dangling stretches around my neck pressing my chin up, he grabs my wrist and walks me out the door.

I'd never heard the words he said to me.

The stars squirmed above, I imagined them falling in agreement. Faithless in their former positions in the sky. As four feet struggled to maneuver through them, while walking in an uncomfortable unison. Each step we took scattering their dust on a dry night.

As we passed the houses I'd visited, I wondered what we looked like. The edges of my pants had come undone, and were dragging as we stepped together towards my house. The tealights had gone out, but the bowl still had candy in it.

He let go and we stood together. My face was wet. His face contorted, and angled to look indirectly at me.

"Go wash your face, you're too old for trick or treating."

I opened the door, and stepped in quietly. The room was empty. I locked the door behind me. I emptied out my bag of candy on the coffee table and turned the tv on to a movie. After I changed into pajamas, I went to put my costume away. I had to snip the strings off the hem line of the pants before returning them. When I'd secured everything, I dealt with my face.

The bathroom door felt heavy. The water changed color as I washed the beard off with face cream. When I looked up I realized how carefully mascara had to be applied.

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