My cat Harlem and I sat on the front porch, waiting for little monsters to come begging for candy. I liked to dole out the snacks and watch their apprehensive smiles illuminate on my porch—a stranger’s porch. I used to tell myself that I would never have children. Always slobbering, laughing, crying—shooting snot out of their slimy noses.
They made me sick—figuratively and literally.
I would study the parents’ watchful eyes following their kids like invisible leashes. If the kids ran too far ahead in search for more sugar, they would screech to a halt and turn to find their parents far behind—but they could oh, so clearly see the glares restricting another step.
However, for the two years I’d lived in Willport, Emilie walked the streets alone. No one acknowledged her, although she would smile shyly at the children who shoved past her, laughing, joking.
I’d lived here for two years—this was my third Halloween—and I would watch her steadily climb the hill and visit each house, no parents in sight. Two years in a row, she was a butterfly. This year was no different. Harlem and I remained on the porch until the steady flow of sweaty children slowed to a trickle.
I checked my watch: it was after eight, and I was worried.
“Where do you think Emilie is, Harlem?”
He mewed and twitched his tail just as I saw the pink, shimmery butterfly costume round the corner. The glittery wings fluttered in the breeze and she skipped out into Bloomfield Ave.
The bus didn’t stop.
I screamed and stood, knocking Harlem to the wooden planks on the porch, and ran down the steps, only to see little Emilie just make it to the other side of the street. She must have just dodged the bus.
The door across the street shrieked open and an older woman stepped out and down to the curb.
“What happened?” she called.
“The little girl in the butterfly suit—I thought there was an accident. She crossed the street and then a bus came—I thought she was hit,” I said, walking down my steps, Harlem at my heels.
“What little girl?”
“The one in the butterfly costume. Emilie. That’s the name on her candy bag.”
“I guess she skips my house. I can’t blame her—all I give are pennies.” She shrugged.
“No. She goes to all the houses. I saw her last year. I keep an eye on her because she’s always alone.” I turned and watched the girl skip to the house next door, reach into a bowl of candy and back to the sidewalk. She skipped over to my walkway and as she passed me, she began to hum in a sweet little voice.
“Emilie,” I said.
“There is no Emilie,” the woman said, trying to follow my gaze.
I watched the girl skip up my steps, Harlem following, and ring the doorbell. She reached up as though she were grabbing something, then turned and skipped back down the steps, continuing her trick-or-treating, her plastic jack-o’-lantern candy basket swinging in her small hand. I shivered and turned back to face the old woman who was still eying me, wide-eyed, before turning back towards her home and walking inside.
I watched her until she disappeared back inside, then turned to watch the little girl skip up the hill, enjoying her annual night out. Her iridescent butterfly wings fluttered softly in the late October breeze under the silver moonlight. I blinked, listening to the dead, dry leaves scamper across the sidewalk—and she was gone.
Back on the porch, Harlem and I sat, indulging in the leftover Halloween candy. Crickets chirped softly, lulling the dying wind to sleep. I closed my eyes, leaning my head against the back of the chair. A bus whizzed by the street below and a faint giggle followed, ringing through the final moments of Halloween night.