The winds picked up around 4:30 that year, just as the Weather Network had predicted. I returned home from work, eager to arrange the Jack-o-Lanterns on the front steps of my excessively decorated house. A cold drizzle began to fall, and I ignored the neighbors who called out cursory proclamations like, “The poor kids’ll freeze in their costumes,” or “Halloween should be cancelled this year.”
As I filled the candy bowls in the kitchen with mini-packs of Smarties and Skittles, I felt a growing sense of dismay; this favored holiday of mine appeared to be crumbling to dust. My children were all away at university, or working part time jobs. I knew my husband planned to watch football on television all evening. This family didn’t seem to care about Halloween anymore, and my heart felt as though it would shatter into a flock of ravens and fly off into the night.
Alone in my room I painted my face into a ghastly pallor, donned a white blouse and ebony cape lined in red. Slicked back my hair and used thick, black theatre makeup to create a widow’s peak on my forehead. My reflection in the mirror revealed the reincarnation of Bela Lugosi. I stalked down the stairs to put on my ghoulish playlist filled with Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees and of course, The Cure.
Laughing maniacally and sipping on blood red wine, I awaited my first trick-or-treater. By then the wind howled mercilessly and I hurried outside to collect the sparkly dollar store skulls that had flown from my porch to the road. My husband arrived home, and I posed dramatically on the driveway for his amusement. He shook his head and smiled sadly, perceiving the depths of my Halloween despair, but remaining unaffected by it.
In spite of intermittent rain and the high winds, trick-or-treaters appeared in straggling groups throughout the evening. How I adored the magical costumes, the flickering candles, the gothic romance of it all. The pumpkins, which I’d hollowed and carved all on my own for the first time, needed to be relit countless times due to the storming skies. Finally, my youngest daughter returned from work, exhausted. She collapsed on the couch next to my husband, and like him, drifted off to sleep, oblivious to this sacred night, and to my feelings.
On the verge of tears, and perhaps slightly intoxicated, I considered locking the doors and turning in to cry myself to sleep, when I heard the sound of children giggling. My gloom lifted at the thought of one last Halloween hurrah, and I waited in gleeful anticipation as a little princess and a grim reaper scurried up my steps. When I opened the door they gasped, and the princess said “I like your costume.” Dear sweet girl, I thought, and crouched down to reach her eye level, to tell her how wonderful it was that she and her companion showed such perseverance in spite of this dreadful weather.
Just then I observed a figure emerging from the shadows near the edge of my yard. He advanced slowly, until he became illuminated by the light of the lamppost. The Crow. The iconic makeup exquisitely rendered, the chin-length hair dark, curling in wet tendrils against gaunt cheek bones. His slender frame draped in a black trench coat and tightly laced boots.
High above us the murky clouds parted to reveal a bright crescent moon, and in that moment the sands of time ceased. I became transformed into a haunting woman, a beautiful ghost, Shelley herself reunited with Eric at long last. He raised a hand in a friendly wave, and his children scampered back to him. With an aching heart I watched him disappear into the fog, following the little ones, a devout father. The wind seemed to let out a bloodcurdling cry, a cry which I myself could have uttered.
A great sigh escaped my lips, enraptured as I was. I ran a graceful hand over my collarbone, but instead of velvet or lace, I felt the cheap vinyl of my Value Village vampire cape. Thrust back to mundane reality, I was mortified to realize how foolish I, a middle-aged woman dressed like a 1930’s B-movie Dracula , must’ve appeared to that gorgeous apparition I’d just encountered. And I solemnly vowed that from then on, on the night of October 31st, I would linger in that very doorway, supported by the hopes of glimpsing that ghostly paramour once again. I vowed that the next year he would find me in a much prettier costume, a gown at the very least. And maybe even, if I felt brazen enough, a wig.
Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her stories have appeared in Maudlin House, Menacing Hedge, Trampset, Emerge Journal, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie.