jv cheerleading

Halloween 2016 #10: The Freak of Maple Street

Length: Super long

I loved Halloween as a kid. Everything about it, the costumes, the free candy, the decorations that just seemed to pop up one day and transform the whole neighborhood. We lived in California, so Halloween was also usually when the weather finally shifted from hot to less hot, which meant running around in the dark was completely possible without freezing to death. My best friend Mika was from Minnesota, and told me it was often so cold in October that they had set trick or treating hours, and they were usually set when it was still light outside.

“Really? Did people even light their jack o’ lanterns?”

“Sometimes. On the years that it didn’t rain. City council had to reschedule Halloween one year because of a bad storm that came through”

Mika had taken well to the California sun. Her Poison Ivy costume that year would have sent her mother into conniptions- for more than one reason- if it hadn’t been still so nice this time of year. It looked amazing on her though, I’ve always been jealous of Mika’s red hair.

“We’re still going out right?” I asked. I had worked hard on my costume idea that year- my sister Lucy having generously donated her JV cheerleading uniform, and my mom having put her skills as a former makeup artist for our community theater to the test. Blood and guts and wounds came alive, and as I would tell everyone I was dressed as “a school spirit”. 

We were just about to turn fourteen- eighth graders- just at the point that some in our grade were starting to look down on it, preferring to go to parties usually put on by high schoolers instead. But I still wanted to go, I still loved the feeling of going around at night unsupervised. And besides, people always snuck in beer to high school parties, and showing off a costume where it was likely to get spilled or puked on was no fun.

“Of course! But mom’s making Carlotta take me, and Eric’s coming with us.”

I wrinkled my nose. Carlotta was Mika’s older sister, by a year and a half. She had not taken well to California, and had made her displeasure very clear. She wore all black, with thick makeup and always wanted to talk about death. She was known to the older kids as the girl who claimed she was a witch and could curse people, and Mika said her parents were constantly on her for sneaking out and wondered if she had gotten into drugs.

“She came home with a tattoo two weeks ago. A pentagram on her right arm. Mom threw a fit. She’s been pushing her to get a job, and she insists that no one’s going to hire a teenager with a tattoo.”

I knew Carlotta’s boyfriend Eric only by reputation. He was a senior, and had two years ago lit a fire in the school bathroom that got out of hand and nearly burned the whole school down. The only reason he hadn’t been expelled, or even arrested, was because his father, a city councilman, was well respected and influential in our town.

I wasn’t looking forward to having to spend the night with the two of them, and seriously doubted their abilities to supervise.

“Why’s your mom so hyper about this?”

“She found out about that girl that went missing on Halloween last year”.

“Jane Callum? She ran away.” 

Jane Callum was a ninth grader, who had indeed disappeared last year. She had entered the papers as “The Missing Trick Or Treater”, complete with a picture of her in her vampire costume, regardless of the fact that she hadn’t been reported missing for three days after. Rumor had it always been that her parents hit her, and between the two, it was no guess for the police that she had finally had it and bolted.

“She still got freaked out, and said we couldn’t go out alone.”

But still, I thought, the two of them would probably be easy to ditch, so it shouldn’t ruin our night.

On Halloween night, I met Mika outside my house, and was surprised to find her alone, dressed in her green leggings and tank and sparkly vines.

“Mom said Carlotta was helping a classmate set up a party, and she said the two of them would meet us at the haunted house at the end of the street.”

“Widow Moore’s place?” I asked.

“Yeah, have you been there? She’s got it all decked out this year.”

“No,” I said. It was true that Widow Moore put out a great haunted house every year, but everyone still thought she was a creepy old woman. Mom had said she had used to do sets and costumes for the theater before her husband died, and that’s why she still put out the house every year. Her specialty was puppets, marionettes that she controlled by electricity and wires. Other than that, we only saw her occasionally at the supermarket. She always wore all black, and stank of ash. The other kids called her the Freak of Maple Street, and I agreed.

But still, I didn’t want Mika to think I was a baby, so I followed her down the street.

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