“Trick or treat?” Jackson asked her.

“Just give me the candy, loser!” Haylie yelled.



Julia tuned her teenage children out as best as she could. Jackson was 16 and Haylie was 14. And Haylie was a screechy 14. Jackson had found ways to torment his sister since Julia brought her home from the hospital. Jackson looked down at the tiny infant girl; he himself being only a toddler at the time. Before she could react, Julia watched her son stick his tiny toddler finger into his new little sister’s miniscule nostril. She thought for sure the baby was brain damaged. Her husband, Joel, laughed her.

“You know how they scare you when they say how delicate newborns are!” Julia shrieked that day. “One little poke and her brain is smashed.”

Needless to say, Haylie was fine. But the torment continued for the next 14 years.

She missed Joel. He died four years earlier from colon cancer, and Julia was still figuring out how to do this alone. Now, with the kids being teenagers, she panicked even more. Kids want to keep up with the other kids now. New Ipods and cell phones and those ugly boots they all wore that cost a billion dollars. Soon there would be proms and dating and college. It would have been nice to have Joel here to balance things. To balance her.

Earlier that day, Haylie and Jackson went trick or treating. Julia asked if they planned on stopping that at any time, since they were in high school now. Both teenagers looked at her as if she stabbed them in the heart.

“Wha-what?” Jackson stuttered. “Free candy just for putting on a stupid mask? Don’t think so.”

Julia was practical. Sometimes neurotic. Actually, a lot times neurotic. She couldn’t just live in the moment. She wasn’t a rule breaker either, and teenagers trick or treating seemed wrong to her. It was an activity for young kids, not greedy teenagers looking for free candy. The fact that she had to buy candy even bothered her. Besides the constant interruption of the doorbell, she had to use every bit of will power in her body not to eat the entire candy stash.

Joel, her husband, was a child at heart. If he could trick or treat as an adult, he would have. He would have been on the floor with his teenage kids sorting through candy and fighting over who got the peanut butter cups. Julia pictured him there now with his kids. It was tough on them when he died. They were 12 and 10 years old, which was a rough age on its own. Jackson didn’t speak for a week. He lost his best friend. Haylie raged and screamed and cried. Julia had to take them to family therapy in order for them to deal with the loss of their dad. She needed it too. She and Joel were supposed to be 95 years old together, watching their great grandkids run around on their lawn. That was the plan. Julia didn’t like going against plan.

* * * * * *

Jackson and Haylie sat on the floor sorting through their swag. Haylie liked the random candy that no one else liked and Jackson made fun of her for it every Halloween.

“This is old lady candy, Haylie,” he’d explain to her. “This is what we bring to mom when she has to wear diapers again and we have to record her ‘stories’ for her because she doesn’t know how to use a DVR anymore.”


After a few minutes, Jackson surrended the candy and the sorting continued. It was late yet the doorbell kept ringing. At this hour, it was mostly teenagers who barely attempted to wear a costume. At least her kids put on masks or cat ears. One teenager was in jeans and a t-shirt and carried a brown paper bag to collect his candy bounty.

“That’s Elijah Gomer,” Haylie explained. “He’s a tool. No one likes him.”

Finally at 10 pm, the doorbell stopped ringing. Jackson played his Xbox as he continued to shove chocolate down his throat. Haylie was furiously texting one of her friends. She stopped eating her old lady candy an hour before when her stomach began to sour from overdosing on sugar.

There were still some pieces of chocolate left in the candy bowl Julia used for the trick or treaters. She had hoped it would all be gone so she wouldn’t end up eating it. She could just as easily pass it off to her kids. Joel would eat it. Joel would have bought two bags of everything so he’d have his own stash. Right now he’d be eating chocolate until he vomited, just like Jackson. Probably with Jackson. And Julia would be yelling at them to stop before they got themselves sick.

Julia brought the bowl to the garbage. Dump it, she told herself. Don’t eat it. Joel would say, Julia live a little. Eat the candy.

Julia smiled as she opened the candy wrapper.

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