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The street is slick from last night's rain as I stride easily across the prickly brown grass of my neighbor's front lawn. When I glance down I can see the glow-in-the-dark skeleton pattern of my costume glowing pale green in the moonlight, and an orange plastic bag printed with a leering pumpkin face fluttering in my hand as if trying to escape.
Children scurry from house to house like multicolored ants, yellow flashlight beams waving wildly. I prefer to slink along in the shadows like a cat; sometimes I shriek wildly to scare away the occasional kid that strays too close.
Usually I spend Halloween with my friends, ruling the neighborhood for one giddy, reckless night until the sun rises and we have to go back to being mostly tame for the rest of the year. But tonight, I'm alone--Lina and Tuesday have been forced to hand out candy this year. At least I think; I can't quite remember.
I reach into my bag and pull out an egg carton, enjoying the rough, rasping feel of it. Then my fingers brush the smooth shell of an egg. It is so perfect; how can I resist the temptation to break it?
The egg makes a satisfying crack against the glossy blood-red car. It is my stepfather's car, I realize belatedly, and let another egg fly. This time it makes an even louder, more violent crunching sound. Glowing in the moonlight, the mixture of yellowish-clear fluid and shattered eggshell slides down the tinted windows slowly. A heady combination of anger, adrenalin and freedom fills me and makes me grin as wickedly as any Halloween monster.
Soon the carton is empty. I toss it deliberately on top of the now-sticky car and begin to wander aimlessly around the neighborhood. My bag is already heavy with candy and I stuff myself greedily with it as I walk. After a while, I find myself standing at the entrance to the town cemetery.
My dad is in there. I decide to visit his grave, maybe leave an offering of candy. Dad loved sour Skittles.
Unlike my dentist stepdad, Ted.
The grass is soft and damp against my bare feet. The scent of moist earth and clean, fresh air tickles my nose. My skin buzzes with exhilaration. For the first time since Mom married Ted, I feel truly alive.
There it is--Dad's headstone. It is mirror-bright and I can see the pale reflection of the full moon in it. I kneel and press my cheek against the icy stone, almost imagining that I can hear Dad's voice, deep and full of laughter.
"I love you, too." My own voice is a little watery, but I'm not really sad. Not as much as before.
Then I notice something out of the corner of my eye. Another headstone, right next to Dad's…?
This unfamiliar headstone is even shinier and newer than Dad's, even though he died just a year and a half ago. My fingers trace the plain gold lettering carved into its surface.
CAI ELIZABETH MONROE
BORN MAY 12, 1992
DIED OCTOBER 31, 2008
Suddenly, my fingers are as cold as the headstone.
What? My stomach wrenches. I stare at my name, so plain and innocent in the moonlight, and I finally remember.
Last Halloween, Ted came home early.
Last Halloween, Ted killed me.