Growing up, I loved Halloween. I would always match my costumes with my sister. We would be the twins from The Shining, or Velma and Daphne, or Tweedledee and Tweedledum. We would spend all of October putting together our costumes from scratch.
But this October — the first Halloween after she died — I didn’t bother searching for a new costume. I didn’t bother putting together candy bags for the children. I didn’t bother attending any parties or watching any monster movies.
I was going to throw a bowl on the porch with a sign asking kids to grab one piece of candy, even though some bratty kid would dump the whole container in their bag regardless. But my husband pushed me to at least answer the door.
“It’s your favorite holiday,” he said. “You should be thinking happy thoughts about your sister today. She wouldn’t want you to be this miserable.”
I threw my hair in pigtails and squeezed into an old, wrinkled Dorothy dress from the year my sister went as Toto. Good enough.
The first few kids who came to the door actually managed to cheer me up. There was a group of friends dressed as different colored Crayola crayons. Another group dressed as the members of The Guardians Of The Galaxy. There were even a few stragglers dressed in the same Bob Ross costume.
But then a pair of siblings came to the door. One sister was dressed like me, a miniature Dorothy. The other was dressed in rags with blood smeared across her face and bloodshot contacts in her eyes. She held a steering wheel in her limp hand, like she was the victim of a car crash.
Like my own sister had been.
I threw candy into their bags without wishing them a happy Halloween. When they turned to leave, a jagged piece of metal was sticking out from the girl’s back. It looked eerily similar to the police photographs taken at the scene where my sister had sipped her last breaths.
“Wait,” I said, jogging toward them. Their parents stood at the end of the driveway, giving me weird looks. “Why would you dress like that?”
She tilted her head, not understanding the question. “It’s Halloween.”
“I know. But that’s what you chose? Not a princess? Or a pirate? Or a ghost?”
“I am a ghost.”
“Not a normal ghost. You could have just worn a sheet.”
“Real ghosts don’t wear sheets.”
“And you’re supposed to be a real ghost?”
She started to answer, but her mother grabbed her hand and tugged her to the next house. Impatient. Or freaked out by the weird neighbor near tears in the driveway.
I stumbled back inside and slammed the door. I didn’t even put out a bowl of candy. I flicked the porch switch off and pretended not to be home. I expected the house to be toilet papered and egged in a matter of hours.
Toward the end of the night, when I went to check the damage, I found a note pinned to the door, written in red paint. It only had three words: I MISS YOU.
I crept outside and almost tripped down the stairs. Below my feet was the plastic steering wheel the little girl had been carrying. The girl who looked like my sister. The girl who claimed to be a ghost.