He never knew why he asked her to go trick or treating. I mean really, he was thirteen years old, and isn’t that a tad too old to go trick or treating?
He had known her since the beginning of First Grade- and always felt safe around her. They were never boyfriend or girlfriend (officially) but every single year he found her in the same classes, her seat was always directly across from his. He thought that was just coincidence. Perhaps, it was…perhaps.
It just seemed normal to hand pencils back and forth between them, or share lunches, or notes. Kind of like a person’s own left and right hands- they look independent, and they aren’t really connected, but they always work together. It was like that, he was the left hand, she was the right hand except that the right hand always seemed to know what the left hand was doing.
When they held hands, well, that felt natural too. So that is how they walked to school every day, and back home every night. Hand in hand. It was like he was under a spell, a spell that didn’t let him notice her hold on him, or his on her. He just liked being around her, even when weird things happened.
He was in second grade when he noticed the first weird thing. It was raining out, the proverbial cats and dogs were pouring out of the sky, he was so proud of the picture he drew her, and now it was going to be washed out, and washed away by the deluge soaking every inch of their clothing, and rendering the “water resistant” tag on their coats an outright lie.
When he got to school (drenched to the skin) he told her he had made a drawing for her. He reached into his little backpack to pull out the sodden forlorn paper he drew the picture on. There was so much water in his backpack that he had to turn it over and dump it out before he could search the bottom of the bag to find the picture.
It wasn’t a fancy drawing (he did have talent, but for crying out loud- he was only seven years old at the time). It was a picture of her, holding a cat, and both she and the cat had funny pointy hats on. The cat was black, and she was outlined in purple. The picture was completely dry. Bone dry.
She took the picture from him, marveled at it, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek and said:
“Oh, how pretty! I do have a cat. I do have a pointy hat. And purple is my favorite color next to black. Thank you!”
He was too stunned by the peck on the cheek (which although surprising, was not unpleasant at all) to realize that the picture was the only thing in his backpack that was dry. At seven, well, he really had nothing to compare that memory too or remember how odd it seemed. He chalked it up to chance.
In fourth grade, they had both gone down to the river. It was one of those days where you just couldn’t listen to the dire warnings of adults about the dangers of even a quiet seeming river bank. It was summer, it was warm, and they were still kids. Adults worry to much: wasn’t said out loud, but was understood to be as solid a statement as any of the Ten Commandments. So they went to the river to play.
It happened so fast. One second he was standing on the old rickety dock, fifty feet out into the river and more than ten feet above it; when there was a loud “crack”, a moment of bewildered fear, the feeling of falling, and then the pull of the current as it drew him down under the water.
He had fallen on his back, and the water was carrying him down into the depths of the fast moving water- and in that heat like wavering view from under the water, he saw her face. It was blurry, panicked, and fearful - he could see the tears on her face even though the distorted ripples of the water above him. He saw her kneel down and reach for him.
He saw her arm grow longer and longer…and longer still. He felt her hand grip the front of his shirt. Her grip was filled with that incredible strength that desperation seems to give people in desperate situations. With one long pull, she yanked him from six feet below the surface of the river, up into the air, and then ten more feet up onto the solid planks of the old dock. He landed with a puff of air driven out of his body as he landed like a hooked fish, wiggling, thrashing, and then he just laid there.
He was so glad to be alive. So happy to have been saved. So happy she was there. That all he could do was laugh, cry, and hug her. The long arm simply a dream-like hallucination caused by his near drowning. He dismissed it as such but clung to her until they both stopped laughing, and swore never to tell his Mother what happened.
Had he turned around to look as they left the dock(hand in hand)he would have been surprised to see the broken dock repairing itself, but this time with a brand spanking new planks, and not rotted out ones. But he didn’t turn around. He just wanted to get home and get dry. A moment later he was dry, but far from home. He told her:
“My gosh! Look how quickly my clothes have dried. It must be the sun is hotter than I thought.”
“Oh, don’t be silly. The sun is not that hot today, I bet those clothes are just permanent press so they dried quickly just like in the dryer.”
That seemed logical to him. So the clothes were forgotten- lost in the joy of discovering he had a dollar in his pocket. It was off to buy an ice cream sandwich to share. Funny, he didn’t remember having a dollar before he fell in the water. Strange. He shrugged that thought off guessing that his mother must have not gone through his pockets and left an undiscovered dollar there, undiscovered until he fell in.
Now, well it was Halloween. It was her birthday. She was turning thirteen years old. He had turned thirteen just a month earlier right at the end of September- and the cake she had baked him for his birthday was the best cake he had ever eaten. It seemed to last forever too. He swore he ate almost the whole thing on his birthday, but for the next two days, there was always one more slice when he wanted it.
Thirteen-year-old boys are always hungry, and to find yet another slice of cake available to eat later in the day, well, if you are thirteen, a boy, and the cake is the best you ever had, you don’t ask questions, or wonder- you eat!
Now though, it was her birthday. She seemed to brighten up every Halloween as if it was Christmas or something. She would get perky, bubbly, talkative, excited - in that way that only girls seem to get away with. Her eyes would shine, grow wide, as wide as the smile on her face, her hair would take on a blue steel look as her normally beautiful soft brunette hair became almost true black, like looking into deep space. He thought she dyed it every Halloween. He was wrong. It sure was pretty though.
They were at lunch when he asked her.
“Hey, Maven… I was thinking…well, I was hoping…well, I was wondering…”
Why is it so hard for boys to say what they mean, went through her head, but out loud she only said:
He turned beet red. A color that suited his pale skin, she thought.
“Well, I thought since it is your birthday, and we are old enough now to date, well, you might like your first date to be trick or treating with me. It would be a treat for me, that is for sure. I mean you going out with me… ."
His voice trailed off as his words seemed to have affected her in a way that made her eyes go wide, glassy, shiny, as they filled with tears. Her hair already blue steel black, seemed to grow longer, fuller, richer until it took on a life of its own and wrapped around her face in a way that framed her into a beautiful girl. He noticed how pretty she was in an abstract way, enticed, enamored, and enchanted by her.
Only she knew he wasn’t enchanted. Not in the normal way at least. She had not cast a single spell on him, although she could have. She wanted him to like her, maybe even love her, for who she was, not what she was. She had to ask, to make sure. So she did.
“You…you…you want to go on a DATE with me?”
“Well, yeah, I mean isn’t that what people in love do?”
There. He had said what he had felt since they met in First Grade. It was only in the last year that he knew what that feeling meant. He did love her. He always would.
Hearts can burst from joy. Hers did. She wrapped her arms so tight around him, hugging him so close to herself, that he felt like he was being pressed right into her soul.
“You love me? You really do?”
She leaned back just enough to stare into his eyes from just a few inches away. A look so intense and hopeful that even sixty years later it would give him goosebumps.
“Yes. I love you. I think I always have.”
He turned beet red …again. This time it was not from embarrassment but from sincerity. He had told the truth. He was afraid to tell her the truth, but he couldn’t hold it back any longer. Words have power. I love you. When said with that quiet firmness of knowing it is true love- well, those little words cast their own spell.
She buried her head into his neck, kissing him softly, repeatedly just above his collar, and just below his ear. It felt like a dozen kittens were nuzzling his neck, and he would swear in later years he heard her purr.
He never noticed that wrapped in her warm embrace they were both floating a few feet above the ground. People passing by did notice. Some rubbed their eyes to double check if their mind was fooling them. After all, two young people floating a few feet above the ground isn’t what you expect to see in a crowded lunchroom.
Nobody who was there that day, ever forgot what a good night it was that night. Everyone had oodles of candy, the costumes looked real, and the weather was partly cloudy, cool and damp, with a full moon casting a silver glow over the trick and treaters.
One couple, hand in hand, went door to door, and every door opened to say the exact same thing to Maven:
“Oh. My. God. That is the most beautiful Witch costume I have ever seen. How did you get your hair that black?"
Maven would smile. Mark would squeeze her hand.
Then they would both say: “Trick or Treat!”
As they left each house Maven would look back and say in a voice filled with joy, a powerful voice, one that could, if it wanted to, cast a spell on you: