I turned to walk up the stairs but the knock at the door made me turn in my track. I walked towards the front door and pulled it open.
“Trick-or-treat!” Came a chorus of small voices as the door popped open.
I smiled underneath my half-face mask and grabbed the bowl of candy off the table next to the door. “What great costumes we have here!” I exclaimed holding out the bowl so the little hands would have some place to go.
“What are you supposed to be?” A cowboy asked me.
“Bobby!” A woman warned, probably his mother. I looked up and smiled at her to show that it was all right. We made eye contact and I swallowed hard when I noticed that she too was dressed up... as a French maid. She advanced closer to the door and I couldn’t step back. She leaned up against the door frame slightly. “I’m Joanna, from the next block over. I haven’t seen you around much, stranger.”
“I, uh,” I cleared my throat and tried to appear as though she wasn’t making me nervous. I wanted her to back off, I knew what she was trying to do. Even I wasn’t that blind to notice she was sticking out her chest. She was coming on to me and I knew it. And most of all, I didn’t want it. I looked back into her eyes. “I’m usually busy... you know with the kids and stuff.”
Her eyes darted down my costume and came back up to my eyes. I could feel my face grow hot and I grew more uncomfortable as each moment passed by.
“I’m a big fan of yours, you know,” she said.
I forced a laugh. “Well then,” I put the candy bowl back on the table and shook her hand quickly. “Nice to meet you.” There was a few seconds of awkward silence.
Bobby pulled on his mother’s skirt. “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! We wanna go to other houses now! Not just Taylor Hanson’s!”
The rest of the kids nodded in agreement, they were now all holding their bags closed and looking bored.
Bobby’s mother looked down briefly. “Oh, I am SO embarrassed!”
“It’s all right...” I nodded my head inside of my house. “My WIFE and children should be ready to go out now.”
“You must have gotten a lot of visitors tonight,” she said drawing out each word seductively not caring that I had just hinted about my wife and the fact that I wanted to get out of there.
“Yeah, tons,” I said. “This family keeps the candy factories in business.”
She laughed. “I can just imagine.”
“Mommy!” Bobby whined.
“Shush Bobby. Mommy and Taylor are talking.” She smiled at me seductively. I could see that it was something she wanted to make more out of, I wasn’t stupid.
“Taylor?” A voice from behind me. I turned around all too happy for the interruption. I smiled a real smile when I saw Clare peeking out from behind the wall.
“Clare! Come here and see these wonderful costumes!” She grinned when she saw my eyes begging her to come over to the doorway. She emerged behind the wall and took her place at my side. “Aren’t they just great?” I pressed.
“Wonderful!” Clare exclaimed. “What have we got here? A Witch, a scarecrow, Barbie, and a cowboy! Just excellent.” She noticed the French maid but kept her composure like a professional. She extended her hand. “Hello, I’m Clare Hanson.”
I slid my arm around her waist. “Actually she’s Christine Diae.”
My wife looked back into my eyes. “The phantom’s master.”
I laughed. “She keeps me in line,” I joked to Bobby’s mother.
Bobby’s mother laughed respectfully and I knew that it was over. Whatever she had hoped that was going to happen was destroyed. “Let’s go to other houses now, kids.”
The kids cheered. “Thank-you!” They said to me and Clare as they ran off the porch and joined the rest of the children who were running door-to-door in our neighborhood begging for candy.
“Happy Halloween!” Clare and I called after Bobby and his mother.
I shut the door and leaned back against it. I pulled my mask on top of my head. “It should be about two minutes before anyone knocks again.” Clare laughed and her smile faded.
“What?” I asked her. A tear fell from her eyes. I jumped up from where I was leaning and I hugged her gently. “Don’t cry,” I soothed, “please don’t cry.” I knew why she was crying, it had to have been Bobby’s mother.
“She was coming on to you!” Clare sobbed. “She was leaning up against the door frame like a hooker sticking out her chest! Taylor, she’s pretty!”
“Shhhh,” I shushed her. I held her shoulders and looked into her face. “You, Clare, are the most gorgeous women I have ever laid eyes on in my entire life.”
“No buts,” I warned. “I would never and could never love anyone more then I love you. I asked you to marry me, didn’t I?”
Clare smiled and nodded. “Yes you did.”
I hugged her head to my chest and sighed. “I never want you thinking that I’d ever stop loving you. All right?”
I felt her nodding.
I kissed her neck and gently removed her head from my chest. “I’d only let my lips touch one person.” I titled her chin up towards my mouth and kissed her lovingly. “Better now?” I asked once we pulled away. Clare leaned her head on my shoulder.
“Yes,” she said softly. I put my arms around her and held her close. Almost six months pregnant... six down, three to go. Her mood swings were getting worse, the only thing I could do was go along with it. I wish she hadn’t seen what had happened at the door with Bobby’s mother, she didn’t have to see that. She had been having really bad mood swings all day and I didn’t know if she really did believe me or not. She had the bad habit of doubting everything I said when she was in one of those moods. I didn’t know what else to do except convince her that she was the only woman for me. One of her really bad mood swings was when she insisted that I could have any women I wanted and then she’d put herself down, saying she was ugly or not “deserving” of me. Whenever she was in that mood I knew it wasn’t what she really felt but the words really stung. I’d hold her in my arms, if she even let me, and try to convince that she was amazing, beautiful, and every other ego-boosting thing I could think of. Later on she’d apologize and cry about how she knew I loved her and she was “being stupid.” It was an endless cycle. I liked the mood where everything I did was wrong better than the one where she put herself down. I’d rather have her yelling at me, cursing at me, and apologizing later on than have her think she is inferior to me. I’d rather have her hitting me, which she never did, than have her putting herself down.
Another knock at the door. Clare pulled away from me. “Let’s get it together,” I suggested. “The Phantom needs his Christine.” I pulled down my mask and pulled open the door.
“Tick-or-treat!” Another chorus of kids’ voices’. They held out their bags.
“What great costumes!” Clare exclaimed, her voice didn’t break once. She was great at pretending nothing had happened before moving on to something else for the time being. When we were first going out she had to do a lot of acting with the fans and such, like when people asked where she was going and she wasn’t allowed to tell them she’d make up some great, normal excuse and everything would be fine. She had gotten really good at it. She reached for the candy bowl. I took out pieces of candy from our bowl and put them in the kids’ bags.
“Happy Halloween!” I told the kids.
“What do we say?” A mother asked the kids.
“Thank-you, Mr. and Mrs. Hanson!” They said in unison. Clare smiled at me. I pulled her closer to my body.
“You’re welcome,” I said. “Have a safe night!” The kids scattered down the porch and I closed the door after them.
“Daddy!” Came a voice from upstairs. “Mommy!” I looked at Clare. “Well Christine, it looks as though we are being paged.” I put my hand on my hip.
“Yes, my dear Phantom, it appears as though we are.” She threaded her arm through mine. I knew by looking at her that Bobby’s mother had been forgotten, hopefully forever. The most important thing on her mind now, and mine as well, was to get our kids together and get them out trick-or-treating while there was still candy left to acquire.