Helen Baker peeked out from behind her heavy living-room drapes to the darkened street, surveying the space between the streetlights. She hadn’t seen any ghosts or witches or Star Wars characters in at least thirty minutes. The mantel clock—a wedding present for her and Sam thirty years earlier—struck eight, and she let the drapes drop back into place.
Halloween was over, and so was the most hellish year of her life.
She shut off the front porch light and carried the bowl with the remaining miniature chocolate bars to the kitchen. There were enough of these sweet morsels to give her a sugar high. She should put them away, but she had earned the right to celebrate first.
A bottle of her favorite Merlot, which she had found the last time she went wine tasting in the Okanagan, waited patiently on the kitchen table along with a large goblet, her day planner, a red marker, and the sealed manila envelope she had received earlier that day. She peeled the wrapping off a chocolate, popped it into her mouth, and poured the wine. She sat down at the table and, ignoring the envelope, opened the book.
Taking up a red pen, she marked off the day with an X. Then she lifted the glass and toasted herself.
“Well, Helen, congratulations. You did it.” She had kept her promise to her mother and her therapist and had managed to get through the gauntlet of firsts: first Christmas, first birthday, first Valentine’s Day, first wedding anniversary, first major family occasion—in this case, their daughter’s wedding—and now her first Halloween without her husband by her side. Promise kept, she could move on to her new life, alone, on her own terms.
The crackle and pop of fireworks made her jump, and then her blood pressure rose. They weren’t holding a Halloween party. Not after last year’s shenanigans, surely?
She looked out the window and her eyes confirmed what her ears were hearing. There was Jillian, her former best friend, all bright-eyed smiles, showing off her new haircut and slimmer figure and entertaining all their neighbors without her. Seriously? Did she feel no remorse at all?
Helen tromped to the front door, pulled on her coat and shoes, crammed a toque on her head, and grabbed her gloves. She would go over there and give Jill a piece of her mind. How dare she hold the party they had always held together? How dare she entertain the neighbors without her? She would go over there, and...
And then what?
Repeat last year’s disgrace?
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