All Sarah ever wanted was to be a princess for Halloween. Instead, there had been no costumes, no candy, no fun. Growing up, she and her brother had never been allowed to dress up or go trick or treating with the other kids. While superheroes, Barbie dolls, ghosts, and witches had paraded through the neighborhood in search of chocolate bars and lollipops, Sarah and Nathan were holed up in their dark bedroom watching enviously through the window.
Her first Halloween after moving out, Sarah dressed as Snow White and wore her costume the entire day through classes, work, grocery shopping, and handing out King-sized candy bars to the children in her apartment building.
No one could keep her from joining the fun now.
This year, she was dressed as ogre Fiona from Shrek, complete with green body makeup. Two men on the Metro had snickered, but she didn’t care. They took it for granted. She never would.
Her condo high-rise didn’t have a ton of children, but there were enough to keep her from finishing dinner until almost eight. The babies and toddlers arrived early, and the few older kids came through after seven.
If she had one great regret it was that she had no one to share the day with. Her brother had moved to Austin, and she hadn’t been on a date in months. To be honest, when it came to Halloween, most of the guys she knew thought she was a bit nuts.
Maybe she was.
The doorbell rang just as she was pulling lasagna out of the oven, and she rushed to open the door.
“Trick or treat,” a small voice sang out from behind a ninja mask. The boy stood in front of a much taller pirate, holding a G.I. Joe pillow case that looked pitifully empty. “You're Fiona. Great costume.”
“Thanks. I like yours too. Are you just getting started?” she asked, dropping a Snickers and a Butterfinger into his bag.
“No,” the pirate said. “We got home late, and unfortunately most of the building is out of candy by now.” He squeezed the little boy’s shoulders. “Sorry, buddy.”
Sarah looked up and realized it was Mike, her neighbor from two doors down. Her heart skipped a beat as their eyes met. His were the most vivid shade of blue. And he was rockin’ the pirate look. She never would have pegged him for the type to dress up. “I didn’t realize you had a little boy.”
Mike smiled sadly. “I only have partial custody, but his mom is out of town this week, so we got some extra time together. This is Joey.”
“Hi, Joey. I’m Sarah.” She crouched down and shook his outstretched hand. What a little man. Her bowl was still heavy with candy bars, and she wiggled it gently as she focused on Mike again. “Would you like to have a little Halloween party here? I have lasagna if you haven’t eaten dinner yet.”
He mouthed the words, “Are you sure?” over Joey’s head.
She nodded and backed away from the door, heart fluttering. “Welcome to my swamp.”
Joey entered tentatively, eyeing the candy bowl.
When Mike passed by, she said, “Give me a couple of minutes to hide the candy bars, and then he can hunt them down. That way it’ll still be fun.”
“Thank you, Sarah,” he said, planting a quick kiss on her cheek that turned his mouth green. “You’re a treasure.”
“No,” she said with a smile, her face still tingling from the warmth of his lips. “I’m a princess.”