by Umeko Noa (梅子乃愛)
“We’re not allowed to throw any parties, eat the trick-or-treat candy, scare the little kids, or eat the cake in the fridge,” you say, ticking the list off your fingers. Your thumb’s left and there was a fifth one, but that’s all you remember so you wiggle your thumb, hoping to jar your memory.
Your friend pouts. “Fun-sucker. You’re out to ruin my life, aren’t you? I totally could be at a party right now, drinking and making out with a ninja.”
There’s really no response to that except for blinking, so you blink. Your thumb’s still wiggling and you forget about it until Malcolm pushes your hand down. His skin is warm.
You groan, “Oh no you didn’t,” and palm your face. You’re going to look like retards.
“Shuddup, it’s brilliant. Look.” He bends over, his ass sticking out because he’s one of those annoyingly lazy people who refuse to bend their knees because it, like, takes up too much energy or something. “How awesome is this?”
He’s holding up a pirate costume (red and black striped pants, flouncy white shirts with a fake vest, a matching–red and black!–stripped headband, the most tacky pleather boots you’ve ever seen) and you’re horrified. You manage, “They have red and black stripped pants,” because it’s easier to focus on one monstrosity rather than the whole ensemble.
Malcolm just nods, like that is totally normal and acceptable.
“It looks like it belongs in a circus, on a clown. Where’s the rainbow wig?”
“Ha, ha,” he replies dryly. He pats the pants soothingly, long piano-playing fingers tapering along the seam. “Shut up. Anyway, I’m the pirate, ’cause they’re cooler.”
“What am I?” You’re dreading the response, except that, you know, he bends over again to rustle through the plastic bag and you’re blind-sided. Again. Maybe a little glossy-eyed.
“A…ninja!” His grin reaches his ears, crinkles his eyes. You’re not paying any attention to the fact that he’d earlier said he could be kissing a ninja at a party. Best not to go there. “So, see, you got the outfit and those–this thing, the sticks and chain thingy, whatever, I got a sword, which is so much cooler, but you get these comfy slipper things–”
“Is that spandex?”
Malcolm stutters to a halt. “Um, no…” He’s giving you that look where he thinks you’re an idiot. “Why the hell would I get you spandex? Oh my God, do you want to wear spandex? ‘Cause I could totally work with that, I’ll so go get you spandex, this’ll be awesome, lemme find my keys.” He flails around, drops the costume on top of the pirate one. At least it’s covering the clown pants. “What size do you think you’ll be?”
You’re not sure if you should be irritated or endeared. You settle for changing the subject. “It looks like a trash bag.”
His keys jangle in his hands. “Okay now, I’m not even going to touch that one.”
There’s a short silence. You fancy you can hear, through the front door, the light posts lining the cracked and dipped sidewalk clicking on, signaling to all the children tackily dressed in their princess, SpongeBob, and ghost costumes that free candy is within their reach and they’d better tug at their parents’ arms before all the good candy is gone.
At least, that’s what your little sister (dressed as the fattest Little Red Riding Hood in existence) has done, leaving you to give out candy with Malcolm.
Actually, you should probably thank her. Even if she’s talked your parents into taking her to that rich development on the other side of town. They have never done that for you, always making you walk around the townhouse development you live in, where only one house gives out full-sized candy bars and half the people take the cheap route and give Smarties and Tootsie Rolls and Dum-Dums.
“Okay, can’t help it,” bursts Malcolm. “Spandex and trash bags are on whole different sides of the spectrum. Are you high?”
And his hand on your forehead, which suddenly feels really, really hot. You lean into the touch, just a little; maybe he won’t even notice.
But he shakes his head and brushes your bangs back. “You want some Ibuprofen? No, okay then put this on.”
He kicks the ninja trash bag at you and yanks his shirt off. The collar gets stuck on his glasses and he curses softly, twisting and turning, until it pops up and his glasses sail across the room. Land on the couch, right ways up and everything. “Oh,” he says, squinting over at the couch. “That reminds me, I brought a bunch of old horror movies. You know, Frankenstein, The Blob, Dracula, stuff like that. So that’s what we’re doing tonight, ‘kay?”
Horror movies. No, you’re not okay. You just nod though. Tug your shirt and jeans off while he’s distracted retrieving his glasses. You’re ashamed enough about the nonexistent chest hair and love handles (that you don’t have because you’re in high school for fuck’s sake and those things belong on middle-aged hags) that you don’t want Malcolm seeing and commenting on. Not that he hasn’t seen it all–gym anyone?–but, still, it’s the principle of the matter.
The costume even feels like a trash bag, just a tad softer and not sweat-sticky like plastic. It’s a ninja jumpsuit; there is something fundamentally wrong about this.
“Hot,” Malcolm proclaims.
You wrinkle your nose, stick your tongue out. “At least I’m not wearing clown pants.”
He opens his mouth, falls over while tugging his boots on, and the doorbell rings, cutting him off before he even begins. You grumble, “Didn’t even turn the front light on yet,” then, as you’re heading to the front door and tugging the hood over your head, “The candy’s in the kitchen, go get it.”
The door groans open and the neighbors to the left of you are there, Shelly with her two-year-old daughter, who just stares up at you with a gaping mouth.
“Hi,” Shelly says, pokes the kid in the side. “Come on, remember what you’re supposed to say.”
She breathes, “Robber,” and sucks on her fairy wand.
You grin wryly and Shelly lets loose one of her odd wheezy chuckles. Malcolm pops up beside you, his arm stretched out behind you, braced on the doorframe so that he’s kind of leaning into you. You wonder if it’s as suggestive as it feels.
His other hand balances the orange pumpkin candy bowl.
“She thinks I’m a robber. Way to go with the costume.”
Malcolm widens his eyes and smiles. “Oh, no, he’s a ninja, and I’m a pirate, see. Dam–poppycock, I left my sword inside. Anyway. Pirates are cooler, aren’t they?”
The kid, still staring with a wide open mouth, just reaches into the bowl and picks out a Dum-Dum. Yeah, your family is one of those cheap, lame houses that people wish they’d skipped over. Though, that may be because the moment your family left, you sat there picking all the chocolate candies and Skittles from the bowl. If you can’t go trick-or-treating (and your lovely sister always hides the good candy from you) then by God, you are cheating and being selfish.
Besides, you’re going to share it with Malcolm. Not completely selfish.
“Say thank you,” Shelly says, her grin a little strained. Malcolm’s distracted with digging through the candy bowl and grumbling, “Wouldn’t want to eat any of this candy anyway,” and Shelly’s probably wishing she hadn’t opened with your house. Speaking of that–you reach a hand inside and flick the porch light on, slowly easing Shelly a pointed look.
She doesn’t respond, not at all embarrassed. Just grabs her kid’s hand and tugs her down the walkway. But the girl twists her head around and whispers to her mom, loud enough for you to hear, “I want PJs like that.”
You glare at Malcolm. He’s unconcerned; you need to work on your glare.
“What can I say?” He shrugs, almost drops the candy bowl. “Pirates are just cooler. They beat ninjas any day.”
And he flounces inside for the weapons. You have to admit, he looks pretty good in those clown pants. Well, not really good, because he seriously looks ridiculous, but good in the sense that they’re a little too short (floods, ha!) and too tight, so you can see the curve of his ass better than his relaxed-fit jeans have ever shown them off.
When he sits back down on the gritty, cold porch, you tease, “Poppycock?” and grin with one corner of your mouth. He nods seriously and leans in, stares into your eyes while his hand digs through the candy bowl.
“Got a problem?” His breath puffs on your face, white fog falling from his lips and rising in the air. It’s cold out and you rub your hands together, look off at the road at the steadily growing amount of kids sprinting across the sidewalk.
Half an hour later you can’t hold out anymore. If you hear one more time about how your family picks the lamest candy, and if you see him sneak one more Smarties packet into his mouth and mutter “Up your smart skills,” you’re going to scream and kick him out. Make him go to that party to make out with his ninja. Except that you really don’t want him to go, or make out with any ninja (well, you know, except for yourself).
So you leave him sitting on the porch, his sword in one hand and your stick-thing in the other, fighting with himself. He keeps hitting his own head and you wonder if he’s going to get brain damage (except for the fact that he so totally already has it). You wonder why you like him at all.
The damn pajama/trash bag jumpsuit you’re wearing refuses to bunch enough to hold a bunch of candy so you’re forced to grab a huge handful and stumble towards the door, mini Snickers and Hershey bars and M&M’s leaving a trail behind you.
Malcolm laughs in delight and moves in close, bows his head and his bangs are in your face. You kind of can’t breathe, especially when he shuffles through the pile, his nails scraping your skin and his breath washing over your face in delight when he finds a dark chocolate Hershey bar.
“I love you,” he mumbles around the chocolate, and your face goes warm. You sit down, dip your head to stare at the candies. It feels like you’ve sat on one; there will probably be a brown mark on the seat of your pants, but that’s okay because they are hideous, and not even yours.
“You’ve been hiding out on me, man.” He dives in for more, and his face is in your lap. Some dad ushers his kids away from the house.
“Okay,” Malcolm says, “I got an idea.” He stands and opens the front door, then shuts and opens it again, keeps doing it. You’re wincing because the door groans, long and low, and it really annoys you but apparently Malcolm loves the sound. Which makes sense, you figure, because he can be a pretty annoying person. It’s a good thing he plays the piano so perfectly.
You press, “Your idea?” and hope that’s enough to make him stop.
“Oh, right!” He darts inside, flips the switch and you’re doused in darkness. It finally catches your attention that it’s a foggy night, the moon pale and dim behind rolling gray clouds. In other words, the perfect trick-or-treat night that you have always wished for but never got (which is good because you probably would have pissed yourself).
Though, it looks like it’s going to rain. You hope it rains on your sister.
Malcolm’s fingers dig into your arm as he hauls you up, shoves you indoors. He darts out once more to drop the bowl of crappy candy. “We’re going to watch horror movies now. They can help themselves to the candy.”
Always the (forced) voice of logic, you say, “They’re not going to know about it if the light’s off.”
But Malcolm ignores you, instead pointing to the trail of candy. “Did you ever hear of a bowl?”
You flush, throw the tiny pile still left in your hands at him. “They’re a trail, leading you to the rest.”
“But you have to pick them up as you go or you won’t get any.”
He pays you no attention, dashes around them and to the kitchen. He even squishes one, the chocolate bursting out of its silver wrapper, and you groan, run to the kitchen and dig under the sink for carpet cleaner. Your mom will kill you if there’s a stain, no matter that there’s pee stains from the last dog you had. And your little sister will probably insist it’s poo stains and you will be subjected to a week of horrible jokes that don’t really make any sense.
“Wha ah oo ooing?” he garbles around a mouthful of chocolate.
You glare at him, stalk past with the cleaner in one hand and paper towel roll in the other. “You squashed chocolate into the carpet.” You flop down next to the mess, and you’re a little pissed off, a little embarrassed, a little bit wishing you’d stayed on the porch or gone with your family.
You remember there’s supposedly smeared chocolate on your ass.
Before you can get your ass more than a inch off the carpet though, Malcolm combs his hand through your hair in some semblance of a pat and tweaks your ear. He leans down, whispers, “Sorry, mom,” and mashes his lips to your cheek, a loud smack.
You sit back down. He skips to the couch, digs through another plastic bag, the crinkling distant and filtered through.
“Hey, looks like I kissed my ninja anyway.” He tosses a grin and wink, too large and garnish, your way. “Guess my Halloween wasn’t a total waste.”
You’re blushing again. Tilt your face down and scrub at the nonexistent stain. “I hope you don’t kiss your mom like that.”
He laughs. “Why? It wasn’t anything bad. I could show you bad if you want.”
You want. You grab the balled up, soaked and smelly paper towels and march to the kitchen, back under the sink. His laughs rings behind you–malicious sounding.
“Shut up,” you grumble, then, “My mom didn’t even want you over.” Which is the total truth, though that’s because she knows you have “a crush on him, why can’t you just admit it?” and seems to think the two of you are going to go at it on the couch or something. Scar them when they get home. Maybe end up with a (gasp) pregnancy.
“I thought your mom loved me!” He seems genuinely hurt by this. “She makes cookies when I’m over, really good cookies, like the best cookies I ever had. I’m totally going to marry your mom so she can make me cookies every day–or I could totally just move in. You mind if I move in? We can be roomies. It’ll be awesome.” He pauses, rests his head on the back of the couch. “Your mom really not like me?”
She likes him. You shrug. “Sorry to burst your bubble.”
He pouts, turns to face the TV, and you say, “Can I put your hair in ponytails?”
The rooster clock next to the door ticks loudly. You flip the outside light on. He shrugs, his shoulders a tiny shifting movement. “Why doesn’t your mom like me?”
That’s a little more guilt than you can take, so you collect all the candies still scattered on the floor and set them on the counter, rattle the junk drawer for a moment before it flings open. And, holy shit, there’s a lot of junk. Naturally no rubber bands on top.
Move the sandwich bag of balloons around, the small screwdriver heads case, the scissors with a missing handle, an opened bottle of Elmer’s glue.
“Do you secretly not like me too?” calls Malcolm, and your hand slips, spears the damned push-pin incrusted cardboard slab. You moan and suck the droplet of blood off your finger.
Malcolm runs into the kitchen, his socks slipping on the linoleum. For some reason he’s brandishing the plastic sword.
“My ‘ight in s’thining armore,” you murmur around your finger. It kind of hurts more than a paper cut. Tiny, but it went in your flesh really far. You wonder if it touched bone, if that would matter, if you would know instantly. If you’d be able to see it, a little flash of ivory white.
Malcolm winks. “You know I am.” He grabs your wrist and yanks your finger out of your mouth with a pop. Sets the sword on the counter and moves closer, backing you up so your ass hits the junk drawer, bumps it closed.
He rubs a finger over the pinprick, your spit sliding between, slick and wet. He blows off your finger, all cool and sending a shiver down your spine. He tilts his head and leans even closer, his finger brushing against your nose.
He pokes a fingernail into the cut, ignores your hiss and deadpans, “You’re going to die in the next forty minutes.”
You stick your tongue out, can’t resist, and his eyes flick down but instead of sticking one right back at you or calling you childish (which wouldn’t work because who brought the costumes?), he continues staring. All the moisture in your mouth has evaporated, and his eyes track the movement of your tongue. His nail slides into the cut again, presses in and digs.
“Ow, fuck!” You jerk back, hand flying, back grinding into the hard edge of the counter.
Malcolm softly says, “Shit,” but you’re not going to analyze that. You’re going to have a nice, normal night, once your damn finger stops throbbing.
Malcolm cocks his head, grabs your slightly bleeding hand and pulls you around the table, to the bathroom door. “You need a band-aid, baby?” he coos, drops your hand to rummage through the medicine cabinet. He pulls out Disney princess band-aids and smiles at them.
You explain, “My sister,” even though you don’t have to–it kind of goes without saying.
He wraps the band-aid (Jasmine because “she’s the sassiest of the princesses and you’re the prissiest boy I’ve met”) around your finger, after smearing too much Neosporin on the pinprick. You highly doubt you’re going to get some disease from the junk drawer.
It’s not until you two are sitting on the couch and you’re stroking your fingers through his hair to straighten it because you’re too lazy to get a comb, that you realize he really did use too much Neosporin. Your hand is greasy; you subtly wipe your hand on his hair, start spreading the strip of white into his hair but he springs up.
You widen your eyes in innocence.
“Which you wanna watch?” He grabs Frankenstein, in all its black and white glory, and pops it in the VCR. “Frankenstein? Why of course that’s fine. Anything you want.”
You don’t like black and white movies, have a hard time getting into them. Your fingers itch to smooth in the Neosporin stripe.
He sits, turns and smiles at you, rambling something about the movie that you don’t listen to. You just tug at his hair until he faces the TV again and yank his hair into two low ponytails, the rubber bands tight and tugging at your skin when you try sliding your fingers out of them.
“Do I look hot?” he asks, and you laugh, fall into the back of his shoulder and slobber a bit. He presses back, shoves you against the couch, only lets you go when you stop laughing and pinch the flesh above his elbow.
The movie is stupid. The movie is black and white. You’re feeling sick from all the candy, kind of want to throw up so your stomach will stop churning, except Malcolm’s arm is pressed against yours and you’re on edge wondering what’s going to happen in the movie (you will not admit this) and you’re not about to move for anything. Because you’re kind of afraid to move.
Horror movies are really not your thing. The things you do for Malcolm.
Then of course.
The doorbell rings. And you, you’re not going to answer it. Have no intention of answering it. Because the sky is way past darkened, the bowl of candy is in the middle of the porch in plain sight (though probably empty by now, probably has been empty since the first kid got to it), your family won’t be home for a few more hours because they’re visiting relatives after trick-or-treating, and you can see through the doorway that the stove clock reads eleven forty-three (it doesn’t matter what the others say because they were set by your mom, who likes to have everything ahead of schedule so she doesn’t miss out on a thing).
Frankenstein rises on screen.
(You’re going to die in the next forty minutes.)
Exactly forty minutes ago Malcolm said that. His voice was dead, which, now that you think about it, is rare. There’s always the inflection of some emotion in his voice, he can never keep a straight face. Exactly forty minutes ago. (You’re being ridiculous.) Unless. Unless you take the stove as the starting time and the VCR as ending, in which case you’re totally safe because that was fifty minutes ago. But the damn doorbell won’t stop ringing. And your palms are slippery. Wipe them on your pants.
Malcolm slits his eyes, looks at you, and you pretend you don’t know what he’s talking about because you don’t want to answer the door. Really. And you can’t explain it and if you try you will come off sounding like an idiot. Better to make Malcolm think he’s gone insane and is hearing things.
He says, “Dude, seriously. Answer the door.” He flicks the side of your head, his finger unusually hard against your skull.
You stand, slowly, and the head wrap to your ninja costume is down around your neck, twisted and pressing. Frankenstein is groaning behind you and you want him to shut up. It’s really dark outside.
You might sleep with a night light still, maybe don’t hang out on Halloween because you scare easily. Maybe; it’s not like you will ever admit to such things, so, technically, they’re not even true.
Your heart is pumping. Loudly. The porch light is off. You look through the screen door, at the shadow, and hit the switch, and again, but the light is blown.
The shadow moves forward, into the light the open door throws. It’s a little witch.
She says, “Trick-or-treat.” Holds out a pillow case, weighed down so it resembles a diaper with a (massively) heavy load.
You just stare, the screen between the two of you.
Malcolm, because of course he has come to see, pokes you in the back. “We’re out of candy,” he tells the girl, even though there’s a small pile still left on the coffee table, even though he’s presently peeling open a Hershey kiss, all orange and black striped foil.
He pops it in his mouth and the girl stares. She says, “I’m lost.” The tip of her witch’s hat droops.
Malcolm sighs and glances over at the TV, which is paused. You want to hit him, want to hit yourself. This stupid laugh bubbles up your throat and out, and you open the screen door.
She walks right in, past the two of you, dragging her pillow case behind her. Her curly hair is frizzy beneath her hat.
You shut the door and walk to the kitchen, asking what her phone number is. She says she’s six and she doesn’t have it memorized. She can spell her whole name though, it’s Justine Christine Bullstein.
Malcolm snorts, hand over his mouth. Murmurs, “Someone’s mom hates you.”
You ask, loudly, in an attempt to cover your asshole friend’s stupid personality, “What’s your address?”
She doesn’t answer, just stares up at Malcolm. You can’t see her expression because you’re hovering behind her, in the doorway to the kitchen, your hand on the phone. But Malcolm’s eyes are darting back and forth and he shakes his head, the stupid ponytails bouncing slightly. He looks at you, a little wide-eyed, a little uncomfortable laughter. Her expression must be something special.
“Oh-kay,” you say, and dial 911. They answer and you give your address, say you’ve got a lost kid, all the while amazed because you’ve never called 911 before. Your fingers have never pressed this sequence of buttons, and you’ve heard emergency calls on TV but it’s somehow different in real life. You feel in control.
The woman on the other end says the kid must have been lost for a while, wandering around. And that’s when it hits you that it’s nearly midnight and you live in a development and someone would have seen a six year old girl walking around the sidewalks alone. It’s too late to be trick-or-treating.
“Sorry,” Malcolm says, then. “Nice costume.”
She says, “It’s not a costume,” and tugs at the bottom of the dress. It’s frayed and patched, the whole thing, and has this musty smell to it that you can still pick up from the kitchen. Or maybe it’s just stuck in your nostrils.
“You’re a real witch then? That’s cool.” Malcolm nods, reaches towards the couch and grabs his plastic sword. “You got a wand? I’m a pirate, so I got a sword. I would totally win in a battle.”
The witch’s hands land on her waist. “Nu-uh. I got magic, I could turn your sword to plastic.”
You hang up the phone and walk over to them, touch Malcolm’s sword. “Looks like she already worked her magic. The police are on their way.”
“Well,” says Malcolm, completely ignoring you (he loves to do that; you want to box his ears) and squinching his eyes at the little girl. “I’d beat him here in a battle.”
She peers at you, looks you up an down. “Yes,” she concedes, “pirates beat people in pajamas.”
You groan and Malcolm laughs, launches himself at you and starts yanking on your hood, trying to get it back over your head. You’re sure it has shrunk. He says, “Nonono, he’s a ninja. He’s my ninja because every pirate needs a ninja, to make them feel better about themselves, you know.”
You wiggle away, flop on the couch. There has to be red marks around your neck. This hood thing was not meant to be taken off. It feels like the whole costume is wrapped around you, arms squeezing and shrinking.
The girl breathes, “TV” and drags her pillow case over, sits next to you. Malcolm jumps over the couch, his foot hitting the lamp and nearly sending it to the floor, but he catches it just in time. Which is good because if he breaks that lamp he won’t have to worry about if your mom likes or doesn’t like him, your dad will flay him alive.
He digs the remote out from where it has sunk between the cushions and hits play. Frankenstein takes one step and the kid grabs your hand; her skin is dry and rough.
Malcolm’s eyeing up the kid’s pillow case, even though there’s candy wrappers littered around the lamp beside him. “Can I have some candy?” Malcolm asks.
The kid looks at him, shuffles down the couch more so she’s pressed against you.
You lean over the kid, whose name you’ve already forgotten except that it’s something ridiculous, and accidentally bump your head into Malcolm’s. “Should she be watching this?” you hiss.
Malcolm shrugs. “You wanna watch Frankenstein?” he asks her, and her reply is a single, crisp “Yes.” She fumbles with the pillow case, yanking it onto her lap.
He thumbs the remote, the sound louder. And the doorbell rings.
It’s been–you look at the VCR–five minutes. The police station isn’t that close. It just, it doesn’t feel right.
Maybe it didn’t ring. It’s probably the TV.
It rings again. The witch’s hand shoots back into yours. She digs her hand in and sinks into the couch, buries under her bulging pillow case.
The doorbell keeps ringing, loud and shrill. Malcolm finally pauses the movie and stands, throwing the remote down to save his spot. He rolls his eyes at you. “Since I know how hard it is for you to answer the door… Wouldn’t want you having another heart attack.”
The witch pulls her feet up, away from Malcolm. Her eyes are squeezed shut. Your gaze on her and say, “I don’t think it’s the cops. That was really fast.”
“It’s Halloween,” stresses Malcolm. He rubs a hand over your head, walks to the door, and you want to grab his wrist, pull him back to the couch. “Cops are all over the place on Halloween. You worry too much, seriously. What you think’s gonna happen?” He quirks a smile over his shoulder. “Freddy Krueger at the door, gonnna slice my face off?”
This kid, this witch, she sets her pillow case on the floor.
You have to look away from her, because her mouth is opened in an “oh” and her eyes are wide and unmoving. She’s staring at the front door. You watch Malcolm’s back.
The door groans open. He hits the light switch but it’s still not working. Obviously. It would be too convenient if it did. He says, “Hi?”
A woman’s voice answers, low and stern, and it’s not the police, you knew it. The voice says, “My daughter is here,” and the screen door opens. Malcolm backs up, and she enters.
“Excuse me,” Malcolm says, “You can’t just come in, you gotta ask. Did I say you could just come in?”
She’s tall, in dark purple, and her hair is puffy; there are lines radiating out around her mouth. She doesn’t seem to have any lips, like she’s mummified, Frankensteined. “Where’s my daughter?”
Something glints by her hand. You tilt your head and squint, but you’re too far away and her sleeves are too long. Malcolm sneers and points over at you, to the couch.
“Where?” she hisses.
There’s no one beside you. Just the pillow case on the floor. You manage, “She was right here.”
“Who are you with?” she asks, and you both just stare at her. She snarls, lifts her hand, and she’s holding a knife. It’s long and curved and sharp and all the light in the room seems magnetized to it.
And–whoa. You hold your hands up, move back and fall off the couch, hit your head on the coffee table. This is insane.
Malcolm’s saying something about her calming down and her daughter has to be in the house, because she was right there. His voice drops, strained, and he says, “The police is on their way.” You can’t see anything but the couch before you and you’re not sure you want to see. She stomps away, and your hand is clutching the pillow case. There’s something in there, something that’s shaped like a gun, all hard and smooth and metal, not plastic. You snatch your hand back.
Malcolm jumps over the couch and lands with one foot on either side of you. His eyes are wide, pupils blown, and there’s a thin cut on his cheek. You wonder when that happened. When you were touching the gun?
“Come on,” he mouths, grabs your hand and pulls you up. There’s rummaging in the kitchen, and that’s right beside the front door. Malcolm leads you upstairs, your feet too heavy on the steps. The gun: you probably should have grabbed it.
This shouldn’t be happening. It’s too weird, too unimaginable.
Malcolm yanks you into your room, shoves you into the closet and shuts the door behind him. It’s dark, just the two of you breathing, and there’s stuttered crying coming from your sister’s room beside yours. The kid’s in there and she’s crying and the two of you are just listening. You’re not doing anything, there’s a gun downstairs and the woman is walking around with a knife, long and sharp.
You’re going a have a panic attack. Haven’t had one in years.
“Hey,” whispers Malcolm, hardly audible. His breath is on your face, his hands on your wrists, pressing you to the wall. You stumble over the bowling ball that shouldn’t even be on the floor because you were supposed to clean last weekend. His lips brush over your cheek when he speaks. “Hey you.”
You nod. Gasp and try to get your breathing under control.
“We’re gonna die,” he says, his voice louder and nearer to a normal speaking tone. You’d shush him but you still can’t move; your legs are going to collapse any second. The house is quiet and for all you know she could be standing right outside this folding closet door, listening to the two of you.
He says, “We’re gonna die,” again, then moves his mouth over your neck. He’s mouthing something but you can’t figure out what it is. You focus on the sensation because it’s easier (funny, Malcolm’s lips are on your skin and the only thing you can think about is that he’s getting spit on your skin, all wet and slick). You focus and your legs gain a little strength.
Maybe not. Your legs slowly bend beneath you, until you’re sitting on the floor, bowling ball awkwardly behind you. You can’t see it but you know Bugs Bunny is on it, from when you were in elementary and in that family tournament. The fingers holes have been resized twice. The weight is too light, it flies off the polished alley floor when you throw it.
Your legs are bent, Malcolm slumped against you between them. He’s mouthing down your neck now, and maybe there’re no words anymore. He tugs at your costume, the bunched hood digging into the back of your neck. It won’t give but the fabric groans, a few stitches bursting. He licks up your neck, over your chin and into your mouth. The air is cold on your wet skin.
The house is silent, your tongues slide together, and you’re tense. So tense it hurts. But one of Malcolm’s hands sifts through your hair, holds on and tugs, and your mouth opens further.
You should probably be thinking something, feeling something, saying something, because Malcolm is kissing you and you’ve wanted this for so long and why is it happening now, but you’re silent. All muted gasps and no part of your body moving save for your mouth, your heaving chest. Your hands are braced on the wall, on either side of you, and you don’t want to move them because what if they’re what’s keeping everything up?
He’s pawing at your crotch, hand desperate and fumbling with the fabric, but the damn ninja costume makes it impossible for him to reach his hand in. It’s a jumpsuit, but he still tries, and it kind of hurts.
You hiss, slumping back a bit so your spine is curved over the bowling ball, shoulders and neck and head on the wall. Your eyes are wide open but you can’t see a thing, just Malcolm’s dark outline and the outline of your jackets on clothes hangers.
He pleads, “Touch me,” and it’s so quiet you can easily pretend you haven’t heard him. But your right hand slips off the wall, tingling and stiff. His pants are elastic and your hand slips in easily, though the angle is awkward and hurts your wrist. And damn it, this is the last thing you’re going to feel, these damn clown pants.
His boxers are a little too big. Your hand slips right in and you’re touching the heat of his cock before you even realize what you’re doing. You wrap your hand around him, feel the little wrinkles and smooth hardness of his cock, and you still haven’t figured it out.
Your thumb swipes over the damp head of his cock. You gasp together.
Malcolm’s chanting, “It’s not real, it’s not real, it’s not real,” in your ear. You’re not sure if he’s talking about your hand down his pants or the whole situation. You’re not sure you care right now. You just keep moving your hand, over his hot length, and, God, it feels like your hand is sweating. Your whole body is probably sweating, you’re overheating. Malcolm chants and shakes and doesn’t even try to get you off, his hand just pressed against your cock, squeezing you every now and then through the costume.
His chanting’s getting louder, and there’s running in the hallway – that little girl’s scream – and you turn your head, mash your lips to Malcolm’s to shut him up. His glasses cut into your cheeks, your forehead. He palms his face and they’re gone.
The bedroom door bangs open. Slams against the wall. The closet door shakes.
Malcolm huddles closer; this bowling ball is going to be embedded in your back. He’s supposed to be the strong one. This isn’t working. You slip your hand out of his pants, clutch his shirt tails, squeeze your eyes shut because if there ever was a time to fight back, that time’s passed.
The doorbell rings.
Everything’s silent. The woman, the thing’s in your bedroom. Her footsteps are soft, heading towards the closet.
Malcolm sits up, and she hasn’t hit your bedroom light–you wish you could see his face. His hand slips into yours; his shadow of an arm reaches behind him, and knocks against your stack of video games. They tumble to the floor.
You wonder if the mom, the kid, if they’re really witches. Her feet are right outside your hiding place; you can hear her breathing, and the doorbell rings again before you hear the door groaning open. It’s so loud.
And then. There’s a huge bang, the sound of splintering wood.
Both you and Malcolm jump, the bowling ball slamming into the wall behind you.
A whimper. The feet move away from the closet. You catch a whiff of musty air, musty costume, and blood, sweet and sticky and metallic. Then it’s gone.
Heavy footsteps up the stairs. You door slams open again.
The bedroom light flickers on. The edges of the closet light up, and you can finally see Malcolm’s face. The color’s high in his cheeks and one of his ponytails has come loose. His glasses are broken, pressed up on the top of his head.
The closet door slides open. Malcolm’s hand is tight in yours, and your whole body has frozen. You can’t even think, let alone breathe.
There’s a man standing there, towering over you. He’s in uniform. He’s a police officer. He asks, “Are you okay?”
There’s a huge hole in the wall behind your bed, gaping and jagged. You can see your neighbor’s house, and their faces pressed to their lit-up window. The wind blows in the hole, through your hair, and—
That pillow case. It’s in the middle of your bed, all large and awkward. You look at Malcolm, who’s already staring at you, his eyes tracking your every movement.
The laughter bubbles up your throat again. You let it out, let your head fall back and crack into the closet wall. Malcolm joins you, his laughter higher and brasher. You keep his hand tight in yours.