Chapter 1

“So, what do you reckon for the movie?” I said while stomping on the crunchy, orange leaves that had littered the path through the park.

Haylee shrugged and took a sip from the straw of her pumpkin-spiced latte, as I continued to pounce on the unsuspecting foliage. 

“How about vampires this year?” I pretended my fingers were fangs and jabbed her in the shoulder. 

Haylee laughed and pushed my face away. “Didn’t we have vampires last year?”

I shook my head, “Last year was Zombies. I remember because the red food dye from our edible eyeballs and brains is still on my carpet.” 

We both shuddered, remembering the monstrosity that had been created in my mother’s kitchen that year. 

Haylee screwed up her face. “I didn’t know mashed potatoes and meatballs could look so gross.”  She finished slurping the dregs of her latte and tossed it into a nearby bin, then perched on the bench next to it.

“Well, that was sort of the point,”  I said, joining her. “They still tasted good though!”

“You’d eat anything, Evie.”

I gasped. “I wouldn’t eat real eyeballs and brains. That’s cannibalism – which is highly frowned upon.”

Haylee snorted. “Should I be worried that your only reasoning for not eating eyeballs and brains is, ‘cannibalism is frowned upon’ ?” 

“Well, what other reasons are there?”

I feigned confusion, which in turn earned me several pokes in the rib cage. 

I playfully fought her off – Haylee may have sharp and pokey fingers, but they were no match for my forearm shields!

After our silliness died down, we sat in silence, listening to the crunchy leaves that were still attached to their branches clawing at each other in the crisp wind. 

I have always loved October. It felt to me as if there was something different in the air – it felt like the breeze became full of whispers, the trees all suddenly had eyes, and fires seemed to burn with extra passion. 

Even the tiny flame on my mom’s Candy-apple-scented Halloween candle, glowed as if it hadn’t been stuffed in the bottom of a box, and stashed in the attic for three hundred and sixty-one days of the year, time and time again.

“So, how about a more spooky film tomorrow night? I’m thinking haunted house-esque, but we could also look for cursed objects or scary dolls, maybe even a possessed babysitter–” I stopped my rambling as I noticed Haylee was tapping her fingertips together, her blonde curls falling over her face. Oh.

“Haylee?” I nudged her. “Are you alright?”

She nodded and smiled. “Yeah, why?”

I shifted my weight on the cold, wooden bench. The autumn breeze had suddenly gained a sharp edge that prickled through my jeans. 

“Well, it’s just you seem kind of… off today.”

Haylee stuck her hands in her coat pockets and smiled again. “I’m fine! I just thought maybe we could do something different for Halloween this year?” She winced as my jaw dropped.

“Something different?” The words came out like a foreign language. “But it’s our Halloween tradition!”

“I know E, but maybe we could start a new tradition? I mean, we aren’t nine years old anymore.”

My mouth opened and closed like a pouting goldfish. “But – but, the movies got more mature as we did. We aren’t exactly watching scooby-doo, still!”

Haylee looked at me with… was that pity?

“Well, I just thought, you know…we’re seventeen. Maybe we could do something exciting, something crazy?” Haylee bit her lip.

I stared at her as if she had grown another head. “Who are you? Where’s Haylee?” I brought my face close to hers and examined it. “If you’ve been possessed by a demon and can hear me then blink twice for help.”

She chuckled nervously. “Evie, I’m serious!”

“Be warned, demon!” I placed my hands on either side of her head. “My Grandma was a witch! I’ll…I’ll throw plants at you…and…stuff!”

Haylee burst with surprise laughter. She had met my Grandma when she was alive and knew I wasn’t exaggerating.

We laughed until our sides were in stitches, throwing in a breathless comment here and there until it was physically impossible to continue. It felt more like old times, and I relished the moment, scared there wouldn’t be many more.

Once the tears had dried, Haylee put her hand on my forearm. “I’m up for a possessed babysitter film this year.” She smiled – a toothy smile, where her brown eyes sparkled with it. It was genuine, and filled with… Haylee.

“Will it be crazy and exciting enough for you?”  I raised a mocking eyebrow and nudged her in the ribcage.

“It will be if you’re in charge of the food again,” she chuckled. “I don’t think I can curse a food dish quite like you can.” 

Before I could whip out a witty response, Haylee’s name was called by a voice that made me want to slide my face down a cheese grater – and I mean on the big, gratey side.

I ignored the knot of dread forming in my gut and looked over.

Natalie Brynes and her group.

They were walking on the path towards us but stopped at the next bench. 

“Haylee!” Natalie Brynes was beckoning her over while flipping me the bird – how charming.

Haylee cast an awkward look at me. “I won’t be long, E.” 

I nodded, not wanting my misfortune to ruin hers. It wasn’t Haylee’s fault Natalie didn’t like me. 

She left our bench and went to join them. 

There were six of them, like always. I was usually ignored, except for a few smug smirks and disgusted eye rolls. 

Haylee was an amazing person, it was only a matter of time before she was poached. It had always been just her and me since we were eight years old.

It wasn’t her fault they found my Grandma’s corn dolly in my bag and told everyone in school I was the weird wicked witch. My Grandma had just passed, and it had been her favourite doll. I guess having it with me felt like she was still here, but by the time it had been found in my bag, no explanation would stop the rumours and people stopped listening to me altogether. 

I still remember Natalie’s face when she found it. Her eyes reminded me of googly eyes on the best of days, but I thought they were going to fall out of her sockets.

I sniggered as my brain placed actual googly eyes on Natalie Brynes face. I covered my mouth and nose to mask the noise and risked a glance to affirm I hadn’t been heard. Naughty brain!

As the minutes of being alone – but very much watched – ticked by, the afterglow of mine and Haylee’s messing around had started to fade. I considered slipping out of the park alone, although, to do that I would have to either walk past them and risk being lynched, or walk in the totally opposite direction to where I needed to go in the cold. 

And I really needed to pee.

It seemed Natalie Brynes was stringing out the conversation with Haylee, and there was no doubt in my mind she was trying to make me leave… or freeze to death.

Well, If it wasn’t for the bitter wind, the bladder cramps, or the risk of hemorrhoids from the cold bench, then I would have waited it out.


I stuck my hands in my pockets and walked in the opposite direction. I was sure I could feel Haylee’s apologetic eyes on my back as I walked on the path of crispy autumn leaves – the long way out of the park.

— New chapter is coming soon —
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