“Mommy, is the virus going to take Halloween?” My daughter, Mia, curled on the couch with her fuzziest blanket. She stared out the window, sighing. “No one has pumpkins in their yard. I don’t know if my friends have costumes. Will we even trick-or-treat tomorrow?”
I glanced at my husband, Evan. We exchanged a look, one of those subtle glances where spouses share information. This one said, We’ve failed her. Halloween had faded from our minds. Stress of work and politics and plague had taken over. I couldn’t answer Mia’s question.
I crept from the room, begging her patience. I scanned my resources. One attic trip, two jewelry boxes, and three junk drawers later, I found what I was looking for.
I returned to the living room and sat with Mia. I held out my hand. “This is the Witching Key.”
Her eyes lit up. She reached out, hesitant to grab the antique I offered. “What is it?”
I ran my fingertip along the angular ironwork and rusted edges. I hoped the unusual shapes would fool Mia into seeing it as more than a discarded barn key. “Fall asleep holding this. When you wake up, everything will be normal. As long as you squeeze it, Halloween will live everywhere you look.”
She shuddered and snatched the key from my hand.
I winked at Evan. See, we’ve got this. I’ve done my part. Now do yours.
I woke to Mia’s laughter, my favorite sound in the world. She and Evan sat at the breakfast nook sipping cider. A velvet table runner held candles, ceramic ghosts, and cut-paper spiders. Elegant decorations. Tasteful. Nothing store-bought or plastic.
Evan had really outdone himself. I could only imagine how much time he’d spent setting this up.
“Can we, Mommy?” Mia stood, gripping the key.
“She wants to take a walk in costume to see everyone’s decorations.” Evan pulled the curtain from the front window.
The entire street glowed orange and purple. Nearly every house was littered with bones, devils, and tombstones. Halloween had painted the world, and it was glorious.
Mia clutched her key all day. We walked the neighborhood. We drove through town to see goblins, lights, and cobwebs. We trick-or-treated and got all of her favorite sweets: toffee, popcorn, cookies.
She fell into bed after the perfect Halloween.
On the couch, Evan hugged me and propped up his feet. “Gotta hand it to you. You pulled off a miracle. What did you do, call everyone in town?”
I sat upright. “Me? I thought you did this.”
We rushed to Mia’s room. Soft green light streamed from the key she clutched.
My husband stared, wide-eyed. “I think it’s time we stop relying on winks and nods to communicate.”
I exhaled slowly. “I agree.”
As the bedside clock flipped to midnight, the glow from Mia’s hand faded.