Brent hated Halloween. He’d hated it for the past twenty years, and he had a very good reason to. Twenty years ago tonight she had died and it was all his fault.
Twenty years ago tonight, Brent took his eight-year old daughter Evelyn out trick or treating. His wife Marie stayed home to give out candy to the children who would be visiting their house.
It happened so fast. Evelyn saw her best friend across the street and ran over to see her without looking. A teenager driving too fast in a neighborhood full of children. Brent froze at the sickening thud of her body being crushed by the impact. Mercifully, she died instantly.
Brent wasn’t the only one to blame him for little Evie’s death. His wife divorced him six-months later. Evie was their only child.
For the past twenty years, Brent lived alone. He never remarried. Who would have him anyway? Oh, he’s kept a job, had a small comfortable house to live in, he even had a few friends, but the spark of life and of living died along with his little girl.
Before the sun went down, Brent closed all of the blinds at the front of the house and made sure the porch light was turned off. He wanted nothing to attract children to his house. He didn’t give out candy. He didn’t decorate for the occasion. There wasn’t even a single pumpkin in his house.
Brent hated Halloween and prayed it would be over soon.
There were a few kids who rang his doorbell but after a sufficient period of non-response, they moved on. Most of the neighborhood children knew that trying to get candy out of him was a waste of time and they didn’t even bother.
It was getting later. Soon, the younger kids would be going home and only a few older ones would be out collecting sugary loot.
The doorbell. Didn’t these kids ever give up? It was past nine.
This one was persistent. Ringing for a minute. Two minutes. Damn it, go away!
Brent felt a wave of nausea flow through him. “It can’t be.”
“Daddy, let me in.”
Even muffled through the door, Brent instantly recognized her voice.
It was her voice.
He rushed to the door and then stopped. It couldn’t be her. Not here. Not now. Not for the past twenty years.
“Daddy, you’ve got to take me trick or treating. You promised.”
It had to be some horrible joke. Rage welled up within Brent’s chest replacing terror. He’d give this trickster something to regret.
Brent unlocked the door, threw it open, and then abruptly stopped.
“Daddy, what took you so long to open the door?”
Evie was so cute when she tried to be indignant.
“Get your coat and c’mon, Daddy. It’s getting late.”
Tears were streaming down his cheeks as Brent reflexively got his jacket out of the hall closet. Evie, dressed in that silly little clown costume, her face painted with an upside down smile, held out her left hand for him to take while her right hand was occupied with her trick or treat bag.
His hand was trembling as he took her’s. Her flesh was solid, smooth, and warm. She was alive. His baby girl was still alive and she hadn’t aged a day.
He shut the door behind him and they went trick or treating. Brent continually stared at her. It was Evie. The same voice. The same inflections. The same walk. It was her. He wasn’t imagining things. He could touch her. She was real.
Brent hadn’t realized where Evie was leading him until he heard his daughter yell to someone across the street.
They were in the old neighborhood. It was twenty years ago. They were on that street. The one she died on. It was that night all over again.
He saw her start to move across the street toward her best friend. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the headlights of the speeding car approaching. He could hear the engine roaring like the harsh voice of destiny.
This time he didn’t freeze. This time memory gave him seconds of advance warning he didn’t have before. It was all the time he needed to grab his little girl and jump back onto the sidewalk.
“Evie! Are you alright?”
“Ow, Daddy. I hurt my knee.”
They both had fallen on the sidewalk and when Brent looked, Evie had skinned her knee. There was a bit of blood dotting her costume.
“I think you’ll be okay, darling.” He hugged her and held on tight.
They’d drawn a crowd. Someone said they’d gotten the license plate number of the car that almost hit them and they gave it to one of the local residents to call it into the police.
“Don’t you think it’s about time we go home now, Evie?”
She pouted but said, “If you say so, Daddy.”
He helped her to her feet and took his daughter’s hand.
Brent would never know how he was given his chance at redemption but it didn’t matter. What mattered was that he was walking his little girl home. What mattered was that they still had a home together, him, Marie, and Evelyn. What mattered was that this time, his little girl was alive and would grow up with her Mommy and Daddy.