Susan laid awake for a while that night, staring at the ceiling even though the room was far too dark for her to really see it. She thought about her marriage to Don, her job at the office, and the fact that she was actually much better off than most people she knew. At forty-one, she had a reliable husband, enough income to get by, and was still often told she was a very attractive woman. Still, she wondered, why did so many of life’s purest pleasures seem to be reserved just for children? She finally rolled over and closed her eyes, deciding that Barb was quite right in thinking her a total flake.
The next thing she was aware of was the sound of some kids playing outside in the yard. At first she thought it was part of a dream she was having, but them the sight of the lighted alarm clock confirming that she’d been asleep for the last two hours made her sure she was fully awake. She wondered who in the world would let their kids be outside playing in the middle of the night, and got out of bed and went to the window to see which of the neighborhood children it was.
Not wanting to be seen by whoever it was, Susan opened the curtains only a tiny bit, putting her face right up against the window to get a good look. The night seemed blacker and colder than usual, and she was instantly aware that it was too dark to see anything at all outside, except for a single pool of pale peach-colored light created by the street lamp on the opposite corner. Equally odd, she thought, was the fact that what had sounded like several children playing now stood revealed as only one. There under the street lamp, hopping around in a silly, awkward, but unmistakably joyful dance, was a little girl of about seven, wearing her trick-or-treat outfit early.
Her brightly colored dress and big floppy hat bobbed up and down as she spun around foolishly, arms outstretched, head down, looking skyward.
Then, after only a few seconds of such activity, the child stopped suddenly and stood completely still, facing Susan’s window and seemingly looking straight at her. Susan actually gasped with surprise at this turn of events, wondering how the girl could possibly have known she was being watched. It was, after all, an unusually dark night, and the child was clear across the street from Susan’s house. And although she’d opened the curtain no more than a couple of inches, Susan was sure the little girl could see her and was actually making eye contact with her. It was impossible to make out the child’s facial expression due to her wide-brimmed hat, which kept the soft orangish light from the street lamp off of her face entirely. Susan could hear the wind rustling through the trees outside, and noticed a few dried leaves blow along the sidewalk in front of the little girl, visible only for the couple of seconds during which they were passing through the pool of light on the ground. A few seconds later, the child turned abruptly and ran away, vanishing from sight the instant she hit the blackness beyond the street lamp’s tiny circle of illumination.
Susan pinched her gown together around her neck and let the curtain fall shut again. She noticed a bit of sweat on her forehead as she returned to the bed. She laid back down slowly and pulled the covers up around her chin, but it was no use. She would sleep no more that night.
“You didn’t hear anything during the night, did you?”, she asked Don the next morning at breakfast. “Nope,” said Don, “I was so exhausted last night I coulda slept through an earthquake, Honey.” He took a sip of his coffee. “Why?”, he asked, “What’d you hear?”
Susan stood at the kitchen sink, looking out the window. “Some kids playing out in the street,” she replied.
“What’s so unusual about that?”, harumphed her husband.
“It was around 3 A.M., that’s what,” said Susan as she sat back down at the table. “Not only that, but when I looked out the window, I saw a little girl in a Hallowe’en costume standing across the street. Just. . . standing there, looking back at me.”
“I’m not surprised,” replied Don, wiping his mouth with his napkin. “Remember how you said you spent the whole evening talking about Hallowe’en and stuff with Tyler and Jody. . .?
“I didn’t know you listened to anything I said last night.” she remarked.