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Halloween on Piffling

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The morning of October 31st broke dim and gloomy in the village of Piffling Vale. Antigone stood at her bedroom window, a mug of strong, hot water in hand, and watched the fog creep its way across the empty village square. A perfectly gloomy start to a perfectly gloomy day, she thought. Across the square, the lights at Chapman’s flickered on. Naturally he’d be up early. Probably up planning yet another perfect funeral that they couldn’t compete with. Perfect Chapman with his perfect blonde hair and his perfect smile and– no she had to stop thinking about that. Her gaze wandered around the rest of the square, content with the silence.

The stillness was suddenly broken by a shout. “ANTIGONE! ANTIGONE WHERE ARE YOU?” Rudyard had evidently gotten up, but Antigone hadn’t the faintest idea what he could be on about this early in the morning. She rolled her eyes and blew on her hot water. Whatever it was, it could wait. The echo of footsteps and slamming doors reverberated through the house as Rudyard searched for his sister. Antigone continued to stare out the window, eyes now following Georgie as she crossed the square and entered the Funn’s house.

The bell downstairs rang gently as the door opened. “Antigone! Rudyard! Where are you?” Georgie called. “Oh hey Madeline! Know where Antigone and Rudyard have gotten off to?”

“I’m up here Georgie,” Antigone replied. “Be down in a minute.” As she turned her gaze from the window, Antigone heard footsteps pounding on the stairs and turned just in time to see Rudyard fling open her bedroom door.

“Now look here Antigone, I have been searching the entire house for you–”

She glared at him, setting down her mug and obviously annoyed at the intrusion of her privacy. “Yes Rudyard, well if I wanted to talk to you this early in the morning I would have answered you, wouldn’t I?”

“Antigone, I need you downstairs this inst–”

“Get out, get out, get out!” she cried, pushing him out the door. “I’ll come down when I bloody well feel like it, thank you very much!” She slammed the door behind him and went back to the window and her mug. The water that remained was lukewarm by then. No point in drinking it now.

Unwilling to go downstairs and face whatever her bothersome twin brother wanted from her, she stared out the window for a few minutes more, thinking about what the day might bring. It was Halloween, after all. Not that they ever really did much to celebrate. Georgie usually spent it with her Nana. As for Antigone and Rudyard, well every day was like Halloween for them. That was one of the side effects of being in the business of death. The only real difference between Antigone’s daily duties and Halloween was that one of them involved an excessive amount of sweets. Antigone supposed that her job at the funeral parlour could entail sweets as well, but the last time she had tried her hand at candy making, it hadn’t gone well. Chapman had been the only person that actually liked those chocolates she designed. She really didn’t understand him.

After a reasonable amount of time had passed, Antigone descended the stairs with her now cold mug of water to find Georgie rummaging through the cupboards. Rudyard sat with his feet propped on the table, reading the newspaper and sharing a biscuit with Madeleine.

“Georgina, what exactly are you doing?”

Georgie withdrew her head from the cupboard she was currently rooting through. “Oh, hey Antigone. I’m just searching for your wreath.”

“Wreath? Why are you searching for our wreath? It’s far too early for Christmas.”

“Yeah, well, I thought it would be appropriate. Y’know, since it’s Halloween and all.”

“Yes, I’m aware that it’s Halloween, but I don’t see what our wreath has to do with that.”

“Yeah, but it’s got little coffins and skulls on it, hasn’t it? That’s the kind of stuff you put up for Halloween.”

Rudyard’s voice came out from behind his paper. “I already told you before Georgie, we don’t decorate for Halloween. We’re a funeral home, not a circus.”

Antigone turned to her brother. “Whaaa– Why would you even say that? What do you even know about the circus?”

“I went once when we were children!”

“You didn’t want to be there! Besides, circuses don’t decorate for Halloween!”

“They might,” Georgie interrupted. “Marlene was talking about maybe doing a haunted circus next year. Something about ghost clowns. I don’t think I’ll go though. It’s disrespectful to the spirits.”

Haunted circus? Ghost clowns? Was nothing sacred anymore? Antigone wished that for once, just once, people would respect the sanctity of death. It was nonsense like that that made people think of her profession as nonsense. Necessary, yes, but nonsense all the same.

“Yes, well, that’s just my point,” said Rudyard, turning to the page of his paper. “No need to decorate if we’re going to be associated with stuff like that. We are a business, after all.”

Georgie turned to Antigone. “Please can I just hang up the wreath? Please please please? My Nana and I used to decorate every year. Just the one spooky wreath.” Antigone looked at her friend and let out a small sigh. “Fine, we’ll make an exception. Just the wreath.”

“Yes!” Georgie gave a very enthusiastic fist pump and danced a little from side to side. “So where is it?”

“In the attic,” Antigone said, “but it’s–” She was cut off by the slam of the attic door. Georgie had sprinted up the stairs before Antigone could even finish her sentence. Apparently that wreath meant more to her than she thought. A minute later, Georgie came downstairs with the dust-covered wreath. While it did seem to be an appropriate decoration for the day, a few of the skulls were coming loose and some of the coffin doors were falling off. “I was going to tell you,” said Antigone, “It’s looking a bit worse for wear.”

“Oh, don’t worry about that.” Georgie grinned. “I’m great at fixing wreaths.”

An hour later, the newly refurbished wreath hung on the Funn’s front door, the mini coffins gleaming in the sun that was now poking through the clouds. A thin layer of dust still covered the wreath though. Georgie said it gave it character. By that point, the Funns, Georgie, and Madeline were all getting ready to sit down to breakfast. Normally they didn’t do that sort of thing, but Georgie had insisted on making pumpkin pancakes. Seeing as they had no work to attend to, the Funns had allowed it. Plus, it seemed important to Georgie. Now she was going on about some movie called The Nightmare Before Christmas. Antigone and Rudyard didn’t understand much of it, but they listened all the same. “It’s made by this guy named Tim Burton, see?” Georgie said, obviously excited. “It’s about this skeleton bloke named Jack who’s the Pumpkin King in this place called Halloween Town, but then he decides to steal Christmas–”

“Christmas?” interrupted Rudyard, his confusion evident. “Georgie, I thought you said this was a Halloween movie.”

“Yeah well it is, but it also involves Christmas. Anyways, this Tim Burton guy is great. All of his movies are really weird and spooky. Nana and I used to watch a few every year for Halloween. I think you lot would really like them Antigone.”

“Mmm,” Antigone hummed, unsure if she’d really like it or not. It didn’t sound like the kind of cinema she was used to. Her kind of cinema tended to involve passion, French, and subtitles, but she wasn’t about to bother Georgie with that.

Before Georgie could tell the Funns about other things she and her Nana used to do on Halloween, a soft ring signaled someone coming through the front door. Assuming that someone might be in need of their services, Antigone rose and called out “Be with you in a moment!” Before she could make it very far however, a very familiar face poked out from the door leading to the kitchen.

“Good morning Funns! Georgie, Madeline.” Eric Chapman beamed at them. “Oh wow, it smells lovely in here. Did someone make pancakes?” He slid into the room, inhaling deeply. His blonde hair was impeccable as always and he was dressed in a burgundy cable knit sweater, dark jeans, and worn sneakers. More casual than his usual business look, but one that suited him all the same. “Nothing like a warm breakfast on a chilly autumn morning.”

Rudyard stared incredulously at his rival. “Now look here Chapman, you can’t just come barging into my kitchen–”

“Morning Eric,” Georgie called from the stove. “I’ve made my Nana’s pumpkin pancakes for Halloween breakfast. Secret recipe.” She winked as she flipped the last pancake off the frying pan and on to the plate at her side. She brought it over to the table and set it down next to the syrup and milk. “Well everyone, dig in.” Antigone sat herself at the table again as Rudyard began to help himself to pancakes and syrup. Georgie was starting to serve Madeline her special mouse-sized pancakes when Chapman cleared his throat.

“Well, I don’t want to keep you from what looks to be a very good breakfast–”

“How very good of you Chapman,” interjected Rudyard, somewhat absentmindedly. Normally he would have looked up to deliver some scathing remark, but he was very focused on drowning his pancakes in as much syrup as possible.

“Yes, well as I was saying,” Chapman began again, hoping he wouldn’t be interrupted. “I just wanted to invite you all to the Halloween party that I’m throwing tonight. It’ll be loads of fun, the whole village will be there!”

Rudyard stopped pouring copious amounts of syrup to look at Chapman. “Party? Why on earth would we want to go to a party?”

Chapman sighed. This behavior was to be expected, but it really got to be quite tiring. “To have fun, Rudyard. To laugh, have a drink, and get away from work for a while! Surely you can’t say no to that.”

“I can and I will,” Rudyard huffed. “I don’t go to parties, and neither does Antigone. Or Madeleine. Or Georgie.”

“I love parties,” said Georgie.

“Yes well that is beside the point. Besides, I think Halloween is overwrought. And we are going to watch a Christmas movie tonight, aren’t we Georgie?”

“The Nightmare Before Christmas is more for Halloween, but yeah.”

“See? So thank you for your invitation Chapman, but we are very busy tonight and therefore won’t be able to attend your ‘party.’” He drew finger quotes in the air as he said the last word.

Chapman rolled his eyes in annoyance. “I don’t know why you have to talk about it like that Rudyard. Parties aren’t a bad thing. And it is going to be a ‘party’, the whole town is going to be there! We’re going to have dancing, bobbing for apples, trick-or-treating, a pumpkin carving contest, and even a haunted house! I called in favor from an acting troupe I used to be in...a long time ago.”

Georgie stabbed at her pancakes, obviously not interested in Chapman’s mysterious past. “Look Eric, we appreciate the offer but I think we’re going to stay here tonight. Besides, Halloween is disrespectful to the spirits.”

Chapman turned to Antigone. “What about you Antigone? You haven’t said a word, are you just going to stay in with them?”

Antigone’s cheeks flushed. She really wasn’t used to someone asking for her opinion like that. “Yes, well you see, I-I-I-” she stammered. He always managed to catch her off guard, it was so unfair. She took a deep breath and tried again. “I-I think I’m going to stay in tonight. I don’t really do...parties.” The last word came out quietly. The truth was, Antigone Funn didn’t do much of anything outside of her mortuary. Sure, she went to the cinema on Thursday evenings and occasionally left the house to go to the market or attend a funeral, but she rarely attended a party. They never ended well for her.

Chapman sighed. It really was no use. “Well, if you change your minds the party starts at eight. Also, there’s going to be a costume contest, so you can dress up if you like! I think Des said something about a dressing up as a vampire?”

“Ah yes,” muttered Rudyard. “The mayor has been using that costume since we were children.”

“Right. Well, like I said, it starts at eight. Come and join the party if you like. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourselves!” And with that, Eric Chapman left the kitchen and made his way out of the house, the bell above the door announcing his exit.

Chapter Text

After breakfast, Antigone found herself alone at the kitchen table. Georgie had received a call from the mayor asking her to help him locate his cape for that night’s party so she left, promising to come back with her collection of Tim Burton films and a television. The Funns had a television, but it was one of those old ones with an antenna on the top and dials instead of a remote. They never used it. Antigone actually wasn’t even sure it worked. Either way, Georgie insisted that she would bring over her TV so they could watch The Nightmare Before Christmas together that night. Antigone tried to suggest that they go over to Georgie’s house to save her the trip, but Georgie wanted to watch it at the Funn’s. There wasn’t much you could do once Georgie made up her mind, so Antigone dropped the subject.

Antigone decided that her time would be best spent creating more scented embalming fluids. While they were unlikely to have any customers soon (customers were always so scarce these days), she found the process of mixing the different chemicals soothing. She left the kitchen and poked her head into the front room where Rudyard was laying face down on the couch.

“Rudyard, I’m going down to my mortuary, I’ll come up when I feel like it. Don’t disturb me unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Rudyard gave out a muffled groan in response. He had developed a stomach ache after breakfast and decided to go lie down. Unfortunately, he had never learned how much syrup was too much when it came to pancakes.

Antigone rolled her eyes. “Thank you,” she said, and turned to the door that led to her mortuary. She descended the dark steps, sure of the way down due to the years she had spent down here in the dark. She flicked the light switch at the bottom of the stairs. The fluorescents hummed to life as she made her way over to the cabinets where she kept her chemicals and began the familiar process of experimenting with various quantities and scents. Finally, she could have some peace.

Antigone only ascended the steps of her mortuary when she heard Georgie calling for her upstairs. As usual, she had gotten lost in her work and lost track of time. It was dark out now, except for the twinkling lights over at Chapman’s. His place was always brighter than the surrounding buildings (how could it not be) but his decorations for the Halloween party made his place all the brighter.

Georgie was in the living room, dragging the ancient television set across the floor. Rudyard was still on the couch, though no longer face down. “Oh hey Antigone,” Georgie greeted as she entered the room. “I’m just getting set up. Should be done soon.”

Antigone looked out the living room windows. She could make out the silhouettes of the residents of Piffling Vale making their way to the party across the square. Muffled music made its way into the Funn’s house, reminding Antigone of Chapman’s invitation earlier that day. While part of her wanted to go, she felt that it was best to stay where she was. This is where she knew she was safe. “It looks like Chapman’s party has started,” she commented to the room at large, not really looking for a response.

“Ah, yes,” said Rudyard, sounding unimpressed. “The music has been going for a while now. I don’t know how we’re going to be able to hear the movie.”

“Don’t worry, sir,” said Georgie. “This television has great volume. We won’t be able to hear the party at all. And yeah Antigone, the party started about a half hour ago. I imagine that most of the town is there by now.”

Their preparations for the movie were interrupted by a sudden knock at the door. Antigone turned away from the window. “I can get it. You keep setting up, Georgie.”

“If it’s Eric Chapman again tell him that we are definitely not going to his party,” Rudyard called after her.

Antigone rolled her eyes and made her way to the front door. She seriously doubted that Chapman would come over to extend his invitation a second time, but she also didn’t know who else would be calling at this time of night, especially when the whole town was likely at the party across the square. She opened the door, prepared to tell Chapman that they wouldn’t be attending, but instead found herself face to face with Jennifer Delacroix. 

“Oh, hi Antigone,” she said, rocking back on her heels a bit. “Is, um...is Georgie here? I stopped by her place and couldn’t find her.”

“Yes, yes she is,” Antigone responded. “I can get her, if you like?”

Jennifer’s face broke into a grin. “That would be great, thank you!”

“Right, I’ll get her then.” Antigone made her way back to the living room where Georgie was still setting up the television. “Um, Georgie? It’s for you.”

“For me?” Georgie turned to look at Antigone, obviously puzzled. “Who would be looking for me? I already left everything sorted out for the mayor’s costume. He can’t have possibly–”

“No,” Antigone interrupted. “It’s not the mayor, don’t worry. It’s Jennifer Delacroix. She wants to talk to you, I think.”

Georgie’s eyes lit up. “Oh, right,” she said, getting up from the floor. “I’ll go see what she needs. I’ll just be a sec.” She left the room, looking more excited at the prospect of talking to Jennifer than she had looked at the thought of watching The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Rudyard glanced at his sister from his spot on the couch. “What’s all that about?”

“I have no idea,” Antigone replied, not completely truthfully. Ever since the Mayor and the Reverend’s wedding she had noticed that Georgie was spending more time with Jennifer. She knew that they had gone out for coffee, but Georgie hadn’t really shared much beyond that. Antigone didn’t want to pry either. With the appearance of Jennifer, however, she had the sneaking suspicion that their evening plans were about to change.

A few minutes later, Georgie sidled back into the room. Antigone knew immediately that something was up. Georgie was the type of person that liked to get straight to the point, but she currently looked like a kid preparing to ask their parents a question that she was scared to get an answer to. “So...I know that we planned on watching these movies tonight…” she paused, obviously trying to choose the right words.

“Yes, we did,” Antione said slowly, waiting for the rest of whatever Georgie was trying to say.

Rudyard propped himself up on his elbow, his brow furrowed. “Georgie, are you trying to change our plans?” he asked somewhat aggressively.

“No, sir!” she said quickly. “Well...Jennifer just stopped by–”

“So you want her to join us?” Rudyard interrupted.

“Rudyard, hush!” hissed Antigone, punching him in the arm.

“Ow! Antigone–”

"Jennifer was wondering if I would go to the Halloween party with her,” Georgie blurted out.

The Funns stared at her. Antigone had expected this, but Rudyard looked miffed. “Now look here, Georgie,” he said sternly, “We have plans for tonight. We can’t just go changing them!”

Antigone glared at her brother. “Oh would you shut up!” she cried. He was so clueless sometimes! It was astonishing, really.  She turned back to Georgie, regaining her composure. “You were saying, Georgie?”

“Right, well, Jennifer was wondering if I was going to the Halloween party with anyone and if I wasn’t, she was wondering if I would like to go with her. I know it’s very short notice and I know that we were going to watch a movie, but…” she paused again. “Well I was wondering if I could go? I don’t just want to leave you two hanging though. I don’t want to be a bad friend.”

Rudyard opened his mouth to reply, but Antigone cut in before anything regrettable could escape. “Don’t worry about us Georgie. You go have fun. We’ll find something to do around here.” She gave what she hoped was an encouraging smile.

“Really?” said Georgie excitedly. “You don’t mind?”

“I mind!” exclaimed Rudyard.

Antigone whirled around to face her brother again, her eyes flashing. “Rudyard can’t you just let her have this night out?”

“She can have a night out, but it can’t be tonight. We made plans! We were going to spend the evening together! Company bonding time!”

Antigone snorted. “You don’t care about company bonding time!”

“Well I don’t want to be left alone either!” he huffed.

He really was clueless, wasn’t he? “Rudyard,” Antigone said, her voice dangerously low. “Let Georgie go to the party.”

“Fine! Fine,” he said, falling dramatically back onto the couch, draping his arm over his eyes. “Georgie, you can go to the party with Jennifer.”

Georgie looked from Rudyard to Antigone, her discomfort evident. “Well, I don’t have to. You have a point sir, I did make plans with you two first.”

“No, Georgie,” said Antigone, firmly. “You go, we’ll be fine.”

Georgie looked at the ceiling and let out a long breath. “Well...what if you two come with us? Then we could still spend Halloween together. I know parties aren’t really your thing, but it might be fun.” She looked back at the Funns. She could tell they weren’t particularly keen on going, but she hoped they might accept. As fun as a night with Jennifer would be, she didn’t want to leave them behind. They were her family, after all.

It was Antigone that broke the silence first. “Isn’t...isn’t it a costume party though? We haven’t got any costumes.”

“I’ve got a box of costume stuff back at my place,” said Georgie. “I could run over and get it if you like. There’s sure to be something in there that would work.”

Antigone looked at Rudyard. “Well, what do you think?” she asked. He lifted his arm off his eyes and looked back, obviously annoyed that his night at home was about to be changed. “I don’t want to go to Chapman’s party, but it sounds like you’re the one making the decisions now,” he said, and covered his eyes again. Antigone was grateful that he had stopped fighting, but she really hated all the responsibility being placed on her. On one hand, she wanted to support Georgie and go to the party. On the other, she was scared that it would end just like every other party that she had attended: disastrously. While her social skills had improved in recent months, she didn’t know if she would actually be able to interact with people and enjoy herself. Still, she wouldn’t know unless she tried, right?

She looked back at Georgie, wanting to get the words out before her resolve broke. “Alright, we’ll go with you and Jennifer,” she said, hoping she didn’t sound as nervous as she felt. 

Surprise and joy flooded Georgie’s face. “Wait, really? You really mean it?”

“Y-yes,” stammered Antigone. She really did want to go, but she was terrified. Rudyard said nothing. At least he wasn’t fighting anymore.

“Thank you!” Georgie ran over and gave Antigone a tight hug. “I left Jennifer waiting on the doorstep. We’ll go get the costumes at my place and then we’ll come right back!” She ran out of the room. Antigone could hear some excited chatter at the front door, then it shut. She began to wring her hands. What had she just agreed to? Was this even a good idea? Whatever her thoughts, she couldn’t back out now. She could only hope that this night would be a good one.

Thirty minutes later, the bell above the front door signaled Georgie and Jennifer’s return. “Alright we’re back!” Georgie shouted. A moment later they appeared in the front room, a box of costumes in Georgie’s arms. “Sorry we took so long, we decided to pick out our costumes first.” She and Jennifer wore matching black and white striped shirts and black beanies. “We’re partners in crime!” Jennifer said with excitement, and took a seat in one of the chairs. Georgie set the box down and turned, her eyes landing on Rudyard first. “Sir, come here. We’ve got to dress you up somehow.”

“No, Georgie, I am a professional ,” he said, drawing out the last word as if it would make up for all the dropped coffins and graveside fights. “People won’t respect a funeral director that dresses up for some silly holiday.”

“But sir, you can’t just show up to a costume party without a costume!”

“Nonsense Georgie, of course I can.” He stood up from the couch, smoothing his slacks and adjusting the sleeves on his shirt.

“Sir, would you– look, will you at least put on this pair of suspenders? They’ll make you look professional and it’ll add something new to your outfit.”

He looked at them, reluctance written all over his face. “They have spiderwebs printed on them, Georgie.”

“Exactly sir. They’re thematic .”

Rudyard stared at her for a moment, then let out a small huff. “Alright, fine,” he said, taking them from her. “Oh hang on,” said Georgie, turning back to the box. “Ah! Found it! This will complete the outfit.” She turned back to Rudyard, a matching bowtie in her palm. Rudyard pursed his lips, but took it from her without further complaint.

Her first task accomplished, she turned to Antigone and contemplated her for a minute, stroking her chin as she thought. “Ah ha!” she snapped her fingers. “I’ve got it. Don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. We’ll dress you up as Wednesday Addams! You’ve already got the dress and the look, we just have to braid your hair. I didn’t bring a hair brush though. Do you still have that one that Miss Scruple gave you?”

“Yes, it’s upstairs,” Antigone replied. She knew that Georgie had mentioned this character before, but she didn’t know anything about her.

“Right then, go get it. I’ll look for some elastics. Hurry up, we haven’t got time to waste!” Georgie ushered her up the stairs. “You’re going to look great Antigone, promise.”

After what felt like an eternity, they were ready to go to the party. Georgie had smoothed Antigone’s long, black hair into two identical braids, all while explaining who exactly the Addams Family was (“They like gloomy stuff, but they’re not sad, understand?”). She also convinced Antigone to let Jennifer put on some mascara and simple black eyeliner (“You’ve got to complete the look!”). Thankfully, Antigone hadn’t had to change the rest of her outfit. It was a good thing, too. Any more changes to her usual routine might have caused her to lose her resolve. She went back to her room to replace the hair brush and caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. She stopped and leaned in, taking in her styled hair and the makeup. It wasn’t anything drastic, but she did look different. Pretty, even, if she dared admit it. She took a deep breath and stared her reflection in the eyes. “Your name is Antigone Funn. You’re the best mortician on this whole bloody island and tonight you’re going to a party. It is not going to be a disaster and you’re going to enjoy yourself!” She stared at herself sternly and nodded once, turned on her heel, and went back downstairs to join the others.

She found Georgie, Jennifer, and Rudyard in the hall by the front door. Madeleine was sitting on Rudyard’s shoulder, a tiny cat-ear headband perched atop her head. “Well looks like everyone’s ready to go,” observed Antigone. “Even Madeleine got dressed up.”

“Yeah,” said Georgie. “I realized that she was the only one without a costume so I whipped up a tiny pair of cat ears for her. Thought it would be ironic.” Madeleine squeaked in response. “Don’t mention it, Madeleine. I’m great at putting together costumes on short notice.” She looked at the others, face full of excitement. “Well, are we all ready to go?”

Antigone nodded, both nervous and excited. Rudyard let out a dramatic sigh. “Well, we better get this over with. Come on, Madeleine.” He opened the door and stepped outside.

“Don’t worry, sir,” said Georgie with a smile, looping her arm through Jennifer’s. “I’m sure you’ll have a great time.” They followed him out the door, leaving Antigone standing by herself in the hall. She took a deep, steadying breath and left the house, shutting the door gently behind her. She could only hope that Georgie was right.

Chapter Text

The walk across the square to Chapman’s took an eternity. Actually, it only took a minute and a half, but it felt much longer than that to Antigone. She clenched and unclenched her hands a few times, trying to will the nervous energy out of her body. She had been over to Chapman’s before, and she hadn’t felt this nervous. Ah, but this is different , she thought.

The walkway leading to the front door was lined with jack-o-lanterns of varying sizes, all with different flickering faces. The doors were wide open, warm light spilling out of them and muffled music coming from one of the floors above. They entered and found that the entry had been decorated to look like a haunted house, complete with cobwebs on the chandelier and candles flickering on the tables. A sign indicated that the main party was in the ballroom on the third floor, so they got in the lift and rode up.

The lift doors opened to the biggest party Antigone had ever seen (with the exception of Mr. Noggin’s funeral, of course). Chapman was standing near the lift, chatting cheerfully with the Formerly Right Honorable Mayor Desmond Desmond and his husband, Reverend Wavering. The mayor was dressed up in his usual collared cape while the reverend was in a white tunic with a green cloak. Their conversation finished, and Chapman gestured them into the party. He looked up as Funn Funerals and Jennifer entered the room. He bounded over to them, a wide grin on his face. “Funns! Georgie! Jennifer! You made it!”

“Hello Chapman!” said Jennifer, clearly excited. “Sorry we’re late. The place looks great, love the decorations. How does it feel to be hosting the biggest event the island has seen this year?” She paused, her smile faltering a bit. “Gah, sorry. I’m trying to get used to talking to people normally.”

Chapman smiled kindly at her. “Don’t worry about it Jennifer, you’re fine. The mayor and the reverend just showed up too, actually. Something about Nigel participating in a Druid ceremony that went late. There’s been a great turnout tonight,” he added, looking pleased. “Nearly everyone’s dressed up too! I always find that Halloween is more fun when you dress up. Speaking of which, love the costumes.”

“Thanks!” Jennifer nudged Georgie. “It was all Georgie’s doing. Bit last minute, but she pulled it together splendidly.”

“I’m great at costumes,” said Georgie, nodding matter of factly. “So, Chapman, we’re here at your party. What is there to do?”

“I’m glad you asked, Georgie. As you can see, we have a typical fall fete going on here. Pumpkin carving is off to your left and bobbing for apples in the back. The stalls have games and food. Agatha Doyle is providing the sweets, so if you want any candy then her booth is the one to go to. Next, we have a haunted house in the basement. I called in a favor from an acting troupe I was a part of, so it’s quite good. Finally, we have dancing outside on the deck. I know a large group just went downstairs for the haunted house, so you might want to wait before heading down there. We can go together, if you like.”

“Right,” said Georgie. “I want to go explore the booths with Jennifer. Should we go through the haunted house in half an hour?”

“Fine by me,” said Antigone.

“Madeleine and I are going to find Agatha Doyle’s sweet booth,” said Rudyard, already walking away. “If you can’t find me, assume I’ve gone home!”

“Well looks like that’s that,” said Jennifer. “C’mon Georgie, I’m starving. See you two in a bit!” And with that, they were gone.

Antigone and Chapman watched the pair go. There was silence for a moment. Antigone didn’t know if she should go find something to do until they regrouped or if she should just stay where she was. Chapman was probably going to leave. He was the host, after all. He probably had things to do and people to talk to.

“I really am glad that you all came,” said Chapman abruptly. “I didn’t know if you would, but I hoped. And here you are.” Antigone made the mistake of looking at him. Unfortunately, he looked more handsome than normal tonight. Since it was a costume party, she had expected him to be dressed up as a pirate or something like that. Instead, he was dressed in a well-tailored tux. He smiled softly at her, making her feel as though she was going to combust. Who gave him permission to be so insufferably good looking? She suddenly realized that she had been staring at him a bit too long. Say something!

“And what are you supposed to be dressed as?” Antigone asked. It was a perfectly normal question, but she felt ridiculous all the same.

“Oh, I’m Bond. James Bond,” Chapman said with a grin. He fiddled with the watch on his left wrist and stared intensely into the distance. After a moment, he broke character and looked at her. “You can call me Eric, though.”

Antigone let out a high-pitched giggle that she quickly stifled with a cough. She clasped her hands behind her back, trying to act as though that hadn’t just happened.  “Ah, yes. I’ll keep that in mind. The character is a good fit for you.”

“You’ve seen the movies?” he asked, his shock evident. “I didn’t think you were really the action-adventure type.”

“I’m not,” she said. “I haven’t seen any of those films. Georgina has talked about them a few times though.”

“Oh, right. That makes sense.” He paused for a moment, then looked her up and down. “And you’re supposed to be Wednesday Addams, correct?”

“That’s what Georgie told me, yes.”

“Ah, well the braids were a dead giveaway. You look nice.” He smiled at her, his eyes showing the sincerity of the compliment.

Antigone’s cheeks flushed. He had complimented her on her creativity before but complimenting her looks? Now that was going too far.

“Have you seen the movie? The Addams Family , I mean.” Conversation seemed to come so easily to Chapman. She wished she knew how he did it.

“No, I can’t say I have,” she responded. “I don’t really watch movies.”

“I seem to recall that you take a weekly outing to go watch depressing French cinema,” he said, smiling knowingly.

“Wha- Well- I-” Antigone sputtered. “That’s different!”

Chapman laughed. “You’re right, you’re right. The Addams Family is completely different to your preferred genre, I’ll give you that.” He paused. “We could watch it together,” he continued, a little hesitantly. “Or something else, if you’d rather."

“Why?” The question left her lips without thinking.

Chapman shrugged. “I don’t know, I just thought it might be nice to spend some time together. I mean, we’re friends, right? I like...I like spending time with you, Antigone.”

Antigone froze. Why did he have to say things like that? “Yes,” she managed to say, slightly breathless. “That...that would be nice.”

She really didn’t know what she was agreeing to. What was it like to watch a movie with someone? She was so used to watching movies on her own. Watching a movie with someone would be nice though, right? Maybe they could talk about the motifs or their favorite bits of dialogue or the symbolism. Would he even want to do that? Was he even sure he wanted to watch a movie with her? It probably wouldn’t be just with her, come to think about it. He’d probably invite the whole village over to watch something. Or the village council, at the very least. Surely, it wouldn’t just be the two of them.

Antigone’s rapidly accelerating train of thought was brought to an abrupt halt by Chapman, once again. “Great! I look forward to it. It’ll be fun showing you something you’ve never seen before. I really think you’ll like it.” He smiled at her, his excitement evident.

“Yoo hoo! Chappers!” Antigone’s heart dropped. She could see Lady Templar approaching them over his shoulder. She was dressed in a flapper’s dress, cigarette holder in hand and a feather inserted into her headband. Chapman gave a small sigh, then turned to face her. “Hello Vivienne,” he said, somewhat wearily. 

“Such a lovely party you have here!” She smiled and looped her arm through his. “I certainly hope you’ve had time to enjoy it yourself. Have you been through the haunted house yet? I want to go, but I don’t have anyone to go with!” She gave a small pout.

“No, not yet,” he said. “I was planning on going later though.”

“We should go now!” She tugged on his arm. “Please Chappers, let’s go?”

His smile faltered. “I’m kind of talking to Antigone now, Vivienne.”

Lady Templar looked at Antigone for the first time and gave a bland smile. “Ah, I see. Hello, Antigone. Didn’t see you there.”

“Hello, Lady Templar,” said Antigone, quietly. “Nice costume.” Her gaze darted to the ground.

“Isn’t it?” said Lady Templar, flashing a smile. She returned her gaze to Chapman, pout in place once again. “Come on Chapman, why don’t we go? I’m sure Antigone won’t mind, she’ll be here when we’re done.” The rest of the conversation faded out of Antigone’s ears. Tension began to build in her chest and she felt as though she couldn’t breathe. Chapman was probably going to go off with Lady Templar, she didn’t see any reason why he wouldn’t. They were still in conversation, though Antigone couldn’t hear any of it. Lady Templar was tugging on Chapman’s hand, pulling him away from her. She didn’t know why she had expected that this party would be different from any others she had attended. She was Antigone Funn, after all. Nothing really changed for her. She looked around, wondering if she could slip away quietly, when she caught a reflection of herself in a nearby window. There she was at a party, hair braided, makeup on. No , she thought. Things are different. She remembered the pep talk she had given herself on the way out of her room. Her reflection in the window stared back at her. She couldn’t give up, not now. She was Antigone Funn, dammit, and she was going to enjoy herself.

“Eric,” she said abruptly. The conversation between him and Lady Templar stopped. They turned to face her, Lady Templar’s eyebrows raised. Antigone was not going to let her ruin this night. She straightened herself and looked him squarely in the eyes. “Eric, I think it’s time for us to go find Georgie and Jennifer.” 

Eric blinked a few times, looking slightly shocked. He turned to Lady Templar and smiled apologetically. “Right. Um...Vivienne, I promised Antigone that I’d take her and her friends through the haunted house. Sorry.” He extricated his hand from her grasp and offered his arm to Antigone.

“But– But–” sputtered Lady Templar. She looked furious. “You can’t be serious!”

Eric gave a small shrug. “Sorry, but I’ve already got plans.” Antigone put her arm in his and they began to walk away. “Thank you,” he said in a low voice. “I really didn’t know how I was going to get out of that one.”

“You could just say no,” she said, bemused. “Surely you must have done that before.”

He gave a short laugh. “Yes, well that doesn’t make it easy. People usually expect me to agree to things around here. In all sincerity though, thank you. I’d much rather spend my evening with you.”

Antigone blushed. “Don’t mention it.”

They paused at the edge of the booths. “Right,” said Eric, looking down at her. “Now all we have to do is find Georgie, Jennifer, and Rudyard.”

“Oh, I doubt you’ll be able to convince Rudyard to come,” she said, looking back at him. “He hates those kinds of things.”

“Well,” said Eric, giving her a smile that made her heart skip a beat. “Only one way to find out.”

They found Rudyard leaning against the wall near Agatha Doyle’s candy booth, sharing a sherbet dib dab with Madeleine. Antigone let go of Eric’s arm as they approached. She did not want to spend her evening listening to Rudyard accusing her of flirting with the competition. Eric spoke first. “Rudyard! How’s the party? Enjoying yourself?” Rudyard ignored the question and looked at Antigone instead. “Good, you’re here. Is it finally time to go home?”

Antigone rolled her eyes. She knew that he didn’t want to be here, but there was no need for him to be so rude. “Rudyard, don’t be ridiculous. We haven’t even been here a half hour.”

“Yes, well it’s been too long. There are too many people here. Are we going home?" 

“No, we’re going to go through the haunted house. Are you coming?”

“No, I don’t think I will. You know how I feel about Halloween. Everything is so faddish these days, haunted houses included.” Rudyard looked pointedly at Eric.

“Shame,” said Eric. “I thought this sort of stuff would be right up your alley.”

“And what exactly is that supposed to mean, Chapman?” Rudyard snapped, glaring at his rival.

“Nothing!” said Eric. “I just thought you actually might enjoy it. I get it though, haunted houses aren’t for everyone.”

Rudyard hooked his thumbs around his suspenders and stood up straight. While Eric had meant the words kindly, Rudyard took them as a challenge. “Well, Chapman, there you are mistaken. I am exactly the sort of man who can handle a haunted house.”

“Rudyard, I didn’t mean–”

“You think I’m not cut out for it? Just wait and see Chapman, wait and see.”

Eric gave an irritated sigh and shook his head. “Fine, have it your way. Now we just have to find Georgie and Jennifer.”

“Here we are!” Jennifer’s voice came from behind them. She and Georgie walked up, arm in arm. “Sorry we’re late, we lost track of time.”

Eric led them downstairs to the basement. The entrance of the haunted house was guarded by three hooded figures having an intense debate. They didn’t seem to notice the group until Eric cleared his throat. The debate stopped at once and the figure on the right began to speak. “Welcome to the Piffling Haunted– Oh, hey Miss Antigone!”

Antigone peered at the hooded figures, trying to make out their faces. “Hoodlums? Is that you?”

“Sure is,” said the one on the left.

“Didn’t expect to see you here Miss Antigone,” said the one in the middle. “Nice to see you out and about though! I expect you lot will be wanting to go through the haunted house?”

“Was it that obvious?” said Rudyard drily.

“Ignore him,” said Antigone, rolling her eyes. “But yes, we would like to go through.”

The hoodlums stepped to the side of the entrance. A purplish light glowed inside dimly as fog poured out around their feet. “Right this way then,” one of the hoodlums said.

Georgie, Jennifer, Rudyard, and Eric entered the haunted house. Antigone followed, but paused just past the doorway. Eric, realizing she was no longer beside him, stopped and looked back. “Are you coming?” he asked, nodding toward the tunnel the others had just gone through. Antigone nodded, but didn’t move. She wasn’t scared of the dark, but she was a bit scared of the things she knew would be lurking in the shadows. She felt a bit ridiculous, truth be told. She knew that the things inside couldn’t or wouldn’t hurt her, but she still felt trepidation all the same. Eric walked back to her. “If you’re scared, you don’t have to be.”

“That’s easy for you to say!” she retorted. “You’ve done this before! I’ve never...I’m just…” she sighed, frustrated with herself. Why was it so hard for her to form a coherent sentence? “I just need a minute, that’s all.”

He nodded. “I’ll wait for you. We’ll go whenever you’re ready. No rush.”

Antigone could tell he sincerely meant it but she still felt like she was wasting his time standing there. She took a few steadying breaths and nodded, fists clenched. “Alright, lets go.” She and Eric began walking down the tunnel, the darkness and fog enveloping them. 

“Antigone?”

“Yes, Eric?” The light was dim, but she could still see him. He held out his hand towards her. “You can hold my hand if you find it makes you feel better.”

Antigone backed away from him. “Wh– Why would I– you think I like holding people’s hands, Eric?”

“I mean you don’t have to,” he said, retracting his hand slightly. “I was just making an offer.”

“I didn’t say no,” she said quickly. She hesitated for a moment, then took his hand. Her stomach fluttered. What was she doing? Antigone blushed furiously, making her grateful for the low light. Eric laughed and shook his head. “What?” she asked, defensively.

“Nothing,” he said with a smile, giving her hand a squeeze. “Come on, let’s catch up with the others.”

Several hours had passed since Antigone and Eric had gone through the haunted house. She had managed it reasonably well, she thought. Sure, she shrieked whenever something had jumped out at her and she had clung to Eric’s hand perhaps a little too tightly, but he had been a good sport about it. The worst part was when a large spider dropped down onto her head. Naturally it wasn’t a real spider, but that didn’t stop it from being startling. Overall, it hadn’t been a terrible experience, though perhaps it was a bit more than she had signed up for. They met Georgie and Jennifer at the end. Georgie informed her that Rudyard had been frightened almost immediately by an actor dressed as a corpse and sprinted to the end, cursing the whole way. Jennifer wanted to go through again so she could have something to talk about on her talk show the next day so they left, leaving Eric and Antigone alone. Antigone now stood off to the side of the fete, observing the party around her. Eric had gone off to grab some mulled cider, leaving her to think about the evening. After the haunted house, Eric insisted on roaming the party together. They walked and talked, admiring the jack-o-lanterns the other villagers had carved, playing some of the games, and indulging themselves in food from the various booths. It had been an enjoyable evening, she thought. Certainly better than she anticipated when she left Funn Funerals earlier that night. It was getting late though. She stifled a yawn as Eric approached. “Crowd’s thinning out,” he noted, offering her a cup of cider. “I expect people will be going home soon. It’s nearly one in the morning.” Her fingers brushed his as she took the cup from him, tingling from the contact. He leaned against the wall next to her. “Will you be going home soon?” he asked.

“Oh, I don’t know.” Antigone blew on her cider and took a sip. “Rudyard went home hours ago, he’s probably asleep by now. I think Georgie left with Jennifer too. There won’t be much for me to do if I leave.”

“Stay here then,” said Eric hopefully. “I mean, if you’re tired you can go home, obviously. I’d enjoy it if you stayed though.”

“Alright then,” she said softly. “I’ll stay a bit longer.” He smiled at her, then looked around the room at the rest of the party. They stood there in silence, enjoying both the warmth of the cider and each other’s company. As Antigone sipped her drink, she couldn’t help but think that it had been one of the most enjoyable evenings of her life. She wasn’t quite ready to let it end just yet.

Chapter Text

Antigone yawned as she knotted the top of the trash bag she was holding. It was nearly 3:30 in the morning. The last of the guests had cleared out about a half hour before, but she had stayed behind to help Eric tidy up. She didn’t mind staying later, but Christ, she was tired. She was about to yawn again, but the sudden presence of a hand on her shoulder made her jump. She dropped the bag she was holding and turned to see Eric standing behind her. “Sorry, sorry!” said Eric, hands up and looking apologetic. “Didn’t mean to startle you.”

Antigone shook her head a bit, trying to shake off the drowsiness that had overcome her. “No, no, you’re f-fine,” she said, unsuccessfully trying to stifle a yawn.

Eric smiled gently. “Come on,” he said, “You look exhausted. I’ll walk you home.”

She looked at him, brow slightly furrowed. “Eric, I just live across the square.”

“Yes, I’m aware,” he said, placing his hand on the small of her back and guiding her toward the lift. “But I want to walk you home all the same.”

“Oh...well...alright then,” she said, too tired to argue any further. They entered the lift and rode down without another word. Normally Antigone dreaded quiet moments like this, but this time she found the silence to be comfortable. With a soft ding the lift’s doors opened and the pair crossed the entry. Eric opened the front door and let Antigone pass. A cold breeze was blowing in off the ocean, helping her wake up a bit. She gave an involuntary shudder. “Here,” said Eric, taking off his suit jacket and placing it around her shoulders. “Thank you,” she said quietly, putting her arms through and drawing it around herself. The warmth and weight were comforting, and she was grateful for the protection from the cold. Stray wisps of hair blew around her face as she looked across the square to Funn Funerals, where all the lights were out except for the one in her bedroom. She must have forgotten to turn it off earlier in her rush to leave.

“Shall we?” Eric offered her his arm. Antigone took it silently, and he led them off to the left, away from both Chapman’s and Funn Funerals. “Um, Eric,” she said. “Where are we going?”

“Thought we’d take the long way home, if that’s ok with you,” he said.

“The long way?” she asked.

“Yes, well, if you take the direct route then it’s over too quickly,” he explained. “The scenic route is always better.”

“...Right,” she said, still not completely understanding his reasoning. Scenic route? What on earth was he going on about? It was just the village square, they had both seen it before.

“So,” continued Eric, “did you enjoy yourself?”

“Yes, I think so,” she said, reflecting on the evening.

“Think so?”

“I mean the interaction with Lady Templar was unpleasant but–” she stopped herself. “Sorry, I shouldn’t say things like that.”

“No, it’s fine,” said Eric. “You’re right. Vivienne can be a bit...much, at times.”

Antigone cast a sideways glance at him. “Aren’t you two friends or something?” 

“Well, yes,” he said. “We haven’t been that close as of late though.”

“Oh,” she replied, not really sure what else to say. “I’m sorry.”

Eric shrugged. “Don’t be.” There was a moment’s pause as they rounded the far end of the square, passing the darkened storefront of The Broken Tooth. “Anyways,” he continued, “what was your favorite part of the night?”

Antigone thought for a moment. “The food, I think. Some of the games were enjoyable too. What was yours?”

“Hmm. I think I’d have to go with you trying to fight off that spider that dropped on your head in the haunted house,” he said with a wink.

“What?? No, you’re lying.”

“It was! I didn’t know you were quite so good at self-defense.” He nudged her teasingly.

“Oh, shut up,” she said, rolling her eyes. They were in front of Funn Funerals now.

“Ok, ok,” he chuckled, coming to a stop in front of the door and turning to face her. “Really though, Antigone, I enjoyed spending the evening with you.”

Antigone drew his jacket closer around her, trying to stifle whatever feelings were bubbling up in her chest, and dropped her gaze. “I enjoyed it too, Eric.”

“I’d like to do that more often, if you’ll give me the chance.”

Antigone could feel her face reddening. She nudged a nearby rock with her toe. “What, go to more parties together?”

“I mean if you want to,” he said. “Or we could do something else, just the two of us.”

She inhaled sharply at the suggestion and took a step back. “I’ll have to get back to you about that.” She gave the reply without thinking, and instantly regretted it. Why didn’t she just say yes? Unsure of how to recover, she continued. “It’s late, I should really be getting to bed.” She glanced up at him and could see confusion written on his face. “Oh...ok then. Let me know what you decide,” he said. Antigone could hear the attempt to sound nonchalant in his voice. It stung.

“Yes, well...goodnight,” she said, turning towards the door.

“Night,” he replied, quietly. Without another word, she opened the door to Funn Funerals and slipped inside.

Antigone closed the door as quietly as she could, hoping beyond hope that she wouldn’t wake Rudyard. The last thing she needed was to be berated by her brother for arriving home so late, and escorted by the competition, no less. She leaned against the door and took a deep, steading breath. Had she just been asked on a date ? No, that couldn’t be. Unless…? As she took a step further into the house, she realized that she was still wearing Eric’s jacket. “Oh, Christ,” she hissed to the darkness. She tried to reason with herself that it wasn’t a big deal, that she could just give it back tomorrow. No, no, that wouldn’t do. She had to embalm Mrs. Erstwhile tomorrow, and she didn’t think she could get away without Rudyard noticing. There was nothing for it. She opened the front door, hoping that Eric hadn’t made it back to his place yet. Thankfully, he was only halfway across the square. “Eric!” she whispered. He didn’t turn, so she whispered his name again, a bit louder this time. He heard her, and turned to see her scurrying across the square. “Oh, hey Antigone,” he said. “What are you–”

“You forgot this,” she said, extending his jacket to him. “Or, rather, I forgot to return this to you.”

“Oh,” he said, looking surprised. “I completely forgot about that. Thank you.” He took the jacket from her and draped it over his arm. The silence hung between them, neither of them sure of what to do next. Eric spoke first. “I forgot to thank you.”

Antigone looked up at him, confused. “For what?”

“For spending the evening with me, Antigone. I wasn’t lying when I said that I enjoyed it.”

“Oh, right. You don’t have to thank me,” she said, clasping her hands in front of her. “I mean if anything, I should be thanking you for staying with me. I’m not very good at parties. This one was better though.”

Eric smiled kindly at her, making her stomach flutter distractingly. “Don’t mention it.”

A moment’s silence passed between them as Antigone tried to steel herself to say the words she had meant to say earlier. “Eric, about what you asked. I-” she paused. “I would like that. To spend more time with you, I mean.”

His eyes lit up. “Really?” he said, looking more excited than she’d seen him look all evening.

“Yes, really,” she said, an equally excited smile forming in spite of herself.

“Okay, how about a movie then? We talked about that earlier, maybe we could do Friday night? And we can just do it at my place. Bit easier.”

Antigone nodded, her heart hammering furiously. “That sounds great.”

Eric grinned at her. “Alright then. Friday night. Be ready at eight, I’ll pick you up.”

She paused. “Ah, I’m not so sure that’s a good idea. Rudyard might not be pleased if you showed up to take me on a…” she couldn’t quite manage to get the last word out.

“A date,” Eric finished.

“Yes. That. A date.” she said. The word felt strange on her tongue.

“Fair enough,” he replied. “You’re right, it’s probably not the best way to begin the evening. Come over at eight then? I’ll walk you home after.”

“Alright,” said Antigone. “I should really go home now, it’s late and I have to embalm Mrs. Erstwhile tomorrow.”

“Ah, right,” said Eric. “I’ll let you go. Goodnight then.”

“Goodnight,” she said, and turned to go.

“Hey Antigone,” said Eric, catching her hand and pulling her back to face him. They were close now, closer than they had been all evening. Antigone’s heart stopped as she looked at him. He gave her a soft smile, the kind that gave her butterflies in her stomach and made her fingers tingle. Oh God, what was he doing? He hesitated for a moment, then gave her a kiss on the cheek. “See you on Friday.”