When Robert Townsend moves to the small town of Setauket, he is not prepared for the fervency that is Halloween. In Robert’s opinion, Halloween doesn’t even count as a holiday; on the contrary, it’s a shameless cash grab by commercial America, one last desperate attempt to squeeze money from delusional parents and children before the great farce that is the Christmas season.
And who the hell likes pumpkin flavoured anything??
(Robert does. Robert loves pumpkin pie, but after his first day in Setauket when the ice-breaker question at school- ice breaker questions are also bullshit- is what he’s going to dress up as for Halloween he returns home and vows to never enjoy the taste of pumpkin anything ever again.)
Robert quickly learns to hate Halloween with a burning passion, to the point where as the months go on and summer fades into fall he develops a pulsing vein on the side of his neck at the mere mention of anything related to that stupid holiday.
That does mean that his candy consumption dips dramatically and eventually falls to nothing, but it’s a sacrifice that he’s willing to make. It makes his dad happy, anyway.
So when Mary, the only tolerable person that he has even met at his new school, comes up to him on September 25th and politely asks whether he would be interested in trick-or-treating with her and her group of friends, it’s all that he can do to remain civil.
“No,” he says and stands up and leaves, abandoning his lunch on the cafeteria table.
Well, maybe not that civil.
Robert groans as he hears Ben’s voice but stops walking and waits for the other boy to catch up nonetheless. Ben is, after all, a golden retriever in human form and Robert doesn’t have so many friends as to alienate one lightly, even if it is, as he suspects, to do with that holiday that shall remain unnamed.
“What is it, Benjamin?” Robert asks once Ben halts, panting beside him, hair slipping out of its ponytail and into his eyes.
Ben grins up at him, and Robert’s heart sinks because he knows that look. That is a look that generally precedes a month’s worth of detention. Slowly, inexorably, Robert’s eyes are drawn to the large box of eggs that Ben is holding.
“…no,” Robert says, backing away slightly as though physical distance will protect him.
Ben’s smile gets even wider, flashing his annoying perfect teeth up at him. “Charles Lee deserves it,” he says. “Anyway, this is the one time of the year that we can get away with it-”
Robert raises his hand, as if to ward off the words.
“This is definitely a plan that Caleb came up with,” he says. “And none of you idiots are going to be able to pull it off without me. It looks like I don’t have a choice.”
Looking at Robert’s small smile Robert gets a sinking suspicion that he’s being played.
“One condition,” he growls, starting to stride off to Abe’s house where he knows the rest will be gathered, “this is just a random- and idiot- act of pettiness. This has nothing to do with any so-called holidays that might be coincidentally taking place tonight. Understood?”
Ben’s lips twitch. “Understood,” he agrees gravely.
“And I’m not wearing a costume!”
Robert opens the door. Blinks at the sight. And then slams it shut again.
Anna is laughing at him. He’s certain of it.
“Come on Robert!” she says. “It’s our last year of high school. I’m determined to get you into costume at least once! Everyone’s going to be dressed up, and we even brought you one; Abe picked it out for you!”
Robert shudders, shaking his head and trying to get the image of Abe, dressed in stupidly tight white trousers with a blue coat and a cheap wig, out of his head. That’s at least half the problem!
“I’m ill!” he yells through the door, not even caring about the way his voice cracks in the middle of his sentence. It adds veracity to his words, in any case.
And then he runs back up the stairs to his room, buries himself in his pillows, and wonders whether it’s possible to die from embarrassment.
Caleb ambushes him outside of his dorm room with a wide smile, a six pack of beer, and ludicrous amount of what Robert hopes is fake blood.
Some days, Robert regrets the fact that the four of them all decided to attend Georgetown together. This is one of these days.
“Why,” he asks despairingly, not sure whether he’s talking about the beer (they’re underage and Robert doesn’t drink), the (please be) fake blood (he hates this time of the year so much), or the fact that Caleb has a manic look to his eyes.
“Robert!” Caleb says, hoisting his beer in triumph.
“Baker!” he barks out, grabbing his roommate by the shoulders and thrusting him out in front of him like a sacrifice. His mind stalls, trying to find something, anything. He fails. Fucking Halloween.
“Got to go, library, bye!” he says instead and flees.
When he opens the door, he already knows that he’s fucked.
Because it’s Abe looking back at him. Abe with his windswept hair and his pink cheeks and his too-long hair that looks ridiculously soft.
Abe is dressed in a ridiculous white shirt that bares his chest and looks far too cold and flimsy for the fall weather, tight trousers (and Robert has a very embarrassing flashback to Abe’s costume a few years back that had literally reduced him to a hormonal mess). He’s holding a hat in his hands, adorned with a large and ridiculous feather that matches the one on his head. Which means…
“Abe…” Robert says weakly.
“Please?” Abe asks, looking up at him with unfairly pleading eyes. “I just want to spend one Halloween with my boyfriend. Just one, I promise.”
Robert swallows. Takes a deep breath. Curses himself for being a weak-willed fool.
And then he reaches out and takes the hat.
Just this once.