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Story time!

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We were sitting in the living room. Well, Arthur, Zoe, and I were sitting on the sofa in front of the fireplace; the children were sitting on the ground in a circle, a big bowl of candies in the center. Today is Halloween, and we all went trick-or-treating with the children in the village. With surprise, it all went well, considering the enormous amount of candies we gathered.



The children were telling which costume they saw in the village, the scariest, the funniest, the prettiest, and the ugliest (though there weren’t many). A conversation mostly between the children as Arthur, Zoe, and I were enjoying a warm cup of tea and the children’s fascinated retelling and laughs.



I turn to look at Arthur, sitting to my right. He was looking at the children with fondness and such warmth in his eyes and smile.



I couldn’t take my eyes off of his face. The light of the fireplace created amber reflections in his hair. It looked like fire itself, befitting of a phoenix.



I wanted to touch it, touch his warmth. I could feel it by looking at him.



“Linus!”



It was Talia’s voice.



I looked at the children. I was so focused on Arthur’s looks I forgot the children were here.



“What?”



“You didn’t hear, were you?” Talia asked.



“Of course not! He was busy looking at Arthur. He looked like he could eat him whole!” Lucy grinned. He opened his mouth again, but Arthur beat him at it.



“Enough with the teasing, Lucy,” Arthur said.



I looked back at him and noticed his ears were a dark shade of pink.



So he noticed I was staring. I wasn’t aiming for subtlety, but I wasn’t aiming for him to notice either.



I looked back at the children quickly.



“I’m sorry. Could you repeat, please?” I asked Talia.



Lucy beat her to that. “We were telling each other the scariest thing that happened to us!” he explained with excitement in his voice and shiny eyes of blue and red.



The scariest thing that happened to us?



I looked at Sal with worry, thinking about the others’ stories or even his own memories, but he looked fine, smiling even.



I looked at the others, then at Arthur.



I this fine? I asked with my eyes, and he smiled.



“It doesn’t have to be the horror kind of scary,” Chauncey added.



“And you don’t have to tell something you don’t want others to know, obviously.” Sal smiled.



“And nobody will judge you for anything,” Arthur said.



Ah, so it seemed to be the kind of getting scared because of something ridiculous.



“So, I guess everyone told their story?” I asked.



The children nodded.



“Yes,” Arthur whispered.



Did he? I didn’t catch that because of my staring?! I’ll have to ask him later tonight.



“My turn then?”



More nodding.



I hummed, thinking and searching for a memory I could tell them.



“I was eight years of age. My mother and I lived in a small house in a small village. However, we had an enormous garden so my mother could grow many fruits and vegetables-”



“What sort of fruits and vegetables? Did you also have flowers?” Talia asked.



“Talia, what did we say about interrupting people?” Arthur asked with a slight frown.



“It’s okay,” I told him, putting my hand atop his resting hand on his thigh. “We had eggplants, zucchinis, tomatoes, lettuces, scallions, cilantro, beans, and a cherry tree and an apple tree. We also had a few rose bushes.”



“Only rose bushes?” Phee asked. “No other flowers?”



“Only rose bushes. My mother was already busy with all the vegetables, she couldn’t take care of more flowers by herself.”



I left out that she was also working an exhausting and shitty job at the nearest hotel back then.



Talia and Phee let out an ‘aww’ of disappointment.



“As I was saying, my mother used to grow fruits and vegetables. And behind our garden was a forest with tall trees and big leaves. The light barely made it through the leaves, even in summer. It was a dark and deep forest full of animals that made all kinds of strange noises in the night.”



I paused and looked at the children to gauge their reactions.



They were all silent and looking at me. I glanced at Sal to make sure I was not scaring him, and our eyes met. He smiled and nodded at me to continue.



Good. I had their attention.



“At the far back of our garden, right in front of the forest, was our shed. An ancient shed with dark wood and dirt, dry mud and mold, and windows so dirty the light struggled to enter the shed. It was full to the brim with gardening tools and old objects the previous inhabitants of the house left there, you couldn’t walk inside without knocking something over and creating more mess. There were dust, spiderwebs everywhere and there was the stink of mold mixing with the earthy scent coming from the forest.



“I never liked that shed, as you probably guessed. I tried to avoid it as much as I could. One day, however, my mother asked me to retrieve a gardening tool there for her, so I went there. The sun was setting behind the forest, its shade big enough to engulf the shed in darkness. The door made a long creaking sound as I opened it. I could barely see inside. I tried to locate the object before entering when I saw something in the right corner of my eye move. Trembling, I approached the shelf where I saw the movement, but I saw nothing. So I continued scanning the small room when I started hearing scratching coming from different shelves and corners of the shed. Some scratching was louder than others, and some neared the door where I was standing than others.



“I was sweating cold by then. I caught more movement and scratching on my left. I looked but still saw nothing but found the tool resting on the top of a bucket on the ground, but before I could take it, a mouse ran from under the workbench and knocked the bucket over, resulting in me falling on my behind and screaming at the top of my lungs as if I was being murdered.”



I finished telling, laughing lowly at my past self and how ridiculous my story was.



The children laughed wholeheartedly, rolling on the ground and slamming with their fists.



“That’s so cliché!” Lucy exclaimed.



Theodore chirped in agreement.



“It was just a mouse!” laughed Phee.



“We said no judgment,” Arthur reminded, but he was smiling just as much as the children.



“It’s okay,” I told him again with a smile. “It’s okay.”



I took Arthur’s hand in mine, and we looked at our still laughing children.