by Paula Miller
“Have you got your costume ready, Ara?”
“Let’s have a look.”
I held up my dress and laughed as my mother clapped her hands in delight and flipped up her thumbs in approval. She was changed already; dressed in black with a stuffed cat stitched to her left shoulder pad and a broomstick in the crook of her arm.
“Can I go and get changed now?”
She nodded, and so, skipping up the stairs, I bounced onto my bed and stared out the window: children already swamped the streets – fairies, witches, demons and skeletons. Brightly dressed and garish; loud, ungraceful and false… and yet my jealousy burned the back of my throat. But no, not today, stupid Ara. Tonight I would be with them; one of them. Maybe Tom and Rupert, and maybe even Eloise, would talk to me. Maybe. For tonight was the first time I was to be allowed to dress up on All Hallows Eve with the rest of the family and, to make it extra special, they were letting me go trick or treating alone with my friends. Excited seemed such an understatement.
Sitting at my dressing table I frowned. Make-up. I would need make-up to truly look the part otherwise, I would look ridiculous, and so, with finite strokes and a careful hand, I applied the colours and shades for my costume. Rouge, lipstick and mascara, my painted mask.
Later, I struggled down the stairs in the long and heavy white gown and veil. My course hair knotted down my back with ribbon. The kitchen was buzzing with chatter, laughter, and the crackle of the radio. Walking through the door it instantly quietened.
“Ara, you look lovely,” A tearful voice.
“Wonderful dress, and lovely make-up. You really look cracking,” my dad, a man of few words, raised his glass and drank deeply, a huge hairy hand engulfing the elegant champagne flute.
“Gorgeous one this daughter of yours, she’s going to make many hearts flutter.”
The last comment was from Uncle George, and as usual he was drunk. I bit back a giggle as he took a swing from his plastic skull cup full of pumpkin rum and swaggered around the room. He didn’t like to dress up and so instead, he drank himself to a snoring slumber every year and fell asleep in the front window. We never had many trick or treaters. I guess that was why.
Eventually, we poured out of the house and onto the streets. My mother, the witch. My father, the werewolf, and me, the Monster Bride. Dressed to impress.
They left me then to find my friends, and walking around the streets I found myself admiring the costumes of my classmates. I found Tom, the pirate, and Rupert, the zombie prince. They both gushed and praised my costume causing me to blush a deeper red than my blush. I found myself smiling and laughing more than normal. Talking animatedly and loudly. Giggling and singing along with the others as we moved from house to house and our buckets filled higher and higher.
“Ara, is that you?”
It was Eloise. I nodded and she shrieked, flapping her hands and causing her fairy wings to flutter, glitter sprinkling around her like snow. Her silken sheet of blonde hair fell perfectly behind her and her petite little nose scrunched up in mock horror.
“You look so gross! I LOVE your costume. It’s awesome.”
She chatted to me then. For the first time ever we spoke as friends and when the streets thinned and the ghouls and goblins returned home – she invited me around her house for tea after school that week. My insides twisted and turned, and my hands shook as I promised to help her with her maths homework.
Returning home, I sat back at my dressing table and stared in the mirror. My face, MY face, seemed so twisted as it stared back at me: a thick, bulbous nose, uneven tired red eyes full of self loathing, beetle-sized eyebrows and a gaping wound of a mouth.. With an angry brush, I wiped away the tears, smearing the rouge across my cheeks and wishing that for once, just once, I could stop pretending. With a sigh, I pulled on my mask and rearranged my features. Perfect nose, perfect eyes, perfect hair, perfect everything.
But, it was just a mask. My mother, she is a witch. My father, he is a werewolf, and me, I am the Monster.