When he came home from work, Sam generally expected a few things: a messy kitchen from Zoe’s lunch and snacks; the equivalent of one full toybox dumped on the floor; and Steve, tired but happy, outside with Zoe to greet Sam at the door.
Today, the porch was vacant, and the front door locked. Frowning, Sam opened it and stepped inside. The kitchen was a mess, like usual, and a trail of toys littered the floor, but there was no Steve and no Zoe in sight.
“Hello?” Sam called.
“In here,” came Steve’s voice from down the hall. Sam followed it to the bathroom, and his eyes went wide.
The first thing Sam noticed was the hairband. It was blue and sparkly and holding Steve’s hair back from his eyes, which were closed. Then Sam took in the rest of the scene — Zoe on her little stool, the tip of her tongue poking out of her mouth as she concentrated, the makeup palette in between her tiny fingers, and the ball gown that was stretched around Steve’s body.
“What’s going on here?” Sam asked, though by now it was pretty obvious that he’d interrupted a game of dress-up.
“Papa!” Zoe cried. Steve’s eyes snapped open and he reached out to steady her when she hopped down from the stool, which wobbled and fell over behind her.
“Hi, sweetheart,” said Sam, accepting the hug that she offered.
“We’re practising for Halloween,” Zoe announced. “Do you like my dress?”
It was blue, too, but darker than Steve’s dress. It had a pointed hood that hung halfway down Zoe’s back, and a bright pink bow under her chin. There was something familiar about the look, but Sam couldn’t place it.
“It’s so pretty,” Sam told her.
“Thank you,” said Zoe. “And Daddy’s?”
“Uh,” said Sam, glancing over. He’d never seen Steve in drag, but it was a surprisingly good look. “Yeah, it’s nice,” he said honestly.
“Say thank you, Daddy,” Zoe reminded Steve when he didn’t right away.
“Thank you,” Steve said dutifully. His cheeks were pink with clumsily applied rouge, but some of his blush was natural.
“So what are we all dressed up for?” Sam asked finally. “Did we get invited to a ball?”
“Daddy’s Cinderella,” Zoe answered, “and I’m his en-shan— inch— what’s the word?”
“Enchanted,” Steve supplied.
“Right. I’m his enchanted fairy godmother.”
“You are?” Sam asked, with exaggerated surprise. That was why her dress looked familiar. “Wow, that’s pretty cool, Zoe-Bear.”
“I know,” Zoe said smugly. “He’s gonna get glass slippers and everything.”
“He is?” Sam eyed Steve doubtfully — because what manufacturer would make glass slippers in a men’s 12? — and Steve shrugged.
“I know what you say about making promises,” he said to Sam in his grown-up voice, “but I really can buy them online. Assuming you’re on board.”
“On board?” Sam repeated. “With what?”
But Zoe already had a crown in her hands. She held it up; Sam saw what she was going for and crouched down so she could place it on his head.
“Prince Charming?” Steve offered.
Sam stood up straight and grinned at himself in the mirror. “I love Halloween,” he said.