"So, what costume did you finally decide on, Bethy?"
Beth wished she had a Bluetooth as she tried to adjust her rose pink bodice and hold her phone in the other. "I'm Sleeping Beauty. What did you go with?"
"It's Glenn's year to choose," Maggie complained.
"So, Glenn is..."
"Flynn Ryder, m'hmm. He's practicin' his smolder as we speak."
"I don't need to practice! I have it down pat," Beth heard Glenn shout.
"I'm breakin' up with you."
"You two are so weird," Beth said. The doorbell rang. "Gotta go, I have some trick or treaters."
"Talk to you later, babe. Glenn, if you don't stop smolderin' at me, I swear--" The call ended abruptly.
Beth shook her head, and made her way to the door with the spooky ghost-covered candy bowl. She opened the door with a flourish. "Happy--"
Dirty Hot--also known as Daryl--was standing on her welcome mat with an adorable little girl dressed as the heroine from Brave.
And they were glaring at each other?
Beth cleared her throat in the hope it would break up the showdown occurring at her front door. It worked, and their heads turned in unison, focusing all of their strange intensity on her.
"Hi, happy Halloween!" Beth chirped awkwardly. Daryl shook his head as if to clear it, and sent her an apologetic look. "That's a great costume, sweetie."
The girl's face softened into a smile. She stepped forward and held out her bag. "Thanks! Trick or treat!"
Beth reached into the bowl of candy and grabbed as many pieces in one hand as she could before dropping them in the proffered bag. "Where are your bears?"
The girl's sweet expression soured so fast that Beth thought she was Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Daryl's eyes widened in a little alarm as the girl's attention slid to him. "Uncle Daryl didn't want to dress up," she complained bitterly.
"Oh yes, I see the problem." Beth coughed to kill the chuckle building in her throat. "When I was about your age, I wanted to be Sleeping Beauty, but my big sister refused to go as Maleficent. I cried and cried," she confided.
"Then what happened?"
"My mama sat me down, and told me that I could go as whatever I wanted. That I didn't need anyone else to be who I wanted to be." Beth's mama, just like her daddy, was prone to dropping bits of wisdom on unsuspecting people. Bless them.
The young girl seemed skeptical. "Did you go as Sleeping Beauty?"
"No," Beth admitted. "But here I am with no Maleficent."
"Maleficent is pretty cool. Did you see the movie?"
"She is, and I did. I really liked it."
"Me too," agreed the tiny Merida. She looked to her silent guardian. "I forgive you, Uncle Daryl."
"I was worried, Sophia," came his snarky reply. His niece appeared unphased by this, and patted his arm.
"Dad says Uncle Daryl is cranky because he never went trick or treating when he was a kid," Sophia told her.
How sad. That wouldn't do at all. Beth passed him his own pile of candy. "Happy Halloween, Daryl," she said with a smile.
"Thanks." He awkwardly took the candy and put it in his pocket. "I was just gonna steal hers later," he joked.
Sophia scowled, clutching her candy bag close. "I'll tell Mom."
"That's low, kid."
Sophia cocked an eyebrow and sassed, "Dixons don't fool around."
Beth grinned at Daryl over her head. She really was the cutest.
Rubbing the back of his neck, Daryl flashed her a shy grin in return. Beth wanted to cuddle him and give him all the candy.
And other things. So many other things. But she wasn't thinking of those things because a child was present.
"Uncle Daryl, we're behind schedule," Sophia broke in, pointing at her Hello Kitty watch and tapping her foot.
Daryl mussed her hair playfully. "Yes, ma'am. Why don't ya go ahead to the next one? I'll be right there."
"Bye, Sleeping Beauty!" Sophia yelled over her shoulder, running to the next apartment with her bow and arrow swinging.
"Bye, Sophia!" Beth hugged the candy bowl to her chest, and tried to keep her thoughts innocent as Daryl's blue eyes lazily trailed the length of her body.
"I like your dress, Princess," he murmured.
This made Beth's cheeks turn the color of said dress. "Oh, thank you."
His lips twitched. "I guess I'll see ya around."
She wanted to shout, "I certainly hope so!" But she settled for a casual but cheerful, "Nice seein' you again, Daryl. Happy Halloween!" Her sister would be proud.
And if she admired the view as he walked away...
Well, that was her business.
"Was that the lady you loooove, Uncle Daryl?"
"I'm gonna kill Merle."