"What do you mean you have a conference?" Linda's shrill shout echoed through the house. "That's Halloween weekend, Gerald! The boys are supposed to go trick-or-treating, and Lord knows I can't let them go alone. They'll go into the poor part of town."
Gerald rubbed his eyes from under his glasses. "I guess you'll just have to take 'em, because I can't miss this conference." Linda made a noise of displeasure, and he stood to meet her. "Look, I don't wanna go either. But it's just for the weekend, you'll be fine!"
"Of course I'll be fine, Gerald. Halloween is a stupid holiday. Imagine giving things away for free, ugh," she shuddered. "But the boys will be whining all weekend if they don't get to have their tricks or treats or whatever."
"Then take them trick-or-treating, Lin."
"And spend all night walking around? God, no," she shook her head. "No. I will not be made to walk four boys around in public in the middle of the night. Can't I just hire some loser teenager to do it?"
"Do you really trust any loser teenagers with River?"
Linda paused, biting her lip. "Shit! You're right."
Gerald nodded. "Besides. All the teens in town will be out doing the same thing. Halloween is like cocaine to kids, you couldn't pay them to give it up."
"I could try," she mumbled. After a moment of silence, she sighed dramatically, dropping her shoulders. "Fine. Fine. I'll do it. Because I'm a good mother. Right?"
"But I need a costume," she asserted. "I will not be laughed at by teenagers for not participating."
"Teenagers will laugh at you for anything, hun," Gerald grinned. "But I'm sure you'd look pretty sexy in your old cheerleader uniform…"
"I would," she grinned, and shoved him away. "But I won't have a bunch of perverted kids gawking at me. I need something… dramatic. Flashy, but elegant. And powerful. Regal."
A week later, Gerald was off at his conference, and Linda was preparing to leave with the boys.
More accurately, the four boys were waiting in the lobby of the house while Linda took an extra hour to get ready. The sun was going down, and River was getting worried. They were going to start earlier so that it would be lighter out.
As per usual, his brothers were teasing him.
"What's the matter, River?" Trent leaned on his head, his hair styled up and (temporarily, Linda insisted,) dyed blue. "Little ghost gonna be scared of the dark?"
"No!" River ducked out from beneath his brother, and pulled the sheet of his costume over his head. "I-I'm just excited to go."
Trent pointed at his youngest brother with his candy-cane. "I think you're a pussy."
"Hey!" River whined. "You're not supposed to say that!"
Trent leaned closer. Linda had helped with his makeup earlier in the evening, calling it gaudy all the while. She had done a good job.
"Pussy," he popped the P. "I bet you'll make us all go home early."
"No!" He shook his head from under his sheet. "I won't! I promise! You'll see!"
Trent was promptly tackled by Jordan, dressed in black and a good, thick cape. The two wrestled for a few moments before Trent got on top and held his second-youngest brother in a headlock.
"Hey!" Jordan whined, still struggling. "C'mon, Trent! Batman's supposed to beat Sweet Tooth!"
"Then you should be stronger!" Trent laughed.
"I am stronger, you're just bigger!"
Seaton, laying on the couch, lifted his skull mask and watched the fight with casual amusement. River just sighed, moved the sheet off his face and around his shoulders, and went back to watching the sunset. At least he wasn't being picked on, for now.
Just as Batman was about to be unmasked, there was a loud "A-HEM?," from the top of the staircase. The boys all froze and looked.
At the top of the staircase was Linda, practically dressed for a gala. A red heart painted on her lips, a golden crown with red jewels upon her head, and an elegant, blood-red ballgown, long enough you couldn't see her feet.
"Subjects," she smiled, "cease your silly bickering, or it's off with your heads! "
It was just supposed to be a playful line, but Linda said it with enough enthusiasm and vitriol that the rowdy boys all immediately jumped up, keeping their hands away from each other. True to the character she was dressed as, Linda found this reaction satisfactory.
She descended from the stairs with grace. "Now, boys. You will be on your best behavior and listen to my commands, or we will be going home, and I will confiscate any tricks or treats you may have collected. Do I make myself clear?"
She was met with a chorus of yeses, and nodded. "Good."
At the bottom of the staircase, she approached each of them. She fixed Trent's hair, which had gotten somewhat out of place during his tussle with Jordan. Luckily, an insane amount of hairspray kept it at least somewhat in place. She pulled Seaton's mask back over his face, spinning the triple-eyed goggles, and adjusted Jordan's cape.
Then she came to River, and paused. "Darling, are you sure this is what you want to be? There's still time to find something… better."
River shook his head, smiling wide. "I'm sure, mommy!"
Linda sighed, but smiled, and pulled the sheet over River's head, adjusting it so the holes lined up with his eyes. "Well. I can't say you don't make a good little ghost."
River giggled, and she patted his head. "Alright! Gather your bags. Off we go! Into the dark. In… heels…"
She hadn't even left yet, and she was already regretting this.
But, her sons paid her no mind. They all grabbed their currently-empty candy bags and set out the door, Linda following, locking it behind her.
"Stay close to me. God help me if some cretin grabbed you off the street. That would be just too perfect, wouldn't it?"
Trent, Seaton, and Jordan did not listen, running ahead of her (though, not far enough for her to lose sight of them). River stuck by her side and held her hand.
"Are there cretins out in the dark?" He asked in a small voice.
Linda looked down at him, into the eyes of his sheet costume. The boy had inherited her distaste for the darkness, hadn't he.
She shook her head. "No, darling. None for you, anyway."
They walked, trying to catch up with the other three.
"What about monsters?"
"You watch the show with the dog, don't you?"
"Yes, that one. All the monsters are just people in masks." She looked around, seeing more people join them on the street. "It's the same here. Just like you and your brothers. Just dress-up."
River nodded. "Your dressing up, too."
"Is that such a surprise?"
He nodded again. "When daddy was gonna take us, he wasn't gonna dress up. I asked him."
"Well," she huffed. "He just doesn't have the Halloween spirit, now does he?"
"You do, mommy!"
"Yes, I do, thank you for noticing," she grinned. "I haven't dressed up for Halloween since… well, probably since I was your age."
"Yes…" Linda thought back. It was a bit of an exaggeration; she remembered dressing up as late as maybe Trent's age, but the point still stood that it had been a long time. "I remember that I was always a princess, or a fairy. Something beautiful, elegant, refined. But then my father came to school one day with pictures of me as a baby. My first Halloween, he said. He dressed me up like a pig before I could even speak, and that was the end of it."
"Gran'pa really likes pigs."
"Yes, he does," she scoffed. "I refused to let him dress any of you up as animals. Your first costumes were when you were old enough to choose what you wanted to wear, and it was an excellent decision. Except for Jordan, he wanted to be an airplane, and I just couldn't let that happen. He settled for some superhero or other."
"What was Trent's?" River asked, mischief in his mind.
"A cowboy," she remembered fondly. "He and Gerald had been watching old Westerns that Gerald's father had shown him when he was just a boy. He was obsessed for years."
"Daddy likes cowboys?"
"Yes. In fact, after we started dating, we went to a costume party for Halloween. I didn't dress up, of course, but Gerald did, and he was a cowboy." She shook her head, hiding a smile. "It was actually pretty good."
"Mommy!" Trent yelled from up the street. "Jordan broke my candy-cane!"
"It's not a big deal!" Jordan argued. "Sweet Tooth loses the cane in Act Two Scene Five!"
Trent smacked Jordan upside the head. "I don't care, it's part of the costume and you broke it!"
"Hey!" Linda snapped, gaining the attention of her boys, as well as a few others on the street. "If you don't knock it off, you're going home. Jordan, you broke it, so you owe Trent something. Trent, suck it up and be a man, you'll live for the night."
The two begrudgingly ceded to their mother, and Trent shot Jordan a glare. He'd have his revenge. Maybe not tonight, but eventually.
It was about a block before they got to the first house on the street with lights on (the boys had to explain to Linda that if the lights weren't on, then they didn't have any candy. A few even had signs up). It was decorated just a bit, with carved pumpkins and some fake cobwebs. A skeleton sat in a chair by the door.
Linda stood at the back of the group and let the boys knock on the door and beg for candy like stray dogs. She thought, absent-mindedly, that she could've just bought them candy and let them dress up around the house, and they would've been just as satisfied, surely.
When the owner of the house came to the door and recognized the Monroe boys, as well as Linda herself, he made sure to give them all full-sized candy bars.
"Got here just in time, boys," he laughed. "I'm just about out!"
"Really?" Seaton asked, a bit muffled through his mask. "The sun just set, everybody's just getting started."
"Are you holding out on us?" Jordan grumbled.
"No, no," the man shook his head, glancing nervously at Linda. "Kids from downtown like to come here quick because people 'round here tend to have bigger or better candy than elsewhere. We all get wiped out by about sundown, and then they go back to the rest of the town."
River turned and looked around the street. "Is that why all the lights are off?"
The man shook his head. "Sorry about it, boys. But I'm sure if you go to other neighborhoods you'll find more! I heard that there's a big party somewhere, I'm sure they've got some good stuff!"
The boys mumbled thank yous, and the man shut his door. Linda stood silently as her boys gave her pleading looks.
"We didn't even say anything—" Trent began, but was hushed with a look.
"I know what you want, and we are not going into the poor neighborhoods. I could just buy you candy if you really want it."
All four began talking over each other, arguing that it wasn't the same, that they would be good, so on and so forth. River grabbed Linda's hand again and looked up at her. "Please, mommy," he begged. "I wanna go trick or treating, and show off my costume. Please?"
Linda closed her eyes, but she could still see the look in her head.
God damn it, River. This is what she got for having a favorite.
"Fine. But we're taking the car."