I don’t think about Suzie much. Or at least, I try not to. She has a special place in the back of my mind where she taunts me, a blur of crooked teeth and puppy fat. I try to ignore her and hurry after Molly, her lilac ponytail and fluffy backpack bobbing ahead of me as she laughs at a joke Kim made. Witches and vampires scurry up driveways, dodging cars and hoping the old woman in number 37 will have some treats for them. We used to trick or treat together, Suzie and I. But not anymore. I push her out of mind.
My calves burn at the effort of keeping up. Even in their heeled boots, they’re quicker than me. I can’t match their pace in my scuffed trainers. My lungs burn. I wish I had my inhaler.
Stop being pathetic. Catch up to them. Don’t you want to have friends?
Suzie doesn’t have any friends.
You don’t want to be like Suzie. Not anymore.
I fall into strained step with Molly, much to Kim’s displeasure. She smirks at my costume, the one I tried so hard with. The red corset crushes my lungs and my chest, and the floor length skirt in the same scarlet hue digs into my stomach. I’ll have an angry red ring around my waist for days. I thought it’d be worth it. To look right. But I don’t look right. I still hear Kim’s initial reaction, repeating over and over like a stuck record You know, that top really doesn’t do you any favours, Clare. It’s too small. And don’t you think the colour’s a little…bright for you? Oh don’t get all upset. Suddenly I’m the bad guy? Honestly, Clare, I’m just saying, as a friend…
She’s not my friend.
But Molly is.
“Did you finish your English assignment?” I ask, smiling at her eagerly. Kim looks at me with a raised eyebrow. I blush as Molly looks at me. What is that in her expression? Pity? She thinks you’re sad.
“Look, Clare. Stop thinking about school for a while, yeah? You act like it’s life or death. It’s Halloween. Just…lighten up a bit.”
Kim sneers. Saddo.
“Uh, OK,” I mumble, my face heating up “Sorry.” I search for a topic she might find interesting. Films? Sport? She plays hockey on Thursdays. Should I compliment her freshly dyed hair, or ask about her new boyfriend? Don’t be a suckup.
We turn at the end of the street into a road I’m familiar with. Suzie lives here. At least she did. Maybe she moved, I don’t know. Go away, Suzie. Why does she follow me wherever I am? I just want to move on. But Molly slips her arm through mine and I forget Suzie for a moment.
“Hey, my dad managed to get standing tickets for MS MR. Anyone wanna come?”
“I will!” I say eagerly, but not before Kim. She looks at me smugly.
“I said first,” she says childishly “I bet you don’t even know who they are.”
“I do,” I insist. I heard Molly talk about them last week and looked them up. I suspect she copied her new hairstyle from the singer, but I don’t say that. My mind is occupied with the ticket. I need that ticket.
Molly shrugs “Well, Kim said first, I guess. Sorry, Clare.”
“OK,” I say, shoulder slumping. I listen to Kim and Molly chattering about the concert, feeling on the outside again. My arm is still hooked through Molly’s, but her arm is limp. She’s forgotten I’m there. I sigh. Neither of them notices. It’s dark now and I want to be at home, almost as much as I want them to turn around and notice me.
At the end of the street. Molly halts, and I stop too. She unhooks herself from my arm and I let go reluctantly, watching her fumble in her bag for something. She grins.
“Time for trick or treat,” she says. Kim sniggers as she sees what Molly holds in her hand. A packet of eggs. My heart skips a beat.
“Throwing eggs?” I stutter “Isn’t that illegal?”
“Trust you, Clare,” Kim says, rolling her eyes.
“Better hope people give treats, eh?” Molly says, digging my ribs. I force a smile, silently agreeing. I won’t throw any. I’ll just keep quiet.
Kim takes the first house, while Molly perches on the garden wall, eggs at the ready. I’m glad when a gap toothed young boy emerges from the house with his mum and shyly passes Kim a Mars Bar. I stand in stony silence with Kim as Molly heads up the driveway of the next house. But it takes me until the third house to register that the next house is Suzie’s.
My heart thuds as we move on to number 63. The house where I spent half my childhood. Mum always made Suzie and me play together. She’s lonely she’d always tell me she could use a friend. Besides, you never bring your friends home. Why not invite a group of them over, get Suzie involved?
Because I haven’t got any friends, Mum. I think she’d figured that. But I could never bring myself to like Suzie. She was everything I was, and everything I didn’t want to be. Loser Kim and Molly call her now, when they see her sitting alone in the lunch hall, eating extra chips for something to do. Bore they sigh when they see her poring over textbooks and thrusting her hand in the air to answer a question. They don’t like her. If they knew she lives here, they’d never leave her in peace.
“I don’t think there’s anyone home…” I grasp at an excuse, any reason not to visit this house. There is no car in the driveway. I hope it might be enough to deter Molly and Kim.
“There’s a light on upstairs,” Molly says “Besides, it’s your turn.”
“Go on,” Kim says, raising an eyebrow, her arms folded, expectant. I swallow as I head up to the door. I rap the knocker once, and hope that Suzie has the sense not to show her face.
But she does. Of course she does. Just a glimpse of her meaty face, her chipmunk teeth and limp brown hair in the upstairs window. It’s enough. She disappears from sight as quickly as she showed up, but Kim sees her. Her sly smile makes me shiver.
“Good old Suzie. Providing a perfect opportunity for using these,” she says, holding up an egg maliciously. Molly chuckles and takes one from the packet. I want to stop them, but am frozen to the spot as I watch their eggs fly through the air, Molly’s falling short on the driveway, but Kim’s splattering across the front door, sliding down the wood as Molly and Kim slap fives. This isn’t right. Should I see if Suzie is OK? No, no, leave it. I don’t want Molly to think I’m Suzie’s friend. We’re not friends. We can leave now, I don’t have to throw an egg.
“Clare?” I’ve waited too long. Molly is shaking my arm and leading me back to the wall, the battlements from where Kim and Molly launched their attacks. I feel Molly press an egg into my hand.
“Earth to Clare? Chuck it!” Molly says, smiling “It’s fun!”
“Can’t we just go now? What if I get caught?”
“You won’t. There’s no one around,” Molly insists “No one is looking.”
I hesitate. My hand is shaking so much I think I might drop the egg.
“She’ll never do it,” Kim says snootily. She takes a step closer to me, and I try to convince myself I’m not intimidated “If she throws that egg, I’ll give her my concert ticket.”
She’s certain I can’t do it. And she’s right.
“Go on,” Molly says. She smiles, and I relax a little. She touches my arm lightly. She’s a good friend. She’s making sure you’re OK. “It’s only a bit of fun.”
I smile back hesitantly. You want to fit in, don’t you? Just throw it! Show Kim she’s wrong. You belong with them. This is your chance to show it.
I pull my arm back, ready to throw. Then Suzie shows up. She peeks out from behind the white net curtains in her living room. She’s crying. She’s even uglier when she cries. Her nose is running. Her cheeks are red, like slabs of meat. She wipes at her face with her sleeve. Guilt stabs at my chest. Don’t think, throw. Throw. Throw it now.
“Go for the face, Clare!” Molly says, chuckling. Suzie watches me through bloodshot eyes and waits. She’s wondering whether I’ll do it. Do it. Do it. You don’t want to be like Suzie…do you?
I feel the egg leave my hand, watch it splatter all over the window. I can hear Molly laughing. My mouth hangs open, watching Suzie’s crumpled face melt behind a mess of broken eggshell and gloop. Molly claps my back. Kim looks almost impressed.
“Nice shot, Clare! Come on. Let’s get out of here before someone shows up.”
I look once more at Suzie’s face. I can barely see her now. My eyes are hot. I can’t force myself to feel proud. But I don’t regret it. You wanted to fit in. Don’t think about it anymore.
Besides. It’s only Suzie.