Ari had never particularly liked to celebrate Halloween. But this Halloween, his friend Isabelle called to invite him out to a carnival and trick-or-treating.
“Sure,” said Ari. He was excited to hang out with Isabelle again. She had been so busy lately, that they hadn’t spent any time together in a few months. They had a fun time together that evening, bobbing for apples and getting their faces painted at the carnival. Then they traversed Isabelle’s neighborhood, collecting candy and stuffing themselves with sweets.
Ari arrived at home well after his nine o’clock curfew. He fully expected that Mrs. Bock would greet him with a scowl and an outburst of insults, and then ground him for the next few weeks. But to his surprise, the house was dark and silent when he entered. He supposed that his foster mother was already asleep. He stashed his candy away in the bookshelf, then headed upstairs to get ready for bed.
The light was still on in Mrs. Bock’s bedroom, and the door was slightly open. Curious, Ari peeked through the crack, then gasped in horror. There lay Mrs. Bock on the floor, her head turned at an unnatural angle, her eyes staring dully at nothing. Ari’s stomach flipped upside down. He bent forward and vomited his Halloween treats all over the floor. Then he back out of Mrs. Bock’s room and fled the house. He banged on the door of his next-door neighbor, Mr. Brown, who came to see what had happened, and then called for an ambulance.
Mrs. Bock was dead. The medical team suggested that she had tripped over something, fallen, and broken her neck. Probably one of her cats, Ari thought.
He was free. No more Mrs. Bock to bully him or tell him what to do or when to be home. It was a strange thing. A part of Ari felt liberated, light as air. He was free! At the age of 16, he was on his own. He could stay up late, play video games all night at the arcade, and throw parties. But the other part of him mourned the loss of the only parent he had ever known, even though she had been cruel and hateful. That part of him felt as heavy as the stone slab that now sat at the head of Mrs. Bock’s grave.