The pumpkin smiled toothily up at Stacey. She smiled back. She was glad she hadn’t caved to her brother’s insistence that Jack O’Lanterns must be scary. After all, she didn’t find the rest of Halloween scary so why should this be?
Stacey placed the pumpkin squarely in the windowsill. Even if nothing else here felt like home yet, she could still keep up their family traditions. Job done, she headed for the door, pausing only to prop up the note she had written Mark. Her brother worried. The notes detailing her plans and whereabouts seemed to help.
Stacey skipped down the porch steps, eager to be on her way. Tonight was the night. She was going to see their home again. Their beautiful garden. And best of all, their mother.
It took less than ten minutes to reach their old street. Stacey’s heart pounded. Mother would be waiting in the garden. Twenty more steps. Ten. Five. Here. The silver birches that lined the garden stood like pale gates to a fairy kingdom. Stacey entered; walking, then running, then stumbling into the waiting arms of her mother. ‘I’ve got so much to tell you!’ she cried.
‘So have I, darling,’ her mother replied, ‘but first come with me, further in…’
A note sat on the sideboard. Mark’s eyes picked it out the second he arrived home. That and Stacey’s cheerfully grinning pumpkin. He smiled. Perhaps Stacey was adjusting. He unfolded the note: ‘Mark, guess what? I’m going home! Mother said I could visit, she said it had to be tonight and she’d be waiting in the garden!!’
Mark’s heart stopped. The garden? Mother? He thought he might throw up. He ran all the way to the street where they had lived. Where their mother had died in the fire. Where the local council, aware of plummeting property prices after the six house blaze, had bought and then bulldozed their ruined homes, making way for a new bypass.
He saw her. Hand out as if being led by someone. She walked to the edge of the busy road, paused, and stepped out.