“Well, I hope this is as good as you imagined,” Vito let out a deep sigh, examining his costume.
“It’s perfect!” Aslan giggled.
“Uncle Vito?” Hope emerged from her house, momentarily forgetting all about her own epic outfit.
“Happy Spooky Day! You’re a hot dog!” The girl tried not to laugh. “It’s… very good!”
“Aslan sure thinks so,” Vito shook his head. He changed the subject. “You guys ready for the trick or treating?”
“Yep! All set in our house!” Hope confirmed.
“Awesome. You guys wanna head over to your first stop then? I’ll just, um, do some finishing touches on the costume…”
The kids burst out laughing again.
“Your dad’s funny,” Hope turned to her cousin. “Not as funny as my dad… but pretty cool, too.”
“He’s alright,” Aslan tried to downplay his own sentiments. “Anyway… go to yours?”
“Yess!” Hope got excited. “I can’t wait for you to see the spookiness!”
The two kids dashed over to Hope’s house, where they were greeted by Hope’s parents, turned pirates.
“Welcome aboard, me hearties,” Ralph greeted them. “Our ship is a sturdy one, though some say it’s a wee bit haunted, yo-ho-ho! Personally, I don’t know what they’re talking about.” He reached for a sweet with a shrug.
Both of the kids let out a shriek when a small ghost figure leapt out of the bowl towards Ralph.
“Arr matey, I guess it’s haunted after all!” Carly giggled.
“I suppose so,” Ralph grinned. “But that wouldn’t stop two bold swashbucklers like yourselves, would it?” He winked at the kids.
Aslan grabbed a sweet and quickly jumped straight back. He shoved it in his mouth, relaxing a little.
“It’s nothing, really.” He said with his mouthful. “Just a bit of mist.”
“Why don’t you grab another one, then?” Hope asked.
“You do it!” He nudged her. “It’s for little kids anyway… not big kids like me!”
Hope reached for the bowl. More fog came out. Was this a real ghost, rather than the ghost figure they saw earlier? Hope figured that if she were a ghost, she could imagine worse places to live than a bowl of sweets.
No matter what haunted the bowl, it did let her reap her sweet reward though.
Maybe it was a friendly ghost, Hope decided.
Meaning there was nothing to worry about. She’d already become friends with the monster under her bed, why not just add the ghost to her eccentric list of companions?
A part of her was quite excited to return back home at the end of their trick-or-treating trail to see if the ghost was still around…
“You’re both so brave,” Carly told the kids. “But just to be fair, let me have a go too!”
She placed her hand in the bowl, pulling another sweet out. Nothing happened.
“Looks like you guys have successfully defeated the ghost that haunts the ship,” She smiled. “Which means it’s time for you to continue your quest. Now where is…”
She jumped up suddenly. Did the ghost strike back in the end?
Her shock slowly transitioned into laughter. Turns out she wasn’t reacting to the bowl, but to Vito who had only just entered the room.
“Vito! You almost gave me a heart attack!” Carly could barely compose herself.
“No comments on the costume, ok?” Vito stopped her before she continued. “Aslan wanted me to dress up as a hot dog, so I’m a hot dog. Let’s leave it at that.”
Ralph and Aslan exchanged amused looks, trying not to laugh.
“It’s… very… good.” Carly managed.
“You and your daughter have a lot in common,” Vito smiled at Carly. “In any case, you kids ready to move on?” He changed the subject.
“Where are we going?” Hope asked.
“I hear there’s a wicked witch in town,” Vito announced mysteriously. “And that there might be treasure to discover in her dwelling…”
“That sounds epic!” Aslan exclaimed.
“Let’s go!” Hope joined in.
Vito took them outside of the house to continue on their path. Luckily, they didn’t have to go very far.
The “wicked witch” lived just next door.
Not that she seemed particularly wicked. She was laughing her head off at the sight of Vito.”
“Hi aunt Sera!” Hope waved at her. “But you’re not wicked!”
“Perhaps I am tonight,” Sera said in her best spooky ghost. “At the very least, my house is!”
“Many dangers lie inside, I’m even scared to go in myself.” Sera got more into character. “But those who overcome the perils are sure to reap rewards… if they survive!”
“Cool!” Aslan beamed. “Let’s go in, Hope!”
“I don’t know about this,” Hope became a little nervous when they opened the door, revealing a number of spectral figures.
“Don’t be a baby…”
“You’re a baby!” She yelled quickly, following Aslan into the house.
“I can’t believe you’re a hot dog!” Sera spiralled into fits of laughter as soon as the door shut behind the kids. “This is too good…”
“Don’t. Just don’t.” Vito sneered.
“I mean, you’ve always been a bit of a brat, but this is just a whole new level…” She giggled at her own pun.
“Sorry. I’m done now.” Sera wiped away a tear of laughter. “Seriously though, I’m impressed Aslan talked you into this.”
“The things I do for my kid…” Vito smiled softly.
“So… how are you?” Sera grew serious.
“I’m fine. Ok, that’s a lie.” Vito corrected himself after Sera gave him a funny look. “I’m not fine. But it gets a little better every day. Spending time with Aslan helps. It’s the days Alyssa has him when things get harder.”
Sera nodded. A part of her wanted to offer her brother to come over on the days he didn’t have Aslan. But she didn’t. He’d probably say no anyway.
They fell into an uncomfortable silence.
Meanwhile, the kids were busy exploring the haunted house.
“See Hope, all of this is just for show.” Aslan explained patronisingly. “Fake ghosts to intimidate little kids like you…”
“I don’t know Aslan, those ghosts over there look pretty real.” Hope pointed towards the window.
Aslan turned around, rolling his eyes.
“I told you, they’re not real,” he sighed. “There’s no real threat in this hou- aaargh!”
He jumped back in terror when Hope pounced at him.
The girl laughed happily. “No real threat, huh? You seemed pretty spooked… by a baby!” She added.
“Ugh! Like I was really scared…” Aslan muttered.
“I know what I saw!” Hope teased him.
“Whatever…” The boy grunted. “You’re so irritating! You’re like the annoying little sister I never wanted!”
An unexpected smile spread across Hope’s face, her eyes growing wider. “Really?”
“Am I really like a little sister to you?”
“Little sister that I didn’t want… But yeah, you’re the closest thing I have to a brother or a sister.”
“Awesome!” Hope bounced up and down.
Aslan laughed. “Well you do have cool moments… which makes sense, since we’re related. Runs in the family, right?”
Hope jumped at him, trapping him in a hug before he could protest.
“You’re the best, Aslan!” She squealed.
“Oh, well… ok!” The boy said uncomfortably, freeing himself from the hug. “You’re right, I do rock. Anyway, should we grab some sweets and get out of here?”
“Yep!” Hope went straight for the sweet bowl.
Of course it turned out to be yet another haunted one…
The children raced outside of the house, pockets filled with chocolates.
“Well, did you guys defeat the monsters and find the treasure?” Sera winked at them.
“Obviously!” Aslan said quickly.
“Sort of,” Hope corrected him. “Don’t forget the part when you said I’m cool! And when you were scared of me!” She reminded him.
“I was so NOT scared of you!” Aslan yelled, resulting into laughter all around.
Vito realised this was the first time he’d laughed since Louis and him broke up. Perhaps one of these days, he would actually genuinely start feeling better.
One of these days.