Juan’s hand gently caressed her cheek until his hand cupped her chin.
“I love you my darling Persephone.”
She closed her eyes, her lips pursed in anticipation.
Juan’s mouth hovered over Persephone’s; his breath warm on her cheeks.
“My darling,” he whispered as he placed his full, quivering lips against hers. In that moment the world ceased to exist. Her breath caught in her throat, her arms encircled his neck and she . . . “
“Penny, sorry to disturb you but I have got to have that report on the boss’s desk by noon and I still don’t have your numbers. Wake up girl friend; you can’t daydream all day, work to do, work to do!”
Penny blinked rapidly. She couldn’t quite grasp that what she had just experienced was a dream. The reality was that she was sitting in an office in a cramped cubicle with a four-inch pile of work in front of her that needed to be completed by the end of the day.
“I’ll, I’ll get right at it. I’m almost finished, I promise.” She stammered her words as she tried to make sense of things.
Penny Elizabeth Foster was an ordinary woman, in an ordinary job, in an ordinary world. What was extraordinary was her imagination. As she went about the rest of her day Penny smiled at a secret memory. Her Don Juan had taken her in his arms and made mad passionate love to her. The fact that that memory was actually only a dream was immaterial. To Penny her fantasy life was just as vibrant and vital as the real world.
So, the rest of the day Ms. Foster did as was expected of her. She collated, she typed, she filed. She filled the endless minutes with minutia and with deadlines. Eventually the magical hour approached: the end of her day.
“Happy Halloween Penny! Are you getting dressed up to give out candies tonight?”
“Yes, Eddy and no you can’t come over. Besides you would scare the neighbourhood children. Say hi to your wife, Eddy.”
The last thing Penny wanted was to get involved with the office romancer. Or at least that’s how he saw himself. She packed up her purse and coat and made her way to her car. It wasn’t a long drive home but it’s one she enjoyed because she didn’t have to listen to anybody else talk. She could continue her fantasies as she wished.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special treat today: Ms. Persephone Foster is in the front line up for today’s race. She is a world-renowned stock car driver. She has won both the Daytona 500 and the Brickyard 400. Her mentor was the legendary Don Juan of car racing. The let’s sit back and enjoy today’s race. Gentleman and lady, start your engines!”
“Hey lady, the light’s green, move!”
With a grin Penny realized that she was still sitting at a green light. She chuckled and continued on her way home.
She had always enjoyed Halloween. It was a time when every one could indulge in their secret fantasies without being seen to be odd. Yes, there were the ghosts and goblins and the scary monsters but there were also characters from history and whimsical creatures. That was the part Penny enjoyed most. Besides who couldn’t resist a child dressed up like a bunny? Yes, she loved this day in the year.
So, with her usual efficiency Penny set about getting the candy ready to be handed out to the children, or more specifically the ‘trick or treaters’. After all, the indulgence in fantasies or whimsy is not just for the children.
She had spent a great deal of time preparing her own costume. It wouldn’t do to answer the door in jeans. No, Penny was going to be prepared in a costume that was appropriate to her frame of mind at just this time. She had always liked the concept of a damsel in distress so she dressed herself in flowing garments reminiscent of Sleeping Beauty. If only her Prince Charming could come by tonight.
“Trick or treat! Trick-or-treat!”
The first of the ghosts and goblins had made their appearance and Penny was ready.
“Oh, my goodness what very scary ghosts and goblins you are!”
As she handed out the candy to the multitude of children at her door Penny was reminded of her own costumes as a child. There was the cat with the long tail that kept dragging in puddles, or the space alien with the javex bottle for a helmet that was spray-painted gold. There was even a gypsy one year with all of her mother’s costume jewellery draped around her neck and her arms. Her mother had become quite adept at making costumes. It was something new every year.
Each year saw its share of ghosts and goblins, bunnies, squirrels and cats. It was exciting to see the wonder in the eyes of the children and the quiet fatigue in the eyes of their parents as they shepherded their children from door to door. But this year everything changed.
No one had rung her doorbell or cried “trick-or-treat” for about twenty minutes so Penny was starting to clean everything up. Another Halloween was over. There was something very sad about that. But then it just meant that one looked forward to next year.
“Trick or Treat.”
The doorbell immediately got Penny’s attention but the quiet little voice that was saying ‘trick-or-treat’ was far more compelling. When she opened the door Penny saw an adorable little brown bunny or more specifically a very small child in an oversized bunny costume. As she leaned down, she could see incredibly huge pleading eyes that were almost in tears.
“Well, hello little bunny, here is some candy, but are you okay?”
Sniff, “I think I lost my dad. He doesn’t like to be lost in the dark. Can you help me find him?”
Penny immediately looked up to see if she could find this errant father. How dare he allow this small child to wander the streets without him! She was not going to allow this youngster to stay out here alone any longer.
“You come inside little bunny. My name is Penny what’s yours?”
Do you want me to call your mother?
“It’s only my dad and me.” As she spoke Miranda put her tiny little hand in Penny’s. This small child needed comfort and she was going to take it from whatever adult was handy. Penny was touched. She knelt down on one knee and embraced her.
“We’ll find your dad don’t you worry.”
Penny was trying to be comforting but inside she was angry. What could possibly cause a father to lose sight of this precious child! When she found this man, she was going to give him a piece of her mind! But first Miranda had to be reassured.
Within a few moments Penny was sure that her new charge was okay. She was sitting at the kitchen table with glass of milk and a cookie. Penny was preparing to call the police but she was hesitant. She had heard stories about children going into foster care and essentially disappearing into a system that was not conducive to proper childcare. So, she hesitated.
As she looked across the room to this lonely child, she felt an overwhelming sense of responsibility. In this day and age, we are all responsible for our actions and we should never shirk that responsibility. Sitting across the kitchen table was someone who was asking for her help. She just could not drop that responsibility on someone else.
Penny was about to take the child out again into the dark. She would find this man, the father of this child.
Once again, the door unexpectedly demanded attention. When it wasn’t immediately opened, insistent knocking followed. Penny approached the door hesitantly; someone was anxious to get in. A moment ago, she had been anxious to track down an errant father on a dark Halloween night. But now? Who knows what Spirits are walking in the dusky light? Now she was afraid to open the door. The knocking continued louder, and louder. They say that on one night of the year ghosts are capable of taking form and interacting with the living. They say that on one night of the year evil lurks within reach of the innocent.
The knocking continued, louder. A voice was added to the banging; “Miranda, I know you’re in there, Miranda!”
With a relieved sigh Penny realized who was at the door: Miranda’s father.
With no further hesitation she threw open the door and then stopped. In front of her was the man that she had been dreaming about earlier this day, a man of strength, of character and a father. Upon hearing her father’s voice Miranda ran to him.
“I’m sorry daddy, I’m sorry I ran away! I’m sorry, I’m sorry! But this nice lady took care of me and she doesn’t have a husband.”
For just a moment no one said a word. And then the man spoke,
“I’m terribly sorry for what my daughter has done. She has caused both of us undo concern. I would like to make it up to you, my name is Don.”
Penny opened her mouth to respond but found that she was tongue-tied. In the doorway of her home was the man she had been dreaming about. She would have to say something witty and intelligent, but for the moment her mind was a blank.
“Oh, geez did I disturb you? The boss won’t like ya sleeping on the job! Look a bunch of us are going over to the pub after work, it’s been a rough day. Why don’t you join us? Nobody hands out candy anymore, the kids all go to each other’s homes for parties; parents are too afraid of serial rapists and poisoned candy. Penny are you okay? You look like you’ve seen a ghost! If you want to come to the pub, we’re leaving in twenty minutes.
Penny blinked her eyes repeatedly. She was still at her desk; she was still filing and she was still single. Trick-or-treat?