A mo­ment for you

Haunted by a past re­la­tion­ship, Laura is afraid she’ll never fall in love again…un­til Joel shows up on her doorstep Hal­loween night and makes a heart­felt con­fes­sion

Woman's World - - Contents -

Laura smiled to her­self as she walked past the house next door. Her neigh­bors had out­done them­selves this year, trans­form­ing their sweet colo­nial into a clas­sic haunted dwelling, com­plete with spooky ghosts and fright­en­ing back­ground mu­sic.

Just like we used to do, Laura thought, her eyes smart­ing as mem­o­ries flooded back. She had al­ways loved Hal­loween, and be­fore her split with Dan last year, they had been known to dress up in cou­ple’s cos­tumes and deck out their own house for their an­nual fes­tive All Hal­low’s Eve party.

But this year, it would just be Laura and her bro­ken heart. Even her brother, Alex, who she’d moved in with af­ter the sep­a­ra­tion, had other plans for the scari­est night of the year.

A shiver ran up Laura’s spine as she climbed the steps to their front door, but it wasn’t ghosts and ghouls she was afraid of— she was afraid of be­ing alone for­ever.

“At least I have candy,” Laura sighed as she lit the row of jack-o’-lanterns on the front porch. She’d bought three big bags for the on­slaught of trick-or-treaters— and for her­self— and it wasn’t long af­ter she’d emp­tied it all into a bowl that the first knock came at the door.

“Trick or treat!” a team of minia­ture zom­bies shrieked. Laura laughed, de­lighted at their out­stretched arms.

“You’re ter­ri­fy­ing!” she said, feign­ing fright as she held out the bowl.

Lots of mon­sters came and went over the next hour, but when she opened the door to find Joel Hen­der­son smil­ing sheep­ishly on the other side, real fear took hold of Laura for the first time that night. “Joel…hi,” she stam­mered in sur­prise, her heart seiz­ing as she drank him in. With those deep green eyes and curly brown hair, he still set her heart rac­ing af­ter all these years. “Aren’t you a lit­tle old to be out trick-or-treat­ing tonight?” “What, no candy for me?” he laughed, eye­ing the bowls. “Well, not if you don’t say trick or treat.” He pat­ted his stom­ach and gave her a dev­il­ish grin as their eyes met. “I don’t think I need the ex­tra calo­ries any­way.” Sure, there was a lit­tle round­ness there, but it suited him. In fact, ev­ery­thing suited Joel. She’d known him long enough to re­al­ize he was gor­geous—in­side and out. “Alex isn’t here; he’s out tonight,” she said, turn­ing her eyes away quickly. Why couldn’t she take her eyes off of him?

“With those deep green eyes and curly brown hair, he still set her heart rac­ing”

Joel and her older brother had been best friends since mid­dle school. She’d had a crush on him from the mo­ment he’d walked into their fam­ily home when she was 12, but she’d al­ways kept that to her­self. I can’t come be­tween their friend­ship, she re­minded her­self.

“I know, he told me,” Joel said, ges­tur­ing to­ward the squad of vam­pires hurtling down the street. “He thought I could come keep you com­pany…you know, pro­tect you from all the mon­sters.”

Her stom­ach som­er­saulted. Joel Wil­son, pro­tect­ing her? It was straight out of a movie…and not a hor­ror film.

“My hero!” Laura teased, her heart swelling as she ges­tured him in­side.

“Thanks, you’re the best,” he said, pulling her in for a hug. As his strong arms wrapped around her, he added softly, “You al­ways have been.”

They lin­gered that way for a mo­ment too long, pulling away only when the door­bell chimed.

For the next two hours, there was a con­stant stream of trickor-treaters. It was a blast hand­ing out candy to­gether, and for a short time, Laura had a glimpse of what it would be like if Joel was hers. It can never be, she thought, her heart sink­ing.

As the streets emp­tied, Joel closed the door, set­tling down next to Laura on the sofa.

“It’s been great shar­ing Hal­loween with you,” he said softly, meet­ing her eye.

Laura blushed, fully aware of his knee touch­ing hers. “How about some cof­fee?” He re­turned a smile. “I’d love some.” Soon she re­turned with two mugs. As Joel took the cup, his fin­gers lightly brushed hers and Laura’s pulse quick­ened.

“Alex told me some­thing re­cently,” he said, hes­i­tat­ing be­fore tak­ing a sip. “And I’m re­ally hop­ing he’s right.” “What was it?” “That you…well, that you like me.” Laura’s eyes widened as she be­gan to blush. “I’ve never told him that!” Joel was crest­fallen. “So, it’s not true?” “Well,” she said, softly, won­der­ing how much to say. “No. It is true. But I never told him…i’ve never wanted to come be­tween the two of you.”

He shook his head and smiled. “That’s what Alex sus­pected too.”

“Sus­pected? Wait, how did this even come up?”

Their eyes met. “Be­cause he fi­nally guessed the rea­son I’ve never set­tled down,” Joel breathed, as his strong hand found its way to hers.

“I’ve never known any­one as in­cred­i­ble as you, Laura. When Alex re­al­ized you and I cared about each other, he gave us his bless­ing…so what do you say we fi­nally give it a shot?”

Laura looked into his hope-filled eyes…and smiled. Sud­denly, the fu­ture didn’t seem so scary af­ter all.

— Rose­mary Hayes

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