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
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