“All right, Bella, let’s go!” The girl hopped down from the stranger’s porch at her sister’s summons. Her blonde bun resting on top of her head fell limp, reflecting Bella’s expression as she faced her guardian.
“But we’ve only been out thirty minutes!” she protested. “At least let me finish this street!”
“I told you I have a party to go to,” the pseudo-Madonna argued, hearing none of the girl’s pleads. “If you want to go, go ahead. I’m gonna be late. You know how to get home from here, right? It’s just down the street.” She ran a gloved hand through her teased hair as Bella’s face fell at the proposition.
“You can’t leave me alone out here! It’s too dark!”
“Oh, come on, you just walked up to a bunch of strangers begging for candy, I think you can walk five minutes in the dark without any issues.”
“Kayla!” she screamed, but Bella’s sister ignored her cries and made her way to the party. The girl huffed a sigh, looking around skeptically before heading in what she thought was the direction of her house.
After a good ten minutes of wandering, she realized she really didn’t know how to get home. Turning a dark corner, she didn’t see the boy until Bella ran face first into a stiff cowboy costume. “Aww, it’s Baby Bella!” he jeered, seeing her terror-stricken face. “What are you supposed to be, a green bean?”
She shook her head, white knuckles matching the filled pillowcase she clung to. “Tinker Bell,” she muttered, his confident laugh filling her atmosphere. She could feel the presence of his cronies come up behind him, and even in the darkness she could feel their shadow overpower her tiny frame.
“Tinker Bell!” they mocked, the pack closing in on their prey. In one smooth motion, the leader closed a chubby hand around Bella’s earnings, swiping the pillowcase out of her hand before she could even defend herself.
“Give that back!” she tried, but the ground collided with her back before she even realized they had shoved her down on the sidewalk.
“Nah, I think I’ll keep it,” he smirked, the boys laughing as they slinked further down the street. Getting up, Bella brushed some dust off her dress and found a seat on a curbside below a street lamp, tears streaking her glittered cheeks. Before she could fully break down, though, she heard a noise behind her, making her sit up once more. Out from the shadows, a tall man stepped forward, putting out a cigarette with a heavy leather boot.
He couldn’t be much older than her sister, yet couldn’t be more different. The figure blended perfectly in attire with the darkness of the night, and a single white contact stuck out from the rest of his dreary wardrobe as the brightest thing on him aside from platinum blonde hair. In the glow of the street lamp, a couple metal rings glinted off his lip. “Hey,” he started, his voice strikingly calm for such a harsh appearance. He took a seat next to the girl as she stood at attention. “The only reason someone should be crying on Halloween is out of joy or fear,” he joked, “and this doesn’t look like either. You okay?”
Bella inched further from the strange man, trying to remain composed through the adrenaline coursing through her veins. “I-I’m not supposed to talk to strangers…” she started, her gaze fixated on the pavement.
Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed the man smile and hold out his pale hand, black fingernails contrasting like sores on his fair complexion. “I’m Dante,” he introduced. “That’s a very good rule to have, but I won’t hurt you, I promise.”
Bella knew he wasn’t lying, but the axiom remained in her conscience, keeping her still. Dante put down his hand, sensing the rejection, then peered out to the street. In the distance, the bullies were rummaging victoriously through their battle spoils. “Did those guys hurt you?” he asked, which proved to be the fatal blow to the girl’s eroded defenses.
She gave a defeated sigh, looking up at the man. “They stole my candy,” she pouted.
“That’s not fair!” he empathized. “What are you going to do about it?”
The broken fairy shrugged a little, looking down again. “They’ll just push me down again if I try to get it back. Really, I just wanna go home.”
“Oh, come now, you can’t just lay down and take that. You’re dressed as a fairy, not a doormat, you can’t let people walk over you.”
She cracked a little laugh at the joke, the smile breaking her depressed demeanor. Dante smiled a little, leading Bella to notice tiny fangs peeking out from his mouth. “No, we’re gonna get that back for you. Here’s the plan.”
The two plotted on the curbside, the lamp above illuminating devious smiles cross their faces. After a minute, the boys on the other end of the street noticed a little figure stand tall in front of them. They lifted their greedy heads from the pillow case, mocking laughs creeping out of their mouths. “Kindly return my candy,” she demanded, her voice loud and confident as she stood, arms folded across her chest.
“Or what,” the leader joked, “you’ll sprinkle me with fairy dust?” More laughs echoed from the pack.
“No,” she countered, “I’ll send my vampire on you.”
The boys looked at each other before breaking out in hysterics. A smug smile crept onto Bella’s lips as Dante stepped forward, grinning ominously at the offenders. In normal light he could easily be seen as off-putting, but the distant glow from a street light behind them gave him an even more frightening façade. The candy bag dropped to the ground as the head of the group caught sight of the outline of two accentuated canine teeth protruding from the man’s mouth, and the most feminine screams escaped their lips as the three dashed off in the other direction. It was Bella’s turn to laugh as she picked up the bag from the ground, Dante smiling softly behind her.
“That’s how it’s done, kid,” he congratulated. “Great job.”
She smiled, digging through the bag before tossing him a package of red licorice, his face lighting up. “Yes, my favorite!” he laughed. “Thank you!” She laughed at his informality as he ripped the wrapper open.
“Mine too,” she smiled. “Thanks for helping me.”
Dante shot a wide smile, nibbling on the candy. “Happy Halloween, kiddo.”
~ Victoria Heitzman