Jessica tugged at her skirt, then told herself to stop. Halloween was her chance to let loose, be less buttoned up. She had to be comfortable in her costume if she was going to have any fun at all.
The doorbell rang, and the chorus of “trick or treat” was punctuated by giggles.
“Hi girls,” Jessica’s mom said downstairs.
She looked in the mirror one more time and hiked her skirt back up to where it belonged. You can pull this off, she told herself. You look amazing.
She ran down the stairs and dug through the closet for her cowboy boots. She chipped her nail polish while she was putting them on.
“Don’t stay out too late, girls,” her mom said. Jess tried to give her a reassuring smile but was sure it was more of a grimace. Her mom thought they were going to the school costume party and dance, but her friends had convinced her to lie to her mom and go to the real party instead. She’d never been to a proper party and she was crippled with nerves.
They piled into her friend Chelsea’s hatchback. Chelsea was the only one who already had her driver’s license.
“What are you supposed to be, anyway?” asked Chelsea, who was dressed as a slutty witch. “Jessica Wears a Miniskirt?”
Everyone laughed, and Jessica blushed furiously. Emily and Rory were a slutty Cinderella and a slutty pumpkin. In spite of her embarrassment, Jessica was astonished that even a pumpkin could be made slutty.
When they arrived, Jessica realized she’d missed the memo. The guys were all dressed as manly things, cavemen and football players and Avengers, and the girls were all scantily clad. There was unfortunate cleavage everywhere. Chelsea, Emily, and Rory dove right in, but Jessica hung back, her entire body caught in a cringe. She wanted to be anywhere else.
An eternity later, Chelsea brought her a red cup. “You, my boring friend, are boring. We did not come here to be boring. Drink up.” Her eyes were bright and her costume was practically falling apart.
Jessica took the cup and followed her friend. Almost immediately a guy from school pressed up against her and slurred, “You having a good time, sweetie?” It took her a moment to realize he was grinding on her.
She was done. She put the cup down on an end table and fought her way to the door. The fresh air was not the reprieve she’d been hoping for, as someone was throwing up on the front walk, but she sidestepped around them and started walking towards home. She was going to be a social pariah at school. She was never going to be cool. And she was going to have to tell her parents where she’d been, and deal with the fallout from that.
“Jessica, are you okay?” someone said.
She jumped and turned around. Miss Adrienne, one of the volunteers from the school library, was coming towards her. She was Jessica’s favourite person at school – so cool it left her breathless. She had the biggest hair Jessica had ever seen, the perfect tiny nose ring, and she always wore a giant pendant. Tonight her Cher costume was so spot-on Jessica expected her to break into “Love After Love.”
“I saw you walk by and you looked so sad that I couldn’t just leave you alone. What happened?”
The tears that she’d been holding in burst out. “I went to the Halloween party, not the school one, the other one, you know, and it was awful, and some guy… so I left, and I don’t know how I’m going to go back to school on Monday, and I lied to my parents, and everything is so awful.”
“Oh honey, that sounds terrible! Are you going home now?” Miss Adrienne’s eyes were filled with compassion.
“Yeah,” Jessica sniffled.
“Do you want me to walk with you?”
“Oh, would you?”
“Sure, let me just turn off my light for the trick or treaters and close my door so my cat doesn’t get out.”
Jessica followed her up her front walk and stood awkwardly outside.
“I love your costume, by the way,” Miss Adrienne said over her shoulder as she punched buttons on her alarm. It beeped angrily at her. “I hate this thing! I can never get it right.”
“No one knew what it was,” said Jessica.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You look just like Amy Pond. Where’s your Doctor?”
The pendant around Miss Adrienne’s neck seemed to catch the light in a funny way as she turned.
“Ready to go?”
“There’s no time. I’ve got to find the Doctor.”
“You don’t want me to walk with you?”
“Walk? I have to run! So much running.”
“Well, if you’re sure, I’ll see you around. Take care of yourself, okay?”
“The Doctor takes care of me,” she said confidently.
She took off down the sidewalk, scanning the neighbourhood. Some girls in a hatchback pulled up beside her, looking scared.
“Jessica, where have you been?”
“You can’t just walk out of a party without telling us where you went!”
“There’s no time! I’ve got to find the Doctor!”
“What doctor? What are you talking about?”
“The Doctor! Oh, you wouldn’t understand.”
She took off running.
“My name’s Amy.”
“Jesus, did someone spike your drink at the party? Get in. We’ll get you to a doctor.”
“Not a doctor! The Doctor!”
“Fine. Get in. We’ll find him for you.”
She got in. When they got to the hospital, it took six nurses to hold her down for a sedative, and even then, she would only say she had to find the Doctor.