The night has been successful, as far as Owen is concerned. Lily seems to be enjoying herself, going door to door with her little pumpkin bucket. She's dressed as an angel (Claire's idea), and there's no denying that she looks cute as a button. She swings her loot back and forth merrily, making the candy bars chug like a train. Owen smiles and holds out his hand.
"Want me to carry it for a while?"
As soon as she passes him the bucket, he falls forward. Wow, this girl is strong. It won't be long before the plastic snaps under all this weight.
But Lily isn't finished yet. She skips down the block with a cheerful bounce. She's a woman on a mission. Then, something makes her pause. A highly-decorated house looms to her left, draped in synthetic cobwebs, glowing with purple light, oozing with dollar-store grade horror. Lily slows to a stop and turns to stare at it, gazing at the scene with awe. Spooky music is coming from inside. Something howls.
Lily's face shows a mix of fascination and fear that Owen remembers experiencing as a child. The question is whether or not her curiosity will outweigh her terror.
"Do you wanna-"
Lily yanks the bucket out of his hand without turning around. Then, she tiptoes up the driveway with the timidness of a bunny sniffing for traps. Owen follows.
When they reach the front door, Lily knocks shyly.
No reply. Owen waits for a few seconds, rocking back and forth on his heels. He peeks through the glass door, but sees no one.
"We might be out of luck, Lily. It doesn't look like-"
Suddenly, a man in a gorilla outfit leaps into view, arms raised with crooked fingers and mask pulled into a terrible scowl.
Lily is jumpy at the best of times, but she just so happens to have a fear of monkeys and apes in particular. After the initial jolt, she stands frozen, eyes wide. Owen can feel the storm coming. Lily's lip starts quivering, and her face pulls into a whimpering frown. She wheels around and stumbles down the driveway in tears, dropping her bucket on the stairs. Owen watches the candy scatter with a trembling heart. The gorilla lowers his arms.
"Geez. Sorry, bud. I didn't realize she was so young . . ."
Owen scoops up the candy hastily, and the gorilla man offers him a fistful of candy as compensation. He accepts it, then dashes away as fast as he can manage in his cowboy outfit. It's not safe for Lily to go wandering off at night.
He finds her under a towering pine tree, cradling her knees with her face hidden. She is still crying. Owen bites his lip and crouches in front of her.
"Lily, it's okay. It's just a costume."
She shakes her head sharply, still bawling.
"I'm serious. He's not a real gorilla."
She's not listening. Owen reaches into her bucket and pulls out a piece of candy.
"Look, Lily. He gave you five peanut butter cups. They're your favorite, right?"
Slowly, Lily peeks over her arms. She sniffs the air, then grabs the candy from his hand, ripping it open and shoving it in her mouth despite her still-running nose. When it's gone, she wipes her mouth and hands him the wrapper. He smiles and tickles her chin.
"See? It's not so bad . . ."
She blinks innocently.
Owen shakes his head.
"Not yet, pumpkin. We need to pace ourselves or Mommy will yell at me . . . again . . ."
Lily points at the house stubbornly.
Owen rubs the back of his neck.
"Lily, I don't think-"
She grabs the bucket and charges towards the house before he can stop her. By the time he catches up, she's already rung the doorbell (standing on her tiptoes to do so). The gorilla man returns, walking into view normally this time. He pulls his head back in surprise when he sees that Lily has decided to come back, then takes off his mask as he opens the door.
"Oh, hi. Sorry about scaring you before."
Lily stares at him blankly. He gives an awkward smile.
"What's your name?"
Lily ignores the question, instead pointing to the bowl of peanut butter cups on the floor. He reaches into it and hands her one candy.
"There you go. Happy Halloween."
Lily looks down at her bucket, then up at him. She turns her eyes to the bowl, which is full to the brim. Owen frowns with curiosity. Without warning, Lily lifts her leg and kicks the gorilla man in the nuts. He keels over in pain, bursting into obscenity. Lily grabs the bowl, dumping its contents into her loot, then makes a break for it, halo bobbing hectically. Owen is mortified. He doesn't know what to say, except-
And then he runs after Lily.
He catches up with her a few streets down (She can really run, that kid!), and cuts her off. She looks up at him with big eyes. He isn't falling for it.
"Lily . . ."
She can tell he's mad, because he has his hands on his hips. After a pause, she reaches into her bucket and holds out a peanut butter cup. Owen glares at her.
"No, I do NOT want your candy. You're in big trouble, Lily!"
She gulps. Owen leans in, waiting for a reply. Lily waddles up to him and hugs his leg.
"I wuv you, Daddy."
He stares her down.
"Don't give me that sh*t. I'm considering taking you home right this instant."
"NO!" Lily wails.
"Give me one good reason why I shouldn't."
Lily rubs her chin, then perks up.
"Mommy be mad you let me kick gorilla."
Owen narrows his eyes. Taking a deep breath, he lifts her bucket and storms to the next house.
"I can't believe I'm being blackmailed by my own daughter . . . again . . ."
Lily smiles and hugs his leg, genuinely this time.
"Wuv you, Daddy."
He rolls his eyes.
"Fine, but you had better share that candy."
Claire Dearing is a Stegoceratops and you can't disprove that.