A Promise Kept: C. Fay Shlanda

Anne finished fussing with her seven year old son’s costume and stood back. “Well Mitchel, you make a gruesome zombie.”

Mitchel made a pained face to show his delight as he moaned and limped about in character. “Grandpa said I would too,” he proclaimed.

“He chooses this over a superhero costume,” Anne muttered as the camera snapped his performance.

“Now go watch out for your father. He should be here soon,” Anne said. “And make sure the fake blood stays on you and not on the furniture,” she quipped after him as her cell phone rang. “It better not be him calling to cancel,” Anne said to herself with groan.

Mitchel did his stagger routine into the front hall while Anne retreated to the kitchen to retrieve her phone.

“Hello?” she answered. No reply. The sounds of shuffling, breathing, but no voice in return. Pranks on Halloween. To be expected she guessed while hanging up.

Mitchel began shouting with excitement, “He’s here! He came! My friends said he wouldn’t make it, but he’s here!” He flung open the door, shooting out to the sidewalk faster than any zombie would.

Anne made it to the front door in time to see her son grinning as he shuffled alongside a grim reaper. Amazed her ex-husband had come dressed up in a costume, she decided not to reprimand Mitchel for not waiting. A second later the neighbours fence blocked her view of them.

Both Chris, her ex-husband and Mitchel needed this bonding time, she reminded herself. The death of Mitchel’s grandfather two months earlier had hit hard. Grandpa Mitchel loved spending time with his mini Mitchel protégé. He had stayed close after the divorce. Playing with him and taking him out when Chris failed to come.

Diving into giving out candy to the trick or treaters, Anne kept busy. Occupying herself would be the only way to keep her mind off watching the clock.

The candy bowl neared empty when the parade of kids ended hours later. Anne did not think Mitchel would manage to stay awake much longer. Worry was setting in when the doorbell chimed.

Chris stood there in the doorway with a look on his face she knew well. He was about to give her a bunch of excuses.

“Guess the costume didn’t last long,” she growled as she strained to look past him. “Where’s Mitchel?”

Chris’ face changed to a confused frown, “I know I didn’t take him as promised. I —”

He got no further in his explanation as Anne pushed past him. A sigh of relief escaping as Mitchel came into sight by the fence. He was shuffling backwards, trying to wave goodbye while laden down with candy.

“Thank you,” Mitchel called out before turning around to see his parents in the yard.

Bounding over to Mitchel, Anne stared down the street. She saw no evidence of anyone around.

Rushing everyone into the house, Anne set the candy aside and began to look Mitchel over. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“Yes!” Mitchel responded with pride. He straightened up, smiled, and pointed to his loot. “He kept his promise and we had lots of fun.”

“Who came?” Anne asked with more worry in her voice than she anticipated.

“Grandpa kept his promise,” Mitchel responded.

Chris knelt down, “Son, do you remember us explaining about grandpa dying?”

“I know. Grandpa said he needed to see me,” Mitchel said looking at the ground sheepishly. ”  He did try calling first. He had to break the rules to give me something.” Mitchel said defending his grandfather.

Anne was close to tears as she asked, “What did he give you?”

Mitchel reached into his pocket and pulled out an old pocket watch.

Anne and Chris recognized it without question. It was buried with Mitchel senior. Opening it, they saw a picture taped to the inside. The picture was of Chris around nine years old.

Before Anne or Chris could find their voice, Mitchel piped up, “Grandpa said this is mine now to remember him. He can’t come back again.” Mitchel looked up as he worked to recall the rest, “He said no more coverings for dad. Grandpa wants dad to remember too.”

Having said what his grandpa told him to, Mitchel looked to his parents for approval of how well he did.

Anne shot a look a Chris. They smiled and nodded to their son. Neither had a clue as to how to explain this.

Mitchel let out a big yawn, smearing his fake blood as he rubbed his eyes. This snapped Anne into action. Hustling him upstairs, she had him cleaned up and asleep in record time.

Back downstairs, Anne still had no idea on where to begin. Chris had a sunken look on his face. He said goodnight and headed out the door before any discussion could take place.

No resolution to the mystery would ever come for Anne. To think about it bothered her. She was more interested in what happened over the days that followed.

Chris was so spooked he began to see his son more often. The excuses dissipated from then on. Halloween became their extra special night together with coordinated costumes and a yard filled with scary decorations.

Mitchel behaved as usual the next morning. Begging to eat the candy he collected at every turn. Talking about what he wanted to be for Halloween next year.

Mitchel carried the pocket watch with him into adulthood. The promise his grandfather fulfilled meant the world to him as a child. More time with his father.