Part 1: Guilt trip pancakes.

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"Tis the night—the night

Of the grave's delight,

And the warlocks are at their play;

Ye think that without,

The wild winds shout, 

But no, it is they—it is they!"

―Arthur Cleveland Coxe, Halloween, A Romaunt

I was staring into the peaceful void of sleep when all of a sudden I felt my cheeks being squished on either side of my head by a gentle, yet firm pressure. I blinked awake groggily, slowly realizing that my cheeks were being compressed on each side by a pair of chubby, dimpled baby hands. I yawned, grabbing my glasses from the bedside table and pushing them onto my face. I smiled as his face came into focus. He looked mostly like his father: the same, sincere, green-blue eyes, and the whisper of a very familiar smile always on his lips. But his thick curly hair and apple-round cheeks were definitely a gift from his mother; and it was like looking at a distorted, much younger and cuter snapshot of myself.

I made a munching sound and scooped him up in my arms, and I pretended, like any loving mother, to gobble him up as if I were a monster. His gleeful cries made my heart swell. This was my little boy, Cade's and mine, our little Eli.

The sun poured in through the sheer curtains, a slight breeze streaming in through the partially opened window. The morning air smelled like fall and recent rain. Eli's skin felt like warm silk against mind, and he smelled like lavender baby shampoo. It was a lovely moment.

Until a loud shrill meow sounded in the open bedroom doorway, Darcy announcing—without words—that he was hungry, the only of my five cats that wouldn't just speak English. Instead, he used a series of shrill yelps and meows that I had come to interpret and understand in relation to his various needs. At least he was a better cat than a man. He was very sweet to Eli, and he seemed to have adjusted to his new life in the nearly six years he had been living with me as a feline.

Six years, I thought, glancing down at the simple silver ring on the ring finger of my left hand. I had been with Cade for almost six years now. Gee had been gone—well, sort of—for almost six years now. I was 30 years old. I cringed at that last part. I still wasn't used to the idea, or the slight whisper of wrinkles that were beginning to appear at the corners of my eyes and my forehead. I wondered, not for the first time, if I was ever going to be an adult.

I came to the conclusion, also not for the first time, that the answer to that question was a big fat no. And I didn't care. I realized a long time ago that the word "adult" is completely arbitrary. It doesn't apply to anyone. It's a made-up idea basically used to scare children into being good.

Darcy stepped further into the room and let out another grating meow. Eli wriggled in my arms, struggling to get free, to get to Darcy. I would never understand his bond with the has-been warlock, but there was no harm in it. Darcy couldn't harm anyone anymore, and I'd wager he was a changed man—no pun intended—deep in the heart of that little cat body.

"Honey," I called through the house to Cade, who I could tell was making breakfast by the smell of cinnamon wafting into the room, "Can you feed the cats please?"

"Finally!" I heard Tom groan from the other room.

"Oh! Yeah, of course. Is Eli in there with you?" I could hear his footsteps falling closer as he asked the question.

"Yep," I smiled at my little boy. He sat on the hardwood beside Darcy, hugging the grumpy looking cat around the neck and pressing his soft baby cheek against Darcy's furry, feline face.

Cade appeared in the doorway, hair disheveled, looking a little like he'd just rolled out of bed. He had a black apron tied on over his plaid pajamas and in his right hand he held a whisk covered in batter. There was batter smeared across his cheek and a light coat of flour dusting his glasses. I grinned at him. He was as adorable as ever.

"Are you making waffles?" I sat up.

"Pancakes!" he grinned, "I burned some of them," his face flushed a little, "But I think I've got the hang of it."

I threw back the covers, jumped out of bed, wrapped my arms around his neck, and kissed his batter-smeared cheek. "Thanks." I laid my head in the crook of his neck and turned my eyes back to Eli. He was squishing Darcy's face in his palms. Darcy looked tickled pink by it—by which I mean to say he sat there putting up with my toddlers nonsense and staring up at me with eyes that said, "please make it stop."

I laughed, because Darcy kind of deserved it, but nonetheless I saved him. I scooped up my baby and blew raspberries against his cheek. Cade wrapped his arms around both of us, careful to hold the whisk out of Eli's reach.

"You know what today is?" he whispered in my ear, an edge of hope to his voice.

I frowned. I knew very well what day it was. I was hoping he had dropped it. But I hadn't even been up ten minutes and the subject was back. I realized that he probably had ulterior motives for making pancakes. I narrowed my eyes. He couldn't buy me off with his delicious breakfast foods.

"Cade," I said slowly, turning to look at him, "No."

He groaned, "Come on! Everyone takes their kids out trick-or-treating on Halloween. I bought him the most adorable little Kylo Ren costume."

I gaped, "You bought him a costume! I already told you. I'm just not comfortable taking him out on a night like Halloween. Gee said it's a magically charged holiday. And my powers have been acting crazy lately. The other day in the store I inadvertently, telepathically threw two bags of green beans at a woman who bought the last carton of cookies and cream ice cream."

He shrugged a little, holding me at arms length, "You don't even have to come if you don't want to. Ellis and I can handle it."

I scoffed, "You brought my father in on this scheme?"

He smiled sheepishly, "He loves spending time with the kid."

I pursed my lips, and then said, "I just don't like it. I have a bad feeling about it. I don't like him being out this late on a night like tonight."

His eyes were pleading, "What could happen? He'll have his dad and a super powerful warlock to protect him. Plus how likely is it that we're actually going to run into anymore magic practitioners?"

I raised my eyebrows, "Super likely. Our family is like a freaking magnet to witches and warlocks."

"Nothing's happened in six years of Halloweens coming and going. It's our first Halloween with Eli. Please let me have this. I've skipped it for years now."

I sighed. Maybe they would be fine if I just didn't come, but then a part of me just really didn't want to miss my baby's first Halloween, his little fingers reaching out to grab offerings of candy. Plus... I really wanted to see Eli in the Kylo Ren costume. I couldn't miss that.

I pursed my lips. If they were going, I was going. It was as simple as that. But I felt really uneasy about it. I said, with complete reluctance, "Fine."

Cade grinned wide, cupped his hands on my cheeks—the whisk still sticking out wildly in his hand—and kissed my lips. I felt my heart warm and butterflies take flight in my stomach, and I almost forgot I was mad at him. Almost. But then I started thinking about all the terrifying things that could magically go wrong that night.

I was going to have to contact Gee and see if I could work up some kind of protection spell. The last thing I wanted was for Eli to be exposed to dangerous magic. In fact, for the most part, I'd been trying to shield him from that part of our lives until he became a little older. I was already hoping and praying that magic might have skipped him genetically, but I doubted it. Cade and I both came from gifted families. Normal was never in our gene pool. 

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