The pumpkins sitting in front of the Andersons' house were too ugly to live.
That was the one thought that flashed through Claire Baker's mind as she stormed up the well-paved driveway. She glared at the cheerful mailbox, painted pastel pink and blue with birds and bunnies and hideously fascinating yellow bumblebees.
Oh, my God. Who even gets mail anymore?
When she was five or six, Claire asked her parents if the Andersons' mailbox looked like that so the stork would know where to deliver the baby. She remembered this because her mother's face turned bright red and she snorted coffee from her nose.
For the entirety of her sixteen years, she'd lived next door to the Andersons on the little cul-de-sac that pizza delivery guys could never find. The Andersons and the Bakers were inseparable. Claire was the girl next door.
That's why, when she started dating their oldest son Jeremy, both families were ecstatic. Claire and Jeremy looked so happy in their homecoming photo, two all-American kids who fell in love after practically growing up together.
Why do people want that? Claire pondered the situation with no shortage of bitterness. Falling in love with your brother is perverted. When you fall for almost-your-brother, old people act like it's some accomplishment.
Claire and Jeremy were the perfect couple since they kissed in front of the Barnes & Noble that was now a vegan hipster cupcake shop. That was freshman year. The romance was suitably PG-13 adorable, until the disastrous homecoming weekend that began the Great Pumpkin War Of 2019.
The evening was supposed to be perfect. Junior year was off to a fabulous start for Claire. She was on top of the world, riding in one of the cars decorated for the homecoming court and showing up at the dance with the tall, handsome Jeremy on her arm. They were the cliche of everything ever depicted in movies about high school love.
Like the plots of most of those cheesy movies, their love unravelled quickly. Their group of friends had smuggled in flasks, an achievement of which they were proud. It was rude to spike everyone's punch. It was also stupid to waste good alcohol on strangers.
Claire almost smiled as she remembered the real homecoming photos, the ones with her and Jeremy and their closest friends posing with silver-coloured flasks like very, very suburban gangsters. Those flasks were the beginning of the end.
The note in Claire's locker on Halloween said it all.
I'm sorry for making out with Jocelyn in the back of my parents' car. To be honest, I didn't even know I was into her, but when you're drunk, most girls are hot..."
It went on for a full page and was the worst apology note ever. Claire planned to rip up the letter and to leave the pieces scattered all over the Andersons' doorstep.
It was terrible luck that her eyes fell upon the pumpkins. Filled with rage, she picked one of the grotesque creatures up and smashed it all over the immaculate brick with the bats and witches screaming "Welcome".
Caroline Anderson was the kind of woman who drank two vodka cranberries every afternoon and then went binge-shopping at the dollar store. She was the only person under eighty who still wore sweatshirts with a ghost that yelled "Boo!".
Claire hated not only the shirt but the logistics of it. To activate the button, you not only had to feel someone up, but you also had to be very bad at it.
Claire smirked picturing Jeremy's mother driving around in the Pukemobile, building her empire of suburban tackiness.
It was all a monument to happiness people were supposed to feel. That was everything that defined life on the little cul-de-sac that Amazon couldn't find.
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Winter's NocturneShort Story
As nights grow longer and the moon shines colder, a writer's words flow a bit more freely. The scent of candles and twinkling of lights mix with cups of hot cocoa, all wrapped up in fleece blankets to create a beautiful composition devoted to the se...