Every Halloween, I have a semi-secret tradition of watching my favorite holiday movie ever, Scary Godmother. This year, I was too busy to watch it, so now that I finally got some down time, I rewatched it, inspiring this little ficlet. This one was a real monster to wrangle down. Happy belated Halloween!
(Skyclad sounds all dignified and stuff, but it actually just means naked. I like the implied meaning of wearing the sky, though.)
Of Tiaras and Firehoses
Skyclad (adj): naked; bare
When Zoey was still a squealing, hyperactive little kid, her mother would help her make her Halloween costume ever year (aka, do everything while Zoey made a mess). One year she wanted to be a fairy. A fairy with glamorous wings, a sparkly gold crown, and a magic wand.
She had dumped so much glitter on the cardboard, wing-shaped cutouts that as she walked, she had shedded trails of it behind her.
She remembered crying, telling her mom that it was all ruined and she was never going trick or treating again because all the glitter was going to fall off and no one would want to look at her wings because they were so ugly.
In reply, her mom had pressed a kiss to her forehead before pointing at the sparkly mess on the floor.
“Look closer, Cariad. It’s not glitter that’s falling off. It’s fairy dust.”
That was the first time in her life Zoey had truly felt she could be anything.
The next year she was batman, then a firefighter, then a ballerina, then a mad scientist.
Then she was a depressed little girl who locked herself up in her room and tried to pretend the world didn’t exist.
She still hadn’t fully outgrown that last one.
That’s why she didn’t like being herself.
So she wasn’t.
Her dad used to call her his Zealous Zoebug.
After he fell asleep, she had wanted to stay that way. She had wanted to stay his chirpy, optimistic daughter so when he woke up, he could slide back into his former place as easy as breathing.
But it was too hard.
She hadn’t gone for Halloween for the past 5 years. The holiday had suddenly seemed so stupid. Kids dressing as things they weren’t. Pretending for one night that they were someone else and then waking up the next day and going back to their stupid, normal lives as if none of it had ever happened.
But no costume would ever help her escape the reality she had woken up to 5 years ago.
She had tried.
But she couldn’t figure out who she was supposed to be anymore.
Telling people she was grieving didn’t cut it anymore. Five years was apparently too long to be mopey about anything.
Forced exuberance didn’t work either.
She was at an odd standstill, like a butterfly in a chrysalis. She could go in any direction, anywhere, be anyone. But she was still trapped in that chrysalis.
And she couldn’t breathe anymore.
Somehow, Aunt Em and Uncle Noah had convinced her to finally go this year with Aug, her best friend.
She had worn a lot of different costumes these past few years, though none of them had really been for Halloween.
She heard her Uncle call her down.
“Zoe! Your friend’s here!”
“Okay!” she yelled back. She slid down the banister, coming to a stop near her Aunt.
“What even are you?” Zoey asked Aug with a snort.
Her friend was wearing a white dress shirt, black jacket, dress pants, and tie that practically hung off his lanky frame. His electric blue, too-large frames rested low on his nose.
“Obviously, I’m a Reaper,” Aug replied in a ‘duh’ voice, waving around his scythe.
“Then why are you wearing a suit?”
“What?” Aug asked before pushing back his glasses (“You don’t look cool when you do that,” Zoey stage whispered and was ignored). “You think Reapers don’t have to deal with bureaucracy? You think they can just run around in ripped, tattered robes all day? Just imagine for a second all the paperwork that’s involved in ferrying souls to the other side and you’ll see that a suit—”
“Yeah, yeah. Let’s just go, Doof,” Zoey interrupted, yanking him out the door.
“Goodbye. Have fun! August, bring her back by 9, please!”
Zoey rolled her eyes. As much as she loved her Aunt, she was just so old-fashioned sometimes! She’d bring herself back, thank you very much. After all, this wasn’t a date.
“Be careful and be smart! Keep her safe, August!”
And that was her Uncle.
Huffing, she dragged Aug away faster.
“Stop it, Zee! You’re hurting me,” he whined.
Zoey glared viciously at him before deeming they were far enough away to let go.
Rubbing his wrist, he frowned at her. “And what are you supposed to be?”
“Isn’t it obvious?” Zoey asked.
“If it was, why would I ask?”
Zoey sighed before pulling Aug to the first house.
“Don’t ignore me!” he complained.
She ignored him.
Finally, they sat in the playground and began trading with each other. The pile of crinkled wrappers were shoved into their pockets as they gorged out before their respective parents/guardians confiscated it for “safekeeping.”
“Are you a librarian?”
“A punk rocker?”
“Then what are you?!” he asked frustratedly.
Zoey’s sighed and her voice grew uncharacteristically soft.
“That’s the thing, Aug. I don’t have to be anything. All this time, I’ve been asking myself, how am I supposed to act? what am I supposed to be? But I just realized, I don’t need to worry about acting or fitting other people’s expectations. I’m just going to try being myself. If other people judge me for it, that’s their problem. My costume is my self.”
August gave her a soft smile.
A moment later, “What a lame costume, Zoey,” he teased, stretching out the word costume as though to convey some sort of special meaning.
Zoey understood instantly.
“Today it’s a costume. Tomorrow, it’ll be reality,” she promised before stealing his Skittles. “After all, you’re supposed to dress as what you want to be.”
“If that was true, why would people dress as skeletons?” Aug asked, snatching a chocolate bar from her pile.
“Maybe they’re thinking ahead,” Zoey sagely replied.
“What about the zombies? and the laundry baskets? the hot dogs?”
“Oh, shut up and eat your chocolate already, Reaper boy.”