Faded

By Maggie Handelman

Eliza stared, mesmerized by her own reflection. Never before had she crafted a costume so stunning. Silver leaves were sewed to her leotard, and fake birds surrounded her. A single bird rested on her head, icicles shot from her fingers, and her face was painted with the most intricate silver designs. The hours spent looking through her mother’s fashion magazines, studying every picture until she knew it by heart, the days of hand sewing her leotard, making sure every stitch was perfect, and the weeks of making paper mache birds and painting them till they looked real had finally paid off. Abstract was perfect, she thought. Eliza couldn’t wait to show Alex.

                   “Happy Halloween,” Eliza blurted out as soon as Alex opened her front door. ” I’m so excited to go trick or treating. Look at my costume. It’s abstract! What are you going to be?”

                  Alex recoiled, scrunching up her face in disgust. “Trick or treating is for babies. What kind of costume is that anyway?” She paused. “Everyone in fifth grade is going over to Natalie’s house to watch a horror move. See you there.” She smiled and slammed the door with a loud bang.

                  Eliza stood alone on the curb digesting everything she had just heard. Had Alex always acted this way? She remembered the other day in the cafeteria and how Alex had refused to sit at the table they always sat at. The table they had sat at since first grade. The table they had giggled and whispered at. The table that they had agreed was their table and would be theirs forever. Instead, Alex had spent lunch gossiping with Mia and Olivia. Eliza had not thought about the incident until then.

                  That night Eliza walked down the street to Natalie’s house. For weeks she had been looking forward to Halloween. She thought about the beautiful costume waiting in her bedroom. She thought about the empty pillowcase hungry for candy.  She thought about what Alex would say if she didn’t show up. She rang Natalie’s doorbell and reluctantly entered.

                  Sitting silently by the window of Natalie’s house, Eliza watched the trick or treaters slowly making their way down the block. The witches and goblins and ghosts with their pillowcases full of loot seemed so pleased and untroubled. She was so absorbed in watching, she was almost oblivious to the screams issuing from the television set.

                  Her heart was heavy as she excused herself from the room. She took one last look at Alex, who was staring intently at the TV screen, Alex who she had known since she was five, who had always agreed with her.  Eliza tried one last time tapping Alex on the shoulder and muttering, “Come on, let’s go.” But Alex brushed her off as one would a fly, without even looking away from the screen.

            Eliza closed the heavy wooden door. The brisk air hit her like a slap as she raced down the block, holding back tears. She fled from Natalie, the horror movie, and most of all Alex, Alex who acted so big and somehow made Eliza feel so small. Eliza slowed down. Halloween was over. There were only a couple of ghosts making their way up the block.

          Eliza crept to her bedroom and sat by her window. The beautiful Maple tree just outside was dead. The leaves, once so graceful, were defeated. The branches, once so strong, now hung limp. Although she knew in her heart it had been slowly fading for a long time, Eliza now realized it was completely gone. With such sorrow, Eliza barely noticed the new sapling down the block that would flower in spring.

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