Hallowe’en in Sugna
This started just as a quick story to explain a possible background to this picture, but it ended up being a bit more than that once things started flowing out of me. Although not written in first person, it’s written from Ellie’s perspective, a holiday (vacation) to the US where she finds herself joining Izzy and her friends as they go out trick-or-treating one Hallowe’en. I ended up writing a bit more than just that, including some about Ellie’s thoughts towards her best friend Rachel, and some random stuff that popped into my head that seems to fit the characters! As what is effectively McInTots fan fiction, none of the story that involves those characters is canon to that universe, but the bits that involve Ellie on her own are canon to her (if that makes sense).
Ellie is 11 when this takes place, her birthday being at the end of May – there’s a small continuity error here as this picture is referenced, but instead of taking place on Ellie’s twelfth birthday (as is in the picture description), it happened on her eleventh. I doubt anybody is paying too much attention though! There’s also a tiny bit of fourth wall breaking in one part of the story – that just came out as I wrote it; I found it amusing so left it in.
The McInTots characters belong to and are used here in a more fictitious way than they would be normally. Ellie and Rachel and their families are mine. Any other characters that appear are mine too, but are just incidental appearances. And, of course, any activities, locations, characters etc are part of my imagination and any resemblance to real places or people is entirely coincidental.
Matathesis (Mat), London, October 2021
“C’mon, I think I’ve got something you could wear,” Izzy said heading towards the stairs. “I know it’s not really a scary costume, but it doesn’t need to be! The fun is in the dressing up!”
Ellie wasn’t sure, but followed Izzy up the stairs and into her bedroom. She watched the dingo root around in the closet for a bit, before she found something, and showed it to the badger with a flourish.
“How about this? I wore it for a school play last semester – it should fit you, we’re about the same size.”
Ellie looked at the dance outfit uncertainly. The light turquoise dress looked small, but then again tutus often did when they weren’t being worn, the material stretching to fit whoever was wearing it.
“Come on Ellie, why don’t you just try it on?” Izzy said. The warm smile and easy voice was almost hypnotic, and Ellie reached and took the outfit from Izzy’s hands. “The bathroom’s down the hall.”
There was a strange sound from outside followed by an equally strange sound that Ellie couldn’t quite decipher but could tell that it came from Tay’s mouth. Izzy stepped over to her bedroom window and looked out.
“Geez, what’s he up to now?” Izzy mumbled as she saw what her brother was trying to do. “I’ll be back in a minute,” she said to her guest, “try that on, see if it fits you.” And with that, she was gone and Ellie heard her bound down the stairs. She looked out of the window, still holding the tutu, and saw Tay with what looked like some sort of oil drum, and it looked almost like he was trying to hammer holes into it. She sighed and shook her head. She didn’t know Tay that well, but knew he was a bit strange from whenever Izzy spoke about him.
Ellie had met the two dingoes and their family by chance when the McIntoshes were on vacation in the UK. They had started off with a week on the south coast of England near to where Ellie lived, before heading to Scotland to spend time with more of their family who lived there. It was while on the beach near Hazelford that they had met Ellie, along with her brother Alex, and her friends Rachel and Imogen. Tay made friends with Imogen, the mischievous nature of the fox being like a magnet to the chaotic dingo, while Ellie and Rachel had gravitated towards Izzy. The three girls became quite good friends, and when Ellie and Alex’s parents announced that they were spending the autumn half term in America, it was no accident that the Reynolds found themselves near the McIntoshes for the week.
She slipped out of Izzy’s bedroom and down the hall to the bathroom, pausing to try and hear the almost-but-not-quite argument between the twins but with no luck. Locking herself into the bathroom, she slipped off her teeshirt, looking at her developing chest in the mirror. It had been such a gradual change, but – perhaps it was the unfamiliar surroundings she was now in – there definitely were the start of breasts growing; she would soon have to ask her mum about bras. Smiling, she thought about her best friend Rachel, and that although the squirrel was bigger, she couldn’t help notice that Rachel’s chest was still pretty flat. She cleared her mind with the shake of a head, and realised that she would need to take her trousers off to put the tutu on, even if only just trying it on. If she did go out in it that evening (and let’s face it, she thought, she more than likely would despite her reservations), she’d probably have to take her panties off too, but for now she’d get away with leaving them on.
As Ellie slipped into the outfit, she marvelled both at Izzy’s perception that it would be a good fit, and how the tight material clung to her body. The elasticated tail-hole might have been just a little too small, but not so much that it was a bother and so she wouldn’t complain about that. She took the skirt part and attached it around her waist, looking at herself in the mirror.
Maybe this would work, she thought. It wasn’t the thing she thought she would wear to go out trick-or-treating – not that she usually went out on Hallowe’en at all – but it would do. Nobody here knew her anyway, so even if she made a fool of herself none of her friends would know. Rachel was always trying to get her to be more outgoing, to try new things, and to take risks. She still drew the line at climbing trees, but she had been really trying to take her friend’s words to heart, and maybe going out trick-or-treating in an unknown neighbourhood wearing a turquoise tutu was a bit of a risk and as good a place as any to start.
“Well? Does it fit?” Izzy’s voice broke through Ellie’s thoughts.
“Yeah, I think so,” replied Ellie.
“Great! Let me in, let’s have a look.”
Ellie reached over and unlocked the door. It was opened from the other side, and in came the dingo and – to Ellie’s surprise and dismay – the racoon girl she had seen around a bit. They hadn’t met, but she assumed this was Becky.
“Wow, you’re right Iz,” Becky said, “She does look cute in that!” Ellie felt herself blush slightly. “I’m Becky,”
“Ellie,” said Ellie.
“Nice to meet ya,”
They heard the back door slam and heavy footsteps run up the stairs.
“Outta my way! I gotta piss!” shouted Tay. There was a chaotic flurry of movement that Ellie found herself caught up in; she wasn’t entirely sure what was happening and was almost surprised to find herself suddenly on the landing with Izzy and Becky, hearing the bathroom door lock.
“C’mon, let’s get back into my room,” said Izzy, “He’ll be in there for ages.”
“But what about my clothes?” asked Ellie.
“What? These ones?” Becky held out Ellie’s trousers and teeshirt, grinning.
The trio walked into Izzy’s bedroom and Becky shut the door behind them.
“You gonna get changed back into your normal clothes?” Izzy asked Ellie.
“Yeah, once your brother finishes in the bathroom,” Ellie replied, taking the clothes from Becky’s hands.
“Oh, he’ll be in there for ages,” Izzy repeated. “You might’s well do it in here.”
“WHAT??! I can’t get changed, not in front of people!”
“Oh, come on,” Becky said, “It’s not as if you haven’t got anything that we haven’t. Anyway, we’ll turn around and face the wall if you’re that embarrassed.”
“Yeah,” Izzy put in, “Besides, you’ve told me that you’ve changed in front of Rachel before, what’s the difference?”
Ellie felt herself blush again. “That’s... different,” she said, “Rachel’s my... friend...”
“Oh, and we’re not your friends?” teased Izzy.
“No... I mean... it’s different ’cause Rachel... and... it’s... er...”
Becky noticed that Ellie was getting more embarrassed and lightly took hold of Izzy’s arm and gently turned her to face the wall. In the few minutes she’d known Ellie, and from what Izzy had said about her and Rachel, she guessed that the friendship between the two was something more than just that, and could tell that Ellie herself wasn’t quite sure what it was.
With the other two girls facing the wall, Ellie quickly took off the dress and stepped back into her trousers. Pulling her teeshirt back on she announced, “Okay, I’m done,” and sat down on Izzy’s bed as the dingo and the racoon turned back around.
“So are you gonna come with us tonight?” asked Izzy.
“I guess so,” said Ellie.
“Great!” responded Becky, “It’ll be really good fun, always is!”
“It’s not something I usually do at home,” Ellie said.
“Dunno really,” Ellie shrugged. “Just never have really. Guess it’s because my hometown does something different on Bonfire Night.”
“Ah, you don’t know what you’re missing,” said Becky, “Always good candy around here and you never know what’s going to happen really – especially with Tay around.”
“He certainly seems to make things interesting,” said Ellie, recalling when they had met back in Hazelford.
“You kind of get used to it,” sighed Izzy. “I wish he was a bit more sensible sometimes though. Still, he’s my twin brother and I love him, even if he bugs the hell out of me.”
Ellie tried to imagine what things would be like if Alex was like Tay. “Meh,” she said with a wry smile, “normality is over-rated.”
“So you’re one of Izzy’s British friends then?” The kangaroo had bounced over the garden fence where Ellie, Izzy, and Becky were surveying the ruins of the oil drum that Tay had been attacking earlier on. It looked like he had been trying to poke arm holes in it, probably so he could wear it as some sort of robot costume. Still thinking about the differences between her brother and Izzy’s brother, she mused that Alex might have done the same thing – but probably would’ve managed to do a better and complete job. Still, she reasoned, Tay hadn’t done a bad job and although she didn’t know him all that well, she would imagine that he would still attempt to wear it later on regardless.
“Yeah,” Ellie said, wondering why, with dingoes and kangaroos living here, there appeared to be a part of Australia in this corner of America. (Did raccoons, she wondered, also appear in Australia?)
“Well, any friend of Izzy’s is a friend of mine. I’m Jules. You coming with us tonight?”
“Erm, I guess so,” Ellie replied.
“D’you want to borrow my slutty maid outfit?”
“Well, I don’t suppose you brought anything with you did you, so you’ll need something to wear, and it would go well with your black and white fur. Unless you’re gonna go naked. That might work. People ’round here probably haven’t seen a badger like you before so you could say it is your costume. I tried to go naked last year but people are used to me now so it didn’t really have the effect that I hoped it might.”
“Shush Jules,” Izzy interrupted. “Stop trying to corrupt Ellie. Besides, I’m lending her a costume for tonight which is a bit more appropriate.”
“Whatever.” Jules shrugged. “I guess I’ll wear it then.” Her eyes widened with the spark of an idea. “Unless Tay wants to wear it!”
“Jules! No!” Izzy shouted after the kangaroo who had bounded off into the McIntosh house, but it was too late. “Ergh,” Izzy grunted. “Jules knows Tay is too impressionable. I don’t want to think of what might happen.”
“I dunno,” said Becky, “it’d be funny to see Tay dressed up as a slutty maid.”
The three girls each imagined Tay in costume; Becky with a smirk on her face, Izzy looked disgusted at the idea, and Ellie just looked confused. Her mind drifted a bit, first imagining Tay dressed up, then her own brother Alex (realising why Izzy looked disgusted as she pictured her own brother), then finally Rachel. She felt herself blush so turned away from the other two. She had been thinking more and more about Rachel in a different way recently. The two had been friends, well, forever it seemed like, and she realised that recently she had been looking at the squirrel... longingly? Was that the right word?
She thought she could trace it back to her birthday back in May when she pecked Rachel on the cheek as a thank you for her present. Since then, there was just something about Rachel that she was seeing differently. Her red fur, bushy tail, orangey-red hair that just always seemed perfect despite Ellie knowing for a fact that Rachel did nothing to it in the mornings other than a quick brush, and those cute tufts of hair that sprung up from her ears. The way she could just scamper up a tree – something that Ellie never really managed to do, scampering or otherwise – and the girl’s confidence in almost everything were things that Ellie really aspired to, and that Rachel tried to encourage.
And now she was picturing her best friend dressed up as a slutty maid and it was almost too much for the young badger to cope with and she felt her coarse back fur bristle and her tail stiffen and...
“Earth to Ellie? Are you still in there?”
A golden-coloured paw waving in front of her face brought her back to reality and almost immediately she felt her tail and fur soften again. She blinked a few times to get rid of the image of Rachel.
“Didn’t realise the idea of Tay in a maid costume would turn you on so much Ells!” Izzy smirked.
Ellie blushed again. “No, I wasn’t thinking of your brother, I was thinking of Ra... somebody else.” She hoped that the almost-slip of her best friend’s name wouldn’t be noticed. Becky noticed it, but decided to leave it be for now. It was obviously something that the girl was struggling with inside herself and something she would work out in her own time.
“Maybe I should go for it,” Becky said, trying to move the conversation on. “Jules is right, it probably would go well with the black-and-white fur.”
Before anybody could say anything – and with Izzy trying not to imagine her best friend dressed as a slutty maid – Jules came back out of the McIntosh house giggling to herself.
“What have you done Jules?” Becky said accusingly.
Jules coughed her giggles away and feigned innocence. “Nothing...?”
“Jules...” A stern glance, paw raised in Jules’ direction; sometimes the threat was more productive than actual violence.
“Okay, okay; I may have told Tay that we’re going for a ‘tickle feet’ theme tonight when we’re out trick-or-treating.”
Becky lowered her paw and tried to stifle her own giggles.
“JULES!!!” Izzy shouted. “I’ve told you before, stop toying with my brother! You know how impressionable he is!”
Ellie looked at the three girls, not quite sure whose side to take. On one hand, the idea was pretty funny, but the only person she really knew here was Izzy and she seemed pretty annoyed at Jules so she thought she probably shouldn’t laugh. She noticed Becky bite the inside of her mouth to stop her laughter and found that she was doing the same.
“Oh, lighten up Iz,” Jules said, “it’s only a joke. Not even Tay would expect this is a real thing we’re going for.” She paused. “Okay, he might. Perhaps you need to remind him before we go out.”
Izzy sighed, her anger – more annoyance than anger – melting away as quickly as it had risen, and she broke into a smile. “Well, it could be worse. You could have persuaded him to wear your maid outfit.” Jules looked anywhere but at Izzy. “Jules... tell me you didn’t...”
Jules broke into a smile. “Nah, don’t worry. Would’ve been funny though. It’d be the talk of Tavindale for the whole year though – a dingo boy dressed as a slutty maid tickling people’s feet...” Ellie let out the stifled laugh she had been holding in as a snort. Jules turned to look at her. “Ah, British humour – almost as sophisticated as Australian.”
With that, all four girls suddenly burst out in laughter, and for the first time since she had come to Izzy’s house, Ellie felt properly comfortable and amongst friends.
“Is it always this mad around here?” she asked nobody in particular.
“No,” came the response. “It’s usually much worse.”
“So, what’s your costume going to be Becky?” Ellie asked.
“Oh, I thought I’d go as a witch tonight.”
“Yeah, right,” Jules said, “like that’ll happen. It’ll be some obscure 90s film character again as usual.”
“I think...” Izzy mused, “Edward Scissorhands.”
Becky shrugged. “Maybe.”
Jules sighed. “Shame Ilsa’s not here, she’d know instantly.”
‘How’s Izzy?’ The message from Rachel came through to Ellie’s phone late afternoon. A bit of mental maths and she worked out that it was about 9pm at home, and she wondered what her friend was doing right now – other than messaging her of course.
‘She’s good, she asked if you were alright, I said you were.’ Ellie replied.
‘ :) ’
Ellie wondered whether to talk about what she had thought about earlier, imagining Rachel in the – now infamous, even though she hadn’t seen it – slutty maid costume of Jules’. Probably best not to.
‘Going out trick-or-treating tonight with Izzy and her friends,’ she tapped out on her phone. ‘Izzy’s lending me a ballerina costume she has.’
‘Ooh, I bet you’ll look cute in that ;) make sure you send me a pic! <3 ’
Ellie blushed. Maybe her feelings towards Rachel weren’t one sided after all.
‘Will do :) I’ll try and get a group photo of all of us!’ ... depending on the costume that is.
‘Cool, look forward to seeing it x’
As evening started drawing in, Izzy got Ellie to go upstairs and change into her costume, then she would go and change into hers. As she stood in Izzy’s bathroom, once again holding the tutu and looking in the mirror, she wondered what she was doing. She felt nervous, overwhelmed almost at the number of friends Izzy seemed to have and that she – somehow – was now one of them, even if she was just visiting. She felt like a bit of an interloper, but everybody had just taken to her straight away. Maybe what the kangaroo girl had said was right: any friend if Izzy’s is a friend of theirs. Taking her teeshirt off she once again looked at her budding breasts. Her dad had been lightly teasing her for a while that she was now becoming a young woman; she had laughed it off, but now was thinking that he was right. He’d also been teasing her that she’d soon be fighting off all the boys. Hah! Little chance of that happening Dad, she thought, there’s only one person I’m interested in and she’s not a boy.
Wait – where did that thought come from? As she found herself once again thinking about Rachel (in that costume again... taking it off?) she felt her nipples tingle and looked in the mirror to see them become solid little nubs. Argh! Calm down Ellie, calm down. She remembered what she was in the bathroom to do, and turned away from the mirror and tried not to think of anything as she took her trousers off. She was about to pull the costume dress on when she remembered that she was going to do it without her panties on. She thought about leaving them on, but she could hear Rachel’s voice in her head – the sweet, heavenly voice of the squirrel who was always trying to get the badger to try new things, take risks, be adventurous – ‘Just go for it, what’s the worst thing that could happen?’
Well, there were a few things that could happen but maybe the voice was right. With a sudden moment of courage, she slipped her panties down and over her feet. She couldn’t help but take a moment to look at her fully nude self in the full-length mirror that was in the bathroom. Maybe Dad is right, she thought with a wry smile, I might have the boys fighting over me. They’d be fighting over nothing though. Her smile turned slightly. “But what if Rachel isn’t interested in me this way? I’d feel stupid for even thinking so, and I’ll have lost my best friend,” she said quietly to herself.
Quickly before her courage disappeared, she pulled on the tutu bodice and slipped her tail through the hole, vaguely noticing that it seemed more comfortable than earlier on when she tried it on, probably due to the lack of underwear. She wrapped the skirt around her waist and impulsively gave a twirl in front of the mirror.
Yeah, maybe she was cute.
Ellie noticed a couple of hair ties on the counter that matched the colour of the dress she now wore. She slipped off her usual red ones from the ends of her braids and replaced them with the turquoise ones, taking the opportunity to tidy her braids up a bit from a day of action at the same time. She folded her clothes neatly and with her nervousness once again starting to creep in, took a breath and walked into the hallway. After putting her clothes onto Ellie’s bed, she started to descend the stairs.
“Ah, there she is!” announced Izzy as she heard Ellie approach, light pawsteps on the stairs. She hadn’t got changed herself yet, but she was with some others who had: Becky, dressed – as she promised – as a witch; a slightly chubby monkey that Ellie hadn’t met yet dressed as a pirate; and Tay, dressed not in the oil drum as expected, but instead as a vampire.
“Weren’t you going as a robot tonight in that oil drum, Tay?” Ellie asked.
Tay looked confused. “No, I was always gonna be dressed as a vampire tonight.”
“Then what were you doing with the oil drum this afternoon?”
“That’s gonna be my costume for Thanksgiving.”
Ellie opened her mouth to say something – she wasn’t sure what – but closed it again when she noticed both Izzy and Becky shake their heads subtly in her direction. Some things, she thought, are best left not asked. And she was quickly learning that was especially true when it came to Taylor McIntosh. She noticed that there was as of yet no sign of Jules in that costume, and idly wondered whether it was like Tay’s oil drum – just a red herring for the purposes of storytelling.
“Ellie, this is Miranda,” Izzy said, pointing to the pirate-monkey; then to Miranda: “this is Ellie, my friend from England.”
Miranda just waved shyly in Ellie’s direction.
“We’re still waiting for Jules,” Izzy continued, “and Ilsa said she’ll meet us later. I’ll go and get changed while we wait for Jules.” With that, Izzy padded up the stairs.
“Come on kids, come through and sit down,” came the voice of Izzy’s mum from the living room. Led by Becky and tailed by Tay, the four wandered through to where Mrs McIntosh had laid out some snacks and drinks for them before they went out. “How is the dress, Ellie?” she asked as Ellie sat down.
“It’s fine,” Ellie said.
“I made the tail hole a little bigger for you as it seemed a little small. I found a couple of hair ties the same colour as well for you.”
Ellie smiled. “Thank you, Mrs McIntosh,” she said.
“No worries. And call me Brenda.” Then, to the group: “Once Izzy comes back down and Jules gets here, I’ll get a group photo of you all before you go out.” She paused. “Depending on what Jules is wearing, that is. Taylor, eat properly.”
Tay looked up at his mum and bared his plastic vampire fangs, the effect slightly diminished by his real fangs – well, his canines – hiding badly behind the fake ones. He hissed in her direction.
“Taylor...” his mother warned. He stopped hissing and sat back, swallowing the food in his mouth with a big gulp. “Good boy. Leave some for everybody else.”
There was a knock at the door, and without waiting, Jules walked in. Wearing, as promised, that costume. Ellie idly wondered where Jules managed to get such an outfit in her size, but there she was, looking every bit the slutty maid. Strangely though, it didn’t seem wrong on the kangaroo, whereas it would have on anybody else here, especially her, and – as the thought suddenly popped into her head – especially Rachel. She tried to push the image of her best friend wearing that costume back out of her head, not easy given that Jules’ fur was almost the same colour as Rachel’s.
“Julie,” Brenda said, “does your mother know you’re out dressed like that?”
“Yeah,” Jules said.
Izzy walked into the room, dressed in a peach-coloured dress with fairy wings attached to the back. “So this is where you all went,” she said as she arrived. “Oh, hey Jules,”
“Hey, Jules, don’t make it bad, take a sad song and make it better...” Brenda began to sing.
“Mom, shut up – that’s still not funny,” Izzy moaned, rolling her eyes.
Brenda grinned, and left the room still singing “Na, na, na, na na na na, na na na na, hey Jules”.
Becky laughed, “I find it funny,” she said.
Moments later, Brenda came back with her phone in her hand. “Ready for the photo kids?”
“You’ll steal my soul,” said Tay, baring both his plastic and real fangs again.
“You’re a vampire, you don’t have a soul,” said Jules.
“YOU’VE ALREADY STOLEN MY SOUL, WOMAN!” Tay shouted.
“Taylor!” Brenda snapped. Taylor hissed in her direction. “I’m warning you, young man,” she said sternly to her son. As Ellie looked around the room, she noticed that nobody else was paying any attention to what was going on so assumed that it was just something that was so common that it was just uneventful.
Without much further prompting, the five cubs lined up for their photo. Ellie grabbed her phone from where she’d put it on the table and, putting it into its camera mode, handed it to Brenda.
“Could you take a photo on my phone please?” she asked. “I want to send it to my friends back home.”
“No worries sweetie,” Brenda said to the badger. Ellie rejoined the other four and they smiled (well, almost all) to the camera once again.
Brenda handed the phone back to Ellie, who wasted no time in sending the photo to Rachel. She didn’t expect that her friend would see it until the morning, so was surprised a few moments later to see ‘ <3 ’ appear on the screen, followed by ‘hope you have fun x’
“Now, remember Tay,” said Izzy, “despite what Jules told you, the theme is NOT ‘tickle feet’ tonight.”
If Tay heard his sister, he made no acknowledgement. The six cubs started their way around the neighbourhood, carrying their plastic pumpkin baskets.
“Trick or treat!” the group chanted as the first front door opened up to them.
The elderly skunk who opened the door, stooped over, grey hair and greying fur, looked at her visitors over her wire-rimmed spectacles. “Oh, aren’t you all just the cutest,” she started, looking across the group. “Let’s see, we have a pirate, a witch, a vampire,” (Tay hissed at this) “a ballerina, a fairy and...” her eyes landed on Jules. “Oh my goodness,” she muttered. Gathering her composure with a ‘kids these days’ type look, she offered them the bowl of treats she had inside her front door. “Well, er, here you go kids, help yourself.”
The six of them dutifully helped themselves to the proffered candy, Ellie noticing Izzy with a subtle slight of hand prevent Tay from taking the whole lot, and with a polite “Thank you” from some of them, the door closed and the group walked down the garden path and towards the next house.
“Did you see her face when she saw me?” Jules giggled. “And on the first house as well!” She nudged Ellie lightly with her elbow. “This could’ve been you you know - we can still swap costumes” she stage-whispered with a wink.
Ellie grinned, getting used to the kangaroo’s attitude. “Maybe later,” she said.
After they visited a few houses, which elicited similar results to the first, Ellie was the first to notice the clown from It approach the group with a certain intent in her stride. She guessed that this was Ilsa, and her suspicions were confirmed when Becky greeted the lamb by name. As the introductions were made, Ellie suddenly felt a little disconcerted by the intense stare that Ilsa was directing her way, looking, unblinking, almost into her soul. She tried to look away but found she couldn’t.
Ilsa narrowed her eyes. “Just ask,” she said. “It will go well.”
“I said it will go well.”
“Don’t fret about it,” Izzy said, “It’ll make sense eventually. It usually does.”
Ellie was unsure. “Right.”
“Cool costume Ilsa,” Miranda said.
“I thought it adequately appropriate for the occasion.” Ilsa noticed Becky and a rare look of surprise briefly crossed her face. “Becky, I was not expecting you dressed like that. I was expecting Edward Scissorhands.”
“Y’know me, I like to keep things fresh.”
Ellie noticed something out of the corner of her eye and finally managed to look away from the intriguing lamb. She nudged Izzy.
“Um, what’s your brother doing to that guy?” she asked, gesturing with her head over to where she saw Tay approach some unsuspecting ocelot.
Izzy rolled her eyes. “Ohmigosh...” she muttered before shouting towards her brother. “TAY! I TOLD YOU!” The group looked towards where Tay was reaching down to the bare feet of the confused ocelot, Jules beginning to laugh, Becky and Miranda looking amused, Ilsa still looking stoic. “THE THEME IS STILL ‘TRICK-OR-TREAT’ NOT ‘TICKLE FEET’!”
“WHAT?!” Tay shouted back. “I FEEL LIED TO!”
Izzy dropped her plastic pumpkin bowl and rushed across to where her brother had started stroking the ocelot’s feet with a feather that he had procured from goodness-knows-where.
“H-hey, what’re y...”
“Stahp that, kid!”
“Little help here?” Izzy shouted back to the group; Ellie wasn’t sure what could be done to pry Tay away from the poor bloke he was attacking. She noticed Becky raise her paw, and as if by magic Tay was suddenly thrown away from where he was and landed a few feet away.
“Oh my gosh, I’m really sorry sir,” Izzy, embarrassed, said to the ocelot who was beginning to stop laughing from the tickle-attack. “My brother can be a little... insistent sometimes when he gets an idea in his head.” She directed a stern glance towards the still sniggering Jules.
“That’s okay kid,” he said back, “I’ve heard that this neighbourhood can sometimes be a little weird. Plus, it’s hallowe’en, so things can get a little bit spirited. I must remember to wear shoes next time I come this way.” He reached into his jacket pocket. “Here you go anyway, have some candy.”
Tay had stood back up this time, hissed “Black magic witch” at Becky, then noticed what was being offered to Izzy. “KABLAZZLES!!!” he yelled, running over and snatching the offered bars from the ocelot’s paws.
“Ergh, I give up,” Izzy muttered under her breath, then reached out to grab the scruff of Tay’s neck. “Taylor – do you want me to tell Mum how you’ve been tonight, ’cause I will.”
Ellie stopped looking worried and started enjoying the spectacle playing out in front of her. It was quite funny, watching Tay be... well, Tay. He had seemed a bit calmer when they first met back in Hazelford, but she guessed that now he was on his home turf, he had reverted to form, and although she had heard about some of his antics in chats with Izzy, there was something else in witnessing it first hand. She was so glad that her own brother, Alex, was almost the complete opposite to Tay, and while she kind of wished otherwise, realised that it would have taken a lot of work to manage – and she admired Izzy’s devotion to her brother.
“Ow, ow, owwwww” Tay protested as Izzy pulled him back over to where Ellie, Becky, Jules, and Ilsa still stood, still holding him by the scruff of his neck.
“What did you do just then Becky?” Ellie asked the raccoon, “When Tay went flying through the air?”
“Black magic,” hissed Tay.
“Don’t worry, it’s not that,” Becky said, “I have a few powers, that’s all.”
Ellie felt that this wasn’t the whole story, but also that it wasn’t something to ask more questions about. She looked around at the group she was with and started wondering what other secrets they hid in this small suburban neighbourhood.
“Come on guys,” Izzy said, “We’ve still got half the neighbourhood to visit.”
Rachel’s dad was waiting for the Reynolds family when their plane landed at Heathrow Airport. Ellie was both disappointed and relieved that Rachel herself wasn’t there as well, but as Andrew said, it was a late flight and although neither Ellie or Alex were expected at school the next morning, Rachel was, and as Maeve was home from university she was able to stay home. For much of the flight back to the UK and the subsequent drive back to Hazelford, when Ellie wasn’t dozing – or outright sleeping – her mind was on Rachel, and what Ilsa had said to her.
“Just ask – it will go well.”
Was this what Ilsa was saying? Just ask Rachel. Just tell her how she felt about her friend, and ‘it will go well’. What did the lamb know that she didn’t? She didn’t even know Rachel – she didn’t even know Ellie at that point either, had only just met her that moment.
As Ellie dozed, she dreamed; of her and Rachel, naturally. One dream in particular was very vivid – the two of them growing old together, they even had kids and grandkids. On waking, Ellie considered the dream. In reality, it only took place in a few minutes, but in her dream it was years and years. Their child (she couldn’t remember what they called them or even whether they were a boy or a girl) was no doubt their offspring – a strange mix between the black-and-white of the badger and the red-and-orange of the squirrel. And the two girls were happy together, enjoying life as, well, wife and wife Ellie supposed.
Ellie pulled out her phone and looked at the last chat conversation the two had, just before they boarded the aeroplane at Sugna International Airport. A few more photos of the group at Hallowe’en had been sent over, and photos of the following day at Aquashack and the evening’s get-together and although there were no more direct references to Ellie’s hallowe’en costume or that she looked cute in it, Ellie read those subliminal messages in the lines that had been sent. There seemed to be more ‘x’s than usual in the messages from Rachel, and Ellie found herself replying with them as well.
‘Just ask – it will go well.’
Ilsa’s words echoed in Ellie’s head, as did what Izzy said afterwards: ‘It’ll make sense eventually, it usually does.’ The others seemed to be used to Ilsa’s cryptic comments and intense stares in a way that Ellie wasn’t. Then there was Becky – the raccoon with the strange powers – she seemed to be aware of what was going on in Ellie’s head when she thought of Rachel but was mature enough not to say anything. And there was Jules, the kangaroo with similar colouring to Rachel and wearing a very revealing costume that stirred up something in the badger’s head and her imagining the squirrel wearing the outfit rather than the ’roo – an image that came back into Ellie’s mind now as the car drove through the southern English countryside in the dark; the thoughts and the gentle rumbling motion of the car causing her girlbits to tingle.
Maybe she could... no. Her dad and Rachel’s dad up front quietly chatting wouldn’t know. Her mum sat next to her in the middle seats of the car, eyes closed, quietly snoring – Ellie perhaps could and get away with it if her mum stayed sleeping, but she was a notoriously light sleeper and would wake almost automatically as they approached Hazelford. The unknown was Alex sat in the back. There was a tinny sound from his headphones as his music played, but there was no way of knowing if he was awake or not, or what he could see in the dark car, or what he could hear through his music.
Instead, Ellie just squeezed her legs together to try and alleviate the sensations, and try to think of something else – other memories of the weekend they spent in Sugna, not just the Friday night trick-or-treating, but the Saturday afternoon spent at Aquashack and the fun on Saturday evening when Mr McIntosh (‘Just call me Jason’) got the barbeque out (Ellie wasn’t sure whether this was the American or Australian hospitality – she suspected it might have been a bit of both) and invited a load of their friends around as well as the Reynolds. By that time, Ellie was welcomed into the circle of friends – what Jules had said when they first met was right: any friend of Izzy’s is a friend of theirs.
Ellie thought about when the McIntoshes were in England during the summer – the chance meeting on the beach that that blossomed into this friendship across the Atlantic Ocean, and that the previous night’s BBQ was a bit more substantial than the fish and chips they had on the seafront. It didn’t really matter, it was the friendship that was important.
Ellie drifted off to sleep with the gentle motion of the car and woke to her mum shaking her shoulder.
“Ellie sweetie,” her mum said gently, “We’re home.”
“What time is it?”
“Half past three. Time for little cubs to get into the sett and go to bed.”
Ellie yawned and climbed out of the car. Alex, also yawning, passed her a couple of bags.
“Here you go Ells,” he said, “take these in for us would you?”
The front door was already open from her dad, so she walked straight in. She could hear that the kettle was already boiling and she rolled her eyes at the fact that their parents couldn’t last more than a few hours without a cup of tea, even at three in the morning. She dumped the bags she’d been given onto the sofa and opened hers. Reaching in, she grabbed the small package she had bought for Rachel and went through to the kitchen where her dad was sat at the breakfast bar while Rachel’s dad made the tea.
“Could you put this next to Rachel’s bedside clock when you get back?” she asked the squirrel. Rachel’s dad smiled, used to the surprise presents that the two girls often left for each other – having left one on Ellie’s beside table hours earlier – and took the small wrapped box from her outstretched hand.
“Sure thing Ellie,” he said.
“And tell her I’ll see her tomorrow when she gets back from school.”
“Night Ellie,” Rachel’s dad said.
“Morning,” Ellie’s dad said.
Ellie ignored her father’s attempt at a joke and climbed the stairs to her bedroom. As she noticed the small package on her own bedside table, Ilsa’s words once again came to mind: ‘Just ask – it will go well.’