Halloween with Responsibilities
Dedicated to all my friends =)
Bryan Junior looked around his Neohome. The Red Koi was clad in a dark blue robe with yellow stars and a matching pointed hat – he was dressed as the Shop Wizard for Halloween that year. The Neohome was well-decorated and screamed ‘Halloween’. Pumpkin Jack-O-Lanterns, streamers and spooky decorative items were in almost every corner of the Neohome, even in the bathroom, where cloth ghosts hung from the ceiling. He looked at his reflection in the nearby mirror, straightened his hat and swam into his room, where his younger brother Mitchell, a Yellow Kiko, was adding the finishing touches to his Count Von Roo costume.
“Where’s dear baby Bryana, does anyone know?” Mitchell said when he saw Bryan Junior enter. He wrapped his black cloak around himself and put on fake plastic fangs.
“Don’t know,” Bryan Junior murmured distractedly, looking around the room for something.
“What’re you looking for?” Mitchell asked.
“My annual trick-or-treating list,” Bryan Junior replied. Since he was old enough to trick-or-treat, he had been keeping a record of all the candies that Neopians in their neighbourhood frequently gave out, and which houses always gave out the best candies. It was quite useful, really.
“You lost it?” Mitchell exclaimed. “No way! That notebook’s too valuable. We can’t go trick-or-treating without it!” Then his face darkened as realisation dawned on him.
“Bryana,” Bryan Junior whispered, reading his brother’s thoughts. “She must have taken it.”
At that very moment, Bryana, a Baby Peophin, swam into the room, dressed up as her favourite faerie, Illusen. It was only recently that, after so many excuses to avoid attending Neoschool, the family had discovered that really Bryana was just too smart for Neoschool and was now being homeschooled by a professor. She was startlingly smart and also startlingly sneaky and clever in terms of tricks and lies.
“All that green clashes with your pink, Bryana,” Mitchell said dryly.
Bryana ignored him and turned to Bryan Junior. “Mom and Dad want to see you in the living room,” she said. As she was about to swim away, Mitchell caught her by her fake faerie wings and said, “Where are you hiding it, Bryana?”
“Hiding what, exactly?” Bryana asked, in a tone that was incredibly icy for a Neopet her age.
“Bryana, please,” Mitchell said roughly, “we know you’re hiding Junior’s ultimate trick-or-treating guide. Now tell us where it is.”
“I can assure you I do not know what you’re talking about,” Bryana said haughtily. She kicked at her brother to free herself, then swam away quickly before Mitchell could say another word.
“Why, that little brat!” Mitchell raged.
“Mitchell, chill,” Bryan Junior said, though he was angry too. “Come on, let’s go see what Mom and Dad want.”
They swam out to the living room, where their parents, Michelle, a Maraquan Uni, and Bryan, an Electric Koi, were standing in wait for their sons. Both of them were dressed for Halloween, Michelle in a floaty pink dress and plastic crown in imitation of Queen Fyora, and Bryan in a Pant Devil costume.
“Hi Mom, Dad,” Mitchell said. “You called us?”
“Yes, we did,” Michelle confirmed.
“We have a job for you, boys,” Bryan continued.
“Well...” Michelle shifted uncomfortably. “We didn’t tell you yet, but...”
“We’ve been invited to a big Halloween party that King Kelpbeard is throwing,” Bryan said. “And we need you to take care of the house while you’re away, organize the candy and keep an eye on Bryana when she goes out trick-or-treating. Both of you will take turns – one will stay and give out candy; the other will take Bryana out trick-or-treating.”
“W-what?” Mitchell stuttered. “You’re going out to a huge Halloween party and leaving us with a ruined Halloween?”
“We’re trusting you as young adults to take care of your sister and our Neohome,” Michelle said sternly. “We’re trusting you, Bryan Junior and Mitchell. Prove to us that you really can be trusted and we’ll allow you more freedom in future and raise your allowance a bit.”
“You mean, if you come back and everything’s fine, you’ll let us go out to the city ourselves – and you’ll raise our allowances?” Bryan Junior asked. He had long pleaded to be able to do this, but Bryan and Michelle had always said no – they were very protective.
“Yes, we will allow you to do that,” Bryan said, “but only if you succeed.”
“We’re leaving for the party on Halloween night at seven, and we’re coming back at eleven or later,” Michelle continued. “When we return, we expect the house clean and Bryana fast asleep. If not...”
“We get it,” Mitchell finished. “We’ll do our best, Mom and Dad.”
“We know you will.” Bryan smiled at his sons warmly.
When Bryan Junior and Mitchell returned to their share bedroom, they found Bryana seated at Bryan Junior’s study desk, a notebook open in front of her. The brothers recognized it at once.
“My candy records!” Bryan Junior snarled, snatching it away from his sister.
Before her genius was recognized, Bryana would have cried at once. But Bryana was wiser than that and knew that the family had got wise to her tricks and acts. Instead, she turned to face her brother, a scowl on her face.
“You DID take it, you liar!” Mitchell exclaimed.
“Yes, and so what?” Bryana said, in that maddeningly casual tone. “You guys are too old to go trick-or-treating anyway.”
“You’ve got a mouth that’s way too big, Bryana,” Bryan Junior said, tucking the notebook into a pocket of his robe. “You’d better be nice to us or we’re not going to take you out trick-or-treating.”
“Who said you were going to do that?” Bryana said. She had not been told about Michelle and Bryan’s absence on Halloween night.
“I guess Mom and Dad didn’t tell you then,” Mitchell began, “but Mom and Dad are going to King Kelpbeard’s Halloween party tomorrow night, and they’re leaving us in charge. That means we have to take you out trick-or-treating, but we can keep you at home if we like.”
That was a lie, but Mitchell knew that it would trap Bryana into being nice to them.
Bryana forced a smile on her face, and said in a sugary sweet voice, “I’m sorry, dear brother Mitchell. I’ll be good. Please take me out trick-or-treating.”
“We’ll see about that,” Mitchell answered. “Now get out of here. Junior and I have a lot to discuss.”
Bryana didn’t grumble or utter single complaint as she swiftly swam away. Bryan Junior shut the door and turned to face his brother.
“Mitchell, you’re a genius.” He smiled. “Now we’ve got baby Bryana under our thumbs – well, I don’t really have thumbs, but it’s just an expression.”
Mitchell grinned. “Come on, let’s discuss what candy to buy and plan out our shifts.”
After an hour’s discussion, it was all planned. Each shift was an hour, and Bryan Junior would have the first shift of staying at the house, and Mitchell the last. Bryana would have to be brought back home before ten, because that was her bedtime.
“Such a shame we can’t throw our own party.” Mitchell sighed. “Bryana would tell on us for sure. There’s nothing she’d love more than to get us in monumentally gigantic trouble.”
It was Halloween night, and Michelle and Bryan had already left the Neohome. The candy stood ready in a big basket by the front door. Mitchell and Bryana were getting ready to go out trick-or-treating. Bryana had been very well-behaved so far, and the two brothers knew perfectly well why.
“We’ll be back in an hour,” Mitchell promised Bryan Junior as he opened the front door. “Keep an eye out for those major tricksters – especially Edward and Dillon. You know they’re always up to something.”
“Will do,” Bryan Junior said. “Now YOU keep an eye out for Bryana. Mom and Dad will be way too angry if something happened to her.”
The door shut behind Mitchell and Bryana. Bryan Junior turned to grab a book to read from his room when there came a knock at the door.
“Trick-or-treaters here already?” he murmured. He opened the door.
On the doorstep stood a Maraquan Mynci and a Maraquan Meerca – Edward and Dillon, the tricksters of Bryan Junior’s class. Bryan Junior frowned.
“Hey, Junior, where’re your parents?” Edward sneered. He was just wearing a black cloak – Bryan Junior couldn’t tell what he was dressed as.
“They’re out,” Bryan Junior replied, shortly. “Now, what’re you here for? Candy?”
“Oh wow, they’ve finally figured you were old enough to be left home alone,” Dillon said, with a snort. He wasn’t wearing a costume.
“Look here, if you don’t want any candy, just leave,” Bryan Junior said.
“Ooh, scary.” Edward laughed. “Okay, fine. Give us some candy and we’ll be going.”
Bryan Junior shoved some candy into their trick-or-treat bags, taking care to give only the cheap ones, and shut the door as they began to leave.
A steady stream of trick-or-treaters came to the house during Bryan Junior’s shift, most of them he recognized as his classmates. He saw Daniel, Kenny, Claryson, Nicklaus, Vincent, Terrence, and saw the next door neighbours, Rebecca and Darren, with their children, Chee, Juan, and Lee. All of them had dropped by to say hello and ask for candy.
“Seen Edward and Dillon today?” Terrence asked him. He was a Maraquan Elephante, dressed as King Hagan. He had come with Kenny, Claryson, Nicklaus and Vincent, all of whom were trying to figure out the best prank to use on Darren’s Neohome.
“Actually, yes,” Bryan Junior replied. “They looked like they were up to something.”
“As always,” Terrence said. He took some candy (a little more than the average amount) and left with his friends.
Meanwhile, in other parts of the neighbourhood, Mitchell was trick-or-treating with Bryana. They had already been to seven Neohomes, amongst them Mitchell’s classmates – Kam, Kay-E and Vindy. Now they were approaching Jo Ann’s Neohome. They knew that Jo Ann was a rather eccentric Neopet. She lived on her own. Her front yard was decorated with keys and decorative items featuring characters from some kind of game. Jo Ann herself, a Maraquan Acara, was wearing a black hooded coat and a blonde wig.
“What’re you supposed to be, Jo Ann?” Mitchell asked, as he took the candy she offered them.
“Er – you wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” She grinned.
Mitchell and Bryana continued trick-or-treating until it was nearly time for Bryan Junior’s turn.
“Come on, we’d better go back now, it’s Junior’s turn,” Mitchell said, leading Bryana back to their home.
When they got home, they found Bryan Junior curled up on the floor, clutching his stomach.
“Junior, what’s wrong?” Mitchell asked, concerned.
“I think I ate some bad candy,” Bryan Junior groaned. “Looks like I can’t take you out, Bryana.”
“What? But you can’t leave me with her all night!” Mitchell said.
“No choice,” Bryan Junior snapped. “That or both of you stop trick-or-treating.”
Bryana began to cry. “But – but I want more candy!” she wailed.
Mitchell blew a sigh of frustration and led Bryana into her bedroom. He shut the door, locked it, and turned to face her.
“Do you really want to go trick-or-treating?” he asked. “If so – then you go on your own. I’m too tired. I know you’re smart enough to take care of yourself – so go ahead, but be back before ten and use the back door, okay?”
Mitchell had stayed home, lying that Bryana had already gone to bed. He had tucked in a few pillows under Bryana’s blankets to make it look like it was her. Bryan Junior didn’t suspect anything when he checked on Bryana.
But nine-forty five came and Bryana still wasn’t home. Mitchell was very worried by now. But there was no way he could tell Bryan Junior that he had allowed little Bryana to go out trick-or-treating by herself. He swam out the back door and looked all around the neighbourhood, and at last found Bryana asleep on a bench in the park.
“Bryana! There you are!” Mitchell exclaimed. He shook Bryana awake. “Come on – you’re late. Let’s get back home before Junior notices we’re gone.”
The two siblings quickly swam back to their Neohome, quietly sneaking in through the back door. To their dismay, they found Bryan Junior waiting for them.
“Where were you two?” he asked, looking angry.
Mitchell began to explain. Bryan Junior took a deep breath when he had finished.
“That wasn’t a wise thing, Mitchell,” he said coldly. “If something really had happened, Mom and Dad would never trust us again.”
“I’m sorry,” Mitchell murmured, feeling guilty.
“Well – I won’t tell Mom and Dad,” Bryan Junior said. “You too, Bryana – don’t say anything to Mom and Dad about this.”
“Fine,” Bryana huffed. “I don’t want them to be overprotective over me anyway – which is what’ll happen if I did tell them.” She stormed into her bedroom and shut the door loudly.
Michelle and Bryan returned home at eleven. They were pleased to find everything in order, and Bryana fast asleep.
“You’ve done a good job, Junior, Mitchell,” Michelle commented. “As we promised, we’ll let you go to the city yourselves from now on – and we’ll raise your allowances too.”
“That’s great!” Mitchell said happily. “Thanks, Mom and Dad.”
“Nothing went wrong while we were away, right?” Bryan enquired.
Bryan Junior and Mitchell exchanged glances.
“Nope,” they lied. “Nothing went wrong.”