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Something to Get Used To

by Kat Beyer

Jenny first found out on that night deep at the bottom of October.

She came home from trick-or-treating early. Her parents were skipping back and forth between bad Halloween movies, laughing, taking turns when the doorbell rang. Jenny was coming down the hall with a glass of milk when she heard her mother talking to a solitary kid.

"Trick," the kid said, in a voice too old for somebody so small, and Jenny dropped the glass to get to her mom.

On the doorstep the kid stood smiling, while her mother's head and torso disappeared into the bag in his hands.

Over his head she could see Mrs. Stevens from up the street, standing by the gate with five kids who were waiting their turn. She watched herself think, "this is like so embarrassing," while she stopped herself from screaming.

She never knew how she knew what to do: raise her hands, snap them downwards, shout the word she didn't know at the top of her lungs, then turn and race to grab the hall mirror off its hook. She hobbled back with it while the kid stared at her and her mother's legs kicked over the top of his bag. She braced it against the door and yelled out the next strange word that would force him to look at himself.

He looked. She never saw what looked back at him, but it was enough, apparently. He exploded in a shower of autumn leaves and moldy Tootsie Rolls. Her mother sprawled across the steps with the bag on her head. She pulled it off and blinked.

The kids at the gate stared. Mrs. Stevens stepped from behind them, gently placing on hand on each head and saying, "forget," in a voice that carried in the suddenly quiet air.

"Pretty good," she said. "Although I always carry a hand mirror. Cheaper," she added, nodding towards the hall mirror. Looking down, Jenny saw it was cracked clean across.

They both looked at her mother, who stared at Jenny.

"You should burn that bag," said Mrs. Stevens.

"OK," said her mother, dropping it. She added, "my mother-in-law tried to tell me about this."

"That's OK. Nobody ever believes it. Then they hit adolescence, and—boom! She can come study with me, if you want. In exchange for yard work or something."

"As long as she doesn't miss soccer practice," said her mother.

"We can work around that," said Mrs. Stevens.

Jenny sat down on the step. In the hall she could still see the shattered glass and milk on the floor.

"This will take getting used to," she thought.

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