Best Halloween Ever
Roxana sat at her desk while her classmates talked about their Halloween costumes. Now eleven-years-old, she had entered school and found it wasn’t what she expected. She looked at the plain blue paint on the wall and identical desks, only set apart by the initials drawn on them and wads of gum stuck underneath.
“I’m gonna be Batman,” said Ronnie Peters, an overconfident twelve-year-old boy, pushing out his shoulders as he spoke.
“Lame, I’m gonna be the Red Power Ranger,” said his friend Bud, who was the kind of kid that shot milk out of his nose for attention.
“You can’t be red, I’m being red!” said Bob, Bud’s twin brother, who wore a sweater vest and thick glasses taped on the side.
“Ugh, just be pink or something.”
“I can’t be pink; pink is a girl!”
“Yea, so?” Her classmates laughed.
Roxana did okay in her classes, she received average grades. Making friends was the hardest part, and the part she cared about the most. It shouldn’t have been hard, she was a social person and perceptive, and yet there was one thing that set her apart.
“What are you being, Roxy?” asked Michelle, who wore a backwards cap and hung out with the boys because, “girls are weird.”
“I’m not sure yet, but my mom’s gonna help me make something,” said Roxana.
“Hah, she’s probably gonna be a vampire,” laughed Ronnie. He and his friends hissed a little like they had fangs.
Roxana stared for a moment, before joining in on the collective laughter,“Come on, that would be way too lame.”
Roxana had quickly learned that American kids loved to make fun of anything new, different, or strange to them. If your family had immigrated a short enough time ago that you could remember, your hair was a little different, your skintone not quite as pale, or your name wasn’t Mary,Emily, or Jane, you would be picked apart constantly. She wasn’t completely rejected, her classmates more or less accepted her— but, she was always the punchline in their jokes. It seemed to give them infinite entertainment to watch her go about her life and point out everything different.
So, Roxana had adapted. She started having everyone call her Roxy. She started trading her mother’s lunches with the weird kid in her class who ate alone in the bathroom. Without salata de boeuf, piftia, or whatever other strange dish her mother conjured, when she sat with everyone at lunch, they didn’t turn their noses. Instead got excited that she, like twenty other kids in the cafeteria, had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
She always had her hair braided, so no one could see how large and poofy it was. She never had friends over. She and her siblings got off a stop away from their home and walked, that way no one would make fun of their house or their parents anymore. When they made their little jokes she laughed with them, or made better ones, because nothing was worse than letting them know that their words upset her. If she got quiet, or cried, or yelled, that just gave them more of a reason to poke fun at her and for a teacher to get involved and tell her to calm down because she was overreacting. All this was normal.
After the school day ended, Roxana was in charge of collecting Dragos and her little sister Magdalena before getting on the bus. She arrived at Dragos’s classroom, hearing him yelling from the hall and rolling her eyes a little. Dragos was almost eight now, and his default volume was a shout.
“Eh what did you say?!”
“Weirdo,” said a bully from his class before walking away.
“Yea that’s right, run away, run away!” said Dragos, following him out to the door.
“Dragos!” said his teacher, Mrs. Miller who was an older woman with tightly pinned back hair and thick glasses, holding her golden cross necklace in between her fingertips. She was dressed in a light-yellow paisley floor length dress with a large white cardigan that was almost the exact same eggshell color as the walls of the classroom, which were covered in outdated maps.
Dragos had a very different response to the comments of American kids. He yelled and screamed, pretty much like he did as a baby, and he never cared if he got in trouble for it. He figured if they were going to be jerks, he had the right to be a jerk right back.
The only time things got out of hand was the beginning of that year when Dragos’s consistent bully, a little freckled boy named Michael, said something like, “Whatever, at least my family’s not Eurotrash.” Dragos didn’t yell. He just stood there as Michael went on laughing about how that’s what his dad called the Adamescu family, how they didn’t belong in Westlake, and how if they wanted to live in the U.S maybe his parents should learn how to speak English because they sounded like fucking Muppets. Without saying a word, Dragos socked him in the jaw and started an all-out brawl, repeatedly punching Michael until his friends pulled him off. He was suspended for two weeks. He had to apologize to Michael and his parents, even though all he got was a bloody lip and a bruised cheek, and the entire time Michael had a smirk on his face.
Dragos wasn’t a particularly violent child; he actually was very sweet, maybe even too much so for his own good. He had a big heart and hated to see any of his family upset because of what someone had said or done. He knew none of them would stand up for themselves, mainly because they were all so scared of standing out as Romanian.
So, if they had to pick one person to defend them, to be their protector, their knight in shining armor, he figured it should be him.
“Sorry Mrs. Miller,” said Roxana, “I’ll be sure to give him a talking to.”
“Shouldn’t that be up to your parents, Roxy?” asked Mrs. Miller, placing the chalk in her hand down and turning from her board with a judgmental look.
“Oh yes, that’s what I meant.” Roxana turned to Dragos with a smile, “Come now, let’s go get Madga.” Dragos stared at her, then hesitantly followed her out. The second they stepped outside the door Roxana grabbed him by the ear and dragged him off.
“Ah Roxy, Roxy stop it please.”
“What the fuck was that about, huh? Are you trying to get suspended again? What, you want to give Mama a heart attack, is that it?”
“It was his fault, he was being a jerk,” said Dragos, trying to squirm free to no avail.
“You have to watch your behavior, it’s like you’re trying to embarrass us!” said Roxana. “You just said fuck like a second ago,” said Dragos.
Roxana let go roughly right before walking into Magdalena’s classroom, plastering a smile across her face. “Magda, are you ready to go?”
Magdalena, now in kindergarten, sat coloring. A few other little girls sat with her, doing the same. The classroom itself was bright, with large posters of the alphabet with cartoon animals on them and one next to the bathroom that said to sing happy birthday when the kids washed their hands.
Magdelena looked up and smiled, “Roxy!” She grabbed her things and ran over.
“Hi, Roxy,” said the kindergarten teacher, Ms. Smith, a younger woman who wore a tightly pulled back hair and a jumpsuit. Roxy smiled and waved. Dragos rolled his eyes.
“Dragos,” said Ms. Smith, folding her arms.
“Hi,” said Dragos with a hint of sarcasm. Roxana shot him a glare and he gave a forced smile and wave. Roxana made sure Magdalena had all of her things then adjusted her backpack. She tucked back her sister’s hair, which made Magdalena smile. She had a pretty smile—actually, Roxana thought she was just really pretty. Her hair was straighter than Roxana’s was when she was little, and her complexion was a little paler. Roxana often felt conflicted looking at her sister. Part of her felt the need to take care of Magdalena and another part felt infinitely jealous of the way she would never have to try nearly as hard as Roxy had. On top of that, she was the little sister; Magda would never have to take care of her siblings, or make sure Dragos wasn’t getting into trouble, or get everyone home safely. It was silly to be jealous of her own sister, and yet every time she looked at Magda, Roxana couldn’t help it. She took her little sister's hand and Dragos took the other, and the three of them walked outside to the bus.
“So, do you know what you want to be for Halloween yet, Magda?” asked Roxana.
“No, not yet. I don’t like Halloween, it’s scary.”
“Halloween isn’t scary, it’s lame. Why would I want to be anyone other than myself? I’m awesome,” said Dragos.
“Halloween is the best holiday. You can pick whoever you want to be for one night and get candy and hang out with friends. What’s not to love?” Roxana looked down at her sister, “Why don’t you be one of the Powerpuff Girls? It would be cute, and mom can make you one of those big bows.”
“But there’s three. Isn’t it weird if it’s just me?” asked Magda.
Dragos shrugged. “Just do it anyway.”
Roxana shot him a glare before looking back at Magda. “I’m sure it will be fine.”
“Ok,” Magda smiled, as all three of them proceeded to get on the bus home.
When they sat down whispers started almost immediately, mostly about Dragos, who folded his arms and stared out the window trying his best not to say something because Roxana would yell at him.
“Hey Roxy,” said a girl from the seat behind them. Roxana turned back, seeing Mary Grace, a blonde girl who always wore big headbands and had her ears pierced. Everyone in Roxana’s grade agreed that Mary Grace was the prettiest girl in school, all the teachers loved her, and she had the most friends. Roxana had never really talked to her that much; she was surprised that Mary Grace even knew her name.
“Hi, Mary Grace!”
“Do you already have plans for Halloween this weekend?”
“Well…” said Roxana, knowing that Demetra and Mihai had put her in charge of watching over Magda and Dragos as they trick or treated on their street like every year. “No… no, I don’t yet.”
“Great, because us girls were talking about it, and we’d love to have you join our trick or treating this year.” The two girls sitting behind Mary Grace looked over the seats, nodding in agreement.
“Oh wow, yea I’d love to.”
Dragos rolled his eyes as Roxana and Mary Grace continued making plans on where to meet and when. He looked down at his little sister sat next to him, who was hugging her backpack and staring blankly forward. Dragos often found himself a little sad for her. Roxana put too much pressure on her, and their parents weren’t the same as when Dragos was that age. They were busier and didn’t make time to teach Magda Romanian or show her things from home. As time passed, they had grown colder. Dragos didn’t see his father’s smile as much, and his mother always seemed frustrated about something. While Magda didn’t notice a difference because she had never known anything else, Dragos did, and felt like he should try to make up for that, though he didn’t know how.
He also knew there was no way Demetra and Mihai would let Roxana go without taking Magda and him, especially since they already disliked the holiday, which meant she was probably going to ditch them and leave Dragos in charge of Magda. He could say something, rat Roxana out to his parents, but she would probably kill him if he did. So, he decided not to say anything and thought about what his costume would be instead.
Dragos opened the door to their house. They all took off their shoes at the door. “We’re home Mama!”
They went into the kitchen and placed their lunches on the counter for their mother, who smiled and asked, “Ah, how was your day?” Her English had gotten better over the years, but she still had a very thick accent. Their house was different from when Roxana was little, now with fewer plants and wooden icons, and a more tidy look.
Walls had been repainted, light bulbs had been changed, and the only pictures hanging were those of the five of them. The fridge now only had color book pages and stick figure drawings in crayon from Dragos and Magdalena.
“It was good, Mama. Do you think you could make a big pink bow for Magdalena? She’s going to be a Powerpuff Girl for Halloween,” said Roxana.
“Mmm yes, I can do that tonight. Do you know what you going to be yet?”
“Not sure,” sighed Roxana, rolling her eyes.
“Decide soon so I can make it,” said Demetra, pronouncing her words tightly, with stiff shoulders. “Dragos? Do you know yet?”
“Ah, I think I’ll be a ghost again, Mama,” said Dragos.
"Again? You don’t want different costume this year?” said Demetra.
Dragos shook his head and started to walk off. “If it works, it works. No need to change it.”
“Hey!” said Roxana walking after him, the two of them scurrying down the hall.
“Dragos, I’m going trick or treating with some girls from my class,” said Roxana.
“Yea I know, Roxy,” said Dragos, rolling his eyes.
“So, you have to watch Madga. And you can’t say anything to Mama or Tata, got it?” said Roxana.
Tata (tah-tah): dad/father
Dragos nodded, annoyed. He turned to walk away as it occurred to him, along with a smirk on his face as he turned back to his sister,“What’s in it for me?”
“I just mean,” said Dragos, picking at his nails a little, “It seems like the only person getting anything out of this is you, so I’m gonna need a reason to cover for you, sis.”
“Ugh, fine. I’ll do your chores next week,” said Roxana.
“I need more than that.”
Roxana stared and sighed before saying, “What do you want?”
“If you’re going with Mary Grace, you’re going on her street where all the rich kids live.”
“So, that means full sized candy bars, full sized. You get all those and you give em to me, my lips are sealed,” said Dragos gesturing.
Roxana rolled her eyes, “Fine, fine you can have my stupid candy.”
Eastern Orthodox Romanian iconography has a very specific style, most often made with wood or glass. To learn more you can read this page:
Iconography is a popular practice in Eastern Orthodoxy, but its different everywhere you look. To see more examples of iconography throughout this region, where it stems from, and how it has evolved/varied check out this page:
That night Mihai fell asleep on the couch, leaving the TV on. Demetra was sewing a bow for Magda, who was already in bed. Roxana was getting a glass of water, walking back towards her room.
“Roxana,” said Demetra,“Can you turn that off please?” She gestured to the TV. Roxana nodded and grabbed the remote, pausing as she stared at the episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer that was playing.
The intro had started, “In every generation there is a Chosen One. She alone will stand against the vampires, the demons, and the forces of darkness.” Roxana stared as Buffy came on screen fighting and staking a vampire through the chest.
“Ah, Roxana, come on, turn it off please.”
“Sorry, Mama,” said Roxana, hitting the power button. She turned back to her mom, “Hey, I think I know what I want to be for Halloween.”
When Roxana went to sleep that night, she thought about how good she would look in her costume and how much Mary Grace and the other girls would love it. She hoped Dragos would behave himself and take care of Magdalena. She didn’t want her night to be ruined, or to have to deal with her mother being upset.
After a long day of convincing her parents, Roxana had finally gotten the costume she had wanted. Demetra and Mihai didn’t like the idea of their daughter being something so violent, and it seemed to bring up all their issues with the American holiday. Mihai almost canceled trick or treating entirely when Demetra told him he had to make a wooden stake for Roxana’s costume, saying something along the lines of, “Americans, ridiculous Americans.” While Mihai wasn’t a very religious man, Romania was a majority orthodox country and the American commercial practice of Halloween had always seemed strange to him.
Romanians mostly do not celebrate Halloween like Americans. More often they celebrate St. Andrews Day, a holiday culturally linked to warding off ghosts and some superstitions surrounding marriage. To learn more look at this article:
Regardless, after a lot of convincing from Demetra that their children needed to trick or treat just like all the ridiculous American kids, Mihai had made the stake. Demetra had even bought Roxana a blonde wig to wear after she begged for thirty minutes in the store. Roxana had never felt prettier.
“Be safe,” said Mihai, waving his children off with a smile.
“See you later, Tata,” said Magda, Dragos nodded in the bed sheet he had cut holes in to be a ghost.
“Watch your siblings, Roxana,” said Demetra.
“I know Mama, I know,” said Roxana rolling her eyes, “Bye now.” She and her siblings walked off and Demetra and Mihai went back inside. They shut the door behind them, leaving a bowl of candy on their front steps. In the past, when they waited for people to knock usually almost no one came, and if they did they stood their confused as Demetra tried to tell them to take a piece of candy.
After turning the block that their street was on, so they were out of sight Roxana turned to Dragos and Magda, “Ok. You guys know, stay together and don’t go outside of the neighborhood.” Madga nodded and Dragos sighed. Roxana smiled and waved goodbye, running off to meet her new friends three blocks down.
“Come on, Magda.” Dragos took her hand and lead her off.
Roxana ran around the block and down its street to the meeting spot. Her feet hit the ground as she passed by rowed houses, all with carved pumpkins on their porches and a variety of Halloween decor that seemed to compete with each and every house that followed. She’d never been so excited for a Halloween before, or so nervous, and she hoped everything would go as planned. She breathed in the cool night air of Ohio’s October, not very cold but brisk enough that she got goosebumps sometimes. She stopped as she saw Mary Grace in the distance, and adjusted her blonde wig one last time before walking forward.
“Roxy!” said Mary Grace waving her over.
“Gosh, I love your costumes,” said Roxana. Mary Grace and her friend Margaret were Cher and Dionne from Clueless, wearing plaid matching sets. The third girl, Erin, was dressed differently, “What are you?”
“I’m Neo from the Matrix,” said Erin, adjusting her sunglasses.
“Don’t mind her, she’s kind of a nerd,” said Mary Grace, covering her mouth as she did, and Margaret laughed, “Anyways, what’s your costume Roxy?”
“I’m Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” said Roxana, showcasing the stake Mihai had made for her.
Mary Grace burst out laughing, Roxy started to as well hoping she wasn’t laughing at her. “Oh my that’s so funny, you really know how to take a joke don’t you?”
Roxana laughed and nodded, “I guess you could say that.”
“I love you as a blonde by the way, it’s so cute,” said Mary Grace, lacing her arm through Roxy’s and walking off.
“Thanks,” said Roxana, smiling. She wondered why Mary Grace had invited her in the first place, maybe it was all some elaborate joke. But as Mary Grace started to laugh about Erin’s costume and talk about her crush in their class, Roxy realized that it didn’t really matter to her if she was being pranked.
It looked like her and Mary Grace were friends, and if it looked like it to other people then she didn’t care if they actually were.
Dragos and Magda stepped forward in the line at a big white house with brick stairs and lacy curtains in the windows, “Trick or treat!”
“Oh, aren’t you just the cutest!” said an older woman putting candy in Magda’s basket, “What’s your name?”
“Magda!” said Magda with a big smile. The woman stared confused and looked to Dragos.
“Dragos,” he said plainly.
“Oh, you’re that uh Russian family down the block aren’t ya?” said the old woman’s husband.
“No,” said Dragos.
“We’re Romanian.” Magda smiled.
The woman looked at her husband confused, but nodded with a strained smile. Her husband muttered something and walked off. Even though it was likely nothing, Dragos imagined he had called them commies or said something else rude. That seemed to be the default of what people said or thought about the Adamescu family. The thought made him angry, and Dragos glared a little. He wanted to say something. He wanted to yell at them and tell them to learn basic geography, or ask them how many languages they knew, or point out how stupid the last name Cox on their mailbox was because everyone knew what it sounded like. Instead, he felt his sister’s hand take his and he looked down.
“Bye now,” said Magda. She led him off before he could shout at them, and he stared at his little sister.
“Don’t be mad.” Magda stopped, “They were being mean. Roxy says when people are mean we shouldn’t get mad.”
“Yea, cause that makes sense,” muttered Dragos. He sighed and bent down to his sister, “But are you upset, Madga?”. Madga stared down at her feet and nodded. That was all he needed to know. Dragos nodded and stood up, holding out his hand.
Magda took it, “Where are we going?”
“I have an idea.”
Dragos’s idea took them to a group of boys around his age who were smashing pumpkins they had stolen from people’s porches and skating around. He walked up to them, taking off his bed sheet to show his face, “Hey guys.”
“Dragos, what’s up?” said one, Jack, a scrawny looking boy with dirt in his hair and scrapes on his knees wearing a set of devil horns. He dropped his skateboard and walked over.
Dragos wasn’t exactly friends with these boys, not in the traditional sense at least. For the most part he was ostracized from his class, mainly because he started fights and was always yelling about something. However, after he beat up that prick Michael, he had seemed to earn their respect because he was a boy who seemingly, like them, liked to cause trouble. On top of that, Jack had made a comment that Dragos’s name sounded like Dragon, so he thought he was cool by association.
“I heard you guys are egging houses tonight,” said Dragos.
“Who told you that huh?” said a chubby boy named Tommy, folding his arms and trying to look tough.
“You did, Tommy, at lunch,” said Dragos shrugging.
“Oh heh, right,” said Tommy, nodding and wiping some snot from his nose.
“Anyways, I got a house I want you guys to hit,” said Dragos.
“Sure man, what’s the address?” asked Jack.
“Hey hey hey, what’s in it for us?” asked a third boy, Cameron. He was shorter than the rest of the boys, despite being older than them, and saw himself as the leader of the group because one time he had pantsed the gym teacher.
Dragos held out his bag of candy and dropped it on the ground. The kids ran over grabbing it.
“Hmmm, we can probably make that work,” said Cameron, nodding, twirling the ends of the fake mustache he was wearing for his Mr. Monopoly costume.
“And I got a sweet, sweet bonus for you guys,” said Dragos, “Their last name is Cox.”
The guys began to laugh, “Ah sweet, Tommy, you gotta use that can of your uncle's spray paint.”
“Oh yea,” said Tommy, nodding and licking his lips, excited.
“Thanks boys, and you know, I was never here,” said Dragos. They all nodded. Dragos led off Magda, who didn’t quite understand what had just happened but knew that Dragos had given up his candy and he’d done it for her a little bit— that made her smile.
Roxana was saying goodbye to her new friends. Margaret and Erin were going to Mary Grace’s for a sleepover, like they did every year. They had asked if Roxy wanted to come but she said she already had plans. Going would’ve meant telling her parents and then they would’ve known she left Dragos and Magda alone. It made her a little mad, why did she have to miss out on the sleepover because of those two? But there was nothing she could really do about it. She twirled the synthetic blonde hairs of her wig between her fingertips and smiled.
“I’m so glad you came, Roxy, this was so fun!” said Mary Grace.
“It was! Thank you for having me,” said Roxy, nodding.
“We were planning to go to the mall next Friday, if you want to come?” asked Erin, pushing up the sunglasses of her costume.
“Don’t be stupid, Erin. Of course she wants to come,” said Margaret.
Mary Grace laughed and looked back at Roxy. “Well? You do want to come, don’t you?”
Roxana stared for a moment then smiled. “I’d love to!”
“Great, can’t wait,” said Mary Grace. Roxana turned to leave waving goodbye. “Oh and Roxy, don’t worry what kids in our class say, I don’t think you’re weird at all.” Roxana paused and turned back.
“No, you’re so cool, don’t sweat it,” said Erin in agreement. Margaret nodded.
“...thanks,” said Roxana with a nod and a forced smile. She waved goodbye and left, going down and around the block where she was supposed to meet her siblings. Weird. Whatever, it didn’t matter, she was friends with the most popular girl in school now. No one would ever call her weird again, at least not to her face. She nodded to herself and adjusted her wig one last time. She turned the corner and heard a cracking sound. She looked up and saw eggs hitting the Cox’s white house, and little Tommy Lockland spray painting a penis on their walkway.
“Oh no! Stop that-!” shouted Mrs. Cox, closing the door in front of her quickly as an egg hit it.
“You little bastards!” said Mr. Cox.
“Jeez,” mumbled Roxana, shaking her head and turning away. She spotted Dragos and Magda, who were watching the egging from a distance and laughing. Roxana looked back at the egging, then back at Dragos, slowly connecting the dots. She looked back making eye contact with Dragos.
“Crap,” he said, swallowing nervously.
“Hehe, crap,” said Magda.
“No, no, don’t say that, Magda,” said Dragos, putting a hand to his forehead. Roxana walked over slowly, staring. “H-h-hey Roxy. Crazy what’s happening. Uh kids, am I right?”
Roxy stared for a moment, then sighed, “Come on let’s go home.”
Dragos stared in surprise, then cracked a small smile and nodded. Roxana took Magda’s hand and Dragos took the other and they started to walk.