Nina stood in front of her bedroom mirror, carefully pinning her hair into two buns on either side of her head. “I wish you were here to help me,” she said, talking on speakerphone.
“I can fix it when Hannah and I come over. Speaking of which—she’s taking forever to get ready so we may be another thirty minutes. Ugh, teenagers. I told her she was getting too old for trick-or-treating—does that make me a bad mom?”
“No, but let her do what she wants.” Nina took a step back to look at herself in the mirror. She even tried her hand at make-up. “Are you sure? You’re sure about this.”
“Yes, I’m sure. Lucas has been Han Solo for three years in a row. It will be perfect. This is a surefire plan. He’s going to love it.”
Nina sighed. She didn’t look so bad actually. The white dress she wore had billowy sleeves, covering her arms which she was growing increasingly self-conscious about as she approached forty.
Taking a deep breath, she said a silent prayer. Every few years Nina caved and went along with one of Annabelle’s grand schemes. It was because of Annabelle that Nina had gotten that terrible perm in college and had broken her ankle jet-skiing in Puerto Rico, but it was also because of Annabelle that Nina went for the big promotion at the law firm and decided to move home a decade ago to build a life close to her best friend. She hoped this plan didn’t prove disastrous.
Nina went downstairs to put the finishing touches on Eva’s costume. This year, Eva wanted to be an octopus, eight limbs and all. It had taken her nearly three weeks to finish it, but even Nina had to admit it looked amazing.
“Thanks, Mom!” Eva yelled, tentacles streaming behind her as she ran out the door. Nina smiled as her daughter began to hand out candy bars to the first treat-or-treaters. A year and a half after the divorce and new traditions without Todd were starting to feel a bit more familiar. Eva was okay. She repeated that a few more times to herself then headed outside.
After thirty minutes, no Lucas, no Annabelle. Nina picked absent-mindedly at her cuticles and looked up the road. It all started at Family Field Day six months ago when Nina saw Lucas play kickball. He was so dorky and adorable, it made her heart hurt. But she didn’t dare say anything. She hadn’t flirted with someone who wasn’t her ex-husband in nearly twenty years! She was a total newbie in the dating world. She should never have told Annabelle about her feelings for Lucas or that her only intimacy in the past year was with her vibrator. Maybe if she had just gotten on the apps like Annabelle had said, she wouldn’t be standing here now wearing this ridiculous costume.
“On your way?” Nina texted Annabelle. When she looked back up, there he was. In a brown vest and tall black boots, holding the hand of a tiny Chewbacca. Annabelle was a genius.
“Hey, Nina,” Lucas said as Andy walked over to Eva and began tugging at her blue tentacles.
“Hey,” Nina said, suddenly unsure about what to do with her hands.
“Nice costume—you think a princess and a guy like me…?”
“What?” Nina asked, realizing the movie reference a beat late. “I mean…haha, yeah.”
“You know Clara and I nearly bought on this street. We would’ve been neighbors.” Nina remembered when Clara passed four years ago; it was a terrible shock to everyone. She had felt so badly for Lucas and Andy. She knew that like her and Todd, he and Clara had been together since high school.
“Oh really? We—uh, I—love it here.”
“Daddy! Dad!” Andy appeared at his father’s side and tugged on his hand urgently. “I have to go…”
“Okay, we’ll go to the next house in a second.”
“No…I mean go.” The boy crossed his legs and wiggled back and forth.
“Oh,” Lucas said, looking up at Nina, “Sorry about this, but, do you think we could use your bathroom?”
“Of course,” Nina said, waving the two of them along. This wasn’t the way she imagined Lucas first seeing her house: a pot of risotto boiling maybe, a bottle of wine aerating, Chet Baker Sings playing…
“The downstairs bathroom is getting renovated—go on upstairs,” she told Andy who proceeded to drop his Chewbacca mask on the floor and run up the stairs two at a time.
“Thanks a lot,” Lucas said, smiling sweetly.
“Want something to drink?”
“Water? NA? Real-A?”
“I’d love an NA actually. Can hardly tell the difference.”
Nina took out two cans from the fridge and slid one towards him across the island.
“So, you know, if this was Episode Four, you would hate my guts.”
“Who says I don’t?” Nina said, a bit too loudly, and her face went aflame. How did flirting work again? She popped the tab open and lifted her can. “May the Force be with you.”
“And also with you.” Lucas met her eyes and took a sip.
Nina could hear Annabelle’s voice in her head: Keep it going!
“Your daughter’s costume is amazing,” Lucas said. “Did you make it?”
“Wow, you should help us with the class play this year. We need major help with costumes.”
“Oh, sure, I’d love that.” No date, Nina imagined telling Annabelle, but I am now a stage mom.
“Great.” Lucas opened his mouth again to speak when suddenly, a rapid set of footsteps cascaded down the stairs and Andy burst into the kitchen.
“Dad, what’s this?”
Oh God, oh God, oh sweet Jesus. No. No. No.
Nina usually left it in the drawer of her nightstand but last night, she washed it and put it in her bathroom drawer. Nina blinked and blinked again, but to her horror the scene in front of her didn’t change: Lucas’s son standing in the middle of her kitchen holding her pink vibrator with a curious look on his face.
“Oh,” Lucas whispered, wide-eyed.
Nina slowly put down her drink. “Oh that?” she squeaked. “That’s a…a…lightsaber! I’m so glad you found it. It goes with my costume, see?” She took the vibrator from his hand and flicked the ON button, a low humming filling the room. She waved her arm slowly across her body. “Vvvvoooom. Vvvvoooom. Ksssh!”
Andy’s eyes grew wide, and he tugged on his dad’s shirt. “Where’s yours, Dad? Fight, fight, fight!”
“I must’ve—left mine at home.” Lucas was biting his bottom lip, eyebrows raised, mouth twitching. Nina lowered her arm and turned off the vibrator, hiding it behind her back as Lucas thanked her again and shuffled Andy out the door. Nina thought he couldn’t have hustled out of there fast enough.
She leaned back against the kitchen counter, sliding down until she was sitting on the floor. What the hell. A light saber?! She buried her face in her hands, on the brink of laughing or crying. Then she thought about telling Annabelle and her body started to shake, loud peals of laughter pouring out of her. Tears streamed down her face. Oh. My. God. She heard the door open.
“Belle?” she called out.
“Eva?” A deeper, softer voice. She stood up and there was Lucas.
“Hi—hey—so Andy is talking to his friend outside and I just wanted—are you okay?”
Nina wiped her face. “Oh you know, only completely mortified…”
“I thought it was kind of great, actually? Honestly, Andy doesn’t know a thing. He won’t even remember…”
“Oh no, that, I will never forget.”
“Great.” Nina let her head drop in her hands.
“Big Star Wars fan, huh?” Lucas took a step towards her.
“Not really to be honest. This was all Annabelle’s idea. Annabelle McGrath? She thought it might get your attention.”
“I see, well…she was right? But that isn’t the reason why I want to ask you out this Friday.”
“Oh?” Nina said. God, his eyes were green. “It was my masterful acting skills then—how I can think on my feet?”
“Definitely. But actually, I’ve been working up the courage to ask you out for a while.”
“Oh?” Nina felt her insides turn to mush.
“You know it’s a bit cruel to leave a man waiting for an answer like this.”
“Oh, sorry. Absolutely. Friday. I’m free Friday.”
“Okay, great.” They stood there a moment, just smiling at each other. “I’ll call you.”
Lucas took a step towards her as Nina took a step back, placing the vibrator on the counter behind her.
“See you then.”
The door closed. Quiet. A blissful quiet. Then the door slamming open.
“Okay, I just saw Lucas Riley leave – what happened?!” Annabelle squealed, dressed head to toe in leopard print.
“Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi,” Nina said, smiling, reaching her arms towards her friend. “You’re my only hope.”