“Wait for me, Linda! Jeannie, hold up!” seven-year-old Leveline Elder called to her older sisters, as they disappeared around a bend in the rural mountain road.
Sniffling back tears and stumbling in an old pair of her mother’s high-heeled shoes, the little girl hiked up her mom’s black slip trailing around her ankles and hurried down the dark street.
There were no street lamps or sidewalks in this part of the Clark’s Hallow community, only overgrown yards and sinister-looking fir trees blocking out the moonlight.
With the grown-up shoes and her slinky black satin ‘dress’ topped by a fur stole made from the soft fox fur collar from her mother’s old coat, Leveline felt like a real movie star, almost like Marilyn Monroe.
Mama even put bright red lipstick on for her.
Before they left the house for Trick or Treat, Mama took a picture of her three girls with their new Polaroid camera.
When she peeled off the paper and the picture magically appeared, Leveline thought she looked much prettier than Linda in her scary witch’s hat and Jean all dressed up like a pirate.
Before handing the three girls their pillow cases and sending them out, their mother had turned to the older girls and given them last minute instructions.
“Now Jean, you are the oldest. You are twelve, so I expect you to take care of your sisters tonight. Linda is ten, she’s old enough to behave and to help you look after Leveline. Remember, she is still a baby. This is her first time going out for Trick or Treat with you, so watch out for her. If she gets tired, bring her home. And no mischief, you hear me?”
Leveline had protested, saying, “I’m not either a baby! I’m a big girl.”
Now, she wasn’t so sure.
The streets where she ran and played in the daytime were different after dark. The wind in the tree tops made spooky noises reminding her of the ghost stories Jean had been telling her sisters in the dark every night all month.
Maybe it was true. Maybe ghosts and goblins and real witches came out on Halloween. Maybe they wanted to eat up little girls, like Jean said.
Leveline began to cry in earnest, her sobs turning to wails as she stumbled along, dragging her candy-filled pillowcase in the dirt.
“Boo!” Jean jumped out from behind a bush, causing her little sister to cry harder.
“Oh, come on you scaredy bunny! What’s the matter with you, anyhow?”
“Why are you crying, little baby bunny rabbit?” Linda asked with a sneer.
“I guess we’d better take her home, like Mom said.”
“No way!” Jean responded. “We’re just starting to have fun. The rest of the kids are gonna meet up in the park, by the old millstone. Tommy Wheeler said he has a bunch of rotten eggs we can throw.”
“You’re gonna get in trouble,” Leveline said between sobs.
“Oh, be quiet, bunny rabbit. You look like a rabbit with those big front teeth. Doesn’t she look like a rabbit, Linda?”
“Yeah, a big, baby bunny rabbit,” Linda agreed, then began dancing around her little sister, chanting, “Bunny rabbit! Big, baby, bunny!”
“If you don’t stop bawling, we’re going to call you Bunny from now on, how do you like that?” Jean asked.
“I don’t care!” Bunny shouted. “It’s better than dopey old ‘Leveline’, anyway.”
She said it in a moment of bluster, but once out of her mouth she realized it was true. She liked it when her sisters called her ‘Bunny’.
“Come on, Leveline, don’t you want to get to stay out late with the big kids?” Jean wheedled.
“We might let you throw an egg,” Linda added.
“I won’t come unless you call me ‘Bunny’. That’s my name, now,” Bunny insisted.
So they did.