Excerpt from

Trick or Treat

It wasn't her fault, but Cheryl Freaney can't help feeling guilty that a neighbor's child died in her house right after trick or treating. Her friend Marylou has come with her toddler son to offer Cheryl support in that trying time.

"I really can't believe it." Marylou shook her head. "That poor little girl, just blown away like that. It's incredible. You can bet my kids are never going trick-or-treating again. Just think, it could have happened to any of them. I can't get over it."

"Neither can I," Cheryl said.

"Those poor people. Their only child. I wonder if they'll have another one now."

"They can't," said Cheryl. "I don't know what the problem is, but I know they can't have more. She had several miscarriages before Patty."

"Oh, no! That really isn't fair. And there are people having babies they don't even want. Alex, you play with the cars we brought and stay out of Cheryl's cupboards." Marylou handed her son a paper bag full of toys.

"I feel so awful," Cheryl said, joining her friend at the table while the coffeemaker steamed and dripped. "I couldn't tell Theresa. Or even the police, because it might get back."

Marylou's eyes widened. Cheryl said quickly, "It's nothing like that. I didn't do anything. But I have to get this off my chest and then I don't want to talk about the Lonergans ever again."

She told Marylou about Patty's wanting the Coke. "And I was busy with Gus. I couldn't—"

"It probably wouldn't have made any difference."

"No, but it was the last thing she ever wanted in her whole life." Cheryl pressed a hand to her mouth.

"Oh, honey." Marylou got up from her chair and gave her a hug. "I'm glad I came. You do need a shoulder. This whole thing must be awful for you."

Cheryl sniffled for a while and then poured the coffee. "I'm glad you came, too. It does help to talk. I couldn't even tell that to Leonard. He was in one of his moods."

Marylou knew what she meant. Leonard was so often in one of his moods. No one quite understood how Cheryl put up with him, or why, but she supposed there were reasons. He was a strong figure, if irrational at times, and a good, solid provider.

Cheryl was reaching toward the refrigerator to get out the milk when the telephone rang. "Excuse me," she said, and went to the living room to answer it. Marylou got out the milk herself and opened the sugar bowl. It was empty, but there was a box of sugar on the counter. She poured milk into her coffee and added two spoonfuls of sugar.

She thought the coffee smelled a little strange when she picked it up. It must have been the milk. She sniffed the carton. It didn't seem to be spoiled. She drank some of the coffee. It didn't taste right, either. Maybe it was stale. She didn't want to tell Cheryl and embarrass her. Instead she added more sugar and tried it again. It was still awful. But she would be polite about it. Alex, making engine noises, ran a plastic car over her foot.

Cheryl seemed to stay on the phone forever. Marylou thought of pouring the rest of her coffee into the sink. She had drunk almost all of it.

Suddenly she remembered what Cheryl had said, what the doctor had said, about the bitter taste. She tried to push her cup away and call to Cheryl, but everything seemed to be sliding downhill. She couldn't catch her breath. The room turned into a black, swirling haze, framing Cheryl's face as she came back from the living room. Marylou felt herself slipping from the chair.

Books may be purchased from Amazon.

Mickey again

Home :: Newest Book :: Booklist :: Biography :: Blog :: Contact