The Mother hadn’t planned on having a late night at the outset, it genuinely just happened. Genuinely.
It was a little after 8.00pm. She was about to head home with Esme and three of her little friends when she noticed something. Outside her local pub in Peckham, a large crowd appeared to be gathering. This couldn’t be ignored at the best of times. And this wasn’t the best of times.
Mums, dads, zombies, witches, ghosts, demonic wolves and that scary-looking fucker from Hellraiser were happily drinking and laughing outside The Prince Albert. It was only Tuesday, but it was obvious that parents felt like they’d earned themselves a drink. The Mother certainly did. Because for adults, trick-or-treating largely involves escorting a bunch of over-excited, hysterical kids from one house to the next while loudly repeating, ‘Say “Thank you”,’ and ‘Mind the bloody car,’ on a loop, when you could be doing something more interesting, like saying thank you to bar staff.
Yes, she’d earned that drink, that was her treat. And the kids, well, they wouldn’t mind. Christ, they’d had so many sweets, they wouldn’t be sleeping till Christmas anyway.
Jim, the landlord, is a muscular man with short-cropped black hair and a tattoo of a naked lady on his left arm. Think Jean-Paul Gaultier Le Male, but without the sailor’s hat. But he wasn’t all brawn and no brains, for he had clearly seen the potential of the sweet-toothed ghost festival to flog some booze.
There was a special on Zombie Juice, aka Bloody Mary. Also, a cauldron full of Witch’s Blood, which bore a suspicious resemblance to last Christmas’ mulled wine. There was even a little bar serving non-alcoholic Hallowe’en drinks to kids. The bar staff seemed to be happily turning a blind eye to the ‘no children after 7pm’ rule. What started as a quick drink ended, several Zombie Juices later, with an impromptu party in the backroom.
Luckily, the Mother’s partner had arrived at some point and taken the children home. This was a blessing for Esme as well as the Mother. There is no bigger embarrassment than watching your mother dance, except perhaps watching her dance while pissed, tired and dressed as a sexy witch. A large sexy witch at that.
It may have been inappropriate, but The Mother did not leave the party on the stroke of midnight. She did at least make it home before one though. Soon after, she was safely tucked up, fully clothed on the sofa, under a large towel. To be fair, it had looked a lot more like a blanket when she’d noticed it squashed in the washing basket. But this did at least explain why it had felt so crunchy. Fabric softener was a stranger in this house.
A few hours later she would find herself freezing cold, hungover and stinking of cheap cocktails but in retrospect that could be regarded as the high point of the day. As from that moment onwards, things would get a whole lot worse.