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Main Street #7: Keeping Secrets

On an afternoon in early October, the sun shone down on Aiken Avenue in Camden Falls, Massachusetts. It shone on the Row Houses and their small tidy yards and on the children of the seven families who occupied the eight attached homes. The second house from the left, formerly the home of Billy and Mary Lou Willet, was currently without an owner. But it wouldn't be empty for long. The FOR SALE sign that had stood staunchly in the front yard for four weeks and three days (Flora had counted) was gone. Everyone wondered who would be moving in, and when. It had been a long time since there had been a new family in the Row Houses.

Flora Northrop, sitting on her front stoop, pushed Grace Fong's stroller lazily back and forth with her foot and considered changes. She had recently decided that life was a continuous series of changes, which was unfortunate, since she didn't like change. No, that wasn't true, Flora realized as she watched Grace gaze up and down the street with the wonder of a seven-month-old. Some changes were welcome and exciting. Grace's birth, for instance. A new baby at the Row Houses was a very welcome event. And Flora had been excited about leaving elementary school behind in the spring and entering seventh grade in the big central school in September. Two fine changes.

"Hey, guess what!" called Lacey Morris, galloping across the lawns to Flora and Grace. "Just twenty-six days until Halloween!" announced Ruby, who was at Lacey's heels.

Lacey glared at Ruby. "I was going to tell her."

"Well," said Ruby, "the, um, important thing is that she knows."

"Huh," said Lacey.

Flora raised her eyebrows at her younger sister. "Ruby, remember what Min told you about hogging conversations."

"To do it?" said Ruby, and Lacey giggled.

"Anyway," said Flora. "Only twenty-six days? That's pretty exciting."

"I'm going to be a scarecrow," said Lacey.

"I'll be your crow," said Ruby.

"What are you going to be, Flora?" asked Lacey.

"I'm not sure—" Flora started to answer. She glanced up as the door to Olivia's house banged open, and Olivia and Nikki ran across the yard.

"Ooh," said Nikki, stopping to stroke Grace's fine hair, "she's so cute!"

Olivia stood back, hands on her hips, and glared at Flora. "Is this going to be a regular baby-sitting job?" she asked.

Flora shrugged. "I don't think so. Mrs. Fong just asked me to sit today."

"Why didn't she ask me?" said Olivia, frowning.

"Probably because you're too young," said Ruby, and Olivia made a face at her.
"Girls, girls," said Flora.

"So what about your Halloween costume?" Lacey asked again.

"Hey, maybe you guys could be farm animals," said Ruby. "Except one of you could be the farmer. Get it? A farmer, and a scarecrow, a—"

"We get it," said Olivia.

"But," said Flora, "I'm not sure we're going to go trick-or-treating this year."

"What?" cried Ruby. "What do you mean? You have to go!"

Flora, Olivia, and Nikki exchanged glances.

"We're just not sure—" Flora began.

"We might be too old—" said Nikki.

"Just because you're in the seventh grade . . ." Ruby muttered. She crossed her arms. "You'll change your minds," she said.

As Flora watched Lacey drift back to her house, she recalled the previous Halloween. She and Ruby had been living in Camden Falls for just four months. She had been a whole year younger, but sometimes she had felt like the oldest person in the world, older even than Min, her grandmother. That Halloween had been one of the first holidays she and Ruby had spent without their parents. Maybe, Flora thought now, it was a good thing Halloween in Camden Falls was celebrated so differently from Halloween in the town in which she and Ruby had grown up. There, kids just went trick-or-treating up and down the streets in their neighborhoods. Here, some kids did that, but most wound up on Main Street, trick-or-treating at the stores.

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