“Uh…” Snow stares open-mouthed at the pumpkin patch. There are more pumpkins here of different sizes, shapes, and colors than she realized. Where should she start looking?
“Aaaahhhhh!!!” someone screams. Snow looks to her right – Barrel is running in her direction from Lock and Shock.
“What now?” Snow has never seen any siblings fight more than these three. She’s getting a little tired of it. Nevertheless, she ducks behind the nearest big, fat pumpkin.
“Traitor!” Shock shrieks.
“I’m not the traitor!” Barrel retorts over his shoulder. He yelps as one of his sister’s spells hits him in the butt.
Lock gives a battle cry and knocks him to the ground, sitting on him. “You’re no fun!” he complains.
“You ditched us for them!” Shock screams.
“They’re not so bad when you get to know them,” Barrel says innocently. “Ow! Lock, stop jumping on me!”
“Make me!” he sneers.
“Hey!” Snow shouts, popping up from behind the pumpkin. The trio stares at her. “Leave him alone!”
Shock’s eyes narrow into slits. “So you’re the one who made Barrel give back the crown box.” Her hand glows with magic. “You changed him!”
Snow ducks as Shock shoots a jet of magic where her head was. The magic hits a group of pumpkins and shrinks them down to really teeny pumpkins. She shrieks and jumps up and runs away. “Get back here!” she hears Shock shout. Snow looks over her shoulder to check if the witch-girl is right behind her –
“Oof!” She runs into something and is knocked down. She hears Shock approach, but she stops and gasps. Snow looks up – “Jack! What are you doing here?”
“I was taking a walk to clear my stress,” he says, crossing his arms and glaring at Shock, “but it seems like I can’t get rid of it.”
“Aww, feeling bad, Jack?” Shock says in a mocking tone. “Won’t be able to get married on Christmas?”
Jack ignores this comment. “Where are your brothers?”
On cue, Barrel runs, screaming, away from Lock, who is on his tail. The two are coming closer, and with a couple strides, Jack manages to scoop up both boys and hold them up away from each other. “Put me down!” the boys exclaim.
“Not until you three agree to stop fighting.” Jack gives them such a glare that they all shush and cower back. Even Snow is scared of his expression. “That’s a start.” He gently sets the boys down. “Please, for a few days, can you three stop fighting, and stop pranking the town?”
“Why should we?” Lock and Shock demand, crossing their arms. Barrel scoots over to Jack.
Jack bends down. “I’ll give you three each a bag of candy.”
“Really?” Their eyes widen.
“But,” Jack holds up his right index finger, “if you so much as pull one prank or cause any more trouble in town, you will receive no candy, and you’ll have to do a week of community service.”
At once, Lock and Shock list off reasons why this is unfair; Barrel nearly hugs Jack’s leg. Jack refuses to give in to them, and the two older siblings reluctantly agree, trudging back into the pumpkin patch. Jack pries Barrel off his leg and asks him and Snow, “What were you both doing in the pumpkin patch?”
“I wanted to tell Lock and Shock that the doctor was offering them a job helping him make an experiment, if they wanted,” Barrel replies.
“I was looking for pumpkins for Sally,” Snow responds.
“Are they her personal touch?” Jack asks, very curious to know.
“Um, kinda. She chose pumpkins and spiders.”
“Two?” Barrel says. “No one’s ever done two before!”
“They’re both very special to her,” Snow defends her friend. She looks up at Jack. “That’s okay, right?”
“Of course.” He sighs and smiles. “I’m glad I know what her touches are; now I can work on my suit.”
“You haven’t started yet?” Barrel asks, surprised.
“Why do you need to know what her personal touches were?” Snow wonders.
Jack explains, “Usually, the bride and groom match their outfits, but I never knew what she chose; no one told me anything. And I couldn’t go up and ask her; the bride and groom aren’t allowed to see each other the week before the wedding.”
He nods. “Now, I can finally get to work!”
“Can I help?” Snow asks.
“I thought you were going to take some pumpkins to Sally.”
Barrel speaks up, wanting to be part of the conversation, too. “They’d have to be little pumpkins.”
Like the pumpkins that Shock’s spell hit! “I got it!” Snow cries. She gives them each a hug, waves goodbye, then dashes through the patch until she finds the spot. Thirteen pumpkins the size of a thumb. Taking off her red sweater and laying it on the ground, she gathers the mini-pumpkins and sets them on the sweater. She grabs the edges of her sweater and holds them together, turning it into a makeshift sack.
She lugs the “sack” all the way back to Magique Boutique. She pushes the door open with her back, and she sees Zelda run in from the back room when the bell rings. “Oh, good!” she says. “You’re back!” She runs over and takes the sweater, being careful not to let any pumpkins escape. “We were wondering if you got lost in the pumpkin patch, you were gone so long,” she tells the elf.
“Oh, sorry,” Snow says as they cross into the back room.
“No need to apologize,” Sally assures her. She’s back in her patchwork dress, and she’s standing in front of a mannequin wearing her dress. “You’re back safe and sound, and that’s all that matters. I have to admit,” Sally stares down and fiddles with her hands, “I was a little worried when you left.”
Snow smiles at her. Sally reminds her of her own mother, caring about her and worrying about her.
“How’s the dress coming along?” Madame Pereny asks, she and Helga coming from a door marked “Employees Only.”
“It’s great so far.” Sally grins widely. “Frost has done an amazing job so far.”
“We could hear you talking to the spider,” Helga tells her.
“He wanted to know what I wanted to do with my dress-” she gestures to a message web on the wall, “-and I’ve been giving him some ideas I had. He did the rest.” To prove her point, she steps away from the mannequin.
Everyone gasps. Frost added webs to the ends of the sleeves, creating a lace-like cuff that ends halfway down the forearm. He also gave the bodice near the neckline a web with the ends stretching across the neckline and a silver strand stretching down a little. The bottom hem has a lace finish similar to the cuffs, and the skirt has a delicate-lace-like drape.
“Beautiful!” Snow breathes.
“Exquisite!” Madame Pereny cries.
“Did that little spider do all that?” Zelda asks.
“He did.” Sally scoops him off the shoulder and hands him to Snow. “I think the poor thing is exhausted.” Snow looks down – Frost’s legs are splayed out and his little body is moving as if he’s panting.
“I bet his butt is sore,” Snow says. The adults chuckle at her innocent remark. “I should take him back to Jack’s house. Oh, wait!” She points at her sweater. “What about those? Can you use those?”
Sally unwraps the bundle of pumpkins. “These are tiny,” she comments, picking one up and holding it in the palm of her hand. “I wonder what we can do with these.” There’s a moment of silence as the four ponder on what to do with the little pumpkins.
Snow feels something on her hand and looks down. Frost is struggling to get to his eight feet and, weakly, he starts another web. He only gets part of it done, though, and no one knows what he’s trying to tell them. “Poor dearie,” Helga coos.
An idea pops into Snow’s mind. “Sally,” she looks up at her, “do you have an empty headband or anything?”
“Hmmm, I don’t think so, but maybe Madame Pereny has one?”
“I’m sure I’ve got something,” she mutters as she leaves the back room to search around in the main shop. Snow wanders after her, and the witches and Sally are close behind. The old witch searches a rack of headpieces until she plucks one off and brings it to Snow. “Is this what you were thinking of?” It’s a plain white headband.
“Yep.” She reaches out for it, but her hand freezes in midair. “Um, how much does it cost?”
Madame Pereny shoves the headband into Snow’s arms. “If you can turn that into something Sally can use, it’s free of charge.”
“Really? Cool! Thanks! Now I need the pumpkins.”
“Let’s put them in a real bag this time,” Sally suggests. They put the thirteen pumpkins into a plastic bag, and Snow waves them goodbye as she heads out the door.
“I wonder if Jack has any paint,” Snow thinks aloud. She starts heading back to his house, but stops when she remembers that he’s spending the day working on his suit, or whatever he’s gonna wear. But where would he be working?
Snow sees Zero flying out of a nearby alley, done chasing the cat. “Hey, Zero!” she calls out. The ghost dog drifts over, licking her a couple times on the face. She giggles. “Can you help me find Jack?”
BARK! Zero flies down the street at a pace Snow can keep up with. After five minutes of traveling through town, they reach a house. It’s pretty big, with a wrought iron gate in front and a huge stone patio leading up to a pyramid-shaped wooden house. The roof is tall, getting narrower and narrower the higher it goes. Snow thinks the whole house resembles the Mayor’s head and hat. Not surprisingly, there’s a mailbox outside the gate that reads “Mayor.”
Zero flies through the gate, waiting patiently on the other side for the girl. Snow pushes on the gate, and it swings open on creaky hinges. She passes through, and it swings shut with a slam. Zero is dog-gone excited to be here, but Snow is feeling nervous. What if they wouldn’t let her in? She doesn't realize that she’s at the front door until she knocks on it. She looks at Zero hovering right next to her. In no time at all, the front door swings open. “Ah, hello, Snow!” says the Mayor, looking happy right now. “What can I do for you and Zero?”
“Um, is Jack here?” Snow mumbles.
“Yes, he is. Did you need to ask him something?”
He steps aside to let her and Zero in. “Then, follow me.”
‘He must be in a good mood today,’ Snow thinks as she and the ghost dog follow the two-faced mayor up a sloping staircase lined with burgundy carpeting. As she climbs the staircase, she sees pictures on the wall. “Are these other Mayors?” she asks, pointing at one.
The Mayor looks over his shoulder at the picture she’s pointing at. “Yep,” he says, “these are all past Mayors.”
When they reach the second floor, he leads them down a hallway with the same burgundy carpet and lit candles in spider sconces on the walls in between the doors. He opens the second door on the right and walks in. “Hey, Jack,” he says. “You have company.”
Snow pokes her head around the doorframe – Jack is standing in the middle of the room, surrounded by the feathered demon guy, the melting man, and the corpse guy – Ned – from Town Hall, and also a werewolf. He’s holding his arms out while they tailor a black jacket to his skinny frame, jot down measurements, or simply stand there and give compliments and ideas. “Hey, Snow!” he cheerfully greets his friend. “Hey, Zero!”
Everyone stops what they’re doing and stares at her. She wills herself to be still, though she feels very uncomfortable under the scrutiny of the others. “She wanted to ask you something,” the Mayor says, breaking the silence.
“What did you want?” Jack asks. “Ow! Harlequin!”
“Sorry,” says the feathered guy as he retracts a pin.
Snow shuffles forward. “I was wondering,” she mumbles, “if you had any paint.”
“Paint? What kind of paint?”
“Um…” Snow thinks hard about what she exactly wants. “Something white or part-clear, part-white.”
“I think I saw some paint like that in the Town Hall basement,” pipes Ned.
“I can take you when I’m done here,” Jack says.
The Mayor asks, “How’s the tuxedo coming along?”
Everyone steps away from Jack and admire his new attire: a solid black tuxedo with a light gray vest. The jacket fits him perfectly, and it has two long coattails in the back. They make comments like “Not bad” and “Looking good, Bone Daddy.”
“I like it.” Jack smiles down at his clothes, then looks up at Snow. “Do you think Frost could help with the details?”
“Uh,” she glances down at the exhausted ice spider still in her cupped hands, “I think he’s tired now. Can he do it tomorrow?”
“But Jack,” the Mayor’s face rotates, “today’s the only day we can all come together to help you!”
“As long as the suit fits,” Jack replies, “I can take care of everything else.”
“Better change out of that suit, then,” Ned tells him, “so we can finish it.”
Jack excuses himself and leaves the room, heading to the right.
“What do you need the paint for?” the werewolf asks.
“Um, for something for Sally.”
“You’re helping her, too?” Harlequin says. “That’s nice of you.”
“Well, I wanna help make their wedding really special, since they’re so nice and kind.”
Jack comes back in wearing his regular pinstripe tuxedo with the ragged coattails, carrying his wedding tuxedo in a plastic bag in his arms. He hands it to the melting man. “Here, Marty,” he says. “You and Ned can work on this at his house. Harlequin, you can either go with them or find the Vampire Brothers and help them. Mayor, can you come with me to Town Hall?”
“Sure.” The Mayor looks happy again.
They all go down together and on the patio they bid each other farewell and go their separate ways. Snow is silent the whole way to Town Hall, while the Mayor keeps pestering Jack with question after question dealing with the wedding, the reception, and plans afterwards. She’s half paying attention. She gasps – there’s a hand on her shoulder. Looking up, it’s just Jack. He chuckles. “I was saying we’re here,” he says.
“Oh. Okay.” She follows the men inside, and she sees not much has happened to decorate the interior, and the Three Hydes are arguing with a clown on a unicycle, the corpse mom and her kid, a bat boy, and a cyclops. Drapes and fabrics are laid across the pews; candles and candle wax make the floor slippery; candelabra and crystal vases are strewn about, some bent and some broken; and various ornaments and trinkets look as if they’ve been thrown about haphazardly. The people are all talking, but no one’s listening.
“QUIET!!” Jack hollers. Immediately, they fall silent and stare at Jack, including Snow and Mayor. Jack sighs and walks forward. “What’s going on this time?” he asks with a sigh.
“He ran over a box and spilled everything!” accuses the corpse boy, pointing at the clown.
“I did not!” he protests. “You kids pushed it into my way and made me crash!”
“Don’t blame my son!” shouts the corpse mom.
“Well, someone lost the key to the storage room!” says Benjamin, the big Hyde. “Now no one can get in for more supplies-” (‘They don’t need any more,’ Snow thinks) “-and no one can put anything back!”
Jack groans and holds his head in his hands.
“Well, someone must find the key,” the Mayor says, pushing aside Jack and Snow as he walks up front, “and fast!”