Potato Girl
rating: +17+x




October 31st






7:25 P.M.


Despite the reassurance it gave Heather that her mothers were okay with her spending the night without them, she still wasn't prepared for how exhausting it would be. Forget introducing herself to nearly every parent who asked who she was ("I moved in not too long ago" was believable enough). Meeting up with her first new real-life friend in a lifetime felt like a whole other challenge. There weren't any issues between her and Willow; they spoke quite a bit online, and Heather was the one to suggest they meet in the first place, given how close they lived to each other.

It was that her first night out of the house since earlier that year was spent with someone else at all.

The one thought plaguing Heather's mind was whether Willow would know that she was actually an anomaly. Thankfully, her "costume"1 didn't come off as cheap or suspicious so Willow never thought to check. She was unexpectedly receptive to the (partially-true) excuse that Heather didn't want to take off her TV due to anxiety and worry. It was a relief to completely avoid the subject. Willow's voice was still crystal-clear in her memory:

"Even in-person, you're fun to hang out with."

Even in-person, she's fun to hang out with.

Even in-person, she's fun…

It bounced around in her head again and again. She's fun! It was almost impossible to believe. Was it okay that this was going so well? Did it matter? Of course that was a good thing to be told, but the worry for what her new dear friend could have otherwise meant plagued her.

"I gotta stop overthinking it… I'm sure she meant what she said."

Conveniently, they split up for a brief moment to take care of personal errands. They'd meet up soon at Maria's, a local convenience store, where she needed to head anyway to pick up stuff for her moms. She could freely talk to herself, at least if no one else was around.

It was right when she realized that she suddenly thought of Willow as dear that her phone buzzed. A text message from Dahlia.

after youre done with halloween please remember to pick up some tater!




Tater? What could she have meant by that? Potatoes, right? Did they sell potatoes at the convenience store? How many should she get? Maybe she should ask? But what if she meant water? Didn't they already have water at home? Actually, was it even possible to carry enough water by herself all the way home? It'd be too much of a burden to ask Willow. She really should ask —

The sound of puppies yipping behind a fence froze Heather in place. It was bad enough to hear them nearby, but it was doubly concerning when she wasn't able to see them. Personal experience taught her that suddenly running would result in being chased, while slowly walking forward would be her best bet. So why couldn't she move? The store wasn't too far away…

In an instant, the house across the street suddenly filled up with lights and the undecipherable chatter of a horde of partygoers. The dogs decided to join in with a choir of yelps and barks, and the collective noise nearly engulfed her altogether.

"Hhhh —" Heather squealed out as she tried to keep from yelling, bolting away from the scene as best as she could.





7:36 P.M.


will do!


"I guess they do sell potatoes after all…"

The grocery ambiguity was cleared up, and the only remaining question was how many she needed to buy. One for each of them of course, but a fourth wouldn't hurt. There was more than enough money for that, and she could even pick up something for herself as well.

It didn't occur to her that they came in bags and that she couldn't pick up a specific number of potatoes until she went inside the nearly-Maria's to check what they had. There were two-pound bags, three-pound and so on, with different types, and all of it slid off of her. Maybe she really should have asked how much to get, but it might be too bothersome if she sent a follow-up text. The cashier might help.

Heather walked over to the counter, inwardly screaming out to whatever spirits were there that the older-looking lady manning the night shift wouldn't ask too many questions. Grownups don't just take off costumes from people trick-or-treating, after all. Unfortunately,

"Hello ma'am, may I help you with anything tonight?"

she couldn't get in the first word.

"U-Uh, hi, well, I was just wondering, potatoes — er, about the potatoes… can I b.. buy them individually?" Any remote attempt at a calmer facade completely vanished with that, so all she could do was hope that it'd go by quickly.

"We do not, only by the bag. How many were you looking to buy?"

"F… four…"

"Do you know what kind?" She could only stare at the shelf of candy, unable to remember what types she had even seen before going for help. Even the dogs were less intimidating; maybe going out in public was a bad idea after all. After four seconds stretched into years, the older lady giggled. "It's no big deal, miss. I'm only familiar with red ones myself. Do you know what your taste preferences are?"

"Um…" Did they all taste different? "B… c… cheap." The lady giggled again, and she felt like a crater in the ground.

"Alright then. Let me grab our cheapest kind for you." She came out behind the counter and went to the aisles.

Now that things were done, she could meet Willow and rush home. It was amazing that she came off as fun somehow when she was able to act like this. Her effort was commendable, but this was as best as she could do.

"By the way," the woman called out as she walked back with what sounded like a light bag. Heather instinctively looked up.

"Huh?" As Martha2 began to speak, Heather felt regret smash into her chest.

"Is it alright to take off your TV helmet? You look exhausted in that."

"N-No Mass! Miss! Miss Martha. I'm good, I promise!" she replied (too quickly).

"Are you sure? Just because it's chilly out doesn't mean that thing can't overheat you. Besides, if —"

Heather grabbed a random chocolate bar, and before she realized it, she shoved it to Martha. She felt finished.

"U-Um…"

"Really dear, it's fine, nothing to worry about." She scanned the items, continuing to smile. Even if it was fake, it was barely enough reprieve from the situation.

"Now then…" As if on cue, Willow entered the store, waving at the two of them.

"Heather!" Her voice was the same, but it felt more mature (if forced) than earlier. While strange, it was undeniably her. "Don't worry, I'll cover it," she said.

She had set her free from this hell, and that's all that mattered. There was nothing that Heather felt she could say in response to that, so she stepped back to head outside, relief carefully balanced out by guilt.

It took a couple of minutes before Willow stepped out, bag in tow. It took a little time for Martha to get the reason for her head to stay on. Thankfully the excuse was convienent enough for even her to understand. Hopefully this means the end of it. Her dear friend waved at her again.

"Ah, Willow, thank you so much…"

"Of course, no problem at all. Would you mind if we tried trick or treating at one or two more houses before we finish for the night? I don't have to be picked up for a little bit more."

"O-Oh, sure, I don't mind." So much for her plan to go home, but maybe it wouldn't be bad to spend a little more time outside, especially with a caring friend.

"Thank you. Let's walk back to your neighborhood. Here's your stuff." She handed the potatoes and chocolate to Heather and dumped the change into her candy bag. Willow's personality softened and her presence more reserved. It felt more natural, closer to how it was earlier in the day. "Not having candy for dinner tonight?"

"N-Not really no. My mom asked me to buy these anyhow."

Heather looked at the bag, too exhausted to actually parse what type these were. Opening the bag didn't help either. She'd figure it out later.

"I'm sorry for making you pay, I had money on me so I can pay you back if you want."

"You don't need to pay me back," Willow said. "Just as long as I can have your chocolate instead."

"Sure, feel free…" Willow beamed, bumping into Heather to grab the chocolate before immediately opening the wrapper and biting right into the bar. Tonight really was better than she'd ever expect it to be.

Neither of them noticed that in the collision, one of the four potatoes fell out of the bag and onto the road, nor did they notice the puppies that ran over to the fallen potato.





7:44 P.M.


"Trick or treat!"

The two had arrived at their final house of the night. The decorations were far more minimal and subdued than the other homes they visted. As the door opened however, they could see that the inside was adorned with an egregious amount of Halloween displays and props than the outside.

"Happy Halloween!" The old man who opened the door smiled, handing Willow a good chunk. "I hope you kids are having a fine night."

"Yes we are," they both replied.

"May I ask what your costumes are?"

"Audrey Horne!" Willow exclaimed proudly.

"A robot named… Ca… um… why are there only a couple skeletons out here?" Heather questioned nervously.

"Ahh, yes, I needed to decorate the house. There just wasn't enough for the outside when I hung everything up." Neither were sure on what to say; it was the exact opposite of what people typically have problems with for the holiday. "Are those red potatoes you have?"

"O-Oh, yes."

"Ahh, wonderful choice. I was thinking of having some around this time of year, but I haven't found the time to head to the store lately. Say, would you mind if I had one?"

"Huh?"

Heather felt sure she missed the conversation taking a turn at some point. She decided to look in the bag of potatoes for help, only to find three instead of four. While she was better equipped to handle this mishap, it still felt fatiguing to deal with.

"Did you see how many potatoes were in here?"

"I'm pretty sure there were just four. Is one missing?"

"Yeah. I think so."

"Would either of you girls care for more candy in exchange for one potato? Our block didn't have as many kids this year, but my house got even less than usual. Maybe because I didn't have as many decorations outside this year…"

If Heather had a knife, she'd be able to cut through how fantastical her night was. What better to top it off than this? This was all she was able to do to reframe the situation into something she could better cope with. It was fortunate that she didn't need to get many potatoes in the first place anyhow, what'd be the harm in giving this man one as well? Just like resource management.

"Here you go, mister…" She handed one of the three potatoes to the man, who smiled.

"Thank you very much, Miss Television. You know, my son-in-law loves red potatoes almost as much as I do."

"Does he now," Willow said in confusion.

"His dogs especially love playing with them. It's an unbelivable sight! They're only a year or so old and they still bat them around like toys! He has to buy them at the store more than most people would because of that."

The air hung in awkward silence as an elipsis blinked on her monitor.





8:29 P.M.


"I'm hooome," Heather called out.

"Hi sweetie! Be right there! Making soup for mommy!" Dahlia replied.

It felt right to be back after a rollercoaster of a day, and she could take pride in all she accomplished. She'd impress her moms, and hopefully even her friends as well. Progress was incremental, after all.

Her shoes flew off as she ran to hug her mom. She found Dahlia in the kitchen over the stove, the smell of soup draping the room. Immediately, she locked onto her, TV nuzzling her head.

"Welcome home. How was your day, hun?"

"I survived. My friend Willow was super nice and no one took my head off. Plus," she said as she held up the bag of potatoes. "I bought what you asked for! I needed help but I did it."

"Nice! Thank you very much for…" As Dahlia looked in the bag, her words came to a halt and a mild look of confusion took hold on her face. "Mags."

"Yeah?"

Dahlia took out and placed the two potatoes by the sink.

"This isn't Gatorade."

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