“Wake up!” Five-year-old Tom Riddle rubbed his eyes wearily, looking around for the source of the shrill awakening. His eyes landed on Billy Stubbs, his seven-year-old roommate, and he scowled as his mood instantly darkened. He didn’t want to talk to the boy ever since their argument yesterday. But Billy didn’t seem to care about who got to play with the best blocks in the orphanage, for he was shouting in excitement.
“It’s Halloween!” Tom turned his back to Billy, trying to go back to sleep. Who cared about Halloween, it was not as if they got good candy, anyway. They always got the worst candy or the leftovers from sympathetic people and they never got to go trick-or-treating. What was the fun in that?
And besides, holidays in general were boring. They never got to celebrate, really, unless you counted a pathetic small celebration where they got all the old turkey, presents, or whatever, and cheap decorations, depending on the holiday. So Tom chose not to be excited.
“Get up!” Billy shoved Tom off the bed in eagerness, but that was the wrong move.
“Leave me alone,” growled Tom in his tiny voice. Billy just laughed, as he thought Tom was joking.
“Come on, let’s go to the play room! They’ve got decorations and everything!”
“Why? It’s not like we’re going to get any candy or anything,” protested Tom, flopping onto his bed. “They’re probably going to have the same decorations as last year, and the year before, and the year before…”
“So?” pouted his blonde-haired, brown-eyed roommate. “We can use our imaginations!”
“No.” Tom was beginning to get very annoyed with Billy. First the argument, now this. He wished he would go away and soon. Right now would be nice.
“Fine, be that way.” Billy stuck his tongue out at him and ran out of the room, slamming the door behind him. Tom could hear Mrs. Cole reprimanding him before allowing him to go to the play room. He hoped she wouldn’t come in here…she was always pestering him to join the other kids. He just wanted to be alone. Couldn’t she see he was different?
His wish, like so many other times, was not granted. He heard the door open and the pitter-pattering of her feet behind him and felt the sag in the bed. Refusing to acknowledge her presence, he instead focused his attention on Simon, Billy’s pathetic pet rabbit. It appeared to be staring at him warily, quickly chewing a carrot Billy had no doubt given it for breakfast. Who would want such a worthless animal for a pet?
“Tom.” He ignored the matron – she was used to it, anyway.
“Tom Marvolo Riddle.” He shuddered. He hated his middle name. What kind of name was Marvolo, anyway, a circus clown?
“Yes, Mrs. Cole?” he forced, plastering a grin onto his innocent face and turning to face the woman.
“That’s better,” she smiled, patting him on the back. “Now, I want you to go join the other kids.”
“Do I have to?” He gave her an extremely convincing pout, but she had a diversion planned just in case.
“Tom, it’s Halloween!” She jumped off the bed in excitement, causing Tom to roll his eyes when her back was to him. “Scarecrows, pumpkins, candy, and even witches!”
“Witches aren’t real,” mumbled Tom under his breath.
“Why of course they are!” gushed Mrs. Cole. “Don’t you ever believe, Tom?”
“I believe in common sense,” he muttered, but only so he could hear.
“Now, go join the other kids,” she insisted. Her face turned darker. “I’ll make you clean the outhouse again.” Tom immediately jumped, anger radiating from his tiny body.
“Fine.” He trudged to the play room, Mrs. Cole eying him all the way. Once she was sure he was in the room, she shook her head, rubbing her forehead wearily.
“That child is going to be the death of me,” she sighed. “Honestly, he’s not supposed to know witches aren’t real yet. Only when he’s older. He’s always been a strange one, that Tom Riddle…”
She walked out of the room and closed the door slowly, walking to the front door. She lifted her coat off the coat rack and prepared to go outside. There was a lot of candy to be collected.
Tom reluctantly entered the play room, much to the surprise of the other kids. They immediately clustered into groups, as though afraid he was going to hurt them. Scowling, he plopped down right where he was standing, determined not to let the other kids faze him.
“Tom! Come over here!” He closed his eyes wearily. It was his luck that Billy Stubbs was the only one who wanted to play with him. Indeed, Billy’s playmates were looking at him in horror. But as soon as Billy whispered something to them, they smiled and waved him over.
Tom eyed them warily - they were up to something. Setting all notions aside, he quickly walked to them, avoiding the stares of the other children. As soon as he sat down, he felt something like a cushion under him. It squeaked rather loudly, and the next instant, a bucket tipped over from above, spilling spiders all over him!
Tom yelled, throwing the spiders away from him as all the other children guffawed. He felt like crying, but no, emotion would not take over. One of the helpers, Martha, ran into the room, gaping at Tom. She rushed over to Tom, wiped all the spiders away, and took him back to his room. She gently reassured him that Billy and his friends would be punished and that the spiders were fake, but that was nothing compared to the anger, betrayal, and hurt he felt. No wonder Billy wanted to get him out of bed.
He heard Martha yelling at Billy and his friends about how they were not going to get candy, and his ears drank in the sound of Billy’s wails and protests about how Tom was weird and how he deserved it. Tom needed something to let out his anger on. As he was drifting asleep, his eyes fell on Simon, the tiny rabbit. It looked back at him in fear…
Mrs. Cole wearily unlocked the front door and set the bags down on the carpet. It was a very tiresome day. First, there were those regular stingy people who gave out only the worst candy, if any, and very few pieces at that. Then there were some who gave a couple of pieces of candy, which she was grateful for. Unfortunately, there were plenty more stingy than kind people, and once again, the children would have very few good candies, if any. She had barely begun to pick up the bags when Martha frantically ran down the hall, screaming.
“Martha, what’s the matter?” Mrs. Cole asked quickly, trying to calm her down.
“Billy Stubbs…Simon…dead…” she panted, sobbing.
Mrs. Cole’s eyes widened and instantly bombarded her with a question. “Where?”
Martha ran back down the hall, Mrs. Cole a few steps behind. Martha ripped open the screen door, and Mrs. Cole could see all the children clustered around the roof, staring up at an object hanging from it. Some were crying, some were plain speechless. The other helpers were trying to calm them down to no avail.
Mrs. Cole stepped closer and closer to the roof, and what she saw nearly made her die of shock. Simon, Billy Stubbs’ rabbit, was hanging from it, noose around its neck. Billy was jumping up and down, tears rushing down his face, as he screamed for Simon to stop sleeping and come back down.
Mrs. Cole then realized that Tom Riddle was nowhere in sight.
He was sleeping in his bed, snuggled under the covers. There was no more anger left. Maybe he did like Halloween after all.