Halloween is my favorite time of the year. It’s the only time I get to see my big sis.

Nikki was always loud, always happy, always getting in trouble. Never anything serious; her teachers loved her and mom and dad were always grounding her, but doing it with a smile and a shake of the head.

My big sis loved me, and I loved her. We would go on walks and sing little songs that we made up and stop for ice cream. She’d wait until I was just too far ahead of her to notice and she’d disappear behind a bush and wait; I would turn around, looking for her, a little scared but knowing after so many games before that she’d reappear, and yet every single time I would still be caught in a fit of screams and giggles when she’d jump out at and wrap her arms around me in a tight hug.

Sometimes, when our parents were out on the town, Nikki would read me bedtime stories. She would create these great big worlds for me, worlds with kings and queens and witches and vampires and anything else I asked her for. She would always make us characters in the stories. And no matter what happened, they always had a happy ending.

A few years ago, Nikki had a boyfriend. I don’t remember much about him, but I remember long dirty hair and a scraggly beard, and that he was a Very Bad Man. He always yelled at her and said mean things to her, and one time, I saw her come back from his house with a big purple bruise on her face. Mom and dad weren’t home, but she made me swear up and down and promise I wouldn’t tell them. I promised. I never broke my promises to Nikki.

The night Nikki disappeared, she tucked me into bed and gave me an extra big hug. The story she told that night was short, but it was one of my favorites: a stuffed bear thinks he’s real and goes to live with a group of real bears in the woods. But as she was telling it, I saw something empty and sad in her eyes. I saw her getting into her boyfriend’s car, watching from my bedroom window. They drove off together, arguing and hollering.

No one ever saw Nikki again.

Except me. She comes and visits me every Halloween. That’s why it’s my favorite time of the year. My parents think I’m getting too old to go out trick-or-treating, but as long as I don’t get in trouble, they don’t seem to mind. Nikki made me swear up and down and promise I wouldn’t let anyone know she was taking me. I promised. Like I said, I never break my promises to Nikki.

Maybe this year I’ll finally convince her to not wear the same old sheet as a costume.