The Midnight Carnival

#ShortStory #PicturePrompt #IndieAuthor

“The carnival will be closing in ten minutes.” The PA system announced as Vera and I stepped out of the hall of mirrors laughing.

“Already?” Vera lamented. “We’ve only been here for an hour though, and it’s the last night.”

“I’m sorry, Vera. I should have been faster getting out of work.” I said.

“It’s the last night too. They won’t be back for another year. I should have come with Tiffany.” Vera continued in her rant, “I would have been able to try all the rides. We didn’t even get to do the carousel.”

“I’m sorry, Vera. Really, I am. I shouldn’t have picked up that extra shift at the Snack Shack tonight. I just wanted to make sure that I could afford to treat you to everything. I bought all these tickets for the rides and everything.” I said as I pulled a wad of folded ride tickets out of my pocket.

“You’re sweet, Chris, but tonight is a wash. It’s my own fault, I could have come earlier in the week, but I was excited about our date.” Vera admitted. “It’s not really your fault.”

“Come with me, I have an idea!” I whispered, grabbing her hand and pulling her through the crowd that was being herded to the exit by the staff.

I led her past the ferris wheel and into the haunted house.

“Why are we going in here?” Vera asked, the concern on her face evident.

“Don’t worry, it’s safe. I told you earlier I worked for the county Fair a couple of years ago, I know how all these rides work. We’ll hide out in here for a bit until the staff clears out, then we can go out and I can at least get you your carousel ride.” I explained.

“No funny business?” Vera asked, taking her hand from mine.

“Scouts honor!” I replied holding up the scout sign. “I feel bad and I want to make it up to you, that’s all.”

“Alright, but I’ll warn you, I have pepper spray.” She said sitting on one of the displays.

“If it makes you feel better I can go hide somewhere else and text you when it’s safe to come out.”

“I think that would be best.” Vera said, nodding once.

“Alright.” I said smiling as I began walking away.

“Wait! I changed my mind. You can stay. I don’t want to be in this place alone.” She said.

“How about I just sit over here, and we can talk. It shouldn’t take more than an hour for everyone to leave.” I suggested, sitting in the floor about ten feet from her.

“Tiffany said I was crazy for agreeing to go out with you. She said that you and your family are weird and that I wouldn’t be safe.”

“Tiffany has a lot to say about me. I suppose it’s fair. I was supposed to take her to the spring football, but something came up and I had to cancel last-minute.”

“I didn’t know you two dated.” Vera said.

“We didn’t, well not really. The dance was supposed to be our first date. She didn’t speak to me after I had to cancel. I tried to apologize, but she told me to leave her alone. So I did.” I shrugged.

“You have some bad luck on first dates then, don’t you?” Vera teased.

“Call it a family curse. My mom and dad tried dating for nearly ten years before they finally had one. Things kept getting in the way. I guess it’s a genetic thing.”

“Ten years!?” Vera gasped, “I couldn’t imagine chasing someone for that long!”

“Yeah, they said they knew they were meant for each other from the first time they met. It took a long time, but they did it and here I am.”

“Gross!” Vera said.

“That’s not what I meant! You see? This is my luck.” I said, burying my flushing face in my knees.

“I was joking!” Vera said, “I know what you meant. Don’t worry, I think, at least for tonight, I’ll be your lucky charm.” Vera said, moving half the distance between us.

“I don’t know. Knowing my luck, we’ll get busted before we can walk out of here.” I said looking around the corner checking for flashlights.

When I turned back around, Vera was right next to me. She was looking at me strangely, as though she was waiting for something.

“What are you doing?” I asked, sliding a little away from her. “You said not to get too close-”

She leaned in quickly, cutting my words off as she kissed me. The world went dark and all I was aware of suddenly was her lips against mine. I wrapped my arms around her waist and pulled her closer to me as she put her arms around the back of my neck.

I’m not sure how long the kids lasted, but I know that when she pulled away and stood up it was difficult for me to breathe.

“You’re an incredible kisser.” She said, returning to her seat.

“Uh- I- Umm- Thank you.” I stumbled. “I’ve never kissed anyone before. I want expecting it-”

“I think I hear something!” She whispered cutting me off.

I could hear it too. There was a melodic jingling coming from just outside the haunted house. It sounded like one of the rides had been turned on. The sound faded after a few moments and we sat in silence.

After a time Vera pulled her phone from her pocket and the screen illuminated the small space when she turned it on.

“It’s eleven forty-five.” She said. “Should we check now?”

“I’ll go check.” I said getting to my feet. Sitting for so long made my legs weak, so standing was awkward and jerky.

“Are you okay?” Vera asked.

“I’m fine, just weak in the knees from that kiss.” I teased.

Even in the dim light, I could see her cheeks fluster so walked past her to the entrance. I heard her following behind me before she grabbed my hand. The touch of her skin sent electricity up my arm. The kiss flashed through my mind and I forgot for a second what I was doing.

“Is it clear?” She asked.

“Yeah. It looks like everyone is out, but we should be quick and quiet, just in case.” I replied looking back at her.

The moonlight caught her eyes just right that I could see the golden color in them complimented by the silver of the moon. She opened her mouth to say something, but I moved in and kissed her again.

Once more I was lost in reality. There was nothing but her. Nothing else mattered in that moment. Again, I had no concept of time, but had to pull away to catch my breath.

“Wow.” She said, rocking slightly on her feet. “That was better than the first one.”

“Carousel.” I said, more to myself than to her.

She nodded in response.

We sprinted from ride to ride through the carnival, pausing at each to check for staff, and continued on each time we were sure that it was safe. The entire way her hand never left mine.

When we arrived at the carousel she finally let my hand go to check out the horses.

“You pick one. I’ll turn the ride on and jump on after.” I said as I walked around it to the control panel.

“Ready!” She said from the other side.

I flipped on the power and pressed the start button a second later. The lights were blinding and lit up a large area. Not wanting to waste any more time than we had, I jumped onto the slow-moving deck and walked around to find her sitting on a silver mare as though she were riding a real horse.

“We are so going to get caught!” I laughed as I got on the chestnut house next to her.

“Take my hand!” She said extending it out to me. “I want to show you something.”

I reached out and as soon as our hands touched I felt my horse shift beneath me. Her horse neighed and they both disconnected from the poles as though they were never there.

I could feel my horse breathing beneath me as its heartbeat gently against my thighs.

“What’s happening!?” I panicked.

“It’s magic!” Vera said with a beaming smile as our horses began to gallop in time so I didn’t lose her grip. Our horses went into the forest, where she showed me everything in her world. I never looked back. She was my good luck charm after all.

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