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One Summer Night
Summer was finally here. The fair was in town. The lights were neon bright and making my head hurt. I didn’t want to be here, but I had friends who dragged me along anyway. The rides were making me sick, and the smells of cigarette smoke and elephant ears were nauseating. I wanted to leave, but I was trapped in the bubble of superficial joy, unable to get out of it. I wanted to cry, scream, and tear my hair out. I didn’t want to be here in the happy, first week of summer fun. I wanted to be back home with my mom. She needed me far more then these people needed me. The cloud of sweat and smoke and cotton candy was starting to suffocate me. I had to sit down before I collapsed. I sat on a bench, not far from the infamous puke hole, which, as per tradition, was to be puked in after you rode a ride more than three times. I found it disgusting and tried not to look at it. Soon, the one friend who’d gone to sit down with me left to go have fun, and I was alone. i began to cry from sheer stress. I hated it here. Mom couldn’t come get me and I was a good five miles from home with no ride. I sat there, hot tears streaming into my hands. A warm hand touched me and I almost screamed. But when I looked up into the face belonging to those arms, I stopped myself. I didn’t know him. But he had warm, kind green eyes and a steady smile that made me feel calmer.
“Nobody should be sad like you are. Free hug for a pretty girl?” He wasn’t American. I wasn’t sure where he was from, but his voice warm and steady like the rest of him.
“I’m not sad.”
“Oh, love, then what’s the reason for you crying?” Irish. He was definitely Irish.
“I’m exhausted. I hate this place, and I’m going to be walking five miles home, in the dark, alone. I’m stressed, and upset, and I shouldn’t have come here and I want to be home right now.”
“if you hate it, why’d you come?”
“Every year, I come expecting something about it to be different, or better, and I’m always disappointed. But I still come with my hopes up only for them to fall flat.”
“But you take yer chances just in case, hm?”
“Yeah, pretty much.” He hugged me. unexpected, but sweet.
“You feel better now?”
“Yeah. I guess I’ll walk home.”
“This might seem forward, but would you mind dreadfully if I walked you home? Wee little things like you shouldn’t be out alone at night.”
“If that’s all you plan on doing, it would be nice to have company.”
“I may be a man but I’m not an a**. No need to worry about me, scout’s honor.”
“You can never be too careful.” He smiled, and his eyes reflected the lights from the rides, making them sparkle.
“Well, ya want to be on, then?”
“Do you want to leave?”
“Yeah. I guess so.” he offered me his arm, which had a few tattoos, and I took it. A peace sign, a heart, a Chinese character of some sort, and half of a sun. Why only half? Huh.
“I’m not in a gang, if it concerns you.” He nodded to his arm.
“I didn’t think you were. Why half a sun?”
“I haven’t found my moon yet.” He ran a hand through his shaggy dark brown hair. it went just below his jaw, with side-swept bangs that he managed to make look masculine and not skater. It was interesting.
“When I find her, she goes on my arm forever.”
“As I said, haven’t found her yet. So how old are you?” he didn’t seem too interested in me as his moon, which was a relief.
“I’m twenty. I moved here from Belfast two months ago when my parents got sick of me.”
“That sucks.” I kindof had a feeling he needed the hug more than I did.
“Not really. I like it here. The weather is certainly better than back home.”
“So… seventeen, eh? Still in high school?”
“Next hear is my last one. Although I’m not sure I won’t just skip it and go straight to college. I’ll be eighteen in August anyways.”
“Don’t skip your last year. That’s silly. Enjoy it while ya have it. the real world f***in’ sucks. Oh… I’m sorry.”
“Ya can’t curse in front of a lady. It’s terribly rude.”
“It doesn’t bug me. It sounds cooler when you say it anyway.”
“Still don’t let me forget my manners. So, you have a name or am I just left guessing?” Hmmm… smart…
“I’m… actually, that’s a good idea. I’ll let you guess.” I found myself smiling more as we got further away from the fair.
“Can I have the first letter?” away from the smoke and smells of the fair, I could smell him, like fresh detergent and good cologne.
“Fine. It starts with an A.” he pondered that for a minute.
“Closer. It’s Ashling.”
“Gaelic for dream.”
“How did you know?”
“I’m Irish, smart one. I speak Gaelic. Well, some anyways.”
“Well, little dream girl, you’re an interesting one, I can tell.”
“You hate fairs. You let strangers hug you and walk you home, you like the night sky but hate the dark. I think it’s interesting.”
“I never said anything about the sky or the dark.” I had to admit he was right. Huh… that was really observant of him.
“You keep looking up at the stars, love. But every time you look around you, you shiver. It’s eighty degrees out so you’re not cold, you’re scared.” Time to change the subject and divert him from my fears…
“What’s your name?”
“Guess.” He smiled now, his teeth bright in the dark, his eyes hidden by the fringe of his hair.
“Give me the first letter.”
“B is the first letter.”
“No. you’re crap at this.”
“You’re mean. How about I just call you Bob and make it easy for everyone.”
“I’m Banning O’Flaherty, at yer service. Call me B, Banny, Ban, or any other name you can come up with.”
“Banning? Gaelic too?”
“Celtic-Welsh. It means ‘a very fair child.’”
“That was my next guess.”
“Sure it was.” He took my hand. “Dance with me.”
“There’s a starry sky, we’re walking on a country lane, why not? I even have some music.” He pulled out an iPhone and put on a Matt Kearney song. He put a hand on my waist. I put my hands around his shoulders. It was a stupid movie moment every girl deserves to have at least once in her life. We danced in slow circles, completely off rhythm and not really caring. The stars were pretty, creating a lot of light even though there was only a small sliver of moon, barely visible in the sky. Looking at it made me remember the other half of his tattoo. I thought about it. Maybe I could be the moon on that arm. No… he’s only doing this for the novelty of it. He doesn’t want me like that. The song floated in the air around us. There is a light in your eyes, in your eyes. Breathe in and breathe out. I had to focus on that more than usual, because here I was, a girl who hated romance, having a totally romantic moment for no apparent reason.
“Breathe in, breathe out, move on, break down, if everyone goes away, I will stay.” He was singing quietly, his accent changing the way the song sounded, but not at all unpleasantly so. I realized it was on repeat. It had played twice. I didn’t care, because I didn’t really want it to end. BZZZZ. BZZZZ. BZZZZ. Sh*t. My phone was buzzing. He turned the music off, and I sighed as I picked up, my happy little bubble had been popped.
“Hello?” it was my mom, she was p*ssed about me being out late and I was to “get my scrawny a** home before she came down to the fair on her crutches to come get me”.
“Your mum, huh? Did I hear something about crutches?”
“Yeah… I have to get home. Fast.”
“You want to run?”
“What the h*ll, why not. In fact, I’ll race you.”
I started running, he was shouting after me. “I don’t know where ya live, ya cheat!” he was running after me. I kept running, even when my legs started to go all Jello-y, I kept going, until I was at the bottom of my driveway. He caught up to me, red and warm, and caught me around the waist.
“You… are… way too fast.” He said between breaths.
“You… are… way too slow.” He laughed and shoved me playfully.
“You say I’m mean. Look in the mirror, love.” He turned me around to face him. “Goodnight, Dream Girl. Maybe I’ll see you sometime again. Until then, ya know, just…” he tilted my chin up and gave me a quick kiss right on the mouth. Then he left me standing there, lips burning, and already falling hard and fast.