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My Night at the Carnival

I had forgotten what it was supposed to feel like to be in love. I had forgotten the way my imagination lifted off the ground before I fell asleep at night. I had forgotten what he was going to say, and how I was going to smile, and how he was going to kiss me softly and the stars were going to shine down and everything was finally going to be right in the world.
My twelve year old fantasies had failed me. They hadn’t prepared me for love. Because love was more than soft kisses on my front doorstep, or talking on the phone late into the night. Love wasn’t like that.
I remembered the day Ryan first texted me. It was just “Heyy.” Simple. I didn’t know who he was, because he had never asked for my number before. He had never really talked to me to much before. I asked him who it was, and he just told me, “Ryan.”
The next time I saw him was at the carnival down in Newport. I went with Shannon and Ashley. We were waiting in line for the Tilt-a-While when I heard, “Hey Allie.” I spun around and there he was. I remember how he looked in his sweater, his cheeks pink from the cool night air, the way he stood with his feet slightly apart and his hands in his pockets.
“Ryan!” Don’t do that! I told myself. Don’t sound so eager.
“Haven’t seen you in a while.” He told me. There was a slight smirk on his face and I wondered why he was talking to me, why he was even bothering. I was Allie. The Allie who sat in the back row of math class and fell asleep. Allie who came to school with her shirt inside out. Allie who told the world that she was shy and quiet and boring but was really screaming out inside to be noticed.
“I know! That’s too bad.” Ha, ha, ha. How clever was I. How interesting and exciting. I could probably put the guy to sleep trying to hold up my end of the conversation.
“Have you gotten anything to eat yet? They have the best doughboys over by the Ferris wheel. Want to go?” His smile was unwavering, his gaze piercing. His blonde hair glowed under the lights, and his green eyes melting me.
“Sounds great.” We walked over. Well, he walked. I floated.
“Two doughboys please.” He told the disgruntled woman in the van. I tried to give him money, but he waved it off casually. “I got it,” he told me.
I don’t know if it was the coldness of the night or what, but I had chills all over my body. My arms broke out in goose bumps, the hairs standing straight up.
“Are you cold?” he asked me. “Here, take my sweatshirt.” He pulled it off of his warm body and handed it to me. I slid it over my shoulders. It smelled so good, and it was so warm.
He slid his arm over my shoulder as I finished my sickly sweet fried dough. And then he did it. He kissed me. His kiss enveloped me, flooding over my body like a hot sheet straight from the dryer. His lips were sweet from the sugar, but soft and warm. I had never kissed anybody before that night. I had never talked to a boy outside of school before that night.
He stood up, holding his hand in mine, walking back over to his friends.
“Yeaah, Ryan.” The all puckered their lips and made kissy faces at him as he laughed.
One of them threw his arm around Ryan. “Do you know how long this kid has liked you?” He asked me. “A really, really long time.”
But I felt the pressure. They were all looking at me, expecting me to say something interesting. Expecting me to flirt and be the envy of all of them. Expecting me to be as fun as Ryan was, as awesome and smart and funny and clever as he was. But I couldn’t.
“I’m going to go back with Shannon and Ashley.” Ryan’s giddy look changed to concern. His buddies looked at him, eager to know what he was going to say next.
“Are you sure? Do you want me to walk you back over there?” I knew he didn’t want me to leave. But I had to. My hands were shaking.
“No, I’m fine.” And then I did it. I just walked away. My first kiss, my first time with a boy. I just left it behind even though I knew that as soon as I got home I would regret it, because all that would be awaiting me would be my dreams and fantasies that never turned into realities because I wasn’t strong enough.
And I did get home and regret. I regret it until I was sixteen years old, well behind my peers to ever have any other relationship with a boy. I only remember that night as a whirlwind that spun to fast, that infiltrated my heart and knocked me off of my feet. I didn’t talk to Ryan to much after that. I just gave him back his sweatshirt, and he said thank you, and I left, and that was that.
How silly the dreams of a thirteen year old girl.





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