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The woman behind the stand looked back at the cans Jason had just knocked over. “Well, after twenty-seven tries, you finally won yourself a bear. Which one would you like?”
Jason looked around the carnival booth at all the prizes. “Which one do you want, Sophie?”
Sophie’s blue eyes sparkled when she glanced up. There were big bears, a black and white dog, and a Winnie-the-Pooh choice. She never thought someone would win her a bear, or even try twenty-seven times to get her one, especially when it cost a dollar per game.
“I can’t decide. Which one is cuter?” she laughed.
“Well, you like dogs. So why not get the dog? It’s so cute with its big blue eyes like you,” he smiled. She nodded and grinned.
“Awe, how sweet,” said the woman as she reached up for the dog. She handed it to Jason and he handed it Sophie.
“Just for you, Beautiful” he said.
Beautiful, she thought. I’ve never been called beautiful.
“Thanks.” She hugged it into her arms and looked around. The large crowds at the carnival had mostly left and now there were only a few teenagers rebelling against their curfew, adults enjoying their last beers, and a cleanup crew picking up empty soda cans and cotton candy sticks.
“We should probably head home now. Do you want to walk or get a ride? My mom might still be here somewhere and I could borrow her car for a few minutes,” Jason suggested.
“No, I’ll walk with you.” She squeezed his hand as they started toward the exit. She glanced back once at the carnival. She had come many times before. There were as many good memories as bad, but the bad ones were the ones that always came to mind first. Last year, her boyfriend broke up with her a weeks before. He begged for her back at this carnival and she took him back without hesitation. He hooked up with her the next night, and then broke up with her the next day, leaving her alone at the carnival. He never won her a prize, held her hand, and he offered to walk her home, but he walked only half way. She was left in the dark for the rest of the way feeling lost and confused as to why someone could do this to her. She lost hope in the idea men were still chivalrous and the belief that there was a good man out there for her. Maybe her best friend Sarah could find a decent guy, but Sarah was gorgeous with her straight brown hair, delightful brown eyes, and perfect body. Sophie was told she was ugly; her ex said he was the only man in the world that could find her pretty. She believed it with all her heart and clung to him so much because of that. Even after he left her at the carnival all alone feeling used and pathetic, she still found herself giving him another shot a week later and another try after that.
The Ferris Wheel stood high and bright over the carnival. It was under that where she stood for an hour, hoping maybe he would come back. He was alreadyy with the next girl though. Tonight, she didn’t have to wait there. She decided when something bad happened again, she would simply find a nice place to cry in privacy or walk herself home. She wouldn’t let anyone watch her cry again.
Jason reached for her hand and held it tight. “I had so much fun with you,” he told her. They crossed the street and started down the dimly lit sidewalk.
“I did too,” Sophie agreed. “Thank you for the stuffed dog.”
“It doesn’t get a name?” he asked. He looked down with his loving brown eyes. She didn’t know him long, but she heard as many nice things about him as bad. He jumped from girl to girl, one person told her. Another said he was an amazing person to talk to when you’ve got a lot on your mind. One said he was shallow, someone else said he was the sweetest person she met. She decided to judge him herself rather than fall for all the rumors or believe what some pretty good liars told her. She agreed to go with him to the carnival when she realized her ex was officially gone and her friends all had plans alreadyy. She wasn’t afraid to try dating someone new, as much as she knew it could only end badly as in every other story of her life.
“Did you want to name it?”
“Of course. What names do you like?”
Sophie shrugged her shoulders lightly. “I’m not sure. Nothing like Sir Princess Sparky of Dogville or anything of course. Something cute and simple.” She tried to be herself with Jason, so there would be no mistake of who she was this time.
He laughed. “Good. I didn’t want you naming my thirty dollars something as ridiculous as Fluffy.” She laughed with him. Then he said, “How about Gabriel? I always loved that name. Do you?”
“Yeah, I like it.” She looked at the dog in her arms. “Hi, Gabriel.”
He grinned. “That’s so cute.” He reached for the dog and kissed its nose. “Make sure you take good care of Sophie, Gabe.”
“Shouldn’t I be taking care of him?” she laughed.
“Well I won’t always be around to take care of you myself. I’ll need someone I trust to do it for me,” he bantered. He handed the dog back to Sophie and she held it in her arms. Jason took back his hand from hers and stopped walking. They were alreadyy half way home and there was only twenty minutes left before her midnight curfew.
“What are you doing?” she asked. Please don’t tell me this is where he breaks up with me. This is exactly where Ryan left me to walk home alone.
“Look,” he said, gesturing to the street beside them.
She was half expecting him to run the other way when she looked. Maybe I’m just not the person someone wants to keep around, she started telling herself.
The street was empty; no cars could be heard nearby. Crickets chirped in the dark bushes beside Sophie as Jason dashed into the middle of the street. He spun in a slow circle once, then stretched his arm toward Sophie. “Come on, come here.”
She glanced around in confusion. “Why?”
The street was so dark with the one street light slowly losing its power. It was hard to even see Jason standing a few feet away from her in the street. If a car came, they definitely would not see him.
“Just do it! Put Gabriel on the ground and come here.”
“It’s dark out, though. And I have to get home.”
He sighed and walked over to her. He grabbed Gabriel and dropped him on the ground, then carefully picked Sophie up. She let out a small scream, barely heard as she didn’t want to wake anyone asleep in their homes. He carried her to the middle of the street and held her hands.
“Have you ever slow-danced in the street?” he asked.
“I’ve never slow-danced period,” she admitted.
“Never?” he repeated in shock.
He lifted her hands to his shoulders and held her waist. “Why not?”
“No one ever asked me to.”
He stared at her incredulously; she always thought it a very believable thing though.
“Would you please do me the honor of dancing with me now?” he said in the most charming voice she had ever heard.
“I would love to,” she cooed.
His hands, at a respectable spot on her hips, wrapped around her back and she linked her hands behind his neck. He was a good five or six inches taller than her, but it seemed a perfect height for this. They began to sway back and fourth as he began to hum. She blushed in the dark as her ears registered the sound as the words to one of the cheesiest love songs the radio had been playing lately.
As she considered how this night could possibly end, she wondered how long this relationship would last and what exactly he was trying to pull. If he was being this nice to her, he obviously wanted something. She refused to fall back into the habit of her ex and knew she shouldn’t see him much longer if she wanted to avoid it.
After a few moments of his humming, he began to sing the words. His voice cracked as he tried to hit the notes of the female pop singer and he tried to keep his voice only above a whisper. It had to be the most horrible voice she had ever heard, but a tear came to her eye as her heart filled with butterflies, an unfamiliar feeling she wished would stop. As they swayed back and fourth in the street, the stars twinkled above. Nothing could be heard but this man’s sweet voice serenading her. He smiled to her and his eyes stared directly into hers as he continued singing the chorus.
When the song ended, they continued swaying and spinning in the street for a few more minutes. His strong arms held her securely as she stared up at him.
“I can’t believe no one has ever asked you to dance,” he sighed. “Why wouldn’t they?”
Because I’m not that kind of girl, the one someone wants to dance with and fall in love with.
She shrugged. “They just haven’t.”
“They’re pretty stupid, I must say.”
She blushed in the dark. Why would he think that?
“What time is it?” he checked. She released his neck and grabbed her phone. There was ten minutes left before curfew.
“I have to get you home, then,” he said.
“My parents won’t care if I’m a few minutes late,” she told him as he rushed back to Gabriel.
“I want to get you home before then though. They said twelve, so you’ll be home by twelve.”
She nodded and started walking with him. He held her hand again as they continued the rest of the way. They talked about their plans for the next day and how they enjoyed the day today, making light conversation until they finally reached her porch. The porch light was on but the front door was closed. Jason walked her up the three steps, then handed her Gabriel.
“Thank you again, I had lots of fun today,” she said shyly.
“Thank you for the dance.”
She was expecting him to try and kiss her or do something, but instead he rose her hand and kissed it lightly.
“Goodnight, Sophie” he wished.
She blushed, looking at her hand in his. “Goodnight,” she repeated, almost disappointed. She hadn’t expected such a charming gesture. At that, he released her hand and started back down the steps.
“Jason,” she called, her voice slightly choked. She didn’t know what came over her to speak up, but she did. She never made the first move; it was best of her to let her ex stay in charge, since he seemed to know better than she did.
“Could I see you again?” she asked when he looked back from across the yard.
“I would love that,” he said. “I’ll call you.”
She smiled and said goodbye again, then went inside. Maybe, after all, there might be a decent guy out there for her.