Saturday came and I spent the morning helping Tammy and Chris in hopes of calming my nerves. Chris started cooking around noon and the smell was amazing. IT wafted through the air and into the house. Since it was Hannah’s first day of freedom, she took off as soon as she was out of the shower. This left the house feeling more comfortable and open. I helped Tammy mix macaroni and potato salads together and cut lemon wedges until I couldn’t stand the smell much longer. For helping, Chris gave me fifty bucks to use on my date tonight.
The clock in the bookshelf near my bed said it was quarter to five when I glanced at it. I’d already been dressed for an hour, nervous about the whole ordeal. The Wharf is already filling up with people, music drifting from the yard into my bedroom window. I glance in the mirror at myself and for the first time in a while I actually felt pretty. Just like it had in the shop, the dress stopped right in between my knees and my thighs. I was still a bit self-conscious about my shoulder showing so I draped a tan-colored shawl around them. I kept my hair down, The curls cascading down my back. My mom had asked me to get a haircut before coming down here. I was beginning to think maybe I should have listened to her, especially with the heat. I added a slight touch of makeup but not much. I never know what the hell I’m doing with it anyway. Grabbing my bag, I walked out the back door and headed to the party.
The crowd was made up of mostly residents that I had seen here or there around town. There were some new faces but everyone basically knew every one. It was like a typical southern stereotype of a small town. People we waiting in line for food ordering drinks at the bar that was actually just the back window of the Wharf and there were hundreds of lawn chairs set up on the outside of the crowd ready for the fireworks, Chris was manning the grill like he had been earlier when I left but a second cook had joined him. There were a number of waitresses from the Wharf serving our salads and sides as the hot food came out in styrofoam containers. There were more people than tables we had set up but no one seemed to mind I noticed as I passed. I stopped at the edge of what I was calling my dock from now on. It seemed to be my place to hang out and there were never any boats tied to it.
It wasn’t long before I heard footsteps coming up towards me on the worn wood. Looking up, I saw Blaine walking towards me looking just as awkwardly cute as ever. He had a white button up short sleeve shirt on with a plain white tee underneath. His ever so infamous khaki shorts and Chucks completed his ensemble. He had his hands shoved in his pockets and he smiled brightly at me. “Hey stranger.” I said, standing from the post I was leaning again.
“Hey yourself. You look beautiful.” I felt a blush fill my face but I used my hair to hide it as I looked at the ocean over my shoulder.
“Shut up.” I replied, jabbing him in the ribs. He pretended to be hurt as he made grunts of pain, holding his side.
“Remind me to never compliment you again, then.” He said, looking over his shoulder at the still growing crowd behind us. “Are you hungry?”
“We could walk to the county fair now and get some food after the fireworks. I’m sure your dad will have plenty still cooking by then.”
“Sure.” Him and I walked to the street, climbing into his truck. He maneuvered around the busy traffic and made his way to the main drag, driving east. Large colorful signs of blues and reds began popping up to advertise for the county fair. Pulling over, he turned the transmission off and looked at me.
“Here we are.” He said, Peering around, I only saw buildings and cars parked bumper to bumper with each other.
“Where is here exactly?”
“The county fair is a few blocks up. This is probably the closest we could park to it. You don’t mind walking do you?”
“I’m a seventeen year old with no car. Walking is all I do.” Grinning, he hopped out and opened my door for me. As he shut it, I adjusted my dress and looked up the street. You could hear music and machinery that was off in the distance. Nudging my lightly, he pointed towards the sidewalk and we started walking in that direction.
“Are you excited?”
“About the county fair? Yes, actually. Never been to an actual county fair before.I mean we have fairs and stuff in Maine but it’s mostly kiddie rides and games. And my mom is usually working so unless my friends want to go, I look like a loser walking around by myself.”
“Well, you’re not a loser.” Reaching over, he intertwined our fingers together. I smiled at him as he rubbed the back of my hand with his thumb in a small circle.
I let him guide me around the corner of a build and was met with a surprise. The county fair was a lot bigger than I thought it would be. When I imagined it, I thought a few games and some vendors. But to my disbelief, there were huge rides set up the entire length of the football field behind what appeared to be the high school. There was a large ferris wheel in the center, surrounded by bumper cars, the tilt-a-whirl and a number of other rides. The smells of the food and the machinery mixed together and it reminded me of the summer before Chris left us. As a family, we went to an amusement park and spent the entire day riding rides and eating food that was bad for us. It’s one of my favorite memories of us all together.
“What are you thinking about?” Blaine asked, glancing at me. I shrugged as we came to a stop.
“Nothing in particular. Why?”
“Sometimes when you are deep in thought, you get this look of disappointment on your face. Like something happened that you didn’t want to happen. You okay?” Nodding, I smiled at him.
“I’m perfect. What do you want to do first?”
“How about we walk around and look at stuff for awhile?”
“Sure.” We entered the county fair and the sounds and smells were amazing. It was just like how I always imagined what it would be like in the south. The smell of popcorn, pizza, fried dough and other county fair foods filled my senses as we walked hand in hand up the midway. Families with small children and teenagers were playing games while others formed a line for the ticket booth. The food trucks and vendors were set up on the farther side of the park, lines also forming in front of them all. We came to a stop between the ferris wheel and the merry go round.
“How are you with rides? Can you handle fast?” He asked. I put my hands on my hips.
“Are you suggesting I can’t?”
“Well I don’t know...you had never been on a jet ski til you met me so I don’t imagine you are experienced in the fine art of death defying rides.”
“Oh yeah? Let’s go then.” I turned and looked at all the rides. My eyes landed on one that was spinning at an alarming speed high above the ground. It was a large circle with people strapped to gates along the sides of it. “That one.” I said, turning back to look at him.
“The lady gets what the lady wants.” Taking my hand again, we joined the ticket line. He bought a couple sheets of the tickets and we made our way back to the ride section. The line for the ride we wanted - which was called the Twister - was relatively short. It was high in the sky as we stood below it. My nerves began to set it. “You sure about this?” Blaine asked.
“Yeah. It’ll be fun!” I said, half panicking. The engine of the ride wheezed as the large disc came back down. The operator who looked like he had just hopped the fence to be here stood up from his folding chair and opened the door. The people on the ride filed out, some of them tripping or dizzy. Once they were all off, he turned and signaled for the line to start entering. Blaine and I moved with the crowd towards the ride. Walking up the steps, we entered the circle and the operator shut the door behind me. Blaine pointed at an open gap in the siding and we walked on the steel path way the outlined the circle towards it. I put my back against the bright orange pad and Blaine connected my chain to the other side where it clicked in. He gave me a quick peck on the check before chaining himself in next to me. I reached up and grabbed the bars next to me. I should have told him this was my first county fair ride ever.
The engine wheezed and rumble under our feet and slowly, we started spinning. In the middle was a pyramid like structure made of steels and lights that were changing color. Music began to play over the loudspeaker attached to it and we spun faster. All around us, people were laughing and hollering as we sped faster. Something clicked under the ride and we began to rise up into the air. Turning, I looked over at Blaine who was looking at me. His face held a wide smile and he let out a loud laugh. It was contagious because I soon felt the panic melt away and a laugh tickled it’s way out of my throat. I have no clue how he managed to but he reached over and linked our hands together on the bar, his protectively over mine.
The ride began to lower towards the ground again and the pace of the spinning slowed. As we came to a stop, the music softened. Everyone began to unstrap themselves from the steel grated sides. Blaine hopped out of his and unfastened mine before I could even move. Taking my hand, he helped me step down and over the steel bars in the middle like we had getting in the ride. Like the rest of the riders, we filed out of the ride and back into the grassy opening next to it. “That was awesome!” I said, facing Blaine. He grinned.
“Yeah? You looked petrified for half the ride.” I shrugged.
“It was my first county fair ride ever. Give me a break.”
“You’re first?! Why didn’t you say so?” He asked.
“Cause you offered me a challenge. I had to do it. Think I did pretty well too if you ask me.”
“Yeah. You’re quite the daredevil.” Reaching over, he wrapped his arms around me. It felt nice, his hands resting on my hips. Looking up, I rested my hands on his chest. In my chest, my heart raced. I was beginning to live for the moments like this.
“Ew.” A girl’s voice said behind Blaine. He turned, letting go of me. Peering around him, I saw a group of teenaged girls standing there. There was about seven of them, all identically blonde and practically perfect in their own way. Dead center of the gaggle was Hannah. She stood there, arms crossed. Her long blonde hair was braided over her shoulder and she wore a pale yellow sundress. A small smirk was crossed over her lips and it made me want to find a bottle of ketchup. The girl standing to Hannah’s right, a taller blonde with legs that went from her ankles to her throat practically, stood more in front than the rest. “Hannah, I guess you were right about Blaine. He did seem to downgrade fairly quickly.”
“Oh grow up, Penny.” Blaine said, gripping my hand. I hoped he didn’t feel the sweat forming in my palm. Penny shrugged.
“I was just making an observation.” Her eyes narrowed in on me. “You must be Kerri. I could tell from that fishy smell wafting from that direction. Hannah said it was because you’re from Portland but I’m thinking you’re just that pungent yourself.”
“Let’s go.” I said softly, cutting off Blaine before he could say anything else. “It’s not worth it.”