Khalil wasn’t sure what he had been expecting when he had heard the words “fall festival”, but it definitely wasn’t the combination of flannel, giddy children, and rigged carnival booths that he was met with, but Mina seemed to be enjoying every second of it. She didn’t want to speak a word of her argument with her parents and he didn’t pressure her, but his mind was swirling with unanswered inquiries that he was sure she wouldn’t answer, at least for the time being.
“How have you never been to a fall festival” she laughed, giddy with excitement and he beamed as he watched her twirl about the place as if she were one of the children. “It’s literally like a rite of childhood passage.”
“Well in case you didn’t remember, my childhood didn’t really consist of many fun experiences.” he smirked, his hands shoved in the pockets of his jeans as he followed behind Mina like a lost puppy. “Unless you count robbing gas stations for food as fun.” He smirked at the look that had overtaken her childlike demeanor. “I’m joking Mina.” Her smile slowly began to return, replacing the look of utter shock that had been there momentarily, and Khalil dodged a shove from her laughingly.
“Ha ha” she fake laughed sarcastically.
“Honestly” he began again, this time looking around at his cliche surroundings. “It doesn’t look like I was missing out on much.”
“Excuse me!” Her hands were on her hips as she paused once more, and Khalil grinned harder at what he assumed was supposed to be an intimidating stare.
Khalil shrugged. “It seems like another one of your rich people things.”
“You know, not everything is a rich people thing”
“You’re right.” he cocked his head to the side as if he were thinking “Only everything boring.” He scrunched his nose. A small smirk played on the edges of Mina’s lips as she succeeded in slapping him hard in the chest this time.
“Your defeatist attitude is ruining the mood.”
“I’m just saying” he threw his hands up in the air before placing them back comfortably in his stiff pockets. “The food is over priced, it smells like sweat, and all these games are rigged. There’s no way you could win even if you tried.”
“Is that a challenge?” she crossed her arms over her chest closing the distance between the two of them so that their toes were almost touching and he could see his own reflection in her light brown eyes. “You can’t win.” he stated matter-of-factly.
“Ok, and when I do win, I get to pick which game you play next”
“I don’t agree to that.”
“Well that’s to bad” she said in a sing-songy voice, poking out her lip in a pout as she side stepped him into the line of people awaiting yet another impossible game. “Because we’re already in line” she smiled, grabbing him by the wrist as she pulled him in line beside her. There was no resisting her.
“No one ever says no to you do they.” he quipped, but she only gave him a small flirtatious smile in returning, gripping onto his hand ever so tightly as the line grew shorter and shorter and they grew closer and closer to the small purple and yellow striped booth.
The man in front of the booth nodded towards the two of them in greeting. “Five dollars” His voice so monotone it was hard to hear over the bustling sounds of the festival around them.
“All you have to do is get all three balls through the hole.” the man smiled pointing to the rickety cardboard stood atop two wooden crates, a makeshift hole cut out in the middle. Khalil held in a scoff as he watched Mina willingly hand the smiling man five dollars. Of course he was smiling, he was making money win or lose.
“That’s all I have to do?” she asked the man and he nodded, repeating back to her “That’s all you have to do.”
“That’s all I have to do.” she turned around, repeating the carnies words back to him as she looked up at him with a look of pure childlike glee on her face. Khalil rolled his eyes at her giddiness, turning her back around by the shoulders as he bent down, whispering in her ear. “Just don’t mess up” He could hear her scoff in front of him as she bent down low, preparing to throw the ball.
She turned around, practically bouncing with excitement as she stuck her tongue out at him.
“Great” he nodded his head, pointing to the booth behind her. “Now do it two more times.”
“You ready to eat your words my friend?”
“You haven’t won yet.”
Mina bent down, prepared to toss the third and final ball, but just before it left the tip of her fingers a pair of large hands gripped the sides of her waist, scaring the ball out of her hand and onto the tall dry grass feet away from the cardboard cutout of the clown’s open mouth. She had missed. Khalil’s laughter drowned out the loud uproar of Mina’s stomping and protestations, and he only laughed harder as she attempted to pry his long fingers from her small waist in frustration. She was trying to keep a serious air about her, but Khalil could see her threatening to break apart in amusement at any moment.
“Sir” She gripped his fingers tighter, attempting to use both of her hands to pry of one of his, but he wouldn’t budge and she was buckling under his fingers. “Sir he cheated.” He laughed into the crook of her shoulder a smirk playing on the edges of his lips. He wasn’t sure what had gotten into him today, but he was enjoying every second of his new found elation, completely unbothered by the trials and tribulations that were sure to await him tomorrow. Mina made him forget about everything, and at this rate he didn’t want to remember.
“He cheated.” Mina pushed his head away, finally managing to pry off one of his hands twirling away from the other until she was free of his tight grasp. She was breathing heavily, playful anger written across her face.
The man looked between the two of them skeptically, taking extra care to eye Khalil’s figure up and down precariously, before he tossed her another of the small white balls. “Last ball.” he warned warily and Mina made sure to side step Khalil completely before she bent over once more, fumbling the last ball between her fingers steadily.
“No cheating!” She called over her shoulder, but Khalil only let out a short amused scoff. He had absolutely no faith in her, but he was soon made to eat his words as he watched as the ball flew swiftly from Mina’s fingers and into the awaiting hole in the cardboard cutout. She was jumping up and down in glee now, her fingers poking and prodding at him as she celebrated her victory and Khalil’s disappointment. He couldn’t suppress a number of groans, and they only grew louder as the shoved the giant blue dinosaur, half the size of her, that she had won in his face.
He pushed her away playfully. “Khalil Maffa?” She held her fist to her mouth like a microphone. “How does it feel knowing you lost the bet and that I now have the power to do whatever I want with you.”
“Whatever you want?” he cooed and Mina froze at his insinuations, and he suddenly found himself wishing that he hadn’t said anything at all. There was silence between the two of them as he waited to see how Mina would react, to discern if he had ruined the only thing he had going for him at the moment. Another millisecond went by, and suddenly a small shy smile broke the length of Mina’s face as she shoved the gigantic blue dinosaur in his face again.
“Whatever I want” she repeated with a smirk, and Khalil let out a breath he hadn’t even realize he had been holding.
“Get that thing out of my face.” he batted the felt teeth of the dinosaur away from his face, laughing as he watched Mina struggle to hold the animal upright without dragging any part of him across the dirty grass of the open field.
“Dont talk to Cedric that way!” she cooed at the dinosaur, patting his small blue head softly. “He’s a sensitive creature.”
“Cedric?” he bucked his eyes at her creative name.
“You can make fun all you want, but at the end of the day Cedric and I will be the ones laughing when we choose which carnival game your’re going to lose.”
“I won’t hesitate to murder that dinosaur. I’m not afraid to go back to juvie.”
“Let’s see.” Mina rubbed Cedric’s chin, pretending to be lost in thought as she gazed at all the festival booths around her. “What do you think Ceddy?” She put her ear up to the stuffed dinosaurs mouth as if they were sharing some unknown secret, her eyes bucking as if he were really talking. Khalil rolled his eyes, opening his mouth to voice his claims of her ridiculous actions, but before he could get a squeak out she had placed her finger to his lips, still nodding at Cedric’s unspoken words.
“Ok! We have decided.” Khalil rolled his eyes. “Cedric and I think you should try the apple bobbing booth.”
“The apple bobbing booth” he repeated back in disbelief and he couldn’t miss the mile long smile that both Mina and the dinosaur seemed to share. They were both mocking him now.
“MJ” he groaned aloud into the chilly fall air, but not even the twinkling stars above them payed any attention to his protests. “Come on” she grinned evilily, grasping his hand into hers once more as she practically pulled him to the burnt orange booth near the furthest end of the field. He groaned the whole way. “Come on you big baby.” she chuckled to herself and as much as Khalil hated the idea of doing an activity as pointless as apple bobbing, the fact that Mina was the one dragging him to do it made him a little less opposed to the idea.
“Don’t be a sore loser”she crooned as she pushed him under the large tent. Other families were already there, children, wives, and husbands all with their heads stuck in a metal tub of floating red bobbles. “Mina.”
“Nope” she shook her head. “There’s no getting out of this one.”
“This just seems a little unsanitary.”
“What’s that Cedric?” she bent her face down to the plush dinosaur yet again. “You think Khalil should stop complaining and just stick his face in the basin? Me too!” she smirked and Khalil resisted the urge to take the plush toy and plunge it in the basin. Mina set Cedric down on grass beside them, before closing the short distance that was still left between she and Khalil taking his hands into hers, crossing his wrists behind his back much to his protests.
“I know how you like to cheat.” she gripped him harder underneath her fingers and he winced.
“Mina I think you should just choose another booth. I mean think how many people have stuck their face into this same disgusting water and how many mouths have touched all these other apples and-” Mina was sure he had gotten a mouth full of water as she pushed his head down into basin. He would have sat there fabricating excuses for days if she hadn’t taken action.
There was aloud gasp of air as his head came shooting up from the water, spewing droplets all over her and the wooden table the basin was sat on. Using her free hand that wasn’t restraining Khalil’s hands behind his back, she reached over and cleared the wet clumped hair from his face, wiping the water from his eyes with her thumb. Slowly he opened one eye and then the other, small droplets still rolling down his face and onto his dark T-shirt. “You’re supposed to aim for the apples silly.” she giggled.
“Yeah?” he gasped “You want to try then?”
Mina was quick to shake her head no in response “It’s all you.” She patted him on the back before she more gently pushed on his head this time, sending him plummeting back into the depths of the shallow apple-filled water. More seconds passed by this time, but when he finally came back up he had a shiny glint of something red in his mouth.
And then he dropped it, spraying them both with ice cold water.
“What’d you let go of it for?” she teased, and Khalil gave her a blank stare in return. She couldn’t hide her amusement.
“Oh” he pursed his lips together. “You think this is funny?”
“I- I n-never kn-knew that there was-was a wrong way t-to bob for app- apples” Mina managed to stutter between breaks of laughter.
Khalil slapped his hand as hard as he could into the basin of sitting water in front of him spraying as much as he could over Mina’s convulsing body. Her mouth shooting open at the speed of light as she attempted to run away from Khalil’s onslaught, but before she could put any distance between them he had grabbed her around the waist pulling her back tightly to his chest as he showered the both of them in a spray of apple water.
“Khalil” she screamed and a few heads turned in their direction, curious for the source of the treacherous noises that were erupting from Mina’s mouth. Khalil paid the crowd no attention, only tightening his grip around her as she began to writhe and wriggle in his arms.
“Ok! OK! OK!” she shouted at the top of her lungs. “Khalil!”
“I’m done if you’re done” he whispered in her ear, his lips brushing against her neck ever so slightly sending chills down her spine. There was a short pause and a sharp intake of breath before Mina’s body relaxed in his arms, though she was still shouting. “I’m done”
“I’m done! I’m done!” her words grew softer and her voice calmer with each word she spoke, Khalil’s grip around her loosening as they both attempted to calm their ravaging breaths, both of them gasping for air that neither of them could seem to find.
“You know if you didn’t want to go apple bobbing you could have just said so” she teased, her voice coming out breathy and Khalil’s hand grew threateningly closer to the tub of water again.
“I’m kidding!” she exclaimed, her hands raised in front of her defensively.
“Just a joke” she hummed to herself as she dropped her hands, pushing Khalil’s wet fallen hair back from his forehead. She wiped away the stray droplets of water that threatened to come rolling down his cheeks at any moment. He watched her steadily, his eyes never leaving hers, though he was sure she had even noticed his intense stare or his pounding heartbeat. She was so close he could smell her fruity floral perfume, he could taste her on his tongue. It took all of his self-restraint not to reach out to her, to pull her crashing towards him, but he resisted, opting instead to watch her as her fingers glided through his long messy hair.
“Mina” he whispered.
“Mhmmm” she hummed in response, not taking her eyes from her task. Her fingers danced across his skin gently, leaving him tingling wherever she touched.
“Why didn’t you come here with any of your other friends.” He asked quietly, curious of the answer and yet afraid of what she might say.
“What do you mean? Did you not want to come?” Her focus was still on his drenched hair and face. If only she would just look at him for a moment.
“No i-it’s not that.” He stuttered, his eyes traveling down to her lips now, daring him to draw closer. He wondered what would happen if he gave in, if he stopped trying to fight. “I- just” he sighed heavily.
“I just mean you could have called Noah, or any of the lacrosse team boys, or the cheerleaders, or- or Asher” He physically winced at the sound of Beau’s name leaving his lips as if the name almost hurt to utter, but at least now Mina was looking him in the eyes again. The mention of her boyfriend had grabbed her attention.
“Khalil” she furrowed her brows, searching his face for something he wasn’t even sure was there before her eyes fluttered to the trampled grass beneath him.
“The boys on the lacrosse team aren’t my friends and neither are the cheerleaders, all the money in the world couldn’t force me to hang out with any of them and - and Noah and I aren’t exactly on speaking terms anymore and Asher.” she trailed off, her eyes still glued to the dry brown grass underneath them.
“Asher is- Asher is Asher. But you-” she attempted a smile to lighten the somber mood but it was forced barely reaching the corners of her eyes like it usually did. “Y-you make me feel-”
“That indescribable huh?” Khalil laughed as he waited for her to attempt to finish her sentence, watching as her shoulders danced beneath her in humor. She finally began to look up at him once more, her eyes sparkling with frozen tears suspended in motion.
“It’s just - different -when we’re together.”
“A good different I hope.”
She nodded her head wordlessly in confirmation her lip stuck between her teeth as her eyes fluttered to the ground once more and Khalil once again found himself mesmerized by her actions. He hadn’t meant to get so close, but he couldn’t stop himself from inching forward until Mina’s nose was almost pressed flush against his chest and he found his heart skipping yet another beat when she looked up, locking her eyes onto his without hesitation. For a moment the whole world seemed to freeze around them, and Khalil couldn’t focus on anything but the soft girl in front of him.
He wasn’t sure when his hands had decided to take up a mind of their own but, before he could stop himself, he was cupping the side of Mina’s face in his hand, the other sliding smoothly along her waist, gripping her so tight that his knuckles were glowing white.He was completely prepared to risk everything.
He could hear the distinct change in her breathing at his touch and the sides of his mouths threatened to turn up into a smile at the soft sound that escaped her mouth and it took all of Khalil’s self control not to bring her crashing against him as he watched her lips slowly part in awaiting. He leaned closer now, one swift move was all it would take to bring their lips crashing on top of one another. One swift move was all it would take, but it seemed that as ready as he had been Mina wasn’t.
“You ever had funnel cake before?” she asked, pulling backwards before Khalil had the chance to follow through, his hand dropping complacently to his side.He shook his head, his eyes shooting once last glance at Mina’s parted lips, but if she noticed she hadn’t said a thing.
“God” she sighed, her voice still coming out breathy as she desperately tried to pretend that what had just happened had been nothing more than a fever dream. “You’re really lucky to have me you know.” she quipped, resuming their flirtatious banter once more.
“Yeah?” he shoved his hands deep down into the pocket of his jeans once more, afraid of what he might do if he didn’t restrain himself. He had been so close.
Mina nodded, picking up Cedric from his place on the tall grass as she spoke. “Yeah. I don’t see any of your foster friends taking you to fall festivals and standing in a mile long line with you just to get some funnel cake.”
“What would I ever do without you?” he sighed into the night air sarcastically, a glimmering smile tugging on the edges of his lips and threatening to rip across his face at any moment.
Mina shrugged as, a playful smirk darting across her face as she began to twirl through the crowd again, gliding to yet another large booth, and of course Khalil didn’t hesitate to follow.