19. THE FUCKING CARNIVAL
Asher comes to the house earlier than I expected him.
“Hey, come in. Just give me a minute,” I say as I open the wooden door to let him inside.
“Take your time,” he tells me as I rush back upstairs to grab my bag, the old stairs creaking beneath my feet.
I let my hair out of my braid and untangle it with my hand. I don’t have time to anything with it, so I leave it down and it hangs in waves half-way down my back.
I quickly glance in the mirror taking in my appearance, washed out denim jeans with a white spaghetti strap body suit. I grab a light grey knitted cardigan out of my wardrobe, throwing it over my shoulders before heading back downstairs.
Asher seemed to make himself at home, he’s sitting on the sofa with his legs stretched out on the coffee table. I’m glad that everyone has already left not long ago and it’s just me here because this would be extremely uncomfortable with everyone here.
“You ready?” he asks, standing up when he hears me coming towards him.
“Yeah,” I say, nodding my head while I put my black boots on.
It’s a little past five but the sun is already setting and it’s my favourite part of the day. There’s something magical about sunsets, the way the whole sky changes colour and turns into this fairy floss pink.
It’s only a fifteen-minute walk towards the carnival and when we get closer, I can hear the faint music.
“How’s your dad?” Asher tries to make small talk.
Asher and my dad get along, but I have a feeling it’s only because our dads are fishing buddies.
“Yeah, he’s doing good,” I tell him.
“And you? How are you?” he stops in front of me, forcing me to come face to face with him.
“I’m good,” I tell him, and he raises an eyebrow.
I give him a small smile, “Really, I’m fine.”
It’s not a lie, not really. I’m fine. I’m not crying anymore and I’m getting on with my life – like everyone expects me to. I can even say that there were a few times in the last month that I felt happy, but I only felt that when I was with him.
The parking lot is already filled with cars and the closer we got to the entry, the smell of popcorn and cotton candy fill the atmosphere.
I remember when I was younger, my parents would take me to every single town fair. They would let me go on every ride I wanted to, and it was the only time I could eat as much sugar as I could fit into my small belly. Those memories seem like a lifetime ago.
I can see now why that isn’t a good idea – children run past us giggling and screaming. I can almost feel the headache of the parents as they carry their children back inside the gates and scold them.
The gravel crunches underneath my boots and I wrap the cardigan around my body tighter when the cool breeze blows. We step up to the booth, “Two people,” Asher tells the man behind the counter.
Asher pays for both of us and the man hands him two wristbands. We step out of the way to let the people behind us through and Asher takes my hand, placing the wrist band on.
There are rollercoasters and stalls in every direction I look but what stands out the most is the tall ferris wheel. Teenagers are walking around in small groups and the game stalls are filled with people throwing balls at targets, or desperately trying to hook a duck to their rod to win prizes.
From a distance I see the whole group, even Theo and Josh are here. Theo sees me and grins, motioning for me to come over. Liv and Zach are sharing fairy floss while Josh tries to pick some of it off for himself, this results in Liv smacking him and he pouts.
Lexi is wearing a small black dress with a denim jacket and I take my hat off to her because I would always rather be comfortable and warm than to freeze my ass off for fashion. She is trying to talk to Ace, but I can see that he’s ignoring her. I don’t understand why she would stick around him if he treats her like that.
When we get closer towards them, Asher does something that makes me think he doesn’t get the platonic thing. He grabs my hand in his, it’s cold and doesn’t feel right.
I shoot him a look of confusion and he gives me a smile like he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong. I take my hand out of his but not before Ace notices us and he looks pissed. His jaw clenches and I wonder why he is even here if he’s going to act like someone kicked his puppy the whole time.
“Hey,” Theo says, wrapping me in his big bear hug.
“Can’t – breathe,” I manage to get out and he loosens his grip on me.
I introduce Asher to the group, and everyone seems to like him, except for Ace of course. I think that just goes without saying. I try to ignore him.
“What flavour do you want?” Asher asks me, pointing to the candy stall which had a variety of sour straps.
“Strawberry,” I tell him, and he nods before saying he’ll be right back.
I notice that Ace seems to be gravitating towards me. I stand next to Theo and he stands next to Theo. I talk to Liv and he somehow gets involved. I glare at him trying to remind him to stay away but he smiles at me and it makes my stomach fill with these stupid butterflies.
Asher gets back and hands me the sour strap. I take a small bite, “This is cherry,” I tell him disappointed.
“Yeah, you said cherry, didn’t you?”
No, I said strawberry.
I hate cherry flavoured anything, but I don’t say it – Asher already knew this, but I guess he must have forgot.
“She hates cherry,” Ace voices my thoughts and all eyes go on him. I didn’t realise he was listening to mine and Asher’s conversation. I remember telling Ace that small fact somewhere throughout all the generic questions, but I didn’t think he would remember.
Asher glares at Ace and takes my strap, swapping with his.
“Uh thanks,” I mumble awkwardly.
We walk towards some games that Josh and Theo want to play – they are like children. Asher walks on one side of me while Ace on the other and if this isn’t awkward then god please help me.
Asher seems to notice this, and he places his arm around my shoulders. I roll my eyes and keep in mind that I need to have a serious talk with him later but before I could move his arm off me, Ace storms off in front of the group.
I shift from one foot to another while we watch Theo and Josh shooting basketball hoops to win a plush toy. Josh pushes Theo lightly when he goes to take his turn and he misses, this results into a whole wrestling match in the middle of the carnival.
I feel an arm wrap around my waist and I’m about to ask Asher what the hell he thinks he’s doing but I know that’s it’s not Asher and my breathing picks up. There’s only one person who makes me feel like this.
I am suddenly being pulled into a narrow gap between two stalls. Ace places his hands on either side of me and I look up to meet his intense eyes. If this is his definition of staying the fuck away from me, then this boy has some serious issues.
“What are you doing?” I hiss with my back against the coolness of the metal.
“Are you trying to piss me off?” he asks.
“What?” I ask confused.
“You and Asher?” he growls.
“We’re just friends,” I say, not that it’s any of his business and I notice the way his jaw clenches. “You know, like you and me,” I add.
I guess that was the wrong thing to say because if he was angry before then this is another level. His eyebrows furrow together, and his eyes darken before he closes them, slowing down his breathing.
We stand like this for a moment and I take in all his features. The dark circles underneath his eyes seemed to get worse since the last time I saw him, but I guess mine aren’t any better – I just do a good job of covering them up. His soft lips are carved into a thin line and my breathing accelerates when the memories of the kiss we shared flow through me.
When he opens his eyes, he catches me staring at him. He looks calmer, cocking his head to the side and challenging me, “Are we just friends?”
I look at him puzzled. I want to tell him that we’re not even friends. But all I can do is nod and he scoffs at that shaking his head. We both know we’re not just friends but what are we?
A smirk forms on his face and he runs his thumb down my cheekbone, “If we’re just friends then why do you act like this when I touch you?”
My body trembles but regardless, I open my mouth to deny. However, before I have the chance, he takes my hand, placing it on his chest.
“Calla, if we are just fucking friends than why do I feel like this every time I’m around you?”
In between breaths, I can feel his heartbeat, it’s beating so fast – just like mine. I can’t think. He’s intruding my mind and my thoughts are all over the place.
“Ace,” I say, and he leans closer as if it’s an invitation and not a warning. His breath tickles my lips and I try to remember why this isn’t a good idea. “We can’t keep doing this. You’re the one who said we shouldn’t…You’re messing with my head.”
He laughs and shakes his head. His laugh fills my ears and I don’t ever want it to stop, “I’m messing with your head? You have no idea what you are doing to me. You have no idea how fucking pissed I was when I saw you with that fucking idiot,” he tells me referring to Asher.
“I don’t understand…”
“Fuck,” he curses, “I can’t stay away from you. I’ve tried but I fucking can’t. Give me another chance.”
“What, like a friend?” I almost scoff.
He closes the small gap between us and his lips brush mine. It’s not innocent, because nothing about Ace is innocent – it’s almost unholy. I know I should pull away before I lose myself again but I can’t seem to, my senses are seduced by his mouth. I’m seduced by him.
He pulls away just enough to whisper against my lips, “No Calla, like you and me.”
My heart flutters and I clasp my hands on either side of his face, bringing him closer. He presses his tongue to the seam of my lips and I open my mouth allowing the kiss to deepen. I close my eyes and the surroundings disappear, leaving just me and him, lost with each other. The warmth spreading throughout my entire body.
This. This feels good. This feels right.
We pull away to catch our breath. His hand rests on my ear, his thumb caressing my cheek. I can see all the emotion swirling in his perfect eyes and for once I know, I’m not the only one feeling this.