“Remember, Sebastian. Don’t say anything stupid. This is a family affair,” I say while putting pressure on my heel, trying to put the super glue to its use.
We’ve been driving long enough to now reach an actual street, with other cars sharing it along side us. Sarah, for most of the car ride has been walking Sebastian through where he will be going and what he will be doing. Most of it consisted of walking through animal barns, volunteering at the face paint station, and even doing a meet and greet.
The meet and greet is what frightens me the most, however.
I slowly but surely release the pressure from my heel and tug on it lightly. The heel doesn’t move from it’s base, and I smile, relieved.
“Just ten minutes away from the destination,” the driver announces. The big Ferris wheel in the distance, red and white tent and long line of people outside are all a clear dead give away.
“Alright, this is it,” I take a deep breath. “Remember what we went over, Sebastian?”
“What did we go over?” He asks, unamused.
“Don’t joke with me right now, Sebastian.”
We make a sharp right at the light into the fairgrounds, but continue driving until we’re behind the area. There are other cars, and two security guards waiting with still postures and stone-like expressions by the parking area. Even through the tinted window, the sweat is clearly visible on their bald heads.
The car stops, and Sebastian’s door is immediately opened by one of the security guards who rapidly approached the SUV. Sebastian steps out and makes a disgusted look at the sun until he reaches the shade.
I step out of the car and walk into the shade as well after Sarah and Lucas do the same. My heels, although reconstructed, tread lightly on the dirt and grass in fear of them breaking yet again.
A tall, black man with broad shoulders, gray hair and a bright smile walks through the back door of the building we stand in front of. He smiles at Sarah before anyone else.
“You must be-”
“Sarah Gonzales. Sebastian’s manager.” She shakes his hand, her friendliness somehow making me feel odd, how unfamiliar it is to me.
He smiles wider, “Matthew Carter. Maryville mayor. How nice it is to meet you,” his eyes shift to Sebastian. “Sebastian Harrison. What a pleasure to finally meet you in person!”
Sebastian’s smile is small and uninterested, “Likewise.”
I stare at him until he shows Matthew teeth in his grin. When he does, I look away.
They shake hands, “Everyone is very excited to meet you, son, we have been prepping the fair-grounds for your arrival. We have many activities set up that I know you will enjoy!”
Seeing Matthew in person just adds to the enthusiasm I remember from his voice when I spoke to him on the phone yesterday. The accent is general American, yet there are small moments where I can distinguish the Tennessean in his tone. Even so, he has the ability to heighten anyone’s mood with just his mere presence and charisma.
He greets Lucas, until finally he sees me. His eyes enlarge when they meet mine.
“Yes, Mr. Carter, we spoke on the phone,” I extend my hand towards his, and he takes it in his grasp.
“Yes, yes! Forgive me, but I imagined you much...differently, I mean your voice!” He laughs. “My, you’re just the cutest little thing!”
I laugh awkwardly, “Th-thank you?”
It’s something I’m used to, really, but seeing everyone else witness to it adds on to the embarrassment. My voice, being louder and deeper than the average female voice, is anything but a good pair with my physical appearance.
I see Sebastian and Sarah share a secretive facial expression. I play with my hands self-consciously.
“Mr. Mayor. The press is waiting,” says a man who peeks out of the door, gripping a clip-board in one hand and a cell phone in the other.
“Right, right, we must make haste!”
We all follow the mayor through the door. All we walk through is a long hallway, with a small box of light on the other end. People are crowded on the other side, waiting anxiously.
“We had expected them to come about twenty minutes ago,” the unnamed man says, with a fixed look.
“Yes, well we had a little...set back,” Sarah answers without looking at me. I sigh loudly and keep my eyes forward.
“We have you set for a few pictures,” the man continues, “then after that we were hoping to start with the animal farm for Sebastian?”
“Perfect,” Sarah says, and from there her and the man gradually begin talking about Sebastian’s schedule, purposefully leaving me out of the conversation. I shouldn’t feel too upset-- Sarah is his manager, and has more responsibility over him since she has to monitor everything. My main job is to ensure that he says the right things and takes pictures at the right places. But I guess it’s Sarah’s obvious dislike towards me that makes me a little saddened. Still, I cannot let that affect me; I’m here for a job, and my main priority is to make sure this fair goes well, and that we have the mayor of Maryville on our side.
I look towards Sebastian and see him pretending to look interested as the mayor continuously talks about how excited he is about the fair. I’m about to silently scold him to brighten up, but think twice on it. We’re already near the doors, and people have spotted us.
“Let’s do this,” Matthew says happily as the security guard opens the door.
“Alright, one more over here, Mr. Mayor! One more!”
Matthew and Sebastian both look to their left and smile at the camera, trying their best to hide their growing irritation due to the heat. There are many fair-goers who are behind the press taking photos on their phones. I smile slightly.
We have been taking photos for about ten minutes. I promise one more shot before we have to go to the barn, where the animals are. Sarah is talking to the “unnamed man” who is actually Matthew Carter’s assistant, and I also spot Lucas running back with a water bottle in his hand for Sebastian.
“Alright, that’s enough for now, Sebastian is going to go see the animals now,” I announce. Swiftly, everyone follows as the security guide him and the mayor to the barn yard through the grass. The screams of gleeful children on rides and the carnival music which is accompanied by a blue’s band in the distance gives off a “country fair” feel, but even so Sebastian isn’t enjoying one moment.
“There are a group of kids waiting for him in there,” a female voice says, that I soon find out belongs to Sarah. “I already told him that he’s gonna pet some animals, pick some kids up to do the same. Good publicity.”
“Okay, okay good,” I fan myself with my hands. “What did the mayor’s assistant say to you?”
“Nothing much, we just went over the schedule.”
I nod in agreement and jog quickly to catch up to Sebastian.
“I presume Sarah already told you about what is expected?” I whisper to him.
“Yes,” he rolls his eyes, but quickly smiles again when he sees someone taking a picture of him. “Say hi to some kids, pet some animals. Pointless shit.”
“Keep that mentality up and we’ll get nowhere,” I say through a forced smile at the cameras.
We walk into a dark barn, where animals in pins are lined up on each side, and hay is scattered in the middle. A putrid smell combined with the heat hits us hard, and Sebastian gags before covering his mouth and pushing it down before anyone can notice. I pucker to my top lip covers my nostrils and turn the other direction.
The press all stand behind a few security guards who create a barrier with their bodies as the mayor and Sebastian walk further into the barn, approaching a group of children. Sarah and I stand on the side with the mayor’s assistant, and Lucas does the same once he runs by and gives Sebastian his bottle of water.
“Kids, this is Sebastian and Mr. Carter,” a woman, who looks to be in her thirties says from behind the group of children. She wears khaki capri pants, a purple collared shirt that has a logo with a few animals inside of it, and tennis shoes. A hat is also over her head, but her blonde hair flows down her back in a long ponytail.
“Hi Sebastian and Mr. Carter!” They exclaim. Sebastian smiles uncomfortably at the sight of children while the mayor does the opposite, high-fiving and smiling proudly.
“Do. It.” Sarah mouths harshly towards him. Sebastian notices her threat and kneels down to greet the kids.
“You’re tall,” a little girl with thick, black curls and dark skin tells him.
“Were you born tall?” She asks.
“Uh, no I just...genetics. Tall family members.”
“My mama say that you have to drink all type a juice to grow real tall!” Another little girl says, flashing her smile at him to reveal a missing front tooth.
“Well, kids, that would be an effective way to grow tall like me if corporations didn’t pump your fruit juice with growth-damaging hormones and pounds of sugar that eventually lead to diabetes and heart disease!” He says enthusiastically.
The kids become silent.
I clap my hands, “Okay! Well, if you all could file this way, here are some better photo angles!” I yell at the press, who immediately follow my directions while snapping a few photos. I try to keep my cool, but Sarah looks like she is going to explode.
I walk up to him as everyone is shuffling around, “Those are children! Be compassionate!”
“I’m trying, but they should know the truth-”
“I don’t...care,” I snap quietly. “People are watching, Sebastian, don’t screw this up!”
I decide to stand closer to him. Easier monitoring access.
The woman who is standing behind the group of children addresses everyone in the barn.
“Hello, everyone! My name is Holly, and I work with the Tennessean Animal Research Center.”
She points to the logo proudly with a smile.
“I’m real excited to be here today to, to spread awareness on the importance of knowing about our beautiful wild animals that share the land with us here in Tennessee. These great kids are also excited to learn about these animals here, right kids!?”
The kids cheer in front of the cameras.
Holly looks at Sebastian and the mayor, “If y’all wanna start here, with the American Yorkshire Pig.”
“Certainly!” Matthew beams.
Sebastian and the mayor approach the pig, who sits up in the pigsty oinking once or twice. The kids look at the pig in wonder behind Sebastian and the mayor’s long legs.
“This here, is Trixie. Trixie, as well as most Pigs, are very intelligent animals, who are curious and very smart,” Holly says slowly for the children. “They love to be around other pigs and even people, too!”
The kids gasp, as five piglets appear from a pile of hay around the corner. Holly smiles, as if she knew this was going to happen. The cameras snap relentlessly behind us.
“These are Trixie’s babies,” she points to each piglet, “Buster, Dash, Mini, Blackie and Bonnie!”
“You remember all those names?” Sebastian asks. Everyone starts laughing, even though Sebastian is dead serious-- his face is as hard as stone as his eyebrows arch at Holly, who is laughing too.
“Well yeah, see, Mini is the smallest piglet, Blackie’s gotta black mark right on his side, Dash is the fastest one-”
Dash starts running around while his siblings walk or even stand by their mother.
“-Buster’s gotta mean little look, like he’s got somethin’ to say,” she continues, the children giggling. “And finally there’s Bonnie, who’s just her ole piglet self.”
“Who the hell came up with these names?” Sebastian mumbles. Luckily, only I heard him.
Holly leans over the gate and picks up a piglet in her hand, grabbing the back legs first before picking up the front legs and eventually holding the piglet in her hands. A volunteer wearing the same outfit as her runs over and does the same. The kids jump around excitedly at the piglets that are now held in front of them.
“Y’all gotta be careful pettin’ these here piglets,” the volunteer says, holding out Blackie in front of him. “They real sensitive.”
The kids widen their eyes and gently take turns running their small hands over their pink coat. The piglets are small enough to hold, yet big enough to be held with two hands.
Holly, who seems to have “Dash” in her hand, kneels down in order for a little boy to pet him, but somehow Dash wiggles out of her grasp and falls onto the hay. The kids jump back in alarm and scream as Dash attempts to make a run for it. He squeals as Holly and the other volunteer reach to get him. Instead of trying to run to his mother, however, Dash runs the opposite direction and makes a beeline past the children.
Straight towards Sebastian.
When Dash is at Sebastian’s feet, he squeals and runs around his shoe frantically, like he feels Sebastian is the only one who won’t maul him to death.
I stand perfectly still as Dash continues to practically beg for Sebastian to show him some type of affection.
And Holly is shocked.
“Woah, woah, alright, alright,” Sebastian says, looking at the pig and then back up and the mayor and I like he doesn’t know what to do.
“P-pick him up! Pick ’em up!” Holly yells happily.
Sebastian obeys Holly and bends down to pick the piglet up, back legs first. When Dash is in his arms, he doesn’t move. Instead he just sits contently in Sebastian’s hold, occasionally moving around and quivering a bit.
And I can’t believe it.
The press begins snapping endless photos, calling Sebastian’s name left and right. Sebastian starts to look annoyed for some reason and doesn’t even look their direction. Instead, he rolls his eyes, adjusts the piglet in his arms higher against his chest, and walks to the pigpen. The kids part like the red sea when he walks by. Holly extends her arms to him, but he pretends like she doesn’t’ have her hands out for the piglet.
“I think the piglets want to be with their mother,” Sebastian tells Holly, taking Blackie out of the other Volunteer’s arms and setting them both in the pigsty, where they run to their mother before she lays down and allows them all to feed.
What the hell did you just do, I whine mentally when I realize the press didn’t get any good shots.
“I-I don’t understand,” Holly says to Sebastian with a polite smile, “the piglets were fine.”
“If the piglets were fine, babe, they wouldn’t be dying to get out of your arms and run to someone who wasn’t passing them around like trinkets. They’re babies, Heather.”
Holly scrunches up her nose, “It’s...Holly. And I think I would know what the piglets would want, Sir. I am a professional.”
The kids all start to laugh loudly. The only ones frowning are Holly and I, who look at Sebastian like daggers are shooting out of our eyes.
Sebastian, for once, looks serious, “How would you feel if someone took your babies away from you and showed them around like an expedition? How do you think your kids would feel? I mean, I’m not completely on board with exploiting animals like this but babies, man. Really? Little infants who don’t know anything or anyone but their mother. That’s like...kidnapping in a sense. The mom can’t do anything but watch you show her children around like that? And the fact that you know the piglets aren’t comfortable, but you’re just doing it for these cameras here? Not cool. C’mon, don’t mess up the bond between a mother and baby like that. If you’re a professional, you would know that.”
Holly doesn’t reply. The children stare up at Sebastian and absorb his words like they’re scripture.
“Smart man,” the mayor says next to me. “I didn’t know he cared about baby animals like that.”
“Yeah...me neither,” I reply slowly and unsure.
One boy, the boy who was petting Dash before he ran off, walks up to Sebastian and hugs his leg.
“I’m sorry,” he tells him with a lisp.
“aww’s” erupt from all around us, and as the press starts to take more pictures of the small child hugging Sebastian’s leg, I smile deviously, like an insane villain who has gained the upper hand. And in that moment, Sebastian looks up and gives Sarah, Lucas and I a discreet wink at his victory. Discreet
Holly guides the rest of the group to a pen a ways away from the pigpen. By now, I’m feeling relived and even happy at the fact it’s going well so far. Even Sarah lets a smile tug at her lips when she sees how the children seem to love Sebastian.
Sebastian pulls the unopened water bottle out of his front pocket and drinks as Holly introduces the next animal.
“This here is Bubba, our Alpine Goat,” she says.
Bubba stares at the children from behind the wooden gate as they stare back at him with curiosity in their youthful eyes. The goat’s eyes look mean, uninterested, and even one child notices his unfriendly glare and huddles closer to Holly.
“Goats are very social animals, and are very friendly towards humans.”
Sebastian starts laughing, “He doesn’t look too friendly.”
“It’s just hot, maybe when it cools down a bit Bubba will lighten up.”
Sebastian, who finds humor in this goats irritability, leans against the pen and holds out his water bottle.
“Ah, ah, ah, AH!” He yells, tipping the bottle forward, then tipping it back quickly, toying with the goat.
“Um, I wouldn’t recommend doing that, Sebastian,” Holly advises, wide-eyed.
Before Sebastian can respond, Bubba lunges forward in one quick movement and shrieks lowly yet loudly enough for everyone to become frightened. Sebastian flinches until he realizes the goat is unfortunately confined behind his hay-covered prison.
“Feisty,” he growls at Bubba, making everyone except Holly laugh.
Bubba huffs this time before screeching again and keeping his mouth wide so his tongue is visible. The kids, though scared at first, begin to laugh gradually.
“It’s like he’s speaking to you,” the mayor teases, even though he looks suspicious of the goats behavior. And frankly, I’m growing suspicious as well.
Sebastian props his leg up on a wooden bar of the gate. Resting his hand on his knee, he seems to dismiss the loud moaning sound of the wood until the bar falls, and creates a chain effect that causes the two other bars to fall, too.
Suddenly, Bubba quickly spins around and kicks the damaged gate apart with his back legs before turning around and running out of the pen.
Charging straight towards Sebastian.
Screams and wails of fear echo through the barn as the children run for their lives. Sebastian drops his water bottle and sprints past the press who are scrambling as well to get away from the rogue goat, who, despite the potential victims, has his eyes set on Sebastian.
Bubba continues to chase Sebastian out of the barn, wailing and screeching as he moves his front and back legs faster and faster in pursuit. The camera men record the whole spectacle as the barn workers chase after the goat, and fair-goers scream and move out of the way. I can’t move, nor can I even process what is going on.
Sebastian is really being chased by a goat.
“Zig-Zag, Zig-Zag!” Lucas yells while his face is pale and pasty with fear. Sebastian isn’t listening, but instead jumps on top of a table that Bubba tries to jump on top of, too, until the barn workers finally restrain Bubba, after him and Sebastian ran around in circles for a good minute. Despite the men holding Bubba down and dragging him back from the table, he still screeches and spits in Sebastian’s direction. A few people are also on top of the table with him, scared and even amused, probably unable to believe what just happened.
I pivot so fast I almost tip over, “That will conclude Sebastian’s barn session, thank you for your time!” I shout before marching out.
We decided to take a twenty minute break.
Sebastian told us he was going for a walk, a walk that Lucas accompanied him on, along with a group of eager, hormonal teenage girls and a few camera men.
The face-painting session will start right after the break, but given Sebastian’s state, I don’t know how he is going to hold up. Considering he was almost attacked by a goat, I don’t think he is capable of steady hands in order to face paint. Still, we have a schedule, and that schedule we shall follow.
“I would recommend placing the chair there,” I tell one of the fair-workers. “The lighting is much better for him if it’s there.”
He nods, moving the chair to the designated place.
“Perfect.” I smile, content.
There is already a line of kids and even adults who are determined to get their face painted by Sebastian. Though there are about four stations, Sebastian’s being one of them, people try to be every fourth place in line, which has resulted in arguing and angry line-monitors who make rowdy girls go to the back of the line.
“I can’t believe Sebastian was chased by a fucking Goat,” Sarah says as we watch them set up, her face anything but amused.
“I know. What’s even worse is that they have footage of it.”
“Hopefully the rest of the fair will outweigh that incident. Make it into something funny instead of something terrifying.”
“Hopefully. We have the meet-and-greet after this, correct?”
“I thought you would know, you’re the publicist.”
I smile to hide the embarrassment I feel of being rejected by Sarah again, “Right, right. Sure, I know everything that goes on, even when people leave me out of conversations.”
Sarah gives me a mean look before returning her gaze on the tables with paint set up on top.
The face painting begins, with camera men lined up in front of the tables to photograph the event.
The only table that isn’t shielded by the large trees that sit on the grass is Sebastian’s, since I advised them to move his seat so there would be better lighting. And he isn’t happy about it at all. Sebastian looks like an unhappy child, sitting with his arms crossed across his chest and squinting his eyes from the heat. The carnival themed music still plays, along with the same blues themed music from a band in the distance by the carousel. The Ferris wheel stops, and children take out their cameras to photograph the face painting station from above until one security guard from below yells he will confiscate their phones when the ride stops if they do.
The line begins to move, with the mayor greeting everyone that moves along. In the first station, with a scrawny, pimple-faced volunteer face painter is a young girl, while the next is a man in his twenty’s asking the woman to paint something on his arm. The third is an older woman with her young daughter who looks to be about one year’s old on her lap, and lastly, Sebastian’s client, is a lucky blonde barbie with boobs the size of melons and a smile that can blind those standing in the wrong place.
When Sebastian sees her, he slowly sits up and opens his eyes, gathering her all in. Her shirt is a classic button-up, red, tied at the bottom in a knot exposing the bottom half of her stomach, and her shorts come up modestly above her knee.
“Hey there, Sebastian,” she greets with a smirk as she sits across from him, her southern accent extremely noticeable.
“Hello, ma’am,” Sebastian chuckles lowly. “So, anything you want in particular?”
“How much you wanna bet she wants something on her tit?” Sarah asks Lucas.
Lucas gasps, “What? How unprofessional! This is a family establishment-”
“I just want a big ole heart right ’bout here, where everyone can see it when it’s finished.”
We all look over to find the first three buttons of her shirt unbuttoned, revealing the corners of her pink lace bra. She’s pointing to the exposed skin of her right boob, and Sebastian’s eyes almost pop out of their sockets.
“Told you,” Sarah says.
Sebastian gulps, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down. He knows he has to control himself because of the children and family’s surrounding him, so this ultimately tests his self control. And the fact that flirting is extremely restricted in this situation is definitely killing him.
“Uh s-sure, right-right there?” He asks, pointing to the spot where she’s pointing at.
“Yes, sir,” she then grabs his free hand and places it on her breast. “Right here.”
Sarah shakes her head and mumbles, “pinche cochino guey” before cupping her hands by her mouth and screaming:
“HEY! KEEP IT PG, OR ELSE IM PAINTING IT FOR HER, AND IM NO FRIDA KHALO!”
Everyone busts into a fit of loud laughter at Sarah’s outburst, and Sebastian immediately removes his hand from her chest with an annoyed look that his fun time was cut short before asking her what color she wants.
“Pink,” she replies. “And put a black ‘S’ in the middle of it.”
He swirls the brush in the pink with carelessness and wipes off the excess paint.
“Oh, what’s your name? Sabrina? Sally? Susan?” He asks, looking down at the paint pallet.
Sebastian pauses, and looks up at her with a grin when he finally gets her intention, and it’s like she’s undressing him with her eyes when she looks back at him.
“Oh, give me a fucking break,” Sarah rubs her eyes.
Sebastian finishes “Becky’s” paint request with no serious effort. Then again, a heart isn’t something hard to paint. Hell, I can paint a heart and can barely draw a presentable stick figure. Nonetheless, Becky leaves satisfied and gives Sebastian a thankful kiss on the cheek that makes me want to throw my shoe at them.
Next in line, is a young boy with adorable freckles that remind me of my own and big hazel eyes that make him look like a character out of a cartoon.
“What’ya want?” Sebastian asks without acknowledging the boys mere presence. I face-palm.
“A rocket ship!” he exclaims.
“A rocket ship, hm? Alright,” he scans the pain pallet, then frowns. “I don’t have white for some rea-.”
“SOMEONE GET THE WHITE PAAAAINT!” Lucas yells, causing a frenzy of workers to run around like beheaded chickens. When someone finds white paint, they hand it to Lucas, who hands it to Sebastian.
“Thank you,” he says. “Okay, so a rocket ship?”
The boy nods excitedly, and I notice an older woman recording the boy where the press cameras sit, waving for his attention until the boy notices the woman and smiles widely at the camera.
“Hi, mommy!” He screams in his small, innocent voice.
Sebastian, sighing and rolling his eyes, lathers the paintbrush in the white paint before outlining the rocket ship on the boys face.
“I’m gonna go talk to the mayor’s assistant for a second about the meet-and-greet,” Sarah says.
Sarah gives a playful nudge to Lucas’s shoulder before walking off down the walkway.
“This is going pretty well,” Lucas says, smiling. His red hair looks more along the lines of a light orange or a slight blond in the sunlight.
“Yes, except for the goat incident.”
Lucas cringes, “That was horrible. Sebastian was quite angry with Bubba while we were walking to calm his nerves.”
“What did he expect? He provoked him.”
“Yes, but I don’t think he expected the animal to back-kick the gate down.”
I don’t say anything, considering he’s right.
I dig into my purse and look through my text messages on my phone, finding one from Garrett that was sent about a couple of hours ago. He wishes the best of luck at the fair, and hopes for a successful outcome. I text him a thank you along with a progress report, intentionally leaving out the incident with Bubba.
As I’m sending the text, I feel a slight tap on my shoulder. Lucas, despite me having acknowledged him, continues to tap while fixating his eyes on the boy getting face-painted by Sebastian.
“What is it, Lucas?”
“Is it just me,” he starts, his eyes still on the two of them, “or does that rocket ship look like...like”
“Oh my God.”
My mouth drops open at the sight. A rocket ship was Sebastian’s intention, yet it’s anything but. With it’s rounded tip and circular fins, it’s a shape that isn’t hard to miss.
I squeeze my fists harder as Sebastian thickens the ship. No one else notices that this ship actually looks like a dick, but it’s only a matter of time before someone does.
And like clockwork, someone has.
A janitor walking by with a broom and dust pan does a double take when he sees the painting, and leaves his mouth partially open in shock at what he sees.
“Do something!” I hiss to Lucas.
“I-I don’t know what to do!”
“Let me just add the cap to the ship,” Sebastian says with small, squinting eyes. The janitor drops his broom and dust pan.
Great. Now it’s a circumcised dick.
It’s like the wind is knocked out of us as we stare in horror. More people are seeing the uncanny resemblance as they gasp and point.
Sebastian takes the liberty of drawing a stick figure-man riding the rocket ship with a smile on his face, and I almost have a heart attack.
Lucas bursts out into dry, wheezing laughter as I rush over and gently place a palm over the boy’s cheek. Everyone, including the photographers stare at me and look around in confusion.
“Oh, my would you look at that! There was a huge bug on your cheek!” I swipe my palm across his cheek, creating a streak of white paint on his skin. “I’m sorry about that.”
“What the hell are you doing?”
I lean down and whisper, “Your rocket ship looked like a man’s penis, Sebastian,” in his ear.
Sebastian sits up and stares blankly at the boy’s now uncovered cheek. By his face, he can faintly see the shape behind the smeared paint.
He takes a cloth and removes the evidence for good, and somehow I can see him trying to stifle his laughter.
“You know what, why don’t I try a race-car? That’s way better than a rocket ship, considering a race-car requires less government funding for it’s exercise.”
The boy smiles regardless of him not understanding a word Sebastian said, “Okay!”
Sebastian dips his paintbrush in the red paint and starts painting the car, which looks like a red sack of potatoes, but even then that is better than a man’s penis.
I walk away, holding out my wet palm in front of me in disgust.
“You did that on purpose!” I snap.
Sebastian stares at me in disbelief, but frankly I’m not concerned with his feelings. What I’m more concerned with his the poor boy who didn’t get his rocket ship.
Sebastian and I are stationed in a cool tent, outside the location of the meet-and-greet. Every time someone enters and leaves the tent, you can see the gate that holds back a large crowd of people fervently waiting for him. Right after Sebastian face-painted his unlucky fourth victim of his lack of artistic skill, Sebastian was quickly ushered to this tent, where we await the cue to enter the heat.
“I did what on purpose?” Sebastian replies. “The rocket-ship dick?”
“Yes! T-that! You did it on purpose!”
“No I didn’t!”
“Yes you did,” I retort.
He laughs, but not in the entertained, comical way, “Oh, for fucks sakes are you fucking kidding me-”
“-Then why did you laugh when I pointed it out to you?”
“Because it was funny,” he says. “And besides, I could barely see that kid’s face since someone had me sit directly in the sun, which blinded me.”
“But you could paint Becky’s perfectly, hm?” I place my hands on my hips and wait for an answer.
For a moment, he seems to think hard on the name until the grin on his face indicates he remembers the busty blonde.
He begins to defend himself pathetically, “Well, it’s...it’s easier to paint than a rocket-ship.”
“Hm, right,” I nod and smile condescendingly.
He furrows his eyebrows and focuses his eyes to the back of the tent before meeting my eyes again, “You know what, I don’t need this shit right now. It’s hot, I’m starving...I-I’m going for a walk.”
“No the hell you are not!” I follow him as he walks away. “You could be needed any moment for the meet-and-greet-”
“I’m literally going to go get some Peach Cobbler outside by the tent, I’ll be five minutes.”
I huff in defeat, “W-well, take Lucas with you-”
“Five minutes!” He exits the back of the tent, leaving me with my words caught in my throat.
“Where is he? Where is he?”
I pace the tent and continuously look at my watch. He’s been gone for fifteen minutes, and now I’m starting to become worried. I knew I should have had someone go with him out there. But I made the mistake of trusting a manipulative, lying and possibly a little charming famous man and now he’s out there, where I have no clue to look.
A woman peeks into the tent, “We’re ready.”
I stutter a few times, trying to find the right words to say.
“I-I...he isn’t...here right now. Maybe an extra five minutes?”
She sighs, “Alright, but make it quick ’cause they’re growing impatient.”
She retreats back outside and I’m left in my semi-worried, semi-pissed off haze. It shouldn’t take fifteen minutes to get a plate of peach cobbler!
I turn to find Lucas squeezing his way past the people in our tent, a plate of peach cobber in his hand. He scans the tent as he waits for me to answer.
“Wh-why do you have a plate of peach cobbler?”
“He asked me to get him some. The line was long but-”
“How...long ago was that?” I growl.
“About twenty minutes ago. Again, the line was super long, so I had to make the trek to the other side by the carousel.”
It comes to me in waves, like a hurricane, or a tsunami. Becky, comes back to my mind in waves.
That clever ass!
“That son of a cobbler-eating bitch!” I run out of the tent into the dry heat and into the populated fairgrounds, looking for Sebastian.
“Uh, what’s going on?” Lucas asks.
“He told me he was going to go get some peach cobber, when,” I laugh once, a little too mockingly. “FUNNY STORY, he already asked you to get it earlier, so whatever he’s doing now is not what I’m aware of!”
I walk past the booths, the children and adults, the clowns and balloon makers and wonder where he could possibly be.
“Maybe he just needed a break or something,” Lucas proposes as we make our way behind a banana pudding stand. “This is the most work he’s done in ages.”
“No, he doesn’t need a break, he just likes to make you think he needs a break. That’s what men who are good liars do, they try to make you sympathize when WHAM! They go behind your back and ruin everything!”
Lucas looks around awkwardly.
The area we’re in is more quiet. There are bathrooms and a few unused porta-potties by a fence.
Lucas checks his watch, “We’re about five minutes behind schedule,” he says, his voice shaky and uncertain. “Maybe he’s already by the tent-”
The familiar, masculine voice enters my ears and automatically I sneer in anger and irritation. Sebastian approaches us with short breath and wrinkly clothes.
“Where.Were.You?” I ask promptly.
“I-I just went to the restroom?” he pants.
“Really? I thought you were going to go get the peach cobbler that LUCAS ALREADY GOT FOR YOU.”
Lucas holds up the plate with a crooked smile.
I take a step closer to him, “What were you really doing?”
He doesn’t answer.
Before I can interrogate him further, none other than Busty-Becky walks out from behind a porta-potty, buttoning her pants and re-buttoning her undone shirt. She looks flustered as she walks proudly out into the open. There are a few red marks on her neck-- hickies.
When she spots us, she freezes in her tracks and looks at Sebastian with wide eyes, then at me with fearful ones. Becky and I have an awkward staring contest with my eyes so narrow they’re two black slits. Then, I soften my gaze and return to Sebastian, waiting for him to explain.
“Um, I...was just...showing her around?”
Showing her around your dick! I snap in my head.
Without warning, I grab Sebastian’s firm arm and try to drag him away, when in reality he was just following me anyway since I’m not strong enough to pull his frame.
“Because of you, we are late to the meet-and-greet, and behind schedule!” I yell. “You obviously don’t understand the importance of-”
“Yeah, yeah I get it, I don’t understand the ‘importance of this operation,’” he interrupts rudely.
I tighten my jaw, furious.
We make it into the tent again as quickly as possible. Sebastian adjusts his jeans, takes a bite of the peach cobbler, then follows a woman out of the tent. Lucas and I do the same.
“I can’t believe him,” I say under my breath.
“I can,” Lucas laughs. “I think it’s because he’s never been challenged like this.”
Lucas meets my eyes, “If you spend four years of your child’s life never being oppositional to their wants, and constantly giving them what they want so they can leave you alone, they aren’t going to act too kindly to a babysitter who tries to take said child out of their ways and bring them into a life without spoiled living and spoon-fed conditions.”
I ponder heavily on Lucas’s words. It does make sense, now, that I hear it from someone who has worked with him longer than I. I know the reason Sebastian is so difficult is because he “likes” the life he lives, but I never considered that he’s been programmed to believe that this life is the right life. I don’t know anything about his childhood except from what Loretta told me about him being different, but I just can’t help it, knowing the only way that I can successfully get to him, is if I empathize.
But I don’t empathize. I’ll never empathize, because I’ve never lived a life where things were just given to me. I worked extremely hard for everything I had and have since I was little, so the thought of it being handed to someone as ungrateful and immature as Sebastian angers me. But maybe I don’t need to be empathetic, but understanding. However, it’s hard to be understanding of someone when they constantly keep building walls when you try to break them down every time. It’s obvious there’s more to him than I know. So the only way to figure this out, and to get him open enough to work with me, is if I let him know that I want to understand.
Thinking so hard on the issue, I miss the first two minutes of Sebastian’s meet and greet. People are reaching over others to touch his hand, wave, say hi, and even hug him. Sarah is on the other end talking to the mayor’s assistant with intense eyes in Sebastian’s direction, like she’s waiting for him to mess up.
I gesture for the camera men to move more to the right to get better angles. The screaming fair-goers take pictures of Sebastian and with him if they’re lucky enough, Sebastian obviously hating every moment.
A group of women around my age wearing tight outfits and bright smile’s immediately brighten his mood. He greets them all, hugging them openly as security watches with emotionless stature.
“Hello, hey there! Nice to meet you!” He says over and over again like a programmed machine. He shakes one woman’s hand, but the same woman lunges forward and wraps her arms around him while squealing and trying to kiss him on the mouth.
“Back up! Back up!” The security guard yells as him and another security guard pull the woman off of him and carry her away, Sebastian startled yet entertained at the same time.
“Alright,” I tell him. “Two steps back. We aren’t letting that happen again.”
Sebastian takes two small steps back and resumes. The meet-and-greet, although full of ridiculous over exaggeration, is going well. Sebastian is pretending to enjoy every moment, and I can ensure the press are getting favorable photos. This shall outweigh the “Bubba” incident and the “face-painting-fiasco” tremendously.
Until my heart sinks in my chest at the ultimate test.
“Hold my baby!” One thick woman with pounds of makeup says to him, her southern charm exuding from her voice. Her outfit is skin-tight even though it’s extremely hot, and the moment she sees Sebastian, she holds the baby in one arm like a skilled-professional and pulls up her shirt so her breasts pop out like a 3D movie.
For a minute, Sebastian stares at the fat child sitting in his mother’s arms with a hint of disgust at his chubby arms and sticky face, riddled with dried strawberry jam from the Funnel cake piece he had in his hand.
The crowd grows quieter and waits with smiles and hopeful eyes for Sebastian to do the traditional all-American greeting to a baby: grabbing them, kissing their cheek, and gently placing them back into their mother’s arms. It’s an easy process, but it’s just Sebastian knowing what to do that frightens me.
“Wow,” Sebastian laughs uncomfortably. “What a nice...baby.”
The baby has short, soft brown hair and big blue eyes that are pinched by his fat cheeks. He looks to be about a year old, but from the way his mother is feeding him, I wouldn’t have guessed it the first time.
All Sebastian does is stare at the child.
“Hold the fucking baby,” I order quietly through a stiff smile.
Reluctantly, Sebastian takes the baby out of the smiling mother’s arms.
“Howdy...p-pal!” He says awkwardly at the child in front of his face.
“His name is Cash,” the woman says, frantically digging through her purse until she finds her camera. “’Cause I love money.”
“’Cause you love money,” Sebastian repeats with an arched brow. I step on hid foot and he abruptly stops talking.
Sebastian and Cash stare at each other for what seems like ages, like they’re trying to degrade each other’s amount of manliness by their strong eyes and eyebrows.
“Give ’em a kiss!” She says, and everyone cheers for him to the action.
“Oh, al-alright,” Sebastian agrees before kissing the clean part of his cheek. “Muah! There you go, Cash!”
The crowd “aww’s,” and I move out of the way so the camera man next to me can get the footage.
“Get Sebastian a little more in front with the child,” I mutter to him.
He nods, “You got it,” then runs over and records them both.
Sebastian holds Cash a while longer until finally he reaches forward to give him back to his mother, but she doesn’t take him.
“Do ya think you can hold ’em one more second? I wanna get a picture!” She requests.
Knowing he doesn’t have a choice, Sebastian smiles stiffly and holds Cash against his chest.
“A’right!” she yells from behind the camera. “Look at mama, Cash! Smile for mama!”
The crowd encourages the baby, “C’mon, Cash! Smile!”
Sebastian mirrors Cash’s face and frowns, too.
Cash’s mother looks dissatisfied with the lack of her son’s ability to smile. She looks in her diaper bag, and pulls out a candy bar and holds it out in front of her.
“Look, Cash! Look!” she waves the candy bar by her ear, and Cash’s face lights up.
He starts cooing and smiling wide at the piece of candy, a smile wide enough to show us his two bottom teeth, and before the smile fades, she snaps about ten good pictures.
“I don’t...believe it,” Lucas marvels.
Sebastian wears a big smile in relief he doesn’t’ have to hold the baby anymore, and I do the same. He is ready to hand Cash back to his mother when his face becomes hard, focused. Sebastian, after a few seconds of spacing out, starts to wiggle his nostrils and sniff loudly.
“Do you, do you-”
Then he freezes, and his eyes grow huge.
Sebastian pulls his hand from under Cash’s butt and stares in shock at what’s on it, and we all do, too. Then from his shirt, I can see it all on the fabric of Sebastian’s top. His face twists and curls into disgusted expressions before he screams:
“EW, THIS BABY SHIT ON ME! WHAT THE FUCK ARE YOU FEEDING THIS THING! GET THIS SHIT OFF ME!”
Sebastian pushes Cash into my arms and slips off his shirt, gagging in the process. The crowd screams when they see Cash’s business on his shirt and Sebastian, not knowing what to do, throws it at Lucas.
Lucas screams so loudly that it comes out like a woman’s scream in a horror movie. He flail’s his arms to get the shirt away from him and kicks it into the crowd, a crowd that runs away at the tainted shirt, pauses, then begins ripping pieces off that aren’t soiled when they realize the worth to some crazy fanatic on eBay.
“I’ve got the sleeve!”
“I’ve got the collar!”
“Get that shit away from me, freaks!” someone yells.
Those with actual sense run away gagging and cover their noses at the strong scent. I try not to make a face, for Cash is in my arms staring at me, wondering if I’m the only one left who loves him. His eyes are big, blue and sad at everyone running away from him and what he did. It’s like he’s waiting with faint hope that I won’t break, but accidentally, I sniff and get a whiff of the strong smell and choke on the scent, and inch closer and closer to throwing up when I see it all on his legs and his butt. I bury my face into my shoulder and hold Cash out in front of me as his lip quivers and tears mist his eyes.
“No, no, don’t cry...child,” I say, my arms aching from his weight. “Don’t cry.”
He starts crying.
It comes out as a gradual small wail that grows into a loud whine, then he starts crying, tears pouring down his face. His mouth is wide open to amplify his sobbing during all the chaos, and the camera man, whose shirt is over his nose, records every second of it.
Cash’s mother stands straight and not phased by the commotion.
“Give me my baby,” she says with deepened, irate emphasis. I hand her Cash, and she takes the crying baby away with a venomous look at me.
“Sorry,” I mouth, because I really am. Sorry that I could possibly think this would work. And sorry that an innocent child is subject to Sebastian and his inability to handle a situation, such as this, with confidentiality, humility, and maturity. Instead, we have this: a crying baby, angry mother, crowd of frantic people, a shirtless Sebastian who is getting his hand washed by Lucas, and a group of press recording the whole thing. Then we have Sarah, who has her head in her hands, and Mayor Matthew Carter, who is extremely displeased and angered that this will be the highlight of the fair, because of Sebastian referring to a baby as a “thing” and practically throwing the baby into my arms like a rotten bag of fruit.
And with this, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and daydream of my quiet apartment.