Ten more minutes.
There were only ten more minutes until school was out for the summer. Summertime in Shepherd's Glen was always hot, especially in the schools. With no air-conditioning at all, windows were open, the scent of freshly cut grass wafting through the halls, teachers had miniature fans blasting full power at their desks and the children had paper fans they made themselves. But the heat was the last thing on Joshua's mind.
He sat a few chairs behind her, staring at the back of her head intently. Her perfectly long brown hair swayed with the wind that was coming from outside, her feet were mindlessly swinging back and forth as she frantically scribbled on her desk. What was she writing? Or was she drawing? Was it a letter? Or maybe… it was a love letter from Scarlet to Josh. He frowned; that was such a stupid thing to think of. He might as well have been invisible. Scarlet never paid attention to him. Ever. She was always playing with her stupid dolls. He quietly scoffed; dolls were so stupid! But then again, what have they done to him, besides take away the only girl that he couldn't get out of his mind? He looked down at her backpack. It was partially open and Josh could see it: her favorite doll. It stared back at him, as if it were mocking him. He gave an equally powerful glare. Oh, if only lasers could shoot from his eyes…
"You're staring at her again."
Josh jumped in his seat, startled by the voice calling out to him. His face gave off a light pink shade as he turned to his friend. Staring at him for a brief moment, he turned away mumbling, "I- I wasn't! I was just-"
Joey Bartlett laughed softly and whispered, "Josh and Scarlet sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-"
Josh practically flailed in his seat and took a swipe at Joey, who evaded quiet easily. His face moved onto a red color as he shot him a venomous glare and said, "Shut up! Everyone can hear you!"
"No way, dude. You're just crazy." Once Josh calmed down, Joey continued. "Hey, you know, the carnival's coming to town tomorrow. You going?"
"Heck yeah I am. I got my parents to get Alex to take me." His flashed a devious smile before finishing. "It's gonna be so awesome!"
"Why don't you ask her?"
Joey let out an annoyed sigh and said, "Scarlet! Why don't you ask her to go with you? Like a date?"
"A… a date?" Josh was shocked, petrified almost. He never had the courage to talk to Scarlet, let alone asking her out on a date.
"Yeah, why not? Who knows, maybe she'll kiss ya." Joey gave him a wink and leaned back on his chair. At this time, the bell finally rang and soon all the children cheered for the first official day of summer. Desks and chairs were moving around as kids grabbed their backpacks and headed for the door.
"You really think so?" The fantasy played in his head and out came a goofy smile, which amused Joey to no end.
"Maybe. But first you gotta ask her to go to the carnival with you." Joey looked over Josh's shoulder and continued with, "And you should probably hurry because she just walked out the door."
"What?" Josh exclaimed as he whipped his body around. It was true; Scarlet was no longer in her seat and her backpack was missing with the desk completely cleared off. Shoot! Without even saying goodbye to his friend or the teacher, Josh shoved everything into his backpack and tried to zip it closed. Unfortunately, a corner of a notebook and one of Robbie's ears was blocking the zipper from continuing. He hurriedly pushed them down only to have a piece of paper ripped, showing it lodged in the zipper. "Aw, forget it!" he said as he swung it over his back and raced for the school entrance.
Pushing the doors open, he looked left, then right. His breathing slowed down as he relaxed. He hung his head down; Scarlet had already left. He lifted up his hands and held his head, mumbling, "Ah! Stupid, stupid, stupid! Why did I take so long trying to fix my backpack? Ah, I'm an idiot!"
"Got that right." Josh let his hands fall and looked up to see his brother Alex waiting for him down the steps.
"Oh, Alex." With a irritated scowl he went down the stairs, whispering "Shut up" under his breath as the two walked back to their house.
Josh sat alone on the couch, wallowing in his own sorrow. Great. The one chance he had of asking Scarlet out went out the door, literally. He was too afraid to show up at her house to ask (her daddy was super scary), and now she was probably going to play with her dolls all summer. Josh sank lower into the couch. Dumb dolls, they would always take up the entire sandbox, leaving no one else to play-
That's it! Maybe she was at the park!
Josh jumped off the couch and headed for the front door. He was getting on his shoes when his father called out, "Whoa, hey there little man. Where do you think you're going?"
"To the park." Please don't ask why, please don't ask why…
"Well you can't go by yourself. It's too far."
"But dad! Joey's dad lets him go to the park by himself!"
"Well I'm not Joey's dad. And I say you're not going unless someone goes with you."
"Are you going to take me?"
There was a small moment of silence before Adam belted out, "Alex! Get down here!"
"Ugh, what is it?" Alex yelled from upstairs. The stairs creaked with every step he took.
"Get your shoes on. You're taking your little brother to the park."
"What? Why? I was going to go over to Elle's just now!"
"Don't ask questions! Just do it! NOW."
"Fine." Alex refused to look his father in the eye as he put on his shoes, staying completely silent. Josh frowned, having to bring Alex in like this. But… this was important! Opening the door, he said sharply, "Let's go," to Josh before closing it behind them.
When they arrived at the park, Josh and a few other kids he really didn't play with were there, minding their own business, doing their own thing. He stood there, looking around.
Scarlet was nowhere to be seen. An ache began to erupt in his chest.
Alex sat on a nearby bench, looking over at his brother. Something was bothering him. Sighing, he got up and walked over to his younger brother. "Who were you expecting?"
"Eh, what?" Josh asked, turning around, trying to avoid the question.
"Were you waiting for Joey?"
"Just… no one."
Alex scoffed. "Yeah, whatever. I've been watching you for the past few minutes, looking around like a sad lost little puppy. Now are you going to tell me who you were waiting for, 'cause if not, I'd really like to leave."
It took a moment or two, but Josh finally caved in. "… Scarlet. I was waiting for Scarlet, to see if she would show up."
"Scarlet? That's the doctor's daughter right? I've never seen you play with her at all." Alex stood, waiting for a response, but never got one. Then it clicked. "Oh, I see. You like her, don't you?"
"Yes…" Josh responded with almost a whisper. "I was… I was going to ask her to go to the carnival with me, but I can't do that if she's not here."
"I know how you can ask her." Without any warning, Alex grabbed Josh's hand and soon they were out of the park. "We're going to go to her and you're going to ask her."
"What? Alex! NO!" Josh yelled, trying to pry his hand from the future soldier's hand. Just as he feared, he couldn't free himself from his brother's grip. This was it. This was the end. Josh was finally going to die. No, he wasn't ready. This could not be happening…
As Josh was psychologically freaking himself out, he didn't even notice that they have already arrived at the Fitch house. He snapped out of it when he heard a loud "knock" and footsteps walking away from him. "I'll come pick you up in three hours! Knock 'em dead, tiger!" Alex shouted out. He was already out on the street, leaving Josh right in front of the door.
"Alex! Come back here now! I-" Josh was cut off by the door opening. And soon, there she was, standing right in front of him. It was actually her. It was Scarlet.
The two shared… quite a long period of silence as they stared at each other. Josh was too frozen to speak up. This had to be a dream. No… a nightmare. Wake up already! Nope, nope, nope, this was real life all right. Soon, a burning hatred began to grow for Alex inside of Josh. Oh, when he was least expecting it, Josh would give Alex the HUGEST wedgie he'd-
"Why are you here?" Josh snapped out of it when he heard her speak. He was still speechless until she asked again.
"Uhm… I… was wondering if… you wanted to play?" Josh let out an awkward laugh. Oh man now she's gonna hate me forever. Why am I so stupid?
"I thought you didn't like dolls."
"Didn't like dolls? What, no! Where did you get that idea?" Easy now, Josh. You got this.
"I'm sure you remember in first grade when you and Joey took my doll and dipped her hair in glue, screaming, "Dolls are stupid!" Or did you forget? Because I sure didn't."
Okay, maybe I don't got this. He swallowed hard with a frown following it. Now he remembered that. Who would think an old memory would come back to haunt him like that? "I'm sorry," was all he could say at first. He cowered under the glare she was giving him. But he couldn't give up, not yet. "But that was first grade. I was really dumb back then…. But if you give me another chance I promise I won't be mean like that. Okay?"
Scarlet stood there, thinking it over. What was a few seconds seemed like hours for Josh. This was worse than waiting to get his math test back! Soon, there was an "okay" and Scarlet walked inside into the hallway. She turned around to face Josh, who was still standing in the doorway and asked, "Are you coming inside or not?" She had her hands on her hips as she tapped her door.
"Oh! Yes!" he said excitingly as he scurried on inside, taking off his shoes on the small rug close to the door. He quickly followed Scarlet up the stairs.
No one can find out about this, or else my reputation will be ruined forever, Josh thought as he sat in the center of Scarlet's room, holding a doll in one hand and a teacup in the other. Oh, why couldn't Scarlet be into bugs or action figures like he was? But love means sacrifice! At least that's what all the movies said. He wasn't expecting playing tea party but then again he should have expected something like this. After all, playing tea party one time wouldn't kill him. Although he'd never admit it, he secretly liked it, but only a little bit. Being with Scarlet made it all worthwhile.
"Would you like more tea?" Scarlet's doll asked Josh's doll with Scarlet holding the teapot.
"Oh, no thanks. Having six pieces of cake really fills you up after a while."
Scarlet let out a small giggle, which made Josh all giddy inside. She put down the doll and the teapot and looked right at Josh. With a small smile she murmured, "I'm really having fun."
Josh returned her smile with one of his own and responded, "I am too."
"So, are you going to the carnival tomorrow? My daddy's taking me."
There was a carnival? Oh, right, that carnival! Josh nodded as he replied with, "Yeah. Alex and Elle are taking me!" He inhaled deeply, preparing himself for what he was about to say next. "Actually… that was kinda the reason that I came here in the first place."
"Yeah… I wanted… to ask…" With every word, Josh's voice got so quiet to the point where he couldn't be heard. "you if you wanted to go with me." He mumbled the last few bits, knowing it would come back and bite him in the butt.
"Wanted to ask me what?"
"I… I wanted to see if you wanted to go with me?" Josh looked away from her. He could barely stand to look at her now. He had embarrassed himself and now Scarlet was going to think he was creepy and horrible and-
"Okay. Sounds fun." … What? Did she actually say yes? Yes! She did! His heart fluttered about, beating at an insane pace, at least that's what he felt.
"Oh wow." The blush came back to his face, but he was too excited to notice. "So should I come here or-"
"Like I said, my daddy's taking me. I think around noon. Want to just meet up there?"
"Yeah, totally! Oh man tomorrow's gonna be so awesome!"
Scarlet giggled, causing Josh too as well. She gave him a wide grin and before she could say anything else, her father called from below, "Josh! Your brother's here!" The two got up from the floor and went downstairs together. Scarlet stopped as she reached her father and watched Josh go. "I'll see you tomorrow!" he said and off he went with Alex.
Scarlet hugged her father and said, "I can't wait for tomorrow, daddy. It's going to be so much fun."
"Yes, my beautiful sunshine. It's going… to be… fun…" Dr. Fitch didn't return his child's hug as his glassy eyes stared out into space, as if his soul had left its body.
Josh made sure to get up extra early the next morning. He wanted everything to be perfect. He was already showered and dressed and even had his shoes on so he could run out the door. There was only one problem: it was… difficult getting Alex out of bed.
He climbed the bed post and lightly shook his brother. "C'mon Alex get up! I don't wanna be late!"
Alex grumbled and put the sheets over his head. When his brother wouldn't let up, he said under the covers, "Geez, chill out! Elle won't be ready for a while. When she is, we'll go."
"But is she gonna be ready before noon?"
"Yes! Now can you leave me alone? Give me ten more minutes."
Josh was impatient the entire way there. It turned brutal when waiting in line to get entry tickets. Alex ignored his impatient brother as he bought the tickets and entered the carnival at his own pace. But once they were through the gate, Josh ran out in front of them, scanning the area.
But Scarlet was nowhere to be found.
Suddenly, Josh felt like he got punched right in the gut. His heart dropped as he overlooked the area again. Scarlet or her father were nowhere in sight. But… She said she'd be here… Where is she?
"C'mon Josh, let's go on the rides," Alex said, walking up toward them with Elle following close behind. He looked at Josh and looked to where he was staring.
"Can we just… wait a little? Scarlet said she'd be here."
Minute after minute, Josh waited at the entrance of the carnival, looking inside and then turning around to the entrance, to see if Scarlet was purchasing her ticket. But she wasn't in either place. Maybe she was running a little late? Girls were always late. He remembered the countless times Alex would complain about Elle getting ready whenever they went somewhere. Maybe Scarlet was doing the same thing.
"C'mon Josh. The day isn't going to last forever. Let's just go already!"
"Just a little longer!"
Scarlet never showed up.
While they were at the carnival, Alex and Elle were having a good time but Josh certainly wasn't. The ache in his heart didn't go away the entire time they were there. He couldn't enjoy himself. All he thought about was Scarlet. He thought about hugging her when she walked through the gates, eating an elephant ear together, going on all the rides, playing games and winning her a prize. But all of that was just a pathetic daydream because none of that ever happened like it was supposed to. Why? This day was supposed to be perfect! What happened? She looked like she really wanted to go with him?
She wouldn't trick him… would she?
Josh managed to convince Alex to take him over to Dr. Fitch's place, to talk to her. He wanted to know why she didn't show up. He had a right to know, after all.
This time, Josh was the one knocking on the door. He was expecting Scarlet, but not this. The door slowly creaked, leaving only a few inches open. He saw a shadow then part of Dr. Fitch's face glaring at him. "What do you want?" Dr. Fitch whispered quickly.
Josh felt uneasy. Something was wrong but he didn't know what. "I… Is Scarlet home? Can I talk to her?"
The two shared a moment of silence before the doctor replied with "She's not here…. Now go away!" With that said, the door slammed, leaving Josh more hurt and confused.
Josh ran right up to his room when they came home. He skipped dinner and just laid in his bed, poisoning himself with his own thoughts. Why had Scarlet done that? He thought she really liked him. But maybe it wasn't her fault… Where did she go? And why was her dad acting so funny?
Josh didn't care anymore. He was too sad. How could he fall for something like that? He was so dumb, thinking that Scarlet actually liked him and wanted to go on a date with him. She probably laughed her head off when Josh left her house yesterday. She played him like a game of cards: she had a full house and Josh had nothing.
He pulled the covers over him, trying his best not to cry. He wanted this feeling to go away. He wanted this shame to go away. He wanted yesterday to go away.
He wanted to go away.
Small tears stained his pillowcase as he drifted off to sleep, too tired to move on.
Josh slowly opened his eyes to see himself surrounded by darkness except a bright light shining right in his face. He mumbled something incoherent as he covered them with his arms. He could see a figure behind the light. "… Alex?"
"Get up. Let's go for a boat ride."