Two red balloons, two blue, one white. Ray popped himself the American flag with his impeccable pattern; the expert tosser didn't miss a beat as he let his darts soar one by one. The stunning but oblivious Amanda Benson was wowed by his great eye but didn't get the suspicion that he was trying a lot harder than he let on. Ray convinced himself that it wasn't Amanda's attention that he coveted, it was the cute monkey in a skull shirt. He liked monkeys, he liked skulls, but deep down he like a girl most of all.
She showed nothing more than her back as she climbed up the ladder. Ray stayed idled to the point where it felt itchy, however he stood attentive the moment Amanda returned from retrieving his prize. She took the animal toy down from the wall and handed it over to him.
"Great shot, dude!"
Ray laughed wholeheartedly through closed teeth, contemplating on whether he should be blunt. Amanda seemed hopelesly unaware that she met the boy before and stared up at him with patient brown eyes. He carefully told her that they first seen each other at the joke-joint haunted house back at Dark Falls, the one where the owner has been convicted. The news was known by Amanda and then all the following pieces were collected.
Ray had the terrible feeling that he came across as a creep, a stalker who crossed paths with a girl once and never forgot her since. Amanda did not give him any hint that she thought of him that way, but that didn't stop him from proving otherwise whatever means necessary. Oh, I have a good memory. Oh, I'm friends with your friend. The second part was true, both were, but the second part more.
Amanda called out, "you're Karen's friend."
"Yes." Ray nodded but was unsure if he should still call himself her friend.
"Small world, right? I can't believe we met here."
They talked until they were well caught up, Ray desperately wanted to know what was her status concerning Karen. Amanda focused on his dreaded old job and kept asking him about Compton Dawes. When Ray confessed that he had to move his talents to the carnival, she was excited. Her enthusiasm confused him but was admirable all the same.
"Yeah; we keep in contact," said Amanda, finally answering his concerns, "Karen is actually working here too."
A zephyr can be heard breezing by under the loud party music. Ray's face fell open, was the whole cursed province working at the carnival too? Even Karen Thurston, who probably hates carnivals, took the opportunity to make a quick buck. It was convenient for everyone which is why everyone was involved. The source of Ray's anxiety came from any chemistry between his crush and his friend. It's been a year but if his infatuation withstood the test of time, then so could Karen's.
Meanwhile, a little boy was snapping his fingers at Amanda. Ray wanted to tell the brat to take a walk out of her stand for being so disrespectful. On the other hand, she professionally handled him. She traded a set of darts for his money and Ray no longer felt wanted. He used the rest of his break to sit on a seat of the Ferris wheel.
Ray wanted to take the time to reflect about how to become closer to Amanda. The calm vertical movement of the ride would be an ideal place for the time. Low and behold, Karen Thurston was right behind him in line.
"What. A. Coincidence," Ray thought out-loud.
"Not really, I came here on purpose to see you," humored Karen.
The two were partnered together for a cart; Ray didn't protest out of ill will of her, he really did not want to deal with her telling him something she needed to say. The runner of the facility shut them in their set with a heavy pole-like clip. When it locked them together, the boy felt as trapped as he looked.
"I'm a human being, dammit!" He cried as he was ascended skywards.
The peace of the heavens above was reachable by the Ferris wheel. The music became feint and the manic colors were muted at that point. Ray couldn't enjoy the ride in the presence of someone who made it uncomfortable. The first turn around, which he marked by passing over the ground, was perfectly silent. The next turn was when one of the reluctant passengers decided to speak.
Karen carefully said, "I have to tell you somethi—"
"—so which stand do you work at?" He interrupted.
"Uh, the shirt shop. Now..."
"Why not the haunted funhouse? I thought you liked scaring people."
"Working with Mr. Dawes gave me PTSD."
"This one's better."
"Ray! Let me talk!"
All he had to do was keep it up for another few minutes until the ride comes to a stop. He didn't want to hear whatever she was going to say. It won't be something he'd like, and it's about Amanda. He bet it was about her. Karen will state that she's the one who has the privilege of being with her. Ray felt uncharacteristicly insecure because he never has been this in love before.
It would stomp his heart if it was another who hooked up with the only girl he's felt so deeply about. Especially if it was his friend.
Karen began, "why haven't you called me in so long?"
Ray sighed in gratitude - that's all she wanted to know. He was expecting worse, like bad news he has been avoiding. He was scolded by Karen for looking too pleased at her question. He sheepishly struggled to find the correct response but realized it would be embarrassing if he were honest. Since he couldn't conjure up a decent lie, Ray chose to be honest.
He let it be known that it was the fact behind discontinuing the friendship was over a possible love triangle involving Amanda. Karen believed the excuse but didn't find it strong enough, made evident by that glare.
"So you don't want to ruin our friendship, but you thought you could save it by ignoring me?"
Ray slowly nodded to affirm her summary.
Karen smacked her forehead. "I think I have a headache."
"I was afraid that Amanda was dating you now," he further clarified.
"Are you serious?" She furrowed her imprinted brow. "We're just friends. She's not into chicks...unfortunately."
Understanding the situation was bittersweet; Ray was ecstatic that Amanda Benson won't pose a threat to their relationship and that Amanda was available to him, on the other hand - he's made a fool out of himself. He was soon forgiven after he was given a distant but affectionate hug. Karen really has evolved over the years into a mature teen girl. From thinking she was above hugs, to freely giving them out. Anyone should consider themselves lucky to have her arms around them in a rare display of heart. It must have pained her to know that Amanda will never fill them. Karen gives Ray permission to hook up with her, saying that he was the next best person for her. Maybe she was living vicariously through the boy, but he happily obliged.
The actors for the haunted funhouse returned from their break early to get their costumes prepared. It was an easy task for Ray, who only had to put on his hat and jacket one arm at a time. He checked himself in one of the funny mirrors expecting it to be an accurate one. The sight was an entertaining one, he found himself laughing in what felt like ages. No more straight faces for him.
The batch of costumers came in a hurdles that could barley fit through the narrow halls. Judging from their uniforms, three of the bunch were fellow workers who were on a break of their own. It wasn't uncommon but one was Amanda Benson. She dropped by, paid the fee, and wanted to see Ray in action on the job. Just like how they first seen each other.
She's a big girl now, but still have herself permission to scream and laugh at everything she saw. Amanda maneuvers by the mirrors was greeted by a hissing Ray out of the corner of one. He took his acting less serious to put on a more flamboyant approach. Prowling like a cat, he made her shriek and giggle some more. She followed Ray deep within the bounds of the mirrors.
"Okay, that's a wrap!" Exclaimed the manager, "great work, y'all!."
That last group of costumers was actually the last group. Everyone passed around handshakes and congratulated each other in the first night on the job. Sans Ray, who seemed to have went missing. The manager wasn't angry at him disappearing like Mr. Dawes would have been, but she was curious. She commanded the lights on as she searched for the young actor.
On the edge of the maze, she sees the top of his hat. The manager alerted him as cautiously as possible but he still jumped up in surprised. He was with one of the girls who entered the funhouse, who also resided at the balloon popping stand. Two typically teenagers kissing in places where they think they aren't allowed.