By Simply Shelby

Lights are shining everywhere. Blue lights, green lights, yellow, orange, pink. The scent of chili and hot dogs reach my nose. I can hear people laughing and rides whirring; the sound of fun. People pass by me, shoving and bumping each other in an attempt to get where they are going. I stand still and silent in the crowd; contradictory to the crowd. I feel so alone.

The Ferris Wheel catches my eye and I slowly make my way toward it. The thought to ride it reaches my mind and I stand in the rather short line. There are a few people in front of me, but I ignore them, just as they ignore me. Just as everyone ignores me. Most people in front of me are in pair, in couples. That's how most people ride this ride. Minutes later, I hand the ticketeer my ticket and board a cart of the Ferris Wheel- alone.

"Is this seat taken?" I look up at the owner of the voice: a young man with shaggy raven hair and bright green eyes, evident even in the semi-darkness.

I shake my head, "No, go ahead," and slide over to let him in. He does so, cautiously, like he is afraid of being seen in such a ridiculous contraption. I try to hide a smile, but fail. He notices. "Jenni Bridges," I introduce myself and hold out my hand.

He gazes at my proffered hand for a long moment before enveloping it with his. "Colton Rhodes," he responds softly, and I catch a bit of a mellifluous Southern accent- a cultured accent. "It's nice to meet you, Miss Bridges." He doesn't miss the irony of our last names. Perhaps fate had put us here together on purpose?

I notice his clothing. He was dressed in black slacks and a sports jacket with shiny dress shoes to finish off the ensemble. "Aren't you a bit overdressed for a carnival?"

He blinks and looks down at his clothing, as though he were just noticing his attire. "I suppose so," he drawled, "But, I really don't have anything to change into. Unless, of course, nobody minds me being a bit underdressed, that is." He smiles.

I tentatively smile back as the ride begins and we are carried toward the top. I watch the young man, observing him. Colton Rhodes doesn't notice, for his attention is focused on the carnival below; the blinking lights and loud noises. I recognize the expression on his face. It was the same expression I saw in the mirror for months and months after my parents had died. Sadness. Longing. Regret. All the emotions were plainly written across his face, as if Hell itself had painted his features. "What happened?" the words fly out of my mouth before I can stop them.

He turns and looks at me with a look of undisguised surprise. He is silent for the longest time, his eyes never once leaving mine. And then he whispers, "How do you know?"

I swallow hard and respond, "Your face," when he looks at me strangely, I elaborate, "Your face looks exactly like mine did after my parents died."

"Oh." the sound barely reached my ears. "I suppose I do look a tad sorrowful." He pauses. "My sister's gone."

"She's dead?"

"No, she's gone, lost, kidnapped- probably dead. I don't know," he shrugs. "She went missing here."


He nods, "At this carnival three years ago. She disappeared in the Fun House. I never saw her again." His voice is tight with reigned emotion, yet somehow still nonchalant.

"It wasn't your fault-"

He interrupts me, "I told her to play in there. I didn't want her with me." He sighs, "The FBI cut off the investigation today. They have no hope of finding her."

I sigh as well. "Do you have any hope?" I ask quietly.

"No," he murmurs, "None." He shakes his head wistfully, "She's all but dead. And by now, she's probably that, too."

"'You can't have a light without a dark to stick in it.'" I tell him the words my uncle had told me when I arrived, as an orphan, at his home. "You just have to notice the light more than the dark."

His eyes change from a forest green to a hazy grey as he contemplates my words. Our cart comes to a stop on the platform and he jolts back to life. His eyes were now a determined sage. As he helps me out of the Ferris Wheel, he asks if I would like some cotton candy, his treat. I accept, gratefully. At the stand, he buys himself and mea pink cloud of sugar and a Jones soda. Loosely he takes my hand in his and we walk casually through the bumbling crowd, as though we weren't barely strangers, but instead the best of friends. And the lights shine everywhere.