By Le Meg
He'd only been at the carnival for twenty minutes when he first saw her, laughing with her friends as they stood in line for one of three fun houses. Finn liked the way she laughed—throwing her head back, neck curving in unapologetically delighted pleasure at whatever was being said—and spent more time watching her than paying attention to his own friends. They'd only just gotten out of the ticket line and were deliberating quite seriously about what their first ride should be. There were many votes for bumper cars, and just as many for the swinging pirate ship. A few daring souls wanted to brave the Zipper first. But Finn and his friends had been coming to the school's fundraiser carnival for ages, and every single year started exactly same. He knew, just as they all did, that they'd eventually make their way over to the Gravitron first—it was tradition, after all—so he didn't worry about the argument so much as the possibility of running into the gorgeous laughing girl again as soon as possible.
She wore a tan bomber jacket against the autumn chill, and her hair was just a shade darker, parted a little to the side. Her smile was wide and easy, and looked like it spent a great deal of time stretching across her face. He couldn't help but smile a little himself as he watched her bump hips with another girl in line, sending her friend stumbling.
"Earth to Finn!" Todd waved his hand in front of his face then, distracting him. "Would you like to contribute to this carefully articulated process or what?"
Finn shrugged, hands in his pockets. "Not really," he said, eyes wandering again to where the girl and her friends had just disappeared inside the fun house. "We all know we're going to the Gravitron. Let's just go."
"Thank you." Louis pointed towards him, clearly claiming him as an ally, and then looked pointedly at Todd. "Unless you just want to sit around and waste good money here talking like the little girl you are."
Todd gestured rudely with one hand, and beckoned his friends towards their decided first ride with the other. "Ladies first."
They all began to move, and though he knew she'd already vanished into the fun house, he couldn't help but glance back again.
He saw her for a second time at the pirate ship not an hour later. Finn and his friends were just getting off while she and hers were getting on; they were much closer than before, near enough for him to get a good look at her. She had freckles, and a little dimple on the right side of her smile that he hadn't been able to discern from afar. Still gorgeous.
Their eyes met briefly, but it wasn't a moment he was willing to waste. Finn flashed his pearly whites at her, and her beautiful mouth curved up enticingly in response, dark eyes crinkling in sudden amusement as she strapped in. One of her friends noticed the exchange and leaned over, grinning as she spoke, and his lovely lady laughed. At this distance he could actually hear her, and her laugh sounded refreshingly real—no tinkling bells, no lyrical bullshit, but full, buoyant, and utterly charming.
The third time he saw her, he heard her not just laugh but speak. By now his friends had noticed his distraction and, like any true group of red-blooded males, had noticed that his distraction had friends. By no means were they against a casual run-in now, but she surprised them all by instigating the meeting.
They'd stopped for food. Finn had been craving a hot dog since he got there and was busy layering the questionable meat byproduct with ketchup, mustard, and relish when she suddenly appeared next to him, a well-dressed dog in her own hand. "Good choice," she told him. "It's not a carnival without the proper junk food."
"My sentiments exactly," he replied, her presence making him feel pleasantly warm. He'd never seen her at school before, but considering that such fundraisers always drew in all the local kids in the area, it wasn't much of a surprise. Rival students tended to swarm, especially—it was a fact everyone accepted and even looked forward to, as it would inevitably inspire gossip that would make the following week of class much more interesting.
"My friends want to know where you guys are headed next," she told him then, and nodded towards where the girls had congregated around a picnic table some yards away.
Finn let his eyes drop down her figure briefly, mouth quirking up. "Just your friends?"
She laughed. Her eyes—a warm brown, he'd noticed—were twinkling mischievously at him. One of his friends had snorted somewhere behind him, and her gaze had drifted over his shoulder briefly before returning to his. "Have you guys been on the bumper cars yet?" There was a slight challenge to her voice that made his stomach tighten in excitement.
"No," he replied. "Sounds like fun, though."
"Good." She grinned at him, took a huge bite of her hot dog, and then sauntered back towards her friends. Finn watched because he knew he was supposed to, and couldn't help but think that mouth of hers was even sexier now than it was before.
They met again at the bumper cars where they tailed each other relentlessly for two rounds. She yelled the most adorable things, lines like "Die, Rebel scum!" and "Avast, ye cobswabbler!" and made him laugh so much himself that his cheeks felt sore by the time they'd climbed out of the rink. But then the girls slinked off again, his girl leaving him with a little wave of the fingers and a sly wink, and Finn began to see how frustratingly cat-and-mouse this game was becoming.
The guys visited the Zipper next, and saved the fun house as a safe ride for after. Though he never suffered from a weak stomach himself, it wasn't any good if any of his friends got sick from their over zealous carnival antics. They'd been doing this for years now, though, and their plan was almost foolproof. But it wasn't girlproof, and he couldn't help the way he turned his head every five minutes, ear straining to hear that thread of laughter that would clue him into her location.
When they emerged from the fun house, having thoroughly beaten each other up in the boxing bag area, he caught sight of her and a couple of her girlfriends climbing the last few steps on the giant fun slide right next door and paused at the end, hands in his jacket pockets as he watched. She noticed him waiting at the bottom and grinned, blowing him a kiss. His friends were already dragging him away by the time it was her turn, but he heard her laughing all the way down.
Another quick stop for snacks produced no fortunate rendezvous but their next stop—the crazy-fun Scrambler—found them on the ride at the same time, though not in the same seat, as he felt they should have been. His disappointment was erased entirely though when, even as she left again with her friends, she pointed at her watch, mouthed what looked suspiciously like "one hour" at him, and then pointed at the ferris wheel.
His shit-eating grin was, he thought, an adequate enough response.
But he never got to see that glorious hour. Finn and the guys were on their fourth run with the bumper cars when the night sky suddenly rumbled threateningly. He hadn't even noticed how bad the cloud cover had become but there was no mistaking the smell of rain in the air now. And there was no mistaking the feel of it when it suddenly pelted down out of the sky in one thick, spontaneously evil sheet of fun-ending doom.
"Motherfucker!" Todd yelled, as they all ran back to his car. "The weatherman said clear skies!"
"They always say that," Louis yelled back.
Finn couldn't be bothered to yell. Even running, he tried to look for her, but the downpour drowned everything out. His disappointment returned in full force—she'd been so real and charming and fun. Chance meetings like that rarely ever happened, and now he was cursing himself for taking the whole thing so lightly. He should have grabbed the moment by the reigns, put her face in his hands, and kissed the hell out of her. Isn't that what they did in movies?
Todd whined about the moisture that now coated the inside of his beloved fixer-upper as they drove slowly out of the parking lot with everyone else. Finn didn't know what he was complaining about—there were towels, and anyway, he hadn't been gypped out of a classic movie moment with a gorgeous laughing girl.
"Um, dude," Louis suddenly said, and when Finn glanced at him, his friend nodded towards the window.
It was her—in the car next to them! He grinned suddenly, and watched her return the grin, and then scramble over her friend towards the window. For one stupefied second he watched her roll it down, but then he was already matching her actions, even as Louis said behind him, "What the hell--?"
Her friends were yelling—he could see that. Some were laughing, some were trying to get away from the rain that slanted in through the open window. He knew Todd was probably shitting in his pants as he opened his fully, but he didn't care. His blood pumped in excitement as she leaned out, and when he met her half way, it was she who took his face in her hands and kissed the hell out of him.
Cars started honking all around them—once the first started, the others joined in. It was a merry cacophony, adding to the dull roar that the rain and the blood rushing through his head already provided. He had no idea how long it lasted—he just knew her mouth, the taste of her and the rainwater mingling together, of carnival fun and the excitement of beautiful, laughing strangers with unbelievable kissing skills.
Somebody pulled him back in. Finn went unwillingly, watching as she also ducked away. The windows went back up, and though he hated to see her car pull ahead—away from him—he couldn't help but think that she was by far the craziest, coolest girl he'd ever met, and that he was glad for at least that one singular moment, if nothing else.
But he did see her again—at the next light. She grinned at him, and pressed her lips against the window. Her hair was matted, her clothes were soaked through, but he didn't think he'd ever seen anyone look so amazing. God, he wanted to kiss her again.
She bent away briefly then, demanding something from her friends, glancing furtively at the still red light ahead of them. Then, a second later, he realized why, as she began writing a series of numbers on her window in lipstick.
"Wow," Todd said, watching in the driver's seat. "I can't even be mad at you now."
Half the numbers were backwards. The first two attempts at calling found him wrong numbers—the first an elderly lady with bad hearing, the second a harassed-sounding pizza boy—but the third saw her smile growing impossibly wide, and then she put a phone to her ear.
"Hot dog man!"
Finn laughed. "I think I love you," he told her, only half-joking. "What's your name?"
"Kacie," she replied, glancing at one of her friends as she whistled teasingly. Her smile was beyond brilliant. "What's yours?"
"Finn, where are you guys going?" She asked, and he saw the crinkle of mischief again. "My friends want to know."
He smirked at her. "Just your friends?"
Kacie laughed—he could see and hear it, could even feel it dance its way down his spine. When she spoke again, though, her voice had dropped seductively and it sent a different sort of thrill tumbling through him. "Why don't you roll down your window and find out?"
Finn tossed his phone to the side and started rolling.