As if I couldn't be more of a loser than I already was.
I mean seriously, this was ridiculous. This was not my first time at a carnival so I could safely say it was not exactly a big one. It didn't take me more than ten minutes to walk around the entire thing. The only conclusion I could draw from this was that they were actively avoiding – slash – hiding from me, which was seriously depressing. The heat was incredibly hard to ignore, and I could feel the sweat on the back of my neck begin t slide down my back. Though I would have preferred to sit in the shade somewhere, the insecure fear of sitting alone looking lost meant that I pressed on regardless of the temperature, winding through the rides and booths looking for someone I might vaguely recognize.
It is difficult being the new girl in any school, especially when you come in mid- senior year; friendship groups have formed years ago; people are bonded to other likeminded people; they have history; they know that this person going out with this person is simply scandalous because this person was going out with this person. It's really hard to compete with all that.
I tied my hair up with an elastic band as I peered through the booths, no longer really expecting to see anyone I knew. I'd always been complimented on my long brown hair – one of my few redeeming features – but the sun was making me feel increasingly uncomfortable. I waved a pamphlet in my hand at my face in a desperate bid to cool down as I looked around.
"That won't help."
"Really?" I said in a polite a tone as I could muster in my frustration, turning to see a woman of about 70 staring at me from under a luminous yellow visor.
"Oh yes. The effort that goes into fanning yourself won't balance out the breeze you get from it. You'll be just as hot, dear."
"Well... thank you." She nodded at me, apparently satisfied that she had done some good, and went on watching her grandkids – presumably – play together.
I took in a deep breath and continued my search, and my fanning. What was I saying?
Oh yes. It's not like I've not been a new girl before either; I have and not too long ago either. My dad was made redundant and found new work in another state – move one. Sure it was Junior year but after a couple days I made a few friends and was gradually accepted into certain social friendship groups. This newschool, though, was completely different. Of course my mom and I were going to support my dad when he got a promotion which sent him to yet another state. In a few months I would be leaving for college anyway, and I didn't particularly care where I finished my high school years.
I wish I'd known what I was in for.
I don't know whether it was something I did – or didn't – do, something I wore, or something I said, which wasn't much as no one really spoke to me, but I was really struggling to connect with anyone at this school. I thought I had made some headway when a few girls had asked me to the carnival at the weekend.
Now I was beginning to think they had planned on abandoning me here all along.
I stopped in the shade of a carnival booth and watched someone dressed as a bear hand out balloons to children. I determined to wait there for a few more minutes to see if the girls wandered past – give them the benefit of the doubt – and then go home and try and convince my parents that for the last few months of high school home schooling was going to be the best option for my sanity.
"That won't help," came a muffled voice from in front of me.
I looked up to see that the huge bear had apparently wandered over to me, still holding onto his balloons, and was standing a couple feet away. It sounded like a guy's voice, or possibly a very low girl's voice. It was hard to tell through the bear head.
"Huh?" was my ingenious reply.
"I said 'that won't help'."
"Well, it might," I answered, "it would be better than going to that school anyway."
It took me a second to realize there was no way the person in the bear costume could have heard my internal monologue. Before I could even open my mouth to explain the bear spoke.
"I meant the fanning. You might think it will cool you down but it won't."
It was a guy's voice, definitely, and apparently people in this state had a problem with others fanning themselves with pamphlets.
"Oh... yeah, so I've heard. Maybe I should buy a bright yellow visor."
It could have been a laugh that I heard in reply, either that or the guy inside the costume sneezed or coughed or something.
"I don't think you should. It would hide your pretty face, which would be a shame."
The unexpected compliment threw me and I raised my hand to my face before I could stop it. Luckily the bear had turned away to give a balloon to a passing child. When he turned back again my hand had already dropped to my side.
"So what's wrong with your school?"
"You said something about something being better than your school."
"Oh, right, that," I said, flipping the pamphlet over and over in my hands – a nervous habit, "Um, I was thinking about being home schooled."
"Wow, that bad?"
"Sort of, yeah," I replied, smiling wryly, "I haven't exactly managed to fit in at my new school. I just moved here and the people seem kind of... unwilling to let me in."
"Which school do you go to?"
"Ah, I know it. You don't look that young, are you a junior?"
Evidently I did look young if I looked like a junior.
"Wow, yeah I 'spose you would have some problems." Another balloon was handed out but then I had the bear/guy's full attention again. "Don't take it too personally though, okay? Everyone at that school has an attitude problem. You'd think they went to some kind of expensive private school the way they act."
"So they're snobs?"
"Wannabes, anyway. They don't actually have the impressive parents or the bank balances to justify their attitudes."
"And you know this how?" I asked, skeptically. I had been pretty convinced that they did in fact have the bank balances and parents to back up their behavior.
"I used to go there, had to put up with their bullshit. Graduating was the best thing I've ever done in my life."
"You mean handing out balloons dressed as a bear isn't number one?" I cracked, grinning.
"It's a close second. You won't believe how much of a chick magnet this outfit is. I'm hugely popular."
"Really?" I asked disbelievingly.
"Oh yeah. In fact no one under the age of about six can resist me."
"Now you just sound creepy," I laughed genuinely, probably for the first time that day. "Besides, I'm hot enough in shorts and a t-shirt, I'd probably faint if I had to wear that."
"I do kinda feel like I'm about to have heat stroke but I'm due for a break soon. If you're free I can give you a tour of the place, I have a backstage pass you see."
My smile grew wider and he added "unless you were waiting for someone, of course."
"No, nobody important."
Whatever he said next was lost on me because over his shoulder I spotted the girls that I had come with. It was amazing the change the five minute conversation had made in me. Whereas before I had been quite desperate to find them, now the fact that they were walking towards me caused me little else but annoyance. The bear guy must have seen something in my face.
"What's up?" has asked, sounding concerned.
"The people I came with have just found me after abandoning me for over an hour. Great."
"Sarah! We were looking all over for you. How come you disappeared on us?" said the tallest blonde. If I wasn't already mad at them I certainly would be now. I sighed.
"My name isn't Sarah," I muttered darkly, only loud enough for the bear guy to hear. Typical, they were twisting things around so that apparently I had abandoned them. I wouldn't call buying a drink and turning round to find them gone 'disappearing'.
"What can I say?" I said loud enough for them to hear, sarcasm evident in my tone. "When I see a bear I just have to go after it, I can't resist. I guess I'm rather like a five-year-old in that."
"Told you," said the guy, smoothing his 'paws' over the outfit. "This is a particularly fine costume."
It restored a smile to my face, which was probably the point.
"Well, couldn't you indulge in your teddy fetish some other time? We were supposed to be hanging out." This particularly bitchy comment came from the smaller brunette who had said she'd liked my shoes when she met me. Remembering the memory I now wanted to burn those shoes if she actually had liked them or wear them all the time if she didn't. The other three in the group had completely ignored the guy with us, and the brunette gave him enough attention to sneer at him before also ignoring him.
Before I could reply, the guy in the costume turned fully to me.
"Hey, my break starts now. How about that tour I owe you?"
I hoped that my expression relayed my appreciation of his timely interruption. Regardless I would tell him how grateful I was when we were on the tour.
"That would be great."
"Sorry girls, but I'll be stealing her from you."
With that he pulled off the bear head and inwardly I balked.
I had never been too comfortable with guys. GirlsI have always been able to get along with just fine – usually, anyway – but I could never quite treat guys the same. The costume had allowed me to talk normally with this guy, apparently a blessing in disguise because there was no way I'd have ever been able to joke along with him had I seen his actual face. Already I could feel intimidation wash over me.
As we'd talked I had pictured a guy with brown hair bordering on dark blonde with freckles and a wide smile. Instead I was now staring at a guy with beautiful dark brown hair, so dark it was almost black. His eyes squinted against the sudden sunlight but when they opened properly I could see grey-blue irises looking back at me. He didn't have freckles, but he did have the kind of face that would make a painter walking past get down on his knees and beg to paint him. A few guys at the schools I had been to had the same caliber of looks as him and I had always steered clear of their paths, tending to find that if they so much as asked me for a pencil or the time my words word fall out of my mouth in the wrong order.
The squeal brought me back to the situation at hand. 'Aidan's' frown was practically unsusceptible except to someone like me who was staring so intensely. He glanced over at the brunette and ran a hand through his hair, fluffing it up a little. All four girls were looking extremely excited suddenly.
"Oh wow, I had no idea that was you! How are you? How have you been? I thought you were going to Yale or something, last I heard. Are you back for a visit? Are you coming to Carly's party this weekend? Everyone would be so psyched to see you."
There didn't seem to be a foreseeable end to her gushing but I wasn't really listening. I was still trying to comprehend that I'd been talking to someone as beautiful as him, complaining even, bemoaning the fact that I had no friends and was a complete loser here. Well, I may not have out and out said it but my words could definitely have been taken that way. The feeling of embarrassment threatened to overwhelm me and I was suddenly thankful that my face was already red from sweating in the heat because I could not possibly get any redder.
"Who are you again?" Aidan asked, cutting into the brunette's tirade. I watched as she stilled suddenly, and color began to enter her cheeks.
"Jess? Jessica Coleman? I was the year below you at Freeman."
Aidan appeared to regard her for a second, then shook his head.
" Sorry, doesn't ring a bell. I hope y'all have a great day though." He turned back to me and I felt another kind of warmth than the sun's heat spread through me from my head to my toes. It didn't quite displace the embarrassment, however. "I'm gonna need to give this costume back first, will you wait while I change?"
I nodded, pasting what I hoped was a nice smile on my face as I reminded myself on how to breathe normally and tried to ignore the butterflies chasing each other in my stomach.
"Great," he said. Aidan reached out and tugged me towards him. I barely had time to register the new proximity when he bent his head and quickly kissed me on the lips. The pressure was only there for a second but my lips burned when he moved back and wrapped his arm around my shoulders.
"Come on then, I'm not letting you go until we're at the changing rooms. Apparently you wander off," he said with a smile and a definite twinkle in his eye.
It was all I could do to stumble along with him until we were out of earshot.
"Sorry about that," he said grinning, "I figured if anything it might make them back off you a bit."
"Oh yeah?" I managed to say, unable to tear my eyes from his.
"Mhmm, plus I have also wanted to do that since I saw you stop beside the booth."
"Really?" I said suspiciously, trying to calm the monster inside my heart that was jumping around quite chaotically.
His grin was replaced by a genuine smile, something I hadn't really seen since I moved here.
"Really," he said. "Gotta love a girl with a pamphlet."
I didn't hit him that hard but he emitted an obligatory 'ouch' in order to make me feel better. And I did feel better. I was vaguely aware that I may have dropped the pamphlet back in the shade but I was sure I could find another one easily enough. The heat didn't even bother me anymore, and I barely noticed the added heat from having a bear costume arm wrapped around my shoulders. He was still smiling down at me, and I couldn't keep the smile from my own face. High school might suck for the next few months, but I had a feeling I would find a way to cope.
"I'm Aidan, by the way."
"I'm Harriet," I said, "nice to meet you."
A/N: Hurrah! Finished another one. Hopefully I can keep up the motivation to write, I'm quite enjoying it actually. I hope you like this one, it's fluffy but I hope it's not too cheesy. Please leave a review if you can, they are a huge boost in making me want to write more. Otherwise I hope you enjoyed reading it anyway.