"Look at that view."
The painted metal basket for two rose steadily into the air above the thousands of people. The pale sky was stained with rose and nectarine colors as the sun started to stoop beneath the horizon. Alasdair popped a raspberry candy into his mouth and extended the package to Riley, who gazed down at the festival. "Two years since we last met, and you ask me to get into a Ferris Wheel with you?"
He released a smile and secured the candies against his side. "Be brave and enjoy the ride."
"I am," she assured him as they reached the peak and eased to a stop. He stared down at her fingers wrapped around the metal bar and apprehensively covered them with his own. She started to laugh and slapped her opposite hand across her eyes. "Ah, I see it now! You ask me to do something you know is at me limit so you can be the comforter at hand!"
"So I am that transparent," he searched what he could see of her eyes with another smile. The crimson in her cheeks made his smile all the more merry, especially when he noticed that the sun kissed her hair in a manner that it became a river of gold. She started to rotate her clenched hand until she was able to clutch his instead. As soon as the wheel continued, she dropped her despairing hand beside her.
"After two years with only occasional sightings, what made you ask me here with you tonight?"
"Let's see," he said with mock contemplation, "You were the loveliest girl in secondary school, we always got along beautifully, and I have been giving some thought to spending time with such a vixen."
She stared at the people soon to be at their level with a distant smile, sunlight sparkling against the aquamarine rhinestone mermaid ear cuff. "After the occasional study session and seeing pictures with a group, you ask me out because I was simply on your mind?"
"I have a lot on me mind lately."
He directed his smile at her and she pressed her lips against his. When the basket stopped, she ended the kiss with a shriek and clutched him, sending him into a spirited laughter when he realized they were again at the peak. She released him only when the wheel curved around again and stopped at the dock. As suddenly as she had panicked, she stormed out of the basket and a decent fifteen feet before a smile.
"There, was that so awful?" he teased as he trotted up beside her.
They meandered down the concrete path swinging their clasped hands with smiles and a pocket of fruit candies. Riley smiled up at the sky and Alasdair smiled at her, with the pastel blue bow clip pulling the sides of her hair back and the turquoise teardrop stud in her nose. She realized he was staring and shouldered him mischievously. "What's the matter? Never seen a girl in all blue on St. Patrick's Day?"
He chuckled. "That was the color everyone used to wear."
"You're not exactly the picture of patriotism. Look at you – a rust sweatshirt and the white tee shirt."
"You want to see some green? Here," he moved ahead of her and raised his chin to pick up the painted metal turtle pendent around his neck. "There, you see that?"
"Yes, I see that," she smiled and reached her right hand toward his left again. "All right, you are a patriot. Come, let's walk."
People milled around them, streaming up and down the path. Children hustled by with their parents, cheeks painted with their Irish flag and matching balloons bobbing in the air behind them. The clamor of a marching band behind them and the people chattering all around was music at that festival.
"Be right back," Alasdair released her to chase after a man with a painted face and a load of balloons drifting above his head among the crowd across the grass. He reached him with panting breath and extended money, then trotted back to Riley with an arm extended toward her. She accepted the balloon and smiled up at the pair of them, swaying in the evening air as a small tortoiseshell butterfly flitted by.
"Go raibh maith agat."
"You're welcome. I suspected it might be a decent moment to end the evening on."
She spun to confront him and seize his second hand. "Can we stay and meander around a bit longer?"
"I'm sorry," he murmured with a shake of his head. "We're having a sort of Lá Fhéile Pádraig feast with me brother Eagan. He was attacked last month, so he's rather incapacitated. We go to him."
She gasped. "Is he all right?"
"He was pretty bad off, but he's recovering. There are still two men to be caught," Alasdair raised his buzzing voice to override the street performers beside them. "We're going to have a late supper at 7:30, when everyone can be there at the same time."
"Well, we still have about twenty minutes until seven," she released one of his hands to extract the phone in her pocket and check the screen. "Are you positive you can't spare five?"
"There's something else I need to do on the way to supper," Alasdair smiled and kissed her cheek, then sprinted up the stream of the crowd until he discovered where he parked his licorice Jeep Wrangler. He leapt over the half-door and into the seat with a smile of amusement when he started the ignition and The Beatles came blasting through his speakers. He sped out of the parking area and onto the street to the song of "We Can Work it Out," squinting against the last sun rays at the horizon.
By the time he reached the main street of the town closest by, people started dispersing to start their own suppers. He arrived at a taupe ice cream parlor with a swirly-painted sign and pulled into a parking space. The carved oak sign at the window announced that they had closed minutes earlier, but Rearden stood at the curb with a cone of hot pink ice cream in the grip of one hand and a cone coffee ice-cream smothered under fudge in the other. As Alasdair approached, he extended the bright desert toward him with pursed lips.
"And you got me bubble gum ice cream!" he squealed as he accepted it. "Why did you do that?"
"Sit down," Rearden said as he dropped down to the curb. Alasdair seated himself beside him and smeared his tongue over the ice cream, scooping a chunk of gum into his mouth. "I really am sorry –"
"No," Alasdair interrupted staunchly and met his eyes. "I'm sorry. I should have never hurt you."
Rearden smiled. "Emily deceived you on purpose. You had no way of knowing what happened."
"No," Alasdair agreed as he stretched his legs out. "But I know you would never do that, despite what it looked like, and I never should have attacked you either way. And," he breathed a sigh as he admitted, "I should never have accused you have being a hypocrite in your religion."
"You know that I already forgave you."
A magpie skipped toward them across the asphalt and peered up with severe ochre eyes. Headlights streaked the shops across the street and a horn beeped. The sky was deepening into cobalt, making the people into silhouettes. Rearden eventually cleared his throat and slapped his brother on the back.
"You always were rather impulsive," he mused, and Alasdair snorted. "We should get going, or everyone's gonna start eating without us."