"So you gonna come visit Gavin during your grand tour of the East coast?" Erik asked. He grinned because he knew he'd be spending the summer with his mom and by visiting Gavin, I'd be visiting him as well.
"I think my dad and I can squeeze in into the schedule." I said with a smile.
"Is your dad taking two months off for this?" Erik leaned back against the picnic table. We should be inside eating lunch but Veronica had disappeared again and Todd was still suspended and Timothy was a no show. Given that it was a beautiful May day, we'd decided to take our lunches outside.
"No, he'll be working while we're there, telecommuting mostly. He actually has a few business meetings set up as well since he'll be in the "area"" I said. "He's got a pretty flexible schedule though so we can see the sights together and move along when we're ready."
"You have a pretty cool dad Gin. Mine would never do anything like that. Not that mine would have a job he could telecommute to." Erik looked sad as he thought about his dad. Before I could figure out how to reply, Timothy approached us.
"I need your help." he said as a greeting. "The Student Council is assisting with this carnival in a couple weeks and we're painting signs this afternoon - except for 'we' seems to be me. Can you two help?"
"You're on Student Council?" I asked combing my mind for any time he might have mentioned being on Student Council. "Since when?"
"Two years, thanks for noticing." he snapped. "Never mind." he started to walk away and then paused and turned back toward us. "That was snappish wasn't it?"
I grimaced. "A bit. But perhaps deserved - I had no idea you were on Student Council; how pathetic am I as a friend?" I said with a small smile.
"Eh it's not all on you, I don't think I mentioned it much - if at all." Timothy said. "So, after school....can you both help? Please?"
"I'm in" Erik said from behind me and I nodded as well. We all smiled at each other and Timothy walked away calling his thanks.
I turned to Erik. "Did you know? That he was in Student Council?"
"Yes, I voted for him this year - he's a sophomore class rep." Erik said shrugging.
"Wow, I don't even remember the elections." I said frowning. "And he was obviously on the Council last year. I am so grounded as his friend." Erik just laughed as we walked back toward the school to get to class.
That afternoon, we met in the cafeteria and worked together to move the tables and chairs out of the way. We laid out large banner size paper and raided the art room for supplies. Before any pain got on the banner, I got a spot on my shirt. I was examining the tube to see if the paint was washable and I guess the lid wasn't on very well because green paint squirted out...speckling Erik with green dots. "Oops...." I said trying not to laugh.
Erik looked down at his shirt and over at me then back at his shirt. "Green really isn't my color." he said. He used his finger to scoop one of the green pain globs from his shirt and then grinned as he wiped his fingers on my shoulder. "But it looks great on you." he said with a laugh.
"Oh no you didn't!" I said shocked. I grabbed another tube of paint and looked at it. "How about blue then?" I said. Before he could reply or dart away I splattered him with blue paint to join the green.
Erik and I both burst out laughing as we stared at his shirt and soon a small paint war was on. From somewhere outside the battlefield, I heard someone talking and eventually turned to see Timothy watching us with a bemused look on his face. "As amusing as this looks...." he pulled a camera out from behind his back and took a few pictures that I had no doubt would end up in the yearbook or something, "the paint should be on the paper."
Erik and I giggled and then looked at each other - now with almost every color in the rainbow splattered across our clothes and faces - and laughed again. "Banner...." I said finally. Erik slowly stopped laughing and nodded. As we worked, we would occasionally glance at each other and smirk or chuckle.
"This is what you do when I'm not around?" Todd said, surprising us both. He was standing next to our banner, looking down at us and clearly amused.
"Join us. Gin was just telling me about how red and blue make purple." Erik said pointing to a particularly large purple spot on my shirt. Todd laughed as he sat down.
"You broke out of prison to come to school?" I ventured a guess.
"Well who would look for me here?" Todd said with a chuckle. "No, I came - with permission from the warden mind you - to see about getting some of my make up work. I'm not officially off my suspension until Monday...and as for the grounding - it's still life without parole I think."
"Maybe you'll get off on good behavior." I suggested with a smile.
"One can only hope. Most of my teachers offered me extra credit if I helped with this carnival and with Principal Watt's approval - here I am to start helping." Todd said picking up a paint brush. Timothy swooped in and started directing his new assistant once he heard this; Todd was put to work on another banner.
The four of us worked for a couple hours. In the end we had made banners that at least could be read - I'm not sure they were exactly visually appealing but they were colorful anyway. Todd returned to school the following Monday and the last real week of school before finals flew by for the rest of us. Todd spent every waking moment doing make up work, extra credit or homework if he wasn't busy at school. He'd also signed up for several shifts at the carnival at the urging of his teachers. It wasn't how he wanted to attend the carnival but he seemed dedicated to passing all his classes despite having missed almost a month's worth of class time.
The carnival was the weekend before finals week and the first weekend I'd seen James in what seemed like forever. He'd finished second at the state tournament and had thus won a spot at Nationals but he'd promised to go to the carnival with me regardless. True to his word, he showed up to pick me up early on Saturday. "I feel like I haven't seen you in months my queen." he said smiling. He gave me a kiss and offered his arm. I took it gratefully and leaned into him.
Todd was one of the first people we saw when we got there. He looked tired and cranky as we approached his concession stand. "Good morning Todd." I said.
"I wouldn't call it good." he grumbled. We each ordered sodas and grabbed a couple candy bars. I tried to give Todd my most reassuring smile but he'd been there since 6AM helping set up so I don't think he noticed.
The farm we'd taken a field trip to had brought out some animals for the petting farm and several kids were crowded around the animals, reaching their hands through the fence posts for a touch. I saw a familiar black mare and wondered if it was the one I'd petted at the farm. There was also a dunking booth that lured students in for a chance to dunk a teacher. Coach Reed was the victim as we passed by. I didn't have a grudge with him but I couldn't help but root for the line of students paying for a chance to see him swim in the small tank. The school had even rented a small merry-go round that was clearly not for anyone over the age of ten. I can only assume it was meant to entertain the children who came with their older siblings and families.
Like all good carnivals and fairs, there were several games of chance with cheap, over priced and over sized prizes. And in spite of the fact that I didn't need a giant stuffed panda bear or tiger or whatever, I couldn't help but want them. It must be the air of the carnival - if I saw some of these toys at the store I wouldn't spare them a second glance.
We met up with Veronica and Timothy after about an hour at the fair, I looked around for Erik but didn't see him. Veronica was dressed in black and red, outside her normal range of colors and I looked to her questioningly but she ignored my look. "I've seen you eying that panda bear Ginny." James said with a grin. I laughed in reply, he was right - I was eying it. It was almost as tall as I was and I had no idea where I could put it even if I had one. "I'll play." he was saying to the lady behind the counter, drawing me out of the mental redecorating of my room I was doing to incorporate the large panda.
"Wait, no! I don't really need one." I said with a laugh.
James laughed. "Who does?" he said nodding to the game hostess as he put a dollar on the table. "But you want it right?" When I smiled sheepishly he knew the answer was yes.
"I'll play too." Erik chimed in, joining us. He put his own dollar on the table.
Timothy and Veronica looked between Erik and James and I saw them both suppressing grins. "Well then...let the race begin." I said with a chuckle. The hostess handed them each water guns which they needed to use in order to (hopefully) make their horse cross the "track".
It was a close race but in the end, James's horse pulled ahead but a nose. The hostess handed over the large panda bear, which James offered to carry for me. "Thanks. For my bear." I said with a laugh. We had lunch with the others but then everyone went off on their own. The giant bear was taken to James's car for the time being so he wouldn't be dragged around for the rest of the day.
As sunset approached, I knew a concert followed the carnival and found a hand out for it. "Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed, looking it over. Right there in red letters was Veronica's name as an act for the concert.
"What?" James asked startled. I thrust the flier at him and pointed, still trying to find words. Most of the acts were small, fairly local bands and groups - we didn't have some grand headliner coming but still! "Wow, well this is good right? I mean I heard her at the talent show and she was great."
"Yeah it's good. I'm just...in shock I guess. She didn't tell me. What is it with my friends not telling me stuff?!" I snatched the flier back from him and looked at it again. "Come on, let's go get seats now!" I said pulling him along with me. We were one of the first ones there and got great seats.
"This good then?" he said with a chuckle. I looked at my watch and realized the show didn't even start for another 45 minutes but I just laughed it off. "I'm going to miss that laugh. To be honest, I'm going to miss everything about you this summer Ginny." he said getting very serious and somber. My dad and I were leaving in a little over a week and then James would be off for his internship and the National tournament.
"I'm going to miss you too James." I said fighting the urge to cry. I'd stubbornly refused to think about this for the weeks we hadn't really been able to see each other. "Don't get too comfortable in D.C." I said with a weak laugh.
"I'll try not to." he said scooting his chair closer to mine and putting his arm around my shoulders. "And give me a call when you get close during your grand tour. I'm sure I can be spared to show you around the capital."
We both got silent then and just enjoyed being in each others' company. Without realizing it, the seat around us had filled up and the concert had started. Veronica was the third performance and was absolutely incredible. I beamed as the crowd applauded her and clapped so hard my hands ached.
"Okay ow." I said as I sat down after Veronica left the stage.
"A little too much clapping there?" James said taking my hands in his. I nodded and he slowly started rubbing my hands. It wasn't long before they stopped hurting but I didn't stop him from rubbing them. "Still hurt?" he asked when the next act was almost done.
"Mm?" I said looking at him. "Oh no, not for awhile, I was just enjoying myself." I said.
James grinned. "Well then I'm glad to be of service." he raised my hand to his mouth and lightly kissed one and then raised the other and kissed it as well.
We settled back to watch the rest of the concert. I may be biased - okay I WAS biased - but I thought Veronica was the best of all of them. My neck grew sore from being so close to the stage and I turned my head a few times to stretch out the kinks. If I hadn't I never would have seen them. I had no idea she was in town but from what I could tell, I knew why.
I frowned and tried to look back at the stage, trying to focus on the band or on James's hand that was resting on my shoulder but still I looked back.
Ow, the sight of them together hit me right in the gut and I wanted to run over there and push her away from him. But why? I was with James, if I could move on so could he right? I closed my eyes and took a slow steadying breath. Secretly I hoped with all my heart that she would disappear when I opened my eyes. She didn't.
I turned toward James and smiled. "I'm going to go get....a drink. Want anything?" I offered. He offered to go get it but I shook my head. "No, no I need some air...well, less crowded air." I said with a chuckle since we were already outdoors. When he didn't ask for anything I walked quickly through the crowd of concert goers toward the concession stands.
Todd was working once again and still seemed irritable but he gave me a small smile as I approached. "Hey Ginny." he said.
"Todd....hi." I looked around feeling a little lost. I saw Val and Erik still and cringed away from the sight, I saw James watching the concert from our seats and even cringed away from him, feeling guilty for the thoughts I was having about Erik and Val.
"You okay Gin?" Todd asked examining me.
"Um..." I shook my head. "Not so much." I said simply. "Did I ever tell you about..." Todd held up his hand, cutting me off and pointed behind me. I turned and looked, there was Erik - without the tramp - wait, when did she become a tramp?! - Val. "Erik...um...I gotta go..." I said trying to walk past him.
"Can we talk?" he asked, putting his hand on my arm to stop me. Searching my mind for a reason to say no, I came up empty and simply nodded. Erik led me away from the crowd and away from the concession stands. When he finally stopped walking he turned toward me and looked like he was going to say something.
And then he didn't.
For several moments we just looked at each other; gazed into each others' eyes and I knew in that moment that all my "just friends" talk had been a lie for both of us.
"Gin....I came back..." Erik started to say and stopped.
"Why? Why did you come back anyway?" I said fighting the urge to look for Val. If he had her, why come back. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as so many conflicting emotions collided. I liked James! I'd moved on! And yet here was Erik....and he was, well frankly he was Erik....and he was looking at me with those eyes that were full of adoration.
"For you Gin, even before I realized it, I came back not just because of you but FOR you." Erik said. "I love you...."
"But Val..." I saw him cringe when I mentioned her. "I saw her, and I know you two..."
"Are over. We have been; she's just...persistent." Erik interrupted.
"Right...." I said trying to process the thoughts running through my mind. Erik...James...Erik....Val...James...
As if thinking about him called him to my side, I felt James's hand on my back and I saw Erik's face grow sad. "Ginny?" he said softly, not taking his eyes from Erik. "Are you okay?" he asked.
I turned to look at him and blinked away the few remaining tears. I mustered up a smile and nodded. "Yeah." As I tried to think of something to explain my extended drink run; Val showed up and immediately took possession of Erik's arm. He looked startled but didn't say anything to her, just kept looking at me.
"Looks like the concert is about over, you ready to go home?" James asked.
I looked back at Erik and Val, gazing into Erik's eyes I could almost ignore Val's presence on his arm. Almost. "Yeah." I said not taking my eyes from Erik. "Let's go."
I turned away from them to walk with James but looked back and felt a pang for the hurt I saw in Erik's face. Part of me wanted to turn and run back to him and let him kiss me and hold me. But I couldn't do that... not tonight anyway. I forced myself to look away from them as James led me through the slowly dispersing throng of people.
The faces of the people around me blurred together as fresh tears stung my eyes. I tried to resist them, I didn't want to have to explain to James why I was crying. I discreetly turned and swiped away tears. As I did so I saw a familiar face in the crowd - a very familiar face. I let go of James's hand and tried to tell him I'd be right back but I don't know if he could hear my words over the noise. I broke through the crowd, all the while, hunting for her.
There! It WAS her!
I climbed onto a bench to track her over the heads of the departing people and saw her break through on the other side, near the concession stands. She'd seen him before he saw her. I ached to be by his side and warn him. Why was she here? She couldn't stay long could she? Would her visit do more harm then good?
"Ginny!" James exclaimed grabbing my hand. "What are you doing up there?" he asked looking up at me.
"I saw someone..." I said still watching Mei-Ling approached the concession stand Todd was working at. I didn't looked down to James, afraid to miss the moment he saw her.
Todd looked up from his registered just as she stopped in front of him. Neither said anything - not that I could have heard the words over the crowd anyway.
End Chapter, End Season