Short story: Last Day at the Fair

Last Day at the Fair by Luna Harlow

Summary: Sam and Laney have a tradition. But as the years pass, have they changed too much to keep it up?

Length: 1088 words, approx

6 April 2015

 

The sun beat down on them, suddenly hotter and brighter than it had any right to be. Laney had been wearing a thick sweater all day and now she felt overdressed and overstuffed.

“I am so over the fair,” she said, feeling like she was just dying to get out of there.

“Come on, it’s great!” Sam said, trying to pretend he was still feeling really into it. “We met here! We can’t just leave now! We have a tradition.”

It was a tradition that was starting to annoy Laney.

*

Five years before this point, Laney had been stuffing her face full of cotton candy near the baby animals shed. Her best friend had disappeared somewhere, and who even knew where her sister had gone with the baby? She knew it wouldn’t be a good idea to make herself impossible to find also, because apparently nobody else could be expected to leave their phones on.

She sighed. It was annoying to have to act like you were the only grown up around, when you were actually 15. Surely, she thought, the real grown ups could learn not to let their phone batteries run flat.

It was while she was standing there, feeling really annoyed with the world and everyone in it, that Sam bumped into her. And I mean, literally.

“Look where you’re going,” she snapped, feeling kind of brittle and sore.

“Sorry, sorry,” said a soft voice, and Laney looked up and saw one of the cutest guys she had ever seen.

He was clearly one of the farm boys. Big boots, heavy weight jeans, and the softest brown eyes she’d seen all day. His eyelashes were like something out of her hotter, stickier dreams, and he bit his big, soft lower lip gently as he looked at her, worried.

“Um, it’s okay, I guess,” she said, cursing her awkwardness. “I mean, like, I shouldn’t have yelled at you. That was really rude of me.”

He scratched at the back of his neck with one big hand. “It was completely my fault, miss.”

“Don’t worry about it!”

“No, really, I– I should apologise. Can I buy you a cup of coffee to make up for it?”

He looked sorry for bumping into her but he was also smiling, like maybe bumping into her had made his day. Laney couldn’t help but blush and duck her head.

“I’d like that. Wait, no! I have to wait here for my sister. Oh, this is the worst,” she said.

“I could go buy one and come back here,” he offered.

“Okay,” Laney said, pleasantly surprised.

“Don’t move,” he ordered, and rushed off to buy her drink.

The boy did come back, quicker than Laney expected, and told her his name was Sam. They spent at least an hour talking about stupid stuff and laughing with each other, while she waited for her sister to remember that a baby wasn’t the only person she’d brought to the fair.

Finally, Laney’s sister came back and they had to go, but not before Laney got Sam’s phone number, and a promise to text later that night.

*

The next year Laney and Sam met at the fair again, this time on purpose. After a year of texting, calling, and emailing each other, and annoying everyone around them that had to hear about it, they finally got to see each other again.

Sam tried to win her a prize at every booth in sideshow alley, totally failing every time. The harder he tried, the worse he got. Laney couldn’t help but laugh at it. He didn’t seem all that embarrassed, probably because he just liked to get her attention, even when she was poking fun at him. Sam was an easygoing guy most of the time – sometimes he seemed embarrassed by things, but most of the time he was faking it just to be sly. Laney didn’t mind; it was kind of fun to watch him pretend things were terrible dramas when she knew he was doing it just to make her laugh.

He bought her dinner – okay, it was gross nachos with too much lumpy sour cream, but it was at least better than the corn dog he was eating – and they stayed to watch the horses and the fireworks.

He promised her next year they’d be back and they’d look at the alpacas.

And, of course, he kissed her before they left.

*

After that, it was their tradition to go to the fair every year when it was in town. They went on horrible rides that gave Sam a neck cramp, they ate disgusting greasy food on uncomfortable benches, and they let themselves be swallowed up by the crowd and the noise, holding hands under the vibrant lights.

Every year Laney saved up for the fair and looked forward to it, even after Sam moved to the city to be with her. It was their thing, the place they’d met, and it was sweet to still have that moment every year.

Of course, the things Laney had found entertaining when she was 15 and Sam 17, had started to become kind of annoying by the time she hit 20. The crowds became uncomfortably big and slow. The noises were too much. Even the greasy food had lost its charm. She hadn’t wanted to say anything to dampen his enthusiasm but, well, it just wasn’t that fun any more.

“I’m sorry, Sam,” she said, genuinely meaning it, “but we need a new tradition, and we need one fast. I feel like I’m way too old for this.”

His face fell. “There’s plenty of people older than us here. Look at that guy. He seems to be having fun. We could be like that.”

“Those are people with children,” she pointed out. “We can come back here when we have kids, but I am so ready to leave right now. It’s not because of you. It’s because I’m hot and tired of being in the sun.”

“Wait, go back to that when we have children bit,” he said, lighting up. “You really mean that?”

“Of course I do. Just not now, because I haven’t even got a degree yet.”

“Yes,” he cried out. “We’re going to have babies at some point in the distant future! Let’s go make some new traditions.”

People were definitely looking at them, but Laney wasn’t too bothered. She was mostly happy Sam was leading her out of there, so they could make a new tradition that involved staying at home.

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