“Patrick and Fiona are my parents and my little brother is Sean.”
“Their names all sound kind of Irish.”
“They are.” she responded.
“I don’t mean to be nosy but Max doesn’t sound very Irish.”
She didn’t say anything but slid out of the car and slammed the door. Climbing out, he closed his door quickly and had to walk fast to catch up with her. He saw how she was starting to shut down again and he decided to change the subject quickly.
“So what’s your favorite carnival ride?” he asked as he fell into stride with her.
Max looked at him out of the corner of her eye and noticed that he genuinely seemed interested in making conversation. It eased some of the tension that was building and she decided to follow his lead.
“I like the Ferris Wheel.”
“What’s weird about that?”
“I hate heights.” she answered with a laugh.
AJ chuckled and paid for their tickets as they reached the entrance. “I guess that’s a little like a catch twenty-two huh?”
“I suppose.” she said with a smile.
“Would you be up for riding it?”
“Maybe, we’ll see.”
They wandered around the fair for a little while, looking at the exhibits and making a mental list of rides they wanted to try out. The two finally came around to the side where all the games were located and AJ watched as Max wandered towards one of them. He followed her over and saw her staring at this little blue unicorn with rainbow colored fairy wings.
“You like unicorns?’
She nodded. “I have since I was little. My room was covered in posters of different magical settings and I even had unicorn nightlights.”
“Unicorn nightlights huh? I didn’t know they made those.” he teased.
“Shut up.” she said as she elbowed him. “I was a little kid.”
“Okay, okay.” He watched her stare back at the prize. “Did you have one of those?”
She nodded again. “Sean won me one at a carnival when I was little. He knew how much I loved them and he spent all of his allowance trying to win it for me. It was huge and my parents had a tough time fitting all of us in the car with it.”
“That was really sweet of him, wanting to make his big sister happy.”
“He always made me happy; he was the one person who could make me smile no matter how much of a bad mood I was in.”
Max shook her head and started back towards the rides. They went on a few of the wilder ones before AJ finally tried talking her into going on the Ferris Wheel with him.
“Come on Max. You know you love it and it’s the perfect time.”
“Yeah, the sun is starting to set and the horizon’s going to look beautiful. We’ll have the perfect view up there.”
“I don’t know.”
“Come on.” he said and dragged her over to the line.
He helped her into the chair as it came around for them and slid in next to her. The wheel started to move and their seat swayed a little in the wind. Max was getting antsy and AJ could tell she was nervous; he put his hand over hers and gave it a squeeze.
“You’re gonna be fine. I’m not going to let anything happen to you.”
She took a deep breath and tried to settle down. As their chair got closer to the top, the wheel came to a stop and she let out a little sigh. He was right; the view up here was beautiful. The horizon was turning shades of reds and oranges; it was the prettiest sight she had ever seen.
“I told you.” AJ whispered quietly. “It’s perfect.”
The wheel started back up and after they went around again, they headed over to the big field in the middle of the fair to watch the fireworks.
“Oh crap.” AJ said and smacked his head. “I forgot to grab the blanket.”
“It’s not a big deal. We can sit on the ground.”
“No way.” he replied. “Give me a couple of minutes to grab it.”
“Don’t take too long.” she called after him. “You don’t want to miss anything!”
Max wrapped her arms around herself and stood there waiting for AJ to come back. They started to set up all the equipment and she found herself getting nervous. He was taking forever and she hated standing around doing nothing. After five more minutes passed, she turned around to leave and instead, ran right into him.
“Whoa.” AJ said as he steadied her with his hand. “Where are you going? Did you get a better offer while I was gone?”
“No, I…” she paused. “Where’s the blanket?”
AJ blushed. “Um, I kind of lied.”
AJ pulled his other arm out from behind his back; in his hand was the unicorn that Max had seen when she was looking at the games. She took a step back and her eyes started to well up a little. He watched as she stood there and started to think this whole move over again.
“Maybe this was a bad idea. I can get rid of it…”
Max held out her hand and AJ gave her the prize. She stared at it and turned it over and over in her hands.
“Thank you AJ.”
“You’re welcome.” he replied. “I just wanted to do something to make you smile.”
The corners of her lips turned upward and her eyes lit up.
“That’s the one I’m looking for!”
He tugged her down to the ground as they made the announcement that the fireworks were starting in two minutes. She began to take a seat next to him but he shook his head. Stretching his legs out, he pulled her down so that her back was to him and he wrapped his arms around her.
Max nodded and slowly started to ease back into him. The fireworks got underway and, as they continued, she felt herself relax even more. Without realizing it, her head had found its way between his neck and shoulder; she let out a sigh and finally completely lost herself in the warm confines of AJ’s arms.