Trevor Diggs is a smooth-talking carnie who enjoys a life where money and women come easy. But when fate brings a dark-haired angel into his world he begins to long for the kind of love that only Angelina can give him.
Trevor had been a carnie all his life, and one advantage of that was he knew a good opportunity when he saw one. So it was when he noticed the dark-haired girl step toward the Ferris wheel to ride alone. Still fleeing from Brian, he pivoted in the direction of the wheel and slipped beyond the rope barricade just as old Rhino reached to close it. He’d known Rhino a long time – the man was a good friend of his father’s. He offered the bewildered carnie a jovial slap on the shoulder as he slid neatly into the bucket seat next to the girl. With a click, he pulled the safety bar across their laps.
“I owe you one,” Trevor called to Rhino as the wheel lurched into motion.
He turned to look at the girl sitting next to him. She was staring at him, not with alarm as he would have guessed but with a disarming sense of curiosity. He supposed it was the color of her eyes that so intensified her stare. They were the bluest eyes he’d ever seen.
He stuck a hand out and said,
“Good to meet you.”
She took his hand, but she didn’t shake it. Instead, she did something that surprised him. She held onto his fingers and pulled them closer to her face to study the tattoo on the back of his hand. She traced the pattern of the ink – following the curves and angles. Then she touched the silver ring he wore on his ring finger. She seemed to be enthralled by the way the hammered finish caught the Ferris wheel lights.
Unnerved, Trevor pulled his hand away from her.
“What, your boyfriend’s afraid of heights?” he asked randomly.
He was nervous. How about that?
She blinked back at him. Her studious expression made him feel like particles under a microscope, and he didn’t like it.
“I don’t have a boyfriend,” she said matter-of-factly.
“You came to the carnival all by your lonesome? Sounds dangerous.”
He had to look away from her penetrating eyes. Instead, he glanced to the ground below and looked for any sign that his Yin and Yang Certainties had tailed him. Rhino leaned casually against the safety fence that surrounded the Ferris wheel. A few more people had joined the line. No sign of Nurse Sandy or Brian. So far so good.
“Is it?” she wanted to know.
For the first time he detected a faltering within her. A sense of uncertainty.
“What?” he asked. His eyes returned to her face.
“Is it dangerous?”
As they began their backward descent toward the ground, he appraised her silently. Her dark hair was messy, but it looked shiny beneath the lights. Healthy. Everything about her looked healthy. Bright eyes, rosy lips, the soft fullness of her cheeks –
Suddenly one of his internal alarms began to chime.
“How old’re you?” he asked.
She boldly held his gaze.
“Eighteen,” she said.
“Everybody’s a liar.”
Her brow furrowed with defiance.
“What makes you think I’m lying?”
“Baby fat,” he said simply.
A red flush spread from her neck to her cheeks and all the way to the roots of her hair. It took him a moment to recognize this sudden coloring as embarrassment. She was so innocent his heart clenched.
“You asked,” he reminded her.
She cleared her throat and for the first time it was she who looked away.
They skimmed down along the ground and began to ascend again. Trevor felt his stomach lift with the motion and he remembered how much he liked to ride the old wheel. When they reached the top, Rhino threw the lever and halted them. They swayed in the suspended bucket seat while he removed the rope and ushered another couple aboard. Trevor looked for Sandy and Brian again.
“Are you running from someone?” the girl next to him asked.
“You could say that.”
He didn’t see them. Perhaps they’d decided to call it a night and go home, before anybody got cheated on or beat up any further. As a philosopher, Trevor wasn’t sure he liked the role he played in either of those events. But what could he do about it? It was the role he played.
“Who?” the girl wanted to know.
“You ask a helluva lot of questions.”
“Given that you hijacked my solitude, I think I have a right to know.”
Something sparked in Trevor at those words. She was interesting, wasn’t she? Not a Yang Certainty by any means, but she intrigued him. Perhaps that was the very thing that made her not a Yang Certainty.
“So you like bein’ alone, huh?”
“Not necessarily. It’s just what I am.”
He didn’t know what to say about that, so he just nodded his understanding.
There was a gentle pitch and the Ferris wheel hummed into motion. They were descending again. As he studied the girl and thought about what she’d said, his eyes were drawn instinctively to her lips. He hadn’t noticed before how full they were or how moist they looked. Glossy and pink. It reminded Trevor of a third certainty he hadn’t considered before. The certainty that a carnie man mixing with a young town girl was not a good idea – no matter how intriguing the girl might be.
He was about to call out to Rhino and ask to be let off the ride when a fuming and bloody Brian emerged from the crowd and headed straight for the old carnie. Ever the belligerent redneck, his Yin Certainty stepped over the rope and began to fire questions like bullets.
“You see a young punk come through here? About this tall, dark hair, dark eyes – hell, dark everything! Running like a scared rabbit?”
Rhino knew exactly who he was talking about but wasn’t about to give up a fellow carnie. He shifted his weight and screwed up his face in a way that gave the impression he was thinking about it.
“Well, let me see?”
As the bucket seat reached ground level, Trevor tried to decrease his odds of being noticed by putting his back to the two men and, at the same time, turning directly toward the girl. He could tell by her eyes that she knew what was happening. When he reached forth like a devoted boyfriend and smoothed her hair, he was relieved when she didn’t protest.
“Rhino won’t give me up,” he told her by way of reassurance. “It’ll only be a minute before he moves on.”
“It’s okay,” she told him.
Her voice was soft and sweet like honey. It stirred something in him that he didn’t want stirred by a townie and certainly not by one who was obviously lying about her age. Just the same, he took a little extra time to run his fingers through her hair. It was smooth as silk.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“My mom gave it to me. She’s crazy.”
Somehow he’d slid closer to her. He was so close he could feel her warmth radiating between them, heating up the cool night air. His skin came to life, straining toward that warmth like leaves strain toward the sun – in a way that could only be described as natural. And somehow his hand was groping for hers. He found it and their fingers entwined. Her skin was so soft beneath his calloused fingertips that it almost hurt to touch her.
She’s a magnet, Trevor thought as he looked into those impossibly blue eyes. Would it be the end of the world just to kiss her?
The answer came from a force much stronger than the magnetism of the girl named Angelina. As if it was meant to be – or never meant to be, depending on how you looked at it – the Ferris wheel lurched to a stop. It came so abruptly that the swinging motion of the bucket seat did for Trevor what he couldn’t do for himself – pulled him away from her. As he struggled to gather his bearings, Rhino appeared at his side and said suggestively,
“Coast is clear. Best move on and let some other folks ride.”
When their eyes met, Rhino’s issued a stern warning.
Trevor climbed out of the seat and ventured a glance back at the girl. Logic told him he would never see her again after tonight. There was no reason to see her – no connection between them save the exchange of a few interesting words. But sitting there, swaying softly, she looked up at him and in her face he saw victory. Like she’d taken a tiny piece of him, and she planned on keeping it.
Amazingly, he found he wanted her to.
“Stay put, missy,” Rhino said gruffly, even though she showed no intention of leaving her seat. “You’re still good for a couple more go-rounds.”
He threw the lever, and with a jolt Angelina floated up and away.
“Like I said,” Trevor told the ride operator. “I owe you.”
Rhino’s reply was, “In more ways’n one.”
It wasn’t until later that evening that Trevor discovered what Angelina had taken. Having helped Gus close The Horror Stop for the night, he excused himself for a walk around the grounds to clear his mind. Trevor had always liked this time of night. All was quiet. There were no spiels being shouted at reluctant marks. No squealing brakes as rides came to a halt. No music blasting through the midway. In this silence, something deep inside Trevor that was always alert could finally slump over and relax. And the air, now devoid of smoke and grease, smelled so sweet.
The VFW public restrooms had been left open and eventually Trevor found himself there. In the dim light, he leaned over a sink to splash water on his face. In the mirror, something about his right hand caught his eye. Or rather, something didn’t. His ring was missing.
Trevor smiled at his own reflection – his white teeth gleaming in the dim light like a shining crescent moon. He whispered, “Magnet.”