I looked up at the menacing ride that towered above me with dread.
I have to go on that thing?
Roughly one hundred metres of twisting, turning metal, spun, creaked and rocketed high above my head.
“C'mon, Cheryl! We won't get a place if you don't hurry up!” my friend Ashleigh called from where she was standing at the booth, buying tickets.
I looked back up at the terrifying ride.
How did they ever convince me to go on this thing?, I groaned inwardly.
I felt a hand on my lower back and I looked around to find my other friend, Andrea steering me towards the queue for the amusement ride, rightfully named 'Spinning Terror'.
My four friends and I were having a day out at the amusement park called 'Wild Fun Park', and wild fun we were guaranteed to have. I hadn't really wanted to go to an amusement park but my friends convinced me that we would have a great time. I didn't really mind places like that in general, but I knew that my friends would try to make me go on all the rides they wanted to go on. The only problem was, I was afraid of heights. No, that's an understatement: I was terrified!
The feeling that you're about to fall, the spinning ground so far away, the unsteady feet, jelly legs, feeling so helpless; I just couldn't do heights! My friends understood my fright, but they reasoned that if they were there, the feeling lessened, and they were usually right. If one of my friends were there, I wouldn't feel so afraid walking over a bridge or climbing the high equipment in gym, but this ride was different. I mean, the very point of the ride was to terrify you and the method it used was to bring you high up into the air and start spinning slowly. Then it gets faster and tilts the carriages to the side so you have a good view of the ground. The carriages were small rockets and were spaced at different intervals on the ride, so you felt isolated and alone while spinning around the pole. And then, the carriages drop slightly but quickly so you get the feeling that your falling, then they rise and repeat the process. The very thought was absolutely terrifying! But my friend Jayson told me that it wasn't scary at all and it wasn't even that high up, plus the safety belts made you feel really safe. When I got there I decided I was never going to believe him about anything ever again.
“You get the tickets?” Jayson asked Ashleigh innocently as we lined up. I shot him a death glare and turned to Lolita, her being the only one who would be on my side.
“I don't think I can do this. I'll just watch from the ground, I really don't mind” I pleaded.
She gave me a pitying look but before she could answer, and most likely sympathise with me, Ashleigh butted in.
“Aww, come on, Cheryl! It'll be fine, we'll be right there with you” she said, grabbing my hand and hauling me over to the gate as the line shortened and people started boarding the ride. All my friends, except for Lolita, turned a deaf ear to my stuttered protests, instead, she just trailed behind us with a worried look on her face.
The man at the gate took the tickets Ashleigh handed him and let us in, or at least, I thought he did. Andrea had pushed me in first to make sure I couldn't escape and before I knew it, the gate closed behind me. I looked back to see the man handing four of the tickets back to Ashleigh.
“Sorry, you'll have to wait for the next one, kid” the surly man said.
I could have laughed as I knew how much Ashleigh hated being called kid because she was short, but the terror gripping my innards restricted any noise exiting from my throat. She however, ignored the comment for once and replied “Well, he can't go on without us. Let someone else,” here, she waved a hand at the impatient queue behind her, “go instead of him”.
I heartily agreed with her and made to get out of there but the man just drawled “I don't have all day, just wait for the next one. I do have a schedule you know”.
My friends made to protest but the grumpy, unfair, cruel man interrupted, “Just drop it, kid”.
They looked at me worriedly but I didn't have long before a girl came along and ushered me to a seat on the ride.
My insides were clenched and I hoped that they stayed that way so I didn't throw up everywhere. I followed the girl to my seat with my head bowed, as a sentenced man would walk to the gallows. To me, it was quite similar. I just knew I was going to either faint, vomit, cry, scream like a girl, or all of the above. Basically put, I was going to be humiliated in front of my best friends and a lot of strangers too.
I think I should have stayed in bed.
I didn't even realise we had got to my seat until the girl had walked away and left me standing there. I slowly slid onto the plastic chair before I looked around and saw that it didn't look safe at all. It was a two seater, almost like a sofa, except hard and quite uncomfortable, and the safety belt that Jayson had told me about was nothing more than a metal bar that folded down across your lap. I didn't even register that someone else was sitting there until I turned to my right and saw him.
He looked a little bit older than me, about eighteen or so, with light brown hair and poisonous green eyes. He smiled kindly at me before his smile faltered and he said uncertainly “You don't look good”.
Well, isn't that a lovely thing to say to a girl you've just met? What a complete and total bastard, I growled inwardly, but to his face I muttered “Gee, thanks”.
He looked startled at the reply and glare I gave him and he answered quickly “No, I meant, you look a bit sick, a bit pale. Are you ok?”.
Oh, right, I thought sheepishly.
“I don't like heights and my friends forced me to come on this blasted ride, does that answer your question?” I growled, crossing my arms in front of my chest.
He nodded and leaned back on the chair in answer.
“Well, if you're afraid of heights, I suggest you don't sit there” he said seriously, but with a smile.
“Why the hell not?” I snapped, my fear not exactly making me a good conversational partner.
“When it tips, you get a full view of the ground, but it doesn't look so bad from this seat”.
My despair must have shown on my face because he offered “Do you want to swap?”
I looked up to see the same girl that had shown me to my seat, approaching, pushing down the metal bars on her way and making sure they were secure. I jumped out of the seat to let the guy out so I could sit where he had been sitting. He got back on the seat, where I had been sitting and I had to admit, I did feel a lot more secure sitting on the inner seat with someone blocking my view of the outside.
The girl approached and pushed the bar down onto our laps but it didn't feel very comforting or safe; I felt as if I could just slide right off, even though even I wasn't as thin to fit between the armrest and bar.
I wriggled uncomfortably; the hard seat was hurting my butt and the butterflies in my stomach were making me regret that milkshake. I grabbed a handful of my black hair and hung on for dear life, as if it would save me, should the ride malfunction.
“Why did your friends make you come on this ride if you hate it so much?” the guy beside me asked. I turned to look at him and saw he was wearing a concerned expression as he watched me tug at my hair.
“I'm usually not too bad with heights if someone's with me, but the ride was full and I got separated from my friends” I stated dully, trying not to think about the oncoming terror.
“I'm someone” he replied simply.
I threw him a disbelieving look.
“I meant somebody I know. I don't even know you're name”.
“It's Ethan, is that any help?” he asked innocently.
I chuckled lightly and replied sarcastically “Sure, I feel so much better now, thanks Ethan”.
Without warning, the metal beneath us juddered to life and loud music started playing. It was good music but I couldn't have cared less as I gripped the metal bar as if my life depended on it, and the way I saw it, it did. I glanced at Ethan. He had managed to take my mind off the ride from hell for a couple of seconds and I was grateful, I just wish that could happen again, but then the carriages, started rising off the ground and I knew that it was impossible to distract me. But that doesn't mean he wouldn't try.
He leaned across and asked loudly over the music, “What was your name again?”
“Gerard” I answered, fixating my eyes on the back of the blond man's and a brunette girl's heads in front of me, trying to focus on something, anything!
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ethan lean back in the chair and I wondered why he was trying to help me.
I must be so annoying. Here he is, trying to enjoy a fun ride and he has to sit next to a fraidy cat who he tries to comfort but will probably end up throwing up on him anyway, I thought miserably.
The ride came to a stop in mid air and I was jolted out of my thoughts. I bit my lip, still staring determinedly at the blond guy's head, willing myself to not look down. Then all of a sudden my left hand, which was holding onto the metal bar so tightly that my knuckles were turning white, was engulfed in warmth. I jumped slightly, not expecting such a feeling, and looked down to see Ethan's hand over my own.
Saying I was surprised would be an understatement.
What in God's name is he doing? That's my hand you're holding there, buddy! Let go! What the hell does he think this is?! But maybe he's trying to be nice because he doesn't want to be covered in vomit, so he's trying to calm me down. Well, that's reasonable, but still; you don't just grab a guy's hand! Oh, great now my hand's gone all sweaty, he's probably going to get the wrong impression. But most guys aren't usually comfortable with all that touchy feely stuff. Well, I don't mind, but I know I'm gay, so could that mean?...... Nah, he's just a nice person, who's trying to make me feel better. Still, I wonder if he's annoyed.....
I looked up from our hands to look at Ethan's face. He was staring straight ahead, just as I had been a few moments before. His face was unreadable but when he saw me look at him for an explanation, he muttered over the music “Don't worry; this ride is completely safe”.
Of course, I already knew that, my fear was irrational (I can safely believe that when my feet are planted firmly on level ground but in the air it's a different story), but hearing it from someone else's, or maybe just his mouth, made it seem more real, more believable.
I realised that he wasn't going to say anything about the 'hand grabbing' so I nodded silently and went back to staring at the couple in front of us. Well, he had certainly taken my mind of my fear for some time in any case. But then the disc started to spin slowly and all the horrible feelings came rushing back.
He seemed to sense my returned discomfort and he squeezed my hand gently. Surprisingly, it reassured me slightly, but certainly not enough.
The ride spun faster and I felt myself sliding toward Ethan on the seat. The force of the spinning had forced me to slide closer to the other end of the seat, where at that moment, there was a rather attractive guy sitting.
Curse and bless you cruel, sweet gravity!
Curse you because I'm going to annoy him by squishing him and bless you because no doubt I will feel more secure leaning on someone like that.
I panicked and grabbed my end of the armrest and tried to pull myself back up, but the force of the ride was too strong and I kept being pulled back. I heard Ethan laugh and I was relieved he wasn't uncomfortable with my current predicament but also annoyed that he didn't share my discomfort or feeling of awkwardness.
“Don't worry about it; it's fine” I heard Ethan yell over the music and whir of mechanics.
It was inevitable; I was going to be squashed up against a stranger, well, almost stranger, almost stranger who was really cute. It didn't sound so bad if I thought of it like that, but he was still a stranger. I finally gave in to the forces of gravity and I fell against Ethan with an audible thump. I felt my face go all warm and I knew I must have been blushing fiercely as our hips collided. No need to say I was extremely uncomfortable now and although I was sure my fear would have been worse if Ethan wasn't there, I was still scared.
Suddenly the carriage dropped sharply and I let out an embarrassing sort of squeak as I felt my stomach drop. Ethan laughed again but it made me feel awkward because I could feel his breath on my ear. I could also smell him, but not in a bad way. He smelt kind of spicy, like an exotic flower but it wasn't overwhelming, just faint and pleasant. I wondered if I was squishing him and then I thought that maybe I was hurting him. Not really knowing what to do, I just squeaked “I-I'm sorry about this, I hope I'm not squishing you”.
“No, it's alright, you're as light as a feather and that's why I'm sitting here instead of you; I'd flatten you”.
He wasn't heavy but he had the typical, normal male build, whereas I had a smaller feminine build.....unfortunately. Now, it seemed to be more of an advantage.
I felt the ride starting to spin even faster and I was just beginning to wonder when the rocket carriages were going to shoot off into space, when I noticed Ethan was still holding my hand. Now don't get me wrong, I think it was really sweet for him to care like that and try to make me feel better, but the thought was now starting to make me sweat and blush. It was also making my hand slippery with sweat so it kept sliding around on the metal pole, which didn't make me feel too safe. Also, by now, my left side (the side that was being melted into Ethan) was aching and my head was spinning like mad. I wanted off that stupid ride, regardless of who I was sitting next to. Then, just to reinforce my wish, the carriage sharply dropped a couple of metres before soaring back up even higher into the cool night air.
I am ashamed to say that I let out a less than ducky shriek...again. Perhaps more like a squeak, but that's beside the point. The point was that I wanted off that thing and I wanted off it now. But before I could go into panic mode though, I felt breath tickling my ear.
“Close your eyes and hold your breath”.
Ethan shouted it because of the loud music and howling wind but to me it felt as knee-weakening as a whisper, though I must say the words, or advice, was strange. What good would holding my breath do? With the state I was in, I wouldn't be surprised if I passed out if I tried to hold my breath. In answer, I turned to look up at Ethan but I was shocked into silence when I saw his nose only inches from mine. I don't remember him being that close! But I must say, it did feel comforting and warm, despite the death trap that we were supposed to be having fun on.
I stared dumbly into his kind face for a few seconds before he smiled reassuringly and said “Trust me; it won't be so bad if you do”. I grimaced, trying to appear cool and calm when my insides were a puddly ooze of goo from him being so close, and then I turned back to face the front and decided to give his advice a try.
I shut my eyes tight and held my breath.
All I could see was the red of the inside of my eyes and surprisingly the shaking and dropping of my stomach lessened. I could hear a lot more but I didn't feel so sick and scared.
Bright eyes knew his stuff.
All thoughts escaped from my mind however, when I felt Ethan's warm cheek brush against mine and his calm breathing tickle my ear again. Two thoughts sneaked back in though. One was telling me to get this stranger off me and tell him to bugger off, but the other, stronger thought was telling me 'screw the scary ride, grab onto his hand instead of the metal bar'. I grinned wickedly in my mind. Indeed: screw the ride.
I unstuck my left hand from the bar and before any more thoughts (namely rational ones) could creep back into my empty brain, I slid it out from under his and grabbed onto his hand. I could tell I surprised him by the tensing of his muscles, and I hoped I hadn't annoyed him, but when he moved closer and held my hand back, I knew he was quite comfortable with it.
Then, just as I was beginning to think this whole ride thing might not be such the unbearable hell that I originally thought it was, the ride started to slow down and lower.
I didn't know whether to curse or thank the Lord, so I simply settled for letting go of Ethan's hand and turned into a puddle of Cheryl Goo on the seat. When he saw me slump and let out an enormous sigh of relief, Ethan laughed. I scowled at him, giving him my famous death stare, but inside, I was secretly pleased to hear him laugh. He had a nice laugh. Not the sound of someone blowing bubbles, or someone with a terrible case of hiccups, or a honking laugh: he had a sort of flowing laugh, that was easy and as natural as the wind rustling through the leaves.
I smiled inwardly but remained silent until the carriage came to a stop and we were allowed to life the safety bars. I pushed it up quickly and clambered out after Ethan, who looked completely calm and relaxed. Lucky bugger. I was shaking like a leaf and could hardly stand. But then I noticed him push a hand through his windswept hair and I saw it was shaking. Maybe he wasn't that tolerant to the ride after all.
We poured out single file out the little gate, me stumbling but desperately holding onto what pride and dignity I had left so I wouldn't grab Ethan's arm to help steady myself.
When we got out, I wobbled my way over to where I thought my friends were last to see them piling into seats on the ride. I'd forgotten that they still wanted to go on that wretched thing. I waved at them and managed a smile only to be winked and giggled at by Ashleigh and Andria. Nonplussed, I smiled a confused smile until I remembered that they must have been watching me while I was on the ride. I felt a blush rise to my face and cursed myself for it when all four of them laughed at me for it. Also, I'm sure my hair looks like I'd just walk into a tornado, stay there, then flipping it back and forth. Fortunately the ride started and their focus was on getting as big a thrill as they could.
I contemplated sabotaging the mechanical workings (in other words, throwing some fairy floss into the place that makes the ride work) so they would be suspended in mid air for a while. It sounded like a good plan, and I was just wondering if I could really waste the fairy floss when I saw Ethan.
He was talking to the blond guy and brunette who were sitting in front of us on the ride. The girl smiled and grabbed the blond guy's arm, pulling him towards the swan peddle boats. Needless to say, he didn't look thrilled. My attention turned back to Ethan, I saw him laugh and wave at them, shaking his head. I wondered if they were some friends that he had come here with and if they'd just deserted him for some romantic pedaling. Well, that's certainly what it seemed like.
Ethan seemed to feel my eyes on him and he turned, meeting my gaze. I blushed slightly and waved awkwardly, feeling like a complete idiot and loner. He smiled back and walked over slowly. By now I had completely forgotten about my hair and my friends probably watching me from the ride.
“Hey” he said shyly, probably wondering what on earth he was doing.
“Hey” I answered lamely.
A couple of awkward seconds went by as I cast around for a topic.
“So, uh, are those your friends?”
Three cheers for Cheryl who's almost as good at small talk as a fart in a jam jar.
“Oh those guys?” Ethan gestured towards the pedal boats, “Yeah. I had no idea they'd hooked up though, or I would never have agreed to come. They're so mushy it makes me want to stab both my eyes out with a fairy floss stick”.
I laughed. I seemed to have chosen a good topic to talk about: the more I talked to Ethan, the more I liked him and the more I realised we had in common. He grinned sheepishly as if he hadn't meant to say that, so I was just about to tell him about my fairy floss plot involving my friends and the ride, when a loud cat call came from the ride. I winced and I didn't need to look to know it was Ashleigh, but I looked anyway; I don't know if I just wanted to punish myself or if it was because she was controlling me by some evil, unspeakable force. Who knows.
I turned away from the spinning, grinning Ashleigh to see Ethan chuckling. I scowled at him as his eyes twinkled mischievously.
“Well, seeing as we're both loners for the moment, do you want to go find something to do?” he asked suddenly.
Although, taken aback, I was all for it and in no time we were lined up for the Gravitron.
As I looked across, hysterically laughing at an equally laughing Ethan who was glued to the wall by gravity, I reminded myself not to forgive my friends so quickly and that I had yet to kill them for making me go on that scary ride. But on second thoughts, I made a mental note to thank them just before I killed them, because if I hadn't gone on that damn ride, I never would have met the guy who made it all worth it.