Sharon’s Note: I find straight romance boring. Romance is a very character driven genre, and if the only movement in a story is ‘the character grows as a person’ then it’s going to lose my attention. Give me a mystery. Give me a monster. Give me complex world building and a magic system I need charts to keep track of. I also hate the current trend that anything that isn’t purely character driven is a lesser form of entertaining, but that’s a different rant. Warning: Author allowing a character to keep her mysteries.
The ferris wheel was empty except for a sleeping woman who was riding it continuously with a napping infant in a carrier on her chest. As Jim and Wendy approached, the operator pointed at the sign that said rides were a ticket a piece. He had dark circles under his eyes and leaned against the booth like he lacked the will to move.
“You can ride as much as you want, but if you wake up the baby I will kick your asses off, understand?” His words were slightly slurred, sleep deprivation oozing from every pore.
Wendy considered that for a moment before nodding and handing him the tickets. “That’s fair.”
He moved the cars so that they would be as far away from the woman as possible and they loaded into the car that smelled strongly of rust and bleach. With a slight groan the Ferris wheel started again and slowly drug them out and up.
“So what are we looking for?” Jim took a deep breath. The air wasn’t exactly clean, but it helped clear the last of whatever he’d smelled in the funhouse from his sinuses.
“Anything weird.” Wendy leaned forward, making the car rock.
The movement made his stomach flip, and he gulped while he fastened his hand to the bar. His voice was a little high as he asked, “Like what?”
“Like that.” She pointed, tracing a line of temporary buildings that the carnival had set up.
“The food court? Is there something wrong with the food?” Jim paled. “Was that funnel cake poisoned?”
“No. It’s the shape of the buildings. Can’t you see it?” When Jim shrugged, she snorted. “It’s the symbol for an ancient night god. Whoever set up the carnival will make a sacrifice at sunset and waken him.”
Jim stared harder at the line of buildings, but still couldn’t see what she was talking about. “What god are they summoning?”
She sighed dramatically. “If you don’t know the symbol, the name won’t mean anything to you.”
He stiffened. “Do you even remember his name? How do you remember the symbol for an ancient night god if you can’t remember anything else?”
Wendy went silent and stared at her feet. Jim watched as her lower lip started to tremble before she whispered, “I don’t get to pick what I remember.”
His stomach sank. It was a scummy thing for him to have said, and he knew it when he’d done it. She’d made him feel stupid, but that wasn’t an excuse. Hesitantly, he put a hand on hers where it rested on the bar. “Sorry.”
Finally, her head lifted and she gave him a slight smile. “It’s a few hours until dark, and they stamp your hand when you leave. If you have a place, we could go hang out there and rest. Nothing is going to happen until tonight anyway.”
“S-sure.” Jim gulped. “We can go back to my house and hang. My dad doesn’t get home from work until like 2 a.m. so we’ll have the place to ourselves.”
She lit up with one of her glorious smiles. “Oh! I could take a shower!”
His stomach flipped. “Yeah. Yeah, sure. You can come to my house. And take a shower.”
The Ferris wheel groaned to a stop as Wendy signaled to the man running it and Jim followed her out of the car like a sleepwalker.