Don't forget that you can pre-order on Amazon now! If you're not into pre-ordering, I'm really hoping to have it out at the end of April instead of mid-May, so you can subscribe to my newsletter to get the new release update if that's more your thing. :)
“Okay – take your pick,” Noah says. “Pirate ship, sea creature carousel, Tilt-a-Whirl, or the teacups.”
I fold my arms and survey the rides. The pirate ship sits ahead of us in the distance with a gigantic dragon along the side. He’s the same turquoise color as the glittery ring I bought earlier today in Sunrise Valley. A faded pink angelfish stares at me from the carousel, and that’s enough to creep me out.
“Teacups,” I say, simply because Tilt-a-Whirls are so common and overdone.
We walk over to the old metal cups. Some are black and blue. Others are burgundy and gold. I choose a burgundy and gold cup. They look more royal. I step inside and Noah sits across from me.
“Let’s play a game,” he says. “I’ve spent basically every moment of this week with you so far, but I still feel like I know nothing about you. I mean, your mom’s a trophy wife, your dad works at a software company, you design clothes, and your best friend is a bitch.”
Well, that’s about as much as I know about him. He’s from Canada, super famous in a freaking boyband, has a queer-as-a-unicorn brother, and hates one of his band mates. We’re pretty even.
“What do you want to know?” I ask, stretching my legs out in the cup.
He shrugs. “I don’t know. Um…celebrity crush? Favorite music genre? Favorite color?”
“Tom Hiddleston. Hip-hop. Pink and silver, as a combo,” I reply, matter-of-factly. “And what about you?”
“Heidi Klum, because she’s still hot as hell, and I’d totally walk that runway. Punk rock. Black and green, since we’re speaking in combos,” he answers. Then he gives me that classic Winters smirk. “Tom Hiddleston? Seriously? Over me?”
I jerk my legs down and lean forward. “Oh, come on. You said black and green. Could you be any more Loki about that? Jealous much?”
Noah dips his head down, shielding his face from me. “Okay, okay,” he says, a bit embarrassed. Then he looks up and past me, toward the carousel. “Favorite sea creature?”
Oh, what a way to change the subject. I decide to humor him, though, and answer the question.
“Starfish,” I say. “And no, it has nothing to do with Patrick Star, before you even go there.”
Noah is quiet for a moment. Then he slides around in the teacup to sit right next to me.
“Did you know that the French angelfish mates for life?” he asks. “You’ll never see one alone. Everything they do, they do in pairs. Hunting, traveling, the whole works.”
I cuddle up closer to him and settle my head into the hollow spot between his shoulder and neck.
“Let me guess. You’d be a black and green French angelfish,” I say, trying not to laugh. “And I’d be pink and silver. Then you’d spot me in the school of fish, because I’d be the one swimming with an ice bucket, and you’d need it to keep your strawberry milk cold.”
“That is exactly how it would happen,” he says, resting his head against mine.
So maybe I’m not meant to be a mermaid. Maybe I’m meant to be a French angelfish. It’s amazing what you learn about yourself when you’re sitting in a rusted teacup.
The ocean’s breeze sweeps over us, calming all of my reservations about being out here. The wooden sign creaks somewhere behind us, but being wrapped up under Noah’s arm, watching his chest rise and fall with his breathing, makes this place feel alive again.
“Did you hear that?” Noah asks, pulling away and sitting up properly. “Like a car door?”
I glance back across the carnival grounds. A mass of a shadow moves across the sand. I wanted this place to be alive, but I meant as in popcorn, funnel cakes, and unwinnable games that are rigged – not alive as in a monster shadow.
“Keep down,” Noah whispers.
I sink into myself, tucking my legs up to my chest. Noah puts a finger over his mouth and peeks above the rim of the cup again.
“Fuck,” he whispers. “Someone’s here. They’re looking at the car. I’m going to go handle it. No matter what happens, stay in this cup.”
What happened to the French angelfish idea? Doing everything together – hunting, traveling…What about fighting battles together? Having each other’s backs? I feel like a cowardly little goldfish, just waiting to be flushed away into the disgusting land of septic tank hell. Can I have my pink and silver back now?
I carefully slip into the floor of the teacup, turn around, and perch back on the seat with my knees tucked under me. I grip the edge of the cup with my hands. Rusted metal digs into my skin. It’s not the ideal place to be, but I can watch over the rim of the cup this way. I just hope the carnival ghosts don’t see me in the moonlight.
As Noah approaches his car, one shadow lunges out from the mass, screaming about sacred ground and disrespect. The other figures move forward, closing in on the stray shadow, but they’re too late. Noah falls to the ground, like a fish on dry land, and I stumble out of the teacup faster than I thought I’d be able to.