Edie didn’t know what on earth compelled her to invite Rohan to join her at the carnival. Besides the early years, when she had attended with a group of girlfriends, Edie had always gone alone—and that was exactly how she liked it. Then, straight out of the blue, she’d gone and extended an invite to Rohan Kapadia, who had arrived at the guest house less than an hour before.
She had no way to retract the invitation now, especially when Mr. Kapadia seemed so pleased to have been asked in the first place. Yep, just about everything today broke away from Edie’s usual traditions. She could almost hear her mother’s wizened voice reminding her about how best-laid plans never went smoothly.
Irish summer nights were bright, and dusk didn’t fall until well after eight thirty. There was no point in heading down there before nightfall, before the whirling, dancing, flashing multicolored lights were visible in their full splendor.
She filled her afternoon with plenty of attempts at reading but got nowhere. Her gaze fluttered over the words, which became blurred as her mind began to wander. Why had
she felt compelled to invite Rohan into her private rituals? It wasn’t mere pleasantry, because she had never extended any sort of invitation to one of her guests before. She didn’t want to admit that Rohan’s spectacular good looks could have been a contributing factor. Or the way his presence in her dining room made her pulse race. Or how his tongue licking sweet icing sugar off his finger caused a different sort of pulsating altogether.
When darkness fell, she met Rohan in the entrance hall. Having taken her advice, he wore an older but no less expensive pair of shoes. The faded denim of his jeans clung to his thighs, stretching the fabric. He looked so good her mouth went dry. Maybe it was the allure of a mysterious, foreign man, or maybe it was just that Rohan Kapadia was a perfect example of masculinity, but Edie was flustered. Most unsettling of all was how absolutely polite he was, smiling at her merrily, opening the door to assist in her exit.
“How will we get there?” Rohan asked as Edie locked the front door. The evening was dry and warm, perfect conditions for a night of funfair exploring.
Edie gave Rohan a look, a slanted, wry smile. “This town doesn’t stretch more than half a mile in any direction,” she told him. “We walk, of course.”
Rohan followed her down the garden path. “What can we expect at this fun park?” he inquired, his impenetrably dark eyes smiling down at her.
“The usual,” said Edie with a shrug. “Bumper cars, a waltzer, magic carpet, haunted house.” She was thirty-three years old but still felt a fizzle of excitement as she pictured the fairground.
“Sounds enchanting,” Rohan replied, shoving his hands deep into his pockets.
They walked in companionable silence, with Edie taking note of the many second glances afforded to Rohan by strangers as they wandered down Main Street toward the vacant field that Farmer Bailey leased out to the O’Driscoll family. From there, the music began to filter to their ears: rowdy dance remixes, the sound of muffled voices through microphones, squeals and whoops from the various rides. Edie was elated, her pace increasing.
“Whoa, you really love the fair, don’t you?” Rohan remarked, matching her hurried stride.
Edie flashed a smile. “There’s nothing quite like it,” she insisted as they reached Killymalin’s limits and the spectacle of O’Driscoll’s Travelling Fairground rose up before them in a psychedelic display of bright, flashing lights. It was like coming home, in an odd way. Although Edie had never left her home, the two weeks that the funfair was in town reminded her of a simpler time, when things were good. When she was contented and not torn apart with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity. Edie always longed to be younger, but every year, at the end of May, she almost convinced herself that she was.
Two ticket booths were erected outside the metal fence. Turnstiles prevented ticket-dodgers from getting through. A line formed, which Edie and Rohan joined.
“It certainly smells inviting,” Rohan remarked, leaning close to whisper this titbit of information. His breath fanned against her cheek, causing Edie to flush hotly at his proximity.
“Candy floss and hotdogs,” Edie surmised, swallowing against her suddenly dry throat.
“I have no
idea what candy floss is,” Rohan told her, still standing close. “But you can be sure I’ll try it.”
They reached the ticket booth, and a grubby, bored-looking attendant demanded thirty euros for them both. Before Edie could reach for her wallet, Rohan placed his hand on hers. His gentle touch sent a jolt of pleasure through her whole body, as though repressed desire had awoken within her. Their gazes met and stayed fused for several, pregnant moments.
“I’ll get this,” he insisted, his voice suddenly quiet.
Rohan paid the attendant, and they were each handed a paper ticket stub and plastic wristbands that said Admit One
. Edie suspected the tickets were just for nostalgia’s sake. She tucked hers into her pocket and fastened the wristband around her arm.
They stepped through the turnstiles into the midst of all the marvelous chaos. Edie didn’t know where to look first, even though all the attractions were exactly the same as they’d always been. She turned to Rohan, who was having the pleasure of experiencing it for the very first time. She watched his face, studying him. He swept his gaze across the field, greedily taking everything in. The various flashing, blinking bulbs reflected his features in a very flattering light. Edie pressed her hand against her belly, willing away the butterflies. She hadn’t experienced those feelings in a very long time.
“I’ll let you decide where we go first,” she told Rohan.
Although the funfair had only just moved into town, the grass underfoot was already well trodden. The ground was muddy, traversing a natural path through the amusements. Edie and Rohan stood at the beginning of the path.
“I’m not sure where to start,” he admitted with a low chuckle. “I can see why this appeals to children.” His eyes settled on the waltzer: spinning, whirling cars that seemed to rotate in an oddly choreographed dance. “Let’s start there,” he decided.
Edie was grateful she hadn’t eaten recently. The waltzer always made her stomach twist and lurch. She settled next to Rohan as the safety bar was placed across them. Their thighs touched, so cramped was the small car. Edie enjoyed the unexpected closeness and almost leaned into him as the music began and the ride started to whirl. The intensity increased, faster and faster, until the lights were a spinning blur and the wind was blowing against her hair, taking her breath away.
Rohan screamed, an elated, childlike whoop. Round and round, the warped faces of spectators flew by, and Edie settled into the joyous wonder of the waltzer. The dance music pulsed a frantic rhythm in her chest, making her heartbeat pound in her ears.
By the time the ride stopped, Edie was breathless with exhilaration and pleased to see the same impish delight written across Rohan’s face.
“Wow,” he breathed, staggering unsteadily from the ride.
Edie laughed, bracing her hands on her thighs as she struggled to control her ragged breathing.
“That was awesome
!” Rohan exclaimed, sounding like a fifteen-year-old kid. They rested against the wire fence that acted as a barricade around the ride’s motors and generators.
“Oh, Rohan.” Edie laughed. “You’re just getting started.”