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Carnival Games

Let Love In – Short Story Series

I remember the day that I first met him. I walked into math class my freshman year of high school. He sat in the front and me three seats behind. That’s probably why I failed those first few tests. My eyes were always fixated on him and never the board.

Every day I would walk in and take the long way to my seat. We barely made eye contact. Sometimes when the teacher would call on me to pass papers to the class his hand would graze mine and I’d smile. He’d smile back, but only for a second. Then I moved onto the next and soon after the bell would ring.

We didn’t hang out in the same circle of friends. After school I’d go to drama class and him to football practice. That’s how it was for all of freshman year. Then, summer came around. My friends and I were at the county fair trying our hand at those who really wins them anyway carnival games.  I had thrown a dozen balls at those milk bottles, tried to pop balloons with a dart and lost when it came to picking the lucky duck. So, I guess I had nothing to lose when it came to tossing rings on bottles.

I had thrown and missed three times before I heard that voice behind me. “Need some help?” I turned to see him. Those dark eyes looking straight into mine. That same smile I had passed in that math class just weeks before. I had waited for that moment for so long. For him to see me, but maybe I was wrong then. Maybe he already had. Maybe all those times I was trying not to look at him, he was looking at me. There was no mistake in that moment though that he was, looking right at me.

“Oh no,” I said wanting to kick myself as soon as the words came out, “I think I’ve got this.”

“You sure?” he asked. I nodded.

I thanked him and turned around trying a few more times. I failed. With only one ring left, I turned back around. He was still standing there. I reached out my hand and placed the ring in his. He stepped up, rubbed the ring in between his palms a few times before letting it go. I watched it fly high in the air only to come back down and land right around the neck of one of those bottles. My jaw dropped.

“Beginners luck,” he said reaching for the pink teddy bear that sat on the ledge of prizes.

“Here,” he said handing it to me.

With no objection, I pulled the pink teddy bear to my chest. “Thank you.”

From that day forward we were inseparable, but somewhere in between then and now we drifted. So far apart we couldn’t find our way back. Never at 16 did I think I would find myself here, staring at his picture in black and white, holding someone else’s hand with a different kind of ring. He had found his happily ever after and all I had left of him was that pink teddy bear.

I guess that’s how it works… life. You take a shot. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you land that ring around the neck of the bottle and other times you walk away empty handed. Maybe real life isn’t so different from those carnival games.

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