Cassie stood in the middle of Thorpe Park, frowning.
“Where are they?”
She gazed around, seeking a familiar face. Maybe they were in the shop? She made her way over, her brisk pace matching the accelerated thud of her heart against her ribcage. The shop was swarming with other teenagers, who were probably on their own school trips. Cassie peered amongst them but could see no sign of her allotted ‘friends’ for the day. They were only hanging out with her because Sandra’s mum knew Cassie’s mum. Cassie supposed she was lucky to be free of them and their snide remarks. Oh well, she would just have to endure the rides alone. At least she could have a chocolate fondue without being judged.
Cassie reached to get her purse from her backpack, but her fingers grasped at thin air and her heart plummeted. Her backpack was gone! Cassie groaned. She had left it in Sandra’s safekeeping while she had gone to the loo and now the horrible girl had run off with it. That was Cassie’s jacket, money and her phone, gone. No chocolate fondue for her, then.
Cassie stormed out of the shop and was bombarded with sounds of screams and laughter, but she let it wash over her as she scanned the immediate area for Sandra and her posse. There was no hope of finding them in this crowd. Cassie’s shoulders slumped and she trudged down the slope, barely noticing as she was jostled in all directions. What was Sandra’s problem? Yes, she was jealous of Cassie achieving better grades, but how was that Cassie’s fault? Maybe if Sandra paid attention to her studies rather than ogling at Greg Richards all day, her grades would be up to scratch.
A loud shout brought Cassie back to the present and she looked up in time to see something hurtling towards her. Oof! The air was slammed from her body and she skidded across the dusty path, straight into a bush.
“Get off me you idiot,” Cassie lashed out at her assailant.
A beaming face looked back at her. The boy unscrambled his limbs from hers and jumped to his feet.
“Sorry about that, Cass. Occupational hazard,” grinned her attacker. He offered Cassie his hand but she slapped it away and pushed herself up.
“What are you playing at?” Cassie glared at the boy, whose grin only widened under her wrath.
“Come on, Greg, I wanna go on The Swarm,” said his friend.
Greg waved him away. “Gimme a minute, I’ll catch you up.”
He waited for his group of friends to move off before stepping closer to Cassie, his grin sliding into a frown.
“You alright, Cass? You look a bit pale.”
Cassie shrugged and started walking in the opposite direction to Greg’s friends. She’d dreamed of Greg Richards noticing her, but not in this way.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe that’s because I’ve been abandoned, without my money or my jacket and some loser thought it would be funny to assault me.” Not to mention it was coming up to winter and she was freezing.
“Assault is a big word,” Greg raised his eyebrows. “Want me to get him for you, do some proper damage?” He cracked his knuckles, making Cassie flinch.
“You’re alright, go join the other idiots. I’m going on the Zodiac.”
“Yeah, me too.” Greg fell into step beside her.
“No, I mean, the Vortex.”
“That’s what I meant too. I love that one.”
Cassie glowered at Greg through her eyelashes and quickened her pace. Cool kids didn’t talk to nerds. Was this a joke? When Greg easily matched his speed to hers, Cassie broke into a run, with Greg in hot pursuit. Together, they thudded through the maze of fencing that formed the queue for the ride. When they arrived at the Vortex at the same time, panting, Cassie looked at Greg and laughed.
“You run like a girl.”
“I’m more into cross-country than short-distant sprints,” Greg wheezed, pressing his chest.
“Yeah, sure. And I’m a badger’s uncle.”
Greg came closer, looking thoughtful as he gazed at Cassie. The breath caught in her throat as she stared into his dark eyes, forgetting her annoyance.
“Yes, you’re right,” Greg announced, his wide grin returning. “You look exactly like a badger’s uncle.” He jumped out of range as Cassie swatted at him.
Just then, the Vortex ended its spin and came back down to earth to allow its victims to wobble towards freedom. Dread lurched in Cassie’s stomach. She wasn’t a fan of rides.
“Here,” Greg shoved a handful of leaves at her, pulled from the surrounding bushes.
“They’re for throwing.”
“ I’m not throwing leaves.”
“Because every time the ride goes high, you drop one and then someone else has to catch it.”
“What’s the point in that?”
“It’s just fun. And it will distract you.”
Cassie wasn’t about to admit that she was scared, but she kept the leaves in her hand as she walked onto the Vortex’s platform and climbed into her seat. Greg sat opposite her in the circular arrangement of chairs. She smiled at him for the first time and was rewarded with a smile which warmed her from the inside. Then the platform lowered and Cassie’s feet dangled in mid-air as the ride jolted into action, spinning slowly around. Cassie’s mouth went dry. Greg stuck his tongue out and she replied in kind, suddenly feeling better. What could happen with Greg here? Bad things didn’t happen to the popular kids.
The Vortex rose high into the sky and Cassie’s stomach was left behind. All she could see was the sky. Then she remembered her handful of leaves and let one go. As she was swung back down, she saw Greg dropping one of his leaves on his journey up. Laughing, she reached for it, but came nowhere near. On her way back into the sky, she released another and watched Greg swipe at it. He threw another leaf and Cassie, giggling uncontrollably now, leaned towards it, forgetting the restraints which held her life in its embrace. She dropped her last leaf against the wind and watched as it whipped away. Something slapped her ear and her hand leaped up and caught it. It was a leaf. She held it tight.
When the ride was over, Cassie forgot her relief in the wake of her achievement.
“I caught a leaf,” she cried.
“It’s one of mine,” said Greg, examining it.
“How do you know?”
“I marked it.”
And sure enough, when Cassie turned it over, she saw an ‘x’ indented in the thick, spongy green flesh.
They spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the rides. Cassie’s courage grew with each one; she had to prove to Greg that she was brave, not that she knew why, as she had never cared about his opinion before. Later, when it was nearly time to meet the teacher, they walked past the chocolate fondue stand. Having missed lunch, Cassie’s mouth salivated at the sight and Greg noticed her staring.
“You want some food?” he patted his wallet.
Cassie blushed and shook her head. “No thanks, I’m not hungry,” she lied. She wasn’t a charity case. Just then, she recognised a face staring right at her. Her eyes narrowed. Sandra. She and her giggling friends were sitting on a bench, Cassie’s backpack just visible amongst them. Cassie marched over and picked up her bag. Before today, she never would have dared do this, but now she was on a role. She was facing her fears.
“Thanks for watching my bag. It’s been easier to enjoy all the rides without having to lug this thing around.” She smiled sweetly, trying not to laugh at their shocked expressions, then walked back to Greg, whose smile was just for her.
“You had fun today,” he said.
“I always have fun,” Cassie bristled.
“I never saw you smile, before today.”
“I’m smiling inside.”
“You should smile more on the outside, it suits you.”
Cassie’s heart skipped a beat.
Then Greg presented her with a skewer of chocolate covered strawberries. “I got the strawberry one as it’s healthier.”
Cassie raised her eyebrows.“Healthier? With all that chocolate?”
Greg waved it in front of her face. “Come on, you know you can’t resist chocolate. Open wide.”
Reluctantly, Cassie obliged. Greg dabbed the hot, melted chocolate onto her mouth.
“’X’ marks the spot,” he smiled, his dark eyes soft. “I guess I’d better clean that off.”
He leaned down and licked Cassie’s lips, removing all traces of chocolate. Her thoughts froze as the oxygen left her lungs. Greg slid his free hand through her hair, resting it under her chin to tilt her face up to his. He looked her in the eyes, breathing hard, as if they’d been racing again.
“And I can’t resist you.”
When Greg kissed her, Cassie’s heart soared higher than any rollercoaster ride.
- By Amy Lisa Holmes at Alisah Creative
<- A short story. Copyright to Amy Lisa Holmes at Alisah Creative ->