[Name] stumbled back, surprised by the impact of the tall, young man. He reached out and grabbed her wrist, partially to steady himself, and partially to keep her from falling. As the sea of moving bodies parted around them, time seemed to slow as he opened his mouth to apologize hurriedly.
“Sorry,” and it felt strange for him to accept the blame for an occurrence, but he didn’t want to be rude to the girl, and he knew he was walking the opposite direction of the crowd far too swiftly.
The girl stared at him, her eyes a little wide, her bottom lip trembling slightly: seeing the girl like that made him feel somewhat guilty, but her lack of response was even more bothersome.
“What’s wrong? Did I hurt you with my awesomeness?” he released her wrist.
[Name] merely shook her head and glanced down at her feet.
“Can’t you speak?” Gilbert ventures on curiously. It was now that the girl made eye contact with him again, shaking her head once more. She went on to make gestures with her hands, but he didn’t understand them, much to her dismay. However, he could feel that she was apologizing. But beyond that, she was beautiful: her eyes caught the brilliant sun’s rays and glittered in their unique colour, her hair a perfect match for the shape of her face. Her facial expression read something similar to embarrassment as she moved her arms, as if her disability was something to be embarrassed about.
He stood for a moment, unsure of what to say; she had finished, and was looking at him with a hopeful gleam in her eyes. But once she saw the slight puzzlement on Gilbert’s face, she lit up with epiphany, reached into her pocket, and pulled out a cell phone. She pressed the screen with such rapidity that Gilbert grew dizzy, and once done, she turned the illuminated screen towards his face.
[I’m very sorry for running into you. I am unable to speak, and I forgot that not everyone knows sign language. I’m sorry if I seemed rude.]
“It’s no problem,” he replied after reading, giving her a confident smile. “There’s no need to be so formal. I am the Awesome Gilbert Beilschmidt! Only peasants need to address me like that.”
[Name] pulled the phone away and typed a bit more, then showed him again. [I have to go now. I’m sorry, Gilbert.]
“Alright,” he nodded before adding, “What is your name?”
[First name, Last Name]
“[Name], huh? Alright then, let me give you my phone number…!”
[Name] looked surprised as she handed the albino her cell, and he gave it back in a short time.
“I think you need a bit of the Awesome Me in your life, which is why I want you to stay in touch with me, ja? And you also seem a little cool. Text me whenever you have the time.”
The girl nodded, and the smile on her face was breath-taking; so much so that Gilbert felt his skin heat up. He really wanted her to text him, to get to know him, because for the strangest reason, he felt drawn to her like a magnet. She was the first girl he’d ever met that he’d felt too attracted to; he wanted to make [Name] his own.
“Beautiful flowers should be guarded so they’re not trampled. She’s clearly not weak, but I need someone to protect, don’t I?” he thought to himself.
As she waved good-bye and turned to leave, Gilbert watched after her longingly, until he lost sight of her in the endless wave of pedestrians.
She did text him. He texted her back. They met up at many public places, just hanging out and getting to know each other. To Gilbert, the time was irreplaceable, even if [Name] didn’t have the same feelings bubbling within her heart. But after a month of their outings, [Name] asked Gilbert to go to the carnival with her. He agreed, because it was another chance to spent time with her. He knew she’d want to get on a ride, and he couldn’t avoid getting on with her, so he decided to swallow his fear of heights for her sake, and for a lack of embarrassment.
“Two tickets,” he told the ticket master as he forked over the cash.
The young blond man, clad in a festive pinstripe suit, spoke in a very bombastic and loud voice, “Yes sir! Right that a ‘way and enjoy your night!”
As the pair crossed through the gate, the world seemed to open at [Name]’s fingertips: it’d been years since she’d seen the flashing lights against the twilight sky, or experienced the smell of carnie-foods and motor oil, or heard the bright and joyful chatter beneath the roaring of roller coasters and extremely upbeat music.
“Ah, this place is really packed,” he mumbled to no one in particular before grinning at her. [Name] looked at him excitedly & pointed to a food vendor. He took her hand in his own; just making contact with her skin was enough to make Gilbert blush and turn his insides to a gooey mess…he wouldn’t show that, of course. He’d just keep playing it awesome.
“What do you want?”
She guided him to the food stand. [Name] pointed to the blue cotton candy with a smile.
“One of the blue cotton candy things…”
[Name] nudged him in the side.
The woman behind the counter had the candy made in a jiffy. “That’ll be…”
[Name] stopped listening as her eyes wandered about the area. She spied a target booth, the kind with the wooden duck boards that raced back and forth with the objective being to shoot them and gain a large amount of points. The prizes really caught her eye: massive plush animals hanging from all areas, but the one that really piqued her interest was the yellow chick.
She had to win it.
She tugged on his sleeve again, gesturing excitedly to the booth; Gilbert’s eyes followed to where she pointed.
Cockily, he smiled. “You want me to win something for you? I know I can, I am the Awesome—” his sentence was cut short as [Name] pulled him through the crowd. They reached the booth in seconds.
“Would you like a go?” asked the worker. “You get 15 shots per round, each round is one minute, shooting the yellow ducks are one point each, and shooting the red duck is an automatic win for the game. The more yellow ducks you shoot, the higher the prize, but the red duck gets you the largest of the prizes, and you can’t win the highest prizes by shooting only yellow ducks.”
Gilbert opened his mouth to boast but stopped short as he saw [Name] pick up one of the fake rifles. “Hey, what are you doing? I thought you wanted me to get something for you.”
[Name] cast her gaze towards him: her eyes shone with determination and confidence. He sighed, feeling slightly defeated. “If that’s what you want…” and he set the pay on the counter while taking the cotton candy from her.
“All right then! Once they start to move, the timer counts down! Are you ready?” the worker spoke with such enthusiasm that Gilbert almost felt intimidated.
[Name] nodded eagerly, positioning the rifle against her shoulder, her other arm at a perfect angle, her stance unfaltering. Gilbert saw that her form was near perfect, and he couldn’t help but notice her shape. And no sooner than the dirty desires flooded his mind and his face grew almost as red as his eyes, he was shaken from his thoughts by the voice of the worker.
“I advise shooting as many yellow ducks as possible instead of saving all your bullets for the red one, that way, you would have a better chance at winning something rather than nothing. Okay, here we go! Three…two…one…” The ducks began to move at breakneck speeds and the clock began its count-down.
Within the first three seconds, she fired her first bullet and shot a yellow duck. The board flew back with a snap & out of sight. Her next shot was quicker, and another duck went down. Gilbert was surprised, as the ducks moved so fast they were yellow blurs, and although he didn’t doubt that he would be able to shoot them all, he was unaware that [Name] had such good aim. Her shots were fired with excellent accuracy, and as they fell one by one, she never lost her focus.
And then the red one came.
It was much faster than the rest, and much smaller. She hadn’t seen it immediately, but it wasn’t long before she saw it. And she shot at the target: she missed.
There were only three bullets remaining, and only twenty seconds on the clock.
Gilbert watched the red duck keenly, wondering if [Name] would be able to hit it.
Another shot: another miss. Once again, she pulled the trigger, and the red duck fell behind the platform with a loud “crack!”. The game made a lot of noise and the ducks followed suit.
“Wow! Best shooter I’ve seen in quite a long time!” chimed the worker. “Honestly! Where do you get your skills? Meh, it doesn’t matter! You can choose the largest in the top row! Congratulations!”
[Name] didn’t hesitate: she pointed to the large yellow chick, grinning ear to ear. The man fetched it, and handed it over. “Come play again sometime!”
The plush was humongous, so much so that she couldn’t even wrap her arms all the way around it, and it covered her torso, stopping at her hips and resting just beneath the chin. [Name]’s face was warm with glee as she turned towards Gilbert. She held out the plush, beckoning him to take it.
“Good job, [Name]. I am a little impressed,” he said, stealing a bite of her cotton candy.
She shook her head, face stern, and then bumped him with the plush lightly.
[I want you to take it], she thought and tried her hardest to send the message to him.
Gilbert responded the way she wanted: “Wait…you got this for me?”
[Name] nodded quickly and shoved the plush into his arms, and then swiped the cotton candy playfully.
“Thank you,” his voice was hushed, almost inaudible in the ruckus of the carnival. Still, [Name] heard him, and her smile made his stomach do backflips. Their moment wasn’t long lasted because she turned on her heels and began weaving through the people. Gilbert followed behind as quickly as he could. She didn’t halt until they stood a ways from the entrance to the largest ride in the carnival: the Ferris Wheel.
The looming mass of machinery was decorated with vivid lights, its gondolas shaded in a wide variety of colours, its height nearly unbelievable. Just looking at it made Gilbert feel queasy, and to think [Name] wanted to ride this first didn’t make him feel any better. The girl didn’t wait as she hurried to the considerably short line. Gil followed less enthusiastically, trying to think of a way to get out of this: any situation would hurt his pride unless he joined her, which meant that was the only way.
Gilbert pushed the plush chick into an open slot on a cubby (after paying its fee, and unlocking it). [Name] had waited patiently as Gil purposely fumbled for the pay. And she had waited patiently as he pretended to have difficulty cramming the gift into the slot. But now, after a while of waiting, she was impatient and gave Gilbert a certain look that made him stop resisting.
At their gondola, Gilbert tried to detour her by saying, “It’s not too late to go back, if you’re scared, [Name]!”
Yet, she stepped in and took a seat, her eyes ablaze with excitement. So Gilbert climbed in too, and did his best to hide his trembling hands. There was no getting off now.
The capsule gradually began to rise; the carnival sounds soon faded away; as the people grew smaller, the world enlarged, and the setting sun illuminated the lake to its orange & pink colour. The wind blew gently, ruffling Gilbert’s hair annoyingly, but it didn’t bother him, because he couldn’t take his eyes off of [Name].
She looked absolutely stunning, more so than the scenery. Her eyes glittered with the dying sun’s rays, and her smile was different now, one more tranquil than the excited or victorious smiles he’d seen today, or in the past. Gil nearly forgot about his fear until the wind blew a bit too hard for his liking, and the gondola shook and groaned.
Things would’ve been even better if she’d been looking at him, rather than her phone screen. She was typing quickly, so Gilbert sat silently and waited for her to turn the screen towards him. She didn’t, but rested the phone on her lap and made eye contact with him again. Gilbert drummed his fingers on his lap awkwardly, stiff as a board, trying to focus only on [Name] as not to lose his cool.
“It’s beautiful, ja?”
She nodded. And then her phone chirped. She put her focus on it again. So Gil waited even more awkwardly than the last time: he dared to look out at the lake, and he found it surprisingly soothing.
The wheel came to a gradual halt. They were very high up now. The people below were mere specks. The sky seemed closer than Gil remembered seeing it in a long time. Something in his heart began to swell; was now the time to tell her? They were alone (for the most part) and in one of the most beautiful places he’s been.
She was typing long enough for him to build up the courage to bring up the topic of emotions. And just as he opened his mouth to speak, [Name] turned the screen towards him. He read it hungrily, leaning forward, trying to hide his faltered bravado.
[How beautiful do you think this view is?]
“Very. It’s one of the most beautiful sights I’ve seen…but not the most beautiful.”
[Thank you for bringing me here. I’ve really had fun.]
“It’s nothing. But listen, I want to tell you something…”
[What is it?]
Now was his chance.
Gilbert opened his mouth again but words failed him for the very first time. His face reddened again.
“Why does she do this to me?”
He couldn’t speak. So he made motions with his hands, the same motions he’d practiced in front of the mirror for weeks. [Name] watched as he slowly moved his hands, and once she realized what he’d conveyed, she’d begun to cry.
“I love you.”
He was startled by her sudden tears. “Wh—what’s wrong?”
As her tears fell down her cheeks, she began typing on her phone again. She didn’t show him the screen, but wiped her face with her sleeve. Gilbert leaned forward again, gently wiping away the salty waterfall. His cold hands brushed against her warm, sun kissed skin, and she placed her hand on top of his, holding him to her cheek. She closed her eyes.
There was a small twinkle of light. It caught Gilbert’s eye quite suddenly. It was a paper lantern glowing vividly against the now blue sky. And then he saw another. And then four more. And then an entire fleet drifted skyward. He stopped, watching in awe.
She opened her eyes slowly and looked at the lanterns: another smile spread upon her lips. [Name] released Gilbert’s hand and began to type on her cell phone. Gil sat back, still observing the marvel. She turned the screen to him again.
[Aren’t they beautiful?]
[I am so happy that you feel the same way for me as I do for you. I love you, Gilbert.]
Reading the words made his heart shoot into his throat. Tears began to trickle down his face, unbeknownst to him.
One of the lanterns drifted between the two, close enough that Gilbert could see words written upon its colourful side: “I love you, Gilbert”.
The wheel began to move again, and they sat in an excited silence for the beginning of the descent. It was interrupted with the groan of the gondola. The sound instantly put Gilbert on edge, and it made him feel anxious. The sound happened again, louder.
A sharp feeling struck Gilbert like a knife: something wasn’t right.
“[Name]— ” his voice died the instant the capsule shuttered and lurched downward. Her face was full of fear; there was nothing Gilbert could do. The sound of metal against metal made Gilbert go into high alert. He looked over the edge of the gondola towards the ride conductor. Gilbert waved his hands and called out for help, but the man didn’t seem to hear them or see, as he was looking down at his phone screen.
It was dark, and they were too high to be heard. What could he do?
[Name] reached out and grabbed onto Gil’s shirt: her entire body was trembling. He wrapped his arms around her comfortingly. “It’ll be all right. It’s just being noisy, that’s all. We aren’t far from the ground, we can get off soon.”
She held onto him tightly, sitting as close as possible, making the gondola slightly angled.
“It’ll be ok, it’ll be ok, it’ll be ok,” he muttered again and again, hoping that his words will become true.
The gondola shuddered and lurched downward again. [Name]’s grip on Gilbert grew even tighter. They were descending still: the ground was far away, yet they were much closer than before. He didn’t want to think about it, but he knew that if the gondola were to fall now, they’d have almost no chance of survival.
“Oi, do you remember the time we went to the arcade?” he asked the question without even thinking entirely. He wanted to distract [Name], to calm her down.
Despite her sheer fear and trembling frame, she nodded, looking up at him with large eyes.
“Then you remember that Alfred kid? He was crazy…”
[Name] buried her face into his chest and gripped his arms even more so.
“The face he made when he lost to Ludwig at Dance Dance Revolution…” he chuckled. [Name]’s body shook in a different way, and she snorted, and then buried her face into his chest more. Her grip on him loosened immensely. [Name] had calmed down a little.
Gilbert peeked over the edge: the man still wasn’t paying attention, but they were yards from the ground. The gondola didn’t move any more than besides its sway in the wind. He heaved an internal sigh of relief as he embraced [Name] a bit more.
They were going to be alright.