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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Summer Fireworks

 Note: I know they didn't have all the means to just suddenly jet off to another continent for the week in the 1950s, without paying an arm and a leg for it - and also that they didn't have most of the rides mentioned here... But I was really setting this in an alternative universe, so anything could really happen. Also, I think I'm beginning to ship Aika and Cherry way too much! 
P.S. Carrie is Cherry's real name, and this is revealed in When the Summer Ends. The main reason I stopped posting When the Summer Ends chapters to my blog is because some of them need to go through a lot of editing, and also because I'm becoming serious about wanting to be an author... Right now I've completed fourteen chapters.

Paris, August 1958

Cloudy wisps of pastel blue and candy floss pink sailed in from the west, cloaking the dying sun and casting the people below in shades of amber and grey. Minuscule bulbs stringed high above the ground flickered before bathing the streets a gaudy, florescent yellow. Below, a sea of people chatted amiably. Little kids joined hands and skipped happily, elderly couples sat in the last rays of sunshine whilst watching the children play, and young parents kept a careful eye on their toddlers, yet didn’t yell when they ran too far ahead.
All around, romantic classical pieces, ragtime ditties, swing music from years ago, and the latest rock n’ roll hits were blaring out for the crowd’s entertainment, and without knowing it, people everywhere in the park were synchronising their footsteps to the beat of the music. Many different languages could be distinguished in the crowds; English, Spanish, Afrikaans, and most predominantly, French. Disneyland was seething with noise from every corner.
The scent of mouthwatering delicacies such as luxury chocolates, Belgian waffles dusted with sugar, crepes, candy apples and popcorn wafted through the air, assuring that many a mother and father would open their wallets for a snack or two. Sugary sweet smells of cinnamon from a nearby stall attracted a ravenous crowd of people, forming a line so long, that it twisted and twined around the surrounding stalls like a serpent.
Two girls so at odds with each other made their way through the crowd — one bold with her head held high, hands balled into two boy-bashing fists if an unlucky male happened to look her way, and the other timid, trying her hardest to avoid bumping into anybody. Girl A was tall and lanky, with cropped blonde hair and frosty blue orbs, whereas Girl B was a different species altogether, displaying long blonde waves past her waist, frightened brown eyes, and a delicate button nose. Both wore clothes that stood out a mile away; the eldest and bravest wore clothes that wouldn’t look amiss on any fashionable boy, and the words “bubblegum bitch” written across her leather jacket in curvaceous pink writing, gaining curious glances and slight frowns from other women in the crowd — the youngest girl’s clothes were so outlandish that she was the subject of outright gawking and guffawing from a gang of teenage boys. Her below-the-knee dress was made of layers and layers of navy blue chiffon complete with edgings of star-shaped trims and laces, and topped off with a matching navy bow across the bodice. Clusters of white stars were embedded in the soft material, giving it the appearance of the sky on a clear summer’s night. Along with the work-of-art dress, she sported a short sleeved chiffon blouse underneath for modesty, dainty white shoes with tiny heels, a matching starry headbow, and silver jewellery in the shape of the celestial forms to match. Together, they looked like chalk and cheese.
The second girl kept her arm carefully entwined within her older companion’s, although fearing they would be separated and lost forever in the sea of people.
‘Loosen your grip a little, Aika,’ said the first girl, suddenly stopping in the middle of the crowd and turning to face her companion. ‘You’re looking super tense for a gal who just got into Disney.’
Aika peered anxiously into her friend’s face, her eyebrows disappearing into her thick flaxen bangs. ‘I can’t, Carrie. There’s too many people and I don’t want to get lost.’
‘Don’t be so fuckin’ ridiculous. I’m here to look out for you, and don’t you forget it, skirt,’ Carrie huffed, hands on her hips and eyes narrowed with dourness.
Not one of the girls noticed how the people stared, how they whispered with terse voices and gritted teeth, or how several boys joked and elbowed each other, snickering under their breath.
Supposedly, Carrie wouldn’t care. She would toss back her head, laugh, and simply give the bird to whoever dared to mock herself and her decisions. Yet her indifference was a mask. Many nights were spent tossing and turning, eyes focused sleepily at the ceiling, yet refusing to actually close and fall asleep.
Aika was afraid; fully knowing the consequences of being different in life due to all the hardships and upsets she had in the past, yet put it all aside in order to be her own idea of beauty. Besides, nothing could worry her too much with Carrie by her side. In a way, the tall, willowy tomboy that she called her friend could quite possibly be better known as a bodyguard. Quite often, at the school they both attended back in the USA, Carrie would brawl with anybody — male or female, old or young — who dared to make fun of Aika for whatever reason. The eldest girl would never admit it, not as long as she lived anyway, but she was absolutely devoted to her friend. And though she would grumble endlessly about it, she would get put in detention every day for a month as long as it meant the girl was happy and safe.
Together, they vanished through the hordes, hands clasped together. Out of the pressure of many people brushing against her and chatting noisily, a new attitude had taken over Aika. A grin was plastered across her face, and all traces of feeling frightened, nervous, or even slightly uncomfortable were gone.
Carrie could feel the atmosphere grow less intense and almost breathed a sigh of relief. She had promised Aika’s rich and rather intimidating father that she would protect and keep the girl happy no matter what, and she had no intention of even toeing the line on this strict and suffocating rule. The girl had just had a horrible experience back in Jubilee, and bringing her back to her French roots, her old home in the countryside of her childhood, and even to Disneyland was her father’s way of trying to cheer her up and get her to forget that terrible day. Of course he couldn’t make it all the way to Disney… He was a busy man, and had little to no time for his children (not to mention more money than sense), so it was all up to Carrie to look after the strange child for the day. She didn’t mind, but on the other hand she didn’t like having so much responsibility.
‘Where would you like to go first?’ Carrie asked kindly, almost sounding like she was addressing a younger sister rather than a friend.
Aika shrugged shyly, ‘Wherever you would like to go, Carrie. This day is special for you, too.’
‘Well, alright,’ she said, peering down at the map that Aika held out to her and studying it carefully. ‘How about… The Phantom Manor?’
They set off back into the crowds again, dodging and ducking many people as best they could. A couple of times Carrie found herself bumping into a few strangers, but before the people had a change to mutter a quick ‘sorry,’ she had already ran off, giggling maniacally to herself and dragging Aika behind her. Their hurried footsteps slowed down to a steady walk, to an amble, to a direct halt.
The Phantom Manor loomed far above the girls, dark and eerie with flickering lights and rotten clapboard wood, yet a queue almost as big as Disney’s entrance bulged out of the side entrance. Giggles and shrill shrieks from inside the building gave it an exciting ambiance, so the pair rushed to the end of the queue with great haste. In Disney, you had to be quick on your feet if you wanted to get anywhere on time. For about ten minutes they waited in a disorderly line filled with giggling girls and squealing children, before being ushered inside the haunted house by a sinister-looking door man with a pencil moustache and cobweb-dusted hair. To Aika, he seemed suspicious, and she kept as far away from him as humanely possible.
Locked inside, a formidable voice boomed in both English and French to all the people around — something along the lines of ‘playful spooks’ — then the lights spluttered, and the room was plunged into complete darkness. Thunder crashed, lightening highlighted the features of a man hanging high up in the attic, and the innocent portraits on the surrounding walls slowly morphed into something else; something evil, corrupted, and malicious. A sweaty hand found its way into Carrie’s. It felt delicate, trembling, tiny and clammy within her own. She squeezed. Gratified by the comfort, Aika faced the evil door man with a steady concentration, trying not to give in to his malevolent attitude. It was all for show, however, for when the people had passed into the adjacent corridor, a kind smile graced his lips to wait for the next batch of people.
The next five minutes were spent winding through the haunted mansion, watching more pictures on the wall leer as they passed by, and tracing longing fingers along the red velvet barricades that prevented them from reaching out to touch the dusty trinkets left behind by the dearly departed. Another five minutes later, they were on the ride. Squashed together into the circular carriage, the bar was pushed down with a weary final push from the ride attendant, and there was no turning back… It was pitch black for thirty seconds before coming to an eerie flickering light the strength of one single bulb. The ride swung violently left, revealing a candle suspended in midair to the girls. It appeared to grow closer and closer in the hallway, before the carriage turned sharply right and went back on course to join the slow chain of carriages ascending a hill complete with the undead coming out from their putrid coffins.
Secondly, the girls raced to Thunder Mountain, knowing fully well how long the waiting time for this particular ride could grow to on some days. Forty, fifty, sixty, seventy — it didn’t matter. Seemingly luck was on their side, and the board only displayed two digits: one and zero. They flew into the line, laughing like young children, and were soon waiting to be boarded onto the next mine cart; each one of them thanking their lucky stars that they had managed to secure themselves a seat on the legendary roller coaster. The cart rumbled into view and paused momentarily in front of the next passengers, before heaving itself backwards into position with a huge groan. Passengers boarded, lap bars secured tightly in place (suffocating some unlucky people with smaller companions), with a whoop from the miners and a wave from the people in the queue, the cart was on its way to the wild west. Jarring noises of clangs and clunks of machinery echoed in ears the whole journey, complete with elated screams of acceleration and alarm from the small children, tricked into thinking this was just a gentle train ride by joyful parents.
After coming off the roller coaster with knees trembling like jelly and Aika’s face as white as a sheet, the duo decided a gentler ride was in desperate order, so joined the line into a cheerful pastel world of singing dolls; It’s a Small World. Aika was perfectly jubilant to sit in a small boat, being bombarded with many nationalities of puppets and dolls that sang in their mother tongue, joining hands and dancing gleefully in twos and threes. On the other hand, Carrie slumped next to Aika with her jaw comically dropped, a look of disbelief on her face for the whole journey across the globe. She couldn’t believe anything could be so pathetically soft and mushy. Mainly, she couldn’t believe she was sat on this cheesy ride in the first place! If she could just see her ex-gangs’ faces right now, she would be the laughing stock of Jubilee for months, even years to come! And there was Aika, perched elegantly on her seat with hands folded in her lap in a ladylike manner, a cheerful grin on her face as she passed by the peaches-and-cream world at one mile per hour.
‘This is so cute!’ Aika squealed excitedly, trying to keep her hands gracefully in her lap. Her friend could tell she was trying to refrain from waving her hands about in happiness, as she would always get embarrassed when she did that. It was like an impulse that had to be stomped on to keep in check.
‘Yeah,’ her less sentimental friend replied dryly, ‘it sure is.’
Swarms of people were entering the infamous theme park, and everybody could tell it would be a matter of minutes before all the queues changed from twenty minutes to sixty minutes. Deciding it would be foolish not to get any food whilst at Disney, Aika and Carrie sat down under an umbrella and decided what to eat by looking at the nearby menu. Most things, Carrie had never heard of, so she stuck close to her American roots and opted for a cheeseburger and fries. Looking anxiously at the very long line of people, Aika decided she would eat later on, so as not to bump into anyone.
‘Don’t be stupid,’ Carrie said, seeing right through her, ‘you stay right here and I’ll order for you. Don’t go anywhere or talk to anybody weird, okay?’
Aika nodded obediently, but a slight pout was on her lips at being talked down to like a toddler. For half an hour she sat in the shade of the umbrella, noting how fast the sun was going down. The evening air felt pleasantly cool on her chiffon-covered arms, and she sat with her knees up to her chest, on the bench, people watching.
Mickey-shaped shiny balloons were tied onto the handlebars of passing strollers, bobbing and bouncing in the gentle summer breeze. Donald Duck and Daisy Duck waddled by, their huge bodies swinging and wiggling as they went; Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse not so far behind, followed by Pluto, Goofy, Chip n’ Dale. Frenchmen, Englishmen, Americans, and countless other nationalities waltzed the streets of Disney, chatting and blathering amiably amongst themselves, and to their children and grandchildren.
Very shortly, Carrie returned to her, hands full of a tray that Aika leapt from her seat to take from her. In the dusk, they chewed thoughtfully, not making much conversation, for it was ten am the last time they sat down to eat a decent meal. Mouth full of fries, Carrie commented that she was sorry she couldn’t afford anything better for her friend, knowing that she was well used to fancy French cuisine and all that… A giggle on her lips, the youngest replied that this meal was perfectly alright with her, and that she wasn’t really as posh as Carrie made her out to be.
Gradually, day gave way to night, and the sun slid behind Cinderella’s castle, setting the sky ablaze with a medley of fiery shades. Then a soft blanket of deep blue took its place, dotting the sky with a dazzling sweep of constellations to compliment Aika’s choice of dress. The pool of water below the castle, left over from a passing moment of rainfall, was star-gemmed, reflecting the early evening array of light and darkness. From the body of water, one of the girls caught sight of an explosion of colour and exclaimed, pointing up at the sky.
The gold fizzled rapidly up into the night and vanished with a just a trace of smoke to prove it had even existed. More followed, in shades of gold, silver, and magenta. Crowds gathered underneath the princess’s castle to get a closer look, all their faces cast upwards in complete fascination. For some, it was the first time they had seen fireworks, and it was just like magic was happening before their eyes.
More colourful explosions hit the sky, bursting and fizzling out in a blast of rainbow assorted stars. With each bang, Aika’s shoulders flinched a little, relaxing again until the next big bang would take place, and they would jump again. Noticing this, Carrie swung an arm around her shoulders, which her companion unflinchingly accepted with a grateful smile. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was the tiredness of the long day which caused her to do this, or how soft Aika’s porcelain skin looked in the evening atmosphere, but without thinking she placed a gentle kiss on her delicate cheek, gaining a surprised yelp from the girl. Instead of being angered by this gesture, after getting over the initial shock of the kiss, the youngest kissed the greaser girl back, her face bright red but concealed in the dim light.
Together, it had been a tiring day, and when they got back to the fancy resort hotel Aika’s parents had booked, they both fell into bed and didn’t stir for a solid ten hours. Despite the fatigue, Cherry knew it was worth it; after all, the remaining days in Paris would be spent traipsing around fashion boutiques, led by Aika in the quest for the most beautiful dress.

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