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Xtreme Faith and the Revenge of the Wiggle Chips
Saturday, June 7th, day 7
And thou hath removed my soul far off from peace: I forgat prosperity.
My phone rang at eleven the next morning. I laid my cheek back on the pillow, exhaling in irritation. Who would be calling this early on a Saturday?
“Hanuara? Its me. Julius, remember?”
Instantly I awakened. “Of course I remember! Hi.” I swung my legs down and went to my closet. Since I was up I may as well get dressed. I could never sit still when I talked on the phone.
“Look, I can’t talk long, but I was just wondering if I could see you again. Do you want to go out with me?”
I blinked in shock. No kidding he didn’t have time to talk. No guy had ever been so straight forward with me before. Except for David, but I pushed the thought of him down. “Um, sure. When?”
“Whenever works for you. Just at night, ’cause I gotta work in the morning and then swim in the afternoon.”
“How about Monday?”
“Sure. Pick you up at eight?”
I danced around my room. I was going on a date with Julius Lorenzo, the man of my dreams! I burst out warbling. “I’m walking on sun-shine, oh-hhh, I’m walking on sun-shine, oh, oh, oh. And don’t it feel good!” still singing, I bought the song off iTunes and programmed it with his number.
“Hanuara? Are you okay?” Christopher knocked uncertainly on my door. I threw it open and grabbed him in a random but excited dance.
“Whoa! What happened to you?” he backed away as if I had some sort of disease. Which I did: it was called the love bug.
“Well I met this guy, at the beach, and we totally clicked, you know? And he just called me to ask me out on a real date!” I bounced up and down, unable to stand still.
“Okay. So what’s the good news?”
“Get out!” I laughed, giving him a shove.
In my closet I stroked the satiny dress. “I’m taking you out on Monday,” I crooned to it. my stomach flipped at the thought of seeing him again. who cared about subways? I was taking a ride on the love train!
The day burned away, with Chris and me mostly staying around the house; in the pool, on the deck. We ordered a couple pizzas and watched a movie. It was almost like old times. By afternoon, it was kind of chilly, but we walked to the coffee shop for muffins right before supper. It didn’t spoil our appetite; when we got back Monica had spaghetti with cheese meatballs and garlic bread ready. I was glad she had managed to stay sober for an entire sixty hours. I would just die if she got drunk now. Chris didn’t know about her problem and I didn’t want him to find out.
“So what are you two planning to do tonight?” Monica asked, wrapping spaghetti around her fork.
I glanced at Christopher. “I don’t know. We’ll probably go to the theme park. Why?”
“Steven asked me to go to a midnight premier with him. I’m just wondering where you’ll be.” She shrugged and went back to her spaghetti.
Something twisted inside me. Monica hadn’t always been a bad person. I remembered when she caught the moonlight for Adam and I, or how she only stopped to say goodbye to me when she left for college early because of Adam. Back when Adam was alive we had such an easy relationship, but after she started drinking, and I immersed myself in my modeling, and we drifted apart. I still wanted to go home more than anything, but I also felt sort of guilty.
Steven came before Chris and I left. I tried as hard as I could not to stare, but failed miserably. He had cut his hair and shaved his beard and he looked…kind of hot, actually. At least not so much like a hippie. He grinned at me, eyes twinkling.
“You like?” He rubbed his smooth chin.
“Yeah, um, it suits you.”
Just then Monica came down the stairs, wearing a green summer dress and her hair in curly waves down her back. it was easy to tell that we were sisters, even though she was a classic Asian beauty and I was green-eyed and blond. It was just something in the way we moved and our manners of doing things that was hard to explain. As she smiled at Steven, I was instantly reminded of the way I felt for Julius. I barely knew him but I had fallen head-over-heals for him in one day. Monica clipped down the stairs to his side and smacked a big kiss on his smooth cheek. I took that as our cue to leave.
“That’s my sister’s boyfriend,” I explained to Christopher as we ambled down the sidewalk.
“He seems nice.”
I considered that. “Yeah, I guess. He can get a little big for his britches sometimes, though. He calls me ‘kid’, which makes me wonder how old he is, exactly.”
The noise of the people and the rides was enough to cut our amiable chatter short. I had never been to a theme park before, but the ones I saw on TV were never this noisy. We bought our tickets and then were pretty much at a loss. “What do you want to ride first?” I all but shouted.
To our left, a huge roller coaster crested its tracks, seemed to hover for a second, and then plunged downward with a speed that just looked vomit-inducing. It was called the Stairway to Nowhere. No kidding.
“Do you recommend any?” Chris asked.
“I’ve never been here before.”
He pointed to the Stairway to Nowhere. “How about that one?”
I followed the cars’ movement with my eyes. There were a couple loop-de-loops that hung the people upside-down for what seemed like a long time. On flat stretches the car went faster than the speed of light. “Are you sure? It looks kind of…big.”
“Are you scared?” he taunted.
It was our old dare. “No,” I answered, grabbing his hand and pulling him toward it. “I was just saying.”
The line was short. Not many people wanted to go Nowhere at four-hundred kilometres an hour. When the car pulled to a stop the people who had been riding staggered off. About three people went to the garbage can that was stationed right at the exit and threw up. They looked half-dead as they stumbled away.
It was our turn. “Are you scared now?” Chris whispered in my ear.
I tilted my chin up and in response marched into the waiting car. He was chuckling as he strapped in beside me.
My heart pounded like a hammer and I tried to steady my breathing as we waited for blastoff. People reluctantly crawled into the cars, looking like they were arguing with themselves about turning back. The conductor came on saying that anybody with heart problems or chronic motion sickness should leave now, because “If you die, we will not be held responsible.” He had a flat monotonous voice. A handful of people fled while he instructed us to keep all limbs inside the vehicle at all times, and to store looses items in the safety bins under the seat because “You will lose them, and we will not be held responsible.” I was beginning to question his responsibility and whether I should be riding the Death Train with him operating it.
The tension in my chest was enough to start an earthquake as we slowly moved forward. It was like the subway train, building speed. We went a little faster, ever so slowly gaining momentum, and then like a shot we were off.
We jerked upward as we crested a little rise, and my stomach stayed behind as we zoomed forward. I was pinned to the seat, and when I tried to move my head my neck almost broke. We throttled up a series of little rises, the “staircase”, and then we shot over and down without stopping. We went up a smooth incline that was probably at an eighty-nine degree angle, losing speed in favour of not flying off the tracks. We kept slowing until almost stopped, and then we kept slowing. Every moment I held my breath waiting to be plunged into oblivion, but I ran out of breath. Since we were in the middle we couldn’t see what was happening ahead. I glanced at Chris with a question in my eyes, and that’s when we plummeted back to earth.
Instinctively, I grabbed the bar in front of us, shrieking like a banshee. At the first loop-de-loop, I almost lost my hat and glasses. At the second, I did lose my glasses. I couldn’t form the words “Nooooooo!” so I just settled for a less complicated “AAARRGHHH!”
By the time it was over I felt like I had been pulled in a taffy puller and pressed with a hot iron and twirled in a washing machine at the same time. I bolted from the car and struggled my way around a group of green people to the garbage can that obviously hadn’t been emptied in a long time. the smell of it made me retch again and again. Then I had nothing left in my stomach to throw up, so I backed away pinching the bridge of my nose.
“Poor baby.” Chris patted my back. I wasn’t sure if he was being sarcastic or not. I was too ill to care.
He helped me hobble over to a covered picnic area. My head stopped spinning after I had sat down for a while. My stomach also stopped roiling eventually too. I rested my cheek on the cool table.
“You guys ride the Stairway to Premature Chronic Health Problems?” a woman’s voice, heavy with a New York accent, asked.
I lifted my cheek off the table ever so slightly to see a park attendant in her fifties watching us. Christopher nodded, not quite able to hold back a grin. I drooped back on the table.
“And let me guess,” she went on, “she puked her guts out and she just started to feel better. That right?” Christopher must have nodded because she kept talking. “We get this all the time. I got the cure. See that stand over there? It’s called the Wiggle Chips stand. They’re like potato chips right, except they’re made with actual potatoes. You can see them do it and everything. But anyway, by the lady a plate with a bit o’ ketchup on ‘em, and you’ll be set. Works every time, I tell you. Works every time.” her voice faded away and blended with the rest of the noise.
“You want to try that, Hanuara?” Chris patted my arm. I groaned.
“Maybe. Let me try to stand up.” I slowly raised my head. The world stayed in place. I turned to look Christopher in the eye. I could still see every speck of light colouring in them. but his eyes looked…surprised? confused? “What’s wrong, Chris?”
“Where’re your glasses?”
My hands flew to my face. “Oh!” I pulled the brim of my hat down as far as it would go. “I lost them on that loop-de-loop. I need to get another pair!” I leapt to my feet. And wished I hadn’t.
“Steady there,” Christopher caught me just before I fell. He wrapped his arm securely around my waist. “I got you. Don’t worry, I saw a guy selling glasses on our way in. They’re sort of different, but they’ll work. And then we got to get you some Wiggle Chips!” he grinned at me.
I kept my head down and we walked quickly, I trying to make my stride as choppy and un-model-like as I could. We got to the stand—which was on the very other side of the park—just as another couple was leaving. I stared at the display in horror.
“Christo-pher!” I hissed.
He laughed out loud. “Its your only option. Now, do you want stars or hearts?”
Every single pair of glasses wasn’t shaped like they were supposed to be. There were ones shaped liked stars, moons, hearts, fish, flowers, and anything else right out of my worst nightmare. Things I would never be caught looking at in a million years. Things I would be forced to wear or risk having the paparazzi tipped off. I grudgingly picked out the flowers, the ones that looked the most normal. Which meant they didn’t look normal at all. Chris bought them for me with a smug smile.
“What do you say?” He looped his arm through mine.
I turned my flower-clad eyes up to him in mock admiration. “Thank-you, Chris,” I sang.
Now we had to walk all the way to the other side of the park to get those stupid Wiggle Chips. My stomach was still queasy. “Hey, these are really good!” They were exactly like potato chips, except they were a bit moist, which made them taste better. I slathered on ketchup and dug in.
Chris insisted I leave some for him, against my better judgement. It became a race to see who could steal the most as we roamed around the park. I didn’t see kids standing around talking until I ran into one of them.
“Sorry! I’m sorry!”
He wore a bright green tee-shirt that said “Everybody calls me Trouble. That’s why my mother changed my middle name to George.” While I was still apologizing, he bumped my arm harshly. The plate of Wiggle Chips fell to the ground. His friends laughed and they walked away.
“Hey!” I shouted feebly. “That wasn’t nice. What I did was an accident!” But they were out of earshot. I glanced at my poor Wiggle Chips, now all over the floor.
“Well, that sucks.” Christopher pouted.
“That was so mean!” It wasn’t like I had run into that kid on purpose. And now my Wiggle Chips were on the ground. I stood seething.
“Oh well, what can you do about it? They’re gone.” Chris pulled on my arm, but I yanked it away. I started in the direction I had seen them go. My eyes were burning behind my cheap plastic, flower-shaped sunglasses. No body gets in the way of me and my Wiggle Chips. I would make sure the potato perfection never went to waste again.
“What are you doing, Hanuara?” Christopher jogs to catch up to my long strides.
“Looking for the little rug rats.”
“And what do you plan on doing to them, Hanuara?”
I thought about it. “I’m going to stalk them. I’m going to scare them to death.”
“Good plan. Teach ‘em to mess with us, huh?” I scanned the crowd for them, looking for the one called Trouble. I saw him and his friends, waiting in the back of the line for some ride called the Twister. I got in line behind them, looking around as if I didn’t know they were there. One of the little kids looked behind him. he said something to his friend, who looked too. Then they looked at Trouble, who looked at me. they walked away, I in hot pursuit.
My primitive hunting instinct took over. They were my pray, and I would find them. I would hunt them down. Then I would leave and pretend nothing ever happened.
All three of them looked over their shoulders at the same time, and saw Chris and I hot on their trail. They all broke into a run, Trouble leading the pack. Their little legs were so small I barely had to pick up my pace to keep up with them. I moved gracefully through the crowd, never taking my eyes off them. just for the fun of it, I motioned to Christopher to go around to the other side. They looked behind themselves and saw we were no longer there. I almost laughed when I saw their sighs of relief and their three-way high-five. They turned around, and I was standing right there, arms crossed. “Hello,” I said pleasantly.
Their beady little eyes went wide as saucers. Trouble made a move as if to run away backward, but he ran smack into Christopher. He smiled toothily at the now trapped little boys. They stared at us like the mice cornered by the Cheshire cat. I lowered myself so that I was eye-to-eye with Trouble. I almost had to sit right on the ground.
“Now, why did you knock down my food like that, boy?” I barked.
“It—it—was a joke!” he wailed.
I was about to say more, maybe scare him a bit before I let them go, but as he looked up at me with quavering eyes that were no longer smug or smirking, he just looked so much like a little kid, all the hot air left me in a flash.
Sighing, I rose to my full height again. The boys’ eyes followed my every move with terror. “Apologize,” I said more gently. I still wanted them to get the message that knocking people’s food out of their hands was not nice.
“I’m sorry!” the kid cried.
“It’s okay. As for the rest of you, I want you to make sure this never happens again. hear? Now scoot.” They scrambled off, almost tripping over each other to get away from me. I watched them go, feeling the beginnings of a guilty conscience. I put my hand on Christopher’s arm, more for support than anything. “That was interesting. Cute kids, I guess.”
Chris looked at me strangely. “What changed your mind?” he teased.
I focused on my toes. “Aw, come on Chris. They were what, ten? I guess I was having a sentimental moment back there.”
Chris kissed my forehead. “I was having second thoughts too. They looked kind of scared. Do you want to ride the Ferris wheel?”
The Ferris wheel had a different kind of height than the Stairway of Death. We rotated gently upward, hung in the air while somebody else got on. It was peaceful, and we gazed out over the park, and saw the city lights of Tianam. We gently floated back down to start the cycle again.
“This is nice,” I said to Chris.
“Yeah. Its the kind of thing Amy would love. She’s such a romancer.”
I watched the lights of a plane descend to the airport. “So you’re still going out with her?”
Christopher sighed. “I don’t know, Hanuara. We’ve been really distant with each other lately. I can’t even talk to her anymore without her completely misunderstanding my meaning. It’s like we’re up against some sort of wall, suspicious of everything. I want to fix it but I don’t know how.” He looked at me forlornly.
I patted his shoulder. “I wish I could help you, Chris. But my relationships so far have all fallen flat. Julius Lorenzo is probably the first person I’ve actually fallen in love with, and that was so fast I didn’t see it happen.” I gazed wistfully at the blinking park lights.
“Is he your boyfriend?”
“No. I just met him a couple days ago. We haven’t even been on a real date yet.” I brightened “I can’t wait for Monday.”
We stepped off the Ferris wheel surrounded by an aura of serenity. It was almost three in the morning. We probably should be heading back. Christopher’s plane would be leaving in just a few short hours. I laced my fingers through his. “I don’t want you to leave.” I whispered, gazing at him.
He smiled down at me gently. “I don’t want to go. I had fun though.”
This sounded uncomfortably like he was saying goodbye already. I tightened my grip on his hand, wishing I could hold him there. The park had become remote and deserted. Pieces of garbage and other debris floated on a stray breeze. The only other person on the stretch we were walking on was a woman in a long black overcoat, a strange selection for such a warm night. She was bending over to pick something up, and as we passed her, she got back to her full height—which wasn’t very much—and turned in our direction. Her face was twisted in pain, and a tear was rolling down her cheek.
It was the woman in white.
I stopped dead in my tracks, yanking Christopher to a halt beside me. the woman scrubbed the tear from her eye, but more kept coming. She began to sob.
“Hey!” I pointed a finger at her. her tears didn’t fool me. “What are you doing? Why are you following me?”
She turned her tearstained face to mine. “Come back, come back, wherever you are…” she half-sobbed, half-sang the words.
“Hanuara?” Chris looked at me as if in concern.
“Look, lady, I want you to stop following me. I don’t care if you cry or whatever, your tears don’t work on me!” I put my hands on my hips. She sank to the ground, crying and singing.
“Hanuara, who are you talking to?”
I paused. “What do you mean who am I talking to? I’m talking to that woman sitting on the ground.”
Chris looked all over the place, except right where the woman was. finally I pointed. “Chris! Right there.”
He squinted, tilted his head to the side. “Oh. I get it. You’re playing a joke. Very funny Hanuara.” He gave me a sour look and started to pull me away.
“What do you mean a joke? She’s right there!”
He shook his head, in annoyance and disbelief. “I don’t see anything,” he said slowly. “Are you okay, honey?”
I stared at the woman, who was now silent and staring at us. Ignoring Chris’s expression as best as I could, I reached out with a shaking finger and laid my finger on her cheek. it was solid; I could feel the smooth, soft skin. How could I have fallen asleep like this? Or maybe I hadn’t really woken up this morning at all. So I wasn’t really going on a date with Julius?
Was it possible to dream this vividly?
A shiver rolled down my spine. No, no, no. this isn’t happening, not happening. Suddenly, the woman looked behind me and shrieked. I jumped back from her. Her face was contorted in absolute terror, like she was seeing her worst nightmare right over my shoulder. I couldn’t see anything, except park attendants sweeping the pavement and picking up trash. I turned back to ask her what was wrong.
But she was gone.
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