He hopped up onto the rim of the broken-down fountain, pulling a ready-rolled weed cigarette from an inside pocket in his coat tails. He lit it slowly, savouring the silence in the cave. He took a long pull and set off round the fountain, swinging his leg over the fallen chandelier in the middle. His long, blonde hair bounced about his shoulders as he hopped over a boom box resting on the fountain lip.
He pressed a button on the front of the boom box with a long, slender finger, then turned the volume down until the lyrics were just whispers tickling his ears.
“Zoned out afternoon, let's catch ‘who's on top of whom’, tell it like it is, ’cause it isn't anyway…” He sang along softly, skipping the second verse to pull on his cigarette. “My jaw dropped dead to the table, she put my cool in shock…”
He stopped, flicking the song off. Much as he liked Skid Row, he wasn’t in the mood for music. He sat down with a thump on the edge of the fountain, hand shaking as he lifted it to his mouth to pull on the cigarette.
Blowing smoke rings as he exhaled seemed to calm him. There was no Laddie to ask him what was wrong; there was no Star to tell him off for smoking in front of the boy…
“Paul?” came the sleepy voice of Marko, who stumbled sluggishly over, rubbing sleep out of his eyes. His hair was tousled, and his chest bare, showing toned pecks and abdominal muscles. “Still an hour to sunrise, ’s’up bud?”
Paul shook his head, trying to force his face into an innocent expression.
“Can’t sleep,” he said, truthfully.
Paul took another drag of his cigarette.
“Where’s your jacket and vest?” He asked Marko, pointing.
“Washroom,” said Marko thickly, still trying to shake off sleep. “Dwayne doing it for me with his jeans.”
“Oh, are the other two up now?" Paul said, just covering his disappointment.
“David’s still asleep…” Marko yawned. “Got something to do tonight, so he said we can feed on our own if we want…”
Paul nodded, grateful. He wanted to be alone tonight, for reasons he couldn’t explain to anyone, least of all himself.
“Marko!” came a yell from the washroom. “The damn colours in your jacket are running…”
Paul slapped a five on the counter and took a swig of his bottle. The taste of alcohol was bitter, but refreshing. He stared round the bar, looking for any possible action. Apart from two male students out on a weekend bender and a group of Surf Nazis in the corner, it was deserted.
He nurtured his drink through a Cheap Trick track on the stereo system, watching the Surf Nazis bicker and argue.
A girl with long, dark, red hair walked up to the bar, slid an I.D. card across to the barmaid and asked for a vodka and O.J. Paul eyed the card, his vamp vision zooming in on a tear in the plastic cover and a smear of glue around the photo. It was obviously a fake, and Paul guessed the girl must be actually underage.
He smiled at her boldness.
It was only then did he notice the willowy figure, the slender ridge of her nose, the long, dark lashes framing sparkling emerald eyes, the fullness of her lip as she spoke.
The Surf Nazis in the corner began teasing her, yelling insults when they got no response. The girl rolled her eyes and snatched her I.D. back.
“On second thoughts, cancel that,” she said, walking out.
Paul drained the dregs of his lager, slammed the empty bottle on the counter and followed.
The boardwalk was crowded with tourists and locals alike, all seeking fun and good times.
Paul looked this way and that, but couldn’t spot the girl. He sighed, and headed towards the Ferris wheel. It was lit up with bright coloured lights in shades of ruby, emerald, gold, and electric blue.
The queue was short, as always, but there seemed to be plenty of people going on the Ferris wheel, and Paul joined the line.
When he got to the front, the ride supervisor shook his head and said, “You’ll need someone with you. Due to the weight in the carriages we need a minimum of two adults.”
“We’re letting people on in twos.” The supervisor continued. “If you’ve not got someone with you, you’ll have to go with the next single person in the line.”
Paul stepped back to look, and stood behind him, was the girl from the bar.
He smiled, but she wasn’t looking at him. She was frowning at the ride attendant.
“You mean I’ve got to go on with him?” She said, in a slightly worried tone.
“I’m not gonna take an axe to you while we’re up there,” said Paul, still smiling. “Ladies first…” he held his arms out to the ride steps.
She eyed Paul up and down, then stepped up to the Ferris Car that had just swung around. Each car was painted a different colour; theirs was red. It was like a little room, but with mesh instead of wall going around it from halfway up, just above the long bench seat on two of the walls. The roof stopped them seeing thing above their heads; you could look out, but not up or down.
When they were both in and seated, the attendant closed the door and pointed at the inside lock. Paul twisted it until he heard it click, then sat back down. The girl was sat on the seat opposite him, but when the Ferris wheel started moving up she squealed,
“I hate going backwards!” And joined Paul on his side of the carriage.
He smiled to himself.
“What are you laughing at?” she asked, sounding hurt.
Paul cleared his throat and sat up straighter. “Nothing…”
“Have I seen you before?” she asked suspiciously, squinting at him.
“Um… yeah… I was in that bar you went in earlier – with a fake I.D.,” he had to struggle to keep a straight face on that last bit.
Her jaw dropped. She looked like she was about to protest or defend herself, but then she turned her back on him and stared out the mesh, folding her arms.
Paul said nothing, but pulled out another ready-rolled cigarette from his coat. He fumbled for a lighter in the same pocket, found it, and flicked it open. It was a shiny silver, rectangular, and reflected the neon lights as they went further and further up in the Ferris wheel.
The lighter wouldn’t light. It didn’t even spark. He cursed and flung it on the floor. The girl looked around anxiously, and had to hold down a laugh when she saw Paul, slouched so low most of his back was resting on the seat, arms folded moodily, scowling, cigarette hanging out of his mouth.
“What are you like?” she snorted, flicking her own lighter on and holding the flame under the end of Paul’s cigarette, still dangling out his mouth.
He sat up, cupping the flame against the wind blowing in through the wire mesh.
“Thanks,” he said, taking a deep pull and inhaling the smoke. The smell of marijuana soon filled the little carriage, and the girl pulled a face and began wafting it towards the mesh.
“I’m Paul,” he offered, this time exhaling out the little window in the door.
“I’m Anya,” she returned, sliding her lighter back in her pocket.
She drummed her fingers on the hard plastic seat, then began slapping out a tune on her knees.
Paul didn’t know what to say. The ‘Creepshow’ song was still thumping in his head, so he sang along with it instead.
“My jaw dropped dead to the table, she put my cool in shock, crack kills and blood spills baby, but psychos, dykes and transvestites, are on the choppin' block…”
He noticed Anya looking at him, head on one side, a smile playing about her lips.
“What?” he asked, unnerved.
“You have a lovely voice…” she said, sliding away from the window and closer to him.
“My brothers don’t think so…” Paul said, turning away slightly so she wouldn’t see his crimson cheeks. Paul hadn’t known he could blush…
“So? My sister thinks I can’t draw for the life in me, but the heads of my Art College know better.”
Paul was caught off guard.
“I had a sister once,” he said, before he could stop himself.
Anya looked puzzled, then she looked upset. “Once? You mean… she died?”
“She betrayed her family, almost cost them their deaths… or should I say, she nearly cost us our deaths.”
Anya placed a hand gently on Paul’s shoulder. “What happened to her?”
Now Paul had opened up, he couldn’t stop.
“She left us. And she took our little brother with her. We went for him, we knew he didn’t want to leave… but her friends tried to kill us. We escaped by… well; I guess I could say ‘playing dead’. She’s got her life now, they all have… that was months ago, though…” Paul hunched further over as he spilled his heart out, and Anya leant further in until she was sat right next to him.
They were past the top of the Ferris wheel, over halfway around.
“I dunno why I just said all that…” Paul said, when he realised what he’d said.
“It’s ok…” Anya said, putting her arm around Paul. “I can see you’ve not been able to talk about it much…”
“They think we’re dead, her and her new family. Otherwise they’d have come back for us. I didn’t realise how I felt about that until now… my big brother isn’t too keen for us to talk about them at home…” Paul said, leaning against Anya. “Look at me!! I only met you 10 minutes ago and I just told you my family history!” He laughed at his own stupidity.
“I don’t mind… it shows what a great friend I am, if people can open up to me like that!” Anya said, half laughing.
The Ferris wheel started to pull their carriage down, so they were facing the sea, and Paul’s breath was taken away with its beauty. In front of them was nothing but a big, blue expanse. A midnight-blue sky splashed with stars above an indigo sea, with white waves rolling onto the dark sands.
The night truly was the only thing to live for, thought Paul, as he appreciated the moment – being in Anya’s arms, savouring the night, smelling the sea air, watching the neon lights twinkle at him as their carriage slipped lower and lower with the turning wheel.
But soon, it would be sun up, and he’d be banished deep into the rocky caves to escape its fatal rays.
“The sun will rise again, The earth will turn to sand, Creation's colours seem to fade to grey, And you'll see the sickly hands of time, Will write your final rhyme, And end a memory…” Paul sang quietly to himself.
“What are you whispering?” Anya asked, jerking Paul back to reality.
“Just something by Skid Row…” he mumbled, embarrassed. He realised he was still resting on Anya, and sat up straight.
“You like them, don’t you?” she said, bringing her arms back down by her sides now Paul had pulled away. “The only thing I love more than painting is to listen to someone sing…”
Paul saw they were nearing the end of the ride and was sad – he’d enjoyed spending time with someone without having to think of the best way to drain them dry. Especially someone who appreciated his music…
Their carriage came to a stop and Paul reluctantly undid the lock. He let Anya out first, then followed.