The next day at work, Wayne spent the majority of his time between problems and reports looking for an apartment in the paper and online. Prices for housing in the past three years had skyrocketed in the region. Wayne couldn't even find a bachelor apartment for anything below fifteen hundred dollars a month in the city. Most places were also asking for first and last or a damage deposit. The search was nothing short of depressing.
The day drew to a close and before he knew it, Wayne found himself on the freeway, speeding toward the exit that lead to the cape where the carnival set up every year. His eyes glanced at the exit, then to the road home, all the while a small battle was being waged in his mind. Suddenly he pulled to the right, cutting off a delivery truck and skirting across the sand littered median between the highway and the exit. As he slowed at the light, he wiped the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. "What am I doing?"
A few moments later he pulled into the darkened fairgrounds. This time when he walked out into the unsettlingly quiet yard, there was no one there to greet him. "What are you doing Wayne?" He said to himself.
"Hey, what're you doing?" Came a voice from behind him.
"I was just asking myself the same question." Wayne said, turning to see no one behind him. "What the?"
"I asked you a question."
Wayne looked down to find a dwarf still wearing makeup and dressed in a clown suit staring up at him in the twilight. "Hey, sorry. I'm looking for Autumn."
"Um, dark hair, blue eyes. Her dad runs the place?"
"Oh, yeah THAT Autumn." He said, rolling his eyes. "This way please."
Wayne followed the man in behind the rides, between generators with power cords snaking out of every crevice and finally out into a small yard hidden from sight behind the fair. In this yard where a slew of trailers and tents.
"That one there." He said, pointing to a larger tent.
"Thanks, what's your name?"
"What's your name?"
"They call me Grumpy."
"You're kidding right?"
"Do I freaking look like I'm kidding!?"
"Alright, uh ... thanks Grumpy."
"Yeah yeah." He mumbled, walking away toward another trailer.
"Jesus, I can't believe that." Wayne said to himself, making his way to the tent. On his way he could hear laughter and cheers coming from within. When he reached it he put his hand up to knock before shaking his head in self mockery. "Idiot." He pulled open the flap and took a step inside. "Hello?"
The tent became silent. In the center was a table occupied by at least a dozen people. The vast majority were still wearing their gear and makeup from the days work. They had all turned and were staring at him with a mixture of angry and confused glances.
"Uh ... Hi. My name is Wayne."
He was met with silence.
"I'm uh, looking for Autumn?"
As the troupe looked at each other in confusion Wayne noticed a head of black hair shoot up in their midst.
"Wayne?" She said, her face so glazed with shock that he could see right through the makeup.
The group started mumbling between each other as she made her way around the table and grabbed Wayne's arm, pulling him out of the tent. "What are you doing here?"
"I ... " He looked at her, smiling at the jester's outfit she wore. It was tight, and remarkably revealing considering its medieval roots. "Well." He said, not able to take his eyes off of her body.
"Up here big boy." She pushed his chin up with her fingers until they made eye contact. She was smiling. "You were saying?"
"We never discussed when we'd see each other again. So I took it upon myself to come down and remedy that."
"You're cute." She leaned in and kissed him. "Oops, marked you." With her thumb, she wiped away a smudge of white that had stayed pasted on Wayne's stubbly chin.
"So how come no one seems to know you as Autumn around here?"
"Yeah ... " She looked away.
Wayne recognized the look from the night before. That telltale glimmer of guilt. "You can tell me."
"I don't really want to." She said, laughing. "But I will."
After a sigh, she started. "My grandfathers name was Gregory Harvey. He sort of inherited the business from a friend. Their fathers both came over to North America together and they grew up in the same neighborhood. My dad was an only child. He was named after the friend; Charlie."
She swallowed. "I was an only child also. My family before me have had only boys, and so they were certain I was going to be a boy. My mother named me before I was born. There were problems during childbirth, and she died." She said those last words quickly, as if to spit them out otherwise they wouldn't have left her lips.
"To make a long story short, my dad couldn't bear to change my name since it was pretty much my dying mothers last words. So I became Charlie Harvey junior." She laughed uncomfortably as her feet apparently became of some interest to her.
It was Wayne's turn to pick up her chin with his hand. "Hi Charlie." He said, before kissing her. She returned the kiss with fervor, pushing so strongly against his lips that he nearly took a step back.
She pulled away with worry in her eyes. "Oh I'm sorry, I forgot about the face paint."
Wayne immediately thought about the miss-tint analogy. "It's alright, I can handle a bit of paint." He said, putting his hands around her waist and pulling her tightly against him.
"Oooh." She voiced, her nose bumping against his. She sheltered her face in the nook of his neck and hugged him tightly. "Thank you for understanding."
"I think it's kind of cool." He said. Suddenly he heard a distinct sound, and felt her hot breath palpitating against his neck. "Are you sniffing me?" He asked.
"You smell really good." She said. "I thought I smelt something yesterday too, but it was too windy to be sure."
Wayne was laughing. "You sniffed me."
"Yeah ... " She laughed with him. "Some people feel, or look. I tend to smell."
Wayne was struggling not to fold in two from his chuckles.
"What's so funny?"
"Oh God." He said, wiping tears from his eyes. "Nothing, it's nothing."
"Way to make a girl uncomfortable."
"Oh I'm sorry Charlie. Really, I actually found your breath against my neck rather arousing."
"Oh?" She smiled, playfully sticking her face back against his neck and breathing heavily.
Their laughter echoed across the cape and out onto the water which mirrored the darkening skies of early dusk. Moments later they were walking the rocky beach. Charlie had taken her shoes off, and they had used the water from the bay to wash off most of the makeup they'd shared. Her shoes in hand, they made their way along the waters edge. The moonlight bristled off the wet stones that were smooth from the constant battering of the waves.