The lights and atmosphere of the carnival are intoxicating. Tiny glass blown bulbs hung and draped vicariously throughout the booths, bring a sense of magic and whimsy. Down the row from us there is balloon darts, and a ring toss. Couples walk hand in hand between the two sharing moments with each other. I turn back to our booth, and then look at the pairs of lips that form a heart painted along its wooden frame. It was simple and cute, which made the whole idea of a kissing booth less than cliché. Todd smiled at me from the corner of my eye, and walked over to meet me.
"So do you think we should charge this girl another ticket?" he asked, laughed, and then pointed over to where our kissing volunteer Kyle sat lips locked with some freshmen. I roll my eyes. I never did understand why he had volunteered for the job. Was it because he wanted me to watch him kissing other girls, or was there another reason I just couldn't see yet? "They've been at it for hours."
I laughed, and pushed Todd's arm slightly. "Try ten minutes." I said, then turned to the line of expecting customers and sighed. "Alright Loverboy," I called out over the crowd. Kyle pulled back just then, and looked at me. "Times up, next!" I yelled.
The tall girl, that had been kissing him, standing up then and giving me a glare. She had long red hair and chocolate brown eyes. "Ticket please," Todd said to the short curvy girl next in line. Together we reached for her ticket, not knowing the other had as well. Our hands brushed against each others, and blushed almost instantly. "Todd, my lips are numb," Kyle said then, and I wondered if he had said that because he saw me. "Come and take over."
I nodded, and Todd traded places with Kyle. "What was that?" Kyle whispered almost immediately as he came over to stand next to me.
"I don't know what you're talking about!"
"Yeah, and I enjoy mono." he said rolling his eyes as he did.
"Yes mono, Ree." he interrupted me. "I didn't volunteer for the girls."
As if seeing where I was going with my sentence, Kyle waved me off. "No, no. Not me."
"Then who, Hayden?" I asked. Confused and, well, confused. Why would Kyle be here for Hayden, I wondered to myself.
"No, just, ugh you're frustrating."
"Airee," Todd called from the booth then. I look over and find him smiling, his body leaning slightly over the booth. "I'm going to need your help for this one."
Narrowing my eyes as if trying to understand, I left Kyle and walked over to Todd. As I did, I more than noticed the lack there of, of our line. Had he already blown through it? The question rang through my mind. "What's up?" I asked, taking the ticket he was holding out to me, and leaned beside him.
"Well," he smiled, and leaned over and brushed my shoulder. "This next kiss belongs to you."
"To me?" I repeated almost instantly. "Why would it go to me?"
Todd took my cheek then, and pulled my face to his, and kissed me. It was soft, and sweet, the complete opposite as to how kissing Hayden felt. His hand fell to my cheek then, and just as I felt he was about to deepen the kiss, he was torn from the booth. When I opened my eyes, I found him on the ground, Hayden standing over him. "Hayden stop it!" I yell instantly, and ran around to the other side of the booth.
My hands gripped his arms, his biceps flexed almost out of habit. "Hayden what are you doing?" I yelled at him.
The same time Kyle had come over to stand next to us. Todd moving to get up. "I would stay down if I were you," He told him. "Hayden doesn't like persistence, and I think you're going to lose."
"Stop!" I yelled, and then went over to where Todd laid along the ground. "Are you okay?"
"Fine," He said, and stood up. Looked over to Hayden and narrowed his gaze. "What the hell was that? Jealous much?"
"No Airee, let the guy finish what he has to say." Hayden said, smiled, and then crossed his arms. His hands having curled into fists just before he did. I could see in his eyes he was toying with Todd, and suddenly my adrenaline kicked in as if I were the one in the fight.
"Hayden, stop!" I yelled, and his eyes shifted to me. "Can I talk to you, now?"
"No!" Todd said immediately, and took a step towards me. Kyle intercepting the act.
Hayden's breath grew rapid and shallow then, he hadn't liked Todd answering for me, I could see it in his face. But, before he could do anything in response to it, I reached for his hand and pulled him after me. At first he was reluctant to follow but, eventually he gave up trying to resist me. When we were out of sight, I asked, "What the hell was that?" his eyes growing as big in shock.
"I should ask you the same question. I never took you for a kissing slut."
Immediately I slapped him. "How dare you!" I said. "It was one kiss, and an innocent one at that."
"Innocent?" Hayden said, smiled, and then broke out in laughter.
I shoved him then, his face growing serious. He took hold of my wrists as I went in to do it again. I don't know why I was doing it but, it felt good to let it out. "Let go," I said, and struggled against him. Our bodies close like before in the hallway.
"No." he said in short. His hands pinning me up against a wall. "I'll never stop Airee."
"Hayden we cant keep doing this!" I said, and in that moment, I stopped struggling. There was no point.
"I know," He said matter of factly.
I looked into his eyes then, the blue, a pale one with silver flakes now, something I had never seen before. In that moment, he released my hands, though he continued to hold me against the wall. A strange and familiar feeling of longing washing over me as my nerves began to kick in. Suddenly the image of his truck pulling out of a field flashed through my head, as I thought back to the last time he caught me kissing someone else. Only this time he hadn't run away but, the complete opposite. Embarrassment quickly brushed my cheeks then, as I thought about what I had just said. Hayden having caught me kissing another guy, as if I was a kissing slut.
"I love you Airee," He said. His words ripping me from my thoughts. Everything surrounding us blurring out until it were only just the two of us.
"What?" I said, though my voice came out weak and breathless.
"I said, I love you." he smiled, and looked down at the ground for a split second as if to regain control of himself. "I'm done running from what I want, and if that means I have to kick a lot of guys asses that try to steal you from me, then I will. I'm not leaving you again."
I smiled uncontrollably, and tried to find something to say. When I couldn't, I pushed up stop my tip toes, and wrapped my arms around his neck. I could feel his breath, ragged against my skin, and he seemed shaky almost too. He peered down at me then, still taller than I could reach, and took in a drawn out breath as if to steady himself. "Airee, I cant-"
"Shh," I said, and smiled. His lips falling then to rest against my own. "I love you too."