When she was just a girl
She expected the world
But it flew away from her reach
So she ran away in her sleep
Candace ran up to the carousel. Even though the lights of green, purple, red and yellow were flashing and slow, cheerful music played from somewhere, the horses were still and the carousel didn’t turn. It sent a wave of happy and sad memories through Carson, rumbling through her eyes like a storm. Short images of friends from preschool, kindy teachers, injuries, Rhea experiencing heartbreak and Kit smiling as he swung Candace and Carson around in the pool flashed through her mind.
Candace threw her arms in the air and whipped a poor horse with her invisible lasso. Carson chuckled, watching her sister with amusement and cheerfulness. Her sister’s craziness and bouncy personality could lighten up any mood like a torch in pitch black, even if the mood was already good. It was one of the qualities Carson loved about her sister.
“Don’t hurt any more horses, or I’ll become an animal rights activist!” Carson shouted, laughing.
Candace’s lasso momentum slowed down.
“And what are you gonna do if I don’t stop, you little witch?” Candace said, feigning a menacing tone.
“Um…” Carson was lost for words. Instead, she replied with a giggle.
Candace yawned with mock boredom. She got back on her horse and fiddled around with a small control panel, concentration clear on her face.
“Can, what are you doing?” Carson asked suspiciously.
“I wanna get this baby working,” Candace replied simply. She leaned over to the left on her horse like a stunt-rider, experimenting with different switches.
Carson fast-walked towards the carousel. Candace could get into jail, or some punishment like that. Even worse, Carson could also be targeted.
But she didn’t get a chance to step onto the platform. She screamed with surprise when the carousel started spinning.
“You spin my head right round, right round…” Candace began singing.
“Candace!” Carson yelled, a little scared. She glanced in all directions, looking for cops.
“Little sis, you need to live a little. Come on board Carousel Candace,” Candace offered, pointing to a golden horse in front of her. “No charge. I’m giving a discount to my little sis who, like I said, needs to live.”
Carson chuckled and got on. “I am living. I breathe, don’t I?”
“A robot can make itself look like its breathing,” Candace replied, holding onto the pole that started at the roof, killed her horse by sticking through its head and finally reached the bottom of the carousel.
Candace and Carson rode around in silence for a few minutes, the horses steadily floating up and down as if they were in water.
The cheery song was interrupted by someone’s voice.
“You know this carousel is the state’s, right?” a boy said. He was Carson’s age and had chocolate side-swept bangs and denim-blue eyes. A charming smile sealed the bundle like a pretty little ribbon.
“Yeah,” Carson said, chuckling.
“Good,” he said with a smile and got onto a horse. “This carousel’s been shut down for three years. It’s nice to meet someone like you who lives a little.”
Candace shot a wink at her little sister. Carson smiled weakly. It was just like her artificial beauty problem at her old school. Candace had turned Carson into someone a little bolder, at least for the moment. And Carson wasn’t usually bold.
Carson didn’t know what to say back to the guy, so she said nothing.
“I’m Connor, by the way. Connor Clark,” he said. He turned around on his horse to face Carson.
“Carson Campbell. This is my sister, Candace,” Carson said, gesturing towards Candace. Candace flashed a wave.
Carson heard someone say, “Connor, where are youuu?” from far away.
“Darn,” Connor said under his breath. “I gotta go. Do you go to Sandersville High?”
Carson nodded. She felt like scolding herself. Nodding seemed so weird. “I’m going to,” she attempted.
“Then maybe I’ll see you there,” he said, waving goodbye.
“Yeah, maybe. Bye,” Carson said simply, even though Connor had totally melted her insides. Connor ran off.
“Ooh, high-five me, girl,” Candace cheered, holding up a hand with perfectly manicured nails.
“Why?” Carson asked. The two of them hopped off their horses and Candace turned off the carousel.
“Because you just met your first guy from Sandersville,” Candace said cheekily. Her boots click-clacked on the occasional spots of brick path without snow.
Carson shook her head, giggling. “Let’s head home. It’s been about an hour,” Carson said, recalling their parents’ time limit. “And I’m starving. It’s almost five.”
“We’re having macaroni and cheese,” Candace tipped, linking arms with her little sister.
Carson smiled and the two of them walked home in their boots.
“Last Friday night, yeah we danced on tabletops…” Carson sang, humming to herself.
Rhea chuckled as she set in the time on the microwave for the mac and cheese. It beeped and spun around like the carousel.
Carson inhaled the smell of garlic bread in the oven. She rested her elbows on the temporary collapsible dining table Kit had brought and looked over at Candace.
Candace was having a thumb war with her phone as she mumbled out letters every now and then.
“Candace, get off that thing,” Kit ordered, trying to look stern. “It’s family time. Dinner time. Non-phone time.”
“Yep, yep, just hang on one sec,” Candace said, holding up a “stop and wait” hand.
Carson rolled her eyes. “Kit, when are we going to Home Decor?” she asked, gazing around the place.
“Tomorrow, you’re going to school. Then we go to Home Decor on Saturday.”
“Ooh, can I help decorate the garden?” Candace said hopefully, finally switching off her phone.
Kit and Carson looked at each other. Last time she tried to “wow” up the garden in their old home, she’d almost set fire to one of the trees.
“Er, maybe you should stick to your room,” Rhea said, also remembering the garden incident. She took out the garlic bread and the mac and cheese, setting it on the collapsible table.
They dug in.
Later that night, the reality of moving set into Carson. She lay in her bed, curled up in a ball, thinking about what tomorrow would be like.
What would the school be like? Would anyone there like her because of her personality, not her fake nose? Would she see Connor? Would Candace find friends immediately? Would Carson find any friends at all?
She didn’t know. But she was starting to miss her old home in Beverly Hills. Not the school, just the home. She was so insecure about her next day and stuck her head under the pillow.
She felt like there was a dam inside of her. She wanted to break it and let all the water escape. Though what the water was, she didn’t know.
It wasn’t sadness. Carson was pretty happy to leave her old school behind. And it definitely wasn’t anger. She couldn’t be angry, especially not towards her parents. It wasn’t their felt the business went broke.
Perhaps it was just tension or suspense.
But it was a pretty big dam.
It rained heavily while Carson was trying to sleep, and when she finally fell asleep it still rained. The steady beats had lulled her to sleep.
The clock read midnight.
Four blocks down, in a small cottage with a thatched roof sat a girl and a boy, playing chess. They were playing silently.
“Chess is good for the brain,” Connor said, trying to break the silence.
“Connor, don’t try to small talk your way to forgiveness. You said you wouldn’t hang out with normal people until next week! And you said you’d never touch the carousel again,” Ari said, knocking over his king. “Checkmate,” she mumbled, in no mood for a celebration. She wasn’t usually serious, and when she was serious, she was very serious.
“I couldn’t help it. It’s always been my favourite carousel. When they shut it down three years ago, I cried,” Connor admitted.
“But you were twelve three years ago. And the star quarterback for your ‘oh-so-tough’ middle school football team. So you should have been tough,” Ari said, packing up the chess pieces.
“I know,” Connor sighed, shaking his head.
“Well, whatever. You’re forgiven for the carousel thing. But what about those two normal girls? I repeat, you said you wouldn’t interact with norms until Monday!” Ari said, snapping the foldable chess board shut.
“The Candace girl was too old for me. But the other one, Carson… she was something different,” Connor said, nodding and walking over to the couch. “She brought life to that little bland spot of Sandersville and-”
“Okay. I get it, Mr. Poet. But you know you still shouldn’t have, right?” Ari said, sitting on the couch as well and talking as if she was addressing a toddler.
“Right. I’m sorry,” Connor sighed, flicking on the television.
Ari leaned on his shoulders. The two siblings, not at all related by blood, faced the TV, watching a football match eagerly.
“GOAL!” Connor shouted.
“Wake up!” Candace shouted, knocking on the door loudly. Then she descended down the stairs and Carson got up.
Today was school.
She went downstairs and stuffed a few croissants into her mouth. She brushed her teeth and her hair and slipped on black skinny jeans, black-and-flower-print flats and a yellow blouse. She rolled up her sleeves and left her hair down.
Carson went downstairs and saw Candace in denim shorts, black flats and an orange and black top. Her hair was down as well and her curls bobbed around as she moved.
“Cereal?” Candace asked, holding up a box of Cheerios. Carson shrugged. She could eat a Mintee later.
After breakfast, Carson hugged goodbye with Rhea and Kit.
“Have a good day at school,” they said, tears starting to well up in their eyes.
“I’ll try,” Carson chuckled. She squeezed them one last time and hopped into the Mercedes with Candace. They drove off.
“Okay, can you bring up the map for Sandersville High?” Candace asked her sister, swerving left to avoid crashing into a petrol truck.
“Where?” Carson asked.
“Your phone. Duh.”
Carson rummaged through her backpack and found her iPhone.
“Right. Turn left. LIKE, NOW!” Carson screeched.
Whoosh! They narrowly avoided a streetlight.
“Phew. Okay, now right, and round the roundabout, exit here. I said exit here!”
After ten minutes of shaky directions from Carson and dangerous driving from Candace, they arrived at Sandersville High and pulled into the parking lot. The sisters got out together, fresh meat in this tough school. But they’d handle it.
They entered the double doors and let the students stare at the newcomers. But they weren’t creeped out. It was a different kind of stare.
Candace walked like a runway model to the office while Carson walked normally. They got their timetables from a cranky-looking secretary and walked back out the door.
The alarm blared through the school.
“Bye, little sis,” Candace said, hugging Carson. She walked off to Biology while Carson walked off to Math.
Carson entered the Math room. Twenty seats were placed in a semi-circle, a desk and a whiteboard at the front and a big, empty space between the board and the students’ desks. Three were already occupied. Carson chose the one which faced straight towards the teacher’s desk. Luckily, she had time to observe her surroundings before the teacher got there.
The first person who occupied a desk was a girl with crimson hair and soft, blue eyes. She saw pale, like Carson, and listened to her iPod as she tapped her finger to the beat.
The second was a guy with fair hair who had his feet up on his desk. His eyes were almost black and Carson couldn’t tell what his colour would be if someone turned up the brightness dial on his eyes.
The third, she recognised immediately.
Of course, it was Connor Clark.
Author’s Note: I hope you don’t mind if most of the characters you guys made have parents, because you were probably thinking they’d be orphaned. Because in my last one they were on a deserted beach. In the middle of nowhere. D: