XXV. Summer's End Fair

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*mature content

There was a faint smell of cotton candy and hot dogs. Washable, hypoallergenic face paint. Bright lights and the whimsical music of booth games. White noise under the chatter of everyone in town. I pushed my curls behind my ears, sighing to myself as I scratched at the blue paint on my forearm. Lucky enough, I didn't get any face paint on my baby pink tank or my high, old denim jeans. It was a little cooler since night was approaching. The night was still alive with people.

As I organized the paints again, Nonna was painting a flower across a little girl's cheek, occasionally talking to her about the flowers she knows about. The mom had no interest in chatting with me so she continued to laugh at her overly interested daughter.

I had no one to paint on, and was a little glad. Myra, my best friend for the summer, was clearly having the time of her life by the kissing booth with Zayn. And he was, too. I glanced at them again, rolling my eyes in amusement at their flirtatious mood of the night.

Across from us, and a little further down, was Max's booth. He was selling his famous nature stickers and he was making it big, with his cheeky smile and all. One that seems to get passed down the family a lot. Next to him was Harry, laughing loudly, but he was too far away for me to hear properly. He grins up at the customer, who is Niall himself. The idiot taped stickers to his face and most likely made an inappropriate joke.

I'm flushed bright red when he turns his head and looks right at me. His wide, adoring smile lessens and he blinks, fluttering his eyes away from me just as I looked away. I hadn't noticed, but I was smiling when I stared until he caught me. My eyes focus back to the paints.

Distractedly, I'm fixing up the paints again. The fair is alive with twinkling lights, children and their families, and the whimsical music of the evening. It's hot and I'm struggling to avoid sweating, but my nerves only make it worse.

"Hey, Alexis. How are you?" I hear, and I snap my eyes up to see Mr. Styles. He grins politely at me and he reminds me so much of Harry, I force a smile in return.

"Uh..hi, Mr. Styles. I'm good, thank you. You?" I start to nervously separate the paints by color, circling around the rounded caps with my index finger. My eyes look back and forth between the paints and Mr. Styles' face.

"I'm just fine, thank you. This is a cute little station you have here. How are you enjoying the fair?"

"Oh, yeah. My Nonna's idea to keep a closer look on me," I joke faintly, smiling. "And I'm having fun. Little kids don't ask for much on their faces."

"No ones asked you for a Van Gogh replica yet?" He muses, crossing his arms over his chest.

Shaking my head and giggling, I respond, "No, fortunately. My skills go as far as butterflies and spiderwebs."

"Still pretty impressive. But I see you and my son are having some troubles," he begins and I lose some of my amusement, or all, while thinking he knows what happened and he probably thinks bad of me, but then I remembered it's his son who's to blame and Mr. Styles is a very sincere, fair man. He probably doesn't even know what happened. Hopefully. "And I know this has nothing to do with me, but I appreciate how happy you've made my son. He's been less of a mess up until the other day when he bruised some kid over you."

"I'm sorry," I started.

"No. It's not your fault. He did it purely because he felt like it. His fault," he reminds me with a smile. "I just wanted you to know you're very good to him. He needs that."

Mr. Styles leaves after letting me know he's gonna go get some cotton candy and food for a hungry Max. His booming business has him famished and exhausted. I paint the faces of a few more kids; a rocket, some stars, hearts, cheetah print. Anything. Even a crown.

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