I Thought It Was Tough Love by Jimmy Webb

Photo by Olia Nayda on Unsplash

I preferred going at night, when the lights could be seen for miles, and the music seemed louder, and the hotdogs and candyfloss smelled more enticing. 

“Hold my hand,” he said. “I’m gonna take you to the best ride.”

I did as he said. He never wanted to hold my hand. I skipped for a bit, but he looked at me that way he would, so I stopped. We walked past the coconut shy, and I almost told him it was where Nan won me my favourite teddy, but he probably would have let go of my hand. I would have ruined everything. He never liked Nan.

He kept glancing at me as we approached Soul Snatcher. When the queue was close, I slowed down, but he tightened his grip a little, guiding me.

“You’ll be okay,” he said. “You have to face your fears.”

I was brave, I knew I was, but the ride was far too high. I shook my head small enough to not be defiant. Even though I wanted to see the ocean in the distance. Even though I wanted to be away for just a few minutes and get the sea air on my face. It was too high even for him, and he knew I knew it.

He sat me in the damp seat and buckled the belt. “It won’t go fast, will it?” I asked, knowing the answer, and not wanting to not believe him.

He smiled and stroked my cheek. “Don’t be a baby, you’ll be fine.” The same words he used when he taught me to swim. Or rather, threw me in the lake and watched me flap and gasp and scream and sink, until he pulled me out by my small blue arms and held me tightly while I coughed up, thinking I didn’t know lake water tasted of sick. “Good girl. Brave girl,” he whispered, before throwing me back in.

The ride rose slowly. A low rhythmical k-shing k-shung. A pretence. It didn’t fool me. I saw it in his face as he grew more distant, looking for his next fix. 

It seemed to take forever to get to the top, where my brimming tear would surely escape with the rush of air, and with no comforting embrace to snuggle my head into.

The cart jolted near the peak, and my grip tightened on the cold safety bar. Then it happened. So quick I couldn’t scream. Could only tense and beg it wouldn’t take long. But the wind spoke to me in soothing tones, like Nan’s soft Irish songs. And the warm air stroked my skin, like her comforting hands used to. I let it in. I let her hold my hand and twiddle my thumb. I smiled and laughed with each spin and stoop, each twist and turn. 

A crescendo of screams filled my ears – an explosion of joy all around me. Then the gradual lull. A moment to reflect, to recover. Some of the paired people locked arms, some giggled to each other, others declared never to do it again. I swung my feet, enchanted by the vast glistening ripples where the ocean reached the sun, knowing there was a world outside of mine. A big one. 

The ride lowered me down to him, gently, like offering me as a gift. His face oozed expectance, like a child awaiting a thrill.

I couldn’t hold my smile. And couldn’t help but say, “Can I go again?”

His silence was louder than the music. I sensed his brain working, and my heartbeat rose again.

He looked over his left shoulder, then gave me his best smile, and said, “No. It’s a bit hot. I think it’s time for a dip in the sea.”

About The Author

Jimmy is a short story writer and poetry dabbler. He lives in South East England with his wife and two children.

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