“Auntie Mary, you’re hurting my hand.”

I was jolted to the present by the complaints of my niece. Her voice cut through all the noise of the fair that surrounds us. Josie is trying to tug her hand free from my vice grip. She is pouting, I’m ruining the fair for her. I thought I could be jolly and put on a happy face to endure this afternoon like a good aunt. Being back at a fair is having more of an impact on me than I could have bargained for, though.

I loosen my grip on Josie’s clammy little hand, but don’t let go. I can’t let her out of my sight in a place like this. What could I ever say to her mother, Sandra, if she found out I had let something happen again? It wouldn’t stay quiet if it happened again. Mum or Dad would have to say something then. Crowds are milling everywhere and the other families are smiling, shouting nice things over the blare of the thumping music. They aren’t shuddering under the ever-watchful eyes of the artwork. Or looking round anxiously like a chicken at a fox party. I spy a child puking up their guts after staggering off a helter-skelter, stumbling like a mini drunk. At least someone is having a worse time than me. 

“Auntie Mary, I want to go on a ride!” Josie is whining again. Maybe if I let her go on some things, win a few of the tacky prizes, I can tire her out and get out of here. I look down at her. There are pink smears of candyfloss trailing up her sleeve like some princess spiderweb. I want to brush it off her but can’t bring myself to touch the damned stuff. Why couldn’t she have wanted a toffee apple or something with less emotional baggage for me?

“Sorry Josie. Auntie Mary was scared of funfairs when she was younger and I’m feeling a little nervous.”

“Why were you scared of funfairs? They’re fun.”

The irrefutable logic of children.

“Too loud and crowded and I didn’t like the heights of some of the rides,” I lied.

Finally my sister Sandra returned with tokens. She was lit up like she was at a psychedelic disco as the strobes from the nearby rides flashed over her. It made her smile look creepy.

“Can I use Auntie Mary’s tokens? She doesn’t like the rides!” Josie asked excitedly. 

“Now, that’s not very fair, Josie; I’m sure Auntie Mary will want to go on some of the rides.” I didn’t though. Although I knew that it was a different fair, different rides, different people to the one from my childhood that still caused me nightmares, that my parents pretended never existed.

“You need to get in the spirit!” Sandra chastised.

She was younger than me, she had been a mere baby, still in a pram last time we were at a fair together. She hadn’t been old enough to watch our sister wander off with a stranger, lured by candy floss. She wasn’t plagued by guilt, for it had not been her who had been livid that her snack had been knocked out of her hand and demanded she find a way to replace it or else. She had no idea that we used to be a trio of sisters. She couldn’t even remember Louisa, let alone losing her at the fair. I wasn’t going to shatter her blissful ignorance. It was a shame I carried and could not bear to unburden. I always pretended I didn’t want children, rather than reveal I didn’t think I could be trusted with one since I had allowed my sister to be abducted on my watch. My heart still lurches if I see an unaccompanied child and I want to scream out for the parents. It’s no way to live your life.

Maybe if I could get my niece through the horror that is a visiting fair, I could prove to myself I am now a responsible adult. This could be the start of my healing. I could break the doom that shrouded me.

 So I grasped a token and stepped up to the carousel. I could do this. For Josie. 

I wasn’t going to let her out of my grasp though, or have any damn candy floss.

Yvonne Lang’s work has featured in a range of publications, from Your Cat Magazine to Siren’s Call, as well as ranking highly in competitions. Her flash has featured on Trembling with Fear, 101 words and Fairfield Scribes. Her work has been published in anthologies by Café Lit, Knight Writing, Three Cousins, Black Hare Press and Schlock with her debut horror novelette featuring as part of Demain’s Short Sharp Shock Series. She resides in Yorkshire with her partner and an opinionated cat where she writes bizarre stories and weird tales.

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Every Day Fiction