From Twinkle, with Love

Page 27


I blinked again. Huh? “Are you …?” Oh my God. Was he N?? I felt a weird combination of confusion and hope warring in my chest. I tried the question again. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I’m supposed to meet Aaron and Skid to go ride the roller coasters. We do it every year. But Skid had a flat on the way here, so they’re waiting for a tow truck. I offered to give them a ride, but they said I should just meet them here.” He shrugged. “So here I am, ready to grab some fried goodness, get a head start on the food-coma train.” He grinned. “What about you?”
My heart did this slow plummet as he talked and I realized that duh he wasn’t N and duh that didn’t even make any sense because his name is Sahil Roy. He doesn’t have a single N anywhere in his name. Then I remembered he’d asked me what I was doing and I still hadn’t answered. “Oh, right. I’m, ah, just meeting someone.”
“Oh, cool.” He looked me up and down for the first time and his eyes got wide. “Wow. I mean, you look—” Then he stopped and his face got this stiff, guarded look. “Is this a, um, date-type situation?”
I opened my mouth to respond. I didn’t know exactly what I was going to say, but I’d figure it out. The thing was, I still didn’t want to tell Sahil about N. I knew hiding this wasn’t the most honest thing to do; it wasn’t fair to Sahil. But there was so much tension between the brothers. Sahil had told me, in no uncertain terms, that their sibling rivalry was pretty bad. He didn’t even like me bringing up Neil’s name. So what would you do in my situation? Besides, I wasn’t even 100 percent sure N was Neil. Was there any point getting Sahil hot and bothered about nothing?
But before I could answer, the voice blared over the loudspeaker again. “Okay! Time to go, folks! Three, two, and one!” A deafening horn blew, and the entire crowd of people who’d so far done a remarkable imitation of completely normal humans morphed into these rampaging beasts looking for free carnival rides. We were immediately—and I do mean immediately—swallowed up by the tsunami of the crowd. Thankfully, Sahil grabbed my hand at the last second or we’d have been utterly and irrevocably separated from each other. I couldn’t see him; I just felt the steady pressure of his fingers against my skin.
“This way!” I heard him shout, and then something was yanking on my arm and I just blindly followed.
We broke free a minute later, making a left toward the Ferris wheel while the majority of the crowd turned right toward the more fun rides in the park. Sahil pulled me forward, and I saw the line to the Ferris wheel was tiny. I guess most people were going to get their money’s worth from the ten-token rides. Once we were able to stop, he looked at me with wide eyes. “What the heck was that?”
“Something about free rides?” I said, brushing down my dress and adjusting the clip in my hair, which was coming loose.
He shook his head. “Wow. I don’t remember that from last year.”
I looked back toward the carousel, which was now quite a distance away. The crowds were still seething and surging. There was no way N would be able to find me anymore. The horn had stopped blasting, but people were still running every which way, trying to make it to a ride before they filled up. I thought about what Sahil had said when he’d first walked up to me. He’d asked if I was all dressed up for a date. If I were being completely honest, I was more than a little relieved that the horn had interrupted him. Because I didn’t want to tell Sahil what I was doing here.
N would have to wait another day. Even if I did go back by the carousel when the crowd died down (if this murderous crowd calmed down), what were the chances that N would still be waiting? And I didn’t have a phone to e-mail him and tell him to meet me somewhere else.
“Hey,” Sahil said, interrupting my tumbling thoughts.
I looked at him.
“Want to go on the Ferris wheel with me?” He gestured at the giant wheel glittering with lights.
I smiled without hesitation. “Okay.”
We got on—into a bright pink cab—almost immediately. I scooted in so Sahil could slide in beside me.
“Oh my God,” I said, grabbing the bar with my free hand as soon as the wheel began moving. “I forgot how high up these things go.”
Sahil laughed. “Are you serious? You couldn’t tell from just, um, looking at it?”
“Shut up.” I hit him on the arm, and he laughed harder. “It’s different when you’re in here, suspended in the air—” I cut myself off with a yelp as the sadistic operator jerked us to a halt, with Sahil’s and my cab as high as it would go. Everything was eerily quiet except for the faint music from the carousel. Our cab swung lazily back and forth. “Oh my God,” I said, gasping. “I think I have a slight fear of heights.”
Sahil laughed. “So I shouldn’t do this?” He shifted in his seat and the entire cab rocked dangerously.
“Stop!” I yelled, way too loud, and someone laughed from below. Far, far below us. “Not funny!” I said, glaring down.
Sahil grinned. “Oh, come on.” He scooted gently over to me, so the cab didn’t move. “It was a little funny.”
A male voice from below floated up to us, saying, “There’s always one.” More laughing.
I glowered into the darkness. “Thank you kindly for your unsolicited opinion, sir! You can shove it right—” Even more laughing.
Sahil looked at me, his eyes serious. “Twinkle. I promise I will not let you fall.”
He smelled like something warm and lemony and spicy. “Swoony” is the word you’re looking for, Twinkle, my brain said.
“Um.” I cleared my throat in an attempt to clear my head. “Okay. Thanks.” Something about his presence felt anchoring. I felt safe, ensconced, and protected, even though I knew in my head that was idiotic. If the Ferris wheel failed, there was absolutely nothing Sahil could do to fight off gravity, unless he was hiding some major superpowers.
“Sure.” I could hear the smile in his voice.
I let go of the bar and sat back reeeeally carefully as the wheel began to move again.
“Oh, hey, I wanted to tell you: I thought you did a great job on the analysis you gave everyone about the movie on Thursday,” Sahil said. “I could tell you were drawing them in, especially when you said that thing about Dracula representing the untrustworthy foreigner who came to England to plunder and pillage.”
“Ah, you think so?” I smiled, pleased. “I know how hard it can be to relate to older movies. I was hoping it would give them something to latch on to as they acted out their parts.”
“That was excellent thinking.” Sahil paused. “Something I’ve learned from studying the film industry is that directing’s about helping your actors insinuate themselves into the parts they’re playing as much as it is about getting them on film. I feel like you have this innate grasp of that process. You’re going to touch so many people with your movies, T. I hope you know that.”
I studied his face, my heart thumping. Sahil saw what I was doing—what I was trying to do as a director—and more than that, he believed I could do it. I’d been afraid of doing something as intimate as making art with him watching, but Sahil was one of the few people who not only saw Twinkle the artist, but respected Twinkle the artist. If Mummy’s ignoring my art made me feel invisible, Sahil’s recognition was like being surrounded by a million neon lights.
“Thank you,” I said, looking away and out over the carnival, at the tiny people milling around on the ground below us. I was afraid he’d see in my eyes what I was beginning to suspect—that his heart knew my heart. That my soul was a piece of his.
“So,” Sahil said after a moment of crystalline silence. “Do you ever think about what you want to do after high school?”
I shrugged and faced him again, now that the moment was broken. “I don’t know. My dream is to go to USC, like George Lucas or somebody. But it’s expensive. I’d pretty much need a full ride, and I don’t think my grades are good enough for that.” I tried to pretend saying all of this out loud didn’t coat my mouth in the bitter taste of disappointment.