“Hey, you two, hold on a second!” Ellie’s words rang out sassy and cheerful. She leaned up against the cotton candy wagon to steady herself so she could slip off a shoe and shake out the sawdust. She blew a stray blond curl, sticky with perspiration, out of her eyes and sighed with contentment. Even though it was hot enough to fry an egg on the white line running down Main Street, Ellie loved the beginning of summer when the carnival came to town. It was the place that made her remember best how it felt to be young. All the sights and smells and sounds invaded her senses and carried her back to a time when life held nothing but possibilities, and unimaginable adventures were waiting somewhere, out there, to be experienced.
Only nineteen years had passed since she was the age of her son Josh, but it seemed a lifetime ago, before fear replaced anticipation and self-doubt replaced the longing for discovery. With the death of her parents in a car crash on the eve of her high school graduation, Ellie’s perception of the world had undergone a drastic change. The world was a dangerous place and life was short. She moved without hesitation from the protection of her loving, supportive, parents to the protection of a husband. George Sibley was alone, without a family, just like her, but he never talked about his parents or what had happened to them and Ellie was not one to pry. They found comfort in each other, at least for a while, in the beginning.
Contrary to what people thought, Ellie knew she wasn’t very smart. This was made plain as day to her as she struggled to get through school, barely graduating with her class. Deep down, she had always known that whatever worlds there were to conquer outside of Marysville, Wisconsin, they would be too overwhelming for someone with her limited capacities. Besides, she loved her part-time job at the beauty parlor, and the chores she had to do around their small farm weren’t all that hard. She’d been doing almost as many since she was ten years old and living there with her parents. She figured she’d be living and working there till the day she died, and that was fine with her. At least she would always be safe and secure.
She stopped her daydreaming and hurried to catch up with her young son and husband. Her seven-year-old had something on his mind today, that was for sure, and she intended to keep an eye on him. He hadn’t pestered her at all today to see the Egyptian belly dancer, or even to see the real live snakes in the jungle show. That had been his favorite since he was five years old. He was acting strange, all right, and she had a feeling she’d find out real soon what it was.
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