She knew they were looking at her.
The cacophony of sounds. The invasion of colored lights. The breeze on her skin. She began to grow dizzy. Overwhelmed.
"Let's just try to have fun, Kara," her father massaged her shoulders as he spoke. "Relax, will ya?"
A weak smile faintly crossed the teenage girl's lips. "I'll try."
"Look, there's a cotton candy stand," Kara's mother interjected. "Let's go get some. I haven't had any in ages."
Following her parents slowly toward what promised to be a sugary mess, Kara picked at the scab on the back of her hand. She looked up toward the slowly moving Ferris wheel. She remembered her first ride as a child. Her first trip to the carnival. Oh how she longed to be a child again. Before she learned how to drive. Before ... the accident.
Reaching toward the side of her head she absentmindedly fingered the scar beneath slow-growing, pale, blonde peach fuzz.
The fingers, nails bitten painfully short, trailed down to the longer, shiny pink, jagged slash across her left cheek.
The accident had been horrific. Thankfully, she didn't remember much. Doctors said it was the brain's way of protecting itself. But, who was going to protect her from her disfigurement? Why didn't she slow down when she got to the corner? Why didn't she swerve in time to miss that tree? She tugged at the scarf she wore in an attempt to conceal evidence of the tracheotomy. The blue cloth was too warm, too tight, too stifling.
She heard a gruff voice barking. "Three balls, only a dollar! Step right up! Win! Win! Win!"
Looking in the direction of the game of chance, Kara noticed the most beautiful girl she had ever seen in her entire life. Gorgeous honey-blonde hair cascaded down her back. Pink cheeks; full lips. Flawless skin like porcelain. Not much older than Kara herself.
Next to the alluring creature stood a handsome young boy, a frown on his face as he held the girl's hand in one of his own; her purse in the other.
Plucking a mirror from the expensive-looking bag, the girl fluffed her curls, puckered her lips and batted her long, dark eyelashes. Turning her head, she said something to her male companion that Kara could not hear.
Suddenly a wide grin broke over Kara's damaged face as the boy looked in her direction and rolled his light brown eyes. It felt good to truly smile.
Kara flinched as a group of rowdy elementary-aged school boys began to whoop and holler, chasing each other through the passersby. One of them ran into the girl who Kara now thought of as "the princess" causing her to drop the mirror into the dirt. Broken shards of glass lay at her pedicured toes.
A high-pitched scream escaped her chest. "Do something, Dillon!" she yelled above the carnival noises.
Dillon locked eyes with Kara, shook his head and grinned.
The princess stood for a long moment, her hands on her hips, tapping an impatient foot. Heat rising in her perfect features, she extracted her purse from Dillon's grasp and stormed away angrily.
Dillon shrugged and bent to retrieve the pieces of broken mirror.
Kneeling, Kara delicately selected a larger piece but felt Dillon's strong fingers upon her own before she could lift it from the dust.
Looking into his chestnut-brown eyes, she absentmindedly fingered the pink scar on her cheek with her free hand.
Cupping her hand and the scar in his own hand, Dillon Clare whispered, "Thank you."