Kezia looked up at the red frame and rails of the compact Mad Mouse roller coaster. Letting out a huff, she went directly to the queue. The weather was perfect, just warm enough to feel like summer, but not overbearingly hot as it had been just a week before. She was not going to let her stupid friends ruin what could be one of the best days of the entirely too short season. To be fair, she probably never should have agreed to visit Valleyfair as part of a trio, something she’d honestly learned back in junior high. She should have worked to bring someone, it wasn’t like she lacked friends, though most of them weren’t available for a middle of the week trip to the theme park. She could have brought her brother, for crying out loud. At least he liked the same kinds of rides. And that was the other issue; they should have discussed their interests in advance. All three of them had failed on that detail.
Her phone buzzed in the little hip pouch she’d worn to keep her small things secure. She pulled it out and swiped to get to the text.
Emma: Let us know when you want to meet up for lunch!
It was followed by a selfie of her friends riding on the little train that drove through the park.
Kezia rolled her eyes and tucked the phone away, not bothering to answer. The whole point of coming to Valleyfair was to enjoy the rides, and for her, that meant the roller coasters and anything that gave her a few moments of freefall. She loved freefall. It hadn’t even occurred to her that her friends might have a completely different take on the purpose of the fair. After the ferris wheel, the antique cars, and the carousel, she’d asked when they could hit up the Corkscrew, only to find that neither of them cared for thrill rides. Half an hour later, they’d decided to split up, hitting the rides that they enjoyed, because really, the admission fee was too much to pay if you weren’t going to enjoy yourself. It was still a bummer, because the whole point of coming as a group was that they could spend the day having fun together.
The line was moving quickly, it was a short ride, after all, and being the middle of the week, the park wasn’t ridiculously crowded.
“Are there any groups of four?” she heard a man’s voice call.
She was going to end up filler in someone’s car, but that didn’t bother her.
A few moments later he called out again. “Are there any groups of two?”
She looked around the switch-backed corral standard in these kinds of parks and saw that no one spoke up. There were several families with bigger kids, she supposed this was a good first roller coaster for them. Her first one had been the Corkscrew, and while she’d been terrified the whole ride up the first hill, she’d loved every moment of it after that.
“Any singles?” the man called out.
Kezia raised her hand, seeing one other a bit ahead of her.
“Great,” he said, pointing to each of them. “If you could both come on up here…”
Smiling for the first time since she’d argued with her friends, she carefully navigated her way past people to the front.
“I’m going to have you join this group here,” the young man said, gesturing to the farthest group, standing just outside the numbered boxes before the loading station. Two of the people were teenagers who obviously knew each other; they were holding hands and giving each other the giggly side glances that suggested they were a new couple. The young woman standing with them, was the other single rider who had been called forward. She had wavy brown hair that brushed her bare shoulders, and she wore a simple red tank top and olive green shorts.
“Hi,” she said, her smile as cheerful as the baskets of flowers hanging on the corners of the covered station and the lampposts throughout the fair. “Are you having a good time today?”
Kezia shrugged, but she couldn’t help but smile back. The circumstances leading to her exploring the park on her own had brought her down, but now, she felt like things were turning around. “It started a bit rough, but it’s getting better.”
The young woman frowned. “Rough, how? Do I need to beat someone up for you?” She gently slapped her fist into an open palm a couple of times.
The reaction startled a laugh out of Kezia. “Nothing that bad.” She idly rubbed her upper arm with her hand. “I came here with a couple of friends, and… it turned out that we had different expectations about being here.” She rolled her eyes. “They’re more about the games and the environment, and I’m more into this kind of thing.” She gestured to the car that was just rolling into the station, its occupants beaming, their hair and clothes in wind-blown disarray.
“Oh man, that sucks,” the woman said, her expression turning sympathetic.
“We kind of argued,” Kezia admitted. “They wanted to vote on everything, which meant we’d never go on the roller coasters, and that’s totally what I came here for.”
“Did you separate on good terms?” she asked.
Kezia nodded. “They want to meet up for lunch, but this way we all get to do what we really want.”
The young woman held out a hand. “I’m Amanda.”
Kezia felt her face warm as she shook the other woman’s hand. Yes, Amanda was cute, but she was just being nice. It was so hard when you couldn’t tell if someone was being genuinely nice or if they were flirting. “Nice to meet you, Amanda. I’m Kezia.”