They said it would be fun
This essay was originally published on Patricia Ann McNair's website.
Even the mention of the amusement park would bring a feeling of anxiety for Julie, even at her young age of ten. It might be a beautiful day on a weekend, the sun bright in the sky full of promise, breakfast would be done and the dishes put away. All was at peace. Mom would call out to Julie and her little brother Tommy “why don’t we head out over to the park?” And she would feel her mouth go dry with fear. Fear that one of the rides would fail and that she would be injured, fear that she might fall off the ferris wheel like that girl in the paper. Fear that someone might steal her money out of her purse, or steal a prize that she had won at the ring toss game. Or that she would see him again. Him. That boy at Washington Elementary who everyone said was so nice, but who was always giving her scary looks at school when he knew no one was watching.
“Julie come on it will be fun!” Tommy’s and Mom’s voices blended like the choir at church. Voices calling her to something that wasn’t really that much fun. How was it possible that a small boy and their grown mother would have voices with the same frantic pitch? Julie remembered with a start the voices in one of her worst nightmares: an echoing voice like from a deep well, “Come on in, Julie, come on it. You’ll be fine.” She had to rub her eyes for a second to get herself placed back in her bedroom, out of the yawning depths of the well. “I’m coming you guys, I’m coming. Just give me another minute.”
Before Dad had walked out on them all he had caught her in her bedroom like the nightmare monster. Mom had called the cops and they were on their way, he said. His face was all twisted and red, and he yelled at her and all she could do was hold her pillow close to her. “Don’t let me hear about you doing stupid things, Julie. There’ll be trouble if I do. I’ll be really pissed.” And then he was gone, running out the back door as the sirens came down the street. So Julie wondered again. Was going to the fair a stupid thing? “Julie come on, it will be fun,” the chorus continued.
Slowly Julie got herself off her bed, set the pillow aside, and slowly opened the door. There they were, Mom and Tommy, beckoning her to get moving. Mom gave her a hug, and Tommy gave her a little kiss on the cheek. They must have known, she thought. She began to remember that she loved the cotton candy, and the clowns who gave her mints along the street. She loved the bumper cars and the chance to crash into her little brother without hurting him. And she knew that with Mom and Tommy there, that no one would try to hurt her. With a little smile she said, “I’m ready.” And she was.