In the darkness, near the end of the L-shaped pier, their legs dangled over the abyss high above the water that surged and ebbed in the black space below, sounding at times like a freight train or a vast emptiness depending on the force of the waves that broke upon the pier’s barnacled piles. 

They had slipped away like they had when they were children; escaping the carnival that had come to town and set up in the marina reserve. The pair sat with their backs to the open ocean – always a risk they’d been taught as kids, though as adults they were free to ignore the potential of calamity. So they felt safe with their backs to the world, to the mass of black water that merged with the naked sky somewhere out on the unseen horizon that represented their yesterday. And their tomorrow.

Their view was the crowds and the clowns who performed for them, the lunacy of the stomach churning rides, the falsity of the fairy floss, the singers and dancers on the stage, the food vans which spat out vast clouds of sweet grease-smelling smoke which even out here overcame the scent of the salty sea air. The carnies and their carnal temptations lay beyond them now, snatches of raucous fairground music with its driving beat and dizzying, spinning lights fracturing the peace, like some strange new world borne forth in front of them.

“It’s a window on the world,” he said, drawing a big screen in mid air with which to watch it through. She nodded in the darkness, adding, “It’s like a whole different place.”
And it was. A kaleidoscope of colours and sounds. Another place, another space, another time, another world, a different them.

The wind was light, the summer night mild, almost warm, but still they edged closer, their legs touching now as they confided in one another without their eyes leaving the scene in front of them. They spoke of everything and nothing, recounting their days and leaping back in forth in time and space to weave a fabric of understanding as strong as the sails stowed in the marina’s many yachts. There was no distance between them emotionally nor physically and he threw caution to the wind to place his hand on hers, realising – thankfully – that that action, that contact, felt instinctively right.

“This is when…” he trailed off, realising that he’d already said what he was going to say and that he was just showing off.

“When what?” she asked, sounding genuinely interested.

“Nothing,” he offered.

She reached out and punched his arm softly with her free hand then wrapped both hands around his as it lay in her lap.

“You can tell me anything,” she said, and he knew he could too. That no matter what came to his mind he could trust her with the terrible truth and the most mundane happenings of his day.

They fell silent for a while. A comfortable, complete silence punctuated only by the sound of the stays clinking on the masts and snatches of more exotic songs wafting across the void between the pier and the car park – one space buzzing and alive with action, the other a place of sacred solitude in company, if that were even possible.

“You know,” she broke the silence, “I’m hungry. I could do with some peanuts.”

She smiled at him and he smiled back.

“What about a bag of popcorn?”

“Hmmm, nope, it’s peanuts for me.”

Occasionally, a couple would walk towards them and veer off in acknowledgement of the sacred right of location and separation observed by couples everywhere. He looked around and saw a couple – younger, smartly dressed, clearly out on a date – kissing against the railing. The girl’s legs hidden by the boy’s, their bodies crushed against one another, her arms wrapped around his neck so her graceful hands hung theatrically in the air behind his head. Her head leaning up to kiss her taller beau he felt the spark of electricity running through the strangers as the boy pulled the girls hips closer.

He looked away but he wanted that with the woman who sat beside him. Wanted it so badly he could taste her on his lips. Feel the warmth of her salty mouth on his and he fought the urge to act. He counted people at the carnival, the stars in the moonless night sky, the whooshes of the waves as they smashed against the piles, the toes on his feet … anything, anything at all. At one stage he closed his eyes and counted the moving, riotous specks of anti-light that raced across the inside of his eyes when he clenched them tight.

But no matter the effort he surrendered and forced his hand down between her tender thighs, to the warmth of the space behind her knees. She was startled briefly but released the tension in her body almost immediately and to her great surprise. Glancing across the youngsters had disappeared into the night and he hoped – prayed almost – that they’d gone off to find a spot to fuck. That somewhere, in the darkness of the pier, or the empty spaces beyond the carnival’s lurid lights that boy and that girl were sweating and grunting as his hard, strong cock pierced her soft, wet pussy. He imagined her facing the railing, her hands gripping the middle rail, her legs apart, her pretty patterned dress lifted up at the back and her knickers stretched between her knees as the big tall boy fucked her savagely from behind, her arse arching towards his pumping, throbbing cock, his pre-cum mixing with her juices to run down her inner thigh. Or maybe, just maybe they’d snuck down the stairs that lead to the marina and were presently making one of the yachts bob and dance in the sheltered water of the harbour, his hips forcing the girl’s legs apart as he stroked softly while she nuzzled against him, her round, full breasts squashed pleasantly under the boy’s weight, his sweat dripping onto her face allowing her to taste his salty essence without fear or judgement.

Was he being judged. Was the woman sitting beside him with his hand between her thighs wondering what she’d gotten herself into.

“Are you okay?” he whispered, terrified of the answer.

“Yes,” she whispered, and a flood of relief washed over him.

From time to time her hands stroked his and ran up to his wrist, sparking a thousand thoughts and a million emotions, which combined led to a sort of paralysis as they sat there taking in the sights and the sounds of the landscape before them.

“Are you okay?” she leaned in and whispered, offering him the chance to take in her buttery scent. In response he gently squeezed her long, slender thigh and she had her answer.

But not really. Not all of the answer anyway. It took him most of his being not to do what he wanted. Not to slide his hand higher up her thigh to the warmth and wetness he’d craved so recently. To slide his hand inside her jeans and plunge a finger inside her, hoping that she’d moan with the pleasure and open her legs slightly to allow a second finger inside, or to give his hand more freedom to cup her mound or hunt for her clitoris with hot, urgent fingers. He hoped then that the universe would disappear. The rickety old ferris wheel would stop its awkward rotation and the music and strobes would freeze so that the two of them could dance recklessly among the individual beams and waves of light and sound if they chose to, or could lay down where they were, exploring one another’s familiar unfamiliarity. Her mouth on his. His hands on her touching and teasing her breasts and the roundness of her arse. Their tongues swollen and tender as they sought to pleasure one another before he ground her hips against the weather worn timber of the pier, or his bare back become stained with the footsteps of 100 years of fishermen as she rode his cock to her own rhythm, her breasts moving and swaying, his hands on her hips driving her to a faster and faster pace before they came together and she collapsed on top of him, both breathing deeply of the ocean air.

It hadn’t always been like this for him. Some switch had been flicked recently and her tender heart had broken open his cold demeanour. But he knew. Fuck, he knew it wouldn’t – couldn’t be, he thought, taking in big breaths of sweet, greasy salty sea air.

She nudged his shoulder girlishly and that action he knew too. He’d known it forever and for never and regretted both proximity and possibility all at once.

“Shall we?” he asked, gesturing to the crowded carnival.

“I suppose we’d better,” she replied.

“You’ve got your shift soon haven’t you?” he said, trying for all the world to make it seem he himself wanted to head back to the maddening crowd.

She glanced at her phone for the time,” Shit.”

“And you’ve got to go too.”

He nodded as they climbed to their feet, thanking one another for the company and the opportunity to step out of their lives.

They plunged into the crowd, dancing around fat toddlers and skinny-jeaned teens, beer bellied dads and smiling old folks until they neared a line of brightly coloured vans – the source of all that smoke. They parted with a soft, friendly kiss and as she walked away he reached inside the caravan and slung a heavy tray over his shoulders.

An older woman, severe looking with a hint of a lisp, appeared at the door of another van.

“You’re late,” she spat at the woman before throwing an angry glance his way.

“Hey,” he called out and was glad that she ignored the older woman. “I’ve got one question for you and only one question,” he yelled across the throng.

“What?” she asked.

“What if?”

And with that he turned and was gone, screaming “Peanuts, peanuts, get your hot, fresh peanuts…”

“Popcorn, hot buttered popcorn…” she chorused, stepping inside the van.