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steal my cotton candy heart

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The only good thing about Trish’s wig is that she can take it off and not be recognized in public. It makes it way easier for Jess to convince her to skip school and spend the day at Coney Island.

Trish’s birthday is in a week, and Jess definitely doesn’t mention that, but she thinks of the day sort of as Trish’s present. Dorothy—Jess does not call her mom—will buy Trish something and slap Jess’s name on it, but she wanted to get Trish something herself. And it’s not really herself, because she had to use the debit card Dorothy gave her to get the cash for the day, but it’s better than nothing.

Trish is quiet on the subway. Jessica wonders if she fucked up.

“Dude, you’re out of school all the time anyway,” she says. “They have no idea you’re not on set, and your mom has no idea you’re not in school. It’s fine.”

“I know,” Trish says quietly. “We just can’t let my mom find out. She’ll make me puke if she thinks I’ve eaten anything at Coney Island.”

Jess rolls her eyes because that’s a better way to take out her frustration than breaking a subway window. “One, your mom isn’t going to find out. Two, we’re totally eating whatever we want today. And three,” she lowers her voice a little, “I would have carried you out there to cheer you up if I knew you were gonna be such a downer.”

Trish bites her lip and smiles, glancing at the nearest other passenger, who’s seated well out of earshot.

Carrying is their code for it. Piggy-back would be more accurate. Trish climbs on Jess’s back, and Jess holds her tight, but not too tight, and jumps. Trish still says it feels like flying, not guided falling. Jess never tells Trish it feels way better with her than alone.

Jess wouldn’t have actually carried her, though; they don’t do it during the day. Trish and Dorothy are the only people who know about her, and Jessica wants to keep it that way. She doesn’t need anyone trying to use her the way she knows they would, the way Trish gets used because she’s young and cute.

Jess has to stop thinking about it so she isn’t a downer, too.

-

Trish perks up as soon as they get off the train. Her eyes are wide, like she’s seeing everything for the first time.

“You have been here before, right?” Jess hadn’t even thought to ask. Who didn’t go to Coney Island as a kid?

“Of course,” Trish says. “It was just—it was for the show. I didn’t get to actually ride anything.”

“Oh my god,” Jess says. Trish looks at her like she’s worried, but Jess grins. “This is gonna be even more fun than I thought.”

Trish smiles and looks away, and Jessica grabs her hand and tugs her along, too excited to worry about being cool.

-

Trish smiles like that at Jess a lot, actually. Smiles and doesn’t look at her, cheeks a little red. With other people, on the show, stuff like that, she has this smile that looks self-assured. Jessica is pretty sure her show smile is actually fake, not confident, but she knows better than to say anything. She thinks the shy smile, the smile where she can’t hold eye contact, that’s a real smile.

She hopes, anyway. She likes making Trish smile.

-

Jess has only ever come to Coney Island on a weekend or in the summer, so it feels empty with most everyone still in school. It’s awesome.

She takes Trish to the Cyclone first, because it’s the best, and there’s basically no line.

“What if I don’t like roller coasters?” Trish asks, looking up at the rickety old structure.

Jess blanches. She didn’t think of that—because who has never ridden rides at Coney Island?—but she shrugs. “Then we’ll eat cotton candy and do bumper cars all day.”

Trish smiles and looks away.

“Just in case, though,” Jess says, and pulls Trish toward the Tilt-a-Whirl. “We’ll start with something smaller.”

-

Trish loves the Tilt-a-Whirl. It seems like she’s barely trying to stop herself from being thrown into Jessica’s side as they spin around and around. She giggles, the entire time, and Jess can’t stop grinning.

“What’s next?” Trish says as soon as they get off, the trepidation from earlier nowhere to be found. “The big one?”

“You think you’re ready for the big one?” Jess asks.

Trish crosses her arms and stares at her, unimpressed. Jess laughs.

“Okay, let’s do the big one.”

Trish loses some of her nerve as they climb into the first car. She fidgets. Jess smirks at her.

“You gotta put your hands up when we get to the top.”

Trish shakes her head. “Maybe next time.”

Jess laughs.

Trish clutches tight to the lap bar as they click-click-click climb the first hill. Jessica checks out the view as they get higher, water to one side and the city to the other. As they crest the hill, she puts her hands up. Trish does not.

Jess loves that weightless feel in her stomach, but she keeps an eye on Trish, worried she won’t like it. The Cyclone is old, and they jostle in their seats, and Jessica wishes they had done Top Spin 2 or the Wonder Wheel instead, eased into this.

Trish smiles, though, and laughs outright when they hit the first curve hard and her body slams into Jess’s.

“You didn’t tell me it’d feel like flying,” she says before they go down the next hill.

Jess grins. “It’s more like guided falling.”

-

Trish makes them go on the Cyclone three more times in a row, keeps her hands up every time. Jess would complain, but there’s nothing shy about Trish’s smile anymore; it’s big and bright and her laugh is even bigger.

“Think we should try a different ride?” Trish asks after their fourth go.

“Whatever you want,” Jessica says. “We gotta try the Wonder Wheel at some point, too. It’s the most famous.”

“Let’s go!” Trish races off toward the Wonder Wheel, Jess laughing as she chases after her.

-

“Wonder Squeal, more like,” Jess teases when they get off the ride.

“Well, it was scary!”

“It was just a ferris wheel, you wuss!”

Trish hits her arm. “Maybe if we got in one of the stationary cars! The swinging cars are not just a ferris wheel. Plus,” she adds, “Patsy Walker does not squeal.”

Jess rolls her eyes. “Maybe that’s true,” she says. “But I didn’t bring Patsy Walker to Coney Island. I brought my friend Trish.”

Trish beams and looks at the ground, smile gone shy again. Jessica grabs her hand and tugs.

“Let’s eat. All that Cyclone riding made me hungry.”

-

They eat at Nathan’s, because where else would you eat in Coney Island? They order chili cheese dogs, and when they get them, Trish’s eyes get wide. Jessica worries that she’s thinking about Dorothy again, but Trish says, “This looks amazing!” and goes for her first bite.

It’s messy and delicious and it’s barely noon, but this is the best day Jess has had in a while.

-

After lunch it’s bumper cars. They’ve gotta let the food settle before they take on another stomach-dropping ride. Jess gets too excited about slamming into other cars, and she spins the steering wheel so hard it breaks right off.

She plays the innocent well, all I don’t know what happened and I didn’t mean to!, on the edge of tears. The guy running it waves her off.

“Calm down, kid,” he says. “It’s just an old machine. Don’t worry about it. Go ride something else.”

Trish grins at her as they move away. “You’re a pretty good actress,” she says.

“Learned it from you,” Jessica says.

“Maybe I’ll tell my mom you should guest star.”

“You do and I’ll hit you harder than my bumper car hit yours back there.”

Trish laughs and yeah, it’s definitely the best day Jess has had in a long time.

-

“Jess,” Trish says as they’re meandering through the carnival games, eating cotton candy. Her voice is urgent.

“What?” Maybe she was recognized, Jessica thinks. She hates being recognized, gets that fake smile and then can barely breathe when the people are gone.

“You have to win me that bear.” She points to a teddy bear that is the same size as her.

Jess rolls her eyes. “Trish, c’mon.”

Trish grabs her arm to stop her. “I’m serious! I need it! It won’t even be hard for you.”

Won’t be hard for her because it’s the sledgehammer game; hit the thing with a sledgehammer, and make the lights go up the tower and win a prize depending on how far they go.

The guy working notices them looking. “C’mon up,” he says. “Give it a try. You’re little, but you might get lucky.”

That makes Jess want to play almost more than Trish tugging on her arm.

“Please?” Trish says. She looks at Jess, eyes wide, a little pout on her lips, and Jessica almost folds.

“Maybe later,” she says. “We won’t be able to ride any more rides if I win it for you now—it’s too big.”

Trish smiles like she’s won. “Okay. Later then.”

-

Top Spin 2 is up next. As they pull the shoulder harness down, Trish gets nervous again.

“What happens if this thing breaks while we’re upside down and I just fall out?”

Jess shrugs. “Easy. I’ll hold you up.”

“What if you’re not fast enough to catch me?” Trish asks.

“I’m offended.”

“I’m serious, Jess, what if I fall? Maybe you should hold my hand from the start, so you’re ready if I fly out of my seat.”

Jess bites her lip so she doesn’t smile too big. “Okay.”

She takes Trish’s hand, squeezes it gently.

“Don’t let go, okay?”

“Okay.”

Trish smiles and looks away.

-

Trish, predictably, loves it. She pulls Jess onto it again when they’re done, never letting go of her hand.

“Want to do the gyro tower?” she asks after their second time.

“Sure.”

So they hold hands as they spin slowly in the air, and Jessica has to remind herself to look at the view instead of at Trish. This wasn’t a part of her plan. She just wanted to have fun; this wasn’t supposed to be a date. Maybe Trish doesn’t mean it to be, anyway. They’ve been pulling each other around by the hand all day. People hold hands sometimes, platonically. Maybe not for this long, or maybe not with the smile Trish’s got, the shy one, but Jess is supposed to be looking at the view, anyway.

She doesn’t mind, is all. If it’s a date. That would be okay, she thinks.

-

They do the pirate ship and the scrambler, go on the Cyclone twice more and Top Spin once. By then it’s getting close to time to go. They split a funnel cake and get powdered sugar everywhere.

“You going to win me that bear now?” Trish asks, licking sugar off her fingers.

Jess doesn’t immediately respond.

“You thought I forgot, didn’t you?” Trish says.

“Hoped, maybe,” Jess says. “But fine. I’ll win you the damn bear.”

-

“Back to win something for your girlfriend?” the carny asks when they get back to the high tower.

Jess feels her face flush red. She’s about to stammer out a rebuttal, but Trish loops her arm through Jess’s.

“I want the big bear,” she says.

Trish always says it’s like living with her best friend, never lets anyone call them sisters. But apparently people are allowed to call them girlfriends. Jess swallows.

“The big bear?” the carny chuckles. “You gotta make it all the way to the top for the big bear.”

“I can’t get it that high, Trish,” Jess says. “Let’s just go play a different game.”

The lie works exactly as she’d hoped; the carny gets nervous he might miss out on some money.

“Tell you what, you pay once, I’ll let you play twice,” he says. “Whatever’s the best prize out of the two, you can have it.”

Jess tries not to grin.

“Well, that seems like a deal, doesn’t it?” she asks Trish.

Trish is not doing as well hiding her smile. “You should definitely do it.”

Jess forks over the cash and picks up the sledgehammer. Makes sure to make it seem like it’s heavy.

She swings terribly the first time, barely gets the hammer over her head. Trish coughs, and Jess can tell it was a disguised laugh.

“That’ll get you one of these,” the worker holds up a bouncy ball.

“I think I can do better,” Jess says.

“Good luck.”

Jess swings and connects and the lights go up up up the tower, and the bell dings. Trish giggles and claps her hands. The carny just stares.

“What color bear do you want?” Jess asks, all nonchalant.

Trish picks the black bear—“it matches your hair!” she says, holding it up to Jess’s head as Jess rolls her eyes.

-

The ride home on the subway is ridiculous, Trish with her arms wrapped around the bear in her lap. It’s huge—Jess can’t even see Trish’s face most of the time.

“How are we explaining this to your mom?”

Trish shrugs, which Jess only knows because the entire bear moves up and down on her lap. “Just tell the truth,” she says. She pokes her head around the side of the bear to grin at Jessica. “It’s an early birthday present from you.”

“I—” Jess starts. “What do you mean?”

“You make me skip school and treat me to Coney Island for a day when my birthday’s next week? Seems like a present to me.”

“Maybe I just wanted to take you out.”

Trish smiles and hides her face behind the bear again.

Jess shoves her hands in her pockets. “Or maybe it was just a good reason to cut class.”

“Whatever you say, Jones.”

-

They get the bear into Trish’s room, in a corner, have to move her dresser a good foot away to make it fit. Trish beams.

“He’s perfect.”

“He?”

“Oh yeah, I’m naming him Arnold.”

Jess chuckles.  

Trish turns to her, still grinning. “Thanks for today,” she says.

Jess shrugs. “No big deal.”

“It was pretty great,” Trish says. “Best birthday present ever.”

Jess is rolling her eyes when Trish leans in. Jess freezes. It’s just a peck on her cheek, but it feels like a big deal.

“What was that for?” Jess asks when Trish is back in her own space.

“Just. Saying thanks.”

Trish smiles and looks away.