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if someone wins a giant assed panda on your watch you should just go home cause you're fired, okay?
- joel, adventureland

 

-

WEEK ONE:

The first day of summer vacation is going to be spent on the couch, most of the time with Billy, drinking beer and watching a lot of horrible movies on the television – and maybe some golf. And every day after that will be spent on the couch, drinking beer and watching a lot of horrible movies – and maybe some more golf.

It’s two hours into the day when Billy approaches him in the kitchen, walking towards the sink to wash his hands, when he slaps Tim on the back and says, “Timmy, I think it’s about time you consider gettin’ yourself a job.”

Within an instant, the whole summer is blown to hell. And it’s a Monday.

*

FRIDAY

Fridays have morphed themselves from ‘Boys’ Night In’, plus some football, to ‘Family Night’, where the Collettes come over like a package and they eat something. It’s their turn to cater the food. Billy forgets about this, so Tim settles for some KFC. He purchases the family pack, pocketing the change for later use.

When they eat, Mindy eats too much chicken and Tim gets less. He eats most of the coleslaw while Tyra hogs the potato and gravy. He’s never been to family dinners, but he’s pretty sure this is how it works; if you leave a man behind, someone else is going to get him – just like Mindy with the chicken. He stores that little bit of information away for future use.

“I’ll go get the cake,” Billy says, pushing his seat out and beginning to stand up.

“Billy,” Angela says, getting up herself. “I’ll get it. You sit yourself down.” She walks into the kitchen and grabs a cake from the fridge. It looks store bought, only because of its plastic lid and rather nicely done icing. Angela’s grinning widely as she carries it, placing it in the centre of the table. She pulls the lid off, as if revealing something hidden under a sheet. “I made it myself.”

Tyra’s smiling. “Spent all goddamn afternoon on it,” she says, as if the story needs confirming. Which it does; but Tim’s not going to say that. “I had to go out and buy so many eggs.”

“Oh, but you’re a dear,” Angela says, smiling at Tyra. She returns to the kitchen, pulling open drawers in search of a knife. Tyra’s gotten up to get some new plates and knives and forks. “Tyra did the icin’,” she says, coming back with a knife.

Tyra soon follows, placing the knives and forks down in a pile off to the side as she hands out the plates. She walks around and places the knives and forks down, the fork on the left and the knife on the right of the plate.

“Yeah, you hogged the computer,” Mindy says, grabbing her glass of wine and taking a long sip. “Needed to get on there but no, miss Ty-Ty needed to watch some Youtube videos.”

Tim grins. “On icin’?”

Mindy nods. “Uh huh,” she says, watching Tyra pick up the larger knife. “Hopeless.”

“Sorry I didn’t have time to buy an instruction book.” Tyra says, rolling her eyes. She cuts the cake into triangle slices. Sliding the knife underneath a slice, she pulls it free and uses her hand to ensure it doesn’t fall off the knife. She places the piece delicately on Mindy’s plate. “Here, Mindy, enjoy your cake.” Mindy pokes her tongue out at her, in which Tyra reciprocates.

It’s after desert that things get interesting.

Tyra’s cleaning up the kitchen table, after being offered the role by Angela. Everyone else migrates to the couches and chairs. Tim watches her picking up the plates, lining them up her arm like he’d always pictured her to do at Applebees. She picks up some knives and forks and moves towards the kitchen. She returns to pick up the rest of the plates.

“Hey, Ty,” Mindy says, turning her head to the side to watch Tyra in her peripheral. “Where ya workin’ this summer?”

Tyra sighs loudly. “Adventureland,” she says, before turning on the tap and washing up the dishes.

Billy cocks his eyebrow. “Adventureland?”

“An amusement park,” Tyra says, turning so she can look at him. She waits, gauging his response. There isn’t a flicker of recognition in Billy’s gaze. “It’s in the middle of nowhere.” She mutters to herself, “Just like Dillon.”

Mindy rolls her eyes, turning to look at Billy and Tim. “They’re always lookin’ for people to employ.” Her gaze settles on Tim after she says this. Mindy hits his shoulder, just in case he didn’t get it the first time. “You should go for a job.”

Tyra laughs, turning off the tap. She picks up a sponge from the side of the sink and starts washing up. “It doesn’t pay good money.”

Angela frowns, angling her body so she’s watching Tyra’s back as she washes the plates. “You do it.”

Tim hears Tyra sigh. She leaves the plates and the knives and forks in the dish rack, wipes her hands on the cloth and places it beside the sink. “I worked there last summer, and the summer before that, and they asked me back.” She comes back to the living room and sits down on the arm of the couch near him. “Apparently I am in high demand.”

Billy slaps her leg. Angela seems to relax a little, her spine curving as she leans back into the couch. “Are there availabilities?”

Tyra laughs. “They are always availabilities.”

*

SATURDAY

He finds himself at Adventureland. It seems deserted. He looks at the watch Angela made him wear and sees it’s only eleven in the morning. Aren’t these places meant to be packed even before they open?

He sees Tyra approaching from the side, dragging her feet on the gravel. “Isn’t this your day off?”

She cocks her eyebrow, looking at him, “You checkin’ up on me now?”

“Just thought someone of your impeccable stature would have somethin’ more important to do.”

She grins. “I do.” He cocks his eyebrow at her, keeping his eyes on the side of her face. Tyra glances at him from the corner of her eye before looking at something straight in front of her. He counts to five before she rolls her eyes and turns to him, saying, “Mindy forced me to come.”

“I don’t need you to hold –”

“Jesus, Riggins. I’m not.” Tyra crosses her arms over her chest, angling her body away from his. “I just figured I’d give you some pointers, if that’s alright with your majesty.”

Tim considers this and Tyra rolls her eyes, muttering, “Unbelievable.” He grins, sliding his hands into his pockets. “Yeah, peasant,” he says, his grin widening across his face as he sees her frown. “It is.”

She glares at him, her hand forming into a tight fist. She crosses her arms over her chest, restraining herself from hitting him. “You should try out for Rides,” she tells him. “Seriously. They do the least amount of work. Every time I look up from the booth, they’re just standin’ around.”

“I was lookin’ more for doin’ the car park –”

“And deal with drunks and sunburn? Jesus, Tim. You need shelter to survive this summer.” Tyra’s shaking her head at him. She’s looking at him as though he’s grown an extra head. “Last year, Joseph was workin’ the car park and by the end of the summer, he was burnt to a crisp. He couldn’t even hug his mother.” She raises her eyebrows at that.

Tim wonders if he should be impressed by this. He’s about to ask her why he didn’t wear sunblock when he thinks better. Tyra’s looking at him expectantly. “You serious?”

“Like the plague.” She hits his shoulder, pushing him forward. “Be firm. Stand your ground. You’re the Dillon Fullback, for cryin’ out loud.”

-

When he leaves Bobby’s office, he sees Tyra standing by one of the clown mouth bins. He doesn’t really understand the appeal of them. Are they meant to encourage less littering? If so, he thinks they’re not doing a good job. Tim’s always disliked clowns and he sees that having to put his rubbish in one less appealing than the usual metal cylinder. He thinks it’s a good example of what he’s read on the Internet about reverse psychology; it makes him want to litter more than to put his rubbish in its mouth and call it a day. Tyra’s arms are crossed against her chest, her eyebrow cocked as she watches him. When he’s close to her, she uncrosses her arms and places them on her hips. “So?”

He shrugs, running his hand through his hair as he closes the distance. He glances at the clown, finding it to be less threatening than it had from a distance. But, still, it’s a clown bin, and it is kind of creeping him out that she’s standing so nonchalantly against it. He remembers a time when she used to be shit-scared of clowns. When he’s right above the clown bin, he sees peeling paint and a few profanities etched into the back of its skull. “Games.”

Tyra shakes her head. “Did you stand your ground?”

“Bobby’s –”

“You didn’t.” She rolls her eyes. She starts walking off without him. He has to quicken his pace to be able to hear her ranting, “—And you’re supposed to be the aggressive one.” Despite being behind her, he can still feel the heavy roll of her eyes.

 

*

 

WEEK TWO:

MONDAY

Tim walks out of Bobby’s office to find a tall, lanky man standing outside. He’s got glasses that remind him of Harry Potter and long, black hair. “Hey,” he says, giving him a small wave. “You’re the new guy.”

“Yeah,” Tim says, scratching the back of his neck. “Tim.”

“I’m your tour guide, Joel. You’ll be stickin’ with me on this fine day.”

Once he’s standing by Joel, they start walking. He keeps in step with him, taking in the entire park. It’s big – and there are five clown bins littered between Bobby’s office and the first group of booths. Tim glances at Joel, his brows creased as the sun heats his back uncomfortably.“Do they always sing ‘Hired’?”

Joel nods. “You’re lucky you didn’t get a whole rendition of ‘R.E.S.P.E.C.T’.”

“Who was the lucky guy who got that?”

Joel looks down. Tim laughs even harder.

*

WEDNESDAY

Tim gets stuck at the race horse game.

There are three people spread out along the table. “And they’re off,” he says into the microphone. He lets his arm hang by his side, watching the wooden horses slowly make their way across the two-dimensional track. He’s made better paper puppets than this. “And yellow wins!” he says, turning around to grab a pink monkey. He throws it at the kid. “Congrats.”

Joel walks up to him after they disperse. “You better drink some Red Bull or somethin’ when Bobby’s out. He’s quite fond of this game.”

Tim puts the microphone down. He stretches his arms over his head. “Whaddya mean? This game is so excitin’ on its own.”

Joel grins. “Bobby just likes it when the announcer has enthusiasm.”

Tim nods. “Right.”

“Yeah,” Joel says. “Did Tyra ever tell you the time she got stuck on this? Bobby wouldn’t let her go to another game until she put some energy into her voice.”

Tim grins. “Seriously?”

Joel nods. “It took her a week.” He puts his hands in the back pockets of his brown jeans. “Out of all of us, that’s the poorest record.”

“Collette’s not gonna like that.” Tim grins. He scratches the back of his neck, trying to rid of the tension that’s settling there. “Where are you today?”

Joel sighs. His whole body seems to give in on itself as he runs his hand over his face. “The hat toss game,” he says slowly. “It gets busier around lunch.”

“Great,” Tim says. “I’m havin’ the time of my life.”

-

Tyra sees him later that afternoon. She walks up to him and grins when she sees him pacing the length of the counter. “Hey, loser,” she says. She stops before the counter, looking up at the prizes. “I see your pandas are still there.”

He stops pacing. “Heard it’s a sin if ya give ‘em away.”

She nods. “Yep. We’re all cheapskates.” Silence settles between them. “There are some rules you should know,” she says, sitting on the counter. She swings her feet.

Tim places his hands on his side of the counter. “Yeah,” he says, waiting for Tyra’s response. She looks at her nails. “What’d that be?”

Tyra angles her body so she’s looking at him. “Don’t eat the hotdogs.”

“Don’t eat anythin’ here,” Joel says. He was somewhere over to Tim’s left, the last time he saw him. He’s come to the conclusion that Joel’s some sort of ninja. Joel takes a seat in front of one of the plates where people throw balls into the holes to try and make their horse run faster.

“Don’t give away any giant-ass pandas, either,” Tyra says, kicking her legs out. They swing back to thump against the counter.

“Don’t use all your toilet breaks, either. You’ll wanna save those up.” Joel says. He then murmurs, “Trust me.” Tim cocks his eyebrow.

“What can I do?”

Tyra shrugs. “Be bored.”

“It’s the easiest thing you can do.”

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK THREE:

MONDAY

“Hey Tim,” she says, approaching him. “Likin’ the basketball hoops now?” she grins.

He shrugs. “Apparently horse racin’ isn’t me.”

She nods. “Yeah, it’s more Bobby’s. But he’s on clown bin patrol.”

Kyle, from Rides, walks up to them. “Hey Tyra,” he says. “Tim,” he nods to him. His attention returns to Tyra. “So, you know how Matt has a band,” Kyle says, swaying slightly on the spot. He scratches the back of his neck. “They’re playin’ down at that bar, near the corner of Dusty’s place. I was wonderin’ if you were free –”

“I’m busy that night.” Tim turns, rubbing his hand across his mouth to smoothen the grin.

Kyle frowns, still trying to maintain his composure. His mouth spreads into a strained smile. “I didn’t tell you what night.”

Tyra sort of shrugs, murmuring, “Hmm.” She looks at the basketballs sitting in their little trough before looking back at Kyle, saying, “I’m washin’ my hair.” Tim cocks his eyebrow, mirroring Kyle’s expression. Tyra’s hair is short. It barely passes her ears. Tim estimates it shouldn’t take too long to wash that short crop – it’d be much shorter than his. “It takes time to look this good, alright?”

Kyle grins, his hand returning to the back of his neck. “Well, I’m –”

I have to get back to my booth,” she says. “I’m being unprofessional – and such a horrid example to young Timothy here – by leaving the giant-ass pandas unattended.” She walks by Kyle, making sure to keep her distance from him.

Kyle lets out a low whistle. “She’s a firecracker.”

Tim laughs.

*

TUESDAY

“Don’t you have a job at Applebees?”

Tyra smiles. “You just realised this?” Tim rolls his eyes. Tyra shrugs, straightening the soft toys along the wall. “I work at nights sometimes. There’s this new girl who has some pull there, so ...” she shrugs again, coming to stand in front of him. She places her hands on her hips, looking at him. “Besides, nothin’ can beat this palace.”

“I don’t see what’s so bad about this job,”

Tyra snaps her fingers and points at him. “Huh! That’s what all you newbies say.”

“Seriously.”

“Seriously,” she says. “When you open your eyes, you will see.” She says, running her fingers in front of her eyes for emphasis.

Tim laughs. “I have my eyes open.”

“But are they clear?” she says, cocking her eyebrow.

Tim curls his fingers into a fist and slaps it against the left side of his chest, over where Landry says his heart supposedly is. “Full hearts.”

Tyra shoos him away. “Don’t you have a booth to maintain, new boy?”

*

FRIDAY

“Oi, New Guy,” Emily shouts, running after him. He slows his pace as he makes his way to Bobby’s little makeshift office. Tim pulls his shirt away from his skin; the air conditioning, although piss poor, will be a blessing upon his hot, sweaty skin. Emily catches up to him, bending down slightly to gain her breath. “God you have long legs,” she says.

He runs his hand through his hair. “Yeah, Em?”

“Oh,” she says, standing up. She pushes back her own long hair. “The Games guys are meetin’ up at this little diner just a few minutes from here tonight. Was wonderin’ if you’d like to come, since you’re new and all.”

“Thanks,” he says, grinning. “I’ve been here three weeks –”

“New,” she says. He cocks his eyebrow. “You’re vintage when you’re cursin’ the job and tryin’ to give away the giant-ass pandas for cash.” She nods. She tosses a thumb over her shoulder. “Rufus did that. Been here for quite some time.” She leans in, whispering, “Lost his marbles.”

Tim nods. “Right,” he says, running his hand through his hair again.

“You gonna go see Bobby?” she says, nodding towards his office.

Tim looks at it. “Yeah.”

“Remember to say ‘yes’.”

“Yes?”

She clicks her fingers. “That’s it.” Emily starts to back away, her hands in her pockets. “See ya tonight, yeah?”

He nods. She turns around and starts walking back towards the booths.

When he walks inside Bobby’s coolly aired office, the first thing he’s asked is ‘Got all your pandas?’ and Tim says “Yes”.

-

Outside, Joel lights a cigarette. Tim looks at it, seeing how it’s all white with no orange bit. Joel inhales, holding his breath for a few seconds, then exhales through his nose. A big clump of smoke disperses into the air. He offers him the joint. “Fuck man, that’s good,” he says to no one in particular.

Tim takes it, inhaling a little. He coughs, most of the smoke escaping then. He passes the joint to Tyra, who waves her hand. Emily takes it. “You can keep it for yourself, then,” Tyra says, shaking her head when Emily passes it back to Joel.

He shrugs. “Suit yourself, Collette.”

“I want to travel to every country,” Joel says. Tim watches Tyra laugh quietly as Emily cocks her thin eyebrow at him. Joel inhales the joint again, this time not passing it around. “To every continent. And island. And, like, every planet.”

Tyra doesn’t hold in her laughter. She crosses her arms over her chest and cocks her eyebrow at him. “You sayin’ you got money for that now? Travelin’ to space?”

“I hate what they’ve done to Pluto,” he says, inhaling his joint. He drops it on the pavement and steps on it.

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK FOUR:

MONDAY

Tim walks up to Tyra’s booth. “So,” he says. “I’ve been noticin’ a lot of guys hangin’ around here,” he says, and Tyra crosses her arms over her chest as she watches him approach. He eyes the toys lined up along the wall. They’re all sitting straight. “And I haven’t seen Lando.” He makes eye contact with her then.

Tyra looks at him, her face immobile before she breathes in and runs her finger along the edge of the counter. “Landry’s busy, y’know?”

“Busy enough he can’t make time for you?” he says, and he knows, instantly, that he has taken a step too far. Tyra may not be the girl from a year ago. She walks with a straighter back now, taking more forceful steps when she walks into the high school. She takes herself more seriously. This girl can see the future, when, before, all she could see was the past. “Ty –”

“Landry’s busy,” she says, her tone sharp. “He’s got a future ahead of him.” She says, quietly, “He’s ... workin’ hard. His dad makes him work hard.”

Tim isn’t stupid. Tyra may have changed her mind-set, and instead of crumbling in defeat at obstacles that lay in front of her (never getting out of Texas, never going to college because that’s how the Collette family is wired, never being anyone other than ‘the town vixen’), she’s running straight through them, but he knows, from experience, that not everyone changes with you. Mr Clark’s stuck in the past while Landry has moved forward.

-

Tim doesn’t see Tyra for the rest of the afternoon.

*

WEDNESDAY

He’s at Tyra’s booth, waiting to have a delicious lunch of not-eating-hotdogs. Joel’s mother’s given him a picnic basket full of goodies. His stomach grumbles just thinking about it.

A blonde girl approaches the booth. She gasps audibly and seems to lean closer, observing Tyra as if she were an animal in the zoo. “Tyra?” The girl blinks quite a bit. Her voice is irritating. “Is that really you? Tyra Collette?”

Tyra looks blankly at her. “Yeah, that’s m’name.”

“Hannah,” she says, pointing to herself. Her hand flattens against her skin, just at the base of her neck. Tim likes her neck, admiring how long it is. “Hannah Jones. We went to school together?” she says, her voice getting higher as she tries to maintain her composure.

It takes Tyra too long to recognise her. Then, Tim wonders, maybe that’s what she’s going for. “Oh,” Tyra says, smiling wide. Tim watches the way she blinks her eyes quickly, trying to summon up the excitement that doesn’t linger on Tyra’s bones, merely waiting for a surprise encounter just like this one. “Hannah,” she says, her knees bending and her hands clasping down near them. She raises her hands and gestures to her, straightening her posture as she says, “It’s so good to see you. How you been?”

“Good,” she says. “Daddy’s got me workin’ at his law firm answerin’ phones,” she says, smiling. She’s blushing, though Tim’s pretty damn sure she’s very proud of herself. Hannah takes a moment to take in her surroundings, her eyes swimming over the prizes lined neatly against the wall. “How have you been?” she says, stressing slightly on ‘you’.

Tyra’s mouth continues to strain as she smiles. “Good,” she says, though her voice is less cheery and more her. “Been workin’ hard. Gotta do somethin’ to keep myself entertained, y’know.”

Hannah nods, humming in affirmation. “Well,” she says, “I hope this works out for you.”

Tyra’s mouth forms a distinctive straight line. She doesn’t bother to smile anymore. “Hmm,” she says, nodding, though Tim thinks she’s seeing the many ways she can hit Hannah with the mallet. “Yes, well, it’s good to see you, too.”

“Alright, well, I better be goin’. Got my boy waitin’ for me,” she says, blushing again. She starts walking away before turning around, walking backwards slightly. “Do you recommend any rides we go on? I wanna show him a good time.”

Tyra points to her shirt, where the word ‘Games’ repeats itself until it fades away into the hem of her shirt. Hannah giggles, placing her hand over her mouth in embarrassment. She turns around and starts walking. “Make sure you have a hotdog,” Tyra says. “They’re yummy,” she scrunches up her face with a large smile.

Hannah grins and waves.

Tim looks at her, grinning. “Why you tell her that? They’re horrible.”

Joel walks over from his booth. He’s taking care of the horse racing until Bobby can find someone with ‘enough enthusiasm to bring the race horsin’ to Adventureland’.

Tyra rolls her eyes at Tim, moving to sit on a stool that she’s stolen from another games booth. Joel stands at the corner of the booth, his hands in his pockets. “In my first week, I ate one. I was in the can for the entire day,” Joel says, looking at Tim. Tyra cocks her eyebrow. “I was really hungry.”

Tyra places with the mallet. “We were twelve. We were in gym or whatever – you know, the class they make you move around a lot?”

Tim grins. “The one you skipped.”

She nods. “Yep. Anyway, so we were playin’ basketball and Hannah threw a ball at me.”

“I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean it –”

“Oh no,” Tyra says, narrowing her eyes. “She did.”

“How do you know?”

“We were on the same team. I was settin’ it up so we could win.”

“What happened?”

“We lost.” She shrugs, like it doesn’t matter, but Tyra’s never one to take losing easily. “It doesn’t matter, either way, because she has shit aim. Besides ,” she grins, “she completely missed me.”

Tim laughs. “Yet you hold a grudge.”

“Hey,” she says, looking at him. “There are no perks to this job. Sometimes, Riggins, you have to make them for yourself.”

-

Tyra slaps her hands against the counter of his booth. He jumps slightly. “Leo’s havin’ a party,” Tyra says. “You’re invited.”

“Don’t sound so happy ‘bout it, Collette.”

Tyra rolls her eyes and lifts herself up onto the booth. “You should go,” she says, picking up a ball. “You’ll have fun.”

“Why so Debbie Downer?”

She frowns. “Who – ?”

Tim shrugs. “You ain’t comin’?”

She shakes her head. “Ma says it’s ‘Girls’ Night’ or somethin’ tonight,” she says, air quoting ‘Girls’ Night’.

“When has it ever been ‘Girls’ Night’?” he says, copying her air quotes.

Tyra hops off the booth, beginning to walk away. She moves backwards, throwing her shoulders up and her hands as she shrugs widely. “Apparently I’ve been sleepin’ my whole life away.”

*

FRIDAY

They watch the fireworks.

They’re walking to the car park.

“Lemme tell you a secret,” she says, crossing her legs when she walks. “I once gave away a giant-ass panda.”

Tim grins. “No.” She nods. “Lemme guess,” he says, looking to the side to see most of the lights of the rides off. “Was it Landry?” she shakes her head. “Smash?” she laughs. “Right, Smash is competitive.”

“And a good guy,” she says, swinging her bag slightly. “Guess again.”

“Street?”

“I give up,” he says.

“Mindy.”

He stops. “What?”

“She has this obsession with pandas. When we were little, she liked to collect them. She used to have this big collection of these small stuffed panda toys lined up in her room.”

“What happened to them?” he says, starting to walk again.

She shrugs. “We hit the Collette Financial Crisis of the Century. Dad left. Mum lost her shit. We had to sell things that weren’t necessary.”

“Oh,” Tim says, looking down.

Tyra hums. “We had to get rid of them for space. They didn’t sell well.”

“But they sold.”

She nods. “Yep.”

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK FIVE:

WEDNESDAY

It is early.

Tyra sees a shadow approaching her. “Shoot the hat and ya win a prize,” she says, not looking up from the schedule.

“Hey, Tyra,” says a very familiar voice that stops Tyra from penning down her name for late Thursday nights at Applebees.

Tyra looks up. “Garrity,” she says, her eyes running over Lyla’s never-changing form. She’s wearing a nice dress with an innocent v-neck and a pattern littered with little flowers. She looks nice. “What can I do for ya?”

Lyla sways a little, her makeshift confidence dwindling. “I heard Tim was working here.”

“He’ll be in at lunch.” She rolls her eyes, saying, “He’s got some ‘family emergency’.”

Lyla grins. “Well ...”

“I’ll tell him you dropped by?”

“No,” she says quickly. “There’s no need. I’ll see him later.” She turns. “It was nice seeing you, Tyra.”

Tyra hums, watching Lyla walk away. She narrows her eyes as she concludes that something smells fishy – and she hates the smell of fish.

-

“What are you doin?” Tim says, leaning against the booth. He watches her as she tries to figure out her schedule.

“Nothin’,” she says.

He leans forward to peek. “Doesn’t look like ‘nothin’’.”

She stops, groaning. She looks up at him. “Just tryin’ to figure out my Applebees schedule, is all.”

“Oh.” Tim says, leaning back. His interest has obviously deflated, and it ignites Tyra’s irritation. “Havin’ trouble?”

“Yes,” she grits through her teeth. She stops, pressing her palms flat against the counter. “I just ... am having trouble figurin’ out my schedule for Applebees.”

Tim sits on the counter. “What’s wrong?”

She looks at him. He raises his eyebrows. She sighs, thrusting the piece of paper at him. “They want me to work more hours. Adventureland has me for those hours.”

“You can’t juggle ‘em?” he says, taking the piece of paper and looking at it. She’s scribbled all over it, rewriting her times in the boxes. It reminds him of a drawing he saw Angela pull out once of a box labelled ‘Tyra’ on one side and ‘memories’ on the opposite.

She shakes her head. “No,” she says. “I’m exhausted enough as it is.” Her mouth forms a thin line as she thinks. “I work on Saturdays and sometimes on Sundays, and then I’m back here the next day.”

“Quit,” he says, looking up from the paper.

“I can’t,” she says.”

“Yes,” he says. “You can. It’s easy.”

“I don’t like quittin’.”

He gestures for the pen. She gives it to him. It hovers over the paper as he has a look at it again. “Well,” he says, “maybe it’s time for you to make a decision.” He starts crossing things off on the paper and writing things down. She tries to see what he’s doing but he twists his body slightly, his large back blocking her view. For all the height in the world she’s been blessed with, Tyra doesn’t understand why a simple booth and Tim Riggins is blocking her view.

“I don’t want to decide.”

“Well,” he says, handing her back the piece of paper. He slips the pen behind his ear, pushing his hair back. “Maybe you don’t have to.” She looks down at the paper, seeing all the times she’s written, and hasn’t crossed out, with a simple line through them. In the blank space in the squares it says ‘Unavailable’. “Maybe you need someone to do it for you.”

She looks up at him. “Tim –”

He holds out his hands in mock surrender. “Hey,” he says. “Sometimes the strong female needs rescuin’. It doesn’t mean you’re a damsel.”

She plants her hands on her hips. “I’m not in distress.”

“No,” he says. “You’re just under stress and a bit thick-headed.” He slips off the counter. He brushes his hands over his backside, as though he’s been sitting on sand. He turns around. “It’s a consequence of havin’ such thick skin, being so thick-headed.”

Tyra glares.

He turns, slowly walking back to his booth. “You’ll thank me.”

She shouts, “Rat’s ass I will!”

Tim spins around and grins when a few people give her reprimanding looks. When she looks back at him, he’s walking away, back to her. There’s a slight skip in his step.

-

Later, at closing, he finds Tyra stomping her way to his booth.

“I’m not quittin’ Applebees,” she says.

He shrugs. “Maybe you should.”

“They’ve been good to me.”

“Maybe,” he says. “Maybe not.”

“Adventureland only has jobs during the summer. Applebees has them three hundred and sixty five days a year.”

“So?” he says.

“So?” she exclaims. “Tim, Applebees is my job.”

“Weren’t you the one who said that it was keepin’ you from reachin’ your full potential at school?”

She pauses. “Yes. But Mrs Taylor –”

 

“Why are you fightin’ me on this?” he says. “This is a good thing for you.”

“Tim –” she frowns.

“Besides,” he says, grinning. “If you’re not gettin’ the hours now, you’re not gonna get the hours later.”

She cocks her eyebrow. “You’ve never worked in Applebees before. You don’t know –”

“I do. Seriously, Tyra, even Street’s kid would know – and he’s only a kid,” he says, still grinning. Tyra crosses her arms against her chest and immediately uncrosses them. “They’re cuttin’ down your hours until you’ll have none left. I’ve seen it before.”

“Oh, are you some sort of jedi master?”

“May the force be with you.” Tyra flicks him on the forehead.

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK SIX:

SUNDAY

He’s in the Collette’s kitchen, washing dishes with Tyra. This was once an experience filled with tension, where her handing him a butter knife brought on a stress that he’s only ever felt on the field. Tyra can kill him with a look; she’d be a master with a knife. But now, it feels unusual that that tension is somewhat gone.

“So,” she says, taking the wet plate from him and wiping it with the cloth. “Lyla came and saw me the other day.”

Tim pauses for a moment before running the sponge over the plate in the sink again. “Really?”

She nods. “Yep,” she says, taking a few knives and forks into her hand. She wipes them individually and places them in the drawer.

“What did she say?” he says slowly. He hands her the plate.

She shrugs. “Y’know,” she says, drawing it out. “Just that apparently she hasn’t seen you in a while and I guess she misses ya ugly mug.”

Tim grins.

Silence settles upon them, though Tyra sighs a few times, as if she’s about to say something and then stops and needs to cover it up. He watches her out of the corner of his eye before he needs to move to a cupboard to place a cup away. She says quietly, “You and Garrity got somethin’ goin’ on?”

Tim shrugs. He passes her another plate.

*

WEDNESDAY

“Street tells me you want to woo Garrity.”

“It’s nothin’ like that.”

“Oh,” she grins, sitting beside him. “It’s somethin’ like that.”

Tim continues to eat his hotdog. “Yeah,” he mumbles with food in his mouth, “what’s it to you?”

Tyra grimaces. “Jesus, Tim. Billy not taught you manners yet?”

Tim swallows. “Whaddya want, Collette?”

She grins. “Win Garrity a giant-ass panda.”

“What?”

She speaks slower, “Win Garrity a giant-ass panda.”

“Why?”

“You’re seriously that daft?” she pauses, looking at him. She mutters to herself, “Of course you are.” Tim frowns. “The giant-ass panda is a symbol of your love for her.”

“I don’t love –”

“It’s how you’re gonna get her, Tim. Flowers ain’t gonna do you no good now that she’s with Jesus.”

“He’s not –”

“He might as well be. When compared to you, he is.”

“Thanks, Collette. Thanks for your vote of confidence.”

She grins. “I’m just sayin’,” she says. “Jesus is givin’ her flowers, which is such a general statement. Everyone gives flowers. But a giant-ass panda that is forbidden,” she looks at him, “now that is hot.”

“I thought it was love.”

She looks away, speaking quickly, “Well, you thought wrong, Tim.” She pats him on the back. “As per usual. So let me do the thinkin’ for ya.”

“I don’t think that’s such a great –”

“Great,” she says, smiling. It unsettles him, seeing Tyra this cheerful. “I’ll tell the guys about Operation Get-Garrity-With-Riggins is on.”

“What?” She gets up. “Tyra!” She walks a few paces before spinning around on her feet. She’s smiling. He’s never seen her spin and smile so happily before. It’s like she’s caught some sort of mouse, which, he supposes, she has. His brows furrow. “Why are you doin’ this?”

She rolls her eyes, sighing. “Because I’m bored, Riggins.” She pauses, listening to the song playing. “And they play the same fuckin’ song all the time.”

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK SEVEN:

TUESDAY

Joel approaches him when he’s getting his booth set up. It’s disgusting behind the counter. Tim dislikes having to be in a booth after Jeremy Sticky-Fingers. “Hey, so, this Garrity girl. Is she ... blonde?”

“What?” Tim says, pausing.

“Garrity. Is she blonde?”

“No,” Tim says. “Why are you askin’ me ‘bout Garrity?”

“Oh, Tyra said Operation Knock-Sense-Into-Lisa-Garrity was on.”

“Lyla.”

“Her hair is lilac?”

“Her name is Lyla.” Tim rolls his eyes and runs his hand through his hair. His face feels hot. “She’s got brown hair.”

“Dark brown?”

He pauses. “Medium?”

Joel nods. “Right,” he says. He turns slightly, away from him, and says to himself. “So, that means she’ll be a strawberry.”

Tim blinks. “What?”

Joel looks at him. “Jeremy said something about hair colour matchin’ to fruits and stuff, and how that fruit corresponds with a mood.”

“How ... is this helpful?”

Joel shrugs. “Dunno. I guess if she’s a strawberry, which is a good mood, she’ll be easier to woo.” He grins at ‘woo’. Tim grimaces. “Tyra’d be a pineapple.”

Tim laughs.

-

“I don’t feel comfortable with this.”

“With what?”

“This Operation Garrity thing.”

Tyra cocks her eyebrow at him. “What’s wrong, Princess?”

Tim frowns. “I don’t see why everyone needs to be involved.”

“Everyone is involved because you’re hopeless, Riggins.” She pats him on the shoulder. It does nothing to comfort the storm manipulating his nerves. “I personally think you’ve taken one too many hits to the head. I mean, who in their right mind would let me go?” When she looks up at him, she’s grinning.

“But why do they have to mention it every time I’m near?”

“We’re bored, Tim.” She says. “Nothing excitin’ has happened here since Rufus gave away a giant-ass panda.”

“Collette –”

“Riggins,” she says, standing still before him. “We’re tryin’ to be nice. We’re a family here. And family, apparently, look out for each other.”

“I shouldn’t have missed the movie night, huh?”

“No,” she says. “You missed a classic. 101 Dalmations is an amazin’ film. Great camera work.” She grins. He laughs.

Tim turns to go. “By the way,” he says, turning so he’s facing her again. “Joel says you’re a pineapple.”

“What?” she says, narrowing her eyes. He starts walking backwards, grinning as he watches her face morph from a confused frown to the sharp angles that define her anger. “That little –” Tim’s loud laughter covers up the rest of her words.

*

FRIDAY

“Dave –”

“Who’s Dave?”

Dave works at Rides,” she says, watching him as he cleans the vomit. She grimaces. Tyra says slowly, “He’s havin’ a party ... and we’re all invited.” She pokes her tongue out as she watches him clean it so thoroughly. Speaking quickly, she says, “Jesus, Tim, that’s disgustin’.”

“You’d prefer I leave it here to rot in the sun?”

“I’m pretty sure it doesn’t rot in the sun. And yes. Jesus Christ,” she says. “You’re so thorough.”

He grins. “Why, thanks Collette.”

She rolls her eyes. “So,” she says, looking away from where he’s continuing to wipe up the counter. “Dave’s havin’ a party –”

“I heard you.”

“—and I’ll so disinvite you if you continue to wipe that slowly.”

He grins. “I’ll come.”

-

Dave puts a CD in his player. He looks up at the ceiling, listening to it. “Man,” he says, looking at Tim. “You should so play this with Lyla. It’s such a lady killer song.”

“I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want to kill her,” says Joel.

“I’m serious,” Dave says. “Oi, Emily, c’mere.” Emily comes over, though she narrows her eyes at Dave. “Whatdya think of this song?”

Emily listens for a moment. “If you want to get laid, your chances are slim.” She grins and walks away.

Dave watches her go. “Hey, that’s totally uncool!” He proceeds to follow her.

Tim finds Tyra sitting on the edge of the pool. “You told everyone.”

“Well,” she grins, looking up at him. “Bobby felt it necessary to get as many perspectives as we could to make this work.”

“Bobby?” Tim says, eyebrows raising high. He runs his hand through his hair, muttering, “Jesus.”

Tyra laughs. “It’s all in good fun,” she says. “We’re just tryin’ to help.”

He runs his hand over his mouth. “Didn’t ask for it,” he speaks into it.

Tyra gives him a light smile. “Yeah, I know. But c’mon, Tim. You’re hopeless. At the rate you’re goin’, you’ll be wrinkled.”

“I’m not that slow.”

“No,” she says, “but it doesn’t hurt to accept a little help from friends.”

“Thanks,” he says. He mutters, “I guess.”

“Anytime, idiot.”

Tim drinks the rest of his beer. He places the paper cup on the ground behind him.

He pushes Tyra into the pool. When she surfaces, she’s laughing and frowning. “You asshole!”

Tim grins. “I’m sorry,” he says, laughing. He approaches the edge of the pool. “I just wanted to get you back.”

“Sorry my ass,” she mutters, bobbing up and down in the pool.

“C’mere, I’ll help you up.”

Tyra frowns. She swims near him. When he lowers his arms, she grabs him near the elbows and pulls him in. When he surfaces, she’s laughing. “You’re an idiot if you didn’t see that one comin’.”

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK EIGHT:

WEDNESDAY

“I don’t get why you don’t go out with Kyle.”

She sighs. “I don’t like Kyle.”

“No,” he says. “You like Lando.”

“Riggins.”

“Collette.”

“You’re so annoyin’.”

“And you’re so stubborn.”

-

Tim doesn’t really know how they end up here, he just knows they’re here and he can’t find a quick enough escape. They’re supposed to be closing up for the night, but somehow they’ve all been drawn near one of the rides. Tyra leans against the barricade as Joel sits on one of the small benches. He opts for standing, shifting from foot to foot.

“I think we need to band together and figure out this Operation Garrity,” Joel says, crossing his legs and leaning his elbow on one. He places his chin in the palm of his hand as he thinks.

“Her comin’ here is somethin’,” Tyra says, placing her foot against the barricade.

“But it’s not enough,” Joel murmurs, and he looks at a point somewhere past Tim’s leg.

Neither of them look like they’re about to talk. Tim crosses his arms and says, “Do I get a say in this?”

Together, they say, “No.”

“You’re hopeless,” Tyra says.

Tim rolls his eyes, about to say ‘I know’, when someone speaks up. “Why don't you just take her out to dinner?” Tim looks at Bobby, surprised. He can see his office is dark inside. Usually Bobby stays back for twenty minutes before shouting a ‘goodbye’ across the parking lot. Bobby's eyebrow is raised.

“It's what normal people do,” Sue says, appearing somewhere from behind Bobby. She steps out from his shadow and comes to stand beside Tyra, running her finger over the top of her nails. She looks up at him. “She may like that.”

“No, no, no,” Tyra shakes her head. She crosses her arms against her chest. “No. You embarrassed her on radio, Tim.” She looks at him pointedly, her brows drawn together slightly.

He frowns. “How do you know about that?”

“Herc told me,” she says, shrugging. Tim groans, causing Tyra to grin. “He tells me everythin’.”

Tim mumbles, “That’s ‘cause he wants to get into your pants.”

Tyra rolls her eyes. “That’s exactly what you want with Garrity, idiot.”

“It’s different,” he says quickly. He attempts to avoid her eyes. He feels his cheeks burn slightly.

Tyra seems to catch onto something. She drops her leg from where her foot sits against the barricade. She stands up straighter. “How so?”

Tim swallows, glancing up at her, “It just is.”

Tyra rolls her eyes. “You know, Tim, girls like Garrity like to know what they’re gettin’ into. ‘Just because’ isn’t gonna cut it with her.”

It’s his turn to cross his arms against his chest, cocking his eyebrow, “Since when do you know anythin’ ‘bout Garrity?”

Tyra opens her mouth, but it isn’t her voice he hears. “How do I love thee?” says Joel. He looks up at the sky, possibly counting the stars. “Let me count thy ways.”

“What?”

“That's what you say to a girl,” he says. “It knocks them off their feet.”

Tyra rolls her eyes. She turns to Tim. “How about a little bit of honesty? Like, oh, ‘Hey Garrity, sorry I embarrassed you on radio. I act like a jerk around you ‘cause I like you.’ Never mind that you are an actual jerk.”

“Since when are you an advocate of Garrity's?”

“Since I heard she dumped that Christian radio boy a couple of days ago,” she says, shrugging a little. She avoids his eyes while he tries to capture hers.

Joel frowns, his head perking up from where it sits in his palm. “She dated a Christian radio guy?” He shakes his head, and mutters to himself, “That’s a whole other level.”

“She practically dated Jesus,” Bobby says. He then lifts his hands, gesturing to demonstrate scales. “Jesus,” he says, lifting his hand high above his head. He looks down as he lowers his other hand, almost bending at the knees, “You.”

*

THURSDAY

Tim finds Tyra at her booth. She’s working the hats today. He approaches her, watching as she gathers out the softballs from their bucket behind the counter. “You know, I can never show my face here ever again.”

Tyra rolls her eyes and grins. “And yet, here you are,” she says, gesturing to him with a wave of her hand. She starts laughing as she straightens out the prizes on their hooks.

“I’m serious.”

She stops moving the softballs and looks at him. She places her palm underneath her chin, her pointer finger and thumb curve along her chin. “I forgot how dramatic you are.”

“I’m serious, Collette.”

Tyra smiles, her hand falling back to her side as she bends down to pick up more softballs. “Drama queen,” she says.

When Tyra starts laughing, almost hysterically, Tim takes this as a sign to leave. As he’s walking, he can hear her laughter growing louder. So, he shouts, “I can never show my face here again.”

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK NINE:

TUESDAY

“Hey, Tyra.”

She says, bored, “Hey, Kyle.”

“So, my friend’s band was playin’ at this club tonight. Was interested if you’d like to come.”

“Sorry,” she says. “I’m busy.”

His hand snakes to the back of his neck. “Yeah?”

She doesn’t look at him. She continues to wipe down her counter. “Yeah.” She seems to take pity on him. “Got family commitment. My mother doesn’t like it when I blow them off since they’re so rare.”

“Oh,” Kyle says, though his face is still light with something. Tyra doesn’t like it. She knows what that something is. She hates it.

-

They’ve made some silent pact that she’ll sweep out the shit on the floor of his booth if he wipes up the vomit and crap that the kids leave on hers.

They start at his booth, as his is the messiest. Tyra spends a lot of her time either sweeping or sitting on the counter, listening to the repetitive music. Tim, on the other hand, likes to spend his time eating lollipops and dropping the sticks everywhere, forgetting to pick them up. He also likes talking to people who walk by.

“I hate this song,” she mutters, sweeping out the front of his booth first. He doesn’t know why she bothers there, since everyone walks there and it’s open to anything the wind pushes its way. But he leaves her be. She’s calmer like this.

He grins. “I know all the words.”

“No, you don’t.”

“Yeah,” he says. “I was singin’ it in the shower this mornin’. And last night.”

She looks up at him, her eyebrow cocked. “You don’t sing.”

He shrugs. “Things change.”

“Yeah,” she says, returning to her sweeping. “When you come here, all sense of life and purpose just flow out of you like water.” She looks up at him. “That’s the goddamn change.”

He shakes his head. “Gotta disagree, Collette. This place opens you up to new experiences.”

She looks up at him again, her eyebrow cocked. “You been smokin’ Joel’s weed?”

He laughs. “I’m serious, Collette. You just gotta be open to it.” He grabs the cloth from the back corner of his booth and starts to wipe down the game. “You’re too cynical.”

“I prefer the term ‘realistic’.”

“If you were realistic,” he says, giving everything a quick wipe. He’s not as thorough as her when they begin cleaning. She gets into it quickly while it takes him some time to summon up that cleaning bug. “You’d give this place a chance.”

“Maybe if I was daft,” she says. She’s hiding her face away as she manoeuvres her sweeping into his booth. Tim sort of likes it now that she doesn’t have her long hair. It’s harder for her to try and hide from him.

She leaves him alone, and he follows. He starts wiping everything down as thoroughly as he can. Some marks just do not come off, no matter how hard he tries to wipe them away.

“Lando said he was gonna pass by,” Tim says.

Tyra seems to stiffen. “Oh?” He feels the air around them shift into uneasy territory. It’s somewhat reminiscent of what he remembers of their relationship; always strained.

“Yeah. He and Saracen wanna ride the rollercoaster or somethin’.”

“Oh.”

“I think Saracen wants to win one of those pandas, too. Or see them. Apparently Lando thinks this entire Adventureland is rigged. Somethin’ ‘bout the government.” He looks at her. She’s still sweeping. “I never listen to what he says. Just like you’re not listenin’ to a word I’m sayin’ right now.”

“You talk shit, Riggins,” she says, coming to sweep at his feet.

“You should try to get the game with the horse racin’,” he says. “He wanted to make comments ‘bout the unrealisticness of it or somethin’.”

Tyra moves away from him, sweeping. He watches her.

What Tyra hates, Tim will later realise he knew all along, was having hope.

*

THURSDAY

Tim’s taking his break for lunch when Joel approaches him. “Garrity came and saw me,” he says. “She doesn’t know who I am,” he shrugs, “but she was askin’ for you. That’s important.”

Tim swallows his burger. “Thanks,” he says, shrugging. He takes another large bite as Joel shifts on his feet.

“She’s pretty,” he says. Tim nods, taking another bite. “But she’s kinda short.” Tim almost chokes on his laughter.

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK TEN:

MONDAY

Tim is surprised when he sees Lyla standing before him. “Garrity.”

“What do I do for the bear?” she says, pointing towards a pink bear.

“Knock off a hat.”

“Alright,” she says to herself. “How much?”

“Free for newbies,” he says. He gives her a ball.

She doesn’t take it immediately. She sizes him up. She takes it from him and aims for a hat. She misses.

*

TUESDAY

They’re closing for the night. Miles circles the perimeter, lingering slightly by the entrance to the park to say goodbye to them. Tim hardly ever gets to see him. He blends into his surroundings quite well. He’s heard that working security for the park at night can be quite boring, and it’s good place to stretch the imagination. Tim sees Miles pull out his newly bought D.S. and he continues walking.

“I wish I could afford one of those,” Joel says from ahead of him. He’s turned around to watch Miles, his face lit up by the portable device.

“We do the work of lazy, pathetic men,” Tim mumbles. Joel grins and turns around, walking quickly to catch up with Emily.

Tim lingers by Tyra’s side. They walk slow; their trucks are parked near the far end of the car park. “I quit Applebees,” she says.

“Oh?”

Tyra looks at him, her eyes narrowed slightly. “You had nothin’ to do with it,” she says quickly. “I think it was ‘bout time I let it go, y’know?”

He nods, though she doesn’t see it. She’s looking ahead of her now, watching Joel climb into Emily’s small, worn-out car.

“Besides, my shifts were gettin’ cut short.” She kicks a loose stone with her shoe. He hears it move along the gravel, though it doesn’t go too far. Emily’s car comes to life and she beeps at them, yelling out ‘goodbye’. Tim waves at her and watches the car speed off to the exit. “I was startin’ to hate it anyway.”

“You mean, you didn’t hate it before?” he says, grinning. She pushes him. He loses his footing, moving off to the side where he stables himself. He migrates back over to her, walking in step.

“I think there’s somethin’ better for me out there,” she says. “And Applebees has been good to me ...”

“But it’s time to move on.”

She nods. “I dunno,” she says. “Am I makin’ a mistake?” He grins. She narrows her eyes. “Shut up.”

“I don’t think you’re makin’ a mistake.” “Not a mistake to be seen here,” he says, gesturing in front of her. “Whatcha gonna do with that time?”

She shrugs. “Dunno,” yet she does. “Gonna study.” She turns to face him. “Gonna kick all y’all asses this year.”

“I know you will,” he says, smiling.

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

He nudges her arm with his elbow. “You always got my vote.”

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK ELEVEN:

MONDAY

It’s a slow morning. He’s sitting at the vacated tables near the entrance to the park with Emily and Sue. Emily sits on top of the table as Sue reads a gossip magazine he’s seen Mindy toss around his house. He stands, trying to intimidate them with his height.

“I don’t need help with Garrity,” he says. “I got it under control.”

Emily rolls her eyes. “’Under control’,” she air quotes, “as in ‘doing shit all’.”

“You know she’s been around,” Sue says, looking up from her magazine. “She keeps askin’ for you. I never know what to say.”

“Say I’m here,” he says, shrugging. “It’s pretty damn simple.”

Emily shakes her head. “No, it’s not,” she runs her hand through her hair. She shifts on the table. “She needs to find you.”

Tim frowns. “Yeah, she will if you just tell her.”

“That’s not what Kyle says to do,” Sue says, turning a page.

“You’re listenin’ to Kyle? Kyle who can’t get the hint that Tyra’s not interested?” Tim laughs. “This is rich.”

Emily rolls her eyes. “What are we supposed to do?” she says. “Would you like her to see you moppin’ up puke? ‘Cause, trust me, that’s what you were doin’ when she stopped by yesterday.”

Tim almost jumps at that. He feels ‘She was here?’ crawl up his throat before he swallows it down. He takes a moment to mull over Emily’s words, trying to pick the right thing to attack. He scratches the back of his neck, saying, “No. I should try and get the horse racin’.”

Sue snorts. “Yeah,” she glances up at him, trying to contain her laughter, “’cause you’re a real charmer with that.”

*

WEDNESDAY

Two days later, Garrity catches him at the hat toss game. He’s mopping up puke.

“Tim,” she says, stopping in front of the booth. She looks at the wall behind him. She frowns, “You have a lot of giant pandas.”

Tim leans the mop against corner of the wall, coming to move closer to her. He crosses his arms over his chest as he looks at the wall. There are six giant-ass pandas, too many bananas with eyes, and a furry pink monkey. “Yeah,” he says, his hand migrating to the back of his neck. “It’s sorta currency around here.” She cocks her eyebrow and he shrugs. “Don’t ask,” he says, smiling.

She’s smiling at him, causing heat to swirl up from his chest to his throat. “I have a bad arm,” she says, gesturing to the men with hats behind him. He turns to look at them, watching them rotate in their circle. “So I’ll take a miss on this game.”

Tim grins, “Yeah.” He turns to look at her again. “I’d stay far away from this game.”

Lyla’s fingers migrate to the crook of her other arm. She doesn’t look at him when she starts, “Do you have any ride recommendations? Or even games? I’m bringing my sister and her friend here in a couple of days.”

Tim’s eyebrows rise slightly. “Oh, well, I’d go to the house of mirrors if a girl with a pink streak of hair is there. If she’s not there, stay away.”

Lyla laughs. “Okay.”

“Try the music shack. It’s sort of like Grease with the whole moving floor thing. And the horse racin’,” he says.

“Okay,” she says, crossing her legs. “I’ll do that.” She smiles. “I better get going,” she says, pitching a thumb behind her. “It’s nice seeing you,” she lingers for a few moments before turning and walking in the direction of the snack bar.

Tim can’t help but watch her go.

*

FRIDAY

Tim ends up at the toss-the-ball-into-the-clown-mouth game. The booth is known to have the most clown-mouthed bins surrounding it.

Tim hears through the grape vine that Lyla did come, around twelve in the afternoon, and she came with ‘two little midgets’, according to Bobby. She went to the places he recommended, and stayed far away from the hat toss. Sue later tells him she asked for him, and when she said he wasn’t there, because for some reason she wanted to see something, she looked ‘a little like a sad puppy’.

 

 

*

 

 

WEEK TWELVE:

TUESDAY

“If you don’t call Lando, I’m activatin’ Operation Tyra-Likes-Lando-But-Is-Too-Stupid-To-Admit-It’.”

Tyra frowns. “You can’t do that.”

“Why not?” he says, crossing his arms against his chest. He cocks his eyebrow, waiting for her response.

Tyra flounders a little, like a fish out of water. She rolls her eyes. “Fine,” she says. She points her finger up at him, hovering near his nose, “But don’t you dare – ”

“Wouldn’t dream of it,” he says, grinning.

*

FRIDAY

“Thanks,” he says, folding the envelope and placing it in his back pocket.

“See you next summer,” Bobby says, giving him a nod and he turns back to Emily.

He finds Tyra talking to Joel.

“Hey, loser,” she says, grinning warmly at him. “Got your paycheck?”

“Yeah,” he says, “it’s a bit weak.” Tyra laughs.

“We do the work of lazy, pathetic men, Riggins,” Joel says. “What else can we expect?”

“A bucket of gold, for starters,” Tyra says.

Tim grins. “A giant-ass panda, maybe.”

Joel nudges Tyra. “Oh,” she says, pushing his shoulder slightly. “Riggins, we have a surprise for you.”

“This can’t end well,” he says, following them.

At the horse racing booth, Tyra walks behind the counter and pulls a giant-ass panda from its hook. A ribbon is wrapped around its neck. “Here,” she says, pushing it in front of him.

“What’s this for?”

“Garrity,” she says.

“A grand gesture of love,” Joel says.

“I don’t need –”

“Riggins,” Tyra says, patting the panda’s head. “You need all the help you can get.”

“She’s waitin’ for you by the snack bar,” Joel says.

“Take her to that nice little cafe spot down the road,” Tyra says.

“What –”

“A thank you would suffice,” Tyra crosses her arms.

He feels foolish holding a giant-ass panda in his arms, but he walks over to the snack bar, feeling Joel’s and Tyra’s penetrating gazes burning along his back. Lyla’s talking to the girl behind the counter.

“Hey,” he says.

Lyla smiles. “Hey.”