“Oh my God, I love funfairs,” Eva said. “We have to go on something.” Eva and Seb were walking the city walls, struggling to keep warm. Neither of them had gone prepared for the bitter wind that sliced off the Irish Sea and the chill damp of the north of England.
“I’m not going on any roller coaster,” Seb said. “They scare the shit out of me.”
The fairground occupied the river meadows outside of the high Roman walls that encircled the city. They could hear the loud, taped voices enticing people onto the rides. When they turned the corner on the castellated walkway, the multi-coloured, mechanised shapes came into view. A handful of parents with small children braved the weather among the striped roof of the dodgem cars, the gangling arms of the octopus, and the hairpin bends of the tame roller coaster. Toddlers rode the cups and saucers or caught plastic ducks with a hooked pole.
Eva took Seb’s hand and pulled him down the stone steps to the meadow. He felt older than her, although he wasn’t, not much. She had flashes of child-like excitement and looked younger than she was; a head shorter than him, slender limbs and junior-sized feet in fashionable trainers, contrasting with his drab walking boots. She wore a brightly coloured pink bobble hat interwoven with tinselled wool that glittered against the grey sky.
“We’ll find a suitable ride for a couple of fifty-somethings,” Eva said. “Something we can get in and out of, unaided.”
They agreed on the twister because she said it was playing “groovy music.” Eva stepped up from the sodden grass and slipped on the wet metal floor of the ride. She fell onto her side into the low-slung, two-person carriage, catching her leg on the angular mechanism of the safety bar.
“Good start,” Seb laughed, and pulled her back into a sitting position. Then he saw she was crying.
The fall had torn her jeans at the thigh. There was blood on her hand where she covered the rip. Seb called the attendant and asked him to unlock the safety bar before the ride started. The attendant refunded their tickets without asking why, thinking they were just another middle-aged couple losing courage at the last minute.
“Why doesn’t anything work for us?” she said. “Why can’t we even get on a fucking fairground ride and enjoy it?”
Seb led her limping to the outer perimeter of the fair where a few trees stood in a loose circle.
“Go behind a tree and drop your jeans. Let me have a look,” he said. He took tissues from his pocket.
“I’m not stripping off in public.” Eva threw off his hand and limp-marched back towards the stone steps.
He caught up with her. “Eva?”
“Fuck my life,” she said.
“It’s a fairground ride, not your life.”
“Something else I can’t manage without screwing up.”
They found a café and sat next to a radiator. Seb ordered tea while Eva went to the toilets. It was their last day and night together before she took the train back. Seb felt sure she’d been texting her husband. She was probably on her mobile to him from the privacy of the ladies.
“It’s a deep cut,” Eva said. “We need to find a chemist for a bandage, and somewhere to buy new jeans.”
Back at the weekend rent, Eva pulled off the ripped jeans and tried on the new pair. “Great. They don’t fucking suit me.”
“Then why did you buy them?”
“Because in the shop they did fucking suit me.” She ran up the stairs and slammed the bedroom door.
Seb found the sewing kit he’d seen in the bathroom cabinet. Whilst Eva dozed, he stitched together the rip. It wasn’t perfect but it would hold, and her long sweater would cover his uneven attempt.
They went out for the last dinner of the weekend. She wore the jeans he'd repaired, the jeans he later unzipped as she lay flopped on the double bed. She wore them again the next morning for her train journey home.
“Sorry I was pathetic at the fair,” she said.
“One day we’ll go to a giant funfair. Disneyland or something,” Seb said. “I’ll even go on a roller coaster.”
“And I’ll get on without injuring myself.”
* * *
That same evening, Eva emailed Seb. She told him it had to end.
“I can’t do this to him,” she said.
They kept in touch. She told him she wasn’t happy. She called herself a “lost cause.” Months later, she sent a picture of herself wearing the repaired jeans. She said that she wore them constantly—that his handiwork had held things together.
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