Could the social whirl make her forget the daily grind?
Sarah spun through the sky, a rush of night air filling her lungs.
Bright lights raced through the darkness, music spiralled up to the stars, and a dizzy scent of sizzling burgers fused with sweet toffee apples looped around the fairground.
It was the most alive she had felt in months, but as the rollercoaster plummeted to earth, Sarah crashed back to reality.
Waiting for her at home was an inbox full of emails demanding replies, and pages of spreadsheets needing updating.
Maybe she shouldn’t have agreed to come to the funfair tonight?
Sarah couldn’t remember when it had happened; when work was the only thing that filled her life.
Maybe it was when she and Marcus went their separate ways.
Or perhaps the desire to chase a promotion at work set her on a different curve. Maybe the desperation to fill lonely nights and weekends, when friends were busy with their own lives, had made her turn to work.
Whatever the reason, all Sarah really knew was that she wasn’t happy. Even tonight on a rare outing with her friend from school, Carrie, work was still hurtling through her mind.
Flickering gold lanterns and beautiful decorations trailed from stall to stall like celebratory bunting, as people wandered past sharing sugary sweets and admiring jewellery to buy.
“Oh wow, look they have dodgems!” said Carrie, as if they were kids again, as they wobbled unsteadily away from the rollercoaster ride.
Sarah smiled, trying to push the thoughts of work aside. If she allowed herself to relax tonight, she’d work all next weekend to make up for it.
Catching a brief anxious look in Sarah’s eyes, Carrie added, “You work too hard, you know. It wouldn’t hurt to have a little fun more often; like we used to at school.”
Sarah smiled, flashes of happy days spinning through her memory.
“I know, but we’re not kids any more. We have responsibilities.”
“Doesn’t mean we can’t have fun too.” Carrie nudged Sarah onto the dodgem ride. “Come on, you won’t catch me!”
Sarah’s eyebrows rose to the challenge.
As they chased and crashed their dodgem cars around the floor, Carrie’s words bumped around Sarah’s thoughts. Maybe Carrie had a point. Sarah had replaced the unhappiness in her life with work, somehow forgetting that life should also be fun, whatever your age.
Carrie accelerated her yellow dodgem away from Sarah with a playful wave.
Sarah spun her red dodgem and accelerated straight into the back of a blue dodgem with a juddering thump.
“Woah! Good job these things have bumpers.”
The man in the blue dodgem turned round laughing.
Sarah gasped. “Nick?”
Carrie pulled alongside them.
“Nick Baker? Your driving’s not improved since sixth form, I see.”
They laughed. Sarah couldn’t believe her teenage sweetheart was there right in front of her, back in their old home town.
Nick had been her first boyfriend. They’d been together for a year during sixth form, but drifted apart when their group had split to different universities across the country.
A decade and a half might have passed since, but Sarah had never forgotten him.
Carrie looked round.
“Where’s the old crew?”
Nick grinned. “Filling their bellies with burgers by now; I was just about to follow them when my dodgem got rammed.”
He looked at Sarah, his lips curling up at the corners, that old twinkle in his eyes.
Carrie laughed, a sudden look of mischief on her face. “I’ll order you both something too. Meet me over there.”
Sarah and Nick shared a shy smile as Carrie spun away, her matchmaking skills as swift as in their school days.
Ten minutes later Sarah and Nick were huddled on a bench eating burgers, chatting and laughing, as their old school friends did the same close by.
Fairy lights shimmered overhead, the moon gazed sleepily from the night sky, and music danced over from the fair’s stage as performers enchanted the crowds.
Sarah was finally remembering what it felt like to enjoy life again.
“I’m glad we bumped into each other.” A grin lit Nick’s face. “Literally.”
Sarah chuckled. “I am too.”
In the distance, fireworks exploded into the night sky.
Their eyes met, a spark of something old passing between them.
Nick gave a shy smile.
“If you’re free next weekend, maybe we could catch up again?”
Sarah thought of the work she’d planned to get through next weekend. Then she looked at Nick, her heart doing a rollercoaster loop of its own.
“Yes,” she said, smiling back at him. “I’d really like that.”