Abby never went to the fair on a Saturday, the busiest day of the week. But today was special. She faced the long queue with a grim smile.
By the time it was her turn, her feet had gone numb. She slid into the seat and exhaled. Finally, time to enjoy this last moment of freedom.
As the attendant was about to lower the safety bar, a wizened old lady stepped forward and approached her two-seater cab.
'You don’t mind if I join you, do you, love?'
Abby pursed her lips. 'No, of course not,' she said, wondering why she could never just be honest.
The Ferris wheel juddered, and the cab rose into the air. Abby looked at the city spread out below and inhaled deeply. Bad idea. She wrinkled her nose and glanced sideways at the lady. When had she last showered? And was that… marijuana she smelled?
Without warning, the creaky Ferris wheel jerked and stopped. Abby wasn’t concerned. It did that sometimes.
She turned her back on the lady and scanned the skyscrapers. Her last day as a single woman in the city. Her last time at the fairground. Blake didn’t like fairgrounds.
A weight pressed down on her chest. What’s wrong with me? He’s a good guy.
It was just the life change that scared her. Abby glanced down at her watch. Ten minutes had gone by. The smell from her neighbour was getting overwhelming.
Suddenly, the woman spoke. 'Looks like we’re stuck.'
'I suppose.' Abby looked straight ahead. Don’t engage.
'Not afraid of heights, are you?' The lady chuckled.
Abby raised her eyebrows and turned her head, just in time to see the lady eyeing Abby’s engagement ring. 'Yes. Tomorrow.'
'Exciting.' There was a pause. 'I got married around your age, too. Biggest mistake of my life.'
'Oh.' Abby sighed and checked her watch again. Fifteen minutes. Can we move now? What’s the problem with this Ferris wheel?
'I wasn’t sure about it, either, but I didn’t dare call it off at the last minute.'
Abby turned to face the wizened lady, frowning. 'What gives you the impression I’m not sure?'
'I can tell.' The woman shrugged, her cloudy eyes unfocused. 'Jake was dark, handsome, and popular. When he started courting me, I couldn’t believe my luck. My parents were so proud. I, a baker, marrying a lawyer? But there were warning signs. The drinking. The flirting. The demeaning comments.'
A hot flush crept over Abby’s face. Was this an elaborate joke set up by her bridesmaids? 'I’m a baker, and my fiancé Blake is a lawyer,' she stammered.
'Ah, well? There you have it.' An almost angelic smile lit up the old woman’s face.
'Then what happened?' Abby asked, despite herself.
'We got married. The drinking got worse. The flirting turned into affairs. And the comments, well…' She pulled up her sleeve to reveal her arm, scarred red and purple from years of abuse.
Bile rose in Abby’s throat at the sight of the cuts and sores. 'That’s… I’m so… sorry. But surely, you must tell someone! You can get help!'
'I don’t need help. It’s too late for me. But not for you, Abby.'
Another momentary silence engulfed them. Only then did Abby realise that the world around her had stopped moving. No cars whizzed by on the roads below, and the blinking skyscraper lights were static, frozen in time. She turned back to her neighbour, who stared straight ahead.
'Who… who are you? And how do you know my name?'
The old lady raised her eyebrows and smiled at Abby. 'Can’t you guess?'
Abby reached out to touch her future, but before she could do so, the old lady snapped her fingers. The ferris wheel juddered back into motion, causing Abby to lurch forwards. By the time she recovered, the seat beside her was empty.
About the author
Kathrin Spinnler grew up in a small town near Bern, Switzerland, surrounded by the stunning alpine countryside. Now living in North London, she works as a content writer and language teacher. When not working, you can find her curled up reading a book or hiking around the local green spaces.
Did you enjoy the story? Would you like to shout us a coffee? Half of what you pay goes to the writers and half towards supporting the project (web site maintenance, preparing the next Best of book etc.)