Although I was certain that my one and only wouldn't have freckles, Janis was pretty. Thick, wavy hair. Green eyes. Thin lips stretched into a wide smile. One of the straps of her purple and black bikini top had slipped down her shoulder, where it dangled alluringly against the flesh on her arm.
She whispered to her companions, who burst into giggles, flitted across the boardwalk and disappeared inside the Two for One. Janis turned her attention back to me. By now the audience had dispersed. I emptied the coins and bills from my derby into my old yellow suitcase, stuffed my juggling balls and derby in as well, snapped the top closed and ran my hand through my hair. "So," I began, leaning against the boardwalk's railing and gazing up at the moonlit ocean. "Where do you live year-round?"
Janis faced the boardwalk, clasped her hands behind her and leaned back on the railing. "Elkins Park," she said. "Outside Philadelphia. You're from down here, aren't you?"
"Uh, well, basically, yes." It wasn't a lie, exactly. I'd simply omitted part of the truth: the part about living in Philadelphia from September through June. "It's pretty quiet down here all winter. But that's good, because a juggler needs time to practice and think."
"You're pretty deep." She slid along the railing until she was next to me. When our hips brushed against each other's, my loins tingled.
"Nah, it's just the air down here," I said. Janis giggled. She looked across the crowded boardwalk, then down at her feet.…
Hand in hand, we made our way along the crowded boardwalk to Million Dollar Pier. We walked through the grand entrance, stopping in front of the carousel, next to where Bobby, Lita and I had spied on the Bearded Lady. Raising my voice over the tinny organ music, I asked, "What do you want to do?"
"I don't know," Janis said, demurring. "What do you want to do?" The pier was mobbed, its midway lined with attractions: games of chance; chickens that played tic-tac-toe inside glass boxes; a House of Mirrors; a syrupy-smelling cotton candy counter; and farther down, the giant steel roller coaster. All the rides were going full tilt: the spinning teacups and saucers, the big salt and pepper shaker that turned you upside down, the haunted house at the end of the pier. All around us, people squealed and laughed.
"We could ride the roller coaster," I said. "Or get something to eat. Or we could see what's going on under the boardwalk."
Would Janis slap my face? Storm off in a huff? Retreat to the Deauville Hotel and tell her parents that a perverted pretzel boy had tried to take advantage of her? I was too well known on the boardwalk to avoid a vengeful father for long.
"What's under the boardwalk?" she asked.
My jaw trembled. "Oh, well, nothing, really…"
"Let's go," she said, just as boldly as she had taken hold of my hand.