Arabella watched her mother and father go through the annual ritual of dressing the bookstore window. For thirty years she had watched them. Everything in its place, as it was back then. Apart from the horse puppet.
They moved as one, touching fingertips every so often, a hand placed above their heart, unshed tears shining in their eyes as they worked around the tiny space.
Arabella’s anger was as fierce as it had been all those years ago. Darling little Douglas, the little brother who could do nothing wrong. Douglas, who had followed her around like a lost little puppy. Douglas, who had been the centre of her parent’s world. The baby brother with one blue and one brown eye, who had taken away every ounce of attention.
She sighed with frustration and clenched her fists. It was no good. They would never notice her. Not then. Not now. Never. She returned to the shop, running her hands over the dusty rows of books, releasing that musty odour that tickled the back of her throat. Her eyes rested on a pair of blue shoes peeping through the space at the bottom of the shelf. She wiped her hands down her apron and inhaled deeply. They needed the sales so she would have to be nice.
‘Good morning,’ she announced breezily. But there was no one there. Arabella shook her head. She was becoming as batty as her mother. It was then she noticed the rolled piece of paper sticking out of the shelf and she pulled it out. A poster announcing a fair. Finnegan’s fair. Today’s date only thirty years ago, 1963.
Arabella swallowed and ran towards the door as the bell tinkled someone’s exit. A figure, a tall man dressed in a bawdy suit, a trilby and blue brogues strode away from the shop. She glanced back at the window where her parents were about to place the clock, the little hand on10 past and the big hand on10 to. She had no choice but to follow.
As she turned the corner, there it was. At the entrance, the carousel where she had last seen Dougie, clutching the puppet horse in his hands as he held on tight, smiling with glee.
She hadn’t meant to leave him for long. Just enough to make him snivel a little. She wouldn’t have left him if she had known. When she came back from the sweet shop with a bag of Sherbet Lemons to secure his silence, the fair had gone. No sign of a carousel. No sign of Dougie.
Music filtered through the air and Arabella found herself astride the largest horse and she gripped the central pole. The stranger appeared and pulled out his pocket watch. He smiled sadly as he read the time, nine minutes past ten. She searched his face, her gaze settling on his eyes. One blue and one brown. Douglas held up his horse puppet and waved as the fair and the carousel disappeared.