The smog had lifted as Maddy made her way down the cobbled streets, weaving between the numerous people strolling down them. As ever, there was a remarkable variety she thought. Young couples strode arm in arm, the gentleman waving a cane and the lady giggling behind a gloved hand, clutching a lace covered umbrella against the thin drizzle that accompanied the sight of the sky returning through the grey smog. Raggedy street urchins dashed here and there, a plucky few reaching slyly to relieve the nobility of a few gold coins they wouldn't notice were gone but provided those living on the streets with food for a few days.
The hum of a zephyr passing overhead made her look up, the huge balloon casting an oddly shaped shadow across the street as it made its slow way between the high buildings. That was the thing, there was such a mix of old styles and new technology which created a city where there was normally something new to discover every time you looked. Not that it mattered to her right now; she was on her way to something far more fun.
And then she reached her destination, the imposing brick house which seemed to loom from the street. A series of wide steps led up from the street to the large black door, surrounded on all sides by a narrow courtyard bordered by black railings. She grinned, racing up the stairs taking them two at a time. She thought about what her mother would say had she been there, grimacing once again that Maddy seemed to forget her higher birth and the sort of actions a noble woman should take as she got closer to seeing her friend. Well, there was no time to take each stair one at a time; it was a waste of perfectly good time for having fun! And, as usual, the black door swung open before she reached it, a flash of mussed black hair hidden under a large brown hat all that warned her of the smaller child who raced up to hug her.
She let out a giggle of pure joy as both fell backwards into the mud, hugging him back as tightly as they both struggled to talk through the giggles.
"Jack! You really must tell me how you always see me coming first; you're never stood at any windows!"
"Secret!" Jack grinned, wiping his nose and smearing a streak of mud across it as he did so. "If I told you I'd 'ave to keep you 'ere!" He stood up, wiping his muddy hands on the back of his muddier trousers before helping to pull Maddy to her feet. They were an odd mix, yet the closest friends. Maddy was high born, no doubt one day she'd be married into a prosperous family and live without every worrying about where the next gold would come from. Jack however was an orphan, without Maddy he'd have no visitors at all, and truth be told, he felt a pang of sorrow whenever he was reminded of her higher station. If she got married he'd never see her and get to play with her again! It was so unfair!
"Well, if you can't tell me your secret, maybe I can't tell you my surprise!" Maddy grinned, pushing herself from the mud without Jack's help. Oh her mother was going to kill her, her fine dress was smeared with mud and she loved it! If only mother would just let her wear trousers like she wanted, a bit of mud really wouldn't matter. It did the trick. Jack peered up at her with interest, tilting his head as he tried to consider what the surprise would be.
"That's not fair Maddy!" He frowned. "I can't tell you 'cos it's not my secret to tell! I swore a oaf to not tell a soul!"
"I think you mean an oath, Jack. Unless you're promising things to Mister Detherly again!" She shrieked with laughter, clutching at her sides as another tirade of giggles shook the pair. "But fine, fine! I won't make you tell me your secret and I guess you can know mine
" She pulled Jack closer, bending to whisper in his ear. " Have you ever been to the Carnival, Jack?"
"No..No I don't fink so..Unless that's one o' them fings where all the animals are in them box type fings?" His faced screwed up in concentration as he tried to figure out what a Carnival might be.
"That's a market Jack. The carnival has rides and big animals and the most amazing food to eat!" Maddy smiled as she pulled a small bag of coins from her pocket, jingling them at Jack before grasping his hand. "And we're going today! Come on!"
Jack gawped at the purse before shooting Maddy a wry smile.
"You pickpocketed, jus' like I taught you to!" He started to pull Maddy down the stairs. "There's 'ope for you yet! Well comeon..let's go to the carminival fing!"
"Carnival, Jack. And I'll have you know mother gave us the money to go, I didn't pick any pockets!" She raced down the stairs, pulling the shorter child behind her as she raced along the streets. A number of time she had to mutter a quick apology to some noble who'd foolishly stepped in front of them but soon they were at the wide gates surrounded by bright lights. She looked down at Jack and couldn't help but laugh. "You'll catch flies~"
Jack closed his mouth with a snap but continued to gaze up at the lights.
"But it's so bright! And it's 'uge!!! What sort of fings are they tryin' to keep out!?" He watched as Maddy pushed the gate open and handed a coin each to the man inside, who gave her two strips of paper in return. Jack frowned, this was odd. " 'Ere Maddy, that man conned you! Why did 'e give you paper fer a coin?"
"It's a ticket, Jack. It means we won't get thrown out for not paying." She smiled, pointing out various features of the fairground as she walked them through. "So..We can go on the Ferris wheel, or the Dodgems..Or the Helter Skelter! We can eat cotton candy, candied apples or hot dogs! We can go and see the animals! What do you want to do first?"
"I aint eating no dog, Maddy." Jack looked horrified at his friend. "I thought you was nice! Why would you eat a nice li'lle doggy?"
"It's a sausage in a bun, Jack. It's called a hot dog though
I'm not sure why? Maybe sausages were made of dog once?" She shrugged. "Well, how about we go and see the animals first?"
But Jack was standing at the base of a huge tower with his mouth wide open once more. A tube ran around the tower from top to bottom, and a loud shriek erupted from it.
"That one! I wanna go on that one first!" He tugged at her hand towards the line of people, frowning in confusion. "Are they all scared? Why aint they goin' on it?"
"It's a queue, Jack. You have to wait your turn. It'll be worth it though! That's the Helter Skelter, it's a huge slide that twists all the way down! You go really really fast!" And soon enough it was there turn, and the pair stood with their hessian mat gazing down into a long, black tunnel. "Right, ready?!"
"'course I am!" Jack grinned eagerly, plonking himself at the front of the mat. " 'urry up! I wanna see 'ow fast we can make it go!" He wasn't disappointed as the pairs' hair flew around, caught up in the wind the speed made. His shrieks and giggles mixed with Maddy's as they twisted and flipped, tossed around as the mat slid down. And then it was over, and Jack stood at the bottom, bouncing with excitement. "Let's go again! Faster!!"
And so they spent their afternoon running amongst the rides and the animals, gaping at the roaring lion and the giant elephant. Jack spectacularly rammed a noble with the dodgem car, since the noble had been causing the man watching them so much hassle he let Jack and Maddy stay on longer for giving him such a good laugh. And then they day was nearly over. Crowds of people were heading towards the exit, Jack watching stubbornly as he waited for Maddy to return. She'd said she had to go and 'powder her nose' whatever that meant, why would anyone want to put powder on their nose?! But soon enough she returned, carrying two sticks with something large and pink wrapped around it.
"whassat?" Jack enquired, tilting his head. It looked like pink clouds someone had caught and put on a piece of wood.
"Cotton candy! I thought we could eat it on the Ferris wheel, it's the last thing we have to do and I saved the best till last!" She gave Jack one stick before walking him to the huge wheel, sitting him down in one of the seats attached to the outside. "Right, watch how high we go!"
"Mmmnfffgle" Jack's eyes widened as he gazed down at how high they were climbing, and they shuddered to a stop right at the top. He struggled to talk around the mouthful of cotton candy he had. You could see the whole city from up here! He turned to look at Maddy who had managed to get cotton candy all over her hands and face. " 'ere, 'ow 'igh up do you fink we are?"
Maddy grinned under Jack's hat, placing an arm around his shoulder and putting a hand on the top of his head.
"Why, on top of the world of course!" She tried to remove the hand once more, succeeding only in creating a string of pink sticky stuff between the lumps caught in Jack's hair and the bits on her fingers. Ooops, Jack's hair was his pride and joy. "Up here, there are no rules, no society. Everyone is equal and everyone can just have fun!" She grinned.
"Up here..It's just you and me Jack. Always just you and me."