Vancouver and Victoria ambled hand-in-hand down the iced streets of suburbia, the fresh snow softly and pleasantly crunching under the ridges of their hard soles. The frigid air steamed their every breath into diamond dust-like vapours. Tiny snowflakes settled upon their shoulders, melting almost instantaneously with their accumulated inner body heat.
Reaching the junction with the main street, which was heavier with Christmas Eve traffic on their way downtown, the teenaged couple made shelter at a nearby bus stop. They tightly hugged each other, and Vancouver tucked his head into Victoria’s wrapped arms to protect it from the cold. Some stray snowflakes gusted inside the shelter and onto Vancouver’s hair just beside the parting.
“Oh look Van, you’ve just washed your hair and already you’ve got dandruff,” said Victoria, tapping at his crest.
“I do? Nah, it’s snowflakes,” chuckled Vancouver, and he lightly scratched at his scalp to brush the snowflakes off.
Victoria giggled. “Oh Vancouver.”
Just then, the bus pulled up.
“Oh, here it is. Let’s get on.”
“Whoa Vic, I’m gonna slip on the curb if you’re not careful,” exclaimed Vancouver as she hauled him onboard.
The entrance doors shut, and the bus steered away. Vancouver and Victoria grabbed their tickets and a pair of seats beside the largest window, frosted on the outside with flakes of ice. Vancouver massaged his hands together and exhaled his hot breath into his cupped palms.
“Here, feel my hands. They’re warm enough,” Victoria suggested, and he stuffed his hands inside hers.
For much of the ride downtown, Vancouver gazed out of the window, silently contemplating on the wintry world outside. He caught glimpses of people flinging snowballs at each other, playing street hockey on the ice, and digging up the snow with giant shovels. Victoria made small talk with some of the other passengers, chatting about their plans and wishes for Christmas.
As the bus reached its destination, Victoria gently coaxed Vancouver out of his serene daze.
“Van, we’re here.”
Vancouver stirred up. “Oh sorry.”
Everybody disembarked the bus, landing in front of the towering entrance arch. Just ahead lay the vast Canadian Common, which at this time of year was ablaze with Christmas lights in the myriad hues of the rainbow, and alive with the bustling Christmas market.
The crowd, including Vancouver and Victoria, started heading through the archway towards the main plaza of the common, where the market was undergoing business in full swing. Fresh bronze turkey, roasted auburn chestnuts, ruby mulled wine bubbling with cinnamon and star anise, baked golden mince pies and luscious chocolate-brown flambéed Christmas puddings all liberated their delectable scents, enriching the festive atmosphere. Up ahead, the funfair illuminated the cold cerulean heavens with rainbow colour casts, the Ferris wheel revolving through the air and the rollercoaster building twisted highways in the sky. In the very centre of the plaza, a towering genuine-pine Christmas tree decorated with sparkling baubles and tinsel in various colours and sizes reached up to the cosmos with a great shimmering gold star atop.
Vancouver stared all around, awestruck at the funfair, market and tree. He inhaled a deep sniff, the emanating aromas blending all together inside his nostrils like a fragranced Christmas candle.
“Ooh! Now this really does smell a lot like Christmas! And it feels a lot like it, too!” he beamed brightly.
“Okay, okay, don’t get too excited, Vancouver,” Victoria subsided him. “Save all that energy for tomorrow.”
“So shall we go on the rides first before we eat some festive food later?” Victoria suggested to Vancouver as they ambled around the funfair.
Vancouver nodded. “Oh yes, we should. But nothing too intense or high up.”
They first headed for the Ferris wheel, being let on as soon as a carriage was freed up. As the door shut and the wheel began slowly revolving into motion, Vancouver’s anxiety sprang up.
“Van, don’t get into such a flap, it won’t go that high,” Victoria comforted him, but Vancouver trembled slightly, bracing his legs.
The wheel continued rotating towards the sky, and Vancouver’s nervousness only grew the higher it flew. Victoria could now notice his quivering a little more, trying to pin his moist gloved hand down with hers.
She tried to keep him calm while observing the great view outside of the carriage.
“Look, look at all the people below,” she smiled. “Don’t they look kind of funny when you can only see the top of their heads?”
The wheel reached the peak, and so did Vancouver’s nerves. His left foot tapped involuntarily against the floor with the wobbling jellies of his legs. Even through her thick gloves, Victoria could feel it tickling up her arm.
“Vancouver, look! You can see the whole city from up here!” she encouraged her boyfriend.
“B-but I can’t look!” Vancouver stammered, turning the other way and shielding his eyes.
“Vancouver, don’t ruin our Christmas date.”
Fortunately for Vancouver, the wheel soon backed down to the ground.
“Oh relief.” He sighed to the heavens.
“Oh Vancouver,” giggled Victoria, shaking her head slightly. “Let’s go on something that’s a little more down to earth. How about the spinning teacups?”
“Oh, I do love being taken for a little bit of a spin!” joked Victoria as she and Vancouver were wildly swirled around inside the spinning teacups like a spoon stirring an actual cup of tea.
“Victoria, I’m feeling dizzy.” Vancouver was starting to feel rather disoriented.
“Just close your eyes really tightly and try not to focus too much on the spinning.”
Vancouver obliged, clutching onto the rounded rail in front of him. The attendant gave each of the teacups a push as they revolved around, laughing with the riders, but Vancouver only moaned lowly.
“I feel like I’m in one of those swivel chairs and someone keeps spinning me around.”
“I’m the one who’s spinning you around!” Victoria playfully slapped her boyfriend’s shoulder.
“I guess you do, right round…” Vancouver endeavoured a smile.
The teacups’ twirling picked up a small surge of speed, and Vancouver’s giddiness threatened to bubble over into full-on queasiness.
“Oh God, won’t this thing slow down?!” He cradled his head into the gap between his lap.
“Vancouver, don’t fret, it will.”
Just as Victoria spoke, the teacups slowly ceased their spinning. Once they’d completely stopped, she helped Vancouver off the ride and supported him while he tried to regain his stability.
“Ooh, my head’s swimming,” he groaned.
“Swimming in snow? You’re so funny, Vancouver.” Victoria lightly pecked him, making him jiggle his head to loosen himself up. He blushed warm salmon pink, beaming sweetly.
Vancouver and Victoria rode the bumper cars – or rather sleighs – around the ice-like arena, trying to avoid crashing into other people’s sleighs. Animatronic reindeer anchored to the front hauled them about, their bulbous noses glowing berry red like Rudolph’s. While immersed in his driving, Vancouver accidentally slammed his sleigh against Victoria’s.
“Sorry! Did I hurt your reindeer?” he apologized, patting the back of his head, chuckling.
“Eh, no need to worry, they’re just models.”
Victoria reversed her sleigh away, and Vancouver started making his way towards the very centre of the arena, only to get bumped by somebody else.
“Sorry, sorry!” he apologized more profusely.
“Oh Vancouver, you shouldn’t be sorry, he should be,” Victoria referred to the other rider.
Fast and furious, Vancouver rolled on towards the middle, failing to notice Victoria was straight up ahead. His sleigh banged against hers.
“Oh! We meet again?”
“I… think my reindeer’s in love with yours,” Vancouver blushed a soft salmon red. “We’re… meant to be together.”
“Aw Van, you’re just too sweet.”
Just outside of the ride, Victoria wrapped her arm around Vancouver’s.
“That was a pretty lovely analogy for those reindeer back there, eh Van?” she praised him.
“Y’see, even with me being ditzy,” grinned Vancouver, “I can still say something clever.”
But as soon as he lay his eyes upon the ice mountain rollercoaster…
Victoria gently tried to snap her boyfriend out of his frightened freeze-frame. But he was still petrified, unblinking out of terror.
“I… I’m not going to ride that, am I?” he asked, wavering.
Victoria laughed. “Oh come on, Van. Life’s too short for boring fairground rides. You have to spice it up with some adrenaline even once in your lifetime.”
“Oh joy…” Vancouver sighed jadedly as Victoria enthusiastically dragged him towards the rollercoaster.
Every shuffle up the queue watered the unwanted sprout of Vancouver’s anxiety. He could already feel it tickling his beating heart and his shuddering knees.
“Vancouver, settle down. It’s only medium-sized,” Victoria tried to calm his nerves.
Inside his racing mind, Vancouver amplified the rollercoaster. In his eyes, it was more like a looming behemoth of loops and twists hovering many miles above the safety of solid ground. The conveyor-belt motion of the queue didn’t help either.
Laying his foot on the entrance line, Vancouver essayed an inhalation of fresh cold air.
“Ride it for the two of us.”
Vancouver quietly gulped. “I’m going to be brave.”
He took a wide step inside the carriage and did his best to sit down straight, even with his foot drumming against the floor. Victoria followed him in, and the security bar clamped down around them.
“Now this is where it really starts.” Vancouver gulped more loudly for Victoria to hear.
“You’ll be alright, Van.” She held his hand in a love link.
The carriages clanked into action and began chugging up the slope. Despite his girlfriend’s well-intentioned efforts, Vancouver’s nervousness only increased with the height of the rollercoaster.
“Vancouver, we’re not that high up. We’re just up to the same height as we were on the Ferris wheel.”
He tried to whip his head around across to the wheel, but his survivalist instincts told him to glimpse back over his shoulder to witness the carriage rising over the fair and market. His speeding heart dipped into the hollow of his rolling stomach.
The train of carriages trundled over the first peak of the rollercoaster. Vancouver swallowed down the deepest gulp he could, bracing himself for the inevitable steep descent. Victoria tossed both of her hands into the air as the carriages zipped down. Vancouver clapped his gloved hand onto his eyes, shutting them tightly and clutching onto the security bar as tightly as he could.
“Victoria, you know I hate heights! And I hate rollercoasters!” he wailed.
“Like I said, Van, you have to try something new every so often!” she hollered over the roaring and rumbling of the carriages rattling against the rails.
“I’d rather they were on the ground, thanks!” Vancouver gripped onto the bar with both of his hands, his gloves shielding them from getting stuck to the glacial steel.
The wild twisting around of the rollercoaster felt never-ending to Vancouver. Even through the blackness of his closed eyes, he could still sense the chain of carriages sharply veering around corners and coasting down drops. And he could still hear the rattle of the rails, and the exhilarated cheering of Victoria and the other riders.
“I’ll be okay… I’ll be okay…” he reiterated to himself frantically, like a mantra in a desperate struggle to alleviate his panicking.
Before the rollercoaster could come to a stop, the riders had to slide down one last slope. Though not as steep as the others, Vancouver’s terror mentally exaggerated the angle, seeing it as an almost vertical plunge.
“Vancouver, open your eyes, just this one last drop,” Victoria encouraged him as the train turned the last corner.
He glimpsed briefly out of his half-open eyes, only to shut them again on registering the slant of the slope in his frightened mind.
The train rolled over the summit and shuttled down the slope, landing back at the entrance with a brassy metallic clang. The riders all lurched back and forth with the sudden force.
“Ooh, that ended with quite a bang, didn’t it?” giggled Victoria as the bar was raised back up and everybody was let off.
Vancouver heaved a massive sigh of relief, but he was still quivering from his riotous rollercoaster ride. “You’re telling me. I was praying to get down all the way up there.”
“Aw Vancouver, I need to have some fun too, not just you.” Victoria pecked his cheek, flushing it a bright rose red. He felt a little better and calmer.
“Let’s go on something a little slower before we go for our Christmas Eve lunch. I love the carousel.”
“At least that doesn’t zip up and down like a rollercoaster,” Vancouver sighed again gratefully.
Instead of the traditional horses and stagecoaches, the carousel had been given a suitably festive twist with reindeer, sleighs and jingling bells. Vancouver and Victoria both clambered into a sleigh, noticing the reins hanging inside.
“Oh, we can ride the reindeer?” Vancouver flapped his reins up and down.
“Not really, but you can just pretend.” Victoria picked up hers.
The carousel began its leisurely cycle of gyrating, with a background of Christmassy melodies accompanying the reindeer’s riding.
“Jingle bells, jingle bells…” Vancouver started crooning merrily, ringing the bells on the sleigh with little tugs of the reins.
“Don’t get dizzy, Van,” Victoria alerted him. “Keep looking straight ahead.”
Vancouver carolled along to the ride’s music, which somewhat amazed his girlfriend. She’d heard him sing before, and every time he did, she couldn’t believe that was the voice of her boyfriend – the very same boy who would otherwise act like he didn’t have a single grasp on the world.
“Why, Vancouver, your voice… It’s sweet like maple syrup and flowing like mulled wine.”
Vancouver blushed the brightest shade of scarlet, like Rudolph’s nose or Santa’s suit. “Why, Victoria… Thank you.” He bowed his head down with rare grace.
Victoria beamed. “And it’s not very often you’re so elegant.”
Vancouver’s cherry cheeks deepened to carmine, and he sighed pleasantly, feigning a swoon.
Victoria tittered, playfully slapping his back. “Vancouver, Vancouver.”
As the carousel slowed to a halt, Vancouver stroked his stomach.
“How’s about a tasty Christmas lunch?”
“Christmas EVE lunch,” Victoria reminded him, gently nudging his shoulder.
“Oh yeah, forgot.” Vancouver chuckled awkwardly, rubbing the back of his head. Victoria tut-tutted, and the couple made their way towards the market to fill up.