Authors: Stephanie Weiford
Carolyn had left to get ready at her own place tonight. I needed a little time alone to clear my head and think as well. I was standing in the middle of my small apartment and looked around at the life I had made here.
I wasn’t like Luke. I was messy. I had personal items all over the place. Framed pictures of my family back home, mismatched mugs, different colored throw rugs and pillows that didn’t match. Luke’s home was the RV that looked just like it did in an advertisement, perfectly clean and shiny.
What was he thinking? He had seen my apartment, the clutter and disorganization that was me. How could we make that work? Living in a camper, traveling across the country seemed like a whimsical, romantic idea… until I looked at my stuff and realized how grumbly I was in comparison to him. It would be a cramped tight fit to make all my shit fit.
I picked up a throw blanket from over the back side of the couch, folded in neatly, and laid it back down. I didn’t need that blanket; it wasn’t anything special to me. Next I picked up a dirty glass from the side table, I didn’t need this either, Luke had glasses and there was no emotional attachment to my dishes and things. They could all stay.
I sat it back down and picked up the picture frame next to it. It was one from Christmas two years ago, I was wearing a Santa hat and standing between my parents. That did matter to me. I had photographs scattered all around my living space in an assortment of frames on counter tops and hanging on the walls. I couldn’t leave those behind.
But did I really need so many out on display?
I already formed an answer before I had thought the question. No. I didn’t need so many out in frames. I could easily put them all into an album. I could carry them with me that way, and maybe keep one or two out. There was one on my bedside table of me and Carolyn that I loved. We had been outside a movie theater and she had thrown popcorn at me, so in the photo we are smiling and it is raining down on us.
I kept moving around my apartment, sorting the things I couldn’t leave behind if I went with him, and the things just didn’t matter. It took a while but by the time I was done I had two piles in each room. The one in my room was the largest, because it had my clothes. In the kitchen was only my favorite mug, because I had stolen it from my dad during one visit home, and a small cookie jar shaped like and owl that had belonged to my great-grand mother.
The living room was my photographs; I had gathered them onto the couch along with an empty album I had never gotten around to filling. The bathroom was my makeup and personal care items, along with a robe, hair dryer and curling iron.
That was it. Other than clothes which I figured would fit into a couple of large trash bags, everything else could fit into a backpack or small box. I knew when I had left my ex I had left a lot behind, but it was sort of disconcerting to see that so little in my life mattered to me.
Was I really doing this? Considering leaving to join the freakin’ circus? What would I even do? I wasn’t skilled like Luke at things like flying through the air or juggling. Maybe I could sell tickets or concessions then… And I did always love to travel.
A knock on my door snapped me back to reality. I glanced at my phone; it was still a little early for Carolyn to be back. She was probably toting half her wardrobe over again to dress me up like she had the first time we went to show.
I opened the door and nearly tripped over backwards. It wasn’t Carolyn. My heart went into over drive from shock and I actually clutched it like a floozy ready to faint.
“You alright,” Peter asked. He was all dressed up, in black slacks and a white shirt with a tie. His shoes were shined and it looked like he had tried hard to achieve that effortlessly, messy hair. Too bad it looked more like a gelled mess.
“Peter!” I exclaimed, “Did you get my text message?” I asked.
“Oh, no sorry. My phone is messing up on me. I know I’m early but is everything alright?” he asked. He rocked back and forth on his toes like he was just itching to be let inside.
“Right, come in,” I said automatically and let him step past me. Once inside he looked around. Since it was a small apartment he could see everything except my room. So he was seeing that I had emptied my cabinets and piled my dishes and silverware on one side of the counter and left a mug and the owl on the other. I had to offer him a seat on a bar stool because my couch was piled high with picture frames and the waiting album.
“Er, are you moving?” he asked.
“Uh, yeah, maybe. Can I get you something to drink?” I tried to force a smile.
“Yes, thank you,” I had bottled water in the fridge and offered him one.
“I’m a, not quite ready yet, will you excuse me,” I asked. He nodded bewildered at my attitude but I escaped to my room and closed the door behind me. I snatched up my phone and texted Carolyn.
Help! Peter showed up! WHAT DO I DO?!
It didn’t take long for her to respond.
Oh shit!! Almost there. Should I come in??
YES SAVE ME!!
IDK JUST DO IT!!
With nothing else to do and no idea what I should be doing, I tore my day clothes off and started digging in the pile on my bed. I knew I had a black dress in here somewhere… There would be no corseted dress and outrageous heels tonight!
Finding it at last I pulled it down over my head. It was the classic little black dress every girl should own, so there wasn’t much too it. It was thin strapped and low cut. I dashed into the bathroom and applied my makeup in record time. By the time a knock came at my door again, I had even managed to tame my hair, but I was keeping it simply down.
I made for the front door. Peter was still setting where I had left him and he was openly eyeing me over. I wished he would stop. Another knock just as I opened the door and a bewildered Carolyn was on the other side.
“Hey Carolyn!” my voice was cheery and high pitched with nerves.
“Uh, hey Daphne,” she was being just as awkward. I let her in and we just stood on one side of the kitchen with Peter on the other like it some sort of face off.
“Hello Carolyn,” he said politely but there was a tone in his voice that said he felt like she was crashing our date.
“Hello Mr. Kelly,” she replied stiffly.
“Please, it’s the weekend, call me Peter,” he said casually. She just nodded.
“So Daphne, did you forget about what you promised me?” she turned a pouty lip to me.
“Huh?” was all I managed to squeak out.
is today. The tickets to the show that you
to take me too,” she wined.
Oh! Good thinking!
“Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry I forgot!” I tried my hand at mock horror, but I wouldn’t be winning an Oscar any time soon. “I’m supposed to have a date with Peter tonight,”
“Well Peter, would you like to join us?” she turned to him. Carolyn had a stare that was a force of nature and I could see he was wilting under it.
Join us?! That wouldn’t work!
I almost opened my mouth to tell her never mind, I was just going to have to go with him, when he cut me off.
“Oh! Thank you for the invitation, but my sister is actually having an art opening tonight. I’m afraid I promised her I would be there,” he was going for polite sadness, but he wouldn’t be taking home an Oscar any time soon either.
“Oh right! I heard about that!” she looked down at her phone. She had googled the event! “I see that it’s going on next weekend too. Couldn’t you just spare Daphne for tonight since my birthday only lasts
” she was laying it on thick, but I hadn’t met a guy yet that could turn down her big, sad puppy eyes.
“Er, well… I mean, I guess…” she didn’t let him finish his ramble.
“Perfect! Thank you so much, Mr. Kelly… I mean
,” she giggled and winked when she said his name and a blush started creeping up his neck.
“I’m so sorry about this! I can’t believe how I let it slip my mind!” I offered, trying to look upset but it was getting hard to contain my smile. I could kiss Carolyn right here if I wasn’t sure it would make Peter faint.
“That’s alright,” he said smoothly, “So, what kind of show are we going to see?”
I cursed her in my mind. We had split up to drive to the circus, she in her own car and me with Peter, since there was no way for me to ditch him at this point. At least I didn’t have to talk. It appeared he was a nervous talker and so kept up a steady conversation stream all on his own.
He followed behind Carolyn’s car as we pulled into the parking lot. I only had the two tickets, so we got a moment to ourselves as Peter went to buy one for himself.
“Great plan!” I shot at her as soon as he was gone.
“What else was I supposed to do?! I didn’t hear you coming up with any ideas!” she shot back.
“Oh no! Luke! He is going to see me sitting in the audience with Peter!” I moaned.
“I’m sure he won’t be too jealous,” she huffed.
“What do you think Noah would do if
showed with another guy?” I asked.
get jealous,” she grinned wickedly. “Maybe I will just have to borrow Peter from you.”
“Take him. He’s all yours,” we waited in silence until he returned with his ticket and made for the main entrance.
Because, of course my night had to be completely ruined, it was Priscilla taking tickets when we finally got to the front. She took one look at Peter and grinned brutally at me.
“Oh look! It’s our special guests!” she announced loudly. “Come
this way, we have your special seats ready!” She led us inside the tent and right down to the front and center seating. I managed to end up right between Carolyn and Peter. There was no hiding here from Luke when he came on stage.
“These are pretty great seats huh,” Peter commented.
“Yup,” I said dryly.
“Would you like a refreshment, or a snack?” he asked both of us. We both shook our heads no in unison.
The lights went off and the spotlight blared to life, empty and alone on the stage. I was anxious about how the rest of this night was going to go, but for a moment I was able to recall the peace I had felt when Luke had introduced me to the spotlight.
Peter tried to take my hand and that peaceful feeling shattered. It wasn’t the touch I had been remembering on my skin.
“Welcome everyone.” It was Noah’s voice, low and husky. He wasn’t a normal circus ringmaster that would call out in a cheery, booming voice. He had the kind of voice that made you want to lean forward and let him whisper in your ear. Something Carolyn was practically doing.
“Tonight, we will dare you to face not the beasts of the jungle, but those inside of you… Come with me now, let me help release your desires.” A fog started to rise and swirl around him, it darken and he was gone, just like before. Accept this time, there was no ballerina on stage, there was a lion.
It was some kind of Tarzan act with a man I hadn’t seen before, not that I had taken much notice of anyone other than Luke in the time I had been spending backstage. I remembered Luke had said Lionel was the lion’s name. He seemed like a rather board beast as the performer climbed onto his back, or danced around him in mock battle.
“What kind of show did you say this was?” Peter whispered nervously next to me but I ignored him.
The acts continued as before, with the bizarre girl on girl act. I wasn’t paying them much attention just like before. I was waiting for Luke to make his appearance.
Noah came back out on stage and I felt Carolyn stiffened next to me. He wore a black mask, tight fitting black pants, and bare chest that glinted where his nipple rings were.
“For this act, I would like to bring someone up on stage,” he must have a wireless microphone hidden in that mask because I didn’t see one and it was obvious he wasn’t projecting his voice far. I looked over at Carolyn who looked struck with fear.
Noah hopped of the end of the stage and walked slowly towards us with the spotlight following him. He looked like he was scanning the crowd for someone to take back on stage with him, but we knew he was heading straight for us.
“Will you do me the pleasure?” he asked and held out a hand… to me.
“Um, are you sure you want me?” I whispered, but he just nodded. I looked bewilderedly at Carolyn who returned the expression. I also caught a glance at Peter, and he looked pissed.
Noah had taken my hand and led me to center stage with him. As soon as we were there the spotlight cut out and it was total darkness.
I felt a rush of excitement flooding me. It was almost like the way I had imagined being with Luke on stage. Total darkness, surround by an audience full of people, all watching me.
The quietest voice whispered in my ear, “Don’t move.” I felt as two strong hands placed a mask on my face and then felt as they moved away again. The spot light roared back to life and I was standing there alone, looking out at the people from the holes of what I could see was a red mask.
Music started to build. Noah stepped towards me from the left but he was slightly hunched over in a menacing kind of way. A flash of silver caught my eye to the right and I turned in time to see a blur of glinting metal as a dagger shot out in front of me at Noah.
He deftly held up one hand, which had a wood block strapped to it like a target, and the dagger stuck into it. I gasped, it was a
Another one flew free behind me, in front of me, again and again every time Noah got close. The music built in tempo and finally he threw down his dagger filled blocks and drew a sword from his side! I was no prop expert, but it looked just as real as the knives!
He swung it towards me just as the music reached a blood thumping roar. What seemed like the second before his blade took my head off, another one appeared to block it. The ting of metal on metal rung in my ears and I’m pretty sure I was the one who I heard screamed.
Then I saw who was holding the defending sword. My rescuer was Luke. He was dressed just as Noah was and I could only stand still and watch as the two brothers began a dance fight around me, thrusting and blocking with their weapons.
I couldn’t see anyone in the crowd. Once again my entire world was only what happened in this spot light. The two men were literally fighting over me. I knew this was all Luke’s doing, and I could and
kiss him for it.
The music was starting to slow, as Noah began to misstep and appeared to tire. Luke lunged at him with all his might, right before me.
Crash! Noah fell.
The spot light flashed red and Luke was atop his brother, pinning him to the stage floor.
Noah’s sword went wild and clattered away from him, out of his reach. Luke reared back and drove the point of the sword into his chest. I gasped, because even from here, it looked real.
The music went soft and Luke slowly rose from his brother’s body and stumbled towards me, like he was overcome from the fight. Instinctively I reached out and caught him before he could fall face first at my feet.
The sound of sweet chimes filled the air and the light faded back to white. He reached a hand slowly and dramatically towards my face. Part of my mind knew this was all an act, but he looked so distraught that my next action was automatic.
I pushed back the front of his hair with my hand and leaned down and kissed him. I heard someone in the shadows move and remembered we weren’t alone. I pulled back, but Luke had taken hold of the back of my neck and hungrily kept his lips on mine.
With one arm he got himself to standing and then scooped me close to him. I felt him shift, we broke apart just enough to see what he was doing. He had ahold of a ribbon that had unfurled from the ceiling. He was going to lift us into the air the way he had during our night alone in here.
It seemed to take long moments for my feet to come completely away from the ground. My heart raced, but I wasn’t scared. I trusted him completely to keep me safe in the air. We were still in the spot light. I was gazing into his brilliant green eyes though his black mask, as an absolute kind of peace washed over me.
All the doubting, the worry and uncertainty that had hung over us like a storm cloud throughout the whole week was gone. I knew what I wanted.
“I’ll run away with you Luke,” it was a whisper in his ear, but it echoed in the space all around us.
I watched as smile slowly spread across his face as he realized what I had said. Then he kissed me. He kissed me hard, and softy, and after a moment it turned salty as it my happy tears mixed with our lips.
Luke kissed me like we had all the time in the world.