The night outside was cold and dark. Wind whipped up the sand in the storm that was passing by. The rain threatened to poor and soak the dirt to muck. Tonight, the stars weren't visible leaving the night sky gloomy; matching the mood Philip was in.
Sat inside P.T Barnum's Circus, on the grandstand seating. Aside from looking at the colourful lights and extravagant curtains, he looked at the floor watching as the dirt floor clouded around his feet when he moved them.
It had been a few days since he and Anne had shared a moment on the ropes, literally and figuratively. Although to Philip it seemed like an eternity since she had walked away. He hadn't seen her since.
The last few days he had spent alone. He wanted so badly to tell Anne that he loved her so deeply that even if he couldn't have her, he would never want anyone else. But he knew that she wouldn't accept it, so for that time being he kept it to himself.
That, among other thoughts plagued his mind. He spent hours at a time wondering how his parents would take the news that he loved a circus performer and woman of colour, a beautiful colour it was. Additionally, that he wanted to join the circus and leave his life of theatre behind. How would they take that? He didn't know, and in some ways, he didn't care. He was becoming done with his life, could it be time to start a new one?
So, he sat there in the stands, waiting for someone.
He had gone too long without speaking to Anne, and he didn't think he could put it off any longer. And so, he sat on the stand waiting. He knew she liked to practice late into the night to perfect her act while no one was watching.
Although he lost track of time, he had only been there for a few minutes before he heard footsteps. The sound of shoes on dirt shuffling brought him back to reality. Knowing that it could only be Anne, he straightened his posture and brushed off the dirt that landed on his jacket.
Appearing 30 metres away, he saw Anne bundled up in her shawl hurrying through a gap between the opposite grandstands. "Anne!" he called out to her. As if she were in some kind of daze or she was ignoring him, he didn't know, she carried on. "Anne!" he repeated before running to catch up with her.
"What do you want?" Anne mumbled tiredly, turning around when she felt Philip's hand on her shoulder. "I thought I made it clear we shouldn't be together." Philip withdrew his hand and took a breath before saying, "that's what I want to talk to you about" he started before Anne interjected. "You don't get it do you, you just don't understand. There is no part of society that thinks it's acceptable for us to be together!" Anne snapped taking a step away. "Look at us, I'm a circus freak, you're entitled. You have a good shot at making a wonderful and peaceful life for yourself. I don't." Philip noticed as her voice shook and cracked, her eyes glistened briefly with tears, matching the shinning silver markings underneath.
"What does that matter now? You see how many people come to watch the shows. The kids love you" he attempted to persuade her. "And what of the adults who wait outside every night? Protesting with their torches and posters, who try to assault us every time we go outside. You don't know what it's like to be unsafe in your own neighbourhood."
For a moment Philip was silent, his mind processing Anne's argument. As strong and logical as it was, he possessed real love for her and it was strong. "If you choose to be with me, I will protect you. No one will ever lay another hand on you again" he promised, looking straight into her bright and glistening eyes. "And what's to stop them turning on you? And what about your parents?" Anne said before sniffling slightly, "If you side with me, they'll treat you just the same."
It wasn't until then Philp noticed something was undoubtedly wrong with her. Initially he took the croaking of her voice as her being upset, as well as the glistening of her eyes. Although the factors still may be, he was starting to suspect that they lead to another conclusion. Noticing the softening of Philip's expression, Anne rejected whatever kind of sympathy he looked on her. Straightening up and taking a breath, she declared "just leave me alone. It'll be best for both of us," before she stifled a cough into her shawl covered hand.
"You're ill?" Philip accused as much as he asked, his observations all clicking into place. Before she could respond, he had already taken a step forward and placed the back of his hand on her cheek. "You've caught a fever" he confirmed, his eyebrows creasing together.
Anne shook her head slightly before pulling away, "I'll be fine" she dismissed before walking away. Philip watched her as her beautiful form took a few steps away from him. "Wait, at least let me walk you home" he offered, jogging back up to her after his mind had snapped back into action.
"What part of we shouldn't be seen together do you not understand?" Anne growled before pitching forward in a bout of coughs. Bending her double, she held the fabric of her shawl up to her mouth trying her best to silence the fit. Struggling to intake enough air, she fell slightly, into Philip's embrace. He held her as she continued to cough, rubbing his hand up and down her back, a gesture his mother used to do to him when he was a child. As the coughs died down, Anne straightened up clearing her throat quietly.
"You're quite unwell. I can send for a carriage to take you home" Philip offered already heading toward the building's exit. "No, no, it's fine. I don't live far away from here" Anne assured, her voice almost disappeared. Philip nodded, now realising that few carriages would be out at this time of night. So together they walked towards the buildings exit, on their way back to Anne's apartment.
As they stepped out into the night, Anne visibly shivered at the sudden change in temperature. After adjusting her shawl around her shoulders, Philips put his arm around her and gently guided her along the road.
The streets were empty, not even the pubs or pictures were open. Leaving them the only two on the street. The walked for a little while until Anne suddenly stopped. She paused, her fingers placed lightly under her nose and her eyelids shut. "Are you okay?" Philip asked concerned, his hand resting just below the base of her neck.
"F-fine" Anne's breath hitched, "hih… hih… hih-mmpff…hih-mmpff" she stifled two feminine sneezes into her shawl turning away from Philip. She straightened back up and sniffled lightly, feeling embarrassed. She was well aware that it was impolite to sneeze in front of others without a handkerchief.
"I'm terribly sorry" she appologised, sniffling again. Philip laughed a little, not caring at all, reaching into his pocket and puling out his unused handkerchief. "Here take this" he said holding it out to her. "Are you sure? I have no right to take it" Anne asked, unsure of what to do. She wanted and needed it so badly, but thought it would be wrong to take it. "You need it. I want you to have it" he confirmed pressing it into her hand. "Thank you" she accepted quietly, congestion heavily present in her voice.
For a moment she stood there unsure of what to do. Philip, knowing that she feared using bad manners in front of him, circled his thumb on her back. "It's okay" he assured her. She gave him a small but sceptical smile, before raising the handkerchief to her nose and hesitantly blowing it.
Passing the old train station Philip looked up at the clouds, "looks like it's going to rain soon. How much further do we have to go?" "Just to the end of this road" Anne informed before her breath began to hitch again. "Hih…hih…hih-cchhhoo" she softly sneezed back into the handkerchief, stopping in her tracks as her body prepared itself for another sneeze. "Hih… hih-ttchhoo… heh… hit-chhoo…hah…aarrsshheeeww" she sneezed desperately, her shoulders shaking with each release. Philip's heart felt like it was melting as she blew her nose again, punctuating the end with a few little coughs. "Come on, let's get you home."