The mime signed her checks Petit Voix. Helena saw it that first night in the big registrar book her mother keeps on the coffee table. Something rang untrue as she stared at the tight linear script. She scribbled it onto her hand and dashed out to ask Andrew what it meant. As she pounded through the circus, she wondered why she felt the need to ask him when there are clearly more knowledgeable people to be found. But before she can stop herself, she's in front of him, watching him manipulate two knives through the air. He stops when he sees her, his concentrated face splitting with a small smile. Helena's wearing her pajamas, something she had forgotten entirely as her curiosity overtook her.

"Nice bunnies," he said pointedly, and that's when Helena feels bright warm shame. Something tickles in her stomach as she remembers Valentine's disgust at her choice of small animal footwear and it's just one more thing to mark in the "He isn't Valentine" file.

Impatience outweighs sickness as she stepped closer and showed him her hand. "Do you know what this means?"

He stuck the knives into the packed dust and took her hand, studying the mess her ink and sweat had created across her palm. She ignored the rush that went down her spine when he wiped his thumb across the words, smearing them a little. She also ignored the way her own breathing paused when he snorted in frustration at the way several of her letters blended together. "You should have learned penmanship," he chided, his voice too close to her ear. "Or at least got a scrap of paper. This is illegible, all scribbled on your hand."

She had the good sense to act like a petulant child instead of a lovesick girl as she snatched her hand back, snapping, "I write just fine, thanks. Fat lot of help you are."

As she turned to leave, his hand landed heavily on her shoulder. When she glared at him, he withdrew it with an audible gulp and announced, "I think it was French."

"Thought you couldn't read it," she spat venomously, mildly wondering why she was being so rude to the pleasant and handsome juggler.

He didn't seem to mind entirely as the apprehensive look slipped away, replaced by his wide charming smile and he threw out, "Just call it a hunch."

With a huff and another sideways glare, she headed towards the trailer shared by Lucienne and her sisters. Helena had frankly always doubted that all three women were related but they moved so beautifully together that she never had any reason to voice this doubt aloud. They acted like sisters, moved in seamless synchronicity, and were a favorite act of most that came to the Campbell Circus, so why should it matter if they all had the same parents? Helena had learned early that a circus was not the place to judge people.

Luck found her quarry setting up the padded mats on the square patch in front of their trailer. Lucienne was the oldest of the group but seemed ageless with her finely carved features and her sharp cynical wit. As Helena approached, she gave the woman a polite smile and wordlessly helped her set up the rest of the practice area.

After they were done, the tumbler turned shadowed blue eyes to focus on the girl. "Yes?"

Helena had the feeling she was being stared down by one of the fractured sphinxes she had drawn earlier that morning, but her curiosity shone through more keenly than in her questioning of Andrew. "The new girl signs her checks in a French name," she blurted in a thoroughly uncool fashion. "It looks fake. I was wondering if you could tell me what it means."

Lucienne smiled in her peculiar crooked fashion and asked, "And how could you tell it would mean something?"

Her tone hinted on patronizing and that was something Helena would not stand. "If you're not going to help me, I'll find someone who will," she spat out at the woman, turning for a dramatic exit.

"What did it say?" The lilt in the older woman's voice betrayed her casual tone and that is what made Helena turn back around.

"Petit voix." The words felt foreign in her mouth, like cotton balls left over from the dentist. By the scowl on Lucienne's face, she was pretty certain she had butchered the pronunciation too.

Snorting, Lucienne ran a hand along her scalp. "Crudely translated, it means 'little voice'. Pretty appropriate name for our new little mime."

And as much as Helena wanted there to be something more to it, Lucienne was right. It was a wise stage name for a mime and if the girl did not care to share herself, she didn't have to. Of course the romantic side of Helena's heart hoped that she might share her true identity with Pingo.

Circuses were such the breeding ground for little hopes and gossips.


Thank you so much to everyone who has read this and all of the people who have added it to your alerts. To you four who reviewed, multiple thanks and I hope that this next chapter issomething you will enjoy.