Helena was nervous, very nervous.
She always did this when she was nervous. She would juggle carefully, as if she were juggling grenades instead of balls. Of course, she was by her caravan. She knew it would only get her in trouble, but it was the only place she felt truly calm.
Ever since she had come back home, she had become braver. Well, and she dazed off back into the 'alternate world' memories often, too. It had almost become a bad habit. She'd be thinking of her anti self, the sphinxes, Mrs. Bagwell and her odd ramblings, the gryphon, and of course, Valentine. Her drawings sometimes even consisted of the memories. She often wondered how the White Queen was doing, if the princess was behaving, and if the Dark Queen was well, staying…dark? Helena didn't know what to think of her.
No matter what though, she couldn't shake the nervousness.
The bloody nervousness wasn't because it was the opening night, oh no. That's what endless rehearsals were for.
It was because her mind always liked to travel back to that night, the night the cancer finally took over her mum. Even though her father assured her the doctors had "gotten all of it", it still scared Helena. She always thought that maybe there would still be some left, somewhere.
Well, that wasn't the only thing that was bothering her.
Helena had heard two men in the troupe talking about a man walking around in a rectangular mask and who wore a long white robe, with tons of things stuffed in the pockets. He had asked everyone if they had seen or heard about a "lost juggling associate, a close friend."
Helena knew it had to be him, it just had to be.
Something bothered her, though. She was torn between believing it was all just a bloody dream, or that it had really happened.
It all seemed impossible, but possible at the same time.
"That doesn't even make any sense..." Helena mumbled to herself. Even her own thoughts were frustrating her now.
"Two minutes until show time, love!" Her mum called to her. Helena jumped at this, and she missed a ball, which threw off her whole routine. She sighed and tossed the other two on the ground.
It made her mind bounce back.
"Butterfingers!" She had mused to Valentine. Of course he had to be the one to wake her up. He really was an important man.
Helena snapped back to reality, cursing at herself for getting lost in daydreams again, and she ran as fast as she could towards the building. She couldn't be late on the opening show now could she?
She burst through the back of the tent, gasping for breath. Her father had just announced the first act.
"I thought we had lost you there, dear!" Helena's mum whispered to her as she caught up with her breath again. Helena smirked, and her mum tapped her on the nose.
"Hey bambino, think fast!" Her father called to her. Helena glanced at him and her father tossed one of the torches to her. It wasn't lit yet, but she caught it flawlessly, and tossed it back with ease. Her dad winked at her, mouthed Good job and Helena smiled.
"Alright then, it's only a minute until our round! Places!" Her mum called. Helena put a black and red mask on her face. The red half resembled violent, brilliant red and orange flames, while the black part looked like sooty ashes, as if a dragon was breathing on her mask. Helena walked up to the front of the opening and stood by her father, mother, and three other performers. Pingo, the mime, came over and nodded at Helena's dad, who handed him the torches. Pingo took all of the torches and lit them, handing them carefully back to Helena, her mum, and her dad. He did one of his odd clown hand movements, and Helena laughed. Helena was a bit nervous, and she sighed deeply. Her mother gave her shoulder a reassuring squeeze as she was anxiously waiting for the cue. Helena closed her eyes, and thought back to the day the contractor had offered them a 'marvelous deal', as her father had called it. They now had a huge arena to perform their shows in, which could hold much more people, and meant bigger, more amazing performances. Well, it also meant that more people would want to join the circus, but Helena was glad that the family circus was doing well. A few of the people she trained had been total ditzes, but the rest were actually pretty talented, if Helena were to say so herself. They were even going to get animals in soon and possibly go all around Britain.
Her thoughts were immediately cut off whenever the stage went pitch black.
"The dragons! They're here!" One of the performers already on stage called. Her father whistled quietly, and rushed out of the tent, blowing flames at the audience, which resulted in several shrills. A loud roaring filled the auditorium, as if a large dragon really was there. Helena had secretly thought the whole effect was pretty amazing, but she'd never admit it. Joanee, her mum, ran out as her father growled at the other performers. Helena was up after that, and she exhaled deeply. Morris, her father, tapped her on the shoulder and gave her a reassuring smile. Helena smiled back, and rushed onto the stage, also 'breathing fire' at the audience. The whole room lit up in a second with brilliant orange and red flames that licked at the audience. More shrills echoed through the air.
"You dare mess with us Firebreathers, humans?" Helena shouted at the performers without torches, while baring her teeth at them, like she was a dangerous lion. She crouched low and seemed to almost creep towards them, threateningly.
"Then I guess we'll have to devour you…bones and all." The gryphon flashed through Helena's mind for a split second as her dad said this, and all of them blew fire at the performers. They ran offstage with their clothes set aflame. (Even though it kinda made Helena sick, the other performers were protected by a special solution, which prevented them from getting burned.) Suddenly, three other performers dropped down from the ceiling, with marvelous wings attached to their harnesses. They were wearing dragon like masks, and had awful "claws" on their fingernails. The dragons swooped down, and swiped at the 'Firebreathers.'
"REAL dragons!" Helena shouted, and they tried to run away. Her father drew a long sword, and pretended to 'slay' the dragons. The dragons shouted in pain, collapsed and sprawled out in pain. Fake blood squelched from their wounds. The effect seemed convincing enough, because the audience was going crazy at this point. Whenever they were all slain, everybody got up and bowed, and they all blew fire into the air, lighting the entire building in a marvelous rain of fire. The audience went insane, and all Helena could hear were shouts of joy and claps. She smiled, took a bow with the rest, and ran off towards backstage. She looked back for only a second.
It made her freeze dead in her tracks.
There he was, right in the front row.
"Love, you look like you're going to pass out!" Her mum said to her as soon as she finally walked in.
"I…I'm fine mum. When does the show end?" Helena's heart was racing, and she could barely think straight. How in the world had Valentine gotten back here? He certainly didn't do it whenever she left. No, that couldn't have been possible. Could it? It couldn't be. It had to be.
She confused herself again.
"Are you listening, Helena? I said the show would be over in about ten minutes. What are you so worried about?" Her mum almost looked concerned, as if Helena was going to keel over too.
"No, I just saw somebody I recognized in the crowd…" Helena sat down, and her mum sat beside her, stroking her hair softly. She didn't mention much just because she didn't want her mum to think she was absolutely barking mad.
"It wasn't one of those…bullies, was it?" Joanne carefully asked her daughter. Helena almost tensed up. Recently, there had been a group of kids that would tease Helena and bump into her while she would entertain the people waiting for tickets. They'd pick up her juggling balls just before the show started, and throw them far away, so Helena would have to scramble for them in order to make it to the stage in time. They'd also tease her and call her names. She usually just shrugged it off, but it had eventually gotten to her. One of the attendants tried to get them to stop and to go away, but the bullies only laughed and called him a freak. Although, they hadn't come back ever since the huge weight lifting performer had scared them off. He had cracked his knuckles loudly at them, and grabbed the leader boy, Logan, by his shirt. Helena stared in shock and a bit of a "ha ha you-got-what-was-coming-to-you" look. Logan looked basically sick, and the weight lifter, Louis, promised Logan that he'd smash his face in if he or any other of his rats bothered Helena again. After they had run off in fear, not daring to look back, Louis patted Helena on the head and gave her a friendly smile.
"Don't let 'em get to ya, mate! Follow yer dreams, and don't let anyone steer ya away from 'em." Louis told her before walking back into the stage.
"Helena, please…you're zoning out again. I don't like it when you do that…" Joanne whispered to Helena, almost in a harsh voice. Helena blinked a couple times, and sighed. She really did hate this new habit.
"I'm sorry mum…and no, it wasn't one of the bullies. It was just a friend."
"Oh! A friend, you say? Well, go hang out with them after the show. It makes me happy whenever you talk about friends." Joanne told her with a smile.
"Well, would you look at that? The show's over. I'll tell your dad about what's going on. Go off and find your buddy, Helena. I don't want you to miss them!" Her mum called to her as she ran over to help pack things away.
Helena scrambled to get up, and she ran out of the complex. There were still tons of people mingling around, and some scrambling for their cars. Helena looked around desperately, searching for Valentine.
There was only one thing on her mind, though. She had to know. It just didn't make any sense.
How in the bloody hell did he get here…?