Ronan spun me around in his arms backstage, "That was the best act we've ever done, Alice!"
I grinned, "There's no way that guy won't invest!"
"Thanks to you." Ronan told me.
"Thanks to all of us." I said. Ronan shook his head.
"I don't know what this circus would do without you, Alice." He said, "You really are a star." I smiled, and I felt myself blushing. "All you have to do is kill at your tightrope act, and we've sealed the deal!"
"I'm sure I can manage." I said, not minding the pressure that was piling on top of me. I knew that everyone was depending on me, but it never went to my head. For me, every person in the circus was just as important as the next. We were a team, a family.
Right now, it was my turn to impress. My time to do right by my family. They needed me to do good, so I'd do good. They needed me to dazzle and impress, so that's exactly what I planned on doing. One more act, and the deal was ours. One more act, and our perfect life would be all the more perfect.
I watched in misery as the circus was packed up before me. Tents were being dismantled, props were being put into storage, animals were being herded up. It would only take mere hours to remove any trace we'd ever been here.
"Cheer up." Daisy said, sitting down beside me. I didn't say anything, watching as a flyer blew across the field. "Alice, you've been acting weird since last night - what's up?"
"I don't want to move." I told her. She looked confused - and why shouldn't she be? Both of us had been born into this circus, and moving from place to place had been a part of our growing up.
"Why?" She asked. She was like my sister, and I was sure I could tell her anything. But she wouldn't understand. How could I expect anyone to understand? Even I couldn't understand how I'd managed to develop such feelings for someone in the space of five days.
Love at first sight was one thing; something that I'd believed in my whole life, but I'd never imagined that it could be this powerful, or grow this quickly. Five days...how was that long enough to fall in love? People spent longer than that deciding which cell phone to buy, and yet I had decided the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. And why did I have to decide on a person who I couldn't spend the rest of my life with?
Daisy was still waiting for an answer. "I...I met someone."
Daisy grinned, "Ohhh, tell all!"
"I don't want to talk about it." I said, shaking my head. I didn't want to talk about all the things that made me fall in love with Jasper, when I knew I could never see him again.
"You'll meet other people." Daisy told me, "No biggie."
"I don't want to meet other people." I told her.
"Alice, you're eighteen." Daisy said, "It's not like you're going to find the love of your life right now, is it?"
I didn't say anything. She'd only confirmed what I already knew; no one would understand. No one would take it seriously. A teenage crush, a little fling...who would believe it was truly love?
Three hours later, I was being helped into a car ready to drive to our next town. One look back at the now empty field where we'd been set up was enough to bring a tear to my eye. Quickly wiping it away before anyone could see it, I sat back in my seat and prepared to be driven away from the man I loved.
I glanced out of the car window every so often, watching the town pass by as we got further and further towards the edge. We'd only been here a month; I'd only seen the town once; It already felt like home.
I turned away and faced the road. Mom and Dad were chatting in the front seat, unphased by my utter misery. Resting my head in my heads, I let out a pitiful sigh. So much for being happy...
"Isn't it lovely here?" Mom cooed. I looked around. We were standing in a field, almost identical to the one we'd come from. Whilst being exactly the same, it seemed dark and lifeless to me. I glared at the ground, willing to fall through it and travel right back to Jasper.
"We've got to get set up quickly; we have a show tonight!" Dad announced, "We'll get your fortune tellers tent ready and you can start your shift as soon as possible and..."
I stopped listening, lowering myself so I could sit down on one of the boxes. Daisy and Lena had both made up gymnastics routines during the car journey, and were now performing them for each other. Max and Katerina were judging, clapping enthusiastically. Some of the younger performers were 'exploring' - climbing the trees and hiding in the bushes. The adults were starting to unpack, putting together the tents ready for tonights show. And here I was, sat on my little box feeling sorry for myself.
"Alice, sweetheart, what's wrong?" Mom asked, coming to stand in front of me. I looked up at her, knowing I couldn't tell her the truth. It would just be another repeat of Daisy, and what would be the point? She wouldn't understand, and she'd end up making me feel worse than I already did.
"Nothing." I said, holding back my sigh, "I'm just tired."
"Well...you could skip your shift, if you like." She offered. I frowned; performers weren't allowed to just skip shifts if they were tired or sick. They had to go out and try their best anyway. Even the so-called "less-important" performers - the fortune tellers, the fire jugglers who stood outside the tent, the mind readers. It had been the same for me, once; if I was tired, tough. If I felt ill, I was told to suck it up. Everyone here had to try their hardest, come rain or shine. That wasn't the case anymore - not with me, at least. Since the accident, I'd been babied and treated with the utmost caution. If I was tired, I needed to rest. If I had the slightest cold, I needed to stay in my trailer, wrapped in blankets until it passed.
"No, I'm fine to do my shift." I told her, "Everyone else is tired, they still have to work."
"Yes, sweetie, but we don't want you to push yourself too far." Mom said, "Not in your...situation."
"It's my legs that are injured, not my brain." I snapped, "I can sit in a chair and talk to people without making my "situation" worse!"
"Alice, sweetheart, calm down." Mom said, "There's no need to get upset."
I glared. Of all the patronizing things that were said to me, I hated that phrase. If I ever raised my voice, ever tried to argue, or say how I really felt, then people assumed that I needed to calm down, that I was getting myself upset. 'Poor little Alice, it's not her fault she gets angry like this. You'd be upset too if it happened to you.'
"I'm fine." I said through gritted teeth, "I'll be ready for my shift at five."
She watched me for a moment, with that look on her face. It was a look that said 'I-know-you-think-you-can-decide-this-yourself-but -I-know-better-than-you'. It was a look I'd been getting a lot since the accident. Before that, I'd been completely independent. My parents didn't interfere in my life, leaving me to make my own decisions and figure out what was right and wrong. Since the accident, I had no independence whatsoever. Every movement was watched in case I got hurt, every decision was made for me in case I chose wrong, every rule that I hadn't needed before was set down "for your own safety".
"I'm going to check on the horses." I said, picking up my crutches and pulling myself up to standing with a great deal of effort.
"I'll come with-" Mom began.
"I want to go alone." I said quietly, ignoring the look of worry on her face. Making my way over to where the horses were being unloaded from the trucks, at my own incredibly slow pace, I smiled for the first time that day when I saw my Midnight.
"Hey, Middy." I said softly, leaning against him as I stroked my hand through his beautiful mane.
I looked over to the trailer that Blaze was in. He was kicking and bucking, desperate to get out and be free. No one had been brave enough to get him out yet, so he'd been left trapped inside the little container. I knew how he felt.
Heyy, bit of a nothingy chapter but things are gunna pick up in the next chapter! Sorry for taking so long to update (2 and a half months - whoops!)...but please forgive me and review anyway?! ;)