I sat in my dressing room and touched up my stage costume. My slim-fitting gold leotard was plastered with sequins that kept the lions’ attention on me, not letting them stray towards the visitors. I could clearly hear Kaveh and Ensi getting antsy in their cages close to their stage entrance, as I put the final touches of hair spray on my wild mane of white and blue hair. If it was up to me, I'd let them have free range of my dressing room, considering I had broken their true ferocity as cubs, but out of respect for the fear of my fellow performers I left them caged.
There was a soft knock on the door and Aaron Wiseacre poked his head in, flashing a dazzling smile that touched his eyes—unlike his father, the Admiral. “Hey, Nix, Boca is almost done with her set; the kids are just feeding her peanuts. That elephant never fails to amaze me!”
“Well I hope you saved some amazement for us,” I pouted playfully, placing a matching hat over my head and reaching for a golden whip. “My babies are restless so they’re bound to put on a good show with a chance to stretch their legs.”
“Now don’t tell the others, but you’re secretly my favorite act.” He winked conspiratorially and straightened my hat. “I saved a good portion of my amazement for you, Nixie Stark.”
I blushed severely. In another life I would make him mine, but this was showbiz, and there was no room for romance. Outside of my entrance to the stage I waited for my cue from the ringleader, Admiral Wiseacre himself.
“And now, ladies and gentleman, for the conclusion of what has surely been a tantalizing experience for the senses. Please take small children and elderly by the hands because this is not for the faint of heart. I welcome to center stage, Nixie Stark: Lion Tamer!”
I felt that old familiar spark of euphoria from the cheers of the crowd. Taking my time, I made my way to the solitary spotlight mid-stage, betraying no emotions on my face as if I wasn’t eating up every moment of having all eyes on me. I raised my arm to cue the music, and I called for my costars. “Kaveh, come! Ensi, come!”
The crowd gasped as my beautiful babies ran out to meet me where I stood. I put my hands up, palms forward to stop them in their tracks and on cue they each gave terrifying roars, startling the audience even more. Asiatic lions are smaller than African, but with their beautiful speckled black fur and years of training, they were pros at putting on a frightening show.
I began dancing to the music and with a skilled arm I threw the whip around in a circle and cracked it sharply in the air. Like clockwork, Kaveh and Ensi threw themselves to the ground in a submissive bow and followed me around the ring on their bellies, causing a riot of laughter from the crowd. Never stopping my dance, I took them through their various routines that started with silly and ended with fright so that my audience understood that while these creatures were strictly trained, animals in the wild were still very dangerous.
After the final go around, I cracked a smile and made a gesturing motion. Kaveh ducked low to the ground and let out a fearsome growl. I kept a close eye on him and raised my whip in warning. From behind me Ensi pounced, smothering my body with her own, and eliciting screams from the darkness beyond the ring. Kaveh came over and started licking my face but to the audience it looked as if they were making a snack out of me. Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and I burst out laughing, to the audible relief of the circus-goers.
I jumped up and threw my hands in the air to welcome the raucous applause and standing ovation I received. “Babies, take a bow!” I yelled over the thunderous clapping.
My two playful lions rolled over onto their backs and waved their paws at everyone. This feeling is one only the circus could bring me, and it was the only thing worth living for.