After swapping my skin-tight suit and braided crown for a simple ponytail and street clothes I'd promptly taken out my valise and cracked open one of the textbooks I'd been studying, going over the notes scrawled into the margins.
There was never anything wrong with the circus; I actually loved the sensation of flying through the air and the jubilation of pleasing the audience. But each time I took hold of the trapeze the pain of loss would scald my fingers and deepen the scars in my heart. I saw their faces, heard their voices each time I looked up at the big top.
I wanted to go to university, get a job and forget everything after I finished the online courses I was taking in my spare time.
Maybe I was a coward for it, but it seemed like the easiest way out. Wiseacre would probably have found some way of talking me out of it if he knew, which was why I'd studied in private and told no one.
Wasn't so hard to keep secrets when you didn't talk unless talked to.
Besides, being one of the first few acts meant that I had a lot of spare time before the circus buses arrived and took us all to the rail yard where our official train sat waiting.
The circus train was essentially our moving home. A few performers were assigned to a coach, families and common acts being grouped together for convenience. After our one-week stops the train would move on to the next tour location and so on and so on, the storage cars holding the tent and circus buses.
I knew the train like the back of my hand, for the most part. There were a few cars at the end that I'd never gone into or even ever caught a glimpse of. The only person I'd ever noticed entering or exiting them was Wiseacre himself.
Had to hand it to him, the locks on those doors were beyond picking.
Not that I hadn't tried, in all of my curiosity.
A triple knock on my dressing room door had me shoving my books back into my bag, getting up and making sure I'd packed everything.
That was Eli's way of letting me know that the buses had pulled up outside.
Sure, we weren't exactly sociable and had a few heated arguments in our time, but we made a pretty good team. He watched my back and I watched his. Neither of us let personal differences get in the way of the performance.
He was probably the closest thing to a friend I had in the circus. When he stayed out of my hair, that is.
I headed out of the tent and boarded the closest bus, sitting by the window and hoping that nobody tried to sit beside me or attempt to make conversation.
My fingers fiddled with the woven bracelet around my wrist, loosening and tightening it absentmindedly.
The Wiseacre Express would be leaving for another destination tonight.
One that I hadn't seen in years.