"Faster...no, not that side...point your toes!"
I. Hated. Practicing. With. Eli. Especially when he sounded this agitated
"Dear God, will you ever stop complaining?"
"I can't help it! You're just that bad!" he yelled back, not sounding remotely amused.
I rolled my eyes. We continued the routine as we argued, even though it was probably double the effort.
"Oh, so I'm the one that got sloppy last night?"
Another movement and the both of us were on top of the trapeze, staring directly into each other's faces.
"I really don't need you blaming me for anything more than I'm already being blamed for, Camille!"
It was just then that I noticed the grief and fatigue in his expression.
"Screw it," he muttered darkly, "This practice is over."
He turned to get the rope that led to the ground but I grabbed his wrist before he could.
"Eli, what the hell is going on exactly?"
He turned back, eyes flashing with something I couldn't recognize, but sighed when he noticed that I was genuinely concerned.
"I...I don't know. I really don't know."
My grip tightened and he winced almost imperceptibly. It didn't take a genius to feel the wounds just out of sight or to connect them with the long-sleeved shirt he'd chosen to wear that day.
"You're cutting." I half-whispered, watching him as he jerked his hand away abruptly.
We sat in silence a moment, Eli not meeting my eyes, and I felt the pain radiating from him.
I didn't know what had done that to his usually upbeat self, but at that moment it didn't really matter.
I shifted towards him on our shared seat and looped my arms around his waist, settling my chin on one of his sagging shoulders.
It was instinct. I couldn't bear to see him like that, no matter how much of an idiot he could be. Looking like he would almost fall apart if I didn't go and hold him together.
I didn't even have a seconds to wonder if he would shove me off before he was burying his head in my shoulder and holding me fiercely to him.
The movement of the trapeze slowed to a gentle swing, Eli's minty scent wreathing about the both of us.
Within moments I could feel his steady heartbeat and slow breaths, both peaceful and erratic.
We could have been there minutes, hours, I wasn't really sure of anything, let alone time.
But then the sound of someone entering shattered the spell and I moved away suddenly, taking the rope on my side and shimmying down to see who it was without daring to look at Eli.
Sure, I had seen him in his vulnerability, but he had seen the same of me.
Compassion wasn't my thing. I was meant to be emotionless, logical and uncaring.
I didn't like people seeing my weakness, or chance them mocking it.
"Camille! So you are in here!"
"Yeah," I said, hopping to the ground and slipping on my shoes, "Were you looking for me, Myah?"
She gestured to the other two of our little Merriweather party outside, holding up a book as she did.
"We were. There are things our group needs to talk about, in private. And this diary might be interesting for you all to look at too."
I walked out of the tent with her, my duffel bag slung over a shoulder.
"I know where we could do that, and find a couple more clues as to what Wiseacre's up to."
"I hope so, at least." I replied, pulling my phone out of the bag to check the time.
3: 20 pm. So I'd been in the tent a good three hours total. Still enough time left.
"Do you remember the trapeze performer at Merriweather's that fell? I've scheduled a visit at her hospital in about half an hour."
Flowers would be a good idea. Maybe a book too, to distract from the pain of having crashed to the ground.
I knew firsthand it was the kind of pain that was hard to forget.