For about 45 minutes life felt really normal.
We left the circus grounds at separate times so that we didn’t catch the attention of any of the Admiral’s goons. Our rendezvous point was a dirty little pub where a taxi was waiting to whisk us away to our destination.
The cab ride to the hospital was…interesting. Stinger had us all in stitches with his impression of Orzo—something we knew he was only doing because there was no chance of him being caught and pummeled by the man. I looked around at the other girls, their faces more carefree than I’d seen it since this whole crazy mess had started.
It was a sad happiness, though; because this was the reason I joined the circus in the first place. Joy, excitement, and wonder every day. Terrifying secrets, threats and fear weren’t what I signed up for.
I felt a playful punch hit my shoulder and noticed they were all laughing at me.
“We were just complimenting your pensive face,” said Myah, winking.
“I’m very attracted to the way your eyes glaze over and your mouth stays open.” Stinger slapped his knee in appreciation of his own joke, and this time I joined in the laughter.
We reached the hospital and headed straight to the gift shop. Pulling our money together we purchased the biggest bouquet of white Irises they had and a huge stuffed bear. The Iris is a symbol of hope, and that was what this girl needed.
Things stopped feeling so normal when we stepped out of the elevator and into the waiting room.
“Give me a minute and I’ll find out what room she’s in.” Myah headed straight for the nurse’s desk, and after a few moments of forced smiles and cheery conversation she returned. “Her name is Brittany White and lucky for us she was moved out of the ICU last night or we’d have no chance of seeing her. Come on, she’s in 113.”
Room 113 was on the opposite side of the wing in a relatively dark and quiet corner. At the door, Myah held Stinger back and gestured to Camille and I. “Why don’t you two go in? We don’t want to crowd her.”
I nodded and took the bear from Stinger and we stepped inside. Trying really hard to fight down the flashbacks of when my grandfather was in the hospital, I pulled back the curtain that was hiding Brittany from view.
Lying in the bed with her right leg and left arm in casts, she looked even tinier than she did that night the trapeze bar snapped and sent her flying through the air. Camille gasped, and rushed to her side, setting the flowers down on the table next to her.
“It’s bad enough when these things happen on accident…but to think someone did this on purpose.” Tears welled up in her eyes but she didn’t bother wiping them away. She sat on the edge and lightly brushed Brittany’s hair out of her face.
Her eyes fluttered open and she looked groggily at the both of us. “Who are you?” her words were slightly slurred.
“We’re fellow performers; we work at Wiseacre’s and heard what happened so we wanted to pay a visit and see how you’re holding up,” I said, stepping towards the bed. “Plus, we brought presents!”
Brittany’s eyes lit up and she pushed herself into a sitting position with Camille’s help. “That’s really sweet of y’all.” She smiled warmly as I placed the bear in the bed beside her. “I don’t have any family so I never expected to get any visitors besides my troupe. Why are you crying, sugar?”
Hastily Camille wiped her tears away and forced a smile. “It’s just good to see that you’re alright. I work trapeze as well so your accident just sort of tore at my heart. I’m not feeling as safe on the bar as I used to.”
“Oh no, Honey, you can’t let the fear hold you back,” Brittany gushed, taking hold of Camille’s hands with her good one. “What happened to me is a one in a million kind of accident. Those bars are made to stand all kinds of weight and pressure, and we switch them out regularly—I guess this time we just forgot. But you better believe as soon as I’m all well and good I’m gonna be right back up on that bar doing what I love.”
Camille glanced at me and I already knew where her thoughts were going. “How regularly do you switch them out? I mean, Wiseacre doesn’t have all that many safety regulations in place, he leaves that up to us and we just want to be safe.”
Brittany licked her top lip, pondering the question. “We switch them out every 3 or 4 weeks. Some people might think it’s excessive but it’s turned into a habit with us. I could have sworn one of my teammates, Jackson, said he’d switched it out the morning of the show but I could have heard him wrong—it wouldn’t be the first time.”
The name sparked recognition in my memory. “This might be a long shot, but by Jackson you don’t mean Jackson Lee do you?”
Brittany laughed. “Jackson Lee, the one and only. Do you know him?”
Camille looked at me oddly and I knew my face had lost its color. “I used to. It was really nice meeting you Brittany, we’ll visit again. I need some fresh air.”
Before Camille could ask me any questions I left the room and went in search of the nearest window. Myah and Stinger caught up to me when I had my face pushed between an open sliver of windowsill gulping in air.
“What happened in there, Nix?” Stinger asked with none of his usual showmanship.
When I finally closed the window Camille had joined us and was looking just as worried as the other two. “Spill the beans, Nixie. Who is Jackson Lee?”
“Jackson quit Wiseacre’s cirque a few weeks after I started working it,” I said weakly. “He was my first friend on the circuit and with no explanation he was just gone one day. Wiseacre said he’d been promoted, but wouldn’t explain any further.”
“Now he turns up at Merriweather’s and happens to be the guy in control of the trapeze bar?” Camille filled in.
“Now wait a minute, you mean Jackson that lame excuse for a plate spinner?” Stinger questioned with a snort. “I mean his tricks were good, but he had all the physique of a limp noodle. All of those trapeze guys at Merriweather’s were buff…not that I was looking too hard or anything. No way a guy could get that stacked that quick without some serious steroids.”
“Well there’s only one way to find out if this is the same guy or not,” said Myah, with a twinkle in her eye that we were all getting to know pretty well.