I couldn't think straight anymore.
The train was moving and the radio beside me was playing some garbled god-knows-what but I was just sitting on my cot, staring at the ground.
"What's got you down, Cam?"
Eli sounded concerned. At least he wasn't depressed. Visibly. I chose not to acknowledge the name he was using and replied with a voice that came out much too hoarse.
"It's a long story, Eli. Trust me when I say this-you do not want to know a single detail."
"Why's that?" he asked, cocking his head to the side, "Is it something dangerous? Would you have to kill me if you told me?"
"No, someone else, someone extremely powerful, would." I replied bluntly, looking straight into his eyes with the sight of the body flashing across my vision, "Do you really think I would kill you? Don't you trust me, Eli?"
My voice was rising in pitch. Some distant part of me was telling me that I was being irrational, I wasn't understanding, but it was speaking much too quietly.
Eli looked stunned.
"Camille, I was joking. Of course I trust you-"
"This is all a joke, isn't it?" I said, standing up suddenly, "Some kind of sick joke of a nightmare that just doesn't want to end."
He stood too, but I was already pacing rapidly across the small car.
It was then that the pain hit me again, like a shockwave of surging electricity.
We were leaving New Orleans. Leaving so many memories that I had wanted to forget.
Eli grabbed me by the shoulders and turned me to face him.
And, in that moment, I blurted it all out.
"I grew up in New Orleans." I started, breathing deeply, "And I had a family. We were all in this other circus...we were a much bigger act than I am now. But then...one day..."
The grip on my shoulders tightened and I found it in myself to continue.
"There...was...some reason my brother and parents had to leave...they didn't tell me why...just that it was important...and they...never came..."
"They never came back."
My vision was turning bleary but I nodded.
I swallowed and jerked away from Eli, inhaling sharply.
"I know I should have gotten over it a long time ago, but I didn't. I'm so stupid sometimes-"
Eli cut me off.
"Stop bashing yourself, Camille. The other day I had a crazy argument with my dad, and I cut...even though I promised myself I wouldn't. I was being stupid-I didn't realize that I was lucky enough to still have a parent."
Suddenly the focus of the conversation shifted to him and he sighed.
"My mom walked out on us when I was a kid. Dad blamed, or should I say blames, me for it. I was an extra mouth to feed and times were tough. Not to mention that my gymnastics classes were a major money drain. I...kind of blame myself too."
"Don't be stupid, Eli." I remarked, pulling him into a bear hug.
"But I am." he whined back, making me smile.
Eli moved back and regarded me with mock suspicion.
"You smiled, didn't you?"
"Stop." Eli interrupted, gesturing to the radio, "Is it just me or is that beat-up thing getting a clear signal?"
He was right. I stared at it a second as a song started, Eli offering me a hand with a grin seconds later.
"May I have this dance?"
I gave him a weirded-out look and then threw caution to the wind and shrugged.
Eli took both of my hands and moments later we were laughing as we twirled and span around the small space, only a few words from the female vocalist's smooth voice striking my mind.
We're so close...to something better left unknown.
The events of the previous day felt worlds away. I felt something...something really deep inside of me that changed everything.