As if things weren’t mad enough, there was a letter waiting for me in my dressing room when I arrived to prep for the afternoon show. The periwinkle-colored envelope made my stomach drop in anxiety. I already knew who it was from before I ripped it open, seeing as I had a box full of them underneath my bed.
I hate to be a nag, but you and I both know the only reason your mother hasn’t dragged you home by your exuberantly dyed hair is because I promised to keep an eye on you. I accept the fact that you are a young adult now and you want to blaze your own path, but we had an agreement that you would keep regular correspondence with me. It has been way too long since I’ve heard from you and I’m starting to get worried. This is your only warning young lady. If I don’t hear from you soon, I’m coming to embarrass the pants off of you in front of your circus friends. I really hope I’ve made myself clear. I know I sound like a terrible, overbearing old woman but I know what show biz is like and you’re my only grandchild—I don’t know what I’d do if anything happened to you.
All my love,
Hastily I tore through the contents of my vanity drawer until I found a decent looking piece of paper and a pen. “Here goes nothing,” I grumbled to myself and began writing.
I know, I know I’ve been in my own little world lately and it’s just gotten kind of hard to write to you. I promise I’ll do better! The lions had fallen a bit ill but the Admiral took great care of them and now they’re good as new. We’re shaking things up though because we have some new competition on the circuit and our acts are a little stale. With all the extra practices and excitement around here, not to mention all the BOYS in the area, I’ll try and write regularly but please don’t crucify me if a miss a letter or two. I’m so young and easily distracted, and did I mention the boys? I love you to smithereens!
“There, that ought to keep her out of my hair for a while longer.” I grinned at my handy work, and then popped the letter into an empty drawer to deliver later.
After squeezing into my newly stitched costume, and halfway into my makeup there was a frantic knock on my door. Before I could answer, Camille opened the door and popped her head through the crack. “Nixie, you’re not going to beli- wow…your um, your costume is really tight.”
I sighed in despair and tried in vain to cover my ridiculous cleavage. “I know! I sew when I’m nervous and I’ve just been so frazzled lately that I undershot my measurements. Is it really noticeable?”
Stinger shoved his way past Camille and whistled approvingly while the rest of the gang spilled into my dressing room. “Is it noticeable? Yes. Is it spectacular? Also, yes. Tonight is going to be one interesting event.”
My mouth fell open and I rushed over to examine Stinger. “Myah, I thought you said they just cut his bandages off and he was still healing? He’s perfect.”
“Well I wouldn’t say perfect, but pretty darn close if you ask me. Not to mention handsome as ever.” Stinger chuckled at his own joke while I prodded at his neck and face, looking for any signs of damage.
“They did, and they also said something about quick healing,” said Myah, throwing her hands up in exasperation. “But what on earth could be this fast at healing skin grafts and any kind of physical reconstruction?”
“On top of that, Wiseacre is having my team open the show,” Lisette piped in, darting uncertain glances at Camille. “You missed the opening meeting this morning where he announced it to the whole troupe, but it wasn’t just us; everyone was surprised by him mixing up the order.”
“What’s up with that, by the way, Nix? Where were you this morning?” asked Camille.
I gave her the envelope so she could read the letter and pass it around. “I didn’t realize that I had forgotten to write her for so long.”
“I don’t get it, what’s so bad about your grandma visiting?” said Myah, skimming the letter.
“She’s a sweet old woman who I love to death, but she has this overprotective way of imposing her will on people she doesn’t like that would make this situation a whole lot worse."
Just then, Stinger startled us all by leaping forward and standing completely rigid at attention facing the door. Before we even had a chance to react, my door was opened again to reveal the sickening smile of Admiral Wiseacre.
“Oh how lovely, a welcoming party for our new and improved Stunt Man,” said Wiseacre, chuckling evilly. “At ease, Stinger.”
Stinger relaxed and leaned against the wall with his arms crossed, smiling at Wiseacre. The rest of us shot bewildered glances at each other.
“I would have told you this morning if you had bothered to show up at the meeting, but you’re going to have to make some changes to your act, Nixela. You’re going to need all the daring and sparkle you can muster to outshine Stinger’s new performance. ” He eyed my exposed chest with revolting approval. “You’ve made an excellent start with your change in costume.”
“But that’s no time at all! I can’t just pull a new routine out of thin air, you know. Neither can the cats,” I huffed angrily.
“I’m sure you’ll figure something out. You wouldn’t want to lose your reputation as our spectacular closing act would you? The rest of you, don’t forget to smile. We’ll have some very important guests in the audience.”
With that he swept out of the room, leaving a chill in his wake.
“Don’t worry, Nixie,” said Myah with a wink. “We’ll help you tweak your act into something Wiseacre will never forget.”