I couldn't help but stare.
My eyes had lost their constant element of worry and concealment, and were now daring the onlooker to challenge their authority. The smile curling on my lips was all-knowing and amused at the same time, even though I didn't feel anywhere close to the point of smiling.
Damn. I was like another person entirely.
I made the mistake of wondering briefly what my family would think if they saw me then, and my fist shot out into the mirror.
Blood trickled down my hand and I ignored it, leaning my head in my hands instead.
"Get lost Eli." I muttered, without looking back.
He didn't listen and sat on his cot across from me.
"What's going on?"
My thoughts were racing so quickly that I couldn't even decipher them. I looked back up to the shattered mirror and couldn't stop fidgeting. It was probably some kind of reflex to let off pent-up energy but the madness in my head replenished itself sufficiently that it didn't work.
"Nothing. Don't worry about it. Just give me some space."
I noticed a corner of my pile of textbooks textbooks poking out from under my bed and kicked them back under angrily. There was no life beyond the circus now.
Eli grabbed the first aid kit and walked over to me, kneeling in front of the cot and taking my bleeding hand.
"It's nothing." I replied flatly, not bothering to pull away.
He disinfected the various cuts and started to wrap bandages around my hand, his calloused fingers working gently against my throbbing palm.
"So why are you so chummy with Wiseacre?" he asked casually, still working.
"I have to get him to trust me, at least a little, if I'm ever going to find out what he's up to."
"Ah. So you haven't suddenly developed a liking for middle-aged ringleaders?"
"No." I said in a monotone voice, keeping down the smile threatening to emerge again.
This was just like a couple weeks ago, when I had accidentally scratched Eli. Memories tried to edge into my subconscious but I pushed them away.
"How was your 'hot date'?" I asked uninterestedly, trying to seem conversational even though I had established I wasn't.
"Not bad, but my date was making out with a waiter when I got there. And, even worse, she tried to convince me they were only friends. All three of us got kicked out of the place and I left as quickly as my wounded pride would let me."
I snorted and couldn't help but chuckle.
"That bad, huh?"
"I didn't really expect much in the first place. There's only one girl I've ever really wanted to be with."
Eli tied the final knot in the bandage and I could see a mix of hope and anxiety in his face.
"Who's that?" I asked, bored.
His face fell.
"Uh...never mind that. I'm not her type anyways."
Even though I was barely paying any attention to the conversation I felt like I had caused Eli his dejection, and it didn't feel good. Time to talk my way out of this.
"Come on, tell me." I wheedled, "If I know her I'll put in a good word."
He didn't reply.
"Eli, I've been your trapeze partner for years. You HAVE to tell me."
Another few moments of silence, and he spoke, slowly, and stood up.
"No, really, it's not important. You'd make fun of me anyways."
Well at least he saved me the trouble.
"I'm going to head to the coffee car." he said, walking toward the door, "Don't miss me too much."
"I won't, don't worry."
As soon as he left I fell back on my bed, sighing.
Now I even had to weave a charade for Eli.