During Camille and Eli’s performance I had watched her like a hawk. She was her old, incredibly agile self but at the same time she still seemed like a completely different person. There was just something smoother about the way she launched herself through the air. Instead of being her equal, Eli looked almost clumsy in comparison.
My heart was beating a mile a minute the rest of the night and through my own performance. I shone as brightly as I could, and the crowd went wild for Kaveh and Ensi but for the first time in my life I felt like shrinking before the eyes of the audience. Like a frightened turtle I wanted to curl up into a shell where the Admiral couldn’t touch me.
Damn him for taking that away from me. For as long as I could remember all I wanted was to bring joy to the world through the art of performance, and now I was too terrified to give it my heart and soul. He was trying to steal our lives and replace them with something terrible.
If this synthetic horror show was what life was going to be like from now on and I was doomed no matter what I did, then I owed it to myself to be fabulous in my downfall. I ended my performance with genuine zeal and to a full house standing ovation.
Maybe if I stopped caring about what anyone else in this God forsaken cirque did I would be peachy. Maybe if I concentrated all of my efforts into the well-being of myself and my precious cats, Wiseacre would just leave me alone. Maybe if I forgot everything I had seen and the friendships I had formed in the face of such sickening peril, I could wake up and pretend it was all just a bad dream. Yeah, maybe.
But after locking the cats up for the night and heading to my dressing room to peel off the last of my stage makeup I caught sight of something that said yeah right to all of my maybes. Camille was the sick, smiling vision of Wiseacre’s new lapdog, her arm intertwined with his. I felt my mouth fall open when she locked eyes with me and her smile never faltered.
Her smile said she was now the enemy, but her eyes said something else altogether. Even if she ended up tossing me to my death the way Stinger had attempted, I wouldn’t give up on Camille.
On the train ride to Denver I tried to completely ignore all of the poisonous emotions that were welling up in my chest. I hadn’t bothered telling Myah or Lisette about what I’d seen because at the moment there didn’t really seem to be a point. Rather than mourn for the loss of companionship I buried myself in my next costume. After Denver would be Las Vegas, the city of lights, and I was certain that Wiseacre would have something big planned.
When sewing I tended to stick with dependable cotton fabrics and dressed them up with sequins or funky prints. For my next work of art, however, I had splurged a little on silk in gold and brown tones and a pair of glittery golden pumps. In one of my periodic moments of personal impulse I had also slipped into a salon and removed the blue in my hair in favor of honey blonde and flecks of black.
I was sliding on a mask—a feline mask, with damned good taste to boot. I was becoming a wallflower that would blend into the woodwork until the eyes of the hungry crowd would call out for a show. Once the show was over I would once again meld right into the fabric of the tent circus. Like a viper, hidden in venomous silence until the point of attack.
When the train stopped in Colorado, I put my sewing machine up onto a shelf and a lavender envelope fluttered away from my desk. My breath caught in my throat as I opened it.
Time’s up, young lady. I will see you in Vegas.
Well I guess when your job is as interesting as mine it can be pretty easy to forget to write to your grandmother…