"Are you coming?" Corrine heard Kaleb call her from outside their trailer. "Bartholomew has said we've only got ten hours to get the tent all set up and ready."
"I'll be out in a moment," Corrine replied, buttoning up the last few holes of the loose shirt she always wore on setting up day and tucking it into her breeches. A few pins secured her hair up on her head and out of the way of her face and she was ready to go.
Kaleb was waiting for her as she stepped out of their trailer. "You didn't have to wait for me," Corrine mumbled.
"It's no problem," Kaleb replied. "Shall we get stuck in then?"
Kaleb and Corrine had been partners in their knife throwing act for three years, since the death of her parents, but had known each other for much longer. Kaleb had been apprenticed to her father when he was seven and had been taught all the skills needed to put on a good show. It was only a small step for Kaleb to take over from Corrine's father when he died, just as it was reasonable for Corrine to take her mother's place as his assistant.
Neither Corrine, nor Kaleb, knew any other life than that of the circus. Both had grown up there and neither expected to leave.
But one thing dulled their relationship. Kaleb was hopelessly in love with Corrine. He had been for many years and had made no attempts to hide it. Corrine's parents approved of him and had expected that in time they would start a family of their own. But that wasn't what Corrine wanted.
"Hey, Corrine," one of the clowns shouted as they drew closer to the site where the tent was to be pitched. "Give me a hand with this would you?"
"I'll see you later," Corrine said to Kaleb, giving him a small smile before turning to help with the set up.
The work was hard, as it always was, and by the time lunch came Corrine's arms were screaming for a rest.
"Well done everyone," the ringmaster said as the troupe sat down to eat. "We're almost there. Keep up the good work."
The clown Corrine had been working with rolled his eyes. "Why does he always treat us like children? We know what we're doing. How many hundreds of times have we set this tent up before?"
"He's just trying to stay positive," Corrine said quietly. "He doesn't mean any harm in it."
The clown muttered something darkly to himself that Corrine couldn't make out before turning his attention back to his lunch.
"What's going on over here?" Dakota said joining the others at the table.
"Nothing much," Corrine replied. "How are your horses? I heard one of them had a problem with its leg."
"Sky will be alright I think. Cassidy took her for a walk around the tent earlier to stretch the muscles so I'm hoping that will sort it out in time for the performance. I'm not sure what I'll do if I'm a horse down."
"I'm sure you'll find a way of making it work," Corrine said, turning when she felt Kaleb's hand on her waist as he took the seat next to her. Her skin prickled but more from shock rather than pleasure.
"Hello ladies," Kaleb said. "Everything alright?"
"Everything's fine, thank you, Kaleb," Dakota replied smiling.
"I should probably get going," Corrine said, quickly picking up her plate and getting ready to leave.
"But I've only just got here," Kaleb protested, a look of profound disappointment on his face. "Please sit with me for a bit longer."
Corrine could not refuse the look on her partner's face and reluctantly sat back down with her lunch. But she was grateful that Kaleb didn't put his arm back around her waist but that he kept his hands to himself instead.