Zara felt excitement that she hadn’t felt since she was eight years old. There was a circus in town, and she was able to attend. She gripped Lana’s hand tight as she dragged the other woman along.
“It’s a fucking circus Lana” she squealed.
“Yeah… we get them quite often” Lana said.
“I know, but I haven’t been to one since I was eight!”
“Do I really need to explain why?” Zara asked.
“I guess not” Lana said. She looked down at her feet. “Why are you bringing me though?”
“Well I can’t bring Ez” Zara said. “And there’s no way you can go to a circus alone”. She hopped along, Lana trailing behind before she jogged to catch up.
“Yeah but why me?” Lana asked.
Zara stopped and turned back to her. “I don’t have any other friends” she said, looking down at her feet.
“You consider me a friend?”
Zara thought for a moment. “Closest thing I have… other than Ezra and Si”.
“Who is Si?”
“Huh?” Zara glanced at her. “Oh no one… just a… I don’t know what”. She lapsed into silence.
“Come on” Lana said.
“What?” Zara asked.
“We’re going to the circus”.
They continued on down the street, Lana now leading the way as Zara followed behind. As they got closer, the roof of the tent became visible. Zara’s excitement began to grow back.
They rounded the corner and there it was before them; the tents laid out in a circle around the big top. The whole scene before them was a bustling hive of activity; circus goers and performers alike milled about between them all. Behind the big top were the performers’ trucks and caravans; cordoned off by fencing.
They made their way through the crowds and up to the desk.
“Two tickets please” Zara said.
“Fifty quid” the clerk said. She was a small woman with greying hair and large, bug-eyed glasses. Zara passed her the money, and the woman passed them two small pink tickets. “’Njoy the show” she said. “Sit wherever you like”.
Zara and Lana made their way into the circus tent. They stopped to grab some snacks, and then decided to sit up in the stalls rather than ringside.
“I hope they have animals” Zara said, shaking in her seat and leaning forward to try and look around some of the curtains. “Do you think they’ll have animals?”
“I don’t know” Lana said.
The crowd gradually filled in until the whole tent was full. The noise rose to a cacophony until the Ringleader stepped into the centre of the circular ring and proclaimed, in a booming voice, “Welcome to our circus!” The Ringleader was a man in a large, red suit, wearing a top hat. He was slightly pot-bellied, and he had dark hair, the ends of it visible beneath the rim of his hat.
Zara leaned forward eagerly, hugging the edge of her seat throughout his speech. She stayed there as the first act began; acrobats who came soaring from high above in the big top to land in the ring, and then go back up to their trapezes and ropes. They were followed by fire dancers and fire eaters, who were then followed by monkeys and clowns.
Midway through one of the monkeys assaulting a woman at ringside for the crowd’s entertainment, something caught Zara’s eye. There was a face peeking from behind one of the curtains that led to the back. A face framed by auburn hair. A face Zara recognised. A face she had passed in a crowd. A face she was supposed to be looking for. A face attached to a mechanical body.
“Shit” she said, sinking back into her seat.