Chapter Twenty Two: BirthdayMature

The audience rose to their feet, applauding as the ringleader and her crew took their final bows in the centre of the ring. Zara joined them, her eyes fixed on the girl.

                “Little Ren, Little Ren,” she said. “So nice to see you again.”

                “What’s that?” Lana asked.

                “Nothing.” Zara smiled at her. “Just talking to myself.”

                “You want to go down and talk to some of them? They’re leaving town so you might not get another chance for a while.”

                “No… No that’s okay,” Zara said. The crowd around them was filing down the rows and making their way from the tent. “I think we should just get out of here.” Her eyes found the girl as she slipped behind the curtains. Off to see your tiger no doubt.

                “Okay, let’s go,” Lana said. She took Zara’s hand and gently led her along the row. They joined the milieu and made their way out of the circus. Lana led them off into the night, moving through the streets of London once again. She came to a stop beside a bench and sat down, patting the spot beside her. Zara sat down too and stared at the ground.

                “What is it?” Lana asked. “You don’t seem yourself tonight.”

                “It’s nothing. It’s just…”

                “Just?”

                “This is the first time I’ve ever spent a birthday with a friend.” Zara sniffed.

                “It’s your birthday?”

                “30th of January. I turned twenty four today.”

                “Why didn’t you tell me?! Happy Birthday!” Lana leaned over and hugged her. Zara hugged her back.

                “I guess I’ve never really seen it as important… It’s only ever been Ez and I. And we never do anything to celebrate.”

                “Nothing?”

                “Nothing.” Zara detached herself from Lana and stared at the ground. She took the other woman’s hand in her own and cradled it there, rubbing her thumb back and forth across her knuckles.

                “There’s something else isn’t there?” Zara nodded. Lana sighed. “You have to leave soon don’t you?” Zara nodded. “I could go with you.”

                “No.” Zara turned and looked at her. “It would be much too dangerous for you. I don’t want to put you in harm’s way… and if you came with us… the work that we do… it’s just too dangerous.”

                “I wouldn’t get in the way.”

                “I know you wouldn’t… Not intentionally. But there would be too much risk. It would not be comfortable. We move from place to place. We sleep in the worst of places as often as we sleep in decent places. Sometimes we don’t eat. People are always out to either rob us or hurt us or kill us. I don’t want to put you in that kind of danger.” Zara smiled wryly. “Besides, Ezra would probably kill you himself if I tried to bring you with me.” They sat in silence for a few moments.

                “I’m going to miss you,” Lana said.

                “I’m going to miss you too.”

*****

Zara entered the room at the inn. Ezra sat in the corner, waiting for her.

                “The girl is with the circus.”

                “Is she now?”

                “Indeed.”

                “Have you heard from Silus?”

                “Not yet. I told him to send word after us. The circus leaves its current spot tomorrow morning.”

                “Then so do we.”

                “Indeed. I’m going to go get some sleep.”

                “I’ll see you in the morning.”

                Zara nodded.

                “Oh and Zara?” She turned back around. “Happy birthday.”

                “Happy birthday to you too Ezra.” 

The End

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