“Order them and you’ll see,” he returned easily, with a small smile.

            I wasn’t sure exactly what compelled me to do it, but moments later, I’d slapped down the menu card onto the counter, caught the attention of the waitress hovering by the milkshake machine, and was placing an order for, I quote, “Exactly what he’s got.” At this, the boy grinned, evidently satisfied with his work of persuasion and having forgotten about his book completely.

            “You’re not from around here, are you?”

            I quirked an eyebrow. “And what makes you say that?”

            “Oh, it’s easy,” he told me. “There’s nobody in Sherwood who hasn’t heard about Joe’s curly fries. Like I said, they’re a local legend.”

            “You know, you’re building up pretty high expectations here. If they’re not totally out-of-this-world I’m going to be severely disappointed.”

            But he was as confident as ever. “They are,” came his simple answer. “And I’d like to officially take responsibility for being the person who introduced you to them, and therefore changed your life forever. Hi, I’m Luke.”

            “Corey,” I said, taking his now outstretched hand and shaking it.

            “So, Corey. What brings you to Sherwood?”

            I could feel the smile curling my lips already. Though others in my position might’ve been embarrassed, I’d always secretly reveled in telling people about the way I lived. I relished the moment I changed in their eyes, transitioning from the ordinary girl in front of them to the mysterious, exquisite circus performer I’d always longed to be. A trapeze artist, I’d tell them. And there was the image, already dancing right across their minds, of poise and elegance and wonder and everything that performers like Silver embodied. On the trapeze I became an enhanced version of myself, something beyond what came across in person. Trapeze was beautiful, and I was beautiful by association.

            Naturally, not everybody shared such a positive view. Wherever we went, there’d always be the looks of restrained disgust, whispers behind backs, vulgar insults shouted across fields littered with beer cans. But that was the beauty of life on the road; we didn’t have to stick around to deal with it. As soon as trouble flared, most of the time we were already packing up and dismantling, taking to the road before it could even touch us.

            Life on the move was easy. It was being stuck in one place that made things complicated.

            “The circus is in town,” I told him, “and I came along with it.”

           And there it was, all perfectly in sequence: the surprise; the impression; the curiosity. “You’re in the circus?”

            “Yup. Trapeze artist in training.”

           “Whoa.” He let out an impressed breath, escaping from his open-mouthed smile. “That’s pretty cool. Cooler than any of my local Sherwood knowledge I was going to try and impress you with, anyway.”

            I laughed. “It’s okay. I’ll pretend to be impressed if it protects your ego.”

            He sighed dramatically. “No, it’s fine. I guess I’ll just have to suck it up and accept the fact that I’ve been majorly upstaged by a super cool trapeze artist.”

            “I’m sorry. I tend to have that effect on people.” But I was grinning, and he was too.

            “No kidding.”

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