Chapter Three

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"Well, well, well." I heard the nauseating tone a mile off; I could've recognized it anywhere. "If it isn't Mystique's newest trapeze star."

The moment I looked up, my suspicions were confirmed. Rhona was heading towards me, her pointed toes transforming her stride into a cat-like prowl. Though an amused smirk curled her lips, the rest of her expression remained partially hidden underneath a thick layer of stage make-up. The same was required of all of us; it had taken me a while to become accustomed to the extraordinary transformations undergone by the cast once they were in full costume. Still, Rhona took this to a whole other level. The blonde was barely recognizable underneath the matte mask plastered over her face: the falsely flawless skin tone; the smoky black lids; the dark red pout. No one could deny she was striking, but in a mildly unnerving sense of the word.

The two of us, along with the rest of the cast, were backstage, the show already in full swing on the other side of the wall. Sound effects carried easily through the flimsy material, and I could hear every word of Grayson's performance from my seat in front of the mirror. He was a main act: the resident magician, specializing in the dark side of illusion. He'd be onstage for another ten minutes yet, meaning that Silver, Kendra and I would be taking the stage in just under twenty. We'd all sat through the show with countless repetitions, each one refining our knowledge of the timings until they were accurate to the nearest second. Even my emotions ran on a schedule; fifteen minutes beforehand, the nerves would start up, but they'd be taken care of by the time we were called at the five-minute mark. The circus was nothing if not precise.

"To be honest," she continued, once she'd reached the table I was sat in front of, leaning tauntingly onto the wood, "I'm surprised Silver even let you have the lead spot. I was beginning to think she'd never give it up. She's always been a little too attached, if you ask me."

Glancing over her shoulder, she caught the eye of a redheaded girl in the cluster that stood a few feet away. Of course, it was her permanent backup: the group that were always ready to jump in, should the situation get too much for their precious leader. The girl smirked, her expression mirrored by the other three, as if all wordlessly sharing a private joke that I was very pointedly excluded from.

"I wasn't asking you, actually," I shot back, unable to resist letting the venom leak into my tone. With a silent challenge, my gaze met hers, though I could barely make out the color of her eyes beneath the heavy black kohl. "Have you got anything worthwhile to say, Rhona? Because unless you have, you're better off biding your time with someone who'll actually listen to your drivel."

"Alright, alright." She leaned back, removing her hands from the tabletop to raise them in mock surrender. "There's no need to get touchy."

"I'm not touchy." I took a deep breath, attempting to calm myself as Rhona circled me. She stopped behind my chair, looking into the mirror that now presented both our expressions. This wasn't the time to be getting riled up, but it was a difficult feat to avoid when a particular blonde was breathing down my neck. I knew it was exactly what she wanted: to slither her way inside my head moments before I stepped out into the ring, screwing with my confidence and sending my entire performance off balance. I was determined not to give her the satisfaction.

"I only wanted to wish you good luck," she said sweetly. "You are due on after us, of course, and that's a daunting prospect for anybody."

Had it been any other night, I probably could've lashed out with a comeback to shut Rhona up for good. She was never usually one to faze me, or any of us, especially with Silver on hand to provide a daily reminder that she was hopelessly childish and would never grow up. But not only was I closing in on the fifteen minute mark, this was also set to be one of the biggest nights of my life.

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