I wanted to stay, to find Silver and the others and make sure they were okay, because my heart was still pounding uncontrollably at the thought of anybody being hurt. I started yelling when Dave tried to escort me out, desperately fighting against his tough grip, but the night had already begun to take its physical toll on me. The last drops of my energy had been extracted, and my attempt at a fight was nothing short of pitiful. Melting into his chest the moment he lifted me up, my muscles crying in relief, I didn’t bother resisting as he carried me across the parking lot.
We were the lucky ones. A lot of the crew didn’t get away so lightly, and Silver was among them. I only got to see her once after the fire, and the hospital visit hadn’t exactly sparked the desire for a return visit. She was covered in bruises, a particularly ugly one stretching across her forehead and down the side of her face, its uneven bluish tone obscuring her features completely. It was something even Rhona’s stage make-up couldn’t disguise. Her entire left arm was trapped inside a thick white cast; her elbow had been shattered.
Lying there, swathed in the sterile white sheets of the hospital bed, she was utterly broken – both mentally and physically – and the sight made me feel as if there was no hope left.
Each day was worse than the last. I returned to Aunt Shelby’s trailer in the early hours of the morning, accompanied by Dave. It was right at the edge of the field, far enough from the tent to escape damage. Dave spent so much time over it was as if he’d been living there too; with each passing day he seemed to deem returning to his own trailer that bit less necessary.
Time crawled by at a snail’s pace. This was a fact that refused to change, no matter how many card games we played on the floor of the trailer, beneath the giant map of the United States and its colorful thumbtacks. On more than one occasion I’d found myself staring at it – or, more specifically, the red pin stabbed in the region of California labeled Sherwood. I was seriously contemplating ripping it out completely, and on several occasions had been poised with it between my thumb and index finger. Yet each time something had stopped me. Even after everything that had happened, it seemed wrong – as if traditions still stood when everything else had burned to the ground.
Sleep quickly turned into a rare phenomenon. Then again, this was inevitable. Every time I closed my eyes, allowing the blackness to seep into my vision for the briefest of moments, it was there. The flames were back, the blazing heat leaping towards me with incredible ferocity, my only escape route being letting my eyes flicker open. Even Dave being there, doing his best to soothe me, didn’t help. The terror had already been imprinted into the darkest depths of my mind, and it was going to take more than a pair of strong arms to coax it out of me.
Aunt Shelby barely returned, and when she did, communication seemed to be the last thing on her mind. She’d retreat to her room for a couple of hours at the most, presumably to take a well-needed but restless nap, leaving for the hospital again as quickly as she’d arrived. Really, I hadn’t expected anything less. She was the resident nurse, though lacking any formal qualifications, and played the doting mother role to almost every member of the crew.
Three days later saw a phone call from the hospital. It was Silver, and the sound of her crumbling tone had nothing to do with bad reception. It wasn’t just herself that she’d lost. The accident had taken the baby too.
The cleanup of the site had already begun; giant trucks had already started moving in, bulldozers ready to demolish the last of the dangerous structure that still stood. Theoretically, they should’ve been taking away the lasting reminders of that night, but what they left behind was somehow much worse. An air of hopelessness had settled over the circus, pressing its way into every corner, folding in on itself, burying us all underneath a stifling blanket.
YOU ARE READING
For seventeen-year-old Corey Ryder, life on the road is all she's ever known. A trainee trapeze artist in her aunt's circus, she's never found herself in one place for more than a few weeks at a time. For her, it's a way of life. But when a tragic a...