I was at home on the trapeze.
For most people, it probably seemed strange that I felt most comfortable suspended thirty feet above the ground, where the only two things that existed were me and a simple rope setup. Up there, it was nothing but muscle: a careful balance of strength and flexibility. No complications. Practice made perfect. I always ran the risk of falling, of course, but for the most part I was in control. And, after all, it wouldn’t be the circus without an element of danger.
I was a reversal of the majority, a real freak of nature by some definitions. Heights, not to mention a risky, complex art form, weren’t a problem. Those usually begun after my feet had returned to the floor.
That day, as I approached Luke in the middle of the diner, ready to shatter the barrier of our silence, it occurred to me that this still rang true. Three months away from it all, and in that regard, little had changed. Sure, there was no risk of tumbling from any great physical heights, but either way there was no safety net.
He sensed my presence a few seconds later, turning around slowly. And that was it. We were face to face: no running away from anything now.
His face was not what I’d been expecting; it looked almost brighter than usual, eyes nervous but holding more life than I’d noticed in a while. Out of habit, I found myself scanning for any sign of infliction – the first hints of a bruise, a tiny scratch – but came up short. The skin around his left eye was clear, with no lingering aftermath of the bruises that had once been there. Every feature, naturally striking: the way they should’ve been all along.
Suddenly, he was speaking. “Hi.”
My voice had got lost somewhere in my throat; I was well aware of how stupid I looked, standing there dumbstruck, but the words refused to find themselves. Just as Luke started peering at me strangely, they managed to break through. “Hello.”
The hesitant awkwardness must’ve been spreading beyond our own little space. Surely the whole diner could feel the way it had fallen like a smothering blanket, leaving us fighting for breath? And yet all around us, things were ongoing: the background chatter dimmed into one continuous noise; the clattering of coffee mugs on metal tabletops; the quiet shuffled selection of the jukebox. This was a matter that concerned only us, and everyone else went about their own business, blissfully ignorant.
His eyes flickered toward the stool beside him, and I took this as my cue to lower myself onto it. My rear had barely sunk onto the leather when the waitress – the more cheerful of the two – appeared at the bar.
“You two again?” she asked, with a smile that suggested she was completely unaware of the underlying tension. “Our real regulars. Been missin’ you these past coupl’a weeks.”
She put me on the spot, but Luke’s charm was effortless, unfaltering. “Been missing this place, too,” he told her with a grin. “Couldn’t keep myself away for too long.”
He’d already ordered, but she noticed my empty hands. “Can I getcha somethin’ to drink?”
“I, uh…” My mouth had dried up, the words proving difficult to force out. I hadn’t expected to be so affected, but then again, I’d never known Luke to be predictable.
“Tell you what,” she said, not giving my answer a chance, “I’ll fix you that favorite milkshake of yours. Since you haven’t been around in so long.”
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...