prologue.

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"Dad, I'd rather chew my own left fingers than go for the reunion." Alfie Allred protested. He picks up his cup of tea from the table with his free hand and takes a sip as he listens to his father speak from the phone.

"You have gone for the past years, Alfie. Don't you want to catch up with your past classmates? I thought you had friends in high school or is there something you're not telling me or did not tell me?" Daniel Allred asks his son, there a tinge in her voice that Alfie can't place. "Is it because of Luci-"

"Dad! You promised!" Alfie hissed as he pushes the still full cup of tea away from him. He walks out of the kitchen and makes his way to his sitting room, he takes a seat on the couch and grabs the remote. He knows it's been years since he graduated from Zalfman high school. He knows there are people out there who would agree with him when he says his days at high school were not his favourite. In fact, he does his best to avoid thinking about that period.

"I just- you don't have to go if you don't want to. I thought it'd be fun if you see your classmates again. I remember when you were at Zalfman, you were always laughing and smiling until your senior year." Daniel quaked. "I just wanted you to have fun with them one more time."

Alfie falls silent as his father spoke. He wants to tell his father what exactly had happened during his senior year, what exactly had caused his gelotophobia but he doesn't want to remember. He'd feel their stares, hear their laughter all over again. Even thinking about it made him shudder.

"What if I tell you I'd think about it?" Alfie bargains, hoping his dad would accept it and not press on the matter. He plays with the remote in his hand as he listens to his dad talk.

"I didn't want to make you uncomfortable. I know it's somewhat of a sore subject, even if I don't know why."

"Dad... can we talk about something else?" Alfie asks as he presses the power button on the remote and the television flicks to life. He immediately presses the mute button and proceeds to flip through channels.

"How's work going?"

"The circus has a show next week Saturday. I'll send you a ticket." Alfie tells his dad just as he settles on watching Ridiculousness on MTV.

It's been three years since he joined The Blackborne Circus as a trapeze artist. It was the only place that he had felt comfortable in his own skin and also the same place that makes his fear shrink backwards. He doesn't expect people to laugh as he folds himself into his ring, instead he bathes in the round of applause he gets. He loves the attention he gets as he hangs onto the silver hoop by his knees and sings. He's a different person on the hoop but immediately his feet touches the floor, he's a bumbling, clumsy mess who has a fear of people laughing at him. He's thankful to God for giving him a dad who was supportive, who didn't judge or tell him he was a disappointment, a waste of years and years of school fees.

"Yes!" Daniel cheers. "Your circus always has something new to look forward to."

"Dad..."

"Yes, pookie?" Dan replies.

Alfie scrunched up his nose. "I thought we agreed not to call me that again."  Alfie begs.

"No, you ranted, I listened but I didn't not agree." Daniel sings and Alfie pouts. "What did you want to tell me?"

Alfie sighs and lies down on the couch, hs phone pressed to his ear as his eyes remain on the television. "Are you disappointed?"

"Disappointed about what?"

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