Day 193 of 365 Days of Writing Prompts: Write about a circus performer.
Erin: My favorite dance partner from a young age was Darcy. Darcy worked with my mother. She was born four years after I was. The second she learned how to walk I started to play with her and teaching her my movies. Building the trust and rhythm from a young age made us flow in our routine like water out of a fountain. By the time my mother realized I had chosen an elephant partner we were too good for her to argue we were unsafe. As I grew older I convinced her to let us join the circus. Darcy and I were a hit of the show between our trunk tricks and risky leg weaving stunts.
Shannon: The only place I ever truly belonged was above the ground. Dancing with silk ropes, curling myself around an aerial ring, or swinging from a trapeze, I take any excuse I could find to stay above the world a second longer.
“Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair,” I heard a voice call up to me as I was siting in an aerial ring. I looked down, and soon discovered it was a guy around my age in a clown costume, but no makeup. I’d never seen his real face under the mask, and he was actually kind of cute. Our paths had yet to cross on this tour, but I’d seen his act and I was impressed by how much the children loved him.
“Clowns aren’t safe this high up. I suggest you keep feet on the ground.” I teased.
He crossed his arms. “I’ll prove you wrong,” he pointed up. “I’m going to be up there someday. You wait and see.” The smile he gave after was contagious, but I still shook my head.
What is your your characters act?
A silvery dewdrop chandelier hung from the ceiling of the mirrored elevator while classical piano music played quietly from unseen speakers. Surrounding the tiny room was a jewel-encrusted bar that left marks on my fingers as I gripped it tightly and the floor buttons shone like onyx drops. Even the floor sparkled with a rainbow hue that shifted as I swayed above it, attempting to look anywhere but at my own reflection in the many mirrors. It was an excruciatingly slow ride, which wasn’t surprising, taking into consideration the amount of excess weight the stone and crystals must have added to the elevator’s capacity.
At my elbow was a tall, handsome man in a finely-made suit that could have been tailored to his every muscle and an elderly woman whose dress was far too young for her. Whenever I slipped my eyes from the shivering floor tiles, I searched the man’s hand for any clue as to who he was, but I could help but blush when I did it. Being the only part of him that the svelte suit was exposing, other than his chiselled face and perfectly-quaffed hair, I kept my eyes on the strong fingers. Suddenly, as we were passing the eighteenth floor, the woman finally looked up from an ancient, glittering compact and gave the man a look that I wish I could unsee. He appeared completely unfazed when she puckered her lips enticingly and shifted the neckline of her dress.
The next time I dared a glance in his direct he winked at me before going back to studiously ignoring the small party in the elevator. When the door finally dinged on the forty-fourth floor, he was the first one to exist, with long strides straight down the hall and around the corner. Stepped smoothly across the threshold in my long, satin evening gown, I stopped after a few feet to check my ticket under the sparingly lit hallway lights. In a particularly bright spot, I stared at the small, slender paper with the strange symbol and messily-scrawled writing on it.
“That bastard,” whispered the woman as she shuffled past, a cane having suddenly appeared in her hand, “who does he think he his?” As she headed down the hall, she continued muttering to herself darkly and shaking her fist in the air. From the back, I could see that her feet were jammed tightly into a pair of shoes no one over the age of thirty should be wearing under a short, revealing stress that hugged her bony hips in all the wrong places.
When she was safely out of earshot, I followed quietly, attempting to silence the sharp clacking of my own expensive footwear. At the end of the door less, dim hallway, it turned to the right and out of sight; at the curve, though, it turned into a stunning entranceway to suite number four-forty-one. Hanging from the ceiling were dripping pendant lights that matched the elevator and the tile changed suddenly to marble with inset onyx that shivered in a thousand hues as I walked. Where the carpet met the tile, there was a wall of multi-colour laser lights that hummed over the moody woodwind music. Finding myself quickly at the light wall, I nervously slid my hand through and they changed to a tepid green colour, which I took as a positive sign.
I stepped through the light and found the world on the other side was very different from the one I’d been in only a moment ago. Before me, there were disco lights and loud bass-heavy music pounding through obnoxiously-large speakers and a myriad of styles of dress on the party guests. As I made my way down the wide steps and into the main area, I felt someone tap on my shoulder with light fingers.
Spinning, I locked eyes with the stranger I’d shared the elevator with and his grin sparkled in the unpredictable light. “Hey, come on over to the edge,” he spoke softly through the din, touching my hand reassuringly as he started to walk away. I gripping his fingers with mine and let him drag me away to the edge of the room, where the music seemed unable to penetrate the calm quiet. “You have a ticket, right?” he asked, his soft eyes twinkling and teeth bright white.
“Yeah, I do. I wasn’t really expecting a party, you know?” I replied, glaring about at the writhing, scantily-dressed women in the room. If I had to guess, that old woman was probably among those pretty young people, dancing too close with some inexperienced guys.
When the man smiled again, he let out a low chuckle before speaking in a forced whisper, “The real show is through the door way over there; this is something like an after party, I think.” As he began to move, I shifted to block him, not wanting to be left along in the unusual surroundings and feeling terribly overdressed for the situation. “Relax, follow moi,” he cooed, grabbing my hand again.
Twisting so I was stepping in line with him, I glanced around at the crowd with disgust as we skirted the edges of the pit and made it to the onyx-slab door on the other side. Beside the handle was a card reader, which the man slide his ticket aptly through before stepping back to let me do the same. As it beeped happily, the gentleman reached around me and turned the handle, ushering me through before him.
When the door shut softly behind us, there was no trace of the din from the other room, nor the excitement that was in the air. This room was rather plain; with two sides of it sporting twenty-foot tall windows with a view of the city that stretched into the bay, cold grey walls and seven dull chairs set up to one side. The man strode across the cavernous space in a matter of steps and stared out at the city below with mild contentment on his face. Sitting in the last chair was the old woman, her cane gripped tightly in her hand and a murderous look in her eyes.
Ignoring her, I joined the man in watching the first little sparkles of stars and moonlight touch the skyline and clouds. It was so peaceful up here that I might never want to go come down, or speak again.
After a little while watching the city come back to life with unnatural electric lights to keep the energy pumping long past death, the door opened for a brief moment as a flamboyant couple came in and took up seats near the back. They whispered together, occasionally giggling as they sipped margaritas. Off to the side, the woman was now glaring at the couple with daggers in her eyes and a death grip on the cane. But I wasn’t paying any more attention to them than I would an annoying fly; no, I was trying to remember why I’d come in the first place. When the door opened again, there was a raucous as two clearly-drunk women staggered through in dresses that made even that old woman blush. Howling with laughter, they took their seats and the lights turned off and a hidden door swung open on the far side.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” boomed a voice from the void as though he’d read the concern in my thoughts, “please take your seats and prepare for the most exciting show of your lives!” Self-consciously, I scuttled over to the remaining seats and sat down in the one farthest from the old woman, smoothing non-existent wrinkles out of my skirt. “Here is the car-ni-val performer you’ve all be waiting for!”
His words reverberated in the high ceilings as mist piled in from the open door and crawled its way toward the guests like an incoming fog. Through the door, a rolled large circular object that cut easily through the mist and stood stationary amidst it as the moon shone through the massive windows. For a moment, the only thing that happened was that the door shut itself and extinguished any stray beams of light coming from within the building, until the circle began to move, rolling its way into the very center of the space as though it had a conscience. Watching it with a heavy, intrigued gaze, I was almost blinded when spotlights flickered to life and lit through the fog and a figure presented itself.
Music started up quietly in the corner as the mist dispersed and a thin man was left standing inside the enormous ring. His head nodded subtly as the music grew louder, his eyes closed as he concentrated. Then, suddenly, he was spinning from within the circle as it tilted and turned smartly in the room. Body shifting inhumanly, he spun and turned and stood atop it on his hands, before he was again inside it. Though I couldn’t describe the amazing ways his body moved, I admired every minute of the spectacular performance. Chalk flew through the air at moments and caught the light as the lamps followed him deftly, while the ring itself gleamed like a newly-polished bell.
After at least a half hour, the man stood still and the lights dimmed. When it was almost pitch black inside the room, the music fell silent and mist again filled the bottom couple of feet in pale obscurity. Spinning soundlessly through the open door, the man was gone. “Thank you for attending this dress rehearsal for the event held tomorrow; please stay seated so I can get some feedback from you,” chatted the pleasant voice again as the horrible screech of audio feedback cut through the deafening silence. There was some muffled swearing before the music came back on in a minor capacity and the lights came back up.
A man, almost the spitting image of the stranger I shared the elevator with, strode out of the hidden door in a flat grey suit with hideous maroon shoes and curlers in his waving hair. “Good evening everyone,” he addressed us all before staring daggers at his reflection. “And to you, brother,” he growled, “If you would be so kind as to speak the unadulterated truth about the performance, I would be much obliged.” With a bow so deep I could see his grey roots, he pulled out a recording device and looked around expectantly.
“The music in this place is too blah and there wasn’t anything remarkable about his physique,” complained the old woman. Unfortunately for the man, that comment was as sincerely kind as they came.
(This ended up being longer than I thought it would be…)
“So, your first name is, Dick,” Heather says slowly.
“It’s short for Richard,” he corrects.
“Hm. …What’s your last name?”
Heather looks up at him from her computer, “…Grayson?” She whispers.
Dick looks at her from browsing the shelves, “Yeah.”
Heather smiles to herself and looks back to her computer.
Heather shakes her head, “Nothing.”
Dick moves over, “No really, what?”
“…I’ll let you know if you ever owe me a favor.”
“About that favor?” Dick asks.
“Hm?” Heather asks.
“Well, you didn’t tell them our identities, so… thank you,” Dick rubs the back of his neck, “and… I guess I always owed you one, since you saved Jason.”
“Dick, I was hap-”
“What’s the favor. Even if you won’t accept it as that.”
Heather sighs, standing, “Okay. How can I say no? Meet me at the Northern edge of Gotham. …At least I can do this now.” She walks away to find her phone.
Heather looks back at him, “Because I can finally go home.”
“…I’m going to meet your parents, am I?”
Heather laughs, “They aren’t who I’m thinking of right now.”
At the clearing Heather sent him, Dick finds a Quinjet waiting. “Whoa…” he marvels as he walks inside.
“I figured we can get there faster with this.” Heather says as she preps from the pilot seat.
“You can fly this?” He asks.
“Kinda. Jarvis will pilot from here. And, don’t worry about identities, he’s overridden any cameras to my phone. Friday isn’t here.”
“Cool.” He sits down and the quinjet takes off for Minnesota. “So… what’s the favor?”
Heather smiles, then turns her chair around.
“I know we are going to your home, but… Why me? Aren’t you closer with Jason?”
“True, but…” Heather laughs to herself. “Are you used to meeting fans?”
“…Not really. Keep to the shadows,” Dick admits.
“Not Nightwing fans.”
Dick tilts his head, waiting for an explanation.
“My sister is a gymnast. She used to look up videos of different people performing and…” Heather shrugs, “she found some Flying Grayson videos. She’s never been on a trapeze, but I think she watched those the most out of all of them.”
“I’m honored. How old is she?”
“She’s about fourteen now. And she’s passed me with any gymnastic stuff, even with the serum. She loves what she does and…” Heather sighs, “I think she’d be ecstatic to meet someone like her.”
“Are you sure we’re alike?”
“People-person, loves the spotlight, flexible and loves to be on the move? Loves their family?” Heather lists off. Dick grins. “Yeah, nothing alike.”
The quinjet lands. Heather walks out first. Her mother is running to greet her. They hug, soon followed by her two siblings. There were ‘missed you’ and ‘love you’s passed around. Then Heather breaks away and looks at Leslie. “I have a surprise for you.”
“Mm hm. While I was gone, I met somebody. And, I convinced him to come meet you.” Heather turns around. Dick walks down the ramp and stands in front of Leslie.
“Leslie Morse?” He asks. She nods. He offers her a hand. She takes it slowly. “Dick Grayson.”
She stares for a second, then looks to Heather. Heather nods, smiling. Leslie looks at Dick and a wider than wide grin stretches over her face. “You are- I mean were- part of the Flying Graysons!”
Leslie jumps up and down in her spot, squealing. She then pulls his still attached to hers hand with her, as she babbles about what she wants to show him and if he could teach her something and how Heather is pretty good and gymnastic stuff though she insists Leslie is better and how she never meet a trapeze artist before and how she’s never been on the trapeze. There are a dozen other things that Heather doesn’t catch because now they are in the barn. But she heard Dick’s good natured laughter the whole way.
Heather unpacks her stuff, then goes to see what the two are doing. She finds that Leslie is on the beam they set up, showing Dick what she can do. He watches, cheering when she’s done. He gives her tips and then shows her a few moves he thinks she could try. Then Leslie sees Heather and drags her over to show Dick what she’s capable of.
When Leslie’s exhausted, she’s given supper and sent to bed. Heather stands on the porch, looking out at the farm with her forearms on the rail. Dick joins her with a bowl of food. “Thank you,” Heather states.
“She’s very energetic,” Dick comments, “I thought I’d run out of energy before her. …Does that mean I’m getting old?”
Heather laughs with him, then lets the crickets take over. “But seriously, thank you. It’s… It’s been a long time since…” Heather closes her eyes. “She’s had such a hard time trusting people. She hasn’t been herself, hesitant, second guessing herself. She didn’t even want to move some days.”
Dick puts the bowl down and listens intently.
“I went through that and I couldn’t watch my sister do the same thing. …She needed this.” Heather looks at him, tears brimming her eyes, “Thank you, Dick. From one older sibling to another, this is probably the best favor you could have done for me.”
Dick pulls her into a side hug, “You’re welcome.”
Heather then turns and buries her face in the crook of his neck and wraps both her arms around his back. Dick holds her, looking into one of the windows. He sees her mother cleaning up, her grandparents sitting on the couch together, and her brother is running to the stairs in his pjs, a toothbrush lodged in his mouth. He looks out at the farm, seeing each building, hearing different animals, and watching the sunset slowly dim.
He understands now why Heather was so determined to come back her, and he can’t argue that if he could be with his parents again, he’d probably retire from Nightwing, too.