She adjusted the strap of her bodysuit. The sequins were digging into her shoulder again. She glanced down at her cleavage, making sure everything was securely tucked away into the costume with just enough of the creamy swell rising above to be enticing but not indecent. Men would inevitably take notice but children of all ages would be mesmerized as she juggled flaming batons atop the high-wire.
As she sat in front of the mirror, she looked at her overly made-up face, resplendent with hues only found in nature on the tails of peacocks. She slicked on one more dab of lip gloss and smiled; teeth were all clear. She ran her fingers down her long, dark ponytail, thankful for the return of her natural color. He had always hated her dark hair so she had bleached it for years. Funny how the light hair made her world seem dark and her dark hair was comforting and made her feel light as a feather. That feeling helped when she had to concentrate on her balance on a thin wire over 100 feet above the ground.
She checked her smartphone for the dozenth time in less than an hour. No message yet. How much longer would she have to wait? The friend that worked for the lawyer was to let her know as soon as the sentencing was handed down. It should have been over long ago. She looked at herself in the mirror again carefully. The makeup covered the smudges under her eyes that betrayed her sleepless nights. As shaky as she felt though, once she climbed that ladder and lit the batons, her nerves were always steady. She woke with a purpose each day: to hear the gasps and claps that let her know her efforts were appreciated. It was something that gave her joy.
BUZZZZ! She jumped involuntarily and checked her phone. “Jury and judge coming back now,” she read.
She closed her eyes, tried to take a deep breath but it got stuck somewhere in her throat. Her mind took her against her will, much as he had done in that cabin, to dark places in the past. Why hadn’t she fought harder or tried to get away earlier? She mentally berated herself again for blaming the wrong person. HE was the bastard who had done this to several other women before her. He had pushed her into believing all sorts of lies including how she was nothing and could never escape. But she had.
Once she had gotten away, she realized she had acquired a set of balls that he seemed to have no use for; in her mind, only an impotent eunuch preys upon those he sees as weak. She sort of laughed to herself and thought, I took his balls as he wasn’t using them, the coward. She had shown bravery as she recounted to police all the details she could recall. She had gone back to the circus as soon as her body had healed, intuitively knowing it would also help heal her soul as well.
She stood and walked to a small flap in the tent. She peeked through and saw the man with the tigers, using a whip to guide them to their spots in the cage. Like a carefully choreographed dance, the powerful yet seemingly languid beasts circled the man and took their spots atop some stacked chairs. So much strength constrained by some bars of a cage! Hopefully soon he too would be held at bay in a cage.
She glanced into the stands and noticed a group of children. A school group, by the looks of the matching bright red shirts they all wore. They were laughing. She craned her neck and saw the object of their mirth: three clowns were chasing and tripping each other in the next ring. She looked back at the children. Their faces were almost glowing. She couldn’t remember feeling a joy that could and should be taken for granted. If not for her friends, she knew she wouldn’t even have the hope of finding that joy again. But as she shed her pain and shared her trials, she connected with others and found everyone had their own tales of woe.
One of the clowns’ wives died last year after a three-year battle with cancer. An animal trainer just found out last week that her husband was leaving her for a bank teller back home. A backup dancer who needs to have knee surgery is worried about insurance. The couple who get shot out of matching cannons together just suffered a miscarriage. So trite but true, friends sharing makes burdens lighter.
Buzzz… Buzzz… She had been daydreaming about her first job as a high-wire act for the circus when her phone buzzed and vibrated on the table.
“Guilty. 99 Years. No parole. Breathe!”
Whoooosh! She could finally release the breath she had been holding. She felt so light she thought maybe she’d float to the very top of the Big Top. Two Years. Over 2,000 miles. Lots of trips up the ladder. Lots of balancing on a thin high-wire.