“Ladies and gentlemen! Welcome to the greatest show east of the Mississippi!” Lucif, the ring master, lifted his hands in an effort to bring the crowd’s attention to him. Stragglers filed in and took any open seat. To the naked eye, Lucif looked like what you’d expect from a ring master, tall and lanky with a handlebar mustache. His red coat had gold buttons down each side. A black top hat and a cane were his signature pieces. But Lucif was not like any other ring master.
He waited until the silence was heavy wanting to be dramatic as always. “I have searched the farthest reaches of the world to bring these acts to you. From the Serengeti to the arctic tundra, my performers are here to please you and only you. And it is from the untamed Russian wilderness I give you Nikolai Kustav our world famous knife thrower.”
Nikolai emerged from the staging area, a belt of throwing knives around his waist. The crowd went wild, inflating his already large ego.
His blonde hair was cut just long enough to tussle in the wind. On the outside he was quite attractive, with his defined cheek bones and icy blue eyes. Cocky as ever he flashed a smile at the first girl he saw in the crowd. She blushed and looked away.
“And now for our volunteer. Who is brave enough to stand still while blades are thrown?” Lucif smirked at the crowd.
Not a single hand moved.
Lucif shrugged, “Well I know where one courageous soul is. Miss Alison Soulé, our very own fire dancer."
Alison stepped forward and waved at the crowd, a fake smile plastered on her face. If it had been a genuine smile, one might have called her pretty with her dark red hair and hazel eyes. She had soft features in her face but her build was muscled from years of training. A red dress draped over her shoulders and down to her feet.
She met Nicolai in the center and offered her hand as she'd practiced countless times before. Taking it, Nicolai kissed her hand passionately. Before she could turn and walk away, he drew her in and planted a kiss on her lips forcefully. Her response was dull and dead against him. She knew if she pulled away and spoiled the act there would be trouble.
"Star crossed lovers are they not?" Lucif exclaimed to the awing crowd.
When the kiss became unbearable, Alison began to push Nicolai off gently. He finally released her.
"Don't miss." She whispered.
Bringing a hand to her cheek, Nicolai brushed a loose hair behind her ear, "Wouldn't dream of it love."
Alison rolled her eyes and walked to the large wooden target set up at the end of the big top. Spreading her arms out to form a cross she waited and started to count down from one hundred. It was always the moments between the knives that scared her. Most people would be afraid of the actual knife, but she had seen too much darkness to fear such a little thing.
The crowd went quiet. You could have heard a pin drop. Nicolai threw his first knife. It landed mere inches from Alison's hip. She closed her eyes and went to the land of her dreams. If she died from an error on Nicolai's part, she'd finally be free and she wanted to die with happy thoughts on her mind.
She saw a house barely big enough for one but knew it held two. It had always been her and her mother. They'd been two peas in a pod since the day she was born.
The second knife landed with a thud above her head.
Alison saw her mother's face in her mind. Words couldn't describe her beauty. Her cheeks were a soft pink and her lips rose red. Her golden curls framed her face.
The day dream turned into a memory as she watched her mother cut carrots for the stew. Alison watched the rhythmic chopping. The blade went down and up slowly and meticulously.
Thump. The third blade made contact with the target. This time pain erupted from Alison's shoulder. She flinched for the first time in her career, bringing her arm around her body to examine. Blood slowly dripped down her arm from a gash in her shoulder.
She looked at the stunned Nicolai with murderous eyes. Nicolai swallowed hard before looking to Lucif for direction.
Lucif played it off wonderfully well, "This, ladies and gentlemen is why we call our beloved fire dancer the bravest of us all. Have no fear though, we shall take good care of her. Just a minor scratch."
Nicolai rushed to her side but she brushed him off and stormed out of the big top as Lucif talked up the next act. Zina, the circus gypsy, was by Alison's side in a flash examining the wound hastily before dragging her off through the line of tents. Zina didn't stop until they'd made it into her tent. Finally she let go of Alison's hand and motioned for her to sit down on the floor covered with cushions.
Zina went into the back of the tent to gather some rags and stitching materials. Though she was here mainly for fortune telling and palm reading, she had studied as a nurse before she joined the circus and now was called upon for any manor of illness or injury.
Nicolai stuck his head into the tent. "Alison?"
"Go away," Alison growled.
Ignoring her he stepped into the tent and went over to her. "I'm sorry. You know it was an accident right?"
"Accidents get people killed in the circus Nicolai. They happen when people get sloppy. And you've gotten sloppy!" After snapping at him, she turned her body away like a child throwing a tantrum.
Nicolai bowed his head ashamed, "Please you have to forgive me Ali."
"Don't call me that." She sneered.
Nicolai sighed, hurt, "You used to like it when I called you that."
"When will you get it through your head, we're not together anymore." Alison sat patiently as Zina came back and wiped the blood away.
Zina turned to Nicolai, "If you want to help, go get some ice from the shaved ice cart."
Nicolai jumped up and practically ran outside.
"What's the ice for?" Alison asked.
A smirk spread across Zina's face, "To get rid of Nicolai. I didn't think you needed your arm numb for my stitching this time."
Alison clenched her jaw and with a heavy sigh she nodded, "Go ahead."
As Zina began to stitch up the wound Lucif came in.
"How is she?" He stood looming over the two young women.
"It's a deep wound sir. She'll need to rest her arm for a while."
Lucif rolled his eyes, "I'll move her act to the end. That gives her an hour before she has to perform."
"Sir she shouldn't perform tonight or even tomorrow night. Her stitches could come undone." Zina tried.
He shrugged, "Then you'll stitch her up again."