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Ebooks   ➡  Fiction  ➡  Young adult or teen  ➡  Chick Lit

CIRCO

CIRCO[
**][Written by Winston
Edited by Brishen Doron
Cover Illustration by Raul Pazos
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Published by] C.O.M[[
]][(Collective Of Monsters)
(Cooperative Of Misfits)
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C.O.M (Publishing Group)[
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**][This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
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Copyright] [© C.O.M
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All rights reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any form without permission. Purchase only authorized copies. For further information contact [email protected]
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Vanessa

You are all witnesses to the trials of Vanessa Medina. Her reality was a harshly mundane existence, growing blander every day. She was desperate to jump out the routine; feeling as if life would leave her behind, if she didn’t do something that would stir a little character.

[The alarm clock blared.
6 am, Vanessa rolled out of bed in a white tank top and red boy briefs, wiping the sleep from her eyes.] [She headed out the door to start her morning chores.
]Wait,” [she heard. It was her baby sister Brenda hopping out of the same bed.
“What?! I had no idea you were there,” Vanessa asked sternly.
“I get scared and lonely,” Brenda said.
“Were you sleeping next to me the whole night?”
“Yeah, but I need somebody to sleep next to. And plus I…” Vanessa walked away.
Even though they shared a room, Brenda had her own bed; but preferred sleeping with her big sister. So each night Brenda waits for Vanessa to fall asleep, then climbs right in and when the clock tower sings in the morning, she tiptoes out undetected. However she wasn’t expecting the alarm clock today.
“Wait for me. I wanna come,” said Brenda. “Why you up so early?”
Vanessa didn’t give an answer. She was focused on finishing her morning chores early so she could fix breakfast for herself. Her mother went partying last night, as it is often. So she decided today she didn’t want to eat hangover cooking.]

She lived with her family, under the four faces of the fifth tallest clock tower in the world. Despite this fact, it was, and still is, a very poor attraction site. Practically less than a hundred people visited the site a year. Hell, half of Detroit’s population doesn’t even know it exists. It was erected on august, 20, 1914. When founded it was widely criticized about its blatant redesign of London’s famous clock tower. Hence earning the name ‘Big Ben’s ugly little sister’. After decades of upkeep costs and maintenance it became a burden on the city and in the eighties it was bought by Vanessa’s father.

[The clock tower chimed to a new day for an awakening city. She heard the family throughout the home; starting the usual every day morning rituals. Vanessa was already in the kitchen preparing a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. She had the right to do so because her chores were already finished.
She swept the main entrance way to the building and then mopped after, she did light dusting over the history section of the building. She cleaned the Men’s and Women’s bathrooms; she cleaned the mirrors with vinegar and newspaper; scrubbed the toilets with some blue stuff and a toilet brush, washed out the urinals. Yes, you read that right, she was made to wash out the urinals as well.
She was now ready to fill her belly with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and glass of milk.
]Where’s mine?” asked Brenda[[.
]]“Make it yourself,” said Vanessa[_*._] [*She didn’t sit at the breakfast table; she stood next to the counter top with her plate. She took a bite and it was euphoric. The blend of peanut butter and jelly hit her pallet just right. She took a sip of milk; it went down ice cold. She gently sways side to side and shuffles her feet. She danced when she ate; it was her weird little habit.
Kitchen lights came on. Mommy stumbled in.
]Wha re you girls doin in the dark?” she asked. [[
]][“We’re making sandwiches,” Brenda said.
“Goo, two peepu less I’ll make breakfas for.”
She jumbles through the fridge and cabinets trying to create a breakfast.
]Hwere is the Engish mahfinss? Hwere did all the bcon go? How come we ere almoos ou of eggs? Serisly you guys wha happen?” [The effect of the party was still apparent. Mommy was drunk to the point where she was literally a parody of herself. Vanessa was amused. She had seen this episode many times, it was practically a rerun.
“Mommy, maybe you should let everyone make cereal,” Brenda suggested. Unbeknownst to her she lit a match. Mommy became confrontational towards her baby girl.
“Hwa tha fawk yu trinna say?!” Mommy glared at her little girl.
“You look sleepy, is all.”
Vanessa grabbed Brenda and left before things could escalate. She pulled her sister all the way from the kitchen, passed the living room, outside the apartment into a hallway. Then up a spiraling metal stair case. They were in the clock.
“Never say I don’t do anything for you,” Vanessa said. “We’re going to stay up here until mom sobers.”
Brenda hated coming up here. All the spinning gears and the constant growl of the rotors made her nervous. She felt like she was inside an ugly giant monster. And the great bell suspended over the room was like the uvula. Brenda clutched on to Vanessa, covering her face with the skin of her sister’s thigh.
“I had a dream last night,” Vanessa said. “I was finally going to get away.”
“Was I with you,” Brenda asked.
“I didn’t see you.”
“Oh. Well was it a good dream?”
“All dreams are good. Nightmares are the ones you look out for.”
“Nightmares. I don’t like them. Those are bad dreams.”
“Not necessarily, sometimes nightmares have messages you need to pay attention to.”
“But they are about scary monsters.”
“The real monsters don’t need to be big and ugly. They look like ordinary people.”
“Those are just bad people.”
“Well there’s no such thing as good people either.”
“Whadya mean?”
“I really think no one was ever good. Good doesn’t exist. It’s an arbitrary set of ideals that has no real definition.”
“God knows who’s good. Because he takes them to heaven.”
“Oh don’t tell me… You shouldn’t believe in that?”
Brenda’s eyes widened.
“My guess is the rapture happened a long time ago and all the really good people left the Earth.” She heard a thump from below, followed by Mommy’s screams and curses. “Now we all live in a hell full of assholes. The best assholes rise to power, while the part time assholes are the lower class because they just don’t try hard enough.”
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][The Medina Family
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[*Skipping into the ring and onto the podium was the ringmaster. In a smug gesture he raises his arms and the crowd erupts for its idol.  *
“You all look like beautiful stars tonight!” The crowd’s pleasure hit him with a wave of ecstasy.
“Ladies, gentlemen, and children of all ages: you are about to witness the greatest acts of your entire lives brought to you by El Circo de Fantasias!”
*The human cannonballs went off, firing men into the air and landing on safety nets. A burst of confetti showers the audience as a boisterous tune filled the big Top. *
* And in a blink of an eye they were all gone. Mr. Sebring and his dancing jesters were replaced with static on the family’s television. The circus melody that filled their living room snapped into an erratic blare.  *
And all eyes glanced towards Vanessa. Daddy waived his hand towards the TV suggesting “Little Ms. Fix it” to solve the problem. And thus she attempted so.
*“Okay, I will try this for the last time,” she said. *
*    “That’s what you said*] the other last time [*the TV went out, and also the time before that,” complained Michael, her little brother. *
*    “Well, I wouldn’t have to keep up with it, if it weren’t for you breaking it in the first place!” *
*    “That was an accident.” *
*    “You were playing soccer in the house!” *
*    “Yeah, but I didn’t mean to!” *
*    “Oh, like when you broke the refrigerator or when you broke the air conditioner…” *
*    “Shut up!” *
*    “Or that time when you broken the coffee maker. Since you break everything I have to go right behind you and fix it.” *
*Daddy intervened; “Arguing isn’t going to make the TV come alive any quicker Vanessa.” *
*    “I’m tired of his disrespect. I should have jurisdiction over him because I’m the oldest.” *
The newspaper folded down onto daddy’s lap. “You both are right. Michael you do have a habit of breaking things. And Vanessa, you do need to shut up. Now, try to fix the damn TV.”
*Now mommy intervenes; “You weren’t even watching it, you were reading the newspaper.” *
*    “I was multitasking; you know doing two things at once,” he snapped.*
*The room paused. Then daddy turned to Vanessa, “Vanessa, my program.” *
“First, I have to get my tool box from the shed.” And she went off to get it.]

[Upstairs on the second floor laid Brenda in a clutter of crumbs from various snacks. She was watching the latest installment of a vampire-romance series. Her mouth hung open, her eyes wide and glossy; completely absorbed and fixated on these characters. Brenda was so in tune with the movie that she imagined herself as the lead character, being swept away by the romantic vampire.
While her own reality melted, her older brother Jorge was writing an article titled ‘The effect of vampires on the teenage girl’s brain.’ Brenda was his muse.
Brenda witnessed the moment when the two love interests kissed; she moaned, as though it was her ecstasy.
She heard a giggle from her brother’s direction, she saw him put his eyes away from her and refocus back to his laptop.
“Whadya writing,” she asked.
“Oh, um, I’m writing another article for my blog,” said Jorge.
“Oh, that’s cool. How is it working out?”
“Very well, I’m getting a thousand views a month now.”
A couple of moments go by and she again hears here brother off with another giggle. She gets suspicious. “Do you ever write about our family?”
“Of course you guys are my focal source of inspiration.”
“Whoduya right about the most?”
“You.”
“Whadya say about me?”
“You should read it yourself. I bet you’ll be very surprised.” And she was very surprised, years later down the line, when she finally found the motivation to read anything that was not a teeny bopper magazine. She kind of stumbled on to his website from a Google search link. She showed Mommy and Daddy. They grounded him for all the scathing articles he done on his family throughout the years. He never touched another computer till he was nineteen, when he moved out.
“Okay, I will, right after this,” said Brenda.
Julio walked into the room and plops on Jorge’s bed. “Sup.” That was his way of saying hello (all the time). “Brenda you’re watching this again?”
“Yeah, so.”
“So? It’s like porn for little girls.”
“I’m thinking more like crack,” said Jorge.
“You boys don’t get the love in the story. It’s made for little girls, so little girls are going to like it. Doesn’t make me stupid,” Brenda fussed.
“Ya know Jorge she’s right,” said Julio. “These movies don’t make little girls stupid, little girls who are already stupid just so happen to like it.”
“That’s a brilliant observation Julio.”
Brenda rolled her eyes. “Whatever, I’m still going to watch ‘em’. You boys are just being ignorant.” She licked the orange soot of Cheetos off her fingers.
Jorge and Julio were continuing to mock their baby sister, then the TV turned to static.
“Ha, the TV is dead,” instigated Julio.
“No, my Edward is gone,” Brenda sighed.
“And so is my WIFI, Brenda go and tell mom the cable modem must be out.” That prompted her to belt out from the top of her lungs for Mommy. “Momma…..Momma!”
“Brenda, GO and TELL mom the cable is out,” Jorge demanded.
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[A Reclusive Girl
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[It didn’t take the Medina family long to realize that their services were no longer operating. Their Internet and cable dropped dead like an old horse.
Without these everyday distractions that made it possible to live among one another and not with one another, they started to realize how much they couldn’t get along.
“This sucks!!!” Julio shouted. He laid, practically melting into the living room furniture, expressing his vexation. “This Sucks!!”
Jorge sat idle in the kitchen, seemingly in pain. He was going through withdrawals of his addiction, the internet.
“Give it up already,” Jorge demanded.
Big brother walks to the fridge. “I can’t help it. Can’t Skype, can’t see what my girlfriends are doing on Facebook, it feels like I’m missing out on everything.” Julio had an abundance of friends that happen to be all girls. He found girls more relatable than boys.
“I’m missing out on stuff too,” said Jorge.
“Yeah, but I’m missing out on stuff with people I know in real life, not just creeps on the internet.” Jorge saw his point, so he didn’t retort.
Daddy shouts from another room “Quite it down Brenda.”
“That’s your grown son Julio,” responded Jorge. Julio talked feminine. He was an eighteen year old male, but he could make his two younger sisters sound butch.
“Did someone scream for me?” The actual Brenda then walked in. She dropped her pudgy little body on a table seat and let out a caustic sigh. Brenda sat there and mocked being troubled in her childlike way of relating to her brothers. Jorge knew she wanted some attention but he didn’t care to amuse her, since he was actually languid. She let out an attention attracting sigh. Jorge remained unmoved. So she goes for another, and still nothing. She asked an array of insipid questions and all his replies contained two or less syllables. She understood Jorge was not in the mood so she found somebody else to bother.
“Julio, I’m bored.”
“How are you bored? You have enough books and DVDs of the same vampire love drivel to last for the rest of your life.”
“I watched all the DVDs and read all the books.”
“How?” He asked, “You have a stack of books taller than you.”
She told him that she was a small girl and Julio retorted “Only in height!” Julio laughed while Jorge tried to smother his chuckle. Brenda got off the chair and left the kitchen. As she turned away, Julio saw those hazel brown eyes gloss over in their glasses. He saw those plump little lips of hers quiver. He hit her in the place where she was most sensitive, her weight.
**]“One day she will grow up and look back on how mean I was to her,” he thought*._] [*He started to become annoyed with the sudden weight on his head; thinking about the outcomes of his words and actions towards his family. “][_It is way too early in the day to have guilt,” [he thought.
He found his sister tucked away into her room. “Come on, we’re about to have some fun.”
She popped off her bed. “You mean it?”
He went down the hall telling her to hurry up before he changed his mind. They walked out the apartment into the main hallway and approached the elevator.
He intended to take her to the salon so they both could get facials, pedicures and manicures, but an unexpected occurrence took place. He pressed the floor button and the whole car gave a violent jerk.
“We’re going to need Ms. Fix it aren’t we,” she asked.
“Well that is obvious,” he said.
Moments later they got Vanessa to resolve the problem. She inquired what happened and they explained thus so.
“Show me what you did.” He obliged and the car did not fail to fail.
]Could be the machine bearings again, or maybe the hydraulic pumps[,” she thought.
“Okay I’m going up.” From the top she removes a section of the car and slides herself in. As she peered upwards, the light from her hardhat illuminated the elevator shaft and it seemed immeasurable; stretching on and on.
She recognized the problem. She asked Julio to hoist up a socket wrench. He glanced in the tool bag and could not properly distinguish her variety of “whatchamacallit’s”. Brenda pointed to the proper tool and thus he hoisted it.
A moment had passed since Vanessa started tinkering away. From above, Brenda and Julio heard a mixture of banging and clanging. Displaying the impatience he is known for, Julio yelled “]how much longer are you going to take?”[
“I almost have it where I want it,” she said. The job was finished in no time. She was eager to be free from the cramped spacing, relieving her back from being hunched over. She comes down with grease stains all over her hands, face and shirt. Julio thought how distasteful she looked, thinking she was] fashionably retarded [in her Hardhat and safety glasses. As they went off, he saw a youthful version of Mommy with softer more delicate features. “It’s a shame,” he thought.
**]

Mommy kept to be fashion forward in public; decked from head to toe in everything designer. And she kept her little-ones in the latest styles. As Vanessa saw it; _*clothes with goofy names. The goofier the name, the more mommy will desire It._ [*She was more comfortable as a grease monkey.
Mommy told countless times to Vanessa] “look your very best with me, or l won’t be seen with you.” [Only on rare occurrences did anyone ever see Vanessa with Mommy. Looking homely was Vanessa’s own little way of rebelling from the vanity her mother edged on.
You may question why this is a deal in the family. It is because Mommy’s philosophy is] what you wear is what makes you._ [*Meaning what you wear is how people will perceive you. But Vanessa believed what she knew and what she could do defined her. And every time Mommy declared that it’s a damn shame she has her good looks, Vanessa thinks,] _*yes, except I have more intelligence.

[Julio asked Vanessa to come away with them; stating that they should all have a girl’s day out. But of course knowing Vanessa the way he did, he was forced to give into a little falsehood. And soon they left their home in the clock tower.
Julio always felt any place was more amiable than his house. He pulled away from the driveway and vexed at the eyesore in his rearview mirror. “So horrendous,” he muttered. “Hey, that’s our home,” Vanessa replied.
They both were right. Truth is; passing through Detroit; the clock tower is the ugliest thing you will come across. It is absolutely positively disagreeable in appearance. And it disheartens the Medina children to be known as the clock tower family.
“Yeah and it was a total obstacle in my social life,” Julio said. “I don’t let people know I live there anymore. After a while the funny looks get to be a bit much.”
“I wouldn’t even let that bother me,” Vanessa said. “Most of these kids out here are too stuck up any way.”
“You need to shed that attitude. I think that’s why I don’t see you with friends.”
“My problem is that I never liked assholes,] for some reason [they always bugged me. These people out here; and you can just see it in their faces. They don’t aspire to be anything.”
“Now you sound like an asshole.”
“How so? You would know. All your friends are trust fund babies.”
Julio scuffed, shook his head. “It doesn’t make since for me to look down on anybody for any reason.”
Then it became apparent to Julio why his sister had no friends. He thought it wasn’t for the reason she just gave, so he said to her “You realize you look down on those who look down on other people. Kinda hypocritical. It would make more since if you led by example, teach others. Or maybe you just like excuses for not coming out of your shell.”
He always knew his sister was a little off growing up, now it is becoming apparent how much so.
“So if you don’t like trust fund babies or assholes who do you hang out with,” Julio asked.
“With real people… Okay that sounded stupid.”
“It did…”
“But really, I hang out everywhere, where I go I meet all different types of people.” They all went quiet for a moment, because it felt like a lie. Julio wanted tranquility so he let it go. Even Vanessa didn’t buy the lie that came out her own mouth.]

Mommy shuffled her bra around in the mirror until her dirty pillows (as she called them) were in order. She turned to Daddy as he walked in with the mail. “Service for the whole area is shut down,” he said.[
**]“What’s going on,” Mommy asked.[
**]“Says here, Charter has been experiencing major technical difficulties and that services should be back up around 48 to 72 hours.”[
**]“I told you not to go with Charter we should have went with Comcast.”[
**]“Enough with the I-told-you-so’s. Since everyone is sitting around bored I figured we could visit Belle Isle. Their having a South-American arts festival.”[
**]The daylight coming through the window radiated her skin, it almost appeared to Daddy that Mommy was glowing. She tilts her head to the side letting her ponytail fall in her cleavage. Gorgeous, a former model; in her heyday a fashion magazine dubbed her ‘The best damn thing period’. Now mid forties and her face slightly weathered, it was near impossible to book a decent ad campaign for any perfume or clothing brand. Despite looking older she kept the shape even after five kids; that fact made Daddy worship her.[
**]“Why do you want to go there?”[
**]“Because we are Hispanic,” he says with cocked eyebrows.[
**]“Yeah, but we’re too white washed. None of us speaks Spanish. We are just brown people at this point. Your parents aren’t even from Mexico they’re from California.”[
**]“That’s still Mexico.”[
**]She doesn’t argue. Daddy laid on the bed with eyes toward the ceiling and asked “are we okay?” She knew exactly what he meant; she tried to find the words that would sound good to him.[
**]“We’re functioning.” After those words left her mouth, she realized how cold of an answer that really was; it sounded better in her head. “We don’t hate each other. We are not an unloving family,” she said. He turned his head to her, but didn’t say anything. “Okay I have my complaints.”[
**]“With me?”[
**]“No, not with you, I would have told you by now.”[
**]“The kids?…..Vanessa.” He spoke under his breath, like the name was afraid to poke out from his mouth. He was nervous where the conversation was headed. And, so was she.

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[The Blow up
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[An hour after a reluctant Vanessa was persuaded to enter the day spa, he noticed her uptight ways were softening. Vanessa, Julio and Brenda first hit the body massage. They wore towels and laid face first on beds with a hole. It took Brenda a moment to understand her face goes there. The massage therapists rubbed every single strain of tension out of them. Vanessa got rubbed just right; she didn’t have a care in the world anymore. Any where those magic hands touched her caused invigoration. Her masseuse, a mid-twenties brunette, told Vanessa, as she rubbed, that she was holding a lot of tension. “Are you stressed,” she asked.
“You have no idea,” she groaned.
“Are you worried about college?”
“I’m nowhere near college. I’m going into my junior year of high school.”
“Really? How old are you?”
“Only sixteen.”
“Oh my gosh. Don’t take this as on offence, you look much older.” She didn’t, she took it as a compliment. In her head, it said she could get away with a lot more, if she tried. Vanessa blossomed very early in life, although she didn’t have her mother’s ample figure yet, she could still pass off for an eighteen year old. She was also tall, very tall for somebody with Mexican heritage; she stood at five feet and eight inches, that’s practically unheard of in the Hispanic community. She never really found good use of her older appearance. She didn’t hate the fact that she looked older, nor did she embrace it too well, she just accepted herself as she was.
“None taken, I get it all the time.”
Soon they moved onto the wet sauna. Julio kept his towel on, Brenda and Vanessa put on robes. They sat there for ten minutes, letting the heat dissolve them. Soon after it was too much for Brenda, so she waited outside in the lobby. The chubby girl kept herself completely entertained by cookies, cakes, and cream pie the guests were offered.][[
]][Vanessa and Julio were all alone for a moment. He took that opportunity to pick her emotions. It took him a moment to muster up the courage to ask this. “Do you ever feel like you hate yourself?”
“No,” she said. But the truth was, she was unsure how she felt about herself. She didn’t hate herself, but she didn’t like herself either.
He quickly moved on. “Do you hate the family?”
“I don’t hate the family, I wouldn’t say hate.”
“So, how do you feel?”
“I feel like I was born into a bad relationship. If it were a movie, it would be filled with skipped scenes, bland dialogue, and no one wanted to play their character.”
“I feel the same way too, somewhat, I know I haven’t been much of a brother, that’s why I’m taking you and Brenda out right now. I have love for you. I know that the whole family loves you. And I know you won’t agree with this but Mommy loves you the most.”
“That’s not true.”
“It is true, she sees how gorgeous you are, and it’s like you don’t care to live up to it.”
“I don’t.”
“And that’s why she projects anger onto you. You’re her favorite, you just don’t know it.”
“In an ordinary family, parents are not supposed to have a favorite child.”
“When has our family ever been ordinary?”
She smirked.
“Face it Vanessa, your Mommy’s favorite because you’re the only one that took in her looks. Everyone else; me, Brenda, Jorge, and Michael take from Daddy. He is not an ugly man, but it sure would have been nice to have Mommy’s beauty.”
He paused, but then goes right back into it. “And that’s probably why I don’t play the brother character, because you’re so unappreciative, of what you have. Your Mommy’s favorite, she loved you the most, she always has. And that is why I resent you…. a little… But I’m trying to get over it.”
“By the way she gets drunk, Mommy doesn’t even love herself, so she couldn’t possibly have love for me?” she said.
Julio breathes in deep. He gives up. He grabs her hand and kisses the back of her palm. “Come on, we been in here long enough.”
**
When the Medina family sat down for dinner that night, the first few minutes were consumed by an intense silence. Daddy had an idea what was about to take place; he kept his eyes at his plate. Vanessa felt it coming, she sensed it in the air, and to her it was like the quiet before a storm. Brenda tried flashing a big smile but no one noticed. Julio saw Mommy stare daggers into the favorite, he kept quiet, and so did Jorge. Jorge felt like it wasn’t his place to get involved. But, if something crazy goes down, he sure as hell was going to blog about it. All anyone could hear was the stabbing of forks onto the plates.
Mommy thought about it for a while; thinking how she could segue into to the topic. The topic her and Daddy discussed earlier, the topic of Vanessa,] the problem child. Their plan was to talk it out as a family, which seemed like the best option[[. It’s what any normal family would do. To talk it out, right?
]][She needed a moment, trying to find the right words.
“I’m glad we are all here today,” said Mommy. “Today we’re going to be sharing our feelings.” The children snickered, they couldn’t help it, but Mommy continued. “We’re going to let it all out, share what we feel about….”
“I hate how you push me. I’m never going to be you; I don’t ever want to be you…”, Vanessa said.
**]And, so it begins[, thought Daddy.
“I hate how you say it’s a shame that I have your looks. I hate how you get into fights with us. You know why you do these things, it’s because you’re a drunk….,” Vanessa continued on with degrading remarks.
Her own daughter’s words went through her like a red-hot iron rod. Mommy felt something click inside her, as if a visceral switch had been set off. She heard her own voice pop in her head. “]That ungrateful little bitch. How dare she talk to me like that, after I tried to give her everything? Who does she think she is? She is spoiled rotten. I’ll teach her. Oh I’ll teach her damn good.”[
“You drive me to drink, you ungrateful bitch!” Mommy shouted. “I drink to forget about you, and the trouble you cause me!” She let out everything in her lungs. Her face went red, eyes turned blood shot. She was hurt.
Daddy tried to mediate “Hey guys calm down. Vanessa, you’re in the wrong for that, apologize to your mother.”
“What do you mean calm down, she is attacking me,” said Mommy.
Daddy grabbed Mommy by the forearm and squeezed tight. “Relax, I am on your side. Vanessa say you’re sorry right now.”
“I don’t have to apologize. She opened this up for herself. I’m letting it all out, sharing how I feel!” she said mocking her mother.
Brenda for a second lost all color, then turned into a pulsating red. Her cheeks were damp from her tears. Watching her family scream at each other had given her too much excitement. Julio acted quickly, he took his baby brother and sister out into the hallway where they shouldn’t hear the yelling. Jorge was turning on his cell phone, he wanted to video record this event for his blog.
“I have given you everything. Everything! Me and your father have provided you with food, the clothing on your back, and shelter for your entire life!” Mommy pointed her finger at Vanessa as she hollered.
“You just don’t like being checked!”
“Who the hell are you to judge me!? I’m the mother! Since I brought you in this world, I can take you out of it! That’s a check for your ass!” The finger got closer to Vanessa’s face. “You need to learn your place, little girl. And listen to what I have to say and do as I tell you!”
“You expect me to do that, when you come home drunk off your ass?!”
Daddy tried to hold down Mommy. “Hey, hey, hey come on now Vanessa you know our lifestyle. We like to get away for a moment.”
“Give me all the food costs I have spent on you over the years, give me all the clothes back, give me back every vacation I took you on….,” Mommy said.
Vanessa jumped. “Step back! Don’t put your hand in my face!”
Mommy grabbed her glass and threw merlot at her daughter. It was her favorite brand of old world wine; definitely not a cheap bottle. The alcohol dripped off of Vanessa’s face, her clothes were stained with the dark red liquid. “Now! Sit there, like a good child!”
“Don’t call me your child!”
Vanessa picked up the edge of the table, hoisting it up towards her mother. Jorge couldn’t believe what he saw. He didn’t know she had that strength, neither did Vanessa. Drinks spilled everywhere, food flew off the table. Daddy lost all his might when he saw the table shoved. Mommy got up, slapped her daughter across the face. “I hate you,” said Vanessa.
“I hate you too,” replied Mommy. And then she slapped the other cheek.]

Julio held Brenda and Michael, he kept them curled in his arms as they sat on the floor, outside the hallway. Julio tried to get them away from it, but they heard everything; all the commotion. Michael kept quiet, but Brenda continued to cry. Julio kissed her forehead to comfort her. He thought to himself _*this is what a good big brother would do._ [*He wasn’t completely surprised how his family snapped. Everyone held some animosity to another. But with Mommy and Vanessa, they built up the most resentment over the years.
**
Vanessa shoved Mommy back against the stove. “Don’t hit me! Don’t you ever put you fucking hands on me!” she shrieked. Daddy seemed to be in a state of shock. He just sat back with his mouth open like he was watching some trashy reality show. But it was real life, his life, displaying itself right in front of him.] Don’t just sit there old man, do something get involved; stop this now, he thought. But this moment he was a man who felt no might. When Vanessa pushed Mommy into the stove the walls shook. That even scared Jorge. He dropped his cell phone, on the table, forgetting that it was still recording. He told his father to do something, snap out of it and do something. [[
]]Daddy jumped in between the brawlers, held is forearm against Vanessa chest. Even he felt like he should guard himself from his own daughter. [“Jorge, call the cops, now.”
“That’s what I’m doing right now,” said Jorge as he pretended to dial.
“Please stop, for the love of god. Please,” pleaded Daddy. “We’re not that family, I don’t want to be this type of family. Me and your mother haven’t been perfect parents, but you’re not the perfect daughter. Apologize right now young lady.” His tone of voice sounded like a kid rising against a big bully.
**]“I’m sorry that I’m not sorry.”[
“I screwed up with you,” Mommy said. She spoke under her breath but everyone could still hear her. “I screwed up with you bad. I blame myself for you. That you turned out this way.” Jorge stepped over to his mother he tried to grab her, but she shook him off. She stepped over closer to Vanessa “I’m going to get you some help baby. You need help…”
Vanessa kicked her in the stomach. Mommy dropped to her knees, held her tummy and whimpered. Vanessa felt like she was trying to be manipulated. “You’re the one that needs help!” she shouted. He had no choice now; Daddy restrained Vanessa to the floor. He held her down as she kicked and scratched at him. He slapped her. He had enough.
**
The clock tower sung its lullaby, letting Detroit know it was time for bed.
She was kicked out, with two full suitcases. She watched her father lock the steel cage fence in front of her. As he walked away she thought to herself if he looks back than she’ll be just fine. He didn’t.
Vanessa turned to the city, she saw Detroit now in a different light. It looked bigger. It felt more dangerous. The sounds of the city were coming at Vanessa from every direction. She thought she heard chatter off into the distance. And then laughter came from another direction. Her family wasn’t from Detroit originally, so she couldn’t go to any family that wasn’t in the clock tower. She had no friends, but you already know that. She realized how alone she was. She wanted her hand to be held. She was still a little girl. A little girl, facing the big world all on her own. A world that seems to be colliding into her all at once.
**]

[Artemis
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You are all about to endeavor [into the reckless last days of Mr. Artemis Sebring. Life was a game and he played the game of life like he had a pair of dice. He was a total glutton for fun. Before his end, he was given the moniker “a proudly immature man”.
**]

[Thirty minutes to show time.
Mr. Sebring, an old and withered man walked into his set trailer that embroidered his name. He was already in full makeup and his usual showmen attire; lavish red jacket, white gloves, eye monocle, fancy boots, and it were topped off with a top hat.] [[
*“Okay, okay, okay I just have to do it this one more last time,”]] [*he said to himself.
**][He didn’t turn on the lights; he kept himself in the dark, he didn’t want anybody to know he was there. He tossed the top hat, heading straight for his wooden maple desk. He sits down. Pulls out the drawer….
][[Don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it. How much more can your body take. Okay just do it this last time.”
]][…And takes out a little brown baggy. He scooped out its contents with the edge of a switchblade. He shook a little off; he just needed enough to come back to life. He held it under his nose, snorted, and became God.
He physically felt nothing, his body went numb, his pupils became large and his heartbeat went rapid; he heard it himself, sounding like the hoofs of a charging mustang. The old man was done away with and replaced by a chipper more exuberating fellow; reminiscent of a phoenix rising from the ashes. He owned the world for about fifteen minutes.
He had convinced himself that coke could be used like a performance enhancer. He would snort before going onstage and would perform a hell of a lot better. Coke, while high, kept him young; kept his pep up for years in the circus industry, hardly ever losing a step.
**
Twenty five minutes to show time.
He walked over to the blinds, pulled them up, and welcomed all the lights. Moon light, pole lights and lights from the big top pushed his shadow to the wall. His shadow stood about a foot taller than him. The shadow looked down upon Mr Sebring.
“Don’t look at me like that,” he said. “It is no fair for you to be judging me, old man.” He pulled up a chair. “I am running at a hundred percent.” His shadow took a seat as well. “I am young again. I will blow them away like I always do.” Artemis rubbed his hand back through his hair and shadow did the same.
“I will go down in the history books as the greatest entertainer of all time. Do you know why?”
**]His shadow didn’t care to reply.[
“Because of longevity. I am well over three decades in this business. And respected by all sorts of entertainers because I act, sing, dance, and do comedy all in a night. The children, back then, who grew up watching me on television and begging their parents to be taken to my show, now bring their children to see me.”
He leaned back in his chair feeling proud of that fact.
“And you think that is pathetic?”
He picked up his top hat from the floor; placed it on his head and traced his fingers along the brim. His fans thought it always completed him.
“All you ever do is follow me around.” He comes closer to the wall and the shadow went down to his level. “You’re here to just copy every single movement. It’s like the universe gave you to me to record everything I do. That is such an awful existence you have.” Mr. Sebring walked out of his trailer.]

[Fifteen minutes to show time.
He swaggered towards the direction of the big top. It was 360 feet long by 240 feet wide. It was 50 feet tall at its highest point. It took nearly fourteen hundred employees (majority of them non-performers) 6 dozen animals and a privately owned train to bring Artemis’s version of circus magic to life, each day in a new community.
The employees were scattered about, attending to assigned booths; offering oncoming patrons elephant ears, fried Twinkies, popcorn, hot dogs, etc…
Kids were getting their faces painted before they were to witness the spectacles that were about to unfold in the tent. People were buying Mr. Sebring memorabilia, shirts, hats, buttons, trading cards, posters and even bobble heads plastered with his face. Seeing all the happy faces filled him with a surge of vanity.
He opened a back flap to the tent known as the “back door”, that was the performer’s entrance to the big top.
Crew members and performers were getting things ready behind the scenes. He passed by his main jugglers, Jake and Andre, warming up, hoisting bowling pins in the air.
A trumpet blasted from the back; it was an excited Maggie. She was a 9 foot tall, 3,300 pound African elephant. Maggie flapped her massive ears back and forth creating gusts of wind that Mr. Sebring could feel across the room. She sounded off her loud trumpet; brimming with anticipation. Her handlers kept her preoccupied until she went on.
**
Ten minutes to show time.
He kept moving forward, passing others by. He went to the side arch where he could look out onto the crowd, behind a big curtain. Once again he saw a full tent, packed, not one empty seat in sight. He was ready to] Knock em’ dead[.
He comes off the arch.] [[Deep breath, slow exhale.
]][Out came a voice that was silk and tender. “Hello, Mr. Sebring.” Britney approached him. She had a body that didn’t quit; curves for miles, a perfect tan complexion, and a Mega watt smile.
“We meet again, my Britney. How are things?”
“Things are going quite well Mister…..”
He hardly paid attention to a word she said, his attention was owned by her voluptuousness. She was decked out in a feathery get up, trimmed in lace, sparkles around her cleavage and her derrière; she left little to the imagination. Artemis’s imagination.
His eyes stayed at her lips][_*,_] [*plump and bright, she redefined the color red she wore.
After yapping about herself she introduced him to this young girl, barely eighteen, skinny. Standing next to Britney she looked like a plank.
“This is Joyce our latest recruit. I was impressed with her audition and I decided to give her a shot”, Britney said.
“Welcome to our family,” said Artemis.
“Hi,” she replied; just as nervous as she was young.
“Have you ever done show business before?”
“No, but I am no stranger to crowds.” She shivered as she talked. “I was the first runner up in Michigan’s annual gymnastics competition.”
“That sounds remarkable. Are you nervous?”
“No sir.”
Artemis nodded his head toward Solomon as he was being let out of his cage. A rare African white lion, bought straight off the black market, it cost him a very large penny. She glanced over and quickly refocused her attention to Artemis. He saw her eyes widen and her stance stiffened.
“Are you sure?”
Britney spoke up “Quit hassling the newbie. I hired her because she is going to replace Corey as our new trapeze girl.” Britney put her arm around Joyce.
“Thank god, I couldn’t stand Corey, she was just miserable to be around,” Artemis said.
“I know, everyone hated her. She was the biggest pain to deal with on the job. Always complaining, always late for rehearsals, always asking stupid questions; she was never on my good side. So by the time I caught her and Rob having sex in the cabins, I fired her.”
“Rob the techie?! When did this happen?”
“About a week ago. I asked Rob why he would even bother with her. Yeah, Corey had a face on her but she was annoying. He tells me, just like this, ‘I don’t know’. I said what do you mean you don’t know, he says ‘after I did it, I don’t know why I did it for’. I asked then why did you pork her in the first place. He gave me no answer. And then he left to be with Corey.”
“Oh, I liked Rob, he was funny. So now I have to fill his position also.”
Britney chatted away, like she does, almost cut Joyce out of the discussion, but she caught herself “I’m sorry Joyce did you have a question for Mr. Sebring.”
She went “um.”] [
**]Think of something quick.[
“After all the success you had, over the decades, where do you want to go from here?”
“That’s a very good question.” And it was, she now intrigued him.] [“I don’t want to go anywhere with it. I just want to discover where I already am. I perform to make images, to exercise creativity, to express my vision, and to examine who I am. I like to sell tickets, and it makes me happy when others like my work, but what other people think of it has virtually nothing to do with my motivation and goals. Entertaining is not a destination or a journey for me. It’s meditation, introspection, recreation…. It’s richest for me when I’m going nowhere at all.”
Britney was warmed by that answer.
**][
**][Showtime.
He hears the voice of his announcer over the drum roll. “Okay, that’s me,” he says. He offered Joyce a little bit of knowledge to ease her nerves “It’s show business, not brain surgery, have fun my little darling.” She stopped shivering. He offered a hand shake and she took it. His eyes traced from her delicate wrist, all the way up her arm, then to her face.] Her skin was like Hershey’s chocolate kisses, dark and gorgeous.[
**]He stepped back on the arch, the curtain came up and everything went white.

[
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[Help Wanted
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Mr. Artemis Sebring awoke in a luxury hotel in the city of Detroit. He felt the same weight as somebody emerging out of a pool; his legs were weak and his arms were heavy. He couldn’t get his eyes open, he almost didn’t care. Sleeping in 1000 count cotton sheets has an intoxicating tranquility. He heard someone shout his name. “Aw’ hell,” he thought. Right then he was too relaxed. Living life constantly going to bed in different cities can have an insomniac effect. But this was a rare moment for him, being subdued by the sleeping bug. He heard his name again. Please go away, he thought. It came once more. He forced himself to sit up on the bed. Aches and pains came to greet him for the morning. He caught a glimpse of his reflection in a window; he scoffed at the sight of the old man. Deep breath, slow exhale.[
There was a knock on the door. Someone called for him again. He groaned. He tried to wait, to see if they would leave, but whoever didn’t. “Give it a rest. Come back in fifteen minutes,” he shouted. He hated shouting; he thought it made him seem more like a grumpy old man.
He decided he couldn’t deal with the morning. He reached for the brown baggy to get a bump. With the tip of his pinky finger he scooped out a little powder and snorted. Then the sweet morning sunshine beamed into his hotel room. The aches and pains drifted away and the feeling of] goodness [came upon him. It was as if something inside of him was singing. He practically bound out of bed. Artemis was ready for a new day.
He headed over to the bathroom to start the usual morning rituals. He saw his shadow with its arms crossed, shaking its head in disapproval. “Seriously, don’t bug me this morning,” he said. “I just need to wake myself up. That dosage was harmless; it is practically the equivalent to a cup of coffee.” He took his morning wiz then started the shower.
After he got himself all squeaky clean the knock on the door came back. He opened it with just a towel around him. It was Steve his personal assistant. He was a scrawny kid from the suburbs who grew up watching Artemis’s specials on television; now living a fantasy working for his childhood idol.
“Artemis,” he said. “I came to tell you, that there is only twenty minutes left until your interview with channel 9.”] [[That was right, careless old fool, how could you forget?
]][He hurried into a costume that was set aside last night; scrambled out of the hotel and into the car; speeding towards Cobo Arena.
“We were waiting for you to get up,” said Steven.
“Well, what can I say? I had some good sleep. Get my wife on the phone. Tell her, if I can’t make it, start without me.”
By the time he got there, he had missed his interview entirely. The reporter was already gone and there was no film crew, which dented his mood. He never was around a camera he didn’t like. Sometimes fame can have that effect on you; make you a total whore for attention. Mr Sebring desired the same amount of attention as a teenage girl, and acted as such if he didn’t get it. Well, when he was alive.
But, his wife went through the interview smoothly; she looked elegant and spoke articulately. She made El Circo de fantasias brand look good.
Mrs. Natalie Sebring is the wife of Artemis. For both of them this is a second marriage. Their relationship was based on complete vanity, how she looked on his arm and what social ladder he could place her on. But, they both were unaware of the others true motives for nuptials. She wanted to branch off his fame, he wanted a bragging piece.
He helped raise her daughter Scarlett from a previous marriage. At this point Scarlett was already in her teens. And, she wasn’t the biggest fan of the old man’s work, and she let him know. It didn’t bother Scarlett that her mother was married to a black man that was 32 years older than her. It bothered her because] _*Mr. Sebring was a total freak._ [*However, Artemis chose to keep blind of this reality.
Deep down, he knew his wife was only interested in money and his stepchild hated him. But, with every huff of cocaine, that little voice of rationality gets smothered and muffled.
**
**][Vanessa awoke in a motel room, the walls dingy and the air had a muggy odor. She at least had decent cable channels that distracted her from the reality of the situation. She was in the Knight’s Inn Motel on the outskirts of the city. It was practically four walls and a bathroom, but it only cost forty dollars a night, so she couldn’t complain.
It had been six days since she last saw any of her family members. She missed them, though she wouldn’t admit it to herself. Nevertheless, she did. When you live with the same people you know for your entire life, you can’t help to grow comfortable to their faces. She was picturing them in her mind. And, that’s where they stayed, when she was gone; all of them, in her head. Most of all, she missed her little sister Brenda. She missed the way Brenda would follow her like a lost puppy when she would leave a room. She came to the realization that Brenda was, after all, her best friend, and she felt sad, coming late to that conclusion. She should have treated her better like a good sister would, should have shown her appreciation. Should, would, could… but she didn’t.
She pictured Brenda in her bed jumping up and down. “I don’t mind,” she said to an empty room. “It’s all yours now.” She caught herself talking to nobody, which scared her a little. Everyone talks to themselves, everyone. It’s just scary to walk upon someone when they’re doing it. She caught her own reality like it was a virus, and this fever got worse every day. She knew she wasn’t going back home. She was on her own, at the age of sixteen. Kicked out the nest like a baby bird.
On the night of her family giving her the boot, she spent those lonely cold hours at a 24hr Wal-mart. The third shift employees noticed her, in the same position – on the floor in Isle 9 – but not one said a word to her. Neither a ‘can I help with anything miss?’ nor a ‘are you looking for something?’ Not even a ‘hello, how are you doing?’ She stayed quiet with magazines. She never read them; she just looked at all the pretty faces.
That was another habit of hers. Every time Daddy had an outing for the supermarket Vanessa would tag along and follow him through the isle with her nose in the magazines. Daddy knew she wasn’t reading any of them. He knew that she liked all the pretty boys. It sometimes worried him because at times she would be in a fantasy with these images. But he shook it off; he didn’t want to start an argument.]

Beanie caps, high waist jeans and t shirts with ironic statements were sprawled all over the floor. Her favorite t-shirt read ‘World’s Greatest Soccer Mom’. Vanessa liked it because that was her little subliminal message. _*I Will Grow Up To Be a Better Mom Then You._ [*Her mother would scorn every time she saw Vanessa in it.
Vanessa switched on the laptop and browsed for music. She just needed a distraction from her thoughts. She found a few artists who are out of the mainstream eye. She listened to Santigold, Yacht, Animal Collective, Odd Future, Best Coast, Childish Gambino and Joanna Newsom. Practically artists you never heard of. She believed their music had the ability to identify with her individualism. Heaven forbid if her indie darlings ever get played on top forty radio, she would disown them, dropping them like hot potatoes. Because the idea of relating to the majority appalled her. Strange isn’t it? She was a nonconformist. The best nonconformist around, she didn’t even associate with other nonconformists, because nonconformist of today’s generation have a habit of imitating one another. That was a little excuse she would tell herself. An excuse for her loneliness. Truth is Vanessa didn’t make friends or have a casual acquaintance like a person with normal social skills would have had. She was a little awkward when socializing. She was the type of girl that had to struggle to make friends. As we all know how school children tend to be, they don’t take kindly to the awkward. So for years she was to herself. Mix this formula with her already dysfunctional family and that resulted in a tormenting isolation.
As the music played she opened another web browser. Went on PerezHilton and browsed through all the pretty faces.
She was lost and she knew it, she felt it. She felt like she was lost in an author’s imagination; a wicked and cruel author who bullied his characters, making their lives harder with every turn of the page. And in the end the main protagonist would end their own misery, either dropping out of a ten story building or walking in front of a bus; or something cliché and dramatic. But no, this was her reality. It was just hard for her to process.
She touched the side of her face where Daddy slapped her. There was no pain but she still winced at it.
**]

[
**]Timsley O’Brian walked over to Artemis and tapped his shoulder with a rolled up newspaper. “This is all for your amusement isn’t it,” he asked. “You just want to see me work hard, bust me hide and slave. Do you?”[
**]“I don’t like watching you sweat believe me,” said Artemis. “Because I know your body musk lingers afterwards.”[
**]Two good old friends for decades, way before your time; Timsley was one of Artemis’s first employees, back when he was getting the brand off the ground. A straight go to guy. Timsley was the head theater technician.

“[Then why are you tryin’ to set me up for failure,” Timsley asked.
“I don’t set you up for failure,” retorted Artemis. “You’re just prone to fail and I just laugh when you do it. You’re a failure, you fail, get away from me. I don’t want your lack of success to rub off on me.”
Don’t let their tones fool you. They respected their positions towards one another on the job, but after that they bickered like brothers.
“I quit,” said Timsley. He then acted like he was walking off.
“You better not quit I own you. You signed you soul to me remember?”
A few heads turned and then refocused to whatever they were doing.
Timsley as Artemis would describe was the most Irish person he had ever met. And this isn’t only because of his stocky body, drywall white skin or his burning hair. It’s that he embodied all the stereotypes associated with being Irish. Excessive drinking; he drank Guinness for breakfast. Nobody can remember a time, working with him; they can recall Timsley eating anything besides potatoes, bacon or cabbage. His family back in the mother country was sheep herders. And he actually owned a pair of bagpipes he would sometimes practice in his quarters back on the train. The only thing anybody wasn’t sure of if he believed in little green people at the end of the rainbow.
“Why did you fire my techie without consulting me?” asked Timsley.
“I didn’t fire Rob, he quit. Because he was caught…. Wait, wait a minute. I don’t consult you, you consult to me.”
“He quit,” Timsley’s mouth popped. “He didn’t put in a two weeks’ notice.”
“Don’t tell anybody else this. But…” Timsley nodded his head while Artemis spoke with discretion. “Rob was caught having sex with one of the tightrope girls.”
“Which one?”
“I can’t tell you.”]

“[It was Corey wasn’t it?”
“Damn you be quiet. Britney walked in on them so she…”
“Britney was there too?!”
“Shut the hell up.” Artemis shuffled his head around to see if anyone was still paying them attention. No one was. “So she fired Corey, and Rob ran off with her, supposedly.”
“Oh I liked Rob,” Timsley said like a boy who lost his toy.
“Me too. He was funny as hell. I didn’t care for Cory at all, just whiny spoiled little girl.”
“I know. It’s weird thinking that they hooked up together.”
They paused for a second. And then shuddered.
“Is it going to be hard replacing him,” Artemis asked.
Timsley told him that a craigslist ad was put up; he received a few phone calls and gave brief phone interviews. One person had seemed to have good qualifications, but his hopes weren’t up. He told the ringmaster there was a sit-down interview scheduled in about thirty minutes.]

“[I’m going with you, I don’t need another freak on my train,” said Artemis. Timsley’s eyes went wide and he scuffed just a little.
“Alright, well, um, were going to be meeting her at a Starbucks. I told her to bring a resume.” Timsley said. “Can your little errand boy Steve drive us?”
“I have him doing other errand boy things at the moment. I don’t need him right now. I brought Shelby.” A smile perked up Timsley’s face so genuinely the ringmaster couldn’t help but to smile back.]

They walked out the arena doors and entered the parking lot where Shelby awaited them. He turned the ignition and Shelby awoken from her slumber. Artemis slammed on the pedal and shifted gears. Shelby howled like a banshee. Smoke casted from the rolling tires, Timsley could smell them burning. Artemis’s head threw back. And they were gone. A cloud raised itself to the sky. Two black streaks were left behind.

Any car collector would vouch, that a 1968 GT500 Shelby Cobra Mustang was a rare breed. Top notch American muscle. Artemis’s bought his Shelby 2 years ago for 150,000 dollars. It was fully restored with a new engine. It was originally a candy painted blue, but Artemis switched it for a red color.[
**]“Where were you hiding this?” Timsley asked.

I tucked it away in the last compartment. Before the tour began,” said Artemis.

Artemis approached a stop light, two older white males in an opposite lane gave him a stare and Artemis replied with a wink.

Before the job interview they grabbed a quick bite to eat at McDonald’s and resumed on their way. They blasted some good old Jimmy Hendrix on the iPod deck. When all along the watchtower faded out, Timsley noticed a peculiar ticking from the car.[
**]“What the hell is that?” asked Artemis.[
**]“Sounds like your car is taking a dump,” replied Timsley.[
**]“Thank you for articulating that for me, Timsley,” retorted Artemis.[
**]“Glad to help.”[
**]He didn’t have any time with the tour to take it to a mechanic. He hated to hear his baby whine. He also hated the feeling of his hands being tide. When it came to automotives Artemis’s was just a rich kid who could buy a lot of toys. When it came to repairs, he knew nothing of the sorts. Timsley didn’t know much either. Artemis asked if Timsley could send one of his techies to give it a glance. Timsley figured he could.

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Interview [
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[They arrived 15 minutes early at Starbucks. Artemis popped the trunk and tried to see if he could resolve the problem himself. He couldn’t. The inside of Shelby looked like a convoluted mess. He slammed the trunk pissed at how illiterate he was. He cursed. He shook his fist. He saw his oldest friend’s reaction which made him embarrassed.
“See if she’s there would you?” he said. A dainty little sweet thing of a voice came from behind Timsley.
“I’m right behind you.” To Artemis the interviewee was too young to have had the qualifications Timsley spoke of. She was practically jailbait. She was a tall girl somewhere just under 6 foot, without the heels she would be shorter, but with them she met eye to eye with Timsley. She was a little on the slim side, Tim’s frame could engulf her image from Artemis. She had her ebony hair in a ponytail that dangled long, reminding him of a whip ready to snap. She was gorgeous. She had supermodel good looks. It’s odd because these types aren’t the ones vying to be a theater technician; these were the types that wanted to live on the stage.
Timsley put out his hand, she took it and gave her name; “Selena Santana.” Artemis told them to get acquainted inside and he would join them later. He pulled his trusty brown baggy thinking he needed to ease his nerves. He carefully pulled a bump out and peeled the wrapping carefully. Scooped a little with his key and inhaled. He wanted the powder to bring him back down to tranquility. He got his wish.
After he walked inside, Artemis extended his hand to the young lady. “Hello, nice to meet you. I am Artemis Sebring.” He tried to keep his poise; tone very cordial and professional.
“I know who you are,” she said. She had a glimmer in her eyes. Star struck. But he allowed it, he thought that people couldn’t help themselves when they saw him; after all he was famous. “Me and my family watch you on television.”
“Well thank you for the flattery.”
She gave him a giggle. She faked it well enough to make him seem funny. He knew he wasn’t funny off stage, not the slightest bit. She was just putting her best foot forward; the foot she wanted to get in the door.
Artemis got right down to business. “This is how your interview is going to work, were going to be running a brief history of my company to you….uh miss. I’m sorry, I forgot your name. Miss?”
She opened her mouth to answer but Timsley beat her to it. “Miss Selena Santana.” He rolled his tongue as he said her name then sipped his coffee.
“We’ll be giving you a little bit of what the job requires and giving you some questions. Sounds good?”
“Sounds good,” she replied.
“Basically were trying to see if this will be the right fit for us.”
Timsley interrupted “I have a feeling it will.” She gives him a smile.
“Still we have to interview you and go through proper procedures.”
“I’m sorry before you begin Artemis. I just want to let you know Selena that this position requires you to be over eighteen. How old are you exactly?
“I just turned twenty-one not too long ago.”
“Really wow you look a lot younger.”
“Everybody says that.”
“Don’t take it as an offence when you’re a lot older you’ll appreciate it.”
“Mostly people say I still look eighteen….”
“Really?” said Artemis. “I was guessing eighteen but in a really good light you would pass for sixteen.”
She laughed it off. “OH wow gosh.”
“No way, that wouldn’t be legal,” said Timsley.
Artemis gave his friend a funny look and refocused on his interview.
“I started my company in 1975….” He gave her a rundown of how it all began. He read from a clipboard. She was in some way set back by the professional sounding man in front of her. She had an image in her mind that Mr. Sebring was always jolly, prancing and singing in sparkly outfits. But she felt this wasn’t an interview with the entertainer, this was an interview with Mr. Sebring entrepreneur. He went on for 5 minutes about his accolades and another ten about what the job requires. His tone was very dry. But she kept with him.
“Okay now Selena this is the Q and A portion of the interview,” said Artemis. He gave her 12 questions she nailed them, every last one. She didn’t stumble, she didn’t hesitate; she owned the interview. He asked her if she was comfortable living on a train for the duration of the tour. She told him it would be an adjustment but she could settle.
He asked her about her experiences, she told him she earned her bachelor’s degree at Notre Dame. She whipped out her resume. Timsley and Artemis eyes scampered across the sheet of paper. They were impressed. But in Artemis’s head there was a small itch he had for this young and impressive woman. He couldn’t place it exactly. He sensed a small fraction in her character. From the thirty years he’d been dealing with the entertainment business, signing deals, getting interviewed on television, meeting fans, having wild rumpuses with groupies, he obtained the ability to read people. What he saw was this fakeness to Selena’s character. The longer the interview went it became clear to him that Selena Santana was hiding behind some type of mask. She was almost a little too good to be true. He started to second guess her credentials. He wondered about that for a moment while still keeping the momentum of the interview.
Timsley had his turn asking questions. He couldn’t see what Artemis saw, he was stuck in the marvel of this young woman. Their Q and A had finished. He was going to rap everything up until he decided to ask this “Do you have any questions for us Miss Santana?”
“I sure do. With every show you give what impression do you want to leave the audience?”
Artemis had to think about it for a moment. “That the performance I gave was heartfelt. And that I was genuine.” He said that last portion slowly to see if she would give a small flux in her body language. She didn’t. She gave him a smile, a wide one, but she didn’t show teeth. She had more questions for him and he answered with the best of his ability. He soon wrapped up the interview with this line, “We still have people were trying to interview, if something is available we will call you.”
They all stood up from the booth. Selena’s resume was left on the table. Timsley gave Artemis a look that said] what the hell are you talking about[.
The lady didn’t like that at all; she felt the rejection in his voice. She was a lady that wanted the job so she had to go the extra mile for it. She told him “I know what’s wrong with your car.” She headed outside.
“That’s not necessary; I’ll just take it…” She was already out the door. Timsley then walked out behind her, and Artemis followed.
She popped the trunk. She moved like a surgeon in the innards of Shelby. “Please this car is three times more valuable than your whole college education.”
“Give er’ a chance will you,” pleaded Timsley.
“Good news,” she said. “There is nothing major wrong with your car. You’re just out of oil.”
She made Artemis feel even more ignorant. Maybe she was right, but his pride wouldn’t allow it. “]Who does she think she is, making me out to be a fool?” he thought. [
“There some extra oil in the trunk,” said Timsley.
“I can guarantee you it is not the oil,” protested Artemis. But the trunk had sprung open anyways and then shut. She came back under the hood and carefully nursed Shelby like a baby newborn. She shut the hood. She told him to give her a try. He went and switched the ignition. She came alive. She sounded like a healthy girl; none of that coughing or sneezing she was doing earlier.
Sebring was proven a fool. He was also impressed because rarely has he been proven wrong in the open. She swaggered over to Artemis. He read her body language once more; she was totally self satisfied.
“I wouldn’t want you to forget this,” she said. She handed him a sheet of paper stained with the oil on her fingers. It was her resume.][[
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Vanessa Medina walked back into her shanty of a motel room, she plopped two cell phones on a table and waited. She was anticipating something. [After two or three hours one of her cell phones rang. She picked it up and said. “Hello you’ve reached Mrs. Milham.” The voice on the other line replied “Hi Mrs. Milham. I just had an interview with a former student of yours, Selena Santana. She seemed like a very intelligent girl and we would like for her to be on our team. I just have to ask, what type of student was she?”
Vanessa began to gush over the phone in a high pitched voice. She started out a little cartoonish but she became more convincing as the conversation ended. She gave a good impression. And that’s meant in two ways. She left them feeling good about their interviewee and she created a believable personality.
Twenty minutes later her other cell rang; she picked it up and became somebody else once again. “You’ve reached Selena.”]

[She had gotten the job.
After the phone call ended she collapsed on the old spring mattress squealing like a pig. The moment was absorbing into her. She bounced up and down screaming “]*I actually pulled it off.] [[*I can’t believe I actually pulled it off.”] But she did. The job was hers.

[She had her luggage packed before midnight. She stored everything she needed in two garbage bags. Daddy initially paid for three weeks at the Knights Inn Motel but Vanessa skipped out a week and a half early. Her plan was to leave her old life behind and start a complete new one.
She didn’t want a job in Detroit for a few reasons. The city was in shabby shape, even before the economy sunk. The only jobs that were hiring were mainly fast food. And she wanted to be someplace her family didn’t know. She disliked that Daddy still supported her; even though she felt technically on her own.
A part of her missed being with family, but another part still held a great deal of animosity towards them; the angry part was the one she normally listened to. She resented her parents even her siblings. Even though her brothers and sisters had little to be blamed for. She felt that] Jorge didn’t do anything to help the situation and Julio had walked out on her. [
]They all could have worked harder,” she thought. [[“We should have built a steady family. But no one chose to. A wife and a husband can separate. I think I should have the same right. A divorce from my family.”
]]She wondered if her siblings would ever follow suit of emancipating from the family name. [She began thinking about her home and if one day she would ever visit the clock tower again.
**]It sucked that the core of my existence was based on a rip off.” [She threw the vision away, she never wanted to go back home.
The excitement had her laughing in an empty room. Then she stopped herself, thinking she sounded silly. She twirled and twirled until her head got dizzy. Full of excitement ready for this new life; a life of a person she created in her head. Selena Santana, a twenty one year old college graduate who was ready to take on the world.
Her dreams were more prevalent within her than air in her lungs. She felt like she was evolving; evolving into a newer better person, one with more opportunities than the old self. She hopped toward the mirror, she pushed her cheeks together with her fingers trying to resist smiling. After she wiped it away, she said the name of her new personality] Selena Santana and the reflection gave a beaming smile right back at her.

[Closing Night
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[
**][Mr Sebring strutted towards the middle of the arena cracking his whip. He gave it a stylistic twirl and then cracked it in front of Solomon. The great beast bellowed like a V8 engine. Any reasonable human would have lost their bowels in front of Solomon. But Artemis stood strong. “On guard,” he shouted. The beast was defiant; it sprang its legs back ready to pounce. Artemis cracked the whip inches from its face. He exposed those spikes in Solomon’s cavernous mouth. It kept one paw raised, swiping at Artemis when in range.
The crowd’s excitement went to new heights watching this food chain defiant act. Man versus beast.
Solomon leapt towards the ringmaster but he bent down in the nick of time. The lion missed his victim landing on a podium. Artemis went behind Solomon snapping his whip, sending the creature through a hoop onto another podium. The crowd burst with amazement. The hoop was lit on fire. The gasping crowd sucked the air out of the arena. The ringmaster commanded the beast to leap through the ring of fire. It passed gracefully without singeing a hair.
Britney came about in a blue sequenced mini dress. Artemis watched her humps bobbing up and down with each step. Her curves danced in the dress, like bunnies playing under bed sheets. She strapped a leash on Solomon and led him off stage. The audience started again. “Hold you applause,” said the ring master. “I’m not finished.”
“For my next trick, I will need my little assistant Maggie.” Before she was even seen by the crowd she belted like a dozen out of tune trombones. Maggie practically waltzed in. All 3300 pounds of her. She sounded off her horn once again as she stopped in front of the ringmaster. Britney came in riding on top of the creature. She switched outfits; her new getup was attired in feathers.
He gave a wink to the beast as if it could understand him. Maybe it did. He was known to have an eccentric relationship with all his pets. The whip whistled as he twirled it before slashing at Maggie’s feet. The audience became astounded by the sight of an elephant supporting itself on its hind legs. The cheers grew as she walked on two legs for a few yards and then landed on all fours. Britney let out a hoot as the creature was in motion. She opened her mouth anticipating a treat. He wagged his finger and her trunk went down. “Ah ah ahh. Not yet my little friend,” he spoke in boisterous voice. He covered the microphone around his face and told Maggie “One more and we are home free.”
The whip cracked. Maggie then started to shuffle forward. And she propped herself on her front legs. Her hide was suspended over the ground with her back feet swaying ineptly. The crowd had lost its breath. All the ring master could see was dropped jaws in the audience. The beast held her position for about half a minute, her legs then wobbled and she came down soon after.
The ring master took off the top hat, twirled his wrist, stepped forward and took a bow in one sweeping motion.] [He had popped the audiences cherry.
Intermission.
**]

[Accordion music plays. Lights went on. An auburn haired starlet walked until she came to a table. Moving elegant and yet sullen as if the crowd was not a factor. The table had a lit lamp, an unlit torch, a rag and a silver chalice. Her waist came to the table, she was very petite but she carried a large aura. An aura that held the audience, even before the showcasing of her abilities took place.
She picked up her torch, dipped it in oil at the base of the lamp then lit at the top. She picked up her chalice and poured a liquid in her mouth. Held the torch above her head and spat a flame five meters into the air. They leapt from their seats, showering her with praises, chanting her name. “]Scarlett! Scarlett! Scarlett!” [She pointed her torch to the side of her and spit out the remaining solution, hurling a fireball to the floor. A haze began to engulf around her. She whipped a fan and fluttered about so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. With the air clear she took a deep breath, then poured the liquid from the chalice into her mouth. She held the torch right in front of her and Scarlet became a real flamethrower, a human torch. She held the inferno for ten seconds, blowing everything out of her lungs. She took in another breath through the nose and spat out the remaining fuel lingering in her mouth. The spit crossed the flame on her torch and the saliva burst on impact.
Scarlett was Natalie Sebring’s only child from her first marriage. At this point she was seventeen years old and already captivating crowds. She was even one of her step father headliners. He really used her to fill the seats. He tried to develop a stage personality for her, but she wouldn’t take to it. She desired to be her own person and Artemis left it at that. She still had a baby face that seemingly gave her a warm sweetness, but the ability she obtained gave her power.]

She surged blazes from her mouth for another ten minutes. She wiped her lips. She gargled water to dissolve the rest of any compound left in her mouth. Scarlett bent over backwards in a crab position, held it there with one arm. She put the head of the burning torch in her mouth and the hellfire was over. She came up and did a curtsy. The human torch set the crowd on fire.[
**]Lights off. Darkness took her away.[
**]

[Drum roll.
A beam of light shone on Joyce high above in the rafters.
“Ladies and Gentlemen!” exuberated the Ring Master. “This moment we’re all encompassed in, is getting interesting.” That phrase had been building in his head for some time; that was his first attempt using it at work. “The little darling high above you all is our latest recruit. Let’s give Joyce a round of applause here people.”
The crowd was generous.
“Joyce will attempt a death defying act of courage all for your entertainment!” She then blew a few kisses to the audience and a hundred hands went up to catch them. “She will walk a hundred feet on a cord that is as wide as a quarter. Without the safety of a drop net!” She puts her hand to her mouth and widens her eyes showing a mockery of concern. “Please, for her sake remain as quite as possible until she reaches the platform across.”
With the crowd silent the drum roll became more pronounced. She dabbed the cord with her foot reminiscent of a child testing pool water. Her foot found the correct position. She added weight to it. It seemed as if she was deciding whether or not to continue as she completely put her full weight on the cord. She wobbled just a little. Faces became uneasy in the audiences. But she paid no attention; she really couldn’t afford it any way. She focused on putting one foot in front of the other. Left right left right left right. When she made it halfway a loud sneeze came from the stands, which got a few chuckles. Joyce wobbled, and the place fell dead quite once again. Left right left right. Once her feet arrived at the platform the house was all hers. The masses roared with approval. She made it.
As the ring master segued off into a sketch with his featured clowns, Joyce had gotten down and went backstage. First thing she grabbed was a bottle of cold water. Britney was ecstatic of her debut success; displaying her affection with a bear hug that literally swept the girl off her feet and a big kiss that left its red imprint. Scarlett passed in their mist, “Great job,” she said. “For a newbie.” Scarlett filled that comment with as much animosity as a competitive attitude could.
Joyce looked at Britney, Britney gave her another kiss. “Don’t let that sweet face fool you,” she said. “She is a loathsome little girl.”
Artemis made his way backstage, aiming straight for his dressing room to dig in his nose candy. He zoomed right passed jugglers, clowns and other acts anticipating their time in the spotlight. Joyce perked herself up waiting for some display of appreciation from Artemis, like a child in wanting of a father’s approval. He passed her.
The dressing room door slammed shut behind him. When he had the feel he was to himself he shook like a wet dog. For him that was a way to deviate stress. He got his powder candy ready. Something stopped him before he could take it in. He spotted the reflection of a walking cane in his mirror, lying against the back wall. He glanced over the shoulder it didn’t exist in his vision. He turned back and the cane wasn’t there. He thought he was seeing things.
This time he had bought his dope from a dealer who put it in containers that resembled pixie sticks. How clever. That way he could have the perfect camouflage and the right amount in a dosage. He snorted half a stick, just to bump him for the rest of the night. For a minute he watched his pupils enlarge in the mirror. He spent a few moments making faces. And then he slapped himself literally back into reality. He straightened his bow tie, wiped the sweat off his face. It wasn’t from the junk, but from getting hot during the performance. He switched his top hat back in place and….
The wooden brown walking cane had returned in his peripheral vision. He saw the cane stand itself straight up from the wall. He didn’t dare look back this time. He knew it was the dope playing games with him. Or maybe the old man he held inside himself was trying to send a message. The cane had completely fallen over landing with a hard snap. He jumped from his seat. He heard it. It was real. He looked on the ground behind him. Nothing. But it was real. He knew it was. He wasn’t going to right himself off as crazy. The old man was trying to send a message. He looked back in the mirror to see if it would do it again. He didn’t see the cane. He was so focused on the cane he didn’t realize at first that his reflection wasn’t there. He waved his arms, expecting to see himself reappear. A funny thought had crept into his delusional mind “]Maybe the mirror stopped working. Wait mirrors don’t stop working unless they’re broken. Well a mirror technically does stop working as they’re in a dark room. Artemis hold it together your slipping. Focus, focus, focus[.”
He misjudged how powerful his new candies were. He headed back out the door, took one final peak at the mirror to see himself and all it showed was the old man looking back. He shut the door and paused. He was trying to keep it all together. He couldn’t afford time, not with a show he had to run. He saw Joyce’s peers giving her beginner’s congrats. So he went up and offered his. He took her hand before she could look his way. Kissed the back of her hand and said “you were brilliant my little darling, keep it up.”
He waltzed back on stage.] On with the show[.
The entertainers performed until the stroke of midnight when Artemis did his closing number. It was a closer that was filled with singing, dancing and acrobatics, fun for all. The audience then went on home. But the VIP ticket holders who purchased hundreds more for seating had the opportunity to go backstage; meet with the entertainers, get autographs and have their picture taken with their favorite performer. VIP tickets really put a nice chunk of change in Artemis’s business.
The entertainers went to their hotel rooms to rest their minds and spirits because tomorrow they were headed to a new city to start all over again. Artemis checked in with his visual editors to see the footage of his three day stay in Detroit. The footage included the ring master venturing through the city mingling with the locals and other various clips leading up to opening night. “]I can’t wait for this episode to air,” he said. “[[It’s going to be a good one.”
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[Departure
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[The world’s largest privately owned train was at the dock of Dearborn railroad station. Patrons were gathered outside with self-made posters and hearts full of cheer to see the world famous El Circo de Fantasias take off for another city. The entertainers were boarding into the cars. A boy who held a poster reading MARRY ME SCARLETT in big bold letters shouts her name amongst the other fans. She paid none of her supporters any attention. She climbed into the train followed by a man carrying her luggage. Maybe she heard the boy and just didn’t care. She had seen crowds gathering like this ever since her mother married the ringmaster. Perhaps she was all too used to this and decided to pass it by like it didn’t matter. Andre and Jake were greeted warmly by the fans, they took a couple of comical bows and then boarded.
“I love you Joyce!” said a voice in the dense crowd. She dropped her bags and put her hand to her mouth. She tried to find where it came from, with her eyes as wide as they can be, but then another voice shouted “You were fantastic last night Joyce.” Water came to her eyes. So full of joy and surprise. She didn’t expect to garner any fans as of yet. But when the fanboys said her name you could actually see through her dark skin the blush rushing to her cheeks. Beaming with emotions that were very amiable, she blew a kiss to the fanboys and each one of them put a hand up to catch it. She stepped on the train, then gave the fans a flapping wave goodbye and left their sights. After last night’s stunt she pulled She decided that Artemis’s and Britney’s words were true, that she did wonderful.
Joyce with a grin filled with teeth from ear to ear searched for her cabin number. Scarlett was talking among another performer staring vehemently at her new costar. “Is she serious? Oh my god did you see her?” She mocked her hand wave, laughing; trying to make it seem funny when it actually wasn’t. Joyce noticed, and that made her feel the type of way when it’s the first day of school and no one wants to sit with you at lunch. She kept her head down and found her cabin. It was actually better than what she expected. She thought she was going to be sharing it with somebody but there was only one bed. In fact her cabin was way better than what she had expected. There was drawers were she could place her clothes, a little mini refrigerator that already was filled with snacks and other delectable foods one likes. She had carpet flooring, a nice little love seat in the far left corner. She clicked on the TV and was surprised to find that she had premium channels. Back home cable was a luxury her family couldn’t afford. She looked around her cabin thinking that she could definitely get used to this. Well that is what she thought until she spotted Scarlett at her doorway.
Scarlett spoke in the most self-righteous attitude directed towards Joyce. “For the liveliness of your mind don’t let your vanity devour you… Honestly people become more ignorant in these days of the celebrity game. Sad, but hilarious to watch. I’m only 17 and more mature than the majority and loving life. Once this game sinks its teeth into you, you’ll naturally adapt and take in the idea and bam, it’s a part of you for good.”
Joyce didn’t say a word she just kept her mouth shut.
“On the other hand my stepfather…”
“Excuse me I’m wondering if I am in the right train car,” said a lost girl.
Scarlett put her hand up at the face of this girl and didn’t care to speak in her direction. “Excuse you, who are you?” she asked.
“Selena Santana.”
Joyce couldn’t even see the girl’s face with Scarlett’s hand in front of her.
“So what are you doing here?” retorted Scarlett.
“I’m just trying to find my cabin.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a technician.”
“Then you are three train cars down.”
“Thank you,” said Selena exerting attitude right back at Scarlett. Scarlett snapped her fingers and pointed her away from the cabin. Vanessa left.
“As I was saying. On the other hand my stepfather Mr. Sebring,” she continued. “He was always chasing after mainstream accessibility. Let us not confuse his appearance for the reality. He always puts out albums and DVD collections of his work for high-school kids to get as birthday presents. He needs that recognition. He craves,” she twitched her fingers signifying quotation marks. “The fame. It’s like his sustenance. For decades he tried to keep himself in the limelight, and all that effort left him to be a shallow human being; A shell of a once promising entertainer.” She stepped closer and twiddled a strand of Joyce’s hair between her fingers. “You are wondering why I am sharing this information with you Joyce.” Scarlett now spoke like a mother consoling a child. “Because you are very pretty. Pretty girls are loved in the fame industry. Fame is like power, once you have it, you’ll start to abuse it. And I would hate to see Joyce become wayward.” She said that as if Joyce wasn’t there and two people were talking about her. Scarlett pushed the strained of hair behind Joyce’s ear. As Scarlett walked away she gave her new colleague a bit of advice, she turned around and said “and remember this.” Joyce was already nodding her head agreeing with what she was about to say even before she said it. She kept her lips still the whole time Scarlett was talking at her. Maybe that was out of fear; maybe respect, maybe both.
“It’s either somebody is using you or you’re being used, and if you’re not doing either then you’re useless.” The door shut. Joyce threw herself on the bed. She breathed in deep and sighed long.
**]

[The great pretender was moving so fast she didn’t feel her feet on the ground. She hopped right in her assigned train car. She went down the aisle looking for an open cabin and they were all occupied. The garbage bags full of clothing and commodities were slung over heavy on her shoulder. She had to take a breather.
She heard a burst of cheer. She looked outside the window. At first glance it seemed like Marilyn Monroe was boarding the train. Then she remembered that face on television. That was one of Artemis’s showgirls. She couldn’t figure out the name but she knew who she was. The name came to her when somebody called it out. Britney cat walked onto the train; sashaying those hips giving the boys a good old show. A few men whistled and hooted off at her. Once she stepped on the train she looked back over her shoulder at the crowd and gave a smile. Vanessa started to think what if Britney knew Mommy. The way Britney rolled her hips and crossed her feet as she walked, the way she posed right before she entered the train gave her the suspicion that maybe Britney was once a model. Not just any model. The way she strutted so naturally takes years of experience. That was all too familiar. Mommy showed the family old catwalk videos of her glory days. And both styles were identical in nature. She wondered if it was possible that they met once or twice. Then she wondered what if this lady would suspect her of being related to her model Mother. Fearing this woman might come up to her saying “]I know you, me and your mother used to model together back in the day.” And because this was a child who was fickle with her thoughts, she threw that idea out the window thinking [[maybe this is just a lady with a really nice walk.
]]“Do you want to know where you’re going to be sleeping?” said Timsley in a thick Irish accent. [[
]][He led her to the last cabin in the train car. “This will be your new humble abode.” First thing she noticed that her cabin didn’t have a door like the others but a curtain that concealed it. He pushed the curtain aside; she saw two sets of bunk beds, one dresser, a grimly plaster of paint on the walls and there was only one small oval window. Worse in all for her were the two young gentlemen setting up their possessions. One of them offered his hand to her and said “Hi my name is Freddy.” She shook his hand. “You must be the new recruit, Selena. Right?” Freddy was a heavily tanned fellow who worked in the sun all day. He was wearing a wife beater. Vanessa noticed he was badly sunburned on his arms and back.
“That would be true,” lied Vanessa.
The other guy reached out for her hand, she gave it to him and he kissed it. “Wow you’re even lovelier in person than big old Tim here described. I’m Jason.” Vanessa was] creeped out [by Jason’s sudden display of affection; ruining his first impression. She took her hand back. “Well thank you,” she said.
She couldn’t believe it. At this moment she felt very uncomfortable sharing a cabin with two older men….
“Oh here comes Chucky,” said Jason.
Three older men. She watched Chucky toss his luggage on one of the top bunks. “Hey Chuck,” greeted Jason. “Here is the new girl.”
“Hey how’s it going,” asked Chucky. “You’re ready for circus life?” Chucky was older than the first two men, and a lot shorter, he came up to Vanessa’s shoulders. He had more hair on his arms than he had on his brown sunburned scalp.
“Um, sure, I guess, I don’t know,” said Vanessa in a high pitch squeal. It got oddly quiet for a few seconds. The three men stared at her the whole time while Vanessa put her eyes to the floor. She felt awkward having to bunk with these grown men. With all four of them in there the space was horrible cramped. It felt smaller with everyone standing. She wanted to jump train and go home and apologize to her family immediately. She pictured the scene in her head; her running in her father’s arms, kissing and hugging her mother with the air filled with] [benevolence, and she screaming how sorry she was.
“I don’t remember any one telling me I was going to be sharing a room with three other men.” She looked at Timsley and he nodded his head out the room. They talked down in the isle. “Look,” said Timsley. “I tried assiduously to get you in one of the girl cabins.” He had a nervous sweat as he talked. “Since this was all short notice and you’re basically filling for a guy who walked off his job the spacing was limited.”
“So basically,” said Vanessa. “I’m taking his bunk?”
“Correct. Those were his bunkmates. I can vouch for them. Those three are the nicest lads we have…” She felt the sincerity in his voice. The way he spoke she believed he wouldn’t let anyone bring harm to her. She didn’t have any other choice but to believe. It was either take on this new adventure or go back and find some other job. And how would that work out? Detroit was self imploding. No work, high crime rate, and disgruntled youth. She perceived Detroit is no place for a homeless sixteen year old girl. But on this train she had options.
“I’m fine with it.”
But she honestly wasn’t. The scene she was in now had bad written all over it. Like the set up to a scary movie. If this were a movie everybody in the theater would be telling her to jump off the train and go home. But it wasn’t a movie it was her life.] [
She folded her clothes in a case under her bed. She had the bottom bunk on the right. Chucky was up above her. Jason had the other top bunk and Freddy was on the bottom as well. She decided to take a risk. To set sail on a new adventure, a new life as a new person. Timsley had made copies of her fake ID she gotten months before with Julio. When he brought those back to her he called out Selena from behind, she was slow to turn around; still getting used to people calling her by some strangers name.
**
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“The titanic on rails.” That was a nickname the staff and the cast have given the train. But at the end of the day it was home. Even though motion sickness rarely appears in ones house. And in your windows you won’t be able to see trailer parks, national parks and everything in between. As everyone got settled inside, the animal trainers had it rough trying to calm nondomestic animals. In the last leg of cars is where they kept the wild animals. The elephants were sounding off like sirens in their cages. In another car, the cat den, Solomon and the other big cats together roared like a fleet of choppers. But the caretakers had a trick for putting these beasts at ease. Slipping a bowl of warm milk through the cages watching the lions and tigers lapping it up with their tongues, watching the elephants suck the warm liquid into the trunks like straws and squirt into their mouths. These beasts would then go right to sleep. All thanks to the tranquilizer they would lace into their bowls, a powerful cocktail.
**
The cheers from the fans had become thunderous as their one and only Mr. Sebring had surfaced. Strutting through the crowd like McJagger. Waving peace signs, and showing fans acknowledgment. In the world of entertainment Artemis was on the level of a rolling stone. Putting years into the industry, outperforming his competitors such as Barnum and Bailey, the Ringling brothers, set in his style and flare appeasing to the masses, collecting an enormous income. Forbes conducted a list of the world’s richest entertainers; the ring master came in seven, five spots below Oprah Winfrey. Life was good for him; feeling like an idol, when he saw the fans giving adoration it put his esteem to a new level. He felt worshiped, he felt like he was bigger than Jesus. That’s how life came at him. He was god until he died.
One of his most notable quotes really gave his audience a peek into his mind. In the late eighties Artemis was being interviewed by Barbara Walters in his 15,000 square foot house back in Arlington, Texas. He was in his forties when this took place.
“I have to say,” she said. “That I wasn’t expecting to meet a man with so much poise and maturity.”
“Why because I’m black?” he asked with a smile. Giggles came off screen from the crew in the background.
“No, you have a completely different character than what I was assuming. On stage with the camera rolling you are very wild and flamboyant, but I am here with you face to face and you conduct yourself with a level of maturity I wasn’t expecting.”
When he replied to her his comment went into the history books, forever defining his character, his everlasting impression on millions.
“I believe maturity is just a fallacy,” he said. “It’s] [an arbitrary set of ideals whoever had established telling those how to conduct themselves. But the reality is I couldn’t care less of what others thought of me. I tried to care but I can’t. I am disposed to a careless life of any ones judgments. I am absolutely frivolous.” He was known as a proudly immature man with an attitude that was irremediable.
He strutted inside the train. The door shut behind him. The train whistled and departed away from the crowd that the ring master left an astounding impression upon.
Next stop was Atlanta; on with a new adventure.
**]

[Insomnia
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For three hours Vanessa was staring into the bottom of Chuckey’s bed. It wasn’t because her bunk mate snored; hell Brenda snored louder than him, and she would snore right in her ear in most nights. It was because she felt very uncomfortable sleeping in the same room with a group of guys that were way older. She tried counting sheep, when the one hundredth eighty-fourth hopped over the imaginary fence she gave up. She knew she couldn’t wake up the next morning tired on the job. That would leave a bad first impression on her coworkers. She slipped out the cabin with a blanket and found a lounging sofa in the isle way. The train was much louder out here. She heard the constant clickity clack [of the rails, it didn’t bother her though. The repetition almost had a soothing effect. It reminded her of the constant ticking of the clock tower. She shut her eyes and she could almost fool herself that she was home. She yawned. Wiped her eyes, and recounted the sheep. She slowly started to drift into the entrapment of slumber until she was completely snared.
Five minutes later she heard a scream. She perked up. She heard voices coming towards her direction. There was a slovenly type of speech one could only get from drinking. As the voices came nearer she hid behind the sofa. Timsley was with some other woman, a brunette. It was dark but she knew it was Timsley from the accent. But this other woman, when she stepped into the moonlight Vanessa thought] she was too ugly to be a performer, she must do maintenance or something[. She smelled a thick musky odor like Timsley hog washed himself in cologne. Perky giggles came off the woman. Timsley quieted her with a hush.
“I don’t want you to wake the other lads,” he said. “Tonight we are going to be celebrating.”
Then Vanessa heard the smack of a wet kiss.
“What are we celebrating,” said the brunette. “A one day anniversary.”
Vanessa heard the slush of a liquid, she peered over a little more. It was Timsley’s closest ally in life, Jack Daniels. She heard more lip smacking. She saw Timsley grab her bottom like a bowling ball. The brunette moaned.
“What we’re going to celebrate is this moment right here.” The woman giggled. She then grabbed the bottle and took a sip. The whole time Timsley and this woman were whispering, unsuccessfully, no one peered out their cabin curtains.
“We alcoholics don’t need a reason to drink,” he said. He put the bottle to his lips and chugged hard. “Just an excuse.” The lady smiled, went up on her tiptoes and smacked another kiss with him. Sloppy drunk wet kisses.
“My excuse is I have you here with me and I plan to poke a hole in you.” They smacked once more. “Let’s go to my cabin.”
“Wait, what’s this?” said the brunette. Vanessa eyes shuffled, her blanket was hanging over the sofa still. “Somebody left their blanket out here.” Vanessa heard the woman come her way. She felt her tug on the blanket.
“Just leave it,” said Timsley.
**]Just listen to him lady, thought Vanessa. But she wouldn’t. Vanessa had no choice, she raised out from her hiding spot. All three of them just stood there for a second with eyes wide and jaws unhinged.

[Joyce flickered through the television all night; she didn’t know what she wanted to watch. She was kept awake by the memory of all the love the spectators had thrown her way. She replayed the cheers in her head and blushed instantly. Her cheeks went purple. People pointed out to her that she was the only girl of color they seen with the ability to blush. She was dark and lovely. One of the most vibrant personalities anyone could come across. There was something about that young girl that made people draw into her. She was attractive on the outside, attractive on the inside and perhaps that is why she could attract people to her.
She eventually caught the stomach warbles. She looked into her mini fridge and pulled out a Redbull. She figured she wasn’t going to sleep anyway so she told herself] who cares._ [*She also wanted something to chew on; she saw nothing but sweet snacks. Joyce was more of a salty] [_*snacker][. She remembered there being a kitchen section in the train car. She went there looking for potato chips in her tweety bird pajamas. The kitchen was the same size that would be in any modern home.
“Mr. Sebring really goes all out for his talent,” she said to herself. She grabbed a chair, stood on it, reached on top of the refrigerator and pulled the Sun Chips. She then poured some into a bowl. She popped one into her mouth and crunched; the familiar snack of choice dazzled her taste buds. She became curious to what was inside the refrigerator. To her it was a fancy rich person’s refrigerator that opened with two doors. She pulled both doors open and the illumination came out like light from heaven. The inside was decked with bottles of wines, vodkas and beers. There was enough ammunition to support a frat house party. She could recognize Bacardi, Absolute and Jack Daniels but all the others to her were fancy bottles with silly names.
Scarlett pushed Joyce out the way. Scarlett then grabbed a whole bottle of Absolute. She scowled at Joyce in her Tweety bird pajamas, flexing her upper lip in disgust. One look Scarlett would give could say it all. And what she was telling Joyce was] you look busted and I’m disgusted[. She was wearing a black lacey top and bright polka dotted panties that read pink on her bum. Scarlett then grabbed the rest of the bag of chips and she was gone. Joyce looked down on her clothes feeling a little silly. She thought maybe she could wear something more mature and grown up to bed. Then she went on thinking she liked herself more than to care what that stranger thought of her. “Don’t let her get to you,” she said to herself. “Don’t let her get to you.”
“Oh shut up!” shouted Scarlett from around the corner.] Joyce breathed in deep and sighed long. Then she closed the gates of heaven.

[“What are you doing out here?” asked Timsley. Vanessa had the blanket wrapped around her head making her appear more like the child she was.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she said. If awkwardness was a liquid the three would be drowning right then. The brunette’s eyes shuffled around on the floor, trying not to look the girl in the face. Vanessa’s eyes stayed wide; her expression was that of a child who just caught two adults being naughty.
“So the cabin with the boys was too much for you huh?” said he. Vanessa mumbled a reply but it really wasn’t clear.
“Selena, Charlotte.” Timsley fingers flicked back and forth from Vanessa and his date. “Charlotte, Selena.” Both ladies said hey simultaneously. Vanessa then chewed on her fingernails. “Go on to me cabin and I will meet you in there lassie, okay?” Then Charlotte was gone. Vanessa was nervous to the point she felt sick in her stomach being left alone with Timsley. She had perceived him to be a pervert and he turned out to be.
“I’m sorry to have caught you off guard I was just…”
“You shouldn’t be apologizing.” He stepped closer to her, getting in her space, making her feel uncomfortable. The stench of alcohol on his breath was nearly corrosive to her nose. “You caught us fair and square.” He hitched up his belt to his sagging beer gut.
“It won’t happen again.” She tried to walk away back into her cabin, but Timsley stomped on the tail of her blanket.
“Enough with the] sorrys[.” She felt him pulling her in. “I hired you because you seemed like a fun lass, you should join me and Charlotte back in me cabin.”
“Sorry, oh,” she said. Then she apologized once again for her apology. “But I don’t swing that way sir.”
“You don’t? It could be mostly me and you.”
“No it’s just that… I don’t want to have sex.”
“Fine.” He gazed into her big brown water eyes. “But if you want to move up in this company you’re going to have to show a little enthusiasm.” Then he left.
Vanessa was disgusted beyond her belief. She hated herself for getting into this type of situation. Her eyes started to burn. Her shoulders started to jerk. Her knees got weak. She fell back on the sofa. And let it all loose. She sobbed like the baby she wasn’t trying to be. This whole situation, she was now in was too adult for her. Timsley made her feel dirty, like a piece of meat to tear into.
When living like a recluse at the clock tower she didn’t ever have to worry about guys hitting on her. Sitting on the sofa she tried to calm herself down because there was no one she could run to.] Grow up, she told herself. _*This happens all the time just grow up._ *Vanessa rushed to the bathroom. She heaved over into the toilet and dinner made a comeback. “This is pathetic,” she told herself. “Tomorrow I’m going to jump train.”

Joyce had her snacks filling her tummy as she continued to flick through the TV, until it was her own face that caught her eye. Billy Bush of Access Hollywood was reporting El Circo de Fantasias [hottest new act. He set up the opening dialogue then the TV showed a clip of Joyce’s performance. Joyce watched herself on TV for the first time. Her whole body went numb. She wondered how in the world they got this footage before the episode aired. Her excitement led her to call her best friend Jodi.
“Jodi,” she said. “I’m on Access Hollywood.” Then she squealed like a baby piglet. Her friend asked why she was on TV.
“I don’t know just flip on channel four.” On the other line her friend said “]oh em effing gee[.”
“I know right,” squealed Joyce. She then put her hand over her mouth afraid she shouted a little too loud. “I can’t believe it.”
Her friend told her she looked good and Joyce thanked her. They both were giddy like 12 year olds over the newest teen pop star. Except the newest teen pop star was Joyce. Her friend told her she was now famous and that she should give her a shout out once she is on Jay Leno. Joyce laughed. “I definitely will.”
Jodi also told her to not be all haughty once the paparazzi start to follow her. A big fat grin was planted between her swell blushed purple cheeks. She sniffled; tears of joy soon sprang out of her.
Her friend screamed. Jodi told her to turn to NBC. Joyce saw her face once more in the background of Inside Edition with Deborah Norville giving coverage on a young talent that will pump new blood in the entertainment business. They showed Joyce’s act. She appeared graceful yet stunning. She became more and more impressed with herself every second she was on the screen.
“Jodi, I’m taking you to Hollywood with me. We’re going to go on all the red carpets and get our picture taken. Rub elbows with all the movie stars. You know what? I’m going to meet Leonardo Decaprio, but I’m not going to say anything. I just want to touch him. I just want to tap him with my finger and then walk away.” Jodi told her how creepy she sounded. But Joyce didn’t calm down. “I’m going to get so much swag. You’re never going to see me with my satchel again. Now I can only be seen with Gucci, Fendi, Prade]rr[.” Jodi corrected her pronunciation of Prada. Joyce was practically dizzy continuing on with her state of giddiness.
Jodi told her to turn to fox. She saw Mario Lopez hosting EXTRA talking about the ten hottest stories of the week. She was number nine.] She was in the spotlight; the cameras were caressing her ego, she loved every minute of it. The world was talking about Joyce.

[
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Breakfast
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[The sun had risen for a new day; Artemis was in the bathroom fixing himself his own version of breakfast. He first made sure his wife was still sound asleep in bed. He crept out, and went straight for the little brown baggie under the sink. All his favorite little pixie sticks were gone so he was back to powder coke. He used the lid of the toilet for a table. He cut a thin line out for himself and saved the rest for later.
This strategy he called bumping. He would take little hits of powder cocaine throughout the day as a pick me up. Cocaine was his version of coffee. He would take a hit every morning, and then he would do another bump when he left the house. And every time before, during and after a show he would need a little bump. If he were to suddenly stop, there would be severe consequences on his body. Like how drunkards get to shaking after a while without a drink. This drug had stayed in his system for more than twenty years. If he were to suddenly stop at his ripe age of 64 it would probably kill him. His body most likely wouldn’t be able to take the shock.
He rolled up a dollar bill making a straw out of it. He picked the joker card back up and evened out the line. It had to be perfect; when it came to his drugs he was very neurotic about how he took it into his body. It mattered to him keenly where he bought it from, who did he buy it from and where did the supply come from. And he would always ask the dealer if the supply was freshly made. Seven times out of ten a dealer would just tell him yeah for the sake of the sell. If a dealer hesitated then Artemis would carry on elsewhere with his business.
But this powder before him was pure white Colombian uncut. For a moment he stared at the little strip, it was fine to him. He was sitting around the base of the toilet; just only one line, his breakfast. He put the rolled dollar bill in his nostril. It only took one huff, in seconds he was struck by lightning.
**][[It’s alive… it’s alive, it’s alive!
]]The monster within himself was awakened. The old man that harbored his body was elsewhere for the moment. With every huff he threw his soul away, when he came down his soul, the old man, always wandered back to him like a lost puppy. But for that moment, until the high wore off, the monster was in control of the entertainer.

“[Whatcha doin in there?” asked Natalie. He peeked his head out from the bathroom and then stepped out in his silk red robe.
“Oh nothing,” he said. “I was just…” And then he trailed off. He stepped to the window watching the earth shift continuously in his train. The ring master didn’t like to share his train car with any other one of his performers and he certainly wasn’t going to share with the crew. He only saw them as the help. He viewed the crewmembers same way as a 1960’s southern housewife viewed her maid.
There were only four people in Artemis’s train car obviously one was himself; the other was his wife, his personal chef, and his assistant Steve. He loved Steve, that boy did everything for him.
He glanced back at Natalie, always looked at her like he saw a new day. He gave her four morning kisses starting in the palm of her hand, to the crook of her elbow, making way to the shoulder and lastly her cheek.
“And so it begins again,” she said chuckling.
“What?”
“You and all this mornin exuberance.” She stretched her arms out, opened her mouth for the yawn. “It never fails. And you’re blessed; most men your age are at the point where they ain’t got a lick a energy for nothin” Natalie is from Atlanta,] can’t ya tell[?*] [*Southern fried and fabulous.
There is this saying] when a woman finds the right man it’s the right time. When a man reaches the right time he will find the right woman. [Well these two have failed. There love was conditional; it was derived from the convenience of a rich husband and a beautiful wife. Cold fact but true. Don’t get me wrong they liked each other for sure, but it wasn’t love. She had time, he had money and they spent them both together.
“Ya hungry,” she asked. “I don’t know bout’chu, I’m a get me som’m to eat.”
“Let Allen fix you something. That’s why I pay him.”
“Go tell him ta make a good ole breakfast.”
“What are you thinking?”
“I’m thinking…” She curled her eyes up, like she wanted to see what was going on in her own head. Her blonde curls dropped in her face. “I’m thinking, scrambled eggs, sausage, biscuits with jelly, pancakes, grits and some melon for breakfast.” She was a short woman, she had curves to her, and she could eat like a man. On a daily basis when Artemis was alive she would eat more than him.
“Why don’t we just have a smorgasbord?”
“Seems like you have the right idea.” She kissed him on the forehead.
**]

[In the train car behind Artemis, Scarlett was blasting music into her ears with the mp3. She sat next to the window watching the morning scenery flow by. The landscape seemed to be flat farmland but there were no distinguishable crops; just little green dots of growing buds that stretched for miles on the land. Scarlett felt the train come to a stop. “What is it now,” she groaned. She took off the headset, and then she heard the train blare its whistle for its passengers. She whipped out her cell phone and texted her mother, the texts read like this:
mom whats going on
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were havin a smorgasbord
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a what?
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a buffet
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oh my god not again
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your bringin that keester of yours for breakfast
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I was thinking cinnamon toast crunch
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Scarlett Joan Thomas so help me god if I dont see you off this train when it stops you will never like me again
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I already dont but you will see me for breakfast anyway
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She was going to have to be with her miserable family. She vexed any time she would have to take part of a family function. She had deep disgust for Artemis that went to the bone. She loved her mother, she truly did, but she didn’t like her mom at all.
She decided to join the breakfast; she slipped on a pair of faded jeans, but didn’t do any of the morning rituals teenage girls do. She didn’t care to fix her hair; she didn’t care to wear any make up. As if she was frugal with her emotions, she just couldn’t care. At least not what these circus people thought about her, she was always surrounded by hundred’s of people running around her constantly. In her own way she thought of them as an extension of her family. The family she despised.
The train had stopped and Scarlett went off wearing a scowl where her face should have been.
**
Joyce had awoken to an intercom. It was a man’s voice yapping off about a breakfast. But she really couldn’t comprehend anything. She looked out the window. She saw people setting up folding tables and chairs with, plates, utensils and napkins. She wasn’t really hungry but she figured this was going to be her opportunity to get to know more people. For the few days she had been on the tour she only knew Britney. Everybody else was just brief run-ins. She felt like the new kid in school all over again. But this sudden opportunity was going to let her break the ice with her coworkers. She got ready. She pulled her hair back in a pony tail. Put on a little make up and slid inside a flower dress. It was a sleeveless white dress with big red roses. She looked like an overgrown Sunday school girl. But she thought she looked descent enough.
She left her cabin and headed out the train. The skies were cloudy but it was too hot for it to rain. She gazed out into the field. She looked so confused.
“I don’t know where we are either,” she heard from behind. She turned around and saw a young man with his head out the window. “I’m sorry if I scared you.”
“Oh, no your fine.”
“I’m thinking this is some type of cornfield, maybe.” He looked at her and smiled. “You’re Joyce aren’t you?” She nodded her head. He went away from the window. Joyce then straightened her dress. He came down off the steps. “Well aren’t you fancy.” She smiled. “My name is Andre. I’m not sure if you remember me…”
“I remember you. You were bouncing all those balls in your hands.” She realized how funny that sounded. “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that though.”
He gave her a smile filled with pearly whites. “You’re alright,” he chuckled. He was wearing a wife beater that showed all the years of what juggling did for his arms; Joyce unabashedly was impressed. She thought she could have been more confident around her colleagues but around Andre she was shy. There was a few seconds that went by before either one of them said anything again.
“So how long have you been here for,” she asked.
“Too long, I was juggling before I could walk. My father performed for Artemis, so naturally I walked into it. I was practically raised on this train.”
“How old are you now?”
“I’m 23. How old are you?”
“I just turned 18, not too long ago,” she said that with much emphasis. Almost as if to say] don’t worry I’m legal. [He looked over at everybody getting everything ready.
“They could use some extra hands,” he said. She looked away.
“Okay I’ll let you go.”
He had a little nervous twitch about him; he puckered his lips to the side, and shuffled his fingers into a fist, trying to work up the nerve to ask “well I was inviting you to come with me. If you want.” She looked up at him.
“Sure I’ll help you.”
Andre had a stack of plates in his hand putting them in front of chairs while Joyce followed behind setting the utensils, all the time they were chatting away laughing with one another.
**]

[Vanessa had slept through the feel of a stopping train and the blaring sound of an intercom announcing breakfast, but once the smell of scrambled eggs hit her nose she was wide awake. She stepped off the sofa and peered down the aisle, the train was dead quite. She looked out the window and wondered why the train stopped in some strange farmland. She went across the aisle, looked out another window and saw the banquette taking place. She saw her colleagues sitting at round tables talking, drinking and eating. She saw the Buffett and her mouth watered, she wanted in. She wanted in before the food was all gone. She attempted to get ready; she went back to her cabin, no one there. She pulled her hair up, slipped on some jean shorts, she thought about make-up but then those buttery biscuits and hot scrambled eggs and smoked sausage were calling out to her. She ran out the train. She was looking for an open seat at one of the tables so she could grab a plate. When she found one she didn’t even look up to see who was sitting at the table. She headed straight for the Buffett. The chef asked her what she would like. He had two skillets one he kept Sunnyside up eggs warm and in the other was scrambled eggs. “Scrambled eggs,” she said. He took her plate. “Can I have more?” The chefs eyes widen, then he added more. On the Buffett table there was her choice of a hearty breakfast and she took the opportunity. She grabbed a croissant, she scooped herself some grits, and a few slices of watermelon. At the end of the table there was another chef who asked her what she would like. He removed the top to the grill; he asked her sausage or bacon. She handed him her plate. “Both.” She poured herself a cup of orange juice then headed back to the table where she got her plate.
For a brief second it seemed to her like a wall was moving at her. She spilled her drink splattering it on someone’s pant leg.
“Oh, sorry.”
She looked upward to see the face. And the body was like a mile long in her eyes; she kept tilting her head to find the face and saw a teenage girl. Vanessa felt like Jack, the train was the magic beanstalk and now she saw a giant. She kept her held tilted up with her mouth hung open. Vanessa was wearing flat sandals and this girl at least had a foot and a half on her. She saw the face on this poor oversize teenager, her lips quivered and her eyes watered at Vanessa’s immature gaze. Vanessa looked around, everybody was staring at them. The enormous chunk of girl then walked to her table, biting on rolls like nothing happened. Never mind her being the giant; she was the beanstalk herself stretching into the sky. Vanessa then went to her table she saw the looks of Joyce, Andre and Jake, they were already embarrassed for her. “Hello,” she said.
“How’s it going,” said Andre. They all remained cordial for a moment introducing themselves, the normal routine when meeting new people. Vanessa bit into her croissant. “Who was that girl?” Vanessa asked.
“Her name is Celia, but a lot of us call her Enorma. She is seven foot four. Last year she was set in the Guinness book of world records for tallest person under age 18.”
“How old is she.”
“She is only 14.”
“Oh, my god.” Vanessa looked over her shoulder at Celia, she saw her staring back and then Celia went back to eating. Vanessa stabbed a piece of melon and pitched it into her mouth.
“One thing about her, she’s just as sensitive as she is tall. So try not to upset her.”
“Why? Is she gonna try to beat my ass?” asked Vanessa
“Oh no,” answered Jake. “Enorma is the type that wouldn’t hurt a fly. It’s Scarlett who you have to worry about. She protects Enorma like a big sister.”
Vanessa glanced over her shoulder once more, she saw Scarlett sitting next to Celia, both of them were staring right back.
“Oh,” Vanessa sighed. “I know that girl.”
“Who wouldn’t know Scarlett,” said Andre. “She’s famous.”
“I know,” said Vanessa “But not like that. When I was trying to find my cabin I asked her for directions and she got really bitchy.”
“I remember that,” implied Joyce. “I just didn’t see your face. She was a bitch to me also.”
“What did she do to you?” asked Vanessa.
“She just came off so… so arrogant.”
“I wouldn’t take it personal you guys,” started Andre. “She is just.” He shook his head. “Just one of those people.”
“Why does she act like that,” asked Vanessa.
“She can do whatever she wants here,” answered Jake. “That is Artemis’s daughter.”
“Stepdaughter,” corrected Andre. Andre looked over his shoulder and saw the stepdaughter gaze over at the table, he thought perhaps she was aware they were talking about her. “Guys, keep it cool.” The subject had to change, to anything, it didn’t matter.
“So what was your name again,” asked Joyce.
“My name is Selena Santana.”
“That is like the sweetest name ever,” laughed Andre. “Sounds like a comic book character.” They all laughed.
“I like your name it is very unique,” complimented Joyce.
“Thank you very much,” said Vanessa. She liked those compliments. It made her feel she made a wise chose for her alias. But she didn’t get it from a comic book at all; she took the names from Hispanic-American musicians Selena and Carlos Santana. Both were held as royalty back at home. Mommy would sing with Selena every time her music came through the radio. Something about Selena registered with Mommy so deep; Vanessa would watch the singer’s words fill Mommy with a new life. She would turn the stereo on full blast and dance around the house with a cocktail in her hand. When it came to Carlos Santana Daddy became animated strumming an imaginary guitar when his melodies flowed from the stereo. Both their music brought joy in a rather forlorn home. She held those names in high regard because of it. So she took them as her own. Miss Selena Santana. And it was more than an alias, she had devised and entire persona. She tried to portray herself to be a college graduate who majored in mechanics. But that wasn’t all. She didn’t just want a back story only, she wanted a new personality a better one than the old Vanessa had. She was trying to be more sociable, more amiable than the last insipid girl that harbored her. She completely thrown herself away and became somebody else. She wanted to change. It felt good for her to have a change. Once this new person had taken hold of her she decided to never go back.
She saw Timsley sitting with her other cabin mates continuing on with the drink. She figured that man is liquored up twenty-four hours of the day.] _*Pathetic._ [*She lost all respect for him after last night. The way he looked at her with those drunken perverted eyes of his. The way he blatantly asked her out for sex without…
Vanessa started to upchuck, but she caught it in her mouth and swallowed her breakfast once again.]

A man named Freddy

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“[Okay everyone,” shouted Artemis. “Meal times over, I want this show back on the road.”
Vanessa scooped in every last bite she could as people around her were putting up the chairs and folding the tables. When everyone finished she rushed back inside her train car. They continued on for Atlanta.]

[The summer sun had made Vanessa’s skin sticky and she hadn’t the opportune time to shower since boarding the train. She asked Freddy where to shower and he directed her to the back of the train car. What she saw with her displeased eyes was what the train had to offer.
“What is this,” asked Vanessa. She was in a dank room that reeked of body odor. Lockers were off to the left. This was a small little compartment to the train where crew members took their showers. It resembled high school locker rooms but it was more compact. No more than five people at a time should shower there.
“This is what we call the locker room,” said Freddy. The walls were dingy. The light bulbs were growing dim and of course there weren’t any windows so the area was dark. She peeked her head around in the shower section and she was baffled to see moss budding from the tiles. Well actually it was really mold that’s been growing for years, no one had the decency to clean it up, but in her mind she thought it was moss. It was a large dark green patch of mold that started from the back of the shower floor and thinned out as it crept its way to the ceiling. Mist was in the air, so she assumed a few had already gotten their morning showers out the way.
“Does anybody ever….”
“Clean in here,” said Freddy. He shook his head. “It’s quite repugnant; a lot of us don’t use the showers here. We usually wait until we stop in a city, when we have our own hotel.”
“When do we stop in Atlanta?”
“We will get there tomorrow morning.”
“You know what, I could wait.”
“Can’t blame you.”
They walked out the locker room. As she walked through the isle way Vanessa peered out the window watching the earth shift before her eyes. She noticed how Freddy dragged his feet as he walked ahead of her, just like her father. Glancing at his sunburned back, she saw the wife beater, the basketball shorts and the fluffy purple slippers he shuffled along in. He looked like somebody that was comfortable; she wondered when she was going to feel the same way. “So how long have you been working here,” she asked.
He turned back to her. “Too long… way too long.”
Vanessa smiled, her head slightly bobbed as if she was giggling but a sound didn’t leave her. That smile of hers melted him just a little.
“What’s too long?”
“Six years.”
Vanessa’s eyes popped. He saw those glossy baby brown eyes hit the sunlight just right. And he became a little warmer.
“It wasn’t all bad; I’ve seen all of America by four folds.”
“Really,” she said. “How was it?” As she spoke she stepped a little closer and he wouldn’t let his eyes leave hers. He only thought of one word to say.
“Gorgeous.”
“Really? Did you make a lot of friends along the way?” Vanessa noticed the way his blue eyes really stood out from his tan face.
“They come, they go, every now and then.” Vanessa noticed the little softness in his voice when he spoke to her.
“I’m sure you have a lot of friends here with you on the train.”
“I have some very interesting associates.”
“I bet there’s nothing like having circus performers as friends.” That was when he broke his gaze.
“Most of the performers here are a bunch of tools,” he said. They were both quiet for a moment.
“A lot of the crewmembers don’t get along with the performers, and vice versa. Too many people who work crew get treated worse than the help. They’re B-list celebrities with C-list talent but have the arrogance of movie stars.”
She couldn’t see why he was being so negative; Joyce, Andre and Jake had none of those qualities even though she only sat down with them once. She could tell they were at least sociable.
“I seen you sit over with them during breakfast,” he said. “Did you tell them you worked in the crew?”
“Well, um…” She paused trying to remember. “I didn’t exactly tell them I was part of the crew. But I think they knew.”
“If you would have told them, I bet they would have made you sit somewhere else. Some of them are cold like that.” She wasn’t sure of what he was saying, but she still second guessed their character. This was too much like high school drama for Vanessa. She almost shrunk before his eyes, how the way she put her head down and spoke under her breath.
“I don’t like where this is going,” she said, with her arms crossed holding both elbows like she was cold. “Can we talk about something else?”
“I’m. Sorry… I…,” he said, stuttering a tad, a little displaced over Vanessa reaction. “I just thought to tell you before someone hurt your feelings.”
“I’m just over the drama.” He didn’t expect to trigger that emotion from her. He wondered if he brought it out of her or something else haunted her entirely. You didn’t have to be a psychic to sense something was troubling the young woman, and Freddy certainly wasn’t one. There were going to be tears at any moment he saw the little twinkle in her eyes. Freddy felt out of place and seemed awkward. He was trying to think of something quick. Before her left eye could shoot the first round, he grabbed her hand.
“Follow me.” And that’s what she did. They ran together all the way to the back of the train car. He tugged on a latch opening the back door. The sound of the train went monstrous. He stepped down on the coupling. Vanessa saw the earth rolling beneath his feet, one false step and he could have been a goner. She saw the wind tussle through his hair. He still had her hand trying to tug her down with him. Vanessa was of course scared, thinking how she got involved with this mad man. He looked back at her, jumped back on the train car. He kissed her hand and said “do you care for a little excitement.” She nodded her head. The train was too loud for him to hear but he saw the words “all right” form out of her mouth.
He stepped back on the coupling and she went down with him. The train blared its horn and Vanessa shook nearly off her stance, her back hand swung wildly trying to regain her balance. He caught her, he held her tight, and she felt his wide chest and pronounced biceps on her body.
“I got you.”
He came to the other train car’s door; he took a key from his pocket and stuck it in. He first stepped inside and told Vanessa to jump. She jumped inside with him but it was mostly his one arm that hoisted her in. He shut the door.
“Where you taking me,” she said.
He smiled with so much expression one couldn’t possible resist smiling back. He told her “you’ll see.”
They ran all the way to the back of that train car which was a cookie cutter version of theirs. He opened the back door and they both jumped down on the coupling. Vanessa noticed how the next car had an oval shape to it, it didn’t have a door but it had a ladder heading to the top. Freddy started to climb and Vanessa followed.
Vanessa peeked over the top still holding on to the ladder, she watched the wind gust on to Freddy. He held out his arms like wings. “Come here,” he shouted over the whoosh of the wind around them. “You’re going to love this!” She thought that he was absolutely crazy. A mad man riding on top of a train. The scene was crazy, she felt crazy for following him till this point. She told herself to go back.] So this is how this bizarre man gets his kicks and thrills[, she thought. She saw that smile of his, the smile that he could give that would make her want to smile right back. Freddy hollered a whoop. Vanessa started to laugh, still hanging on to the ladder, watching him.
It was the rush that gave him his freedom, freedom from all the B S. He was addicted to excitement, getting high off his own adrenaline. All his worries would vanish instantly, when he stood onto the moving train that sped 80 miles per hour.
Vanessa first stuck her arm up into the gust, she saw her hand flap like a flag in the wind. She knew this was crazy, it felt crazy. The crazy felt good. At that moment crazy felt like a pit of warm goodness to soak in. She got up with him. He saw her hair push over hiding her face. She held out her arms. She felt like she was flying. She turned around so the wind could hit her face first. Vanessa hardly kept her balance, she was blown closer to Freddy, she reached out to him and he grabbed her. Vanessa noticed the ripples on the man’s face, he was still handsome. For that moment she felt something wonderful. She felt free of all the problems with the family and the disdain caused by Timsley, those were all tossed by the wind. Most significantly she was free from herself.
**
“Where are we now,” said Vanessa. They had gone down another two train cars passed the one they rode on. Freddy took her to a car that was dark and smelled of unchanged kitty litter. It was like someone was assaulting her nose. She couldn’t see much of anything but as she held onto Freddy’s hand in the darkness, it seemed like he knew where he was going. She thought to herself “oh please don’t rape me.”
He stopped.
“What… um. I won’t,” he said.
“Oh my god, did I just say that out loud?”
“Yeah, you sure did. But I didn’t bring you here for that.” Freddy stuck his arm out in the middle of the room. Vanessa saw his fingers twiddling at something and then the lights came on. She found herself in the middle of a room surrounded by wild beasts.
“Welcome to the cat den,” said Freddy.
She was standing before a whole gallimaufry of exotic felines. Each individual creature had its own cage to itself. The cage closest on her left held a tiger inside, after that contained a jaguar. On her right was a panther as black as pure ebony stone. Following them were two long rows of cells holding many felines; it almost resembled a prison, not only because of the way it was set up, because the animals looked downtrodden. She saw most of those creatures, which are known to be fearsome in the wild, kept their heads down, not even paying attention to Freddy or Vanessa.
“This is,” said Vanessa. She couldn’t hoist a sentence out from herself; she was dumbfounded to be in a place like that. She never in her wildest dreams ever thought she would be in a room with the Kings and queens of the animal kingdom.
“Yeah, I know right.” Even though Vanessa couldn’t find the right words, somehow, someway Freddy knew exactly what she meant.
“I want to show you my favorite people here.” He walked forward through the isle, and Vanessa followed. Vanessa was honestly terrified of this situation.
“This is Solomon,” said Freddy. Solomon came up to the bars and licked Freddy’s palm like a very large dog. Freddy stuck both arms through the cage and Solomon leapt up into him. The bars were thin and spread out far enough to let Solomon throw his paws over Freddy’s shoulders. Vanessa couldn’t believe her eyes, of what he showed her. Stuff like that only appears in dreams. The creature was so docile and loving towards Freddy. Freddy hit her with another smile, and of course she smiled back, it worked every time, like magic. Vanessa realized of course this was a dream, it was Freddy’s dream, and he had the power to take her along for his adventure. It was funny to Vanessa in a sense that domestic cats were kind of the arrogant jerks of the domesticated animal world. Her baby sister had a cat,] _*it never showed one ounce of appreciation or gratitude of the times when Brenda would feed her. Her cat would also have a smug little gesture when Brenda would brush his fur, it would keep his eyes closed as if it was too good to look in her direction._ [*She hated cats, she felt cats were lazy and they never really try to earn the owners affection, but she always saw it the other way around; she noticed the owners were always trying to earn the cat’s affection.
“Come over here,” he said. “I would like you to meet him.”
Vanessa didn’t want to stand an inch closer to the beast.
“I see him,” she said. And that was all.
“You’re scared of him,” he said. “I can understand. He really is a gentle giant. There are a scarce number of creatures like Solomon. He is a white lion. Hardly ever found in the wild. And here he is before us both locked away in a cage.” Solomon had a coat as white as vanilla cream. He was gorgeous. The most valuable possession Artemis had owned before he died.
“Let’s try something more of your speed.” He then winked at her.
He took her to the cage on the far left corner. She saw little tigers, lions, panthers and etc, frolicking about with one another. She saw them tussling balls in their paws, tackling one another and practicing their roars that would one day be ferocious. Freddy loved the way Vanessa’s eyes light up. He took his key and unlocked the cage. Freddy nodded his head over and said] come one. He pulled the cage open enough for Vanessa and him to slip through. He shut the cage behind them. He kneeled down and a dozen of those babies anxiously went to him eager to play. He scooped up the smallest of the bunch; it was a tiger that could fit in both of his hands. “This is Akma, she is from Malaysia.” He rocked her for a moment like a baby. “Would you like to hold her?” She took Akma from him. The baby tiger let out a little roar. She touched Vanessa on the nose with her small paw, and roared once more. She held Akma awkwardly with two hands; she glanced over at Freddy like she didn’t know what to do with it. He showed her how to rock it like a baby. And that was what she tried. Akma went from restless to timid in a matter of seconds. Vanessa was surprised to feel the warmth coming from such a small creature. Akma was like a fresh baked loaf of bread.

Freddy sat down against the wall with a baby panther in hand. He saw the little youngsters take a liking to Vanessa as they scampered around her feet. His eyes were studying Vanessa’s form. She was tall, she was gorgeous, something was different about her though, from all the other females that he had ever befriended, he couldn’t really articulate how and why to himself but he sensed that she was a new and unusual creature. He knew he liked her; he was unabashed about his feelings. He was going to tell her how he felt but then figured it was too early. After all, she just met him, and he was smart enough to figure not to scare her off.[
**]He caressed the little panther in his hands as Vanessa giggled and played with the cubs. He thought her laugh was goofy; an unusual type of laugh he didn’t expect a girl with this amount of beauty to have. And that gave her more of an appealing charm.[
**]“You’re a funny little thing.”[
**]She replied with a ‘what’, the most exaggerated ‘what’ he ever heard.[
**]“I know. I got a goofy laugh but I can’t help it.”[
**]“Don’t worry; you got the type of laugh that makes others want to laugh.”[
**]He smiled and then along went hers. She picked up a lion cub and took a seat right next to Freddy. She peered into his eyes, this time from up close, as he glanced into hers. His eyes were bluer than before, like electricity ran through them.[
**]“I forgot to ask you,” she said. “What is it exactly you do here?”[
**]He spread out his hands and told her he was the caretaker for the cats. He told her a few things the job detailed and she listened intently like they were the most fascinated things she heard. She asked him if he ever got scared handling such animals.[
**]“No,” he said. “Besides Solomon, with the bigger cats it’s all about respect. As long as you treat them like you would want to be treated, I don’t think problems will occur.”[
**]“You think?”[
**]“Well their wild animals. So I can’t predict everything. It would be foolish to say I have them completely figured out.”[
**]“Well at least you’re honest.”[
**]“I feed them, give them a bath and try to keep them busy.”[
**]“Do you change their litter box?”[
**]They both laughed, he thought it wasn’t funny but he wanted her to feel like she was funny.[
**]“I’m kidding. I think it is brave that you work with wild animals.” She saw his chest rise; it was being puffed with flattery. She leaned in closer to him as he did to her. They sat there for a moment absorbed into each other’s embrace. She leaned her cheek on his shoulder as he rested his chin on her head. The little cubs were crawling over their legs and growling trying to obtain their attention.[
**]A few minutes have past in silence; Freddy wrapped Vanessa in his arms while Vanessa held a panther cub in her hands. He had something pondering and he had to get it off his mind. “Selena, I’m curious,” he started. “It takes a special type of person to want to live the circus life. What made you leave?”[
**]She gave him the most formal answer.[
**]“In today’s economy I took what I could get.” She had rehearsed a few answers if anyone asked anything about her life.[
**]“I bet you have a lot friends and family that’s going to miss you?” She didn’t think of an answer for that one, so she went with honesty instead.[
**]“Well to tell you the truth, I have… somewhat…. antisocial tendencies; I keep to myself a lot. I never really gave away too much of my trust to anybody; except for a few of my family members, who I am still even leery about.” As she continued on he felt honored to have been shared the inner workings of this girl he barely knows. He held her a little tighter.[
**]“But for some odd reason,” she continued. “You seem trustworthy?”[
**]He chuckled just a little and Vanessa was taken aback by that.[
**]“I’m sorry to laugh,” he said. “But it is like you stole the words from right out of my mouth. See I don’t have too much of any family. Growing up in foster care meant I always had to watch my own back. So naturally I am biased to most people. I believe… well it’s kinda silly but I don’t want you to laugh at this okay.”[
**]“I won’t ever, I promise.”[
**]“I believe I can read people. Like their air around them, you know, what’s it called? The aura. For me it is like another sense. Most people read the same to me though. If I get a bad feeling about them I stay away. And sometimes there comes a person that really shines with a lot of energy. When those types of people come along I always get into a situation where I never forget about them.”[
**]“It’s hard to picture you without any friends, you’re so articulate.”[
**]“Well I do have friends…. Most of them are behind bars though.” She looked around the cages and saw all the wild felines glancing in their direction. And then she knew exactly what he meant about his friends.[
**]“So what are you some type of cat whisperer.”[
**]“I can read animals just like people. How else do you think I can walk up to a beast like Solomon and give him a hug?”[
**]“That was one of the most incredible things I ever seen,” Said Vanessa in the tone of a child. The flattery swelled his chest once more. “So, can you tell me what I’m thinking about?”[
**]“I’m not a psychic; it’s just a trick I taught myself. To help me adapt in….” She silenced him with a kiss.[
**]The crazy felt good, with him, the crazy felt oh so damn good.

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**][Introduce A Little Anarchy.
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[
**]Within the train car’s lounging area was Scarlett with her heart yearning to stir a commotion. She was with her associate Celia. She sat there ridiculing others they worked with; Celia politely nodded her head and smiled as if she agreed. Scarlett removed the cigarette from her underage lips. “I’ve been thinking,” she said. She puffed out the remaining smoke in her lungs. “About that new girl. What’s her name?” She fiddled the cigarette in her hands and looked upward as if the answer was above her head. “Joyce, am I right? Of course I am. Joyce, that’s her name. She’s a total bitch.” Celia nodded her head.[
**]Scarlett was never the one to comprehend her own jealousies. She felt that Joyce was getting more attention, which triggered her hatred to take aim. The truth is, in her career, at this point, Scarlett had secured her place in the media as America’s favorite teen queen. It fulfilled her vanity to see her face on teeny bopper magazines such as J14, Bop and Twist. She was featured on the cover of Seventeen magazine twice. Teen Vogue had her do magazine covers for the spring and winter seasons the year before. This year she was featured again for a summer issue. And GL magazine was just now vying to get her attention with a deal. She was famous; she was established in the spotlight all because of nepotism. It sure does help to be the stepdaughter of one of the world’s richest celebrities. Mr. Sebring helped get her there, but to stay in the media eye-that was up to her. She displayed her, honest to god, only talent she had that ever made her worth a damn, to breath fire. She wasn’t really the best fire breather Mr. Sebring had, but the younger fans of his show adored her otherwise. The world couldn’t resist a young girl with this ability.

“[Are you listening Celia, HELLO,” said Scarlett.
“I hear you,” said Celia.
“Okay good. This Joyce girl has only been with us for a few days. She gets a little attention and now she walks around here like she’s the queen. Honestly, that annoys me. And I didn’t like the way they all were talking about you behind your back.”
“They were?” said Celia in the tone of a nervous child, with her head down; trying not to glance at Scarlett.
“Yeah, of course they were, all of them. Remember how that senseless Mexican girl stared at you? How did that make you feel?”
Celia was over 7 feet in height, but you couldn’t tell it in her voice. She talked like a lost kid in a market, pathetically looking for its mother. “Like a freak,” she said.
“And do you remember how they all whispered while looking over their shoulders at us.” Celia nodded her head.
“Speak up Celia, for the love of Christ. You are a giant trying to be a mouse.”
“Yes, I remember.”
“You know why, don’t you? It’s because of that new girl; she is a mean girl. Like in that movie that came out a few years ago with Tina Fey. Have you seen it?”
“No.”
“Well in this movie there was this bitch that was played by Lindsay Lohan. She was the new kid in school. She quickly became popular with the other students. Then this inner circle of other popular kids called the plastics, because they were pretty like dolls, wanted to let her join their clique. She does. Soon she gets jealous over the popularity of the queen bee of the school who was played by Rachel McAdams and then she does all this evil pointless shit to tear down her popularity. Are you following me?”
“Yeah.”
“Basically you’re Rachel McAdams and that bitch is Lindsay Lohan.”
“But I’m not popular around here, I’m just an eyesore.”
“Don’t you ever say that again. You are very popular. People here love you, I love you, whether you appreciate it or not.”
“I do appreciate it, and I love you back.”
Scarlett pointed her finger at Celia. “Then listen to what I have to say. We have to nip this character in the bud. Show her we won’t be ridiculed.”
“What are we going to do,” asked Celia.
Scarlett rose slowly out of her seat as she said “I think she deserves a little remedial attention.”
They devised a plot that would indefinitely send a message to the tightrope girl. They connived like a cliché action movie; were the evil villain lays out all his plans to take over the world, right before cackling as thunder came in from the background. If Scarlett had a mustache it would have been already twiddled.
**]

There was a knock on Joyce’s door. She answered seeing the giantess with a smile. Celia held her hands together by her waist line. “Hi,” she said.[
**]“How’s it going with you?” said Joyce.[
**]“I’m alright. I was wondering if you would like to sit down with me in the lounging area?”[
**]“There’s a lounging area?”[
**]“Yeah, I can show you.”[
**]“Maybe another time, you’re welcome to join me in my room with Jake and Andre.” Andre waved to Celia as he was lying on Joyce’s bed with Jake in the corner watching TV. “Hey Celia,” said Andre.[
**]Celia stepped inside ducking her head. “Let me convince you all to a game of pool. It would kill the time as we wait for Atlanta.”[
**]“You never seen the Lounge yet, Joyce?” asked Andre. She shook her head. Andre stood off the bed and stretched his arms.[
**]“If we all go to the lounge it will help our new friend Joyce to be acquainted with her colleagues.” Joyce covered her smile, Andre’s smile was more unabashed.[
**]“Okay Celia, you lead the way,” said Andre. Celia Ducked under the door way and they all followed her to the lounge.

[
Scarlett watched them all walk out the isle way. She came out the linen closet and walked towards Joyce’s door peering to her left and her right for witnesses. There were none. She shut the door behind her. She thought about it for a moment. Not knowing how to get back at her. But of course we know Joyce is guiltless of any crime. Scarlett just wanted to take her down a peg, but she wondered how. She went to her closet, thinking maybe to ruin some of her clothing. But she thought to herself that Joyce’s wardrobe was bad enough. “Who is this girl,” she said to herself. Joyce’s wardrobe was more on the tomboy side. She valued comfort over style. She had a collection of retro 90’s cartoon t shirts. Scarlett picked up a few then laughed at the nostalgia. Then she went to the place where most of us keep our dreaded secrets from the world, the bathroom. She saw birth control on the counter. “Oh you little slut.” She slipped it in her pocket. The cabinet doors were swung open and Scarlett discovered two more little secrets. The first bottle was read and it contained the word Ritalin. Scarlett laughed as she realized Joyce had ADHD. “Looks like someone has a little problem keeping up with the rest of us,” she said to an empty bathroom. She read the label on the second bottle.
“Well I wouldn’t have guessed. On another thought it would explain the wardrobe.” The second bottle contained medication to treat Bipolar Disorder. Scarlett put the brown little bottles in her pocket.
Scarlett’s emotions became aroused as she meddled in the life of a person that was hardly known to her. The dresser drawer next to Joyce’s bed was opened; there was not much that could be used against her. A King James Version of the bible was there with a pair of reading glasses and some photos of her family. She checked under the bed. Scarlett pulled a shoe box out; her eyes went wide as she opened it. She saw what she wanted to see. There was a whole row of Magnum condoms. She went from gleeful to over-enthusiastic. She took a silver bobby pin from her hair and put little holes into the packages. “If you don’t want to get pregnant then don’t screw around.”
She was pleased with herself, but she felt that her job wasn’t quite done yet. She needed icing to finish off the mayhem cake she baked. Scarlett swabbed Joyce’s toothbrush under both armpits and between the crooks of all ten toes. She almost walked away then, but she said aloud “I can do better.” The inside of the toilet bowl was cleaned with Joyce’s hairbrush. The top of her lotion bottle was uncapped; she snorted over it and bombed a loogie inside. The cap was back on and the bottle was shaken nice and good.
Pride swarmed inside of Scarlett. Even after everything was put back as it was, her smile lingered afterwards. But it was a smile that held no warmth to it; this smile was as sour as the character it was beheld by. She headed back to her room rubbing her hands together, a job] well done.[
**]

Night Thoughts

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The sun was finally settling down for rest and the moon awakened for its time to shine. Artemis was nested into his bed watching the rush of the plains passing by his window. Prior to this he had a craving for a night snack, but the high of cocaine makes it hard for one to sleep. So he laid there, letting his mind wander as it pleased. He thought about how he wanted to leave show business, about his legacy. How will the brand continue after he was retired, or will it thrive after his death? Truth was, he could no longer deny it to himself, that it was time to hang it up. He was 64 and still performing with vibrancy on stage in front of crowds. To his fans he was ageless. But his joints were telling him a very different story. What was left of his current tour was 5 more stops, 5 more performances, 5 more episodes to record. Including a special performance he was invited to do at the White House.[
**]Around this time Artemis was hounded by his fellow producers, who didn’t know anything about circus life until they met the ringmaster in the late 70’s. They were trying to get his compliance on the contract extension from the network for three more seasons. Artemis didn’t return any of their phone calls; he wasn’t sure where he was going just yet.[
**]The feeling of retirement grew every day within the old man, but he didn’t want to leave knowing there were disappointed hearts within his fans. He knew for years American houses had accepted him inside and he believed his fan base was like an extension of his family. Well not his real family for obvious reasons, but a family nonetheless.[
**]

[Natalie walked in the room, her presence distracted him away from his thoughts. For a brief moment she saw concern enveloped on his face. But the expression fled once he looked at her. She thought to ask him what was bothering him, but figured it wasn’t worth hearing the old man complain.
He watched her change into a night gown and that got his blood going. Natalie saw the look in his eyes, she saw the hunger within him. She knew it wasn’t for food but of her flesh he craved. She sashayed over at the foot of his bed and took a seat and asked him “Whatcha lookin at ole man? You see som’m you like?”
He smiled.
Truth was, she wasn’t] [sexually attracted to Artemis as a person, but Natalie held a curiosity about him as a cultural phenomenon. Back in her home town Atlanta, where they met, Natalie was known as a professional socialite; well that’s the nicest way I can tell you she was a whore. The preferred term of what a professional socialite likes to be called is a ‘Sugar Baby’. Basically how she made a living was to search out for a wealthy older man and keep his company in exchange for her bills to be paid. She would give them attention and they would pay for her company. Most of the time Natalie would take clients out to the clubs, bars or any type of social outing, of course these saps would pay for the evening as well as reimburse Natalie. But for those high rollers that wanted special attention, if we all know what’s meant, had to lay down the cost and she would be ready to go. With a mother like Natalie you can’t really blame Scarlett for how she turned out. 7 years ago she met the ringmaster and she’d been pleasing him ever since.
“I could devour you,” said Artemis with a groggy voice. “I wish I could, but I….”
“Butchu have to wake up early tomorrow mornin. I hear ya, yada, yada, yada. You bet not get old on me Artemis.”
“There is no point to escape it. Old age comes and death creeps by waiting for his moment to strike.”
Natalie turned off the lights.
“If you die, I think I’m goin have to go right along witchu.” She slipped under the covers holding onto Artemis. He turned to her.
“You and I both know that you’re not going to kill yourself for me.”
“How you goin tell me what I’ma do and what I ain’t goin do before I do it.”] [
“Because I know you.”] [
“Well I know that you must not even know me at all, to allow yourself to question me in the first place.”
“I know you good and well that’s why I keep you.] You have me attracted to more than your beauty, I’m also attracted to your confidence. You have a type of confidence that is just as gorgeous as you are.” [
She nestled with him under the covers.
“The thing that gets me aboutchu,” she said. “And don’t take this the wrong way either. Is your power and fame. I just think it’s sexy to see a man with a lot of accomplishments.”
Artemis tried not to laugh in her face, but he failed.
“No I’m serious, don’t laugh at me. There is alot gals that find it attractive to have a man take care of em.”
His laughter grew and so did her agitation.
“Don’t make me out to be a gold digger.”
“I didn’t say that,” he said. He almost wanted to say “you said that yourself”, but to keep the peace he didn’t. He knew what they were to each other; he just didn’t care for the façade.
“I love you; I figured I’d say that,” she said. “And when I say I’ll follow you even in death, I mean it.”
“When I die I’m not going anywhere. I betrayed god himself and failed the devil. It’s just nothingness for me.” When those words crept out of Artemis’s sleepy mouth it baffled Natalie what that could of possibly meant. She stared at the ceiling with wide eyes wondering who exactly she was sleeping next to. And because she believed excess worrying caused wrinkles; she turned over figuring that] he was a silly ole man that said silly ole man things.

Arrival

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The morning came in through the windows. The alarm clock rang and Artemis went to the [bathroom for his morning pick me up. The one huff of cocaine shot him straight for the moon. He stepped out of his train car and onto the Atlanta train station. He wore a red velvet bath robe with a wife beater and bright blue pajama bottoms with little ducks on them. He sipped his coffee while stretching his limbs out of morning stiffness.
Natalie appeared from out of the car. She saw a banner that welcomed travelers to the city saying “Welcome to Atlanta.” Natalie took in a deep breath through the nostrils, and there was nothing that could of smelled better to anyone, anywhere in the world. The smell was all too familiar like how one smells the cooking of their grandmother. She let go of that breath she held while exclaiming “home sweet home.”
“Hey Jimmie!” shouted Artemis. “Wake up the kiddies!” Train conductor Jimmie gave Artemis a thumbs up, he disappeared from the window, and then a blaring whistle came right after. The whistle meant for his employees, cast and crew, to get themselves ready for their objectives. The cast were to pack whatever they needed and head for the front entrance. There a personal escort would drive them to the hotel where they were to be accommodated during the whole stint of shows in the city. The crew was provided with buses that took them to the venue where the show was going to be recorded. From then on the crew was going to work indefatigably to make the place] [sanguine for the ticket buyers.
Every last employee Artemis had he interviewed personally. He wanted to make sure he was bringing aboard motivated people. As a boss he liked those who strive to do whatever they were brought on to do. He noticed everything, nothing ever slipped away from him. If somebody was slacking he would know and the slacker would be scolded in front of everybody.
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**]The cast was chauffeured to the Hilton Suites in the downtown Atlanta area. The crew was being loaded into buses to be transported to the Philips Arena. For the animals they were going to be carried in on a semi truck. Artemis was behaving frantic; something had been brought to his attention that was definitely not according to plan. Apparently two crew members have vanished without a trace. Artemis stood in their cabin rubbing his temples; he muttered to himself why is this happening now[*?*
“Okay who again went missing?” asked Artemis.
“That new girl Selena,” said Jason. “Is that her name?” he asked Chucky. He nodded his head. “Yeah that new chick Selena and Freddy are both gone.”
“Damn it, Freddy has to go missing right when I need him. How perfect is that?”
Timsley walked by and asked what the matter was. Artemis filled him in with a frustrated tone. Timsley asked Jason if Selena or Freddy talked about quitting.
“No he never said a word to me, and I would be the first he’d tell.”
Timsley wondered if Selena left her job because of his drunken forwardness, then he thought that wouldn’t] elucidate [the absence of Freddy. Timsley told them to start from the beginning.
“Well it was getting late,” started Jason. “I went to bed noticing Selena or Freddy weren’t here. I woke up and they still weren’t here. I checked in the isle way, the kitchen and the lounge. It’s like they disappeared. And I say that because if you look under here you can still see Freddy’s stuff under his bed. And there is still stuff under Selena’s bed too.”
Artemis and Timsley gave each other a look. Artemis suggested “You think after the breakfast…”
“They got left,” finished Timsley.
It seemed like a logical conclusion, but Artemis had one more question. “Well how come they didn’t call any of us.”
“That’s his cell phone still on the dresser,” pointed Jason. “I’m not sure if that Selena girl had one with her.”
“It wouldn’t have mattered any way,” said Timsley. “That was a desolate area. I couldn’t even get a signal out there.”
Artemis threw his hand in the air and cursed. “Great, just fucking great! I don’t have any time to figure this out; I still have a show to do. Come with me Timsley, you’re going to help load the animals into the truck.”
“What?! That’s not me field! You have more trainers, let them handle it!”
“Some of the younger cats think of him as head of the pride. Some might not appreciate any other trainers handling them. I don’t need any liabilities.”
“I’m not a liability.”
“You lost two men, a theater technician, an animal caretaker; both of them were on the crew, you’re head supervisor, you’re accountable, you’re coming with me.”
**
They walked along the side of the train until they reached the back where the many variety of beasts were being loaded into trucks. The elephants and bears were already headed towards the stadium. It was the cats that gave most of the problems for the trainers. They all were competent on their job but it was Freddy who held a certain power over the felines that made them accepting to his bidding.
Artemis swung open the doors of the cat den and that allowed sunlight to beam straight down the aisle. In the car Artemis noticed peculiarity among his pets. It seemed they were all face towards the same direction. He and Timsley crept cautiously through the isle to see what they were glancing at.
“Well looky what we have here,” said Timsley.
Freddy awoken startled and bug eyed. Artemis didn’t say a word; just one eyebrow was cocked higher than the other. Vanessa twitched to life stretching her limbs while moaning in a song. She rubbed her eyes with both fists to get the sand out. Her heart nearly blew out of her chest because Timsley was the first thing she seen when she awoken.
“Looks like somebody had fun last night,” Timsley implied to Artemis.
Artemis walked away.
“Get back to work,” said Timsley and he then was gone as well.
**
Joyce was beaming with joy; her cheeks went numb from the stretching they had done smiling. She was in a big city being driven around by a personal escort. She felt like she was doing big things with her life now. During the car ride the radio played a promotion of the show, the announcer specifically mentioned her as a performer. It was like a fairy had struck Joyce with a wand with sparkles dazzling from out of it; granting Joyce a new life. In her own head she was a Disney Princess. It was the dream coming true; the rags to riches story that was going to be the stuff of legend.
The escort had let Joyce out of the car at the front entrance to the Hilton.
“Thank you so much,” she said. The driver went away after he wished her a blessed day. As she approached the gates a gentleman came out to her and asked for her name. She gave it to him.
“Ah. Joyce. We were expecting you,” said he. The gentleman had took her duffle bag and told her to follow him inside. “Give your name to the hostess at the desk and she will give you a key card.”
She did so, noticing the girl at the desk looking at her like it was all the joy in the world to see her face. The blush returned to Joyce; she was like a chocolate covered cherry. “Do they pay you all to be this nice? You have flattered me most outrageously.”
“We have seen you on the television,” said the gentlemen. “I was up most impressed by your talents.”
“It’s always nice to be in the presence of a star,” gushed the hostess.
“Well you both certainly know how to make me feel welcomed. Thank you.”
The gentleman helped her carry the luggage all the way to the suite. Along the way there was a family with three small children, the oldest who looked about the age for middle school pointed at Joyce singing “look it’s her.” They went up to Joyce and all received a personalized signature on the back of their t shirts. They didn’t have paper with them but Joyce obliged with the request anyway. That experience made their day. They walked away not realizing their ardor made Joyce’s day as well.
When she got to her room she was out of breath. This was her first small encounter of fandom. A feeling raised within her little form so zealously it betwixt the mind, heart and the body. When she was settled in the room she went straight for the closest mirror which was placed above a cherry oak dresser. She had to see her face. Something told her to look in the mirror. And she couldn’t recognize who was staring back at her. It was still her face, but it was like an entirely new person wore it; a person with more confidence, a person who could hold a crowd’s attention, a person who possessed no insecurity, a person who looked strong. For the first time in the mirror she saw a person with beauty looking right back at her. At that point she was still a stranger but Joyce loved the woman in the mirror.]

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[First Day on the Job
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“[Oh my god everyone thinks I’m a whore now,” thought Vanessa as she walked towards the stadium. A few colleagues gave her a few awkward glances over the shoulder. And the costume designers were pointing and laughing as if they were in middle school. Before she made her way through the doors she heard her name—well her alias, which was being mingled with words such as “fast”, “easy”, “whore,” and “slut.” Vanessa is far from being a slut, and I’m talking miles; growing up she was more of a recluse than anything. Her family worried as she would give excuses why she wouldn’t make friends outside the clock tower. But that didn’t matter to these people who were giving this young woman a whore’s welcome. The reputation of a slut defies the laws of physics because it travels faster than the speed of light.
She sat in the control room and became the little girl she tried to forget. She thought maybe her mom wasn’t so bad after all. The blows of theirs words made her realize how tender her emotions truly are. Hurt, anger and that awkward feeling that comes when you realize everybody is talking about you, and they have nothing nice to say.
Vanessa figured that Artemis and Timsley probably told the crew how they found her sleeping with Freddy. Even though they didn’t do anything, the way she fell asleep in Freddy’s arms would make any onlooker suggest otherwise. Freddy held her gently in his sleep like an infant clutching a blanket. And when Timsley voice startled him awake he pulled Vanessa in towards him even more. Even though she didn’t like the outcome, she was… she was very comfortable slumbering in the young man’s presence.
Little did she know how his eyes studied the contours of her face with the fascination of a school boy. It was like he had won a prize and this woman was his trophy. Her essence kept him up for hours into the night. He took the time in the moonlight and counted one hundred, thirty eyelashes on both of her eyes. He gently stroked her plump lips with his fingers. Their natural color reminded him of peaches, peaches he wanted to taste. He did what any rational man would have done, he stole a kiss. And no taste ever hit his palette that was sweeter than her lips.
In the control room Vanessa was figuring how every knob and button correlated with the stage. It didn’t take her long; she had an aptitude to retain new information. She sort of played with every instrument on the board to see how the stage would be affected and then Timsley came in through the door. After the initial shock of him being there, came the sound of the creaking door slamming shut behind him, and that let her know nothing good can come from this moment.
He said something to her but she’d rather go blind then look in his direction. Vanessa heard the weak floorboards scream under his feet right before the pressure hit her left shoulder. Timsley’s rugged and filthy hand was clutching her.
“Well how is your first day turning out?”
He took a seat right in front of her.
“It’s moving along,” she said as her voice cracked. Timsley saw her lips quiver, he couldn’t figure exactly why but it excited him nonetheless. He slowly repeated the words that came out of Vanessa’s mouth.
“Lucky for you seven times out of ten when we’re dealing with a stadium venue, the control room will be set up quite the same as this.”
“That is good to know.” Timsley slowly mimicked her words again.
For a moment Timsley went on asking questions and Vanessa would be giving short answers. He kept repeating every answer she said slowly and softly. Vanessa grew more unsteady as the conversation started to stray off the job. She told him she had to visit the rest room. Vanessa’s distressed face was in the mirror pondering how to get through this moment. That was when he walked in. She saw his heavyset form come towards her in the mirror, but how the mirror was positioned his head was cut off. She asked him why was he in the girls bathroom, she spoke loud enough for someone outside the closing door could hear.
He started out by saying: “You know Selena.” He walked towards her and put both hands on her shoulders. He moved on to say “like I said before, you have to show me a little more enthusiasm, if you would like to stay here.”
After his words a long silence followed; they both stared at each other for a moment.
“How bad do you want to be here?” His right hand went from her shoulder to the depth of her cleavage.
“Show me how much this means to you.”
The anger erupted in her—she was the type to never let another disrespect her in such a manner. There was strength summoned within her she didn’t even know she had, she swung her foot and ruined his testicles. He thumped when he hit the ground. She watched that pathetic lump of man moan, rolling on the floor calling out obscenities: “you bitch!” That was her chance. She ran out the door leaving Timsley holding himself in agony.
She rushed down the stairwell trying to leave that demented scenario. She lost her balance and fell over but still kept her grasp on the railing.

  • She didn’t want to do it, she tried to prevent it from happening, she tried to suppress the flooding emotion like a damn-- but it came anyway. The tears came out of her eyes, her voice cracked out in a shriek; Vanessa was subdued in her own emotion. Vanessa spent a good deal of time in the stairwell trying to put herself back together. Minutes later there were voices coming from above; she didn’t want anyone to see her like that, so she wiped all her tears away and straightened her voice from a grunt of the throat. She was headed straight for the exit, she had enough, she needed to get away. The circus was taking too much out of her. Her hands were tied; if she reported the sexual harassment she would inevitably be in court. Then everyone will know the truth about her, and maybe the court will order her back home to her parents. But if she tried to lie about herself in court then she would be thrown in jail. She didn’t care for any of that, so she thought about looking for something else. She was in Atlanta after all, probably could find a job out there. But no telling when she would get hired, what she would be paid, how long it would take to get into housing. Vanessa knew she was stuck. Her only hope was for him to never touch her again, even that wasn’t promising. *


Her mind was filled with conflicting thoughts. She now was in the hallway heading for the door; someone shouted “Selena,” but she kept for the door because she couldn’t register that name.]

[Moments before the incident, within the changing room, was Joyce in all her fineness. Joyce was admiring her bedazzled self in the mirror. She thought it was a little skimpy, even for leotard standards but she was in love with the scheme of the outfit. The wardrobe designer matched the fabric with Joyce’s skin tone and sequenced it with rhinestones.
There were only five people in Joyce’s wardrobe room: Joyce herself, Britney, Malik the costume designer, Joan the makeup specialist, and Arnie, as he would like to consider himself an artist of the scalp.
Malik, Joan and Arnie were all gazing at Joyce with self satisfaction. They all thought of themselves as artists in some way, Joyce was their canvas and they painted a very articulate picture.
“When the lights go off,” said Britney as she gotten out the chair. “The only thing that will still be shining,” she said as she flicked the lights. “Is you my dear.”
In the dark room Joyce lit up like the constellations of the night. Even in her hair there were little sparkling gems. She twirled about, and then faced Britney. “Oh I love it.”
“You look amazing,” gushed Joan.
“Even when the sun goes down,” Arnie said. “You can make their world light up.”
Within the hallway Scarlett overheard the praises that was given to Joyce. She glared into the space of the cracked open door. As soon as she saw the smile on her nemeses, her insides began to boil. Question and thoughts arose within her mind: “Why is she getting all this attention? She has no talent, so why do they adore her? She so plain, there is nothing special about her whatsoever. She needs to go. I need to get her out of here. How can I get her to leave?”
“Scarlett?” said Artemis. She looked at her stepfather who was standing behind her in the hallway.
“What are you doing?” he asked.

  • She didn’t reply, only walked away. Artemis was well aware his stepdaughter was wayward-- so he was not at all surprised. He just shook his head. “Ok whatever.” *


Three knocks came on the door.
“Who is it,” asked Britney.
“It’s just me Artemis, I was curious to know what our little gymnast will be performing next.”
Britney swung open the door and the first thing Artemis noticed was Britney’s cleavage, which was as wide as an outdoor pool and Artemis wanted to dive in and get wet.
“Please Artemis stay focused and put those eyes on your talent,” said Britney as she placed a hand to cover herself.
“Oh I’m sorry I was just admiring your talents,” he whispered to Britney.
“Wow you three did an amazing job,” complemented Artemis. The sparkles from Joyce were reflecting in the old man’s eyes. Britney hit the light switch and Artemis asked his young talent what she will perform for the spectators. Joyce was going to answer but Britney spoke before she could: “that is a secret.”
“Of course, you love to tease me.”
“I do.”
“Well here is a bit of advice Joyce, get to know your theater technicians. It’s the stage that makes you god in the eyes of the audience.”
“Who does my lights?” asked Joyce.
“I’ll introduce you to her.”
Joyce and Britney followed Artemis out into the hallway; they were headed for the stairwell until they seen the very person they were searching for.
“That’s her.” Artemis pointed her out. He shouted her name once but she kept walking. He tried once more: “Hey Selena.” She turned around and compelled a smile.
“Selena let me introduce you to…”
“Joyce. I know her, we’ve met.”
“Well it’s good to meet you again,” said Joyce. This time Vanessa’s smile was more genuine.
“You two should get to know each other real well. You’re going to be partners in crime until the tour ends. Your make up and wardrobe is great Joyce but great lighting will make you ten pounds lighter and five years younger.”
Even though Artemis meant well, his words didn’t come across as such; Britney gazed at Artemis in disgust, then Vanessa saw a look of unease settle on Joyce’s face. So she wanted to say something that will break the awkwardness set in by Artemis’s comment: “You look great to me, and you’re standing under florescent bulbs so when you get under my lights you’ll be something to behold.”
“Wow big talk for a newbie. I’m still trying to break you in myself,” said Artemis.
“Artemis,” started Britney. “You have no idea how to talk to young girls do you?”
“What do you mean? I was trying to introduce them.”
Britney and the old man bickered at each other like kid brother and sister whilst the young women tried to get to know each other.
“I’m sure you’ll do just fine Selena,” said Joyce.
“Thanks.”
Vanessa saw the limping Timsley head outside the back exit doors. She figured it’s best to stay in now since he is outside.
“How about I try the lights on you to see what best fits,” Vanessa said.
Joyce looked at Britney seeing she had hands full with Artemis, so she figured to venture off with Vanessa.
“Sounds good,” said Joyce.
“You head over to the arena, and I’ll go to the control room.”
**]

[Joyce lifts the curtains and walks over to the center of the stage. A little something in her shifted as she saw all the desolate seats that were going to be filled with more than twenty thousand people in forty-eight hours. From her point of view, being from a small town in Michigan, this was the largest closed space she had ever stepped foot in to throughout her entire life. The number of empty seats invigorated her drive; she aimed to give them one hell of a show. She could already hear the cheers of the audience as she anticipated for her own performance.
Vanessa stepped in to the control room, shutting the door and locking it. After hearing the click it registered to her that she was safe. She went up to the microphone and asked if Joyce could hear her. Joyce put up her handheld microphone and told her so.
“Let’s start off with the basics; this is the shade your audience will be in when you’re performing.”
Joyce then saw the sitting area succumb to a dim light.
“I can barely see out there.”
“All the better for them to see you,” replied Vanessa. “This light here really accentuates you on the stage.”
A cascade of illumination falls on her petite frame.
“From here you look like a cluster of diamonds in a mine shaft. This is how you look to your audience.”
Joyce saw herself on a big screen that was floating in the middle of the room. At that moment she succumbed to her own vanity. She fell in love with her own image. Vanessa saw those big dark eyes widen and she heard the faintest whisper floating out of the gymnast’s mouth: “I look…I… I look.” Vanessa finished her thought by saying “amazing” in the microphone. The performer smiled showcasing to Vanessa how simply she is flattered.
**]

If you haven’t noticed by now it takes little to no effort whatsoever to flatter Joyce; she is easily swayed even from the most general of compliments. Once in the first grade during an introduction to multiplications a boy with long blonde hair, blue eyes and a tie dye shirt told her: “I like you very much because you’re really pretty.” That sent her in a tickled rage; little joyous Joyce was lost in a fit of hysterical laughter. She laughed to the point her cheeks went purple. The rest of the children stared at her and the teacher was displeased. During recess she went up to the boy and asked: “Do you want to marry me?” The boy shrugged his shoulders and said he would. He stepped off the monkey bars and gave her an unexpected kiss on the lips. The other kids dropped their jaws at this scandalous event. Little Joyce hit the ground like she was shot with anesthesia. Later that day, after the girls stapled little blank sheets of paper all over Joyce’s blouse and gave it a train that followed. After she carried a little corsage made of toilet paper, she approached her groom with five little witnesses. Then she was married in the girl’s bathroom.[
**][
**]“Okay, now I want to see how this color looks on you as you’re in motion.”[
**]Joyce then twirled about like a ballerina as a cascade of purples fell on her. She danced in the softest of shades to the richest of color.[
**]Vanessa brought her lips to the microphone: “this is your color.” Joyce stopped as the voice coming from every direction said “You were made to be in purple.”

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Conspiracy [
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**][Timsley sat alone in his hotel suite with an ice pack resting on his balls. He was grumbling under his breath staring at the ceiling. By now his ego was totally shot. He was rejected by a younger woman, and then she kicked his ass. In his mind that bitch had to go. He started to contemplate ways for her to get fired.
A sex scandal was going to damage the family friendly image the circus had. He could imagine her sad face on people magazine, followed by his picture with bold red letters. “Attacker.” “Rapist.” “Predator.”
“I’m not going to let that happen,” he thought while rocking like a disturbed child. He had the power to fire her, but he figured she would then go to his higher up. Artemis.
“No, No, No. Go to Artemis first,” he murmured. “I will tell what happened in the bathroom. Say how it was all her fault. Wait, I’ll tell Artemis she came on to me. Yes that seems like the best shot I have.”
His word had more weight than Vanessa in the circus. He wasn’t going to tell Artemis the truth. The truth was likely to damage Artemis’s reputation as well. He wouldn’t allow this young harlot to make his best friend look bad. A harlot who was a sweet image for his eyes; the definition of eye candy, he just wanted to taste her insides but she was selfish.
“Who do you think you are, you stupid bitch! I’m the pussy slayer!” A few empty bottles of Guinness clanked on the floor after being knocked over in anger. His knuckles white, chest heaving, he told himself to calm down, put on a bold face and lie like your life depended on it.
A few moments later there was a knock on Artemis’s hotel door. He answered. Timsley said “You’re going to need a new theater technician.”
And at that Artemis replied “Aww shit!”]

[Sometime in the middle of that night Joyce and Andre were putting fancies into one another’s ear. Their cast mates were all catching up with the sand man for good dreams. But these two were lying together on the hotel bed giggling and flirting like adolescents.
At one point a promo for the circus went by the television. It showed Ring Master with his wife. Andre asked if she had ever seen Artemis kiss his Natalie.
“No. Why would you ask me that?”
“Well he kinda goes like this.” He kissed the back of her palm.
Joyce smiled as he left a trail of kisses on her forearm, in the crook of her elbow, up her bicep; his lips touched the warmth of her neck and lastly to her cheek. Her skin was so sweet it made him smack his lips.
“That was the best excuse anyone has ever used to steal a kiss from me.”
“Really? Well allow me to take another.”
They paused in each other gazes; his green eyes focused on her brown ones.
“What are you waiting for?” she said. He pressed his thin lips against hers and felt the plumpness black girls are known for. Her lips enveloped his during the kiss. That made the animal burst inside Andre. He poured all his affection onto her. Joyce willfully succumbed to this young man’s embrace. Joyce felt a sensation so great and unique the word wasn’t yet in her vocabulary. She hadn’t been a virgin for years, but this experience was her first time feeling the deliverance of her own lust. She knew her sexuality was let free, she knew this when she told him “I have a condom.”
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Artemis threw his hands in the air screaming “Why is this shit so fucking difficult!?!” He then went on to say “I don’t get you Timsley. At first I thought you were trying to get her.”
“I was, at first,” he said, with an emphasis on the ‘at first’. “But ever since we caught her with that animal handler, I’ve been hearing that she passes her muff around like turkeys they hand out for thanksgiving.”
Timsley had gone on to tell Artemis his bogus reasons to let go of Vanessa. He suggested that Artemis do the firing, because he knew there would be no one else for her to go to. Artemis reluctantly agreed. “I’ll do it before we depart. She already gotten a set routine with my artists.”
“What?” replied Timsley. “She has a set routine? With who?”
“With Joyce. And I think a few others.” Artemis scratched the back of his neck. “I don’t want to throw Joyce off her game. That little star is going to keep my wallet full.” He approached a window that stretched from the floor to the ceiling. To him, his reflection seemed to be glaring right back. “It’s the qualities like Joyce’s that will keep this circus, my legacy, going after I am gone.”
“What do you mean?”
“This circus needs more than talent, more than good looks, I need stars. Genuine stars. As long as I have been in the business of entertainment I can tell which entertainers will last long and who will be thrown in the garbage can of history. You should know, you’ve seen this too. It’s the way they move in a room. They have an uncanny ability to steal people’s attention. They have a rare gift of persuasion over their peers. I’m looking for personality….”
“Artemis,” Timsley said, cutting him off.
“What?”
“That’s not what I’m trying to ask you. What do you mean after you’re gone?”
“Timsley I’m getting old. I look it, I feel it. What I can get, or what I am at least hoping for is an image, a persona that is just as defining as I was. I see that in Joyce, she has that.”
“Why not Britney?”
“Britney is fantastic, on the scenes and off. But the audience would never accept her in my shoes.” Timsley cleared his throat.
“What about your red-headed step child?”
“Are you serious? The brand would run into the ground with her in charge. Scarlett has issues with her anger she hasn’t yet been able to control.”
Natalie then walked into the room wearing only a Dolly Parton shirt, watching two old men engaged in conversation.
“I’m sorry babe did we wake you?” asked Artemis.
“I woken up to you shoutin’ cursin’. Is everthing all right’?
“Oh yeah I’m just having a talk with Tim here.”
Timsley’s eyes were preoccupied on the pink panties that were peeking out from under her shirt.
“Go back to bed babe I will be there in a moment.” And she did just that.
“Ok,” said Artemis. “What were we talking about again?”
“Your artists.”
“Oh, yeah.”
“You seem to fancy this girl Joyce. I know she is charming and the media adores her but can she live up to your talent?”
**][“Talent?” He smirked. “I wouldn’t even flattery myself with that one.”
“So you don’t consider yourself talented?” said Timsley confused.
“I consider myself skillful.” The confusion stayed on his friends face. “Let me break it down for you. I have skill. Scarlett has talent. Joyce has a gift.”] [Timsley stood out of his chair and stretched his limbs around.
“So you want this girl to take over for you, after you’re done?”
Artemis took one long breath in. “I don’t know yet.”
“Artemis you don’t have any fools on your tour. This is the last season on the contract and we have several shows still left for the year. I’m hoping I won’t have to look for a new job at the end of it.”
Artemis took one long breath in. Then Artemis told Timsley something he didn’t want to hear.
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Lunch [
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On the second day of rehearsals everyone inside the stadium was busy. They moved like drones inside a beehive trying to please their queen. In this case the queen bee was Artemis.
Vanessa was configuring her light settings for each moment within the show. For every performer she customized a lighting pattern. As a person who had no experience within this field Vanessa was doing a relatively decent job. She was mainly fidgeting with knobs and buttons, trying to figure out how they correlated with the stage.
**][Vanessa practiced her lights from morning to early afternoon. She was anxious during the several minutes performers transitioned on and off the stage. If felt like she was in a scary movie, with the scene so sullen, as if Timsley could walk in again at any moment. He didn’t. In fact no one walked in on Vanessa. She had been alone in the control room all morning.
Two pm came and the cast and crew got an hour break for lunch. Vanessa’s tummy was crying out for food, but she was too afraid she would run into Timsley. She forgot to bring a lunch. The clock was ticking ten past two and her stomach was whining like a baby. Recollecting on her memories she realized the last time she had eaten was on the train. That was two days past. She didn’t get a meal last morning. And after dealing with the beastly Timsley how could she eat.
She felt herself becoming weak. She peeked her head out the door, looked left and then right seeing an empty hallway. Vanessa eventually made her way out of the stadium with a vigilant attitude, walking down the sidewalk aiming for the first restaurant she came across. She went into a Burger King; she thought the food was ok, but hated their creepy royal mascot.
Without even thinking she said “Hello. I’m Hungry; I want to pay for food.” The cashier had to refrain from laughing. Vanessa had no patience for her burger, as soon as the money was given she asked “Can I just have the fries now?” The cashier lady gave her the fries. Hot, salty, crunchy, oily goodness sparked in her mouth. The coworkers behind the counter were giggling as Vanessa moaned on every bite. The hungriest girl they had ever seen. When she got the rest of her food she sat down nodding her head, shimming her shoulders to a melody in her own mind.
“I hope you haven’t been avoiding me,” said a voice. Vanessa turned around seeing a smile on Freddy’s face. She put her arms around his neck and welcomed him with a kiss.
“I was looking out for you, where have you been?”
“Oh I was working, at the circus, like always.” He smiled. Vanessa put her finger on his lips.
“No sarcasm.” Then they shared another kiss.
“I’m all done for today, we should go do something.”
“Oh I so totally would, but I still have work to do.”
“What time are you off?”
“Like I think around five. After that we could do whatever we want.”
“Sounds awesome.”
Vanessa went back to her food and Freddy sat with her. He sat back with a smile watching her eat.] Ordinary women don’t eat like that, he thought. But then again, there is nothing ordinary about Selena. [
“Why are you looking at me like that?” Vanessa giggled.
“I have never seen a women eat like you before.”
“What?”
“You eat like a beast. I mean that in a good way. It’s actually a little nice to see.”
“Is this flirting?” she said with a mouth full of burger. “Are you trying to flirt with me?”
“You’re all sorts of strange Selena.”
She shrugged her shoulders and said in a coy voice “There is nothing wrong with being strange. It’s just that people around me have the problem with it.”
“Really is that so?”
“That is so sir.”
Freddy dropped his jaw and said “wow” and Vanessa mimicked him.
“Since our topic is on the strange,” Vanessa started. “Tell me why you are wearing a scarf and it’s like eighty degrees out?” Freddy chuckled silently. “What are you going for? Like a hipster sort of vibe? It’s not working.”
“It’s my swagger, Miss Selena Santana.”
“Swagger, huh? You’re whiter than cream cheese.” Freddy said “Wow” with an exaggerated expression and Vanessa did the same to mock him.
“I’m white like cream cheese huh…okay. Well you’re brown like a bean.”
“Whoa, so you want to go there. At least a bean is more nutritious than a cracker.”
Freddy smiled and shook his head. “Go ahead and say it,” demanded Vanessa.
“Say what?” She then mocked his overstressed way of saying wow.
They sat in silence for while staring in each other’s eyes, smiling.
“What time do you have to be back again?” asked Freddy
“I have about fifteen minutes. I should start heading back now.”
“I’ll walk with you.”
They walked out the building, heading up the street towards the stadium.
“You know,” started off Freddy. “They say beans and crackers go good together.”
“Yeah, they do.” Freddy offered his hand to Vanessa and she gladly accepted it. Strolling in each other’s embraces, she now realized that Freddy is the closest person she befriended since leaving home. Vanessa thought that maybe she should share the incident she had with Timsley.
“Hey Freddy.”
“Yeah?”
She wondered how to say it to him.
“Yeah what’s up?” said Freddy.
She stammered; she couldn’t get one syllable out. Then a car beeped its horn at her. A Rolls Royce pulled up to the sidewalk. It gave the impression that somebody really important was in the back seat. The style of vehicle in front of them screamed elitist class. The back seat window came down revealing Joyce with a beaming smile.
“What’s up Selena!” said Joyce.
“Oh hey, not much.”
Joyce hopped out. “You ready for the big night tomorrow?”
“I can feel the bubbles in my gut, but yeah I’m ready for it.”
“Me too.”
Andre got out of the car. He paused with the expression of a startled cat. He and Freddy glared at each other like they were about to do battle.
“Selena,” said Freddy. “I will catch up with you later.”
“Oohkaay??” And then Freddy was gone. Joyce heard Andre mumble under his breath.
“What?” she said.
“It’s nothing.” He then went back in the vehicle.
Vanessa saw Joyce’s face. “I don’t know what’s going on either.”
Vanessa glanced at Freddy’s back as his image descended up the pavement. “I should get going.”
Joyce asked if she would like a ride. Vanessa looked again for Freddy and he was nowhere to be seen. “Sure.”
Vanessa hopped in after Joyce and her eyes popped. She was in the most ridiculously extravagant automobile she had ever seen.] This is something Donald Trump would roll in, she thought. Joyce is more important than I thought. [
Black leather seats with heating, tinted windows, Joyce had the transportation of Kate Middleton. “Um Driver can you head back to the stadium,” requested Joyce.
“Sure thing, miss.”
“Selena, the cast is going to be partying at The Gold Room after the taping and you’re invited.”
“The Gold Room?”
She explained that it was a night club where a lot of big celebrities have been to. And it would be nice for Selena to reward herself for her hard work.
“I’ll see you there?”
“For sure.” Joyce went for a hug and Vanessa squeezed her back. The car stopped at the front entrance. Vanessa hopped out and returned to her job.
“Wow, get a room you two,” said Andre. Then Joyce struck his shoulder.
“Why? Are you jealous?”
“Yeah.”
Joyce pulls his chin towards her and they puckered up. Andre loved the taste of her cherry lip balm.
“I hope that makes up for it.”
“It does a little bit.” She stared at him for a while trying to figure him out.
“What was up with you and that boy?”
“It’s a long story.”
“I have time.”
Andre turned away and didn’t say anything. They sat in silence for a while. Joyce knew she wasn’t going to get an answer out of him right then and she figured nagging gets a relationship nowhere. So she leaned her head on his shoulder and put her hand in his lap, slightly gripping his inner thigh.]

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[Entertainers
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[El Circo de Fantasias had been critically acclaimed for decades to be the hottest traveling show since the late 70’s. The circus had been around for over thirty years and never lost steam. Throughout his career Artemis earned over three billion dollars in profit.
They had performed for the most exclusive crowds: twice at the White House for President Reagan in 86 and for President Clinton in 98. When the circus toured Europe in the early 90’s, Artemis was asked to bring his performers to Buckingham Palace for a personal performance for Queen Elizabeth II.
Every once in a while special guest stars are featured; Elton John before he had the title of “Sir” performed on his piano while acrobats danced along his melodies. The Jackson 5 performed wearing circus attire. On the wall of his personal train car, you can see a young Michael wearing a vibrant purple ringmaster getup.
The world loved Artemis’s version of the circus. Time magazine ranked El Circo de Fantasias to be the fifth greatest act of all time, two spots below Jackson’s Thriller World Tour, and four spots below Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
**]

There was a knock on Joyce’s dressing room door. Britney popped her head in. “Are you ready Killer,” she said.[
**]“As I’ll ever be, I want the stage right now.”[
**]“Patience young one, you’ll have your moment.”[
**]Britney stepped inside wearing a custom that left nothing to the imagination. Every curve on her body was flaunted. Britney was the closest living version of Jessica Rabbit.[
**]“You look Marvelous Joyce,” said Britney.[
**]Joyce was taken aback by the audacity of Britney’s outfit. “Thank you,” she replied. “You look like something else.”[
**]Britney let out a laugh. “What can I say? You have your talents…” Her hand drew attention to her cleavage then she said “and I have mine.”

[Drum Roll
Britney’s assistant knocked on the open door. “Miss Moore, you go on in five!”
She told Joyce “Oh! I’m wanted, tootles.” She then smacked her rear and left the room. Joyce just stood there, dumbfounded, until Britney was out of sight. She then murmured to herself “interesting,” but in a sarcastic way.
**
“Oh my god,” said Britney, as she walked over towards a horde of elephants, all standing in unison. “Where are my high heels?”
Her assistant showed her the shoes were in his hand.
“Drop them.”
She placed her feet in those six inch platforms while balancing on her assistant’s shoulder.
She scampered over to Maggie.
She gave her a command “Up Up!” Maggie lowered her head and set down her trunk. Britney took a seat on the beast’s nose as it curled on to her lap for security.
“Lift Maggie!” she said. Then the beast righted back up. She heard from behind the curtain Artemis doing his shtick; she was waiting for her cue.
**
Artemis started off his monologue. He was in the center of the stadium shrouded in darkness. The jumbo screens above him displayed his silhouette. “As an entertainer…” The audience erupted. “I create worlds… People escape… from their own reality… to venture into my imagination.”
Lights on. Everyone stood out of their seats for that famous face.
**
Jake and Andre were waiting backstage ogling Britney’s goodies. She knew their eyes were fixated on her, so she shuffled up her cleavage to make her breasts more extravagant.
“I think when god made her…” started off Jake. “He spent a little extra time to get her just right.”
“I agree.”
“I would give everything I had just to have one night with her.”
“Breast, thighs and ass filled with sweetness,” said Andre.
**
After his opening monologue Artemis finished up by shouting “We are the greatest entertainers on earth!”
A jazzy tune fills the stadium.
A dozen elephants came waltzing out on by one, single file, with scantily clad women riding on them. Britney went up Maggie’s trunk and danced on her back. Behind them was a girl hula-hooping on the beast she rode on. On the beast behind her, a lady was spinning plates. And after her, a set of twins were performing a challenging act, even without an elephant to ride. As one sat on the elephants back the other twin was balancing herself upside-down on her sister’s head; a real head to head performance.
The jumbo screens cut away from the main attractions, and focused on the reactions of the audience. The screens showed faces of the old filling with a youthful excitement; children mesmerized at the spectacles before them while lapping their tongues on ice cream cones.
The performance was concluding, the ladies then slid down the creature’s trunks and sashayed their way over to Artemis. They gathered around him and gave a dramatic pose when the music stopped.
Artemis caught a glimpse of himself on the big screen with a little after powder in his nose. (Junkies refer to this as a “coke booger”.) He turned his back on the camera to dig it out.
**][“Artemis,” whispered Britney. “Get your hand out of your nose.”
His hand went down. He whispered back “I’m not picking it,” he said, as he took back his position. “The inside of my nose was just itchy.”]

[Something wicked popped inside of Scarlett’s head. She stood on the sidelines waiting for her time to perform. A smile crept on her face and she started to chuckle. “Oh ho ho. That was too precious.”
Celia looked at her confused.
“Did I see…” Scarlett turned to Celia. “What I think I just saw?”
Celia looked even more confused. “I don’t know? What did you see?”
Scarlett headed off towards the control room saying “This is going to be exquisite.”
“What did you see?” Celia asked again.
Scarlett didn’t turn back. She snapped her fingers pointed where she was going and said “follow me!”
Scarlett barged into the control room. Celia came in after; ducking her head to enter the room.
“Hey you!” shouted Scarlett. “Where is Regina?”
Vanessa turned around, startled by the abruptness. She shook her head and mumbled out “Idunno.”
“Okay those are not words,” said Scarlett. “That was just a sound you made with your mouth you thought was articulate.”
Vanessa’s eyes widen.
Scarlett then spoke to Vanessa like an adult would speak to a child, but not in a pleasant way. “Do you know where Regina the monitor girl went off to Miss Santana?”
Vanessa spoke through her teeth, “I didn’t see her leave.”
The one Scarlett was looking for entered in the room with a sub sandwich. At first sight Scarlett said “A lot of doing nothing can sure build an appetite Regina!”
Vanessa snapped. She had enough of the disrespect. “You’re a judgmental bitch; you think you’re better than everybody else. Fuck you!” Both of her middle fingers were fully extended. “Tell your father that, you cunt!”
**][That didn’t really happen. But Vanessa wanted it to. She thought about it; then decided it’s not good to make an enemy related to the boss. She just stood out of her seat, held her breath and balled her hands. The expression on Celia’s face with her wide glossy eyes and trembling bottom lip was enough to suppress Vanessa’s anger. Celia had the face of a Barbie doll; long blonde hair that went to her shoulders, big blue eyes, tiny nose and fully formed cheek bones. Besides her being over seven feet tall, she had the classic all American look to her, just an elongated version.
Celia looked away from Vanessa and put her eyes to the floor.
“I just needed something to eat,” said the monitor technician. “I was feeling weak.”
“As big as you are?!,”
From that one statement three jaws dropped and Scarlett’s upper lip stiffened.
“Play something back for me.”
Regina obeyed Scarlett. After all, she was the boss’s step daughter. Vanessa and Celia saw the hurt on the poor girl’s face. Regina wasn’t skinny, and you wouldn’t think she was fat, but she did have a little extra on her.
“I need you to rewind the monitor to what happened four minutes ago.”
The video was rewound to the finisher of Britney’s act when they did a close up on Artemis. Scarlett saw what she needed to see; she told the techie to record the video clip onto a disk. Regina obeyed. She wanted it before Artemis would tell his editors to take it out.
Scarlett left the room and Celia followed after her.
Vanessa turned around, she heard the poor girl sobbing. Regina’s eyes were red and watery. “She had no right to treat you like that.”
“Don’t worry about me,” said Regina.
Vanessa had no more words to say. She despised Scarlett, but she was also mad at herself for not being vocal. So she resumed her work.
**
**][Scarlett and Celia snuck into Artemis’s dressing room.
“What are we doing exactly,” asked Celia.
“Do you understand the concept of blackmail?” said Scarlett.
Scarlett spotted something under a dressing mirror. She walked over towards the little brown baggie and picked it up. She peeked inside. “What an idiot,” she said. “For a junkie you would figure he would hide his stash in some place clever.”
She dumped out the contents of the brown bag onto a glass table. There was a quarter of what used to be a brick of cocaine wrapped in plastic.
“I wonder how much of this he puts into his body every day?” questioned Scarlett. She put it back in the brown bag and headed out the door.
“Why are you doing this to him?” asked Celia. “Maybe we should get him some help.”
“Celia you want to be the voice of reason? No. I’m the voice of reason right now!”
“But this is just wrong. It’s more than wrong it’s evil.”
“The true nature of mankind doesn’t recognize the line of good and evil. All men have evil in them. Artemis has evil in him, all of this…” She jiggled the bag in her hand. “Proves he has evil in him.”
Celia felt truly awful for Artemis. She felt awful for his stepdaughter’s cruelty towards him. And she felt awful that he has an addiction to drugs.
“He just has a weakness; it doesn’t prove he is the Devil.”
“Artemis is the Devil,” said Scarlett intently. “Artemis is just a] pussified [version of the devil.”
“Well we could try to pray for him right now. Like how I try to pray for you.”
“I sold my soul to the devil, it was a crappy deal. Now I have a wild card in my hand and I intend to be square with him.”
She hid the baggy under her shirt and held it in place with her forearm. She looked at her friend with a curious expression. “How long have you been praying for me,” she asked.
“Every since I first met you.”
“Do you see your god change anything within me?”
“I pray to one day see something change in you.”
“Quit praying for me, it’s not doing any good.”
Celia remembered a certain phrase a nun taught her during her days in catholic school. She closed her eyes and recited it. “Believe me my friend I would do it again, life is all hell when you live in sin.”
And at that Scarlett asked her “How the hell are we even friends?”]

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[Joyce and Vanessa
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Vanessa watched on the monitors as Jake threw a roaring chainsaw at Andre. He caught it by the handle. The sound of a concerned crowd resonated all the way to the control room. Jake hoisted another at him; Andre caught it with his left hand. Scared faces were all throughout the crowd. The ticket buyers were completely scared of what a tiny little mishap could result in. Heaven forbid. Women were covering the eyes of their little ones. And then Jake threw the next live chainsaw. The crowd screamed with horror. Andre hoisted one of the devices in the air above his head then caught the chainsaw Jake threw. He tossed another mechanized tool above him and caught the one coming down. His hands kept repeating this rhythm. Along with those instruments, Andre had the crowd completely tossed. A true juggler.[
**]Joyce walked into the control room and took a seat next to Vanessa. “Hey girl,” said Joyce.[
**]“Hey, what’s up.”[
**]“I’m fine. I just couldn’t watch him do this up close.” Joyce then shivered.[
**]“What’s it like having a boyfriend that nearly kills himself on a regular basis?”[
**]“He’s not my boyfriend. Well not yet anyway. We have only known each other for a few days now.”[
**]“Oh so it’s a new relationship?”[
**]“To tell you the truth it is not quite a relationship just yet.” Joyce threw her hands up and made the universal signal for I don’t know.[
**]“Do you even like him?”[
**]“I like him a lot. Of course. He is a real interesting guy.”[
**]“So where are you guys at precisely?”[
**]“Right now…. As I like to consider it, we are in lust with each other.” Joyce twiddled her fingers to make the quotation marks sign.[
**]“In lust with each other? Well that is new. Whatever happened to friends with benefits?”[
**]“I don’t want to say that. It’s cheesy now.”[
**]Vanessa thought about it for a moment “In lust with each other,” she repeated to herself. “I like that.”[
**]They both heard the gasp of a startled crowd. Andre and Jake were fine. They were just tossing back and forth machetes set on fire.[
**]“Are you one of those girls that like guys who do really dangerous stuff?”[
**]Joyce burst out in laughter. “How forward of a question. Let me ask you one,” she said with a voice giving way into chuckles. “You have a boyfriend?”[
**]Vanessa smiled. For some reason she shifted her eyes from left to right before giving her answer. She said yeah but it came out like “Ya.” They both giggled.[
**]“Was it that boy I saw you with that one time?”[
**]“Yes. His name is Freddy. He is one of those gentleman types.”[
**]“Oh so you like it gentle.”[
**]They both shared a big burst of laughter with each other. And it’s good they did or else Joyce’s hairdresser Arnie would have not found her. He rushed through the doors so femininely it looked like he was prancing. “There you are silly. Artemis rearranged the performances you’re up next in fifteen minutes. We have to get you ready, let’s skedaddle!”[
**]And she was off.[
**][
**]She was in the entrance way to the stage. She was hearing Artemis giving her an exciting introduction.[
**]“As we all know,” he said. “This young starlet… within her short time with us… has been exciting crowds, charming viewers and winning the media.” He continued in a long winded speech, but it built up the crowd’s anticipation.[
**]Andre came up from behind and surprised her. She felt his arms wrap around her. They were still hot and wet from his performance. They didn’t say anything to each other. Joyce’s mind was already into the moment before she lived it. And Andre, he just wanted to be in her presence. When Artemis said the phrase “I now present to you,” Andre let go. Joyce heard her name and ran out towards the middle of the arena.[
**][
**]Till this point, Vanessa’s first day working a live performance was pretty easy. Most of the performers only needed basic lighting, nothing special; the artists just wanted the crowd to see them. And for Vanessa that was easy like hitting a light switch, literally.[
**]But when it came to Joyce, that’s when things were going to be more complicated. Together they had worked on different color schemes and technicalities throughout her routine. This was as much of a performance for Vanessa as it was for Joyce.[
**]

[The arena was pitch black; no one could see what was in front of them. All of a sudden Artemis’s voice filled into the crowds ears. He was giving the introduction for his artist. A spot light hit him, showing him to the crowd. He stood on a podium and declared her one of his main attractions for the night. He shouted her name.
Joyce came sprinting onto the arena. The spotlight was following her as she flipped, cart wheeled and somersaulted her way to the center. The crowd was hit with such astonishment.
Vanessa concentrated her fingers as she was guiding the spotlight on Joyce. She saw her friend in the center, Vanessa casted a burst of lights that frenzied through the arena. Baby blues, hot pinks, and neon greens danced over the audience. Those lights came swirling in the center then switched to normal lighting.
Intense music played within the stadium that sent electricity through the people.
A rope with a knot tied at the end comes down where Joyce stood on the podium. She gripped it with one hand, then blew a kiss with the other. The rope was being raised and Joyce ascended over the arena. She was forty-five feet high; no safety net. To the crowd Joyce looked bedazzled, like a cluster of stars rising into the night sky.
Joyce started kicking her legs to generate movement. She spun around on the rope like a spinning top while contorting her body in various shapes. The audience exuberated their enthusiasm. She danced hanging from the rope, ballet for the air. She finished this first portion of her act by dangling upside down as the rope was wrapped around her leg.
She righted herself back up and then was pulled ten feet higher. She was upon her trapeze set that was installed from the rafters. Joyce had her assistants that held on to the swings. They had rehearsed when to let them go.
Joyce walked onto a walkway that went to the three different swings on her trapeze set. She walked to her right and got on the platform. The whole room fell in a soft shade of purple. The crowd didn’t know what they were about to see. They were only aware of being witnesses to something majestic.
Joyce grips the bar to her swing. She realized from one tiny slip she would be dead; or live a life wishing she was dead.
**]Deep breath, slow exhale. [
She got rid of the thought. She was a champion and she knew it. She wanted the accolades. At this very moment she was king.
She swung off the platform kicking her legs to gain momentum. She swung back and forth to gain the momentum she needed to execute her next move. She gave a signal, a short whistle with her mouth to the assistant on the second platform to drop the bar. On the apex of her swing she let go. Her body was thrown forward, completely defying gravity. Within the air she tucked in her body and flipped backwards. And her hands then grasped the second bar.
The house floored. The young, the old, the tall and the small, everyone jumped out their seats for Joyce. An impressive act deserved an impressive round of applause. Artemis never heard anything like it; the applause to him was nearly deafening. He watched Joyce high in the air. He was dumbfounded and speechless he couldn’t utter a word, nor even think of one.
Even though Vanessa hardly knew Joyce, she couldn’t breathe watching her perform, literally; Vanessa held her breath the entire time.
Joyce sat on the second bar riding it like a children’s swing set. Between her and the third bar was a hoop. She was planning to soar through it reaching the last bar. This was a new trick for her. During rehearsals she only landed it fifty percent of the time. She hadn’t truly perfected it yet. When she’d fallen she would land on a net. But at this moment it was show time, she knew no nets were allowed. She had realized this was a trick out of her league. “I should have given myself more time,” she said to herself. “I should have taken this scene out.”
Her thoughts were in a jumble.] It was too late to pull out now, it was do or die. People who quit never get anything done in their lives. I am not going to quit. I have an opportunity to turn my dream into a reality. [
She sat off the bar and swung herself back and forth. She built up momentum and soared through the hoop. She made it through; all she now needed was to catch the bar. But she didn’t.
The audience shrieked as the star of the show was falling to her death. As the ground was coming at Joyce she thought for sure she was going to die.
She hit the floor and sprung right back into the air. It was a trampoline.
Laughter was everywhere. Joyce felt like everyone was laughing at her. She saw children holding their guts bursting with chuckles. She saw men pointing at her and flapping their gums, she figured they weren’t saying anything nice. The big screens showed a close up on her face, she looked so confused.
Artemis spoke into a walkie-talkie. “Alright boys,” he said. “Save her.”][[
]][*A miniature Volkswagen arrived on the scene with a decor of colored dots. Then the ringmaster hopped out, went to the podium and sung a hearty tune. Clowns scampered out of the tiny car to act out the ringmaster’s rhymes; turning the lyrics into comic humor. *
Joyce knew what this was, they were providing a distraction so she could walk off, without being shamed by the crowd. And that is exactly what she did. She walked off the arena, went backstage, making her way to her dressing room.
Andre tried to walk with Joyce but she told him she wanted to be alone. He watched her walk away from him. Britney said “Just give her a minute.”
“But I was just trying to talk to her.”
“If you respect her you will give her some time.”
Joyce went to her dressing room. No one was there so she sobbed till her head hurt. She cried hard, she made the ugly face people make when they are really upset. She was in the room punishing herself mentally for being a failure. “I should have died right there,” she thought. Joyce really wanted to succeed. She gave it her all and it still wasn’t good enough. Failure is always painful for those who are ambitious.
**
When Vanessa saw her friend fall she leapt out her seat, thinking she was going to die. It turned out that wasn’t the case. She now allowed herself to breathe again. She saw Joyce, from the control room, walk of the arena with her head down. “Oh she must be so embarrassed,” she murmured.
Vanessa watched as the crowd’s excitement rise despite the blunder. The number of clowns continued to grow from the minute box car. The jesters were dancing and singing along with the ringmaster as he continued his poem on the podium. Every word the ringmaster rhymed the clowns would bring to life with their performance.
**]

[Black Mail
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[It had been three hours since the show had closed and Artemis wanted to go out and have a little fun. This was his wife’s home city and he figured she could show him a real good time. She had told him about a place called The Gold House or The Gold Lounge, he couldn’t remember the name exactly. It had gold in the title so he figured it would be interesting. Natalie was already at the club waiting and he was walking out the hotel doors anxious to join her.
He knew his employees liked to go out and hit the clubs when they were in a major city. He figured he might run into some of them. He wasn’t sure if Timsley would be hitting the bars that night. Artemis thought Timsley was acting very strange since yesterday morning and even throughout today’s performances. But he shook the thought, only concerning himself with happy things to think about.
**
It was ten pm, Scarlett was standing outside of a Star Bucks holding a cup holder. She had plotted it out before hand; how to approach Artemis, what to say and how to play with his emotions.
She picked up her IPhone and sent him a picture of her hand holding the little brown bag. Then a text was sent stating “Let’s renegotiate my contract.”
Not even half a minute later her phone rang. She answered it. The voice on the other line was dry and cold. “Where the hell are you?” asked Artemis.
She smiled. She knew she had him. “I believe you’re on your way to The Gold Room. You should be passing through the downtown area. Pick me up at the first Star Bucks you see.” She hung up the phone.
Three minutes later a milky white Maybach pulled onto the curb. The car was worth around four hundred thousand dollars. She stepped in and handed him a cup. He refused and at that Scarlett said “No coffee? Well we can talk as I sip on this macchiato.” She was too coy. They both were in the back seat and it was completely extravagant. The two back passenger seats had individual TV screens in front of them. The passenger seats were separated from the driver seats by a wall of lavish features. It was ridiculous. Options for the seats included heating and massage. There was a little mini refrigerator, where a bottle of Moet was stored. Not only did the windows have tinting but they came with curtains;] so a rich man didn’t have to look at the poor[. Not really, but that’s how Scarlett perceived it.
Artemis didn’t want to speak first, so he allowed his stepchild to go. He looked at her, behind those young eyes there was a killer. “How much do you think your little secret is worth to you?”
“So this is black mail,” he said reassuringly.
“Of course, what do you think this is?”
Artemis nodded his head. “No one is going to believe you. You might as well drop this thing while you’re still alive and beg me for forgiveness.”
“Ah Artemis. I’m not the one in the beggars position right now.” She sipped her drink. “Oh my god that is delicious and besides to a journalist I am an insider with concrete evidence.”
“What do you want?” he asked.
“We will get to that soon. First I want to share what I have on you.” She brought the cup to her lips and took big gulps.
“As I was watching the show opener of you and Britney something had caught my eye.” She pulled out her IPhone and showed Artemis the picture of himself with powder in his nose.
“Thousands of people had already seen that today. You have nothing.”
“The first portion of that statement might be true. But I also know that you prohibit cameras, cell phones and photography. And there is the chance of who wasn’t paying attention to the monitors at the time. The point is, from an audience member’s point of view it won’t get that far. But when it comes to mine, I have so much more on you.”
He turned his head away from her, and then she continued. “I knew you would tell your visuals editors to take out the moment you saw yourself on the monitor. So I took free liberty of obtaining the video clip myself. And I have many copies with the names of journalists, news editors and bloggers on them.”
“I suppose I could upload the clip on the internet myself, if you don’t abide by my rules. But hungry news outlets in this world love to place bids on blockbuster gossip such as this.”
She spoke in a casual manner as if the heavy conversation was an everyday topic to her. She felt like a big portion of Artemis’s future was in her hands. And she could destroy it with a flick of her wrist. Artemis stayed quit for a moment, hearing her out.
“I could just see the headliners now. What will your fans think? How will your producers respond? Your toys might get taken off the market. The DVD box sets could be taken off shelves. It could all be utter chaos for your family friendly image.”
She put her cup down; reached in her coat pocket for her Newport’s and lit one.
“So this is the real you,” said Artemis.
She puffed out a thin little cloud out her mouth. “Oh let us not play games over here. You know exactly who I am.”
“I agree, now tell me exactly what you want.”
“We are getting to that, but I have to say more… I figured, after seeing the little rock you had stuffed in your nose, that every junkie has a stash somewhere. I went to your dressing room and found the little brown bag.”
She spoke with her eyes closed and head tilted back as if everything that came out her mouth was so significant. Her swagger irritated Artemis even more to be in her presence.
“Then I thought, this couldn’t be all, there has to be more. I went through your cell phone and found nothing. So I perused around your personal train car and found a little black book.”
And at this moment Artemis looked like a deer in the headlights to Scarlett.
“A little black book filled with names, numbers and addresses, none of which were in your cell. I noticed these numbers originate in Florida and the all names are of Cuban descent. Not to sound racist, but that aroused my suspicion. Then I decided to try a few of the numbers out to test my theory. And guess what I found out Mr. Sebring?”
She was taunting him in her little childish way. He wanted to send his hand across her face. That would have wiped away her cockiness. But he held his impatience.
“Every time I would call and ask for cocaine, meth, heroin, weed.” She then points at her stepfather. “Mentioning your name. I could be sold any level of increments from grams to pounds. From the impression they gave me you’re a highly valued costumer. So what is more to say, you maybe associated with a large underground drug cartel.”
The smirk on her face widen into a smile. “I think I deserve a pat on the back for solving that one.”
Artemis scoffed. He wanted to hit her; he wanted to fly his fists in her face. “Calm down old man you’ll only make things worse,” he thought.
She took another sip from her cup and started once more. “I’m very sure it is only you and I that know about your double life. Because let’s face it you don’t have too many people to trust with this secret. Your assistant Steve is a Jesus freak. Britney is a big mouth who loves to gossip. Timsley is a well known drunk that no man would give a secret to. And lastly your wife, my dearest mother,” her voice oozed sarcasm.
Artemis cut her off to say “Your mother does it too.”
“Bullshit,” retorted Scarlett. “And I honestly assumed she did at first, because she’s with you. But then I threw that idea out the window. I know my mother. She’s a silly little creature isn’t she? She doesn’t understand the concept of moderation. If she was using it would be very apparent to everyone.”
“So that only leaves you and me, depending on how nice you want to be with me.” She took a long drag off her cigarette.
“It depends. What do you want.”
“Now let’s get down to the business of this conversation. Artemis…” She held her head high once more. “Ever since I have found your little double life I’ve been thinking I deserve more out of this franchise. I’m your biggest headliner so I deserve the biggest respect.”
“You want a raise?” asked Artemis.
“Not entirely.”
“You want more time on stage?”
“Not entirely.”
“What do you even mean by that?”
“Have patience I’m getting to it. First thing I need from you is to fire that little black Barbie doll Joyce. She has no real talent and I am getting tired of her face already.” She then went on and on about Joyce negatively as Artemis said nothing.
“Second thing on the list and most crucial. You, I, and the rest of the producers will collaborate to establish another series based upon the circus. This time centering on my experiences. A documentary series, if you will.”
It was a strenuous effort for Artemis to not crack a smile. She was annoyed by Artemis’s silence.
“I want my own show Artemis. You have the resources. I have the mainstream appeal, it will happen. I know when your next board meeting is. We will enter the room with each other and propose the spin off. Then we will go to the network heads for a time slot. If I don’t get this, I guarantee the rest of your life will be shit.”
He nodded his head.
“And lastly, we go back to as things were, like nothing has changed. I ignore everybody and you try to win my affection, like always.”
“I don’t think I can do that anymore,” said Artemis in a soft grumbling tone.
“Well you sure as hell better,” snapped Scarlett. “Never tell anyone about this conversation Artemis or I will punish you.”
Artemis sat thinking for a moment. Scarlett eyes were drilling holes into him.
“You will get your show,” he says.
Her eyes didn’t let up.
“And I won’t say a word; everything will be as it were.” He then turned to Scarlett; the intensity in their gazes was equally matched. “But Joyce will stay.”
“If she stays your career is over.”
“I need her.”
“For what, she is not even true to her craft as a trapeze artist. You been putting the trampoline under her.”
He interrupted her. “She didn’t know the trampolines were below her.”
“What!” She burst with over the top laughter. “Are you serious? That is priceless. This whole time you had her believe she was doing something.”
Artemis cracked his knuckles. He wanted to teach her a lesson for coming at him with such disrespect. But then he thought of the potential outcomes to that scenario. He contained his anger. It was smart not to show the girl any emotion because she would have played on it.
“Why do you want to keep her around?” said Scarlett “You don’t even have full confidence in this girl.”
“I have the upmost confidence in Joyce.”
“It is either this girl or your career Artemis, choose one!”
Artemis sat there thinking for a moment. He wanted to choose his next words wisely.
“The truth is, in order for us to venture out with this new endeavor, it is beneficial to have extra money. Joyce is filling the seats in stadiums and in living rooms. You getting rid of her will hurt your chances.”
He saw her face relax. He was hoping that she went for it.
“Fine, get that extra capital. But at the end of the season she is gone.”
Artemis took a long breath of air that was filling with Scarlett’s smoke. He agreed. Artemis felt completely emasculated by a young girl, his own stepdaughter.
Scarlett stepped out the car and headed for her hotel room. She was full of pride strolling through the night. On her way, her fans would recognize her, call out her name and ask for autographs. And she ignored every one of them.]

[So it came to this
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[Andre sat on a bar stool with a pint of Budweiser in his hand. He kept checking his cell phone for the time; looking at the entrance. He was waiting for someone to show up.
He was sitting at the bar in a club called The Gold Room. Joyce was the reason he was sitting there. After her flub in the arena her whole mood changed. He knew she was feeling terrible, but he was disturbed that she wouldn’t talk after leaving the stage. Joyce ran back to her dressing room with tears climbing down her cheeks; that was when he last saw her.
Before arriving he sent a text message telling her that he was still headed out for that night and that she should join him. He didn’t get a text back. He was weighing out the issue in his head to send another message. He thought about it hard. He really wanted to see her.
A hand touched his back. It was Vanessa. “Hey,” she said.
“How’s it going?”
“Actually today was alright, surprisingly.”
“That’s good. I don’t have a single clue where Joyce is or if she’s coming tonight.”
“It doesn’t surprise me. I thought she was doing great until the end. Oh did you see the episode tonight? Did they show it?”
“No, I watched it. They showed everything before she took that second leap. They would never embarrass a performer like that.”
The bartender came around asking Vanessa what she would like. It’s a shame, Vanessa knew she was too young to drink but she already was in the club so she figured what the hell.
“What do you suggest,” she asked the bartender. He told her the variety of alcoholic beverages they have, he even asked if she liked Merlot. At that Vanessa gritted her teeth through a smile and said no. After you wear a liquid you never want to drink it. She decided to purchase a long island ice tea.
“I didn’t know you could drink,” said Andre. He then leaned in closer asking “Do you have a fake ID?”
“The driver’s license is real,” she said. “Well on a second thought, the picture of me on here wouldn’t make it fake, just less legitimate.”
Andre smiled “I knew you had a dark side. Can I see it?”
She handed him her fake ID. He began to study it and something had poked in his mind.] _*Nobody puts their real name on a fake ID. Not even the stupid criminals._ [“It says Selena Santana on here. Isn’t that your real name?”*
Vanessa showed a guilty expression. She tried to work up a lie but her speech stumbled. She then excused herself to the bathroom.
**
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Timsley sat at the back of the club. He had his eyes on her when she walked in. The woman that had the nerve to deny him. He promised himself he was going to suppress the appetite tonight. But when he saw Selena Santana again he felt the hunger take over. His penis had taken over his thought process and it was in control. He was waiting for the perfect timing, like a coiled snake ready for the strike.
He figured Selena and that] pussy juggler [arrived at different times so they must had different rides. As she walked back to the bar he watched her buttocks; that ripe apple bottom dancing in tight jeans as she sat back down with Andre.
**
“You know,” said Vanessa. “I think I’m going to head on out.”
“It’s all right, I don’t care,” said Andre
“Thanks.” She then tried to walk away but Andre stopped her.
“No wait. I meant I don’t care that you are pretending.”
“What?”
“I’m not stupid. I figured something was off about you. And I’m saying it’s all right, I don’t care.”
She was stunned. She felt trapped in one of those awkward social moments when you literally don’t know what to say or do.
“You’re cool to be around. Whether this is the real you or not.”
Vanessa or Selena or whoever the girl wanted to be sat back down. She was so confused that he came at her like that. She figured he meant well, but she wondered about her own façade.
“Whoever you truly are or were, Joyce seems to really like you. But I think you are a bit of a cliché though. Running off and joining the circus?”
Vanessa smiled, it was a nervous one but it felt right to do then.
“I’ll keep your secret. I hope you told your boyfriend already. He has a temper.”
Vanessa picked up her drink and took a sip from the straw. Andre saw her make a sour face, he figured she normally didn’t drink.
“Since we’re talking secrets,” she said. “What is up with you and Freddy?”
“He never told you?”
“I never asked him. I’m asking you.”
“You want the long version or the short?”
“Whichever you think is best.”
“Freddy,” he started to say; he then picked up, looking into his empty glass. “I don’t know what you see in the guy, but to me he is one of those socially awkward kids everyone teased in high school. But just the adult version. It’s like…” He paused. “Oh god, how can I explain this… without making me the bad guy?” He said to himself, but loud enough for Vanessa to hear.
**][“Maybe you are.”
“You know what, I am.” He then looked at her. She could see the change of emotion in his face. “I used to be a bully. I was relentless to Freddy. Until one day he showed me that I wasn’t so tuff.”
He gave a slight look to her;] is that enough for you[? And she responded by giving a nod with her head. He didn’t want to go any further with the conversation.
“Don’t feel bad Andre.” Vanessa touched his arm. “I didn’t like who I was a few weeks ago. I grew up being one of those socially awkward kids. I feared what people thought of me. So now… I am trying to be someone else. Probably just to see what it’s like to fit in. Or seeing if I do fit in somewhere.”
“You don’t seem like the girl anybody picks on.”
“You only know Selena Santana.”]

[It was later into the night, a quarter past twelve. Vanessa had one and a half glasses of Long Island Ice teas and was completely under the influence of the drink. Andre had never seen somebody drink so little and get that drunk. She was sloppy. He had the poor girl leaning onto him for support. Her arms were wrapped around Andre while she hummed Disney classics. He checked his watch.
“I’m going to call for a ride. It’s time for us to go,” said Andre. He walked outside the doors and waited for a Rolls Royce to pull up.
Vanessa was left a drunken mess at the bar. She was childlike the way she would fidget around on the barstool. The bartender tried to ignore her, he was the] seen it all done it all [type. After he saw Vanessa rest her head down, taking a nap, he lost interest. He didn’t even notice the redheaded stocky fellow that carried her away.
The Rolls Royce pulled up onto the curb, he told the driver that he was going to get his friend. Andre walked back in with his head looking left and right, she was nowhere in sight. He asked the bartender, he told him that he didn’t see her leave. He tried the women’s bathroom. Andre of course wasn’t going to waltz in there, he asked a lady if she could spot her, he gave her the description] _*tall, brown skin woman, long black hair in a ponytail._ [*When he had no luck there, his stomach twisted into a knot.
**
He carried her out through the side entrance of the bar. No one stopped or questioned why he had a lifeless girl in his arms. But a few patrons inexplicable gave a cheer as he carried her through the door.
They went into the parking lot, only occupied by cars. Not a single witness was there. He threw her into the back seat of Shelby. Artemis’s car, which he let him borrow for the stay in Atlanta.
He never had done anything like this. Having sex with a woman passed out completely. He picked up drunken ladies before, but they were coherent enough to agree to sex. But this time he knew it was rape. And he figured this little cunt deserved any punishment he could dish out. The power he had over the wisp of woman in front of him made him feel like god.
He unzipped her pants which triggered a slight moan from the girl. He traced his fingers on her Adonis line. The lights from the parking lot put a glimmer in his eyes. He smiled, he knew this was going to be a night he would never forget. His mind kept playing tricks with him trying to justify his actions. Phrases kept repeating in his head.] [[She likes it. Get it deep down in her. She wants it. Show her what she missed out the first time. She practically is begging for it.
]][He worked her shirt from over her head. Vanessa slowly started to come back from slumber. She was adjusting to the scene she was in. Still at first totally confused. She couldn’t feel her shirt off her back. She wasn’t aware that her pants were unzipped. But the reason she screamed was because of his face. He slammed his palm against her mouth, muzzling her noise. He looked around seeing if anybody could have heard. Still he didn’t see anyone in sight. He felt the teeth crunch on his hand. He jerked his hand away, and then sent it slapping right back.
“You selfish little bitch,” he started. “You’re the reason why you’re here!”
He held her down by her hair and pushed her jaw down. He silenced her scream by shoving his tongue in her mouth. He came back up for air then unzipped his pants.
She saw her opportunity. She sent her feet into Timsley’s chest, using every last force in her existence to push him away. His back shattering the window. Vanessa gave him another swipe with her foot to his face. His nose gushed blood on impact. Timsley then grabbed her by the legs and shouted “I’m going to fucking kill you!”
The door to Timsley’s back swung upon and the pervert was yanked out. Vanessa saw her attacker on the ground while Andre stood above him with clenched fists.
At that moment within the victim logic had seized and rage consumed her entire being. Her only thought process was of vengeance. The trauma of the situation had switched her mind into attack mode.
Andre looked into the back seat seeing the young girl with a blazing hatred. The way her eyes burned in the lights of the parking lot seemed like cherries had replaced them.
She hopped out the car and jumped onto her attacker. She sent her fists crashing down on his already gushing broken nose. She screamed like an animal as she swung her limbs inflicting damage. For Andre the line of victimizer and victim were blurred, he grabbed her trying to pull her away. She then sent her foot directly into Timsley’s Adam’s apple. Then Andre found the strength to pull her off of him.
All that was left in the parking lot was a man, shattered, literally having his pride beaten out of him. He stayed on his back on the cold asphalt watching his breath escape from him in tiny puffs. His own defeat was sinking into him. A predator destroyed by his own prey. He knew what he had done was irreversible; from this point on he knew his life was never going to be the same. Timsley asked himself if he was ready to leave this world as a red puddle blossomed around his head.]

[Aftermath
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[Vanessa Medina, with wide eyes staring at the world, thought to herself that this would be an appropriate time to cry. But her body wouldn’t allow it. It couldn’t perform that function at the time. She was a statue of herself; subdued in shock.
The event of her being attacked didn’t even seem real to her. The moment replayed in her head and it was like remembering a movie. It was so disconnected from what would actually happen in her day to day life.
The area around her seemed highly animated, as if she was on some type of drug. Her natural adrenaline was still flowing through her veins. As it wound down she could focus on what was taking place around her. She was in the back seat of a taxi. On her right, outside the window, the people, the stores and the lights were passing by with swiftness. On her left there was a puffy red face Andre anxiously talking into his phone, she couldn’t understand him.
He shook her, hopefully trying to get a response. Then her hearing came back, she heard a frantic voice say “No! Do not put me on hold; I am trying to report a crime.” Andre looked at her. All she could think about was never before seeing green eyes give in to tears.
“Don’t worry, Selena I’m getting you help.”
Vanessa grabbed the phone from his hand and hung up his call.
“What are you doing?!” said Andre.
“I can’t talk to a cop right now.”
Andre stared at Vanessa with bewilderment but she wouldn’t meet his gaze. He remembered the conversation about Selena being a person living another life. He started to see how far it went for her. He asked himself what was so bad about her past that she can’t even get cops involved to report a rapist who attacked her. He wondered what a better man would do.
**
Vanessa sat on the edge of her hotel bed. She was stiff and motionless and her face held no expression. But a flurry of disarrayed thoughts raced in every direction.
**][[Where am I going with this? What could possibly happen to me now? Should I go back home to see my family?
]][The images of her disappointed father’s face and smug mother repulsed her.
**]I should keep going, why not, I’m already hurt inside and out, I should be rewarded for it. [
She wanted to succeed in the world.
**][[My life was slow back home. The time I have been away is honestly the most I have been alive. I have already been through the worst of outcomes. My family disowned me. I was attacked, nearly raped. I have nothing to lose. I should do everything to succeed.
]]Her trauma was as thick as dirt and new seeds were sprouting from out of her. She had died inside and reborn a new person. Selena was more of a character the girl wanted to be. [[
She is stronger, more evolved in personality than solemn and timid Vanessa. Selena Santana had the ability to make friends, Vanessa didn’t know how to start a conversation.
]][The girl sat in that room, awake for hours trying to redefine who she was.
**
She had told him to leave her be. But Andre still waited outside her hotel door. She of course didn’t ask or need any protection. But his mind would not be satisfied to leave her out of his guard. A seed was growing in Andre’s subconscious was well. From there on in he was a guard dog for Selena. Her protector. It was his mission to make sure evil would never come to her again.
He checked his watch. Three am.
Something at the back of his mind told him that Timsley would not be done with Selena. He knew something else was going to be in the works. And his mind, heart and body were ready to go against any machinations forming against her.
**
The girl had finally tucked herself under the covers with the lights still on respectively. As she pulled the cover up to her chin she thought somebody was reaching out to strike her. She reacted to her own hands. They were so foreign to her. They were from a person she had never met. There were bruises on the knuckles; blood and clumps of flesh around the nails. Those hands belonged to a fighter; she was glad they belonged to her.]

[Andre awoke with a strain in his back since he slept leaning on the wall outside Selena’s room. The first thought that came to him was of Selena. He was ready to prop himself up to knock on her door just when Jake had came around the corner.
“What are you doing out here man,” said Jake. “The train departs in an hour.” Jake saw his friend’s facial expression and knew something was wrong.
“What’s wrong man, you hung over?”
“Yeah, I guess I was trying to make it to my room until I just passed out here.”
“What did you do last night?”
“I can’t even remember it’s all a blur.”
No more words were exchanged with the two. Jake walked away out of the hall shaking his head. When his friend was out of his sight Andre noticed that Selena’s door was cracked open. He got a sour feeling so he just walked right in. He saw that she was fine except for the little jump he gave her when he burst through the door. To reassure himself he asked “are you alright?”
“I’m alive, if that’s what you mean?”
She was putting away her clothes and commodities in worn out garbage bags. She had a calm to her that made it even more uneasy for Andre, given that he knew her situation.
“How do you go back to normal so fast?” he asked. She didn’t answer back. So he continued anyway. “I’m going to tell somebody what happened.” Still nothing, she went about her business as if he wasn’t there. “I don’t know what problems you’re facing. We can’t let a rapist walk free.” She unabashedly took off her top that had dried blood stains in Andre’s presence. He turned away, but stood his ground trying to reach out to her. “How are you trying to go back to work under a man who tried to…”
“I’m not going back,” she said. She put a fresh shirt on, picked up a note and put it in Andre’s hand. She saw his eyes scan the paper while moving his lips.
The watery gloss came back into his eyes. “This is bullshit,” he muttered under his breath.
“I found it tucked outside the door with this.” She showed him her check that was worth six hundred eighteen dollars. “I don’t even have a bank account yet.”
“Did any supervisor talk to you about letting you go?”
“Timsley is my supervisor.”
He stood there for a moment watching her; searching within his head for a solution.
“I’m not scared. I don’t have to be scared of anything. The way I see it, if I can survive through the worst life can give me it will make me a stronger person… in the end,” she said in a cold expressionless manner.
He wrinkled up her termination letter and let it hit the ground. “I won’t let them mistreat you anymore.”
“Let it go. They got me. They’re in control.”
“They don’t have to be, Selena. I’m not sure if you’re just afraid of the embarrassment but the first thing anybody would do in your shoes is to inform the police. Since this whole thing revolves around the entertainment business you can go public. You can catch a high profile attorney and sue the brand.”
“My real name isn’t Selena,” said the girl. She went on to tell him about the significant events that lead up to her near rape. She described her relationship with her family, her fake identifications to get hired, and the way Timsley behaved towards her. She even told him her real name. She concluded with saying “I can’t go home. I refuse to. I refuse to fail. I am going to make it on my own.”
Tears formed in his green eyes that reminded the girl of jolly ranchers. She perceived Andre as compassionate. She saw his motive to earnestly help her.
“Vanessa…” he started.
“Don’t call me that name.”
“If I can find a way for you to stay with the circus would you?” She didn’t respond verbally but she tilted her head and raised her eyebrows. “Timsley isn’t the only supervisor Artemis has. Britney can hire people as well.”
“I’m not a performer Andre.”
“You just said you refuse to fail. Don’t toss up an opportunity.”
“Think about it. It’s not going to work.”
“If I can find a way…”
“You won’t.”
“But let’s say if I do?”
“Then sure.” Andre came off as begging. The girl believed no one in life should beg for anything. She walked over closer to him.
“I’m going to see my boyfriend for the last time, I want to tell him goodbye. When you see Joyce, tell her that I’ll miss her. And if your little plan doesn’t work, this is my goodbye to you.”
She put her arms around him. And he responded by squeezing her tightly in his arms. For a moment they were silent in each others embrace. That hug could have lasted forever for them. Her head leaned into his chest. He smelled a mixture of kiwi and coconut coming from her hair. Even through his blazer she felt his pronounced biceps and chest on her body.
“I thought about telling Freddy everything. Everything I told you. I don’t know how he’ll respond to hear that I’m a fake. I don’t want to hurt him. That’s not how I want to picture the last moment I see him.”
Andre looked directly in Selena’s maple colored eyes and said “You won’t have too.”
**
Joyce was passing through the hallway with a bellboy carrying her luggage. Through the open door she saw Andre and Selena embracing one another. She misconstrued their meaning behind it, assuming Selena would take her place as his lover. The image disappointed her tremendously, to the point she felt pressure in her face and pain in her chest. Joyce walked out the hotel to a chauffeur driven vehicle with her heart breaking.
**
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[Medina
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[She hadn’t seen her big sister in weeks. Food at this point truly became her best friend. Little Debbie, Dr Pepper, Pappa John, Mr. Chang, Ben and Jerry were her circle of associates. She ate and ate passed the point of fullness; she ate till her heart wouldn’t hurt. Her body was taking in food to fill that pit of loneliness inside her. She didn’t notice becoming rounder and softer all over. Brenda’s cheeks were even fuller than before.
**
Ever since the incident within the Medina household the family had become even more divided. There were parties living inside the clock tower. First party consisted of Mommy and Daddy. Second party had Julio, Brenda and Michael. And the last party was Jorge, a party of one.
Mommy at one point tried everything inside her being to stop drinking. She sought out counseling and therapy. But living with a dysfunctional family drove her to drink even more. She had liquor in her system every time she was around the kids. Mommy was using the liquor to suppress the weight of depression.
Daddy refused to let his family fall apart though. The pressure was on him. He was revamping his parenting skills to suit what a normal happy father would portray. Daddy knew he hadn’t been a good father, he figured he had probably never been one. Mr. Medina, whether he realized it or not, imitated the likeness of Bill Cosby on the Cosby Show. Maybe it was how he learned to interact with a family, since his parents stuck him in front of the TV when he was small.
With his revitalized parenting he was also picking up the slack of his wife’s lack of energy.
Julio stayed out of that house as long as he could for that summer. He basically lived outside by day but slept at the clock tower pass the darkening of night. When he would return home tired he saved a little bit of strength to bear hug Brenda and little Michael. They would all go upstairs to his room and they all shared one bed.
Jorge barely left his room at all. But he did get what he wanted out of life, to become internet famous. After he posted the kitchen fight his family had on YouTube within three weeks the video gained seven million views. He posted up several video blogs after to keep web traffic flowing. His dream came true at the cost of his family.
**
It was one thirty in the morning and Julio was returning home. He made his way through the door as discreetly as possible. He was tip toeing through the living room when he heard his mother laughing at the television. The sofa was facing away from him and he could see his mother enjoying a late rerun of Two and a Half Men with a side of scotch. Charlie Sheen was up to his antics again which caused Mommy to laugh. Julio shook his head. To him, her laugh was like a witches cackle.
He got upstairs as silently as he could. He passed his parents’ bedroom which was closed shut. He figured Daddy sleeps alone now. Every morning he would find Mommy passed out on the couch.
He continued through the hallway, Jorge’s door was cracked open and he could see him typing away on his laptop.
When he got to his room he slowly turned the knob, gave it a slight shove and gently closed it back. Brenda and Michael looked very comfortable slumbering in Julio’s bed. Brenda started to sleep with him ever since being plagued by nightmares. They started a few days after Vanessa had left. At his young age, Michael hated to be left out on anything, he slept with them as well, even though his bed was literally six yards away.
Julio climbed in bed as soft as possible, still wearing his outside clothes. Maybe it was his presence alone that awoken his baby sister that night. “I missed you,” she said. She then cuddled into him. Julio smiled.
“What do you mean, you see me every night,” he said.
“But not in the day.”
“I’m sorry. You and Michael get to hang out with me all day tomorrow. I promise.”
“Julio can I ask you a serious question?”
“What is it?”
“Can our family go back?”
“Do you want to hear something nice, or can I give you the truth?”
“Can it be both?”
“Our family was never really functional. We might have functioned around each other maybe. Things have gotten worse for the Medina’s, but it has brought me, you and Michael closer together. As long as we can stay strong nothing bad will split us apart, I swear my life on it.”
Brenda started to whimper softly on her Julio’s stomach. “I’m not strong,” she said.
“Well then I have no choice but to stay strong for us three then. I will carry you as long as I need to. I’m turning eighteen this year. I’m getting my own apartment. You and Michael are coming with me.”
Little Michael tossed over in his bed looking at his big brother through his sleepy eyes. He asked “Are you going to be our dad now Julio?”
That question struck him in the pit of his stomach. He, honest to god, didn’t know how to respond. So he gave the answer he felt they wanted to hear. “Yeah.”
**
Later on in the morning, at the start of sunrise, Julio snuck Brenda and Michael out the house. They didn’t use a car because Daddy wouldn’t like them being out all day with it. So they walked. They first went to a vegetarian restaurant called ‘Wah hoo’ for breakfast. He thought about taking them to McDonalds, it was closer. But he saw that his sister was growing towards an unhealthy lifestyle and figured he should nip that in the bud.
After they finished their meals Julio took them to a park where they could burn off some steam. He was with them engaging the laughing and playing. He knew it was a good thing.
**
It was ten am; Jorge was already awake. When he had first gotten out of slumber he didn’t even move. He just stayed in bed as if the day had nothing to offer him.
When his stomach wondered where its breakfast was, he finally got up and gave it some Cocoa Pebbles. When it was satisfied he sat straight back on his bed. He grabbed his laptop reading through comments he gotten for his YouTube videos and blog posts for the morning. After that was done he figured there was nothing more productive to do with his time. With not having a social life he also wasn’t the outdoorsy type.
He turned his laptop to a website that shared free pornography videos. He found a video he liked with two lesbian blonds. “Well I guess you ladies will do,” he said. He then reached for his bottle of lotion.
**
It was one pm Julio along with his siblings took a bus ride out to Toys R us. He told them that they can both get whatever they want as long as it was fewer than fifty bucks each. They searched all throughout the store looking for toys they would like. They filled up a cart with Barbie dolls, Transformers, trading cards, and candy. Just about when Julio was growing impatient with the shopping spree Michael had pointed out The El Circo de Fantasias toy collection. All the characters were there in their individual cases with the see through plastic. Julio saw a whole array of characters but only recognized the main ones. There was Artemis The Ringmaster, Scarlet The Human Torch, Andre The Juggler, Britney The Beauty and Joyce The High Flyer. He even recognized Solomon and Maggie. Every other action figure was new to him.
“Oh that’s right, I forgot you really like this stuff don’t you?” asked Julio. Michael nodded his head. He took a figurine off the rack modeled after a character named Mimi The Jester. “I like Mimi,” he said.
“I never heard of her before.”
“She’s one of the side characters I think,” added Brenda.
Julio eyeballed the boxed figurine in his little brother’s hand. He then told them he was tired of toy shopping and they should make their purchases.
**
Mommy and Daddy called and called her cell phone but they never once got an answer. So they had come to their wits end and the last of their options. It was the middle of the afternoon; Mommy and Daddy were visiting the Detroit Police Department trying to report a missing person. They had tried to report Vanessa’s disappearance the first few days when discovering she had left the motel. The police informed them to wait a week before filing because most children show up within that time.
Officer Whitlow, who had unusually thin eyebrows for a man, sat across his desk from two Hispanics he really didn’t care to hear from. Mommy and Daddy’s agitation started to surface as the man with the Protect and Serve badge couldn’t have less interest. The officer sat in his chair leaning back; he was too relaxed as two parents were trying to get assistance.
“So how long has your daughter been missing, again?” asked the officer.
“It’s been about a month and a half,” said Daddy.
“Do you think she ran away or was she possibly kidnapped?”
“When we got to the motel we discovered her stuff wasn’t there.”
“Motel?”
“Yes you heard correct.”
“Why was she staying in a motel?”
That’s when Mommy jumped in the conversation. “She was having some behavioral issues and we decided it was best if she spent some time at the Knight’s Inn.”
“Behavioral issues?” questioned Whitlow. “What was going on at home?”
“It just wasn’t working out,” said Mommy.
“Mrs. Medina you’re going to have to be a lot more detailed than that. What was your daughter like?”
“She was very angry all the time. She argued a lot. She was antisocial, she didn’t have any friends. She never obeyed me. She always disrespected me. Even when I would show her affection she would still be cold towards me. She never liked for me to touch her at all. She would block me away as I would try to hug her.
“Mrs. Medina I asked for a description not a rant.” That flicked Mommy’s anger switch. But she wasn’t stupid enough to show it. “You told me that you brought pictures?” They had some pictures, they laid it out for him and he looked displeased. “Is this the best you got?”
Daddy scratched the back of his neck out of his embarrassment. “This is the best we could find Officer,” said Daddy.
“No recent school pictures?”
“They seemed to be misplaced; it’s possible our daughter took those with her.”
“Do you have like regular pictures of her?”
“We don’t really have a lot of pictures of any of our five children. It something… that we didn’t have a lot of time for unfortunately.”
Whitlow raised his eyebrows out of suspicion, but it seemed like they were just drawn higher on his head.
“How long was your daughter alone in that hotel for?”
“About a week I would say,” said Daddy.
The officer sat upright in his chair, his tone went from relaxed to serious. “Leaving a minor alone in a motel for a week is what I consider child neglect, which is a form of child abuse punishable by law.”
Mommy’s fists tightened on the sides of her lap. She said while trying to withhold from shouting “We needed to get rid of her.” The cop’s eyes popped. “She had to go… My own daughter physically attacked me in our kitchen. It was for my wellbeing to be separated from her.”
The cop leaned back again into his chair. “Tell me about the events that lead to the separation.”
**
Early in the evening Julio had taken his little siblings to go see whatever movie they wanted. They were driven there by a friend of Julio’s called Rodrigo. During the ride Rodrigo presented himself to the kids as very kind and well. Brenda kept cordial with him but that didn’t stop her from disliking the new person. Michael was indifferent to everyone at the time only being interested in his Mimi The Jester action figure.
Brenda didn’t like how Rodrigo was able to steal away Julio’s attention. This was her day to spend with her brothers; it was disturbing how this outsider was sharing jokes and laughs with Julio. Right then she decided she didn’t like Rodrigo.
It disturbed her how much Julio and Rodrigo were alike. They had the same hair style, same brand of clothing, even their facial features resembled. One thing that they differed in was height. Rodrigo was taller, he stood around six four. Her brother was about five eight.
Michael and Rodrigo waited in line for snacks while Brenda and Julio looked for seats. Julio was going to use this time to see how close he truly was with his sister. They sat down four rows away from the screen. The trailers were still playing.
“Hey Brenda,” started Julio. “You love me no matter what right?”
“Yeah,” she said with a quizzical expression.
“Well I have something very important to tell you, um, um.” From then on he started shaking and his speech was fractured. This was until Brenda just went out with it.
“Are you trying to tell me you’re gay?” she asked. “Because we all know. Mommy, Daddy Jorge and Vanessa. The only one that doesn’t know is Michael.” She saw her brother become more relaxed as she spoke. “I was waiting for you to come out. Mom was thinking to ask you about it, but I’m glad you came to me first.”
Julio faced the movie screen. “Thanks for making that easy for me.”
Deep breath, slow exhale.
“Well I’m glad that’s finally out the way.”
“Julio, I love you.”
He took her into his arms. “I love you too.”
When the movie was playing, during its climactic moment there was a jump scare that made Brenda reach for Julio’s hand. When he didn’t reach for her, she glanced over his lap seeing that both of his hands took in one of Rodrigo’s.
**
Later into the night when it was passed Brenda and Michael’s bed time. Rodrigo’s car was in the parking lot of the clock tower. Brenda had begged Julio not to leave them alone with the rest of the family. So he went along with them as well, but before he did Julio kissed Rodrigo good night.
**
Brenda and Michael lugged in their toys through the apartment door and Julio shut it behind them. Making their way through the living room, Mommy glanced over her shoulder at them, she didn’t say anything, she just gave an expressive look. Julio was this close to saying something to her,] _*this close._ [*But he swallowed that hate. He told himself that he was having a great day and nothing should interrupt that. He held his tongue, for now.
“Oh Hi Julio!” said Daddy in an over the top joyful voice. “Where you coming from? I haven’t seen you in a while.” Daddy came from the kitchen to greet his son. Julio didn’t show any restraint of affection for his father. When Daddy hugged him he welcomed it.
For Michael, his father had become some sort of stranger. It scared him a little thinking that someone else stole his Father’s skin, and now trying to live as him in their home.
It was clear to Brenda that her father was overcompensating for the tension in the house. She tried to talk with her father about what was going on. But she thought he was strange for not acknowledging the state of the family. Her father was in denial; Brenda was just too young to understand that concept. So she and Michael avoided him like Superman does Kryptonite.
“Hey gang, join the rest of the family, were all watching El Circo de Fantasias,” said Daddy.
“Um, we’re kinda tired,” said Julio. Then his father shot at him a look that was pitiful. Julio saw the glistening hurt in Daddy’s eyes. And at that Julio said “Um, sure,” and no more words.
The trio sat down in the living room. Julio shook his head as Mommy put a whole bottle of brandy to her lips. “So much for this night being optimistic” he thought. He faced the television seeing Artemis and many talented artists parading through the streets of Atlanta, Georgia.
There were women in tights dancing in unison. An army of Elephants were walking trunk on tail in single file. There were huge floats; each having the main characters from the circus on one. Each float would in some way correlate with the characters likeness. Like Scarlett’s float had dazzling red and orange streamers on the side representing flame. The crowd saw her standing in an enlarged version of her chalice on the middle of the float.
“Scarlett’s my favorite,” said Brenda.
“She’s the only one I like,” responded Mommy, right before sipping her bottle.
“That gymnastics girl is pretty cute,” said Jorge.
“You like black girls Jorge?” asked Mommy. His eyes shuffled over to her then back to the television. Daddy put an over exaggerated smile on his face, as if in his own little world everything was fine. “Okay. But take this as a warning, my son.” She hiccupped. “Black women are the hardest women to deal with on this planet, when it comes to a relationship. And they’re known to date a man for his money.” She then swigged of her bottle. The room became quite after Mommy’s little display of racism.
Julio told himself not to say anything, by him responding it will only make things worse. He just wished Michael’s ears didn’t hear that.
“Please don’t take me as racist, I’m not. But I have worked with black women. They’re loud, obnoxious, always complaining about their boyfriends.” The bottle went to her lips once more. “And they come with some of the most craziest names.” She giggled. “They’re just hard to deal with all over. I’m just telling you all because I love my boys. And I want them to be with the best women.”
“Don’t worry mom,” said Julio. He then faced his mother. “I’m not into black girls. But I like black men though.”
**
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[The Girl
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The Girl felt like she was all done with the world. It had nothing more to offer her and she had nothing more to offer it. She picked up her garbage bags full of stuff and headed out the hotel straight for a taxi. She shut the car door and the driver asked her where she would like to go. She had no idea where. She didn’t know how to answer him and that’s when her pocket buzzed. She said “hold on” as she placed her phone to her ear.[
**]“Hello?”[
**]“Hello, am I speaking with Selena Santana,” asked the voice.[
**]“Yes.”[
**]“Hey… This is Britney Moore. We only met once before and um… I would like to offer you a job opportunity.”[
**]The conversation went just like that. She was stunned. Her eyes popped, her jaw dropped and her heart stopped. Andre had worked out some sort of miracle. The girl thought he must have truly gone above and beyond for her.[
**]She accepted the offer in a whisper; she couldn’t move her lips the way she wanted to. Britney received her answer nonetheless.[
**]“I don’t know where you are, but this train is leaving in twenty minutes sweetie.”[
**]“I’m on my way,” said The Girl. She hung up her phone. “To the train station sir. I don’t have lots of time, I’ll pay you extra if you hurry.”[
**]The driver looked back with red dreary eyes as if he had been smoking a cigar prior. “That sounds pretty good to me.”[
**][
**]There was a knock on Britney’s train cabin door. She answered; in front of her was The Girl she wanted to see. As The Girl was greeted in Britney noticed something was off about her. Britney considered herself to be real good at remembering faces. This person in front of her was somebody new. It was almost a scene ripped out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers. They each took a seat down at a table; Britney then pulled a few papers out. “I’m not sure if you have a background in performing but I have a position available in clowning.”[
**]“I’ll take it.”[
**]“I’m curious do you have any experience acting or performing at all.”[
**]The Girl knew she wasn’t good at lying on the spot, so she decided to try the truth. “None.”[
**]“Don’t worry. It won’t be that bad. You’ll be more like a sideshow attraction.”[
**]The term sideshow didn’t appease to The Girl.[
**]“Basically you’ll be entertaining the costumers before they take their seats. Like when they’re in line for tickets, or at the concession stand or just roaming about through the buildings. You will be in costume making people laugh, doing tricks and handing out balloons.”[
**]“Sounds good.”[
**]“What I have found out about this job Selena. That it’s not for everyone.” She then leaned in closer to her. “How do I know that you are going to stay motivated?” She looked at her waiting for an answer.[
**]“I want to stay fed,” The Girl said. “I want to stay warm. I will do whatever it takes to support myself.”[
**]For a reply Britney bit her lip. She handed The Girl her papers to sign. Then the train woke up from its slumber, and started to move on the tracks.[
**]Britney began to tap her fingernails on the table, an old nervous habit. “I admire you Selena,” said Britney. “There is lots of strength in you.”[
**]The girl went still trying to figure out where she was going with this.[
**]“You must of come from a long line of fiery women… I’m not hiring you out of pity; my pity doesn’t go very far for anyone… But I’m hiring you out of respect.” Britney saw The Girl’s swollen knuckles. “From what Andre told me, I’m glad to know you drew blood out of him.” She couldn’t know how much Andre told her, but she nodded her head along anyway.[
**]“Why does it make you glad,” asked The Girl.[
**]“Timsley has been around since the start of this brand. Do you honestly think you’re the first girl her tried for.” The look in Britney’s eyes gave the answer to that.[
**]“Did you report him?”[
**]Britney breathed in deep and let out her reply with a sigh. “Of course,” she said.[
**]“What happened,” asked The Girl.[
**]“You mean what he did to me, or do you mean what happened after I reported him?” She didn’t even give her the time to reply, she just went anyway. “I think you got off luckier than me… Try waking up after a hard night of partying, naked in sheets wet from old sweat, in a room that reeks of body odor, with your genitals throbbing in pain. And discover Timsley sleeping right next to you… This happened fourteen years ago, when I first entered in ECDF as a dancer.”[
**]The train blew its whistle and started to pick up its pace.[
**]“I’ll be honest at first I didn’t know what to do. As a young woman struggling to break into entertainment… I guess I was more willing to… get myself into dangerous situations… I have no memory leading up to that night.” Her right hand nervously twisted the thumb of her left. “But I knew he was a total predator a few years later when the circus was in Brazil. This was in the late nineties. Artemis was paid a pretty penny by some banking tycoon to perform in an art festival. The cast and crew were all set up in a beautiful resort with a great view of the beach. We were all supposed to be there for three days. First day to set up shop. Second day to perform. And the third day we would leave.” Britney then leaned in closer to The Girl. She just came out with what she wanted to say. “On the last day, I saw Timsley fuck a child.” Even Britney surprised herself on her blatancy.[
**]“I was on a market strip picking out some exotic fruit when, all of a sudden, I see Timsley walking hand in hand with a little girl. A little girl that wasn’t with our group, she looked like a native of the area. It was like she was leading him. I was curious to see what this man was up to, so I followed them.”[
**]“One of the funny things about Rio is one minute you can be walking in the tourist areas and the other minute you can be walking through the slums. This little girl guided him to a crummy back alley way. It was desolate of course because no logical person would be there. When they stopped the little girl looked around and so did Timsley. They didn’t see me.”[
**]At that moment Britney drew back a little, took a few long breaths and her eyes then wondered about in her room. She leaned in closer to The Girl saying “The little girl, she was probably around nine or ten years old, she went on her knees, unzipped Timsley pants and put his cock in her mouth… As soon as I saw that I walked away.[
**]“I’m just trying to make you realize that I understand what happened to you, what you’re going through. He got me, he got that little girl in Rio, he’s gotten other women I believe for sure, but he didn’t get you. So when I say I admire you… please don’t take it lightly.”[
**]That’s when Britney’s eyes focused on The Girl’s.[
**]“I can even see it in your eyes, and that look on your face tells me you kicked his ass.”[
**][
**]A few minutes later The Girl was set up with her very own cabin room. She didn’t have any expectations walking to it. She was just glad Britney told her she’ll have a room all to herself. And it was a fine room decorated with the finer things. She had her own flat screen HDTV. There was a memory foam mattress that had a cherry oak bed post. She no longer had to share a bathroom. Her favorite part though that topped everything in the room was a mini refrigerator filled with treat after yummy treat.[
**]The first thing she did was taken off the clothes and cooked herself in a long steaming shower. After a moment she sat down on the tile floor letting the boiling drops hit her skin. When an hour had passed she turned off the water without bothering the soap or shampoo, and walked about her new room soaking wet.[
**]She saw on her cell that Freddy had left a couple of text messages telling her “good morning”, asking “where are you” and “I hope to god you made it to the train on time.”[
**]She dialed his number, he answered and they chatted for three hours straight talking about anything and everything, except for what happened last night. After that was over she decided to take an afternoon nap. She found her bed to be unbelievable comfortable. “I could die here right now relaxed and won’t even care,” she thought. The Girl didn’t even get out of that bed until six hours later.

[More Girls
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**][Celia’s eyes were glancing out the window looking into the dark night with stars sprinkled about. She had her fingernails in her mouth unconsciously chewing away. She was in her best friend’s bedroom.
“Oh my god,” said Scarlett on her bed. “You’re a fucking daydreamer aren’t you?”
“What would be wrong with that,” replied Celia.
Scarlett then placed a book mark between her copy of ‘]The Money Class[’ by Suze Orman. She went on to say “That it’s an absolute waste of time. You should be filling up your head with something that is useful.”
“What like reading? I really don’t have the type of attention for reading.”
As she spoke Scarlett used her book to point at her friend. “That’s just an excuse. There is nothing wrong with your attention span.] [You don’t have ADD, you’re just dumb, or lazy… maybe both.”
Celia had no retort for that little quip. She was all too familiar with Scarlett’s insults. She could barely even recognize when Scarlett would be talking down to her. To Celia it was just how she would communicate.] [
“What were you thinking about anyway?”
Celia’s eyes went to the floor and back at her friend. “Boys,” she said.
Scarlett looked at her up and down shaking her head, giving Celia another hit to the self-esteem. Celia was already aware of her height challenges, she was at least honest with herself;] she knew boys would never date a freak[.
“Oh Celia honey,” said Scarlett, like a mother to a child who spilled milk. “Here’s a little tad bit of advice.” She sat on the edge of her bed. She smiled big while talking. “Boys… are overrated. I know. I had seen my mother go through enough of them. And who wants to end up like her… stuck in a shallow marriage blowing an old man as an act of survival. Pathetic.” She scoffed and then went back in. “If you are going to be wasting your time daydreaming, daydream about money and how you’re going to get it. I know baby you’re young and you want attention from these boys. I get hit on by dudes all the time, and it is just awful.”
“Boys are starting to give me attention now… the good kind. When we were in Atlanta a boy said that I had the bluest eyes he’d ever seen.”
“I bet that just filled you up with goofiness. Honey you are so lost. You’re lost because you were told you would be special when you grew up, and that you could be anything and people would love you even if you never worked on yourself to become a mature person. It’s part of that Walt Disney fucking illusion that has been engrained into millions of little girls. Now you’re growing up and life is not turning out to be like Cinderella, Snow White or Ariel The Mermaid, so every day you come up with something small to feel different and important about.”
Celia didn’t care for Scarlett words, she liked that compliment, she probably liked the boy even more.
“Just remember this, if you equate your mind to your body and you’re filling it up with junk like TV, bad association and daydreaming, picture what you would look like.”
“So filling my head on how to get riches is more worthwhile,” said Celia with a pinch of sarcasm.
Scarlett spoke real slow while looking in those bright blue eyes Celia was feeling fancy about. “Money equals freedom… freedom is a state of mind… so have money on your mind.”
Celia’s sarcasm grew from a pinch to an ounce when she said “So you’re becoming a philosopher now”.
And at that Scarlett told her “for an educated woman, words are the tools that separate her from the fools.”]

Joyce was still submerged in her own melancholy, she only came up for air when she was hungry. She wouldn’t ever disobey her appetite. Joyce left her room, walked past the lounge entrance where she seen Andre talking to Jake and went straight for the fridge in the kitchen. To fill the stomach she put two Hot Pockets in the microwave, poured a glass of Mountain Dew and snacked on Doritos as she waited.[
**]She heard from behind “Is everything all right?”[
**]She turned around and there was Andre, she looked at him without saying anything. She thought to herself how she could be so stupid for trusting him. She saw the way he held Selena, Joyce hated the idea of being with a man who had a lot of girls as friends.[
**]“You make me feel as if I did something,” he said.[
**]“I suppose you’re just being a man,” she said.[
**]“What does that mean?”[
**]“I’m the one man type girl and I want the one girl type man. I saw you hugging Selena. If you’re interested in her then…”[
**]“I was hugging Selena because I witnessed her getting raped…”[
**]“What!”[
**]“We were at the bar you wanted to go to. We were waiting for you but you never showed. I had to take care of Selena because she was a drunk ass. Even then she slipped out of my sight. I went outside to look for her, that’s when I heard screaming and breaking glass in the parking lot! I saw that fat shit Timsley trying to rape her in the back of a car! I went in and yanked his fat ass off her!”[
**]“I’m so sorry!”[
**]“You did see me hug her, because it felt like the right thing to do.”[
**]Joyce then hugged Andre, he was a little disgusted by her jealousy but he didn’t refuse her. “Just whatever you do, don’t let Selena know I told you this. Okay?”[
**]“Got it.”[
**]“I didn’t think you were the jealous type.”[
**]“Forgive me. I’m just still bitchy about last night.”[
**]The microwave then beeped, her hot pockets were done.[
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[Three knocks came on The Girl’s door and she replied with a groan. When the knocking stayed persistent she had gotten up to answer for whoever was there. As soon as the door swung open Freddy said “So you really are in these cabins?” He then wrapped his arms around her and pressed his lips against hers. He picked her up and she wrapped her legs around him.
“I’m glad I get to see you,” he said.
“Really,” she said. “Wait. How did you even get here?”
“How do you think?” He then gave her another kiss.
“How did you even know which room I was in?”
“I have my ways.” He followed that with an additional kiss.
“You’re crazy.”
“True, but you knew that already.” His lips kept determined to finds hers.
Freddy swung the door shut with his free hand. Then he put The Girl on her bed with her legs still wrapped around him. He thought at that moment he may get a little] something something [that night. He kissed her neck and put his hand on her chest.
“Whoa! Stop,” shouted The Girl. He turned away from her on the bed.
“What’s going on? Is everything all right?” He then reached out to her again and she flinched. At that moment Freddy got up and headed for the door thinking maybe she needed time for herself.
“Wait, don’t leave me alone.” She was visibly upset. Freddy wanted to say something clever to relax her. But nothing formed in his head so he just let his feelings speak for him.
“I think I came over here to tell you that I love you,” said Freddy.
“Freddy the truth is you don’t know the real me.”
“Can I get to know the real you.” He started to move towards her. “Will you allow me to?”
The Girl nodded her head. He then picked her off the bed by the hand and pressed his lips firmly against hers.
“You like kisses don’t you?” she asked.
“I like kisses a whole lot.”
“You’re a corny bastard.” They both chuckled. “I want to tell you everything… But I don’t know where to start.”
“I don’t care. Whatever you want me to know,” was his response.
That prompted her to say the first thing on her mind. “I was almost raped last night.”
**
Miss Natalie Sebring was hearing a constant flushing from the bathroom. She knew Artemis was up to something. “Honey,” she yelled from the bed. “Whatere you doin?”
She heard him shout out “Nothing!” But in reality he was putting five thousand dollars worth of powdered cocaine down the toilet. What he didn’t know was that Natalie was counting his flushes and the eighth had let out following his voice.
She put her feet to the floor and started to tiptoe her way to the closed bathroom door. “Baby, Are you sure you doin nothin?”
“um,” he said. He was trying to think of something that will get her away from the bathroom. “Remember that jalapeño burger I ate at The Gold Room? Yeah. It’s passing through me pretty badly.”
“Oh.” She went back to bed.
Artemis cut a baggie open and poured the last ounces of his] ‘powder of miracles’ [down the toilet. He watched the water in the bowl turn milky white.
Before this occurrence he took his last hit, the] _*farewell high._ *He loved cocaine. After decades of usage it was engrained in him. The drug moved through him like the air in his lungs. Artemis was a user and not an abuser of this narcotic. In the sense that people drink coffee was the way he used cocaine. He took small hits throughout the day as a _*pick me up._ [*He most likely never would have stopped getting high on his own. He would have picked up again if he had lived longer. He figured until he resolves this black mail issue with his stepdaughter, he should get rid of as much evidence against him as possible.
Natalie watched her husband rush out the bathroom, grab a stack of papers on the table and leave out into the hallway.
**
Celia flicked through the television while still being in Scarlett’s company. She stopped on a channel when she saw Joyce’s face. “Look Scarlett! Joyce is on TMZ!”
“What!?” she replied.
“You know, the black girl.”
“I know who you’re talking about.”
“I think she’s nice… Why don’t you like her?”
“I never said I didn’t like her.”
“You didn’t have to.”
“Well why do you like her?”
“Same reason as everyone else.”
“Which are?”
“She is charming, she’s pretty, she’s talented.”
“Oh please stop right there! She has no talent!”
“Just because she got nervous doesn’t mean she isn’t talented.”
Scarlett then became red faced, swinging her wrists in strong body language to emphasis her point.
“You guys have to stop excusing her performance and saying ‘she was nervous’. Seriously! It’s not like this bitch is the first to perform for this circus. Being nervous is not an excuse at all. There is a huge line of performers who would kill to be in her spot. I can tell you that they would not come off as ‘nervous’. Don’t tell me to cut her a break, either. We are in a competitive business full of incredible performers. She let a lot of people down last night.”
She turned away, and then looked at Celia once more. “That’s showbiz.”
The music of the band Green Day filled the room, it was her ringtone. Scarlett answered her phone and gleefully responded to the voice of her stepfather. “Artemis, I believe you have good news for me.” Her voice was filled with arrogance. Celia noticed the sudden change in her tone, she knew that Scarlett had always despised Artemis. She couldn’t figure out why Scarlett suddenly had a jolt of happiness to hear from him.
“I have very good news for you,” said Artemis. “Did you find those papers on your dresser?”
She moved over to the dresser. “What am I looking at?” she asked. Celia noticed Scarlett looking at a stack of papers. Scarlett faced her friend with a smile. “Oh my new contract.”
“I already signed my name to it. You should sign yours to. I just wanted to show that I’m living up to our bargain.”
“I’m happy to hear that sir.”
“I was afraid you were going to leak something out just to test me.”
“Now is not the time for fear. I will let you know when to be afraid. I’m going to look this over; when I’m done I’ll give you a call back.” Then she hung up the phone and started to glance over her contract. Her attention went to the shade growing around her. She turned seeing Celia standing right behind.
“What are you up to?” asked Celia.
“If you must know,” she sighed. “I’m getting my own show.” Scarlett refocused on her papers.
**
Freddy had his arms around The Girl he loved. She just finished telling him about what her life had been since the day she left home. She only told him what she wanted him to know. She mentioned her shitty parents, staying in the motel, and her troubles with the circus. She kept the lie about her attending Notre Dame, about her real name and age.
Freddy had no words to express. So he held on, keeping her in his embrace.
“I don’t want to be a virgin anymore,” she said. Freddy’s eyes almost popped out of his head. And still he had no words. But nonetheless felt the exhilaration.
In the mind of The Girl, for her, this was about control, she didn’t want anybody to take it so she would give it away.
“To me it seems like,” she started. “That every man wants to be with a virgin. So he can be the first to hit it. He wants to be the first to leave his mark. I call it the man on the moon complex.”
She faced Freddy, their eyes were inches apart. She paused for a minute, trying to work up the courage to say what she wanted to say. “Do me a favor,” she started. “Next time when you know that you love me, if you ever do, don’t be afraid to say it right then.” Freddy nodded his head. “Freddy,” she started again. “Would you like to have me?”
He knew that she wasn’t in her right mind, but it’s unlike a young man to turn down sex. He gave his answer by kissing her on the lips. They placed their hands all over each other unbuttoning and unzipping anything in their way.
Right before he would take her virginity she asked “Do you have a condom?” He told her he didn’t. So she asked “you’re not going to give me a STD, are you?”
“I’m clean,” he said.
“All right then, go for it.”
And then she took him into her body.
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Somewhere out in an open field in Dallas Texas was the circus filled with patrons scampering about with joy. It was set up with a big top, and other side attractions; the traditional view of a circus.
In a closed off tent set aside for the performers there was Joyce becoming beautified by her team of makeup artists. Scarlett glared at her, heating with envy from across the way. Her team of stylists had just finished working on her hair and makeup. So she sat in a grooming chair staring at Joyce’s reflection in the dressing mirror.
“No matter what they do, they cannot save that face,” said Scarlett.
Celia stared at Joyce in a wondrous gaze. “She is beautiful.”
“Let her have a surgeon work on that mug before we think of her and beauty in the same context. She also needs to start bleaching, way too dark.”
Celia turned to Scarlett. “I disagree with plastic surgery. Even if someone thinks they’re ugly, no one should get it.”
“Yeah that’s right, your god made ugly people for a reason,” Scarlett smirked. “Not to sound racist but I think white women like us are way more attractive than black women…”
**][“Are you serious?” retorted Celia.
“Yeah?!?”
Celia only shook her head in disgust. To her it was apparent that Scarlett needed some help. She wanted to turn her friend over to the lord but she knew it was going to take time. Celia always felt like she should provide hope to the hopeless, and Scarlett kept Celia around because who else was going to put up with her nonsense. That was the basis of their friendship.
“You think everyone is ugly though,” said Celia.
“Not necessarily,” replied Scarlett. She became annoyed with Celia so she stuck out her lips like a duck.
“I think Jake is okay looking,” she said as he was preparing in the background for his performance. “He has changed since he first came here. His nerd levels have deceased a lot, still no hope for my pussy though.”
“Well then who do you have hope for?”
“Hope for my pussy? Well… definitely not an industry guy anymore. I fucked a couple of Disney boys when I was younger.”
Celia’s mouth dropped.
“Who?!! Were they in love with you.”
“I tried love. I gave up on it. Didn’t do my mother any good.”
“I hope you don’t end up lonely Scarlett.”
“I won’t. I will take the world as my lover and pop my generations cherry.” Scarlett then comes face to face with Celia. “The streets will run red with blood from all the busted hymens.” She then backed away and giggled.
**][
Joyce was wearing a revealing milk white leotard with red and blue slashes of color on her abdomen. The uniform exposed her cleavage which gave it a more risqué vibe over sporty. She had her hair done up in a bun that rested directly on top of her head.
After her stylists finished prepping her she became fixated on her own beauty. Her own eyes became indulgent to the reflection in the mirror. On the side she noticed Scarlett glaring at her. So she struck a few poses just to intimidate her.
“Wow, you’re fancying yourself pretty hard aren’t ya?” Joyce turned around expecting it to be Scarlett, but she was wrong.
“Hey Selena,” said Joyce. “You scared me.”
“You’re starting to scare me,” said The Girl. “I never seen anybody look in the mirror like you.”
“It’s that girl Scarlett she likes to stare at me. She hates me for no reason, so I figured to give her a reason.”
“And you are certainly giving her two reasons to hate you.” The Girl gestured her eyes towards Joyce’s cleavage. “Yeah I’m looking at your chest, you have them out.”
They were talking about Scarlett without looking in her direction; talking softly amongst each other. And along comes Britney wearing skinny jeans, her curves were pushing the fabric to the absolute limit.
“Hello, my lovelies,” said Britney. “Oh Joyce you look delicious.”
“Thank you for making me feel uncomfortable,” Joyce said in a mockingly cheery voice. The Girl they knew as Selena then laughed.
A crew member told Joyce she was going on camera in five minutes.
“Okay Joyce, scamper off, I have to take this one with me,” Britney said while pointing at The Girl.
When The Girl sat down in a makeup chair she realized that she would be seen on television. “Just to let you know,” started Britney. “You won’t be a clown after all. We’re gonna make you into a Jester. Isn’t that exciting?!”
“Sure, I guess. But what’s the difference?”
“It’s a world of difference, believe me. And another thing, this character you’re about to become has already been portrayed by other actresses. Honestly it’s rather an old character but that doesn’t mean this won’t be fun.” Britney usually would speak to somebody like they were the only person in the world. It made The Girl feel like a toddler watching daytime PBS. This was an entirely different Britney The Girl had last seen when she was talking about rape and child molestation.
“Who am I going to be?” she asked.
“You’re going to be Mimi the Jester. This character is unique because she changes from actress to actress.”
“So, I can make this character who I want to be?”
“Yeah.”
“Can I have a mask?”
“Why do you want to cover up this pretty face? If you think you’re going to look stupid, you won’t. Trust me.”
“I’m not worried about looking stupid. I just like the feeling of hiding behind a mask.”
**
The world’s current “King of Entertainment” stood in front of the mirror picking at the lines in his face. He was getting older, he saw and felt it. He didn’t want to age; he wanted to be young forever. He had no choice but to endure the cocaine withdrawals. It was taking a toll on his emotions and his appearance.
For a long while he’d been staring into himself and saw something very peculiar in the mirror. He saw his reflection blink. He paid closer attention to what his reflection was doing. He glanced right at himself in the mirror, resisting the urge to blink. After a few seconds he felt silly. His stylist from across the room asked if he was ready for her. He turned around and asked her to give him a minute. He refaced the mirror and his reflection was in the same position as before. It never moved like he did. It just stood there staring at him. He saw the image before him blink and Artemis flinched at the sight. Still the image didn’t move, it just continued to stare. As it did a smirk developed in the left corner of its mouth.
He couldn’t handle the concept of his own reality. Later on he told his stylist she wouldn’t be needed, instead he requested for her to send in a makeup artist. Moments go by and Britney walked into the room saying “Am I hearing this correctly, Artemis? You want clown makeup?”
He said with little enthusiasm that he wanted to try something different. “You should let me do your makeup,” she offered.
“Fine,” he said.
Britney revealed her suitcase of makeup instruments. “So what do you want me to do with this canvas?”
“Just take my face away.”
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[Mimi The Jester
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It was like her body was this vessel waiting for a new spirit to take over. The honest truth is she or it couldn’t hold on to an identity. The body started off as Vanessa Medina, raised for sixteen years as that persona. She had grown in Detroit where she had a dysfunctional family life, no friends, and she perceived that existence revolved around a clock tower. Then the body became Selena Santana. Selena was a twenty-one year old college graduate from Notre Dame. She earned a bachelor’s in engineering and right after had gotten a job in that field. She also had undergone an attempted rape from her employer.
Vanessa, maybe Selena, or whoever The Girl wanted to be didn’t matter, right then she was Mimi the Jester.
Mimi was wearing a corset, that displayed the little cleavage she had, with a silver butterfly lapelled between her breasts. A tutu was attached to it and she finished it off with a pair of leggings. The outfit was themed black and silver, which was a far cry from all the colors around her. But it made her stand out even more among the crowd. What completed her outfit was a silver colored blank mask with a crooked smile to give the effect that it was smirking at you. Elegant and surreal, Mimi was like a princess ripped from the pages of a fairy tale and placed among the living. And she felt that way as well.
Mimi was in a field that infused the elements of a carnival and a circus. Circling the big top, that held the major attractions, there were a dozen smaller tents spread apart from one another for side performances. Food booths were selling an abundance of goodies such as elephant ears, hotdogs, sodas, cotton candy, ice cream cones, and pretzels. There was a variety of activities like go carts, ring toss, face painting, darts, strongman, duck shooting, swing the mallet, bingo, fastball, and sac racing. Beyond those things Artemis had rented a ferris wheel, carousel, the drop tower, house of mirrors, pirate ship, top spin, UFO and much more.
It was break time and the Jester was enveloped in savoring her hotdogs loaded with toppings. There joining her was the High Flyer eating a poppy seed bagel with cream cheese. They were under the wardrobe tent.
“You are so funny when you eat Selena.”
“Like how?” she asked.
“After every bite you start with this shoulder dance.” She then imitated Mimi’s shoulder shuffle. “It’s like you found the greatest hotdog of your life.”
“How would you know if I didn’t? Have you had one yet? Take a bite out of mine.”
“No thanks, I don’t eat pork. Because it causes high blood pressure… which kills black people.”
“Well thank god I’m not black.” They shared a giggle with each other. “You know, besides being delicious, they say pigs are actually one of the smartest animals on earth.”
Joyce rolled her eyes then said “Oh so that’s why they roll in shit all day.”
“Every animal is around its own excrement. Dolphins and whales are also smart and they swim in their own toilet.”
“Okay but I think people are worse though, because we like to convolute our lives until it’s complete shit.”
“True. I’m guilty of that. It would be easier to forgive a pig who doesn’t know any better than to forgive someone who knows better and still is a pig.”
Joyce exhaled slowly and responded “And sometimes forgiveness can be overrated.” After her words followed a tumultuous voice, they could hear Scarlett in an uproar.
“You are an idiot!” she shrieked and the rest was inaudible.
Joyce shook her head as Mimi asked “Can you believe her?” Then the sound of a loud clang went throughout the tent. “Oh my god, what is her deal?” Mimi then got up to see what the problem was and Joyce followed. They walked out the tent watching Scarlett in full bitch mode giving it to the camera crew.
“I want you off my fucking set you prick!” she shouted. Those words were aimed at a stoutly man who had a bundle of cables in his hand. He told her that he was sorry. “No, don’t be just sorry, think for one fucking second!” They were all off to the back were there weren’t any patrons to witness the belligerence of a young starlet. The majority of the crew stood silent as her tantrum was aimed at the man who was working on the set lights. “What the fuck are you doing!? Are you professional or not?!” The guy told her that he was. “Are you supposed to walk around and rip…” That’s when Celia tried to calm her down. “No shut the fuck up Celia.” But Celia stayed persistent to ease her friend’s anger. But it only made Scarlett worse. “No! No! Don’t shut me up.” She went back for the tech guy. “Am I going to rip your fucking lights down in the middle of a scene.” He shook his head. “Then why the fuck are you walking through like.” She blew up her cheeks and put her hands together and stuck them out to mock his beer gut. Then parodied the way he waddled when he walked. “What the fuck is it with you!? What don’t you fucking understand!? You wouldn’t think like, ‘hey that would be fucking distracting’ Why would you walk right behind me in the middle of a fucking scene!? Give me a fucking answer!”
Mimi was disgusted by Scarlett’s behavior. Besides the tech guy getting the brunt of it Joyce was visibly upset.
“What don’t you get about it!?”
The tech guy said “I was looking at the light.”
“Oh! Good for you! I hope it works because I’m about to make it worthless!” She knocked the set light over breaking the bulb and scattering broken glass. She pointed at him and said “God! You’re a fucking amateur!”
Scarlett had turned her anger over towards Mimi and Joyce who were watching the tirade. “And who the hell are you two staring at!?”
Without skipping a beat Mimi replied “I’m looking at a loud mouthed ginger bitch,” causing mouths to drop. Maybe it was from the shock of having a person disrespect her, or from thinking of a comeback, but Scarlett paused for a good second, and she would pause for no one.
“Excuse me?” said Scarlett.
“Oh you didn’t hear me?” replied Mimi.
“I am going to have you fired!”
“Then fire me.”
“Don’t you know who I am!?”
Mimi smirked. “Of course I do.”
Scarlett stepped her way over to Mimi. “Do you know what you’re fucking with?!” she asked.
“Do you?” asked Mimi. These two girls came right in each other’s faces. And Mimi responded in a calm and cold voice “I beat the hell out of my own mother, I won’t feel bad for putting you in a stretcher, So please… if you are as tough as you believe, then try me.”
“That’s a threat?!” Scarlett laughed in her face. “You’re going to be out of here really fucking soon.” The human torch walked away and her giant friend walked behind her.
Mimi’s face was stern. Scarlett had aroused her emotions, the blood was practically screaming inside her.
Mimi looked at Joyce noticing the little droplets of sweat forming around her eyebrows.
Then both the Jester and the High Flyer walked back into the tent to enjoy the rest of their lunch break. Mimi resumed eating like she never stepped away to confront Scarlett; chewing and dancing in her seat. As Joyce held that bagel up to her lips she looked at her friend. A new friend that she was still learning of, before she took a bite she said “you are really freaking scary.” The Jester smiled, it seemed genuine to Joyce so she smiled back. “I’ve been waiting for somebody to tell her off, and I’m happier that it was you.” Joyce took a bite out of her bagel slice and said with a full mouth “But if you keep that up with the boss’s daughter you will not last long here.”
Mimi wiped away bit of chili from the corner of her mouth and replied in a muffled voice “I was already fired once by the boss and I’m still here.” She swallowed what was in her mouth and sipped on a can of orange Faygo. “I believe I’m still here for a reason. If it wasn’t for fate then I wouldn’t be talking to you right now.”
“Oh so you believe that you have a destiny?”
“Not necessarily that I believe in destiny. But I feel like I can write my own future.”
“What are you applying yourself towards?”
“To be able to support myself. To have the basics of life, you know food, shelter, water, clothes. But after that, I don’t care for anything more.”
“What do you mean you don’t care for anything more?”
“I just want a small life. Some place in the country, with two kids. A few close friends and I’m good… I’m introverted, not because the world scares me… but because the world disappoints me.”
There was a pause between them. But it wasn’t uncomfortable. They knew each other well enough to avoid that.
“Selena. What did you mean when you said that you beat the hell out of your mother?”
So she responded “Just that. I kicked my mother’s ass… she deserved it.”
Joyce giggled nervously and Mimi chuckled along with her. It was one of the laughs people do to break an awkward tension, and it worked for them.
“We all want something out of the world. What do you want from it?” asked Mimi.
“Just that… I want the world. All of it,” said Joyce. “If you haven’t noticed Selena I’m special so you should love me before they all love me.”
“I do love you Joyce.”
“And I love you too.”
“We should be lesbians then.” They shared a laugh, Mimi was just kidding but Joyce wasn’t sure how far her friend would take those words.
“I don’t know about that, you girlfriend Scarlett might get jealous.”
“Scarlett is just a hoe. You’re a lady. Hoes want attention. Ladies want respect.”
“So Scarlett is your hoe?”
“She is not my hoe, she is just a hoe in general.”
“I’m curious…” said Joyce.
“Bi-curious or just curious?”
Joyce laughed at that. “Just curious. If she is a hoe, and you’re a pimp, then why is she disrespecting you?”
“You’re right. I got to keep these bitches in order.”
“And how are you going to do that Madam Selena.”
She picked up her mask, holding it to her face and said “I’m gonna start this night off with a little blood.”
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[Extinguished
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**][The only character trait that stayed within Mimi’s shifting personalities was anger. The truth is she liked being angry. Since the body grew into its teen years the anger would rupture forth when provoked. Her wrath would be like a volcano spewing lava, because you cannot reason with nature. And she would only stop venting on her own terms. It got to the point where Mommy, Daddy and her brothers paid her no mind. And it prevented her from developing relationships with other people. An outsider and a slave because of her emotions.
Later that night, in Dallas, the circus was filled to the brim with fans. Happy faces belonged to every patron. And the dark sky above had its little twinkling stars sprinkled about. Mimi had worked for about ten hours with a few breaks in between. The entire workday for her centered on giving away balloons to children. And she adored every smile she got in return.
She was coming across the petting zoo where little kids played with exotic animals. Among the children was the man that took away her body’s virginity. Mimi watched as the camera crew approached him.
“Hey Freddy,” said the camera girl.
“Hey Regina, how’s it going?” said Freddy.
“I’m wondering if you would like to do an interview for the show.”
“You mean like be on T.V?”
“Of course ‘like be on T.V’ that’s why we have a camera.” Freddy smiled at the sarcasm. His smile was gorgeous. Instead of giving Mimi butterflies fluttering about in her gut she got a stampede of horses. His smile was worth more than the others she had gotten today. But she wasn’t sure if she was worthy of having him. And it wasn’t because she was living a lie. It was because she felt like her performance in bed was awful. She hadn’t really spoken with him since they had woken up together.
The memory of their intimate moment replayed in her mind as he was doing his interview. She touched her pelvis remembering how Freddy unzipped her pants like a hypoglycemic child un-wrapping a Twinkie. She remembered how he glanced at her privates like she was hiding a treasure chest. He pulled off her jeans and he kissed her in the place where it counts to be a woman. She winced and clinched as he performed his linguistics on her. He kept rolling his tongue with his hand on her chest feeling it rise and sink. He came up, huffed in some air, and then told her “You taste good.” She giggled at him.
He peeled off the shirt that read “World’s Greatest Soccer Mom” and took turns fitting each breast in his mouth. He went for the lips. When he kissed her… that moment had became a new religion for them.] [
He was ready to enter inside of her and she asked him “Do you have a condom?”
“No, I don’t,” he said.
**][“You’re not going to give me a STD, are you?”
“I’m clean.”
“All right then, go for it.” He aimed his genitalia for hers like an arrow to the bull’s-eye. That hurt like hell, she screamed from the pain. Freddy asked “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, just start off slow,” she said. The whole time he was inside of her, she felt like that crewmember in the movie Alien, who had the little monster in his chest, except it was in her vagina. The whole time for her it was nothing but discomfort. She thought “what the hell is all the appeal about, sex isn’t all that great.”
Freddy was pumping his member in and out of her and she was trying not to make a sound. Because she believed whatever sound she’d make would turn Freddy off. She also figured to lay there lifeless; flopping from his exertion. “I totally suck at this,” she thought.
“What?” asked Freddy. The sex stopped.
“Huh,” she said.
“You said you totally what?” he asked.
“Nothing, nothing. Continue.” The sex persisted.
He went for a kiss, she loved his kisses. As long as he kept kissing her, she was willing to finish through it.
“Did you make an orgasm?” she asked him.
“Um, I don’t know… did you have one?”
“No I don’t think so, did you?”
“Um no, I really don’t cum that fast.” He looked at the clock. “We only have been doing this for four minutes.”
“Do you know when you get one?”
“Um, yeah you would know. That’s kind of the point here. You never had an orgasm, have you?”
“Is that a problem?”
“No. Not for me.”
“You had a few orgasms right.”
“Um yeah I had plenty. Most of them I made all by myself.”
After a while she noticed his breathing becoming heavier. She saw his face contort and soon after she felt him put a warm goo inside her. When he got off she asked “What is that?”
He asked “What is what?”
“I think you put something inside me.”
“Yeah um, that was kind of the point.”
“No, it’s like…did you pee in me?”
“What?!”
“I feel something warm inside me… oh my god you put sperm in me.”
“Oh yeah, there was no condom.”
“Am I going to get pregnant?”
“Guessing since it’s your first time then no, but if you did…” He showed a nervous smile then said “you believe in abortion.” He then laughed. She threw a pillow at him.
“You better be fucking kidding me.” And then she joined him in laughter.
They went for another round of fun together, and after that they both slept in wet sheets from all sorts of body fluids.
When it was ten thirty in the morning Freddy watched her get dressed. Her skin was still glistening from old sweat; it made the sunlight dance all around. She strapped on her bra, shuffling it around till her chest was in order. She slipped on bright rainbow colored socks. Skinny jeans were pulled up slowly over her long legs. She wore a different shirt, it showed three little kittens, something that you would find in your grandmother’s closet. That was the tackiest shirt Freddy had ever seen a young woman wear. And that was when he knew he loved her. So he said so.
“I love you.” She turned around to look at him.
“So you finally can just say it now,” she said. “That’s good.” She thought she loved him, at first. She wanted to love him. If she could make herself love him she would. But she knew she didn’t really love herself. And when someone doesn’t love their self, that person can’t truly love another.
She turned away from him and said “I really like you too Freddy.”
**
“God if you can hear this, please fucking save me!” exclaimed the Ringmaster. “These demons, they want me. They won’t leave me alone.” Artemis was all to himself in the wardrobe tent trying everything to mentally to stay put. The withdrawal of his three decade long coke habit was tearing him apart. He had the shakes real bad.
He was sitting in front of a dressing mirror with his hands clamped together. Even though he was praying for his life, he never really cared for religion. But at this moment he was praying to something, God, Buddha, Zeus, Superman, it didn’t matter as long as someone saved him from himself.
**][The overhead lights grew brighter; someone might have turned the knobs so Artemis looked around. There was no one, but the lights continued to grow more intense. He threw his hand in front of his eyes and turned around from the illumination. And there was his shadow staring right back at him. From the brightness the shadow had become ten folds the size of Artemis. But the shadow was distorted. It had a slight hunchback, and it held a cane in its left hand. The gangly form of the shadow wouldn’t cooperate with his movements.
He headed for the exit looking over his shoulder. The shadow stayed in place. The head of that ghoulish figure followed his movements. He knew the apparition was staring at him.
Walking out, a sudden shrill catches him off guard, “Oh my god, you look amazing!” Artemis whipped around, he was thankful that it was only his wife. She was looking in awe at the portrait living on her husband’s face. On the right half of his face was the image of a skull. It had a fracture on the forehead and the cheek showed a broken array of teeth. On the left was the image of an enraged gorilla. The beast’s eye was painted over Artemis’s whole eye socket. And from his jaw to his upper chest was the howling mouth showing a tongue and a jagged assortment of teeth.
“I never knew Britney had this type of talent!” said Natalie.
Artemis grabbed and held her tight. He needed something to hold on to. “Are you okay?” she asked.
“I’m fine,” he said. “I just love you.”
“I love you too.” When those words left his wife’s mouth he didn’t truly believe it. He didn’t want to believe much of anything at this point. He felt like no hope for him was left. “Die comfortable old man,” he thought.
Natalie grabbed his hand saying “come on, let’s explore for a bit. With that canvas, your fans won’t disturb you.”]

Joyce was signing autographs for the masses that were surrounding her. She knew all of the love was on her. She could breaststroke in the adoration. Her bodyguards weren’t too far off watching just in case a fan got too enthused.[
**]Watching with a burning set of eyes was Scarlett, her mind couldn’t grasp why. Why was she here, why the people loved her, why she resented her, why wasn’t anyone giving her that amount of attention right then? The envy had reached critical mass. It was time for her to release it.[
**]Joyce, unaware of this looming predator embraced that day to be one of the best she had ever lived. The masses of fanatic faces got to be much for her, so she looked at her bodyguard and mouthed “save me”. As her bodyguard Max scooped her away from the fans she yelled “In ten minutes I will be performing I hope to see all your faces!” Max, was good man but a little slow, six foot, seven inches tall. If it wasn’t for guarding, the only job he could perform was to be a human wall.[
**]Joyce was escorted by her guards over to the center of the field. Where twin black silks came cascading to her. She wrapped one in each forearm and gripped tightly in her hands. Then she ascended into the air.[
**]A voice filled the entire field. “Ladies and Gents! If you all could please gather around the center.” There was Mimi on a podium with a microphone in her hand. Joyce was suspended in air above her. She spoke in a booming voice, reminiscent of the ring master’s style. “Here you will all be witnesses to the daring feats of El Circo de Fantasias’s very own dare devil. We present to you Joyce the High Flyer!” As soon as her name as announced the lights came on her. The crowd erupted; it was like three thousand people had an orgasm all at once. From the audience perspective the black aerial silk blended in with the dark sky. It gave the illusion that she ascended in air all on her own. The music played and she danced with her silk. Joyce was suspended in forty feet above thousands of people; thousands of captivated imaginations.[
**]As Artemis was hidden amongst the crowd, watching his high flyer he thought to himself “even the angels in heaven must be growing envious of her.” And he was right; there was a fallen angel that was growing envy, fear and hatred towards Joyce every day. He didn’t know it was the same demon giving him trouble.[
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**]Earlier that night Scarlett was preparing for her performance. She was still heated after her verbal brawl with Mimi. She tried to calm herself down by saying “You’re better than them. You’re made up of more important stuff. That’s why they hate you because they will never be on your level.” She looked at herself in a hand mirror. “Oh my god,” she said.[
**]Celia faced her scared asking “What!”[
**]Scarlett lowered the mirror to her hip. Her face perplexed, and she looked Celia square in the eye and told her “I’m just so physically… perfect.” Celia’s face then went cold. “I’m not coming from arrogance here. But it’s true.” She held up her free hand in defense. “I’m top of the line gorgeous. Okay before you roll your eyes at me Celia it’s like this, your god made everyone on earth right? There are obviously ugly people, there are beautiful people and there are people in between. God is the father of mankind right? So he is just like any other parent. I believe… he took a little extra time when he was constructing me? And we can bullshit all we want to, but we know parents all ways play favorites.”[
**]Celia’s body heaved towards Scarlett’s. Her face white and those cheeks ballooned. She turned around and ran for the exit. She headed for the Port-o-Potty, flipped the toilet lid and let go of her lunch. After that, she got on her knees and put her hands together.[
**]Scarlett’s audience was in the largest tent of the field. Most of her fans were growing up just as she was. Just over a thousand young faces anticipated the arrival of their teen queen. The majority had on t-shirts with scarlet’s image plastered all over them. The curtains were pushed back revealing the set stage. Her fans cheered with an excessive amount of passion when she appeared. High pitched squealing.[
**]She came out wearing a white leather skirt that covered her navel down to her mid-thigh. And she could barely cover her chest with that small white leather bustier bra top.[
**]On stage was a table with the instruments she was going to use. She picked up a rolled whip and held it over an open flame lamp. As soon as it caught Scarlet began to dance and twirl, she became a wave of fire. She cracked her whip and sparks would fly out into the audience. She swung the flaming whip around her torso, allowing the fire to caress her.[
**]Scarlet always burned herself in every show; she would feel the pain and the intense heat. But her greatest trick wasn’t to suppress the pain; it was to not let it bother her.[
**]The performance she was giving was amazing, truly captivating everyone who was in their seats. On the other hand it was not the most memorable event that happened to her that night. What the audience saw was a mysterious masked character come out from under the table. The table cloth that extended to the floor concealed this person the whole time. When the figure emerged on stage there was a fire extinguisher in those hands. The crowd was perplexed at this site; the concern from the crowd was audible. Scarlet didn’t even see this stage intruder coming toward her from behind. Scarlett cracked her whip sending more sparks into the crowd. She turned around while wrapping the whip around her torso. That was when the fire extinguisher was fired onto her. The shock of the crowd resonated throughout the tent. The cloud of chemicals enveloped them both; the crowd for a moment couldn’t see them. A confused jumble of murmuring traveled through the audience. A smack was heard onstage followed by a scream that troubled the people. They didn’t know what to believe, wondering if this was all a part of the act or something more sinister. The fog slowly cleared revealing the teen queen covered all over in blood. Well at first it looked like blood. But as everyone got a better look, seeing Scarlet with chunks of crust and fruit on her face and chest, it was obvious. She was hit in the face with a cherry pie.[
**]The miscreant walked out of the fog, flicked her wrist and took a bow. Under the fruit filling, Scarlet’s face reacted to the terror. She did more than scream, she did a freak out. Her attacker fled from the stage running through an isle in the seated audience. With her cinematic scream and those tears cutting the desert on her cheeks, everyone knew their queen was attacked. Security scrambled on stage and scooped up the wailing youth icon.

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[The High Flyer
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[Joyce danced in the night’s sky, so elegant, so majestic. She was above thousands and being recorded for millions. Little did she know, she was soon to replace a withering teen queen.
Artemis watched his new money maker on the computer screens in front of him. He turned around saying “Regina you captured some beautiful footage.”
“I just directed the camera,” said Regina. “She would have been stunning no matter what angle, no matter who filmed her.”
“The world will see this… they will see her dancing along the stars… she will be bigger than the stars… because here… she outshines them.”
Britney along with a few security guards walked in to the technician cabin. Britney spoke first “Artemis there was an incident last night.” He showed concern.
“What happened?” he asked.
“Scarlett was attacked.”
“What happened is she all right?”
“She’s fine, she is fine. But…”
Regina interrupted “Well we have it on video.” She held up A disk into her hand.
“Yeah play that for him Regina,” said Britney. Regina obliged.
“Um what am I going to see, did you already see this?” Artemis turned to Britney.
“I only saw the aftermath.”
The security guard stepped forward to his boss saying “This wasn’t our men’s fault we assumed at first this was a part of the act.”
“Let him just watch the video,” shouted Britney.
The footage on the screen, there on stage emerged his step-daughter, his little monster. She was performing and everything looked okay to Artemis. “Woo, wha what’s going to happen?”
“Just keep watching,” said Regina. Shortly after they saw the masked individual comes up from behind Scarlet. She was sprayed and the whole screen went white. As the fog cleared there was Scarlet screaming and covered in pie.
It started out as tickling in his mind that caused a smirk on the face, which triggered a smile from Britney, that lead to Artemis to burst out in laughter. Everyone joined him. Britney threw her head back in amusement. Regina held her stomach and her wide open mouth trying to contain herself. And the security guards just let it all out.
“Roll that back I have to see this again,” said Artemis. Regina obliged. The screen rewound to the start of the attack. Everyone was poking fun at Scarlet’s situation except for Britney. As she got a better look on the perpetrator she realized that she helped create her. She recognized the mask and the figure, it was the Jester. She kept this knowledge to herself.
Artemis said with a wide smile “The world will see this as well.”
**
It was a breezy summer morning; the train was in pursuit for California. Joyce was in the kitchen looking for some breakfast. She looked on top of the fridge seeing Kellogg boxes. “I’m tired of cereal,” she muttered. She opened the freezer door she saw a bunch of microwavable meals. “None of this looks healthy.” She opened the fridge; her eyes scaled every shelf until reaching the bottom. The last shelf had an abundance of pie; pies of the best flavors. Right then Joyce figured] _*what the hell I deserve a piece._ [*She grabbed the tin closest to her, cut into it, pulling out a large piece for herself.
“Yummy,” said from a voice off to the side.
“I’m having cherry pie for breakfast, would you like a piece Selena?”
“Oh why not?”
Mimi grabbed a plate and Joyce put a slice on it for her. Mimi poked her pie with a fork and put that sweet decadence in her mouth. “Your performance was crazy last night; if I had a dick it would have been hard.”
Joyce’s eye lids expanded wide open. “Wow, I guess that was a compliment.”
“I’m joking,” Mimi giggled out.
“I’m glad… you were scaring me for a moment there.” Joyce took a bite of her pie. “Any way speaking of compliments, did you hear what happened to Scarlet?”
“No, what?” said Mimi in a smug tone.
“She was attacked on stage during her performance.”
“Wow, really?” Mimi was forcing out a look of shock.
“Someone ran on stage threw cake in her face and beat her with a fire hydrant.”
“Oh that’s horrible. This pie is very good.”
“Yeah I know, right.”
Mimi took another bite and asked “Is there milk?”
“Yeah.”
Mimi went for the shelf asking Joyce “Do you want a glass too?” Mimi was pouring the milk in the glasses when she asked “Did you see this or did you hear about it?”
“Random people were telling me about it. They said this happened right before my performance.”
“And they said she was hit with cake and beaten with a fire hydrant?” Mimi passed a full glass to Joyce.
“Something like that, I guess.”
“Because I remember her being sprayed with the fire hydrant and then getting hit with a pie.”
“What?” Joyce was first confused and then the realization slapped her in the face. “Oh my god!” She hopped out of her seat.
“What?”
“How?! You?!”
“It wasn’t really that hard.”
“You’re crazy!”
“Yeah, I know,” like it was already obvious.
Joyce stood there as Mimi gave her all the details on how she executed her plan. She listened to everything as pie kept coming in her mouth. “Is there any chance,” started Joyce. “That someone would have known that it was you?”
Mimi’s face fluxed like she was trying to find the answer in her head. “I actually wore a different outfit and mask,” she said. “So no one could assume it was me. Except…
“Except!?” retorted Joyce.
From behind a voice said “Except me.” It was Britney, she was smiling. But from the look on the girls face they couldn’t tell if it was a good thing or not. “That was one hell of a stunt you pulled Miss Santana. I don’t know if I want to shake your hand or slap you with mine.” Mimi and Joyce still had the look on their face. “On one side you betrayed my trust right after I went to bat for you. On the other… you got us some great footage. Artemis is going to air your little number.”
“Seriously?” asked Mimi.
“You made him laugh tears. In fact everyone in the tech cabin not only found it funny, they cheered.” Mimi smiled. “But there are a few problems though.” Her smile was gone. “We all told Scarlet that it was most likely a crazy fan. But honestly we were suggesting amongst ourselves if one of the staff had pulled it off. I, for reasons that I don’t even know, tried to cover for you again, attempting to pull them away from that idea. It didn’t matter to them though, either way the staff wants to figure out who it was.” A tense since of caution arouse in Mimi. “If you keep pulling stunts like this I will not cover for you. So what are you going to do Selena?” Britney noticed what they were eating, she wondered if it was the same brand that hit Scarlet’s face.
“I will keep working,” said Mimi.
“Then I will keep you as my little secret.” That pie was calling, and her stomach became jealous of Mimi’s. “Cut me a slice would you?”
**
At the start of nightfall Joyce and Andre were embracing one another in her bed. She asked him “How come you didn’t warn me that this circus is absolutely fucking crazy.” They both smirked with each other under the sheets.
“It’s a circus, what did you expect?” said Andre. Joyce chuckled a little louder.
“I had no idea. I was just happy I found a job in my field. I thought I was going to be someone in the background. I had no idea I was getting a stage all to myself. It’s cool to be famous and stuff but.” Andre slipped into a giggle. “It’s crazy when it’s just thrown at you. If it would have came at me gradually, fine. I was just thrown out in front of the world and told do your best.”
“And you did,” he said. “So now the world fell in love with you.”
Joyce smiled at him and asked “did you?”
“I’m getting there,” he whispered. “And you?”
“I’m getting there,” she whispered back. “If you play all the cards right, I could fall for you.” She swiped a loose blonde lock out of his face, gently putting it back to where it belonged. He leaned his head over hers; their lips were an inch apart. He held that position, savoring the moment, savoring her breath that grazed his lips. He went in for it; her lips had everything he wanted.
Andre heard her voice speaking, even though his tongue was in her mouth. He looked towards the TV and there was his High Flyer. “They’re talking about you again.”
On the TV there were images of Joyce and Andre embracing one another. Chelsea Handler then appeared with her league of extraordinary gossips to weigh in on the photos. They were speculating that a romance was blooming between the young circus stars. Noting how cute they look together. Chelsea commented on how Andre finally has someone to juggle his balls for once.
Next morning the whole train car saw how Joyce and Andre acted like they were the only two people in the world. To them they were the only two people that mattered, A raven and a dove soaring high. He was white, she was black, they were so sweet together like chocolate milk. Scarlet wasn’t in the mood for sweets so she avoided them with full prejudice. Mimi noticed their intimacy as well, so she let them be.
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Artemis was in bed trying his best to relax, he sat there focusing on positive things in life. He reminded himself that he had a beautiful wife, he was rich, he was famous, he had good people in his life, he was getting older, but that was alright. The grey hairs could be dyed. And he also gained a little weight so he might want to hit the gym. But damn when could he do that? His life was so fucking full of other things, he stopped there, it didn’t matter. Not right then, he didn’t want to go there, only stay positive. The sky was blue, fluffy clouds arrayed over it, beautiful, like the ocean was suspended in air. Nothing was going to trouble him, nothing; he would only allow happiness around him and inside him. That’s why he sipped on a macchiato spiked with rum. It was way too early to drink but who the hell cares. He just wondered if he wasn’t switching his old addiction for another. From drugs to booze, fuck he didn’t want that. He wanted to stop there, no more negativity. He pushed everything negative out of his heart and mind. He was a sponge to happiness. A sponge left in a tub of liquid happiness.
And then his IPhone rang, even though he didn’t recognize the number, he believed it was a happy phone call. Hearing the familiar voice on the other end he screamed “Timsley, where the fuck have you been!?”
“Artemis, I’m sorry to be doing this over the phone,” said Timsley. “My oldest friend, please except this as my early retirement.”
“No! No! You fat Irish bastard.” Artemis became full on belligerent. “If only you knew what the fuck has been going down with me these past days. You disappear when I need some fucking mental support. I will not be happy for you.”
“Artemis, close your big black lips for a second. Believe me as I tell you this, I cannot be with the circus anymore. For some serious personal reasons.”
Personal reasons? That didn’t make any since to Artemis, then he thought somebody might be blackmailing him as well. So he asked his dear old friend “was somebody threatening you?”
“No this is… Artemis I fucked up. I fucked up big time and I’m fucking scared that I just thrown my life away.”
“What did you do?”
“I don’t want to say it. Because I still want you to respect me.”
“I don’t give a fuck what you did. You helped build this fucking empire with me. You’re my right hand man, my go to guy for three decades now. I will never think less of you. You’re my fucking brother. Me and you don’t have any fucking family outside of this business. Here we were all family together; this fucking train is our home!”
“Artemis your right, we are fucking family always. But there is no more circus for me. I need to hang this shit up. I need to really lay low for a while.”
“Where you going to go? Where you gonna take your big white ass?”
“I’m thinking out of the states, going back to my birth place.”
“You going to Ireland.”
“Yeah, Dublin.”
They didn’t talk long after that. They said goodbye, like it was the last goodbye you tell someone you love. Sadly, they met once more, when one saw the other at his funeral.
It was all too much for Artemis at that point. He made his decision; he no longer wanted to be a part of the circus. He laid there on his bed, arms and legs spread out, figuring how to announce his retirement.
**
Freddy felt like the scum of the earth. Taking advantage of an emotionally fragile girl, she might as well have been drunk. It’s not good to feel like a sexual predator. Was he one, was he not, he sure questioned that. And those questions lead him to give her a call. His cell phone rang and it was answered. He said “hey, what’s up.”
Her voice came back tired from the other line “hey, not much. Where are you at?”
“In the cabin, with the boys.”
“How come you are not here with me?” Right then his heart rejoiced, that meant to him she wanted them together.
“I’ll come see you right now.”
“I’ll meet you half way there.” After they hung up he hopped out of his bed, ran down the aisle, out of the car, up the ladder and he was on top of the train. He ran with the wind pushing against him, jumping the gaps between the cars, overzealous. He had the expression of a first grader’s last day of school. Only she could make him feel that way. She had that power over him; to make him feel like a child in a sand box. Mimi appeared out between cars. She ran for him as well, they collided into each other. His hands touching her skin was a sweetness only Nestle could imitate. She gripped his back as she hugged him, accidently putting her nails into him. He looked into her eyes and became lost. Her eyes were deeper than the night’s sky; to him they went on and on, infinite. He snapped back into reality as she asked to see the cats.
They went inside the cat den and all the oversized kitties adjusted their pupils for what was taking place before them. After the lights were on Mimi went to the ground pulling Freddy with her. She said “I want you to fuck me.” He wasn’t expecting that. In those eyes he could see those stars twinkling in her darkness. He got up then backed away. “What’s wrong,” she asked. He laughed because he couldn’t come up with anything else to do. She got up, took off that faded power ranger t-shirt and went straight for him. They kissed like all the riches in the world were located in the others mouth and the only way they could get it was to fish it out with their tongues. She put her hands under his shirt.
The animals erupted with roars, and it only added to the lover’s fire. She grabbed his hand and put it over her breasts. “I need you inside me,” she said. “Make me feel good baby.” She stuck her other hand down his pants. Freddy knew there was something wrong with her, but he couldn’t bring himself to stop. Every one of her requests he obliged. He saw her face and it was like looking into a junkie. The sex had done something to her. It unleashed a hungry monster. He knew she was emotionally tragic. But he didn’t know being intimate with her would spark a suppressant. From there on Mimi figured she could use sex to stop the hurting. An orgasm would take away Mom, Dad, siblings, the circus, Scarlet, the attack, the sadness, wondering who she will become next. The orgasm she craved could wipe away all those wrongs. It just gave her a small dose of happiness; she used sex to achieve a high. An addiction was forming, and it would be so powerful.
**
A week later, the circus was wrapping up their stay in California and soon to be heading off to Washington. Scarlet was in beast mode, completely livid. She was clipping and clopping her heels through backstage, walking to the control room. She swung open the door; there was Artemis, smug as ever.
“Is it true?” she asked. Artemis didn’t say anything; his only response was a slight smirk growing on his face. “It better not be true, I will end you.”
“Really?” said Artemis. “I’m sixty-three; the majority of my life is behind me.”
“I will tarnish your name.” Scarlet spoke in a heated whisper, almost hissing every word.
“If I’m getting thrown in the fire pit I’m dragging you with me, we will burn together… Can I get a moment alone with my daughter please?!” The people left out like a gunman was in the room. Shots were already firing.
“If you put out that footage,” she said right before he interrupted her.
“The entire episode was sent in to the network, it’s already done.” The tears were stinging Scarlet’s eyes. She wiped them away before they could fall, regrouping herself. She became calmer, less emotional, cold, the only way she knew how to scare Artemis. “So what are you going to do now, show the world I’m a coke addict?”
She laughed like an adult watching a toddler. “You’re very fucking good. You almost had me break my agreement with you. I’m getting that show.”
“You’re a piece of work,” he said.
“You’re a pile of shit; luring me out when emotionally fragile. That’s a new low for you Artemis.” She lit a cigarette to enjoy as she talked. “I’m seventeen, female, white, gorgeous, I can fucking do anything.” She smirked just a little then went back into coldness. “You? Early Sixties, but look mid-seventies. Scrawny male, dark as molasses. All the good years your life will know are already behind you. All those good years will go up in flames. Don’t take me as frivolous again. Your undoing is my project. So go on, show the attack. I’m going to hold this anvil over your head until I can get everything I want out of you.”
“All the good memories I have given people over the years you think anyone will care about a little coke going up my nose.”
“Yes! Of course! They will! Don’t you know how this celebrity game works? This is shocking new information about you. The world is going to react.” She leaned on the control table, a few feet away from Artemis.
“They didn’t for the Rolling Stones, not for Jimi Hendrix, or James brown,” said Artemis.
“Those are musicians, rock stars,” she said. “Their lives were open, everyone knew. Their fucking music was about sex and drugs. But you Artemis.” She pointed at him with the cigarette between her fingers. “You built that family friendly image. For three decades you catered to that household demographic. Just like Tiger Woods, like Michael Jackson, like O.J Simpson, like Lindsay Lohan. And when the world sees you for who you really are. Everything will burn around you. Just like their lives. And if you don’t believe me, you should know how biased the media can be when a star falls to the ground.” Scarlet saw what she needed, she was making him nervous. “I’m guessing you have been using since you got your network contract. I’m looking at the way your face twitches, how your right arm can’t stay still.” Artemis took his right hand into his left to stop the shaking. “You’re going through withdrawals. And from the looks of things… you’re getting your ass kicked.”
She leaned over and blew smoke in his face. “Until I get what I want, I am your executioner.”
The door swung open. Scarlet flung her lit cigarette the very second she saw her. “Hi Mom,” she said in the most charismatic childlike voice.
Natalie beamed with joy saying “I have a little surprise for you.”
“Oh really,” said Scarlet.
Natalie grabbed her daughter and they headed outside. She placed a blindfold on her and walked out the arena entrance. Natalie said in a big boisterous voice “Okay take it off!”
Scarlet’s eyes set on a chrome Lamborghini Aventador. This automobile was priced at around three hundred eighty thousand dollars. This little surprise was staged for the paparazzi that took pictures of the young starlet posing with her new toy. A few staff members were outside nonchalantly clapping along the over enthused photographers. When Scarlet had enough of the crowd she and her mother hopped in the car. There was a white tag attached to the car key it read:
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peace?
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She knew who it was from. She detached it and threw it out the window, right as Artemis was walking out the front entrance. He saw it hit the ground. He watched his wife and his daughter drive away; their faces were nothing but smiles.
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[The crew was in San Diego. They weren’t performing, but had a headlining appearance at one of the world’s biggest collective of nerds, geeks and fan-boys and fan-girls. Comic-Con.
Mimi was preparing for a long day. Her shift was ten hours long. She would be in costume taking pictures with fans and handing out balloons from ten am to eight pm.
An hour before her shift Mimi was perusing through the prop and wardrobe section of the train looking for an image to become. Britney appeared behind Mimi. “I got rid of costumes resembling what you wore that night,” she said. “That wasn’t to save your ass. That was to cover mine.” Mimi noticed the little glass of bubbly in Britney’s hand. Way too early to drink. But the way she held it gave her this aura of cool. “It still amazes me that you didn’t get caught. I wondered if you had any accomplices.”
“No, it was just me. I’m not as stupid as you think.”
“I wasn’t thinking that you were stupid,” said Britney in her signature happy voice. To Mimi it was said in a way that meant ‘but I know your stupid Mimi’.
“If one of our coworkers grew suspicious, found those clothes you wore, pinpointed you out. You’d be trying to figure out how to get home. And I’d be in some trouble, not much, but I don’t like trouble either way.”
Whether it happened on its own, or Britney was giving her that feeling, Mimi felt stupid. Even though she received more of a positive outcome than negative her actions that night finally donned on her. She realized maybe it was bad to give in to first impulse. “Well at least, no never mind.”
“No finish, go ahead,” said Britney.
“Well at least I was smart about it. I changed costumes before I did it.”
“Yeah, costumes that belonged to the circus. Costumes you left right back here. Our incrimination.” Mimi grabbed her forehead and let out a sigh. “I’m not making you feel stupid, am I?” As serious as the conversation was Britney never broke her happy.
“Yeah, Yeah I feel stupid.”
“Good,” said Britney right before she smirked. “I’m sorry, I found that funny.” Mimi was tempted to roll her eyes, but knowing how much Britney helped her out she suppressed the urge. “Seriously though, I don’t want you in anything that resembles those costumes you wore. We’re going to have to reinvent your look all over again. This means no more masks.” Mimi just nodded her head. “That’s actually wonderful, now everyone gets to see your pretty face.”
“How would Artemis respond seeing that I’m still here? Because I’ve been trying everything to avoid him.”
“Oh you shouldn’t do that, you’re under my jurisdiction now. He already knows you’re here, I told him and his reaction was nonchalant.” She moved in closer to Mimi. “You shouldn’t have anything to fear anymore, Timsley quit, he’s gone, out of here, and no one has seen him since Atlanta.”
Mimi dreaded over that statement. But just as bad, if those cameras focus on her and that footage airs on television, her family or Vanessa’s family will find her out. Mimi didn’t want Vanessa’s family in her life; as far as she was concerned she had nothing to do with the Medinas.
Britney took Mimi’s hand, she guided her over to the dressing chair saying “Come on, let’s reinvent Mimi once again.” Mimi took a seat. Britney smiled so genuinely right in Mimi’s face, making her feel delightfully uncomfortable. “By the way everyone was so impressed with your vocals right before Joyce’s performance, we are going to have you announce everyone on stage today. Sounds like fun right?”
Britney was trying to put the fun in Mimi. She succeeded, because Mimi’s face copied Britney’s, both having wide smiles. Even though Mimi held her arms close together in fright she responded “sounds like fun.”
**
It looked like Halloween in the audience when Mimi the Jester took the stage. She saw Doctor Who sit next to Captain Kirk and behind him was Darth Vador along with Hans Solo. She also spotted Spider man, Captain America, Green Lantern, Batman and the Hulk. All the heroes and lovable villains had their eyes on Mimi. As she approached the microphone she did her best to take the likeness of Artemis and make it her own. She was as lavish as the day before; wearing a silver colored corset with lapels, shiny silver colored leggings, and a chromed top hat. It would have been ridiculous on any other person. Not even Lady Gaga or Madonna could have pulled it off. On Mimi though, she made it work. The way she exuberated her personality changing the air around her along with the outfit made everything fit together.
She clutched the microphone in her right hand. She was reciting these lines in her head all day and as her lips went to the devise she burst out “Good evening Comic-con!” Cheerful noise followed after her words. “My name is Mimi the Jester and on behalf of El Circo de Fantasias we want to thank Comic-con for having us once again. But enough with that, I now present to you the five reasons you came all this way.” As she spoke their names they came out one by one, with utter excitement from the crowd. “Artemis the Ringmaster!” He came out and instead of waving he flicked his wrist in the air. “Britney the Beauty!” She sashayed out and blew kisses at various audience members. “Scarlet the Human Torch!” She walked out not even acknowledging the fans. “Joyce the High Flyer!” She rushed out, big smile, waved both hands in the air. “Andre the Juggler!” He came out pointing and laughing at Joyce.
Mimi was now out of sight, and the fab five took their seats. Fans began to ask questions about the circus and their lives. The performers answered questions to the best of their ability. But Scarlet was bored, the fans were irritating. But she wore an interested face anyway.
Among the heroes and villains the performers noticed people imitating their likeness. In the audience you could see more Ringmasters, Beauties, Highflyers, Human Torches and Jugglers. Noticeably to Scarlet there were a collective of people way in the back that were dressed in the likeness of her attacker. It irked her, but that interested face never left, a fine actress.
They were asked a little bit of everything. Even when Scarlet was asked about the attack that aired, she surprisingly handled that very well. It sounded too rehearsed though. When that fan brought it up she wanted to scream with all her might, but she never broke that fake interested face of hers.
Near the end of the show a teenage boy with red hair and freckles stood up to ask Artemis a question. As Artemis got a better look at him he thought to himself how him and Scarlet could have been brother and sister. The resemblance was striking, but the boy came in attire that Artemis would fashion in a performance. “Hey Artemis,” said the boy. “My name is Timothy.”
“Nice to meet you Timothy.” The kid chuckled as his idol said his name.
“Thanks I have been watching you ever since I was a baby. I just had a question about the rumors on the web. Suggesting you are planning to retire very soon…”
“First of all Timothy, thanks for making feel old. Secondly you still are a baby. And lastly you might have just ruined my surprise.” The gasps in the room were audible.
“Oh I’m sorry,” said Timothy.
“You’re fine… I’m just old… Getting tired… this will be… m-my last season.” The disappointment of over a hundred loyal fans resonated throughout the room. Britney’s reaction was of shock, she glanced at Artemis, then look to the crowd. She put another smile on her face. It wasn’t faked at all, she just found a reason to smile somewhere inside of her.
It was gradual at first but it eventually developed into a roar for their idol. They applauded him, almost as if to thank him for all those memories. He said into his microphone “I have love for all of you. I have love…” The roar of the crowd cut him off. The entire audience got out of their seats… and thanked him. The old man felt himself getting choked up, but he reminded himself that there were no tears within the circus.
Only minutes was left on the panel, Scarlet spoke with actual interest she didn’t have to force. “I know you guys are recuperating after a big announcement,” she said “Well I have another.” Then the lights were dim. A projection lighted the wall above them. It was showing an array of Scarlet’s performances, chronologically falling back in time to when she first performed. The screen for a moment went dark and then Scarlet reappeared sitting down talking into a camera. “I’ve been performing all my life,” she said. She got up and walked closer to the camera, making her image larger on the screen. “Now I’m ready for a new challenge.” She was taken away by a rush of fire. Then smoke billowed up forming words and Scarlet’s voice spoke those words in a seductive voice “A new flame begins.”
The lights came back revealing excitement on the audience faces. The fab five had disappeared from the stage and Mimi the Jester was once again all the audience could see. “That concludes our evening my little kiddies, get home safe.”
**
Artemis was in a pit of tranquility. His mind was replaying over and over the standing ovation he received. The feeling was warming all the way to his bones. He believed a new chapter in his life was soon to come. Resting on that hotel bed at eleven pm, he was at the peak of human happiness. And it all went away right after his iPhone rang. He held it in his hand. It was a call from Dead Eye Entertainment. The production company that helped created Artemis’s circus magic for television.
He knew they were going to give him shit, but he answered anyway to see what they wanted. “Hello,” he said. One of the producers replied, his name was John Hampton. He knew nothing about running a circus all he understood in the entertainment business was numbers. The demographics, the ads, the employees, the money. He had no real artistic endeavor himself, he just profited off of people who did.
John started off speaking cordial. “Hi Artemis, how you been?”
“I’ve been doing well how about yourself?”
“Same here. Now Artemis we’ve seen that you announced you’re retiring after this season. I came across a problem in your contract that contradicts your intentions. It’s a lot to explain over the phone, so we are wondering if you can come in to the old offices in Hollywood so we can negotiate this here thing?”
Artemis screamed a few four letter words in his head. But he held the urge to say it over the phone. “Sure I will head over as soon as possible.”
“Well thank you much; we’ll see you when you get here. Chow!”
**
By the next day he was in Hollywood in front of those with elitist attitudes, past twelve pm, arguing over a thirty year old contract with people who owned a good portion of the entertainment business. Together those men had produced over thirty major films, owned three cable networks, half of a major recording label with seven sub-labels under it, thirteen advertising agencies and four modeling agencies. Time magazine dubbed the heads of Dead Eye Entertainment ‘The Gods of Hollywood.’ This corporation created a vast majority of the world’s celebrities. So the three men sitting across the table from Artemis were all billionaires. Even though Artemis had only seven hundred eighty million at that point in time, he could still feel the classicist vibes those men were giving off.
“Artemis I hate for this to be a big waste of time,” said John Hampton. In person he came off as a southern gentleman who obviously never missed a meal. “So I’m just going to go right into it. In the original contract signed in 1978 along with twelve episodes per season we were promised a holiday themed show.”
“I provided that,” said Artemis.
“And right you are, in the six contract renewals you have only made it good for holiday themes in four. And we are going to need you to make those up to us.”
“Within all seasons I have made holiday episodes.”
“Oh silly, for the past thirteen years you have shown snow falling in December, for many that doesn’t register as a Holiday theme, more along the lines of… just weather.”
“But I have provided Easter specials.”
“And we do appreciate that, but here within the corporation we do not regard Easter as a holiday, because it can be uncomfortable to people with Jewish heritage. And also maybe the Muslims, because god can only know what those people believe in.” Hampton smiled pushing those chubby cheeks into his eyes. “I think it’s a great thing you’re more Christian inclined. But you have never provided any themes on Halloween, Independence Day, Thanksgiving or New Year celebration.”
“We were never going to do an Independence Day special, because that was never in our recording schedule.”
“Yes that’s true, you have me there Artemis, because we don’t really want to waste any primetime material for the summer. But there was never any New Year’s theme either.”
“The staff and I take our leave from December sixteenth till January thirteenth, that was in our contract.”
John Hampton pointed at Artemis saying “And you’re right again,” like Alex Trebek off of Jeopardy. “Look Artemis the point is,” he said before being cut off.
“The point is you’re trying to work another season out of me.” John Hampton laughed full and hearty.
“Well if you want to get straight to the meat and potatoes, then sure.”
“And I bet your attorneys have already been consulted.” Hampton laughed again like a two hundred and fifty pound child was being tickled.
“We’ve been well informed that you owe this corporation five hundred million for contract discrepancies.” He hitched up his shoulders putting his hands in the air and smiled wide. “Sorry.” He put that smile away. “You’re welcome to try and fight us all in court. You’re welcome to pay what you owe. Or you give us one more season.” That smile crawled its way back onto his face. “Whatever suits you best Mr. Sebring.”
**
Artemis was trying not to hate life at that moment; it was only going to age him faster. After he had gotten up from his seat he felt a firecracker go off in his chest. He set off a whimper then regrouped himself, he wasn’t going to show those men any display of weakness. He walked right out of their office. As soon as the blood got moving the pain went away. He figured to take the elevator instead of the stairs, to save some energy. He walked off the studio lot, hailing a cab. After putting up with a love struck chauffer he arrived to the Los Angeles International Airport. He only had one thing on his mind ‘get home’. Before he could even get through the airport doors he was instantly bombarded by fans. He took a breath and handled them one by one, giving away signatures, taking pictures. The commotion invited the paparazzi over towards him. Snapping their cameras, recording him, but he held on. He always told himself that he would rather die than leave a fan unhappy. And today that was going to be put to the test.
It was hotter than a fire cracker this time. Full on dynamite bursts in his chest, excruciating. What he was experiencing took all the man out of him. He didn’t even feel himself drop to the concrete ground. Pain was traveling to his left arm, up his neck, to his jaw and upon his back. Air would not travel in his lungs; no matter how much he fought he couldn’t even get a mouth full.
The crowd around him went frantic; collectively they panicked trying to help this megastar. All the attention just drew in a bigger crowd. Not one of them appeared to be knowledgeable in assisting him. He had already lost consciousness.
Everything went white, the people in his vision, their panic in his ears, all the smells. Everything Artemis could sense went white.][
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How ice water could satisfy the driest of thirsts was how sexual attention quenched Mimi’s entire being. Freddy was straddling Mimi. He was behind her, their flesh bucking off of one another, like riding a horse without a saddle.
When they finished Mimi went straight for a nap. Freddy sat there, in bed, staring, summoning a dozen questions in his own head.
They had been doing this nonstop in her cabin for three days. Every two hours they would dive off into a session of fun. When a session was over Mimi would fall right asleep. She would sometimes eat in between, but the majority of her time was spent in sleep or some form of sexual activity. It didn’t matter when either, all throughout those nights she would wake Freddy for a few rounds of pleasure. And she was a selfish lover at that. When she achieved her climax the sex was over. It got to the point when Freddy would no longer achieve a climax for himself.
Most of the time when she slept he watched her, forming inquiring thoughts.
**
It was seven pm. Scarlet was lying down on her bed. Her right hand held a can of Redbull and her left was reaching in a can of Pringles. Her attention was nonchalantly focused on television. ‘The Real Housewives of New York’ was on.
At the height of her boredom she exchanged texts with her best associate Celia.
**
Scarlet: im mad at you :’(
Celia: for what?
Scarlet: you left me
Celia: i left to check on you father
Scarlet: i wanted you here with me
Celia: no seriously your father had a heart attack. your mom didnt want to go alone so i went with her
Scarlet: uhm okay he wasnt going to die i just dont like to be by myself you know that
Celia: SCARLET YOUR FATHER HAD A HEART ATTACK!!!! he is not well, he could have died
Scarlet: could have, as in didnt there was no funeral
Celia: there wont be, because i pray for your dad just as much as i pray for you
Scarlet: well pray you find a new friend BITCH
**
Scarlet threw her IPhone across the bed. Even though she had underdeveloped social skills she couldn’t stand to be alone for five minutes. She didn’t want to talk with any of her coworkers, because she believed they were all jealous of her. So she sat there watching housewives bicker over trivial matters.
**
Celia was disgusted once again by Scarlet. She wondered why she even wastes her prayers on someone like that. She let the tears go. She was never afraid to break down in public, especially in church. There she was sitting in a little chapel in Cedars-Sinai hospital in West Hollywood. Of course she got a few stares; after all she was a giant, but she knew to forgive them. She would sometimes look at it from their perspective. Viewing herself from others eyes, wondering what they think. But for now she didn’t care. She didn’t care about those people looking over their shoulder at her. She would have only liked to cry.
A nun’s attention was eventually drawn towards Celia. She did what her god given instincts lead her to do; comfort the poor child. She came up from behind her and whispered in her ear “No matter what you go through, god will always love you.” Celia took in the nun’s hand which she laid on the back of Celia’s neck. She stood up to face her. The nun watched her head rise into the air. Celia was two feet taller than her. “I know that,” said Celia, visibly growing more upset. “I’ll always know that. But my mother didn’t want me, my father didn’t want me. Boys don’t want me. I just want somebody here to love me. I don’t make it hard. I do whatever people say. But they still won’t love me… because I’m not the same as them.”
The nun had full empathy for Celia, she could cry right along with her if she wanted to. That would have done them no good. “Hush those emotions my child.” She held both of Celia’s hands.
“I can’t, god made me different. So they hate me, people don’t want to love me!”
“Let me take a seat please,” said the nun. “God made you this way for a reason. I know it. I believe it in my heart. Do you pray every day?”
“I do. But I can’t feel him right now! All I feel is the rejection!” Celia grabbed fistfuls of the nun’s cloth. “I just want to know why god made me this way.”
The nun grabbed her by the chin so she would face her. “God made you this way so people would look up to you no matter what,” she said. “God put you on this Earth for a very special reason. Don’t lose faith in god, never. Whatever it may be, you’re going to need him to find your purpose. I’m going to tell you something real. You will continue to be hated, the stares will continue, the looks will continue. Because that is your challenge, that is your test, you have to overcome it. Show that it only makes you better.”
“But it’s too much!”
The nun grabbed her by the wrists. “Then handle it little by little, one day at a time. You can’t wish this away. God won’t take it away. He want’s to take you through it to make you stronger… Do you want strength?”
“More than anything!”
“You’ll have to earn it, pray for strength.”
The nun allowed Celia to rest her head in her lap. Despite how big she was the nun still saw her as a baby. After a few moments of this Celia started to calm down she asked the nun her name. “You may call me Sister Celia,” she said. They both smiled.
“Sister Celia,” she said. “I wish the world would be done away with those who hate.”
“My child…” Sister Celia was looking for the right words. “That is just adding more hate. You cannot hate those who hate. You have no choice but to love them. And hope to god in time they see things the proper way.”
The Giant continued to release her emotions and the nun continued to take them in.
**][
Everywhere Natalie went she was overdressed. She walked through the hospital in a short Versace dress with a matching Michael Kors handbag. She came through the doors of Artemis’s private hospital room. It was decked out like a five star hotel suite. The wealthy and notable get sick here. She saw his face and was immediately repulsed. The fear arose inside her. “He was so young, I don’t understand,” she thought. “I can’t take care of him, who is going to take care of me.” She headed back for the doors but was stopped by the nurse.
“You’re his wife right?” Natalie nodded her head. The nurse set some towels on his nightstand. “What are you standing by the door for? You should be the first thing he sees when he wakes up.” That prompted Natalie to take a seat next to his hospital bed. “If you need anything, you know what to do.” And she left.
“I need help,” thought Natalie. She looked into his face. She had known her husband to be a glutton for fun. There was no fun in him right then. All the life that once resided in him was gone.
“Thank god he has a will.” If he had died she would have received all his money, seven hundred million. With that she would also get three estate properties located in Texas, New York and London. Twenty-four automobiles, within a wide variety. Forty-three percent of El Circo De Fantasias share holds. And also his countless possessions. Everything added up was worth over two billion.
She loved him for what he was. He was famous, an entertainer, a mogul. But that man she saw right then, right in front of her looked like he had a round with the devil.
“God please let this be easy,” she thought. “Take away this burden from me.” She grabbed his hand; it was limp and cold like he was dead. She held it up then let it go. His hand just plopped right back down on the sheets.
Her breathing got heavy more audible in the room. She started speaking to god. “Please hear this,” she said. “Don’t ignore me; give me something, right here, right now. Show me you’re real. Don’t allow him to die like this. I need him. He takes care of me.” The worst part about Natalie, Artemis was her life. He gave her everything. Everything she had right then was because of him. Besides being a lover he also played the best friend and acted very parent like towards her. She liked that, having daddy issues of her own. In her own world Artemis was her elder with special benefits. “Do something for me, make him healthy again. Take this sickness away from him.” It started to dawn on her slowly that without Artemis she would be a nobody once again. “The media won’t care about me once he’s gone,” she thought. “The paparazzi won’t follow me around anymore. No news about me on the internet. No gossip on talk shows. There isn’t any reason for why I should stay relevant. The attention would go away.”
That little blonde head of hers then began to devise ways to stay in the limelight. “I do have those sex tapes. Also there are the ones I made before I met Artemis. I wonder would that even work for my age. Of course it would. I still have a nice body. I’m gorgeous and rich, how could those cameras stay off me. Being a celebrity really isn’t that hard.” She smiled at the thought, which was the first thing Artemis saw when he woke up.
**
Even without the Ringmaster the show still had to go on. The train was passing through Utah on its way to Denver. Overall the tone was gloomy, people were quiet, watery eyes were all around. Some didn’t want to stay solemn, forcing out half smiles and polite jokes to ease tension. Mimi felt like she was already walking on eggshells so she tried to stay away from everyone. And that turned out to be a challenge.
When Mimi and Freddy realized they were out of food. It had to be Mimi that went out to get it, because Freddy wasn’t supposed to be in that section of the train. She got dressed. Clothes on her body felt so foreign, because for three days she only had a man on her.
She walked out the room, down the hallway, passed the lounge and into the kitchen without seeing or hearing anyone. Mimi grabbed a bag of Lays, some crackers, a hunk of cheese, and a six pack of Coca-cola.
Right around the corner, Britney came along and asked her “Where are you going with all of that?” She was clearly annoyed. Mimi believed her emotions to be high over Artemis’s condition.
“Too my room,” said Mimi.
“That’s a lot of food.”
“Someone else is in there with me.”
“Oh well then I can’t really blame you Vanessa Medina, you are a really popular person.” Mimi’s eyes popped. She smiled while placing the food on the counter. She knew she was going to be there for a minute. When her eyes went back to Britney they shut out of shame. Britney stared at her with a facial expression so unique it was a perfect blend of disappointment and amazement. “How long did you think you could get away with this?”
“I’m guessing Andre told you everything,” said Mimi.
“Andre knew!? Okay Thanks, now I have someone else to yell at!” Mimi’s eyes were open again focusing on Britney. “Facebook…”
“Facebook?” asked Mimi.
“Yeah you know, a website where people can connect with each other.”
“Yeah I know what Facebook is.”
“Then you should know that your mother has been searching for you over two months now.”
“She is not my mother!”
Britney swallowed hard, she knew this was going to be difficult. “Oh really!? She showed me pictures of you when you were a baby.” She paused to let it sink in. “I know your mother… I used to work with her on the runway.”
“So you two must have a lot in common then,” said Mimi as she tried to leave the kitchen.
“Do not walk away from me.” Mimi stopped. “You’re under my jurisdiction remember?” Mimi gave no response. “You are fucking amazing. Fake I.D, fake resume and fake references. Am I missing anything? God, maybe you were faking your personality too… Nothing has been real, has it?”
They were face to face, Britney staring her down. But something deep inside Mimi found the whole situation amusing. She wanted to laugh it off, but she resisted knowing that would put her in more trouble.
Britney put her hands up. “I’m about to lose it. I’m just going to have to get in what I have to say. I never take up for people. Never! But I took up for you. I saved your ass beyond what your sixteen year-old little brain can comprehend. The reason I don’t take up for people is because I’ve learned that they aren’t worth it. They got themselves in fucked up situations so they should learn to get themselves out of it.”
There was a battle going on in Mimi’s face to resist the urge to smile.
“You’ve gotten yourself in so many fucked up situations and I played a part in each and every one of them, saving your ass…” Britney closed her eyes and chuckled, Mimi damn near did the same. “In the early nineteen hundreds circuses fired employees by throwing them out of a moving train. Do you know what would happen to you, hitting the ground at eighty miles per hour?”
Mimi was going to give an answer but Britney beat her to it. “You’re bony as hell, you wouldn’t get up again.” Mimi thought the image of her bouncing off the rail tracks was hilarious, but she didn’t show it. “The only thing that’s keeping me from getting two grown ass men from throwing you out is because of your mother. She was or still is my friend. That’s the only reason… Your bridge with me has burned down… Are you registering with this conversation!?”
Mimi nodded her head. “Really,” roared Britney. “Than what do you think I’m going to tell you next?” Mimi paused because she didn’t know how to answer. “You Fired!” Those words came out of Britney so forceful it made Mimi flinch. “The only reason you’re staying on this train is because your family wants to personally pick you up. They don’t want the cops to come for you because you are wanted for assaulting your mother.” Britney smiled, but it wasn’t in that loving way she would always give. “After we talked on Facebook your mother called and we talked for almost two hours. She made me promise to slap you across the face. And I’m thankful she gave me the privilege. ” Mimi braced for impact. “But I already wasted enough energy on you. You may go.” The red in her face started to dissolve while the redness in Mimi’s appeared. Britney released everything she wanted to. As Mimi was walking away Britney said her final words. “Suggest to your boyfriend Freddy to lawyer up, since you officially made him into a pedophile.”
Britney was then in the kitchen alone. Deep breath, slow exhale. She spoke two little words to herself that returned her to normal. “And scene.”
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The media was more of a circus when it came to Artemis’s condition. El Circo De Fantasias arrived in Denver the next night. The attention was more intense; entertainers left off the train blinded by all the flashing lights.
With elevated security the entertainers and staff checked in The Ritz-Carlton. It was a fabulous five star hotel within the city; if the Sears tower had a baby that would’ve been it.
Upon arriving Britney made it clear to Mimi that she would be bunking with her. She was happy that she at least got her own room though.
Sitting by herself for short amounts of time was enough to summon the demon. The demon attacked her when she was bored. She rubbed her crotch and picked up the phone to call Freddy. “Hey baby where are you?”
“I’m in my room,” he said.
“I need you…now.”
“Meet me in the lobby.”
Soon after, she left her room. Britney must have heard her footsteps because she came out her room and asked “Where do you think you’re going?”
Mimi was trying to work up a lie, but it took her to long so she tried the truth. “To see Freddy.”
Britney smiled. “Okay.” Then Mimi walked out the suite and through the hallway. That little smile played over again through her mind. But she shook it loose knowing soon she would get some sex. They both saw each other in the lobby. Mimi saw his eyes, then she realized her lover, who she kept in the dark, knew her secret. Mimi went in for a kiss and Freddy blocked her.
“I don’t want to be seen with you anymore,” he said. Mimi wasn’t ready to accept that.
“Touch me,” she said. She went in for Freddy but he blocked her again. “Touch me.”
“Stop it.”
“Just touch me!”
“No!” She looked up at him and him down at her. Both eyes ready to let it loose. Freddy’s hurt and anger against Mimi’s desperation. “I hate you.”
“Don’t, not you. Not now.” She started to whimper, sniveling and shaking. It came to him that he was right about her. “She truly is a pathetic person,” he thought.
“You lied to me… about everything.”
“I didn’t want to hurt you, or anybody.”
“You didn’t hurt me,” he said, but his face and body language disagreed.
“Then love me.”
“I can’t. I don’t want to. I can’t trust you.”
“Well I love you.”
“Stop! No you don’t. You never did… You got a sickness. Cause something is obviously not right with you.”
“But you fucked me anyway!”
“Calm down.”
“And you kept fucking me and you liked it.”
“Because I thought you were someone else… Someone old enough.”
“Love me for what you knew me as, love me for what I was to you.”
“No. Not one of those moments was true.”
“Yes they were, stop it. You felt it just like me. Don’t do this. We fit in each other.”
“I fit into your fucking lie.”
They stopped for a few seconds to gather breath.
“Tell me your real name.”
“That’s not who I am, she’s dead, I killed that person.”
“Tell me your real name. I just want to hear it from you.”
“I was trying to be someone new. Someone the world would like.”
“Say it!” She flinched, and then gave into her emotions. “Vanessa. You stay the hell away from me.” The tears flooded her eyes, which prevented her from watching him walk away.
She found a bathroom, and went into one of the stalls to release it all. She wanted to die. Life was not working out. She always believed her family was the enemy. Right then that relationship she shared with Freddy, for whatever it was worth, was over.
Luckily for her Joyce was a witness to the whole argument. She watched from around the corner within the hall. Joyce went into the bathroom knocking on the stall that had loud sobbing coming from behind it. “Sweetie?” she said. A sad little pathetic kid with a puckered bottom lip answered. “Oh sweetie.” She took that kid in her arms. “It’s okay, just let it out.” Joyce’s maternal instincts had surfaced, clutching Mimi like an overgrown baby. “Come on we’re going to my room.”
When they got to the room Joyce placed Mimi on the bed. After a term of crying Mimi asked “Does everyone know about me?”
“I knew about who you really are because of Andre.”
“I’d figured he would tell you anyway.”
“But when Britney pretty much regurgitated the same information to me I knew you were in trouble. Then I was chatting with Regina and a few other techies and they were all talking about it too.” Mimi was lying her head and shoulders on Joyce’s lap.
“Can I ask you something,” asked Mimi.
“What?”
“What do you want to call me?”
“I don’t know. I’m still not sure who you are really. But when I first met you, you seemed like a really cool person. The times I have spent with you were cool. But when you told me that you pranked Scarlet’s set, I realized that you have a dangerous quality about you.”
“You think I’m dangerous?”
“You want me to be honest?”
“Always.”
“I think your terrifying. I’m not sure but I think you switch personalities.”
“You’re right I do.”
“Why.”
“Because I don’t like my old self. Vanessa Medina was a waste of life.”
“I think if you keep on trying to be another person, you’re just going to come across more pain. Try finding Vanessa. Make her more beautiful.”
“Why should I spend life finding myself when I can just create myself? I’m not one of those people who need others to define who they are.” Mimi sniffled.
“Sweetie, for lots of people, the harder they try to be different the faster they will realize they are just like everyone else.” Joyce stroked through Mimi’s hair. “Your hair is so soft… Do you believe in god.”
“I want god to be real. More than anything.”
“He is real.”
“This isn’t his world though. Too much pain. Unless that is all what god is.”
“You have to let him in. You can’t meet him half way, just let him in. I was taught if you seek god he will handle all your burdens.”
“What about those people who try and never find him.”
“God is all around you. The only place god doesn’t not exist is in hell. You should go to him so you don’t ever have to see it.”
“I’m not afraid of going to hell. There is enough hell on earth. I will enjoy my hell here.”
“People like you don’t go to hell. God is not a bully. I think deep down your good, but you do confusing things.”
“I believe no one is good or bad in this world… Even though we aspire to be good… we do bad… It’s all perception… That’s all it ever really was… Because we really can’t agree on what defines either.”
“All this talk is really depressing. Let’s go out and party with Andre.”
“I can’t, I’m under Britney’s jurisdiction.” Mimi chuckled just a little. “She almost slapped me.”
“I know, I saw that.” They both laughed hearty.
“Where were you?”
“Around the corner, with Andre. We thought it was funny.”
“I thought it was funny too, but I was scared if I laughed in her face she would actually do it.” They chuckled even more.
“All right I’m going meet up with Andre and Jake.” Mimi got off her lap. “The door locks on its own, so you can head out whenever.” Joyce planted a kiss on Mimi’s forehead, and then she was gone.
Sadly the demon came shortly after. She knew her fingers weren’t going to be enough. On the night stand there was a brush with a wooden handle. The demon told her to use it.
**
Jake walked into the Starbucks down the way. He spotted Joyce, sat across from her. He asked where was Andre.
“I don’t know,” she said. “I thought he was with you.” She started to dab her thumb on her smart phone.
Andre was actually walking through the halls trying to find Joyce’s room. He found the room and number he was looking for. Suite 16. He slipped the spare card into the door. He called out the name of his girlfriend as he entered. After he got his reply from dead silence he moved towards the bedroom. As he got closer he heard Mimi’s happy noises. The curiosity lead him to peak through the cracked door. She was right there on the bed performing her little puppet show. He turned away. He knew peeping was wrong.
Andre was heading out when his ringtone sounded off. He squeezed his pocket in a bad attempt to silence it. He aimed for the exit.
“Andre!?”
He stopped. He turned around to face her.
“Were you watching me?”
“No,” he said, putting his hands up. She was wrapped in a white hotel towel. “I was just looking for Joyce. And I see that she is not here. So I’m going.”
“You were.”
“What?”
“You were watching me, I saw you through the door.”
“I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay. You flattered me.” She smiled moving in closer to Andre. His curiosity was pulled even more. She took a seat on the couch and he stayed in place. “Did I ever thank you?”
“No. For what?… Oh that’s right. No you didn’t.”
“Thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank me.”
“Why.”
“Any man would have done that.”
“You’re not any man. At least I don’t think so. You saved me.”
“I got three little sisters. Instincts kicked in I guess.” There was a brief pause but her eyes never left off his frame. “You should come join us. Since you got that fake I.D.”
“I don’t have anything great to wear,” she said. “That’s why I have this itty bitty towel.” She threw it at Andre revealing everything.
“What are you doing,” he asked. His eyes traced her form. “If this is you trying to be seductive then you are not good at it.” He started to back his way to the door. “I’m going to head out now. And I’ll forget about this.”
Andre went out the suite heading down the hallway. He couldn’t believe her. He wondered how she could be so open sexually after recently being sexually attacked. He pressed the elevator button to send him down. He saw his own reflection in the doors before they spread apart. He entered right as another ringtone sounded from his pocket. He saw two texts Joyce sent to him. They read:
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Where r u
me and jake are in a taxi headed to the club we will send you the address
**
The pendulum was swinging to and from both sides. He was weighing all the possibilities. He saw the worst possible outcome, and then figured a way to negate it. Deep breath, slow exhale. His hands were on his face as “ah shit,” mumbled out between his lips. He stepped back into the hallway, slowly walking through. Liquid drops of guilt were already on his face. The little angel and devil were having a tug of war on his shoulders. He came to suite 16.
He opened the door and she was there standing by it. She was waiting for him; she didn’t have anything on except for the dim lights. As if her own demon let her know. Andre went straight for Mimi. He got himself a taste. A taste of her lips. Thoughts of fruit evoked within him, grapes, cherries, apples, peaches. Her lips were that sweet. He paused the kiss with his forehead touching hers. She grabbed him by the hand and took him into the bedroom.
Andre was well aware that he was taking advantage of this underage girl. That little devil on his shoulder was pleased. But the little angel wasn’t through yet; it was kicking and screaming in the walls of his conscious. So conflicted as he was pursuing this act.
She was sitting on the bed as he stood. Mimi was unbuttoning his shirt, then undoing his belt and pants. They engaged in to each other.
The demon would suffocate and thrash around like a drowning victim, tearing her on the inside. Because it needed to breathe, so she allowed it to come up for air. And after Andre would be done it would go back inside of her until it needed to breathe again.
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The roar of the crowd rumbled passed the stadium grounds, throughout the neighboring streets. It made Joyce hungry. Hungry for more fame, tonight was going to be her buffet.
The rest of the entertainers were backstage gearing up. Scarlet wanted to steal the crowds mind away from Artemis’s condition. Her routine was just another routine. She regretfully added nothing new. If she could have predicted the support the fans gave, a different set would have been performed.
Jake was ambitious as ever but he couldn’t figure why his partner wasn’t. “What’s wrong bro?”
“Nothing,” said Andre.
“Can’t you feel that? These people are really supporting us.” Andre looked like he had the stomach flu.
“Yeah.” He spoke under his breath. Jake was worried but he figured to leave him alone.
The legion of dancers were rehearsing, getting dressed, applying makeup over their excited faces. The clowns were amongst themselves joking and laughing. Even all the animals appeared to be more enthused.
Britney was overwhelmed, without Artemis or Timsley the weight of the circus was all on her shoulders. It was crushing her but she would never show it; smiling even though she wanted to give up and shout. She was pulling on her hair at the thought of being in charge. Everybody ran to her when a problem occurred, techies, staff and performers. She was bearing through it all when the last person she wanted to see was in her face.
“I want to work tonight,” said Mimi.
“uhm no, but you may go back to the hotel and wait for…”
“I want to work,” Mimi was adamant. “There is no point in me staying at the hotel all day. I want to help out. Be of good use.”
“Fine! But you’re doing the balloon job. You’re not announcing.”
“I want to announce.”
“Never in hell. I will allow you to have balloons, that’s it.”
“I want to announce.”
“Take what I’m giving you, don’t push the bad side out of me.”
“Thank you.” Mimi walked away. No was never an answer. No was never an option. No was never the end of anything.
She went backstage to create a costume. Some performers were still getting ready. Their reaction to her entering the room was immediate. Mimi was aware of the looks but she didn’t care. All that mattered to her was forming a character. And since she had already been fired, lost her boyfriend, discovered out by her family, there was nothing else to lose. Nothing at all. Believing that she failed, she wanted to welcome defeat in an extravagant manner. Mimi was going to go all out.
As she moved around all the costume possibilities, the other performers seemed to negate away from her presence like magnets. Eventually they left the room. As they did each person would kiss Artemis’s top hat. Mimi walked over towards the hat thinking it would be a perfect send away from the circus. She knew it would probably piss everyone off. But there was no repercussions to fear at this point. She went back to the wardrobe thinking how to build an outfit around this hat. Mimi began to look around the whole area. She first came across a rack of high heels with a sign that read “Britney’s private shoe rack”. It was full of high designer names. Mimi thought to herself that Britney must have really known her mother, because this would have all been in her mother’s closet. She found a pair that would perfectly go with the top hat. A pair of black Christian-louboutins with red bottoms.
She wandered around some more finding one of Joyce’s leotards. It was black and white with a dramatic low cut, exposing cleavage and then some. The seam ended two inches above her navel.
Passing Scarlet’s dressing table she found something to cover her legs. Black silk stockings. There were also some nice accessories as well. Bracelets were piled on both wrists.
Next to Andre’s instruments was a white drummer boy jacket. It was more marching band than circus, but the scheme would go well with the rest of her outfit.
She then assembled her outfit. It was a well blended mix of creativity and sexy, leaning more on the sex appeal side. It was close to where she wanted this character to be. She wasn’t satisfied yet. She wanted the jacket to be a different color. There was colored hair spray in various places throughout. She grabbed a black can, set down the jacket and sprayed until it got a nice even tone. That jacket was allowed to air dry before it would be worn again.
When she completed this new image she turned to the mirror. She smiled. She saw perfection.
**
Regina returned to the control room with a box of donuts. There was already white powder around her lips. Ten minutes before show time. She decided to go through the routine systems check. Everything looked good according to her evaluation. Regina believed there was only one person in the room and that person had a big box of donuts all to herself. She munched away picking up one after the other. Lost in the pleasure of the palate. Her eyes were opened to pick up the last one when they caught Mimi trying to sneak out.
“Vanessa?!” Mimi turned around. That was the first time in months she responded to her birth name. Regina heard everything everyone knew about this girl. “What are you doing in here?” The sudden smile on Mimi’s face irked Regina.
“I did some last minute alterations,” said Mimi as she took off those high heels. “Have fun.” Then Regina saw her run out the door.
**
Five minutes later Britney was doing some last minute encouragement to the dancing team. Dozens of scantily clad ladies with feathers. “Okay girls, if there is anything that you will ever take from me, remember use what makes you who you are. Now I’m going on stage to start off our little show.”
Britney turned around seeing Regina race up to her. All eyes were on her. No one had ever seen Regina panic in the circus. She always had her work in order. Coming towards Britney, Regina struggled to regain her breath while trying to tell a story.
“What’s wrong,” she asked.
“Big. (gasp) Problem.”
“What?”
“Vanessa!”
That’s all Britney needed to know. Regina’s fear, plus Vanessa equaled a big problem.
Britney ran to the entrance way to the podium. She stopped in front of locked gates.
“Why is this locked?!” Techies, performers and staff, everyone stood looking confused. “This was not locked ten minutes ago.”
Regina came up towards her again. “I don’t know what she did, she somehow hacked in my computers, I can’t access anything.”
Britney shut her eyes. “I know what this is.” She didn’t have to see her colleague to know that all their eyes were on her. One of them called out her name. “Just wait for it.”
They all heard from below the stadium the audience reacting with delight. It was thunderous. From where she was Britney could tell the arena lights were on her podium.
A booming voice enveloped their ears. To Britney it sounded like Artemis’s without the puberty. “Good evening Denver!” They all heard the crowd erupt.
Britney needed to make a tough call. “Everyone,” she said. “Take your places.”
A dancer had spoken what the majority was thinking. “I don’t think it’s safe out there with that crazy girl on the podium.”
“If you do she wins… If you don’t Artemis loses. This is his night. We are here because of him. These people came to support him. This is all for him. Perform your hearts out like nothing is wrong.”
“But.”
“Listen to me, take your places right now god Damn it!” All the dancers then gotten out of her sight. There were members of the staff alongside of her. “We have to find a way on that podium.” How it was positioned in the arena there was no way for anyone to get to her. It was setup by the crew to be offshoot from the stands. The only way to get onto it was through the sealed off hallway. “Someone please help me get on that stage.”
**
“Welcome to El Circo De Fantasias! Let the festivities began!” After those words erupted from Mimi’s mouth the crowd’s enthusiasm grew. She watched dancers, acrobats and a horde of elephants fill the playing field, performing away.
Climbing down from the podium Mimi walked through the hallway towards Britney, who was vehemently staring behind the gate. In a casual manner she waved her hand at Britney and said “Hi.”
“Why are you doing this,” Britney asked.
“Why,” Mimi chuckled. “There are so many reasons. So many.”
“This doesn’t make any sense. You’re scaring people. You’re not well sweetie.”
With a big smile on her face Mimi said “I may be scaring you all, and I know I’m not well. But this makes perfect sense.”
“Stop now. Open the gate. You’re not getting anything out of this.”
“I’m going to get a lot out of this. I can feel it.”
There were other people standing behind Britney. She turned shouting “Officer! Officer!” One appeared right out of the collective of staff watching this ordeal. He was in policemen attire with a Denver police department badge.
“Ma’am I’m officer Derant with the Denver police. I’m requesting for you to unlock this gate.”
“I can’t do that,” she said.
“Why? Do you not have the key.”
“Oh the key is right here.” She pulled out of her cleavage and dropped it right back in. “But I’m not finished yet. When I am, you may have me.”
“Are you aware that you will be detained and placed under arrest?”
“I’m counting on it.” She winked at him. “See you soon.” The officer watched that young lady strut away.
**
Scarlet approached Joyce who was wrapped in Andre’s arms. “You guys keep good company don’t you,” she said.
Andre wanted to ignore her, but Joyce had to respond, she said “What the hell is that supposed to mean.”
“It’s your bat shit friend that’s holding this circus hostage.”
“Fuck off!” shouted Andre.
“Like you did?” replied Scarlet.
Joyce asked Andre “What is she talking about?”
“I don’t know.”
“Oh come on Andre,” said Scarlet. “You first saved her life and then you got what Timsley couldn’t.”
“Baby come on,” he said to Joyce trying to move her away, but Scarlet held her attention.
“What are you saying,” asked Joyce.
“All I know is people were talking about how Andre and whatshername were together in your room for an hour alone.”
“She’s full of shit,” shouted Andre.
“Supposedly after you left the room Andre came soon afterwards. What? Andre really? Are you surprised that I know? That girl is a hot topic right now. Everyone’s eyes are on her.”
Andre began to raise his voice but Joyce silenced him with a slap. They looked at each other. No words were given, just only emotion. The look in his eyes told her the truth. She slapped him once more.
“Well it was a good talk you guys,” said Scarlet. “My moment is about to come up, I hope she doesn’t ruin it for me.” As soon as she was gone Freddy appeared, eyeing him down. Andre knew right then his situation was only going to escalate. He wanted to move his conversation with Joyce over to someplace more private.
He tried to say something but Joyce wouldn’t let him. “Don’t,” she snapped.
He got tired of Freddy glancing at him. He was just waiting from across the hall with his arms crossed. Andre shouted “What do you want bro!?”
Freddy walked over to him saying “I’m just trying to figure you out man.”
“Don’t waste your time!” shouted Andre.
“Oh it’s not a waste. Kicking your ass again would be leisure.”
“Oh really, let’s go for round two!” He threw Joyce out of the way, preventing her from being tackled along with him by Freddy. He was taken down getting punched in the face. Andre managed to wrestle Freddy on to his back. He got off and kicked Freddy in his ribs.
The co-workers jumped in to intervene, splitting them apart. They both were dragged away from each other, thrashing about as their emotions made them go wild.
**
Scarlet was seconds away from entering the arena. The show opener with dancers and animals had concluded. She was under the stadium where upcoming performers had to wait for their name to be announced.
The arena went dark. Mimi once again came onto the big screen. Scarlet couldn’t see her physical being from where she stood. So she watched her fill the large monitors around the stadium. On the center of the arena staff was trying to put together the new set. It was minimal; just her table of usual instruments.
Mimi’s voice boomed once again throughout the stadium. “For the next performance, you all will witness the flames of the world’s most famous fire breather.” She paused to allow the crowd to cheer. “But before she comes out. I have a little confession.” The intrigue of the crowd was audible. “Sadly I was there the night when she was attacked.” The fire was escalating within Scarlet before she even touched her torches. “Just as the rest of the world I was shocked of the outcome. It was totally unexpected.” She was feigning sympathy. “But I would like to tell Scarlet myself that I meant to use an apple pie not cherry.” The audience was completely enveloped in astonishment of this revelation. “Now I present to you Scarlet The Human Torch!”
The audience watched her walk out towards the middle of the field. The cameras trained on her and then she was all over the monitors. It was clear to everyone that the fire was in her eyes. Both eye balls were blood shot from anger. It was like the audience held their breath, because no one made a sound.
She passed the table taking her chalice of fire solution, a lighter and an unlit torch. She kept walking towards the podium where Mimi stood. On the screen the audience watched her take a huge gulp from the chalice holding the fluid in her mouth. As she moved in closer her cheeks jiggled like a water balloon. She tossed the chalice behind the podium, splattering the remaining liquid all over the hallway.
Mimi was a little nervous seeing her getaway wetted with flammable liquid. She thought about dashing back right away. But she wasn’t totally sure what Scarlet was attempting. She couldn’t see her. So she inched towards the edge.
Scarlet flicked her lighter, holding it over the torch. As soon as it caught she tossed it in the same spot her chalice landed. Those flames erupted around that hallway. Mimi realized in order to leave she would have to jump through fire.
Scarlet saw her enemy appear from above the podium. They were about eight feet apart. The audience watched Scarlet shoot flame like a dragon. If Mimi didn’t jump out the way her face would have definitely cooked. Scarlet kept that flamethrower blazing out of her mouth for six seconds straight.
Scarlet put out everything in her lungs, she then dropped to her knees. Hearing the cries and the contempt of over seventy thousand people could not factor with her. She wiped her lips and breathed in deep through her nose. Allowing that solution in her system would have complicating side effects.
Scarlet looked up seeing brightness, the podium was succumbing to fire. She put her hand in her mouth attempting to get some of the liquid out.
Even though the members of the audience were either confused or terrified they could still hear Scarlet shout with all her might without a microphone. They heard her bark out “Burn bitch!”
Security and staff appeared from where Scarlet had originally came from. They were racing towards the scene. Two of them grabbed fire hydrants from under Scarlet’s prop table.
“Burn Bitch!” Scarlet was being restrained as the podium was being surrounded. The fire extinguishers were set off on the podium. The smoke blossomed into the crowd. It took two men to restrain Scarlet. “Let that bitch burn!”
Mimi was being enveloped in smoke. It was filling her lungs. Every breath felt like little needles stung the inside of her chest. She looked back only seeing her exit still in flames. The alarm of the crowd was in her ears. They all disappeared, everyone of them. Even the screen still showing Scarlet in rage. She couldn’t even see her hands in front of her face. For her, everything went white.
**
Regina watched the affair in the field. It was playing on all monitors. She wasn’t alone. Performers, staff members and techies were watching the same thing. Regina knew this event was going to be replayed on Television sets, laptops and smart phones over the entire world.
It was time to call it quits. She got up from the control room to find wherever Britney could be. Seeing nobody on the backstage floor Regina tried the dressing room. Britney was there with a good number of circus coworkers watching the same ordeal.
“Britney,” she said. “This place needs to be shut down.”
“What?” asked Britney
“It’s gone too far already.”
“The circus doesn’t stop. Why would you think that? We are going to edit all this bad stuff out.”
“You can’t edit the cellphones in the audience. This whole situation is escalating from bad to worse. I want your permission to reboot everything.”
“I thought you said there was a virus in the system.” Britney was now projecting anger towards Regina. So Regina tried to come at her more softly.
“I don’t know what she did with my systems. I want to go in manually, shut everything down and reboot.”
“I have a plan, don’t you fucking worry. I’m the boss here, not you. Do what I say and get away from me.” Britney turned around asking “Where’s Joyce?”
Regina headed back to the control room. She was going to take it upon herself to shut down this whole event.
Britney was following the most well-known rule among performers. The show must go on. “Where’s Joyce,” she asked again.
“She’s on her mark,” said Andre, seated on a crate. “I watched her go there myself. So what’s your plan?” Britney didn’t have a pleasant look for Andre.
“My plan is for you not to put your dick in underage girls Andre!” That shut him up right away.
**
It was time for Joyce to entertain. There was no announcement, there was no applause. It didn’t matter either way, there wasn’t going to be a performance. A long row of Red aerial silk came down over the center of the field. A part of the silk was wrapped around Joyce’s leg. The audience kept focused on her, no one knew what was happening next. She began to heave her body back and forth from the podium where Mimi laid motionless. She developed a swinging motion eventually allowing her to land on the podium. With her tiptoes on the edge she screamed for the poor girl. “Selena.”
She nudged herself over trying to face Joyce. “Selena, Vanessa whoever you are, this is your way down.” Mimi moved her way towards the High Flyer. “Grab on to me.” Together they both swung down to the arena. Mimi thanked her.
Joyce’s mind was still clouded by the hurt she felt from Mimi and Andre’s infidelity. The hurt escalated when she noticed Andre’s jacket on The Jester. The way she felt led her to act out of character, striking Mimi to the ground. She first sent her elbow into Mimi’s right temple. And when Mimi went down Joyce applied more jabs to that face. As security and the police came towards them, Joyce ripped off Andre’s jacket. Both of them were apprehended off the field.
The people in the stands were already starting to dwindle. Seventy six thousand people left out disappointed that night. The circus was a disaster in Denver, and the whole world was going to know about it.
**
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[[Unpleasant Business
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**][It was a week and a half later. Britney was in Hollywood walking through the Dead Eye Entertainment studio lot. It was like she was in disguise, little makeup, oversized sunglasses, big floppy hat, flat shoes with a basic women’s dress suit; that was her idea of blending in.
The circus was still burning after Denver. The media became a living nightmare. Press and paparazzi were in everyone’s face. It didn’t matter what your job was in that business, even the cleanup staff were being bombarded to get information. All media outlets told the same story of what happened that night but in different variations. El Circo De Fantasias was stripped of its family friendly image and treated as the cesspool of entertainment.
Britney walked into the main building. Eyes were on her. Damn near everyone watched her. She didn’t ask for directions, appearing as if she knew where she was going. She kept on her way. The head producers needed to have a chat with her.
When stepping on an elevator a man walked off jutting his eyes. She acted like she didn’t notice or maybe she really didn’t care. Men and their eyes, always tracing her form. Britney was used to having looks out of desire and resentment, now it was repulsion.
She had so many people to blame for why this was. But deep under all those curves she knew Denver was her fault. Maybe not all, but a good portion was. When someone knows that they truly messed up big time, regret becomes insufferable. Britney wondered why she tried to take on the responsibility of three people. She wondered why she allowed Vanessa to be back on the scene. She kept on wondering why she didn’t listen to Regina. She wondered about every little detail that attributed to Denver being a disaster. Her guilty thoughts manifested themselves into ghosts that haunted her ever since.
She came up to the entrance of the producer’s boardroom. She checked her watch; fifteen minutes early. As Britney waited standing by the double doors they were cracked open. John Hampton’s head popped out. “Oh, Hi there,” he said. “I believe this is the first time we met. I have to say I’m just the biggest fan of yours.” Britney didn’t want to smile, but she did anyway in the name of politeness. He opened the door wider for Britney. “We have lots to discuss.”
Britney was a little hesitant. “I think it would be best if I waited for Artemis.”
“Young lady last time I checked Artemis is laying in a hospital bed damn near dead. He’s not coming here.” He said that in a joyous tone. Like thinking about it stirred happiness in him.
“We talked on the phone. He will be coming here.”
“Oh you spoke with him; I can’t get him to answer my phone calls.”
“I didn’t speak with him. I talked to his wife. She told me that he was coming.”
“Really?” Hamptons smile grew even further. “Then he must truly be a fool. Putting his life on the line.” Britney’s frustration was increasing; showing anger would only escalate the problem, so she swallowed it. “Well if he shows up or not. We’s havin a discussion in here, a discussion that pertains an awful lot about you.” He walked back further in the room, followed by Britney who shut the door behind herself. That choice developed instant regret as she saw across the table the descendants from Porky the pig.
John Hampton overfilled his seat as he sat down. “Pull out a chair Miss Moore.” She did. “Now tell us what went wrong that night.”
“Weren’t you paying attention to the news?”
“Of course,” he smiled again. Hampton had this intimidating way of smiling that made people feel small. “But I would like to hear it directly from the source.”
“I gave the wrong person an opportunity. An opportunity they took advantage of.”
The other two men in the room besides Hampton focused on Britney sternly.
“Really that simple huh,” said Hampton. “Now this Vanessa Medina you hired into the company, were you aware that she was a minor.”
“No.”
“From word I was getting she was originally let go of the company at first as a theater technician. And then you rehired her as some sort of clown.”
“Yes this is true. If this is going to be a game of twenty questions I’m not in the mood for it. The police have already went through this with me.”
“We aren’t the police Miss Moore. We are your bosses. This isn’t a game but if you don’t abide by us well… well finding work will be tough. Don’t make us become the enemy.”
Britney swallowed hard, the tears wanted to leave too, but she gave them no permission.
“So from the result of that night who are all the employees that have been dealt with?”
“If I know what you mean, who has been let go?.. I’ve made the decision to terminate our talent Joyce, Andre and an animal trainer because they engaged in violent behavior.”
“Really, but Joyce is a profitable rising star. And there is some money you could still squeeze out of Andre. Together as a Hollywood couple we were making bank.”
“I took the actions found necessary to protect the brand sir.”
“If that were true you would have fired Scarlet as well.”
“I wanted to. But she has a personal relationship with Artemis. So I decided to place her in suspension. I will let him deal with her.”
Hampton cocked his head to the side saying “Seems fair.” He went on with another question. “Was there any others?”
“I decided to let go one of our head technicians after they directly disobeyed me that night.”
“mmm okay. So we understand that you decided not to air the footage. Resulting the airing of a rerun. I hope you are aware that decision cost us some money with the network. Because they lost viewers and that dragged other programs down. It’s a long explanation but we had to make it up to them, so someone is going to make it up to us. Now how you think we are going to get that back?”
Britney was becoming more aggressive, showing more emotion. “Everything was my fault. Is that you want to hear?”
“Well it does make everything easier, but it doesn’t answer all my questions.”
“I invested myself in that night.”
“I’m sure you did Miss Moore. Despite the flaws you do have the right mentality. The captain always goes down with his ship. Well in your case the co-captain.”
Britney was ready to leave. Being treated like a child was enough for her to quit and never look back. It would have happened if Artemis didn’t come crutching through the door. That sight staggered everyone. Britney’s first impulse was to reach out for a hug, but he looked fragile. Seeming twenty years older and fifteen pounds lighter.
The Ringmaster took a seat right next to Britney. The room was quiet until Artemis spoke. “Well is everyone going to be slack jawed or we going to do business.”
The smile on Hampton’s face came back. “Lets. Lets. But first off I gotta commend you. Most people would be taking their leave but you’re here still with us.”
Artemis wasn’t appeased by that comment. “Quit your half assed compliments.” Hampton’s smile regressed after that retort. “We are going to package up the footage and air the night in Denver.”
“That move requires a lot of balls Artemis.”
“And I have them.”
“But what will that accomplish?”
“It will give us the illusion that we were in control that night.”
“How so?”
“By making it seem like it was all an act.”
“An act? That is the big solution? The public knows everything about what happened.”
“Going on what I seen the television put out, the public has a vague understanding of what transpired. None of our people sent out a statement. Not a single word was dropped to the media or public.”
Britney interjected by saying “He is right. Our performers and staff are contractually mum about our inner core. Not even a Facebook post or a twitter mention was made.”
“All the media has against us is the bootleg footage and the opinion of the audience.”
Hampton’s tone was increasing in hostility “So you want to look like you’re in control Artemis, when you were clearly not? That is just pride at its worst.”
“It’s not pride it’s business. We’ve already lost one-third of our sponsors. This is the best to keep our money from dwindling.”
“By telling an obvious lie to the world.”
“By telling them a story!” There was a pause in the room as Artemis seemed to be getting agitations from his chest.
“Despite the negative attention as of lately we are still booked for the white house. That gem alone will give us more valuable credibility.”
“That may be true Artemis… But the public can always sense a lie. A lie you want to hold that boosts your ego.”
“It’s not a lie because I’m in control damn it!” He stood out of the chair while holding his chest.
“Settle down Artemis,” said Hampton.
“Don’t tell me what to do. This company would’ve never been to where it has without me! Because of me you made billions!” The angrier Artemis became the more he crippled in front of them. “I know what I’m doing! Because of me The Ringling Brothers went out of business! Without my format Cirque de Solei would not be around! And you question me? I am the greatest entertainer that has ever walked the Earth! Shakespeare could have never done this shit! ”
Hampton twiddled the pencil in his hand and bit his lip.
“Do you have any more questions, Mr. Hampton?”
The attitude regressed considerably, talking under his breath Hampton said “No sir there is not.”
“This meeting is over.”
Artemis and Britney walked out of that room together. She assisted him as they were heading out of the building. There was a small conflict within Britney to do what was best for herself and to stick to what she knows. Deciding to remain loyal to a deteriorating leader was going to be a real test for her.]

Medina[
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**][The Medina family was all sitting in the living room. The television was being flicked through channel after channel. It stopped on AMC showing the classic movie “The Greatest Show On Earth”. Buttons The Clown turned to Holly a Trapeze artist and tells her “Clowns are funny people Holly. They only love once.”
Brenda looked at her older sister. “Is that true?” she asked.
“I was never a clown.”
“Then who were you?”
“I was never sure. Can we watch something else?” Eyes around the room shuffled over to her and away. The television traveled through more stations.
Mommy kept hitting the channel button on the remote. She saw her daughter on every other channel. Despite the animosity she felt, a dream came true. Her child had finally become famous. Well in this case it was a little more dangerous than fame, bigger than fame. Vanessa was infamous.
Mommy was over rejoiced of this outcome, even though she tried not to show it. Still giving Vanessa signs of displeasure. But internally she was thankful that Vanessa dragged her back into the spotlight as well.
“Anything without my face on it,” said Vanessa. A little bit of tension softened as chuckles were passed around. Then the Television stopped on her brother.
“There’s Jorge’s face,” said Brenda.
Harvey Levin of TMZ came onto the screen and then it cuts to the footage Jorge recorded. They began to relive that moment, each one of them, retracing their steps on that fateful day.
Vanessa’s heart was already bitter about what happened. Now watching it transpire all over again for the entire world, turned her heart sour. When she saw the wine hit her face for a second time she decided to go to bed.
Mommy was only thinking how awful she looked. She saw herself in a horrible light. She turned to Jorge saying, without shouting, “Why did you record this? Look at me.”
He turned to her wearing a guilty expression. “On the TV… I look horrible…. This is embarrassing. People are going to say I’m ugly. My hair wasn’t done; I don’t have on good makeup. I wasn’t ready for you to record me.”
Daddy then watched Mommy leave from the living room. After he heard those words stumble out of his wife’s mouth, he had the courage to grab the magnum out of that little box from under the bed. Load one bullet inside the clip and place the end inside his mouth. He had the courage to set himself free right then. But he swallowed it, and placed it into the deepest darkest corner of his mind. He figured taking the easy way out would have landed him straight in hell. Because he needed to be Daddy until his kids no longer needed him. And after that time has passed, when he is old, left alone with his wife, well then… just maybe.
**
Julio soon left. For him, having Vanessa home had only made the family experience more hellish. The air was more awkward, more tense. He took along with him Brenda and little Michael to meet up with Rodrigo. As soon as they walked out of the clock tower entrance they garnered unwarranted attention. There were men waiting outside to snap pictures of the Medina family. Julio kept his head down, focusing on making it through the parking lot to Rodrigo. They came together through a kiss. A picture perfect Kodak moment.
Little Michael and Brenda were starting to unconsciously adopt Julio and Rodrigo as parents. Julio suspected this, but he was accepting of it, because even he wanted an alternative family.
**
She was lost in the world. She had forgotten herself within her own mind. She was nothing, empty space wrapped in skin. She exhausted every emotion her heart was capable of, until it gave up. She decided that this life was no longer suitable. Vanessa Medina, Selena Santana Mimi the Jester, whoever the girl truly was decided to end its consciousness. That decision was made through a variety of prescription medications. Pills meant for depression and ADD with Julio’s mood stabilizers manifested into a buffet in her hand.
There she was right in front of herself, staring into the mirror. She gave a deep breath and slowly exhaled. The collage of capsules was placed in her mouth. She eventually chewed the handful despite the bitter taste. And a cup of water washed the remaining ashes down her throat.
While waiting for the inevitable she started to do her make-up, applying her best works. Top notch foundation, her favorite eyeliner, a bright lip gloss the stained her lips pink. The hair was worked on then pinned up. After she was finished Vanessa looked like from the neck up a girl who was going to have a good night on the town. To complete this look she pulled off her best Sunday church dress that was hardly ever worn.
Vanessa then laid on her bed with those hands tucked on her tummy. The girl became sleepier and sleepier. The vision and hearing were all becoming less important as slowly this nap came to meet her.
Mommy walked in Vanessa’s room unannounced. Usually Vanessa would have complained about this, but then she didn’t care to give energy to anything.
“You want to be honest with each other?” Vanessa only stared up at the ceiling. “Do you love me?”
“No… I hate you,” she replied with no emotion attached.
“But I’m trying to have more love for you. That is why I’m here telling you that there is a second chance.”
“Not for us… not for me.”
“A man is here from the circus. He says they want you back. You can be back on the job.”
“It’s not happening now.”
Mommy breathed in deep and walked away shutting the door behind her. Vanessa took her eyes away from the ceiling, fading more into a deep slumber. The last thought she had was how she didn’t know who she was, but knew what she was. Right then it was good enough for her. And on that note she left the world.
**
Mommy came down the stairs and on to the couch where John Hampton sat. “I’m sorry Mr. Hampton, she refused. She wouldn’t even hear it out.”
“Oh well that does put a damper on things Mrs. Medina,” he said.
“But I know she will eventually have a change of heart. If she is anything like me she wants to have fame.”
“I’m counting on it.”
Mommy looked down and shuffled her vision back towards Hampton’s chubby cheeks. “John may I ask what is your intentions with my daughter.
“Mrs. Medina your daughter has caused rather a stir in my company. That resulted attention from all over the world. A man like me would not be here if matters were not dire.”
“What are you getting at Mr. Hampton?”
“I’ve been working behind the scenes of Hollywood for most of my life. I’ll tell you that in this day and age your daughter’s scandal is just free publicity. And with my help it can be publicity we can all capitalize on. Let’s get this lemonade from these lemons, how does that sound in your ears?”
“It sounds better than nothing.”
Hampton smiled. “Very good, Mrs. Medina.”
“From what I’ve been told my daughter does not get along with some of the cast members of the show. And I wouldn’t think Artemis would have her back there anyway.”
“I have just as much birthed El Circo de Fantasias in to this world as Artemis. His creativity was the seed but my finances were the womb. What makes me the boss is saying what needs to be said, how it needs to be said, when it needs to be said, to who it needs to be said to.” He then sat up placing his coat on his back. “I’m offering 2.5 million for the season. If you and your family needs to sleep on it well then I will allow you that. Have a blessed day.”
Then John Hampton’s chubby presence was gone. He left out so fast it was like the clock tower spit him out.
Mommy headed back upstairs. She peeked into Vanessa’s room. There she was motionless; stuck in her dreams. Mommy took a seat by her daughter and watched her sleep. She knew there were big things in store for Vanessa. This child here Mommy saw as the most special out of all the Medina children. So she stayed there waiting until those brown eyes would open again.
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______________________________________________________________________________
**] [And yet there is
more to the story.
To Be Continued.]

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CIRCO

You are all witnesses to the trials of Vanessa Medina. An arrogant and flawed teenage girl who thought she had the whole world figured out. Until it came crashing down. The experience of Vanessa's story will have the readers wondering what is the "who" in all of us. And what a person is capable of when they reach the breaking point. The Author Winston is a young artist emerging from the mid-west through his poetry and skills as a storyteller. As a child, he was a big literary nerd, thinking Huckleberry and Tom would one day be his actual friends. As a teenager, he fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet. And would ponder nonstop if a rabbit hole could take him to Wonderland. Now that he is an adult he aspires to give readers the same literary experiences.

  • Author: Winston
  • Published: 2016-06-19 14:35:10
  • Words: 75880
CIRCO CIRCO