The Girl with Two FacesMissouri Dalton / Fantasy / History & Fiction
The Girl with Two Faces
By Missouri Dalton
Copyright 2014 Missouri Dalton
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“Four months ago my daughter ran away. She’ll be turning fifteen soon—Please, come home.”
“A desperate mother’s cry. If anyone has any information on the whereabouts of Evelyn Pier, please call our tip-line. Next up, does smoking cause cancer?”
The radio hissed and squealed until I reached up and turned it off.
“The only thing gonna cause cancer round here is that radio.” Luka drawled. “Shouldn’t you kids be practicing?”
A groan rose from all of us “kids”.
“You practice or you do homework.”
Little Marie was the first to jump to her feet. “Practice.”
Everyone else muttered similar responses.
Luka chuckled, “Off with you then.”
Luka the Strongman was the nicest performer in the circus, he took care of us. He was our mother and father, storyteller and teacher, monster slayer and disciplinarian. We all loved Luka, except when we’d done something wrong.
He wasn’t as big as some strongmen, but he was tall. Looking at him you might not know he could lift what he did. He almost always smiled, a twinkle in those blue eyes, and his straw stack hair was always messy. Luka made me feel safe, and when had a Ringmaster like Everhart, that was a good thing.
Reluctantly, I unfolded my legs and got up to follow the others into the Big Top. I was on the high wire tonight, juggling rings. I didn’t walk without a net, but I had to prep for the higher fall—just in case.
“Eva, a word,” Luka said softly before I could exit the trailer. I paused and turned around.
The others shot me looks of pity and scurried off.
“Yes?” I put on my most innocent face.
“I know you haven’t been here as long as the others—”
This sounds like the start of a lecture.
“But the other kids have really taken to you. I want you to set a good example.”
“I hope that means you will stop making faces behind Everhart’s back.”
“Didn’t think I noticed.”
“Well–no.” I shook my head. “I won’t do it anymore.”
“Good. Get to practice.”
I nodded and hurried out before he could decide I needed to scrub dishes for a month.
The others had already started into their own routines. Marie threw fake pies, Jacques and Jack juggled batons that would be on fire during their performance. The last of the five of us, Mick, was working on the low swings. He was almost big enough to start catching his own mother–the star of the trapeze.
I eyed the high-wire with reluctance, slipped off my sneakers, and climbed the ladder.
I finished my act flawlessly, diving into the net at the end for the shock and awe effect and taking my bow ringside. I’m not an applause addict, but the acclaim was sweet. There were those of us who could not help but crave it. That sort usually ended up dead.
I just wanted to make them smile. More than that, I really enjoyed performing. If it wasn’t fun, what was the point? I didn’t want to have regrets.
Everhart called in the last round of clowns before the knife act and I slipped away to the curtained off section of tent the girls shared as a dressing room.
We’d strung up Christmas lights all about the singular mirror on its make-up cluttered table. From the mirror a face not my own stared back at me. My other face. My mask. I undid the ribbons holding it in place and slipped it off. Back into its velvet lined box it went.
The delicate enamel mask belonged to Luka’s grandmother and I was judiciously careful of it during performance. My own face was a sharp contrast to the white perfection and red lips of the mask. Heavy make-up covered my skin, running from perspiration. It only just hid the scar carved cruel into my cheek.
Curls of strawberry blonde locks generally hid the unsightly mark, but no one was rude enough to comment, not here.
I suppose when you’d seen some of the things these folk had, a bit of scar tissue was nothing. We weren’t much of a freak show, but there were the Siamese twins Eliza and Beth, and an extremely pale fellow who handled snakes.
But a scar carved with obvious intent did draw some eyebrows. No accident would cause such a perfectly formed shape. It brought new meaning to putting your heart on your sleeve, though mine was on my face.
Still, no one had asked about it. I was in a place where I could have secrets, privacy, I loved that. I wiped off the caked on make-up and stripped out of the striped top and battered bright orange tutu that made up my costume, a dunk into the water bucket by the door rid my hair of some of the gunk I’d smeared it in and I snagged my sweats and a t-shirt, slipped them on with my sneakers and headed back to the kids trailer for something to eat that hadn’t come from the circus kitchen. In general I found it unwise to subsist on popcorn and spun sugar.
It was starting to rain outside and it cast the lot we’d set up on in a dreary grey light. I sighed and took off at a quick clip to get into the dry safety of the trailer. I’d be glad when we pulled up stakes, the trek to winter lodgings was coming soon, and I was going with Luka to the main house. Apparently Everhart had bought the place with us kids in mind. Not the Everhart I knew–the one I was leery of.
I splashed through the shallow forming puddles and jerked open the trailer door to tumble inside. It was currently empty, though the TV was on and crackling. I switched about the stations, but after nothing but static, switched it off. My bunk was relatively clean, and with no duties ahead of me for the evening, I settled into it and dug out a chocolate bar I’d stuffed under the covers.
Dinner of champions that.
I munched down the chocolate, tossed the wrapper in the waste bin and curled up to fall asleep before anyone could disturb me.