Gifted: Chapter 2

We’re continuing our celebration of my book release next week with Chapter 2 of our story (it’s lengthier than Chapter 1, to warn you, but it’s definitely setting/character development stuff). We left off yesterday with Chapter 1, where Sheffield Donovan, owner and ringmaster, has just informed Lucy (our protagonist) she can rejoin his group of Gifted circus members. Now it’s time to meet her roommate and see the circus grounds for herself:

***

Chapter 2 of Gifted, a Donovan Circus Novel:

I could hear voices sprinkled between tents and I moved faster; the butterflies in my stomach threatened to morph into small birds. I spotted my car, got my things, and dragged my giant luggage bag across the grass and hay as fast as I could, cursing whenever the suitcase threatened to tip over in my haste. I wanted to find my camper first and retraced my steps to find the living area.

I paused at the neat lines of large mobile units and took a moment to stare. Years of experience helped them settle in fast. Large RVs and trailers sat in neat grids, the pathways clear and rows straight. These were large camping units that stood alone so that it looked like a small park. Chairs and tables, beer bottles and ashtrays already littered the ground. I walked past small clusters of people, walking together or chatting in doorways. No one paid attention to me that I could tell.

I needed to stop staring at everything like a moron and find my trailer. I began to sweat as I walked past the long lines of small campers. I found camper 238 one spot away from an intersecting pathway. The knots in my stomach tightened; should I knock or just walk in? What if Delia was in there?

Self-doubt crept in from the back of my mind. What was I doing? Was I really ready to join the circus? This was probably a crazy spontaneous moment. They might not like me. They might not think I was that talented, that I only got in on my dad’s reputation or mine and Sheffield’s relationship. Hell, maybe I did.

I took a deep breath, gritted my teeth and knocked. The door opened in what seemed a fraction of a second—before me stood a dark-haired beauty with her hand on her hip.

“Can I help you?” she asked. She had a straight nose, broad chin, very blue eyes, and an accent I couldn’t quite place.

“Um, hi, I’m Lucy Sullivan, your new roommate? Sheffield assigned me here,” I said.

Her statuesque figure broke as she smiled. “Oh! I did not realize you were here today. I thought I had another day to clean up my mess. Sorry about that.” She backed away and as I stepped in, I caught her picking up clothes and other assorted items from my new bed.

“No problem. Thanks for letting me stay with you,” I said. I dropped my suitcase on the now-empty cot. I took a look around—our beds side-by-side, small kitchen with a table for two, and bathroom the size of a closet on the other end. Campers were for sleeping so there wasn’t much need for space, though I did admit it was bigger than I’d anticipated.

“I am excited. I miss having a roommate. The last one up and married to run away to a normal life, whatever that is.” She flitted around the room, talking so fast I had to pay close attention to make sure I didn’t miss something.

“Funny. I thought most people run away to the circus,” I said.

She laughed. “I know. I do not think I will ever understand what is so great about normal life. Boring! It is no wonder people come running to us. So what are you?” she asked.

I hesitated and put my back to her, opening my suitcase and focused on unpacking instead. There was a really good chance she wouldn’t like living with a Firestarter.

“Sorry, was that rude of me?” Delia straightened up from her cleaning frenzy and grimaced.

“Um, no, I wondered if you meant what I thought you meant,” I replied.

She laughed. “Oh, yes, I am sure you heard me right. No one told me anything other than I had a new roommate. Are you a Chameleon? Muse? Telepath?”

“No, I’m…um, I’m a Firestarter.” I winced; Firestarters weren’t always everyone’s favorite supernatural being due to their tempers, therefore the ability to demolish one’s life in seconds. A girl I’d known briefly in childhood had been hesitant to even loan me a sweater before realizing I had my emotions under control.

Surprise crossed her pretty face. “A girl Firestarter? Cool. I have only met guys with that gift. Only try not to set my stuff on fire, okay? I am pretty attached to my clothes. And the cookies in that drawer over there, which you can help yourself to.”

I took my only coffee mug, which had superhero cartoons all over it, and set it in the cabinet by the sink. This kitchen was way better than what I remembered from my previous camper. Maybe it wasn’t coincidence that this very gifted group had more sophisticated living areas than most.

“Well, most Firestarters are men. Women can be carriers, but rarely have the physical aspects. Imagine everyone’s surprise when I created fire from thin air as a toddler. Got lucky, I guess. Your turn—what are you?”

“I’m a Runner.”

I looked at her, puzzled. “Sheffield told me there might be those I’ve never encountered. I give up. What’s a Runner?”

Delia grinned at me and raced past me in a blur. All I saw was a split second of her dark hair before she went out the door and back to her bed just as fast. I didn’t even have time to blink.

Impressive. “Wow. Now that’s a useful gift. You didn’t do track in high school did you?”

“Nah. My family and I have been with this troupe for a while. Well, I mean before my parents retired. I was twenty-two and knew I wanted to be here.” She smiled. “They live in Las Vegas now and love it.”

“I can’t believe I’ve never met a Runner before. How the heck does every circus not have six of you?”

“We have two others here, but it is a rarity. For example, in my father’s family, it is only passed down every two generations. It skipped my dad, but my mom was from another Runner family. They got married and hoped they could break genetics. Lucky it worked.”

“How old are you?”

“Twenty-five, but do not spread that around. I plan on staying this age for the next few years,” she said. “So how did you get here? Sheffield rarely brings in people like this.”

“My situation is a little weird.”

“Oh?”

“My dad was a Firestarter here at this show. Lenny Sullivan, you may have heard of him? We were here until I was twelve or thirteen. Mom wanted a normal life so we left.” I put a hand up to my mouth and mock whispered, “It didn’t take for me, by the way. Sheffield and my dad were really good friends. He died a few years ago; my mom passed away last week. Sheffield left me a longstanding offer and I finally took it.”

“I am so sorry about your parents. You must miss them very much.”

I stayed silent and an awkward pause came over us. I spoke for no other reason than to break her pity gaze. “I can’t seem to place your accent.”

“I am Delia Stavros; my family is from Greece. We lived there until I was a teenager, then my parents met Sheffield. He offered for us to be with his show. Best decision they ever made, I think.” She proudly tossed her hair. “I have been talking English for many, many years now.”

“You’re good at it,” I said with a smile. “I wish we had stayed here.”

“Your father never wanted you to return?”

“I expect he would’ve eventually allowed me to come back, maybe after I turned eighteen. I’m not sure if he was ever happy about leaving either, but he loved my mom enough to trade it in for her. He knew I struggled around humans. High school wasn’t the best time.”

She grimaced. “Yikes. I have seen enough American comedy movies to know that high school is a worldly hell of stereotypes, flunking math, and awkward dances. It must be a hundred times worse with a gift. I would not trade the circus for any of it.”

“I wouldn’t go back for all the money in the world. I can’t wait to not worry about accidentally scaring someone with a flame from my hand.”

She smiled and pulled her long hair into a ponytail. “Have you met anyone besides me?”

“Not yet. I’m pretty nervous about meeting the Firestarters and the rest of the troupe. Anything I need to know beforehand?”

Delia gave a strange half smile. “Well, you lucked out since people view me as abnormally friendly. But sometimes it can get a little…interesting around here. A lot of them keep to themselves, but some flaunt their gifts every chance they get. We all feel at home together, so we use gifts very openly when strangers are not present.”

“You’re not the first to say something along those lines. Should I be scared?”

“No, it is only that it can be a large culture shock coming here if you are from a smaller troupe or one that is more human. A few people have joined and left in a matter of days because it was so different they could not handle it. It has been a while since you have been around large groups of us.”

“I have a pretty open mind. Will they be offended if I act surprised at their gift?”

“Most likely not the first time, but after that, probably. Ready to go?” she asked. Before I even realized it, she had blurred past me, and now waited at the door.

I followed her out into the bright sunshine. “Do you do that a lot? Leave people in the dust, I mean?”

“I try not to, but I am impatient. Why take your time when you can be there in an instant?”

“Understandable. Uh, but do you think for the next few days you could slow it down for me? You’re my lifeline right now, after all.”

Delia laughed. “Sure. But I can only babysit so much on the grounds after tomorrow and you will be thrown in whether you like it or not. Think you can look after yourself once you know some people?”

We passed the grouping of campers and continued through the maze. The campers were grouped behind the tents and booths, and I could hear the low buzz of people nearby. Workers had just finished getting up The Big Top tent, the main attraction where the performance occurred each night. It sat on the back corner of the lot, guarding the living area with its side entrance providing easy availability to the performers.

“This way,” Delia said. She motioned for me to follow her.

We followed the already worn walkway around a corner, where a sea of activity blinded me. Whereas the campers were quiet, the actual circus grounds thrived with members preparing for the day.

My senses hit overdrive—colors, smells, and sounds assaulted me. Costumes covered in sequins and feathers were traded off between artists; my nose detected popcorn machines, sawdust with hay, and sweat, both human and animal. And the sounds! It was so loud between the people yelling, animals’ screeches, and equipment in use to set up stands and booths. I would have to shout at Delia to be heard.

I suddenly became very aware of why Sheffield and Delia warned me against being surprised. People made no secret of their gifts in safe company. I saw another Runner dart in and out of the crowd while Levitators floated seamlessly between the bodies. Birds flew all over, carried messages or small objects such as tools or costume props. The air filled with sounds of conversation, animals protested their displeasure of cages, and men barked orders on the best way to get tents up fast.

My heart jumped when I saw two other male Firestarters walking together. One was dressed in half a clown costume. The other one flicked a lighter and began to juggle fireballs with the clown; they walked simultaneously as they tossed them back and forth to one another, gradually creating greater space between them. Walking five feet apart, they continued juggling and while most troupe members simply walked around them and rolled their eyes, a few walked through, seemingly oblivious to the fire whizzing past their heads.

A girl walking by bumped into me. Her eyes met mine and narrowed in question but she continued walking. I saw someone whisper to his friend while he looked at me. I could’ve sworn another girl pointed discreetly in my direction. Some of the looks weren’t entirely welcoming.

My stomach clenched and my hands went into a hot sweat. The scene slowed down as I looked at Delia—her mouth moved, she talked to me about something, but I had no idea what. All I could hear was white noise. Completely overwhelmed, my body felt like it was seizing up. Flames would escape my palms and engulf me if I didn’t calm down.

Oh, goody. I was on the verge of a panic attack.

“Get it together, Sullivan,” I whispered.

I motioned to Delia that I needed a second. I stumbled into the first tent I found, blessed the heavy fabric for its cool shade and noise solution. I opened my eyes for a brief second. I’d found a small saving grace for the moment in an empty white tent. I closed my eyes again and had a sudden flashback to freshman year of high school.

My friend Rachel and I had attended a Friday night football game. I had paid for a soda while she got some popcorn. We stood in front of the concessions stand, observing all the people. The crowd gave a disappointed sigh at a play on the field.

“Think we have a chance at winning the game?” I asked her.

“Not a chance,” she said. “We haven’t won a game in like two years and we suck worse than last year.”

“Oh, well. I’m only here because my parents thought it’d be a good experience for me. Mom actually kind of kicked me out of the house. I didn’t realize they disliked me so much,” I replied.

She had laughed and scooped another handful of popcorn into her mouth.

“How are those carbs treating you, Rachel?” a voice had slithered in. Laughter had followed. I turned to the voice—it belonged to Cassie Johnson, queen bee of the popular girls at school. She was also a raging bitch.

Rachel had frozen, her hand halfway back into the bag. Not a week earlier, she’d told me how Cassie had been her bully since first grade.

“Keep it up and you’ll have the freshmen fifteen before college. Or in your case, fifty,” Cassie continued. Her group of like-minded blonde wannabes giggled behind her.

Rachel looked down at her bag of popcorn, her plump cheeks growing bright red. She let her mousy brown hair fall in front of her face to hide the shamed blush. My temper flared and I took a deep breath to stay in check. Heat rose to my cheeks and my free hand gripped into a fist.

“What’s the matter, stuffed too much popcorn in your mouth to respond?” Cassie asked.

“I didn’t do anything, Cassie. Leave me alone,” Rachel muttered. She kept her head down but I saw tears gathering in her eyes.

“That much is obvious. Your lazy, fat ass never does anything—if you did, you wouldn’t weigh as much as a hippo,” Cassie sneered. Her gaggle tittered again.

“Back off,” I snapped. “Go impress your lemmings elsewhere, preferably near a large cliff.”

“And the new girl speaks,” Cassie replied. “I thought for sure you were a mute. How sweet to defend the fatties and losers.”

“Take your fake blonde hair dye elsewhere. We can’t breathe with all the toxins you’re producing,” I seethed. Her friends had grown quiet in astonishment.

She took a step towards me. “What did you say to me?”

My feet didn’t budge. “You heard me. I told you to leave her alone.”

“I can make your life hell. I’m going to let this one go since you’ve just now left your dungeons and dragons. But I’m telling you right now—mess with me again and I’ll make you pay.”

“Gee, that’s super nice of you. Don’t insult Rachel again. Just because you’re insecure in your own skin doesn’t give you the right to torture others. Now go get your broom and take your flying monkeys with you.” My face felt hot. Too hot.

“You’re not even worth my time. You’re a freak,” she sneered.

My palms itched to set her trashy attitude on fire. Heat had flooded through my limbs; I wasn’t talented enough to keep it together much longer. I needed to get away from her. I turned, took a long sip of my drink and walked the three steps to the trashcan. Cassie and her vultures watched my every move. I threw the drink away, my palms burning. As I turned back to face Rachel, I saw her eyes glance behind me and grow wide. I turned back around to see smoke exiting the trashcan. Flames had erupted and I’d quickly crossed my arms across my chest in case they still flamed.

“FIRE!” a nearby girl shouted. The crowd scattered while someone behind the concession stand ran over with a fire extinguisher.

No one could prove or explain it, but I was rumored to be a firebug from then on. Cassie made sure to spread the news, with a gleeful smile each time, no doubt. That had been my last football game. The whispers and stares had kept me from most school events.

I hadn’t had a panic attack in years, had trained myself to prevent emotions overwhelming me. I would not let this overtake me and spoil the first day of my new life. I shook my head and opened my eyes. The comfortable darkness of the tent put me back in the present.

“I will not panic. I am in control.”

It was a mantra I had repeated a lot, especially after that Friday night incident.

I reminded myself to lock up the emotion as I had done my entire life. Now should be no different. I took a slow, deep breath, which calmed my nerves. The heat left my hands. Then I added a new line to my pep talk: “I do not need to hide who I am anymore!”

Delia popped her head in and found me. “Are you okay?”

“I am now. Just needed to get a grip,” I answered honestly. “I’m ready for whatever we need to do today.”

She grinned at me and I rejoined her outside.

“Come on then, Firestarter.”

We walked behind a Telekinetic who worked her hands to control moving a giant mirror that could cover a large wall. Mesmerized, I stared at her until Delia greeted her and startled me back into reality.

“Hey Jade! Meet a First of May, Lucy; she is a Firestarter.”

“What’s a First of May?” I asked.

“It means you are a newcomer to the circus,” Delia explained to me. She turned back to Jade. “She is my new roommate, so I am getting her acquainted with the camp.”

Jade smiled at me in greeting. “Nice to have you here,” she said in a soft voice. We walked together while she concentrated on getting the mirror to its destination.

“Jade is a Telekinetic, obviously. Why are you moving that gigantic thing, anyways?” Delia asked.

“Marty was in the middle of lifting some machinery,” she said. She turned to me slightly. “He’s an Unbreakable.”

“I vaguely remember him, actually. I never knew much about his gift. Do they have as much immunity as I’ve heard?”

“Marty can lift almost anything—machinery, cars, small houses even. His bones can’t be crushed, but he says there are other types. Ones who can help with knife practice or take a bullet,” she explained.

Jade maneuvered the mirror around a large man pounding a stake into the ground to hold a tent down. A mime began walking alongside us, pretending to be trapped inside the mirror with his reflection. One withering glare from tiny Jade and he slunk off behind a tent.

The sun disappeared behind threatening dark clouds and I heard several people around the tents groan their annoyance.

“Ugh, I’ll find Lucinda so she can work around the weather; she was still in her tent a while ago so she might not see those clouds yet. It’ll be easier for finish setting up. I’ll catch up with you two later,” Jade said. She and her mirror disappeared between the people and tents.

“Did I miss something? Can Lucinda control the weather?” I asked Delia. That would certainly be a trick to witness.

“Eh, not control it exactly. But between her and Mabel, they should be able to push off the rain and clouds a bit to another direction.” She started walking and continued talking.

“Lucinda is a Waterbearer; Mabel is an Airspinner. They cannot control the weather per se, but they can manipulate elements a little like you can. They will simply push the rain and clouds off for a while; create a small barrier with their energy. It is a pretty neat gift when you need it. I think she wants to create waterfalls from her kitchen sink, but I am unsure if she will be of success.”

I laughed. “Actually, I’ve heard of Waterbearers and Airspinners. I probably don’t know them specifically, but we had one or two when I was here.”

She nodded. “They are great to have around. They are nice women, smart and efficient. Lucinda wants to eventually control hurricanes and Mabel determines she will defeat a tornado. They are…adventurous?”

She looked at me with a furrowed brow as we followed the already well-worn pathway. “Is that the right term?”

“Did you mean they couldn’t do either of those things yet?”

“They have a long ways to go before they reach their goals.”

“You meant ambitious.”

“Oh, yes. They are certainly ambitious.” She rolled her eyes a bit to show she had been sarcastic.

I grinned at her.  “That’s cool. Hey, I don’t know when would be a good time, but I’m supposed to go to wardrobe today.”

    “Of course, we can head that way now. Follow me,” Delia replied.

    We wound our way between people and tents until we came upon a large trailer with a blue tent attached to its side. Delia walked right into the trailer.

    “Hey, Sasha. New Firestarter needs her suit,” Delia said in a singsong voice.

    I stepped up the three small stairs into the doorway. A much older woman came into my view. She was very tall, with gray hair pulled back into a long braid, and rich caramel skin.

    “You must be Lucy,” she greeted me. “I’m Sasha, I obviously handle the costume and wardrobe needs.”

    I shook her hand and looked around. Sheffield must have a talented Illusionist on staff; the trailer seemed much larger on the inside than I could’ve guessed. Sasha owned several sewing machines. Colored fabric hung everywhere; sequins and masks enveloped the room. Rows and rows of costumes lined the interior of the trailer. I could only see slivers of wall between all the clothing that hung everywhere.

    “You do costumes for every person in the show?” I asked incredulously.

    “I have some help now and again, but I’m pretty good at what I do.” She gave me a smile. “Delia, you can stick around. This won’t take long.”

    Delia took a seat on a small stool by the door and flipped through a pattern magazine while Sasha gave me a once over.

“Sheffield put in his request late yesterday. I’ll need you to try it on to fit it properly, but it’s almost done,” Sasha told me.

“Wow, you work fast. I didn’t know he’d make anything for me.”

“It’s more of a suit than a costume. All the Firestarters have the same outfit, so it’s the same pattern, easy, really. Completely fireproofed material for you guys.” She walked to the opposite end of the trailer, rustled around her workstation for a minute, and returned with my new uniform.

“Are all your clothes fireproofed too?” she asked me.

I nodded; those of us with particular gifts had to be prepared at all times. Not all gifted were in circus shows; many of us, scattered amongst the human world with various ways of life, worked to help their kind. Years ago, a scientist had discovered a particular chemical that could be integrated with a soap detergent. Firestarters could wash their clothes in it and if they caught on fire, the material wouldn’t burn up and fall apart. Thank god—it got expensive buying tons of new clothes, never mind the embarrassing nakedness factor. It gave me another reason to be careful of where and how I used my firepower.

    “Here,” Sasha said. She handed me the suit. “Try this on and I’ll make the necessary changes. I can finish it this evening.”

    I took the fabric from her and looked around. There was no changing area and I looked at Sasha. She cocked an eyebrow at me. “We don’t have all day. No need to be shy.”

    I hesitated but then quickly stripped down to my underwear. Sasha didn’t bat an eyelash; Delia didn’t even glance up. I pulled on the suit as fast as I could. A black one-piece jumpsuit, it was made with a thick yet lightweight material that felt a little like Kevlar body armor. I managed to slip in it without any awkwardness and I pulled up the zipper that ran from navel to neck. It felt funny though, too snug in the top and I couldn’t put my arms completely down at my sides.

    “Shoot. The pattern is for men. I’ll have to adjust it for the bust and hips. I’ve never made one for a woman before. I’ll fix the neck too, no need to put it up to your chin like that,” Sasha said. She frowned and grabbed her measuring tape. I followed her directions, lifted my arms and turned as instructed. She finished in no time.

    “All right, I think that’ll work. I’ll make you look good,” she said. “You can change and go back out. Pick this up in the morning before your errands start.”

    I nodded and changed back into my clothes. After I handed Sasha the suit back, I turned to Delia. She hopped up from her stool and we said our goodbyes to Sasha.

We walked out of the wardrobe trailer and found ourselves back in the chaotic crowd of performers and animals. Used to being alone in the quiet, it would take me days to get over the noise aspect. I gasped as a girl appeared out of nowhere beside me, handed off an item to someone, and popped back out.

“Uh…what just happened?” I asked.

“Transporter running errands.”

I had a brief moment of lightheadedness. “There’s so much to learn. What if I don’t catch on fast enough?”

“I understand where you come from, but you are in the big leagues again. Sheffield does not joke when he says there are more gifted than human here.”

“No kidding.”

Delia turned to face me square in the eyes. We ignored the grumbles around our stop in the pathway as she spoke. “I know you would not be here if Sheffield did not think you were cut out for it. The others, they were not gifted. They were humans who thought they could keep up. You are as gifted as the rest of us.”

“I guess. I’m overwhelmed. I haven’t been in a show since I was a kid.” I tried to keep the bitterness out of my voice.

“It is your first day. It will be fine. You are allowed to ask questions and feel confused. Besides, I see you are smart. You will catch on fast; you already know much and most important, have talent, so you will not need to be hugged.”

“What?”

She pretended to cradle her arms as she held an invisible baby.

“Oh. You think I’m going to be coddled.”

“Yes. How you treat a child.”

I plowed through the verbal confusion. “I don’t want to be babied, but I don’t know the drill yet. I’m worried people will think I’m only here because Sheffield is a family friend. Or worse, that I’m only here because of my father’s reputation.”

“Of course you have to prove you belong here. We all do! Be smarter, work harder than ever before. You will have to show off a little bit.”

“Ugh, that’s what I was afraid of; I’m a little shy about what I can do. I don’t really like being the center of attention. I’ve spent most of my life hiding.”

“Then why, may I ask, are you in a circus?” She rolled her eyes and her hands went to her hips.

“I loved watching my dad entertain. I wanted—want—to be like him. He taught and challenged me and I know I can do a lot, but I haven’t showed off any tricks in front of others for a really long time. I don’t want to overestimate myself.”

“Everyone, no matter what gift, has different levels of skill and now you can really push yourself. You need to earn your place before you are accepted. Once people see you can hold your own and they do not have to support you, it will be fine. You have to understand that,” Delia said.

She affectionately yanked my ponytail. “Look, I will help, and Sheffield is always great with us. That is a start, no? I will introduce you to my friends and you will love it here, I think. You are being far too angry on yourself. Stay calm.”

I was my own worst enemy. I took a deep breath in and tried to shake the nerves. “Okay, who’s next on the need to know list?”

“I thought it might be good for you to try and meet up with other Firestarters, make sure they know you are here and ready to learn the ropes. I happen to be good friends with two of them.”

“I’m under Sheffield’s request to train with them, so I better do that soon. I guess you should introduce me,” I said.

“He requested you train?” she asked, brow furrowed. “He wants you in the actual show, then.”

“Does that make a difference?”

“Well, people will want to know what your place is here. It makes them re-evaluate their own worth, take their own talents into account. If you get a piece of the show, that is great, but I would not crow about it to anyone yet,” she advised.

“Got it. Well, keep that between us then, if you don’t mind. I don’t want to upset anyone. Besides, it’ll be a good while before that happens.”

We continued on our path but I had no idea to where. I tried not to stare at everyone as we passed by their tents: an extremely obese woman deflated into a skinny, lithe figure, startling me. Our eyes met.

“I have to pin back the skin now,” she said as she disappeared into her tent. I tried not to wrinkle my nose in case she still watched me.

A tattooed, bearded man swallowed swords, including the handle; others were examining costumes, juggling bowling pins, and fixing their props. I tore my gaze away back to Delia.

“Let’s talk about the actual circus,” I said. “All Sheffield told me was that it was a lot bigger than any other one around, and the typical schedule.”

“Well, there are what, eighty of us or so? There are fewer humans than gifted. My parents helped with the behind the scene jobs; they ran ticket sales, games and food, helped with the animals, that sort of thing. There is less chance of someone getting hurt if it’s gifted in the show instead of human. Performances can be a danger. But a few are artists as well, like clowns. It is obvious to tell the difference, even though most of us look human anyways.”

“Wait, are you implying that some of you…well, don’t look human?”

“Some of us have physical differences. It is funny that people pay to see these things and yet they still think somehow it’s fake or glued on. Or like when they see Jade move objects; they search for the trick. You know, though—did they not all think your father was some sort of illusionist?”

“True. It’s easy to fool them when they are so eager to ignore what they don’t know. What about the lot setup? Who goes in which tents?”

She pointed at the Big Top, motioning her hands as she spoke. “Well, there is the main tent, of course, where we all group for the big show at night. But we will run around in the morning for prep—getting costumes and props, some practice, all that stuff. Since you are new, you will probably help others with stunts and performances, small things. We are not really “assigned” to a tent, though we do have a few designated tents for things like fortune telling, animals, and clowns. Of course the games and food vendors are out in the open.

“You will not be with any of the animals or their handlers; that is a very specific group and without training, you cannot do it. They are particular and probably will not even let you near the animals at first for safety reasons.”

I nodded and ducked beneath a man who carried large parrots on both extended arms. He didn’t even notice as I twisted my body to avoid ruffling any feathers. My mouth dropped as the parrot gave me a dirty look.

“You will be fine with it after time. At first, you will probably see things as extremely chaotic, but we do have a good rhythm of where to be at certain times and what needs to get done. You can pick it up fast,” Delia said.

I hadn’t realized where we were headed until we were in an empty section of field next to the lot. I heard laughter and turned to see five or six people headed to the same area. Delia had brought me to meet other Firestarters.

***

So hopefully you’re now wanting to read more–Chapter 3 introduces Lucy’s new friends and maybe even a potential love interest 😉 I hope you enjoyed it! Tomorrow I have a special post celebrating my friend Courtney’s book birthday! And then on Friday we’re back to our YA Indie Carnival. But next week is the release of Gifted, which means you can read the whole thing if you want! Hooray!

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