This week it’s a super fun Round Robin post! Several authors in the YA Indie Carnival I participate in got together and traded off their stories. We took the first paragraph or so from whatever title we wanted to use (obviously in my case, we’re using Gifted) and emailed it to the person below us on our list. Then we each added our own paragraph to each story and passed it along. The results? The beginnings of our stories with crazy twists and differences from the original!
It was so fun, too! Seeing different stories and creating whatever you wanted based on the material you had was a new experience for me. I’m so used to doing my own thing that actually adding to someone else’s work was really interesting and made me really think about what I was doing because I didn’t have a clue about the story.
Anyways, here’s my book opener, now an entirely new chapter behind it (which makes it a completely different book, too!). Thanks so much to all who participated and having so much fun with my work!
“Donovan Circus,” a deep voice answered on the third ring.
“Hi. Um…is Sheffield Donovan there?” Knots in my stomach, my grip tightened on the phone. For a brief moment, I worried I would set the receiver on fire by accident.
“Sheffield, it’s Lucy Sullivan. When can we arrange a meeting?”
“What does your mother think?”
I stared at the wall, willing my voice not to crack. Heat flushed my skin pink in the effort. “She, uh…she died a couple weeks ago.”
“Shit, I’m sorry, Luce.”
“Can I come by soon?”
There was a brief pause and then: “How’s tomorrow afternoon?”
“I’ll be there at two if that’s okay with you.”
“See you at two o’clock.”
I hung up and stared at the phone. Would it really be that simple to walk back in? Could I even do it without my father there to guide me? Wait—did I just join the circus?
I took a slow, deep breath in, held it for three seconds, then exhaled through my mouth in a controlled steady stream. It was a trick I’d learned from my mother, a way to help control the nerves before a performance. Even now I could here her gentle voice in my head telling to just breathe. I repeated the process until my heart rate had slowed and her voice faded. I dashed away the previously unnoticed tears with frustration and turned to the mess that was the living room. Medical equipment from the last few months was scattered about and stood as a constant, a visual reminder that my mother was gone. The knot that had been in my stomach the last couple of weeks tightened and I pressed my hands to it to keep from throwing up. The ring of the doorbell was a welcome distraction. Please let it be MedRents so this stuff can be gone. I schooled my face to a neutral expression–my grief was a private thing. I opened the door and my jaw dropped in shock.
A midget was standing there with a bearded female companion, my old acquaintances from my short stint in Donovan’s Circus three years ago when I had run away. I hadn’t been serious at the time about ‘running away and joining the circus’, at least not about the joining the circus part, but the longer I wandered the streets, the better it sounded. And so, I met Big Johnny and Aqua Velva Girl as she was affectionately called, who had been the only friends I’d had for a long time. Until they’d convinced me to go back home to my ‘tyrannical’ parents.
“We got your message that your mother was very sick.” Big Johnny said, wringing his stubby hands. “Me and Tracy,” he nodded to his wife next to him, “We been thinking about you a lot, hoping you were okay.”
I looked over at Tracy, who had always been so kind to me. I remembered the day she made pink her signature color. She dyed her hair and beard fuchsia and began wearing clothes that reminded me of bubble gum, cotton candy, and cherry Icees. Back then, her signature color changed monthly, so I never expected this one to stick. I guess I’d been wrong.
“I’m ready to come back,” I said before pausing and staring at the magical tattoo (invisible to anyone but me) on the inside of my wrist. My stomach convulsed as I remembered Sheffield drawing it there and kissing it – me – afterwards. “I know that’s a lot to ask…especially after you lost your biggest star when I left, but it was the only time I felt alive. Now that she’s dead and dad’s disappeared, I have no one,” I whispered barely holding back a sob.
I was vaguely aware of the fact that I was subconsciously rubbing the tattoo. It was something I did a lot. I’d never really noticed the habit until after Sheffield had kissed it, though. It was like he’d changed me in such a deep way that I’d never be the same again. My eyes followed the action of my fingers. Even the colors that created the dragon design seemed brighter, as though the tattoo itself drew some sort of energy from my soul…
Big Johnny immediately wrapped his arms around my waist and hugged me, hard. “We were hoping you’d come home,” he said. He looked up, gaze meeting mine, worry crinkling the skin around his eyes. I breathed in the familiar scent of his aftershave, my mind taking me back to the big top and the best three years of my life while he went on. “Things haven’t been… the same. With us. With the Circus.”
My stomach constricted. It’s not like I had a corner market on heartache. But the thought of walking out of one horrible, anguished situation and into another was almost more than I could contemplate.
“Some things have gone missing,” Tracy blurted. Big Johnny gave her a look. In those five words, she had said too much.
“What kind of things?” I asked.
“Might as well,” Big Johnny grunted.
“Oh, I’m sure it’s nothing to be worried about, dear,” she hesitated. “Just Amazing Carlo’s trapeze, the dancing bear’s tutu, a unicycle tire…oh, and Sheffeld’s tattooing instruments.”
My heart nearly stopped beating. Sheffield’s tattooing instruments were gone? Who could have taken them? I silently prayed the theif didn’t know what those instruments actually did. “Does Sheffield know who did it?”
“No clue.” Big Johnny shrugged. “We have to find them. You know what will happen if they’re in the wrong hands.”
My numb lips barely moved. “The circus will end, and we’ll all die.”
Big Johnny patted me on the head as if I was a child… or a dog. “Sorry you had to come back to this mess.”
The touch of Big Johnny’s hand sent me back to the day Sheffield sat me down. It was my turn.
“What do you want? A butterfly? A mermaid?” He said, tilting his head. He stared into my eyes as though he’d find the answer there.
“A dragon,” I said instinctively, not knowing why.
“Ah, but of course,” he said with a small smile. “You are the last of the line.”
Big Johnny wrapped his very thin very boney arm over my shoulders, “It’s time.” He placed his forearm in front of him.
Tracy extended her arm and so did I. We held onto each other’s arms in the same grip we’d use to catapult contortionists into the air. We gave each other a slight squeeze and an energy pulsed through me, from Tracy through my body to Big Johnny. From the look on their faces they felt it too, the warmth and the cold. Immediately the tattoos faded into view––the Dragon, the Scepter, and the watchtower. All three of us sat in silence. We knew what had to be done.
We each became a shimmer and reappeared next to a mound of yellow and red canvas.
“Leaving or just arriving?” I pointed at the pile, surprised by how unfazed I felt. We had just transported from one place to another and it felt so normal it was scary.
Big Johnny gave me a toothy grin. “We’re just setting up, baby. We’ll be here three weeks this time.”
“You ready to fly again, honey?” Tracey gave me a wink and indicated for me to follow her.
I rubbed my tattoo as I followed them. I knew where they were taking me. Sheffield’s caravan was just ahead. Nerves danced within me, but they were being countered by a calm peace that was weaving its way through my system. Big Johnny was right, I’d come home.
Those feelings evaporated as the caravan door swung open. “Well hello my little dragon.”
For those of you who’ve read Gifted, what did you think of the new changes? 🙂 And for those who haven’t read…well, what are you waiting for?! Now you can go download your own copy to read for FREE!! (Ends Friday at midnight, btw). I hope you enjoyed it–it was super fun to see what my story looked like coming out the other side. It took a COMPLETELY different turn, but was still really interesting! (I love the dragon idea, too!)
If you want to see the rest of our Round Robin fiction, check out all the other authors who participated!
7. Rachel Coles, author of Into The Ruins, geek mom blog
9. Patti Larsen, The Hunted series and The Hayle Coven series
13. M. Leighton, Blood Like Poison Series, Madly, The Reaping
15. Madeline Smoot, Missing, Summer Shorts, and The Girls