Excitement was in the air as twilight began to fall over the circus midway. The popcorn vendors were busy felling salty treats, children ran happily into the huge, brightly colored canvas tent as their parents struggled to keep up with their enthusiasm, and the ringmaster was working the crowd in his top hat and red jacket, to make sure that no one had low expectations. As no one watched, three men crept quietly through the shadows to the illusionist’s wagon, near the edge of the site grounds.

Skye watched as her father carefully tied a thin copper wire to the thin brass and leather harness that would later sit hidden on his wrist, under his jacket sleeve. The wooden ball was sitting nearby, as the paint over the tiny magnet imbedded into it dried. With a flick of his wrist, the ball would appear to float in midair between her father’s hands, held aloft by the magic of magnetism and electricity. He often told her that it was only ordinary science, disguised as magic. Skye knew better. The science that he used for his act was as good as magic to her and the rest of the audience.

A soft knock at the door stirred her from her thoughts.

“Dear, would you get it please?” her father said, his attention carefully tangled in the copper wires.

Skye put her book down and got up to answer the door. When she opened it, she found a giant of a man—his skin as black as coal, his bright blue silk jacket embroidered lusciously with silver and gold, and a blue silk turban on his head and a curved sword at hanging from his waist—standing outside with smaller men who were dressed in something of a long skirt that fell to their feet, under a simple shirt and silk jackets. When they stepped into the light of the wagon’s gas lamps, Skye could see tattooed lines on the teak colored skin of their faces and hands.

“We wish to speak with Mr. Rodney Lockhart,” said the man in the turban, with a voice as rich and deep as an ocean of sweet cream.

“Dad, it’s for you,” she said over her shoulder, unable to take her eyes off the spectacle of humanity that stood before her. “Some of your friends again.”

“Ah, good, you made it,” her father said behind her with a friendly air to his voice, “Please, come in. Skye, if you please,” he said, still half-way absorbed with his project.

Skye did as she was told and showed the three strange gentlemen in, offer them a seat on the low bench against one wall. To her renewed surprise, they brought a baby tiger in with them, on a dog’s lead. It was about the size of a stray dog, and was orange with black stripes and a white underbelly of fluffy fur, with large furry paws, and an enormous head. There was a constant natural smile on its vaguely feline face, and it looked up at her for a moment with big, bright, brown eyes. It’s rope-like little tale was wagging happy as it looked around at the cramped little wagon. Skye stared at it, and gave a sigh.

“If I ask, you’re not going to tell me what’s going on, are you?” she asked the man in the turban. He stared back at her silently, looking mildly confused by her question.

“Thank you dear,” her father said instead, turning to look at her. “Why don’t you go outside and play in the midway?”

“Because I’m 19 and I haven’t gone out to play in the midway since I was 7,” she answered instantly. “What’s with the tiger? Is it part of a new act?”

“Shopping then,” her father said. “Young ladies like that. Why don’t you go out shopping. We’re not in San Francisco often, you know.”

“It’s almost nightfall!” Skye said, crossing her arm and frowning at him. “Everything would be closed, and besides I don’t like shopping. What I’d like is to know who your friends are and why they’ve got a baby tiger with them in California.”

“She sounds just like Angelica, doesn’t she?” the man in the turban said, a fond smile on his face now.

“More and more every day,” Rodney said with a sigh, rubbing at his brow.

“You knew my mother?” Skye asked, staring at the man in the turban now.

“Please, Skye,” her father said before the other man could respond. “Just give us a moment to speak alone. I’ve explain everything later.”

“No you won’t,” she snapped immediately. “You get strange visitors from all over the world, unannounced and at all hours, and you never tell me anything about them.” Her father got up and began to speak, but she cut him off, gesturing to the man in the turban. “This man right here is about as foreign and fascinating as you can get, and I’m never even going to hear his name or where he’s from. Can you even understand how frustrating it is to have this kind of awesome sitting in your living room and know you’re not going to get to enjoy—”

“Skye, please,” her father cut in, not raising his voice but tightening it with just as much of a threat. The baby tiger made a grumbling sound, watching the interchange with fascination. “This doesn’t concern you, and these men have come a long way tonight,”

“From where?” she asked quickly. “I’ll bet it’s a wonderfully exciting place.”

“This isn’t something out of one of your adventure books,” he began.

“No, it’s real life!” Skye finished for him. “That’s so much better.”

“Skye!” he snapped, raising his voice this time. “Go watch the show, go help sell tickets, go pet the horses, I don’t care. Just leave right now and give us a moment.”

Skye stared back at him with a chillingly cold fire in her bright blue eyes; his same blue eyes. Her pale skin was flushed red, the same way her mother’s always had whenever she’d gotten mad enough to start throwing punches. She saw her father’s will waver for an instant as he looked at her, but she knew that wouldn’t help her. Even so, pride wouldn’t let her back down. She leaned closer to him, and kept her voice low and smooth.

“Someday, I’m going to figure out what you’re up to,” she said. “Then, you’ll wish you’d told me years ago. But it will be far too late.”

Before he could respond, she reached past him and grabbed her jacket, running from the wagon and out into the growing night. Her father let her leave with the last word, but the baby tiger made excited sounding barking noises as she ran. Skye could still hear it even when she was outside.

-- Author Notes
Yeah, I know.  Angsty teenager...  The story will kick off shortly, and I promise she isn't a whiner at heart.  Please excuse the rought edit, and comment comment comment!! ^_^



Popcorn vendors felling salty treats!? I imagined them chopping down popcorn trees (possible in a fantasy after all!) until I realised it was a typo. But a small matter. Overall I like this and did not find Skye unduly whiny at all. The story has already kicked off, characters, back story, a baby tiger. What's not to like?


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