Chaper 1: The Circus (Note: this is not the full chapter)
It was the time when spring was beginning to turn into a beautiful summer. The time when the sound of the ocean, the wind of the mountains, and the call of an adventure all occur within the self same hour you enter this period of time. I was only eight then, but I can still remember my favorite place to pick flowers was up on the hill beside my house. I would climb the tree that stood on the hill, and I would build a beautiful hat made of those wildflowers that I loved to pick. It was during the late afternoon that I had snuck out of the house and into this field to do so where my story starts, for this is where I truly believe my whole story started.
I had just grabbed an armful of the beautiful yellow dandelions and had begun running with them up to the tree. It was there that I looked down at the valley below and saw something that caught my interest rather quickly. Down below, on the side of town, and standing so high in the sky, so that it blocked much of the evening sun, was what looked like a huge fabric building? I watched the building get steadily higher and higher until it was high enough to touch the heavens.
I marveled at it for only a second longer before I heard Malinda, my nanny, call my name from the house. I looked over my shoulder to see her standing three feet away from the back door. When she caught sight of me, she smiled and held out her arms for me. Grinning with delight, I remembered the flowers I had picked still in my tiny hands, and quickly ran down the hill towards her with them. I quickly placed them on the shelf inside the house. Then I ran back outside.
âCome have a look!â I said excitedly, grabbing her hand and running her back up the hill to where I had seen the huge tent.
âOh my!â she exclaimed upon seeing it. âWell I do believe the circus has come into town,â she said with a distant gleam in her eyes and a smile on her face. âWhat do you say, Miss Aednat? Do you want to go see it sometime with me?â
âYes! Oh yes! Oh yes, please!â I shouted jumping up and down and clapping my hands. At the time I did not understand what a circus was, but it sounded fun. Then with the idea that I would get to go see one with Malinda made the idea even more exciting.
Later that night, while I sat in bed, I watched as the circus tent lit up with light. A joyful and warm glow stood around it, making me feel even more excited. I smiled to myself as I nestled my head down into my arms that were stretched across the window sill and soon fell asleep. The next morning it was Malindaâs soft voice that woke me up as she placed my newly clean and dry clothes into the closet. I gave a small groan of protest.
âCome on. Miss, you need to get up and start your lessons,â said Malinda with a sigh to my early morning stubbornness. I gave one more groan before sitting up in bed. I opened one bleary eye and looked across the room to Malinda who gave an appreciative smile then walked out of the room with more laundry to wash. I sat on my bed for a good while longer, and then I gradually slid down from my bed to the floor, slowly going back to sleep.
A couple minutes later, I heard footsteps coming toward my room. I jumped to a sitting position and sat watching for the door to open. Not a second later Malinda walked in and looked at me. âAn improvement at the least,â she said, going over to my dresser. Malinda picked up the neat pile of clothes that usually sat out ready for the next dayâs usage and carried them over to the bed.
âUp,â she said, raising her arms with the intention for me to copy her. I raised my arms into the air and waited as Malinda took off my filthy shift to pull on a new one. She then helped me into white stockings, a white âjumpsâ, and a white petticoat with lace at the bottom. She then helped me into the lovely blue dress that I always loved to wear, and turned me around so she could tie up the matching bow.
Pulling me over to the mirror, Malinda sat me down, and began to brush my tangled mat of red hair. While she worked at that, she talked, which she liked to do, especially while she did my hair. During this part of morning routine, Malinda would usually hum or reminisce on old memories of the farm she grew up on. I didnât mind her talking; it always felt like I was being sung to when she talked; but as much as I enjoyed it, I never felt that I ever could understand what she was saying. Today, however, it took only one word for her to gain my interest. That word was, Circus.
âI spoke to your parents about taking you to go see the circus yesterday and they said it was alright with them if I took you, but weâll have to go on Tuesday night. Is that alright?â I nodded. âGood - and this time, MissâŠno wandering off like you like to do on other occasions. The circus is too dangerous for a little girl to be wandering around by herself. Got it?â
âYes,â I said, nodding my head and looking like the obedient child I wasnât. Later that day during lunch break (a time when Joseph, my tutor, would go for a very long break) I went for a walk towards the big tent. In the backyard gate, there was a hole in the fence just big enough for a small person to squeeze through. From there was a pathway that lead down the side of the fence and down into the town square. This path had been carved through the grass and dirt from the many times I had gone through the back to go over and play with my friends in town.
All of the parents in town warned their children that they should not go near the âfilthy riffraffâ that was commonly found by the dock (namely bums and poor orphans with no homes). My parents were no different in telling me this, but I found no harm in making friends with them. All they were was dirty, what was the big deal? Iâve been dirty plenty times too! Though it was hard convincing the orphans I wasnât a spy for another âgangâ, and the old bums I wasnât looking for a job, I soon became the new and official ârich kidâ of the âOrphic Gangâ and was made their secret weapon against other gangs.
The leader was called Orphic (a name he had gotten from a drunken old sailorman who had taken a liking to him). After him was, Jim, Bog, Jixi, and Wilcox. However, it seemed that everyone else agreed that the tiny girl who never went without her teddy, and sucked her two middle fingers âtill they were raw, was more the leader, seeing as she had Orphic in a sort of trance. Her name was Kelsey and she had taken to liking me almost immediately; but, to be sure that I was safe she had me go through three âTests of Loyaltyâ. This was mainly nothing more then stealing food from the bakery, playing the decoy with drunken sailors, and spying on the other gangs who didnât trust me either.
So it was that every once in a while when the gang really needed me, someone would be sent to my house and weâd slip in and out on this path without anyone knowing. Today I used it for my own purposes: to get a close up look of the circus tent. As I skipped down the path I could tell something was different than how it normally was. Usually when coming down this path, I would hear people walking around and going about their businesses in a very rude manner. Some older women and men would smile and tip their hats off to me as I would approach them, but otherwise I was ignored.
Today, however, things were slightly different. Everywhere I looked there were people with smiles on their faces rushing this way and that; helping someone with this, and carrying something to help with that. Maybe it was because of all the wonderful smells that were drifting from food shop windows. Or maybe it was the bright colors that were streamed all around the shops. Everything felt warm and inviting. Running further along I saw funny looking people, dressed in funny looking clothes standing in the middle of the square.
They were holding up posters and shouting âCOME SEE THE GREAT CIRCUS OF THE SOUTH EAST! TRAVELING FROM ALL OVER THE WORLD! ITALY, FRANCE, EVEN INDONESIA! THE MOST SPECTACULAR, CIRCO DELLA CULTURA!â People gathered around and clapped and laughed with pleasure as a burst of fire shot from a very tall and big- muscled manâs mouth. As the fire dispersed it turned into a bunch of colorful pieces of paper.
Smiling, and even more intrigued, I began to run even faster through the crowd and to the side of town, until I finally came upon the fabric building itself. It seemed even bigger in person then it did on my little hill. I stared up, amazed at the sight of it, and quickly set to find an easy opening that didnât have anyone guarding it. I circled the great tent with not much luck. There appeared to be several different openings, but all of them were blocked by tons of boxes. The only two entrances that appeared not to be blocked were the front entrance and a back one.
The one in the back looked like it would have been more interesting to go through, seeing as it was the one that many of the carts carrying animals and strange people wearing strange outfits were going through. However, the front looked a bit easier for a small kid like me to slip in through. I began to lift other parts of the tent, trying to find a spot that might not be blocked by boxes. I walked to the middle side of the tent and lifted the bottom fabric above my head.
Once inside I looked around and found my immediate way blocked by crates and boxes. I walked long them until I came to a very thin opening. I got through it and hid myself between the boxes in case someone walked by at that moment. I waited a moment, and looked in both directions before I ran across to another wall of boxes. My hair whipped behind me as I sped past boxes of colorful rugs, costumes, and cloths.
I dived behind another box that was cast into shadow and took a moment to catch my breath, and to make sure no one had caught sight of me. Looking over the side of the box in the direction I had come from, I saw that that direction was totally blocked by boxes. Looking down the other direction I realized I was blocked by more boxes; in fact, the room seemed to be filled with nothing BUT boxes.
âIs a circus a type of box show?â I asked myself. Then I heard a sudden noise behind me. At first I thought maybe it was someone who had noticed me and was shouting that I was sitting behind the boxes. When I looked behind me, I saw another small opening that led out further.
I heard another noise just like the last one. It sounded like someone trying to get someoneâs attention. Slowly I crawled through the opening towards the light and sound. Then I hid in the shadows of the boxes and looked to see who it was making the noises. On the other side was another room full of animals in cages. My eyes darted from area to area. There was a cage of monkeys, elephants, and exotic birds. There were tigers in colors of not only orange, but also white! There were dogs and horses and sheep. There were animals I had never seen before and animals I was only too familiar with. In the middle of all of them, there were two men and a little boy who looked like he was about three years older than me. They all looked rather tough, even the boy.
He had dirty blonde hair that was messy and curly in the front and messy straight in the back. His eyes resembled the color of rain clouds and his skin was lightly tanned from obvious hard work in the sun. The man in the middle was tall, with bulging muscles, and hair only under his nose and the guy at the end was skinny, with black hair that was pulled back into a small ponytail. All of them were standing in this line and all had their attention on a tiger that had been taken out of its cage for some sort of game.
I slowly scooted into this room and quietly watched as the tiger performed tricks for the man with the ponytail. Out of the three of them, he was the one not only following the tiger with his eyes, but he was following him with his arm. I watched as the man directed the tiger through hoops and under and over sticks that were set at odd angles. The tiger did everything the man directed and then was handed off to the muscled man who raced the tiger all around the room, their feet synchronized with the othersâ. Then he wrestled the tiger, put the tiger on his back, and the tiger pretended to be dead. Finally the tiger was handed to the boy who not only directed the tiger, but did tricks with it. They did jumps together, flips and hand stands together! The way they did tricks together soon looked like a sort of dance, ending with all three men and the tiger bowing to each other. Then the man with the ponytail directed the tiger back to its cage where the muscled man locked it in tight and the boy brought it food and water. When all was secure, the three walked away and out behind a low hanging curtain.
I took my chance and slowly walked out from behind the shadows of a very high bird cage that held two giant hawks the size of my arm. I first checked to see if the coast was clear before walking over to one of the exotic bird cages. I watched them fly around the cage for a moment or two before one came and sat on a perch nearest me. It was watching me very closely out of the corner of its black eye. It had red, blue, green, and yellow wings that were just as big as the one of the hawks.
I smiled and waved to the bird, which unfolded its wings and flapped them at me, as if to wave back. I laughed and the bird copied me. âHa, ha,â said the bird, clucking its beak.
âWhatâs your name?â I asked the bird.
âLoopy! SQUAK! Name?â said the bird with another SQUWAK, at the end of its sentence.
âAednat,â said I.
âAednat, Aednat,â repeated the bird. I gave another laugh and the bird copied me. I gave one more laugh and the other birds joined in. Soon we were all laughing together. It was short lived. Not a moment too soon another voice broke up the laughter.
âHey! What are you doing here?â said the voice. I looked behind me to see the boy from earlier. I stood still, not sure of what to say. The boy walked over to me with folded arms and a questioning look. I didnât answer.
âI said what you are doing here?â he said. I stared at him for maybe a minute before I spoke. For some reason he was not as frightening as he was earlier on, and so it seemed he was no longer intimidating for me and I had no trouble answering the way I did.
âNone of your business,â I said, sticking my nose in the air and turning to look back at the birds. He must have been confused at the way I answered him because it took him a moment to speak.
âIt is my business because youâre trespassing. So tell me who you are and whaâ,â the boy stopped mid-sentence as I gave a small laugh. As if on cue the birds in the cage began to laugh.
âHa, ha,â the birds chanted.
I gave another laugh and said, âFunny birds.â The boy continued to look at me. It only took maybe one second more before his gaze really began to bug me. Finally I turned to him and scowled back at him.
âYou want to know who I am, fine!â I ran and jumped up onto an empty box right behind the boy and stood with my hands on my hips. âMy name is Aednat Hudson. I am the daughter of Peter and Libby Hudson, owners of Hudson Farm which owns half the land youâve come to! So why donât you tell me your name instead?â
âI am Guglichno,â he said. I stood there for a moment surprised at how easy he said his name.
âGuâŠGulâŠGuleekno?â I asked.
âYou can call me Guido if itâs easier,â said the boy with a bored look on his face. I jumped off the box and walked over to the tigerâs cage. It was still eating its food, not giving me a glance as I approached. I stood and watched as it lapped up its water before speaking again.
âHow did you get this tiger to do those tricks with you?â I asked after a moment.
âHuh?â asked Guido.
âEarlier you were doing flips with this tiger. Howâd you do that?â
âOh, that. Practiceâ he said with another sniggering smile and getting close to my face.
âGuido! Youâre needed on set!â a manâs voice shouted from behind the curtain.
âDonât touch anything, k?â Guido said rushing over and walking behind the curtain the voice sounded from. In a moment he was gone and I was standing alone with several caged birds Iâd never seen before, all chanting my name quietly.
It didnât even take me a second to decide what I wanted to do. Only the problem was, within seconds I was no longer alone to do it. I was just about to rush back over to the bird cage when a small sound of laughter met my ears. Then I felt the gentle touch on my shoulder of someone behind me. Quickly I jumped back to see who it was, but to my confusion, no one was there.
I stood still, waiting to see if it was Guido had come back to freak me out. The laughter continued. It sounded like a small girlâs voice, but she must have been a ghost because I didnât see anyone. I began to look frantically around for a body to go with the voice, but continuously found nothing. I felt something touch my hair, touch my leg, touch my face. Yet I saw nothing.
Finally I couldnât take it anymore. I began to run from the thing that was touching me. I ran straight through the curtain the boy had gone through in hopes of finding him just behind it laughing. When I got there I saw nothing and continued running. I had hardly realized it when my feet hit a strange bar feeling thing on the ground and had come near a stage where a group of people where standing around. All of them were dressed in funny clothes and make-up, doing flips, jumps, and other such death defying stunts.
I sped up when I saw the young boy from earlier and quickly got attention from everyone there. I began to shout Guidoâs name to get his attention. Thatâs when I felt it again, only this time whoever it was that was touching me, turned me completely around and grabbed me by my shoulders. I closed my eyes tightly in fear of seeing a transparent mist of a once human being and held my breath. Then I felt the thing hold me to it and gently caress my head.
It laughed one more time, and then it whispered to me, âPrecious thing. MmmâŠso beautiful. Soââ. She began to run her fingers through my hair, making goose bumps run down my spine.
âHey, Pippo let the girl go. Sheâs scared out of her wits canât you see,â came a manâs voice from somewhere behind me. Wait, he can see it, too? I opened my eyes to see that it wasnât a ghost, but a girl in funny dressed clothes.
She had a very beautiful face with blue eye make-up that made her look like a cat. She wore a blue suit that was so form fitting, I could see all of her ribs go up and down as she breathed. She scowled at the others as they began to laugh, but smiled when she looked back at me. The girl gently touched my face and stared me straight in the eyes. She began whispering words in another language I couldnât understand.
âBella bambina, lasciatemi fare il mio burattion. Sarete miei burattini,â she said caressing my face. There came the sound of footsteps coming closer, but Pippo didnât look up.
âSo, who do we have here?â said a manâs voice. Turning my head and looking behind me, I saw a very strong man with a beaked nose, red feathered hair, and a small, red, outfit that only hid his lower torso. âIs she a friend of yours, Guido?â
âNo,â he said.
âNo. Of course not! Sheâs too good for him to be friends with.â A woman chuckled. âSuch a pretty little thing,â another one said. I began to feel myself go red in the face.
âWhatâs your name?â asked a girl with plastered down hair and white face paint.
âM-my name isâŠâ I said.
âHer name is Aednat. Sheâs the noble manâs daughter,â said Guido finishing up for me.
âOh such a pretty name,â said another lady in the group. âIs that an Irish name? What does it mean? Little Fire, oh thatâs so suiting with her red hair!â was the continued conversation before a man in a black coat and hat came forward.
âIs that so? Well then, it seems we have a noble with us this afternoon,â he said. âPray then tell us, oh gentle lady, why have you come to the Circo della Culture this evening?â
âI wanted to see what a circus looked likeâ, I said. âIâve never seen one before.â The man gave me a surprised look. âBut my nanny Malinda did say she would take me here on Tuesday,â I added with enthusiasm.
âOh, good,â said the man clapping his hands together. Then turning he nodded his head and waved to a man pushing a cart of clothes standing far off in the curtains. The man nodded and began to wheel the cart in the direction the man with the black hat waved. âWell then, if thatâs the case, please do not be bothered that we do have a lot to work to do - but hereâŠGuido! Come over here for a second would you?â
Guido came closer to the stage, his arms folded across his chest. âDo you mind showing this lovely lady around the tent? Iâm sure sheâd be most comfortable with you whom sheâs already acquainted and comfortable with,â said the man with the black hat. Guido looked me up and down with a disapproving look. Finally he nodded and began walking off in the opposite direction. I looked back at the man who gave me an encouraging smile and nod.
Quickly, I ran to keep up with Guido who was now walking toward the curtain in the back. Thatâs when I realized the very large room that I was in. It was very open with lots of light gathered together on the stage and the ceiling. A big ring circled the stage and the ground within it was all loose dirt. Above me, high in the fabric ceiling, were tons of strings and yet more people doing death defying stunts in the air. Some waved to me as I walked then ran to keep up with Guido who was completely out of sight now.
I ran to keep up, but just as I turned to go behind the curtain I bumped straight into him. We both fell over, hitting the hard floor beneath us. âWatch where youâre going!â said Guido rubbing his right knee and getting back up to his feet. âWhy donât you slow down?â I hissed back at him. Guido gave a sniff, âWhy donât you pay attention?â he said, but helping me back to my feet all the same.
I was just in the middle of thinking of a come back to this when something caught my eye. It was only a small glimmer of white and then it was gone. It looked like a doll, but I couldnât be sure. I tried walking toward it when I heard Guido ask me what I was looking at. I decided I wouldnât tell him, âNone of your business,â I told him, and promptly forgot about it as I walked ahead of him. Behind me I heard him give a small sigh of annoyance and then his footsteps as he followed me around the tent.
I had walked to one section of the tent before my eyes took in the number of boxes against the curtain walls. âWhy are there so many boxes?â I wondered openly. I looked back at Guido who took a small glance towards the boxes, then back at me.
âWell you see we are what are called a âtraveling circusâ,â said Guido, âmeaning we go around the world many times a year performing for many different people. When we travel we like to gather a bit of the other cultures to our show. We buy so many things that soon we need tons of boxes to hold it all. We donât always use everything inside the boxes, but they still come in handy for being a sort of a guard against prying eyes.â
âAll except for me,â I said cheerfully chiming in. Quickly walking over to one of the boxes and beginning to climb on top of it.
âWhat are you doing?â said Guido, sounding surprised.
âI want to see some of the stuff,â I said after finally getting safely on top. I walked over to another box near me, and whose lid it seemed I could get easiest to. I slipped my small fingers in between the lid and the box and began to heave upward. The lid came off easy and with a little less effort than I thought I needed.
The lid was thrown back against another box and slid into the space between them. Inside there were costumes, masks, and other things like umbrellas and parcels of many different colors. I quickly grabbed a light blue parcel and opened it. It was very beautiful with flowers decorated all around it.
âWhat are you doing?â said Guido, with a mixture of worry and annoyance in his voice. I ignored him and reached in to grab a white, full-faced mask with glittering blue and red jewels on it. I put it up to my face and looked at Guido. At first he did not look amused at the mask, but after a moment he said, âThat actually looks kind of good.â I gave a smile behind the mask and went back in to find another mask.
I found a mask with one side painted black and the other white, and there where gold trimmings on either side of it. The nose came out to form a bird beak. I quickly bent down and gave it to Guido who took it and placed it against his face. Although his face was covered, I could tell Guido was smiling with hilarity.
âDo you want an umbrella?â I asked, my voice muffled by the mask.
âNo, Iâm good.â Guido said. I sat on the box and began swinging my legs back and forth, holding the mask to my face and a parasol above my head. Then I closed the parasol and threw it and the mask back into the box. Guido also threw his mask back into the box as I slowly began to edge down over the side of the box, with Guidoâs help, back onto the ground.
âCome on,â I said, grabbing Guidoâs hand and pulling him after me. Quickly I pulled him over to another box and climbed it turning back to help him get up.
âIâve got it.â Guido said. He gave it a few steps backward, ran, and jumped straight onto the box with a perfect landing. Together we lifted the lid of a box behind us and began rummaging through its contents. This box was full of balls of every shape, size, and color. Most of these balls were made out of a strange, light material. I picked up a bright yellow one and began to bounce it off of the box we were standing on. Beside me, Guido pulled out a purple one and began to bounce it beside me. Then he jumped over to the other side of the box and held the ball in his hand.
âOn the count of three, letâs pass our balls to the other to catch, alright?â he said with excitement in his eyes.
âAlright,â I said holding my ball in my hands. Then together we both counted down.
âThreeâŠ.TwoâŠONE,â Guido bounced his ball to me, and I bounced mine to him.He caught it and so did I. Again we counted down. âThreeâŠTwoâŠONE,â I bounced my ball a little earlier before we both said the âOneâ and both balls hit each other and went bouncing off in different directions. One bounced right off the box we stood on, the other banged into the box behind us.
We both laughed and went to grab new balls. I pulled out a red one, and Guido pulled out a yellow one. Quickly Guido went back to his position on the other side of the box and we began counting. âThreeâŠTwoâŠAHHG,â I screamed as I lost my balance and fell into the box full of balls. There was a loud, âPOPâ as something beneath me broke.
I looked up at Guido who looked back at me with a fearful face. âAre you ok?â he asked.
âWhat was that?â I asked looking around me.
âI think you popped a ball,â said Guido.
âWeâd better get out of here before some one finds out!â I said trying to jump up and out of the box.
âCareful or youâll break another!â said Guido reaching down for my hands. With Guidoâs help I was able to get out of the box, but not before we heard a voice shout, âHEY! GET OUT OF THOSE BOXES!â Together we jumped down and began to run from the boxes. We ran as far as the back of the tent could go and just kept on going. Where I had seen many of the strangely dressed people and things coming in was where we had to zoom in and out of, making many of them shout in surprise, hurriedly lifting and moving things out of our way.
There wasnât anyone chasing us as we came to know later, but we still ran knowing what would happen to us once they discovered what had happened. It had seemed he and I had made very fast friends with in that quick moment of running from our terror and with the excitement of what just happened, it took me a whole two minutes to finally realize something.
âOh, no, Iâm going to be in so much trouble!â I said looking over toward the hill that I knew hid my house beyond it.
âHuh?â said Guido looking at me still breathing rather hard, âWhere you going?â he shouted as I began to run in the direction of my house. âHOME,â I shouted back and continued running.
I got there just as the sun was touching the hills and when Malinda had come out in search of me. She had just come out to call for me to come back inside when I had slipped through the fence again. I did not get in trouble that day.