Sideshow (Part III)

Perched on the peaked porch roof over her aunt’s porch, Jack told Rosemary about his life with the circus, and how the stars looked away across the world in other skies.  He brought the clowns, the contortionists, even the dry, gray hide of the elephants to life for Rosemary, all the time watching her face and the wonder reflected there. 

Jack came the next night, too, when the carnival was winding down, easing over the porch, somehow clinging with fingers and toes, right up to the second story of the house where Rosemary waited at her window. 

Aunt Fanny snored on, untroubled by whispers and dreams and the age-old kind of magic unfolding right over her head.  She loved her niece, she meant well, but unfortunate blind girls like Rosemary should not be encouraged to dream of romance.  “There’s heartache enough in the street,” Aunt Fanny often remarked, “without asking it to sit with you in the parlor.”

The next night, Jack was so late that he was early.  He apologized with wisps of still-warm cotton candy, pulled off the paper spool in thin strands to melt on Rosemary’s surprised tongue.  Still, it was much more than the promise of spun sugar that lured Rosemary over the windowsill, at last, to sit on the porch roof beside him.

Jack settled Rosemary onto his folded jacket to protect her from the rough surface of the shingles.  He invited her to touch the tattoo on his bare arm, and her sensitive fingers could feel the faintest difference between his skin and the inked design.  His arm was very different than hers, Rosemary thought.  She smiled to herself, pleased to have that different arm between her and the distance to the ground below.

“We’re pulling out tomorrow,” Jack said.  “Show’s run its course.”

“Where…” Rosemary had to clear her throat to finish, “where will you go?”

“Farther south, maybe, for a while.  Norah—she’s our Fat Lady—has folks around New Orleans she hasn’t seen in a while.  Look at that,” Jack said, not knowing what else to say.  “Sun’s coming up.”

“I know.  I can feel it,” Rosemary said.  Her fingers, gritty where she’d licked cotton candy from them, followed his arm down to his hand where it rested near her elbow. 

“Jack,” she hesitated, thinking briefly of Aunt Fanny, “I’d like to feel the sun come up in New Orleans, too.”

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