[b "I'll be right as rain tomorrow,"] he assured her. [b "Just need to go to bed at a halfway decent hour tonight."]
Henry wasn't worried about her lack of routine so far. He'd seen her improvise before, and knew she would handle everything for the show. He opened his mouth to ask how she was adjusting to the new troupe, but Lily took that moment to march through his auditorium to interrupt. [b "You've gotta be kidding me,"] he muttered to himself, turning to look at the prim and proper man she'd toted along with her.
A duke. An honest to god duke. Henry had never been self-conscious about his second hand clothes before, but the finest suit he owned was the one he was wearing, and it certainly was nowhere near as fine as the garb Duke Richard was sporting. Henry stood as tall as he could, trying to look somewhat dignified.
[i A duke could offer her more], the pesky voice in the back of his mind chided him. [i Much better than you could.] He wished it was wrong, but he knew every bit of it was true. He couldn't even focus on their conversation after Lily announced the man was there to be Amanda's suitor.
Where Henry's hair was wild and untamed from his earlier nap, Duke Richard's was perfectly styled with what was probably expensive pomade to go along with whatever costly cologne was coming off of his jacket. Henry also took note that the wealthy man had sized him up out of the corner of his, and if the smirk tugging at his lips meant anything, it was certainly not seeing Henry as an equal.
There was a momentary flare of pride as Amanda shut down Lily's idea, mockingly curtsying before stomping off. [i "Amanda, if you would just listen-"] Lily called after her, but Henry stepped forward and stood his full 6'3" frame.
[b "You are trespassing on my property at the moment, Miss Lily, of which you have been asked to leave several times. Either you and your friend get out of my building, or my friends will escort you off the premises in front of all your rich friends outside. I can assure you, they won't be quiet about it,"] he threatened in the booming tone he'd practiced for the show.
His raised voice drew the attention of his friends. Walter and O'Clancy stepped menacingly towards the duo, faces pulled into snarls. [i "I beg your pardon!"] Lily screeched, jumping as Charles whacked her on the leg with his prop gun.
[i "You heard the man, lady!"] he scolded. [i "Get the hell out!"]
As the two intruders stormed out of the building cursing the 'freaks' who'd ruined their visit, Lettie moved towards Henry. [i "Alright, boss?"]
Henry sighed, the fight leaving his body. [b "Just a good old existential crisis. Would you mind checking on her? I think she'd rather have a break from me."]
Lettie nodded, patting his arm. [i "You could use the rehearsal time anyway. Don't want you embarrassing us by missing a step."]
As she wandered off in the direction that Amanda had gone, Henry called the rest to position for their final group routine.
Amanda wasn’t sure where Henry got these people. It was indeed an odd mix. It’s obvious Lettie seems to be second in command. Although it seems like first, but Henry is the first in command since it is his circus. Everyone definitely speaks their mind. It’s good, but weird and annoying. Amana put in her two scents from time to time. Not wanting to step on anyone’s toes.
Every time it was her turn to practice she would turn it down. since she’s ending it the girl wants to end it perfectly. Watching the wolf boy do some flips made her want to do a few things like a dog. Maybe a few moves that makes he move bend a little awkwardly like the pretzel people. Yes, that’s what she calls them.
[#af18ae Yes and no.] she says dropping down to the ground, [#af18ae You still look like hell.] Amanda messes with the rope to bring back down the hoop. The girl sat on the hoop to casual swing on it. [#af18ae to be quit frank I can’t think of anything new that I think would go well. but don’t fear I’ll still perform.]
Lilly enters smiling. She brought a friend. “I have two good news. I found my old outfits. Secondly, I found you a suitor. This is Duke Karlington. He’s seeking a wife. A unique one…” Amanda stopped swinging.
[#af18ae A suitor… Lilly… wh…]
“Now, now. You can’t do this forever. There’s no way on telling if this fantasy would be successful. With Duke Karlington you won’t have to worry about anything.”
“My lady. I’m Duke Richard Karlington. It’s a pleasure on meeting you. What can you do?”
[#af18ae I… Lilly please escort Richard out of here. We aren’t open.]
“Duke Richard Karlington.” Lilly and Richard said at the same time.
[#af18ae Sorry. Duke Richard I’m not going to be a new shiny thing you want to have. My life is here. A part of a circus. Not balls, corsets, and fancy dinner parties. Please go.] She looks at Henry shaking her head. Things like this does anger people and she doesn’t want anyone doing anything. [#af18ae Either see if we are selling tickets to the show and buy them or leave and I’ll see you at home tonight.] to be an ass she curtsies before walking away.
[b "Alright then. For tonight, you're the boss,"] he yawned, too tired to argue. [b "I'll see you in the morning. Help yourself to anything you need. My bed is in the loft, so if you need anything, come find me."]
He was out cold the moment his head hit the pillow. For the first time in a long while, he had no dreams. It was as if his brain was too exhausted to do anything more than shut off completely. He likely would have slept longer if Walter hadn't struck him with a pillow to begin rehearsals.
[b "Okay, is everyone alright here while I run out? I shouldn't be long,"] he struggled into his jacket and hat.
Lettie stepped forward and grabbed the stack of posters from his hands so that he could dress himself. [i "We've taken care of ourselves for years before you, and we'll take care of ourselves long after you're gone, Monaghan. Get the hell out of here so we can practice."]
[b "O'Malley, let's go!"] he called to their chronically hungover maintenance man.
For two hours they stood on street corners around the city, hollering news about the upcoming show. Few actually paid them attention, other than taking the poster and walking off with it. Still, with the red velvet jacket, Henry was hard to overlook. [b "Treat yourself to a night of wonders you've never seen before!"] he charmed a family walking by, making the children giggle with his theatrics.
[i "That's the last of 'em,"] O'Malley showed him empty hands.
Sighing in relief, Henry's shoulders slumped. [b "Wasn't sure how much longer I'd be able to yell,"] his voice was a bit hoarse.
Trudging back to his building, he greeted everyone on his way to the loft, only stopping when he spotted Amanda working on her moves. [b "Struck by inspiration?"] he called up to her, dropping into a seat in the front row.
The others must have stopped for a break, as they were scattered around the stage and seats with food and drinks.
Henry knows what to say to make a girl feel better or at least try too. It was a funny story, but it didn’t make her feel better. It made her feel the opposite. She felt bad for him. Not only would it hurt it must’ve been embarrassing.
[#af18ae Nervous, no. Scared, yes. I’m used to doing shows by now. However, this is a new circus with never performed performers. If anything, they’re scared and nervous. I can’t help but to wonder when they would turn on one another deeming themselves better than the others and won’t more time to do their thing or when the plutocrat would try to buy one of us or the would thing…] Amanda looks at him. the poor guy looks exhausted. [#af18ae You sir need to go to sleep. I’ll be perfectly fine. No more practicing so you may catch some shuteyes.] she says saluting him.
Amanda could sleep anywhere. At times she would even sleep on the floor. The girl lets out a yawn now that her body knows she doesn’t need to focus and alert while practicing. [#af18ae If there was a wager on who’ll fall asleep first I’ll win. I can sleep right here… I am comfortable…] the girl said with a grin. Despite what she said she got up anyways. With all the has done in the fabric room she’s going to crash there. Plus, there’s no harm working on her outfit for a little before calling it a night.
Even though that was the plan Amanda fell asleep rather quickly. Her slumber wasn’t long. It was that comfortable. The sun was rising when she was up. ‘Manda began to work on her outfit for an hour before going to practice before the others get there. Her plan is to head back to Lily’s soon to shower and change. Maybe even get something to eat. Wearing the plain outline of her outfit she began to fool around to think of a routine.
Not always the best with heights, Henry couldn't help but panic at her slip. It was an adrenaline rush to watch her. He couldn't imagine what would happen if he attempted to do half the things she was doing. He even shot up from his chair as she hit the stage.
[b "You really are fearless, aren't you?"] he laughed through his hammering heart.
Creative fog or not, she looked flawless in her performance. At least, from his eyes. [b "If it makes you feel any better, I fell flat on my face when I tried to ride the unicycle Walter was going to use in his act. None of us really picked up on how to do it. And then Walter's hair got caught in the chain, and he set it on fire out of spite."]
It had been during the hectic chaos that was the first week of getting everyone together. Henry had tried to convince the Dog Boy that his acrobatics were good enough, but Walter had been set on adding flair to his act. It ended in disaster.
Sitting down on the stage, he crossed his legs at the ankles and leaned back on his hands. He was still fairly tired, but was more than willing to stay up with her. [b "Are you nervous at all?"] he asked. [b "To be in a new show? The first few days may not be a full audience, but once word gets out about what you all are capable of, we'll be filling the seats in no time. A circus like none other,"] he promised.
Amanda sighs. It may seem like she’s protective, but to her it feels like something else. Then again, her friend has changed a lot. There’s no telling what she’s thinking anymore. She does know the little signs for certain things.
Henry is going to regret saying she can stay as long as she would like. It may not be now, but it’ll happen. [#af18ae You went from an offer to a deal. What’s next?] she asks sitting on the hoop. When it was off the ground by a few feet she hangs upside down by her legs. [#af18ae You look horrible, so you can get your beauty sleep. I’ll be fine. I was born into this lifestyle. We’ve practiced for hours on end many times before. However, if it’ll easy your mind you may sleep out here. I’ll swing until you fall asleep. A weird version of counting sheep’s.] she says making a split. Her fingers couldn’t touch the ground, so she had to find another way to help her swing.
Amanda pulls herself up a different way without breaking the split. She got on top of the hoop doing our modern-day Miley Cyrus wrecking ball move. She hung upside-down from the top of the hoop. Taking a deep breath, she lets go but her reflects caught the bottom of the hoop right on time. It made her laugh. She’s proud of herself. It was completely wreck less to attempt. Before the hoop can go any higher she jumps down. This time she wasn’t so lucky landing on her side, but she didn’t get hurt. Just dirty. Amanda lays there, flopping to her back. [#af18ae My creative brain is hibernating…] she says blowing a few strands off of her face.
Henry watched her with a faint smile. [b "You don't have to apologize for her. Honestly, I probably overreacted. She's protective of you, that's all. I understand her suspicions."]
He jumped in surprise as she spun the hoop towards him. He barely caught it before it hit him in the face. Knowing he'd likely fall flat on his face if he tried anything remotely close to what she had, he settled for sitting on the inner hoop like a swing. Pumping his legs back and forth, he settled into an easy rhythm.
[b "You're more than welcome to stay as late as you'd like. I never kick anyone out. This is just as much the troupe's home as it is mine. Probably more so,"] he explained.
Hopping down from the hoop, he held it back out to her. [b "I'll make you a deal,"] his boyish features relaxed. [b "You can practice as long as you want, and be as loud as you want, as long as I can stay to make sure you don't hurt yourself. I'll keep out of the way, I promise."]
It had been a long day for them all, and he'd been lucky enough to sneak a nap in. He was worried that the late hour might cause Amanda fatigue while practicing, even though he knew she was an expert at what she did. He'd have a bit of peace of mind knowing that he could get a doctor for her, if need be.
[b "I could try and make noise with the trumpet, if that helps,"] he joked, gesturing to the horn propped up by the musicians' pit. [b "Though I can't guarantee it'll sound better than a screeching elephant."]
[center [i So afraid to tell the world]][center [i What I've got to say]][center [i But I have this dream]][center [i Right inside of me]][center [i I'm gonna let it show]][center [i It's time to let you know]][center [i To let you know]]
[center [i This is real, this is me]][center [i I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be now]][center [i Gonna let the light shine on me…]]
Amanda finally stops as the hoop drops. It was fun to use the hoop as a swing. Even with it slowly raising. Hearing someone clapping echo frightened her. the girl almost lost balance on the hoop. [#af18ae Henry…] she gets off the hoop, leaving a hand on it so it doesn’t escape. [#af18ae I stayed for myself. I didn’t want to go back with Lily. This is me preventing myself from forget what I do.] she says wrapping her arms around the hoop and twirls around with the hoop. [#af18ae That wasn’t an act. That was me having fun but thank you] Manda says smiling. [#af18ae Since you’re here I would like to apologize for Lily. She’s always been a trouble maker and love to get under people’s skins. She was one of the best and got her way… I came to conclusion that she is upset with herself for forgetting what she used to do. Perhaps it’s a fake older sister jealousy of the little sister. You are trying to make a circus in the most depressing place ever.”] Amanda offers him to hoop. It’s low enough for him not to be afraid and try something. That’s if he wants to of course. [#af18ae I hope you don’t mind me staying longer. I’ll be as silent as a mouse. Unless I fall… there’s no controlling the sound of it.]
The moon was shining through the window by the time Henry woke from his headache-induced nap. He'd wasted an entire afternoon of work. [i Great show of leadership, Monaghan,] he scolded himself. [i Way to show work ethic.]
Hauling himself off the couch, he stretched out the kinks that came with sleeping on an old sofa. Tossing his hat on the table and untucking his shirt, he contemplated just going back to bed until he heard the faint sound of singing below. He glanced to the clock, frowning. It was nearing midnight. Who was still practicing?
The lights were on in the auditorium, and he recognized the sounds of the sandbags hitting the floor. Henry smiled to himself. [i Amanda.] Catching sight of her moving in the air above him, he ducked into one of the chairs and watched.
Her talent was undeniable. Her movements were graceful, and her voice was powerful. He could just as well picture her on a fancy stage in an opera production as he could with his troupe. She was amazing. He thought back to the little girl he'd met and tried to match her to the woman he saw before him. The similarities were there, but she'd definitely grown into her performance.
Rising to his feet, Henry applauded. Smiling up at her, he tilted his head. [b "I really hope the others didn't trick you into staying this late to practice. They're known to be a bit mischievous with newcomers."]
He approached the stage. [b "Your act is incredible,"] he praised. [b "People will love it. You'll get the spotlight you deserve."]
Amanda didn’t expect this. Why is her friend doing this? Her head and eyes kept switching back and forth between henry and lily. The girl can tell her friend is holding back. As horrible as it was to witness henry leave the way he did. She was also thankful about it. It didn’t stop lily from speaking her mind.
“He’s not one of us. His dreams are childish. How does he plan on running a circus when he has nothing but dreams?” Amanda sat back down on the stool.
[#af18ae Amanda you left the circus and now you’re afraid of something you’ve done for years… at least he’s going for his dreams. We were supposed to be the best duo. I may stay late or overnight. I must practice. Do something new to make this thing work. Thank you for lunch and helping with the sewing.] Amanda says getting up with her plate and tossing it in the trash.
There was no telling if Amanda stayed or left after that. Amanda began to watch the practice. Giving advice from time to time. She even told them she’ll be ending the performance. It gave them this weird spark. Some even offered to help. It was amazing trying to come up with something so late. Having help with the sandbag and somehow interacting with a few other performers as she did her thing. So far two different ideas and she kind of doesn’t like any them. But it may be best if she simply picked one for now and improve within time. Even when the other left or got ready bed, Amanda was still practicing and singing her aching heart away.
The workroom went from moderate silence to loud once more as Lily joined them again. Henry kept his eyes on his work, not wanting to interrupt their discussion over the costumes. That was their area of expertise, not his. Henry's wardrobe consisted of little else than trousers with suspenders, plain shirts, and an old tweed vest that he was fairly sure used to belong to his grandfather. He was confident that their visions of uniforms would outshine anything he could come up with.
He was content to continue working in silence when Lily posed a question to him. At first he didn't recognize it was him she was speaking to, what with her putting a formal title before his name. His face scrunched in confusion until he realized what it was she was asking. [b "The easiest way to put it is that I'm not interested in investing in other people's shows. I wanted to put together a showcase that allows the performers to design their own routines, reflecting their own talents and styles."]
He paused, trying to figure out how to phrase it. [b "I want to bring genuine magic and imagination to the public. We're in the middle of a war. Every day, people have to live in squalor and are reminded of the tragedies in the world. I want to give them something to take away that reality for a few hours."]
Rising from his seat, he began to pack up his things. [b "This is not a circus where animals will be beaten into submission and tortured for entertainment, nor will my troupe fear violent threats or retribution from me. I am their equal and this is our show as a collective, not just my own."]
Facing the two women, he held the pile of parchment under his arm and placed his hat on his head. [b "I apologize if you feel I've stolen anyone from their family. It wasn't my intention. No one is a hostage here, Madam Lily, I promise you that. Amanda is free to stay or go, whichever her choice may be. I just wanted to give her the option of having a choice. If you'll excuse me, I have to find O'Malley."]
It was a pitiful excuse, but he felt himself growing defensive and he wasn't about to let his temper through over a simple question. Finding sanctuary back in his loft, he dropped onto the cracked leather couch and pulled his hat over his eyes to block the light out. Lily had barely hid her disdain for him, if her glare was anything to go by. He wasn't wealthy like her husband, nor did he have any claim to an inheritance that would offer his employees a cushioned life. But, he'd like to think that this place was good enough for them to find a home of their own within these walls, and with each other.
Amanda was just in her own world. How can Henry say those things? He doesn't know them. Lilly was born that way too. She was the first one to perform. It inspired her. The girl was like a sister to her. It always bothered her that she left for money. To have a chance of living a normal life. What's normal? They're special. At least she grew up believing it.
The girl was humming as she ate and worked on her outfit. Her head snaps up hearing someone walking her way. Henry. [#af18ae This is your place. You're able to do anything you wish.] Manda replies to him. They looked at each other grinning. Cute, but weird.
She continues to hum. Lilly skips towards them. "I forgot how the circus life had no verbal manners. What are we working on now?"
[#af18ae This one is for me.] she says stopping to look at her friend.
"Nonsense. i kept a few souvenir. My husband enjoys it when I wear them. You can have two of them. I no longer fit into. I'll bring it tomorrow." the girl was baffled. "I'll take that as a yes. Sir Henry, why take her away from home? I've heard of wealthy men wanting to have one for themselves, but to build is how circus straight from dirt. Why not invest in one instead?" Amanda gave Lily a look, "What did I say?"
[#af18ae Things have changed. Just come help me, please.] she says trying to nick this conversation in the butt. Lily loves to argue and start chaos. Perhaps being back for a few hours made her want to let loose.
Henry had spent enough of his teenage years conning people. He knew when to spot a fake smile, and forced cheer. Still, it wasn't his place to pry. She'd given him a brief explanation, and he would have to make do with that. He was essentially still a stranger to her, so it made sense for her to still be guarded.
That didn't mean he wasn't going to do his best to offer some semblance of comfort.
Putting his hands on her upper arms, he crouched slightly to meet her eye level. [b "If there's one thing I'm sure of out of this whole production, it's that there isn't a single thing on this planet that could take your talent from you. Lily may have trained and lost her ability to perform, but you were born to do this. That doesn't just go away."]
It was a relief that she still seemed set on performing. And by going last, he could finish the damn playbills with the order of performances. She would rally in the finale. Everything was falling together, even if it was a little sloppy around the edges.
Lily interrupted the talk with promises of food. Henry was too hungry to put off grabbing a plate and stuffing his face. He couldn't remember the last home-cooked meal he'd had. Apparently the troupe hadn't either, because they were soon loading up their second helpings. Despite the jovial tone of the day, it didn't escape Henry's attention that Amanda slipped away from the group once more.
Leaving his friends to their picnic, he detoured upstairs to grab the stacks of parchment with his drawings that would become the playbills for the audience. He found Amanda back to work on her costume, and claimed a table against the far wall. [b "I'm not here to disturb you. I won't even talk. I just thought we could both benefit from a little company while we work,"] he assured her, rolling up his sleeves to avoid ink stains.
Sitting in the creaky old chair, he flashed her a quick grin and got to work, carefully detailing the final touches with a whimsical script.
To keep up the ruse she would smile from time to time. Hiding back the tears that’s choking to come out on its own free will. Yes, she knows she should be over the moon seeing and hearing their reactions. It’s actually around moment. However, seeing lily react the way she did for something she should have never forgotten because they’ve been practicing for years! The second she crosses her arms Henry approached her. it made her hands drop to her side forcing a quick smile. What he said was one of the things she said in her head. perhaps he can read minds?
[#af18ae Everything is fine. Just having one of those days I guess…] Amanda must’ve been more upset than she realized because she didn’t chuckle or anything when he asked if anything happened last night after he left her. it did take a while to think of what to say or do when her mind is racing a bit. Her silence probably killed him for him to grab hold of her hand to lead her away from the others. [#af18ae No, you can’t. this is personal. I’m afraid I’ll lose myself and my talent like lily. She afraid of it now. She’s a caged bird now…] her for cracked a little. It was never a fear living with the family she’s known for years/ anything can happen out here. Hell it may be happening already. Part of her doesn’t want to perform with a circus that isn’t hers. That isn’t her home. nor her family. But after seeing lily the way she was not too long ago makes her worry and want to perform. All she has is four days to whip something up. [#af18ae I’ll perform. I’ll make my own costume or see if Lilly has one she’s kept all these years… I’ll end the show, so it won’t interfere with what they’re used too.] Amanda gave him a shy smile.
Lily was back with a picnic basket. She’s actually going to feed everyone. Taking a deep breath, Manda got up to go collect the costumes. She be damned if they stain it so soon. Lilly and her took some feedback. Everyone seemed to like it so far. Manda grabs a small plate before disappearing to the back to work on her outfit.
[center [https://listverse.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/main_circusdessi.jpg Her outfit for the show]]
Henry's jaw set as her rich friends came to the door to usher her in. He didn't miss the way they spat the word 'commoner' at him, either. [b "Pleasure to meet you,"] he spoke through gritted teeth.
His greeting was met with a door slammed in his face. Once ready to go to bed, he was now seeing the appeal of stopping for a drink at the pub with everyone. They looked just as surprised to see him when he came in the door, cheering loudly and handing him a pint without another word. By the time Lettie and Angus helped him upstairs and he collapsed onto his cot in the loft, he could barely string a sentence together.
He regretted the decision the follow day with the sun beating through the windows and the musicians tuning their instruments. Had they always been that loud? God, he felt like his head was going to explode. The others could apparently tolerate their liquor better than he could, as they looked no worse for wear despite having outdone him in shots. And by the looks of his empty wallet, he'd been generous enough to cover whatever the bill had been at the end of the night.
By early afternoon, he'd already thrown up twice and choked down a few gallons of water. He didn't even notice that the troupe had disappeared backstage until he realized it was silent in the auditorium. Straightening his shirt to lie flat and patting down his mess of hair, he found them in the midst of trying on their costumes.
[i "Check it out!"] Charles brandished his general's hat. [i "The ladies will be lining up for me."]
[i "Not once they see me,"] Constantine flexed in his vest.
Henry gave his first genuine smile of the day. Spotting Amanda behind everyone, it fell slightly at the sad expression in her eyes. [b "You don't look very pleased for someone who just made the day of a dozen people,"] he said softly as he sidled up next to her. [b "Is everything okay?"]
In an instant, his protectiveness flared up. [b "Did something happen last night? With them?"]
The others chattered on without them, boasting their costumes to each other with each new feature they find. Henry took Amanda's hand to lead her a little further away so they could talk. [b "Is there anything I can do to help?"] he offered.
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