[b "Philip,"] he approached the young man with a boisterous smile. [b "Join me, I'd like to show you around the building and get your opinions on renovations."]
Eager to get away from the stuffy conversation of his fellow high society members, Philip hurried forward and fell into step beside Henry, pointing out various items that should eventually be repaired. [i "Fresh velvet cushions for the seats would definitely make the auditorium more welcoming. Same with the curtains. You've got some moth-eaten areas around the hem that will get more noticeable as they get bigger."]
Henry made note to add those to his to-do list. When they were far enough away so as to not be overheard, he wasted no time in jumping right in to the invitation. [b "You clearly have an eye for theatrical productions, Mr. Carlisle,"] he schmoozed. [b "The rest of us are going down to the pub for some post-show celebratory drinks. Why don't you join us?"]
Philip looked surprised for a moment, shooting a glance back towards the group of patrons he'd arrived with. [i "I'm not quite sure my acquaintances would appreciate if I were to deviate from the itinerary they've arranged."]
[b "Itinerary?"] Henry raised an eyebrow. [b "Surely your whole day doesn't need to be planned down to the minute. Life needs spontaneity, don't you agree?"]
[b "Nothing more than a few drinks with my troupe, to get to know them behind the scenes. If you think they're impressive on stage, you should experience their wit and humor once they've got a few pints in them,"] Henry could see the hesitation crumbling. [b "We'll get you home safe and sound in one piece, I assure you."]
Finally, he caved. [i "I suppose I don't see the harm in a few drinks. I'm at your mercy, Mr. Madigan."]
As Philip returned to his companions to explain the sudden change in plans, Henry approached Lettie and Amanda with a mischievous grin. [b "He's interested enough to join us for drinks. We'll work on the offer to him once he's had a few shots and stops being paranoid to be seen with us. I'm sure he'll relax once he's away from the stiff necks over there."]
It’s nothing new for others to enjoy the show. Like it. Some even trying to give them bizzare ideas of what they should do. Henry sees value in this... this... oh hell with it. The girl shrugs. [#Af18ae Alright. I’ll help.] Amanda isn’t sure how they’ll get rid of the Duke. Well I’m a way that won’t involve her being stuck with him.
Amanda left Henry to plot. Letty is going to help her. A three minute huddle and a idea was made. They’re going to talk about what they need close by. Only because the Duke Richards seem to be giving Amanda things to be on her good graces. To fancy her. Although the conversation got out of hand. A few things were added like some baked goods and a few random things the others mentioned. The girls would notice the dukes slightly move as if he was trying to remember things by repeating them. He did leave only because he was called away. The girl is so ready for a drink. Just a drink. Can’t have another drunk moment. Hopefully Henry managed to set up the business arrangement or meeting. Whatever they shall call it.
Her rationale was fair. [b "I know he's a bit stuffier than most of us, but he seemed interested in the show. More so than any of the others,"] he tried to explain. [b "The little bits of money we get from selling the Duke's gifts is great and all, but what if we had a real investor? Someone with experience in stage production, not only performances. He knows what will bring people pouring through the door. His name holds weight, and money. He could get us publicity and actual financing to fix this place, and get you guys more than what I can for props and costumes."]
It was a half-crazed idea, but it just might work. Henry had watched Mr Carlisle's eyes light up with sincere interest during the show, and if his words were anything to go by, he may have a chance at persuading the socialite to make a deal.
[b "I promise you that this has nothing to do with our organization or performance skills. You guys are amazing, and I couldn't ask for anything more than the level of passion that you're all already committing to. This could just be an opportunity to get the funding and recognition we need to be the top show in the country. To turn this place into an honest-to-god production space for you all, with real rooms for you to get ready, and chairs that actually have padding for the audience."]
Henry knew that it was ultimately his call, but he wanted and valued her opinion. He didn't want to be the type of ringleader who controlled everything with an iron fist. He smiled a little, when she appeared to be okay with it. [b "If we're going to sway him, I don't know if we're going to be able to do it at the Duke's dinner table. Too much pressure on him from the high society. Though I do appreciate the offer,"] he caught her hand to squeeze in thanks.
A mischievous glint flashed in his eye. [b "I think we'll have better luck over a few drinks at the pub, away from stiff-collared disruptions. You in?"]
Amanda twirls in silent. Everything seems to be going well. Seems like the duke agrees. Before her lips could part to say something Henry pulls her to the side. Things were getting interesting. There’s is no way on telling how the conversation would end. [#Af18ae Why would... he’s obviously a you know what who plays by the rules. What are you thinking?] she asks curiously. It took a while for her to figure out what he he was thinking. Mr. Philip Carlisle words echoed in her head. [#Af18ae Are you... he wouldn’t. Would he? We have nothing to offer him. His parents won’t approve and that would but why would he do for us? Are we not organized enough? If you need more daring stunts I can do it.] trying to hire someone of the upper status will be challenging. If Henry wants to go at it he can. If he needs help she can try to help, but she’s not 100% sure she’ll do anything. [#Af18ae Well let’s see what you can do. I can propose a dinner at the Duke’s if it’ll help.] although she’s probably going to hate it. As will Henry. Possibly. Judging by how he’s been acting later with the Duke being fancy with her.
[i [center [u Sorry. Brain fart.]]]
She was definitely crafty. [b "I think you're on to something. Roses fetch a pretty penny around here, especially ones that look so nice. I'll get O'Malley on it first thing in the morning."]
God knew they could use the extra income. Until they broke even, they were still working off the cost of putting the show together. It'd take at least two more performances before any of them saw a hint of pay. Thankfully, O'Malley seemed on board with the idea of selling the flowers. [i "Drop the price to half of them florists', and you'll get rid of 'em in no time,"] the thief had remarked.
Henry's brain was still spinning with ideas by the time curtain call came around. They were all eager for a break between shows, but it didn't seem likely that it was going to happen soon enough. As much as he hated the Duke, they couldn't afford the bad publicity of turning away guests. Wiping his hands on his jacket, he forced a smile. [b "Best we don't keep our fans waiting then,"] his tone dripped with sarcasm.
He really did try to flick the charm on, bowing respectfully for those of higher society, kissing the gloved hands of socialites. Even if a few of them looked at his friends as though they were something to be stepped on in the street, he refused to let them get under his skin. One of the gentlemen, however, appeared at least sincere in his praises. [i "Quite an interesting concept you've built here,"] the young man admired the set.
[b "It's what imaginations are for, Mister..."] Henry reached a hand out.
[i "Philip Carlisle,"] the man shook his hand.
The name was one he recognized. [b "You're the playwright. The press seems to love what you do."] A great deal more than what they'd written about the circus, anyway.
Philip, however, didn't seem anything but annoyed. [i "It's easy to get good reviews when you write the same old puritan slop over and over. I don't write risk, which from what I can tell is everything this production is. In a good way, of course."]
A new idea sparked in Henry's head. [b "Excuse us for a moment,"] he smiled to their guests, gently grabbing Amanda's arm to lead her away.
At a safe enough distance, he turned to look at her. [b "Carlisle. What do you think of him?"]
Amanda twirls when she got to the back. With her act over, the girl watched the others do their thing. Just to be on the safe side and in case someone needs to be saved somehow.
Amanda got pulled away to quickly stitch up a uniform for it ripped during the act. Amanda accidentally pokes tall boy when Henry approached her.
[#af18ae I'm so sorry. Blame Henry...] she says looking at the card. The card was simple boring. It took seconds to fold the card and toss it. [#af18ae i guess tomorrow we have a side business. Let's sell them. What am I to do with a garden? It'll only take up space.] Amanda quickly finishes the stitching.
The flowers are lovely. Don't get her wrong. It is a beautiful gift, but where she comes from roses don't grow there. She's used to flowers that sort of grows in the dark. The shade. Like Four O' Clocks, lilies, Night Gladiolus. The Four O' Clocks are her favorite. This gift will earn them extra cash. They need it. Perhaps they can sell the vase too. The gifts keeps on giving. Henry is right though, the Duke is persistent.
When the show was over, the Duke and he friends stayed behind. She received more flowers. They even wanted to meet everyone. Amanda left them to go talk to Henry and the others. [#af18ae Duke Richard his some of his people would like to meet you all properly. What do you say?] she asks dropping the flowers on the floor near the rose garden.
Charlie was okay with it. He likes putting them in their spot. Amanda stayed behind, arms folded. [#af18ae He's a little too much...]
[#af18ae The Duke. I'm going to drown in flowers and expensive gifts. I don't have use for them... Unless he gets me a house and doesnt live in it i'll be the happiest girl alive.] she says chuckling before heading back to him.
The audience was more enthusiastic than they had been the previous night. Most were new faces, but Henry recognized some others as well, still full of wonder at the sights before them. His voice was going to be hoarse from having to project enough to be heard over them.
Running back on stage, he applauded along with the crowds as Walter ran from side to side, bowing after his act. [b "Believe it or not, ladies and gentlemen, our beloved Dog Boy isn't even the most graceful act we've got for you!"] he tugged a bit on Walter's hair as the man jogged by. [b "Our next performer is going to take you higher than you've ever been in your lives; practically to the clouds!"]
The musicians began playing as Henry dramatically exited the stage, giving the spotlight to Amanda. He watched from the wings, just as entranced by her fluid movements as the audience was. Moments into the act, he changed his gaze to watch Lily and the Duke in the crowd. Henry could only imagine what parts of Amanda the Duke was using his small bronze binoculars to stare at. Lily, on the other hand, looked almost longing as though she was missing the life she'd given up. It was a stark contrast to the high society lady he'd been butting heads with.
The jugglers were next to take the stage, with their freshly sharpened knives they'd decided to use instead of the fire torches they'd used the night before. Henry could hear the anxiety in the crowd with every gasp as they flung the blades back and forth to each other. [i "What happens if they lose a finger?"] Lettie asked, standing behind him to see the show.
[b "Better a finger than an eye,"] came his answer.
[i "You're incorrigible,"] she smacked his arm. [i "There was a delivery at the back door while you were on stage. I put it on the sewing table."]
Henry stepped away from the curtain to check it out, figuring he had until the next act was over before he had to be back on stage. He stopped dead in his tracks at the sight of the most obnoxiously large bouquet of flowers he'd ever seen. A card was pinned to the ribbon around the vase, signed to Amanda in the Duke's fancy scrawl.
Leaving the flowers where they were, he unpinned the card and wandered off to find her. [b "Your admirer is very persistent,"] he held the card up as he approached. [b "You have an entire garden waiting for you. Really hope you like roses because there's about six dozen of them."]
The girl shrugs. To be honest she may have pushed herself a little too much with the cleaning. She’s exhausted a little. Not that she’ll let it show. [#Af18ae Darn. I guess I can’t be too spectacular. We need them to come back.] she snickers.
Lettie went over the new order. It was helpful since she didn’t practice today. Not to mention she has to deal with a spinning hoop. Apparently wolf boy is going to do some tricks with it and it may be twisted. The rope. Not his act. Amanda nods. Exhaling.
Act one. Act two. Act three. Time for her to to shine bright. Amanda leap frogged over wild boy before grabbing placing her hands on the hoop. She nods at them to raise the hoop. Amanda has to see how was it would twirl before doing anything. It’s all about control. When her act was ending she high fives the next act before heading to the back. The girl jump. She thinks she did amazing. It’s exciting. New and at the moment stunt.
[center [https://www.instagram.com/p/BpOEmzpBzgI/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=wbcrxn87y1b7 one of the many saved acts. Hehe]]
Henry didn't think his pre-show jitters would ever go away. He must have triple checked his uniform in the full-length mirror they'd hung on the wall; straightening his tie, adjusting the brim of his hat. Walter had to shove him out of the way just to get his own time to get ready.
A full house again. As much as he hated to admit it, Henry knew the Duke had used his social status to influence some of the people in attendance. They stood out in the crowd, dressed more for the opera than a circus show. The Duke's guests sneered at the lower class levels around them, faces scrunched in disgust at the peanut shells dropped on the floors.
Henry was so focused on the people trailing inside to their seats that he jumped upon hearing Amanda's voice. As bad a habit as it was, his eyes lit up at the sight of the pipe and fancy lighter. [b "Have I mentioned how much I love O'Malley?"] he grinned, accepting the items and inspecting them. [b "This pipe is probably worth more than my entire wardrobe."]
It was a hand-carved piece from one lump of solid mahogany, polished smooth and coated in a rich red stain. [b "Ready to harness that energy from earlier?"] he teased, meeting her eye. [b "You blew them away last night; tonight you'll knock them dead."]
[i "Five minutes!"] O'Clancy's high voice rang through the backstage corridor.
[b "Stick around after the show tonight,"] Henry began back away but continued talking. [b "You deserve to enjoy some of the excitement as well."]
With a final tip of his hat, he wandered off to get into position.
Amanda places her hands on her hips. [#Af18ae Lettie we should show these men we don’t need them. Pallets can be used for anything.] the girl shakes her shoulders. Lettie and her will talk later about it. They have to rehearse. Her hands drop when Lettie walks away.
Her colored eyes went towards Henry. It made her chuckle hearing what he told her. [#Af18ae Weird isn’t it? I’ll see what I can do to save if for later. You make it seem like I don’t preform with this much excitement. I’m hurt sir.] the girl begins to walk away, [#Af18ae Hurt.] the group went to go talk to see who’ll practice or start cleaning for their encampment where they work.
It gave Lettie and her time to plan everything out. Rearrange a few things to make room. They even planned when and where they’ll take the pallets. Of course after dark. They can’t be seen or get caught. O’Malley is in. Him and his sticky fingers. He has the Duke’s lighter and pipe. Henry would be proud. When they switched, Amanda stayed cleaning. Someone had to watch them.
Lily and the Duke showed up again. With more people. Amanda and Lettie we’re fixing the stage curtains before heading to the back. Having manners she curtsy to the Duke. Amanda was quick to change. From experience and being rushed. The girl swears up behind Henry. [#Af18ae Another full house... I was saving this to make you have you’re own happiness. O’Malley and his sticky fingers picked a few things out of the dukes pocket.]
[b "You're going to want to see Lettie if you're planning on building anything. She's got the skills you need,"] Henry nodded to the older woman.
[i "When men are idiots and don't want to come around you, you learn to do things by yourself,"] she held herself proud. [i "I'll get some bed frames put together so we aren't just huddled on the floor with those mattresses. Heat rises, so we want to be elevated instead of freezing to death."]
[b "O'Malley will get you anything you need for tools or materials,"] Henry confirmed. [b "Give him a list, and he'll get it all back here."]
Dropping the last of the trash in the bin, he dusted his hands off on his pants while watching Amanda with amusement. Something had sparked in her, giving her an energy he'd yet to see since she arrived. [b "Whatever power you have in your veins right now seems to be working,"] he grinned up at her. [b "Maybe we should bottle it for later."]
It was hard to stay grumpy over Duke Richard's ever-present appearance around the building, when his friends were laughing and full of life. [b "Alright, we have three hours before today's first show. I'll leave it in your hands. Casual run-through of everything, or do whatever we want? You guys are the ones doing all the hard work, so if you want to rest your bodies until show time, you're free to go out or hang around. Just remember the group rule. Two or more people at all times."]
[#Af18ae It’s a donation. Let’s actually use it. We may even build things. If anyone besides me is handy.]
“You’re not normal.”
[#Af18ae Neither are you.] she says bobbing her head as she places her hands on her hips. [#Af18ae Maybe I can hustle him for some better things. Go to more parties. Escape at midnight and return with some goodies.]
“We should get a tiger. Ask him for a tiger!” Now that madethe others start a whole other conversation.
She mouths sorry to Henry before walking to togim. Hand clapped behind her back. [#Af18ae I can ask him to give it to a church and we can do a a show for home items...] she whispers twirling her upper body next to him. The girl doesn’t know why Henry doesn’t like the Duke besides him being a horrible snob. The Duke. Not Henry. Although he does get emotional which is different. She cracks her knuckles before running towards the hoop. A hand managed to grab hold. The other slipped but quickly grabbed in. Her legs were pulled to her her chest as it spins. Twirling. Amanda lets collapsing on the ground. [#Af18ae I feel powerful. I just need to find a way to end it instead of ending me permanently.] laying on the ground Amanda waiting for the hoop to relax before moving. She can do this. Come up with something new. Help her new found family. Deal with Lily and the Duke. Stupid Duke. Although she doesn’t want anyone kissing her boots. That’s just weird and nasty. She’s not going to stoop down to the normal snobs. All she would do is raise a glass and toss it in their face! Kidding. Maybe. Why is she in such a good mood now?
The idea was brilliant. They had the extra space backstage to fit the mattresses, and all of the excess fabric could be made into blankets until they were able to afford warmer ones. It would definitely help Henry sleep at night, knowing that his adopted family was safe within arm's reach. [b "Amanda's got a point,"] he agreed. [b "No one has to risk traveling the streets when there are beds here to be used. We can set them up in the back near the radiators to keep everyone warm enough when it starts getting cold out."]
He definitely couldn't afford a gun at the moment, but seriously considered using his first pay in order to buy them all little knives to carry on them for protection. It wasn't possible to keep them all in the building at all times, so at least they would have something to defend themselves if they were caught off-guard outside of the walls.
Henry was caught up in his head, trying to plan out safety measures for when the protesters inevitably set up out front, hell-bent on running them all out of town. He forced himself to focus back on the conversation at hand, with everyone offering up their own tales of suffering before coming together for the circus. He couldn't help but smile fondly at them all, seeing how out of their shells they'd come since following him into the mad world of the circus.
[b "They'll all be kissing your boots when they see what stars you've become,"] Henry spoke. [b "And they can take their apologies and shove them up their asses, because you guys are so much better than they will ever be. This is the only family we need,"] he gestured to the group. [b "Fuck the rest of the world!"]
The others grew rowdy once full of breakfast, eager to get ready for the upcoming matinee that afternoon. Henry cleared away the garbage before they could make a mess in their haste, catching Amanda's eye. [b "Thank you for that idea, by the way. I wouldn't have thought of using the mattresses for them to stay here. I probably would have ignored the Duke's gifts out of spite,"] he gave her a little guilty grin.
Charlie was on her right. He rests his arm on her head. Using her as support to lean. The girl was the only one who didn’t comment. It’s going to suck that they all now have to travel in groups. Amanda gave him two thumbs up.
[#Af18ae Suggestion. Thanks to he who shall not be named...]
[#Af18ae Him. We have four new big natressss. If the boss doesn’t mind whoever doesn’t feel safe going going home can stay here.]
“And braid each other’s hair tell ghost stories.” Amanda rolls her eyes.
[#Af18ae You found me. You saw how we took care of each other living together. I had to help you leave because we take care of our own. It only makes sense.]
“How was that like?”
[#Af18ae A pain. Constant fighting. The usual intense family imperfection when alone. Perfect to public eyes. Training none stop and you the time you can walk. That’s why I’m proud of who I am and good. Ashamed that someone I called a sister I never had lost her talent for money. To be frank I didn’t have much but clothes, hand-me-down furniture and what not. That’s why I’m used to guys like the Duke. Although he doesn’t give up. That’s new. Now enough about my old life. We need to figure out how to stay safe in order to practice. I say aim at their throats. Love doing that’s nose too. Groin for guys. Eyes for girls... and you be surprised some church girls wants to get rid of the evil of the world. Which is us. Unless you own a gun but it’s safe to say we’re all poor to even get one. A wanting shot is always ideal. A lesson my circus family learned after many, many accidents.] the looks she got. All she did was smile.
“Well I was hidden all my life. Even my own mother was ashamed of me and hide me.” Charlie said a bit hurt.
Everyone began to share their stories. Touchy. Everything they all have in common is that Henry found them. Called them remarkable, talented, gifted, etc. and wanted to show the world that they’re beautiful. Amanda looks at Henry. He should feel proud. Maybe even accomplished. They were all rallied up. Fired up. Amanda gets up to continue to stretch.
Henry took advantage of the brief lull in practice to pull Charles aside. He could tell the man was wary of a private meeting, but the boss was quick to assure him that there was nothing to fear. Apologies were made by both parties. Henry didn't exactly explain his overreaction in detail, but Charles was quick enough to let things drop.
Back on stage, he called everyone together, taking the paper back from O'Malley. [b "I know that so far we haven't run into many hiccups, but we're only one show in. We read the reviews together, and it's no secret that not everyone is on board with what we're doing."]
He held the paper up. [b "They've written about another show where the performers have been attacked. Two killed. I don't think it's wise to leave here alone anymore. For safety purposes, I'd like you all to travel in groups of two or more whenever you have to go anywhere. They're less likely to attack if we're together."]
A murmur broke out among the performers, hands reaching to pluck the paper from Henry. He could see their brows furrow with a slight panic, and he truly had no idea what he could say that would make the situation better. [b "Look, this isn't to say that something like this will happen to us,"] he interrupted. [b "But these people were killed fairly close to here, and I want you all protected as much as possible. Not everyone wants to celebrate differences like we do. If they attack again, I want to make sure it isn't one of us."]
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