Circus Colors

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Averell Saint-Delaire does not often think back on childhood fondly. His memories up until the age of 12 can only be described as lonely. As the child of the town’s most prestigious family, he spent more time with tutors than he ever did with other children. His days were spent managing his lessons, while his nights were spent managing his posture at dinner. He would shiver if he ever dared to meet the other eyes at the table.

Averell’s early memories were also full of magic, but a magic that came from years of strenuous study and obsessively pure genes. His aptitude for the art lent itself to his eyes, where he could see the magic of others radiating from their skin. The people around him had always been gray. The dark hazes enveloped and wrapped around them, less like a hug and more like a boa trying to choke its victim. When his parents released their spells, they had always reflected like the sky just before a storm, or the smoke from a spent fire. So, to Averell, magic was always a colorless study.

His first memory of color came in the summer of his 12th birthday. The circus was in town for a week, and the populous was abuzz with excitement, not that the Saint-Delaires would stoop so low as to participate. On the last day before the circus moved to the next town, Averell told his tutor that he wanted to go into the woods surrounding the manor to find ingredients for the next day's teachings. He really just wanted to escape the house’s oppressive atmosphere.

This walk would forever live on in his memories as monumental. In the woods, he found another child crouching in the bushes, trying to poke something with a stick. He had wanted to walk past with his nose held high in the air, as he was taught to do, but something made him pause: the child shone a bright, vivid purple.

The purple swirled and fogged like summer clouds and the soft shapes seemed to move and change around the child at will. It was a color that was so non-gray that Averell could not believe it existed, and yet there it was, sitting in front of him. Averell was in such a state of shock he hardly noticed as the other child raised their head to meet his gaze. A few moments passed where both sat in silence, waiting for the other to break the tension. Stunned eyes locked with confused ones until the latter could seem to wait no longer.

“Can I help you?”

The simple question just barely made it to Averell’s ears, but it was enough to shock him out of his trance. He sputtered and choked as he tried to form some sort of answer, but any words seemed to stick to his throat. After a couple of pointed looks from the purple child, Averell was able to find his Saint-Delaire persona and reply,

“My name is Averell Saint-Delaire, son of the great Saint-Delaires. This is private property. Who are you?”

“Private property? And what are you gonna do? Kick me out?”

Violet magic aside, the brashness of the child had appalled Averell. Never before had someone spoken to him that way. It angered and intrigued him.

“Tell me your name,” he tried to hiss, but it was not hard to tell that his haughty attitude had been shaken.

“My name’s Jo. It stands for something, but everyone just calls me Jo. I’m going to call you El. That way, we’ll both have short names together,” Jo had declared, standing from their crouched position in the bushes to slap Averell on the back. “My mama runs the circus in town right now and I thought I’d do some exploring before it starts. Are you coming to our show?”

“Saint-Delaires do not spend time with clowns.”

Jo seemed to brush off the obvious attempt at an insult and simply replied, “I should’ve guessed with that outfit. You look more like you’re headed to a funeral than anywhere that could possibly be fun.”

“Hey!” Averell tried to retort. “I will have you know I can have lots of fun. I could do better tricks than any of your sleight of hand magicians ever could,” and he crossed his arms over his chest like the petulant child he was. This only seemed to spark Jo’s interest, and they copied Averell’s stance in a challenge.

“Prove it.”

Just as Averell was about to dip into the magic repertoire of his mind, the dinner bell tolled to not-so-gently remind him that it was time to return to the dark house. Jo must have seen the change as Averell shrank at the sound and they placed a hand on his shoulder. “How about this. Next year, when our circus is back in town, I’ll meet you right here and you can try to prove me wrong. This gives you a whole year to get your act together. Have fun at your funeral!” and with that, the purple child skipped into the woods and out of Averell’s sight. The promise rang in his ears much like the aforementioned bell, and Averell worked hard to keep his face from showing his excitement as he walked back to the manor.

The next year brought Jo back to the spot, where Averell swore them to secrecy and showed off a few simple spells. Jo offered to take them to the circus every night, and every night the bell tolled before he could even consider a yes. Jo returned the year after that as well, and the following years too, until they were both 15 and El and Jo were suitably friends. El knew that the vivid purple of Jo’s energy had started to change his grey airs, and the prospect was as interesting as it was exciting. It was that year that El was able to come up with a good excuse for skipping dinner and could say yes when Jo asked on the last day if he wanted to join them at the big top. He laughed when Jo grabbed his hand and pulled him towards the circus with a holler.

When they sat down in the stands, El struggled to contain his excitement. The lights fell and a spotlight shone on a lone figure in the center of the arena.

She was absolutely iridescent.

The light around her shimmered and pulsed until it seemed that the spotlight was more of a formality than a necessity. Every dramatic swing of an arm or powerful call to the audience was matched with a scintillating display of rainbow that danced around her as if the colors themselves wished to join in the show.

“That’s my mama. Isn’t she the greatest?” Jo had whispered to El. “One day, I’ll put on a great show, just like her.” El wanted to reply but was so caught up in the way the ringmaster glimmered that he couldn’t tear his attention away long enough for fear that he would miss a single second. The ringmaster would introduce act after act where every performer seemed to shine with their own special hue. The tightrope walker had an airy blue that waved around her like a set of wings. The juggler had spirals of navy and orange that followed his objects through the air. The clowns varied in shades of green, from lime to pine, and the trapeze artists would fly through the air in flashes of red so bright, they looked like comets. El was completely and totally captivated.

Eventually, El was able to spare a glance at his fellow audience members and was startled to find that they too, all seemed to have their own special vibrance. With every laugh or gasp in delight, the colors would sparkle and change in a way that El never knew was possible. He had never known that everyday people could also have their own special magic, but here he was, a witness to their rainbows.

El can remember meeting the dazzling ringmaster after the show. She had introduced herself with a flourish and a pat to Jo’s head, saying, “Ah, so you’re the one who keeps my Jo wandering into those woods. Nice to finally see you at a show.” El shook her hand in awe, and she looked him in the eye with a smile. “I hope our performance was colorful enough for you,” she had emphasized with a purposeful wink.

El thinks back on that night fondly. The show had opened his eyes to a new world of everyday magic and a life of color. Now, years later, when Jo comes to take him to the circus, he grabs their hand, they put on the ringmaster hats that match their purple hues, and they enter the tent to find new colors and new magic together.

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