It was 8pm and dark outside. The circus was empty except for the animals in their respective cages, and 15- year-old Utajirii was crouched near the tiger cage closest to the dress room tent. Two performers wandered by chatting animatedly about the day’s events. Earlier that afternoon, a crate of carrots had exploded outside the horse feeding grounds. Utajiri did feel a little foolish — she had been in charge of bringing dynamite to the performer The Exploding Ivankovich and she had tripped and dropped them in the mud. At that point it was better to light them and dump them into the carrot crate and make it look like arson rather than get fired for doing something incredibly clumsy for the upteenth time. The performers slowed down near her and Utajiri quickly pretended to be doing some squats. They shrugged and kept on walking. Even in a circus, she was the weird one.

She creeped towards the dress room and nearly had a heart attack when a roar emerged from the tiger cage besides her. “Shhh” she hushed and kept moving. She pulled apart the curtains of the dress room tent and, as hoped, the dresses from the day’s performance were still lying out on a rack. Excited, she worked through the dress rack looking for the familiar sea green fortune teller’s outfit. Aha! She thought to herself when her eye caught sight of the sparkling gold and green. She pulled it out and admired it longingly. So regal in a low key kind of way. She looked around for the rings that completed the outfit. The tent wasn’t too big and there was another table further away with some clown outfits and she hurriedly made her way there. She was a bit too fast and didn’t notice the sharp object on the floor and nearly tripped over it before catching herself. She looked down and noticed it was a metallic crow lying in the dirt. It scratched something in the recesses of her memory. She thought about picking it up to examine it but didn’t want to get her hands filthy while holding the dress. Still it spooked her, so she turned and started to head out of the tent.

“Oh Utajiri you are awfully predictable. Both in your terrible ideas and incredible clumsiness”.

She spun around. It was Tara, beautiful and bewitching as always. “You’re telling me you didnt realise the crow was a booby trap that alerted me to someone’s presence here? You are easy to trick”

“Oh crap” She remembered now: 6 years ago that stupid crow had led to someone being fired from the circus for stealing. She had never actually seen it (and couldn’t understand the mechanism by which a metallic crow would be a booby trap) so hadn’t registered what it was. “I think you might be misinterpreting what I’m doing here,” she said slowly. “I’m just borrowing this dress to try it on for size. And was going to return it tomorrow.”

“That’s a pathetic story. But less pathetic than your attempt at making yourself more attractive for the boys attending the circus”. Utajiri glared at the floor and tried to fight back tears. “Ok just have it back and I’ll go for the night”

“I’ll see whether I feel like informing the circus master, but I wouldn’t be willing to bet your life on it”

That night Utajiri decided she’d had enough and it was time to leave. It had been 6 years in the circus and, despite some fond memories playing with the animals, it was time to move on. Preferably to a place where she too could look regal.

Mix of fiction and non-fiction.