Carny Ch. 09byvelvetpie©
I attended classes and went through the motions while the rest of the world swirled around me. Nothing seemed to matter any more and I didn't find comfort in the usual things. All I could think about was Lacey. Her visit seemed to energize my little brother. He went from a B student to straight A's, telling me that he wanted to be sure that she was proud of him when she returned. I politely listened to his hopeful words but my heart still remained dead in my chest.
"Steven?" I looked up at Lance who had touched my shoulder and broke into sobs. "I was wondering when you were going to cry." I don't know how long I cried but he moved us over to the couch and just held me until I was done. I took the wad of tissues he held out and wiped my face, the lump still throbbing in my throat. "I can't believe it took you eight months to finally break down."
"I couldn't break down. What would you have done?"
"Cried with you." He playfully punched me in the arm. "She means a lot to me, too."
"I know." I paused, swallowing back fresh tears. "I just … three years, Lance!"
"I know, bro, but we've weathered worse things." He gave my shoulder a squeeze. "Can't we wait for her?"
I nodded, starting to cry again, this time for the hope that I could still have Lacey. "Yes, Lance, we can wait."
We started over that day. Lance and I sat down and decided on a plan of action. We wanted Lacey to be a part of our lives and we knew what we had to do. Lance concentrated on his studies and I focused on mine, bringing my grades up as well. My little brother graduated first and I whooped and hollered for him, amazed at the change two years had made. He was accepted to Princeton on a full scholarship and we tearfully parted, promising to call often and visit whenever I could get away.
Still, Lacey was foremost in our minds as we went forward with our lives and the days melted away. Soon, it was my turn to graduate and Lance repaid my favor, bellowing as I accepted my Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering. Because of my grades, I walked into a plum position at a nearby engineering firm with a starting salary of $78,000 a year. We already had enough money to take care of ourselves from insurance proceeds we'd gotten from our parents' deaths and this was just icing on the cake. I set my sights on the house next.
I bought the lot behind us and with the help of an architectural firm, Lance and I had the house redone with Lacey's comfort and accessibility in mind. We recreated the master bedroom, inserting a deep bathtub with a shower attachment and made sure that every place in the house was accessible for her. When we finished, Lance and I had our own wings of the house with the living room, library and kitchen common areas. It was beautiful.
Lance put his arm around my shoulder and gave me a squeeze. "Looks great, bro."
"You think so? You think she'll like it?"
"I think she'll love it." He grinned. "Now, let's go get her."
We knew that the last show was in Hamburg, Germany so we made sure to book tickets especially early and the woman on the phone told us that we were smart to do that. "The circus has been sold out every place it's been. They just love that girl." She told us and Lance grinned.
"She's the star of the show." He said. "She sure stole our hearts."
We flew out and took our seats in the front row waiting for the show to begin. I didn't want to admit it to Lance but I was petrified. What if she'd found someone else? What if she was angry because we hadn't written to her in three years? I clutched the bouquet of roses and tried to keep my hands from sweating. Finally, the lights dimmed and the first of the acts began. Lacey's act wasn't until near the end and after an hour of waiting, the spotlights swept the tent, announcing Lacey, the Legless Lady.
She rolled out and smiled at the audience but my heart sank when I noticed that her usual sparkle was not there. Her eyes touched everyone and froze when they met mine. The world seemed to melt away and silence rang in my ears as we just stared at each other. Her wide eyes filled with tears and she quickly wheeled backward, astounding everyone, including the barker.
"She must have forgotten something, folks. Our Lacey will be right back in a moment!"