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Authors: Dana Michelle Burnett

Once (Gypsy Fairy Tale) (8 page)

BOOK: Once (Gypsy Fairy Tale)
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I jumped when the bell on the door chimed, actually feeling lightheaded until I saw that it was just a little girl with ivory skin and flaming hair.

Since I didn’t recognize her, I assume that she was one of the Irish travellers and she did fit the part, all the way down to her shy smile that was missing the two front teeth.

“And what can I do for you?” I asked, trying to imitate the cheerful tone that I’d heard others use with children. I didn’t think I fooled either one of us.

She smiled wider, humoring me.

“Would you be Harmony Jacobson?” She asked in that Irish lilt that I was starting to love.

“Yes.”

She thrust a cream-colored envelope at me, “This would be for you then.”

I took the envelope from her and looked down at it. My first name was scrawled across it in beautiful script.

“What is this?” I asked her.

The girl shrugged her shoulders, “Don’t know miss.”

Before I could ask her anything else, she turned and left. I watched her skip out of view, obviously not thinking anything more about her mysterious delivery.

I opened the envelope and took out the letter. Unfolding the paper, one hundred dollar bills fell onto the counter.

What the hell?

I looked again at the sheet of paper in my hand and Kieran’s name leapt off the page at me.

 

Harmony,

Please take this for any damages that I may have caused.

Yours,

Kieran

 

I walked over to the door and gazed across the street at the fairgrounds. There, just outside the entrance, Kieran was doing some sort of card trick for group of children the gathered around him.

Whatever the trick was, and must’ve been impressive because when it was over, all of the children cheered. As his little crowd dispersed, Kieran looked over toward the feed store. I didn’t know if he could see me or not, but still I ducked into the shadows to the side of the door. When I peeked out again, he was smiling as he turned and walked back into the camp.


Chapter 10

 

 

The following morning the new window was being installed. Apparently, having already heard about the robbery, the repairman came, measured, and cut the pane unbeknownst to me. He was probably relieved when I called and offered to pay in ca
sh.

As was becoming the norm there was quite a crowd at the feed store. They all stood around watching the repair and drinking coffee. It was like my window being repaired was some sort of entertaining event.

Did I miss the memo where my store became the local hot hangout? Don’t you people have some place to be?

I went over and poured myself a cup of coffee, trying not to scream like a psychopath when the powdered creamer canister can was empty. I just bit my lip and wormed my way back through the crowd and back to the safety behind the counter.

Maybe if I just ignore them, they will all take the hint and go away... It’s not likely that it would happen... But it could...

“Where’s Alec?” A voice asked, interrupting my thoughts.

I looked up to see who it was that I would be wishing dead and there was the annoying Mrs. Allen, standing so close to the counter that I could smell her overpowering flowery old lady perfume.

“He’s taken some time off to spend with his family,” I replied, trying to breathe only through my mouth.

Her face twisted into a disappointed pout, making her look like a middle-aged fish.

“When will he be back?” She asked.

If I tell you, will you go away till then?

“He’ll be back Monday.”

“Oh,” she said, twisting her face as if in pain.

Now that she had the information she wanted, she turned back to the window and left me alone.

Since no one seemed interested in buying feed of any sort, I took out my copy of the Corydon Democrat and began to read. The carnival was front page news with a large picture of the striped big top.

I searched the small figures in the photo, searching for Kieran, but if he was there, I couldn’t make him out.

A shadow passed over the page and again my nose was assaulted by flowery perfume. I didn’t need to look up; I knew it was Mrs. Allen standing over me again.

Were you put on this earth just to annoy me?

She was completely oblivious as she leaned over and pointed at the photo.

“Can you believe the city is letting them perform?” She asked.

“Sure, why not?” I said with a shrug, not caring if she answered me or not.

Unfortunately she not only answered me, but leaned down to where I couldn’t help but look at her.

“Haven’t you seen that mess across the street?” She snapped. “All those campers parked over there... It looks like a shantytown.”

I rolled my eyes. Where did she get her ideas? The last time I heard anyone talk about shantytowns was when
Gone with the Wind
came on television last year.

“The campers don’t bother me,” I replied.

“How can you say that?” She exclaimed, raising her voice as if she wanted to draw an audience. “You can smell it from over here!”

I am so over you...

I tried folding the newspaper, but I gave up folding it and just threw it in the trash.

“Since the smell so bad over there, I guess you won’t be going to the show.”

“Of course I’m going to the show,” she said while looking at me like I was crazy. “I’ll just be glad when they leave so that we can all be safe again.”

“Safe?”

She pointed to the window, “You know, safe.”

“Again,” I said with an exasperated sigh. “The break-in was not their fault.”

She raised her eyebrows, “You sure?”

“Yes, I’m sure,” I said as I slammed my hands down on the countertop, making everyone turned and looked at me.

I took a deep breath and tried to regain my control, “As I said, it wasn’t their fault. One of them actually saved me, or did you miss that part of the story?”

By then, everyone in the store was staring at us, even the guy installing the new window paused to see what would happen next.

I expected her to back down, but she seemed to revel in the attention. She smiled and crossed her arms.

“No, I didn’t forget that part,” she said with that sickening sweet voice of hers. “I just think it
’s odd how he miraculously showed up. Would you care to explain that?”

Well, you got me there...

 

* * * *

 

Business dwindled early that afternoon. One after another, people walked by the store and across the street.

Even inside the dusty feed store, I could smell the corndogs and sweet concessions from the fairgrounds. It made my mouth water every time the wind blew in my direction.

It was only a little after two when I began to hear the whistling tune of the Calliope. Now and then, a brightly colored balloon floated up and away, no doubt leaving a crying child on the ground.

Considering my complete lack of customers, I decided to close up the store early. It wasn’t like I was making any sales and the excitement across the street was just too much to resist.

I stepped outside and locked the door. Once outside, the smell of the carnival goodies was even more tempting and I breathed in deeply.

A flutter of excitement raced through me and settled in the pit of my stomach. It wasn’t just the anticipation of seeing Kieran again; it was also just the idea of something different from the day-to-day norm of small town life.

I went next door to the house, for the first time I didn’t pause in the room where my grandmother died. I rushed straight up the stairs and into the bathroom for a shower.

The cool water and rinsed away the musty smell of the store and revived me as if it was the start of the day instead of the end.

Instead of pulling my hair back in a ponytail like I usually did, I left down. Combed out, it reached my elbows and shone beautifully. Because I usually wore my hair up, even in my best tee shirt and jeans, I felt under dressed.

After debating back and forth about what to wear or what to do with my hair, it was just after sundown when I finally set off across the street. The fairgrounds were lit up with strings of lights, making the ordinary seem magical.

I moved along with the crowd, past the cotton candy and funnel cake vendors, feeling the excitement of everyone around me. Everywhere people were shouting and laughing, making me get caught up in the moment and forget about my money troubles or that I should still be in mourning.

The main tent was at the end of a row of food vendors and games of chance. At one time the huge tent may have been a bright red and white, but now the white was a dirty tan and the red was now the brownish red color of dried blood.

I could see the man from the front of the parade, his resemblance to Kieran so clear that he had to be his father, perched above the crowd. He stood on a platform of some sort at the entrance of the tent, announcing the upcoming acts.

“Step right up, step right up!” He called as a crowd gathered around him, “Prepare to see the most amazing, the most thrilling – No! The most fantastical show this side of Dublin.”

“Boys and girls,” he called out, pointing to some children near the front of the crowd. “We have clowns so hilarious that it will make your sides ache with the laughter.”

With a wave of his hand, a stack of tickets fanned out, “Tonight only, the wee little ones are half-price, babes in arms are free.”

The crowd pressed closer as men painted up as lions, tigers, and even a zebra began taking money and handing out tickets.

“Now ladies and gentlemen,” he called to draw attention back up to him. “We haven’t forgotten about you! Be astounded as a fiery Irish lass swallows flames right before your very eyes!”

He pointed to his right and a colorful old-time circus poster unrolled from the top edge of the tent. It was a colorful painting of the beautiful girl with the red hair holding two flaming torches. The crowd applauded and a murmur rose like the humming of a beehive.

“We have amazing acrobats,” he called out and pointed over our heads.

Everyone in the crowd turned, and coming up the road toward the main tent, was a group of girls in glittering costumes. Doing cartwheels and flips all the way through the crowd, they paused to wave at the tent entrance before going inside.

“And last but not least”" he called out. “Are you ready to be amazed? Gentlemen hold onto your hats! Ladies hold on to your heart! We have a death-defying magic act that will have you screaming for your mothers.”

Turning to his left, another poster unrolled. One look at the dark-haired magician in the painting and I knew who it was supposed to be.

Kieran...

The crowd moved forward, pushing me along. Kieran’s father took my five dollars and handed me my ticket.

“Hope you enjoy the show miss,” he said with a slight bow.

I followed the crowd inside and took a seat about halfway up the bleachers. Little by little, people filed in and filled the seats.

It was hot in the stands, far away from the entrance and any breeze that might sneak in, but I forgot all about it when Kieran’s father stepped out into the center of the ring.

In a red coat and tails and a top hat, he was obviously playing the role of the ringmaster.

“Welcome ladies and gentlemen,” he said into his microphone. “Are you ready to be amazed?”

The crowd cheered and applauded, taking all of the air in the claustrophobic space.

“Then let the show begin,” he called out with the dramatic sweep of his arm.

As he stepped aside, a smoky fog rolled in with a thunderous drum roll. There was a flash of flames as music began to vibrate through the tent. The fire eater danced out, followed by the acrobats, and the clowns.

Just as I was beginning to doubt that Kieran was supposed to be in the magician in the poster, there was the proof of smoke and Kieran appeared in the center of the ring. He bowed as the applause grew louder.

As fast as they all entered, all but the clowns exited the tent again. I craned my neck, but Kieran disappeared from sight.

I tried to watch the performances, but at the end of each act, I caught myself watching the opening for a glimpse of him. I clapped methodically for each new act, but I didn’t really pay attention until Kieran’s father stepped back into the center of the ring.

“And now, ladies and gentlemen, the part of the night you all have been waiting for,” he said with a sweep of his hand. “Prepare for some Irish magic...”

He stepped aside as the black haired girl wheeled the table with a bright green box on top of it to the center of the ring. She opened the front and the back to show that there was nothing inside.

As she moved away the fire eater stepped up with her flaming torches. She danced and spun around, lighting the box on fire.

BOOK: Once (Gypsy Fairy Tale)
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