It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. Carefully, I packed my bags, leery of the watchful eyes of my husband. Too many nights had been spent under his dictatorship. It was time to break free, to reunite with my love.
Many months were spent preparing for this summer night. Months of bribing the mailman into leaving Thomas’ letters in the hollowed out crevice of the Sycamore in our yard. Although, no bribe really had been necessary as even he knew the hell that awaited me everyday.
I’d been married off to John two years ago by my parents who’d considered him the perfect match for me. Coming from a long line of investment banking entrepreneurs, John was wealthy; John was sophisticated; John was my worst nightmare. Each morning, I took extra time camouflaging bruises left in the wake of the night before. Often times, I found myself donning blouses that covered my arms even in the warmest of weather to detract attention from prying eyes. Being young and naïve, I’d wondered if this wasn’t what most marriages were like. That perception was shattered when I met Thomas.
When the circus came to town last year, John dragged me along. Perspective clients were there and he’d purchased the rather pricey tickets to impress them. As the ever dutiful wife, I’d smiled and made conversation with those he was trying to impress--taking my seat next to him when the performances began. One by one, the various acts invaded the center ring: clowns, jugglers, lion tamers and elephants. They performed while I blankly stared ahead into the void consuming my existence. For the last act, the acrobats took to the stage and, for the most part, went unnoticed by me; except for one.
He was taller than the rest of them; handsome, with eyes of forest green. From my vantage point in the front row, my gaze remained on him. To my surprise, so did his. Seconds, seemingly like minutes, ticked by as our gazes remained focused on each other. Those mere seconds were all it took for me to fall in love with Thomas Lenahan. There was an intensity in his eyes that reached into my soul. An intensity that sheltered me from the chaos surrounding me. Finally breaking his stare, he climbed the ladder to the awaiting trapeze.
Through the air he flipped. He was true poetry in motion and my admiration wasn’t the only attention he garnered as evidenced by the shower of applause and roses he received after his finale. Taking a humble bow, he retrieved a single red rose from the ground and, with his eyes once again finding mine, walked over to my racing heart, presenting it to me.
“Thank you,” I hesitated glancing at John.
He bowed at me without saying a word, leaving the ring. An emptiness consumed me in his absence.
“Seems to me the young man took on a charity case,” John muttered softly.
“It would appear so, Darling.”
After the performance, I snuck away while John finished his schmoozing. With rose still in hand, I sat alone on a rock in the back of the tent and cried. With my sleeve, I dabbed away the tears, pulling it up where my makeup stained the fabric.
“A beautiful woman like you shouldn’t have anything to cry about,” a voice near me said. Looking up, I saw Thomas standing over me, a look of concern overspreading his face. “And what’s that!” He pulled my sleeve up revealing my bruises. “Come away with me.” he pleaded.
“What? You’re crazy. There’s no way I can escape him.”
“In case you change your mind,” he scribbled something down on a piece of parchment and handed it to me.
For the next year, I used those addresses Thomas would send me from across the country to correspond with him. At first our letters were innocent conversations between friends, but soon they and our relationship blossomed and I realized that escape was possible.
Promising I would catch up with him, John left for the circus. Then, under the cover of night, so did I. Approaching the tent, I saw John for the last time and made a beeline away from him. In the back of the tent, where he said he’d be, stood Thomas, with a smile spread wide across his face.
“I changed my mind,” I said with a sly smile.
Hand in hand, he guided me away into the darkness.