From The Vault – 2

I burst out laughing when I found this hiding at the bottom of an old folder.  This was the original first chapter of a multidimensional science-fiction thriller I started to write years ago.  I still have bits and pieces of it floating around.  Oh, read, laugh, and understand why I stopped writing!  =P

 

*****

 

Her sapphire eyes were bright, laughing at the scene in front of her, an arm wrapped loosely around the waist of the handsome man at her side.  She tossed her hair from her eyes as the mimes juggled and capered beneath the fairground entrance.  Their painted on faces gleamed with sweat, performing tumbles and small acrobatics for the onlookers: mostly children and their bored-looking parents.
Terra felt a tug at her arm, and realized the parents weren’t the only ones bored here.  Ryan was giving her an impatient look, glancing at the mimes as the small crowd burst into chuckles.  She flirted a smile his way, and with one last backward glance allowed herself to be led deeper into the fair.
“You know, it means a lot to me that you wanted to do this Ry,” Terra said, looking up at the tall man.  “She can be a little scary to me, and I’ve known her all my life.”  The “she” in question being Terra’s mother.
Ryan smiled at her, bringing her hand to his lips for a soft kiss, then swinging it playfully between them.  “Well, it means a lot to me that you’re letting me come,” he replied.  “For a while there I was wondering why you kept refusing to bring me.”
“Well, when you actually meet her, you might see why I didn’t want to.”  Terra gave him a half-hearted smirk, a bit worried about the event about to take place.
“Hey now, she can’t be all that bad.  She managed to make to do an ok job raising you in the middle of a circus,” Ryan teased.
“Ok?  Just ok?”  Terra punched him lightly in the arm, playing up the affront by pulling her hand from his and stalking off.  Chuckling, he grabbed her, picking her up from behind and swinging her around.
“She did a wonderful job, is what I meant.”  He set her down and gently turned her around.  Wrapping his arms around her and tugging her close, he kissed her nose softly and whispered, “Wonderful.”
A flush worked its way over her face, and she nuzzled close to him.
“Yeah, well you’re pretty ok too there Mr. Lancing.”
They laughed, releasing each other and continued making their way down the main thoroughfare, hand in hand, some of the tension evaporating.
Occasionally they paused at some of the stands to watch a few games being played: a young man with a plastic six-shooter in his hand, popping off tin ducks to win a stuffed football; laughing children playing a fishing game with magnets dangling from the lines; a flock of older women standing around a low table watching a man shuffling three cards at light speed.  The couple smiled to each other as the women sighed disappointedly, losing their money again.
Weaving through striped tents with barkers yelling and children screaming excitedly to their parents, it was easy for the couple to imagine having been transported back in time.  With the heavy smell of meats roasting over fire pits, small piles of dung left by horses and other tame animals that meandered through the people, men wandering aimlessly with lutes in hand, playing music that seemed created specifically to lure people to lay down their money with no thought, the air of the medieval seemed to pervade everything.  Barkers shouted at the passerbys to stop for a peek at what was hidden inside the canvas houses behind them, advertising “sights that would dazzle and leave your mind straining at reality!”
The strong scent of animals and popcorn invaded their noses as they stepped around throngs of anxious fairgoers waiting in queues for the next turn on the Ferris wheel, or jostling for a seat in the bumper cars with their friends.  They watched as young and old alike were being taken in at every corner, and with glee etched on their faces.  There were knights clashing swords in a circle made of hay bales, and even a small rodeo where young men were heaved furiously upon the backs of wild horses.
Terra snuggled against her boyfriend’s arm as they walked in their own bubble of silence, a soft smile carried with ease on her face.  It felt like coming home, and in a way it was.  They were here to meet with her mother, a carny since the day she left her own home in Mexico at seventeen.  Ryan had been asking to meet her for several months now, and when she’d finally decided that he wasn’t asking out of politeness, she’d agreed to the trip.
“Where did she say we were supposed to find her?”  Ryan asked, his brow furrowing as his hand waved in frustration at the crowds around them.  The fairgrounds were packed, and there was no indication of where anything was.  Shading her eyes from the brutal midday sun, Terra searched the tents, familiar with the typical layout.
“It should be that way, beyond the funhouse,” she said.  He took her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze, though whether for her or for himself, she could not be sure.  She smiled up at him, his head nearly a full foot above her own, then quickly rose to her toes to plant a small kiss on his cheek.  “No worries now, ok?”  She grinned, ruffling his hair, and they set off.
The loose corners of the funhouse tent were flapping wildly as the wind picked up, adding another layer to the cacophony surrounding them.  The two barely noticed though, as the fortune teller’s tent slowly came into view.  No lines were present here, and the noise seemed to dissipate as they left the concourse.  It was set back from the main walk, nearly hidden between two of the larger tents.  If you weren’t looking for it, it would have been hard to find.
Terra shrugged as Ryan glanced nervously at her.
“All part of the draw,” she said, her voice a few decibels lower.  “Makes it seem more mysterious, keeping it in the shadows.”  She laughed softly, remembering the days when she herself was scared to enter, even knowing the reasons for it’s somewhat spooky presentation.
They walked slowly, pausing at the tents entrance and listening, in case “The Seer” was presently entertaining a mark.
“Come in, come in,” the melodious voice sang out, a heavy Mexican accent giving it a seductive resonance.  “You are my only clients today, and I have been waiting eagerly to tell your fortune.”
With a firm squeeze of each others hands and a quick look between them, they entered the dimly lit chamber, a small cloud of incense escaping as they went.
From the inside, the tent felt even smaller than it looked, packed as it was with the seers paraphernalia.  Three large trunks took up most of the space against one “wall,” heaped with books of increasing sizes. Racks of clothes, robes and shawls gave the impression that the woman not only worked in the space, but lived in it as well.  There was an ancient oak wardrobe looming ominously at the back of the space, it’s scarred doors fixed with a sturdy looking padlock.  A long low table occupied the center of the room, clad in a weathered looking red cloth.  On top of it sat the obligatory crystal ball, a deck of worn tarot cards, and a half empty chipped teacup.  Two upholstered grey chairs sat before the table, the fabric threadbare, showing the pocked and yellowing cushions beneath.
The woman sitting behind the table though made the room feel all the more claustrophobic.  She wasn’t large by any means, probably slightly over five foot five, and weighing no more than one-ten, one hundred and fifteen pounds at most.  Her presence however, was that of a giant.  Looking at her, one felt small, unable to keep their eyes from such a woman; or, more commonly, unable to look directly at her, for fear that doing so would engender her wrath.
“Terra.”  She spoke softly now, turning the name into a sigh as she gazed upon the young woman.
“It has been too long.  My, but you are stunning.”  A smile graced her face, and it was as if a light had been lit in the room.  Her features looked delicate now instead of imposing, and her small mouth parted in a quiet laugh.
She rose, coming quickly from around the table, embracing her daughter before Terra knew what was happening.  After a long moment, she wrapped her arms around the older woman, holding her tightly and inhaling her scent.  Sage, roses, and something distinctly old and musty – the smell of the aged texts the woman was so fond of.
“It’s good to see you mom.  You don’t look any older than when I last saw you.”  Terra stepped back out of her mothers arms, grasping her hands and smiling.  Her eyes traced over the woman’s face, noting the small lines, how the color of her eyes had dimmed slightly, but recognizing the fierce love that shone out.
As if seeing him standing there for the first time, her mother looked at Ryan, glancing up and down, sizing him up.  The smile faltered for the briefest of moments, causing a fraction of worry to crease Terra’s face, before her hands came to his shoulders, and she folded him into her arms.
“Ryan, is it?” she asked, then released him without letting him answer and returned to her place behind the table.  “Please, sit, make yourselves at home,” she said, gesturing to the chairs.
They sat, Terra placing her bag carefully on the floor, her eyes perusing the contents of the space as the silence in the room began to grow.  Ryan shifted uncomfortably in his chair, opening his mouth as if to say something, then shutting it with an audible click that left him blushing to the roots of his long black hair.  Her mother sat there smiling, watching them like a lioness amusedly observing her prey.
After an age of silence had passed, the words Terra came to say stuttered from her mouth at last.
“We’re g-getting married mom.  Ryan and me.”  Realizing the obviousness of what she had said, she winced, her eyes falling to the table.  She took a deep breath, and looked to her mother for her reaction.
Still sitting there with that predatory smile, she made no reply at first, then slowly nodded.
“Aye.  I assumed it was either that, or you were dying.  Something serious, to have you come to see me at last.”

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