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The Last Act
It was on a bright, starry night that the traveling circus rolled into town. Massive tents covered in decorative stripes dotted the town’s park. With pink cotton candy in their hands, a group of little girls were bragging about whose seat was closest to the acrobat superstar – Lorain Schovaski. Underneath the tent, bodies occupied each seat, and cameras were propped up on laps, ready for action. As the curtain opened, a woman figure layered in a transparent unitard costume strutted through the isle toward the spotlight. Her graceful legs swept up and wrapped around a bar as she swung effortlessly from one rope to another. Ladies and gentlemen, Lorain Schovaski…
“Lave! What you doing in the corner? You’ve been lookin’ at that picture for 10 minutes.”
Tory’s sudden voice interrupted my vivid memory and brought it to a halt. Reality came back to me, and I realized I was sitting inside Mask Troupe’s Circus tent, staring blankly at a picture of Lorain Schovaski. Tory must have thought I had lost my mind.
“Oh, this picture just reminded me of a movie scene with Lorain Schovaski. Something up?” I asked.
“Rylee’s the problem. She sayin’ somethin’ about how orphans like us won’t make it anywhere…err… somethin’ like that.”
I sighed with frustration. It had all started when the three of us escaped from the Riley Orphanage months ago. We were determined to do something better than sit on our cardboard beds waiting for a miracle to happen. I thought joining a well-known circus like Mask Troupe Circus would get our faces on billboards, and as it turned out we all had some “stage presence” in us.
I walked towards Mask Troupe’s backstage and found Rylee sobbing into her hands. She faced me with a strained expression and said, “Lave, it’s no use. Do you really think pictures on these big signs will really lead our parents here? There’s no point. They don’t want me. They don’t want us, Lave. That’s why we’re orphans in the first place.”
“Maybe she’s right, Lave,” Tory said.
I pressed back. “We have a show to be in. There’s no time.”
“I’m going out,” said Rylee.
“Show starts in two hours,” I warned.
“Leave me.” she said.
1 hour. 45 minutes. 35 minutes. 32 minutes. 31 minutes left.
“Find Rylee, Tory. She’s the opening act.” I said.
Cameron Grebe, Mask Troupe Circus’s director, thrusts our face masks into our worried hands. With an extra mask still in his grip, he asked us the question we had no answer to.
“Where’s Rylee McCain?”
“I don’t know, Mr. Grebe.” Tory bobbed his head vigorously in agreement.
Mr. Grebe punched speed-dial. We wondered who was important enough to be one button away from Cameron Grebe.
“Mrs. Schovaski. Yes. I need a small favor, if I may ask… Yes, it’ll start in... (he paused to look at his watch) exactly 27 minutes. You’ll be our new opening act. Thank you, Lorain.” Mr. Grebe gave us an unsettling look and pivoted away toward the next tent.
“Mr. Grebe knows her?”
“I guess. It’s like he knows every famous person in the circus industry these days. Who knows?” I shrugged. “I just can’t believe she’s actually gonna perform for Mask Troupe Circus tonight,” I said.
“Ha-ha. Wait. Do you think he knows your mom, Lave? You always talk ‘bout how she was such a great acrobat and you used to watch her perform or somethin’. You wouldn’t stop blabbing your mouth about her when you first came, ‘member?”
“Huh. I doubt it. Tell me about your dad, Tory.”
“Nah… I got nothin’. Been there since a baby. I’m not as lucky as you’ve been.”
“That’s why we’re here. It’s all about getting known.”
“I’m telling you, Lave. I’m not as lucky as you’ve been. You had your parents when you were small. I ain’t got nothin’.”
Our conversation ended as the announcer spoke his first words into the microphone.
“Let’s welcome our special opening act performer… Mrs. Lorain Schovaski!”
Applause radiated throughout the tent, deafening our ears like nothing before. Tory draped the thick, velvet curtain behind his head, his eyes glassy with fascination.
“It’s Lorain Schovaski. Lave, you watchin’?”
“I bet with all that cash she’s gettin’ from all her circus tours, she doesn’t have to do much when she retires. And after those movies she’s been in, it’s like watchin’ a superstar perform live! I’m dreamin’, Lave.”
“Lave Schove, you’re second act. Get on stage, boy! Schovaski’s done!” Grebe informed.
“Hold up! I really want to tell Mrs.Schovaski she was really good tonight before I go!” I whined frantically, peeking through the curtains once more.
“Not now, Lave boy,” then pushed me firmly towards the spotlight. A helpful hand steadied me as I lost my balance, and I looked up to say thanks, when I realized whose hand I had been holding. She took off her mask and gave me a motherly smile.
“She kinda looks like you, Lave. Her eyes. Her hair? It’s all wavy and chestnut colored like yours. It’ll be so funny if she was your mom. I mean, what are the chances? Ha-ha,” Tory chuckled.
“Yeah.” Her gaze bore into mine and memories flashed in and out, like years were rewinding from the past. Embraces, the smell of fresh loaves, her loving kisses, and when she spoke I knew it was her.
“Hi darling. I’ve been waiting…”
I reached for her open arms but when I wrapped mine around her waist, dust replaced her, and I constricted, gasping for breath.
Heaving on my bed, I woke up yearning for fresh air as if it couldn’t come quick enough in our Riley Orphanage.