Onions Cure All Ills

May 18, 2013
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“I don’t believe you!”
“What’s not to believe? Onions can cure anything. It’s simple fact.”
The girl frowned, her lower lip jutting out in a pout. She was ten, and wasn’t so easily fooled.
“Onions make your breath stinky.”
He waved his hand in front of his face. “No, no, no. You’re mixing them up with garlic. Garlic makes your breath smell bad.”
“No, garlic scares away vampires.”
The boy leaned forward and smirked. “Why do you think vampires avoid garlic…? Because they want their breath to stay fresh.”
She opened her mouth to argue with him, but found she could not. It made too much sense. She crossed her arms and turned her back to the boy.
“Oh, come on, Tanya! You know you want to try some!”
She tried, she really did, but his hopeful expression was too much. The girl, Tanya, doubled over in a fit of giggles. Vincent was funny and he wasn’t like other boys. He was three years older than her, but he treated her like he treated everyone else. And, she liked the way he said her name. He drew out the “ta” so it sounded like “Taanya.”
When she asked her mother about it she said it was called an accent, and then muttered something about half-blood children. Tanya hadn’t known what she meant then, and she still wasn’t sure.
Tanya stuck her tongue out at Vincent. “Go back to selling onions, Vincent! That’s all you do all day long anyway!”
The boy harrumphed. “No, I don’t.”
“You’re booring…” Tanya drawled.
Vincent gave her a sly look, ducked behind the stall, and came back with an armful of onion bulbs.
“I also juggle onions!” the boy cried and promptly began to toss the bulbs in the air. Tanya watched as they went around and around, Vincent catching them adroitly every time before tossing them again.
Until, a voice rang out from the rows of tents. “Vince! Get your ass over here! You’re on set-up tonight!”
He cringed visibly and the onions came tumbling down, falling to the ground even as Vincent comically tripped over himself trying to save them. Several burst open as they hit the dirt, their pungent fumes immediately causing Tanya’s eyes to water even from where she stood several feet away.
Vincent gathered them up hastily, and Tanya leaned over his shoulder to watch.
“What do you do, anyways, Vince? Besides with onions I mean.”
He scrambled to his feet and smiled at her. “Amazing, interesting feats beyond your wildest dreams!”
He ruffled her hair fondly and packed away the onions. “You’ll just have to come and see the show some day.”
“It’s a secret, Tanya!” he yelled over his shoulder as he ran off into the rows upon rows of lopsided tents, and the world that the girl still did not understand.
The traveling circus had rolled into town a couple weeks ago. To a small town like Tanya’s, it was a novelty, and a welcome respite from the hot summer days. Every night, the lights flickered on and lit up the crowds of people that filed into view the mysteries the deceivingly worn tents and stalls held.
Although, she had yet to see the nightly show, Tanya had been visiting the rows of tents for almost as long, finding a friend in the odd, yet friendly Vincent. She did want to see the show, if partly just to put a stop to Vincent’s endless teasing, but it was hard enough just for her to sneak off every evening to visit the by-now familiar onion stall. And if she wasn’t home before dark… well, she wasn’t that brave.
Tanya’s mother was less than pleased with her ventures and maybe the trailers and sagging tents were a little shoddy, but the people were nice. Her mother scoffed and spoke of gypsies and devil’s children. Tanya had met a gypsy. She was certainly nicer than her mother, and pretty, too.
But, her mother’s disparaging remarks had been absent for days, as she traveled down the road to nurse her grandfather, who had suddenly come down with influenza. Tanya relished her temporary freedom, however guilty she felt afterwards.
As she walked up the path to her house, her thoughts returned to Vincent’s invitation. With her mother preoccupied, she could probably go see the show and return without her ever finding out.
Tanya smiled at the prospect and was still smiling as she walked over the threshold to find her mother with her head down, sobbing at the kitchen table.
Her smile fluttered to her feet and behind her the door closed with a click.
“Mama?” she took a tentative step forward. The crying woman did not look up.
She stretched out her hand to touch her arm. “Mama, what’s wrong?” But, her hand stopped when she saw a tear-dotted piece of paper on the table.
It was a will.
Tanya was old enough to understand what the title meant and her mother was kind enough to clarify.
She raised her head almost painfully, as if the burden of living was suddenly too heavy. Her eyes were bloodshot and her lips cracked as they moved: “Your grandfather is dying.”
The young girl shook her head. Once. Twice.
“You said he was just sick,” she replied, unable to fight down the accusation in her tone.
“He got worse. The doctor said…” she croaked, paused, and licked her lips. “… The doctor said he’s too weak to fight it any longer.”
Tanya could only stare. First her father, and then her grandfather, and her father had also fallen ill- a type of blood sickness. Staring at the defeated face of her mother, Tanya began to worry that it was too much for her. Her mother couldn’t handle losing both her husband and her father.
And the brilliantly lit promise of the circus was farther away than ever before.

Tanya ducked and weaved through the tents and half- built vendors booths, trying to avoid getting hit by a beam making its way down the rows or bumping into someone toting their heavy cargo. Unfortunately, her good intentions didn’t protect her from such accidents.
She was suddenly faced with a broad expanse of flesh and fell back on her rump with a small cry. Looking up, a hand the size of a bear’s paw stretched out and she took it. The burly man she’d collided with pulled her up as if she was a feather.
“I’m so sorry!” Tanya exclaimed.
“Not a problem, miss. Jus’ remember to watch where yer going,” he grinned through a ginger beard.
He bent to pick up two barrels that sloshed from the liquid inside. Tanya was relieved none of it had been dropped on her.
“You look like you’re looking for something,” the man predicted.
Tanya smiled and nodded eagerly. “Yes! I’m looking for Vincent. Have you seen him?”
“Ohh!” he smirked. “You’re Vince’s girl!” The giant noticed her blush and gave her a big grin. “Well, you can probably find him by the healer’s tent.”
But, the man was already on his way. “Be careful! It’s always crazy before the first show of the night!”
Tanya saw the faded drawing of an onion on the wooden sign before she saw Vincent. His stall had been moved from the fringes of the site to the center of all the hustle and bustle in preparation of another night filled with patrons. The stall squatted before a reddish tent, which had its front flaps pinned open.
She could hear voices from inside and her heart leaped when she recognized Vincent’s chipper tones. But, she peered in before she entered and was flabbergasted by what she saw.
There was an old woman sitting on a mat, withered and obviously ill. Her back was stooped and the veins of her legs bulged underneath weathered skin. Tanya watched as Vincent approached her with a jar in his hands. He crouched before her, uncapped the jar, and dipped his hand inside. It was too dim for Tanya to see what it was exactly but he smeared it on his face, then the lady’s and finally on her legs.
He muttered a few words that she couldn’t catch and bent to kiss the woman on her forehead. When he withdrew, her tense shoulders relaxed and she finally raised her face. Slowly, tentatively, she rose to her feet, took a few unsteady steps, and then embraced the boy.
“Thank you, my child! Thank you!”
Tanya stepped back from the entrance as the old woman accepted a package from Vincent and walked out of the dark innards of the tent. She suppressed a gasp as she realized that the woman’s bulging, blue veins had disappeared.
She was still staring after her retreating back when she heard a voice behind her.
“So, you saw that,” Vincent looked down at her and she was oddly unsettled by his gaze. And his voice. He sounded cheerful, but it was a forced cheerfulness, as if he was holding something back.
Vincent was always hiding something.
There were a million questions on Tanya’s tongue, but, somehow, the first that came out was: “What did you give her?”
Vincent looked just as surprised as her and gestured to the onion stand.
“I gave her some of my best to take home. They really do work wonders.”
“Then the stuff in that jar…”
He laughed and snagged the jar from inside, opening it to let her see. “A homemade blend of onions and some other herbs with healing properties, here, take a whiff.”
Tanya did and immediately regretted it. The scent was even stronger than normal. She didn’t know what Vincent had put in it, but she certainly wouldn’t want it smeared on her face.
She slapped the lid on and asked, “So, you’re a healer, too?”
Vincent scratched his head and smiled sheepishly, “Kind of. I don’t really call myself that. It’s just a family thing. We grow the onions. We heal the sick… although sometimes I have to add some “mystical mojo” to it, or they won’t believe me.”
“Why didn’t you tell me you were a healer?”
“Jeez, Tanya, is it really that important? I never thought it was very interesting,” Vincent complained with a grin. He began to shift his weight from foot to foot.
Tanya glanced down. “No… it’s just…” She couldn’t find the words to ask him, yet she couldn’t ignore this chance. Her family was at stake.
“Vincent, would you… would you heal my grandfather?”
She had braced herself for a reaction, but was in no way prepared for the outburst that poured forth.
The boy’s face darkened and his mouth set in a hard line.
“You’re just like the rest.”
“W-what?” Tanya stammered, already taking a step back. “What do you mean…?”
Vincent’s lip curled in a mockery of his usual smile.
“Using me for your own purposes. Pretending to like me, just so I can heal another one of you cowering mongrels!”
“No! That’s not it! I would never ask you this if my grandfather wasn’t dying!” she protested.
For a moment, Vincent’s rage seemed to abate and Tanya thought to hope. But, the resentment was too deeply ingrained.
He shook his head. “You’re all the same. Whining to others and never doing any work yourselves.”
Tanya took a step forward.
“Vincent no… please, believe me!” she pleaded.
And then he turned to face her once more, and his face was that of a stranger. A dark cloud had passed over Vincent and he stared down at her with all the compassion one has for the cockroach they are about to squash.
“Even you, Tanya… even you.”
He looked away so Tanya was not able to glimpse the hurt in his eyes that was, even now, threatening to spill over. And he allowed himself to be swallowed up by the incoming sea of circus goers.
Tanya swayed and had to lean against the onion stand to steady herself. She pushed her heavy heart away and stood for a moment, unsure of what to do.
The circus was no longer a haven, an escape from her mother’s depression. What could she do?
She stood there until the feeling returned to her fingers and toes, and then she ran, back to the home that was no longer home and away from the boy that was no longer her friend.

It must’ve been three days when Tanya heard a knock on the door. She sat up straight as a rod from the beat up couch she’d been lying on and her gaze flicked to the doorknob.
Her mother hadn’t come to answer the door- why was that?
Then, as another knock, louder and more persistent than the first sounded, Tanya remembered. Her mother was at her grandfather’s, by his side as he wheezed his final breaths. No one, not even Vincent’s magical onions, could save him now.
And I wouldn’t want him to, Tanya thought bitterly.
Another knock and she padded to the door with a heavy sigh. Expecting just another well- wisher with another homemade casserole, she opened the door.
There stood Vincent, drenched to the bone, his clothes dripping as the rain fell steadily. He had raised his hand to knock again, but it lowered when he saw Tanya. The boy was smart enough not to crack a carefree smile, and stared at her somberly, even hopefully.
“You’re wet.”
His lip twitched and he replied, head bowed, “It’s been raining for hours.”
“You’ve been standing out here for hours?!” Tanya cried, astounded.
“No…” Vincent’s gaze shifted to the side, as if he was afraid to look her in the eye. “But, every other time I’ve come here your crazed- ahem- your mother chased me away.”
“Every other time…?” Tanya repeated. “Wait.” She disappeared inside and when she reappeared she held out a black umbrella. “Take it. You’ll catch a cold if you walk back that way.”
He didn’t even look at the umbrella. Rather he finally looked at her and spoke, “You’re right, Tanya. You’re different. I should have realized that…”
Tanya could only stand there in the doorway as Vincent continued.
“I’m too used to fake people, and I took it out on you. Now, I’ve ruined everything.”
She shook her head and spoke quietly, “If healing people was the secret, then you could have told me.”
Vincent smiled faintly and held out his hand.
“I still owe you a spectacular show. Care to join me?”
She closed the door, tossed the umbrella to the boy and began walking down the path.
“You have to hold the umbrella!”
Vincent hurried to catch up to her and she linked her arm with his.
“You’re a nice guy, after all,” Tanya smiled up at him.
He blinked. “What do you mean?”
“You hide that you help people, but you still do it anyways. You’re kind.”
“Well, if you say so…” Vincent conceded.
For a second, Tanya thought she had seen a shadow of something else in his eyes, but she must’ve imagined it, as they continued along in the rain as if nothing had ever happened to tear them apart.

Vincent did not lie. When night fell and the fairy lights lit up the dingy tents and booths, the circus became a magical sight. The scents of caramel apples and hot apple cider made the warm summer evening cozy and everyone and everything was bigger, brighter and livelier than Tanya had ever witnessed. There was so much at every turn she couldn’t believe it was all really there.
They played for prizes at booths and munched on fresh kettle corn that melted in your mouth until the center tent glowed for the main event. At that point, Vincent had to slip away, whispering he would be sure to single her out in the audience.
Freaks, acrobats and the occasional wild beast pirouetted and contorted in the performance ring, and Tanya felt like the young girl she was, ‘oohing’ and ‘ahhing’ along with the rest. But, although, it was the most exciting sight she had ever experienced, it was Vincent she wanted to see.
He appeared along with several other performers- all dressed in forest greens and blood red sashes. He caught her eye, winked and then vaulted into a series of somersaults that ended when the other performers tossed jagged daggers his way. He caught them both with impeccable precision.
Tanya was on the edge of her seat during his entire performance, watching every dangerous twist and turn with her breath in her throat. When it was over, she clapped with the others as Vincent and his partners took a bow.
What she really wanted to do was run to his side and check that he was still in one piece, but she knew she had to show him that she trusted him, and she sat through the rest of the evening’s show.

There was no Vincent waiting for her at the show’s end. Tanya waited, but her patience could only stretch so far before she went to find him.
She bumped into the gypsy woman, Hana, who Vincent had introduced her to earlier and asked about him.
Tanya once again found herself in front of the healer’s tent.
However, this time the flaps were closed. Tanya would’ve been content to wait for Vincent to come out- he may be changing or have a customer to heal after all- but the whispered voices from inside sent a chill down her spine.
She tiptoed around the tent and found a back flap, much smaller than the front ones, and a place from which she could at least assuage the sense of foreboding she felt.
Candles burned throughout the tent, throwing tables, lamps and stacks of books in sharp relief, and casting two shadows upon the canvas walls.
It was still dark in some places without candle light, but Tanya could make out the baskets of herbs and jars of onions much better than the first time. And she was able to spot Vincent right away.
His bare back was to her, the robe he’d worn during his performance hanging loosely at his waist. He looked lean and powerful as he bent over a table, stirring something in a circular motion.
But, he was not alone.
“Are you done yet?” a distinctly feminine voice drawled.
Tanya glanced to the other side of the tent, where an elegantly dressed young woman lounged on a rug and some cushions thrown on the floor. She was beautiful. Her dark locks carelessly draped over her shoulders and her rouged cheeks shining in the candle light. So beautiful that she managed to make the musty cushions and cluttered contents of the tent glow.
Vincent did not turn to look at the stunning woman. Instead, he stirred faster and replied, “This takes a little time, especially when it’s on such short notice.”
He sounded normal, except from the tremble at the end of his voice. Tanya felt a chill spread throughout her body.
The woman did not seem affronted, rather her painted lips curved in a smile.
“Aw, am I inconveniencing you, Vincent?”
Vincent… she knew his name, so were they friends? Tanya was afraid to stay any longer for fear of what she might see. But, she was frozen and could do nothing but watch as Vincent’s shoulders tensed.
“Not at all, Genevieve.” The grind of the mortar and pestle stopped and he grabbed a jar, upending some of the mixture into it.
Everything seemed as he had explained, despite the unusual client he had.
That is, until Tanya saw the glint of a knife and had to clamp her mouth shut, as Vincent drew the blade across his palm.
His fingers began to trace shining red patterns down his arms and he was starting on his back, when the woman, Genevieve appeared behind him.
Tanya started, having been too focused on Vincent to notice her move.
Now, she crooned, “Let me help.” And she took some of his blood and painted it onto his back.
Vincent stiffened and the woman placed her hands on his shoulders.
She pressed herself close.
“I’ve heard that you do more than make potions… for the right price.”
He was shaking now, and Tanya ached to sweep him away from the vixen and his dark secrets.
Genevieve suddenly bit her own thumb, and licked it once, before gently brushing it against Vincent’s lips. Now, his lips were also stained red.
She was caressing him now and Tanya barely caught the last whisper, almost as if it was meant for her to hear: “I’ve never done a circus boy before.”
Tanya was suddenly filled with a wild energy, and her feet were unglued from her place outside the tent. In her haste, she knocked over an empty bird cage. The clatter it made echoed in her ears along with Genevieve’s words as she ran through the rows of tents.
Hot tears traced down her cheeks and she was too upset to wipe them away. She was too horrified by what she had seen.
The boy she thought she knew, but of course that was impossible.
He was from another world- a darker world.
“Tanya! Wait!”
She heard his calls, but did not slow down.
The line of pines had come in sight and she had almost left the shadowy tents behind, when the hem of her dress caught on something sharp and she tumbled to the ground.
She had just gotten to her feet, heedless of her scraped knees, when Vincent appeared.
He stood there, hair disheveled and shirt half open.
“Tanya… I… I’m sorry.”
She had vowed to herself not to speak to him, but couldn’t help herself.
“For what?” she croaked.
Vincent’s eyes were red rimmed as he stared at her, only reminding Tanya of the blood on his arms, back, and on his lips.
“For lying to you… for letting you see that, for seeing what I am!” he spat the last part in disgust.
Tanya took a step back. His words were hollow in her ears, no more than faded photographs and childhood dreams.
“No… it’s okay…”
Vincent stepped toward her. “Tanya?”
“It’s okay because… because I know now,” she spoke, realizing that it was the truth.
And then, she turned and ran. She ran and ran, away from Vincent and his lies.
She never looked back- not once.
Even as her name pierced the night: “TANYA!”

The circus had vanished without a trace by the next morning, leaving nothing more than crushed blades of grass and wheel tread marks to show they were even there.
It was better that way. It was like her mother said. Half-blood children and circus people were too different… and they always moved on.

Three years later, a young woman with curly blonde hair was returning home from the market when she saw tents on the horizon. She stopped to stare, not believing her own eyes. They weren’t supposed to return. That wasn’t how they were.
When the tents did not dissolve like so many wisps of fog, she glanced away and hurried on her way, with traitorous thoughts threading through her mind.
Tanya had tried hundreds of times to forget that summer, but memories did not wither with age like people did. The only part that had faded was some of her horror from that night, and she was full of questions- questions she had wanted to ask, but had been too afraid to then.
Now, she wanted answers. And, she could only hope Vincent would still be there to answer them.
Oh, Vincent… he had infiltrated her thoughts just as much, and Tanya had to shake herself to focus on her chores.
It looked exactly like she remembered. Perhaps a little older, but it was the same arrangement, and as Tanya roamed the familiar twists and turns, she saw the same people. Tents were still popping up and circus members milled about carrying furniture and props.
Tanya didn’t have to look long before she found the onion stand. However, Vincent wasn’t there, and her search continued until she saw a young man helping three others hoist a pole. His messy brown hair and green eyes were the same, but he was older, stronger, and he looked happier.
Would seeing her ruin that happiness?
She could only hope not, and she smoothed out her skirt as she waited on a bench until he had finished his job.
Tanya nodded off in the warm light of the sun, and when she woke up; her head was on someone’s shoulder.
Vincent, older, taller, but still himself, smiled down at her.
She gasped and nearly fell off the bench, when he caught her by the arm.
“It’s been a while hasn’t it, Tanya?” His accent drew at the ‘a’ and Tanya felt a warmth that was better than any sun.

As if the incident three years back had never occurred and they were picking up from the happy summer days, Tanya began to visit Vincent every day.
Often they would just hang around the camp site and laugh and joke. Other times Tanya would help out Vincent with his daily chores, ignoring his protests that no girl should get her hands dirty. And, sometimes, they would go into town and just walk along the streets, peering into windows at things they could not possibly afford.
Yet, they still never spoke of what happened years before.
One late afternoon, Tanya came to the tents even though she knew Vincent would not be there. He had told her he’d be gone for the day to pick up some supplies out of town.
She had been reunited with Vincent and seen who he’d grown up to be. He seemed stronger than the boy she’d known, still lighthearted, but oddly distant- as if, some moments, he was somewhere else entirely.
It was time, she’d decided. She was ready for some answers.
Tanya sought out Hana, the gypsy she’d been acquainted with years prior.
The gypsy woman embraced her with a smile and led her into her tent. Inside, the air was heavy with incense and exotic spices. It was like Tanya had been transported to a different country and she breathed it in eagerly.
Hana closed the flap with a jingle from the bracelets on her wrists and urged her to, “Sit, sit, sit.”
She did, and Tanya politely answered the gypsy’s question about her life while she brewed some tea before she brought up her own.
“Hana, do you know more about Vincent?”
The gypsy handed her a cup of tea, and looked up in surprise before she took a seat across from her. “Vincent? Oh, yes, you were friends with him.”
Tanya nodded and took a sip of the tea. It was filled with so many different flavors, yet it was delicious.
Hana set her own cup down and clasped her hands together.
“So, what would you like to know?”
“Oh, well… stuff like where did he come from, and what he was like as a kid…” Tanya trailed off, uncertain. She didn’t really know where to start. As long as it began to piece the puzzle of his life together, she didn’t care.
“Hmm…” Hana’s heavily inked eyes gazed at Tanya contemplatively before she began. “I do make it my business to know things. Let’s see… Vincent’s family came from Austria. Even back then, they were nothing more than traveling performers. Not gypsies, mind you, but people tend to confuse the two. They never really set down roots, selling their homemade concoctions, and, yes, their onions…” She smiled and Tanya giggled. “… and basically just making their way across Europe until they decided to come here to America. Like most of the people in this troupe, they happened to join up and stayed. They must’ve been with us for three generations.”
“And Vincent’s always been okay with that?”
The gypsy laughed. “It was the only life he ever knew, so I imagine so!”
Tanya put down her cup, finding the tea suddenly too exotic for her liking.
Hana seemed to notice that and more. She leaned forward and took Tanya’s hands in hers.
“I’m sorry, Tanya. That was insensitive of me. It’s nothing you can help, but when we’re born in a troupe we look at the world a different way.”
“I see.” Tanya looked down. And she did see. What Hana said only confirmed her fears- that maybe she and Vincent could never truly see eye to eye. And, she realized something else.
“Oh, no! The time!” She jumped to her feet. “It’s getting dark, I better go.”
She gave Hana a quick hug.
“Thank you so much! I’ll come again!”
The girl waved and the gypsy waved back, her face a tinge sorrowful.

Tanya could not find Vincent the next day. He said he’d be back mid-morning at the latest, but the tents were dauntingly empty of the strange, 16- year old.
She didn’t give up, not until the sun had dipped below the trees and the thought of her mother alone at home drew her away.
But, she was back again as soon as light streaked the sky. She asked around, but no one seemed to understand that she was looking for Vincent. Several people gave her odd looks and shook her off almost angrily.
By early evening, Tanya had returned to Hana’s tent.
“Hana?” she called and peeked in.
Someone grabbed her by the hand and tugged her in.
She fell into Hana’s arms and was taken aback to see the furious expression on the gypsy’s beautiful face.
“What are you trying to start, girl? Don’t you know it brings misfortune to talk of the past?”
“W-what? I’m sorry… I just-“
Hana sighed and led her to a moth eaten couch. “I know, I know…”
Tanya sat down with her, eyes wide and afraid. What was going on?
The gypsy grabbed her hands and looked straight into her eyes.
“You want to know about Vincent, right?” she demanded brusquely. Tanya nodded quickly. “Fine, I’ll tell you.”
And, so Tanya listened as Hana’s melodious voice weaved a story she could’ve never imagined.
“Vincent never told anyone any of this, probably because he thought- thought correctly as it may be- that people would see it as a weakness. Vincent’s family had always been physically weak. It was a hereditary condition that eventually caused their bones to weaken and their organs to fail. Vincent lost his parents at a young age because of this, we helped raise him afterwards. I’ve been told that his family has always grown onions. It wasn’t just for the money gained by selling them. One of their ancestors discovered that this particular kind of onion could extend their life span. It was in the juices or so they said. Vincent carried on this tradition, but it wasn’t enough. A kid can only go so long seeing their entire family die around them, before they can’t take it any longer. And, when you know the same fate awaits you… it’s even worse.”
Hana paused, and then took a deep breath.
“And when you want to live for someone else… I’m not surprised Vincent felt desperate. Others had tried before him to find a more permanent solution and failed, but you knew how he was, always hopeful, always optimistic. He tried new combinations and expensive ingredients- ingredients that he could not afford with just the money earned from his pay and from selling onions. He even considered magic and came to me asking for solutions. I turned him away of course. Real magic is dangerous whether used for light or dark. I never asked him what he ended up trying in the end, but now, I wish I had.”
Hana sat there, unmoving, obviously exhausted by the confession. Tanya was in a similar condition.
“Why…” she tried to speak, but couldn’t. “Why do you keep talking about Vincent like it’s in the past?”
The gypsy’s words from earlier came back. They didn’t make sense either.
She gazed back at Tanya and there was grief in her hazel eyes, deep and still fresh.
“Vincent is dead, Tanya. He died almost a year ago.”
Silence followed Hana’s words, and then Tanya stood, thanked her quietly and ran out the tent as fast as she could.
Her mind raced and her heart beat wildly in her chest. It was impossible. None of it was true. She’d just seen Vincent two days ago and he was healthy, vibrant. They had talked about inconsequential things and he had stuck a flower in her hair, laughing that he was all out of onions.
Tanya couldn’t believe Hana, yet when she finally stopped, she realized her feet had taken her to the healer’s tent- Vincent’s tent.
She reached out her hand, grabbed the flap, and hesitating for only a moment, threw it open.
It was empty. Like when the circus had left that night three years ago. There was not a trace of Vincent inside, just the hard-packed dirt and the familiar canvas walls. Tanya pressed her faces to them, but it was no use, not even Vincent’s scent remained.
It’s not his tent, her mind whispered. You’re mistaken. He’s just moved his real one…
Tanya wanted to hope, but something told her that this tent was the right one, and despite that, it was waiting to be filled with props and costumes, not the attempted cures of an orphan boy.
She left the empty tent behind and walked until her feet ached and she collapsed against the trunk of an old oak. Tanya tucked her legs in and cried, letting it all out after all this time.
Her shoulders were still shaking from her sobs when something brushed against her white skin.
Tanya glanced up. Vincent… no, his ghost, was sitting beside her. She shrank from his touch, anger pulsing red hot in her temples.
Vincent smiled, not like he did when they played together. This smile was hopelessly sad. He reached out his finger and wiped away a stray tear.
“I’ve done it again, haven’t I? I never wanted to make you cry.”
Tanya gazed at him and another sob wracked her body. She fell into his lap, curling up into what felt so real even though she knew it was not.
Vincent wrapped his arm around her, and stayed there silently as she cried.
Until he spoke quietly: “I’m glad that Hana told you. I knew she’d figure it out, I just didn’t want to believe it until now.”
Tanya didn’t reply, afraid that he would stop talking, or even leave her.
“I wanted to tell you myself, but I’m a coward. I did this to myself and to you, yet I can’t even say why.”
His brow furrowed and Tanya waited. Hana had told her most of it, but some she needed to hear from Vincent himself.
“After a while, I stopped asking myself that, but I think it was always for one reason. I wanted to live. But, not for myself. I wouldn’t have tried so hard otherwise. I wanted to live for someone else- for you, Tanya.”
They glanced at each other and Tanya looked away first, her cheeks warm.
“But, you didn’t.”
Vincent laughed lightly. “You’re always so blunt! You’re right. I didn’t. Because I’m so boring and can’t do anything but sell onions.”
Tanya cracked a smile. “And juggle onions.”
“Of course, how could I forget?”
They laughed at that. Then, Tanya had to ask, “Why’d you take until now to come back?”
His smile turned into a frown.
“I had to rest for a bit since I can only take this form for so long. Even then, only you can see me.”
The circus members’ strange reactions to her questions suddenly made sense. Tanya nodded, and then realized: “Wait. If you… you know… a year ago, how is your spirit still here?”
Vincent nodded, as if it was quite a good question.
“I wasn’t trying to be seen then, and, like they say, I had some unfinished business.”
Tanya felt a pang of guilt. “When I saw you last…”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to leave like that.”
“But, you have to leave anyway, don’t you?”
She was staring at his hands, which were beginning to look transparent.
“Unfortunately, I’m not exactly welcome here,” he smiled bitterly. Tanya didn’t like to see him this way, but his expression abruptly brightened.
He turned around and reached under the roots of the old oak. Tanya watched as he dug around, and then withdrew his arm covered in dirt.
Vincent extended a dirty fist. “Hold out your hand.”
She did, and a white onion bulb fell into her palm.
“It’s a weird gift, I know. But, you promised me you’d try it.”
Tanya stuck out her tongue. “No, I didn’t!”
“If you don’t want it, I’ll take it back.” Vincent held out his hand.
But Tanya kept the onion to herself, it wasn’t weird, it was the way Vincent was.
And he was already disappearing, slipping from her grasp.
“Vince!” she grabbed at his arm, but her hand passed through it.
“No!” she stared hopelessly as he continued to vanish.
Vincent smiled one last time. Not a sad, or even bittersweet smile, but a true, contented one.
“I don’t know what say, except, that you’re the only one, Tanya. Don’t forget it.”
“Vincent!” Tanya leapt and could feel him in her arms for a second.
Then he was gone and she fell against the tree trunk. The onion bulb rolled from her hand.
She stared at it, fell to her knees and began to peel back its layers.
Slowly, cautiously, she took a bite. The juices hit her tongue and she bent over, holding her stomach, holding herself together.
Tanya looked up into the tree tops and yelled, “You lied, Vincent!”
She rocked back and forth, whispering.
“You said they would work. But, onions can’t cure everything…”

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