Alexander wasn’t particularly glad that afternoon… mostly because of the same old bullying he had been suffering for weeks. There wasn’t a single day he didn’t have to deal with those imbeciles who only saw the difference in him. He didn’t have a fancy smartphone, nor did he like celebrities, played football or popular video games like others, but he liked some chess games. Wasn’t that enough? Apparently not. If you’re a weirdo, you’re doomed. Only if you became a clone, with the same hairstyle and clothes —and a particular taste for stupidity and mockery —you could be part of the group. A group that was supposed to be the elite in a big old building called ‘high school’, where teachers were barely able to make you learn anything, if not losing time because of some assholes who prefered to be somewhere else instead.
Sighing, he opened the wooden garden door and closed it again before heading to the beautiful and lively façade of his aunt’s house, where he’d been living since… well, since the accident. Something he was struggling to forget… but couldn’t.
Once inside, the kind woman peeped out the kitchen door.
“Hi, honey! How was your day?”
“Fine, Ada”. He gently smiled at her, not showing any trace of his negative feelings.
“Do you want to have a snack? I made some pie...”
“No, thanks. I’ve homework to do and… I also wanna train a bit before dinner.”
“Alright… but you should eat something first. You’re still growing up and those muscles need some energy.”
He smirked and replied: “I can always count on you to keep me healthy”. Then approached to let her place a quick kiss in his cheek.
“Always, my little one.”
“I’m going upstairs.” He said.
“Fiiine, but don’t try too hard this time. You don’t wanna hurt your hands again.”
“I won’t, Ada.”
He took his bag and began climbing up the stairs while she stood right there, looking at him. My poor child... she thought, losing her smile. If only you hadn’t been obliged to mature so fast…
The boy entered his bedroom and left his belongings on the floor, next to his desk, before taking off his clothes to only put some yoga pants on. He prefered to train this way; it felt much freer and he could also feel the grip better. He dressed his hands with bandages to avoid further damage, for his palms’ skin would thank him later.
Then, he looked up, at the ribbons that were tightened to the top of the little empty tower that was now part of his room. Ada had agreed to leave him that extra three-square-meter space before using it as a second-floor junk room and had even fixed it so it would be a part of his bedroom.
Alexander couldn’t thank her enough for everything she’d done for him, but that one thing in particular had made him the happiest. Those aerial silk ribbons were the only thing left that reminded him of his parents, and also the only thing he really needed to use everyday. The exercise helped him clear his mind from all the troubles and stress he had to deal with; specially since he had decided not to tell his aunt about it. Ada didn’t deserve trouble and he would protect her from her motherhood responsibilities at all costs. He was more than capable to hold on ‘till he was able to leave Hell and find a place in a prestigious college. Then he could have a good job and return the favor, taking care of her.
He took a deep breath and put his glasses away on the desk before grabbing the first ribbon and began to climb it, using the strength in his arms to pull his whole body up at a certain height from the ground.
Outside, the clouds in the sky had covered already the whole city with a dark and bluish tone, turning dark the atmosphere in the room. Drops started to fall from the sky, tapping on the roof and against the windows; and Alex tangled his leg with one of the ribbons to let his body hang upside-down while holding it right there, breathing with his arms open and all his strength focused on the legs, rotating with the swinging movement of the silks.
The sweet music of the rain surrounded him and he closed his eyes, still breathing slowly. In his mind, thoughts began to cross from one side to another, and then, as gently as a ghost, one of them became clearer; a memory he cherished…
“Pay attention, Alexander.” Kondrat Jedynak climbed the ribbon with his bare hands full of scars while his little son was watching from near. The man tangled one of his legs with the tissue several times and suddenly let his upper body go down to hang in a pose that the kid saw as magical. “Tadaa!”
“Wow! I wanna do that!” Little Alexander looked at him with admiration. His father was one of the strongest men he knew, and not only physically.
Kondrat had spent his life training; he wanted to travel the world and meet lots of people, and that was the reason he engaged in a by-that-time-famous company called the ‘Firefly Circus’. They did travel a lot, but when his eyes met the one who’d be his lovely wife, he knew he’d stay forever by her side, wherever it was.
“Right, but you have to study now.” Rúna Norling came to them with a book in her hands.
“No ’mama‘” she replied, gently but firmly. “You have to learn a lot to have a good future someday.”
“But I wanna be an acrobat like you two!”
Kondrat and Rúna shared a glance and the first one smirked, shrugging his shoulders. She sighed and smiled at her son with absolute tenderness while bending down to his height level.
“I know, honey, but it’s always better to have some… alternatives. The circus’ life is really hard, you know? Not everybody can live without a stable home...”
“Well, I can” the kid replied, giving her a passionate and enthusiast gaze. “And I will! I’ll work harder and become the best acrobat in the world!” He opened his arms in a triumphal pose. “And everybody will come to the circus to see me!”
“Alexander…” She shook her head with a new smile and hug him tight, giving up on trying to change his ideas.
“I’ll do it, mama.” He insisted.
“I know, darling, I know.” She squeezed him in her arms with all the motherly love she had inside. “You’ll go very far and I’m already very proud of you.”
Kondrat joined them in a family reunion and the memory faded away, replaced by another one, five years later.
The little boy had become a teenager, quietly sitting on the edge of a trunk full of childhood memories, letting silent tears fall down his cheeks while looking at the wandering marquee that had been his home all those years.
Ada approached him, dressed up in a black dress and sad look on her face.
“It’s time to go, Alexander.”
He sniffled and dried his tears with the side of his sleeve before getting up. Ada took him in her arms with a broken voice.
“You have to be strong, honey. It’s gonna be alright. I’m here.” She helped him take the trunk and they started to walk away from the circus, but Alexander had to look back once more before saying goodbye.
“Bye mum…” he muttered to himself, “bye dad…”
The memory faded again and Alexander opened his eyes to find his body upside down, sweating and breathing fast. He quickly untied himself and put his feet back on the ground to stabilize. He spent some minutes lying down on the floor, recovering. Those moments always caught him off-guard, but the worst part was the feelling of solitude and sadness that came right after.
He closed his eyes once more, trying harder not to let his tears run down, but acting strong wasn’t always successful, and that afternoon he really felt brokenhearted; much more than any other day… for it would soon be the anniversary of the tragical day… his parents’ death.
The diabolo inside the room rolled up the wall and got out by the same tower window it had entered. Jester called it back, waiting on top of a leafy tree to protect himself from the rain, and smirked. It had been easy to look into the kid’s mind but… who would have thought that he had so much to deal with? Life was so full of surprises sometimes. But that was the best chance he could ever get: a blue boy, disgusted with life, with nothing else than sorrow and hate… and much potential. That’s what he was looking for.
It was night already when Alexander finished eating his dinner with his aunt. The conversation had gone as usual, meaning nothing special to tell even if she had tried to use several subjects in the process. The boy was always calm and quiet… although he never refused a good dessert. Maybe that was the happiest little moment in his routine.
He helped her clean the dishes as he used to and took care of the rubbish as an extra.
“I’ll take it out now” he said, walking to the door with the bag.
“Alright, but watch out for the puddles. It was a downpour this afternoon”.
He closed the door behind him and walked to the bins while avoiding some water along the way. The street was deserted and dark despite the few lampposts. There wasn’t any sign of the previous clouds or breeze, which made the atmosphere strangely quiet. Maybe too much.
Alexander looked around with a weird feeling… like someone was watching from the shadows; so he threw the bag into the container and turned back right away. However his feet stopped when a man appeared out of nowhere, silent as a ghost and dressed in funny clothes that reminded him of the Victorian era.
“Good evening, young man.”
“Wow!” The boy flinched. “W-wha…?!”
“Did I scare you? I’m sorry.” Jester touched his hat to carry the apology and smiled. Alexander stood at a prudential distance, mistrustful; and as the seconds went by without a word, the magician decided to try beginning a conversation. “I was just passing by the neighbourhood and saw that beautiful house you came from. I really like the façade.”
The boy frowned. So he had been spying on him indeed! He felt a shiver down his spine and decided it was time to leave. And fast!
“Excuse me…” he said in a low voice. “I gotta go. Good night, sir.”
Jester kept his smile as the teen turned and walked away. And just a few meters later, he raised his voice. “Your world won’t change until you decide to do it, Alexander.”
This one stopped in his tracks and turned around again, surprised.