What the heck had happened? Why had he acted like that?
Alexander wasn’t stupid, he knew well about hormones and the effect that a girl’s stare could have on someone like him. It had been a while since he entered “that age", the moment when youngsters interact with others to meet the pre-secrets of maturity. To be honest, during his childhood, he even liked one or two little girls that were living in the circus by the time, before his parents…
He gulped and sat on the bed when he realized the truth. Hormones might not be the cause after all.
He had become very nervous around Bibiana, yes; but thinking about it, it was his own fault: the fact that he couldn’t interact normally with other people. He had never been one to open up to others, even as a child; but that brat… she had opened a path he wasn’t ready for. What’s more, she was totally crazy. Who in their right mind would be even a slightly bit interested in those silly tales that were as old as Methuselah? From 1965, to be precise. The stories told were dumb and childish. Nothing to do with today’s fiction, so the book hadn’t made it to the top.
However, for Alexander, that book had a great sentimental value because it remained one of the fewer belongings he still kept from his life at the circus. And the inscription, precisely, was from his dad. The book was part of a small collection that Kondrat liked to call his “portable library" and he had offered it to his son on his birthday, just a few months before he died. Alexander had carried it with him ever since and had made it one of his most precious possessions; the other one was the silk ribbons that belonged to his mum.
For some reason, Bibiana had pulled a string she wasn’t supposed to. Wanting to know the story and buying the book only to understand why it was that important to him confused the boy.
Nobody tried to approach him if it wasn’t to insult him, that’s why he was always on the defensive. And that was also the reason why he had run away, because he felt a breach on the wall he had spent so much time and effort to build.
He couldn’t blame his instinct for survival; it was most effective. Whether nobody got close to him, he wouldn’t get hurt… even less if some of those people would probably die before him. He didn’t want to feel the same emptiness his parents had left in him; nor he wanted to grow fond of somebody and lose them in the end. The only one allowed to fill the gap in his heart was Ada, and he was well aware of how much he would suffer if she passed away too. Was taking the risk even worth it?
His eyes inevitably looked at the book on his nightstand. He had left it there just in case, to avoid another of the surreal situations he had gone through with the green-eyed thief with light-brown hair.
He grabbed it and took a look at the inscription in Kondrat’s handwriting. The message echoed against the walls in his conscience and he sighed.
“What would you do… dad?”
Someone knocked at the door and waited for a “come in” to open it. The thin and beaming silhouette of Adelaide Jedynak entered the room. She was carrying a tray full of milk and cookies.
“I know you don’t want to eat much before training, but I have the feeling that you need an extra today”.
Alexander had told her a thousand times that milk and cookies were for kids, but he had to admit it was one of the few things that actually helped him feel better when he was down.
Ada sat down on the bottom of the bed and left the tray aside.
“You climbed too fast to your room so I assumed there must be something interesting going on. Is there?”.
He smiled and shook his head. His aunt knew him well, even though they hadn’t spent many years under the same roof. He didn’t feel comfortable about telling her what was going down and he had never been good at chit-chatting. However… a part of him was willing to do it for once. Especially since a certain date was approaching; an every-year occasion when his demons came back to make him cry.
He breathed deeply in front of the woman and decided to open up a bit, trying to forget that last part.
“It’s just that… lately, there’s someone who… comes close to me”.
“An admirer?” She grinned and her nephew gave her a twisted smile.
“And why not? We Jedynaks always sweep the nation. When I was your age I had a lot of suitors”. Her expression softened a bit. “And… so did your father. To be honest, when I look at you… I see him. You’re so alike…”.
Alexander lowered his eyes in sadness.
“The anniversary will be soon… again”. His stare filled with consternation. “It comes every year… and every year I feel that I want to go with them”.
Ada realised she shouldn't have mentioned that, so she changed the subject.
“You still have a lot to do in this world, honey, so stop thinking and tell me about that person you were talking of before. Who is it? ¿One of your classmates?”
Alexander was glad about the change in the conversation, so he focused on recalling the incident with the one responsible for his previous and sudden stress.
“Yeah, well… only in core subjects. Her name’s… Bibiana” he remembered, “and she’s a… real pest”.
His aunt raised an eyebrow.
“You shouldn’t badmouth a friend”.
“She’s no friend; she’s… we just meet in some classes, that’s all” he stated, trying to find the right words. “Thing is she has it in for me”.
“Why? What did she do to you?”
For some reason, he avoided telling her about the adventure for recovering the book and realized that, leaving that out, Bibiana had done nothing else against him.
“Well…” Oh, wait! There was something. “She’s obsessed with the idea of taking me to a stupid Halloween party in our high school next friday and she insists all the time”. Even though that last part wasn’t exactly true, he needed it to add some drama.
“What do you mean ‘so’? I told her a thousand times that I’m not going and she doesn’t leave me alone. She’s a real pain in the…”
“Sweetie” she interrupted, “by any chance, do you have better plans for a friday night than going to a party?”
Now, it was Alexander who blinked and shook his head.
“You’re joking… right?”
“I’m not saying that staying home and reading books isn’t fun, but… if I had to choose, I’d rather pick other options, you know. Especially if I had someone to go with. There’s always time to rest, Alex. You should enjoy your youth instead”.
He folded his arms.
“If by ‘enjoying’ you mean smoking, drinking ‘till you pass out or going deaf because of a disco’s loudspeakers, we don’t share the same meaning, Ada”.
She stared at him with a twisted smile.
“Sometimes you sound older than I am, kiddo”.
“Things were different in your days” he replied.
“In my days everything was the same” she argued. “There were those who died from dependency and those who enjoyed their time without corrupting their health. The world has always been like this, no matter what time you come from. There will always be people who can’t control themselves and others who don’t need to show they’re having fun. And you’re my nephew, honey; you’re smart enough to find the right people and don’t let yourself be dragged into things that aren’t good for you, but I have to admit that, sometimes, I’d like you to have other interests than your career”. He looked away, upset, and Ada squeezed his shoulder gently. “I know you promised your mother that you’d go far in life. And you will; I know you will, but you must know that you’re young only once and time doesn’t wait for anybody. If you grow up too fast, you’ll regret it someday; believe me. Lots of things will be left behind when you become an adult and, if you don’t live them now, you’ll lose your chance forever”.
Alexander let go of her grip and turned his back on her. That’s how he used to tell her he didn’t want to keep on talking and she got the message perfectly. Letting out a sigh, she stood up from the bed.
“Oh well, sweetheart; you decide what you want to do. Just drink the milk before it gets cold. I’ll call you when dinner’s ready”. After that, she left the room and shut the door.
Alexander hated to finish his conversations with Ada like that, but he refused to listen to any more complaints about his modus vivendi. It’s true that his aunt wasn’t completely wrong… in fact, she might be right about enjoying youth, but Alexander had no friends to share his hobbies with. And no, it wasn’t only the books. In secret, he liked playing RPGs online when nobody knew it was him. There was even a time when he thought about joining some team sports, just to try them out… but everything was left behind when he realised that nobody would accept him the way he was. Why try to fit it? He’d already earned the ‘freak’ title just some days after his arrival in high school and nobody had tried to give him a chance. Nobody… except, maybe, for Bibiana. But… why? What did she really want from him? It was so suspicious that she suddenly tried to get close to him…
He unwittingly touched his belt and noticed the whip, tied to his waist. He then remembered her words about Jongleur: He’s not that hot.
It was so curious that… instead of wanting to know more about the assumed new hero… she'd rather spent her time with the freak in their high school. But why? He took his hands to the head with a groan and sat down by the window to calm down. Ada was right: he was thinking too much.
Rain fell from the sky and dampened the windows again. Somebody might be crying up there…
After the rain, the streets gleamed with dew drops that twinkled in the sunlight of a new day. Jester stretched for a zillionth time. It’s been days resting to recover some strength and he was bored to death. However, he couldn’t tempt fate in his condition. He had to be in shape for his next move, which he should put to use sooner or later.
Observing the show of dawn over the city, he was surprised to realise that he enjoyed seeing the world before his eyes. It was nothing compared to Circussa… but it was beautiful, maybe as much as the magical mornings he used to contemplate with…
He groaned when the first signs of a headache endangered his peace and breathed deeply before putting his thoughts aside; thoughts that would make him remember things… he wasn’t supposed to.
He stood up, ready to get some breakfast and descended to the street so quietly and agile as a cat.
The human shops known as bakeries or patisseries were always the first to open; and there were so many around town that it was nearly impossible to walk from street to street without passing by one. However, the usual cakes and pastries had been replaced not long ago by others in different shapes, like silhouettes with pointy hats, characters that looked slightly similar to wind pixies, just like Pipoh, or even black felines. What’s more, everything was decorated with carved pumpkins that seemed to cry in agony or laugh wickedly. An horrific change of which meaning was unknown to him but, all in all, it felt familiar.
Those devilish faces looked like they had been taken out from an old tradition existing in Jester’s world; the one that told families to go into the forest in search of a dead or very old tree. The tradition consisted in cutting down that tree or uprooting it, if they found it, then using the spot to plant as many seeds as members the family had. The remains of the old tree would be used as firewood or turned into figures that the children would decorate and leave on the doors and windows of their houses during the winter equinox to scare away bad luck. At the same time, the seeds planted would be taken care of by the owners until becoming adult trees, and these would provide the family with the fruit they would share at dinner on the equinox’s eve, when the forest would lose its leaves until springtime.
Jester smiled when recalling the time he used to enjoy such a ritual with his kind… and quickly forced his mind to forget it. None of that mattered anymore.
He stopped before a window display and waited for a lonely woman to come by so he could use his powers and make her buy some of those extraordinarily delicious cookies and something hot to recover the vigor in his body.
Thanks to the lacking resistance of the lady, he also snooped into her thoughts and discovered that those decoration changes were meant for a holiday called ‘All Hallows Eve’ or, in a modern way, ‘Halloween’.
Aware that it was still too soon to conjure up another nightmare against Majorette, he decided to use all that dead time to learn more about such a peculiar occasion. It might inspire him when the right time came.