The Summer's day was bleak, humid and grey, as the weather had been for the past week. It would rain soon. I sighed and shoved my hands into my pockets, walking down the streets. It was a dull afternoon and the people of France had obviously decided to keep indoors instead of melting in the sweltering heat.
The heat didn't bother me. It never did.
I sighed as I turned the corner, nearing closer to my trailer. I just wanted to get back inside and have a good long drink. It was the only thing on my mind and it was going to stay that way for a very long time.
I glanced up, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a small figure in the gutter. I froze and widened my eyes, trying to get a better look. It was a boy, hugging his knees tightly, and sobbing. Sobbing wildly with his whole face red and blotchy from the tears. He raised his small head and stared at me with huge glistening eyes with a small spark of hope in his face.
I panicked in my mind. Shit. So he was looking at me. Do I stop? Do I ignore him and continue on? Jesus fuck, children.
The boy looked back down and wiped his mouth with the end of his sleeve. Something dripped from his mouth and as I walked closer, I realised with horror that it was blood. I wanted to keep on walking. I wanted to walk right by him. But I didn't.
I kneeled down beside him and brought out a handkerchief from one of my pockets, "Hey kid," I said softly, handing him the handkerchief, "You okay?"
He nodded, "Y-yes, Monsieur," his bottom lip quavered, and I helped him wipe his bloody face.
"How'd you get the cuts?" I asked softly.
He winced, "My father," he replied quietly, "He kept on hitting me and..." a tear rolled down his face but he wiped it away quickly, "And I got scared and I had to get away and now..." he coughed, his voice quavering too much for him to continue.
I sighed. Either his father was abusive in general, or he was drunk. I sat down next to the boy, "What's your name, kid?"
"C-Cedric Chevallier," he said, sniffing.
"Cedric..." I tested his name then nodded, "I'm the Ringmaster."
"Is that your real name?"
I paused then nodded, "Yes."
Cedric shivered and hugged his knees again, "Monsieur...?"
He gulped, "Can... Can I come home with you?" he glanced away, "Please."
I raised an eyebrow in alarm, "Well that would be..."
"Please," he begged, "I can't go back home, I can't," he began to cry again. I couldn't let him cry. I couldn't.
"Fine," I sighed, standing up, "Come on," I said, and he stood up. I started to walk down the streets and he followed, walking just behind me, "I don't have a house though, so you'll have to make do with what I've got."
"You're homeless?" he frowned.
"No," I said sharply, "I just live in a trailer. That's all. Which is connected to a caravan. There's a reason I'm called the Ringmaster, kid."
"I own a sideshow," I said, "And we travel around the world."
"But that means you'll have to leave again..." he said quietly as I approached the trailer door. I opened it and let him inside. Did it even bother him that it was bigger on the inside? No. He didn't even notice.
I guided him to my armchair and he sat down on it while I rummaged through my cabinet, grabbing a small vial with a liquid inside the colour of honey and a swab. I kneeled down next to him and inspected his hand, "It's not broken," I said finally, "But it's twisted, and there's a deep cut near your vein, but I can heal it easily enough. It might sting a little," I poured the liquid onto the swab and held his arm, wiping it onto the cut tenderly. Cedric tensed and bit on his lip.
When he thought I was done, when I put down the swab, I grabbed his wrist suddenly and clicked it back into place. He yelped and groaned, but I held onto his arm tightly so he couldn't move it, and wrapped the bandage around him, "Sorry."
"What was that for?!"
"Well," I said impatiently, "If I told you I had to do that you wouldn't let me."
He sighed, "Yes."
"My point exactly," I said, disposing of the swab and putting away the vial again. I bit on my lip awkwardly. What was I supposed to do with children?
I glanced around, "Cedric, when do you want me to take you back home?"
Like a sudden reflex, he pushed himself against the back of the chair, "I'm not going back home!" he yelped, "I won't, I won't, I won't!"
"You have to go back someday," I pointed out.
"No!" he yelled, then cringed and looked down at the floor, "Sorry, Monsieur."
I frowned, "What's your father like?"
Cedric looked up at me and sighed, "Uh, he's always... he's really strict and he never laughs or smiles and he drinks a lot..." he glanced away again.
I winced, "Yeah. Drinking's bad," I muttered darkly, sitting down on my couch.
"And he hits me," Cedric added quietly.
"Doesn't..." I frowned, "Doesn't your mother do anything about it?"
He looked down at the ground sadly and didn't answer.
I frowned, "Uh, Cedric...?"
He gulped, "I don't have a mother."
"Oh... I'm sorry," I rubbed the back of my neck awkwardly, "I didn't know..."
Cedric sniffed and blinked back tears. I stood up and handed him a tissue, for lack of ideas. What was I supposed to do?! He blew his nose into it but it didn't stop the tears forming in his eyes. I frowned, "You... Christ. Cedric, don't cry. Come here, don't cry," I sat down next to him on the chair he was small enough for the both of us to fit easily and held my arms out for him. This was a first.
He buried his face into my chest and started to cry, "Don't cry," I sighed, but he only grabbed the fabric of my coat and sobbed into it hopelessly. I winced and put my arms around him, hugging him awkwardly, "Don't pull on the..." I groaned, "Never mind."
He continued to cry into my chest for a good ten minutes before his sobs eased, "Better?" I asked him gingerly.
Cedric nodded slowly, his head still resting in my chest.
"You can't stay here," I mumbled.
"I can't go back."
"But you can't stay here," I sighed, "You just can't."
He bit on his lip, thinking, "Do you... do you want me to go back home then?"
"No," I shook my head, "Not yet," I stood up and thrust my hands into my pockets then glanced back to Cedric. His bright green eyes were wide and glistening with wet tears.
"Don't do that to me," I groaned, "I can't stand crying kids."
"I'm not crying," he muttered, staring at the ground.
I knelt down next to him and raised his head softly by his chin, "Yes you are," I sighed, wiping the tears with my thumb. I stood up and cracked my knuckles, "You know I don't know what to do, exactly?" I asked him, grabbing my violin. I sat down and tuned it quickly, then began to play a slow song.
Cedric blinked, watching me curiously. I ignored him and kept playing and before I knew it, he was yawning and had fallen asleep. I sighed in relief, putting my violin down. I stood up and patted his head as he curled up into a ball, "Poor kid," I sighed, shaking my head, "He's going to grow up troubled and angry."
I sat down on my couch with a bottle of vodka and drank it down. At least I wasn't the type of drunk that got abusive. No. My type of drunk was an emotional wreck, that's what. I sighed and finished, starting on my second. Just as I was about to start my third the kid started to squirm and whimper in the armchair. I winced and he continued, like he was having a bad dream. I groaned and picked him up, sitting down in the armchair as I held him close. This really wasn't my kind of thing.
His whimpers stopped and I put him back down. And he started again.
"Jesus fuck," I groaned, picking him up once more. I sat down on the couch and the kid turned on my lap, getting comfortable. He grabbed my coat again and snuggled into my chest and I stared in disbelief at him, "Christ!"
I tried various ways to get free. It was a whole hour before I was. I tried getting to sleep as well although it was only five in the afternoon, but that didn't work at all. An hour later, his grip on my coat had loosened and I slowly slipped out from underneath him as subtly as I could, and placed him on the couch in the same position he was on my lap, and then crept out towards the door. He didn't stir and I thanked God, then opened the door and ran.
Jesus. Fucking. Christ.