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Hani

Cirque de Mensonges

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The thundering applause didn't reach Ezra's ears as he held his arms high above his head extended outwards. All he heard - all he felt was the roar of his aching muscles. It was as if weights had been chained to his arms and legs, weighing him down, but it was actually the lack of rest. Being a new addition to the circus, the Fae wanted him to practice his act until there wasn't a single flaw. That meant that he would spend practically everyday working out, practicing, and doing chores. There was no time for breaks, at least for him there weren't. 

He clasped his hands behind his back before taking a deep bow, he held it for a couple of seconds, then stood straight. Forcing a smile to appear on his lips, Ezra turned on his heel and exited the ring. The second he made it behind the tarp, his shoulder hunched inwards while he rested his hands atop his knees trying to catch his breath. He squeezed his eyes shut, and recalled the day he had accepted to be part of this. They had promised him a better life, a better home, a purpose. If he had known that this would be the result, he would have instantly refused to join. Now he was stuck in this circus until the contract expired, which wouldn't be for a long, long time. 

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The applause was deafening, but it was always fucking deafening…ain’t it? Belfast. London. Chicago. St. Petersburg. It didn’t matter. The applause was always the same.

Deafening.

Maddeningly so.

Harrison slid off the splintering barrel, an unlit clove cigarette pinched between badly chapped lips. He approached Ezra as he fished for a book of matches. “The applause is louder tonight.” The match reluctantly lit. “I guess that means you did something right, don’t it?” He lit the cigarette carefully, thick, pungent gray smoke drifting towards Ezra as he questioned him.

The question was a rhetorical one, meant only to goad or annoy.

“Leave him alone, Harrison.”

“Or what, Cora? Gonna read me a bad fortune?” The instigator wiggled the fingers of his free hand in Coralie’s direction. Smirking as her full, pink lips pouted into a frown. “Ezra knows I’m just shitting with him, Cora! Once we have an even newer member, I may even leave him alone.” He clapped Ezra on the back as he spoke, passing him the cigarette as if it were a peace offering. “It’s all in good fun.”

“Good fun my ass, Harrison Mcnabb.” Cora plucked the cigarette from between his dirty fingers. “Go be useful somewhere else.” Her order was punctuated with smoke and the jerk of her head in the opposite direction. Once Harrison had stocked off, the young woman turned her full attention to the exhausted looking Ezra. “Can I get you anything, Ezra?” Her voice was slick with concern.

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The second that irritating voice met his ears, Ezra furrowed his brows, and the corner of his lips tilted downward into a frown. Harrison. Of course his life had to continuously take turns for the worst. 

“Listen, Harri-“ Ezra started after he stood up, but never got the opportunity to finish when Coralie, thankfully, intervened Harrison’s goading. This male had been a pain in the ass since the day he joined this damned circus. At first, he would brush it off, but he was exhausted now and his tolerance was dangerously low. 

The unexpected clap on the back only pushed the male closer to the edge, but he willed himself to remain calm. He wasn’t sure how the Fae would react if he fought another member of the circus, and he did not feel like testing their patience. 

“Getting him to leave me alone was enough. Thank you, Cora.” Ezra offered the fortune teller a smile, but it was quick to fade. “How’s your night been? Busy?” Looking at the young woman before him, Ezra wondered if she had been reeled in with all those false promises - those lies - like he had. The Fae were very good at hiding the truth, so no doubt she had been.

 

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Cora took one final drag of the cigarette, putting it out on the back of her wrist without a second thought. The burning was almost pleasant. “Tonight?” She sank against one of the beams. “Rough. People were really unhappy with what I was telling them tonight. They kept accusing me of making things up, but I would never do that!” Her voice made it seems as if she were begging Ezra to believe her.

“Here,” she held out a dainty, shaking hand. “I’ll take you back to my lodgings so you can rest for a bit. I’ll make us tea before we have to get out and tear down the tent.” Tearing down the tent was the least of her worries.

The least of their worries, really.

The young woman’s lodgings looked like an old, colorful Gypsy wagon, rather fitting for a fortuneteller and “future” seer. The inside was warmly decorated. Vibrant pillows littering the floor. Tapestry hanging from the wooden walls. A chandelier of incense dripping fragrant, blue smoke. Her bed was off to the side, hiding behind a mess of thick cream-colored curtains. “Make yourself comfortable while I start the tea!” Once he was comfortable, she began questioning him. “How have you enjoyed your time with us so far?”

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"They probably reacted that way because they didn't like what you would say." Ezra reasoned, trying to make Cora feel a bit better.

Ezra noted the way her hand trembled when she held it out to him, but he firmly took it nonetheless.

Once they arrived to Cora's abode, Ezra momentarily paused at the entrance to take in the vibrant colors of the pillows, the blueish smoke from the chandelier, and the tapestry hanging from the walls. It wasn't a sight he was accustom to seeing, but it fit with the circus. He stepped further in, and at her permission to get comfortable, Ezra glanced around and decided to sit on the floor with the pillows. A grunt escaped his lips as he bent down to take a seat, but once he was resting against the pillows he felt his muscles slowly relax. When was the last time he was able to sit down like this? In reality it hadn't been that long, but because he was constantly bustling about trying to please the Fae, well it felt like lifetimes ago. 

"It's not what I was expecting." He murmured as he watched her from his spot. "I...I didn't think it would be so much work. They promised me something completely different." 

The male was physically drained. It seemed impossible to him to get up again, but he knew he would have to. The Fae didn't like them being idle and wasting time. 

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She shrugged at his answer, trying her damnedest not to seem indifferent to his pain. “It’s not what any of us expected.” Least of all me. “Illiana promised us all what we wanted the most. Harrison, a family that gave a damn. Katie, her freedom. Allan, the use of his legs. Me,” Cora paused as she padded over to Ezra with the piping hot tea, though she had no intention of finishing that sentence. “What did she offer you?” She has asked a dangerous question, but she needed…wanted…to know. The more she knew, the more likely she would be able to help

The Gypsy settled in beside him, tucking her feet under her ass as she poured their tea.  “It’s ginger tea with eucommia bark. It’ll help soothe your aching muscles.” Or at least that’s what she had been told by the elderly Chinese man that sold her the bark. Cora wasn’t sure if she believed him or not. “Sorry I ask so many questions, it’s just unusual to see a new face around here.” When was the last time someone had joined the circus? Thirty years? Shit. Forty? Everything was seeming to blur together.

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It was evident to Ezra, as Cora listed off some of the other members and what they were promised, that the Fae built their circus with lies, and false promises. When she ended the list with herself, the male waited for her to voice out what she was promised to receive, but she never finished the sentence. It made Ezra even more curious than he already was, but if she wasn't mentioning it then surely there was a reasoning behind it. 

Upon her question, Ezra was quick to look away from Coralie as she made her way to settle besides him with the tea. "It's okay." He murmured after a few seconds, and finally moved his hazel colored eyes to meet hers. "I was seeking a sense of purpose," Ezra admitted, but there was one detail he left out. He already felt foolish for falling into this enslavement just because a couple of well used words struck a cord within him, he didn't need for her to know what else had wanted. "Illiana promised me that." He looked to the tea, and held it in his hands. "Thank you." His words were genuine and held a lot of gratitude. He brought the cup to his lips, blew at the surface for a seconds, then took a sip. "What did she promise you?" he questioned quietly as he set the tea back down. "I told you mine, I think it's your turn now."

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What did she promise you? What a question.

“Don’t get too excited with what I’m about to do, okay?” Normally the corner of her full lips would have started to violently twitch as they began curling into a smile, but there were no hints of one tonight. Not with what she was about to show him. “Hold my tea.” As she spoke she passed him the delicate teacup and allowed her Gypsy shawl to slip from rigid shoulders; then, she slowly removed her yellow, cotton dress before neatly folding it and placing it on her lap.

Cora was shaking once again, but this time it was simply because she was cold.

She refused to look at Ezra, straightening her spine so that he could get a better look at the wicked scar that ran across her abdomen. It was ugly. Disgusting. Painfully so. “I was promised,” her eyes flicked back to Ezra. “Life. That I would survive the night my jealous husband tried to, well, murder me.” What else was there to say? Samuel had been jealous for good reasons, but should he have tried to murder her? “That was years ago, though. I don’t think about it much.”

Only when I’m asleep.

 

 

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Confused, Ezra took hold of her tea, and was momentarily taken aback as she began to remove her dress. She was removing the fabric at such a slow pace that it took everything in Ezra to keep his gaze from straying to places that it shouldn't be; however, once she straightened her spine he looked down. The scar running along her abdomen was an unexpected sight, and Ezra struggled to find the right words to say. 

If she was still here to reveal such a scar, then surely the Fae had actually kept one promise. "They helped you live?" He questioned, his voice low in volume as he finally peeled his gaze away from the healed wound that marred her otherwise smooth skin, and met her gaze. "What happened to your husband?" 

Ezra was aware that perhaps this was a subject Cora did not want to dwell on, and he did not want to push her. He did not want to force her to remember things she did not want to. "I...I'm sorry, this is probably something you don't wanna talk about. If I would have known, I wouldn't have asked." Setting down her tea, Ezra glanced around and took the stray blanket balled up next to the pillows. He slightly struggled but managed to rise to his knees, before unfurling the blanket and placing it around her petite shoulders. "I'm sorry the price was to be a part of this, but you're still here. Alive." He wanted to know just how long was her contract. Was it close to ending, or was it years away? If not, was there a way for her to gain her freedom? She got the opportunity to keep on living, but she was chained to this place. Ezra took in a deep breath and gave her shoulder a gentle squeeze. 

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She pressed her cheek to his cold fingers, thankful for his comfort and company. He was the first person she had told in ages about her husband. Hell, he was the first person in forever to see her scar and not take pity on her. “Jason?” She shrugged. “I’m not really sure what happened to him, though I would have to assume he drank himself to death. At least that’s what I always hoped.” Cora hated lying to Ezra, but she saw no point in telling him the truth. What good would it do to tell him out of the two, she was the only one that had successfully murdered someone?

“Cora!”

It was Harrison.

The fortuneteller stiffened, “What is it, Harri?”

“Time for the fights! I want my best girl to be watching me from the sidelines.

“We both know I’m not your girl, Harri, but Ezra and I will be there.” She wasn’t sure why she had pulled Ezra into the mix, but it was too late to take anything back.

 

 

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The possibility of her husband being alive didn't settle well with Ezra. The fact that he tried murder her just showed how much of a danger he posed. 

Before he could say anything, Ezra heard Harrison's voice resound from the entrance of the wagon, and Cora tensed under his hand. 

"The fights?" Ezra repeated as he glanced down to Cora with furrowed brows. The little time he had been in the circus Ezra hadn't heard of such of event. Heck, no one had even bothered to mention them. He made sure the blanket was well around her shoulders before resuming his seat besides her, and he lived the teacup up to his lips. The warmth of the liquid caused for a low hum to leave his lips. 

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