She had mood ring eyes. They were always a swirl, a gradient of all possibilities of one color, but that color changed, from blue to green to brown to grey and back to blue again. They were wide, anxious, worn-out eyes, and when she cried the tears flooded the color and made it come alive with their dewy distortion
. The puddle magnified and mystified its backdrop, and each tear left her eye, it seemed, with a tinge of regret for racing away from such unsolved mystery.
But the tears did leave and skirt down her skin, and as they did so they found even more mystery. The transparent drops turned a fleshy yellow when they touched the dip under her eyes, but then vivid green on her cheekbones, a tired red down her chin, electric blue for her neck. Fingers of burning orange shoved the tears off her face; silver lips sealed themselves against the salt.
Come an see the Devils Eve! the large man shouted into the fog. Child o Satan, left formless by God an soiled by evil, canvas for the whims of ol Lucifer hisself! Come one, come all, lay yer eyes on a bit o Hell on earth. Look, but don touch.
The girl sat crouched off to one side of her cage, her bare feet flexing in the piled hay. Her eyes were fixed on the two fists that gripped the thick metal bars inches from her face. The fists belonged to a man, youthful and sturdy with a shadow of stubble on his chin, sweat in his hair and veins raised from his arms. Righteous anger radiated from his inflamed cheeks; he burned with it.
What should happen next he played over and over again in his head: he would suddenly spin and punch the cruel announcer square in the jaw and watch him fall, rip the key-ring from his belt and steal the girl from her prison. They would jump down the steps leading up to the cage entrance and trample the stunned carneys body, then the man would take the girls strange, colored hand in his and start running. The crowd of guests and the lion-tamer and Strong Man would point and shout and take up the chase, but by that time they would be in safety, and she in his arms.
A shove from the visitors behind him and the man was back to reality.
I could get you away from here. His voice quivered with the power of his words.
Her eyes remained locked on his fists, on her bars. He tried again. We could take off, down the road and into that carneys truck, then drive away.
Still, she was quiet. His grip on the iron tightened; his arms shook with the force of his hold. Dont you want that?
She didnt answer, so the man stuck his hand through the bars and reached toward her face cautiously, and when she flinched away from his touch, all of humanity was in his voice.
Who did this to you? he whispered, his eyes taking in her thin body, her grotesque colors, with sympathy and horror. She raised her head slowly and deliberately, locked her teary eyes on his.
Nobody. Her voice was gray.
A different boy stood in the back of the crowd around the freakshow attraction. He heard the announcer laugh and shake sacks of coins, smelled residue of frying grease and stale popcorn in the thick morning fog, saw a man push himself away from the bars and walk towards the exit. More than anything the boy felt the cool sensation of tears slipping away from his eyes and across his face, down the contours of his neck and to the dusty ground. They gathered there at his feet, each self-standing puddles of watery mud, like empathetic raindrops.
He stood at that same spot as morning morphed into afternoon, and afternoon into twilight. The announcer wiped the jests off his face and put down his faded megaphone, cursing and yelling at the carneys to pack up and call it a night. The remaining crowd dispersed; the grounds bustled with men folding tents and counting profits.
The boy found himself moving forward through the chaos, past the occupied men and up to the bars of the girls cage. Instead of crouching on her knees with wide, frightened eyes, the colored girl sat with her back to the bars, knees folded in her arms.
The boy stumbled on his own feet and slammed into the cage with a clang.
Instead of jumping, the girl slowly lifted her head and turned around in her corner. She looked up at him, her eyes a dizzying green that matched the slope of her shoulders and bend of her elbows.
still crying, the boy said, and she nodded. He couldnt help but notice how their tears followed the same path: down the side of their noses, around their lips and off their jaw lines.
he didnt know how to start. Some things were obvious, like the promises made by countless others and the harshness in her eyes when she told them they were wrong, and the way her black hair made the colors on her skin all the more bright and beautiful. I cant fight off those men, or run fast or hide you from everyone whod be looking. He stopped and watched the men laugh and catch full bottles thrown to them from a trailer. But you--
She reached her hand between the bars and grabbed his arm so he would stop, then pointed to the corner of the cell. He bent down and squinted at the bars. At about knee-level he found a handle with a keyhole, and a small metal key sticking out at a crooked angle. The boy laughed and turned the key, swinging the gate open and moving as the girl climbed through and out.
She stood up straight and turned her head around, but as she did so she found herself face-to-face with the announcer, half-eaten hot dog in one hand and brandy bottle in the other.
Where do ya think youre going, missy? He laughed and grabbed her wrist. Back in yer cage, sweetart. She yanked and twisted her arm wildly and spat in his greasy face.
He cursed and threw the girl to the ground, taking a swig of brandy before dumping what was left on her matted black hair. Sweetart, sweetart, you never learn, do ya? You have nowhere to go, freak. I aint lyin when I say--
The man stood, bewildered, and stared at the scrawny boy who had just punched him in the face. He blinked, staggered, and brought his hand to his mouth, wiping away the little stream of blood that was running down his chin.
The girl put her silver hand in the boys and they walked around the carney, past the half-assembled tents and the silent lion-tamer and Strong Man. The wind blew the fog through the cold night air; the gravel crunched under their feet.
So, the boy spoke as they passed through the gates. Eve?
Aurora she said and smiled, her eyes a quiet blue that matched the edges of night.