S&C 21LEELEE WAS BORED.

No, not bored, exactly. More like…restless.

That wasn’t right, either. Restless was something she knew and understood. This was perplexing. She wanted to do something, but she wasn’t sure what. She didn’t want to train. She didn’t want to meditate. She didn’t want to practice reading the tarot or sit on the patio and drink a cappuccino. She thought about trying to find some new gulls who might like her, but she didn’t feel like putting on the protective glove.

She stuck her head into the office.

“Hey,” she called. “Boss man. I’m going for a walk. Taking advantage of the beach while we have it.”

“You don’t have to report to me, you know,” said Gabriel mildly, without turning around. “And please stop calling me that.”

Age had been kind to him. He had weathered into a craggy kind of handsome and, at fifty-three, had a remarkable physique that most people couldn’t even achieve at twenty-five with two working legs. He still performed, but only rarely, preferring instead to mastermind the acts and music that made The Circus of Lost and Found so famous.

He had never fallen in love again.

“Sorry, boss man,” said LeeLee. She pulled her hair back into a long black ponytail, securing it with a length of cloth. “How long are we staying here, anyway?” She was pretty sure she knew the answer. They had all been speculating since they had arrived in Venice with no next dates firmly booked.

“Come look,” Gabriel said, waving her in.

On his cluttered, wooden desk lay a blueprint. LeeLee smiled. Good thing she liked it here.

“A permanent big top?” she asked. “Where?”

“On the pier,” he said. “The city hasn’t approved it yet…”

“…but they will,” finished LeeLee. Gabriel Zicarte—he had dropped Ferreira from his stage name when he had come to America—was famous for three things: the sheer physicality of his performances, his long silences, and his uncanny ability to acquire money and permits and permission as though those granting were under a spell. LeeLee had seen him at work before, and while it was impressive, she thought that he simply had an unusual and natural talent for carrying everyone else along in his vision. If Gabriel Zicarte was excited, you couldn’t help but be excited, too. And if Gabriel Zicarte wanted a permit to build on the pier, Gabriel Zicarte would, eventually, have a permit to build on the pier.

“Why?” she asked, although she thought she knew that, too.

Gabriel shrugged. “More seagulls,” he deadpanned. “Thought you’d be happy.”

LeeLee giggled. She had joined the circus at eighteen, the moment she was legally able to do so without her mother’s permission. Four years later, she couldn’t decide if it was Gabriel or the circus itself that felt like the father she never had.

“What date were those tickets for?” she asked. “The ones for that lady who’s pregnant?”

Gabriel raised his eyebrows, meaning, surely you can figure that out.

“The Grand Finale?” asked LeeLee.

Gabriel turned back to his blueprint, meaning, Yes.

“Wait.” LeeLee frowned. “Why are we having a Grand Finale if we’re not leaving?”

“I meant to talk to you about that.”

The way he said it made LeeLee’s stomach hurt.

“We’re going dark for a while. A few months, I think. Maybe six.”

“Six months?!” LeeLee stared at him. He had to be joking. They had gone dark before, but never for more than a month at a time; two if they had to. It was a life of touring, performing, and training, of making something extraordinary very single day. The days she didn’t work she thought about working, and the weeks she didn’t work tended to blur together into a kind of hazy unreality. What would happen in six months? Her mouth felt like the sawdust they sprinkled on the theater floor. Who would she be if she couldn’t be the fortune teller, the seagull tamer, the fearless?

“Yes,” he said, his tone musing as though just decided. “That will do nicely. Tell the others, would you? Tell them everyone gets paid, no one loses their job, and we reopen in six months.”

Six months. It was like a mantra she never wanted.

“Hey,” said LeeLee, the thought surfacing through her fear. “Isn’t that baby due in about six months? The circus one?”

“Is she?” Gabriel asked, but one corner of his mouth turned up. “How very strange.”

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