S&C 24THE VIP TICKETS for the Circus of Lost and Found’s Grand Finale were as spectacular in and of themselves as one would hope. As she waited for the sunset and for Youssef, Florencia turned hers over in her hand, studying the minute and painstakingly detailed images on the back that formed a graphic border: tarot cards, unicycles, acrobats, drums, soaring trapeze artists, and an inexplicable flock of pelicans. On the front, in large, ornate letters whose printed sheen caught the light of the setting sun in flashes of red, Florencia’s name was emblazoned, with Iris’s just below. Jenna’s had been the same, both of the VIP tickets waiting for them by name, even though no one at the circus should have known what those names were.

Florencia was vaguely indifferent to the whole thing. She probably would have passed it over entirely if not for Iris. It wasn’t that she didn’t like circuses; she found them a certain kind of pleasant and dreamy, the kind that allowed her to sit and marvel at the magnificence of the human body and imagination. It was just that it seemed an awful lot of fuss for something so fleeting. She couldn’t imagine the time and effort that went into these tickets alone, time and effort that perhaps could have been turned toward something else. Still, she had to admit the tickets were lovely, and the big top by the pier made Iris squeal with joy.

She glanced up to check on the position of the sun. It never failed to amaze her how the turning of the Earth, usually so indiscernible, became visible at this time of day. You could actually see the ocean gobble up the sun. And the speed! No matter how slow and lazy the day had felt, those last ten minutes leading up to sunset were a race, a mad panic, the world suddenly eager and ambitious. Florencia had missed, by mere moments, seeing the actual moment of sunset enough times to learn that those last ten minutes, you didn’t look away.

The day had been excessively windy and the sand rippled with tiny, ridged dunes like a miniature desert. Whitecaps dotted the sea. It was funny how April was colder than January here; Florencia tucked the ticket under her arm so she could re-wrap her scarf around her neck and pull on her lightweight gloves.

“Hey there,” said Youssef, plopping down next to her and sticking his legs straight out in front of him. Florencia kept her eyes on the sun—now at the horizon, it was oozing out to the sides like golden taffy. It did that sometimes, although she wasn’t sure why. In her peripheral vision she could see Youssef’s legs, his suit today a dark, rich blue, almost black in the setting sun. He waited patiently as the sun slid below the horizon, the Earth spinning away, away, away. Florencia blinked the spots out of her eyes.

“That was a good one,” said Youssef.

After two months of sunsets, how was it possible that each one was as different and unique as the day itself?

“They’re all good ones,” Florencia replied. Youssef’s shirt was white-on-white stripes, his tie subdued orange. As usual, he was far more colorful than she had ever imagined lawyers to be. She shifted slightly on the bench to relive a sharp pain in the back of her leg, which had been bothering her lately, an apparently common side effect of pregnancy.

“What you got there?” asked Youssef, pointing at the ticket in her hand.

She held it so he could read.

Florenicia Lia Morrican
Iris Belan Morrican

The Circus of Lost and Found
Requests the Pleasure of Your Company
for our
Grand Finale Performance 

8 PM Prompt
No Latecomers Admitted

“Who’s Iris?” asked Youssef.

“My daughter.” Florencia smoothed out the ticket on her leg.

“Oh,” said Youssef. He seemed taken aback. “How old is she?”

 Florencia felt the smile twitching her lips as she counted backward in her head. “She’s about minus twenty-one weeks.”

Youssef raised an eyebrow. “That seems too young to properly enjoy a circus.”

Florencia let go a delighted, sharp laugh.

“Your unborn baby get invited places a lot?”

“This is the first time,” said Florencia. Inside of her, Iris did a teeny step-kick. “She seems excited about it.”

 She wanted to ask Youssef if he could join them—it would simply be more fun if he were there—but she was’t sure what they were doing, exactly. She didn’t think he expected anything romantic from her; after all he was beautiful, ridiculously beautiful, and she was just, well, herself. But she also knew that with these things it was best to be clear from the start. She opened her mouth to say something, then closed it again. She felt strangely uncertain.

Youssef let out a low whistle. “Check out that sky,” he said.

The clouds above the ocean had turned a vivid, vibrant red. It settled over Florencia like a favorite song.

“Why don’t you come with us to the circus,” she said.

As quickly as it had appeared, the red in the sky shifted to gray.

“I’ll see what I can do,” Youssef answered.

previous installment                                                                                                                                                                                                    next installment

 Have Tales of Sea & Circus sent right to your inbox every Thursday.