Adventure Drama

All my life, I had been performing. For as long as I could remember, balancing on a high, thin wire that dipped with my weight. Gawking, they watched me, grown men and women and tiny children clutching each other, fearing for my safety-

But I wasn’t afraid. 

Grace came naturally to me, in the same way physics fluxed as my mother and her siblings tossed through the air, the way my baby sister twirled long ribbons around small animals. The Circe De Tradicion never changed. Every single performance was indistinguishable, so no matter how many years apart you came to our show, it would feel like nothing had changed in your absence.

I ducked my head, moving down the sidewalk. Cold rain beat against the ground all around me, soaking through my hat. 

A small bell rang as I entered a small shop, stamping the rain from my boots. “Hello?” 

Toppling sounds banged from behind the bar, a muffled “ow!” wincing as a girl stood up. A dark braid fell over her shoulder, contrasting sharply with her creamy golden skin and startlingly gray eyes. “Hello.” She frowned at the few tables scattered around us, set with old style wire chairs. “Can I help you with something?”

“This is ‘Le Cafe Coffee’, correct?”

She folded her hands on the counter. “Yeah. It was my father’s, but he passed a couple months ago. Now I’m the only one left who’s still here to continue the shop.” 

I studied her. My own family, being the only people I was around my entire life, was everything to me. Losing them… I couldn’t imagine that. “I’m sorry.”

She tilted her head, making a dismissive sound in the back of her throat as she bent down again. “Don’t be. Half of us think he faked his death and is partying it up in Fiji, and the other half-” she sighed. “We don’t know what to think.”

“You’re- you’re running this place all by yourself?”

She glared at me. Probably seventeen, she was around my own age, but with much more of a fire burning inside of her. “I’m staying with my grandparents, but that’s not any of your business.” 

My cheeks tinted. 

“Not- not that I think you can’t,” I hurriedly spoke. “I work at the circus. I was supposed to be getting orders for my family-” I took a short breath. “We haven’t been in Florida in a really long time. My tia Carmen said there was a coffee shop nearby.” 

An awkward beat of silence stretched between us.

“I don’t want to continue this business,” she said suddenly, looking up at me. A jingle from the door introduced another customer, but she didn’t waver, simply glaring at me with fierce gray eyes. They ignited with a secret burning to be told. “One day, I’m going to buy a pirate ship. I’m going to be an artist, and study marine biology and astronomy.”

“Oh,” I said, nodding. “I’m a virgo.” 

She laughed. “No, not like that. I want to study the planets and their effects on the tides and all these things.” Her smile slowly faded, and she cast a disgruntled look at the counter below her. “And I can’t do that running a hand-me-down coffee shop.”

“I’m Charli,” I said suddenly. “Charli Tontz.” 

When was the last time I had told someone my actual name? 

She smiled, ignoring the not-subtle cough of the man behind me. “Elise. Elisabeth Marx.” She leaned forwards. “I’ll tell you a secret, Charli. At the end of this month, I’m going to steal away on a ship. I’ve been saving the money from this shop and what my father left me. I have it all worked out with the crew. My grandparents can manage this place, and whether they keep it or not, it doesn’t matter.”

The back of my neck tingled. “But- won’t they miss you?”

“They have old ideas,” she said flatly. She raised her chin. “They believe I’m supposed to work in the kitchen and have kids, nothing else. They only took me because it was in my father’s will, and every day I can feel them regret their decision. So at the end of the month, I’m taking my few belongings and I’m going wherever I want to.”

Patience waning, the man behind me stepped past me, and she instantly returned to business mode, not giving me another second.

I moved out of the way, and somehow kept going. Ending up on the sidewalk, I walked back to the tents, only later realizing I had forgotten the drink orders.

That night, the show was packed.

I stood, teetering on the highest wire, staring down at the crowds in my elastic suit of black and white fabric patterned after a playing card. My dark hair slicked back, a white spade painted over my right eye, I stepped.

The crowd sat soundlessly as I stepped again, raising my arms. I tipped forwards, stepping over myself into a flip and walking into a stance. A smatter of applause rained from down below. 

Blinding lights shone in my eyes, and for once, the gasps made me feel nothing at all. 

Step. Twist. Jump.

Spread your arms, feel the gravity pull you down, and take a bow. 

My mother and uncle tossed through the air above me, cutting through the smoke and drawing the spotlights. 

I vanished, already forgotten.

Moving into the adjoining tent, I ignored everyone around me, taking a breath.

I waited. Waiting for the flush of adrenaline to course through me, already thrilled for my next performance.

It didn’t come.

Still, I waited. Biding family members talking around me, whispers behind feathered skirts and tall hats, day after day.

And yet, nothing changed. 

The same acts.

The same face paint. 

The same people day after day. 

“Why are you different?”

I glanced down, seeing a young, female version of myself peering back at me. Karla peered up at me, caramel hair falling in her eyes from her elaborate updo pinned with ribbons and a brilliant feather.

“Nothing’s different, Kar,” I said, giving her bang a small tug.

She made a face. “Well you’re acting like a lame-o, Charli.” 

I sighed. 

We had five more shows in town before we moved on to the next one. But for some reason, rather than feeling excited, charged with adrenaline to showcase and perform, the only thing I felt was blank indifference.

My great grandfather had started the circus, nearly a hundred years before. My grandmother had been born knowing how to dance, distantly passing that trait onto my little sister. My cousins filled the wings, talent so prominent among them you couldn’t stand out if you glowed.

But I was my father’s son. I was the one expected to be the ringmaster one day. Not to dance the high-wire, but rather to lead the circus with unending energy, bursts of controlled chaos and power surging with every motion.

And for the first time, I started to question my place.


“Where are you going? It’s our last night here!”

I glanced back at Karla, smacking a hand over my heart. “I have to get coffee, or I’m going to die!” 

She made a face, the logic of that tripping through her small mind. “What?” 

I clutched my chest. “Food! Coffee! Caffeine! I’ll be back before my part, I promise! Don’t tell anyone I’m gone! Bye!” 

“What? Charli!” 

But I was already gone.

I ran down the sidewalk, dodging through the early stragglers starting to arrive. I hid my face, the painted white spade over my eye shining in the bright lights outside the tent. 

I wasn’t going to do this.

But I have to.

Charging down the sidewalk, I burst into a tiny shop, adrenaline coursing through me I hadn’t felt in days.

I stepped past the two people in line, going straight up to the counter and squeezing the wood till my knuckles turned white.

Elise stared back at me, her gray eyes just as bright as I’d remembered. 

“How do you know?” I demanded.

She glanced at her line, then set the drink she was working on underneath a machine. “How do I know what?” A smile twinged on her lips, and she tilted her head, studying my face paint. “You weren’t kidding about that circus thing.”

I swiped a hand over the makeup covering my face, knowing that my setting spray my mother swore by would not allow any sort of smudging, but not really caring either way. “What you’re supposed to do. Why- why you want to buy a pirate ship. To study astronomy, and- marine biology. And the waves.”

Elise frowned, studying me. “Because it feels right. It calls me. I have it all written down. I may not do all the things in this world I want to. But I’m going to do as much as I can.” 

My heart seized in my throat. “Where are you going?” I blurted. “Do you need a friend?” I wanted to smack myself in the face.

She stared at me. “Wha- Charli?”

I started to open my mouth, then caught sight of the clock over her shoulder. “Oh- I have to go!” Stumbling backwards, I cursed, turning to run. “I’m sorry!”

I chased for the tents, not having the time to wait for her reply. 

Ducking through a tent flap, I had half a second to breathe, and then a cane was shoved into my chest.

“Where did you go?” My mother, beautiful eyes and dark hair, held out the ringmaster’s staff to me, painted in swirls of colors.

I blinked. “Nowhere.” 

“Pape is upset, Mijo! We had a surprise for you tonight.”

It took a second to register. “What?”

“You are helping your Pape lead the circus tonight.” She smiled at me, and every bit of my world came crashing to a stop. My lack of words were taken as something far from what I was feeling. “We want you to get a taste, Mijo! You know what to do, just how you’ve practiced for so many nights. Go! Pape is waiting!” 

She gave me a tiny shove, pushing me through the tent flap. Instantly, lights flooded through my vision. A surge of clapping exploded from the seats.

The showman inside of me rose where the adrenaline faltered. I stepped forwards to meet my father in the center of the ring. Spreading my arms, I smiled, raising my staff, and the entire stadium started to clap.

Nothing felt so wrong and so right in my entire life.

The beat started through the tent, building until it overtook the entire stadium. I spun, feeling the energy build through the people and completely fail by the time it reached the end of my staff. From all sides came a burst of light, then my cousins with strands of colored ribbon, twisting through the air in a beautiful show seen a thousand times before.

And I hated every second of it.


  I sat down hard on a crate, burying my face in my hands, twisting them through my slicked dark curls. Someone entered my tent, but I ignored them, trying to control my breathing. I had been dodging well-wishing family for as long as I could, and I was done.

“Mijo, you did amazing-” I shut my eyes, tightening my fisted hands.

“I don’t want this,” I muttered.

My shoulder was squeezed-

“I don’t want to do this!” I said suddenly, sitting back. Staring at me was almost my entire family, my mother, father and Aunt Morgon and a swarm of her children clustered around her knees. I shut my eyes, taking a shuddering breath. “I don’t want to be in the circus. I’m sorry- I don’t want to become the ringmaster when I grow up- I don’t want to be him now!”

My family stared at me, cascades of emotion crashing through their faces. Shock. Pity. Anger.

I ignored them all, staring directly at my father. “I don’t want to twirl my whole life, Pape! Doing the same thing every single day. I- I want to do something unexpected! I want to own a pirate ship- or be an astrologist! I want to tell people my name!” I threw my hand down in my lap, staring at my mother, pleading with her.

Empty words followed me to my bed that night, a stacked bunk bed in the back of a trailer. 

“What are you talking about, Char?”

“You’ll change your mind soon.”

“Don’t worry, Mijo. Everyone thinks this when they’re on the edge of achieving their dreams.”

“You don’t know what you really want yet, Charli.” 

I laid there, trying to sleep but unable to all the same.

They were right. I didn’t know what I wanted to do.

But I knew someone who did.

And her idea sounded pretty nice.


Every night for fourteen days I performed as the ringmaster, flowing through the rhythms. My grace and practice for the high wire started to dwindle, but I could feel the years of muscle memory refusing to leave me.

Side by side with my father, I did the same thing every night.

Nothing changed. Nothing had changed in the hundred years since we began. It was supposed to feel like nothing had changed while you were gone; just like coming home.

But for me, it just felt like a cage.

For the entire rest of the month, I went through the rhythms, warring inside of myself. Toss the staff, twirl. Bow. Step. 

Then we were performing at our last night in Georgia, and the world came to a screeching stop. 

I stood, my cane in the air, breath heaving from my final dance performance as the entire stadium rose to their feet. None of it reached my ears. Only my own breathing, the panic of time grasping me.

And a single thought came to perfect clarity.

I don’t want this.

Finally. A slow, long breath filled my lungs as it quietly spoke again. I don’t want this. I turned my head, catching sight of the radiant grin on my father’s face, basking in the joy of the crowd, doing what he loved. 

I don’t want this.

And then, I knew what I had to do. 

As soon as the light faded, I ran for our trailer. 

For the first time in a long, long while, excitement filled my heart, paired with a little shred of fear. I pulled my suitcase out from underneath my bunk, tossing a bundle of clothing into it-

“Mijo,” a soft voice said from the doorway.

I shut my eyes, stilling. Finally turning, I looked, seeing my beautiful mother silhouetted in the doorway. Her mouth curved, but something was shining in her eyes. Something like goodbye. 

“Where are you going, Mijo?”

I lowered my head, shutting my suitcase with a click. “I’m going to Florida, Mami. I’m going to have an adventure. I don’t want to do this anymore.” I shut my eyes, the certainty of my statement filling the room.

“I know, Charli,” my mom said suddenly. “I know you don’t like it now.” She stepped forwards, smoothing a lock of hair out of my face. She cupped my cheek. “You need to find yourself. I belong here. Your father belongs here. But you need to be your own. Promise me you will take this.” 

She handed me a pamphlet, pressing it into my palm. Every show we were supposed to do for the next year was stretched across the paper, locations and times sparkled in glittering shades of red and silver. 

“I’ll be back, Mami,” I said. “I promise you. I’ll come back for Christmas. I’m not going forever.”

“You need to find who you are,” she said, pressing a hand to my heart. “No one can ever permanently leave Circe de Tradicion, Charli. You are family.” 

She kissed the top of my head, then held me at her arm’s length away. 

“But Mijo, I believe you have a train to catch.”


I hurried down the boardwalk, legs still sore from the long train ride, sprinting for the small coffee store on the corner. Bursting through the door, I stepped into a low lit room.


Only a musky darkness greeted me. Not a single soul was in the coffee shop, the CLOSED sign on the door only accompanied by a scrawled note on the bar. She was already gone.

Panic seized my heart. 

I ran for the boardwalk.


Dark shops winged both sides, their shuttered windows promising no hiding figures. “ELISABETH MARXS!” 

Signs and maps blurred by me, and I spared them only a second, desperation spurring me on. I ran to the docks, my heart hammering in my throat. 


I had reached the bay. It was smaller than I had expected, with only two boat launches, but an entire marina of trading ships anchored. 


Swarms of people filled the wood, far too many for me to ever sort through. She was already gone.

I was too late.

Then, twenty feet in front of me, a girl in a woolen cap turned around. Instantly, her gray eyes lit up in recognition.


I set down my suitcase, my heart racing. “Can I come with you?” She stared at me. “I want to have an adventure. I want to be your friend, to do something other than circus-” I clenched my jaw. “I want to learn about the waves and the sky, and- and sailing.”

A small smile grew on her face. “Charli, I would be honored to have a friend.” She glanced across the marina, settling her eyes on a trading ship glowing in the fog. She nodded, breathing in the salty air as my heart finally calmed.

I’d made it.

I wasn’t too late.  

“Now let’s have an adventure.”

November 24, 2020 22:58

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Lydi B
14:18 Dec 03, 2020

Greetings! This popped up in my critique circle, so I gave it a read. I'm so glad I did! What a joy to see how these two completely different individuals changed each other's lives. I could feel Charli's confusion when presented with another choice in a life he believed was already his. The juxtaposed viewpoints of family was also realistic and well done. Wonderful work describing Charli's robotic routine. I love how his conversation with Elise set him on a path to question his own happiness—a question he may have been afraid to ask himse...


Violet Waters
23:43 Dec 03, 2020

Thank you! I'm so glad you enjoyed this story. For the first thing you mentioned, I probably should have phrased that a little better. Reading back I can understand why it would be confusing. I'll look into it. :). Secondly, about the door not being locked, I figured Elise probably would no longer care; but I honestly wasn't really thinking about if the door would be locked or not. Going forwards, I'll make sure to try and focus/nail down on the details a bit more. As for your stories, I'll definitely check them out. :). Thank you again!


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Zea Bowman
02:53 Dec 01, 2020

Hi! Zea Bowman here, sent to you by Eden Variss. I will definitely read all of your stories and let you know what I think! However, Eden has piled so many wonderful ideas into my brain that I somehow just need to write all five stories in 4-5 days! After that (or sometime during) I will be sure to check them all out! Let me say, I've read the first few sentences of all of them and I'm excited! Happy writing!


Violet Waters
05:11 Dec 04, 2020

Hello! I will look forwards to what you have to say :). Good luck!


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