The girl in the gilded cage

Malina Lupei is 22 years old. She has spend her whole life in the circus as a member of the Lupei family also known as ‪the flying wolfes of Constanza.
She is a good girl that have no interest in parties or men. She works hard to be perfect in the trapez and on the tightrope. And she has to, one wrong step could be her death as she works without a safety net.
The resident player and hearttrob Ioan Balan who is a knife thrower and Tiger taler wants Malina to be his wife and has gotten her fathers accept to do so when she gets older and is done working the high line.
Circus is its own little World, with its own rule and everyone there knows to follow them.
Then one they Malina's life and the cirkus is turned upside down by the unexpected arrived of a man, an actor that knows nothing about life in a Circus and who isn't going to follow the rules.


4. Horses, small accidents and coffee


2 days later


I get ready to start training, wanting to get a bit done before my father gets there, he is always so demanding of me. Not only about my act but everything, I never really had close friends and I have never been on a date, my show and the circus is my entire life.

 When I walk into the ring I hear someone scream and see one of the kids from the cirkus, Lucas he is called, fall from the low training rope. It might not be the high line but it is stil far enough to get hurt bad, especially if you are a kid. Al the children are told not to play on the tightrope but he probably wanted to show of to his friends.

 "Lucas ! Lucas !" I call his name as I kneel down next to him, he isn't opening his eyes or moving, but I can hear him breathing and that calms me a bit. I slowly check his head and neck, I know what to look for.

 I hear noise and look up, seeing that tall guy from yesterday, our new ringmaster, Josh was his name, come running in, apparently he had heard the scream too. He comes over and falls to his knees. "Did he fall from the tightrope ? Is he okay ?" 



I look at the kid on the ground, then at the figure next to him, realising it is Malina in a trikot and ballet shoes. She is gently stroking the kids head. "Yeah he must have fallen, I wasn't in here. I think he is going to be okay. His eyes are fine, he has a bump but his vision is clear. We could call a doctor, but I just think he need some rest. His neck is fine too, nothing broken".

 She has a soft and gentle voice I notice and she seems very caring about the boy. I look at him. "Why would you play on the tightrope ? That was a stupid and dangerous thing to do. You could have broken your neck ?"

 "I don't know. Sorry". The kid say and Malina smiles at him. "Just never do that again, okay Lucas ?" He nods and winces a bit.

 "I think he has a small concussion". She says looking at me. "Could you maybe carry him doing to his family's trailer ? He needs to stay in bed at least till tomorrow". She smiles. "This happened to me all the time in the beginning".

 "Is that why you are brave and foolish enough to work without a safety net ?" I ask her, only halfway joking. I pick up the kid. When she look up at me I realise she has the most peculiar eyes I ever saw, they are almost yellow with a brown ring around them. They drill into mine like a bright light. It feels kind of overwhelming and I wants to look away but I can't. She is enchanting.

 "That is what my family does". She answers. She don't seem to be affected by my words. Her mother is dead because of this and her father in a wheelchair. It sounds like a really bad family tradition to me. "Come on, let me show you were he lives".

 We walk through the area of the circus were the artists lives. "Do you think we should get the doctor for him ?" She asks. But the boy is alert and shakes his head and I say. "I think he is okay".

 When we reach the trailer, his mother comes running and Malina explains what have happened. The mother opens the door, so I can carry Lucas inside and lay him on his bed. The mother looking at us. "Thank you so much for helping him and getting him here".

 "No problem, just make sure he knows not to play on the tightrope again". I tell her with a smile. I leave the trailer, following Malina outside.

 I must admit I am a bit shocked, thinking about what could have happened. "He shouldn't have done it, but the kids shouldn't have access to the tightrope and other dangerous things".

 "I don't know who left it up. I always take it down when I am done practising. A lot of people, especially kids don't realise that even the practice rope is high enough that you can get hurt". She says. Her eyes are burning into mine. They are so intense. Standing there I realise hov small she actually is, she can't be much more than 5 ft., not much taller than a big kid, but she is a woman and there is softness in her gaze as she looks up at me. There is something totally fearless about her and that fascinates me.

 "I am Josh by the way, I am going to fill in for Joe". I say extending my hand to her, she takes my hand and her small hand disappears totally in mine. "Malina, and well you know what I do".

 "Why do you do it ? It is so dangerous. I saw you yesterday and I got really scared for you up there". I say softly. She fascinates me. "I am sorry if I sounded harsh before, I just hate seeing someone do a thing like that".

 "I used to feel nauseated". She admits. "But not anymore. I am never scared. That is why I am able to do it. It is the fear that makes you fall. If you are never scared, you don't fall".

 It sounds to simple, to certain and to optimistic, even for me. "And what if you do fall ?"

 "I don't". She says calmly. I can see that she is not laying, she feels no fear at all, at least not for walking on the high line. But it wasn't as simple, something had made both her parents fall, probably not fear and they had both been trained tightrope walkers.

 "But maybe you do some day. Isn't there some other way to give the audience that thrill ?" I ask her plain and simple.

"This is what they expect. This is the reason they come to see me". She says, and I know it is the trith. They love the danger and the risk, I had felt that yesterday seeing how the audience reacted to her act.

 I look at her curiously. "Is there anything you are scared of ?"

 "Horses, I am scared of horses, of riding them". She says with a small smile.

 "I have a hard time believing that a woman, who fearlessly walks on the high line without a safety net, can be scared of being on a horse no more than a couple of metres above the ground". I say.

 "They are unpredictable. You never know what they are going to do. Up on the tightrope I am only dependent on myself". She says and of course she is right.

 "You can trust a horse to a great extend if it is trained properly. Maybe I can show you some day". I say and she smiles, like she likes the idea.

 Lucas pokes his head out of the trailer, he already has the colour back in his cheeks. "Thanks for helping me, both of you".

 "No problem". I say. Malina looks at him very seriously, her gaze saying she is serious and I know she has an iron will, you can see it in her eyes. She might be tiny but she got the will of a giant. She needs to be in control to do what she does. "Just never play on the tightrope again".

 He nods and disappears again. Malina looks at me. "So are you going to live in the circus or are you going to stay at hotels nearby ?"

 "I am staying here, in the circus. I am in trailer 33. You are welcome to come by any time for a cup of coffee or a talk". I say, hoping that didn't sound creepy.

 "I might, some day". She says with a smile, and then she floats away, disappearing between the trailers, almost like she was never really here.



 As I sit out in front of my own trailer in the afternoon, my home the next couple of months, my thoughts slide to Malina again. Is her father forcing her to do what she does or does she like what she does ? She looks like she likes it. To her it seems to be a job like any other job. Actually most people in the circus I have talked to so far seems to feel that way, like they have no idea how unusual their jobs seems to an outsider. But most of them grew up in the circus, some of them for generations.

 I sigh and take a sip of the cold beer in my hand. She is so beautiful and seems so fragile, like she is made from the finest porcelain, but she is so strong and brave at the same time. And I take myself in hoping she will come by to say hi. I kick myself mentally. She is only 22 years old for God's sake, I am turning 37 in the fall. I shouldn't be thinking about her in that way, but I can't deny the attraction. It is like my eyes are drawn to her. I walk inside, trying to push the thoughts away. The last thing I need is to have a crush on some way to young circus princess and she would probably think me to old anyway.

 But all my good attentions aside, she kept haunting my thoughts all day, and every day after that. I kept thinking about the look in her eyes, when she talked about not being scared. And whe she sat beside Lucas in the tent. There is something about her so fragile and strong at the same time. I try to forget everything about her, but I have had to realise that I can't. I have only seeing her from afar the last week, training and doing her show, always watched by her father, not having another chance to talk to her. By the end of the first week I am finding myself totally under her spell. The only thing I am thinking about is her amber eyes.

 I have never been good at sitting still, so I have started helping with odd jobs that I am capable of doing. Just to have something to do and to get to know people better. One evening when I have been giving hay to the horses and elephants I turn around to find Malina standing behind me. She is watching me soundlessly with that gaze that enchants me.

 "Hi. I have been thinking about you. I think you have put a spell on me". I blurt out, wanting to kick myself. I feel like a teenager right now, not a grown man. It is like the age difference no longer exists when she looks at me.

 "I've been thinking of you too". She says slowly. "I came to see the horses". I nod and wave her closer, holding the horse's head to let her pet it.

 The trainer is standing by one of the other horses and I call out. "Hey Chris is it okay if I borrow Pegasus for a moment ?"

 "Sure thing Josh". He calls back and I grab her hips, lifting her carefully up on the big horse. She is light as a feather. I untie the horse and leads it out from the stable.

 "I bet he can't even feel you up there, you way next to nothing". I say smiling up at her. She looks very seriously at me. "But I am very strong". She says with pride, and stretches her leg gracefully as a dancer, making me chuckle.  "I am sure you are Malina. Strong enough to constantly being a distraction to me".

 She doesn't seem scared, considering what she had said about being scared of horses. I turn so I can watch her while leading the horse around outside the stable. She looks like a fairy as she sits there on the big horse, a fearless look of determination on her beautiful face. None of us are saying anything. We don't have to. I know she didn't really came to see the horses.

 "What are we going to do ?" I ask her. I don't really know what is going on here, just that I have never met anyone like her before and what will happen is up to her.

 She smiles and reaches her hand out to me, as I take it she slides gracefully of the horse. "What about we go get that cup of coffee you offered and talk for a bit ?"



 I watch Josh put the horse back in its stall. I had known he helped in the stables when I came down here. I have tried to get him out of my head for more than a week, practically avoiding him. But I can't seem to manage. I keep seeing that bright smile and those warm hazel eyes.

 We walk slowly side by side to his trailer, not really saying anything, and I cast stolen glances at him. It hits me once again how tall he is. There is something mesmerising about him, the way he talks and they way he moves, honestly I have never met a man like him before.

 He said he he had been thinking about me. How ? Were will this take us ? I have absolutely no experience romantically or physically with men. My father is very protective of me, and he would be angry if he knew I was here, alone with Josh.

 We get to his trailer and he looks at me. "You want to sit outside or inside ?" I don't have to think about it. I don't want people talking. "Inside".

 "Welcome to my humble home". He says opening the door to me, and I walk inside, sitting down at the small table. He starts making coffee, seeming a bit nervous as his hands is in constant motion.

 "So have you settled into the circus life ? I have heard you every night, you are really good. Everybody is really impressed". I tell him truthfully.

 He smiles putting two cups on the table, sitting down opposite me. "Thank you. I like it here actually, everyone has been very nice and welcoming".

 "Everyone ?" I ask him questioning, and his smile stiffens just slightly. "Well Ioan has been a bit.. well he seems not to like me to much, but I get it, I kind of took his job".

 "Ioan is.. well he is a bit difficult at times, he likes to see himself as the big man around here. He don't like others outshining him in any way". I tell him.

 He shrugs and his smile returns. "Well, he is not going to get my spirits down. If someone hates you give them love in return, maybe you are lucky and they change their mind about you".

 "Are you always this gracious ? You seem to always be nice and friendly with everyone". I look at him, I have truly never met anyone like him before. Honestly I like the way he thinks. I know he is older than me, probably quite a lot older, but I mean we are just friends right, so it doesn't really matter.

 He chuckles and takes a long sip of his coffee. "Well, I try to be. I see no reason to be unkind or harsh. I do however tend to get a bit cheeky at times but I mean no harm".

 We sit for a bit just sipping our coffee, then he says. "It must be very different growing up in a circus, living your whole life here".

 "Well it probably is, I mean I have been working hard, training since I was a kid, probably missing out on a lot of things other kids experiences, but I never knew anything else, so I have never missed it, circus is my life". I say with a small shrug.

 He looks at me, like he is trying to read something inside of me. "It sounds like a hard life. Your father seems very protective of you, what would he think of you being here, with me"?

 "He wouldn't like it. He don't like me talking to men at all. I have never been allowed to go on a date or anything like that. So yeah he is very protective, he wants me to focus on work". I tell him, looking at my hands. I am unsure of what I want, were I hope this will lead.

 He bite his lip, looking like he is weighing his words. "So you.. I mean do you ever break his rules ? Or have you actually never been on a date or.. anything".

 "Well I am breaking a rule now, but no.. I have never been on a date.. or anything else". I say. I might be inexperienced, but I know what he is asking. And I am a virgin, I have never even kissed a man.


 *Josh POV*

 I might have suspected it but.. well holy shit, so she is not only a virgin, she has never done anything. She hasn't been on a date. Has never been kissed, nothing. I try to keep my face neutral. I don't want her to believe that I think there is something wrong with her. "Can't be easy training that hard and such".

 "Do you think me weird ? For not .. you know having tried anything". She look at me with wide bright eyes.

 I shake my head slowly, smiling softly at her. "No of course not, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that". I say. And I mean it, but it also means that I definitely has to back down. There is no way I can even consider starting anything with her now.

 "So you are an actor ? That must be really exciting". She says, clearly changing the subject and I let her. We just sit and talk for hours, about everything and nothing. Live in the circus, my job, the pressure of others expectations and several other subjects.

 She suddenly get up from the chair and by instinct I get up too. "Oh God we have talked way longer than I thought, I better hurry back to my own trailer".

 "Well thank you for the visit, you are welcome back any time. Sleep well and I guess I see you around". I say, not really knowing what to say or do.

 She bite her lip, then she steps closer to me and I open my arms, pulling her into a hug. She feels so tiny, like she is disappearing totally in my embrace. I kiss the top of her head, noticing that smells faintly of roses. It just feels so right holding her and I have to remind myself that this can't happen.

 After a long time just standing there, her arms around my waist and her face pressed against my chest, I reluctantly lets her go. "Goodnight Malina, sweet dreams".

 "Night Josh, see you". She says, looking up at me, before turning and leaving. I stand in the doorway, watching her disappeare, before closing the door and getting ready to get to bed.

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