You look down from your high perch at the smiling, encouraging faces of your parents. You're scared, terribly scared, but at the same time, you trust them completely.
So you step over the edge of the platform. You close your eyes and feel the air brushing past your ears like a soothing whisper, and it almost feels like a lifetime before you finally land on the netting underneath the trapeze bars. Your parents are instantly by your side, and you feel your dad picking you up with his broad arms. You finally open your eyes to their beaming faces, and something like dizzying joy wells up inside you.
You were seven, and that was the first day of the rest of your life.
Jump, grab, swing.
You're going through your routine as usual. It's so familiar to you that you could do it with your eyes closed. Not that you've tried, but you're sure you could anyways. It's not arrogance if it's true, you remind yourself.
You grab a bar and you let yourself dangle in the air, taking in the view of the circus tent. Everyone here has no one but the circus, and everyone is family. You see your parents talking to someone you don't recognize. Odd. Must be a newcomer. You've grown up in Arison's Circus, and you pride yourself on knowing every face in it. You're intrigued further when they begin to walk over to the trapeze, and your mom gives you a pointed look.
With a sigh, you swing to give yourself momentum, and let go of the bar. You do a somersault mid-air just to show off for the newcomer before landing in the netting. You untangle yourself neatly, borne from a lifetime of experience, and slide onto the floor.
"What's going on?" you ask.
Your parents exchange a look. The newcomer holds out his hand. "I'm Haden. Trapeze extraordinaire. Your new partner."
What. You look at your parents accusingly before folding your arms, ignoring his outstretched hand. This had probably been a long time in the coming; after all, your parents weren't going to be trapeze artists forever and you were getting older. "Talulah. You any good?"
He is, as it turns out, pretty damn good, you grudgingly admit. The way he moves, the grace of his flips, and most importantly, the budding respect and mutual trust is there for a partnership. For months, you two practice together behind the scenes as you temporarily duck out of the public spotlight in preparation for your debut as a partner act.
Haden is both the amazing and most infuriating guy you've ever met. You've lost count of all the times he'd play pranks on you outside of the act. Once, you spend an entire week with green hair, and refuse to speak a single word to him for two weeks. But you'd always get your revenge, one way or another, and he knows it. It's almost a way of life now. But despite that, once you're in the air, it's just you and him, and everything is magical.
Your debut night comes and goes, and it's every bit as exhilarating as you anticipated. You were already a beloved act before, and seeing you growing up and taking a partner of your own must have been just as exciting for the audience as it is for you. You are seventeen, and the world is yours.
You grin at Haden as you two land on the netting and wave to the audience. He winks at you before grabbing your hand, getting even louder cheers from the audience.
The seasons change, and the circus keeps moving from town to town, sharing its joys with people of all parts. Your parents have officially retired, and they're now living in a small village on the coast. You are content.
Until one day, misfortune rears its ugly head, and nothing is the same again.
You are twenty, and you've just lost your trusted partner to a joint disease that you can't even pronounce. All you know is that it's not fair.
You're sitting up high, on the platform of the trapeze, when he comes into the tent to say his goodbye. He's staying behind in the town the circus stopped in last week, while you will move on tomorrow morning. You shake your head, stubbornly fighting a lump in your throat. You don't want to cry in front of him.
He understands, and you can see his bitter-sad smile from your spot. You smile back thinly, and cross your fingers before pressing them to your heart.
It's a little secret gesture you two have, to say 'good luck' right before a performance, when you're staring at each other from your separate platforms on the trapeze. 'Good luck' and... 'I have faith in you'.
After he leaves for the very last time, you stand up on your platform. You still remember the first time you were up here, and your parents helped you on with words of encouragement. You close your eyes, and for a moment, you can almost hear their voices again, except now Haden is also there.
You smile, a tear finally escaping you, and then you let yourself fall.