The Angel and the Beast Tamer
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Looping in the air, fantastic acrobatics, her angel wings flapping while she flew over an audience in complete awe. Eyes focused on her, amazed by such a delicate and majestic creature. The lion-scorpion hybrids, the manticores, roared on the ground under her. Floating in the air, she saw that horrid aura, an ill amalgam of sad and desperate feelings. It was her chance to show her value, her power.

She got that person in her arms and brought them to the center of the circus. Her objective was for the manticores to touch that individual, to cure them of their worst feelings, but it wasn’t the result. She was so tired, so exhausted. The beasts became wild, the people ran, the poor subject of the presentation was dead. The pain, the suffering, everything. The spotlights turned off, she was in the dark. From a distance, the glowing and furious eyes of the ringleader started following her. She ran, she flew, she tried to escape, but it was useless. That monstrous man, with his bare hands, plucked her wings off.

She screamed in pain, but no one helped her, no one cared. She was alone, bleeding, crying, hurt not only physically, but emotionally too.

She woke up from that nightmare. A recurrent nightmare, indeed. Looking to her side, he was still sleeping, unaware of his lover's night horrors. She preferred that he kept that way. If he knew the atrocities that happened to her, he would be so shocked, so desperate. It was better that way.

Ding dong.

What was that? The doorbell? She looked at the clock near the bed. 3 AM. Who would be at her door at three in the morning on a Wednesday?

Ding dong.

She looked around, searching for a weapon to defend herself. A baseball bat, from her husband’s college years. Perfect. Courageous, now armed, she went down the stairs, to the living room, and then to the front door. Getting close to the entrance, she looked through the peephole.

Ding dong.

The curious visitor was an old man, tousled and dirty hair, scars all over his body. With a wooden leg, an eye patch, and a hook, he looked just like a pirate. With his only hand, the left one, he held a big and heavy egg with red spots, a manticore egg.

"Why are you here?" she simply asked, not even mentioning opening the door.

"The circus is in the town," he replied, his voice hoarse and weak. "I thought about visiting you."

She took some seconds to think. Scared that it was a bad idea, he started getting away from the house before noticing the door opening.

"Come in," her voice low. She gave space for him to enter the house and guided him to the living room. Both sat at different sofas, far from each other, not even looking in the other’s direction.

There came a long silence, an uncomfortable and nervous silence. The time and the distance made them complete strangers to each other. They were close to each other, family, but that was before. Now they were different people, not the girl that he knew or the man that she knew. The soundlessness was broken by a timid cough.

"So, how are you doing?" The old man started the conversation again, hugging the enormous egg on his lap.

"I am fine." She answered emotionlessly. She tried to be cold at least. "Why did you come here?"

"I just said, the circus is in town." he forced a laugh, anxious with the negative energy of that dialogue. "Also, it’s almost Christmas! I just wanted to see my…"

She interrupted him. "That’s okay, but why… this?" and pointed at the egg, curious.

He was happy that she asked. "Oh, it's my gift!"

"A manticore egg? A Christmas present? You know that if I kept one of those here, the ess cee pees would get me."

"Ess cee pee?" his eyes rolled as he crossed his arms. "An ess cee pee never got a cold from us! We are circus people!"

"You are circus people."

Those words broke his heart. She was denying her origins. His mouth opened and closed time after time as he tried to formulate an answer to that blasphemous assertion, incredulous that he had just heard that. Before he could even speak, she continued.

"I think you should go."

"No, no!" He simply screamed before she could shush him, fearing that anyone could wake up.

"I can’t be remembered of–"

"He’s not the owner anymore." He was fast, saying that in an attempt to get her attention.

"What?" Her voice fainted, she became shallow with that revelation.

"Icky, Manny and Lolly are commanding the circus now." He got closer to her as her eyes got full of tears. Tears of hope.

"What happened to him?" Her face was that of disbelief. She couldn’t understand if he was saying that seriously, even if sure that the man would never lie to her. The crooked mind that broke her from inside out was no more. She wanted to know the truth, she wanted to know the fate of her tormentor, the origin of her nightmares.

"No one knows for certain." He sadly admitted. "Some say that the clowns got rid of him, others that he ran away. I even hear someone saying that I gave him the manticores to eat. No, they would never eat anything that bad." and as he thought about it, he continued. "But if I could, I’d do so. That was what he deserved."

She was motionless. Tears ran down her face. As she was going to say something, a cry started. He was surprised at first, then inquisitive. It was the sound of a baby. As she ran up the stairs, into a room, he unhanded the egg over the sofa and followed her even if uninvited. It was a pinkish room, full of teddy bears and dolls. The characteristic odor of baby powder invaded his nose. On a crib, at the back of the room, a tiny little baby girl was calling for her mother.

"Is that…"

"My daughter." She said while getting the child in her arms. The baby had the same blue eyes and golden hair that her mother had. As she nursed the baby girl, she didn’t notice him wiping the tears from his own face with his sleeve wrist, moved by the situation.

"Why didn’t you talk to me about her? You should have sent a letter!"

She couldn't think about a proper response. There was no answer beyond the fact that she wanted to stay away from something that was not even there anymore. He held out his hands in the baby’s direction. Hesitantly, she gave the child for him to hold. The old man soothed the baby with a lullaby.

"My sweet angel, I know our past, and I’m infinitely sorry about it." He looked at the proud mother, smiling even behind the tears. "But I don’t want to be away from you. I am your father, I am the one that took care of you. Please, let me have another chance to be your father, to be a grandfather, and to be a father-in-law. Please!"

She reflected on that scene. Her old and raggedy father is holding her baby, crying and begging for another chance. Could she forgive and forget all the trauma that she had? The scars on her back, the scars in her heart? Should she accept him back in her life as nothing happened?

She took the cooked turkey out of the oven, putting it over the kitchen table. As she did so, the little girl ran inside, followed by a strange creature, a lion cub with a scorpion’s tail, that played with the child, just like a little dog. She smiled at the duo as they exited the room, following to the backyard.

"We’re almost at dinner’s time! Don’t stay outside for too long!" and she received a positive answer.

Carrying the food to the dining room, she was intercepted by a tall, slender and pale humanoid that looked at her. The creature silently offered itself to take the turkey to the table, which she accepted by lending it the platter.

"Thanks, Mr. Noodles!"

As she went to the living room, she greeted some of the night’s visitors. A man with an upside-down face, two friendly clown girls, a slug-man, a fish-man, the living head of a lady. As she called her husband, her in-laws came together, visibly afraid of their daughter-in-law’s family. She didn’t care. Finally, she was happy, she was back with her loved ones.

And that big and happy family had a marvelous Christmas feast together.

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