When the tour arrived in Plimpton, Angus found his venue was a crumbling barn hardly large enough to accommodate the trapeze. Stone walls buttressed each end of the building. A sagging roof spanned the gap.
“These buggers expect to see someone fly,” Angus grumbled, leaving Joanna and Marcus to produce some semblance of their regular show.
They worked late, and by the following day Joanna was certain of two things: one, that a miracle was required to pull off their tricks, and two, that she was, to her great satisfaction, with child.
As the sun waned, weak beneath the upland clouds, Joanna’s joy at the gentle nausea in her stomach gave way to a deeper, biting pain at the thought of confessing to Marcus.
When he’d selected her six months ago, the prospect of roaming the countryside with a circus had seemed a dream. Joanna had risen to every challenge, she’d soon found herself rising from Marcus’s bed in the mornings as well. But he had no need of a wife, as he’d made clear from their first stumbling fall into the straw. Still, Joanna hoped that a child might make a better prospect.
She held her confession taut on the tip of her tongue until moments before their act.
“Marcus,” she said quietly. “I’m pregnant.”
He ceased wrapping his ankles momentarily, then continued as though she had not spoken. She wondered if he’d heard her at all.
Angus passed, clapping Marcus on the back, and Marcus responded with a wry remark about barns.
At this, Joanna became certain he hadn’t heard, and resolved to confess during a gentler moment. She tied her last ribbon, rubbed chalk into her palms, and climbed to the eaves.
As Angus bellowed below, Joanna set off, sweeping through the air to meet Marcus. They flowed through their routine, arms and legs meeting as one, and yet Marcus avoided her eyes.
A pit formed in Joanna’s stomach, a hard little thing that grew sharper with each turn.
The finale arrived, a long, arcing throw, which they had planned dramatically close to the stone wall. Joanna’s body swung back, and as she turned to face Marcus, his eyes met hers, and she knew then that he had heard her.
Her legs whipped away, towards the uncompromising stone, and she reached for him, but instead of gripping tightly to her fingers, Marcus let her go.