She guessed this made it official. She had to be a truly, truly bad person. There was no denying it anymore. Because good people wouldn’t even consider ratting out their boyfriend to the mob.
Did it matter that she hadn’t actually done it? That she felt her heart sink at even the thought of it? No. The fact that the thought had crossed her mind was enough. That she had seriously contemplated whether it would be a viable option. Multiple times.
Her mind felt like a scale, constantly tipping over to one side, then to the other, then back again. Did she care for Sam? Yes, she truly did. Did she love him? That was a more difficult question. They hadn’t been together for that long. And really, did she even know how to love?
It’s not something she could have learned from her parents, whom she hardly remembered. She never had been able to keep a proper relationship going in the past. People were just too… well… difficult? She had always cared more for animals. Those creatures she understood, not humans. Especially tigers. The way they moved, the look in their eyes… they did not need words to tell Louisa what they thought or needed. She just knew.
Oh, Remus… she missed him so much! It was like a part of her had been ripped out from her chest, and left a gaping hole that had never been filled in all those years. Seven years, to be exact. Seven years she had been walking around in this circus feeling like a zombie. Not really existing, just surviving. All the joy she once felt had disappeared with her tiger, and she was now covered with a grey blanket, that she just couldn’t shove aside or rip open, no matter how hard she tried.
Sure, when the audiences were here, and she was telling her story about how she became this scarred freak, she acted like the strong, courageous Romulus, who wasn’t scared of a single thing. But once they were gone, she went back to being Louisa again. A bad, bad person. Who seriously considered trading her boyfriend for a new tiger.
Was it only selfishness? A little voice in her head kept telling her that she wouldn’t just be doing it for herself, but also for the good of the circus. Having a new tiger act would save the circus, she was absolutely sure of that. If she could just get her hands on a new tiger cub now, she would be able to train it during the winter and have it ready for the new season. Sure, it wouldn’t be an immediate top act, but she could keep building it up until it became the spectacle that had once made her and her circus so famous.
That spotlight. That damn spotlight. Had anyone asked her in the beginning of her career whether she was in it for the fame, she would have laughed at them. Working with tigers was all she ever wanted, regardless of how successful the crowds would think her to be. But the applause seduces. Once you get a taste of it, you want more.
She wished someone had warned her. That someone had told her, that once you reach the top, there’s only one way you can go from there.
Now it was too late. The last chance she had to fix things again was gone. Sam’s cover had already been blown. They had publicly dragged him outside and hung him – the greatest show they had ever pulled off. It was over. Nothing more she could do about it. No more tough choice to make. Or was there?
She could still see his body dangling from the noose. Even though she very well knew it was a fake hanging, she had cried her eyes out. That hadn’t been a show. It had felt as a precursor to how she would feel if she actually would be the one to doom his fate. Betraying him to the mobsters would be equal to signing his death sentence. She would be no less than a murderer.
Would she be able to warn him again, as she had done before? If all had gone according to plan, Sam was now on his way to New York. But how would she contact him, to let him know he was still not safe?
And would he ever forgive her for telling the mob that his death was merely staged, and that they could find him somewhere in New York, and later at the East Coast? And would that betrayal be enough to get her her tiger…?
Such a bad person.
But no, it wasn’t just about her! She WOULD be able to help this circus get out of its financial trouble! All people she had spoken about this, had agreed! It wouldn’t just be a selfish act; it was a sacrifice she would make – had to make for her circus family.
Like Tammy. Like Eloise. Like all circus members who claimed they had done it for the circus. Who were judged and sentenced by the court for their crimes anyway. How would she be different? No. Even though the circus would be saved, she would still be damnable.
If she had believed in God, she would have prayed for her soul and asked Him for guidance. But even He could not help her. In fact, the only one she really trusted when she was in trouble, was Bernie.
Dear, dear Bernie.
Yes, she did know love, she realized. Not only love for her tigers, but also for her brother. Even though she could not always make sense of him. Even though she felt she did not completely know him, not even after she had asked him, no, demanded of him more answers lately than she had done in all those years before. He had always been there for her and always would be.
What would Bernie do?
He would love her, no matter what she did. He would understand.
What would Bernie do?
She had discussed the deal with him before, before the circus had decided to ‘give up’ Sam to get rid of the mobsters and sent our plans flying out of the window.
She knew what Bernie would do.
Slowly, she got up and walked to the telephone.