Girl in the Shadows
by Gwenda Bond
Series: Girl on a Wire #2
Publication: July 5th 2016
Eighteen-year-old Moira Mitchell grew up in the shadows of Vegas’s stage lights while her father’s career as a magician soared. More than anything, Moira wants to be a magician too, but her father is dead set against her pursuing magic.
When an invitation to join the Cirque American mistakenly falls into Moira’s possession, she takes action. Instead of giving the highly coveted invitation to its intended recipient, Raleigh, her father’s handsome and worldly former apprentice, Moira takes off to join the Cirque. If she can perform alongside its world-famous acts, she knows she’ll be able to convince her dad that magic is her future.
But when Moira arrives, things take on an intensity she can’t control as her stage magic suddenly feels like…real magic. To further distract her, Raleigh shows up none too pleased at Moira’s presence, all while the Cirque’s cocky and intriguing knife thrower, Dez, seems to have it out for her. As tensions mount and Moira’s abilities come into question, she must decide what’s real and what’s an illusion. If she doesn’t sort it out in time, she may forever remain a girl in the shadows.
I was waiting in the wings backstage at the Menagerie Hotel and Casino, preparing the equipment for my first stage illusion. Straitjacket, check. Oversized timer and mood-music speakers, check. And, most important, transparent coffin, check. As I lay bound inside it, I’d press a button that would expel all the air in the coffin with a dramatic puff, for my audience’s benefit, and then I’d pull off a daring escape.
The coffin might sound morbid, but I wasn’t planning to die in it. I was planning to live.
Forget college or a normal future. I wanted to be a magician: the Miraculous Moira.
I’d just never quite managed to tell my dad that.
Dad, a.k.a. the Mysterious Mitchell, Master Magician, was the per- son I’d be performing for today, though he didn’t know it yet. I had no choice but to wow him, the toughest one-person audience in town. He was currently in the midst of his show’s grand finale.
Out in the theater, his audience began to murmur right on cue. They’d seen Dad draped in chains, then locked inside a scary-looking safe that was lowered into a giant tank of water. Black screens were raised on all sides while they waited for him to get free. He always stayed in long enough to let the more bloodthirsty audience members squirm in anticipation of witnessing a failure, a dramatic death on the stage, a legend in the making, an anecdote they could trot out at every future cocktail party.
The music swelled. I stepped forward to watch as the showgirls- turned-lovely-assistants pulled aside the screens around the tank, revealing the safe open inside it. The audience gasped, signaling Dad’s triumphant reappearance high in the rigging above the stage. His overly styled hair was deflated, his puffy shirt and leather pants dripping wet; a crew member had doused him with a bucket of water after the safes were switched out, though the audience would assume it was from the tank. He waved, shaking one last chain off his arm. Then he grabbed a line of black nylon rope and swung down to center stage.
He bowed to wild applause. Closing my eyes, I imagined it was for me.
This two-thousand-seat theater, home to the biggest magic show in Las Vegas, felt like my home. I lived here in the shadows, in his shadow.
But I wanted to step into the spotlight.
While Dad was out in the lobby chatting with fans, taking pictures, and signing programs and headshots, I wheeled my gear onto the stage and set up my props and the coffin. I breathed freely while I could, but nervously. Oh so nervously.
It wasn’t entirely my fault that I hadn’t told him yet.
Dad had raised me with a fairy-tale-ish story about my absent mother. She’d been the loveliest of the lovely assistants, talented enough that she could have been a magician herself. But they weren’t together long before she pulled the ultimate disappearing act. Gone. Poof. Dad couldn’t even thank her for depositing me with him when I was barely a year old. She’d left no method to contact her.
Six years ago, at the tender age of twelve, I decided to learn a card trick and surprise him. I figured if my mother and father were both good at magic, I could be too. I started with a basic find-a-card and was practicing it in the dressing room for the lovely assistants. Someone had run to get him. The girls were clapping and laughing, humoring me . . .
When Dad came in, he exploded. “My daughter is never going to do magic!” he said.
After a moment of shocked silence, I couldn’t stop the tears from coming. “But you and my mother,” I’d managed. “I can do it.”
“You can’t be a magician,” he told me. “No. The magic business will never fully embrace a woman. It isn’t what the audience wants. You can never be a magician, Moira.”
Dad was usually the definition of a supportive father, and his out- burst scared me enough that I shelved my interest in magic . . . for an entire month. But I kept coming back to the cards. There was a feeling building inside me that this was what I was meant to do. I could only ignore it for so long.
After that, I learned magic in secret. I became fascinated with escapes, and with finding stories about the women in magic history who were proof that what Dad had said wasn’t exactly right.
The first time I held my breath for three minutes successfully, I wanted to tell him. The first time I held it for four. The first time I got out of handcuffs. Unable to use him as a test audience—as much as I wanted to—I started to sneak out and perform for tourists at sixteen. Quick sets with no name given, not even a fake one.
The first time I slipped a straitjacket was on the street.
I had never told Dad anything. Never said a word, never shown him what I could do. Not until now, tonight. Would he be angry? Proud? A mix of the two?
I’d worked hard to create a stage illusion that was his favorite com- bination of a nod to one of the greats with a fresh spin. Except the great
I’d chosen to honor was Adelaide Herrmann, who toured as the Queen of Magic in the late 1800s and early 1900s, following the sudden death of her husband, the celebrated magician Herrmann the Great, in the middle of a tour.
The moment the back theater door swung open and Dad came in, trailed by an entourage, I came to attention. I bowed in the spotlight I’d ensured was left on—the spotlight that kept me from getting a good look at the rest of the group as they approached.
“What’s this?” Dad said. He was in dry clothes, a replacement puffy shirt and black jeans.
“I want to perform a new illusion for you. An escape.”
He was silent for a moment. “A new illusion for me? But why would you be the one—”
“No, an illusion for me.” And then I said it: “I want to be a magician.”
His eyes raked across the stage. They settled on the straitjacket draped over my arm, then moved hard back to my face. “I don’t know what nonsense this is, but I won’t tolerate it.”
My cheeks went hot. “I’ve been working on this for a long time.” “No, you have not.” “I have!” I held up the straitjacket, ready to put it on. “If you just watch, you’ll see.” He climbed onto the stage and took long strides over to me. “Moira,” Dad said. He reached out and lowered my arm. “Look, Raleigh’s here.” “Hey, Pixie,” Raleigh said. He leapt up to join us, then reached down to ruffle my black curls. He’d always used the nickname for me, and treated me like a kid sister.
Raleigh was Dad’s former apprentice, only four years older than me. He had deep-black skin, the sleek lines of a race car, and a drawl and smile that made women dizzy and sometimes ditzy. He’d turned down Dad’s offer of a permanent job to make his own way, traveling around as the Southern Sorcerer.
He did an appreciative double take and leaned back. “You’re all grown up . . . and dressed like a waitress. And you’re going to do some magic for us?”
“Yes. And once he sees it, Dad’s going to admit that I have what it takes to be a magician.”
“Really?” Raleigh said, eyes widening in surprise.
“No,” Dad said. “Not really. Tell her how ridiculous this is. She’s going to college this fall.”
“Dad, won’t you even give me a chance?”
“Maybe the old man’s feeling threatened,” Raleigh said, an attempt to defuse the tension. I forced a laugh. “Let’s see what she’s got, Mitchell.”
Dad was frowning. “I haven’t seen you in ages. I don’t have time for this . . . exhibition.”
He had scared me those years ago when he’d yelled. But now I was just frustrated.
“Dad.” I fought to keep my voice even. “I’m your daughter. Please.”
“I can only indulge so much,” he said, like I was the one in the wrong.
And then I understood. Nothing I did would matter. He was never going to agree. Once he’d made up his mind, he rarely changed it.
Dad turned to Raleigh. “Poker?”
Raleigh nodded, but when Dad started walking and the rest of the guys went along, he lingered and came in close. “Parents don’t always know what’s best, Pixie,” he said.
Before I could respond, he followed my father, saying, “I have news from that crazy billionaire’s circus that might interest you. He called me . . .”
Something dropped out of Raleigh’s jacket and onto the floor behind him. I thought it was by accident, but I didn’t stop him. Instead, I walked across the stage and picked it up: a black envelope made of thick stock. As I tried to open it, I realized the envelope was the letter itself, cleverly folded. Or, rather, not a letter. An invitation:
CONGRATULATIONS! yOU hAve beeN hAND-SeLeCTeD fOR AN eXCLUSIve AUDITION TO jOIN The CIRQUe AMeRICAN AS A peRfORMeR ON OUR ALL-New MIDwAy ThIS SUMMeR SeASON. beCOMe ONe Of The CIRQUe’S wORLD-fAMOUS ReAL-LIfe MARveLS AND DeATh-DefyING ACTS. ONLy The beST Of The beST wILL MAKe The CUT.
There was an address in Sarasota, Florida, followed by the date. It was only a few days away.
Maybe Raleigh hadn’t dropped it by accident after all.
~About the Author~
Gwenda Bond is the author of the young adult novels Lois Lane: Fallout and Girl on a Wire, among others. Lois Lane: Double Down and Girl in the Shadows, a companion novel to Girl on a Wire set in the Cirque American, are next up in 2016. She’s also hard at work on some secret projects you don’t know about yet.
Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband, author Christopher Rowe. There are rumors she escaped from a screwball comedy, and she might have a journalism degree because of her childhood love of Lois Lane. Visit her online at www.gwendabond.com or @gwenda on Twitter.
Gwenda’s Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
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