The Faire

Chapter 1

“In you go, you massive baby,” Gwen groaned.

Gwen led the last elephant into the stables, wiping sweat from her forehead. Whoever thought leading horses to water was difficult had no idea about trying to steer an elephant into a confined space. Roxie, in particular, was quite the claustrophobic creature. Gwen imagined she must have been quite a sight, leading elephants through the busy crowds of The Faire. In truth, she was a glorified stable boy.

One woman, who looked only a few years older than Gwen was and dressed in a barmaid’s garb, had told her how amazing it would be to work at a renaissance fair. Gwen had to admit, she was pretty immune to it all. The sounds and smells of The Faire were so familiar, by now: the kettle corn peddlers walking past every five feet calling out in poor imitations of Old English, the turkey legs in every stand and several hands, and incense burning in all the Tarot shops sinking into every item of clothing she owned. The occasional waft from the soap-making shops reminded her that this is the mass-marketed version of ‘Ye Olden Times.’ In true olden times, Gwendolyn Tyler and her family would bathe maybe once a year and lice and fleas would fill the heads of the crowds.

Gwen and her dad worked the Elephant Riding station, offering rides to tantrummy children, nerdy adults, and the occasional old lady. Most of the day, however, was spent shoveling poop into buckets and food into the elephants mouths. The elephants had been in the show for years, trained by Tim York before Gwen’s family even deigned to join The Faire full time.

Tim York had been the real-deal. The Renaissance expert. As her parents told her often, it was Tim that convinced the young couple that had once been Gwen’s parents that they should open up shop in The Faire. He declared that they absolutely must sell the homemade jewelry Gwen’s mother had made and worn and been complimented on. Bored with their 9-to-5 life, they jumped at the opportunity. Tim helped teach them. Then, when Gwen was born, he taught her, too, what it was really like in the days of the Renaissance. Her parents even took his suggestion of Gwendolyn as a name, after the Arthurian tales.

He would tell her stories in her toddler years about Renaissance art and traditions. Instead of watching Ninja Turtles, she was taught about the real Michaelangelo, Donatello, Raphael and Leonardo.
While her parents ran their shop, and when she grew up and developed a fascination for the elephants (Roxie, Roo, and Reverend) he told more stories as she helped bathe them and feed them. Even now, she could not consider the elephants as her own. They would always belong to Tim York.

When she was nine, she learned about how the painter Davinci developed war machines for money. Tim explained the Black Plague, how rats carried it, and how after all those people died normal people could better afford to live. She learned that it was in the Renaissance era that a man named Christopher Columbus stumbled upon America, where she now lived and breathed in the modern era. Though, he was not the first, and Tim warned her to remember that.

With very few young friends traveling with The Faire, Gwen clung to her friendship with Tim York, idolizing him. However, when Gwen was twelve, Cassidy joined The Faire family. She was one year younger than Gwen, and they became fast friends who spent every waking moment together. In her absence, Tim York began spending more time with Gwen’s mother.

At fourteen, Gwen’s mother sat her down to tell her that Tim York was killed by his own drunk driving. To Gwen, he just disappeared. With no family to his name, and no one to run the Elephant Riding station, Gwen pressured her parents into taking over. A few months later it was only her and her father. Gwen’s best guess was that her mother couldn’t take the grief of losing her York, that they were lovers. Not that her father would tell her that.

Now, they were in Colorado. One of Gwen’s favorites if only for how much space they were given: a giant lot for their RV’s and spanning fields for her elephants to graze. She was no longer a lonely and curious kid. She was a begrudging 19-year old, who had only just gotten a driver’s license, and who was craving McDonald’s like nothing else could ever satiate her hunger. She was never the type to ignore her impulses.

Roxie lifted her massive red-brown trunk and nudged the platform where Gwen stood, redirecting Gwen’s attention to feeding her. It was a myth that elephants feasted on peanuts. Gwen, instead, had a bucket of their favorite treats—tree bark. The day had been slow, and the sun blisteringly hot, and she had dealt with several hecklers with Animal Cruelty groups. The elephants were not fond of the shouting, and she could sense their unease. Sir Michael, Gwen’s father, had told her to close down shop and take the elephants out to the stables for some rest.

Gwen dropped the rusted bucket in front of Roxie and patted her trunk. It was rough, like the worn out pad of a dog’s foot, and slightly hairy. She picked up a hose and held it over their trough of water, splashing it on her dark brown, hand-stitched trousers.

“Time’s change, Roxie, dearest. According to them, it’s cruel to care for you when you know nothing else in life. Ah well, I’ve seen what happened to retired elephants. It won’t happen to you. I won’t let it.”

The elephant lowered her trunk to the bucket, raising a strip of bark to its mouth and crunching in with a blank stare at Gwen. Roxie looked tired, but that was nothing new for her. In reality, Gwen was sure Roxie did not give a damn what Gwen was saying, just that there were treats to be had.

They stared at one another for a moment more and then Gwen locked the stable and walked outside. Hand to her brow, she let her eyes readjust to the sun. She had never really had a choice in The Faire life, but sometimes it was beautiful with a setting like this.

There were mountains in the distance, green and jutting from the earth like teeth of a great beast. The highway was far enough away that you didn’t hear the cars roaring. This particular fairground had been pre-built for fairs, with buildings large enough to believe you were in a small town. Smoke truly billowed out of chimneys and the foot paths to the main areas were paved with stones of varying sizes.

If it were just empty of all the people with t-shirts and jeans, elven ears glued to their own, or those with the wire and cloth butterfly wings you might believe the setting was really some remote village in Renaissance Europe. There was still the international food station where a person could have a calzone or a hotdog far over-priced, or a paper cup full of bubbling soda, which surely broke the illusion. No, surely, with the high-calorie food, and overweight ladies in too-tight corsets sweating profusely in the hot July sun, she must be in modern day America.

Thinking of things most American in nature, she trudged down to Cassidy’s Gaming with Monks booth to invite her to McDonald’s. She tugged her loose blouse down as the whipping wind threatened to blow it up and over her head the moment it came loose from her chunky brown leather belt. She chose to dress in men’s attire, because the nature of her job got to be difficult in massive skirts. If not for her long black hair tied in plaits on her head by the Hairbraiding Ladies booth, and two larger than average lumps of fat on her chest, she could have been mistaken as a stable boy for sure. Unfortunately, for a girl uninterested in romantic endeavors, some boys liked that.

Jacob, the apprentice to the firebreather, waved her way as she passed the Celestial Stage. His deep dimples and gapped teeth were familiar and annoying to her, if only because she had rejected his advances so often. He was like that persistent little brother that always wanted in on whatever she was doing, making unwanted advances at inconvenient times. She did not hate him, they were on friendly terms. Just as long as they were in public, in a brightly lit place, and surrounded by a large group of friends doing things not even vaguely romantic in nature.

Still, she waved back and stopped to watch as Worsham blew a massive gust of flame in an upward trajectory before quickly spitting out the gasoline. His face lit up orange in the light of the fire. She could imagine him as a dragon walking in a man's body, if she believed in such things.

The crowd watched him through cell phones screens, instead of watching it live, so they could be sure to report all the fun they were having to their StalkMe pages. Gwen rolled her eyes as she noticed this.

The people watching Worsham in person would have seen up close how the sweat dripped down his dark skin, the zig-zagging stray hairs of his long braids where they had been singed by the fire, and the nervous smile that slipped on his face when he realized he had succeeded in the trickiest of fire-breathing tricks. The same trick she had visited him in the hospital for when he had swallowed the gasoline, effectively setting flame in his throat when he set fire to the gasoline in his mouth. If people had seen him behind the scenes, recovering after every failed trick, they would have given him the courtesy of watching him carefully.

“Woohoo! Go, Worsham!” Gwen hollered, louder than even the most awed child in the crowd.

He gave her a quick grin and wink, and made some lame joke to the crowd about needing to wear a diaper because of the gasoline he ingested. The crowd laughed, and Gwen rolled her eyes and walked off. It was probably true, after all.

There was a steep incline on the hill, and the air was so dry she was wheezing by the time she reached the uppermost shops. She was so winded she bumped into a man in full armor, dragonfly wings, and elf ears, who disappeared before she could apologize. She was glad of it. She could not stand the people who took the costumes so seriously, but then added fairy wings and ears. It was a blow to the realism of it all. Then again, so was her ability to hop in her car and grab a sausage biscuit and fries at any time of day.

Beside The Living Fountain, where their friend Lizzie, painted all in grey and posing like a statue stood, was Cassidy’s booth. Cassidy was repositioning the chess pieces on the board after what looked like a defeated teen boy walked back into the crowd chomping down angrily on his Sausage-on-a-Stick. Lizzie blew him a kiss in slow motion, acting as if her grey painted limbs were living stone. He stopped dead in his tracks and then got caught up in the spell of her fountain. When her dad was not around, Lizzie treated it like a kissing booth. This also meant that when her dad was not around it got more business.
Gwen shook her head and called out to Cassidy.

The girl with her long, intricately braided chestnut hair and olive green “monk” cloak turned and grinned. She was gorgeous in every sense of the word. Symmetrically, classically, and even in personality. She was Gwen’s dearest and oldest friend. Other people couldn't tolerate Gwen for as long as Cassidy had. She would call herself unafraid of confrontation, they would call her a bitch. Then the confrontation would start, and Gwen usually came out the victor.

“Dearest Gwendolyn, art thou finished so early in thine day?” she asked, placing an ivory castle in its corner with a perfectly manicured hand. Her cloak brushed the board knocking a rook to the dirt. Gwen leaned to pick it up, and Cassidy crouched down at the same time.

“Alas, PETA ruins another of the elephant’s day in the sun. They are resting off the jeering among the stables, but as for me…” Gwen placed a hand beside her mouth in faux-secrecy. Cassidy, following the charade, leaned in raptly. “I am craving a Big Mac and fries like a mo-fo. Care to join me?”

Cassidy laughed heartily, and covered her mouth like a true courtier would. Too bad she was supposed to act like a monk, Gwen thought, she’s better at princess-ing than Heather is. She grabbed the rook and placed it on the board, standing. Cassidy subconsciously adjusted it to its correct position. Surely, she got her sense of obsessive neatness from her grandmother.

Cassidy glanced sidelong at her grandfather with her almond shaped brown eyes. He faked sleep to lure in The Faire guests who liked to annoy the elderly. It worked surprisingly well most days. People liked hearing an elderly monk cursing at them at these sorts of events. It was the Renaissance equivalent of ‘you kids, get off my lawn.’ The chess game was only secondary. In real life, Monk Theodore, aka Ted Ranklin, was a generous grandfather raising his granddaughter in place of her alcoholic and incarcerated mother. He peeked an eye open and then closed it again with a smile.

“You lassies have fun. Don’t get into any trouble, you hear?”

They both laughed and leaned down to kiss each side of his cheek. He waved them both off, no longer feigning sleep. “Away with ye, you harlots. I’m a celibate monk, you heathens.”

Still laughing, they dashed through the crowds down the hill to the staff parking lot, stopping only for a bottle of water to share.

“That boy looked like a loser,” Gwen grinned. “So devastated that he lost. Does he not know you’re the state champion?”

Cassidy demurred. “That’s not true.”

“Of course it is,” Gwen said, stepping down a slight dip in the dirt. “We go to several states, you win at every one of them, therefore you are a champion. Now, you just have to lord it over everyone.”

Cassidy laughed, and shoved Gwen playfully.

“Does that make you the champion of elephants?” Cassidy asked.

“More like they are the champions over me. Feed me, feed me, all day long. I swear that Roo broke my foot on purpose last year when I accidentally gave his food to Reverend. They’re too smart for their own good.”

They laughed all the way down to the area of the lot where the RV’s stood. Some of the workers were lucky enough to afford hotels wherever The Faire travelled. Others, like Gwen and Cassidy, stayed in RVs all of their lives. With only 329 sq. feet of house and no privacy, slipping out on The Faire was always the most fun they got to have alone.

They passed Cassidy’s long-time boyfriend, now ex, Justin, in the process of making out with Heather, The Faire’s “princess” behind Justin’s jeep. He had his filthy 26-year old fingers slipping down her 15-year old collarbone and into her dress, and it took all Gwen had not to smash his pretty-boy face through the glass of his back window. He did have a bullseye decal there, after all. It was one of the hardest things for Gwen, to try and control her impulses. Unfortunately, Heather’s parents knew of the two’s illicit relationship, their vast age difference, and approved. So, there was not much else to be done aside from gag every time you were in their vicinity.

Unfortunately, Cassidy also saw the two of them, and her feet became like cement holding her there. Her gaze was both longing and shattered. He never seemed to stop breaking Cassidy’s heart, as soft as it was.

Justin was smirking down at Heather, and she had her eyes pressed closed. Her cheeks were flushed. He leaned his head away from her lips and down to bite her slender neck.

Gwen’s hand moved before she knew what she was doing. Once she saw that she had doused Justin and Heather with the ice-cold water from their bottle, she approved of her own actions. At least she had not punched him, despite every cell in her body screaming that it would be what he deserved.

“What the fuck?!” Justin screamed at her, piercing blue eyes filled with outrage. Then, he saw who had thrown the water clearly, and his expression darkened. “You filthy little bitch. I will fucking kill-”

A screech drowned him out, escaping from the pink worn-out lips of Heather. “Myyyyy Dr-dr-dresssssss! Look what she did to my dresssssss!”

Her voice was a high-pitched whine, like that of a boiling kettle. There were splotches of red forming on her pale freckled face, as large alligator tears formed in the brim of her eyes. Her dress barely looked wet, aside from a small spattering of what appeared to be a darker green velvet in the bodice.

“My bad. It was just such a hot day…thought you would need a little cool down. You were looking a little too hot and heavy there, y’know?” Gwen smiled wickedly, and grabbed Cassidy’s hand. Her palms were clammy, and she didn’t grip back.

“I’m telling my father!” Heather yelled behind them, as Gwen dragged Cassidy away.

Heather was as spoiled as a princess, that was for sure. Her father was not any better off than the rest of them, though, and had no real power in The Faire world. You couldn’t tell Heather that, though. You probably couldn't tell her father that either. He played the king during all of the jousts, and relished that role.

Cassidy was staring over her shoulder at Justin as they walked off, and Gwen turned to see the scene they were leaving behind. She walked carefully backwards, still dragging Cassidy towards her car. Justin was still muttering threats at her, and she stuck out her tongue and mouthed that he was a cradle-robber. With that, he grabbed Heather menacingly by the arm, and pulled her back towards his car.

Gwen turned forward again, wrapping an arm around Cassidy’s shoulders. Gwen wanted to say ‘you’re better off’, but Cassidy saw the good in all people. Even if those people dated her until she was of legal age and then dumped her for someone younger. Empathy was her fatal flaw.

“McFlurry it is,” Gwen said, instead, squeezing her shoulder. Cassidy smiled weakly.

It had only been months since Justin had been caught cheating. Months since Gwen had pulled a weeping and fully-clothed Cassidy out of a burning hot shower, and force fed her ice-cream and comedy movies. When Cassidy was crying and asked if Justin had ever loved her, Gwen could not tell her that he probably hadn’t or even lie and say that he probably had. That’s the problem with cheating. Either answer hurts just as badly.

As they reached Gwen's rusted white 1995 Toyota Tercel, a car she had gotten so dirt cheap she was surprised every time she cranked it and it was still running, she apologized to Cassidy.

“Sorry for what?” Cassidy asked, knowing full well it was for getting her involved in the scuffle when Cassidy would rather avoid Justin completely.

“For losing our water. We were supposed to share, remember?” Gwen smirked.

With that Cassidy genuinely smiled, and hopped into the passenger seat, brushing stale fry particles off of the grey fabric before tugging her floor length green cloak out of the door frame.

"Seat belts!" Gwen called while pulling on her own. Then she turned the CD player to number 3 on her burned CD, and set the volume to 20. Amanda Palmer came through the speakers singing in her bitter tones and generally speaking to Gwen’s soul. She screamed the words as the singer did:

I’d like to do more than survive, I’d like to rub it in your face.
Hey, it's been a lovely day, everything is going my way
I had so much fun today and I'm on fire

She wished that Cassidy could feel the bitterness, feel the anger, and get mad at Justin like a normal person would. Like Gwen herself already felt by proxy. Cassidy always internalized and blamed herself, relieving Justin of any guilt. While she did not mind it when Cassidy did the same for her, she just felt Cassidy could move on thoroughly if she felt even an iota of resentment.

They drove with the windows down, blasting the song to all could hear. Gwen hoped Justin was listening and got the message.

Turning onto the main road, she assumed it must seem weird to some people to leave the Renaissance in a car, but that was just her world. Elephants and Cars. Turkey Legs and Big Macs. Chemises and Converse high-tops.

Always, there was Cassidy. She would be damned before she let anyone else hurt her.
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It would not paste the formatting correctly, and I will not be going in to do it individually. Hopefully, you can enjoy it without italics where they should be. Thank you for reading!