This is the final part of an 11-part series (click here to read the first blog in the series).
‘Oh my God! You’re here! She’s here! She’s right here. You’re right here.’
Tanya’s voice was a mix of excitement, relief and concern. Her large body thunked down beside Sophie on the floor of their tent. Arms hugging to gather her friend in – sucking her up in an impassioned embrace. Sophie was dazed and confused, but found herself flooding with joy as she pressed her cheek into Tanya’s big, chuckling bosom.
‘Oh my God, Sophie!’ Annie burst into the tent. ‘Are you alright? Where have you been?’
Sophie slumped back on the rolled pile of her sleeping bag. Realising she’d been curled up, in their shared tent, wearing only her underwear. It was light outside. Annie bent over to cuddle around Sophie’s legs as Tanya took up the interrogation.
‘Oh my God, girl! Where the fuck have you been?’
The dizzy adventurer strained her brow to concentrate. A mad kaleidoscope of images, from last night, whirled before her eyes. Spinning on the wheel. The flying knives and flaming whip. The summoning spell and the chase through the woods. The Binding Oath and the branding. The clothes and the jewellery. The feathered tail and the birdcage. And the Circus Master: swirling around at the centre of everything.
‘Where the fuck have you been, Sophie?’ Annie was distressed. ‘We’ve been looking for you, all night! What happened to you at the circus? The woman with your phone said they put you on a wheel, on the stage, and threw knives at you!’
Sophie nodded slowly. That must’ve really happened. That bit wasn’t a dream. Although surely the rest was? She fiddled with her fringe as she cast her eyes over her unmarked body.
‘We’ve been all over the place looking for you.’ Tanya flustered. ‘We’ve been everywhere… literally! We tracked down your phone… and bag… but you weren’t there. We asked the security… probably all of them. Checked with the St John’s ambulance people.’
‘A couple of times.’ Annie added.
‘We were about to go to the police, right now!’
‘It’s 9.30 in the morning. Where have you been all night?’ Annie shook her head as she repeated the question.
Sophie was discombobulated. Focus flicking back and forth between the wide eyes of her friends. She tried to think. Could actually remember it all very clearly, but it must’ve been a dream.
‘I… don’t really… I’m not quite… I think I must’ve been dreaming, because… I must have been dreaming.’
‘But where?’ Annie shrugged wide. ‘You haven’t been in the tent. We kept checking the tent… and you weren’t here! We last checked about an hour-and-a-half-ago.’
Sophie shook her head. ‘I don’t… I’m not sure I remem… I remember watching the circus… and being on the big wheel… and… well… after that… It must’ve been a dream.’
‘You must’ve been proper fucked, girl!’ A hint of Tanya’s dirty cackle emerging. ‘Did you take anything, besides those shitty pills?’ Sophie’s head was still shaking. Tanya mirrored the movement, shrugged a huff of air and then beamed. ‘Well, you’re here now… and you’re alright… that’s the most important thing.’
She collected her friend up in another enormous embrace, whilst Annie spread herself to blanket both their legs. Sophie closed her eyes and luxuriated in the comfortable safety for a few happy moments. As they pulled out of the group-hug, Annie gasped an exclamation of surprise. Her hands pressing against Sophie’s thigh as she peered intently at the top of the buttock.
‘Did you get a tattoo?!’
‘What?’ Sophie was confused.
Tanya leant over and flattened her friend out on the floor to get a better view.
‘Oh my God, Sophie! Who the fuck is CM?!’