By K.T. Stephens
Available April 1st, 2015
Tolor’s snouty nose comes into view as he sniffs to make sure no one else is there. Almost satisfied, his eyes peek past the doorway. He smiles, pushes a clump of hair behind his ear and bounces into the room.
A new file folder sits on the coffee table.
cla clop, cla clop, cla clop.
Tolor hurriedly sits on the folder as Colovere enters the room.
The way he smiles almost seems menacing on a unicorn, but Tolor knows it’s genuine.
“There’s no need to sit on that folder, my friend.”
Tolor looks around. “What folder?”
Colovere nudges his horn into Tolor’s shoulder. He jumps out of the chair and the file falls on the floor.
“Ouch!” He eyes the papers. “Where did that come from?”
Colovere snorts. “Pick them up. You’re the host this week.”
Tolor rubs his shoulder a moment longer before bending to retrieve the paperwork.
Someone knocks on the door.
“Come in, come in,” Colovere calls.
“What a rude way to usher in a guest for an interview,” Juliette says leading a teenage boy into the room.
Entering behind them, Brayden eyes the boy suspiciously.
Brayden folds his arms against his chest. “I’m not go –“
“Ouch!,” Brayden yells, backing out the door as Colovere threatens to stick him in the butt cheek again.
Tolor winces, sympathetically. Then brightens.
“It’s Joey,” He says enthusiastically. He shakes Joey’s hand and motions toward the chair with his other paw. “It’s so good to see you.”
“Yeah, sure. Whatever. Ms. Stephens told me to say thanks for having me.” He sits quickly, casting a suspicious eye on the beran. “She also told me to answer your questions and don’t be sassy.” He slouches in the chair.
“So you’re my interview today.”
Juliette pulls up a chair and sits beside Joey. “You two know each other?”
“No,” Tolor says. “But being the freak of nature we beran’s are, I know most of the people that work for the circus.” He clears his throat. “Now quiet down so I can start my interview.”
Juliette frowns, but does as she is told.
Joey slumps further down in the chair and glances at Tolor from between strands of hair partially covering his eyes.
It’s great to have you, Joey. Would you tell us a little bit about your story?
“Ohh, that kind of interview. I thought I was going to get chewed out. Again.” He brightens, sitting a bit straighter. “Sure. See, my brothers and I are tightrope walkers. That’s why we joined the circus. I’m really good.” His brows draw in. “At least, that’s what my brothers and everyone else tell me.”
“It sounds like you having really protective brothers. I hope they aren’t as bad as Selene's,” he says glancing toward the door. “Are you all pretty close?”
Joey shrugs. “I guess. We take care of each other. The twins are eleven years older than me and like to boss me around. Things are good when they don’t drink our pay away, but I’d still rather be with them than anywhere else.”
Tolor nods. "I agree, there's nothing like spending time with family. Juliette, Selene and Colovere are my family now."
He frowns. "The notes I have suggest your parents were abusive. What was it like being separated from them? Were you glad to go with your brothers?"
“I don’t like to think of my parents much. My brothers told me our mom and dad went to jail because they were dealing drugs or something. If they weren't sleeping then they were yelling at us. I don’t miss them at all. Not a bit. I have my circus family.”
Joey’s answer sounds a bit forced, so Tolor changes the subject.
“The circus. I’m so jealous. What’s it like working there?” Tolor glances at the sheet of paper wedged between his claws. His eyes bulge. “The tight rope? I know you mentioned the rope earlier. But what kind of men allow their younger brother to take up tightrope walking?” Shakes his head. “What’s this world coming to? What if you fell, have you ever fallen?”
“I've fallen plenty of times,” Joey says, laughing. “Mason, the owner of the circus, makes me use a safety net during the actual performances. But that’s why we practice every day, so we don’t fall as much. If our acts weren't dangerous, no one would come to see us perform, right? But the three of us are really good. That’s why I used to get so angry with Lewis. He practiced a lot, but never got any better. So now, I’m figuring I’ll help him find a different act—one that he’s better at, ya know?”
Tolor bends forward, speaking in Joey’s ear. “I hear you’re tough and you have a fondness for spray paint. Want to go spray some walls and bridges when we’re done? I can get a group of young berans together. How fun would that be?”
Joey grins. “I sneak out late at night. You guys are welcome to come along, as long as you keep your growls to yourselves.”
Juliette rolls her eyes. “That’s called graffiti, Tolor. It’s illegal.”
"Only in his world. Not ours."
“Whoa, guys.” Joey holds up his hands. “Don’t get all excited on my account. I don’t mess up important things with my art. Honest. Anyway, I thought you wanted to know more about the story?”
Abashed, Juliette and Tolor sit up straight and smooth their clothing. Tolor clears his throat.
"So I've been hearing there’s a new guy at your circus? What’s he like? I might be able to take him out for you if I can sneak out of Jena’s head long enough.”
Joey shakes his head. “Naw, we’re good now. I used to get really pissed at Lewis, ‘cause everyone paid attention to him and not me. See, he had problems with the slackline—that’s a different line than a tightrope. It’s wider and has more give to it. Anyway, I didn’t understand what Lewis was going through. All I saw is that everyone was nice to him and hated me. Especially Tiny. He’s our strongman.” He twisted his hands together. “See, Tiny’s so cool. And I really wanted him to like me. And the only way he noticed me at all was when I messed with Lewis.” A twinkle lit his eyes. “So I messed with Lewis. You’ll have to read the story to see what happens, Tolor.”
“I'll be looking forward to it. What’s your author, KT Stephens, like? Jena’s head is always so scattered. I don’t know how we manage to stay sane here sometimes.”
“She’s pretty cool, but I know exactly what you mean. Being in her head is like riding the Octopus at the side show carnival—centrifugal force all the time. But, she loves our circus and has about twenty stories written about all of us. Sometimes we get our own story—like mine—and sometimes our people are scattered through a bunch of them. I’m hoping she’ll think I’m important enough to be in a couple more.”
Tolor nods. “Do you feel like she portrayed you properly?”
Joey taps his forehead. “If she understands what’s going on up here, yeah, I think she did a good job. Hey, I’m a teenager.” He jumps out of the chair and starts a slow hip grind, arms raised high. “How hard can it be to understand what makes me do what I do…” bump, “…act like I act…” bump, “and be what I… be.” He stopped. “Okay, so I’m not perfect. I get that.”
Tolor and Juliette laugh.
"Anything you would change?” Tolor asks.
“Just that next time I’m in one of her stories, I’d like for Ms. Stephens to let Terri, the dog trainer’s daughter, fall in love with me. Or at least worship me from afar. That girl is HOT!” He saunters back to the chair.
"Wow, she is a pretty one. Looks a little scary though, maybe you you be careful not to make he mad in the meantime."
Tolor Looks over his notes. "Who is Tiny? He sounds like someone who might make a good dinner for a beran.”
“Oh, you don’t want to mess with Tiny. He’s our strongman and holy crap, he’s huge. Almost bigger than you! You know that guy on WWE—John Cena? The one with the huge muscles? Tiny makes Cena look, well… tiny. I swear, the man is at least six-eight. But like I said, he’s cool. He’s like the second in command of the circus. People really respect him, you know?”
The beran's head tilts. "Is there anything you might like to share that we didn't cover?"
“We talked about Terri, right? About the worship from afar deal? Okay, then I’m good.”
"Any advice you might give a fellow character?”
Joey winks at Juliette. “Just be a hard ass on the outside with a soft gooey center. Chicks love that.” He clears his throat. “At any rate that’s what Tiny and my brothers tell me. Maybe you shouldn't write that…”
Tolor's ears twitch. “How about gossip? Our fellow characters love gossip”
Joey draws back and lifts his chin. “I never gossip. That’s a girl thing.” He leans forward and lowers his voice. “Jeez, buddy. Wait until Juliette leaves, would you?”
Juliette smirks and Tolor glances at the clock and stands.
“Our time is up, but great interview, man. Maybe we can do this again sometime. Any last words?"
“I’m guessing Ms. Stephens would want you to know that my story is in an anthology of other YA stuff by different Scribophile authors. Oh, and it’s going to be released on April 1.”
He stands and pumps a fist into the air. “Tightrope walkers do it balancing!” Joey drops his fist and grins sheepishly. “My brothers told me to say that. I’m beginning to understand what it means.”
Author, K.T. Stephens writes YA and children’s books and is especially enamored of the circus. Just mention acrobats and strongmen and she’ll jump headfirst into this world of magic, color and precision and take you with her! She also has published adult literature under the pseudonym Katie Stephens. Her latest release is a romance story in the anthology Love Least Expected called Alphabetical Disorder. And you’ll never believe it’s about the circus. Or will you?
You can follow K.T. Stephens at Facebook
Balancing Act is one of thirteen stories in the YA anthology Seven Deadly Sins: Pride, set to release on April 1, 2015. Six more anthology sets are in the works for later dates.
All the authors are members of the writing site Scribophile. You can follow along with the progress of the first book in the series blog here - Or on Facebook
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