He woke up quite early next morning. It was his day off, and typically that means she also gets her day off, and so will many others including the "lover boy". His traditional routine tends to be wander around and avoid everyone in the process if possible.
The circus has been in this town for a few weeks now, and few weeks later it is probably a new town. His favourite place in this town was the riverside - a few minutes walk from where the circus has camped. He sat up on his bed and looked into the mirror. "No masks for today" he thought and prepared for his morning stuff. Breakfast is usually served in the circus canteen for everyone, but today he would like to be by the riverside. He finished his early morning duties, dressed up and started walking towards it. It was a bit chilly for this time of the year, but he didn't mind. His legs usually took him to some of the most secluded and undisturbed places. It didn't fail him this time too.
The river was flowing gently in front of him. The bench he sat on felt a bit cold, but he was not a stickler for that anyway. He sat there gazing at the river with his bag of breakfast. This should get him through most of the day without having to set foot into the circus. While he sat there he reminisced - about his now dead family, leaving him an orphan at 10. What he could remember of them made him happy. His father was hard working, gentle and kind to everyone. His mother a loving presence wherever she was. Everything was wonderful until that day...he paused, not wanting to remember that day.
He was taken in by his aunt, who "sold" him to another of his uncles. He was wretched, an abuser, an alcoholic who owned a shop that sells fake medicines in the name of traditional herbal remedies. He could never remember a day when he did not come into his room drunk and beat him and curse at him.
He would huddle in a corner of the room after his uncle was finished with him, away from any light, and wait for his uncle to go to sleep - like that winter night a few years ago. That was the day when he knew he had had enough of his uncle. He sneaked into the kitchen and took the biggest knife he could find there. He also found the wooden bat in the corner and took it with him, just in case. He stepped into his uncle's room and stood by his bed for a few moments - building up his courage. He was sure of it. He had to do it. He lifted his knife up as far as he could do and plunged it into his uncle's chest. The monster woke up choking and blabbering - it's hand trying to seek the knife stuck in his chest, trying to get it out.
"No, you don't" he thought and pummeled the monster's head with the thick bat. He didn't know how many times he did - but he wanted to be bloody sure the monster won't wake up again.
Sitting by that riverside, munching into his sandwich, he felt his eyes well up unconsciously. He was sure it was not his uncle he was crying for, it was something else. He sat there watching a family of ducks swimming gracefully through the river. For some reason, his mind calmed down watching them.
Somewhere behind he heard a familiar sound amongst a lot of giggles, laughter and chatter. He turned around to see a few of the circus people there and with them, her too. He quickly collected his things and stood up and was about to leave when he heard it. He heard someone in that group yell out.
"Oye, you!" he heard. "Joey!" he heard someone else call him. He looked around and a few people from the group were pointing at him. He turned around and walked as if not hearing them. He adjusted his pants, he never had good fitting pants, and picked up speed. He heard a few footsteps behind him and before he could pick up his speed, he felt a rough hand catch his shirt collar from behind.
"When we asked you politely to stop, we expect you to stop. Get it?" said the burly man, the "lover boy" as he was pushed and pulled and forced to turn around to face him. "Man, you stink!" said the man before letting go of his collar and pushing him away. "They should have let you stay in prison! Weirdo!" the man continued. "Leave me alone!" mumbled the "weirdo" before turning around and walking away. He had to readjust his pants - which made the group laugh. He was not sure if she laughed too, but he didn't want to turn around lest he saw her laugh - that would break him down.
He didn't know how long he walked for, but he never looked back until he felt sure there was no one behind him. He kept to the riverside so he can find his way back to the circus quickly. He waited out on a bench still staring blankly at the river in front of him. He shook his head every often when he thought about the hurt he was feeling. He had never fit into their gang, even after years in the circus and the people in it. The only time he felt happy was when one day he assisted Mina in her trapeze rehearsal. It was a different town, a different place. As a reward for his help, she treated him to a day in the fairground. They were together the whole day. He even captured her picture in his 10 dollar throw away camera. He made sure he had the film developed next day - no matter how much it cost him.
Today, seeing her with them broke his heart more than anything. He missed his family, his mother especially, more now than any other time in his life.