The Traveling ManJane Harvey-Berrick
The Traveling Man
Books by Jane Harvey-Berrick
PART ONE - BEGINNINGS
Chapter 1 – My Tenth Birthday
Chapter 2 – The Boy in the Hickory Tree
Chapter 3 – Fanning the Flames
Chapter 4 – Everything Changes
Chapter 5 – Rising Star
Chapter 6 – Holding Back the Tide
Chapter 7 – Empty Promises
PART TWO - ON THE ROAD
Chapter 8 – Endings and Beginnings
Chapter 9 – Stories and Lies
Chapter 10 – Games People Play
Chapter 11 – Forward Roll
Chapter 12 – Standing on the Edge
Chapter 13 – Along For the Ride
Chapter 14 – Playing Nice
Chapter 15 – Day by Day
Chapter 16 – Wild Rover
Chapter 17 – Carousel
More about JHB
THE TRAVELING MAN
Copyright © Jane A. C. Harvey-Berrick
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. It may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you do, you are stealing from me, my family and my dog. I only distribute my work through iBooks, Amazon, Nook, Kobo, Google Play and Create Space. If you have gotten this book from anywhere else, it is a pirate copy, it is illegal, and you’ve really spoiled my day. Just saying.
Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.
All rights reserved.
Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.
This book is a work of fiction. Names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher. Jane Harvey-Berrick has asserted her moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
First published in 2015
Harvey Berrick Publishing
Kirsten Olsen and Trina Miciotta
Cover design by
Hang Le / www.byhangle.com
Cover photograph by
Michael Anthony Downs / www.michaelanthonydowns.com
Cover model, Tyler Gattuso
Interior design and formatting by
Christine Borgford / www.perfectlypublishable.com
At Your Beck & Call
Dangerous to Know and Love
Playing in the Rain
Summer of Seventeen
The Dark Detective
The New Samurai
The Education of Sebastian
The Education of Caroline
The Traveling Woman (not yet published)
To Libby, a friend who has travelled life’s bumpy road with humour and wisdom.
I was ordinary. Nice.
He was extraordinary. And he wasn’t always nice.
But he was beautiful.
Handsome was too small a word for his smooth golden skin, stretched across sharp cheekbones and strong chin; eyes the color of the sea before a storm, the expression questioning, vulnerable; lips soft and pliant, rose-kissed; his body hard, sculpted, dangerous...
He could breathe fire, he could eat flames, but the word ‘love’ burned on his lips.
I was on the journey before I even knew our story had started.
Funny the way things work out.
Two eyes, black as buttons, were watching me. The figure in the darkness crooked a finger. Come here, the gesture said. I took a step forward into the shadows.
“What are you doing?”
“Hiding,” said the boy.
His smile was mischievous and I should have known better. Perhaps I did. But when I was ten, I didn’t care.
“I want to show you something,” he said. “Or are you too chicken?”
I was definitely chicken, and I already knew that he was going to get me into trouble…
My parents hadn’t wanted to go to the carnival, but it was my birthday, so I was allowed to choose how we were going to spend the day.
My older sister, Jennifer, wanted to go ice-skating at the indoor rink in Minneapolis. But I hated ice-skating because I couldn’t do it, and I didn’t like being in the city much either. Usually Jennifer got her way, but because it was my day, for once I was allowed to choose—and I chose the carnival.
The posters announcing that the carnival was coming went up just after the Fourth of July and two weeks before my birthday. I knew right away that’s what I wanted to do on my day.
To me, the carnival promised a world of magic. I’d never been anywhere in my life, never even left Minnesota. But carnie people, they had homes with wheels and could go wherever they wanted. They weren’t stuck in a small town, dreaming of the world beyond.
When I told my family what I wanted to do, Dad snapped his newspaper over the breakfast table and gave me The Look. We were all petrified of The Look and would do anything to avoid it and the wrath that usually followed—even Mom.
“The carnival is full of people who want you to waste all your money on silly games, just so you can win a $2 stuffed toy. Is that what you want for your birthday, Aimee? Your birthday money wasted? You might as well throw it away.”
I couldn’t meet his eyes and I shook my head wordlessly. Because I did want to go to the carnival: desperately. But when silent tears tracked down my cheeks, Mom wrapped me in her arms, and I buried my face in her softness, smelling cinnamon and something lemony, a scent that always made me feel safe.
“Don’t worry,” she said, “we’ll go to the carnival.”
I was shocked. It was the first time I’d ever seen her stand up to my father. I was ten.
The carnival had never come to our small town before, but then Mr. Peterson up and died, which was very selfish of him, or so said the ladies of the town guild, because his high school drop-out son rented the field to the carnies, and all sorts of unsavory people were going to swarm into our nice, quiet town and paint it red.
I rather liked the sound of that: all those dull, concrete buildings and ugly malls painted as red as Madonna’s lipstick. Until Mom told me it was a metaphor. Our elderly neighbor, Mrs. Flock, lived for gossip and drama, and she told everyone that if the carnies came, the streets would run with blood. I asked Mom if that was another metaphor, and Mrs. Flock said, “Not necessarily.”
She made it sound like the townsfolk were Colonel Custer and the Seventh Cavalry, and a thousand million Sioux were going to come swarming over the horizon. I couldn’t wait. Finally, something exciting was going to happen.
And then, the day before my birthday, they arrived.
It was a Friday towards the end of July, and the air shimmered with summer heat, even the flies were drugged and lazy. I was sitting under my tree with a book when the ground began to hum. I watched with awe as the road outside our house growled and rumbled. I imagined bronzed horsemen sweeping down with their black hair flying and the pounding of horses hooves. I was only mildly disappointed when a stream of massive sixteen-wheelers roared past in a cloud of diesel and dirt.
I ran to watch them, ignoring the grit that flew up, making my eyes water and covered my clothes in a layer of fine red dust.
My blood felt hotter in
my veins and I clenched my fists in excitement.
They were here!
The huge trucks poured into Mr. Peterson’s field and I wanted to run down the street and watch, but Mom came out and caught my wrist.
“You mustn’t go over there by yourself, Aimee,” she said, her voice low and urgent. “It’s not safe.”
That made me want to go even more, but I was a good girl and used to listening to my mother. So I didn’t go, no matter how badly I wanted to.
Instead, I climbed as high as I could into the bitternut hickory tree in the front yard, scraping my knees on the granite-gray bark that looked like scales. The leaves were still green and would stay that color until September, when the first cold front rolled in. It was a useful place to hide when I didn’t want to be found, which was quite often.
The dust swirled like smoke and a knot twisted my stomach. I screwed up my face and peered into the red cloud, my greedy eyes feeding on the distant scene. Tinny music drifted on the scalded air and the monstrous trucks disgorged the rides piece by piece, wrestling the hot metal into fantastical shapes.
The only one I could make out at this distance was the Ferris wheel. It rose up like the skeleton of a mythical beast, promising a new world and distant horizons from the highest point—so much higher than my old hickory tree. My ten-year old self was filled with hopes and dreams.
“Aimee, get your butt down here! Mom’s looking for you.”
I scowled through the leaves. Jennifer had found me.
“What does she want?” I yelled.
But Jennifer had already kicked my book into the long grass and headed back inside.
I took one last look at Camelot rising toward the Minnesota sun, and slid down the tree, shoving my dirty hands in the pockets of my shorts.
That night when I went to bed, my limbs twitched with anticipation. I could hardly hold my excitement inside. They were there, just across the field—carnie people. If I breathed in hard enough, maybe I could catch the scent of hotdogs in the still air, and imagine the sugary sweetness of cotton candy gluing my long hair to my lips.
I was old enough to know that magic didn’t exist, and young enough to hope that I was wrong. I was sure that if magic belonged anywhere in the world, it was living and breathing right across the road in Mr. Peterson’s field.
I pushed my thin sheet to the end of the bed and knelt on the mattress, elbows propped on the windowsill. Pink and yellow lights flashed a gaudy warning: danger, blink-blink, blink-blink.
When I woke the next morning, the first thing I did was stare out the window at the Ferris wheel, stark and still in the bright white sky. I relaxed a fraction. I’d been so afraid that they’d vanish in the night, gone like fairy dust. Maybe I did believe in a magic—just a little.
“Happy birthday, baby girl!” sang Mom, bustling into the room to rain blueberry-scented kisses onto my squirming face.
“Mom!” I shrieked and laughed, ducking her extravagant hug.
“Someone’s getting pancakes for breakfast!” she smiled, her eyes crinkling with happiness.
Too much pleasure was rigorously policed in our house and doled out like cough medicine; pancakes were the Shangri La of breakfasts, only permitted on birthdays and holidays. Mom loved pancakes as much as I did. At times like this, it was me and Mom against the world.
I raced downstairs, crashing into the kitchen table, my fork hovering over the stack of golden goodness, waiting for permission to eat.
Dad glanced up over his newspaper and wished me a happy birthday. I gazed at him nervously, thanked him, and looked away.
Jennifer thundered down the stairs behind me, forgetting that she was 13 and learning to be cool.
“Enjoy!” laughed Mom, smiling as we swooped in like vultures, shoveling pancakes onto our plates and drowning them in syrup.
Mom helped herself, too, and the three of us inhaled a gazillion calories, buzzing with excitement and a sugar high that would last all morning. Until I came crashing back to earth, with Jennifer’s demand that we go skating in the city.
My gratitude to Mom wavered over the years, but that day, that very special birthday, she was on my side.
“No, Jennifer; it’s Aimee’s birthday, so we’re going to the carnival. You’ll enjoy it.”
Dad pressed his lips together, his disapproval louder than a yell. My eyes dropped to my empty plate, hiding the smile that threatened to break out.
After breakfast, time seemed to slow down, then spin backwards, loop around a few times and crawl across the face of the kitchen clock, mocking me every second as the blue hands stuttered and hesitated.
I had new books to read. Gifts for my birthday from Mom and Dad—although I doubt he even knew what Mom had chosen—but every part of me longed to be in Mr. Peterson’s field, investigating the mysteries that I was sure were hidden among the bumper cars and carousels.
“It doesn’t even open until 2 o’clock,” reassured my mom.
Bad tempered and sulky, I flung out of the house, climbing my tree and looking longingly into the distance.
I couldn’t tell you why the carnival lured me with its sticky fingers and bright, whirling colors, except to say that it was different, and that excited me. I’d only read about ‘different’ in books, never experienced it for myself. Perhaps it was a case of be careful what you wish for.
Finally, after an anxious lunch where I could barely swallow my salad, it was time to go.
As we prepared to walk the 200 yards to Mr. Peterson’s field, we passed my father’s new Mercedes. He frowned, wiping a finger through the red film that coated the hood, and my heart sank. Jennifer met my eyes, knowing what I was thinking, because his expression meant that she’d be washing the roof tomorrow, being tall enough to reach it without standing on an upturned bucket, unlike me. I’d be left to wash the hubcaps then polish them to a blinding brightness.
I pushed the unwelcome thought away: that was tomorrow, and right now I was here.
On the way to the carnival, I had to hold Mom’s hand. My father’s steps were slow and measured, each one shouting his disapproval. I tugged at Mom’s hand, desperately trying to hurry her along as we made our way to the entrance.
“I don’t see how they can justify charging $20 each for this,” Dad muttered, already irritated by the carnie in the ticket booth.
He was arguing about the entrance fee for the four of us. He had no intention of going on any of the rides, and I doubted Mom would either. He thought it was a waste of money. I agreed. I wanted to tell him not to pay the money and that I’d be fine with just my sister for company, but my tongue stuck to the roof of my mouth and the words wouldn’t come out, which was pretty much what always happened when I thought about disagreeing with Dad.
My eyes were pleading and I think I saw a shadow of sympathy in the carnie’s eyes.
“Creating magic don’t come cheap,” he said to Dad.
My eyes widened: was there real magic here after all?
Dad snorted and I think he would have replied, but Mom begged quietly, “Adam, please.”
The carnie’s eyes narrowed, but he didn’t say anything else, simply handing each of us a wristband to prove that we’d paid. Besides, there were already people pressing in behind us, eager to spend their money to enter the hallowed grounds.
If I’d had my way, I’d have run helter-skelter up and down the midway, spending my money on every gaudy game that caught my eye, but Mom insisted that we walk along, examining everything, working out which sideshow stalls we would try, in an orderly fashion.
I wanted to scream—it wasn’t supposed to be orderly; it was supposed to be chaotic and loud; it was supposed to be fun.
Jennifer was looking at a display of cheap cowboy hats, her eyes fixed on a candy-pink one with a silver star pinned to the front. I knew she wanted that hat badly, but it would be hard work to convince Mom why she ‘needed’ it.
As they argued, Dad’s eyes filled with boredom and disdain, that’s when I saw
him—the boy, watching me.
I stepped into the shadows.
“I want to show you something,” he said. “Or are you too chicken?”
I looked over my shoulder at Mom and Jennifer and my father.
“I’ll come,” I said, putting my hands on my hips, “but it had better be good.”
He held back the tarp and I wriggled inside, the heat matting my hair to my face and sweat making my scalp itch.
“Where are we going?” I asked, peering through the gloom as the tarp dropped back in place and shadows filled my eyes.
But all I could hear was the boy’s footsteps, further away now.
“Come on, chicken!” he laughed.
I blinked rapidly, my eyes adjusting to the darkness, and I stumbled after him.
When we finally emerged into daylight again, I could see that his eyes were really a strange light gray edged with dark blue. I’d never seen anything like them before. I stared for several seconds before he blinked.
I gazed around: we were far away from the midway, and the noise was a mumble and mutter of confused sound.
“Where are we?” I said.
“Away from the rubes,” he replied.
I didn’t know what a rube was, and I was fairly sure I didn’t want to be one, but then he grabbed my hand and we ran across the brown grass.
Suddenly I realized where he had taken me. I could see the metal frames that were hidden behind the colorful frontage, the strings working the puppets, you might say, and I instantly deflated. I wanted to cry. I came to the carnival wanting the magic of it all. Believing, albeit foolishly, in the illusion that was laid out before my eyes. Instead this strange boy had revealed to me the proverbial card up the sleeve. The rabbit in the darn hat!
I opened my mouth to yell at him, but he smiled, showing a dimple in his right cheek, and put his finger to his lips.
“You’ll have to be quiet,” he said. “Mr. Albert doesn’t like loud noises.”
“Who’s Mr. Albert?”