The clown was suicidal.
He’d been forced to leave. The engine was running but he couldn’t bear to drive away. Five years it had been since he last saw Cheryl. Why hadn’t anyone told him she’d moved back to the UK? And Emily, he’d had to make do with photographs all these years. Precious keepsakes emailed to him by sympathetic, but discreet, mutual friends. A dozen copies of each he’d printed, memorising every pixellated pore on her chubby face.
The little girl who disintegrated in his wallet opened the front door, and his painted smile fell.
Her scream was shrill, piercing through his ear plugs. Hostility radiated from her. She was her mother’s girl, right enough.
Cheryl rushed to the door and lifted their squealing daughter to her hip. ‘I am sorry. She usually loves clowns!’ She wore polite embarrassment like an oversized coat she’d never fit into.
The clown was mute.
Emily squashed her face into her mother’s nook. ‘Make him go away!’
‘Hold on a minute.’ Cheryl ordered him, carrying Emily away. She returned with her purse. ‘I’ll still pay you for your time.’
She looked at him properly once he’d spoken. Impatience or recognition ignited a flicker of severity in her voice. ‘No, I insist.’
She always had insisted on everything.
He left her standing there, hand in her purse. His oversized feet flip-flopped towards the bright yellow van. He took his bag of tricks with him; she no longer fell for them.
Catherine Noble is a Scottish writer of fiction. Shortlisted for the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award 2012/13, she is currently building a portfolio of short stories and writing her first novel. She is also a proud member of the Johnstone Writers Group. Visit her website: http://www.catherinenoble.com