Home > Red Flags (Cirque de Miroirs #1)

Red Flags (Cirque de Miroirs #1)
Author: Skye Warren





The sun dapples my tan legs through the trees, drawing yawning faces on my thighs.

I have my feet up, pressed against the trunk of the oak, the bark cutting into my calves. It’s a pleasant pain. A reminder that I’m alive.

A bird trills for its mate. The train sounds its horn, an echo from miles away.

This is what happens in Forrester, Texas. A lot of nothing.

The screen door screeches. I can tell from the gait that it’s Maisie. Who else would it be? My mother stopped calling me in for dinner years ago. My father’s still at the lumber yard. We have an understanding these days. When he’s at work, I’m at the house. When he’s home, I’m not.

Her feet crunch over twigs and dry grass. Boards creak as she climbs the decades-old ladder to the platform where I’m lying. My mother always shakes her head over it. “One of these days the wood’s going to crumble right in your hands, Sienna. And then what?”

Sometimes I think that’s why we keep coming up here. To find out what happens next.

Maisie Young sat next to me in kindergarten.

For that, she has my undying devotion.

“You’ll never guess what happened.” She dumps herself onto the platform beside me, her energy like a wash of cool air in the summer heat.

“Someone’s livestock got out and fucked someone else’s livestock?”

“A solid attempt, but no.”

Mosquitos love me. They especially like the skin right below my cutoffs, biting me through the frayed denim, creating a little garter belt of scabs. I scratch them. “The mayor got caught fucking his secretary.”

“Technically yes, but that’s not interesting.”

He fucks all of his secretaries. “There’s a lot of fucking in Forrester.”

“This isn’t about that.”

Interesting. In my experience, everything is about sex. “Then I’m going to guess…that our water supply is contaminated. A chemical spill from upstate worked its way into the rivers. Now we’re all going to get cancer.”

She shivers, rocking the loose, rotting boards. “Now I’m going to have nightmares about that.”

“Fine, tell me.”

“A circus came to town.”

I drop my legs into crisscross applesauce, still butted up against the tree, my back to the platform, as if I’m floating. Sunlight dances over me, blinding me in little waves. It’s bliss, this treehouse. My safe haven… Though it’s really just the illusion of safety. “An actual circus?”

“With red-and-white-striped tents and everything.”

“In Forrester. Not San Marcos or Austin?”

“They’re in the old Hendrick’s farm.”

“That place is a bunch of dust and crack needles.”

“Everyone is freaking out. Mayor Lindon signed the permit himself. People are saying they must have paid him to do it. Bessie O’Roark says they’re going to bring sex and drugs to the town.”

“A little late for that.”

“And Mr. Campbell says they must be laundering money. He says no one could actually turn a profit in Forrester.”

“What does the high school science teacher know about laundering money?”

Though he has a point about Forrester. We don’t have the wineries like Fredericksburg or the antique fairs in Round Top. Forrester’s only claim to fame is its lumber. Wood, wood, and wood.

With a population of two thousand, the circus probably needs to charge hundreds of dollars per ticket just to pay for gas to get to the next town.

“They open tonight.”

That finally makes me sit up. “Tonight?”

“Are we going?”

“What do you think?” The entire town will show up to an event like this. Even Bessie O’Roark and Mr. Campbell wouldn’t miss this. They’ll show up if only to hope the whole tent burns down.

“Everyone will be there.”

“Good. I need to kill Kyle.” Kyle Moore is a piece of shit. That’s nothing new. We graduated in the same high school class two years ago. He escaped the heavily-wooded hellhole of Forrester with a football scholarship. That doesn’t stop him from partying hard when he visits home.

She groans. “Again?”

“For real this time.”

* * *

The Hendrick’s farm has been transformed.

Gone are the rotting hay bales and empty beer cans. Many a hymen has been lost in a car parked here, but you couldn’t tell now.

I had imagined something small. A single tent. Stale popcorn. Half-broken bumper cars. I’ve been to little traveling carnivals like that, though in my lifetime even a small one has never come to Forrester.

This circus is something else entirely.

A man with a large belly and infectious smile welcomes every newcomer. “Come one, come all. Welcome to Cirque des Miroirs. We have everything you can dream of.”

Red flags ripple on high peaks. The wind is like a mother’s hand, ruffling the scalloped fringes of the tents. Performers on stilts wear colorful costumes with sequins and flowing fabric and outrageous top hats. A woman wearing a red silk bandeau and a large black-and-white hoop skirt blows fire from a hoop.

The scent of popcorn and sweet cotton candy fills the air.

Mr. Campbell walks toward wooden picnic tables carrying a paper plate with a funnel cake. His children run to keep up, grabbing pieces of fried dough when they can, their faces already white with powdered sugar. Apparently he doesn’t mind his money being used for laundering if it comes fried dough and powdered sugar.

A carousel plays a grand song while the animals—a horse with a large feather headpiece, a zebra wearing a three-piece suit, a giraffe whose head goes all the way through the mirrored top, a hole placed so that it can go up high—carry laughing children in circles.

Screams roar in the distance and then silence—a roller coaster.


“What?” I say, scanning the crowd. I spot a bunch of families I know—the Nolans, the Crosses, the Brandinis. And a bunch of people I don’t. Looks like we actually drew crowds from neighboring towns. This has never happened before.

Interesting on its own, but not enough to distract me from noticing them.

Kyle and his two friends are here. The biggest bullies in Forrester, even now that Kyle has gone to college. He should stay there on the weekends, partying, but at a huge school he is no longer a big shot. So he comes back every weekend so he can be the worst bully again.

Of course they would be here causing trouble, but the more disturbing part is the way they walk with purpose…away from the games.

Where the hell are they going? Or more specifically, who are they going to beat up?

I start to follow them.

Maisie runs alongside me, her shorter legs struggling to keep up with my digging strides. She puts a hand on my arm. “You don’t even know that it’s happening.”

I give her a dark look but don’t speak. It’s always happening.

She sighs. “I wish you could forget about him.”

I don’t know which him she means, but it doesn’t matter. I can’t ignore it. I never could.

“Look,” she says as if I’m a child to be lured by flashing lights. “There’s a ring toss.”

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