fiery_ring: (Default)
It's winter, but there is a roaring fire in the log cabin when Carlotta brings Teja back.

Will has made improvements to the cabin over the summer, it now boasting three bedrooms - theirs, Molly's, and a guest room. The indoor plumbing has been connected, bathroom and all, and it's generally looking very homely.

At the moment, the circus folk spending winter with them have gone out, apart from Fred who is dozing by the fire with Wolf.
fiery_ring: (looking for a fight?)
All through the silent moonlit night
They ride over the hills to fight
To do what needed, what is right
Return their William to their sight
From where men are forgotten
And up and down the people go
After ends the evening show
To rescue from a deadly blow
The lover of Carlotta

The judge had banged upon the block
The gavel that released the lock
Upon the man within the dock
Replaced it with another shock
To go where men forgotten
The doctor said he'd lost his mind
That to his crimes he was quite blind
And so another way confined
The husband of Carlotta

Loyal Fred had been left within
That dread asylum, for his sin
When war had ravaged his mind thin
And left him drowning in the gin
Another man forgotten
Four grey walls, and four grey towers
Endless days and endless hours
Time to rescue from the glowers
The husband of Carlotta

Herbert, the preacher of the band
Who'd travelled with them through the land
Given his bed and lent a hand
To spread the word as he had planned
Stood at the place so rotten
He knocked upon the solid door
And asked if he might preach some more
As quiet slipped to second floor
The people of Carlotta

Now Fred he knew the layout well
It's dreaded doors, it's horrid smell
The people worked until they fell
Imprisoned in a lonely Hell
By family forgotten
Takes no time for the acrobat
To break inside in seconds flat
Stealthy creeping like a cat
Goes the fair Carlotta

The guard comes over most surprised
As she knocks him, and down he lies
And on the floor, from his hand prised
A set of keys of varied size
To doors of men forgotten
She runs with haste of fleeing rat
Her feet as stealthy as a cat
Peeps in each door to locate that
Dear husband of Carlotta

Meanwhile by light of silver stars
The maiden Maggie rides through cars
Dismounts outside the painted bars
And takes a breath to wish the scars
Could one day be forgotten
To the police she tells her tale
Her father's scheme, in fine detail
A life of cruelty and blackmail
To others like Carlotta

And through the streets she makes escape
Like fellow in a blackened cape
Round little sister her cloak draped
As all the plan at last takes shape
For all the souls forgotten
On stately door the sisters pound
Which Lady Fizz takes them around
A place tonight they'll not be found
The allies of Carlotta

Back in asylum hunting still
Carlotta soon has found her Will
His face is gaunt, his skin is chill
Then in his eyes a hopeful thrill
'Gainst uniform of cotton
He held her in a tight embrace
Her curls were dancing on his face
For this was rescue from this place
For him and for Carlotta

Like an ape our lovers climb
At top assisted by the Mime
Who takes a bow, as clocks do chime
For twelve O'clock, the hour of crime
And all secret or rotten
Onto the horse they steal away
The preacher joining them to pray
For safe escape without delay
For Will and for Carlotta

They reach the camp and hitch with haste
To move their site, no time to waste
In case they should be swiftly chased
Before the justice duly placed
Upon corrupted copper
And as the sun begins to rise
They hear the lovers' gentle sighs
Enough for pain, enough the cries
Of Will and of Carlotta

[ooc: Credit due, for rhythm, here.]
fiery_ring: (looking down)
Teja was right. They couldn't let the corrupt police officer blackmail them any longer, and they couldn't get any more money anyway.

It was surprisingly difficult for Will to turn himself in. Each time they went to the station, PC Parsons was there, and they needed someone more senior.

"This is ridiculous." Carlotta says to him, by the campfire that night. "How are we meant to turn Parsons in if we can't even turn you in?"

"Did you say PC Parsons?"

They turn around and see Maggie, with a white frightened look on her face. Carlotta sighs and gestures for the teenager to come and sit next to her.

"Yes. I'm going to tell the rest of the camp tomorrow, after Will hands himself in, but he's blackmailing us." she says quietly. "Do you know him?"

"Yes... He's our dad." Maggie says. "I took Greta and ran away. He mustn't find us."

Carlotta looks at her. She'd always suspected Maggie and Greta were runaways, and had no doubt that they had good reasons.

"He can't get you if he comes here." she says. "I've done the paperwork, you're wards of the circus. I knew you weren't sixteen."

"Yes, but what are you going to do?" Maggie asks. "He's been blackmailing people for years, he embezzles the money, you're in a heap of trouble."

"Don't worry Maggie." Will says, gently. "We'll figure something out."


They decide to sleep on it. When Carlotta wakes the next morning, the bed is empty. It's not unexpected; Will often goes out for an early morning smoke, but her hand touches a piece of paper.

She wakes up properly, and looks at the piece of paper.

'My dearest Carlotta,

I'm sorry, I couldn't risk Parsons coming to the camp and finding his daughters. I have gone to the police office in Nottingham to hand myself in properly.

Even though I shouldn't have been arrested this time, I shouldn't have let you be pressured into the bribe in the first place.

I will be well behaved and get out as soon as possible.

Please don't tell Molly I'm in prison, but tell her I love her and will be back soon.

All my love


"Matta?" Molly stands in her crib, watching. "Where Will?"

Carlotta folds the letter.

"Daddy's gone back to the stables." she lies, wiping the tear off her cheek. "Just us today."

The toddler stands watching, and sucks her thumb.
fiery_ring: (disgruntled)
Fizz was kind enough to drive Carlotta back to the police station the following morning to pick up Will. They left Molly in the capable hands of the bear handlers, who had just found out they were expecting their own baby and were keen for a bit of practice.

"Don't worry, at least he's somewhere safe." Fizz says, looking at her friend's anxious face.

"I know." Carlotta nods. "He's not had terribly good experience with the police. Look, don't tell anyone..."

"Of course I won't." Fizz says. "Do you want me to wait for you?"

"Maybe just long enough for me to make sure we can get home?" Carlotta says. "Thanks awfully, Fizz."

"Don't worry, it's been rather fun going to see your circus." Fizz says. "We should get together more often now you know where I live."

Carlotta gives her a hug, and heads into the police station. A single officer is sitting at a desk, behind a sign labelled 'PC Parsons'.

"I've come to pick up my husband please." she says.

PC Parsons looks up at her, with distaste.

"Oh, the drunk. We had an interesting night, between him throwing up and screaming."

"I'm sorry about the vomiting. He can't help the nightmares." Carlotta says, trying to keep calm.

"You can't have him anyway, I have to call the prison." the officer says, looking back at his newspaper.

"The prison? For being drunk?" Carlotta asks, raising an eyebrow.

"He's on a suspended sentence, love." PC Parsons says, with a nasty smile. "Soon to be one less hooligan on the streets."

Carlotta stares at the officer. Gracious, she'd forgotten about that, and hadn't any idea that such a minor offence could count against him.

"Unless of course." The officer continues, with the same nasty smile. "We come to some arrangement. What with it being Sunday, I might be able to find some way of mislaying his paperwork, for a war hero and all."

"What kind of arrangement?" Carlotta asks, suspiciously. This doesn't sound good.

"Well, there's only me and a couple of others who know he's here." the officer says. "Twenty pounds each ought to keep them quiet, so make it sixty."

"Sixty pounds?!" Carlotta gasps. "That's half a year's wages."

"Thought you two were at some rich party." the officer says. "You're asking us to put our careers on the line, love. Of course, if you don't want to cough up, he'll probably do all right getting sober in prison."

"We haven't got sixty pounds." Carlotta says.

"Well how about you go and find thirty, and then bring the rest later." The officer says.


"You went back for our takings and gave him how much?!" Will asks, aghast, when they're outside the station. "Carlotta, he's as bent as a horseshoe, I heard them taking a bribe of forty pounds from the party host to lock me up in the first place."

"Look, we'll work it out, I'll talk to Father, or Teja." Carlotta says. "We still owe him thirty pounds or he'll come after us again."

"That's blackmail, I ought to tan his hide." Will says grimly.

"For heaven's sake, don't get into any more trouble!" Carlotta says. "He's not going to want to lose the money so he'll keep his mouth shut."

"We don't have thirty pounds, you ought to have let me go to prison." Will says, groaning. "I'm so sorry, Carlotta, this is all my fault."

"We'll get through somehow." Carlotta says. "This isn't your fault, Will, we've been had. And they say our games are crooked..."
fiery_ring: (Default)
"'You are cordially invited to the garden party of...' Ugh, social engagements."

"You promised your Grandma." Will points out. "I can borrow Father's car so that we don't have to stay over."

"They want us to bring Molly. Can you pick her up something... snooty to wear?" Carlotta asks, eying the little girl who is currently wearing a pair of hand-me-down dungarees and has discarded her shoes somewhere.

"Will do." Will nods.

They turn and peer out the caravan window at the sound of a vehicle drawing up.

"Oh, that'll be the recruits." Carlotta says. "The General said we were getting ten acrobatic trainees this time, we got five games, so they can man each game between two."

She puts on her Ringmaster hat and steps out. The recruits look new, and are lounging around near the van, already lighting up a cigarette. She strides over. One of the recruits whistles.

"Oi!" Will calls from the caravan. "Don't whistle at your commanding officer."

"Commanding officer? We were looking for Captain Francis." One of the cadets says.

"That's me." Carlotta says.

"You? A Captain?" The man bursts out laughing. Carlotta gives him a cold stare, but before she can come up with a suitably cutting response, Will has strode over.

"She saved a thousand lives in Gibraltar, prevented the destruction of an entire military base, and got shot, so show some damn respect." he snarls, removing the cigarette from the man's mouth, and stamping it out. "And don't smoke on the campsite."

Carlotta warms inside, just a little, and doesn't point out that she has to tell Will off every day for smoking on site. However, it looks like a fight is about to break out, so she removes her ringmaster whip from her belt and cracks it to suitable dramatic effect.

"ATTEN-SHUN!" she shouts. "Form a line, gentlemen."

This seems to get their attention. The men line up, looking slightly apprehensive.

"Right. Yes, I am Captain Francis, but Ringmaster will be fine. You are here for athletic training, and you are supposed to be undercover, so at the moment, all of you have failed.

"You'll be working on the games in pairs, between your intensive athletic training. Naturally the circus folk know why you are here, and have signed the relevant secrecy documents. You will all abide by circus rules, no smoking or drunkenness in the camp, be careful around the kids, and don't damage the site. Remember, we travel, and our continued touring is dependant on not damaging the land we stay on. Any questions?"

"Are you single?" One of the recruits asks.

"I'm her husband, do you want your face rearranging?" Will asks.


"Ugh, they're so sexist!" Carlotta groans, as they get in the car.

"It's hard for a man to accept that a woman outranks them." Will says. "Trust me, I know." He smiles gently. "But if I can get used to it, so can they."

It isn't too long a drive, just under an hour, to the garden party. It's a warm sunny evening, and Grandma expects them to socialise appropriately with her titled company.

"Carlotta!" Her father appears, giving her a hug and a kiss. "I can only be here for an hour."

"Father! Can't you take one night off?" Carlotta asks. "I've been trying to arrange some time with you to see Molly for eight months."

"Oh. Hello Molly." Father pats the little girl on the head, awkwardly. Beat. "I'm not good with babies, Carlotta, you know that. And I'm so busy with the business."

"Well, she's here now." Carlotta says, trying not to appear as exasperated as she feels. "Father, you missed me being a baby, don't miss Molly being one."

"Talk to my secretary, we'll schedule something." Father says. "The re-opened factory is going from strength to strength, we're selling to most of our old suppliers again..."

Carlotta listens, nodding politely. But shoelaces aren't all that interesting, particularly compared to her father missing out on his granddaughter being tiny. Before long, he excuses himself to go and mingle, leaving Carlotta to make awkward conversation with various of her grandmother's friends.

"We should really be going. Molly is getting tired." she says, after a few hours of painful schmoozing. "Has anyone seen Will? I haven't spotted him for a while..."

It takes her some time to locate Will. Eventually, she finds him at the bar, with a number of empty glasses.

"Will!" she hisses. "What are you doing? You're a recovering alcoholic, your sponsor said complete abstinence was the only way forward."

"They gave me a couple of free champagne, I'm fine!" Will whines.

"You're not fine, you're drunk." Carlotta says, irate. "How do we even get home? You can't drive in this state."

"I'm fine!" Will climbs up onto the bar and starts to walk along it, to presumably prove his sobriety.

"Get down! Grandma will kill me!" Carlotta hisses.

Unfortunately, it is slightly too late; Will's foot catches the edge of a tower of champagne glasses, and before she can stop him, there is an enormous crash, followed by Will falling off the bar.

"I think you should leave." One of the hosts says. "Your... sort... are not welcome here."

"My sort?" Carlotta turns to the man, in fury. "I apologise for my husband. He isn't well and I will take him home. We will pay for the damages of course. But I am the daughter of a gentleman, and an entrepreneur, and I have just as much right to be here..."

"You are the daughter of a glorified cobbler and a common traveller." the man says. "It's easy to tolerate your sort when you're well behaved, and our affection for your grandmother requires us to make some allowances, but we can't have such exhibitions."

"What rot!" A woman of about Carlotta's age, with springy blonde hair strides up. Carlotta recognises her at once, and wishes she'd spotted her earlier. The host backs down somewhat at once.

"Lady Bentley." he says.

"Fizz!" Carlotta embraces her old school friend in a hug, which Fizz warmly returns.

"Phyllis." the man corrects. "You know this woman?"

"Rather." Fizz says, turning back to the man. "We were at school together, and Carlotta is jolly decent. And as if you can talk about drunken indiscretion after your nephew vomited in our pot plants! It isn't sporting to talk about her Grandma and Father that way, apologise at once!"

The man mumbles a vague apology, and goes off. But Carlotta knows it'll be the talk of the party.

"Thanks awfully. Where were you hiding?" she asks Fizz. "I would much rather have spent time with you."

"Oh I can't bear things like this, I was hiding out in the shed with the dog." Fizz says. "I say, that's William Francis isn't it? Did you two..."

"Yes. This is our daughter Molly." Carlotta says. "Do tell me your new address, I couldn't get in touch with you for the wedding. I wish we could catch up properly but I think I better get Will home, he's in a bit of a state. He..." she hesitates then says in a low voice honestly. "He's had a bit of trouble since the war."

Fizz nods, knowingly, her face suddenly very sober.

"It was a terrible war." she says quietly. "I lost my brother, Harry. We miss him awfully."

Carlotta draws her into another hug, and holds her close.

"Where is Will?" Fizz asks, suddenly, in the middle of the hug.

"Right over..." Carlotta looks around. He'd been in front of the bar, getting helped up around bits of glass. Now she can't see him at all, and that's not a good thing.

After searching between them for the best part of an hour, it becomes apparent that Will is not at the party. The car is still there, but clearly alarmed by the amount of damage he'd caused, he seems to have run off.

"What should I do?" Carlotta asks, holding Molly. The guests have started to disperse, and she and Fizz are at a bit of a loss as to what to do.

"You should get home and put Molly to bed." Fizz says sensibly. "I'm sure William will be somewhere sleeping it off."

"But I can't drive." Carlotta says. "And what if he comes back here?"

"Then we better call the police." Fizz says.

She takes Carlotta inside to call the police. In a first bit of luck for the night, they already have Will in custody, sobering up.

"I'll drive you home." Fizz says. "If I can sleep over in the caravan. We'll come back in the morning and pick up Will."

"Oh Fizz, that would be wonderful." Carlotta says. "Thank you. I'm so sorry to be such trouble."

They get into the car, and see the host's eyes boring into them as they do so. Fizz glances at Carlotta, then makes a very rude face at the man. Carlotta laughs, despite her worries.

"Well you were dying to do that!" Fizz laughs back. "He can't ban me from the events."

She thinks about Will, alone in a cold police cell, as she goes home with Fizz. It's a horrible thought. But at least tonight, one she doesn't have to face alone.
fiery_ring: (looking up)
They tried to arrange a visit to see Little William every week. So far, Fern had resisted, but with the word on the street being that she tended to go out on dates on Monday night, Carlotta and Will saw an opportunity.

"She has to be leaving Little William with someone regularly." Carlotta says. "All we need to do is watch the house and find out who the babysitter is."

The next week, they sneak there early, and camp outside. But the house is quiet, and no lights come on.

"Dash it, we must have missed them, she must have already gone." Carlotta says, sighing. "Come on, let's get closer and just check."

They creep over to the house, and listen carefully, peeping in each window. There's no sign of Fern, but as Carlotta climbs the drainpipe and peeps into the little boy's bedroom, she spots him in the cot.

"Will!" she hisses. "I can see Little William here. Go knock on the door, see if the babysitter will let you in."

Will goes around and knocks on the door. After a few minutes, there's still no answer.

"Maybe they were told not to answer the door." he says, coming back to where Carlotta is dangling.

"Well William's crying his eyes out, maybe they're going to come up here." Carlotta whispers.

But they watch, for quarter of an hour, and nobody appears. Carlotta frowns.

"Will, I don't think anyone is here. I think he's on his own."

"Should we break in?" Will asks.

Carlotta thinks for a moment.

"No, can you run down to the call box and phone the police, tell them he's abandoned? If we can prove Fern is leaving him here on his own, we might have a chance of custody. If we break in, we'll get done for breaking and entering if there turns out to be an adult asleep somewhere."

Will nods in agreement and runs off down the road to the call box. Carlotta watches helplessly through the window as Little William cries, and feels a surge of terrible anger. How dare Fern leave him on his own while she goes out on a date?!

The drainpipe gives a sudden creak, and she quickly climbs down. Drainpipes are not really made for climbing up, she knows. It isn't long before Will comes running back.

"They're sending an officer to help us break in." he says, panting. "We should be able to get to him soon." Beat. "Do you smell smoke?"

Carlotta looks back at the house in alarm.

"We looked in all the rooms, didn't we?" she says, going around and looking through them again.

"I think there's a cellar?" Will says, going around the other way. "Carlotta, there's smoke coming out these back windows!"

"Okay, we can't wait for the police." Carlotta says, coming back to climb up the drainpipe. This time, it comes straight away from the wall. Shit. She runs around to the front door as the policeman pulls up in the driveway, where Will is in the process of looking for something to smash the glass on the front door.

"We can see a lot of smoke!" she yells as the policeman gets out of the car. "So don't do us for breaking an entering."

The policeman runs over, seeing the smoke, and joins Will in kicking the door in. As the door gives way, a ball of flame rushes over their heads.

"Go and call the fire brigade!" Carlotta yells, dashing past them into the building.

"Madam, Sir, leave this to professionals!" the policeman says.

Carlotta ignores this, and runs through the smoke. She's already seen the staircase is in flames, and doubts that the policeman or Will are going to be able to climb what's left.

"Will, boost me." she says, as her husband comes through behind her. Will puts his hands down, she stands on them, and grabs the remaining piece of bannister to swing up on.

"Wait there, I'll need to throw Little William to you." she says, running through into the bedroom.

"Matta!" Little William bawls, as she scoops him up.

"I've got you." Carlotta says, holding him tight as she rushes back out to the landing. The smoke is thick, she can hardly see a few feet in front of her face.


"Over here. Are you okay?"

"Yes." Carlotta makes it to the stairway, and can just make out Will. "Can you see me? I'm dropping William down."

"I can see you, go ahead."

Carlotta gently drops the little boy, where he is deftly caught by Will.

"Can you get down?" Will calls.

"Of course, get William out." Carlotta says, reaching up to climb down... as the floor gives way beneath her. For a moment she dangles, holding onto the floorboards, trying to see what she's falling on... then drops, falling through the next floorboards into the cellar onto something soft.

"CARLOTTA!" Will is shouting.

She rolls off the pile of what appears to be many boxes of stockings, and looks around for the exit. The fire is blazing down here, and she spies a bunch of barrels and glass jars and... what is Fern even doing down here? Looks like she's brewing something.

There's a bang, and a shower of glass, as one of the bottles explodes. Carlotta makes a run for it, trying to find the door in the smoke.

As she reaches the door, it smacks her in the face, and glass explodes behind her.


"I am so sorry." Will says meekly, holding the wet towel on her head.

"Don't worry about it, if it was locked I couldn't have got the door open from the inside anyway." Carlotta says. "You rescued me."

"I kicked the door in your face and knocked you down the stairs." Will says.

"Forget it. Is William okay?" Carlotta asks.

"They took him in the first ambulance to get checked out, but they said he looked all right." Will says.

"First ambulance?"

"They called a second one for you."

"I don't need an ambulance." Carlotta says. "My head is fine."

"Can I point out you've had a previous brain injury?"

"All right, all right."

"YOU MONSTERS!" Fern totters up the driveway at top speed, screaming. "YOU BURNED DOWN MY HOUSE!"

"We did nothing of the sort!" Carlotta stands up and faces Fern, enraged. "You left William on his own, when we got here, there was smoke; he'd be dead if it wasn't for us!"

"Break it up, break it up." the police officer says, stepping between them. "The fire started in the cellar, there is no possibility that either of these two could have got in from outside.
"Fern Francis, I am arresting you on suspicion of child neglect, harbouring rationed goods, and dangerous home production of alcohol. You do not have to say anything but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something you rely on in court..."

Carlotta watches Fern being taken away, without any pity for the girl.

"We need to get to the hospital." she says softly.


The doctor is not terribly interested in Carlotta, dismissing her as minor bruises and burns, so she is soon free to dash up to the children's ward.

"He's stable. We aren't having visitors." a nurse says briskly, refusing to let them in. "The children need their sleep, and the police aren't letting anyone in to see William at present until his adoption is settled."

"So he's not going back to Fern?" Will asks.

"Certainly not." The nurse says. "I expect he will be adopted by a decent family."

Carlotta realises that the authorities' idea of a 'decent' family probably doesn't include a circus girl and a recovering alcoholic. Her heart sinks as they head away from the ward.

"Will, Carlotta!"

They turn as Libby - Will's sister - runs up to them, and quickly fill her in on what the nurse has said.

"They aren't going to give you custody, are they, realistically?" she asks, as she hugs Carlotta very gently, before letting go. "Nor Fern."

Carlotta feels a lump in her throat as she acknowledges that Libby is correct. The authorities don't trust Will, because of being a recovering alcoholic with a criminal record, and they rarely trust a circus girl.

"I've been talking to John." Libby says. "We want to offer, with your blessing, to adopt William. You and Will can see him as much as you want - and Fern can under supervision - and when he's a bit older we'll let him go out on tour with you as a holiday. We haven't a criminal record and we have a fixed address, and they do like to keep children with their family if they can."

Carlotta listens intently, then nods.

"Thank you. We hoped to have him but... I'm just glad he's not going to be fought over any more. It's not right for a kid." she says.

Will looks at his sister, and his wife, and just hugs them both.
fiery_ring: (looking up)
The circus was making good money. The crowds were flocking night after night, many coming back to see the show again before they left. Carlotta spent the afternoons adjusting the show; lengthening four-year-old Greta's singing act a little, to give her time for an encore.

"We ought to get more daytime entertainment." she ponders, out loud, though only Molly is listening. "Herbert gets a fair few people coming to listen to him."

Herbert was a travelling preacher, of no fixed abode, who Fred had asked permission to bring along as a favour. He took no part in the circus himself, but small crowds would often come in the afternoon to listen to him, and were then wandering around the circus.

"Maybe we should be getting fairground games." she adds. "No actually rigged ones, mind. The secret service are wanting to send us some more recruits for acrobatic training, so they could man the games for their cover story."

At the clatter of hooves, she rushes to the door and peers out. Will dismounts and comes over, giving her a kiss, and scooping up Molly.

"Hallo! Golly you're getting tanned." she says, kissing him back. "How's things?"

"Buck's doing well, only bolted three times this week." Will says, sitting down and bouncing Molly up and down. "And you?"

"Here." Carlotta throws him a bag of coins. "Would you mind doing a bank run when you get home? I feel nervous carrying so much cash."

Will peers into the bag.

"There must be twenty pounds in here!" he says, astonished.

"I know, wonderful isn't it?" Carlotta says. "That's just my wages, going on the agreed percentages, the rest we're reinvesting. I'm going to ask the council about getting some games in."

"I can build you some if you like." Will offers. "If you can get staff for them."

"That would be lovely. Don't make them too easy!" Carlotta says.
fiery_ring: (Default)
The new arrangement was working well. Will would come up every Sunday in time for prayers, stay for Monday (alternate Mondays were moving days), and head back to the stables on Tuesday morning.

Monday night was not a performance night, because the circus folk did not like to work or perform on a Sunday, and essential maintenance had to take place. Mondays would therefore be the night when folk would take it in turns to go out to whichever town they were in, leaving the kids in the communal care of the others.

Carlotta tied the soft yellow and blue dress around her middle. It was one she had salvaged from the remains of her Grandma's home; one she had had made for her when Grandma acknowledged that she didn't like frills. It fitted better back then, before she had Molly, when even the most muscular of abdomens couldn't help but change shape somewhat. She let her hair dangle loose in curls.

Tonight, she wouldn't be the ringmaster, at least for a few hours. It was like going undercover all over again. And the thing was, without the large black hat and coat, people didn't notice her, and she could walk through the town without the cheers of the children and the suspicious looks of the people who would rather travellers didn't come.


"You look pretty." Maggie comments, as she steps out of the caravan.

"Thanks." Carlotta smiles at her. "And thanks for looking after Molly tonight." She's taken Maggie somewhat under her wing; seeing her, barely more than a child, struggling as the sole carer of her four year old sister. Not that Greta was much trouble. But in the first week, it had been apparent that neither of them had much more than the caravan and horse, both of which had been in very rough condition. Privately, Carlotta wasn't convinced that their horse would last the season, and was planning to see if they would let Will swap him out for a younger one as soon as tactfully possible. In the meantime, she'd persuaded Maggie to borrow a couple of extra clothes, and was looking out for anything in Greta's size. Will had had a quick look over the caravan, knocked in a few extra nails when they weren't looking, and declared it wouldn't lose any wheels just yet.

They were clearly runaways. Having doubts that Maggie was actually sixteen, Carlotta had called in an ex-secret-services favour to try and get some data on them, but so far nothing had been found. Probably using false names.

"Let 'em be, lass." Fred had advised, when she had confided in him her suspicions. "Look at the left arm of that little girl, and you'll see a curious bump; looks to me like an old fracture that never got treated right. Better off with us."


Will is waiting with the horses, and they ride into the village. A dance is being held at the village hall, and it's likely to be a lively affair. The end of the war has made people ready to relax and enjoy themselves a little, the music reflecting this, and trade for the circus has been good.

They take to the dance floor, more focused on the music than any attempts at acrobatics. And as he spins her around and laughs, Carlotta gazes contently at her husband; the happy, laughing Will that she married, before the war hurt him so very badly.

Towards the end of the evening, he suddenly frowns, and she follows his gaze. Her heart sinks.

"What's Fern doing here?" she asks, with a sigh. "Maybe we should leave. I don't want her ruining our night."

"She's with a man." Will says, nodding towards a young, dark-haired male in a very posh suit.

Carlotta peers over to see where he's indicating, and frowns in turn.

"They look quite close... I've seen him somewhere before, too."

"Where?" Will asks, curiously. "You were at an all girls' school, so I'm surprised you know many young men."

"I think he was at one of those ghastly parties my grandma used to make me attend." Carlotta says. "...Lord Kegworth's son, I think."

Will raises an eyebrow.

"You think a son of a lord is dancing with Fern in a village hall? It must be someone who looks like him. Let's go."

They head out of the hall, when Carlotta has a sudden thought.

"Will, if Fern is here, maybe we can see Little William. She must have left him with her mother."

Will hesitates. They haven't seen Little William since they lost custody, and both of them have missed him dreadfully. But he agrees, and they ride out to the outskirts of Buxton, something of a detour, in the hope that they might be allowed entry.

Alas, the house is dark, and there's no sign of a car or anyone being home.

"She must have taken him to her mother's house." Carlotta says, with a pang of disappointment.

"Never mind." Will sighs. "She's bound to go out again if she has a male friend, we'll work something out."

They turn the horses round and ride back to the camp, where their own little person is sleeping peacefully in her cot.
fiery_ring: (Default)
It's the third season of the circus. Carlotta never dared to hope it would succeed as long as this, but as she dons her hat once more, she feels confident they'll pull through.

The other acts have parked outside the log cabin, for a few days of preparation before they go on tour. She nods to Will, who scoops up Molly, and they head outside.

"We've lost a lot of cast." Will says, quietly.

"I know." Carlotta nods. "I'm still shocked we lost Dolly, Daisy and Victoria, even if her husband was poached by another circus and they wouldn't split. But we'll get by."

She approaches the motley crew with a confident stride. First impressions are important.

"Welcome, or welcome back. I'm Carlotta, your ringmaster, most of you I've met."

"Wait, you're a woman?" A man sitting with a large bear says.

"Yes, very observant of you." Carlotta says, deadpan. "Right, quick introductions. This is my husband Will, and my daughter Molly. Molly will be travelling with us most of the time, and Will will be joining us on moving days as he needs to be here running the business.

Next to the left is Fred, he's head of circus security, and he's on the circus council. Next to Fred is Herbert, he's a travelling preacher who will be joining us using the camp as a base, but not performing in the evening obviously. Next to Herbert is the mime... who we just call the Mime. He's also on the council."

The mime nods, and as always, doesn't explain. Carlotta continues.

"Humphrey and Fanny have retired, which means Joan there, our one lady band, is going to be taking over as our organist. Jack and Jacob are our twin clowns, they're circus wards which means everyone keeps an eye on them."

The twelve year old boys squirm.

"Next to the left is Rita and her monkey. Rita is now on the council because she's been here a long time even if she's a little shy of eighteen. And that leaves our newcomers - Ronald and Enid with their bears, Maggie our fire dancer and her sister Greta who's going to sing for us."

The teenage Maggie smiles shyly, four year old Greta waves wildly around the circle. Ronald looks a little scheptical of the rest of the cast, especially when he hears that Rita is going to be in the council above him, but Carlotta doesn't reckon he'll be looking to cause trouble at present.

At least, she hopes not. Because they've got an uphill climb to get back on track.
fiery_ring: (Default)
Carlotta checks the stores, with a sigh. There's not a lot of feed left, so hopefully the horses will be able to get some better grazing soon. Money's looking tight too, even with the colt that Will sold.

But she tries to stay hopeful. Now that the war is over, people want to enjoy themselves, and riding lessons are bound to pick up in the spring.

"Carlotta?" Will comes up behind her, holding Molly. "I have something I want to show you. Go get Orion, I'll get Blaze?"

She smiles at him, and goes to get the horse. No need for a saddle, but she gets him a fleece, just in case he's cold in the snow.

"What is it?" she asks, scooping the little girl up to ride in front of her. Molly sucks her little mittens and giggles as Mummy swings up behind her.

"Impatient! You'll see when we get there." Will teases, with a grin. It's nice to see him looking back to his old self. "I know you've been dying to know where I've been riding off to."

She had. Not that she didn't trust him. He was coming back sober without spending any money, and he certainly wasn't acting like he was cheating. He was a born horseman, and there was nothing odd to her about him disappearing on Blaze for hours.

They head to the edges of the stables' land, into an area of trees. Carlotta hadn't realised how big The Oaks was at first, but back before the war the family were well off and owned quite a lot of land. Will's father had been thinking of selling off some of it to pay the bills, but Will was adamant that they should hold off if they could. The land would be worth more in the spring when people could build on it, for a start.

She gasps when she comes to the clearing in the trees, and stares.

"You did this all yourself?" she asks, looking at the cabin. "It's beautiful."

"I had a bit of help from my mates." Will says, bashfully. "If we're going to live here in the winter, it's jolly cold in that caravan, and it's a bit crowded for three in bad weather, and it's not very private if we all have to go in to the parents'... if you didn't like it I was going to sell it. It's not got any electricity or water yet but if I can get a loan we can get it plumbed in."

Carlotta grins. "Nor has the caravan but we do all right." She leans over and kisses him gently on the cheek. "It's wonderful."

"Go and look inside." Will says, dismounting. "It's slightly wonky but it won't fall down, promise."

Carlotta dismounts, puts Molly on the floor, and goes inside the little cabin. It's not an expert job by any means, but it's the thought and effort... and he's right, it is a struggle in the caravan in the winter.

"We'll have to get the fireplace finished, and some furniture." she says. "Before we try and keep Molly in here anyway, or your mum'll have a fit because it's too cold."

She's never planned on being a settler, but it looks like a certain improvement to their current arrangement.
fiery_ring: (looking for a fight?)
Carlotta pulls her hair back into the bun, where it promptly explodes. She sighs, and leaves it loose. No time to straighten it now, they're due in court in two hours. She doesn't like that the date got brought forward; Fern's lawyers may have got something together.

Will (sober 30 days) looks pale with fear. He gives Little William a tight little hug before they leave both kids with Will's mother.

"Look, if we don't get custody, at least we know we did our best." Carlotta says to him gently.

"You've been amazing." Will says quietly. "Taking in..."

"I didn't do it for you. It's not Little William's fault Fern had him out of wedlock and abandoned him." Carlotta says. "And technically he's my nephew."

They see Fern standing outside the court, with a triumphant smile.

"May I suggest you relinquish custody of my son voluntarily?" she asks, sweetly. "So we don't have to go through this court hearing?"

"Fern... I won't challenge you for custody, but Will will." Carlotta says. "If you met all the judge's recommendations I can't see how you could lose."

It will break her heart if she has to let the little boy go. But the legal advice she could ill afford advised her she would be very unlikely to win unless Fern has done something catastrophic. Not letting Fern worry her, she takes Will's arm and leads him into the court.

The judge gives them a dirty look as they sit down.

"This hearing is to decide the custody of William Francis Jr. According to my notes, the last judge awarded custody on the basis of an application of circus ward status. Miss Francis, what do you have to say?"

"I wish to apply for full custody, on numerous grounds." Fern says, triumphantly. "Firstly, William is a circus ward, but it is out of season and he does not at present live in a circus."

"Objection." Carlotta stands. "Circus ward status exists in and out of season."

"Granted." The judge says, grudgingly. "Next ground?"

"Secondly, I have visited every week according to the rules set out by the last court. Thirdly, when I have visited, William is often dirty."

"Objection, all babies who play outside get dirty." Carlotta says.

"Not granted. Continue."

"Fourthly, Will is an alcoholic, who nearly had to go to a psychiatric hospital. He's not a candidate for sole custody as it would be Carlotta who did all the parenting."

"I'm sober!" Will yells.

"Silence!" The judge bangs the gavel. "Miss Francis, continue."

"I know Will is still drinking, because I engaged a private detective who photographed him entering the Lion only last week. With Little William with him, I might add!"

"Your honour, I was not drinking then!" Will says, avoiding Carlotta's outraged stare. "That was for a business transaction. I sold a colt I had trained to a man I know there, to help feed my family."

"Who are at risk of going hungry because you spent all their summer earnings on liquor?" Fern says.

"Nobody is going hungry." Carlotta says. "He's telling the truth about the colt." Though he failed to mention it was in a pub.

"Oh and finally, Will continues to commit adultary. I engaged a private detective who has photographs of him engaging in drunken sex on the twelth of November. I also have a witness of him committing adultary on the twenty ninth of August, shortly before I lost custody of Little William to his wife."

Carlotta staaaaaares. No. No way. The picture is passed across, and she tries not to vomit.

"Objection." she says weakly. "You can't prove that's Will, the picture is blurred. Will, is this you?"

Will, who has gone even more pale, shakes his head.

"I-I... I don't think so. I don't remember her. But I did relapse on the 11th."

Fern gestures to a girl sitting in the court, who stands up. There's a bump...

"Clara, is this the man who got you pregnant in a drunken fling?"

"That's him." Clara says.

"Pregnant?" Will says, in just a whisper.

"I've heard enough." the judge says. "Miss Francis, have you got a job and visited William Junior every week under the court's instructions?"

"Yes, your honour. I'm living with my parents who will help support us."

"I grant full custody of William Francis Junior to Fern Francis and her parents." the judge bangs his gavel. "Case dismissed."


"Mrs Francis, sit down and be quiet, or I'll hold you in contempt of court!" The judge bellows.

"I DON'T EVEN REMEMBER, I SWEAR!" Will yells out in alarm. "Carlotta, I'm so sorry..."

"HOW MANY MORE ARE THERE?!" Carlotta yells. "Flaming hell Will!"

What happens next, all goes rather quickly. Unable to decide who she is more angry with, she launches herself over the bench and sends a tirade of angry Spanish at Fern. The next thing she knows, she's being grabbed by eight enormous security guards, who slam her onto the floor face down. Everything goes black for a moment, then she's struggling and handcuffed and dragged into a cell.

"I didn't touch her!" Carlotta yells, as they slam the door.

"Fucking circus scum." the guard sneers, locking the door and leaving her there.
"I hate these custody battles."

Carlotta gets her breath back, and staggers to her feet. There's blood dribbling down her forehead, but she barely notices due to the pain inside her. How could Will cheat the night before their vows?!

She staggers over to the cell toilet and throws up. It doesn't help. Tears mix with the blood and she tries to shake it off her face.

"YOU CAN'T PILE EIGHT PEOPLE ON MY WIFE YOU BASTARDS!" It's Will's voice, and the next moment, he's in the next cell, and still yelling. "She's a war hero, a captain, with medals! She's battled the idea that men should be the breadwinner, when every day faced with prejudice, and if it wasn't for her, I'd be dead drunk in a ditch!"

"Shut up." The guard snarls. "Your wife is just in here to cool off, we'll be back to charge you with assault later."

"Carlotta!" Will gets to the edge of the cell. "Oh God, you're bleeding, I'm so sorry." There are tears running down his cheeks too. "C'mere, let me see your head."

Carlotta blinks away the blood and tears and looks at him. He looks utterly hysterical. And the anger is still there, but he's in front of her and he's clearly been punched a few times too and... she moves over to the bars, and he reaches his arm as far as he can with the handcuffs to try and wipe her face with his sleeve.

"Tell me the truth. Everything." she says, sitting down at the bars. Her head is spinning and she tries not to be sick again.

"I wish I could." Will says, sinking down next to her. "There's big gaps in my memory. But... the night before we married, Fern turned up... she told me I wasn't to tell anyone I saw her or she'd destroy me and make sure you left, but she was trying to persuade me to leave you and marry her. I was in such a state after that I couldn't stop shaking and I went out drinking as usual. I don't remember anything else about that night except that I woke up in a strange bed with Clara. I ran out and back to the camp.

I stole from our cash box to buy alcohol. When you stopped me and I tried to go cold turkey, I started hallucinating. I didn't want you to think I was mad so I started stealing alcohol when we stopped at villages to stock up the hip flask."

He pauses, as Carlotta groans. Not just feeling terrible that he couldn't tell her, but because circus folk get enough bad press as it is, without an actual thief among them.

"I... I'm not sure Clara is the only one. That photo could have been me on the twelth when I disappeared for two days. I relapsed after I caught up with some of the other soldiers for Rememberance day and we all got hammered, and everything between that and the police finding me on the twelth is pretty blurry. The bit about being sober since then is true." He wipes his nose on his shoulder and starts to sob harder. "I don't know what to do, I can't fix this, I can't see how you'll forgive me..."

Carlotta leans on the bars, nudges her hands through, and holds his hands in the cuffs.

"I don't know, Will." she says quietly. "I know you're ill but you can't go on like this. It's not just about me, now there's two children involved. I have to think of Molly too. You have to support Clara now as well as Fern, and we have to find the shops you stole from and pay them back."

"We? You're not leaving me?" Will asks, in trepidation.

"You told me the truth." Carlotta says. "And you didn't try and tell me the drink made you do it. The little speech you made when they dragged you in here didn't do any harm either..." she sighs. "I'm not enabling you again. I'll fight to the death to help you with the post traumatic stress and alcoholism, but if you get drunk and disappear again I can't promise I won't leave with Molly."

"Maybe you should leave me. I've been a terrible husband." Will says, hanging his head.

"Will... you came back from the war a broken man. We were barely schoolkids when we married at the start of the war. Everyone said we were too young, and they were wrong; we were better young, we aged really quickly. I've not seen the Will I married for a long time, but I know he's still there. The Will that took me on the horse show and marvelled that I could ride like a boy, who I snuck a kiss with and got in trouble with the head... you were made to look after horses, not to kill."

She squeezes his hand. And suddenly, he laughs slightly, weakly.

"How daring we thought we were, sneaking outside your school to hold hands and kiss! Was that really only a couple of years ago?"

"Yes! If we went back there, we'd still know a lot of the top formers. We're young still, Will. There's so much we can do! That's why we have to get you better. The war cheated us out of the best first years of our marriage, and the best of our precious first year with Molly. If we weren't in these cells, I'd suggest we go and kiss in front of Miss Theobald's window right now."

Will squeezes her hand back.

"I love you. I'm going to do everything I can to get better."

"I love you too. No more secrets, Will! If you're relapsing, or hallucinating or you have the shakes, I want to know. We can have a code word even. But you don't hide anything from me, clear?"

She looks up and the smile fades as Clara enters the cells. She waits until the guard has left, then approaches the bars.

"Will? I'm really sorry, I don't think the baby is yours. You were so drunk you couldn't do anything, er, effectively. I mean, we tried, but it didn't really work, and then you were really sick so I put you in my bed to sleep it off.
I'm marrying the man who's more likely the father and he wants to bring the baby up as ours, so I'd appreciate it if you didn't try and find me again."

"Then why did you say in court that the baby is his?" Carlotta demands.

"Because Fern found me and begged me to help get her baby back." Clara says. "She was... persuasive. I'm sorry, the fling was my fault as much as Will's."

She leaves, to Carlotta's relief. Okay, so it's good that there isn't another baby in the picture, but Clara is the last person she wants to see right now. Except possibly Fern.

The guard comes back in after an hour, and pulls a face at the couple holding hands.

"Circus scum, you're free to go. We're handing over the lad to the police, he'll be charged with assault and kept overnight."

Carlotta squeezes Will's hand one more time, and stands.

"Captain Francis." she says, fixing him with a stare. "Thank you. Will, I'll pick you up tomorrow." She leans across and kisses him gently through the bars.

"You're forgiving him?" The guard asks, surprised, as he uncuffs her. "After he's cheated repeatedly?"

"Probably. I don't have any proof he cheated more than once, the evidence is dubious, and he doesn't remember.

Either way, I don't have to justify it to anyone."
fiery_ring: (Default)
After Will kisses both kids, they ride back to the stables. It isn't goodbye, not really; she'll be home in a few weeks for end of season and there's always telephone or riding over.

"You're sure you're not mad?" Will asks, as they swing into the stables. "I swear, this doesn't mean we're seperated or anything. I just... I can't perform. But I want you to be able to."

"I'm not mad." Carlotta says, reaching over to squeeze his shoulder. "It took courage to be honest. And one day, I hope you'll be able to tell me the whole story."

He'd sat down with her, once he was sober, and explained what he told Teja. How he'd been forced, in the war, to fire on the German civilians, and how he'd had to march through the streets of Germany after, with the accusing eyes. He'd explained that he had a tremor in his right hand that only stopped when he'd had a drink, and was preventing him practicing. And, for the first time, admitted...

They dropped off their stuff and set off to the hall. She would come with him the first time, the rest would depend on whether she was in riding distance.

As his turn arrived, he stood up, holding the trembling hand in his pocket.

"Hallo... I'm Will... and I am an alcoholic..."

He didn't manage to say much in the first session. But Carlotta got the feeling he was in safe hands. It was hard to leave him, and she held him close, but she knew he was where he needed to be.

She arrived back at the circus alone, later that day, and called a meeting.

"As you know, Will has gone back home, to the stables we live in during the winter. He asked me to tell you that he's sorry for any trouble he caused, and that he has realised he needs professional help, better obtained not moving around.

We will be recruiting a new handyman for next season if he isn't well enough to come with us in March. In the meantime, Fred has kindly agreed to take back the role on top of being Security.

Does anyone have any questions?"
fiery_ring: (scorn)
It's a moment of panic, when Carlotta opens the cash box. At first, her reaction is that somehow, someone must have broken in; maybe Fern when she came to visit Little William. But the box isn't forced, and the only ones with keys are... and if it was a burglar, all of it would be gone.

She calls Will into the caravan.

"Will, there's a lot of money gone from the box." she says, trying to keep her voice level. "Did you take it?"

"What if I did, it's shared money." Will says, defensively.

"... Will, we needed that money. You know how little we took this year, and the stables is barely making enough to support your parents!" Carlotta says. "The circus season ends in just a few weeks, we've got no other income to get us through the winter! Tell me you spent it on something we can take back!"

Will looks... slightly guilty. But mostly still defensive. And suddenly, light dawns.

"You've drunk it, haven't you?" Carlotta says, quietly furious. "How could you?"

"I've got a right to do what I like with our money." Will says. "I'm the man of the house."

"That money is for feeding Molly and William over the winter. Your children."

"There's rationing to feed them!" Will says.

"RATIONING ENDED THREE WEEKS AGO, WILL!" Carlotta yells. "You've got to get help, we can't manage like this, I won't let the children go hungry. You have to stop drinking."

"I'll find more money." Will says. "I'll pick up work in the villages. And I'll cut down the drinking, but I need more time. I can't cope without it, you have no idea what they made me do in the war."

"Then tell me!"

"You'd despise me. And I wouldn't blame you." Will says.

"I don't despise you, I love you." Carlotta says. "But you have to..."

"I said I'll find more money! I didn't know rationing had ended, get off my back! Nobody's going to starve, don't be melodramatic." Will says, turning and heading back out of the caravan.

Carlotta watches him go, beginning to feel more than ever that at some point, they got way out of their depth.
fiery_ring: (scorn)
She knew the result, when she saw the doctor's face.

The stern man handed Will the envelope, with a look of contempt. Wasting no time, and not looking at Carlotta or Fern, Will opened the letter.

Blood test results

Fern Francis: O negative

William Francis (Jr): A positive

William Francis (Sr): A Positive

George Wilson: B negative.

This test conclusively proves that George Wilson is not the biological father of William Francis Jr, and that William Francis Sr is of a matching blood type.

They barely had time to process the news. The custody of little William was such a charged issue that the hearing took place within the week. Carlotta had expected that, unless the test was conclusively the other way, Will would want to try for custody, so they spent the evenings preparing.

They'd discuss the drunken infidelity later. Little William needed their help now.

The judge bore the same look of contempt, as his eyes bore down into the three of them. He heard Will and Fern in turn, and then retired for a few moments to think. When he came out again, his mind appeared to be made.

"The court of this land, in such ghastly cases of this, would rarely remove a child from his mother." the judge says. "For it is the mother's duty to raise the child. But Fern, you abandoned your son for almost six months, with no contact, no provision, and only reappearing at a moment of your convenience. The boy does not know you, let alone trust you. There is also your criminal conduct to take into account."

He then looks at Will.

"You, sir, may be a hero of war, but your dealings with alcohol are far from satisfactory in bringing up a child. If you truly do not remember his conception, then you must have been very drunk indeed. If you do, then you have lied and denied him for a year. I see no reason to hand you custody of the child."

Will looks mortified. Carlotta reaches out and squeezes his hand.

"However." The judge says. "I have in my possession a legal document that has some bearing on this case. Carlotta Francis, stand please."

Carlotta, surprised, stands up.

"Carlotta Francis, you filed several months ago for legal permission to make William Francis Junior a ward of the circus. Please explain to the hearing why you did this."

"Oh!" Carlotta remembers. "Well, it's standard procedure for children taken along with the circus. If no legal guardian can be found, then the child needs to have one, in case they fall ill, are neglected, or get in trouble with the law."

"According to this document." the judge says. "'Circus Ward Status may be granted in the event that a child has been abandoned. Abandonment is defined by inability to establish contact with a parent or guardian within thirty days when all avenues have been attempted; and when no prior arrangement has been made stating the date of collection of the child.
Furthermore in the case of abandonment, should the child be deemed to be in risk of harm on return of the biological parent, the circus guardian status may be extended by appeal until such a time that the biological parent is deemed safe to resume custody, or the child reaches the age of sixteen.'

"You cannot be serious!" Fern screeches. "Carlotta has no biological relationship to William!"

"And yet she is the only one who has behaved throughout in a responsible manner." The judge snaps. "And is, according to this, his current legal guardian."

Carlotta thinks quickly, and nods.

"Your Honour, I would like to request an extension to guardian status until Fern is able to regain safe custody please, with regular visitation from her so that she can re-bond. If she cannot travel, I will bring him. I have no intention of taking William from her permanently, I'm just worried about his welfare."

The judge nods, in agreement.

"This hearing rules that under the present circumstances, as neither biological parent is in a fit state to resume sole custody, William Francis Jr is still bound by law as a ward of the circus and Carlotta Francis has full guardian responsibility. Fern is allowed full visitation rights. This decision may be appealed in six months. I suggest both of you get your lives back in order."

"It isn't fair, that just means Will gets to look after Little William, and he'll be with beastly circus people!" Fern yells.

"The judgement is final. Perhaps you will think more carefully, the pair of you, when conceiving a child outside of wedlock." The judge says. "You are fortunate that Will has such a responsible wife."

It is worth it, Carlotta reflects, when they get outside and Little William runs back up to her and grabs her legs tightly. It wasn't the plan, but he's one of her people now, whoever he's living with.
fiery_ring: (Default)
Breakin' teeth down in, tent one
I fought the law and the, law won
I fought the law and the, law won
I needed some satis-faction
I fought the law and the, law won
I fought the law and the, law won

Around the baby it felt so bad,
I'd had enough of Fern,
She gave me a real ton of crap
I fought the law and the, law won
I fought the law and the, law won.

She's robbed people of their, rations
She fought the law and the, law won
She fought the law and the, law won
She missed her baby and she, missed fun
She fought the law and the, law won
She fought the law and the, law won

Around the baby it felt so bad,
I'd had enough of Fern,
She gave me a real ton of crap
I fought the law and the, law won
I fought the law and the, law won.

In adjacent cells, with a typical barred door, Kate and Fern have been incarcerated. Fern has spent most of her incarceration so far sobbing loudly, but it hasn't got her any more than the bread and water Kate got.

There is one guard, who looks tired, and is sitting down the end of the corridor with a newspaper. There is a barred window in each cell, a non-lit fireplace near the guard, and a large barred window at the other end of the corridor.


Aug. 10th, 2012 09:04 pm
fiery_ring: (suspicious)
The reception takes place in the Big Top, which is more than large enough to accommodate the crowd. Outside, a large hog roast is taking place, with food and drinks aplenty.

It's a good time for Carlotta to catch up with her friends from school, most of whom she hasn't seen since the start of the war. A few of them have married in that time and brought husbands, some are in work or still at university. A petite, pretty woman, Alison, has brought a daughter of about two; finally a distraction from an incessant need to worry what her hair looks like. A tall, strapping woman, Mirabel, is sporting a burn scar on her face; rumour has it, she has been serving in combat.

The circus folk mingle among the guests, bringing food and occasionally breaking out into acrobatics. At the front of the tent, Fred the Bouncer sits with Wolf, his large guard dog.


Aug. 10th, 2012 08:30 pm
fiery_ring: (Default)
It's a small village church, with a good crowd. A whole bunch of young women Carlotta's age - her friends from school - and some friends of Will's have gathered outside. The entire cast of the circus are outside except for the lady who will be playing the organ.

Carlotta's father and grandmother are waiting a little way away, with her uncle Michael and his family. Her father is pushing a wheelchair in which a man with a below knee amputation is sitting; those who have visited her world before may recognise him as Harris. Will's family are talking to Carlotta's family.

The bride and groom arrive on horse and cart, and Will opens the door for his bride with a big grin on his face. Carlotta's dress is white and simple, with a little gypsy flair; for the sake of her family, she hasn't come with her Ringmaster outfit on. After she descends, he steps back up to scoop up their daughter, who he passes to Carlotta's grandmother, and his nephew, Little William, who he passes to his sister Libby.

The vicar calls everyone in for the ceremony. As everyone enters, it becomes apparant that the arrangement for the wedding march has probably been taken from some sort of comedy sketch, as there's a lot of twiddly bits of music that probably shouldn't be there. Libby and Rita, the bridesmaids, follow behind Carlotta with flowers. Jack and Jacob, the twin page boys, are in new suits, but can't resist doing a carefully choreographed cartwheel act down the aisle. Finally behind them runs Rita's trained monkey, also dressed in a very tiny suit, who climbs up onto Rita's shoulder and holds the flowers in a very solemn manner.

And for that moment, everything is perfect. Carlotta smiles at her husband, and glances back into the church, where her two worlds have at last truly combined.

They exchange vows, and rings, again. No promise to obey, and for once, Will gets it; she is the Ringmaster, and if he doesn't give her space for that, she'll lose her cast. They kiss and hold one another close, and for that moment, everything is okay.
fiery_ring: (Default)
The arrangement was that Will would spend the night in Fred's caravan. What with the whole bad luck to see your bride before the wedding thing. The reality was that when he stumbled in at four in the morning, he fell over Wolf, Fred's guard dog, and nearly ended up with a broken arm.

Carlotta, unaware of this particular development, is getting ready in her caravan. Will is still in his boxers, in Fred's caravan, nursing a hangover.
fiery_ring: (undercover down)
Will didn't come back the night the argued, not until two in the morning at any rate. Carlotta soon found that any time they disagreed, and sometimes when they didn't, he would disappear to the pub, and come back late smelling like a brewery. He laughed when she told him the dangers of smoking too.

"He'll come around, you know." Fred the bouncer said to her one day, seeing her standing at the edge of the grounds, watching to see if he'd come back.

"I feel like I've lost him even though he's back." Carlotta says, holding back the urge to light up a cigarette after Charlie's warning. "I'm trying not to fight with him, but he keeps smoking in the caravan, and he's drinking an awful lot, and he keeps going on that we should have another baby... I'm sorry, I shouldn't, it's indiscreet."

"He's got the shell shock, lass." Fred says quietly. "Saw it in the Great War."

"What's shell shock?" Carlotta asks, looking over at him.

"Something that happens to soldiers who see a lot of bad things." Fred says. "Watch his hands; he's got the shakes."

"What do I do?" Carlotta asks. "Should I take him to a doctor?"

"Doctors don't know much about it." Fred says. "And he'd probably take offence. Maybe you just need to distract him with good stuff and relax the traditional punishment for drunkenness."

Carlotta smiles slightly. Traditionally, a circus wife would force a drunken husband to sleep under the caravan; something she has threatened but yet to enforce.

"The drinking won't help him."

"No, but the more you argue, the worse that'll get." Fred says. "I'll have a word with him when he's in a good mood if you like?"

"Thanks... he doesn't know you well though, I don't know how he'll take it." Carlotta says.

"Maybe, but... I've had the shell shock." Fred says.

Carlotta looks at him in surprise. Fred has always been a bit of a mystery - he pitched up at the start of the season without being hired, and everyone had assumed he was with someone else. They never really found out his background, except that he wasn't in the war, and he didn't have any circus experience. Great bouncer though, good odd job man, and highly dependable team member.

"Fought in the Great War." Fred continues. "I was only fourteen, but I wanted to do my country proud so I lied about my age. Saw both my brothers die right in front of me..." he swallows hard. "Among other things. I don't really remember getting ill, just that I wasn't thinking right. A lot of that time is a blur now. But one day, I just got so afraid, though there was no attack at the time, I just remember I couldn't stop screaming, and I grabbed a handful of grenades and some guns and barricaded myself in part of the trench..." He glances at Carlotta. "They put me in an institution after that. I lost years."

"Fred... I'm so sorry." Carlotta says. "I had no idea."

"I got better, lass. In the end, they let me out, but I had nowhere to go, so I lived on the street, or tried to get farm work. Not much place in this world for a madman with a small military pension."

"Well, you're one of us now." Carlotta says. "And if it weren't for you, I wouldn't know what Will is behaving so strangely for."

She makes up her mind to be as patient as possible, but she can't help but worry when he once again doesn't come back until the early hours. As he stumbles into bed, they don't exchange a word.

In the morning, she gently pokes his arm, and is surprised when he practically leaps off the bed.


"Gracious, what have you done to yourself?" Carlotta asks, rolling up his sleeve. It's red and inflamed, with black letters.


And then she starts to laugh. She can't help it, she just laughs until she cries. Will cranes his head to look at the tattoo.

"Oh no! What was I thinking?!"

"I assume you meant it to say Molly." Carlotta says, holding her sides. "Oh Will, you are a silly old thing."

Will groans, and then grins; the first proper grin they've had since getting back. Over the other side of the caravan, Molly and Little William have woken and are staring at the adults in surprise.

"Marry me again?" Will says quietly. "Like we planned, in a big church, with all our family there. I was scared that we weren't the same any more and if I asked you again you'd say no."

"Of course I still want you." Carlotta says, stroking his hair gently. "I'm just worried about you. I'll remarry you on one condition."

"What's that?" Will asks, looking worried.

"You'll have to cover up that 'Moley' tattoo down the aisle, even I have my limits."

fiery_ring: (undercover down)
August 1949

The war is over.

It was still a few weeks before all the men returned. According to Will's letters, there was a lot of cleanup to do in Europe, and liberating the channel islands.

When he finally came home, for good, it was a very emotional moment all around. She held him in her arms, and kissed him, and thanked him for not getting himself killed in the years he'd been away.

Daisy's husband reappeared the next day, meeting his young daughter Joanna for the first time. Dolly and Victoria, the other mothers of war babies, stuck together, with the sober reminder that their husbands would not be coming back.

Rita, the sixteen-year-old evacuee, refused to leave with her chimpanzee when her parents turned up. Carlotta stepped into that one and said that since she wasn't a minor, she was welcome to stay on contract.

You might think that the hard part was over, Carlotta mused, after Will had been home a couple of days. But it seemed that things were not going to be that simple.

For one thing, Molly, their ten month old daughter (one month being in Gotland, she was generally taken as a rather advanced nine month old), had entered a period of stranger anxiety, and would start to cry whenever Will picked her up. She would babble 'Matta' at Carlotta, but wouldn't acknowledge Will at all, and Carlotta could see how much that upset him.

Then there was the smoking. Now, Carlotta has to admit to having the occasionally cigarette, out of view of Molly, because everyone does. But since coming back from the war, Will seems to be on about twenty a day, which makes everything smell. By day two, she had to bar him from doing it in the caravan, because Molly didn't like it.

"When the rationing finishes, twenty a day is going to cost a fortune." she says gently to him, over lunch.

"But they're good for you." Will says, lighting up again. "They clear out the lungs, everyone knows that."

"Well please don't do it near Molly, it sets her off screaming." Carlotta says. "I go to the edge of the camp if I'm going to have one."

For Will, a further hard part is finding that everyone in the circus answers to Carlotta as Ringmaster. It took Carlotta a few days to realise that he had expected to take over when he got back, and she had to take him aside again and gently explain that that isn't how it works.

"You can't just turn up and become Ringmaster because you're married to me." she says. "It doesn't work like that. A Ringmaster either starts a circus or works their way up, and you have to have years and years of circus experience. You've only been on tour with us for six months."

"Yes, but I look ridiculous." Will says. "Husbands don't take orders from their wives; I ought to be taking the lead and you ought to be looking after Molly."

"I do look after Molly." Carlotta says, indignantly.

"You put her in the creche half the day." Will says. "She ought to be getting more one to one parent time."

"Well I was raised by a community and it didn't do me any harm!" Carlotta says. "If anything, your circus work is usually done by half ten, and mine lasts all day, so rather than spending the rest of the day smoking you could have individual time with her."

She thought it was a relatively reasonable solution. But Will looks angry and hurt, gets up, and storms off to the pub.


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Carlotta Francis (nee Brown)

February 2014

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