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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.

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Carlotta Francis (nee Brown)

February 2014

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