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Expected Visit [The Carnival]
Stalking a boy was always fun, specially when she wanted to get caught.  And Stalking Cruz Vega had been a blast.  But then any time Roza spent with Esper was grand.  Even times like now where Esper just watched her play the violin and make pretty lights dance on the air.

Her gossamer dress in all red fluttered in the air with the black velvety cloak flowing around her, almost a reverse little red riding hood to go with the fantastical tune she played.  The dance was her own, but one Roza had derived from the dances of their ancestors, and the lights accompanied were those of twinkling ballerinas like Rasputin might have conjured back in his day -- for surely he was like her.

Esper and Roza had taunted Cruz with stickers of skulls around the boys life.  And they had waged a war with another poster on the bulletin boards.  Of course they were digital and theirs were stickers but it was amusing none-the-less.  They expected Cruz to find them on his light day.  He was too busy otherwise, so they didn't even attempt to follow him.  Besides it was good to work the crowd, though her mother had forbidden Roza from picking any pockets.  She sat in her tent watching as Roza fiddled away on her violin.  Roza laughed with her own human and smiled at those passing buy and dropping coin in her case.  

How long were they going to have to wait?
It enchanted her. Roza’s violin tied pretty little bows around every one of her senses, and Esper watched unabashed from her own cross-legged position on the floor. Flowers wound her purple hair, all pinned up in a cloud on her head. Blossoms painted her cheekbones too, studded with rhinestones that caught the afternoon sun whenever she moved her face. Her lips were dark, presently in a vacant smile of appreciation for the way Roza moved. For now, she didn't pay attention to anything else; even Renáta's supervising eye from her tent across the way.
"We are all searching for someone whose demons play well with ours"
Rena remained where her ride had dropped her off. The Carnival entrance was just up ahead, occasional noises from people laughing or squeeling or screaming reaching her ear.

She stood there watching, the desire to go on warring with her hesitancy. Inside that place lay memories, of a sort. Oh, her old neighborhood was still there. Those buildings looked a hundred years old and would probably be there for another 100.

And there were crews, gopnicks in their track suits, hanging around, girls and boys showing off or looking for trouble amid the rubble and garbage and poverty. But the ones she and Nina had run with were gone, replaced by the next generation or the one after that. Despite a life seemingly free of care and worry, nearly everyone who could tried to leave. Leave before they got pregnant or got trapped in the struggle to survive.

Her last visit had not been one of good memories or homecoming- the model returned home. No. It was depressing.

And then Nina had left to be a doctor in some far off place. Not that she'd seen a lot of Nina before then. Modeling and traveling hadn't left her a lot of time. And even if it had, well, it wasn't like her big sister was her best friend. She loved Nina. But she didn't need her. Didn't even know if she liked her. Harsh, but whatever.

But somehow over the last few weeks, something started to feel off. Boring. She had an idea for what might help. But for some reason, drinking or something harder didn't appeal to her.

She found herself thinking back to earlier times. Before they had settled in Moscow. When her parents had still been alive. When they had traveled with other Romani. Grandmother had been an outsider, lured in by grandfather. And she had adopted their ways. But it wasn't all one way. She had told stories about her family. About hunters and monsters.

She guessed Papa had liked having a family secret. Something that made him different from the other Romani in their clan.

All of which meant that they had been outsiders to the Romani outsiders. Not exactly the happiest of family lives. 

Still, Mama and Papa had loved her and her sister. There had been moments of joy. Moments that Rena wanted to feel again. Moments she felt like she had lost.

Lost and nowhere to go to find it. In her apartment she shared with Simone, seeming to have more than she ever could have imagined, having seen so much, she had awakened homesick.

Trouble was she had no home to be sick over. No place to go. No one to see.

If not their old neighborhood, if not Nina or Mama and Papa, then maybe other Romani. Not those she'd known. Even if she knew where they were, well, it wasn't like they were close.

But Romani, all the same.

So she stood there, wanting to enter, but scared to have yet another home taken from her. If not here, then what?

It was a couple guys coming down the street that decided her. Her white shirt was a bit open and showed cleavage. Between that and her tight low rise blue jeans, green scarf and dark purple Doc Martin's that she knew gave her an edge, well, she really didn't want to be leered at. 

The grass leading up to the entry way was green amid bare patches of dirt. She swiped her wallet to pay the fee and was immediately presented with stalls and stands and boothes. They were attached to small houses of various loud colors. The sounds of music and the smell of people seeped in to her.

This was not a Romani camp as she had known it. But for all of that, it felt familiar. She wandered around, just taking it in. She seemed shy about going into any of the shops.

Rena walked along the narrow streets, content- for a while at least- to just let it soak in. That was it, she told herself. She wasn't trying to avoid actually talking to anyone. No. Not that.
Classes interfered with his personal life. His mother had been disappointed when the girls had left. But he carried one of their jackets out the door with the promise of returning it to her. It was the truth and it had appeased his mother. The coat had sat for a better part of the week over the back of his chair and taunted him with hopes and dreams and then there was the glimpses and darkness that followed in their wake. He wished he'd known their names. It would make finding them that much harder.

But the Carnival was easy to find. And walking around the tents was oddly comforting watching the shows and the performers. He stopped to watch the magic show, and watched as he used his gift to make things of wonder happen. She worked similar magic and it looked as fantastical as he imagined what the man did as well. But Cruz saw the weaves.

Lots of people stopped to watch, but most just passed through looking for the next feat.

He walked and shopped and looked around. He stopped in every tent and at every booth looking for either of the girls. The music coming from in front of the fortuneteller's tent caught his ear and that's when he saw them. One played the violin and danced around while the other looked enraptured with the performance. She spun lights and sound and Cruz wondered how much of the power was being used. He watched with idle amusement and wonder before he approached with her coat. He laid it in her lap with a smile. "You left this."
When the sparkle of her sequined jacket landed neatly in her lap, Esper looked up.

“Hmm,” she agreed, unfolding it and slipping it back around her shoulders.

With a coy glance at Roza she reached out a hand for Cruz to help her up. His curiosity and amusement seeped through stronger with the touch, and she wondered how long he had spent this week thinking about that encounter. Cruz did not have to lift hard; Esper was fluid onto her feet, and pulled him into the rhythm of Roza’s music with a flourish when she stood. It was not a dance to make him blush this time, just one to make him smile, and it brought her no closer than the clasp of hands. Her hips rolled seamlessly with the heights and dips of Roza’s song, and the coloured lights danced around them, bouncing like rainbows from the sequins. For a moment Cruz was part of that magic.

When the music ended Esper stepped back with an ornate bow. Her face was flushed with a genuine glow, but it was Roza who made her breathless. Even as the last notes tingled and faded she could still feel them.

“I would like to thank you,” she said to Cruz.

“What would you like?” she teased. “One of our names, or something else?”
"We are all searching for someone whose demons play well with ours"
Each step seemed to make Rena feel like she was coming home. She wasn't sure how, exactly. She had never been in this place. Nor had her life growing up been some place like it. And yet, everything felt familiar. The way the people moved, how they spoke to each other. Clothing and buildings in colors that just seemed to go together, to fit even though another part of her- the one that had spent over a year as a model wearing the latest fashions- knew that they were not stylish nor fit. Strains of music floated above the venue, snatches of songs that, if not specifically known to her, were familiar all the same.

Above all, the smells. She wandered from shop to shop, each time a door open or a tent flap was moved aside, familiar scents of life and home swept over her. 

It was as if the entire experience of being Romani had been somehow distilled to this place. 

And strangely, that sense of trepidation, of worry, melted away. She felt home. Her mood changed, her step lightened, her smile wider and open and honest. Into one shop, dense with the smells of home, she went, only to walk out later, carefully holding a hot meat pie in her hand, its warm flavors filling her with thoughts of mama and papa.

Another shop beckoned with various kinds of clothing, through which she rifled, soon leaving with two full bags.

The Fortune Teller's tent beckoned and her mind went back to one of the old women of her childhood, peering intently at her palm, breath warm and rather pungent, as she spoke in words Rena didn't understand.

Right at the entrance of the tent there were two other girls, one playing a violin while the other danced with a man. It felt like a private dance. Intimate. She looked around. They were outside. She smiled slightly, not wanting to interrupt. But it felt strange to just walk past them into the store.

"I'm sorry," she said. It was dumb. This was a shop. Still, she felt like an outsider who stumbled into someone's bedroom.
The girls seemed transfixed with one another and yet they included him. The girl who's coat he returned swept him up in a dance. She lead the way and Cruz gladly followed, he didn't think there was much chorography to the whole thing, but it was fun, and the music was enrapturing and when it died down his dance partner offered him a reward. Which tugged a wider smile to his already smiling lips. A name, or something else. Not both their names, just a name. It solved one problem, but he had a better idea. "How about something else? But we decide upon what I can call you two so that I can stop thinking of you as Girl 1 and Girl 2. Though it does have a very Doctor Suessian way about it. I was thinking names of your favorite flowers? And I want to take you both dancing as my something else."

A third woman stepped into their range, she hovered at the door watching things and apologizing. He vaguely recognized her. But couldn't place it. "Nothing to be sorry about. It's a public sidewalk, and a public show. My friend was just very glad to receive her jacket she left at my house." Cruz plucked at a sequin on the coat with a bright smile.
Oh he showed up! Finally. Roza giggled to herself as she danced around with the lights and Esper took up Cruz's hands and dance with her. She flowed with the music and Roza never wanted to take her eyes from Esper, but her own turning and dancing drew her eyes to others in the crowd. So many pockets to pick, so many faces to make smile. It was hard to choose which to focus on.

But the song ended, and Cruz was here. Their carefully laid plans finally came to fruition and her mother would just watch as they worked their magic. No picking of pockets.

Cruz was speaking to a woman of beauty with an air of familiarity, all the while being captured by Esper's beauty. His eyes rarely leaving only to make eye contact with the other. Roza swept in and hugged Esper from behind with a quick squeeze and a kiss to her cheek. She whispered. "You danced wonderfully, with him." And then she moved around to include the newest friend with an uninvited move Roza hugged the woman tightly. "Welcome to the Carnival." She said then sweeping her hands and spinning around in a circle. "Home of the Romani, a place of wonder and excitement." She leaned into the middle of their little group and giggled. "You must try my Auntie's Hortobagyi Palacsinta*"

Roza stepped through the middle of the group and wrapped Cruz up in a hug and danced around both him and Esper with glee. "Mr. Vega. You came. Oh please tell me you came to whisk us away from this awful place?" Roza donned the most Southern American accent she could muster and placed her forearm above her head, and bent at the knees feigning heat exhaustion before falling to the ground in a fit of giggles.

[[ * Hortobagyi Palacsinta -> Hungarian Meat Pancakes ]]
Esper leaned into Roza’s touch and compliment, and then gave her the stage as she welcomed another into their midst. Discomfort scratched all abrasively from the girl, but there was no need to push; not with Roza’s easy charm. The carnival turned no one away; if the stranger wanted a place here, she would find it. Esper laughed a little as Roza collapsed into theatrics and giggles. Cruz’s pluck of a sequin on her jacket earned a smirk, and she shrugged a little mischievously at the new girl.

“Stay a while,” she agreed, then turned her attention to her fallen comrade.

“He wants to name us after flowers,” she said. “What do you think to that?” She thought there was probably a rather obvious subtext to the request, but she only found it amusing. “Pick for me and I’ll pick for you.”
"We are all searching for someone whose demons play well with ours"
The welcome from the three of them put her at ease, though didn't lessen the feeling of being an outsider. Just because they invited her to stay didn't mean she knew what was going on or got their little inside jokes. She was used to that, too. As Roma, they stuck to the fringes of cities and villages. Even if they stayed their for years, it was never to put down roots or to integrate. And mother and father's strange devotion to their ancient superstition only meant that even within the camp, they were still outsiders.

But Rena knew how to fake it. The world of modeling was filled with fake people and faker relationships. Air kisses and "dahling" or faux-friendships. She could phony-it-up with the best of them, when she chose. And yet somehow, she didn't feel any motivation to do so. Pretending to be old friends already felt old, even if the opening was easy enough. The guy- she knew she'd seen him before. The name gave it away. Vega, of course. Gorgeous, if a little to obviously conscious of it- flirting with both girls. One open and carefree. The other, less so. In what way, she couldn't tell. 

Rena smiled shyly, looking at the two other girls in turn before speaking to the man. "I don't envy you. I'm not sure you could find the right flowers. I don't think a flower can giggle as sweetly as this one or can be as coolly mysterious as the other." Nervousness wanted to grow up around her but she pushed it down. She smiled, at the girl on the ground and then the other woman. "I'm Rena. Thank you for your hospitality."

She looked at the man and put out her hand. "We've met, Mr. Vega. At one of your parties a while back. Though I think you had eyes for my companion." The twinkle in her eye and the smile on her face said she had taken no offense. Not that he probably cared. Still...

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