The curtains were closed. The sound of the audience’s chatter resounded in Nicholas’s mind, synchronizing with the beat of his blood pounding through his ears. He knew they were talking about him, speculating on just how this show was going to be superior to all the others. That was how it had been advertised, after all: the grandest, most astounding act that would ever be performed by the young magician.
Beads of sweat trickled down his face, and he felt sick to his stomach. On no occasion had nerves proved to be a problem for him—until now. He had put on shows for the wealthiest families in London, not to mention all kinds of royalties, including King Edward VII. Uneasiness was a new experience for him and one he wished he could escape from.
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
-William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18
I met Kai on the longest day of the year, under a rainbow-colored Ferris wheel that rotated as slowly as the setting of the sun. Even at six-o’-clock in the afternoon, the sky persisted on being hydrangea blue, just the same as his eyes— hydrangea petals, petals of the sky. Standing next to the cotton candy machine, he watched me from his jubilant crowd of devotees, their laughter indistinguishable from the peals of carnival music tinkling from the speakers. His voice rang out the strongest—the only voice I could pick out from the euphony of music and happy chatter and say: Yes, that’s his.