Trance by Tabitha Levin by Tabitha Levin - Read Online

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Trance - Tabitha Levin

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Table of Contents


























About the Author


I tucked my knees to my chest as high and tight as they would go, maintaining my smile so the crowd would have no clue as to what I was doing. My grandfather, the famous Thomas Tinks, waved the thick flat sword to the crowd. They oohed and aahed at the right time as he teasingly tapped the box I was in with it.

One quick wink to him let him know I was ready, and he thrust the sword into the box where my stomach should be.

I winced melodramatically, and a woman from the audience gasped, her hands clasped to her cheeks, her eyes wide in shock. He picked up another sword, and again thrust it into the box, this time through my side, or rather where my side would have been if I was standing.

Maintaining my smile, which was difficult in this cramped position, I waved my hand, the only other part of me exposed to the audience apart from my face. The woman relaxed, a huge exhale as she whispered to her friend sitting next to her in the crowd.

The third and final sword entered the box. My grandfather lifted his hands in the air as if he was conducting a large orchestra, did one turn, and then began pulling out the swords one by one.

I scrunched my face, as if I had just bitten into a tart lemon. I kept my face this way until all three swords had been removed from the box and then let out an exhale as I lifted my brows, like I was surprised I was still alive, even though we had done this trick over one hundred times and it was simply part of the act.

Another wave of his hand to the crowd, and he opened the box, one latch at a time, until I was free, ready to step out, fully intact.

The crowd cheered as I stepped out, not a cut or scratch on me, and my grandfather held my hand as I twirled for the crowd. He bowed and I curtsied, as the red velvet curtain slid across the stage. The audience were still hollering and clapping as we disappeared from sight.

Another round of applause for the wonderful, magical, Thomas Tinks, said the announcer over the speaker. The curtain slid open again part way, as my grandfather, pulled a bunch of flowers filled with glitter out of his sleeve pocket and threw them into the audience. The lights danced off the glitter as it floated down onto the first row of seats and everyone cheered louder, before the curtains closed again.

He turned to me. Only one more show, petal.

I didn’t want to think about it. Couldn’t bear for this to be over. Now, just like that, my life as I currently knew it would be finished.

But I was being silly. It wasn’t my life that was over. At twenty-four, mine had just begun. It was my grandfather, magician extraordinaire, that would suffer the most. His whole life had been about entertaining crowds, thrilling them, seeing them gasp in surprise. I could always find other work. All he had to look forward to was sitting in a retirement village. I couldn’t imagine him like that. Even though he had just turned seventy-three, I never saw him as old. I always figured we’d work like this forever. I couldn’t imagine being anything else except his assistant.

He ruffled my hair, the same way he always did.

Don’t fret, he said. I’m going to be a-okay. You know you can’t keep me down for long. Besides, you need to find a lovely gentleman to take care of you.

He pulled me in close for a hug, close enough that I could smell his lucky cologne. The same one that he used before every show, which he said gave him a sense of mystery, important for creating magic. I always laughed when he said this before, but now I nuzzled into his shoulder craving the scent.

You take care of me, I said. I don’t need anyone else.

He pulled out another flower. A single white rose made of silk. He handed it to me. Let’s go see your grandmother.

My grandmother had been his first assistant, starting back in the 1950’s. She continued to perform with him, right up until my mother took over when she had turned fifteen. Even after my mother grew up and got pregnant with me, she continued to perform with him. She didn’t stop, even when she was weeks away from giving birth (although they didn’t perform the sword trick during that time, for obvious reasons).

My mother died in a car crash when I was eleven years old, and so my grandparents became my guardian’s because we never knew who my father was. I have been his third and final assistant ever since, performing mostly on weekends, but since turning twenty-one, we’ve worked full time.

Up until now.

My grandmother, Rose Tinks, had the same shade of red hair when she was younger, as I do now, and my mother had before me. It’s why they named me Scarlett. They said I was born with a mass of crimson curls, a way to announce to the world that I had arrived and demanded to be taken notice of.

Not that the Tinks needed any help being noticed. We all craved the stage and audience attention from the moment we could talk.

Funny then, how off-stage, we preferred the quiet and solitude of each other.

A spread of cakes and other baked goodies awaited my grandfather and me as we stepped in the door. The sugary aroma drifted up to greet us before even my grandmother could usher us to the table and sit us down.

She poured our tea, scented with cinnamon, into fine china teacups. The teacups clinked against the saucers as we lifted them for a toast. To magic, we said together, and took a sip before digging into the sweet buffet in front of us.

Only one more to go, she said, watching for the slightest change of expression on my grandfather’s face.

And it will be the best show we’ve ever done, he said. We’ll go out in a bang of fire. Maybe even literally, if I can get the ring set up correctly.

You should do the floating light bulb. That was always my favorite, said my grandmother as she looked dreamily at him.

I nodded. Yes, that one always gets a huge applause. Definitely do that one.

He extended his hand across the table and took my grandmother’s hand in his. I’ll need two assistants. You should be there.

Oh no, Thomas. I’m far too old.

I insist. It wouldn’t be right without you by my side. He squeezed her hand.

But I don’t fit into any of my old costumes anymore. I’m not the same as I used to be.

Nonsense. You are still as slender and as beautiful as the day we met. You’ll be the star of the show.

I coughed dramatically, then smiled, so they would know I was teasing.

Yes, of course, two beautiful assistants. What more could an old magician like me ask for? He winked at me, and lifted my grandmother’s hand to his lips, gently kissing her fingers one by one.

I finished my cake and took a last gulp of tea before excusing myself and leaving the room. They were still holding hands and smiling at each other as they finished their meal.

I walked into my room and peeled the costume off, placed it on a hanger and hung it next to the others in my closet. I stared at the corsets and dresses, full of sequins and sparkle, wondering what I would do with them once the final show was over. The only way I’d be able to find a way to wear them again would be if I found another stage job. But it wasn’t like magicians assistants were common these days. I sighed. The world was changing from stage acts to phone apps. And even though Thomas Tinks could still pull a crowd and wow them, it was getting harder to make a good living doing it. He was retiring at the right time. He could go out with a bang. But I was still only twenty four. What was I going to do?

I lay on the bed on my stomach with my laptop in front of me, and ran my fingers over the keyboard, looking at job ads. The usual waitress and office admin jobs were plenty, although I couldn’t see myself rocking up to an office with a feather boa and false eyelashes too often. Or could I? That would be something to talk about at least and it would make my idea of sitting in a cubicle slightly bearable, if that was even possible.

Not that those positions were real contenders. I’d rather have nothing at all, than work somewhere I hated. With the insurance payment from my mother’s accident, and a place to live with my grandparents for as long as I wanted, I could survive financially for years without working. I couldn’t, however, survive creatively.

I closed the laptop and rolled over, staring up at the ceiling at the tiny stick-on stars that had been there since I was twelve. There were also three planets and one very large moon. They were made of a substance that glowed in the dark so it felt like you floating through the universe as you drifted off to sleep. It was magical.

My phone beeped. I looked across to the bedside table and then to the floor. I stood statue still, waiting for it to beep again, so I could pinpoint its location. I finally found it slipped under my bed at the far end.

The message was from my best friend Lacey Letterman. She was insisting that I get up off my lazy ass and get over to her house immediately. I grinned. She was the only other person in the world that understood me as well as my grandparents did.

I checked myself in the mirror, threw on a baggy dress that looked more like a sack (because I knew it would drive her crazy), and slid my feet into some comfortable shoes.

My grandparents were in the sitting room at the back of the house. They were listening to jazz music, moving their hands, and nodding their heads in time to the beat, lost to the rhythm. I knew they’d be up dancing together soon, cheek to cheek, as they still did every night.

I said goodbye, left them to their evening, while I jumped in my car, and headed to Lacey’s.

You cannot be serious, said Lacey, as she held me out at arm’s length. How on earth are we going to meet guys with you dressed like that? She shook her head, grabbed my hand and pulled me inside her apartment. Her decorating taste was the complete opposite to mine. She preferred a sleek interior with black and white accessories. I liked our old house - it had character and stories. It was part of us.

Nope, it simply won’t do. Come into my closet, Scarlett Tinks, and let me fix you. It’s my turn for a bit of magic, now. She said the same thing every week. You would think she would have realized now that I did it to annoy her. Even though, secretly, I knew she loved having me as her fashion project. She wanted to be a stylist, but only if it was to someone important and famous, she said. She worked at a large department store as a personal shopper, which she both loved and despised depending on which client came through her office door that day. Once she had to pick out an entire wardrobe for an elderly gentleman who would pinch her bottom when she wasn’t looking. She let him do it too, so she’d make better tips.

She held up a short dress with a plunging neckline against me as she looked at our reflections through a floor length mirror that leaned against her bedroom wall. Nope. She tossed it aside. Next, she held up one that wouldn’t have been long enough to cover my ass. Too short. At least we agreed on that one. Finally, she settled on a shimmery gold dress that could be either casual or dressy depending on what you paired it with. She pulled my sack dress off over my head and replaced it with the gold one.

Now, shoes.

What do I need shoes for? These ones are fine. I did a tap dance routine for her, complete with jazz hands. See.

We aren’t auditioning for the latest TV dance show, you know. She rolled her eyes. And while you think you can live without a man in your life, I can’t. And this time, I need someone normal.

She’d broken up with her last boyfriend three months ago, after she caught him scrolling through her phone looking for incriminating messages. She didn’t have any, of course, he was just overly possessive. Probably because she let old men pinch her bottom for tips. It wasn’t the only weird thing he’d done, but it was the last, she dumped him there and then and hadn’t seen him since.

I hadn’t had a boyfriend for three years, and nor did I want one. The few men I’d met with any potential had all turned out to be complete jerks, and the last thing I wanted to do was settle for someone who would treat me any less than the way my grandfather treated my grandmother. That was how real love was meant to be, not this let’s-hook-up-and-never-see-each-other-again thing. Besides, I had more important things to think about than men right now.

At least you put makeup on this time. I hadn’t actually removed my makeup from the show. She pulled out my ponytail and let my hair hang loose over my shoulders, fluffing it with her fingers.

So, where are you dragging me to?

Fairground. Since it’s your thing. Lights, carnival music, pizzazz. And my thing, if there are cute guys hanging around.

She took one more look at me and nodded. Right then, you’re decent now, a catch. Let’s go have some fun at the fair.


The lights of the sideshow stalls blinked and danced in time with the piped music that blared from tinny speakers. Crowds of people from young to old, their arms laden with giant stuffed toys or plastic bags filled with themed samples from various stalls, their shouts trying to be heard amongst the wave of noise in every direction. Groups of young teenagers leaned against chipped painted walls eyeing members of the opposite sex, in the hopes of some flirty fun.

Lacey grabbed my hand leading me further into the centre of the fairground, weaving through people like a slalom skier. We passed a cotton candy stall and my mouth burst with saliva as a waft of sugary heaven danced around me, beckoning me to stop and taste its wares. But Lacey dragged me on, her course set and nothing was going to sway her, not even my occasional stumble from wearing inappropriate shoes.

When she stopped, she turned and placed her hands on her hips, a smug look on her face.

What? I asked.

She tipped her head toward the auditorium three times, as if she was trying to shake water out of her ear. I looked in the direction she indicated, trying to determine what crazy pills she’d taken. 

Are you blind? she asked. Look who’s on tonight.

I read the sign. 8.45pm. Jason Green. Hypnotist. I frowned. You want us to get hypnotized?

She threw her head back in exasperation. He’s the hottest thing. Come on, you must have heard about him. You’re in the same profession.

I shook my head. Oh no. I am not in the same profession as some hypnotist hack. And no, I haven’t any idea who he is. Nor do I care. What sort of stupid stage name is Jason Green anyway? He’s not going to get much of an audience with that name.

It’s his real name. Your grandfather uses his real name.

My grandfather is a real magician.

Lacey shook her head again. He’s supposed to be hot. We should go and check him out, see if the rumors are true.

I looked across to the sign again. Really? Those shows are so staged. There are plenty of better things to do here. How about the Hall of Mirrors?

She rolled her eyes. We go there every time we come here.

I linked arms with hers, walking her toward the hall. That’s because it’s fun. Come on, you can stare at yourself in the mirror that makes you look all skinny, while I walk through the maze.

"Fine. But then