'I took the stars from my eyes, and then I made a map
And knew that somehow I could find my way back
Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too
So I stayed in the darkness with you
The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out
You left me in the dark
And no dawn, no day, I'm always in this twilight
In the shadow of your heart' - Song Link
She was made from the night sky. Her skin kissed by the moon and her eyes filled with stars. She was born into darkness and held the galaxies in her hand. Falling to earth had been less than pleasant, it had been too fast and too loud and every night she heard her sisters crying for her to come home, to come back.
She was stuck to this mortal life she found herself thrown into. She became this mortal, this little girl. Elizabeth Harmon. Her name was Elizabeth Harmon. And such pain little Elizabeth felt, from the minute the star landed in her heart and shared her life all she knew was pain.
Until the nice man came, with his sun-kissed skin and charming smile, extending a hand to her whilst bowing and holding his top hat. Stars were not meant to feel sunlight, stars were not meant to be touched by blue skies which was all this man was.
“I’ll make you a star, Miss Harmon.”
Didn’t he know? She already was one.
Beth sat by her dressing table, humming softly as she painted her lips red for tonight's show. She could hear the cheers of the audience, probably at the Twins doing their comedy act or Jolene and her lions.
“Annette? Can you do the buttons please?”
“Sorry, not Annette,” a voice answered. Beth grabbed her blanket, throwing it around herself as she saw none other than Benny standing at the entrance. Of course he would walk in on her changing, of course he wouldn’t cover his eyes as she stood only in her corset.
He was Benny Watts after all.
“What do you want?”
“Just to bring you these,” he held up her shoes, “Weren’t in great shape. Had to give them a lot of attention. How did you even wreck them so badly?”
“It’s difficult business walking on a tightrope.”
“Well, as promised, here are your new shoes.” He set them on the floor by her door, pausing before he left. “Do you need help with the buttons?”
“Where’s Annette? She’s meant to be helping.”
“She’s with the stablemaster.”
“What do you mean she’s with the stable master? We aren’t paying her to sit pretty for Peter, we’re paying her to help me do my buttons.”
“Seems someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed,” Benny hummed, walking over and standing behind Beth, steadily buttoning the dress together. “There now, was that so bad?”
“Townes will kill her when he finds out.”
“Townes will be too busy fawning over his sparkling diamond to notice.”
Beth turned to look at him, sticking her chin out slightly then down at the shoes. It wasn’t that Beth disliked Benny, she just never saw the point in him being at the circus. Everyone knew him, everyone knew he gambled on the side and everyone knew he carried a knife in his pocket. He seemed to know everything from how to fix shoes to how to tame lions and ride horses. There were rumours he was Townes’s right-hand man, but Beth knew Townes better than anyone else in the circus and she was positive when she said this.
Benny Watts was not D.L Townes’s right-hand man.
Beth sighed, adjusting the necklace and putting her earrings in. He hadn’t left, he was still there, just standing around.
“Are you planning on leaving?” she asked, looking at him over her shoulder.
“Do you have any more buttons that you need help with?”
She did. She had another layer to go on top of the bodice she was currently wearing, and that had straps she never could do on her own.
“Beth!” she whipped her head around when she saw Annette hurrying into the tent, her dress very rumbled and her hair slipping from its pins. “I am so sorry.”
“Have fun did we?” Benny chimed, lighting a cigarette and puffing the smoke out. She rolled her eyes at him and opened her arms for the dress to slide on.
“Can you go now, please?” she asked Benny, closing her eyes and beginning to slow her heartbeat down.
“Break a leg out there,” he called over his shoulder. He grabbed one of the Turkish Delights in the jar, popping it in his mouth then walking out of her trailer. Beth huffed, sucking in a deep breath as Annette wrapped the silks around her waist.
“Don’t let him get to you, Beth. He’s just angry he lost at poker the other night.”
“He didn’t annoy me, Ann,” Beth muttered. She had already done her stretches, warming up her legs and arms. She could still feel a little tension in her lower back but she felt good. She felt loose, rotating her ankles and then bouncing on the balls of her feet.
She felt glorious, but in the back of her head, she still heard the singing. The harmonies of angels, the call to come home. The call to return to the sky.
Beth shut them off. She stood on the tips of her toes, going into pointe and bringing her arms up as she reached for the sky, for a moment she felt as though she could. Then she dropped, bringing her hands down to her toes and sighing at the stretch. She took a once over of herself in the mirror, running her hand over her stomach and hips to smooth the fabric off. She loved the glitter, the tiny diamonds sewn into the netting that hugged her waist and the silk that wrapped around her breasts and neck. Every outfit she wore was something spectacular, but always black and white. Townes insisted it was part of her aesthetic. The black and white theme for her to make her stand out. She never questioned him, just smiled and took what was given to her.
In one movement, Beth sweeped her leg up, bringing it into a full stretch and catching her calf as she pressed her knee to her ear. The burn felt good. The stretch, she could feel her body easing back into the familiar poses. She was the star of the show, she was the main attraction.
“Call for Beth! Five minutes until showtime!” she heard Andrew call. Beth glanced at Annette, then checking herself once more in the mirror.
“See you after,” she said to the dresser, kissing her cheek and hurrying to the entrance of the tent. Beth felt the butterflies burn in her stomach, the familiar rush before the opening chords struck up for her to perform.
She ran her hands along her dress to try and ease the sweat off them. She felt the familiar buzz, like a thousand bees in her head. The roar of adrenaline began to pump in her veins and in her blood. She felt the call, the urge to run into the centre of the tent and begin her routine. She swallowed, rolling her neck and cracking her knuckles, taking another deep breath. It was all about controlling the breath, she had to keep her breathing deep and even. The minute she lost that was the minute she lost the performance.
“And now! The Queens Circus is proud to present… Beth Harmon!” Townes announced. Beth didn’t run or jog into the tent. No. She strode in with her chin high and her shoulders back. She walked in, she kept her shoulders perfectly square as she opened her arms and bowed her head towards Townes. She felt the hush descend over the crowd, the familiar buzz from those watching to see what she was about to do. Beth took one final deep breath until her heart perfectly calm in her chest, until it was no longer hammering furiously, it was now even and calm. She was calm. Beth stepped into her ring, wrapping one arm around the aireal ties in the centre of the tent. And then the show began.
Benny loved to watch Beth perform. He would never admit it, but once one set their eyes on the acrobat they couldn’t draw their eyes away. It was how he felt every time he watched her, sure his heart was in his throat for the majority of the performance. There were moments when he stopped breathing completely like now, as she dangled upside down with one leg wrapped in the ties and her arms hanging downwards. Benny glanced to Townes who was watching by the audience as he always did. He knew, Benny knew there was no chance of her falling. When she performed it was as if she was floating, as if she belonged in the sky.
It didn’t mean the performance was any less nerve-wracking. He watched as she pulled herself upwards, moving into the splits and then somersaulting between the ties, rotating. Every movement was so fluid, every movement so exact. Benny watched and sighed quietly to himself, she came to life under the bright lights of the circus tent. She came alive with hundreds of eyes on her, Benny could only dream of how much Townes paid his star. His dazzling diamond.
Benny remembered calling Beth ‘Foxy’ at the start, her red hair did make her stand out considerably in the sea of dark haired folk that belonged to the circus. He also remembered coming home to Beth cutting up his shirts.
“I’m not Foxy, I’m not Red Lady. I am Beth Harmon, you’ll do well to remember that,” she said, stepping over his now destroyed shirt and then walking out of his trailer to go train. He heard the whispers that Beth Harmon came with a drinking problem, but Townes sobered her up otherwise she wouldn’t be currently spinning at a considerable height from the roof of the tent with no safety net.
Benny sighed, grabbing his coat and stepping out into the paddock where the team of horses were kept. He knew them all by name; Apollo, Athena, Atlas, Atlanta, Achilles and Zeus. Zeus was the only black horse in the string of greys and all named after Greek Gods. They were all beautiful, their eyes wide and soft, filled with knowledge and peace. Benny softly gave Apollo’s neck a pat as he moved through the team and to his own trailer. His was kept right back and hidden from sight, where performers brought him things they needed fixed. Shoes, clothes, jewellery. Some came with broken hearts and asked him to fix it, but you could never fix a broken heart. Even if you did, the pieces would never fit back together as they once had, it was common knowledge for blacksmiths to know this. Something broken would never be the same.
But Benny took what was given, and he fixed it as best he could.
He sat down on his little bed, pulling out a sheet of paper and folding it into a bird then breathing life into it, watching as it took to the air and began to soar around his trailer. It was often asked, how was he so good at fixing things? No one could sew like Benny, no one could fix like Benny.
No one had Benny’s magic, only magic that had been given to him by his parents. He was no wizard, no grand sorcerer. He was just Benny Watts, Blacksmith and storyteller. He breathed life into the things others thought were dead.
It was why Townes hadn’t gotten rid of him yet. He was why he was kept, following the travelling show as they toured Europe and America. He was always on sight so when something broke he was there to fix it.
Benny listened, pausing when he heard the roar of the audience. Beth must’ve finished, only she was able to get such a response from the crowd. He sighed, looking at his little paper bird. He really made an ass of himself earlier by doing her buttons, he should’ve just left it. He should’ve just given her back her shoes and left.
He should’ve just left.
Yet, he lingered. Like smoke in a jar, it lingered. Swirling and dancing. He ran his hand through his hair and forcing his lungs to work, he stood and stepped into the night. Benny saw the twitching of Zeus’s ear, his attention on something and ready to protect his herd.
“Hello, lad,” Benny murmured, opening his hand and patting the horse's neck. “Hello sweet boy, what’s wrong?” he asked, running his hand along the muscled neck of Zeus and then turning to look where Beth was standing, her hands on her stomach and her eyes at the sky.
It was like a painting that would haunt him for his life; a beautiful girl stood in the dead of night, her eyes trained to the sky as tears streamed down her face. Part of him wanted to go to her, to see what was wrong, to see what had caused her to cry but he remained with Zeus.
He watched instead as Townes walked towards her, setting his blazer on her shoulders and kissing the top of his head. Benny never knew the technicalities of Beth’s relationship with the ringmaster; he knew that Townes had found Beth at the side of the street, she was an orphan with no place to call home and had been lost until Townes took her in as his ward. She had started as a groom for the horses then a rider, until eventually she had her own part, until she became the reason the crowds came in the numbers they did.
“No more crying,” he heard Townes say to her.
“I want to go home.”
“Your home is here now,” Townes said, holding her shoulders and pulling her to his chest. “You’re safe here, Beth.”
Benny looked away, he knew he shouldn’t listen but he heard the pain in Beth's voice. He heard the ache, but if she was an orphan where did she truly belong? Where had she come from that she missed it so much?
Benny sighed, grabbing the blanket from the fence and throwing it on Zeus as he always did. Once more he checked the horses, ensuring they were all blanketed and watered then finally going to his trailer again for the night.
He had just turned his light off when there was a knock, only one person knocked in the entire troop. Benny groaned quietly to himself, rolling out of the bed and opening his door.
“Take a look at this,” Townes handed him a series of papers together with rough sketches on it.
“For Beth, we need a new outfit. Something extreme. I want you to make it.”
Benny frowned, taking the paper and looking at it, the red and golden swirls, the see through netting and the tight bodice. “This is different. She’s always black and white”
“It’s time for her to be an adult, not a little child anymore.”
“Exactly, an adult. She won’t just be Beth Harmon anymore, she’s going to be the greatest thing the world has ever seen and she will set to the world alight.”
“Ah, that’s why you want me. You want fire.”
“You do still work for me, Benny. And I do still pay off the majority of your debts.”
“Pay them all off instead of majority and I’ll think about it,” he answered. He saw the moment of thought in Townes eyes as he looked at the trailer and then back to the papers. “Write me the list of names you owe.”
“I’ll make the dress. When do you want it?”
“Next week, I’ve written her measurements for you so you don’t need to disturb her.”
“Alright, bye Townes,” Benny sighed, closing the door and setting the papers back on his desk and looking out his tiny window to the clearing where Beth was sitting smoking. The saints couldn’t help him now. He saw the lonely girl smoking and he could feel her ache to return home. He kept himself hidden from view, leaning on his door and quietly twirling his hand, calling the smoke to his command. He watched as the smoke became a horse, letting out a silent squeal and cantering a circle around Beth's head. Benny heard her laughter, a quiet sound like rain on a tin rough, the gasp of amazement. Not all magic was bad, not all magicians were evil.
And maybe one night he would understand the Queens Circus main attraction. And maybe this was his ticket for doing so.