The Circus

It was time for Mel to feel like the superhero she truly was!

The girl flew through the air like a glittering bird. Sequins covered her white tights and leotard, her body lithe and bendy, dancing between swaying hoops twenty feet high in the tented sky.

Mel stared up in awe; her neck ached from just watching. Maybe her family were right; maybe Mel was too old to try something daring.

The evening course brochure landed with a thud on the doormat among leaflets advertising retirement homes and life insurance. Mel scooped them up, heading straight to the recycling bin.

She was about to toss them in when the brochure caught her eye.


Mel couldn’t remember the last time she’d learned a new skill, or had any excitement. Her weeks were taken up with her part-time job at the solicitors and her full-time job as a busy mum to Jess and Tim and wife to Ian.

Actually that wasn’t fair, she had fun with the family all the time – days out, pizza nights in, friends round. – but, sometimes, just very occasionally, wouldn’t it be nice to take a bit of time out just for her? Do something crazy?

“I’ve enrolled on a 10 week evening course,” Mel announced over dinner.

Ian glanced up, smiling. “That’s great. What is it? An extra qualification for work?”

“Not exactly. It’s more of a lifestyle course, really.”

“Is it photography? You can take some fashion pictures of me and I’ll post them on my social media,” enthused her teenage daughter, Jess.

“No, it’s not that either.” Mel braced herself, “I’ve signed up to a Circus School, actually.”

Ian nearly choked on a sprout.

“You’ll break your neck!”

“Then who’ll cook our tea?” asked eight-year-old, Tim, “Daddy always burns the fish fingers.”

“This,” said Jess, horrified, “is so embarrassing! You’re too old for that. What’ll my friends say?”

Mel almost cancelled her place at the Circus, but then thought better of it. For once, she was going to do something for her.

And how dangerous could it actually be?

It was only a few hoops, knotted ropes, and wooden ladders – not much difference from gym lessons when she’d been at junior school, surely?

Kati, their circus skills instructor, somersaulted through the air, spun upside down from high hoops and shimmied off white silk ropes.
The class clapped and cheered.

Mel gulped. OK, it was a little different from junior school.

Mel had felt a bit faint the first time the hoop was hoisted a metre off the ground with her inside it, fastened to a safety rope.

Knuckles clenched white, she’d persevered, and by week five Mel was three metres off the ground and spinning in a circle.

“Great,” encouraged Kati, as Mel practised swinging towards her in the air, and classmates wobbled on tightropes and wavered on unicycles.

“A few more weeks and you’ll be show ready!”

Despite aching limbs, tiredness, and the frequent fear she had to overcome, Mel felt a growing sense of achievement.

It was nice to be proving that she could still stretch herself, still reach for the stars – literally.

Mel looked down at her sparkly red leotard and tights. It showed up wobbly bits she’d rather have hidden, but who cared?

She felt empowered, excited, and – glancing up at the high swinging hoops – very slightly terrified.

Whoops and cries echoed through the circus tent from an audience of families and friends as a fellow student completed their tightrope walk with ease.

Then it was Mel’s turn.

Kati took her hand with a reassuring smile, drawing her into the circus ring.

The music rose and the hoops lowered as Kati and Mel took their places. The hoops rose up and adrenalin fizzed through her body. She could do this.

She might be pushing fifty, she might not be as fit as she once was, she might even rather be at home with a glass of wine watching TV right at this very precarious moment, but…

Mel closed her eyes, steadied her breathing, the fire rising in her belly.

She could definitely do this.

“Mum, that was amazing! I’ve posted photos of you mid-air on my social media. You’re going viral!” Jess gleamed.

“Mummy, you were flying like a superhero!”

Mel looked at Ian, their excitement enough to make her feel as though she were still in the air.

“What did you think?”

He beamed with pride.

“Incredible! Tim’s right, you looked like a superhero out there. I’m sorry we weren’t more supportive to begin with.”

Mel grinned. “It’s OK, I probably would’ve reacted the same.”

Ian took Mel’s hand.

“But you should know you’ve always been our superhero. Always will be. But I’m really glad everyone else finally got to see it too.”

There’s more inspiring short fiction in every issue of My Weekly magazine. Plus recipes, puzzles, fun and great advice. Find us in newsagents and supermarkets, or subscribe to save pounds.

My Weekly magazine subscription