Black Rabbit

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

A burlesque ballad of magic and revenge.

I had my heart broken by a magician.

Let's not be precious, I am fully aware of how that sounds. But if it's true, what else am I to say? His name is Alfonso and up until very recently he was the love of my life. Together we were spectacular, a union of souls; The Great Alfonso and his companion bride.

I went through many names in our time together, rechristening myself every time the act changed. I have been Candy, Coco, Tiger-Lily, Jasmine. Always sweet, ever fragrant. Names that would better suit a stripper than an artiste.

Because magic is an art, as Alfonso would always tell me. My tassles and feathers may lead one to think otherwise, but as surely as a magician requires a hat and a wand, the assistant requires glamour. And the power that my corsets held over an audience always felt so much more real to me than the ability to make a man vanish within a cupboard, or hacksaw a lady in half.

So as I said, Alfonso and I spent many happy years together, wowing town after town with our act. And then everything changed one New Year's Eve. Alfonso had agreed to a gig at a dubious working men's club in the North East for reasons that then eluded me:

"Do you have any idea how many clubs in London would have booked us? Or Cardiff, or Manchester... You're selling us short here, Al."

"Oh, Bunny..." He ruffled my hair in a way that was as infuriating now as it had once been endearing, "just get yourself ready, we're going to have a great night."

The show was mediocre at best. The audience were unresponsive, the new puns I'd rehearsed fell flat, and worst of all, I could tell that Alfonso was phoning it in. He rushed through the card tricks section and levitated as a matter of course with no build-up.

By the time it came to our finale, the bullet trick, I just wanted it to be over. He wouldn't look at me as he tied my hands and legs to the giant bullseye. He pointed the gun at me from across the stage, and for a split second the look on his face filled me with fear.

Then he fired, and of course it was a blank, it always was, and as the faux gunsmoke cleared, I used my tongue to locate the wax bullet hidden in my mouth and placed it between my teeth. The applause went some way to lifting my spirits, although a standing ovation would have been better. Alfonso disappeared as soon as the curtain came down. I followed him into our shared dressing room, where somebody was waiting for us.

At first I thought she was a fan, but the familiar way in which Alfonso greeted her, with a hug and a kiss on the cheek, not even an air kiss, made me queasy.

"Darling," he began, "I'd like you to meet Annabel."

"Hi there," she said, extending her hand in such a way that I instantly thought of a marionette.

"Hello," I said quietly, not shaking the offered hand.

"Annabel is..." Alfonso began, then broke off. Annabel looked at him, then at me, and started talking in an accent that could only be described as... regional.

"I came to your show in Sunderland," she told me, "and I loved it, I thought it was absolutely wonderful." The emphasis that she placed on every syllabel started to hurt my ears, and my patience shortened.

"What exactly is going on here?" I asked.

"Annabel came to see me after the show," Alfonso said. "She's... I've decided that she would make an excellent assistant."

It was like being punched in the stomach. As realisation dawned, I began to see red.

"You're replacing me?"

"Not exactly, no-"

"You're replacing me?"

"Oh, Bunny..."

"My name isn't fucking Bunny," I hissed. "I don't even know what my name is anymore, thanks to you!"

"Please don't be like this," Alfonso took my hands and squeezed them. "The set's tired, my darling, even you must be able to see that. It needs new blood."

"But her?" I looked incredulously at Annabel. A blonde, naturally, although by no means a natural blonde.

"What about us?" I asked, and instantly Annabel averted her eyes. The nausea doubled and I very nearly fell over in my stiletto boots.

"I see."

"I'm so sorry," Alfonso pulled me closer, tried to draw me into an embrace, but his touch repulsed me. I ran from the dressing room with as much grace as I could muster, stifling sobs, losing composure as I staggered out into the night.

So there I was, barely half an hour into the New Year, weeping in the back of a taxi, thin raincoat wrapped as modestly as was manageable around my basque and boots, my entire life as I knew it in tatters.

"Where to?" The driver asked, and I was honestly clueless as to an answer, the geography of Newcastle a mystery to me, if that was even my actual location. In the end he very kindly dropped me off at a roadside cafe where I spent the early hours cradling cup after plastic cup of tea that went from scalding hot to ice cold, with not a single drinkable moment in between.

People often talk about hitting rock bottom, but I never truly understood what they meant until that day. The only thing that kept me from jumping off the nearest bridge was the thought that the next day couldn't be any worse. So I pulled myself together, got back to London, and occupied my time with elaborate fantasies of revenge. My favourite imaginary snapshot was always that of Alfonso's face, in the moment that he realises the bullet trick is no trick.

Time passed and I found work in various burlesque clubs, developed a set, a whole new persona. I grew to like the fledgling star I became, but in the privacy of my new flat, I nurtured another ambition. I practised magic in every spare moment, slowly weaving together sleight-of-hand and showmanship to create an act that would rival The Great Alfonso. My dedication never wavered, my goal never changed. I kept my rage up my sleeve at all times, to bring out whenever the fire within me began to sputter. As the old saying goes; Hell hath no fury like a showgirl scorned.

Later, when my skills were bordering on exquisite and I had formulated a plan, I found myself drawn back to Houdini's, the bar where I first met Alfonso. There were a few familiar faces there; one or two old rival acts and a portly psychic by the name of Mariella.

One face that I didn't know, a handsome young face with an Errol Flynn moustache and the smile of a rogue, appeared next to me at the bar.

"Good evening," he said, standing very close with no hint of self-consciousness.

"Hello," I said over the rim of my martini glass.

"I'm Byron."

I suppressed a smirk and told him my name.

"And what is it that you do?" He asked me.

"I'm a magician," I told him, looking him up and down, a fantastic new idea forming in my mind. "And it just so happens that I'm in the market for an assistant."

"Really?" He leant in, interest piqued. "Tell me more."

"It's a good business to be in. You get to travel, meet all sorts of people, maybe even have a taste of fame... I'm curious though, Byron; do you have glamour?"

"In bucketloads," he grinned.

"Well in that case..." I raised my glass, "you may have just got yourself a job." And so together, Byron and I would put the finishing touches to a very special act.

I must leave you now, dearest reader. Showtime approaches, and I have much to prepare. Tonight the world and his wife will see the debut of an exciting new talent, not to mention The Great Alfonso's swansong performance. His illustrious career is coming to an end, though sadly he will be the very last to know. You see, I intend to perform a brand new trick this evening – and when the rabbit comes out of the hat, the stage will shine with blood and glitter.

Submitted: May 16, 2010

© Copyright 2022 Philip Ellis. All rights reserved.

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