The sky was black by the time he pulled into a gravel parking lot. The light of the half-moon and bright stars paled in comparison to the thousands of light bulbs and miles of neon that decorated rides and games. When Sacha opened her eyes, she first thought that she was dreaming, transfixed by the rotating Ferris wheel that towered above a sea of people. The sound of a Calliope mixed with various conversations and pitches from the barkers offering prizes for winning their rigged game. The musky scent of hay and sawdust was overpowered by the aroma of buttered popcorn, hot dogs, onions, peppers and sausage, cotton candy and everything else that was meant to rot in the belly. Her face lit up with a huge smile as she climbed out of the Mercury and stood in awe of the scene. Jesse clutched her hand tightly, and together they walked towards the entrance. People swarmed the midway, carrying food, prizes and souvenirs, trying to figure out which direction to go in next. Children stuffed their faces with candy, clutching ride tickets like the Holy Bible as they ran to the menagerie tent to happily feed the tame barnyard animals. Sacha felt overwhelmed, head constantly turning as she made an attempt to absorb everything around her. Many long—and at times, even painful—years passed since she had been to the carnival, as it was never the same after her father had died. Just being there again brought back all the old memories in a tidal wave.
Her attention was directed towards the two rows of brightly painted canvas banners that depicted a variety of bizarre people, animals and other unidentifiable things—human oddities and Nature’s mistakes that were advertised to be alive and on the inside. It was a sight Sacha was quite familiar with as they stood amongst curious spectators whose eyes were trained on the talker that loomed on the edge of the bally stage. Jesse did not hesitate to push his way up front—causing quite a commotion doing so—and purchased two tickets with great excitement. Several people rushed to pay admission, setting off a chain reaction that was far behind them as Jesse escorted her into the sideshow tent. Sacha’s mind was filled with numerous questions, but she remained silent in trust that he would keep his word. They did not stop to inspect the animals with extra appendages or deformed fetuses preserved in mason jars. They walked past those who gawked at the fat lady, sword swallower, strong man and other working acts. A small line was formed at the back of the tent, where an arrow composed of light bulbs pointed to a flap. They exited the main tent into a smaller one that contained a table set for dinner along with a wooden crate meant to be used as a chair. Sacha noticed a place card had been situated in front of the white plate that simply read: Geek.
A man dressed in a spotless red and yellow plaid suit—complete with pristine powder blue shirt—quietly entered the tent and seated himself at the table. His dark blonde hair had been slicked back into shallow waves, and as she stared into his hazel brown eyes, she could see a faint glimmer of madness inside him. A crooked smile was fixed on his face as he tucked a white napkin into the collar of his shirt, his eerie gaze shifting around the tent to inspect those gathered before him. Suddenly bursting out with laughter, he overturned the table to reveal a pen full of squawking chickens. The people gasped and cautiously took a step back in unison. Sacha watched him intensely as he reached inside the pen and grabbed one of the clucking birds. Feathers flew into the air as the chicken flapped its wings in a struggle for freedom. Holding it tightly around the neck, he slowly brought the head towards his mouth. Most people covered their eyes, too horrified to look despite the fact they had parted with a dollar just to be there. Those that were brave enough to watch cried out in equal amounts of disgust and shock as he ripped off the chicken’s head, his face, neck and that lovely blue shirt instantly being spattered with blood. The small crowd scurried out of the tent, most likely in search of the first place that they could vomit.
There was a small commotion behind the sideshow tent, where a group of boys were taunting his father’s three-legged dog, poking him with sticks and vigorously pulling his tail. Jesse peered over her shoulder to find the source of the laughter that had permeated through the usual noise of the carnival. Driven by instinct, he released Sacha and headed towards the small circle. She cautiously followed but kept her distance. The air was filled with the humid scent of the ocean. He could hear the pathetic yelping of the defenseless animal, and she watched his fingers curl into fists.
“What the fuck do you think you are doing?” Jesse demanded.
The boys ceased their fun and turned attention to Jesse. The dog glanced up at him as well, its soft eyes pleading for assistance.
“You can’t mind your own business for two seconds,” came a surly reply from someone Sacha recognized.
Richie and his cronies grabbed Jesse, and though he put up quite a struggle, they collectively threw him to the ground. He laid there for a moment, stunned but unscathed, trying hard to control the rage that bubbled inside. The last thing he wanted was for Sacha to see his violent side. However, those boys needed to be taught a lesson. It was bad enough they harassed him on the boardwalk, but now they had the nerve to act like hot shit in a place where he was king. There was no way Jesse would allow them to disrespect him, and in front of Sacha no less. As he slowly pulled himself to his feet, she could see the anger building in his eyes as red and gold tones. Whatever happened was unavoidable, and she knew it would not be pretty. Jesse unbuckled his belt and removed it from his waist. The black leather strap was weaved around his right fist, the horse shoe shaped buckle resting on his knuckles. He carefully stepped over the dog, a sadistic grin leaking onto his face. The other boys cautiously moved back, not sure of what to expect.
“Are you such fucking cowards that you pick on a poor defenseless dog?” Jesse inquired, fists tightly clenched.
“What do you care?” Richie shot back.
“Keep pushing me, you little shit,” he calmly replied. “Now I do not mind that you and your boys came to this fine establishment to spend your money. However, you cannot just do whatever you feel like.”
Richie laughed as he pushed Jesse. “Do something about it then, you fucking freak.”
“Was that an attempt at an insult?” Jesse smirked and moved closer to his adversary. “Is that the best you can do?”
“It’s nice to see that you finally took a few steps up from the chickens,” Richie said. “I’m sure your girl there would have loved to see you do that.”
“You leave her out of this,” Jesse growled.
“It figures you would find the ugliest girl to date,” he continued. “Tell me something though. How good can she suck your cock with all that shit in her mouth? Then again, it’s the kind of sick—”
Before Richie could even finish the smart ass remark, Jesse’s fist connected with his face, the cold steel buckle cracking his jaw. Richie’s friends were quick to rush to his aid as he hit the ground. They helped him back to his feet only to have Jesse charge towards them, knocking Richie down again. Possessed by the emotions that flowed as though they were lava in his veins, Jesse whipped that smart-mouthed boy with the belt, laughing while Richie pitifully screamed for mercy. Sacha merely stood there as a silent witness, secretly enjoying what she saw. Any attempt made by the other boys to get Jesse away from Richie resulted in a harmless lashing with the belt, which stung enough to make them keep their distance. Eventually it was tossed aside, and he relied on his fists to vent his anger, ignoring any pleas for him to stop. Once that part of him had been released, there was no way to control what would happen next, and it was difficult to predict exactly how long it would be until he was himself again.
The fight between Jesse and Richie would have attracted much unwanted attention, but it was drowned out by the plethora of noise generated by the carnival. However, Sacha was not the only witness to the brutal beat down. The Geek had been disturbed by the cries for help and decided to investigate the matter. Shock was prominently displayed on his face as he laid eyes upon Jesse, who was kneeling over a bloodied youth. Grabbing his son’s collar, the Geek pulled him away from Richie.
“It is done now,” he quietly said, attention focusing on the other boys. “Get your friend up and out of here before I call the police.”
The boys were quick to obey and helped Richie to his feet. Sacha could see that the Geek had successfully intimidated them and was perhaps even slightly impressed. The fact of the matter was that Jesse’s vicious attack had left them stunned and helpless. Never had they seen one man aggressively beat another. The secret little smile on her lips revealed her pleasure of watching the entire incident. While the boys had been frozen with fear, she could feel the lust rising in her throat.
The Geek shook Jesse by his shoulders. “What is wrong with you, son?” His eyes held a slight bit of anger. “Why would you do something like that? Are you trying to get yourself in trouble?”
“He was defending my honor,” Sacha spoke up as she approached them. “Richie got what he deserved.”
His gaze shifted from Jesse to Sacha and then back again, his composure softening slightly. “Is that true, son?”
Jesse slowly nodded. “Yes, sir. I warned him, but he would not stop. There was no intention for it to get out of hand.”
“That is fine.” The Geek paused to pick up Jesse’s belt. “There is no harm done,” he continued, handing it to his son. “Though I am going to make sure that this does not reach the wrong ears, it would be best for the two of you to get out of here right now.”
“I will not let it happen again,” Jesse protested.
Sacha slipped her hand into Jesse’s and slightly tugged on it. She did not have to ask him twice, and he led her to the midway while the anger settled down again. The adrenaline was still running high in his body, and he was not concerned with what his father thought about the situation. Richie had the beating coming to him, and Jesse certainly did not have to explain that to anyone. He lived by a certain set of rules that were for no one to question. He slowly realized Sacha already understood that and had freely accepted being a part of his life. There was no turning back or changing her mind, and Jesse knew then she truly loved him—that was worth everything in the world to him. She would never betray him and could be fully trusted. There was nothing more he wanted and obviously she was not put off by anything about him. In fact, Sacha found herself attracted to him more and more, especially when he exerted dominance. Jesse became a different person when he was angry, and her curiosity wanted to know exactly who. Even more importantly, just what triggered an explosive reaction, and what would the consequences be? She planned to carefully study him in order to figure it all out.