It was the night before Joe left town the last time. McGilligans had been packed - somehow there were more people in this part of town in those days, it was like a regular circus. It was more like a ghost town now, but Joe had always loved this place - being around all the dwarves, the bearded ladies, the contortionists, well - it made him feel normal. The only place in the world that did.
Gideon Stone's family money had built this coastal haven for distressed circus folks thirty years ago. There used to be so many circuses, but these days people wanted to go to places like Alton Towers. Where were all the circus folk to go now that no one wanted to see their acts anymore? Stone took them in - news of the new town spread like wildfire. It was tucked on the side of the 'normal' old town - the Neptune and the convent marked the division, and beyond the school that took everyone in, the two sides rarely mixed. When Bill and Jack chose to settle on the circus side of town, eyebrows were raised. But Wilma loved visiting from the farm while she was alive, and Bitsy had circus blood in her too. Apart from the nuns, they were the only ones to pass freely from one world to the next. Bill's haulage trucks would rumble through the town, heading off to France - his depot was near McGilligans so he'd often drop in of an evening. That, of course, was how he got together with Alice. She was drinking even then, even before she had to bear the pain of being cast as the Sweeny Todd of Southwold.
This was the world Joe grew up in - just like Violet a 'normal' kid born in anything but a 'normal' town. However, just like Joe's brother Clive, each of the children born in this town carried a special secret in their genes. Certain powers. Randy and Frankie came from the 'normal' side of town, but Joe and Violet were the only kids to have been born on the circus side that looked - or at least - appeared normal. Everyone else - every kid their age, every cat, every hamster in this place was a dwarf. What was so special about them? Joe had first noticed this last summer - he'd never taken much notice of girls up until then, but suddenly, watching Violet going through her contortionist routine on the beach, he began to feel something. Randy was doing push ups nearby, grunting and sweating, but it was Joe Violet was looking at as she did her backflips.
'Come on Swotsy!' Violet had laughed, and raced her friend into the warm water. It was always tropical, the sea along this stretch of coast. A few miles up towards Norfolk, or down towards Felixstowe and the sea was icy cold, even in summer. Here, though, you could swim on Christmas day and it was like a warm bath. They said it was something to do with the nuclear reactor around the bay.
Swotsy clumped after her friend leaving huge footprints in the sand. Once she was in the water though it was a different story - she flipped and dived like a mermaid, leaving a plume of spray in her wake as she swam off into the distance overtaking a speedboat. Joe saw his chance - they were always together those two, and he jogged effortlessly down the beach towards the girl who had stolen his heart. Violet bobbed in the surf, smiling slowly as he ran towards her. His eyes never left hers as the warm sea engulfed him, and as she reached up and pulled him to her, they fell underwater, limbs entwined, kissing hungrily.
That was the happiest summer of Joe's life. In a few short months he would be in the army. They soon realised what he was capable of, and he was selected for Special Ops. Joe sometimes wished he could have gone back to that night in the bar. If only he could have turned back time, he would have never had to leave. He could have stayed with the girl he loved, he'd have known about his son. He'd never even seen his boy. As he held Violet in his arms now, he closed his eyes and thought back to that fateful night ....