She used to love Bonfire Night, it was the highlight of Autumn for her, she was never a huge fan of Halloween and the grotesque costumes that the other kids found hilarious. She’d shiver in the damp, windy nights, trying to keep up with the older kids on her street who squealed in delight, knocking on neighbours’ doors and running into the distance, before she lost sight of them in the darkness.
No, Bonfire Night was different; warm, magical and filled with ‘Ooos’ and ‘Ahhs’. Bonfire Night meant getting wrapped up in layer upon layer of woollen tights, jeans, fat socks and purple wellies, vests and polo necks, a big duffle coat and knitted scarf, thick mittens and an itchy bobble hat that covered her eyes.
By the time she tramped across the fields, holding her Mum and Dad’s hands, she’d walk stiffly like a robot, snug as a bug in a rug.
Once the fire was lit, she’d edge closer, the heat warming her eyeballs and spreading like warm water across her cheeks. Her mittens would come off, reaching out to feel the heat on bare fingers which she’d wiggle and make dance like the flames before her.
Eventually they’d pull away, dodging the sparks of amber raining down, to seek toffee apples from the white van with mud encrusted tyres and splatters like whipped chocolate up the sides.
The glazed apples on sticks would glow like a mirror-ball mimicking the flames as she’d take her first bite through, licking her lips free of sticky sweet coating and wiping the juice from her chin. The sour was always a surprise to the sweet, making her ears laugh as she shuddered.
Those were the memories that warmed her though to the core as a child but were now discoloured and damaged in adulthood. The significance of a date reserved for fun and laughter, excitement and wonder now darkens her heart in the long chillier nights until New Year.
Striking fireworks that made her heart soar as they exploded to light the inky skies, now stood as a dazzling reminder of dangerous arguments and an impossible situation branded into the calendar of their lives forever.
Life had moved on, as it had to for the sake of their other children, for some semblance of her sanity, for some small chance of healing but she can never forget, especially at this time of year.
Remember, remember the fifth of November. How can she not?
Of course, she can’t ruin the occasion for her children, they looked forward to this time of year and so she takes them, her smile painted on and she fights to not think about another year gone by, that Bonfire Night could have been even more special. More flames. More light. More laughter.
As she stares into the huge, threatening fire, spitting and cracking as crates burn turning them into charred, hollow entities, tears fall and she bitterly wipes them away, thankful she can blame the smoke tonight.
He turns, meeting her eye for a flicker of a second and takes their daughter off to collect hot chocolates and fresh doughnuts, weaving through the crowd, blending into bodies and occasional burst of laughter as children write their names with sparklers. She watches him disappear.
Does he remember too? Does he feel the missing piece at all, 6 years on? Or is it long gone, buried to hide the truth of that time, to pretend it never happened?
Her youngest looks up at her with a beaming grin and ruddy cheeks spotlighted by the flames, his angelic excitement and deepest blue eyes catching her breathe.
He takes her left hand and gives it a squeeze, the kind gesture almost breaking her. She squeezes it back and shoves her right hand deep into her pocket, curling it into a fist.
Where another, smaller hand should be intertwined with her fingers, sits a citrine ring, a gemstone of light, happiness and abundance…..and also the birthstone of November.