Catriona Yule


Whooooooosh. Neeeaaaaaaaheeeeee. A rocket screeches to the stars. The green ones crack-bang so loud they vibrate in Sara's head. Her eyes glue to the sky. Lilac showers into pale blue and gold, silver and dark blue, green and orange. Silver arrows quiver then sprinkle like waterfalls twinkling from the sky.

She is standing beside her husband David. When her sister, Roberta, had phoned last night she'd wanted to say I'd love to go but instead she said I'm sorry Bobby, I've said I'll go with David to the firework display. You don't mind do you? I think we need to spend some time together.

The sound of the word need. Saying it out loud had made it real in her head: stamped it officially. Was she over-reacting? The word stung like an ugly question mark.

They hadn't been out together in weeks. He usually went to the pub with the lads at weekends and she hadn't tried to stop him, but lately he was staying out longer. One night she'd fallen asleep and awoken early to find the bed empty. When she'd challenged him about it, he said he'd fallen asleep at a party. Lost track of time.

Before they'd left, she'd made a big effort to look nice. She'd dumped her old sweatshirt for her new jumper: a purple wool knit, swapping her gold studs for a pair of silver Celtic ones David had bought her. He was snappy as he left the house: the match starts at eight so whatever happens I'm coming back for it.

He pulled out of the driveway erratically in his new metallic grey coupé. He was driving fast to show her the sacrifice he was making in having to go out before the football match started. Why do you always want to go anyway? We'll end up parking miles away, just to stand around in the cold for 20 minutes.

He wasn't really David anymore. She wasn't sure when she'd first noticed it, but he'd even started to look different. In their wedding photo, he'd been slightly plump. Now he was thin, almost an imitation of himself. Recently, he'd bought new clothes but instead of folding them away in their chest of drawers, she'd found them tucked behind the welsh dresser in the dining room as though he hadn't wanted her to see them.

As the car shivered along the river side, crowds tramped over muddy fields; woolly-hatted children perched on top of fathers, teenagers formed groups, poking each other with luminous rods like sticks of Blackpool rock. The river scowled at them. For a second, she wanted to burst out of the car and run out to join the throng, but instead she sat, heavy.

The car was freezing. Their breath left clouds on the windows. She nudged the car's heater dial towards the red. In the past, he would have turned it up higher, not wanting her to get cold. Tonight he was staring straight ahead: his eyes fully focussed on the traffic building up.

As the green light shone out, he put his foot down and roared past the harbour; the lights from the boats smudged in her eyeline with the sudden burst of speed. In five minutes they were several streets away and curving round the bend past the cemetery. He stopped the car and told her they'd be walking from there. She shut the passenger door and hurried after him, striding over the golf course towards the esplanade. Sea wind swiped her face. Her hair flapped like forgotten washing on a line.

A man emcees from the other end of the beach with a swarm of people around him. Enjoy yourselves folks, he shouts into the mic, but be careful and don't forget to look after each other.

Neeeeeeaaaaaeee. A rocket screams into the sky. A gunshot bangs overhead; red light piercing. She lowers her head instinctively: hands over her ears. Her eyes shoot up again in a second. Whoooooosh. Neeeeeeeaaaaaaeeee. A green light explodes like a pantomime villain. Gold stars spear high into the air: their particles dazzling eyes, falling in waves, shimmering.

She looks away from the darkening sky where the colours are splashed like paints across a black page. They are surrounded by children yelling to their mums above the din, grannies putting gloves on their grandchildren and students' hands in each other's back pockets.

In the middle, she and David stand: their bodies apart, silent.

She continues to stare at the fire; to feel its energy flow right through her. The bonfire is raging like a hungry animal coaxing her into its den of heat. On the other side of it, she spots a group of people. She leaves David and weaves through the crowd. A man holds a small radio to his ear. The football match starts in five minutes. She weaves deeper, until she is further away, but still in the glow of the flame. Some people are dancing to the rhythm of a drum. A girl in a fringed skirt shimmies her hips. Her long slender back arches like a cat's as she spears a blue flame down her throat. One by one, the dancers form a chain, prancing round her, chanting.

Somewhere in the crowd, a hand juts out to her. David points to his watch. Still watching the dancers, the orange flames leaping in her eyes, she follows him through hordes of people, shouting, jumping, laughing. He marches ahead of her, out of the crowd. A solitary figure walking angrily to the car, immune to the laughter, the crowd, the warmth, the emcee's tones distant in the background.

His hair furls, whips away, smaller and smaller, smaller and smaller, like the sail from a distant boat fading in the darkness.


Published in Showcase Issue 2, 2010
(Gosnells Writers Circle, Western Australia)
and in Night Train, 2012
(Blue Salt Publishing)

Showcase 2 Night Train

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