Tonight is the worst night. It is filled with the scent of burning and memories. I hate bonfire night. I shouldn’t. I mean every kid loves bonfire night, and I did.
But not anymore.
I think I was about ten, old enough to stand near the bonfire with my parents in sight distance but not in touching distance. It was one of those huge bonfires. Actually, it had been organised in the grounds of the local mental hospital. Even then I thought it a little odd to burn an effigy of a person, but I went with it because I liked the fireworks. The rockets that went up and made the sky stars. They were my favourite.
The ones that went bang, not so much, but I loved the thrill the loud noise gave me. I’m not sure what went wrong that night but something did. Badly.
It was the 1980’s and the big rage was the all in one padded suits that people put there kids in. I was too big for them, but the girl next to me was huddled in a bright pink one. I remember my wool coat brushing against her arm and the crisp crinkle sound it made. At the time I was cold, face numb and hands icy, and I thought that one of those suits would be good. She didn’t look cold. In fact all I could see of her was her face and a wisp of blonde hair.
She turned to me and grinned. Her face echoed mine with delight and amazement. And that is when it happened. It was fast.
Someone lit a sky star and then screamed. The pole it was on must have come loose. Instead of firing into the sky it ran along the ground to me. I don’t know who but someone pulled me out of the way, actually they flung me away. I landed heavy and never saw it hit. When I looked up the girl was lit like Guy Fawkes. It was horrendous.
Her suit was the perfect wick. It only took a moment before the adults piled on and got the fire out. But she screamed.
My parents asked me if I saw anything. I said no, I couldn’t speak about it, but since then I don’t go to bonfire night. I stay inside.
It’s not that it could have been me, it’s the fact it was her. We were meant to be having fun. It was meant to be safe. On that day, I found out that I’m breakable, we all are.
I never saw the girl again. And when we next went to the bonfire, it was a family tradition, I stayed within touching distance of my family. I just wish I knew who had grabbed me and thrown me away, because I’m fairly certain my coat would have burnt just as well. I would like to thank that person.
But tonight I will sit in with my dogs and listen to the bangs, as scared as my four-legged companions.