Fireworks

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She started in the bathroom. She put the shaving brush, the disposable razor, the toothbrush and the dental floss in a large black bin bag. Then she moved to the bedroom. She picked up the laundry basket and deposited its entire contents into the bag. She opened a drawer and cleared out the underwear. By now her movements were becoming more frantic. She went to the wardrobe and filled another three bags with suits, shirts, ties, jeans, jogging pants, sweaters and shoes. She pulled out the boxes from under the bed and removed the junk that had collected there. Downstairs, she rifled through the CD's, and after that the books; the graphic novels, thrillers, travel companions, computer guides and poetry anthologies. Then, without coming up for air, she moved on to the photo albums and the letters and the framed pictures and the small porcelain gifts. All of it she bagged and binned, ready for tomorrow's collection. Finally, she went out to the shed. There she found the toolbox and assorted DIY equipment, and trashed the lot. She searched the shelves and drawers for any other items to dispose of, and in the bottom of a cupboard, beneath the gardening gloves, she discovered them.

It was her 40th birthday, and he had bought her fireworks to celebrate. It was one of his annual dinner party jokes that they should put her on a bonfire instead of Guy Fawkes. But she never set them off because he had been called away to a conference in Swindon and she was left to party on her own. So now, five months later, they had resurfaced. She looked at them for a minute, feeling some kind of sadness. Then she threw them in the dustbin along with the power tools. Back in the house, she poured herself a brandy and sank down exhausted on the sofa.

It was starting to get dark. After she had polished off another glass, she started thinking about the fireworks again. She went outside and retrieved the box from the bin. She returned to the kitchen to examine the contents more carefully. There was all the usual stuff, a catherine wheel, a couple of fountains, a jack-in-the-box and two or three rockets. As she lifted them out, a note fell to the floor. On it, he had written,

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To my love rocket
You fill my sky with light
Love, R


She put the fireworks back in the box and went out into the garden.

She set up the catherine wheel on the back gatepost. She twisted his note into a long thin strip and put a match to it. It burned slowly, just like a real taper. She lit the fuse and within seconds the catherine wheel started to spin. Sparks flew off into the darkness. Soon, a child appeared at the fence.

'What are you doing? she asked.

'Celebrating.'

Then she lit the jack-in-the-box and it bounced and fizzed across the lawn. The little girl got scared and moved back. After a while, she was joined by more inquisitive visitors, as some of the neighbours gathered at the fence.

'Where did you get fireworks at this time of year?'

'What's all this in aid of?'

But she ignored them and continued to empty the box.

Eventually, she was down to the last rocket. She had saved the biggest till last and this was her grand finale. She stuck the tail in the ground and lit the touch paper with the remnants of his screwed up inscription. She stood well back and waited. The fuse paper glowed, fizzled and then went out. The neighbours sighed. She tried again. Nothing. She went into the kitchen and found a box of household matches. She returned and put a match to the fuse. Nothing still. She tore off a strip of card from the fireworks box and used that as a taper. The cardboard produced a healthy flame and this time the fuse sparked back into life. The rocket screamed and shot straight up into the air. The neighbours gasped and applauded and the little girl ran into her house. Then, with one almighty bang, a spectacular display of light filled the sky. Multicoloured balls of fire scattered in all directions and then exploded as they dropped back to earth. Wave after wave of incandescent fury danced across the garden. Then, with one last whimper, it was all over and darkness returned again.

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The neighbours wandered back to their evening rituals. She bundled up the empty firework cases and laid them out with all the rest of his stuff. It was cold now and a frost was beginning to settle on the lawn. She buttoned up her coat and went back inside.

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