Fireworks

    Medium
    Feuerwerk

     It was a cold November evening as I walked up the entrance steps to the railway station. Two days before Bonfire Night(Feier am 5.11. des 1605 vereitelten Attentats auf das britische Parlament)Bonfire Night, a time of gunpowderSchießpulvergunpowder and treasonVerrattreason, my breath to cloudvernebelnclouded the air, and I pulled my coat tight. I had ten minutes before the train was to be dueankommen sollendue — time enough to buy some flowers.

    The concourseQuerbahnsteigconcourse was crowded with people, and there was a small queue at the florist’s. I didn’t see him at first, standing off to one side, briefcaseAktenkofferbriefcase in hand. His hair was still smoothed back, but now thin and clearly not its natural colour. He wore an expensive suit and a careful look, as if he had been given a secret to keep and protect from a world that could not be ­trusted. Feeling my eyes on him, he looked up. I tried to pretend I hadn’t seen him, but it was too late.
     

    I tried to pretend I hadn’t seen him, but it was too late


    “Well,” he said, coming towards me. “Tony, long time no see.” He held out a hand, but seeing my face, he let it drop.
    “Michael,” I said, my chest tightening.
    “I saw you coming in this direction, thought you must have seen me,” he smiled.
    “I’m buying some flowers,” I said.
    “You always were the romantic.”

    He was referring, of course, to the point of conflict between us — the time, ten years ago, when he had almost killed my marriage.

    “I thought you’d moved north,” I said, unable to keep the suspicionMisstrauensuspicion from my voice.
    “Yeah,” he replied. “Back here with work for a couple of days. Seeing old friends.”

    I could feel my senses overloading. The woman in front of me was talking to the florist about which flowers to buy for her mother. The station tannoyLautsprechertannoy was calling out announcements. There were smells of coffee and diesel. People were moving around the station — conversations, embraceUmarmungembraces, tears, laughter — everybody with a destination; everybody with a place to go. I felt slightly light-headedbenommenlight-headed.“Do you think our life together is a success?” Helen had asked me back then. I didn’t realize it at the time, but she was clearly measuring me against him, seeing if she’d bought the dream ticket or won third prize in the village fete tombola.
     

    She was clearly measuring me against him, seeing if she’d bought the dream ticket or won third prize in the village fete tombola


    Michael and I had been colleagues. He was a high-flyerSenkrechtstarter(in)high-flyer: good-looking, charismatic and popular in the office. I was pleased that he seemed to like me. We played squash together, went out for drinks. He and his wife, Anne, often came over to our house for supper. Their kids played with ours.

    I returned home early one afternoon to find Helen and Michael upstairs together in our bed. She was still half-dressed, face flushederrötetflushed; he was completely naked, defiantherausfordernd, frechdefiant. I managed to hit him once quite hard before he picked me up and smashed my head against the wall. The fight left me with a broken nose, which is now a little crooked. Strangely, though, Helen seemed to prefer my new look. Anne left Michael and took the children with her. He changed jobs and moved away from the area soon after.

    I am a regular at the florist, and the owner greeted me with a warm smile. I bought a small Straußbunchbunch of white roses, which she to wrapeinwickelnwrapped while I looked in my walletBrieftasche, Geldbeutelwallet for the cash. I turned to find Michael still standing beside me, looking uncomfortable. Under the station lights, his skin seemed stretched and waxenwächsern, wachsbleichwaxen. He looked like an ageing game-show hostModerator(in)host.
     

    The fight left me with a broken nose, which is now a little crooked . Helen seemed to prefer my new look


    “Are you waiting for someone, Michael? Or do you have a date?” I asked him. “Because I’m meeting my daughter, and I would rather you weren’t here when she arrived.”
    “Understood,” he said, the voltageVoltzahlvoltage of his smile still bright.  
    “We’re happy together,” I said.
    “Excuse me?”
    “Helen and I: happy together.”
    “I’m sure you’re right,” he agreed.

    Then I saw Sophie, my daughter, pulling a heavy travel bag along the platform. She looked up and waved, all white teeth and blonde hair. I to stridemit großen Schritten gehenstrode towards her.

    “Easy, Dad,” said Sophie, as I to hugumarmenhugged her a bit too hard. She felt solid, real and beautiful as I gave her a kiss on her soft cheek. The roses got a little crushed, but she didn’t seem to mind.

    “What on earth have you got in here?” I asked, as I took her heavy travel bag. We both laughed. Michael was nowhere to be seen. As we walked towards the car park, there was a sudden whooshZischenwhoosh. Sophie and I looked up to see a firework flying high into the sky and exploding with a loud bang. Long, glitteringglitzernd, funkelndglittering fingers of colour stretched across the darkness.

    We watched until they to fade awayverblassenfaded away, leaving nothing but trailSpurtrails of white smoke across the November sky.

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