We got out of the car and walked over to where a large crowd of witches had gathered round a big bonfire. I wondered how many other humans there were, who, like me, were in love with a witch. The blazing fire reminded me a bit of Bonfire Night, except there was no Guy Fawkes being burnt in the middle.
I felt Timothy touch my arm. ‘What's that you're thinking about?' he asked curiously.
I frowned in puzzlement. ‘Don't you know? Bonfire Night.'
I thought about fireworks and standing outside on a November evening holding a sparkler.
What's Bonfire Night?
‘You honestly don't know?'
‘I don't know. How much human history do you know?'
‘None at all', he admitted.
‘Well, there was this man called Guy Fawkes who tried to blow up the Houses of Parliament in the 1600s. Bonfire Night celebrates his failure.'
Oh, that's interesting.
‘I suppose so, but I've grown up knowing that, so the celebration's just a part of my life.'
Can I come with you this year?
‘What, to a Bonfire Night celebration?'
‘No problem. After all, you are letting me experience your culture.'
Suddenly, a man in a black shirt with a flame emblazoned on the back appeared inside the circle cordoned off for the fire.
"Good afternoon, fellow witches, and I sense ... a human as well"
"Wow," I murmured.
"Why doesn't that human come up here and feel a part of these celebrations? Make a space directly in front of the edge of the circle before me and we can give her an unforgettable experience at her first Phase-Change ceremony."
The crowd ahead split into two and looked intrigued as Timothy slowly led me up to the circle.
"Great Draco," Timothy said, bowing. I quickly curtsied. "This is my rose-dove, Tirana. I'm sure you can understand why she'd like at least one familiar face around her while she experiences the best of what a Phase-Change ceremony has to offer."
"But, of course. And especially since your birthday falls during this phase. How appropriate and how coincidental..."
Timothy smiled. "It is rather."
The man pulled out a purple stone, muttered something I couldn't hear, and suddenly Timothy and I were standing next to him, thankfully closer to the edge of the circle than the fire itself which gave out intense heat.
The man had spiky black hair with green tips to every strand, so he looked slightly like a cartoon character from some action programme.
He held out a hand towards me. I took it and shook it.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Tirana," I replied, smiling. I felt really welcomed by this witch who wanted me to have a great time here.
He turned my hand so that it was palm down and kissed it. "Tirana of the Spanish flower, is it?"
I frowned. "Um, no, I'm English."
Timothy grinned. "No, Tirana, he means your surname. It's the Spanish word for flower."
"Oh, of course!" I smiled.
The other witch smiled and let go of my hand. He bowed as he introduced himself as "Draco Firefox."
"Nice to meet you."
He smiled at Timothy. "She's quite the young lady, isn't she? Is her birthday during the Air phase?"
Timothy nodded. "It's strange how which phase you're born in affects your personality."
"Quite. All dragons are born in the Fire phase and they come with fiery tempers yet turn out to be intense lovers, as do all Fire witches."
"Are you a dragon then?" I asked.
Timothy laughed. "I thought you'd have guessed by now, Tani!"
Draco nodded. "Yes, I am."
He turned to the crowd around the fire. "Let us commence today's festivities with the symbolic casting of Nature into the fire!"
A couple of men in fluorescent jackets, two of the parking attendants, appeared behind us and handed Draco some plants, which included grasses, weeds and flowers.
Draco passed me the flowers and Timothy some of the grasses and weeds and together we threw the plants into the fire where they started to burn.
"Now," Draco announced, "the fireworks won't start for a few hours and they'll be behind me." He turned and pointed to another cordoned off area of field. "Food will be all around the field and there are tables set up if you'd prefer to eat sitting down. I will remain here to breathe fire on the birthstones of anyone who was born in the Fire phase. I shall start with the one of our fellow Fire witch Timothy here."
Draco seemed to stretch as he stood on his toes. His clothes disappeared to form black and green scales. Spikes appeared out of his spine, leathery wings sprouted out from between his shoulder blades and a long tail fell out of the base of his spine. His arms shortened and his legs became thicker as fingers became claws, his ears rose up to the top of his head to become triangular and his nose flattened as his jaw jutted out to form a long snout with his teeth becoming pointy and sharp. His face also became scaly while the emerald-coloured irises of his eyes dilated until there were no whites.
Standing before us was a massive dragon. He looked about 15 feet tall, and I felt small and intimidated.
Timothy placed his sapphire on the ground and backed away. I followed him. When we were at a safe distance, the dragon looked downwards and fire erupted out of its nostrils.
Timothy bent down and picked up the sapphire through the sleeve of his jacket, placed it in his pocket and bowed for a final time.
I curtsied, as the dragon tore through the barrier with a claw and left the circle to breathe fire over more birthstones. Timothy and I left the circle too, to join Felix and Lily who were heading towards a part of the field where we'd find some food. Felix was muttering something about what Draco had said about people born in the Fire phase being intense lovers in very sarcastic tones.
I held him back as Timothy and Lily continued to walk. Timothy glanced back but seemed to think I could handle Felix alone.
"Will you stop going on about how ‘incapable' of love Timothy supposedly is?" I hissed. "It's really getting on my nerves, especially since he proved himself to be an amazing lover yesterday."
"Oh, and how did he do that?" Felix retorted. "By bringing out his sapphire and using it to make you believe you were having the most wonderful romantic experience imaginable?"
"No, actually. He kissed me really passionately and made me feel like the world was spinning."
"The world is spinning, if you haven't noticed. Or did Timothy make it stop from sheer coldness?"
"Shut up! You know what I mean!"
"No, I don't. I honestly can't see old Foxtail being romantic in any way."
"Will you stop insulting my boyfriend?!"
"No, because he shouldn't be your boyfriend!"
"Well, he obviously should because he's my kingfisher!"
Felix shut up. He raised an eyebrow, pulled my hand from where it was gripping his arm and strode over to join Lily and Timothy. Timothy walked back over to where I was standing and rubbed my arm. He kissed my hair and told me to ignore Felix. I continued to glare at Lily's brother as he glared back at me.
Tani, it's okay. You don't have to take any more notice of him. If you like, we can just walk around together and leave those two to go in their own direction. Please don't be angry.
I softened at this. "I'm sorry, Timothy, it's just that he has no idea what he's talking about. You're an incredible lover and he just sees you for the few mistakes you happened to have made."
Timothy shrugged. "I don't care what anyone else thinks as long as you see me as at least satisfactory."
"Oh, you're so much more than satisfactory, darling," I told him, reaching up to kiss him. ‘I love you,' I thought to him.
I love you, too.
The two of us wandered over to some tables where people were helping themselves to food. I picked up a paper plate and put on some interesting looking foods which included duck pie and pheasant nuggets. There were also some familiar foods such as roast parsnips, corn on the cob and pork sausages.
Timothy and I sat down at a long white table near an area of the field where there was a stage upon which musicians were playing classical music. Some witches were dancing to the soft music which was slow and relaxing.
I finished my food and, seeing that he had finished his, I asked Timothy if he wanted to dance.
He shook his head. "I'm not really one for dancing in public, Tani. I would if it was just you and me."
I sighed. "That's a shame." I fidgeted, feeling restless. "Can't you use your sapphire to convince yourself it was just us two?"
Timothy shook his head. "No, because then I'd be embarrassingly intense. It's okay in front of friends, but I think people might start staring at us if I kissed you until we both collapsed again."
I rolled my eyes. "They're just jealous."
"Even so, what if the media were here? We'd end up in the papers."
"Really? I've never seen a Phase-Change ceremony in the papers before."
"The witch papers, Tani. How d'you think we find out what's going on in the witch world?"
I shrugged. "I never really thought about it."
"D'you want a drink?"
"How did you know?"
"You're thinking of it. I won't be gone for too long."
Timothy had been gone for about five seconds when Felix appeared. He sat next to me and looked slightly uncomfortable.