‘First of all you tell the fire all you’re hopes for the future, what you want, no matter how grand or how trivial. Then you give it all the things you don’t want anymore, by way of sacrifice, nothing is free after all. Then the real fun starts, you have to show the fire how much you believe in it, celebrate it.’ He laughed as he spoke the last sentence, seeing the look on her face as if she didn’t quite trust her ears.
‘What are you on about?’ She sniggered, this was obviously some sort of joke.
‘Just relax,’ Sep said, patting the ground, motioning her to sit cross-legged like him.
As Christina rocked down onto her butt, he unscrewed the lid from the whiskey bottle and took a sip before passing it to her.
‘Hey if we’re both drinking how are we getting home?’ She asked disapprovingly.
‘I thought I said relax’ His voice was full of mirth. ‘I was just checking the bottle works’ He winked at her.
They both went quiet for a long moment. Christina’s mind began to reflect on the events of the afternoon, the week, the month. Ricky was gone, and the way he tried to sneak away without a word, she knew her pride would never let her take him back after that. And he had been demoted from the position of most important thing in her life with the appearance of the house. The house! She really wanted that house, she had to tell the fire about the house. She would offer Ricky for it.
And this dark haired, dark eyed stranger at her side – what was he? He was not like anyone she had ever met. He appeared to not care less about what other people thought. Sep did the strangest things with such confidence that it seemed that everyone else was strange for not doing it too. People loved it, they seemed to bask in his company, and from what she could see he had no enemies, yet his demeanour told you that you wouldn’t want him for one. In her mind she could imagine him as wild, pure force, devil may care and unstoppable.
She swigged again at the bottle and turned to see Sep perfectly relaxed, staring at her. He reached up and pushed a windswept strand of hair behind her ear. The cold air was all around them, threatening to close in, fought away by the fire that sent it’s light to dance on their faces.
‘Do I have to say it all out loud?’ Christina asked quietly.
‘Nope just say it in you’re mind if you like. As long as you really mean it.’
His face looked so intense now, so invested in the words he spoke. She turned away and stared into the fire, taking another gulp, the whisky slid down her throat and gave her courage. Some how this didn’t feel like some campfire game, it felt real, like what she told this fire she wanted would have real consequences in her life. She was unsure whether to ask it for what she wanted more than anything right now. She really hadn’t thought it through. Do it Christina, do it now.
I want the house, my heart is already there and my body wants to follow. I want to dust away all the cobwebs, clean the windows and scrub the floors and make it shine like it did when grandma and me were there. I want to scatter flour all over the table and knead dough.
She could see herself there, in the kitchen as an adult. She felt complete.
In return I give you my mother. The woman who has kept me away from the house, she stole my childhood and never gave me any love.
She was surprised to find herself crying. That was one swap done. Now for the next one, it wouldn’t take a lot of words.
I give you Ricky for Sep.
Christina stood up and started to twist and twirl around the fire. She closed her eyes, inhaled deeply and a tiny spark ignited inside her chest. Raising her arms she breathed deeper and brought her hands to a prayer position in front of her chest, sucking the night sky into her lungs. She pushed her feet into the earth and felt it push back, a living thing beneath her, this was magical! Her movements frenzied she danced around the fire like a whirling dervish, Christina had let go completely.
Sep sat on the ground smiling at her, sincerely admiring her. She connected back to the forces so easily, her powers bubbling beneath her skin waiting to burst out. She moved just like the fire, looking tremendous.
Breathless she eventually had to stop, reluctantly she slumped back to the ground.
‘That was fun’ she gasped.
The fire reflected in his eyes as she looked into them and she was overwhelmed, yearning to kiss him between ragged breaths. She knew she was dizzy from the dancing, a little drunk probably, and swept away in the exciting departure from everyday life. She looked away before she ended up doing something she would regret.
Regret. The word brought her back to earth with a bang. She’d wanted to make her mother regret the things she’d done. But she’d given up her mother, burned her up in the fire in hopes of going to a place where she once was loved. Then the striking question, what if she regretted giving up her mother? What if she had given up a chance to have some sort of family for the memory of one? Had she swapped the living for the dead? The old saying ‘be careful what you wish for, you just might get it’ popped into her head. She panicked, realising she’d just wished for Sep without knowing the first thing about him.
Christina caught herself allowing her imagination to dream up these scenarios. It was just a load of crap anyway, superstition. She had let herself get a little carried away with it all. The fire was just a metaphor for getting rid of psychological baggage.
‘Oh hell I’ve got nothing to lose’ She said to herself smiling. All this worry about the past; her mother, her grandma, Ricky. The future; the new job, the house. The present; being right here with this uniquely thrilling man. She decided there and then to let it all go and be reckless for a while.
‘You want to make a move’ Sep interrupted her thoughts, and rising from his seat it the moss, stamping out the dying embers
‘Yes’ she said wondering if he thought of her just as a friend. ‘We’ve got work tomorrow after all.’
He threw his arm around her shoulder as they walked back to the car.
‘Yeah we do.’ He said casually as if he was dog-tired.
She could feel it. Something big was about to happen.