Four am and I'm sat in a bar, twenty minutes ago I didn't even know existed, with five total strangers. The phrase ‘self destructive' comes to mind and I smile at myself. The kid who's name I had mistaken for ‘Cakes' is actually called Caex, after listening to it carefully I can now hear the slight accent placed on it by the others. I'm still sure that he's younger than me, though he is the same height. At first I tried to place his nationality, but I soon gave up, while the combination of his dark hair, dark eyes and heavily tanned skin hint at a European country his total lack of any sort of accent makes him hard to place.
Since I agreed to come with them, Caex has been talking almost nonstop, laughing and joking, clearly excited about something or other, and I'm finding his good cheer infectious. The others seem to be quite happy to let him fill the silence by himself, the woman and man with long hair, Kearé and Ximon, watch him with fondness in their eyes though I get the feeling only Kearé is entirely relaxed, occasionally even joining in with Caex's easygoing banter.
The final woman, with spiked blonde hair and cutting blue eyes has been keeping a close watch on me, though I doubt she realizes I've noticed. She has a loud laugh and from what I can tell this reflects on her personality. She was introduced to me as Miyako, though she seems to be known as Mia. Her watchfulness puts me on edge, and I keep glancing at her every time there is a slight break in the conversation in the vain hope her attention has wavered.
‘-but I'm not really a fan of cocktails, I find them too sweet, what do you think Amelia? I bet you like cocktails don't you? What's your favorite- Ohh have you ever seen one explode? Remember Churches, last year Mia? That was fantastic, the colours-'
I look around for Sal, he's up at the bar still, getting a second round of drinks I presume, talking quietly to Ximon. They both look very stiff, I wish I could hear what they were talking about. I refocus on the conversation at the sound of Mia's laughing voice.
‘Caex, you really shouldn't boast about that, you almost brought the whole street down with you fireworks.'
‘Mia, that's not fair,' his voice sounds almost petulant and I can't help but laugh at him, ‘how was I supposed to know there was alcohol inside? And I didn't bring the street down did I?'
He hears me laughing and turns indignantly to defend himself but Kearé get there first.
‘Ah you should have seen it Amelia, one minute a perfectly silent street, the next fire and ash was raining down from the sky in every colour imaginable- don't sulk Caex, you more than proved yourself tonight, besides it was you that brought it up.'
‘I love fire,' I feel myself smiling nostalgically as I talk, ‘ever since I was little, whenever I hear fireworks, I run to the river bank out back so I can see them.'
‘See! See, it's not weird to love fireworks!' he laughed triumphantly. The kids face had been fixed to mine, a delighted smile dancing across his lips, as I spoke of the fireworks, I laugh again, with him this time and continue.
‘They're like a work of art, see? Each one has been carefully prepared to produce the right sound and colour, and the people who make them know that they're making them for the sole purpose of being destroyed,' I can feel all five of them listening to me now, but I'm only looking at Caex, at his smiling face, drinking in every word I say and nodding in an enchanted daze, ‘and I love they way the take up the whole sky, not just the sky, the whole horizon and... I'm sorry I sound crazy don't I.'
Kearé laughs warmly at my sudden self-conscious conclusion.
‘Yes, you do, but no more than the kid here ever does with his endless ranting on and on about fire...'
He protests loudly and we both laugh at him, until he starts pulling things out of the pockets of his long, red leatherjacket, packets of coloured power, pencils, paper with endless calculations scrawled all over them, till he finally finds what he wants. He unfurls a few crumpled photos of fireworks, and starts explaining them, earnestly trying to persuade how amazing these bright sparks truly are. Kearé can hardly breath for laughing at him, and I though I can feel myself heading that way, I've got to admire him for his passion.
I'm glad I came. I feel comfortable here, with these strangers.
‘It must be dawn soon?'
‘No, we've got at least half an hour before we see daylight.'
‘Want another drink? Amelia? Ximon?'
‘You've had more than all of us already Caex-'
‘So I can handle my drink better than you-'
‘-and you're the youngest here-'
‘-just because of a few years-'
‘-so unless you would like to pay-'
‘-I'll pass this round ta.'
‘Glad we're on the same page. Amelia?'
I try to think over how many drinks I've consumed in the past hour and the best I can estimate is a lot.
‘I'll pass too, thanks though.'
‘Don't blame you, you've been drinking quickly.'
‘I'll have a pint, cheers,' Ximon's voice seems much louder than ours and fully of bravado, I manage not to cringe even while I marvel at how he can still seem so sober, I guess he can handle his drink better than me as well. Kearé moves to the bar again to get the drinks and I watch her go, no longer absorbed in conversation. She's wearing all warm colours, a purple long skirt, heavy red punk style boots and a tight red vest with lose netting for arms. I start to piece together what type of person I think she is but Ximon's loud voice pierces my little world and I turn around, smiling, to listen to him.
‘So, tell me about yourself Amelia? What's your story?'
I stay smiling, but something inside me stiffens.
‘Well, what do you want to know? I've nothing interesting to tell but I have no secrets.' Is my tone still calm, I'm not sure, I think so. I want to turn around, look to see if Kearé is on her back yet, or for Caex to interrupt with one of his verbal thoughts. I can see from the corner of my eye that Mia has left her seat and I try to remember the last time I saw either her or Sal. I can't.
Ximon smile jovially at me, and for the first time I see the falsehood that's in his smile, he's wearing a mask. And I don't know what it's hiding.
‘Why don't you tell me, Amelia, who you are? I don't mind, I've met all sorts in my time, and I'm good friends with a variety of creatures, but, you see, Amelia, I'm only friends with the ones I can trust, and at the moment, your not being very honest with me. Why don't you give me a reason to trust you Amelia, lets start there.'
His mask has dropped.
Surprise hits me like a slap in the face.