Who's Who 1: Trap Street

“There, that’ll do nicely. You know, I remember when all this was fields.”

In fact, when he’d checked online earlier, there’d still been fields here. The internet clearly hadn’t caught up with the march of progress yet.

He listened to the soft, familiar sounds of Liz turning and talking to the kids. He left her to it and watched the houses around them. Modern, detached. Small gardens. Large, sleeping cars.

Curtains twitched. Featureless faces peered out. None of these people grew up around here. They’d swooped in from their daily commute, invading the moment these houses went on the market. They’d bloated the morning traffic queues and caused house prices to soar thanks to their private road. Well, it wasn’t so private tonight. He was claiming some curb for a free, front row seat.

Back on the main road, he could see shallowing swarms of people on foot, still trying to get to the gates before they closed. Families with buggies and meandering toddlers. All coats, scarfs and boots.

“They’ll be lucky.”

He undid his seatbelt, all too aware they were still being watched.

The kids were quiet. Boredom doubtlessly percolating beneath their surface. Liz, happy they were subdued for now, turned to look out the front window. She peered up, curious and impatient, as if expecting the explosions to begin as soon as she was ready. He watched it all from the corner of his eye, comfortable in their silence.

Headlights abruptly flared behind them, filling the inside of the car, reducing them all to silhouettes. He thought about flicking his indicators on, but the light swiftly died. He glanced in the rear-view mirror to see people copying them. Only they got out and walked to the end of the street.

“That’s not a bad idea.”

No one spoke.

Over the next few minutes, more cars pulled in and lined every available inch of curb. Every occupant walked to the gate at the end of the street and looked out over the stark, winter stripped trees, expectantly waiting for seven thirty.

He saw some few friendly faces. There was the occasional, awkward smile.

The first firework rose and bloomed at seven forty. Just long enough to make him wonder if the car’s clock had slipped again. Nothing stayed right for long these days.

The explosion thumped on the car windows. The sky burnt vibrant red. A curtain of fizzing, golden comets followed. Large, graceful sparks of multiplying green. Twisting, swift stars of blue and white.

The kids stayed quiet with wonder. Liz smiled. There was audible, pleasant sound that came with it. A dimpled crease of contentment, which always made him happy.

The changing stormfronts of colour lit the trees; turning them to splintering, reaching fingers. The winter world grasping for the wonder that flickered so fleetingly above it.

The denizens of the private road drifted out from their front doors and joined the locals. You could barely tell them apart in the dazzling afterglow of each new firework.

“I’m getting out,” he announced, opening his door.

Thick, slack drifts of smoke were approaching on the wind. The air was peppered with the scent of spent gunpowder. Unidentifiable music echoed and retreated from easy recognition, reserved for paying customers only.

The next explosion seemed so much louder. It startled him. He looked back to the car, a grin on his face. It slipped away when he saw the empty seats. Overhead, red washed over black, smoke stained shadow.

“Of course,” he mumbled softly.

They’d been taken from him a year ago now. Nothing stayed right for long these days.