Thursday, 9 August 2012

The Sound Of Fire (Part Two): The Rainbow


It's weeks since the fire burnt itself out. Weeks of looking. Weeks of hearing that small voice, so clearly for the first time.

'Why can't anyone see me?'

Then, out of nowhere, I know where to go.


I'm on The Loop - the footpath that's closest to my heart.

It's late in the day. There's a stillness that's calming. The sun hangs low, obscured by the occasional cloud.

I cross the road at Little Cawthorpe and head for the waymarker that points out the route towards the woods on the hillside. I run easily. My shadow follows me.

It won't be long before I'm there.


The things that happened that summer changed me. Took the smiles from me. Made me dirty.

But, as I stood before the fire, I finally realised. It's taken nearly forty years. The things that happened that summer were not my fault.

I don't need to feel ashamed any more.


The path crosses a large field, goes over a wooden footbridge and climbs towards the trees. There's a grace in my stride that I've missed in recent months.

The knot in my stomach tightens. This is a meeting I've put off for a lifetime. Someone I've ignored, pushed into a corner of my mind. Done my utmost to forget.

I realise now how scared and lonely he must have been. His pleas, always hidden behind the sound of fire.

'Why can't anyone see me?'

Even I had turned my back.


The past makes the present. What happened then shaped the rest of my life. Started the spiral. The beginning. The end.

You can cover your shyness with alcohol. You can hide your scars with Japanese tattoos. You can joke about the break-up of past relationships. You can dismiss your inability to share your deepest feelings as 'that's just me.'

And I have. But now I'm strong. I can look at what happened and take no blame.

Seven years old.

The sound of fire has gone. Now I'll do what I need to do.

And then things will change? Will I see the good in people? The best possible outcome rather than the worst-case scenario? Will the words 'I love you' become easier to say? Because I feel it. I feel it.

I hope so.


I run beside the wood and down the slope to the stile. Over the fence, the field rises sharply to another wooden fence. My favourite place. I'll always sit for a moment on the top stile, savour the silence, absorb the beauty of being alone in a special place.

As I climb the bottom stile, my shadow slips away.

It's almost time.

I close my eyes for a moment, feel the evening sun on my face.

I open them when I hear his voice. A small voice. Little blond boy. Seven years old.

'Why can't anyone see me?'

On the top stile, I see him. He's sitting, swinging his legs nervously against the fence. Brown and white jumper, dirty blue shorts and black plimsols. I remember Mum buying them for me.

His eyes are so sad.

'Why can't anyone see me?'

'I can see you,' I say softly, 'I can see you.'

As I run up the hill, I'm crying. Years of tears. I'm sorry. So sorry. It wasn't your fault. It was him. We both know it.

That summer was when I left you.

I can see you. I can see you.

The summer that's clouded the rest of my life.

I lift the little blond boy off the fence and I hold him so tight.

'I'll never let you go,' I whisper.

I can feel his little body shaking. His uncontrollable sobs. He holds me so tight.

'I can see you. I can see you. I'll never let you go.'


We walk, hand in hand, across the plough to the faraway farm buildings. We walk slowly. We have a lot to talk about.

Raindrops are falling. Summer rain, illuminated by the evening sun. Tiny spheres of fireworks.

I glance back.

Over the stile, there's a rainbow.

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