A meteor shower hit the night of the celebration; an incandescence of billion-year-old rock. The guests saw only the firework display that crackled in the sky above the terrace, the salty smell of gunpowder mingling with the smell of the food on the tables. Partygoers on the periphery looked to the sudden light as if waking. Those at the centre of things talked on, rocket bursts in the amber and red of their drinks, sparks falling in their eyes. A band played in the house, the drummer too loud, the piano out of tune. A male voice shouted: “I want to hear my song,” and then again, after a pause: “I want to hear my song.” He did not hear his song. His demands joined the rhythm of the night, a descant to the laughter and clink of glasses.
The children watched the fireworks from upstairs. Their mother stood behind them. She, slightly breathless still, had left the party to share the show with them. She bundled all three together like an armful of soft toys as they knelt on the window seat. Their faces moved up and up with the skyward fizz of the rockets and then were illuminated. They were frightened and joy struck, pleased with their fear. Their mother held them tighter and shouted out, young in her pleasure, younger than they had known her. There was alcohol on her breath, the sweetness and warmth of adulthood, of goodnight kisses. She brushed her cheek against theirs and they were aware of her perfume and the smell of the grass in her hair and something else, something new, the scent of the sea they might have said, of rock-pools, of the slippery hidden life beneath the surface, creatures you do not want to hold.
Eyes fixed on the sky, they did not see her lift a hand to the shadows at the edge of the garden.