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‘There.’ Cather­ine stuck the last strand of wool on the Guy’s pil­low­case head, then stood back to ad­mire her work. ‘Just a shame I had to do it by my­self this year.’ Mak­ing a Guy for the vil­lage fire­works dis­play was a fam­ily tra­di­tion. Even when An­drew had left her five years ago, she’d car­ried it on to give the kids con­ti­nu­ity. ‘Not kids any more though, are they?’ she said to her­self. Now 14, the twins had other things to do on a Fri­day night. Danny was on his com­puter and Mil­lie was with her best friend. Re­luc­tant to give up the tra­di­tion en­tirely, Cather­ine had made the Guy on her own. Her mo­bile phone buzzed.

‘What are you up to tonight?’ Me­lanie’s voice boomed down the line. Cather­ine didn’t know how she’d have got through the last five years with­out her best friend. Be­fore she could an­swer, Me­lanie con­tin­ued, ‘You’re mak­ing a Guy, aren’t you?’ ‘Yes,’ Cather­ine con­fessed.

‘Cathy, lis­ten,’ Me­lanie sounded con­cerned. ‘Don’t you think it’s time you gave that up? The twins are grow­ing up and, well, you need to have fun. Dare I say, even meet some­one new?’

Cather­ine shook her head, even though Me­lanie couldn’t see, be­fore re­ply­ing, ‘Re­mem­ber the in­ter­net dat­ing dis­as­ter?’

‘You only had one date! Be­sides, it wasn’t that bad. I just want to see you happy again.’

Af­ter her con­ver­sa­tion with Me­lanie, it was still early. There was lit­tle point cooking for one, though, so Cather­ine ate a bowl of ce­real then set­tled on the sofa, ready for an­other night alone.

‘Not to worry,’ she said to her­self, try­ing to keep cheery. ‘At least we’ll spend to­mor­row evening to­gether.’ The kids might be grow­ing up, but they al­ways loved Bon­fire Night.

*********

A fire­work burst into the air and the crowd oohed and aa­hed. Cather­ine felt a nudge on her arm and saw Danny and Mil­lie clutch­ing hot choco­lates and burgers. ‘Thanks, you two,’ she said, tak­ing the of­fer­ing.

‘Mum,’ Mil­lie asked, ‘Lara said I can sleep over at hers tonight. Is that okay?’

‘Erm, sure sweet­heart. I’ll drop you round af­ter the fire­works.’ ‘She’s leav­ing now, so I’ll get a lift with her mum.’

‘Oh, right.’ Cather­ine tried to hide her dis­ap­point­ment. She didn’t want to stop her chil­dren en­joy­ing them­selves, so she kissed her daugh­ter good­bye.

No sooner had Mil­lie gone than Danny piped up, ‘Mum, can I stay round Jack’s tonight?’

An­other night alone. She couldn’t say no when she’d al­lowed Mil­lie. ‘Sure, dar­ling.’

‘Cheers, Mum.’ He didn’t even stay for a good­bye hug.

‘Well,’ she said to the Guy. ‘Just you and me now. But I sup­pose it’s time to get you on the fire.’

He stared through her with his black but­ton eyes, seem­ingly un­per­turbed he was about to be­come ash.

She took the Guy to the fire and waited at the bar­rier for one of the helpers. ‘Shall I take that lit­tle chap from you, madam?’ A hand­some man not much older than her grinned.

‘Yes, please.’ Look­ing around at the chil­dren hand­ing over their Guys, she felt as though she should of­fer an ex­pla­na­tion. ‘My teenagers have bet­ter things to do tonight, so I’m left hold­ing the Guy.’

‘I know how you feel.’ He took the model from her. ‘My son’s just gone to univer­sity. I still help out here, though, like I have ev­ery year since he was lit­tle. I guess it’s tra­di­tion now.’

She gave him an em­pa­thetic smile be­fore he walked away to throw her Guy on to the fire.

*********

Cather­ine clapped with the crowd as the fi­nal fire­work ex­ploded. She was about to walk home when some­one tapped her on the shoul­der – it was the man who’d taken her Guy.

‘Hello again. I was look­ing for you. No one should spend Bon­fire Night alone. I’m Tom, by the way.’

He had a gor­geous smile. She in­tro­duced her­self and shook his hand.

‘I hear they do mulled wine here,’ he said. ‘Care to join me?’ ‘Oh, erm…’ Her re­flex re­ac­tion was to de­cline, but Tom was al­ready half­way to the drinks stall.

Five min­utes later he re­turned empty-handed. ‘Sorry, all gone,’ he said.

She sur­prised her­self at how dis­ap­pointed she was that the ex­cuse to stay and talk had seem­ingly dis­ap­peared.

‘I’m sure the vil­lage pub hasn’t run out of wine, though. Would you like to come for a drink with me?’

He flashed that gor­geous grin again. She thought back to Me­lanie’s words and found her­self nod­ding. Her friend had been wrong about one thing, though – if she hadn’t made the Guy, she’d never have met Tom. Maybe some tra­di­tions should never die.

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