THE FIREWORKS ARE FADING • by Randy Pitts

The three of us are sitting on a wooden swing, watching the clouds on the surface of the lake. The chains creak with our every motion. Our son, Percy, is sitting between us. He loves fireworks and is patiently waiting for dusk to finally arrive. The sun is peeking out over the horizon, resisting the urge to set. The sky is cotton candy pink, and the clouds are fluffy and full. I glance at my watch, eager to get back inside and game with the boys. Right on que, my phone vibrates. It’s a message from a close friend reminding me that everyone is on Call of Duty and they’re waiting for me to play.

I shoot back a quick text, letting them know I’ll be on later. My wife notices and lets out a pent-up sigh. She looks at me over the top of Percy’s blond head. “Seriously,” she mouths, not letting our son see her disapproval. She just wants one fun-filled day with the three of us. She isn’t asking for much, but I love my games. I draw in a controlled breath and slide the phone into my pocket. I don’t want to argue with her, not again, not today. The pink sky turns plum purple before our very eyes. Percy notices first and claps. It’s nearly time for the fireworks.

My phone buzzes three more times and Sarah shakes her head. I didn’t even reach for my phone but still she is annoyed. Keeping her happy is getting harder with every passing day.

“Can I have a sparkler?” Percy asks. It’s getting darker but I can still make out his smile. It melts my heart.

“Sure,” I say. I reach beneath the wooden swing and produce a sparkler for him. Sarah lights the end and Percy takes it from me. He runs wildly and it leaves a trial of sparkling white light. As he runs, he makes letters and shapes with the sparkler’s afterglow. He’s giggling as he does this, and I can’t help but smile.

Sarah scooches across the wooden swing. Her thigh nudges into my own. “It’s important we have days like this,” she says. Her breath is hot against my neck. I don’t even reply, I just nod. I know I’m losing her. The stars are beginning to materialize in the night sky. They’re reflected onto the lake, and I stare at them as she continues. “We have to make an effort even if we’re apart.”

“I don’t want to lose you,” I whisper.

“This just isn’t working.”

What to say?

“Can we light the fireworks?” Percy hollers. His sparkler has been reduced to a dull, smoking stick.

I don’t want to move. I like Sarah’s thigh against my own. I like her right next to me. I like feeling her warm breath. “Come with, momma,” I say to her. A ghost of a smile appears upon her pink lips. She twiddles the lighter, I grab the fireworks. Percy jumps, spins, and lands on the wooden swing, bottom first. He’s clapping as we walk away. If every day were like this, we’d have no marital problems at all.

I grab Sarah’s hand as we walk side by side. I can tell I’m losing her by the way she holds my hand. Her fingers are reluctant to intertwine with my own. “I cannot lose you.” As I whisper the words, I know I don’t deserve her. I know I cannot be as attentive or tender as she deserves. I know she’ll never be the priority she once was. I’ll never make her happy.

 It makes me wonder what’s wrong with me. It makes me wonder how I let her slip away.

We reach the end of the pier. I set up the first firework silently. It’s as if she can read my mind. Five years together and she basically can. “We’ll make days like this happen for Percy,” she says. “Even when it’s official.”

“When will it be official?” I ask. She’s spinning the ring on her finger absentmindedly and I can’t watch.

“Soon… Very soon.” Her words are sharp daggers plunging into my heart.

“Another chance?” I try, I have to try.

She shakes her head, her beautiful blond hair swirls around her shoulders.  

I swallow the dryness in my throat. “Okay,” I muster. I nod to the wick. She lights it and we run down the pier. There is a film over my eyes. Everything is crumbling away. At the end we turn around and watch as a blue firework splits the sky apart with a loud bang. The light fades away, and we repeat the process.

Reds and whites and brilliant oranges rip the sky to shreds. Percy hoots and hollers like everything is perfect. “I love fireworks!” he screams into the night.

Sarah laughs at his comments. Tears blur my vision, but I remain silent.

My phone vibrates again and Sarah chuckles. Her laugh is melodic and beautiful and infectious. It’s a laugh I fell in love with. “Won’t it be better when we’re apart?” she asks. My heart drops. “You’ll have time for video games and sports games. You and the boys can do all the things you’ve always wanted to.”

I nod but my words contradict my body language. “Everything is better when you’re around.”

“You can’t have it both ways,” she reminds. “You can’t have me and spend all your time glued to the TV.”

She’s right. And the TV is where I’ll be as soon as Percy hits the sheets. She’s no longer twisting the ring around her finger. She takes my hand and slides an object into it. It’s an object I remember buying. An object I remember sliding onto her beautiful finger.

She lights the last firework. “I’ll always love you,” she whispers and closes my fist around the ring. The very last firework explodes. We watch as it fades to nothing at all.


Randy Pitts works as a Business Administrator at HighStar Traffic in Knox, Indiana. He loves writing short stories and hopes to one day have a novel published in his name.


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