Photo by SpeckledOwl

Photo by SpeckledOwl

Ballerina Sindy wears white. She’s spotless, just out of the box, white tights, white ballet shoes with tiny straps, a white leotard and a stiff white tutu that fastens with a popper. She has perfect dark hair twisted into a bun and tied with a white band. Susan loves her wide, blue eyes. Ballerina Sindy is poised in an arabesque on top of the chest of drawers; she comes with a special stand that her leg fits into to keep her upright. She is the most beautiful thing Susan has ever owned.

Mum had said, “Choose what you’d like then, love,” and Susan had known she didn’t really mean choose what you’d like, she meant choose something cheap. But Susan had picked up Ballerina Sindy because Mark was there with his big hairy hand tucked in the back pocket of mum’s new jeans.

But then mum had said, “OK sweetheart,” and they’d gone straight to the till. Mum paid with a twenty pound note and the woman put Ballerina Sindy in a bag and handed it over, and Susan felt like she’d cheated.

“Come on, Susie!” Mum shouts up the stairs. “We’ll miss the start. Mark’s brought sparklers, isn’t that fun?”

Susan takes Ballerina Sindy out of her stand and slides her into the inside pocket of her coat because she knows mum won’t let her take Ballerina Sindy to the fireworks. Then Susan thinks that this time, mum might let her take her, and that would be worse, so she does up her coat buttons.

In the car, Susan can feel Ballerina Sindy against her chest. They get to the playing field and park, and the fireworks start as they’re climbing the hill. Susan thinks they look like giant dandelion clocks blowing apart in the sky, and she turns round to tell mum, but mum is looking at Mark. Her face lights up with each explosion. Susan takes Ballerina Sindy out of her pocket, because it’s too late for mum to say anything, but mum doesn’t notice. Susan holds Ballerina Sindy up and shows her the dandelions.

When the fireworks finish they walk up to where they’re lighting the bonfire. It’s made of stuff that looks funny together – old school chairs, a bit of fence, a wardrobe. The Guy on top of the pile is wearing a straw hat, but no one has painted him a face. The bonfire goes up with a whoosh and everyone takes a step back. Boys from Susan’s class are throwing sticks and cardboard and junk into the fire.

“Have you had a good day, love?” asks mum, standing with her arm through Mark’s arm. She sounds like it matters to her more than anything. Susan nods.

“Did you thank Mark for your doll?” says mum.

Susan remembers Mark’s hand tucked into the back pocket of mum’s jeans, and mum pulling out the twenty pound note at the till.

“That was kind of him, wasn’t it?” says mum.

“I told your mum to keep that quiet,” says Mark, and he wiggles mum’s arm backwards and forwards, and they’re both smiling.

Susan walks away from them towards the bonfire, pushing against the hot hands of air, feeling sparks brush her face. Her knees tingle like they do when she stands at the edge of the shed roof. Susan throws Ballerina Sindy into the fire, and just for a second she’s wearing a dress of Panda Pop orange that spits and crackles in dancing frills. Her sleek dark hair frizzes and her blue eyes stare straight at Susan, and neither of them blinks.