The Fifth of November
Hannah cut through the wildflower wallpapered kitchen loaded with all sorts of vintage farmhouse wares. Slipping into Wellies she shoved the back door open into the black night and almost tripped on a shadow.
“Whoa there,” the figure caught her shepherd’s pie before it tumbled onto the mud.
“Thanks,” Hannah couldn’t distinguish features on anyone through the darkness.
“Is this going on the food table?”
“Yes.” She squinted angling her head until the bonfire light shone on his face where she could make out his ginger hair. “Rory?”
“Hannah? Gosh. How are you?” Rory threw the pie back to her.
“Fine,” Hannah lifted her feet to make a quick escape, but her boots stuck in the sludge. With nothing to balance her she wobbled on one foot and thursting the shepherd’s pie back to him. She prevented a fall by grabbing his shoulder.
“You’re having trouble.”
Hannah used both hands to tug her Welly out of the mud and hopped over a puddle landing on firmer ground. “I’m having trouble finding my cousin. I was supposed to keep an eye on her, and she’s run off.”
“How old is she?”
“Three. Sarah’s daughter. I don’t think you met her.”
“I never met any cousins.”
“Not in two years of dating?” Hannah stopped to think about it for a minute. He probably hadn’t. He’d been against family functions beyond hanging with her brother, his former best friend. Who had invited him? Her brother?
“Nope.” Rory set the pie on the table next to the baked potatoes ready to be loaded with all the fillings. Cheese, baked beans, and pot of chili for proper jacket potatoes. Hot dogs and sausages filled another pan ready to be roasted in the fire. Her sister would bring out the sponge and toffee apples later.
“Did you find her?” A shadow approached them. Her cousin Sarah.
“No. Everly wasn’t inside.” Hannah smelled rain mixed with smoke.
“Which means she’s roaming somewhere in the pitch black and it’s supposed to rain more.”
“Fantastic.” Sarah’s sarcasm slipped out like the mud beneath her boots. “Can you please?”
“Yes. Sorry. I ran, literally, ran into Rory, and well-he’s going to help.”
“Rory? Rory, Rory?” Sarah’s white’s of her eyes bulged in the eerie glow finally noticing him.
“Yes,” Hannah fidgeted, avoiding eye contact, which was impossible in the edges of the bonfire light. “We’ll be off now.”
“Right.” Sarah darted over to guests preparing a figure of Guy Fawkes and Hannah heard her asking them if they’d seen a child. Her cousin was too preoccupied to be concerned about her love life.
“Dodged a bullet,” Hannah trudged through more mud.
“What was that?” Rory caught her gaze as they passed the massive fire.
“Nothing.” Hannah wove through the group of people surrounding the bonfire to the other side of the property at the edge of a field.
“Do you know your way around here?” Rory stepped ahead of her.
“More or less. Do you have your phone? Mine’s inside.” Hannah closed her eyes a few times, adjusting them as she peered into the dark field.
“Yeah,” Rory tapped on his phone’s torch, lighting a path in the overgrown field of grass as high as his knees.
Hannah ran her hand through knotted curls. “My guess is she went searching for sticks to throw in the fire. I told her to wait until her father could help her, but she has a mind of her own.”
“Like her auntie.” Rory said then jogged off, the light from his phone highlighting his hair.
“Hey.” Hannah caught up to him at the edge of the woods.
“You know it’s true.”
She raised her shoulders, “I only had a mind of my own when you tried to convince me to move to Scotland with you.”
Rory pushed branches out of their path waving his phone around. He crunched in fallen leaves nearing Hannah. Hannah stomped past him further into the woods. Unable to see anything a branch smacked her face. “Ouch.”
Rory came up from behind her and raised the light.
“You moved.” She faced him head on.
“That was all.” He crossed his arms, his phone light partially hidden casting jack-o-lantern shadows on his face.
“That was everything.” Hannah held back tears, happy he couldn’t see her well.
“I’m sorry. I thought the coffee shop would take off in Edinburgh. Not a little village in Derbyshire.” He motioned to their surroundings.
“I’m sorry, it didn’t work out.” Hannah shifted on the leaf covered ground.
“Really?” Rory lifted his head.
“What are your plans now?”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
“Are you staying?” Hannah shivered.
“If I said I was moving back to Scotland would you go now or are you still convinced you’re never going to leave this village? I need to know that.” Rory rooted his feet.
“Are you asking me to give us another go?”
“You’re a huge reason why I returned.”
“Yeah.” He took her fingers and wove them through hers like a pumpkin vine seeking light and life.
A crackling sounded, she pulled away. “What’s that?”
“We can barely see it through the trees. Shh.” She strained her ears and made out a whimper. Hannah motioned to Rory. “Everly?”
“It’s Cousin Hannah. Are you all right?” Hannah stepped into Rory’s light and found the girl tugging at a tiny tree.
“It won’t come out.” Everly seemed unaware she wandered in the dark. Her arms were laden with sticks.
“Your mama has been so worried. Let’s find her.”
“No. I need this stick.”
Hannah watched Rory yank the branch from the ground. “There you are.”
Everly allowed Hannah to lift her on her hips. Rory touched the small of Hannah’s back and warmth ran up her spine. Was she really gonna give an old flame another go? If he decided to move again, she’d have to go with him. Maybe marry him. He reached out a hand and she placed her free hand in his.