As Claire watched, the fire roared and crackled with the extra wood being thrown on to it. All attention was on the burning effigy at the apex of the roaring pile, and the crowds of people who jostled her for a better view prevented all but that one vital glimpse of the drama unfolding across from her. For those few seconds, it looked like two youths were ready to throw their own home-made Guy on to the fire but, to Claire, it was with a feeling of horror that she realised just what, or who, the boys were getting ready to throw.
It was the hat that told her. That stupid, bobble-topped creation in bright pink, that Gwen couldn’t, and wouldn’t, let go of. Claire felt horror build, as she frantically started to fight her way around the crowd, screaming at the top of her voice, in the hopes that someone, anyone, would hear over the raucous noise of people having fun.
She pushed and shoved her way around, leaving a wake of disturbance that seemed to grow, as people became aware that something was wrong. As the level of noise abated, her voice was heard above the crowds, screaming for people to stop the boys. But nobody knew what she meant, and confusion added to the roiling, churning crowd, making it feel to Claire as if she were trying to fight through toffee to get to her sister in time.
Tears streamed down her face with the fear she felt. She gasped and sobbed as she struggled on towards the place where her sister was struggling to get loose. As she fought on, all she could smell was a mixture of wood smoke, and the barbecued meat that had been cooked earlier, all mixed with sweat and beer. She kept getting glimpses of the fight Gwen was putting up, and it was that frantic struggle that eventually got the people around her to pay attention.
In realisation of what was actually happening, there was a sudden surge as people around the boys set to and grabbed both boys and small child. Claire could see a group of men surrounding the boys, and quickly snatching her sister from their grasp. With a gasp of relief, Claire reached the men, and broke through to run up to Gwen, who was being held, sobbing hysterically, in the arms of their neighbour, Tom.
Claire grabbed Gwen’s leg, looking up at Tom,
‘Is she okay? Please say she’s okay, Tom!’ Her voice was ragged with the fear she felt, and her stomach felt ready to expel all the food she had eaten earlier.
‘Don’t you worry, Cariad, she’s just had a bit of a fright. What was she doing alone here, anyway?’
Claire felt a flush of shame rise up her body, and she held out her arms for Gwen to be given to her. Once she had the comfort of her sister to hold, she looked squarely at the man in front of her,
‘It was my fault, Tom. I just looked away for a moment, and she was gone!’