Fireworks were a big part of Mareikura Nathan’s life. She had always loved them. Mareikura loved the sounds they made as they exploded into the night’s sky or onto the ground, and she loved seeing the looks on people’s faces as they watched it all unfold. But what she loved the most about fireworks was how beautifully pure they were. It amazed her that simple things like fire and flickers of multi-colours could manage to captivate her in a way that almost nothing else ever had.
Mareikura was four when she had her first real guy fawkes night. Her dad pulled out a red lighter and set something aflame. Her hooded brown eyes widened in curiosity, and she looked up to watch as the sky lit up with all sorts of bright colours.
Mareikura’s hands flew to her face, and she felt like the world was going to end when the fireworks finally stopped. She teared up because she realised that she had taken the beauty of the fireworks for granted.
The following year, her dad Patrick allowed her to help with lighting the fireworks. It was the most responsible she had ever felt during her six years of existence. And when her Aunty Kate made a suggestion that they light some sparklers and stick them in the grass, she complied fervently. As Mareikura helped her cousin’s work, her mum, Aroha, took one look at her very busy daughter and couldn’t help but laugh. Hearing her mum’s laugh, Mareikura turned around to look at her and laughed as well. She stopped laughing when she realised that her fingers were wrapped around a sparkler and were burned badly. Aroha dipped Mareikura’s fingers in a bucket of frozen peas, and stayed with her until Mareikura’s bedtime.
When she was Seven, Mareikura spent her first guy fawkes night away from home, away from both of her parents. Mareikura’s dad left her and her mum a few months prior, and Aroha was very busy with work, hence she didn’t spend much time with her daughter. Instead, Mareikura stayed with her Nanny Pauline, (who was becoming like a second mum to her), her koro, and her Nanny’s daughter, (who was Mareikura’s age), Grace. Mareikura slowly and carefully stepped onto the concrete path, looking above the metal gate at the massive Keri Keri house. The porch was made of darkly painted wood, and a rocking chair was situated by the doorway. She took a step closer and took in the essence of the house, with it’s soft kowhai trees and small lake. After a few minutes of her being at the house, Mareikura and Grace headed outside to explore. Her Nanny had only just moved to the house so there was still a lot of areas of the property to explore. They came across a bench that was near the small lake and camped out underneath it. Grace pulled out a notebook and stationery out of her leopard print backpack from equip, and Mareikura eagerly agreed to help Grace draw pictures. Grace drew bright pictures of princesses and princes, while Mareikura drew black and white pictures of the family that she once had. As much as Mareikura loved is when she stayed with her nanny and koro, she felt a sense of longing for the family that used to be. As the girls watched the fireworks they smiled, giggled, and jumped whenever a firework would explode into the sky. At some point during the night, Mareikura noticed that there was a man staring at them, from across the road. She squinted her eyes to look closer. He looked like her dad, but could that be? She took a few moments to think about things, struggling to understand what was going on. She looked back at him and observed his appearance. In some ways he looked the same as he had the last time she saw him, but in other ways he looked quite different.
His distinctive upturned nose appeared to be more or less the same, although it was a little distorted because of the distance. Other features seemed different as well. The blonde, greasy hair that had basically been his trademark definitely looked cleaner, although it still hung in slightly lifeless curtains around his face. His skin was pale and not as olivey as she remembered. His face looked gaunter than it did the last time she had seem him, and the shadows beneath his blue eyes were deep. He looked tired and upset.
His jeans were worn and faded, unravelling around the bottoms with a hole in one knee; he wore basketball boots and a grey t-shirt spattered with something that looked like it could be paint. It wasn’t what she expected to see. He didn’t look the same and he didn’t dress the same. As her eyes travelled to his face once more, she saw the two noticeable birthmarks on his cheek. It really was him.
She imagined a heartfelt reunion where he would run toward her and tell her that he loved and missed her, but deep down she knew that it wouldn’t have happened. She looked at him for a little longer, still slightly in shock that he was there. But then suddenly he vanished like a fart in the wind. That was when she realised it was merely a hallucination. Mareikura didn’t tell anyone but Grace about what she saw that night; she figured that there was no use.
Mareikura was nine the first time she saw fireworks that didn’t occur on Guy Fawkes night; at Grace’s ninth birthday party. It was a barbeque since her birthday was in the summertime and their Koro allowed all of the young kids to light some of the little fireworks, with his supervision of course. Mareikura pulled her long midnight black hair into a ponytail and watched in amazement as children ran around her, waving all sorts of different fireworks. She grinned when her Koro lit up some bigger fireworks; Mareikura was different from the others. Most of the kids jumped or cornered away while she just waited patiently and excitedly for the next firework to go off. Mareikura glanced around and she saw some of the kids from the party bonding with their parents. She stood there, watching these people bond with one another. It was a beautiful sight and deep down she hoped that one day she could have a close family bond like that. She felt a presence behind her and turned around to see that it was her cousin and best friend, Grace.
“What are you doing?” Grace asked nonchalantly. “You wanna come play with us? We’re gonna play tag.”
Mareikura shook her head with a stimulated smile. “No, I’m okay thanks.” She glanced over to her Koro and her nanny, who were giggling together. Mareikura looked at Grace again, and smiled with a genuine, soft smile. “One day I would love a family like your one, Gracie.”
“But you are apart of our family! You’re my cousin, and you’re practically like a sister to me.”
“Really?” Mareikura questioned, happily surprised that Grace thought of her as a sister.
Grace nodded her head firmly. “Yeah, of course!” She paused for a moment. “And your mummy loves you, she wouldn’t be working so much if she didn’t.” Grace smiled reassuringly at Mareikura, and with that smile Mareikura realised that things were going to be just fine.
It was Mareikura’s thirteenth guy fawkes day and her dad had been on her mind a lot, more so than he usually had been. She had decided to track him down, and there wasn’t much luck. She ended up finding out that her dad was married and had three kids. Mareikura cried until she felt she couldn’t cry any longer. She wondered why he was able to leave her and be a dad to his kids, but not be a dad to her. Was there something wrong with her? She wondered. And then, when she found that that her mum had kept that secret from her for all of those years she sat on the roof of their house and watched the Fireworks from the local guy fawkes night. She wished that it was her dad and his precious new family exploding with each blast of colour, but then she realised that wasn’t a good wish, because that way, they would all end up together anyway, and she would be alone, yet again.
In year 10, Mareikura met Marino Ngahere.
And meeting him set off an entirely different kind of firework inside of her.
The first time Mareikura realised her feelings was probably when he was standing in her bedroom, passionately telling her that he wanted her to be happy and that he cared for her.
“I want you to be happy and I care about you. You don’t always have to sacrifice things for other people.” Mareikura turned around to face the guy she had been teasing for a few months. She had all sorts of nicknames for him and practically drove him up the wall with all of her imitations. But she didn’t even really know why she teased him. She could tell by the sincerity in his words and the way his eyes lit up that he was being genuine, and that scared her a little bit. As she stared at him and as he was telling her that he cared about her, she realised that there might have been something there. After that moment, she tried to bury anything she felt for him and tried to ignore any thoughts about the tall skinny boy with caramel skin and a witty tongue. She didn’t want any other complications in her already dramatic life.
The date was September 30, 2013, it was a thunderous afternoon, and Marino was preparing to surf one of the biggest surf breaks in New Zealand. But Mareikura knew that he was out of his depth and that it was too dangerous.
“I don’t want you to be surfing those waves!” Mareikura started. Marino scoffed and smiled simultaneously. He was holding his surfboard and was already wearing a wetsuit.
“That makes two of us,” it was fairly obvious that he wasn’t really in the mood to surf but there was something holding him back. He had been getting a lot of pressure, especially from his dad, and he didn’t want to let anyone down. “But it’s too late to back out now.”
“No it isn’t!!” Mareikura was in front of him now, glaring at him.
“Mareikura-” His brow furrowed. He was confused. Very confused. He didn’t know what he had done to warrant her anger.
“You can’t do this,” she interrupted. “What if something happens to you?” Mareikura hoped the panic she was feeling didn’t show as much on her face. Mareikura was shocked when Grace disagreed with her.
“Everyone is counting on him,” Grace added. “And he won’t get hurt, we’ll make sure of that.”
Mareikura turned to face Grace. “Why are you for this?” How could she let their best friend get hurt? What was she thinking? “You’re acting like you’re not proud of him if he doesn’t do it.”
“Guys, stop. I’m the only one who can make the decision,” Marino said, trying to calm the situation.
Mareikura looked up to face Marino. “Okay, well then, if you do this Marino, you can say goodbye to our friendship.” Mareikura’s words hung in her ear, her words tangible enough to cause Marino’s jaw to drop slightly. She was being a tad selfish, and she knew this, but she didn’t have Grace’s blind faith. She couldn’t let him go surf one of the biggest surf breaks in New Zealand and pretend that it was okay.
Mareikura knew that there was a chance they he would take the risk, if it meant getting the approval of his dad. But it barely registered in her mind as her eyes locked with his, and she wondered if he knew what she really was trying to say.
Please don’t do this.
You don’t have to or need to prove anything to me.
If you get hurt, I’ll go out of my mind.
“Say goodbye to our friendship.” She said, more firmly.
Mareikura was so sure that he wasn’t going to listen to her, so she stormed out into the rain, almost blinded by the pouring water and fury that she felt. She was soaked instantly, the heavy rainfall making her purple collared dress cling to her skin and her midnight black hair even darker than it usually was. She gasped at the coldness of the rain against her body but she still managed to walk down the road with determination.
Marino yelled at her from outside the beach house they were in, but his voice was drowned out because of the roaring rain.
“Fine!” His skin was chilled as he followed Mareikura. “Jesus, Mareikura, stop!”
She whipped around to face him as he met her halfway down the drive. The streets were empty of cars and people as the rain continued with it’s strong force. Mareikura’s hair was soaked to her face, strands of her midnight black hair clung to her dark skin. Marino took a step back as her glare settled on him.
He held his hands up, as if he was saying that he surrendered.
“What Marino? What do you want?!”
His brow furrowed in confusion.
“What do I want?!” He shrugged dramatically, rolling his eyes a little at the question. “I wanna know if you’re okay, this kind of outburst isn’t a regular thing for you, Marei!”
Mareikura looked down at the ground, slightly embarrassed by her abrupt outburst. “It’s okay, you can do what you want to do. You should go inside, to hang out with Grace…”
She took a step back from him but he then took another step towards her. “What’s the matter?” Marino’s featured softened in understanding and he wiped the water from his eyes. “Do you…have feelings for me?” He took another step towards her and he outstretched his hand until it brushed her waist. Even though Grace and Marino weren’t together, it still felt like betrayal to Mareikura since she knew Grace had a little crush on Marino.
Mareikura pulled away and shook her head. “Ew, no way!”
Marino took a step forward and grabbed her hands. “You do, don’t you?” He questioned, but it was more of a one sided question. He finally realised what had been in front of him for the past year and a bit. “Is that why you sometimes make fun of me?”
Mareikura’s lips trembled with frustration and anger, her voice rising again.
“I can’t like you alright?! I can’t!”
A sudden rumble of thunder came from the grey skies overhead and Marino winced as the rain came down heavier than before. Even so, he still didn’t let go of her hands. “You can like me…you’re allowed to have feelings.” His hands flew to cup her face. He wiped away flecks of mascara and rain that blurred her vision. “I love you, Mareikura. I’m in love with you.” Mareikura smiled at him wearily, watching a passionate spark in his eyes as he confessed his love. It could only lead to one thing. Something that they both had been thinking about for a long time.
A kiss. They kissed for two minutes in the rain, and when they finally started walking back to the beach house, lighting began to shoot through the sky. And in it’s own way, lighting was like a firework. And she couldn’t help but watch it in amazement, like a child during its first guy fawkes day.
That same year, Mareikura was going to spend guy fawkes night with her nanny, her koro, and Grace. But she and Grace had a minor argument about Marino, so she no longer wanted to spend guy fawkes night with them. Arguing with Grace was a new concept for Mareikura. They hardly ever argued, so when they did have arguments, they’d struggle because they wouldn’t know how to handle the situation. Marino was out of town at that time, and her mum was working yet again, so she decided to attend a Guy Fawkes party that a year 13 student invited her to. The party was on a beach in the mount and she was joined by a bunch of people she hardly knew. All of these people loved Mareikura. They thought that she was beautiful, interesting, and cool. And it was nice to have the attention for a little while, but she wasn’t friends with any of those people, and she ended up missing her family. She sunk her feet deep into the sand and watched as Fireworks exploded into the night sky. It was the only thing she was truly familiar with at that party.
The next guy fawkes day approached pretty quickly. It went well. Mareikura, Aroha, and Mareikura’s boyfriend Marino spent the day with Pauline’s family (Grace, Pauline, and her Koro). It was exciting, mainly because it had been a really long time since she had spent guy fawkes day with her mum. Her nanny Pauline had gotten her koro to organise the fireworks. Grace and Pauline were slightly annoyed that her Koro made the fireworks explode during the daylight, but Mareikura wasn’t bothered by it. She still thought they were beautiful. The company that she had made the fireworks look even more beautiful than they already were. Grace was laughing and having fun with her parents, oblivious to the world around her. Her mum was having fun for the first time in a while, and Mareikura was cuddling up to Marino. Things were going good. She was the happiest she had been in a while but there was still a part of her that wondered about her dad. Her mum had told her that she wasn’t sure how to contact him, but that didn’t stop her from being curious.
Weeks later Mareikura was on her stomach, laying down on Marino’s bed as she watched Marino get ready for school. There was always something comfortable about being with Marino. There wasn’t any pressure and she didn’t need to be someone she wasn’t because he loved her for who she truly was. “I just sometimes guess I wanna see him again? Not because I wanna forgive him for leaving but to get closure. And I don’t know if I actually will contact him but I just want to know that I can, you know?” It must have been something that was in her voice, the soft crack, the sadness, but Mareikura looked down as Marino walked over to her, kneeling next to where she was laying on the bed. He took her hand softly.
“It’s okay. I’m okay,” Mareikura said, jutting her chin out slightly as she tried to be strong. She pulled her silky dyed brunette hair off of her face and tucked it behind her ears.
“You don’t have to be strong all the time,“ Marino said in a tone as every bit as soft as the hair Mareikura had pulled away from her face. “It’s okay that you’re feeling this way. Is there anyway you can contact your dad?”
She shook her head. “No. Mum doesn’t know how to contact him and he changed his first and name. I haven’t heard anything about him since I was 13.”
“I think you should maybe talk to your mum about it and see if she can help you find him.”
She leaned forward, gripping Marino’s hands even tighter. Her small fingers laced around his bigger ones and the heat emitted off of them. “Thank you for everything. You’ve always been there for me.”
It was a few hours later and her mum had picked Mareikura up from school. Mareikura had rung her mum up earlier about wanting to contact her dad for closure.
“So how are you and Marino going?” Aroha didn’t wait for an answer. “He is a very good catch and treats you well which is lovely.”
“Yeah it’s going fabulous,” Mareikura said in a mocking tone. She knew that her mum was trying to postpone the conversation about her dad but she wasn’t going to let that happen. She just wanted to cut right to the chase. “Anyway, you know what I wanted to talk to you about. I wanna talk to you about dad.”
“I don’t think that’s such a good idea…” her mum trailed off wearily.
“I get that he hurt us and I don’t forgive him, I just want some closure,” Aroha stared ahead at the country roads ahead of them. “Please mum, can you help me find his contact details?”
“No. I don’t have to,” she stated simply.
Mareikura’s eyebrows furrowed. “You’re not even going to try and help you”
“I don’t have to help…because I already have his phone number.”
“What?!” She exclaimed. “How?”
“He rang me up on guy fawkes day, he wanted to see how you were but he was really really drunk. He wasn’t in a good mindset. I didn’t want him to ruin your day, you were so happy!”
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me! I deserved to know!”
“I’m sorry, I just didn’t want you to get hurt,” her mum pleaded, her fingers shaking slightly on the steering wheel.
“You’ve always done this! You think I’m some stupid kid. Well guess what, mum? I’m not! It’s not me who can’t handle the truth, it’s you!” She yelled furiously. Somewhere inside of Mareikura she was yelling at herself to shut up, she knew that she was going too far. But the pain she had felt for all of those years scrambled to the surface, and words tumbled out of her mouth before she could stop them. “You did the same thing when I was little when you didn’t tell me that dad was married and had kids. Do you know how bad it felt to find out the way I did? You could have told me! But you never did.” By the end of their argument Aroha was driving silently and Mareikura had her arms crossed over her chest stubbornly as she stared out the window. She was literally moments away from apologising, and saying that she understood why she kept it a secret, when one of their tires exploded and they went lurching of the road.
Mareikura woke up to her mum sobbing. She was trying to get Mareikura out of the car, but her seatbelt was stuck.
She couldn’t find the right words to say, but if she could, she would have said “I love you, I understand why you kept it a secret, and I’m sorry.” Mareikura sat in her seat and was suddenly aware of the ache in her stomach and her pounding headache. She watched as the flickers from the car became a multi coloured combination of fire and beauty. And it managed to captivate her like almost nothing else had.
In it’s own way, her death was like a firework.
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