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Bonfire Night

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Bonfire Night

Mufasa stood against the window.

The beauty about her was unmistakable; this was a woman that wore her confidence like a coat, so that it covered her completely and was expressed through every gesture, and the way she stood – head high and hands held behind her back – made her look almost regal. Mufasa stood tall, wearing heels despite being naturally close to six feet high, and she never let anything hold her back from expressing herself as she so wished.

Scar almost envied the red soles of the familiar designer, while her eyes roved over stocking-covered legs and a pencil skirt that clung to her sister’s frame, and her jacket was tailored to showcase her assets while still retaining some modesty. It matched her beautiful caramel skin-tone perfectly, while her brown eyes observed the world beyond her window, as if she took their father’s words to heart: ‘everything that the light touches is our kingdom’. Well, nothing was impossible. Perhaps, one day, she would rule the city itself.

“So you will watch Simba?” Mufasa asked.

Scar quirked an eyebrow at her sister. The frustration at such a redundant question slipped onto her expression, enough that Mufasa appeared to pick up on her emotions. Mufasa let out a noise like a hiss of breath, as she pushed a manicured hand with her mane of naturally red hair, and took a step away from the floor-to-ceiling window. The cityscape behind her twinkled on, so that a million blinking lights shone like stars in the large office room, and Scar could understand how Sarabi and Ahadi could get lost in such sights.

Those long fingers came to press themselves against the leather top of the wooden desk, so that the material indented with the pressure, and Mufasa – with face stern and full of command – looked directly at Scar in the rather patronising way that Scar had come accustomed to seeing over the years. Motherhood had not softened her, as Uru suggested that it inevitably would. Mufasa was a doting parent, but still strict and controlling.

“I asked you a question, Scar,” said Mufasa.

“Indeed, you did,” replied Scar.

Scar smoothed out the legs of her black trousers, before she began to pick as some invisible flint upon the sleeve of her matching jacket. It was a dismissive gesture. There was no denying that her outfit was far more conservative than Mufasa’s, to the extent her flat shoes exuded more ‘practicality’ than ‘sensuality’, but she still took pride in her appearance enough to make sure that there was never a speck out of place. Her hair would always be tied back into a ponytail, her shoes polished, and clothing spotless. Scar was a professional.

“Then you will answer,” demanded Mufasa.

“Ah, now you wish for me to answer you?” Scar smirked. “How contrary you are.”

“Do not play with me, Scar! I asked for you to silence your insults to Zazu, not for you to be silent on all matters. I have meetings late into the evening, I cannot watch Simba myself, and you swore to Sarabi that you would help watch your nephew – my son – during the time he would be away. You would break your promise to your family?”

“What use is a stay-at-home husband should he not be at home? I offered to watch your son on occasional days, not for ridiculous holidays on my nights off. Did it not occur to you that I might have plans of my own? Of course, women like you never consider such things.”

“Women like me? What do you mean by that, Scar?”

“Oh, I wouldn’t dream of answering that.”

Scar let her hands rest upon the briefcase upon her lap; her initials were etched into the gold clasps, while the soft brown leather was a choice of her sister’s, and inside the heavy weight of paperwork reminded her of the burden of work she experienced. Of course, Mufasa likely bore the brunt of such paperwork herself, being the leader and majority owner of their father’s company, but sometimes it seemed the work was ‘delegated’ to those beneath the older woman. It often fell to Scar in specific, despite how she ‘lazed about’ the offices.

“I would only rile you with the truth.” Scar affected a pout. “You may have been born with the ideal beauty and a pure white innocence, but I’m afraid I’m more at the shallow end of the gene-pool . . . my dark nature and ‘exotic’ looks could never compete.”

“You dare bring this back to a matter of race? Is that it?”

“Did I mention such a thing as race?”

There was a faint blush to Mufasa’s cheeks. Scar smiled and awaited some form of reply, as her beautiful and black hands lifted her briefcase and brought it to a point ready to carry away, and soon she would be exiled from her sister’s den. Of course, the paperwork would still be expected for tomorrow’s meeting, while her friends would complain about her lack of appearance, especially when she often paid for their meals, but still Mufasa would expect her child to be tended to by the ‘doting’ aunt. Mufasa eventually broke the silence with:

“Get out, Scar. Simba is waiting.”

“I’ll practise my curtsey.”

Scar stood quickly and snatched the handle of her briefcase. It was sheer luck to avoid her sister’s anger, especially as anything perceived as a direct ‘challenge’ resulted in Mufasa jumping before her with hands raised, and – frankly – she didn’t need that kind of drama after so many hours of work. Scar wasn’t one for make-up, despite how often many women told her that a little foundation would hide her scar from sight, and a bruise would only draw attention from those around her. It was better to live under the radar and out of sight.

The door closed behind her with a soft click, as she entered the antechamber and room of Mufasa’s receptionist: Zazu. This young woman – perhaps in her thirties – was perched on the edge of her desk and filing her nails, while her beak-like nose was held high in the air with an air of superiority only the British ever seemed to exude. It was enough to make Scar miss her homeland and long for warmer climes, as this snobbery was beyond her.

“Ah, yes, it’s you,” said Zazu.

The blue coat looked hideously unfashionable, with feathers in place of fur, and – on closer look – it appeared that Zazu was getting ready to head home. It made sense, as Zazu was an early bird and liked to be in the office by no later than six, and so she would head home immediately after work in order to rest. Still, Scar disliked the heavy eye-liner and orange shoes, which made her look like a teenager experimenting with various styles for the first time, unable to decide between ‘hippy-chic’ and ‘retro’. Scar asked bitterly:

“I’m told the little fur-ball is here?”

That ‘little fur-ball’ is heir to Pride Enterprises,” snapped Zazu. “I would remind you to play nice, but – alas – the very last thing I want is for your hand around my neck again, thank you so very much. I’ll have you know that I’m this close to pressing charges and –”

“Do not test my patience, you bumbling fool. Where is Simba?”

“Rumour has it that Bagheera has him in her office.”

Scar did not stop to give thanks.

The office building was quite uniform in appearance, but this particular corridor was different to the others on the various floors beneath. It was sterile and white, designed to intimidate as people came for high-end meetings or to meet those in high positions, and no works of art or photographs of past achievements donned the walls. The waiting areas were lucky to get so much as a potted plant or a soft chair, and most rarely lingered in these places.

Scar was much like the crowds in this respect: she did not linger. On this floor there were but three offices, with the largest of which going towards her sister, and the other two were possessed by herself and Bagheera, who came to them initially as a liaison and mediator. The woman was older than them all, with an adopted son whose affinity for trouble was eclipsed only by his other mother’s, and Bagheera often had an annoying habit of never being in her office unless it was absolutely required. Bagheera liked to roam.

It was why – despite Zazu’s words – Scar tried her own office first.

Only on finding it empty did she seek out Bagheera’s personal space, and – obeying her natural instincts – she slid open the door quietly without a single knock. Often, Scar could enter without being heard or seen, almost like a predator among prey, but today the silence that greeted her made it clear that a conversation had been stopped mid-sentence. Bagheera sat to the side of the room at a table opposite Simba, where a chessboard lay between them. It seemed that she was teaching the young boy how to play.

“Ah, good day, Scar,” chirped Bagheera.

The woman looked truly beautiful. There was no denying her Indian heritage, as she wore it as proudly as Scar wore her facial mark. Bagheera wore a beautiful, yet simple, black sleeveless dress that fell to her ankles in a becoming manner, and her arms were adorned with colourful bangles that were especially imported from her home country. There were many places in the city that sold such items, but Bagheera argued for ‘authenticity’ and Scar knew too little to argue back. Frankly, Scar still remembered the long lecture that resulted from referring to Bagheera’s tilaka as a ‘red dot’, and she had no desire to repeat such a lecture.

It took Simba a moment to realise Scar had entered, but – as he did – he ran straight for his aunt and dove into her arms. Scar was not strong enough to lift him, but she did give him a lazy embrace in the awkward way that only she could manage . . . one hand firmly on his shoulder, one arm around his back, and enough force to keep him from touching her and dirtying her clothes. He would always feel ‘hugged’, when really he was just ‘touched’.

“Auntie Scar! Guess what?”

“I despise guessing games,” muttered Scar.

“Not this one,” insisted Simba. “I’m going to be king!”

Scar shot Bagheera a look of confusion. The other woman merely quirked her lip into a half-smile, one that was part arrogance and part amusement, as she slowly removed the pieces of the board and began to place them in their individual cases. Bagheera’s office was filled with antiques and decorative pieces, such as the chessboard, and items such as globes, maps, and inkwells adorned every inch of space. The chessboard was Scar’s favourite piece by far.

“He took my king,” explained Bagheera.

“Ah, how Shakespearean,” said Scar. “Taking a king only to take his crown.”

There was a look of confusion was Simba, until he burst out into a smile and ran for Bagheera to receive a hug goodbye, and – before Scar could even thank her friend and co-worker – she found herself dragged towards the office doors. There was a children’s coat by the reception desk outside, although there was no sign of Bagheera’s receptionist, and Simba pulled it on with an expertise almost enviable to even an adult. He babbled endlessly about all sorts of things, even as Scar felt exhaustion hit her and a deep desire to sleep.

“So we get to see the fireworks?”

“I believe that is the point of today,” muttered Scar.

“One day they’ll have fireworks just for me! It’ll be my day!”

Scar gave a smile as she thought about the meaning of the holiday. The significance of November 5th was a mystery to her for a long while, at least when she first came to the country, but now there was something poignant and inspiring about the date, so long as one was willing to learn from the mistakes of a past usurper. Scar took Simba’s hand, as they stood waiting for the lift to appear. Scar watched the numbers come closer to their floor.

“Perhaps, one day, there will even be a bonfire for you, too.”

“That would be awesome, Auntie Scar!”

Scar smirked at his naivety.