92 is a definite; a dangerous number decided Amaya as she counted the Swan Vestas once again, pushing them idly with her finger on the café table until there was a shape, order from chaos.
The door of the café pushed open; a distinguished and greying man flashed his teeth in greeting, flicked open a copy of ‘I’ and scanned the sports pages. He glanced up and his voice sang: ‘Good morning.’
Amaya crammed the matches back into the box, spilling several and pulled out her mobile, impatiently waiting for connection. Her lipped curled in agitation. She gripped the device and spoke. ‘Yes. Fifteen pounds. Yes…yes…yes. That’s right, fifteen,’ she snarled then arose; her metal chair was flung back against the counter. Pulling on her threadbare fur, picking up a dirty metal canister, she flounced for the door, tossed her tousled maroon locks and caught the gaze of the ‘I’ reader.
‘Have a nice day, sweetheart,’ she smiled and was gone, into the gale that greeted her from the street.
‘Detritus and decay, where have you been, child? My impatience to be gone knows no bounds. We must away. Project 92 cannot fail. I am dependent on the proclivities of a feckless wastrel. Closer, come closer. Attend me.’
Amaya stared with a mixture of fear and contempt at the screaming visage of Don Giovanni, shuddering at his spittle of invective. The frail figure of her father glowered in return, illuminated by the furnace of the grinding engines he guarded. Rapidly beckoning with his hand, she approached him. ‘You have it?’ he growled. ‘You have the merchandise?’
‘Yes father. It was not easy. To submit to such acts of shame and degradation.’
‘It matters not.’ raged Giovanni, ‘All that matters to me now is Project 92, to bring the venture to its conclusion. Blood and thunder! Degradation? It is I who must suffer, this body, this aching shell, unfit for purpose…’
‘But father, to make this money I was forced to delve into the skips, scavenge for salvage, polish, sell…the scent of decay, father, it lingers on the body. Even today, a handsome man looked at me with love. I, unfamiliar to such affection, could not return his gaze.’ Amaya’s head dropped from her father’s eyes in recollection and sadness. She felt for the 92 in her pocket. They burned.
‘Enough prattle, child. Your duty is to me. Come. I cannot endure much longer.’ Giovanni’s frail hands were shaking but his eyes sparked like coals; his veins bulged and throbbed.
Amaya swallowed. ‘No’.
‘What? You defy me? Pass me my stick that I may thrash you. Give me that diesel.’
‘No,’ repeated Amaya. She now chose her words with complete control. ‘No. Project 92 will fail. I had time in that town, to think. And I think me…freedom.’
‘Freedom? Failure? You blaspheme!’ Giovanni’s voice softened and his eyes narrowed in cunning. He spoke gently, soothingly, his palms upwards in supplication. ‘Amaya. My daughter. Give me the fuel. We can forget this act of defiance. Begin anew. It is what your mother, God rest her soul, would wish.’
Amaya was unmoved and sensed the shackles slipping from her shoulders. ‘Project 92? What a stupid, stupid plan.’ She spat, contemptuously. ‘Dim-witted. Like you, father. To reach all 92 football grounds in the league…by canal boat? Only an imbecile could make that a goal in life. Goal - hah. What you won’t be seeing this Saturday. To think that I assisted you all these years.’ Her voice held a terrible timbre.
‘Give me that fuel! We can still reach Molineux by three o clock.’ pleaded Giovanni, falling to the deck in terror.
‘There isn’t even a canal near
Wolverhampton, idiot.’ Amaya concluded, holding 92
matches aloft in one hand and the canister of diesel in the other.
‘But, but…you and I, we can push the boat to the ground, as in the old days!’ begged Giovanni. ‘Remember remember…’
‘The fifth of November? Do you see what I have here, father?’ Amaya coldly shook the box of 92, pinning her prostrate father to the deck with a stare crueler than the winter’s wind.
‘No. Not Swan Vestas. I fucking hate Swan Vestas. The most unreliable of all matches, you chose deliberately child. You wound me. You break my heart.’
Amaya pulled her furs more closely around her as she glanced back at the conflagration. 92 was a dangerous number to be sure. She smiled inwardly. Yes 92 matches…to end all matches.
She shrugged. She had a date to keep.