The first candle she lit was for Poppy. She doesn’t remember much about the old man. She remembers a baritone hum and the smell of tobacco. And she remembers being carelessly happy.
The next candle was for Daddy, or more specifically for the kiss he gave her when he said goodbye. She sat by the window for days waiting for him to come home. Once she realised he wasn’t coming back she lay on her bed holding the cheek where he’d kissed her.
There was a candle for the boyfriend. The boyfriend she’d loved, not the same boyfriend who drank too much one night, threw her down, and took what can only be given.
A candle for Mum, found on the couch, the television blaring with some midday pop psychology talk show. She looked peacefully asleep. The empty sheets of zolpidem lay carefully placed on the coffee table, a glass of water lay spilled on the floor.
The last candle lit was for herself. Or rather for who she was.
She stared at the candles, watching the flames flicker, watching the wax liquify and drip.
Closing her eyes as the tears came she drifted into a dreamlike state and whispered a distant memory: ‘happy birthday dear sweetheart, happy birthday to you.’
When she woke she took in a deep breath and blew the candles out.