The first candle she lit was for Grandad. She doesn’t remember much about the old man. She remembers his 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. When 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’d drunk too much that night, threw her down, and took what can only be given.
A candle for Mum, she’d found her 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 she lit was for herself. Or rather for who she’d been.
She stared at the candles, watched the flames flicker, watched the wax liquify and drip.
She closed her eyes as the tears came and sang in a whisper to herself; ‘happy birthday to you, happy birthday to you.’
With all of her remaining strength she took in a deep breath and blew the candles out.