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The Candle

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Another WWAT flash fiction. This time a tale for Halloween. My words were hand-picked and candle.

 

Thrift stores are a trove of the undervalued, unappreciated, and unwanted treasures of the world – kind of like me. I used to love them.

As the middle daughter of three girls, I was invisible. My oldest sister was the valedictorian. My younger the musical prodigy. I was nothing. My parents barely noticed me. When they did, it was to reprimand me for not being like my sisters. That was my life. My life before last October.

“Hello Ophelia.” Beatrice, the wrinkled shopkeeper’s thin lips curved upward. She was bundled up as if she were on a trek through the great white tundra. It was the warmest October in history. “A brand new donation came in today. I saved it for you.”

“Thanks, Beatrice.”

The bell on the door jingled with the arrival of other teen girls. I knew their faces. They went to my school and, like everyone else, they never noticed me. Beatrice welcomed them. They ignored her and moved toward the wall of costumes.

Amateurs.

I knew the best stuff was past the out-of-date prom dresses and never re-worn bridesmaid gowns. In the far corner of the shop, behind a gingham curtain was a room lined with dusty old books and shelves of cracked porcelain curios. I smiled at them like old friends. Then, I saw it. Not the typical cardboard box donation, but an ornate black lacquer trunk. The silver clasps were cool to the touch. My mind fantasized about the hidden treasures inside – precious jewels, ancient tomes, gold coins.

The lid lifted with ease. My heart sank. A cheap rubber clown mask stared up at me. The hideous face sat atop a trunk of equally ugly costumes. I dug through them, looking for anything of interest until I reached the red velvet bottom.

“Anything good,” Beatrice’s voice startled me. Before I could say no, she clapped her hands. “Oh how fortunate. Costumes!” She bundled them in her arms and shuffled out of the room.

I sighed, “At least the box looks nice.”

I leaned over the side of the trunk. My eyes caught a glimpse of a black satin ribbon poking up from the side of the velvet. It beckoned me to pull it. The bottom popped up, revealing a secret hiding place. I gasped.

A black candle carved with roses and thorns was nestled in deep crimson cloth. It was lighter than it looked and smoother than any wax I’d ever touched. The wick was yellowed, but not burned. I carried the candle out to Beatrice.

“How much for this?” I asked.

Her eyes twinkled. “Well look at that. That candle looks like it was hand-picked just for you. Go ahead and take it.”

I examined the intricate wax all the way home and displayed it in a place of honor in my room – my nightstand. Light me. A strange buzz tickled my ears.

“Dinner,” Mom’s voice drifted up from the kitchen.

“I’ll be back,” I whispered.

“Who are you talking to?” My youngest sister’s sing song voice chirped.

Feeling silly, I shrugged.

Dinner was a cacophony of my sister’s daily achievements. I stayed quiet. My mind focused on the silky black candle above. Light me. I waved away the invisible buzzing. The vines were so delicate. The thorns deadly. Light me. My parents spoke to each other. They don’t understand you. They don’t love you. Light me. I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples. My family chattering set me on edge. You don’t need them. Light me. The room suddenly fell quiet. When I looked up, my entire family stared at me.

“What?” I snapped.

“Your mother asked you a question,” Dad grumbled.

An electric shock of annoyance lit up my nerves. Light me. My eyes met Mom’s glare. Light me. I swatted at the buzz again. Mom’s brows dropped, and her eyes turned to slits.

“If you can’t sit still, you will be excused,” she huffed.

I stood up, knocking my chair against the wall. That’s right. Come upstairs. Light me. It was as if the buzz reached inside me and squeezed my brain. A fire burned behind my eyes.

“Ophelia, what is wrong with you?” My eldest sister barked.

The urge to set the dining table on fire filled me. My eyes snapped open. Leaning over the table, I faced my sister and scowled. They’re the problem. I can help you. Light me.

“What’s wrong with me? You… you are what’s wrong with me. You think you’re so perfect with your grades and your music—

“Go to your room!” Dad shouted.

“Gladly,” I screamed.

On the way to my room, I dumped my dishes in the sink. I knew a lighter sat in the junk drawer and my fingers itched to take it. That’s it. Open the drawer. Light me. My hand touched the handle and reached inside. With a click, beautiful flames danced. I carried it upstairs, staring at the orange flame. Come to me.

The black candle vibrated with energy. The wick seemed to grow longer, eager to touch the flame. Light me, now. My body moved as if under a spell. Somewhere in the distance, I heard a frantic knock at the front door. Voices argued. I dipped the lighter toward the beckoning candle. Hurry. The flame caressed the wick.

My door burst open.

A breathless Beatrice panted, “Ophelia, don’t do it.”

My mind rushed back to me. The lighter dropped from my hand. The candle screamed inside my head. Beatrice wrapped the cursed thing in a cloth and tucked it into a satchel. I dropped to my knees as the buzzing quieted. Mom and Dad stood near the door, eyes wide with fear. My sisters coward behind them in tears.

“What… what’s happening?” I asked.

Beatrice’s eyes teared up. “I’m sorry, Ophelia… I didn’t… I didn’t know.”

“Give it to me.” A woman in long black robes strode into the room past my family. Beatrice handed her the bag. Her long white teeth gleamed under her cowl as she stroked the leather bag. “Not tonight my old friend. Not tonight.”

The mysterious woman turned and walked away, leaving me trembling and without answers. However from that night on, I was no longer invisible.

 

 

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