Sunday 12th September 2010
One year ago.
The fucking candle went out.
We were up to the fourth one.
The first one, as I said, was from the two-dollar shop. In fact, that’s not true, it was from ‘Cheap Prices’ in Station Street. $3.50 for that one. It burnt well, nicely, cleanly, for four days.
The next one was from ‘Ishka’. It was a proper candle – you know, a scented one that was handcrafted in Australia for five times the price. It even came with instructions on the base, in case we didn’t know what to do with one of these new-fangled contraptions. They implored that we keep the wick trimmed and never leave it unattended, like it’s a pet or something. It filled the house with the stink of vanilla for days, and burnt all the way to the bottom, outlasting it’s expected life by thirty-six hours after lighting the third, giving us a double glow for all of that time – and increasingly questioning our risk of twins.
Eventually it burnt out, but not before I’d whipped back to ‘Cheap Prices’ and bought them out of their unscented, six-inch variety. A total of seven candles is what we’ll need to make it through to judgement day – the pregnancy test in just over a week.
“Should we light a new one?” Suse asks in the middle of the afternoon.
I look at it for a while, as it burns high and bright, the lake of wax growing deep.
“Nah, we’ll do it tonight,” I say, “It’s still got a couple of centimetres to go. We don’t want to give anymore encouragement for twins.” She smiles.
We potter around. Suse cooks while I construct Ikea products. It’s a typical Sunday afternoon. Having screwed and tapped and rivoted for just over an hour, I emerge from the study, walking back into the dining room. Immediately I notice an anaemic hue to the room, the warm, jaundiced light having gone. As I round the corner, I look at the table. I see the candle is out, the flame dead. A brand new one, the resuscitation device, sits three centimetres to its left. I let out a gasp.
“What?” Suse asks from the stove. I hear the clang of a saucepan lid. “I knew it, I fucking knew it!” she yells, grabbing at the matches from the cupboard.
She runs over, lighting a match as she does, touching it to the new candle.
“No, no, no! Not that way! Re-light the old one.”
“There’s no wick left! It drowned, just like I new it was going to,” she mumbles, slightly desperate.
We stand still for a moment, frozen in shock, like parents having just found their child blue. I grab the lit match from her hand, trying to revive the submerged wick, burning my finger on the growing flame.
“I said that’s not going to work!” Suse says. I drop it. I pick up a pen and dig it into the setting resin, trying to unveil the wick. Still no luck.
The barbeque match lies on the top of the deadened candle, curling up, lighting the length of the tinder bright. A pool of wax forms around it, next to the drowned wick.
I take the new one. “Hold it!” I say to Suse. She grips it in her palm and we tip it, lighting the virgin candle from the flame.
We put it down.
A candle has been burning continuously for ten days. From before the reimplantation. Each new wick has been diligently lit from the one before, all from the original flame. Until now.
“Do you think it means something?” Suse asks.
“No,” I say with irritation, images of asphyxiated, brain damaged infants floating through my mind. “Of course not.”
“Do you think it means our embryo didn’t make it?”
“No!” I say, even more forcefully.
We both stand there, staring at the innocent candle. I feel sick to my stomach. Six minutes is all it takes for brain death. Six minutes. How long was this candle out for?
Two rational humans stand side by side, both lost for words, wondering on the fate of an unborn child.
Based on a candle.
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