From the Vault: Candle Flames

Hello, my name is Tia, and I sell candles.

Now, you might ask, how did you end up in such an unfortunate situation?  Well, it all started when I turned sixteen…

“Happy Birthday, Tia!” Mom shouted.

I cracked open one eye and aimed it at the clock: 5:49 am.  “Mom, it’s too early.”  I pulled my pillow back over my head and closed my eye again.  And I was having such a nice dream, too.

“Tia!  Wake up!”  Suddenly, I was cold.  I reached for my blanket, only to find it was nowhere to be felt.  Reluctantly, I opened my eyes, sat up, and found Mom smiling at me.  “There!  Now, like I said, Happy Birthday!”  I sat up and took the envelope from her, blinking as she turned on the light.

“Thanks for the card…wait, this isn’t a card.”  Inside the envelope was an invitation:

You are invited to a CANDLE PARTY for Tia’s 16th Birthday!

“You’re throwing me a candle party?”  I pulled the blanket back up over my legs from where Mom had tossed it aside, and looked at the clock again: 6:02.  I must be dreaming.  I looked up at my mom, standing there watching my reaction.  I smiled.

What else was there to do?

In case you haven’t guessed, Mom sells candles.  She’s been doing this as long as I can remember.  Not to say that it’s a bad career: our house always smells and looks good.  And it has left her able to stay home with me when I was little and be there when I get home from school now.  Planning her own schedule let her work around my football games, mall trips, and movie nights.

But a candle party?

“Thanks, Mom.  When’s the party?”  I smiled again.  She’s crazy.

“It’s tonight!” she giggled.  “After school, we’re going to have everyone come over.  It’s your starter party!”  She plopped on the bed, bouncing a little.  “I’m SO excited!  You’re first candle party!  Now, you know what this means, don’t you?”

It means I got a job for my birthday.

All day at school, I tried to figure out how to get out of it.  I mean, candles may be good enough for Mom, but I wanted more.  My friends worked at respectable places, well at least the ones that had jobs.  Emma was a waitress at Olive Garden; Steve worked at the movie rental place down the block; James delivered papers, not because he wanted a job but because his parents insisted on him doing something.

And I get to be a door-to-door salesman.  Hosting Tupperwear parties, only with wax.

As the bell rang for the end of the day, I resigned myself to the fact: I was having my first candle party.  A great career starter, for sure.  Not that there wasn’t money to be made.  Mom and I weren’t that bad off, and she set her sights on making her own region, which of course would increase her income.  It boiled down to one thing: could I sell candles?

“Don’t sweat it,” Emma said on the bus ride home.  “Go to the party, get your free candles, n’ be done with it if ya don’t wanna sell ‘em.”

“Are you coming over tonight?” I asked, half dreading, half hoping my best friend would be there to share this monumental night with me.

Emma giggled.  “Of course I am.”

As the bus pulled up to my road, I gathered my backpack and my thoughts, mentally trying to prepare myself for the upcoming night.  Emma smiled.  “It’ll be ok.”  I held my jacket closer against the wind.

I wasn’t prepared to walk into my own house.

The lights were off, and with the early sunset the only light to be had was coming from the living room.  I set my stuff down, gesturing for Emma to do the same, and walked towards the eerie flicker of candles and the chatter of small talk and the smell of cinnamon.  Mom had decorated the living room with her displays: a miniature snow village now graced our hearth, tiny pumpkins glowed from the end table, and elegant pillars sat upon our coffee table.

I have to say, it looked brilliant.

“There she is!” Mom squeaked as I walked into the room.  I smiled at the familiar and unfamiliar faces sitting in the assorted chairs provided.  Whispers of “Happy Birthday” reached my ears.  “Well, now that Tia’s here, let’s get this party started!”

That night I realized that, no matter how goofy my mother looked up there, in her nice clothes, Hawaiian lay, and oversized sunglasses, she was good at what she did.  She had everyone in the room laughing with her and cheering at simple candle party games.  Her sales pitch, of course, was the free trip to Hawaii for consultants, which also brought applauds.  “Now, who’s going to Hawaii with me!” she’d ask, and surprisingly some people raised their hands.

I was one of them.

“You’re mom’s great,” Emma said quietly after the party.  Mom was helping her partygoers finish their order forms.  I smiled at her, and she giggled.

“Ya, she is.”

So you see, I sell candles.  Ya, it’s not the best job in the world, but hey, it was my birthday present.  Like mother like daughter, they say.

Did I mention I get free candles?

1 thought on “From the Vault: Candle Flames

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