His mother told him to never light candles without her around. But he is eleven. That is old enough to have candles, he thinks.

Plenty old enough.

So he lights candles, because they make him think of a father--- was it his father? He doesn't know.

"Father" means candles and fire. "Father" means the scent of wax melting. Wax melting like his family, like his mother's face in that big room, like the colours of a butterfly's wings in the rain.

As he strikes the match, something happens. The flame dancing on the end of the match is pretty. Too pretty to just... Shake out. Too pretty to shake it shake it until it's dead like a shaken baby. Too pretty to just make it go be part of the candle, part of something it's not.

Too... GOOD to go be with something it's not. Too special. It needs to be itself, it needs to stand alone and shine shine shine and BURN BY ITSELF. Maybe he is the flame, maybe he is special like his mother. Maybe he is not a normal person, maybe he is a Super, just like his mother, just like his--- no.

No, there is not a father, there was never a father, he is a virgin birth like Jesus, like this candle.

There is not a father.

That is the one thing that he doesn't understand about his life. When he is at home, sitting in the quiet, he doesn't FEEL any different. But everybody treats him differently because there is not a father. And sometimes, when he watches boys (or sometimes girls, because girls are always cute with them) and the fathers, sometimes he feels different, a little jealous.

Love what you have, he tells himself.

And right now, he has the flame.

Love what you have.

So he loves it.

He opens his lips, not to blow it out, but to kiss it. And when the fire makes contact with his skin...

Nothing happens. It SHOULD hurt him, it SHOULD burn him, he knows. His flesh should be charring, he should be screaming.

But he isn't. His lips feel a little warm, and that's it.

He blinks.

The fire on the match begins to eat away at it, burning down and down until the flame is on his fingertips.

And instead of hurting, instead of burning, instead of dropping the crispy match, swearing, he watches as the flame rolls onto his fingers. Rolls onto it like a bead of water. It just hops onto his fingertips and sits there, winking at him like it's saying, "Am I good, or am I GOOD?"

Yeah, he says, you're fucking GOOD.

He licks it, and it is not painful. It should burn his tongue like too hot coffee but it doesn't. He doesn't think coffee will be hurting him anytime soon.


And his mother found him on the kitchen floor, laughing and crying and with flames dancing on his fingertips.

And his mother hugged him and cried and said she was sorry.