A flicker of a light; hope.
Then, out again.
“It won’t work!” Joey fumbled with the matches in the blackness, feeling around for the vanilla-scented Yankee Candle near the kitchen sink.
Johnny sighed, running his fingers through his coarse sandy hair. His little brother could be hopeless sometimes, he thought, ruffling through drawers for an extra matchbox.
Outside, the rain howled, piercing the black sky. It hadn’t done enough damage already with the power outage, so it hammered the roof, pounded the windows.
“Did Mom or Dad call home?” Joey pulled on a sweatshirt, curling up in a chair.
“No, idiot. The power’s out, remember?”
That response stung; Johnny saw his brother look away. Joey hung his head, dark brown hair falling in his face, still playing with his matchbox.
Johnny’s mother was in Jamaica for the fourth time that year, his father on an extended business trip to China since May. Trying to make their relationship as long-distance as possible was working.
The parents left the kids home most of the time, told the neighbors to watch over them as the two of them struggled through a failed marriage.
“Stop playing with those, Joey.”
Joey put down the matches, dejected.
“How come? I almost got it.”
“No, you don’t. Those are impossible to light. Even I can’t do it.”
Suddenly, a crack, like that of a whip but magnified one hundred times. A long swooshing of wind reverberated through the house, a patter of rain sloshed. The house got blacker.
Joey jumped at the noise. Johnny, startled, danced his iPhone light every which way to find the culprit. He shone it in the living room as his bare feet squished into wetness. His heart stopped.
“What the – ”
A tree, halved by the furious storm, had cascaded into the room through the windowed glass, sprawling over the upholstery, knocking into the 50” plasma, strewing leaves over the family portrait taken years ago and old school photos. Those final shreds of normalcy were destroyed.
Johnny’s head was spinning. He feverishly went through the motions of dialing his parents’ numbers on his phone. Five-one-three-two-zero-nine-five-five-six-one, ring – nothing. Five-one-three-two-four-eight-seven-six-nine-nine, ring – nothing. Five-one-three-two-zero-nine –
“Johnny. What are we gonna do?”
Johnny blinked back fear and frustration and anger and depression and said, “I don’t know.” The last word trembled. Johnny never trembled.
Johnny collapsed then, crumbling to the hardwood against the counter. He held his head in his hands, tired of always knowing and tired of not knowing and just tired.
Johnny moaned, rubbing his face.
“Not now, Joey.”
“No, just look! Just – ”
Johnny looked up. His eyes widened.
There, in the torrential rain pouring in from the living room windows, the heavy wind ricocheting throughout the house and the mirrored hollowness he felt inside, Joey was holding the lit candle.
He got up and wiped the leaves off his jeans and stood with his glowing little brother near the countertop, watching a fierce fiery flame on a Yankee Candle dance – a ballet nestled in a storm.