David Erlewine


Even though the mother was no longer a mother and the father no longer a father, nearly twelve years had cemented such status and to hell with anyone who tried taking that away too.

They sat in the son’s room, the mother watching the father place candles on the cake. On the tenth one, he paused, trying to recall something about that birthday party.

The candles flickered, some wavered. The father had insisted on this celebration. He wanted to say something special before blowing, something that brought her to tears.

With two efficient breaths, she blew the candles out. She took his hand and closed the son’s door behind them.

In the hallway, she said a deal’s a deal, ready to try again?

He mumbled “excuse me” and went into the bathroom. When he emerged, she greeted him in a new negligee and led him into the bedroom.

He set his shoes away from the bed so as not to trip after.

He flinched as she rubbed his back. He provided what she required, then closed his eyes. She held her knees to her chest, whispered her appreciation.  He pictured their son, the bus stop he was taken from, the son’s friends who now played as if nothing happened.

They made their way to the kitchen.  She sliced three pieces of cake, setting them on little paper birthday plates.

She ate her piece quickly, nearly making a joke about eating for two. 

He moved the third piece onto his plate, studied it for several minutes, then headed to bed.

She followed him up, leaving the plates sitting on the table.

The two pieces sat lumped together, untouched, slowly hardening.


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