“We’re home!” Jake announced, banging the door shut to really let us know. He had just picked up mom from work, and I headed towards the kitchen and the cake. “I am staying out here until you light it,” he informed us from the hall and Elle grinned at me with the lighter in hand. Mom was standing in the door way still in her nurse’s scrubs, smiling at us.
“Hi mom,” I said and went over for a peck on the cheek.
“Hi,” she said, smoothing my hair back into place. “The cake looks beautiful.”
“Thank you,” I said, looking back as Elle lit the candles. It glistened, the dark chocolate covered in home made caramel sauce and studded all over with chocolate chips. It really had turned out well.
“Hurry,” Jake begged us and I rolled my eyes.
“He’s been looking forward to this all month,” mom said in her quiet, amused voice. “Or all year if you believe him.”
“Done!” Elle announced and I flicked the lights off. The glowing candles were in a formation to make a twenty one, and they only lit up the curve of Elle’s chin and her long fingers. The rest of the room seemed pitch black compared to the sparks of flame and the one patch of gleaming moon light behind Elle.
“Happy Birthday to you,” mom started singing, and I joined in enthusiastically off key. Jake appeared, wincing at either the sound or the darkness, and Elle moved back from the candles so he could sit at the table. “Happy birthday to you!” we finished, Elle almost giggling.
“We should record that sometime, it’s quite special,” she whispered to me and Jake shushed her. He thought for a long time, his face turned away from us from where he sat, and finally blew all the candles out with a huge gust of breath. We clapped and mom turned the lights back on, and the room transformed back into the one I knew. I could see mom’s expression now, she was smiling at the back of Jake’s head and looked tired like usual. Jake twisted around to grin at us and Elle grabbed the knife to cut up the cake.
“You know how to do it Elle?” Mom asked, though Elle had already started.
“Yes mom,” she said. “And besides, no piece is too big right?” mom laughed at that, a sound which I always thought made her seem younger.
“You’re right,” she agreed. “Give the biggest one to Jake.”
“That sounds good,” he said and soon we were all eating away. It was delicious, rich and sticky and the chocolate chips provided the perfect bit of crunch along with it. We all sat around the table, for the first time since Christmas and I couldn’t help but look at our reflections in the window. You could barely see the moon light on the floor any more, our bright artificial light was pushing it outside. We took up the whole window, all I could see in it was laughter and faces eating and the perfect family of four.