A Quick Stroke of the Hand This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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A quick stroke of the hand created a spark, a flash, and suddenly there was a low flame between her fingers. The entire room was dark but for this light. She held the match up before her eyes – the most critical stage. The slightest movement of air could extinguish the fire. Just holding the stick the wrong way made the match sputter; she held it at a careful angle, enough so that the flame could nourish itself on the wood, but not so far that the match would burn too fast and hurt her. This was the most crucial moment for the flame. This would determine whether or not the candle on her desk would light.

She inched the fire closer to the wick. She was racked with nervousness and anxiety as the wax melted away from the string, allowing it to finally catch. She breathed a sigh of relief (deliberately turning her head to do so) as she settled the blackened matchstick in the candleholder. It was a well-made holder, true in every curve so that, if disturbed, it would never deviate or spill the candle. If that happened, she would lose her home. The flame began to feed from the whole of the candle and grew in size. She smiled and rested her head upon her arm, exhaling heavily once more.

She became lost in the newborn fire in front of her. Its warmth found her bosom and spread thence throughout her body. The light was magnificent; it surrounded her. Though, it did not spread far from her. Beyond the candle’s light, her room was a velvety black that terrified her. She could see nothing in that void, as if all that was real existed only in the light of the flame that danced before her. She thought with bewilderment and gratitude that she was a part of the light and would be so long as the fire burned. It seemed an unbeatable power, that solitary glow. She knew the steady blue center of the fire blazed with unrivaled intensity. Around it, yellow energy moved in rhythmic pulses that matured as the wax melted away.

She shut her eyes and confided of herself fully to the comforts of the candle.

When her eyes opened again the candle had melted to a hopeless stump. She picked up her head and regarded the candle with alarm and disbelief. She did not want it to burn out yet – it was so soon and she had spent most of her time with it in a daze. The thought of losing her light was painful. A drip of wax slid down the short side of the candle and solidified atop the ashes of the matchstick. She could see the candle diminishing; she could feel the fire dying inside her. The flame that once danced now shivered pathetically. The blue center that was full and strong was now barely visible atop the crooked wick. She reached out for the flame in desperation and received not the comforting warmth she knew, but a burn that scarred the print of her thumb. The light was closing in around her, blotting out her light like a spreading stain. Soon only her face was left in its care. She gave up on the candle - there was no saving it. She did not know how to go on in darkness. She thought she did not have another match. She knew she could never find another light in the cold darkness.

She spotted an ivory stick resting on the wooden desk, barely inside the light. She snatched it before it was lost in black velvet. It was taller than the last candle and its wick was long. In the last sputtering light, only her eyes shone. She touched the new wick to the tiny flame. A spark jumped and bore a small glow in the waxy string. An impossible fire bloomed and her heart leaped in her chest. From the new candle fell a drop of wax that quenched the former flame indefinitely.

She placed her new light in the holder and closed her eyes once more. She knew this candle would last; she knew he would stay with her until the sun shone.





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