GENRE: Fiction • Gay • Historical • Romance • Young Adult
LENGTH: 5,062 words
Remy Pépin’s been dealt too many harsh blows in his young life. Orphaned, miserably poor, and subjected to occasional bullying from his employer, Remy’s only source of joy and hope is in a superstition shared by a dear friend, Mathilde Jolicoeur. It’s a superstition involving a lit candle sitting by a window, which Mathilde claims attracts luck.
Day after day, Remy lights his candle and waits, convincing himself not to hope for good fortune to come his way -- until one snowy evening, when another boy appears at his doorstep, seeking shelter.
Remy Pépin blew out a shuddering breath as he stood inside his little cottage, rubbing his hands up and down his arms and looking around in half-starving misery at the bare and unlit space that made up his home. Cottage, indeed -- it was nothing more than a reasonably-sized rectangular space with four walls and a roof. What furniture Remy owned was scattered in as wide an area as possible in a vain effort at eating up enough space and to give the impression that he wasn’t terribly poor.
It was vain, yes, for his furniture amounted to nothing more than a weather-beaten bed, a couple of chairs, a rickety table, and an old sideboard luckily big enough to contain his meager clothing and even more meager food supplies, cooking pots, and dishes. Another lucky detail was a large fireplace he maintained with overzealous energy.
Remy snorted as he hurried over to it, dropping to his knees and fumbling around for more wood and the matches. He didn’t have much of a choice in this, for that fireplace was his lifeline. He’d be starving to death if he didn’t cook, and he’d be freezing to death if he didn’t maintain it.
Several frigid, miserable moments passed before happy warmth filled the cottage’s interior, and Remy was once again able to relax, sitting before the fireplace with his arms stretched out. Several moments later, the ice that kept his joints from properly functioning had melted, and he was busily stirring some soup in a small pot.
He left the pot in the fire to let it simmer for a few more minutes and began the task of preparing the table for another solitary meal.
As he stood before the sideboard, he caught sight of the candle off to the side, and he paused as he deliberated. Should he light it like he’d done for several nights in a row? Remy winced.
“Mme. Jolicoeur’s superstitions are nothing more than that,” he chided himself as he set his bowl and spoon aside in favor of the matches. “They mean absolutely nothing.” He struck a match and lit the candle, holding one hand close to cup the flame. “They’re silly little tales that are meant for nothing more than entertainment.”
Taking up the candleholder and still cupping the flame, he carefully walked to the window next to the door. “I’m sure there are a hundred different variations of the same superstition all over the world, and they all mean the same thing -- nothing,” he continued as he set the candle down on the window ledge. There were no curtains anywhere, for he could barely afford the clothes on his back, and those weren’t much to begin with. Wasting precious money on luxuries like curtains was madness.
Remy stood back and watched the candle’s little flame flicker cheerfully against the window, the reflection in the glass stirring a familiar pang of hope in his chest. The outside world was dark, with snow falling in an endless curtain.
“No,” he said, shaking his head as he turned around and walked back to the sideboard to continue his preparations. “A candle sitting on a window ledge doesn’t attract luck. It doesn’t bring good spirits to anyone’s door. And I sure don’t believe it’ll work because I’m a great deal too practical.”
Remy continued to talk to himself in this vein throughout his meal preparation. Even as he sat down to eat, he kept muttering on and on about superstitions involving candles as beacons of hope in the dark, frigid night and how much he didn’t believe them. Such ideas were far too fanciful.