• baker

The Final Candles - by Laila Ghoneim (Content Warning: contain graphic/mature themes)


A dark room. There are shelves all over the wall shaped like a spiral staircase. The shelves seem to hang in a precarious position, and sawdust keeps falling off, like they are crumbling. The shelves are empty except for ten candles that light up the stage. There is a bed, center stage, with faded pink covers in the middle of the room, and a bedside table stage left of it, and a plate with hamburger and fries is on top of it. A sense of decay pervades the room.

On the bed, sits LAURA, late 50’s, dressed in a nightgown. She is holding a razor blade in her left hand. The wrist of her right hand seems to be bleeding. She stares at her hand, then at the blood as it slowly drips onto the floor. There is a knock on the door. LAURA does not acknowledge it. Someone seems to struggle with the knob. LAURA looks up but makes no attempt to go to it.

MADISON, a girl of about 16 years old enters, looking triumphant after winning her battle with the doorknob.

LAURA

(Visibly surprised but does not move) What the fuck?

MADISON

(Sarcastically shocked) Language!

She locks the door

Pause.

They both stare at each other.

MADISON

What? Not even a hello?

She moves towards LAURA, extends her hand for a handshake and then pulls it back in fake apology, as if she’s only just noticed LAURA’s wrist

MADISON

Oh, pardon me… (Beat.) Got yourself in a little bit of a mess there, huh?

LAURA

I—uh—I didn’t expect to see you. So soon, at least.

MADISON

Yeah, well...I didn’t want to be here either.

She looks around the empty room

Where is everything?

LAURA

Attic. In boxes.

MADISON

Oh. But you didn’t do anything with the room?

Pause

Oh, don’t try to tell me you got sentimental in your old age.

LAURA

(Shrugs) I…just didn’t know what to do with it.

MADISON nods, satisfied.

She stands on the bed to reach the shelves.

MADISON

What’s with the candles? You trying to summon a demon or something?

LAURA

I didn’t feel like turning on the lights.

MADISON

Well, that’s fucking weird. (Still looking at the candles) I guess we should acknowledge the wrist, huh?

LAURA

How...are you here?

(She looks at the puddle of blood underneath her)

MADISON

(Looks at the blood too) Yeah, maybe it’s that. Maybe I am something you made up in your little head...Or maybe I’m actually a ghost. Boo. (she giggles in an unnaturally childlike manner) Maybe you’re already dead!

(She starts jumping on the bed like a child at the idea.)

Ooh! Is this Hell? (She stops suddenly) That’d be pretty anticlimactic though. I always imagined you’d get your eyes gouged out or your skin flayed over and over again. I would’ve wanted to see that.

Pause.

(She shrugs) I don’t know why I’m here. You figure it out, I’m tired.

(She grabs one of the candles and gets off the bed)

LAURA

Put it back.

MADISON

Check this out. (She puts her hand on the candle flame). Nothing. I don’t feel anything (She giggles). Look at this! (She flips the candle over. The flame does not get put out).

LAURA

Put it back.

MADISON

(Sighs, puts the candle back on the shelf.) You’re boring.

LAURA

Sorry to disappoint.

MADISON

I thought that was my thing. You’re stealing a lot from me today.

LAURA

Why are you here?

MADISON

Told you, I have no fucking clue...So. Why are you killing yourself?

Pause.

MADISON

Just spit it out.

Beat.

Well, obviously, I don’t care. I wish you’d done it earlier. But I’m here, so you might as well tell me.

LAURA

Because. There’s nothing left for me anymore. It felt like the right time.

MADISON

Okay.

(She walks around. Sees the food, grabs the burger and takes a bite. She spits it out. Holds one of the fries and puts it back.)

The food is cold.

(LAURA shrugs)

You’re not one to leave a burger uneaten.

LAURA

Didn’t feel like it.

MADISON

Wanted to give yourself a last meal, huh? I would’ve thought you’d go for lobster. Since you seem to be such a fucking cliché today. (points at the wrists)

LAURA

Well, then you were a cliché too.

MADISON

Yes. I guess I am. (She puts the burger back on the plate, and notices a piece of paper underneath the plate and picks it up)

LAURA

No! Leave it. (She tries to get up and take it from her, but can’t move). Put it back!

MADISON

A note. (giggles). Oh, you really outdid yourself. (Reads) “To Madison, I’m sorry.” (Frowns). What? That’s it?

LAURA

I said put it back.

MADISON

(Dry laugh) You’re really something, aren’t you? Who did you actually leave this for? I wasn’t going to see it. So, who’s it for?

Pause

MADISON

You want people to think that you’re sorry about what happened to me. That you gave a fuck. (Shakes her head, smiling) You wanna go out a liar too.

LAURA

(Under her breath) No...

MADISON

Well then, enlighten me, Laura—

LAURA

I told you not to call me that.

MADISON

(Sharply) I can call you whatever I fucking want. What are you gonna do? Kill me?

Beat.

What are you sorry for?

LAURA is quiet

MADISON

(Louder) Well, I’m here right now. Say it to my face. Or just admit that you didn’t write it for me, and this is just another—

LAURA

I don’t know, okay? All of it, I guess. That I didn’t—that I didn’t stop him. That I wasn’t what you wanted me to be.

MADISON

(Laughs wryly) I didn’t want you to be anything, Laura. I just wanted you to let me out.

LAURA has started to lose a lot of blood. She’s getting faint now.

LAURA

I didn’t know.

MADISON

Yes you did.

LAURA

(Weakly) He was never like that in front of me. He was very careful. He was my husband. How could I—

MADISON

I was your daughter. Did that matter at all?

Beat.

Where is he now?

LAURA

Dead. Car crash, five years ago.

MADISON

So did you leave him? Before that.

Silence.

MADISON

Of course not.

(She sits down on the bed, tries to make an origami crane with the note)

Until death do you part.

LAURA

I’m sorry.

MADISON

(Pretends to think it over) Apology not accepted. Listen, I don’t know what you were expecting, but I’m not going to forgive you. So, if you’re doing this (points to her wrist) to make a point to me, then you’ve made a huge mistake.

(She gives up on the crane, makes the note into a paper airplane and throws it. It flies and lands behind the bed)

LAURA

Put it back.

MADISON

No need. (She lifts up plate, note is underneath it). I’m not here, remember?

LAURA

Is this what it was like for you?

MADISON

(Ponders it) No. It wasn’t this slow. No one came—like this. I was alone.

LAURA

Do you think...I could’ve stopped you?

MADISON

I don’t know. I know that you could’ve gotten me out. You could’ve paid attention.

LAURA

You could’ve told me.

MADISON

I tried. You didn’t listen. You wouldn’t have done anything anyway.

Pause. A couple of the candles have burned out.

LAURA

Do you remember when you were ten and you tried to bake that eggless cake for your soccer team? Cause you kept saying—

MADISON

That we shouldn’t be eating chicken period (small smile).

LAURA

You were obsessed with the idea. But you kept ruining it. It burned, or it came out all mushed, or you forgot to add any sugar and it tasted like rubber. You baked five different cakes and you kept going and going. You made mess of the kitchen and I was so mad. All I wanted to do was sleep, but you wouldn’t let me. I stayed up with you all night until you found the one you liked, but you never did. You wouldn’t fucking stop...I tried to make that cake last week. It took me a couple of tries, but I got it right. Best thing I ever tasted. I ate the whole thing and then I threw it all up.

MADISON

Why are you telling me this?

LAURA

I don’t know. I thought you’d want to know that. I made the cake. You could’ve—you could’ve done it too. If you’d just...Why didn’t you hold out a little longer? You would’ve left for college in a couple of years?

MADISON

I held out for as long as I could. This house was burning on top of me and couldn’t breathe anymore.

LAURA

But you left me alone. With him. After I realized what he was. I—it ate me up inside.

MADISON

You left me alone. You are not the victim in this.

(LAURA wants to say something, but she is getting tired. She closes her eyes and tries to regain her breath)

(A couple more candles go out. Sawdust is falling from the shelves. The sound of the dripping blood is getting louder.)

LAURA

I think it’s almost time now.

MADISON

Good. You’re unbelievably boring when you’re dying.

LAURA

Do you want me to die?

MADISON

(Thinks it over) No. You don’t deserve a way out. You should’ve had to live with this.

LAURA

I did.

MADISON

Not long enough.

LAURA

Did you hate me for all of it? Did I get everything wrong?

MADISON

No. Not all of it. You helped me make that cake that one time (smiles).

(Two more candles go out)

LAURA

I’m scared.

MADISON

I know.

LAURA

Were you?

MADISON

Yes. But I knew it couldn’t be worse than what I was living through.

LAURA

What if it’s worse for me?

MADISON

Well, then...you’re fucked.

LAURA

I’m sorry.

MADISON

(looks away) Save it.

LAURA

I know it doesn’t mean anything, but I have to say it.

MADISON

You already said it.

LAURA

This time I mean it.

Beat.

MADISON

Okay.

(Two more candles dim. The dripping gets much louder. The puddle of blood has gotten very big)

MADISON

Wow, you really did a number on yourself, huh?

(She takes the razor blade that LAURA has been holding this whole time, puts it on the table. She starts inspecting the wound.)

Amateur. You cut it wrong.

LAURA

I’m alone in the house. It doesn’t matter.

MADISON

Still, this is very sloppy of you, Laura. You’ve made it too slow for yourself.

(LAURA is silent)

MADISON

(giggles) Can’t even kill yourself right.

LAURA

(tries to smile) Yeah.

MADISON

Wait. (She picks up the blade again. Looks at LAURA’s wrist) You meant to do that. You wanted someone to find you.

There is a knocking on the door. The doorknob moves like someone is struggling with it.

LAURA

Thanks for being here with me, Maddie.

MADISON

Didn’t have much of a choice, did I, Mom?

They sit side by side on the bed, staring out in front of them. No one says anything.

The pounding on the door continues.

Lights slowly fade.

End.

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