The candles were gathered in a circle, glowing persistently despite the heavy draft in the garage; it was drizzling against the windows, winding trails of fallen rain tracing the glass in snake-like swirls that glittered in the darkness of night. Ellis sat down, his boots scuffing the oil-stained pavement as he settled and shook out the quiet smolder of the match, wisps of smoke following the quick flick of his wrist.
Sydney sat down across from him, the clutch of a black dress matching his rumpled slacks perfectly, though the addition of heels and dangled earrings were a little more kempt in comparison to his untucked button-up and Bullshifters ballcap. Regardless, she reached across the candles, gripping his work-roughened hand firmly in her slim fingers. “You okay, Ellis?”
“Sure, sure,” he chirped immediately, head bobbing in a nod. Despite the assurance, his eyes were rimmed with damp redness, a tremble to his slightly flared nostrils indicating his nose was soon to run. He cleared his throat noisily. “Okay, so like las’ year, righ’?”
Sydney’s smile was faint but she nodded. “Keith firs’, then Dave, then Paul.”
Ellis nodded so frantically the first tear dislodged itself from his well-defined lower lashes, the subsequent clearing of his throat sounding raw and wet. “Yuh got th’…?”
“Yeah,” the female confirmed softly, drawing a crumpled grocery sack closer to herself. A moment of rummaging inside its many contents and she pulled a pair of candybars free, offering one to the trembling mechanic before moving to shuck her own of its wrapper. “Snickers were m’brother’s favorite,” she said with another smile, this one warmer in the shadowed light of the candles, “’Cept Keith always said 100 Grand wus, if you asked.”
“Never saw him eat one uh them,” Ellis agreed with a damp chuckle, eyes crinkling at the corners as he chewed through the chocolate, “Man, Keith wus always makin’ shit up tuh look cool.”
“Even his favorites.” Sydney laughed, and for a moment, the smirk-prone ghost of her brother showed in its open, noisy clatter, obnoxious and genuine in ways its sources never could be. “An’ we wonder where you got it from!”