“Well, that’s that,” she thought.

It was just past midnight and she sat in the pinched, candle-lit darkness of her living room. She had given herself another all-alone evening,  to work her way out of the old year, into these first moments of this next one.

A mug of tea tried to warm her hands as she watched the candle-flame’s uncertain grasp on her thoughts.

She closed her eyes, not tightly, and a single tear wet her cheek. The silence was like a blanket over her shoulders and she tried squirming into it.

The old year lingered in her thoughts.

“Go. Go, be gone,” she told it. “Let me be, please!” 

She tried to think ahead but all she saw was a mountain before her.

She was alone now; her mother’s dying still too close.

And her husband’s leaving only months before.

She had lost her job while dealing with both. No wonder the holidays had just not happened for her. She had every reason to disappear like she did. It was the only way to get through the pain of lights and bells and the soured music of Christmas; – all the noisy nonsense of this night.

Her tea was barely warm when she sipped it. She stared into the cup, looking for … answers. A way out? Some meaning in this moment?

Maybe she could do an “Alice” and fall through the bottom of the cup to look for and find “happily ever after.”

“Cut it out!” she said aloud. It felt like a slap and seemed to echo up and through that damn mountain.

“It’s a new year. Get on with it!”

The candle flared a bit. She hugged herself, then out of nowhere remembered a silly piece of advice she had once offered her sister: How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.

She tried to find a piece of laughter inside her but heard instead herself saying, “You can’t undo what’s happened, girl. You gotta grow with it!”

The silence made the memory sound like thunder. And something in the night, in her head, shifted.

She felt a chill ripple through her and grow warm, barely. She shook her head and caught another tear with her finger.

“So how are you gonna climb that mountain, girl?” she said to no one but herself.

She got up, drank her cold tea, puffed out the candle and said in the darkness, “One step at a time.” Then she went to bed, determined to call her sister first thing in the morning.