Millicent Fedderman’s birthday party for one every year at the Heywood Hotel became a tradition purely by accident. The very first year, before it became her annual tradition, she had really come here to end it all. Millicent had been considered a great beauty in her youth but beauty fades quickly and she simply couldn’t face growing old. With each passing year, she noticed her skin becoming a trifle thinner. Her once brilliant red hair, a bit more dull, and the tiny wrinkles around her eyes were gradually deepening.
What sweet irony she thought, to celebrate her birthday and death day with a bottle of champagne and a slice of white layer cake with a single candle brought to her on an elaborate silver tray by room service. After blowing out the candle, and eating every bite of cake, she felt decidedly wicked as she licked the last of the icing from the candle — why not? What did extra calories matter now, when she wouldn’t live to see another day? A noise in the hall startled her, causing her to swallow the small birthday candle. She didn’t choke on the candle as it went down, but she did have a bit of a sore throat for several days. This close brush with death made Millicent realize that she didn’t really want to die at all, she just didn’t want to age. She finished the bottle of champagne but left the pills she had planned to swallow untouched. She lay down and slept soundly. Upon waking the next day, she studied herself closely in the mirror for signs of being another year older. She was pleasantly surprised to see that she actually looked younger, perhaps by only a year or two but what a nice gift! It must have been that good night’s sleep.
All year she thought about that fateful night when she came so close to ending it all and thought it best to make a yearly tradition of it. For many years, she would spend the night of her birthday at the Heywood, eat the cake, drink the champagne brought by room service and swallow the candle.
After many years of this annual tradition, Millicent still doesn’t look a day over thirty though she has actually lost track of how old she really is. This year will be different though. As she licks the decadent icing from her lips and prepares to swallow the candle, she catches sight of herself in the mirror and in just a flash sees her real age. Millicent gasps in horror as she swallows and chokes to death, alone in her room on her birthday which is also her death day.
The next morning, when she doesn’t check out as scheduled, a bellhop notifies the desk clerk who notifies the concierge. The concierge knocks a few times and listens at the door, just to be sure, and then quietly takes the master key and unlocks the door to Millicent’s room. The Millicent who checked in the night before is nowhere to be found. The only one there is a frail old woman who looks nearly a hundred. She is lying on the floor in her evening dress, clutching her throat. An ambulance is called and the EMTs pronounce her dead almost immediately though protocol requires that they at least check for a pulse. The cause of death is rather obvious, old age. The EMT workers can’t help but chuckle, to think there is any other cause. That was the end of Millicent Fedderman.