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Soft Tones

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It's the season of early dusk. When I say early, I mean early – it's not even three o'clock and the first streaks of a muted and glowing sunset are unfurling into the sky. Out of the west, where she lives.

I listen to an old woman complain on the bus. The days are getting so short, she says to the rumpled student in spectacles sitting next to her. Feels like they get shorter every year. Doesn't make sense, does it? Is the Earth tilting further than when I was a girl? Ha ha! Well, these days, maybe it's all that climate change... The student laughs a little too, awkward at the conversation with a stranger.

The old woman is right, though. Every day the darkness feels like it's coming on faster than this time last year. Is that possible? Is she stealing out of her garden earlier just to snatch a few more minutes with me? How should I feel about that? It's probably bad for the environment. As a scientist, I should care. But hell, someone loves me enough to fuck with the entire planet's seasons. Don't pretend you wouldn't be a little bewitched.

By the time I jump off the bus it's almost dark. My heart is already pounding with excitement before I take the five flights of stairs two steps at a time up to my flat. Why did she choose me? I've spent my whole adult life looking for light – the Northern Lights – charting the delicate fall of charged particles through the atmosphere. I never paid any attention to her kind of light. Not the romantic sunset walks type of woman, me. Maybe that counts as some kind of hubris. In the Greek stories the gods always punish humans for our neglect of them.

I slam and lock the door behind me, drop my bag and coat right there on the floor. My living room windows face west. The last gleams of sunset are caught in the smudged wine glasses on the coffee table. By caught I mean caught. There's a remnant of golden light in each glass and it's growing, bubbling up, overflowing onto the shiny black and glass table, a spreading still pool, then a graceful fall over all four edges onto the floor. It's light but not dazzling, it's the warm and matte honeyed end of the day forming into the shape of a woman on my sofa.

Hesperia. Sunset made flesh.

She's small, she's blonde, her brown skin looks dusted with gold, she's the daughter of Atlas, she works as a security guard at the Garden of the Hesperides during the day. You wouldn't know it from looking at her but she's almost as strong as her dad. She's a real live divine being. I'm not supposed to believe in those but, well, love does strange things to your head. You end up believing in magic, just a little. Or maybe a lot.

I take a deep breath. I've been thinking about what to say to her all day. My hearts flutters a little. I try to strike a confident pose.

"Hey, baby... you light up my life."

There's a moment of silence. Then she bursts out laughing. I grin. It's a dark cold autumn outside, but not in here. I've found my own personal patch of the sun.