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The room is dim, morning gray, and South wakes grunting and blinking the sleep from her eyes and feeling for the space beside her in her bed where Connie should be, and isn’t.

Her eyes un-blur and Connie is silhouetted in silver-blue light, sitting up at the end of the bed, shadow side to South, and the light around the feathery soft edges of her hair gives the faint impression of a halo. Her hair hangs to the side toward South, obscuring most of her face—just her lips and the tip of her nose in view. Connie often looks mousey, with the shape of her mouth that shows her front teeth when her face is at rest, lost in thought and looking somewhere South can’t see. Right now, though, something about the slope of her nose and the angle of her jaw makes her look more birdlike, delicate and only just barely at rest, like she might take off at any moment in a flutter of wings.

South starts to speak, and stops. Connie’s lips move, silent, as if speaking to herself or to someone unseen. You could miss it, in the dim light. You could especially miss it when you’re sleepy and not quite sure you’re awake at all. It feels like a dream, almost. Like Connie might look up, and her face turn into someone else’s. Or she might dissolve into thin air, not real at all.

Her lips move again. Talking to herself, maybe, or rehearsing something not yet said. Then Connie turns, and her eyes come into view, and her mouth curves into a smile, and she’s real. Or maybe it’s South that’s real now. Because for a moment there, she felt strangely like Connie was somewhere else, somewhere lightyears away, like South wasn’t in the room, maybe wasn’t real at all. Like maybe she was the dream about to dissolve.

She forgets that moment, almost. For a while. But later, looking back, she will remember Connie with one eye in shadow, featherlight and about to fly away.