Short Story: Worth The Candle

Read Time:7 Minutes

By Damar Lemelle, Correspondent

Image Credit: Pond5 for Horizons

Amina searched for Gavriil throughout their humble residence. It was nothing like the homes of some of her friends, with only eight rooms in total, but she found it performed well enough for an affianced couple.

She approached Gavriil’s office, opening the door with a gentle nudge, a sigh slipping between her lips as her eyes were met with a dark shroud. He was working on ‘it’ again. It was something that had been bugging him for days, she knew. Though it had caught Gavriil’s eye, she couldn’t fathom why it was so important.

The recent years had presented great leaps in science and technology, ones that offered a helping hand to the average person, but she couldn’t imagine anyone other than physicists caring about this one. There would be a magazine or two, and his name might be included in a book, but that would be the end of it. Their same old routine, but maybe he would be recognized every once in a while.

Amina threw her gaze upon the clock only for her eyes to widen and a sense of duty to burst forth like a geyser. He had been there for ten hours. Amina loved his determination, but to spend ten hours straight on the most difficult problem of the modern era? She would doubt anyone who proclaimed they would be fine with such an arrangement. She wondered, for a fleeting moment, if this is what a knight feels like, saving a princess, before she threw open the door.

The room was full of despair. It permeated the air, thickening it to a slime. It stuck to her thoughts, trying to engulf them as well. She knew it to be an inevitability, if she stayed there long enough. It just needed more time, something she refused give it.

“Darling,” Amina called out. The room was so dark her eyes strained to make out the shadow cloaked by the harsh, artificial light from his fancy ‘home computer.’ “Are you coming out for dinner?”

The wrong shadow moved.

Amina was five feet away from the now-closed door before she relented that she had overreacted. She gently opened the door. “Dar–”

“I don’t think it’s possible.” Gavriil spoke, voice tired, and weary. The darkness shuffled with the snapping of crinkling paper.

Amina’s face twisted into one of bewilderment. “Aren’t you an astrophysicist?”

“That doesn’t mean I can do the impossible.”

“It’s not impossible,” Amina responded, a frown cutting her features, “and can you turn on the light?”

“…The light is broken.”

“And why is that?”

“I, uh,” Gavriil had the tact to not stand on his dignity. “I broke it.”

Amina could scarcely believe it. She opened her mouth and then stopped, struck by a brilliant idea. She spun on her heel and walked to a cluttered cupboard, retrieving a brass chamberstick and one of her grandmother’s special candles.

Amina would readily admit she scarcely knew what could make a candle special, that it be the scent or otherwise. No-one really used candles for lighting anymore, considering the advent of incandescent electric lights. The only information she could glean from examining the exterior – perhaps the wick was unique – placed it towards the high end of the price scale. If it had a sentimental value to her grandmother, then it ought to have something distinctive.

Since her grandmother’s passing, the two had a collection of trinkets, including the brass chamberstick that Amina now held in her hand. She felt a twinge of regret at her decision, but it was no velvet tablecloth. She would rather make it useful than let it stand idly as a commemoration when greater ones were placed upon the same shelf.

With the strike of a match and a short walk, a candle brought a warm glow to the room.

The room looked as if a tempest had blown through it. Papers of an assortment of shapes and sizes were strewn about it, littered on every surface. They even covered some of the walls, like the paneling of a Piet Mondrian painting.

There were so many equations. The blackboard, the whiteboard, every single scrap of paper — all were covered in those high–level equations. The equations that were so obtuse they started using squiggles for variables.

Gavriil spat up his drink in a laughing fit when she called them that. Hearing Amina refer to them as ‘squiggles’ always ended in him laughing, “stuck between correcting you, and agreeing wholeheartedly,” as he put it. It made it all the sadder to see the state he was in, just staring at his computer, a parabola projected on the screen.

This simple, still image held a stranglehold on his attention.

“Now, as I was saying. It’s not impossible, just hard. If it wasn’t hard, it wouldn’t be here for you to solve, would it?”

“That is circular logic,” Gavriil stated flatly. A moment later, he added, “but it does make me feel better.”

“Good. Do you know what else would make you feel better?”

“Better about my failed attempts to solve the dark matter discrepancy? Solving it.”

“Uh, yeah? Also, dinner.”

Gaze flitting over, he asked, “Why are you holding a candle?”

“If you failed to notice this,” Amina gestured to the candle, “why are you doing page-long equations in the dark?”

That seemed to click, and Amina could see the recognition set through the flame dancing in his eyes.

Amina offered a hand. “Are you coming?”

Gavriil turned back to his computer with a longing gaze, though Amina couldn’t really fathom what for. It was a large, unwieldy thing that took several minutes to display an output. Then, slowly, he reached out and took her hand.

Amina pulled him from his seat and into her arms, planting a kiss on his lips. “C’mon! You can finish this later.”

His eyes, heavy with doubt, grew a bit wider at her exclamation. “You think it can be done?”

Amina stopped, a smile growing on her face until it hurt, and she twirled to stun him with it. “Of course. It’s not like you’re trying to go to the moon or anything.”

Gavriil became thoughtful for a moment. “I suppose… So, a candlelit dinner?”

Amina almost replied negatively, before she considered how easily what she had prepared could be misconstrued. And doing so would help brighten his mood…

“Yes. Let me get the candles.”

And when they laughed and drank all throughout the night, Amina had one thought on her mind. She had to thank her grandmother; those candles were special indeed.

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