Effulgence

Sanara had a sun in her chest.

As long as she’d been alive, it had been there: a glowing orb, shining out from the center of her being, illuminating the word around her with golden light. It brought a brightness to everything around her, sometimes with the harsh, hot light of summer; sometimes with the buttery, cool light of an autumn day.

She hadn’t realized, at first, that not everyone could see the sun, but she did quickly realize that not everyone had one. Most people had something else entirely: a cold, hard lump of rock, in varying shades from white to grey to stony black, which emitted no light of its own.

At a young age, Sanara found out that, just like the sun and the moon in the sky, the sun in her chest brought light to the moons of those around her. When she neared someone, the moon in their chest came alight with reflected brilliance, giving it the illusion of its own luminosity. Sanara’s light came back to her, changed by the dappled surface of the moons of others into something paler and weaker, but still beautiful.

Sanara liked the light she instilled in the moons. She began to do so deliberately, bringing people close to her and standing in a way that allowed them to catch her light. The result, when surrounded by others, was spectacular. She could fill a room with light, gold and silver mixing together to outshine the day itself.

There were times when Sanara looked at herself in the mirror, and her eyes drifted to her chest, and then closed at what they saw. The brilliance of her own sun hurt her eyes, so much that it brought tears. In those times, she feared it, for gazing into it truly was like gazing into a sun: it burned with a vicious heat. It came close to blinding her.

There were times, in a room full of moons, when Sanara felt the pressure of illuminating them all, the crushing feeling of being the only true source of light, with everyone around her depending on her to allow them to pretend they had suns, as well. People orbited around her, depending on her stronger light and gravity.

She still felt glad to brighten them. She took joy in giving them what she had, for she had come to feel it was her purpose, and her responsibility, to give light to those who had no light of their. And besides, she knew that the others weren’t even aware of the sun and the moons. This made her feel the weight of her responsibility even more acutely.

Near the end of her teenage years, Sanara met a boy who had no moon nor sun at all. In his chest was a blank nothingness, an absence of anything, like nothing Sanara had seen before. She approached him, wondering whether she could illuminate that darkness, and hoping that she could. Yet as she drew closer, she felt the light of her sun being pulled within him.

It dimmed by degrees as she drew nearer and nearer. The moons were dark, until she lit them, but they took nothing from her: she gave the light away freely. This was different. The darkness within that boy drew her closer and closer, until she felt she was locked into orbit around him the same way the people of the moons had been locked to her for years.

Sanara could see the sun draining from her chest in golden, misty ribbons of light, like a burning nebula being torn from the sky. She knew that, if she stayed close to that boy, her sun would disappear completely. She did not know what that meant. Would she be left with a hard, unlit moon? Or a pit of grasping blackness that pulled in and diminished all around it?

She would never find out She ran from that boy, though it took all of her strength to escape his gravity. She never looked back at him, never let herself wonder whether all of the light he had taken from her had awoken even the faintest glimmer in his chest.

When she looked in the mirror, after, and the sight brought tears to her eyes as before. She saw a shell of her former self, her chest nearly emptied, with only the tiniest fleck of light left behind. It looked like a star, now, rather than a sun; and a faint, distant one, at that.

She reminded herself that a star is still a sun. She told herself this again and again, in the hope that, with enough repetition, she might begin to believe it. She’d heard, somewhere, that such a strategy might work.

It didn’t, not for her. She blamed herself for not being strong enough, first to believe her own words, then for not being able to rekindle her sun. She blamed herself for the fact that the small, weak, diminished, insignificant light in her chest no longer brightened the moons of those around her. If it brought them any light at all, the reflection came back to her so faintly she couldn’t even perceive it.

In her mid-twenties Sanara met another man who would prove to be far more significant than any of the blank, lightless moons that had orbited her throughout her life. Thierry, like the boy full of darkness, had something Sanara had never seen in another person: a sun in his chest.

Sanara, who had taken to looking within herself more often than she observed the world around her, almost missed Thierry entirely. She brushed past him in a crowded room, not even looking his way, but something caught his attention. She felt a warmth from his direction. It was not the heat of his body, but something stronger.

Thierry had a sun in his chest.

She turned toward him. She looked at the sun, then met his eyes deliberately. He smiled, and to Sanara it was as though the sunlight shone from his face, as well.

She drew closer to him, and not just because her feet drew her there. He approached her, as well. He spoke in wonder of the fleck of light in her chest. It was something he had never seen before, just as she had never seen another person possessed of a sun.

She told him how she’d had a sun, before. She told him how she’d lost it. How she wished she could bring the moons around her to brilliance once more. How she hated looking at herself, her lesser self, yet she couldn’t stop because every day she hoped that maybe that tiny star had grown closer to something approximating a sun.

Thierry listened, and all the while, his sun shone upon her. She hadn’t known how cold she’d felt until she felt its heat emanating through her body. She felt herself drawing it in, and, out of fear, she stopped.

Had she become like the boy with the darkness in his chest? When Thierry’s light struck her, and she accepted it, did he feel her draining him away into nothingness, as that boy had done to her?

Thierry heard her concerns, and, with an embrace, dismissed them. His sun pressed against her, hot and searing, but it did not burn her. It ignited her.

It took time for her sun to fully rekindle, even with Thierry’s sun lending it strength. She never took from him: she only accepted what he gave. And because of what he gave, her sun grew and grew, until it matched his; and then, as though they each had both sun and moon, they began to reflect each other’s light, so that each grew brighter and brighter until their effulgence surpassed even the light of day.

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