Gegenschein

sky_gegenschein.jpg

gegenschein
  1. Astronomy. a faint, elliptical patch of light in the night sky that appears opposite the sun, being a reflection of sunlight by meteoric material in space.

Patrick’s voice caught in the back of his throat. He adjusted his tie and fiddled with his papers, organizing them absentmindedly for the third time in a row. It felt as if someone had completely turned off the AC.

And now he was once again failing miserably, breaking his vow to avoid staring at the latest hire to the observatory.

Before Dr. Cameron Strathmore had even arrived, Patrick Conner had swooned over her CV and stayed up late reading her dissertation focused on the gravitational pull of planetary bodies and cosmic microwave background radiation. She had received her doctoral degree in astrophysics from Cambridge. He had done further research and found that she had passed up tenured positions at Harvard and Yale.

On paper she was impressive. In person, she was…the word ethereal often came to his mind. Eloquent, determined, hard working and assertive…Patrick greatly desired to impress her.

“Dr. Strathmore,” he struggled for something eloquent to fill the space between his gasps for breath.

She drew her gaze away from the equations she had been studying and fixed them on her colleague.

He wondered if he might hyperventilate.

“I find your mind to be as brilliant as the gegenschein just before dawn” he said. Sweat glistened on his brow.

Cameron’s eyes grew wide as heat filled her face. Now she was the one who at a loss for words.

“Dr. Conner, that’s the kindest compliment anyone has ever given me,” she said, surprised by her own level of embarrassment.

“Well, I just thought you should know that you are greatly respected at this observatory and your contributions to the field have been immense,” he said. Silence filled the space between them. Even with an expansive vocabulary, words seemed to fail him.

“Please excuse me,” he said.

With a quick nod he headed toward his office. He hadn’t used his inhaler in about four years, but now seemed like a good moment to keep it within arm’s reach just in case he got anymore ideas about asserting his feelings for his colleague. His heart palpitated wildly as he longed for a cool place with some fresh air.

“Thank you, Dr. Conner,” he heard her call after him.

It was only an hour later that Patrick realized her appreciation had been sincere and she hadn’t laughed at him. He wondered if she had restrained herself out of professionalism or sheer kindness.

A quick knock on his open door drew his attention away from the paperwork on his desk. Cameron stood in the doorway with her insulated lunch bag.

“I was wondering if you care to join me for lunch in the gardens today, Dr. Conner,” she said, smiling.

Patrick’s heart leapt wildly in his chest as if he were some schoolboy. He quickly palmed the inhaler in his jacket pocket before nodding.

“Yes, Dr. Strathmore, that would be quite enjoyable, thank you.”

He grabbed the heavy brown paper bag with his lunch and headed toward the gardens, following as closely behind her as the sun follows the moon.

 

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