"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things unseen."
— Hebrews, 11:1
"We are stardust."
— Joni Mitchell, 'Woodstock'
The sun is shining its last, weakly kissing the world goodbye with a promise to return. It's midway through autumn, but it feels like summer's only just ending. Somewhere in it all, in the turning of the world around the sun and the moon around the world and the changing of the seasons, Jack makes his way through the mostly vacant school, thirteen and skinny and ginger. Half an hour to kill until the bus comes, an hour more until he's home.
And there she is, sitting at the same table, waiting for him.
It's a week before, another Friday; a different day still exactly the same. Ten minutes to the bell, and Jack is sitting in English fervently praying for the clock to suddenly skip ahead. So what if time is lost, he's young, he's got plenty of it.
A poem sits on the desk in front of him, but his eyes are glazed, his mind already at home.
"It's interesting, isn't it," his teacher says, sitting barefoot, perched on the edge of her desk, blonde and young and enthusiastic, "how people's lives can be changed in one single moment. An epiphany; it's like a light comes on, and everything is illuminated."
Interesting, but there's no interest.
"So, thinking about that, I want you all to write me a story."
Cue the predictable chorus of groans, but Jack is silent. Too far gone to notice.
The teacher just smiles through the discontent. "It can be about you, someone you know, or someone you invent, experiencing a moment of epiphany, when they realise something, or something is presented to them, that changes the way they see the world."
She keeps on with her lesson, but Jack doesn't pay attention. The second hand ticks inexorably onwards. The bell rings, time has passed, and Jack follows the others, longing for home.
"Jack?" the teacher calls after him.
Snared in the doorway, Jack turns. "Yes, miss?" he asks, tentatively, cautiously, mind racing to remember just what it is he could have done wrong.
"I'm especially interested to see your take on this."
She nods. "You're quite a talented writer."
He is? "I am?"
"Your last writing assignment was exceptional."
If she says more, he doesn't hear it. Exceptional? Talented? Him? He's goes alright, could be more motivated or applied or whatever and he gets okay marks in everything but maths. He barely scrapes by in that. Still, he's average, one of the crowd.
He wanders, almost in a daze, out to the front of the school. This being just another Friday, the school has been almost entirely depopulated within minutes. Without looking, he finds her, sitting at one of the old, wooden picnic tables outside the library. She's alone, and he can't see what she's doing, but she's concentrating on a small object in front of her. Unable to resist a sudden surge of curiousity, he asks "What are you doing?"
"Trying to balance an egg," she answers, without looking up.
"What?" he says, falling into place behind her, trying to peer over her shoulder. He recognises her; she's new, and more than a little unusual. Cute, though. Sure enough, on the table in front of her is the ovum of a chicken, encased in a thin, off-white shell. Pale and feminine, thin and preternaturally strong. An egg.
Questions come, first one at a time, then all in a flood. He goes with the simplest one. "Why?"
"Do you know what today is?"
She still hasn't looked at him. "It's the autumnal equinox. The day right in the middle of autumn." She balances the egg, takes her hand away. It wobbles, falls over.
"My brother told me that if you stand an egg up on its base during the equinox, it'll stay up on its own." It falls over.
She shrugs. "Maybe."
He can't resist. He sits beside her. "What makes you think it'll work?"
Still not looking at him. "Faith. Lots and lots of faith. Also, gravity or something." A pause. "Could use some luck, though." She looks at him, stars in her eyes. Eyes; green eyes, emerald, verdant. Then it hits him and the light turns on.
Just like that, like a light turning on, she kisses him, planting one right on his lips.
The world stops, time stands still. The air goes electric, and his heart pounds like a jackhammer. He holds on to the moment, makes it eternity. A split second later it's over, everything's back to normal. Except his heart; that's still beating at roughly the speed of sound. That was awesome. Nuclear. All he says is "What the hell?"
She dazzles him with a smile. "Luck, or faith, or gravity or whatever."
He doesn't believe in that dumb thing about the egg. But he believes in her. He wants to say something else. He doesn't. He's still reeling, shell-shocked. She stands the egg up.
This time, it stays there.
Friday afternoon, and there they are again, at the same table.
"Hey," she says as he sits, looking at him straight away. "Did you get that story back?"
Jack nods, with a sly smile. "Top marks. Of course."
She laughs. "Of course."
And that's it. That there, that moment. It's the photo from the space shuttle, the Earth over the moon. It's the confirmation and the confession, the salvation of the knowledge that we're all in this together, that it's Jack and the girl and the egg. All so tiny, so important. Her smile and those eyes are all the truth he ever needed. They're the light switch. She's the light.
It's wonderful, and terrifying. But then there's always terror in the sublime.
Average apart, extraordinary together; Jack and the girl, the girl and her Jack. They believe, they can make eggs stand up.