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This is How the Rain Falls

M.K. Hutchins regularly draws on her background in archaeology when writing fiction. She's the author of the YA fantasy novels The Redwood Palace and <1>Drift, and she's written over thirty short stories, appearing in Daily Science Fiction, Podcastle, Analog,. and elsewhere. She lives in Utah with her husband and four children, where they endeavor to grow bushels of delicious food, play heaps of board games, and read mountains of books. Find her at mkhutchins.com.
This is how the rain falls. A splatter, like a single tear. Then a soft mist, like ocean spray. Then fat, ferocious missiles that burst and self-destruct on the slick sidewalk.
Other people don't seem to mind the rain. They shrug on jackets and carry umbrellas, and when the rain hits them, it doesn't take the color of their hair and skin and eyes and wash it down the storm drain.
I loved the rain, once. I ran through puddles in pink alicorn galoshes. Not unicorn. I was old enough to know the difference. I opened my mouth to the sky and ate lemon drops and gum drops. Instead of the water washing my color away, it was like paints, filling up all the dreary, dusty places of the world into vibrant, shimmering works of art.
That was before the boy stole my galoshes and beat me with them, laughing like rolling thunder. He was twice my size. I couldn't stop him. I could only scream as pain like lightning shot down my bones.
He took what was mine, what I loved, and hurt me with it. That changed the rain for me forever.
Ten years after I lost my galoshes, I stand at the bus stop shelter, waiting for the rain to stop. Bus after bus screeches, hisses, stops, and rolls onward, but I stay on the bench. I can't risk that gap between the shelter and the bus. It's rained so much lately, another drop might dissolve away the last of my hue, and what would I be then? A ghost? An outline of a person?
There's a child who's been standing in the corner of the bus shelter for a long time, too. Probably waiting for her mom to get something from the grocery store, I think. She purses her lips and studies me. Then she crosses and sits next to me on the bench.
I know what she will say. It's what children and old men and well-meaning waitresses just off their shift have said to me before. Why are you still here? What's wrong with you? Everyone gets wet once in a while, in life. You'll be fine.
They never can see how I've turned into a sepia shadow of myself. Everyone gets wet, that's true. But not everyone hears thunder and lightning in their heads during a mere drizzle. Not every watches the color drain out of themselves and swirl away.
The girl peers at me, so close that if her mother were here, she'd snap at her to be polite and leave other people alone. I think about saying something like that. But then she holds out her hand--a faded outline of a hand, blurry from today's rain.
"You're like me, aren't you?" she asks.
I try not to stare. "Yes. I... I thought I was the only one."
"My mother abandoned me on a night like this," she says. "You don't have to tell me what happened to you."
I don't. I don't tell her about the boy or the galoshes or my black-and-blue bruises, everywhere. Instead, I simply hold her faded hand. She leans her head against my shoulder, like I'm her big sister.
Together, we sit and wait for the rain to stop.
The End
This story was first published on Monday, May 18th, 2020
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