The one thing Rye hated most about when it rained was how the water dripped off her eyebrows and subsequently onto her nose, then working its way down from there over her face. Yet she had forseen this outcome, her fate had been decided four hours ago when she looked out the window and decided not to take the time to find an umbrella after merely five minutes of searching.
Really bad storms weren’t entirely uncommon around these parts. But school hadn’t been stopped by that, that is, until after Rye had made it there. The streets might have been flooding but the buses still ran, and Rye dashed through, staying as dry as possible in the calm between storms. It was a real test of her athletics, she thought, hopping over puddles and only partially getting her sandals wet. They were meant for use on sailboats, they protected her feet but could still handle water, and she loved them and their bright red straps.
However it wasn’t good enough.
She got to school, which was suspiciously low on students. Ben wasn’t there at the usual spot by the stairs, and Rye was one of five girls who actually showed up to homeroom on time. She got along horribly with the girls even when they were there, so better off that practically no one was there to bother her.
So extra alone today, in her empty corner of homeroom, Rye heard that no one would get an absense marked down today from poor conditions. Dammit, she should have slept in. The first pass of the storm had woken her up with the crashing thunder from close lighting strikes at the very early 6 AM. Not fair.
By the time third period happened, School was closing because so few people were here. Rye didn’t have a cell phone, and she didn’t feel like calling home anyway. There were things that needed to be done.
Here Rye was, standing in the cold and gray outdoors, rain water dripping down her head and trailing over her face as draped her hoodie over her backpack. Her things were more important than her. Books that got soaked got ruined. A Rye that got soaked would inevitably dry off by the end of the day. Once she was certain her things would stay dry under the layer of her hoodie and her bag, Rye began to brave the steady rain for the long walk home. It was wet, but at least the May weather was kind of warm and made things somewhat bearable. Cold and wet was the worst combination Rye could think of, so at least she was soaked but in the tepid rain water of the coming summer. Summer couldn’t be here fast enough, spring was on its last legs and Rye was counting the days until school ended.
Rye takes the bike path home. One side is the worn wooden fences and overgrown vegetation from houses, and the other is a vine coated wire fence that kept people away from the train tracks on the other side. This was the train that didn’t come very often, like once an hour compared to the other one she was allowed to take by herself. This fancy train was more expensive anyway, for the business men and the people who were confident where they were going.
The rain keeps beating down, even through the trees, and the only choice is to head forward. A lot of the streets were flooded, cars stopped in the middle because their engines got a bit soggy too. Rye moves without missing a beat – sometimes the water comes up to the hem of her shorts above her knees, but it’s no issue. Water cannot hurt what is already wet.
She gets to a familiar intersection, past the fire station, and her clothes are completely drenched and her hair is heavy and flat. Forward is home, she knows this, but today it was going to be different. It was raining. Rye went left, knowing this would stall her yet another hour until she got dry. But she wasn’t dumb, oh no – All those moms that said that she’d catch a cold in weather like this were wrong. She knew a cold was a virus. All Rye had to worry about was hypothermia, and as long as she eventually got dry and warm, it wouldn’t become an issue either. May showers didn’t make her cold enough. Another hour didn’t matter for Rye, it mattered for her books – seemed like her hoodie and backpack were doing the trick.
Through the rain and passing cars, through the forming ponds in the streets, Rye came to the beach. It still wasn’t open yet, and it had all the signs from the winter’s ice up still. She didn’t need to swim nor deal with ice, she had a goal in mind she needed to chase. The girl found a tree where grass met sand, setting her backpack down and peeling her sandals off. Barefoot in the damp sand, she looked out to the lake.
Today, the lake was stormy and gray too, but it wasn’t all that windy. The waves ever so gently lapped up against the shore, and the water was oddly clear. No one else was here, obviously, it was stormy and most of the streets were unuseable, and who would go swimming before the beach was open and in the rain?
Standing in the vast empty expanse of the beach, Rye took a sweeping spin around, dragging her toe through the sand and drawing a circle around her. Now, the ritual began.
First, you thank Mother Earth. She remembers these words from somewhere, perhaps some depth of her imagination, perhaps someone told her forever ago. You thank Mother Earth for all she has given and how little she expects in return. Rye stops when her circle is perfect. Then you thank Father Sky. She raises her hands up to the clouds, palms facing upwards. Father Sky made sure you could live in this harsh world.
She danced, slowly at first, arms moving fluidly like the waves and with every spin her hair whipped around and over her shoulder until she dipped and spun the other way and it fell back into place. Life was boring. This world was boring. Still, it was a world that Mother Earth and Father Sky created, and one Rye must respect. She stopped her movement, one arm over her head and her feet spread in a fighting stance as she watched the still, gray lake under the rain.
Be grateful to the seas that give us water and the life we need. That was the next step. The lake was beautiful, and a scarce beauty at that. So few places in the world had fresh water that went to the curve of the earth and beyond, it was more water than Rye ever knew what to do with. Her dance started again, this time in a jerky staccato with steps like she was in battle, her body twisting to dodge unseen blows. There was still a rhythm, Rye didn’t spend years in the band for nothing. She followed an internal beat, never leaving the circle she drew in the sand, now beginning to fade.
“And we thank Mother Earth, Father Sky, and everything outside and inbetween,” She said out loud, a little out of breath, and the dance changes again, back to fluidity and her arms moving like the waves over the water. “We thank you all for our world and the blessed rain. Lastly, we are eternally grateful to the Sun and Moon.” The dance came to a stop, Rye pointing a finger to the heavens. “No matter what happens on this Earth, the sun always rises, and the moon always watches over us.”
At the end of the day, the Sun and Moon and stars didn’t care who you were or what you did. Without fail, the Sun always rises. Even when the clouds cover it, the light still shines.
At the end of the day, the universe still carried on, like no one was ever there. The universe didn’t care if Rye made mistakes or was worshipping the wrong gods (She didn’t think of this as worship anyway, rather as a vague ritual to appease any that might be up there since Gods were fickle, annoying things).
With the dance finally done, Rye skulked back to the trees where her things were, and started to wander her way home. She had spent a good two hours not only wet, but now sandy and muddy from the journey. It was well worth it.
When Rye opens the back door to get inside her house, first Ben’s voice greets her – since of course – followed by Dad shouting “Don’t come in here coated in mud like that!”
With an umbrella in hand, Ben holds the hose in his other, and stares at Rye as she stands out back, today’s downpour never letting up – but Dad had a point.
“This seems redundant,” Ben comments, plainly, pulling the trigger on the hose and Rye gets blasted with a jet of cold water.
“It is!” Rye hisses, doing her best to hold still as Ben hosed her down in the rain like some dog. He was dry, the lucky bastard, although his white curls stuck up a little more weird than normal today.
“But you did your thing?” He asks, sweetly, and Rye nods a little, turning so Ben can get her back.
“Yep yep – We’re safe for another month.” Rye says, and bends a leg up so he can clean off her sandals as well, gripping her ankle to keep her foot up under the steady stream of water.
“Good! But gods or no gods, you shouldn’t get so wet for so long,” Ben chides, all too good natured. “You could get hypothermia!”
“Then hurry up with this,” Rye complains, turning to glare at Ben over her shoulder. “But I’ll be wet a little longer! Dad has an inflatable raft in the garage.” With that, Ben gasps, lowering the hose.
“Oh my god!” Ben exclaims, a sparkle of mischief in his eyes. “The water really IS deep enough! Let’s go!” throwing the hose to the side, he ran to the garage, delicately hopping over the few stepping stones still above the sea level in the back yard.
Rye sighs, uselessly wringing out a corner of her shirt. If she got sick, she could stay home from school. School owed her for this one.