Cara Michaels’ Picture Choice: 2
Title: Rainy Days Are Here Again
Ahead of me, the sun peeked through the curtains of clouds shrouding the city in rain. I held my umbrella overhead, shielding my head and shoulders from the worst of the heavy, cold drops. Nothing stopped the splashing as they hit ground like miniature bombs, their blasts soaking my legs and shoes. A woman ran beneath the stony arch of an overpass, closing her umbrella, chasing the promise of the sun.
Me? I loved the rain. Nothing like a good soak to freshen the air and earth. I whistled as I walked, laughing to myself as people scurried like rats on a sinking ship. A bell jingled to signal my arrival as I ducked into a shop advertising ‘new age’ and ‘wiccan’ blah, blah, blah. Modern names for practices older than humans. Things needed labels in this world, compartments, kept neat and just so. I rolled my eyes, stomped my wet feet on the mat just inside the door, and left my umbrella to shed some water weight.
A cheery ‘Be right with you’ came from somewhere in the back of the tiny storefront, filled to the brim. Cluttered, but in a well-loved sort of way, as though the owner couldn’t bear to part with things, even though no one wanted to buy them. Knowing the owner, I knew he’d buy a bigger shop before he gave up his treasures.
Seamus Finley, proprietor, scholar, and tea addict came out of the back room, nose buried in a book decades older than him. Possibly centuries.
“Something new for the collection, Seamus?” I asked.
His blue eyes found me over the top of the tome, crinkled at the edges with a smile the book hid. He closed the book with care, letting me see his face.
“New to me,” he said. “Fascinating account of the Dark Ages.”
“Hopefully more about the volcano and less about the woeful lack of surviving literature,” I said, “because let me tell you, the eruption impressed even me.”
He’d changed much since we’d last met. Of course… I tapped a finger against my bottom lip… that had been thirty some years ago? When he’d been fresh out of university?
“This is a pleasant surprise. I’d say I should have known a three-day rainstorm portended more than a persistent weather front, but… I doubt I would have guessed you with any amount of auguring. It’s been a long time.”
His hair ran more to gray than black now, his body grown a bit thicker with age. Still handsome, though.
“Academic maturity looks good on you,” I said, my lips curling into a smile.
“And you, Shannon, look lovelier, if such a thing is possible,” he said.
My smile grew. “You remember me fondly, then.”
“Is there any other way to remember you?”
“Ah, well, I suppose it would depend on whom you ask.” I laughed, more delighted than I’d known I would be to see him again. I should have paid more attention to the time, to the years passing by.
“Dare I hope this is a social visit?” he asked.
“I’m mixing business and pleasure, as they say.”
“Of course.” He nodded.
“You are one of the few practicing druids left, Seamus,” I said. “And the only one I personally know.”
The moment passed almost before I saw the flash of disappointment in his eyes. I hoped the pleasure part of my visit would make up for it.
“What can I do for you?” he asked.
I clapped my hands together. “There’s this sun god following me, you see… And I’ve been asked—quite devotedly, I might add—to keep the storm going a few more days.”
“You’re going to drown us,” he said.
“Oh, nothing so dramatic.” I sighed. The storms never lasted, no matter how much energy I poured into them. Always, those pesky sun gods got the call to stop the rain already. “Though I can’t say what comes of this won’t make the headlines.”
Business took five minutes and a minor invocation. Happy as could be, I settled into a rocking chair, a steaming mug of Irish breakfast tea with milk and sugar cradled in my hands.
“This is perfect, Seamus.” I sipped the strong brew and hummed. Without preamble, I called upon my strongest gift—the renewal of life—and directed it toward my host.
Seamus coughed on his tea.
“What have you done?” he asked, gaze locked on his hands, youthful and strong. He stared down into his tea, breath catching at what he saw reflected. Goodness, I’d forgotten how handsome he’d been. “Give a man some warning, Shannon.”
“I believe Seamus may have retired and left his business to a younger relative,” I said. “Or if you’d like to relocate, I can assist. Favor for a favor and all.”
“I thought you said maturity looked good on me?”
“And it does. I just need to be sure you can keep up with me.” I set my cup on the counter and leaned across the glass to kiss him softly. “Care to close shop early and take a walk?”
“Just promise,” he said.
“Don’t stay gone so long next time.”
I smiled. “Deal.”
We left the umbrella behind and headed out, hand in hand. I’d argue that I hadn’t made a proper rainstorm since that Noah fellow, but hardly anyone listened to me these days so this would have to do. The sun had faded and my clouds held sway once more. At my side, Seamus hummed...
“What’s that tune? I like it.”
“Singin’ in the Rain,” he said. “It’s a classic film.”
“Indeed?” I blinked the drops from my eyelashes. “I’ve never heard it.”
“Came out the year I was born.”
I smiled so hard my cheeks ached. I’d wait a bit longer before I asked him to join me for more than just a walk. Maybe after I convinced him to take me to lunch.
Cara Michaels is the author of the Gaea’s Chosen sci-fi romance series and host of the #MenageMonday flash fiction challenge.