I wish it were raining today. Maybe that’s part of how the story below came to be. But, of course, there’s more.
I remember the feeling.
When I was a kid, I felt alone a lot. It’s a sucky time to feel alone. Life’s too new. Kids should feel like they have all kinds of connections. But I spent many Saturdays keeping to myself, playing imagination games, and wondering if there really was any magic in the world.
Now I know. There most certainly is. If you know where to look.
There’s no prompt for this story. In fact, it’s more of a narrative essay than story, but I find comfort in its melancholy. Much like the rain.
I hope you enjoy it, too.
they came with the rain
Dark clouds draped the sky, their billowy mass like thick frosting sliding down the side of a cake. The cake she wanted. The cake she didn’t get.
Not that it surprised her. At ten, she was already more world-wise than most adults. She knew the score. Still, she had hoped. But she always hoped. She was stupidly optimistic that way, putting her faith in them even when they let her down time and again.
Lightning struck. She counted, “One-Mississippi, two-Mississippi, three-Mississippi, four-Mississippi, five—”
About four and a half miles, then. It would rain soon. Maybe it would be one of the special storms. Maybe they would come.
They said they were nymphs. It was a different sort of word, one she hadn’t heard before. There was no folder in the file system of her mind to consult. So she just stared at them, blankly, trying to decide what to say.
In fairness to her, what does one say when one discovers a band of small people frolicking in a rain puddle? “Some weather we’re having,” didn’t feel like it would do, so she said, “Hi. I’m Emily.”
“Sprites,” one of them tried to clarify when they saw her confusion. “Pixies.”
Emily understood then.
Of course they were small. They were magical, and most magical things are tiny, if not literally, then metaphorically. Magic is rare and easy to miss, which is why most adults can’t see it, even when it’s as plain as five sister nymphs dancing in the rain right in front of them.
They talked for an hour or so, Emily and her nymphs, and then the skies began to clear. With great pomp, they bowed and said their good-byes and promised to come back. “When it rains, dear,” one of them specified. “And only certain types of rain, of course. We dare not travel with just any storm.”
Emily nodded wisely, as though she knew of such things, and made a mental note to Google the entire affair later. But the internet was surprisingly sparse on solid information about nymphs, and there was no mention whatsoever of Queen Lympha Bellus, (may she ever rule).
From that day on, she watched the skies. She listened to weather forecasts. Once, in an act of sheer desperation, she attempted a rain dance.
Maybe you can understand. Maybe you can’t.
Emily was not like many children. She didn’t have friends, really. No true friends, at least. She was an only child, and sometimes she wondered if her parents even remembered they’d had her. She spent most of her time alone, and the nymphs with their ‘m’ names and their delicate wings and their mysterious ways were a welcome distraction from her solitary routines.
She lived for the days they came back.
And they did come back. Sometimes only for a few minutes, and sometimes for hours.
Once, on a Saturday in early October, it rained all day and into the night. They had an impromptu party, Emily and her nymphs, watching her favorite movies on the small TV in her room, eating popcorn and sipping root beer. She even made them a frozen pizza, which they ate quite politely, only mentioning once or twice that the fare, while pleasant, was a far cry from what they’d had when dining with Queen Lympha Bellus, (may she ever rule).
But that day, the day the clouds looked like frosting and her parents hardly spoke, completely unaware that ten had become eleven, that day they did not come. The rain did – fat, heavy drops that beat against the window while the wind howled. She sat in her room, hugging her knees, wishing she was at court with her friends.
They’d told her all about it, of course. Not just the food. The clothes, the entertainment, the Queen, (May she ever rule, Emily thought), the protocol and politics and perfection of it all. She wanted to see it with her own eyes, to stand before the Queen and, like a visiting dignitary, bow low and express her thanks for the hospitality she’d been shown, all the while secretly hoping that perhaps she’d be allowed to stay on permanently.
But the nymphs said she was simply too big. Not that she was a large girl. She was actually a bit of a runt, but compared to the nymphs she was down-right gargantuan. She smiled and said, “Of course,” hiding away her sadness.
In short, she fooled them. For though they came with the rain, she wished to leave with it.
Wet and windy, she wanted to leave this place – it certainly didn’t feel like home – and move on to something better. Something finer. Some place where, perhaps, nymphs, both noble and not, could share in true fellowship.
Perhaps there was such a place. She hoped there was.
Someday, maybe, she would find it, and she would know when she was there if she did. For she felt certain that whatever other wonders such a place might hold, if it were truly magic no one would ever, ever forget to bake her a cake on days when cakes ought to be baked.