Endless Sunshine

rain

Endless Sunshine

 © Bethany Hatheway

The rain seemed endless, clouds constantly rolling across and dumping buckets on our little town. Spring was always a rainy season, but this year was different. It’d been twelve days since we’d last seen the sun, and nine days since the last break in the drizzle. The sound of rain beating down on the roof had become the constant background noise to our lives. The creeks and rivers were overflowing their banks; back roads had become passable only by those wearing high-waders or those who owned a canoe. Many people’s houses were flooded, and those not living on a hill had fled to drier pastures.

“Weather channel says we should see a break soon,” my roommate said. He sat on the couch sipping beer, glancing out the window dubiously. Rain ran down the window, the droplets trying to find a way through the crack in the window left from a past baseball incident. “I think they’re full of shit.”

“They always are,” I replied. I looked outside. Our little house was on top of a small hill, and the neighbors on our side of the street were fine. Across the street the houses dipped into a little valley, and not one of them had gotten off without at least a little water damage. All but one family had gone to stay with relatives. The storm was turning this place into a ghost town.

“Better quit soon. I’m not gonna be able to buy my smokes if I can’t get back to work,” he grumbled. He stared grumpily as the channel turned to reports of near-record highs in Arizona. My roommate worked construction. The company he worked for had shut down all projects until the rain let up and the flooding started to go down. They’d have enough business when all was done to make up for the losses, but he wouldn’t get paid until then.

“I hear ya.” My stomach grumbled. Our fridge was empty. Turns out that you couldn’t trust two young bachelors to stock up adequately for a storm. “I’m gonna walk down to the diner. You want anything?”

“I’m good. I’m gonna try to go to the bar later. See how good my truck does in the water.”

I shuffled to my room and took my slippers off. I didn’t have boots high enough for the water when it was raining hard like this, so my only option was to wear sandals and roll my jeans up past my knees. They were so baggy that I had to keep them up with clothes pins. With my bright green poncho and floppy fishing hat, I looked homeless.

It was a soggy walk to the diner. The water on the road was ankle-deep, but when I stepped off to let a car pass I ended up in a ditch that soaked one pant leg all the way up to mid-thigh. The parking lot of the diner had a pothole that stole my sandal and sent it swirling around in the small current, but I managed to retrieve it just in time for a car to pull in and spray me with water. Once parked, the driver jumped out.

“I’m so sorry!” the woman exclaimed. “I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t even see you there!”

“That’s alright,” I replied. “I’m not afraid of a little water.”

“Come on, let’s get you inside. I’ll buy you lunch.”

“Really, that’s okay,” I said.

“Don’t be silly. My name’s Sierra.” Before I knew what was happening, her hand was around my arm and she was pulling me into the diner. The bell dinged as we stood inside dripping on the mat.

“Hang up your wet things, take off your shoes, and have a look at our rainy day specials,” the hostess said. She smiled at me. “You again? Well, you know the drill. Don’t make me mop all this up.” She looked at Sierra. “This your honey?”

“Nope, we just met,” Sierra replied. We both took off our rain gear and tried to keep the dripping to a minimum. I was paying more attention to the winks being thrown our way by the cook- who was lazily stealing coffee behind the counter as he made rude gestures with his other hand- than to the girl next to me. “Can we have a booth?” Sierra asked. The cook winked at me. I ignored him.

“Sure you can, sweetheart. Sit wherever you like. Will you need a menu?”

“Yes, please,” Sierra replied. The hostess didn’t bother offering me one, since I was basically a regular. Barefoot, I followed Sierra’s blond head to the booth closest to the big windows. She took the seat facing outside. When I sat across from her, I paused in mid-air to stare. “So, are you from around here?”

“Yes,” I managed to say. I passed off my pause as having to take the clothespins off my pants to let them dry. Sierra was the most beautiful girl I’d ever seen. Her golden hair curled softly and framed her round face. Her lips were full and red, and her eyes were bright green, the color of clover in the springtime. Her nose was dainty and her smile revealed dimples. She wore no make-up as far as I could tell, and light freckles covered her cheeks. I took it all in in an instant, and I felt a feeling deep in my chest that I’d never felt before. I wanted to take this delicate, beautiful stranger in my arms and hold her forever.

“…at the university,” she was saying. “My thesis project is about the increase of strange weather patterns over time, so I’m thrilled that I was able to come here and record the rain fall on my own. It was quite the drive up here; I spent two days in the middle of nowhere trying to get my car fixed when I blew my front right tire in a pothole. If it stops raining before I can start my research tomorrow, I’ll be really bummed.”

“Well, we’re all more than ready for the rain to stop, so chances are it’ll keep pissing down on us for a few more days.” Did I sound as nervous as I felt? I was shaking on the inside just by having her near. She just smiled at me.

“What can I get for you two?” the hostess asked when her and the cook had stopped gossiping about us long enough for her to come over.

“Do you like the fried pickles?” Sierra asked me. I nodded. “Okay, we’ll take that for the appetizer, then I’ll have the spaghetti with meat sauce and a side salad with ranch. Oh, and lemonade to drink.” The hostess got my order and Sierra told her that we were sharing a check since she’d almost hit me pulling in.

“Too bad you missed,” the hostess replied. “Now I have to keep seeing his ugly mug every week.” She winked and headed back to the kitchen to continue gossiping with the cook, bringing out our drinks a few minutes later. I had never been good at talking to pretty girls, but Sierra kept the conversation going. She talked about her work and where she was studying. She talked about her family, she talked about her cat. She talked about how she’d wanted to be a pirate as a child, and how she’d always been close to her grandmother. I soaked it all up like a sponge, offering a reply when I had to.

“I’m sorry, I’m just talking your eat off,” she said, blushing. She was cute when she blushed. She was pale, so her cheeks turned bright pink. I wondered if her earns and neck turned red when she was really embarrassed.

“No, no, it’s fine. I’m just quiet. I like the sound of your voice,” I said. I kicked myself. Now she thought I was a creep.

“Why thank you,” she said. “I hate my voice. I made my mom record my voicemail message.”

“I think everyone hates the sound of their own voice.”

“You’re probably right. I wonder if singers feel the same.” She went on to talk about her favorite music, moving through the different concerts she’d been through as the hostess brought the pickles. When the food came, she kept talking, taking small bites between long stories or explanations about her life. I finished my food quickly and learned her life story. When she was six, her parents gave her a hamster who she’d named “Hampy”. She was once dared to skateboard down a big hill near her elementary school, and she had ended up falling and breaking her wrist. She was terrified of bees and heights, and her favorite food was meatloaf, of all things, because it was the only thing her dad knew how to make. The sun went down, and the hostess kept our drinks full, and we sat there until Sierra finally ran out of things to say and realized what time it was.

“We’ve been here for hours! I’m sorry, I have to be keeping you from something!”

“No, no, you’re fine,” I said.

She paid the bill and said, “Well, where do you live? The least I can do is give you a ride, since I kept you so late. I wouldn’t want you walking home in the dark in this weather.”

“I won’t object to that.” The drive back was full of more chatter. My body was buzzing from being so close to her in such a small space. I directed her back to my house, sighing in relief when I saw that my roommate wasn’t there.

“Hey, do you mind if I use your bathroom?” Sierra asked. She smiled. “There’s a downside to all this rain.”

“Yeah, no problem.” Inside, I was freaking out like a teenage boy about to go on his first date. What was wrong with me? “I have to warn you, it’s a mess.”

“Oh, don’t worry. I know how it is. I grew up with four brothers.”

We went inside and I pointed her to the bathroom. The house was dark and gloomy; the typical home of two young guys without a care about how often the trash was taken out or how much use we got out of our washer and dryer. Sierra looked completely out of place in our dirty little house. She just… shined.

“Thanks for that,” she said, coming down the stairs. I happened to be standing at the bottom, staring like an idiot at the way she’d gone, and so when she came to a stop on the last step, we were the same height. She laughed. “Are you going to let me through?”

“Yeah, sorry.” I was probably blushing. I noticed a little bit of fuzz on her jacket. “Oh, let me get that,” I said. I brushed it away. There, she was perfection again. I looked up and saw that she had somehow gotten even closer. Her face was just inches away.

“You’re pretty cute,” she said, and then she kissed me. My eyes closed automatically. Her lips were there then gone the next second, leaving me straining after her. I had serious butterflies in my stomach. No girl had ever left me feeling so flustered after just one kiss. I opened my eyes. “Do you have a bedroom?” she asked.

“Uh….” I had to think about it. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah.” It was more a breath than an actual word. Some part of me wanted to object, wanted to keep this girl completely untouched. I didn’t care if she’d been with other guys, she was pure. I didn’t want to ruin that, but I couldn’t deny that I wanted her. I wanted her more than I ever wanted anything in my whole life.

The next thing I knew, we were in my bedroom. I cleared off my bed, and we made it under the covers. Clothes came off and I was above her, looking into her eyes. They were deep pools, and I felt myself falling into them. Her eyes told me everything about her, how sweet, pure, and innocent she was. “You are so beautiful,” I whispered. Her smile lit up the room.

We perfectly into one another’s bodies. I wanted everything to go better, slower, but I couldn’t help myself. Seeing her perfect body and her little smile was too much for me. I tried to apologize afterward, but she smiled and hugged me to her. I put my arms around her and allowed myself to enjoy the warm feel of her. The rain played music as we stared at the ceiling.

“Are you going to be at the diner tomorrow?” she asked.

“I can be.”

“How about six o’clock?”

“My treat this time?”

“I’ll see you then.” She smiled at me and dressed. I slipped my boxers on and saw her to the door. She kissed me on the cheek before running into the rain. It wasn’t until the rain started blowing sideways that I remembered to close the door, forcing it shut over the swollen sill.

The next few days passed in a similar fashion. I would slosh my way to the diner, meet Sierra there, then we’d come back to my house. After the first day, I tried my best to clean up the house a bit, but there was only so much to be done. Ash trays were scattered about the house, and the smell of smoke couldn’t be erased. The mismatched furniture was old and worn and refused to completely give up the dust it had been collecting for years. The only sheets I had were ugly and riddled with stains. There wasn’t enough space in my tiny room for everything I had, yet none of it could be thrown away. I realized that there was no way I’d ever be good enough for this girl, yet she continued to come to bed with me and bless me with her radiance.

One day I came down with a bad cold, and there was no way that I was going to slosh to the diner. Sierra and I hadn’t exchanged numbers; we hadn’t even exchanged last names. I fretted over what to do. My roommate was gone, so I couldn’t get a ride, and though the rain was very gentle, I didn’t want to go out. I paced in front of the door until ten minutes after we were supposed to meet. I decided that I couldn’t stand her up, and decided to get dressed and try sprinting. Just as I was ready to go out and brave the storm, Sierra showed up.

“You were late, so I thought I’d come offer you a ride,” she said. She smiled. “Ready to go?”

“No, I’m feeling awful. I just didn’t want to leave you there, but now that you’re here…”

“You sound all stuffed up. And your nose is red. Go change into comfy pj’s and I’ll see if there’s anything in your kitchen that I can turn into dinner.”

“Oh, no, you don’t have to, I’ll order pizza or something.”

“Nope. Now go change.” I put my hands up in surrender and met her back in the kitchen in my favorite plaid pants and an old shirt. Sierra was busy boiling water. On the counter I saw rice, cream of mushroom soup, cheese, and tuna fish. I looked at her blankly. “It’s called swill,” she said. “It’s something my dad learned to make as a bachelor. It’s really good for when you’re sick. It’s the only thing I could think to make.” She was blushing. It was incredibly cute.

“I can’t taste anything right now, so if it tastes like shit, you don’t even have to worry,” I said. I stepped closer. “I’ll just have to trust your cooking.” I kissed her on the nose, delighted at the smile that that produced. She started doing more cooking-like things, so I stood back and watched this beautiful woman move around my kitchen. If I had any idea what she was doing, I would’ve helped her.

I could’ve gotten used to that. Not specifically being cooked for, but being cared for. This was definitely girlfriend behavior on her part, and I wasn’t complaining. However, I didn’t want to bring such a thing up. It seemed like she wanted no more than what we’d been doing.

The dish, swill, turned out to be all the things on the counter mixed together. It was strangely delicious, and warm enough to make me feel better. We switched on the TV and Sierra continued talking. That was what she did. She told me all about herself, her life, her friends, her experiences. I didn’t know if she was just talkative or had been waiting for someone to listen, but I took it all in and remembered it all. For someone who’d done so poorly in school, I didn’t know how I processed it all, but to this day I can remember that her childhood address was 583 Magnolia Lane and that she found chameleons fascinating.

“Can you believe it’s been raining for twenty-seven days so far?” she asked. “It’s so exciting to be able to gather all this data. It might set a record, if it rains long enough.”

“I’ve had enough of getting wet, if you ask me,” I said, sneezing for emphasis.

“Oh, hush and have some more. I made way too much. When do you think your roommate will be back?”

“No time soon, if you’re lucky.”

Some nights later, we laid in bed together as I stoked her hair. She was wrapped around me and dozing lightly. I bent down and kissed her forehead. The truth was that I never wanted to let this girl go. I didn’t understand how such a precious gem had found her way into my world, but I didn’t want to give her up. I’d put up with years of rain if it meant seeing her every day.

“I love you,” I whispered. “I love you so much.” She didn’t stir, though moments later she hugged me tighter. I didn’t know if she’d heard me, but I didn’t care. I loved her so fiercely that it took my breath away. I think I’d loved her at first sight.

Looking at the beautiful girl in my arms, my lids began growing heavy. The clock confirmed that it was indeed late. It seemed as if she’d be spending the night for the first time. I should have woken her up and sent her on her way– I was sure she had work to do in the morning– but I was selfish. I wanted to fall asleep with her in my arms and wake with her beside me.

In the silence of the night, I fell asleep.

When I woke up, Sierra wasn’t in the bed. With no note, I thought that maybe she was still in the house, but a quick search revealed only my hung-over roommate. Only after I’d gotten myself a cup of coffee and stared mindlessly at the road for a while did I notice that the rain had stopped. I happily went outside and stood on the doorstep, smelling the damp smell of morning and listening to the birds chirp. A single bird flew across the open patch of sky. I watched it go, having missed out on such a sight due to the rain. I was reminded of the story of Noah’s arc from Sunday school, and how Noah had sent out a bird to search for dry land. However, I remembered there being two birds, something about the bird not willing to leave without its mate. Only having attended Sunday school for a year or two, I wasn’t completely clear on the matter, so I shook my head and went back inside.

Though Sierra hadn’t left a note, I assumed that we’d be meeting at the diner again that night. Her work here was over, but I was sure that she’d want to say goodbye, possibly stay in contact, even if only as friends. If she wanted more than that, my job wasn’t important. I could move anywhere in the country and do the exact same thing. I’d go anywhere for her, if she wanted me.

I hoped more than anything that she wanted me.

When I went to the diner, the hostess didn’t even bother to greet me. There were more customers than normal, all happy and taking about the end of the blasted rain. I went to our normal booth and ordered our drinks. The waitress brought them, but Sierra didn’t show up. I figured that she was packing or finishing up with her work, and ordered my food, willing to wait. After a half hour, I began to doubt that she was coming. After an hour, the waitress gave me my check and the hostess came over to reassure me that I hadn’t been stood up. I stayed another hour, waiting hopefully for Sierra to show up, but there was no sign of her. The hostess promised to send her my way if she showed. I tipped the waitress generously for putting up with me, then I shuffled home.

It was to be expected, really. I wasn’t good enough for her. She was a graduate student, and I was what, a community college dropout with no direction in life? She’d never hinted at anything more than friendship and casual hookups. We hadn’t talked about what we’d do once the rain ended, and now we’d never talk again.

I got home and lifelessly started up the stairs. My roommate called out from the kitchen. “Good news! The rain stopped.”

“Yeah.”

“You still boinking that girl? She was pretty hot.” I paused on the stairs.

“No. She left.” When the rain stopped, the sun was supposed to come out. Instead it ran away.

“That sucks. You gonna look her up?”

“No.”

“Why not, bro? If she settled for you once she can do it again.”

“She lives out of state.” My roommate came around the corner. He was eating a partially rotten banana. Mud was splattered up the side of his jeans.

“So? Go after her. I’m not going to miss you here.”

“I could say the same.” Seriously. The banana was not fit for human consumption. He was going to need his stomach pumped or something.

“Then go after her. You can get a loser minimum wage job and a loser roommate anywhere. I’m not going to deal with your moping around shit.”

“Whatever you say. I need a nap.” I trudged up the stairs and shut my door. It made no sense to follow the advice of a man who couldn’t tell a ripe banana from a rotten one. However, maybe if I took the chance…

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