Narrated by Bob Eccles
The world spins around me as I twirl, my music the soft pattering of rain, my audience the clouds, grass, and trees blowing in the wind, swaying to the music of the storm, and also the small shiny wet faces peeking from under leaves. Thunder claps a distant dramatic chord and my dance goes on. My wet skin gleams as I dance up a rainbow, the final spectacle that brings the performance to a close, and I bow. The audience is silent, awestruck by the majesty of my dance. I give a curtsey and walk away.
Reality hits at the door with Mother’s screams at the muddy puddles I leave behind, and how I will catch my death of a chill. I try to explain a perfect performance is worth the risk, my audience demands I dance. How can I refuse? She doesn’t hear or doesn’t understand. She never does.
Next time when the music of the rain falls, the audience will be waiting and I will have to dance again. They will come creeping out of their holes and beg for me to perform. Not a rain has passed since I was old enough to walk that they didn’t.
I remember my first steps outside alone and seeing them hiding under the leaves. They came out one by one, the big one with the wild red hair first. He was always the boldest, he one who led them into the house to steal me away. I haven’t seen him for almost a year. I guess even they must die and pass away, and new ones be born, small unfamiliar faces in the crowd every spring, ones missing in the fall. I didn’t know they were wrong at first. I called them dollies and pointed at their shiny faces. My mother just looked confused. It didn’t take long to learn not to mention them. She didn’t, or couldn’t, or didn’t want to understand.
My best friend, Molly, who moved away last year, told me adults forget childhood things, that my mother probably saw them as a child and can’t let herself remember what she’s lost. Molly never saw them. She had her own secret things, things I suppose she will forget when she grows up, as I will probably forget them. I don’t want to forget. I don’t want to stop dancing for them, even if it means catching colds, even if my bare feet hurt from the icy autumn rains.
Mother makes me sit at the kitchen table and forces a painfully hot cup of cocoa into my hands to warm me up. I don’t want to drink cocoa. I want to go to bed. The dance wears me out like nothing else in the world, but she insists I have to dry off and warm up first. I wait for her to get busy getting my younger brother for bed and lay my head on the table and try to fall asleep, but the music of the rain is still in it, making it spin around like I’m still dancing. As tired as I am, I don’t mind.
Sitting there, listening to the music and feeling the joy of moving to it, I must have fallen asleep. The next thing I know is when I wake in my bed from a dream of thunderstorms and unicorn colored rainbows, my head filled with glitter and stardust and fever. Mother was right, I am sick of a chill.
I can hear her on the phone pacing back and forth in front of my door, talking frantically with the doctor, as if I’ve never been sick before. A couple days later and I’m, as my grandmother used to say, ‘Right as Rain’ and that evening, it does rain, starting with a few huge raindrops, and then a constant patter. I want so much for them to come and take me out to dance, but Mother is sitting across the table, and she won’t let me out of her sight, afraid I’ll go out nd get sick again. I feel sick now, inside my head, hearing the music, my feet longing to dance, my skin hungering for the caress of the drops as they fall.
In the window behind mother, pressed against the glass, I see their faces watching sadly. They will not come in with mother here. They will not let her see them. If the big one with the wild red hair were here, he’d find a way to distract her like he did many times before he went away, but none of these are as bold and brave. After a while, they shake their heads and leave, and I know they will never come again. I wonder if they will find another girl to dance for them to the music of the rain, and I wonder if this is the day I become an adult, the day I lose the special secrets that only a child can have.
AUTHOR BIO: E. M. Sole is a proud resident of Nebraska, living there with three jack russell terriers and a very confused cat. She was given the gift of the love of literature of all types by her grandmother, a gift that has grown in value through the years. Her short fiction has appeared in Mystic Signals, Infective Ink and Liquid Imagination.