“You can’t predict lust. It’s a cloud of magical dust that floats in the air. It has no logic, no predetermined path. Maybe it settles on you. Maybe you unexpectedly walk through it … it doesn’t matter how or when really … it makes you think that whoever you’re with or see in front of you is your love … rather they are good or evil.”
My grandmother had whispered this often, as if it was sinful to think it, to believe that something so powerful could be a blessing … It was a curse. Evil. And completely confused with love … and she wanted me to know this even before I was old enough to understand what it meant.
That was the phrase my mind remembered that day. Repeating in her strict tone. Of all the things she’d said to me in my life it was the only thing that brought her voice back to me as I stood, hands clasped watching the raindrops bounce violently off a shiny white box.
It was summertime. The season when the storms came the most and when I stayed with my grandmother. I wanted to spend that summer with her. My father said he wished I had gone with her too …
The heavy precipitation concealed my tears well as I stared into that deep hole, watching the spray of pink roses slowly descend with that beautiful box beneath them until they were too far down to touch.
Like a statue, I stood there. Watching a line of umbrellas fight the wind as their owners dropped handfuls of mud that made heart splitting thuds. I bent slowly and took a piece of earth into my own hand and squeezed it. It squished between my fingers and water dripped down my wrist – seemingly crying tears as well for the change that would come with her absence. This change would only come to my life for I was the only grandchild who lived with the woman the entire summer. I’d always seen envy and resentment in my cousins’ eyes when they visited. None of them liked me because of it and I’d heard them whisper to each other … questioning why our Gram loved me more … I wasn’t special or pretty. And their parents would whisper too … telling them that my life wasn’t as good as theirs and Gram didn’t think more of me … she pitied me.
I stood against a tree in the backyard of my grandmother’s home. The funeral was over and my family gathered in small groups under the safety of the screened back porch, chatting and reminiscing, laughing about the things that had irritated and angered them when she was alive.
They didn’t notice the firstborn grandchild standing alone in the rain or perhaps they were ignoring me. No one seemed to care how I was doing. How I felt? If I was okay? I had loved her so much … despite her sharp tongue and strict ways. She was the only person in my life that seemed to want me.
All my life I’d rarely spoken in their presence and when I did it was with a whisper in my Grandmother’s ear. They had never tried to make me feel comfortable, staring down at me like an unwanted pest – and I noticed that had changed that day – their short disapproving glances turned to blame. Gram had been sick and she’d still insisted on collecting me – I guess it was my fault – I lowered my head and stared at my feet. Would I ever bring anything but bad luck to people in my life?
Rain rarely fell where I lived, but when it did it came fierce and angry. Blowing howling winds, dropping stinging pellets, and bringing everything in town to a dead halt. No one liked the rain … and my name is Rain.
There was a storm on the day I was born too. The rain fell so hard that it seemed like they were driving under a waterfall and my grandmother had to pull off the road. Rain was the last word that escaped my mother’s lips on the side of that dirt back road – I guess I could understand how my grandmother thought my mother was naming her child … or maybe I was given the name because I was as unwelcomed as the weather.
Loud, angry voices carried out of the back door and into the yard. My father and stepmother, their arms weighed down with my grandmother’s belongings, shoved past the crowd. My aunt screamed behind him and was joined by others in the family as they headed for the front-drive, violently pushing away anyone who tried to pry the loot from his hands.
I didn’t have to be called; I knew the routine and hurried to catch up with them. No one in the family cared for my father and his wife, myself included, but I was stuck with them.
We lived two hours south of my grandmother’s place and the drive took twice as long with the weather still raging. The car crawled through the flooded roads. Slipping on and off the shoulder. My father and stepmother, Grace, screamed at each other the whole way because my father refused to pull over and wait it out. She blamed it on his male ego. He said she imagined his bad driving because she’d taken too many pills, not that he was any less intoxicated.
All I could do was listen, stare out the window and choke back the sobs that wanted to fall. I couldn’t cry in front of my stepmother. The woman hated it. Called it childish sobbing and would punish me if she saw a single tear.
Next to me, the rather large antique porcelain carousel that used to sit on its own table in my grandmother’s living room made slight tings with each bump and I remembered how Gram had wound it for me, let me sit on my knees with my head propped on the table, watching until it stopped. She’d never let anyone else near it. Not even her own children.
Oh, how I wished I could keep it with its perfectly painted white, black, grey, and brown horses. It was supposed to be mine – Gram had always said so but it would be shattered to pieces if I dared ask for it.
I closed my eyes and hoped that maybe – just maybe – my father had taken it to give to me as his mother had wanted – but I knew better. It had been passed down for generations and was worth a lot of money.
When we reached the old trailer we called home, the storm had subsided, but my parental figures were still at each other’s throats and I was able to slip out of the house and walk around the neighborhood where I was free to cry, really cry for the most important person in my life. I had never felt completely alone in the world until that moment. There would be no more phone calls – and no more vacations away from my personal hell.
I was always in trouble. Constantly chided and berated. I couldn’t do anything right no matter how hard I tried and then there was Grace, who made up a few more things for reasons I didn’t understand. The thought entered my mind that she enjoyed watching my father whip me with his belt, but I didn’t want to believe a person could be that cold.
“Rain!” From behind, Ian Thompson, my next-door neighbor, ran to catch up with me. He and his little brother, Landon was the closest I had to friends even though they didn’t speak to me at school. It hurt, but I couldn’t hold it against them. I was a cast out and I didn’t want anyone to have to put up with bullying and teasing because of me.
I wasn’t pretty like the other girls. My clothes were stained, ripped, baggy, and my tennis shoes were held together with duct tape. The only nice thing I owned was the dress and shoes I wore at that moment, bought just to make a good impression on my family.
“Wait up, Rain!” Ian smiled and slowed his pace when he finally reached my side. “Wow, you’re walking fast. Are you running away?” I wished I had the nerve to run away, but where would I run to?
“I heard about your grandma. I’m sorry.” Ian put his arm around my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. I didn’t know if he was truly offering his sympathy or just using it as an excuse to touch me. Ever since I had moved to his street two years earlier, he had expressed an interest in me, but I didn’t feel the same way – Perhaps because I didn’t know how to feel those kinds of feelings. Ian was considered good looking among the girls at our school – so there had to be something wrong with me, right? Shouldn’t he spark the same feelings in me as he did other girls?
But he just …. Didn’t. He wasn’t ugly. He was … okay. I guess. He wasn’t very tall, maybe just an inch or so taller than me, and I always imagined my future boyfriend would tower above me – but he was athletic with wide shoulders, and a constant tan. His tapered fade hair cut was raven black and his eyes were almost as dark – He just wasn’t my type – but I didn’t really know what my type was or if I had preferences at all.
“You look really … um, pretty today. That dress … I wish you would wear one more often.”
I looked at my feet. His compliment was an insult and a pleasant way of him telling me to make myself look better so he could be seen with me.
“I was getting ready to take a walk through the woods behind my house. Do you want to go with me?” He squeezed my shoulders tighter, slightly maneuvering me toward a barely noticeable path. “There’s a quiet place …”
I dipped and took a step away, making his arm slip off my shoulders. I hated to be touched by anyone – It felt nice – but caused instant panic – what if someone saw? And I’d forgotten to change out of that dress – I was going to be in so much trouble!
“Come on, Rain. I won’t bite – you know me.”
But I didn’t know him. He was just the kid whose house happened to be beside mine. The guy that constantly bragged about how many porn videos and magazines he owned and often whispered provocative invitations in my ear. At fourteen all Ian thought about was seeing a girl naked and I don’t think he cared who.
“Just for a few minutes … please.” He poked out his bottom lip.
I shook my head and turned around at the stop sign, feeling the instant need to flee. I hastened my pace hoping Ian would get the message and go away, but by the time I reached my driveway, he was still beside me.
I could tell by the way Grace stared from the front porch that the moment would be turned into much more than it was, just as it had been many times before.
“Rain.” She said in a fake, sweet tone like she was the best stepmother in the world. “It’s time to come inside – the storm’s gonna start up again.”
“See ya later, babe.” Ian paused too long, staring too hard like there was something else he wanted to say or do … and I prayed he wouldn’t … whatever it was … until he finally walked on.
“Did you have fun?” Grace snarled as I passed. “Did you twitch your ass enough for the neighbor boy?”
I closed my eyes, fighting back tears. I had never once tried to walk in a manner that would attract anyone, but neither Grace nor my father would believe my words if I voiced them. They had their own idea of me, and the type of girl I was, and it was set in stone. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of what I might have done to cause their distrust.
“Look at her. She just couldn’t wait to show off her legs.” Grace informed my father, stepping in behind me and raising her voice to be sure she was heard.
My father stared from the couch with those wide, wild ice blue eyes locked on me. Snarling with every word that exited Grace’s mouth.
“She was with that boy next door – again. They were probably off in the woods doing who knows what.”
For a big man, my father moved quickly, coming across the room in seemingly one step to strike me down. He spat profanity as he snatched his thick belt from his waist and lashed me with a heavy hand. “What have I told you about taking off with boys!” He struck harder. The buckle cutting my arms that covered my head. “Don’t ever let me catch you wearing this dress again!” He growled. “This is how you act in it?”
And all I could do was lay there, bite my lip and pray he would stop, but I felt I was going to pass out before he did.
“Go change and then go clean up the kitchen.” He ordered.
Grace stood with a smirk on her lips. Things were good between husband and wife again – because they had me to make them forget they were angry with each other.
I finished my chores by the time Grace set dinner on the table. I wiped the water from my hands and headed to my normal spot.
“What are you doing?”
My father’s gruff growl always made me stiffen like a block of ice.
“You’re not eating – take your ass to your room.”
I glanced at the half-burned hamburgers oozing juice – they looked great to me – but I always managed to get in trouble – I hadn’t tasted a hamburger in – well too long to remember.
“She thinks she can just leave the dishes and do them when she’s good and ready and then acts so surprised when she’s punished.” Grace spat as she covered her lap with a napkin and grabbed a bun from the package. “Go on – get to your room.” She rushed me out. She never cared to see me more than it was necessary. I was a reminder that my father had a life before her – other women before her. The woman was ruthlessly envious – just mentioning my mother – a dead woman – caused her to yell, sob, and carry on as if she’d just found out her man was cheating.
I walked into my small bedroom and shut the door. I laid down on the worn-out cot that served as my bed and pulled a rough and stiff blanket up to my chin. My stomach growled. I was used to missing meals, but that night I felt hollow. Maybe it was from the sadness and stress of the day. Maybe it was because of all the crying I had done – it made it really hard for me to think about what I had done wrong and how I could do better the next time – no this time I was angry. And that anger turned to hopeless self-pity. I couldn’t talk myself into believing I deserved the punishment. Not this time - I had been rushed out the door right after the last bite had been eaten that morning. It wasn’t my fault!
I stared at the ceiling, praying to join my grandmother, wherever she may be. Death promised peace – I was envious of those who had perished.