By Hailey Frenette
It rained every Saturday this fall. With the constant wet in the air, the leaves weren’t given a chance to crisp up on their own. They withered in their dampness and drowned in ocean-sized puddles until they turned the ground to slop. I tiptoed my boots over the sludge of brown and dead orange, figuring they must be grateful for the seconds of shelter provided by my passing umbrella.
She was grateful for it. At least, that’s what she told me.
I found her perched on the edge of a bench, leaning forward to keep away from the dip in the back where the water pooled. Trying and failing to keep her jeans dry. She looked up at the sound of my footsteps and kept looking until I sat down on the other edge of the same bench. It was too close, but too late to make an adjustment.
“Thanks for being here,” she said. “I remembered how much you loved the rain.”
I did, but everything gets old when it doesn’t stop.
“I’ll always be here when you ask me to,” I promised. Unspoken: I will never be here unless you ask. In that case, I hoped that she would keep asking. “What do you need this time?”
She smiled, lips parting like she meant to laugh but the air got caught in her throat. Not everything could be a joke just because she tried to force it that way. “Do I always have to need something?”
“I guess not always,” I said, “but I would hate for your streak to be broken. Last time, you needed me to wait in line at the DMV with you. The time before that, it was birthday gift shopping for someone I’ve never met.”
“You didn’t need to do it.”
I squinted at her. The rain was sliding down her cheeks like tears, fat and insistent. Yes, I did. We both needed in our own ways. “What is it?” I repeated, knowing that it didn’t matter. I would give her whatever it was.
“I don’t want to be alone right now,” she admitted finally. “Can you keep me company?”
I loved her like the rain loved the leaves. Relentlessly.
“I can try.”
* * *
Hailey Frenette is a master’s student at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Her work is forthcoming in Peatsmoke.