The first spatter of rain hit Aada on the arm as she walked down 35th Avenue. She grimaced and looked up at the sky where ominous clouds were gathering. The first signs of the coming storm had been there when she ducked out of her apartment to run a few errands, but she had hoped to beat its arrival—the grocery store and bakery were only ten minutes away after all. Now, her arms heavy with full bags, she faced the prospect of a downpour, or worse.
It was only a little more than five blocks to her apartment, but she had no umbrella and could not run, loaded down with groceries as she was. And she did not want them, or the contents of her purse, to get soaked. The rain started, a few drops here and there splattering down, and she told herself that maybe this was all it would amount to. Even as she was thinking it, the drops turned into cascades of water and she drenched. She saw a flash of lightning on the horizon and heard a low rumble of thunder in response.
A few white pellets of hail bounced off the pavement as well, telling her that things could very quickly turn ugly if she did not find some sort of cover. She cast about and saw that she had just passed a three story building that had a short awning extending out over the stairs leading up to its entrance. “That’ll do,” she said to herself and ran, as best she could, toward it.
It was only once she was up the stairs and at the building door that she saw she was not alone. A man stood in the corner of the entryway, leaning beside the intercom, staring out at the falling rain. He straightened as she came up the stairs, and gestured to the buzzer. “You need this?”
She shook her head, her long damp hair flapping into her eyes. “Thanks,” she said, as she set her grocery bags on the steps.
As Aada straightened up, turning to look out at the descending rain, she could feel the guy’s eyes upon her. She was suddenly conscious of the fact that her clothes were soaked, the t-shirt she was wearing now accentuating her form more than she was comfortable. Pushing aside the sinking feeling in her stomach, she shot the man a quick glare, and set her expression at what she hoped was a solid, don’t fuck with me kind of indifference.
“Hell of a shower,” the guy said, his voice low and barely audible over the crescendo of the rain. “Sucks to get caught out with groceries too.”
Oh great, Aada thought. “Yeah,” she said, giving him the barest of nods, not taking her gaze off the street.
They both watched as a cyclist raced by, head bent over into the face of the rain. A couple passed, arms around each other under an umbrella, instinctively ducking at the next crash of thunder.
The guy exhaled, whether from nerves or boredom, and Aada had to resist a smile. She resolved not to look in his direction and was soon overwhelmed by the need to do so.
He had a beard and dark eyes, both notorious weaknesses of hers. But there was also the fact that, to judge by his too-stylish clothes and his overly made up hair, he was an insufferable prick. He was good looking though, a fact she wanted desperately to confirm again, but which she would not allow herself to do. Bad enough to be stuck here, no sense encouraging him.
Aada sensed before he spoke that he was gearing up to try again. “You live around here, I guess?”
She looked down at her grocery bags and over at him, giving him a withering look.
“Yeah,” the guy said, turning to look out at the street, resisting his own rueful smile.
At least he understood how sorry an excuse for chatting her up this was. It was almost enough for her to think about taking pity on him. Almost.
They watched the storm in silence for a time, both flinching at the lightning sparking across the clouds. The rain showed no signs of abating, but the guy seemed to have given up, deciding the modest amount of embarrassment he had suffered was enough for the day. For that, Aada was glad and she began to relax, forgetting about the guy and starting to craft the story she would tell her friends about this incident when she next saw them.
The rain seemed to ebb for a moment, tricking her into thinking it was nearing its end, when the door to the apartment building opened behind her. A man in a ballcap and electric yellow shorts stepped out and squinted at Aada and the guy, surprised to see them there. He hesitated, as if he was thinking about saying something, before deciding not to and heading down the steps.
As he stepped onto the sidewalk, and out from under the cover of the awning, he gave a start, as though he had received a shock, and jumped back under cover. He looked around, doing a full 180 of the street and the storm. As he did so, the rain began to fall even heavier than it had before, the drops hitting the pavement so hard they could see them bouncing. The man had seen enough. He retreated back up the steps, unlocking the door and slipping back into the building without looking at either of them.
Aada stared after him as he disappeared around the corner of the lobby. The guy was doing the same thing and he caught her eye and shook his head.
“He didn’t just…” Aada said. What are you doing you damn fool?
The guy shook his head, peering into the lobby again. “He had no fucking clue it was raining. How is that even possible?”
“I don’t know,” Aada said. “I mean…” She gestured at the streets, her voice sounding muffled to her own ears with the cacophony of the rain.
As if to emphasize her point, thunder reverberated above them, sounding like an explosion. They both laughed.
“That was amazing,” the guy said, smiling at her.
In spite of herself, Aada smiled back at him. He had a good smile. Goddamnit, she said to herself. Aloud, she said, “My name’s Aada.”
In A Flash: read a new story every Thursday…
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