By Ellen Nimmo
Rain was drumming Naomi’s back, shoulders, face and eyes so hard that she had to alternate between running with her eyes barely cracked and shut tight. Her clothes and limbs were streaked with mud and the place she’d cut her leg earlier was bleeding again. Winston, the dog, was keeping close due to the thunder which cracked mightily in familiar, nameless patterns. Struggling against the wind, which was blowing hard against her wet cheeks, Naomi began to smile, then laugh. By the time she and the dog had reached the corner Naomi was unsteady with a peculiar, spreading joy. It was the first time in weeks she felt liberty. Nearly doubled over, she fought to maintain her gait amidst the downpour and laughter, her only thought – putting one foot in front of the other.
What a strange day it had been. A strange year.
Naomi sobered at the thought. As they arrived at their street, she scanned through rain for the sight of Mrs. Thornton’s Buick. It wasn’t there. Whew. The laughter was gone and the stoic, serious girl who had left the house earlier that day was back. Cutting through the neighbor’s backyard, dog and girl burst into the house through the back door, dripping with rain, panting for breath. Finding the house empty was a relief.
Under the dulled light of the skylight Naomi slumped down against the hallway wall. Feet stretched out she saw the blood from her leg had begun to clot again. Thunder rumbled low now and the rain was falling softly. Pat pat pat pat – Naomi could feel the heat of tears beneath her eyes begin to bubble up. She looked up, fighting back. Why? Why is what’s happening, happening? Nothing I can even do. They just keep happening. Through the skylight the clouds looked almost lavender, the drops of rain – each one spreading out like beads of olive oil in her mother’s skillet. Suddenly, the hot tears found their way out and Naomi began to cry. Thinking back to the rows of telephone booths, the battered and rusted school bus, the plotting boys and the way they hurled rocks, and insults. What did I ever do to them!? And mom. And. . .and, does dad even know that Mrs. Thornton just, ugh! Naomi’s tears turned to anger. Pat pat pat, the rain continued. We probably won’t even have school this year. Might as well run away. No one’d notice. Just then she heard Winston’s nails clack against the hardwood moving towards the front door. Her father was home. Naomi held her breath and tried to think of what to do. He came in soaked and still masked; he must have gotten a ride home from one of the guys at the farm. He called out to her, “Naomi? Well, that sure came down in a hurry. Got sent home early, but then the truck wouldn’t start. What a mess. Naomi? You in here?”
Mmhmm. Naomi murmured, barely audible. “Oh, there you are.” Sinking down next to her, Naomi’s father drew her close in an embrace. “Shoulda known you’d be in here. Great day for a hallway huddle.” He pulled down his mask revealing a knowing smile. “Looks like you went out to listen a little more closely today, huh?” her wet, muddy clothing giving her away. She hugged him back, but kept her gaze low. All thoughts of running away fled, but Naomi felt tired under her father’s eyes.
They sat listening for a few minutes.
“Do you, do you, uh. . .”
“Yeah, uh, do you think that, umm – “
“Do I think we should go out and see if there’s a rainbow? Yes, I do.”
He squeezed her and looked up.
The skylight was still dappled with dots of melting violet rain, but the sky behind them was brightening. Naomi nodded. “Well, let’s go then.” Groaning in artificial protest, her father got to his feet and together they walked outside. The rain was barely falling and the sun was beginning to emerge out from beneath a sea of silver-green clouds. They searched the east. The west. North and south.
“Well, wanna go rainbow chasin? There’s gotta be one around here somewhere.” With that, Naomi’s father took off down the street, chin tilted up, his heavy work boots somehow light upon the pavement.
To read the preceding parts to this fictional “Story Series” simply click the links below: