The Smell of Rain

I don’t know where this story came from. I’m not even sure where it went. It just came out one day… literally, all in one day. It doesn’t have any deeper meaning than what you see here. Take it as it is.

I have heard a story, though, in which a little girl said that God smelled like rain… which I always thought was beautiful.

The Smell of Rain

I’ve always liked rain. It seemed like the perfect weather to accentuate any mood; from the rampaging storm of anger to the soft patterns of contentment, rain was there. It brought destruction upon the lowlands and flowers to the hillsides, caused lovesick young ladies to sigh at the windows, and grizzled farmers to put their arm upon their shovel and smile in anticipation of things to come. It frightened young children into their mother’s arms, yet was a soothing acceptance of all things normal.

It was the solitude of rain, I think, that always drew me the most. A storm could drive even the most intrepid souls inside, to curl up in front of a roaring fire with a novel or, more realistically, grab a cup of coffee and curl up to watch a romantic movie. The same storm seemed to draw me into it, to call my name in the tear-stained wind until I had joined it. Carrie, it always called. Caarrriiee…

A storm would always find me with my arms folded, skirt billowing around my ankles, face upturned to catch the rain. The wind and the rain would transform my straight hair into soft, wispy curls reminiscent of a young woman of nineteenth century society, and the distant rumble of thunder would bring echoes of hope, that it would all turn out right someday.

It was in a storm like this that I met him.

Please, do not get any romantic notions about how this story is going to end. He wasn’t really anyone special.

In fact, he was oddly annoying.

Carrrieee, the wind was calling. I walked down the road, oblivious to everything but the approaching storm. Everything was going to be alright; the end of high school, a summer job, and my trip through college. “Carrie?”

Puzzled, for a moment, that the wind had taken such a questioning tone, I snapped my head around and there he was.

“Carrie?” he repeated. “Is that your name?”

“Yes,” I said, perhaps a bit short.

“Good,” he sighed, relieved. “I’m new to town, and trying to remember so many names is beyond me.”

“Have we met?” I asked. Who was he, to interrupt the voice of the rain? The wind whipped my hair into my face.

“Not yet,” he said. He put out his hand, as if to shake mine. Did people still shake hands? If not, when did we stop? “My name is Daniel,” he continued, by way of introduction. “Like I said, I’m new here.”

“Carrie,” I replied, using my left hand to push the hair out of my face and the right to tentatively shake his hand. “I… how did you know my name, then, if we’ve never met?”

He released my hand, ignoring me with a mischievous grin. “Do you like storms?” he asked above the wind.

My face broke into a smile. “Oh, yes!” I replied. Could this be a kindred soul? Could this be a friend in disguise?

“I do too,” Daniel said, nodding. “They’re very interesting; I’ve studied them. To think that it’s all started by a draft of warm air rising, causing the air to shift and, in turn, cooler air carrying rain blows down.”

“Oh.” I was temporarily lost for words.

“And the lightning,” he continued, “is simply a buildup of electricity that is suddenly released, causing the loud noise known as thunder. All of this together results in a storm. The behavior of thunderstorms is fascinating.”

I squinted at him through the rain, which was growing more insistent every minute. “I guess I never thought about it much,” I finally stammered. “I just like rain.”

“You… just like rain. Okay.” He shrugged. “Fascinating.”

The wind had stopped calling to me, though it continued to wrap tendrils of curly hair around my face. “I should get home,” I said. “I was just taking a walk.”

“Sure,” he replied. “It was nice to meet you.” He stuck out his hand and I shook it again.

I didn’t see him for another week.

It was early in the morning and I was running late for school. There had been a thunderstorm the night before, but instead of my customary walk, I stayed inside with a cup of coffee and a good book. I slung my bag over my shoulder, picked up my literature book, and started walking to school.

I was met at the corner by Daniel, this time in an old, blue convertible.

Convertibles are girly cars, I thought vaguely. And convertibles should be red.

“Hop in, Carrie,” he called. “I’ll give you a ride to school.”

I obliged. “Only because I’m running late,” I said, shifting my bag to sit on my lap. “I like to walk.”

Daniel nodded, pulling out onto the road and around the corner. “Walking is good for you, especially early in the morning. As an aerobic exercise, it’ll improve your general heath and lung capacity, as well as burn just as many calories in a mile as jogging a mile.”

“No,” I said stiffly. “I just like to walk.”

I did like to walk. There’s something magical about being the first out in the morning, walking through the dewy air that seemed as if it had been created, moments before, just for you. There’s something alive in the way the birds sing from the trees as if they have been granted their heart’s desire. I didn’t care to hear about calories or lung capacity. There’s no magic in that.

Idly, I lifted my arm from the door of the car, letting my hand curl and drift in the wind, as Daniel prattled on about leg muscles and proper walking shoes. I lifted my fingertips up and my hand drifted upwards like a bird; I dipped my fingertips down and my hand turned from bird to World War Two fighter jet, only to swoop up majestically once again.

Daniel had noticed me. “That’s fun,” he commented.

I turned to face him. “What?”

“Playing with the wind like that,” he said, turning in to the school drive. “It’s fun.”

I raised one eyebrow. So Mr. Literal Scientific had some fun in his life?

“It’s also fascinating,” he continued, his eye on a parking spot. “Contained in that wind is the basic principals of aerodynamics and how wings are contoured to create and utilize lift. You may have noticed how simply adjusting your fingers caused your fingers to dive and swoop erratically…”

“Daniel,” I interrupted. “Thanks.” I hopped out of his car, re-shouldered my bag, and walked off.

I couldn’t stand people like this. All of the Daniels in this world took life’s simple joys and pulled them apart, snatched the magic from the air and trapped it in a microscope slide. The Daniels killed happiness for their own twisted thoughts.

I was so frustrated with Daniel that I walked into the side door of the high school and walked straight into the arms of Ryan.

I failed to tell you that I had a boyfriend. This is why I told you, straight out, to give up any romantic illusions you had about me and Daniel at the beginning of my tale. I was not the most popular girl, due to my old-fashioned romanticism and my status as a violin player, but I was still a part of school society and was dating.

Ryan was not the sort of boy you would expect to fall in love with a quiet violin player who wore long skirts. I shouldn’t say he was in love with me; Ryan was no Daniel, but he didn’t have a shred of magic in his body. He stood a head taller than I, and had short, buzzed hair. He generally wore black, and tended to fade into the background in a menacing sort of way.

Underclassmen were terrified of him.

I knew him better. He didn’t possess the ability to grasp the mystic meaning of the wind, and I have never known him to smell the sweet scent of rain, but he is kind. I don’t believe he’d intentionally hurt anybody.

“Carrie,” he asked, holding my arms to prevent me from falling. “Are you okay?”

“Of course I’m okay,” I replied, brushing myself off. “Feeling a little rushed, that’s all. I guess I read a little too late last night, because I could hardly wake up this morning.”

He took my bag off my shoulder and added my Lit book to his own stack. That’s one thing I will say for Ryan; he’s no natural gentleman, but he has taken enough cues from me to know how one behaves. “Come on,” he said, “I’ll walk you to first period.”

All thoughts of Daniel fled from my mind until the end of the day, when I was pushed from the front door of the high school into the river of teenagers, intent on rushing to sports practices or walking home with friends. The day was bright, even though clouds covered most of the sky, and I reached for my sunglasses. They weren’t there.

Shoot, I thought. I had them this morning; where could I have dropped them? Perhaps I had dropped them in Daniel’s should-be-red convertible. I raced across the parking lot, hoping his car would still be there.

It was, and he was as well.

“Daniel!” I called. He had been fiddling with the controls on the radio when he looked up.

“Carrie?” he asked. “What’s up? Did you want a ride home?”

I shrugged, coming to a stop. “Have you seen a pair of sunglasses? I think I may have dropped them this morning.”

I opened the door as he reached across to the floor in front of the passenger’s seat. “Here they are,” he said, fishing them out from just underneath the seat. “Sorry about that.”

“It’s fine.” I took them and put them on. “Thanks.”

“Listen, do you want a ride home?” he asked. “That is, unless you’re busy.”

“I suppose,” I replied. “Since I’m here and you’re here. Promise me one thing. No scientific discussions while I’m in the car, okay?”

“Okay,” he agreed, laughing. “But why?”

“I just don’t want to hear it, okay?”

“Sure thing.” Daniel started the car. We rode in silence for about five minutes before we hit the main intersection in town and happened to pull up next to Ryan and his two best friends, Alex and Michael.

“Carrie!” Ryan laughed. “Where are you going?”

“Home,” I called back, laughing as well. “Why?”

“The boys and I have some stuff to do,” he replied, a little quieter, as both cars were idling now. “You want to go out for ice cream, then?”

“Sure,” I replied. “Come pick me up; I’ll be home.”

“Sure thing,” Ryan said back. The light turn green and they beat us from the line.

Daniel didn’t say anything. I hoped he understood that there was less than nothing between us, and I hoped he wasn’t trying to start something. I almost picked my hand up to float in the wind, but decided against it.

“You like Ryan?” he finally asked.

“Well, yeah,” I replied, a little nervously. “I don’t think I’d be dating him if I hated him.”

Daniel laughed, I guess at my straight-forwardness. “Sounds about right.” We had pulled onto my street. “Well, if you ever need a ride to school again, I live in this house just around the corner and love to leave late. Understood?”

“Yes, sir,” I laughed, getting out of the car. “Thanks.”

Daniel saluted and drove away.

I went inside, talked to my mother for a little while, and worked on my homework. I glanced at the time. I could probably expect Ryan to be back at around four.

Four o’clock came and went. I changed into a warmer shirt, and then sat on the front porch reading last night’s novel. When five o’clock came and the wind started getting colder, I went inside and cleaned up in the kitchen for dinner.

I called Ryan’s cell phone. I wasn’t worried about him, but if he wasn’t going to be by, I wanted to stop waiting for him. It rang once, twice, three times, and then abruptly stopped, though nobody answered.

Eight o’clock came and I gave up on Ryan. I heard the distant rumble of thunder, thought idly that there had just been a storm the night before, and worked on a history project instead. So much for gentleman lessons.

At ten thirty, the storm was in full force, and I had just finished taking a shower. My hair was combed, but still wet, as I heard the doorbell from downstairs. “I’ll get it!” my father called. I slipped my feet into a pair of shoes and poked my head out of my doorway.

“…Officer Jackson… wanted me to tell… Carrie, his girlfriend… into custody…” This was too much. I crept down the stairs. No such luck; Mom saw me and told me to come into the front room.

Officer Jackson seemed like a pleasant enough man, with red hair that stuck up and laughing hazel eyes. He also seemed a bit grim, which worried me. “Is he dead?” I asked, fearing the worst.

“No, no,” he exclaimed. “You must be Carrie. Let me explain.”

I just nodded, oddly relieved.

“This afternoon, at about four, three young men dressed in black entered the Gas ‘N Go convenience mart on Elm Street. The leader had a gun, or what appeared to be a gun, and threatened to shoot if the woman behind the counter didn’t empty the cash drawer and all other money into his bag. They also stole two cartons of cigarettes. It was a slipshod hold-up, clearly not well organized, and the police easily caught them and took them into custody.

“The young men’s names are Ryan Hertz, Alexander Mitchell, and Michael Anderson. They confessed immediately, but they all have criminal history, albeit small, and have been detained. Ryan declined his phone call and asked me, instead, to come to you, as his girlfriend. Seems you had been waiting for him, and he didn’t think you’d speak to him.”

I was in a daze. I don’t remember pushing past Officer Jackson, or my parents. I don’t remember if they said anything. I don’t even remember leaving the house. I do, however, remember running up the road though the pouring rain, the lightning illuminating the way to Daniel’s house.

To this day, I don’t know why I chose to go there.

I pounded on the door. For some reason, Daniel’s house didn’t even have a doorbell. For some other reason, I didn’t even know Daniel’s last name. I didn’t know anything. I was soaked.

A worried-looking woman came to the door. “Can I help you?” she asked, suspiciously.

“Daniel,” I croaked, tears streaming down my face. You couldn’t tell with all of the rain. “I need to see Daniel. Just tell him that Carrie is late for school and he’ll come.”

She didn’t need to. Daniel was right behind her. “Carrie?” he asked. “Are you okay?” He tried to lead me into the house, but I pulled away. Suddenly, I didn’t want to be there, with this kind, yet worried woman staring at me and this murderer of magic with his hand on my shoulder.

He took that as a cue to come out with me into the rain. We ended up in the lee of the house, still being soaked but protected from the chilling wind. I told him everything, about what Ryan had done and how I had waited.

Daniel winced as if in pain. “Carrie, nobody’s perfect. I won’t say that what he did was right, but it’s human. It’s expectable.”

“Expectable?” I cried. “You expected him to do this?”

“I didn’t,” he protested. “It was to be expected. Please don’t twist my words. It’s human nature.”

“People don’t do things like this without a reason,” I said coldly. “Ryan was a nice person. There must be some mistake.”

“Carrie,” Daniel said, running a hand through his wet hair. “I’m not saying that he wasn’t nice. I’m not saying that you want to hear this, or even if you want to hear any more. People are twisted, Carrie, like this storm.”

I covered my ears irrationally. “Stop!” I screamed above the wind. “I don’t want to hear it anymore! You’ve killed rain and walking and breezes; don’t kill my boyfriend as well.” I turned, as if to run.

Daniel’s arms came around me, pulling my hands off my ears. I was crying even harder, not facing him, away from his probing eyes. He spoke over my shoulder. “You may see this storm as magic, Carrie, and that’s okay. But if you miss the real power, the real destruction, behind the wind and the rain and the magic, you’re going to be disillusioned one day and it’s going to kill you. People are twisted, Carrie, people are unpredictable, and people do horrible things for no reason.”

I was still crying, but I stopped struggling against his hands.

“Any murderer you hear of grew up with other children, laughing and playing. Any bomber that takes millions of lives in an instant, had a girlfriend once. Any terrorist that kills herself to kill five enemies had a mother who once loved her and a father who told her stories. Sometimes fairy tales don’t have happy endings, Carrie, and I hate to be the one to tell you that, but you’re going to be hurt one day, if not today, and I’m trying to soften the blow.”

Thunder rumbled close by and, for just an instant, it all fell into place. Magic exists. Simple joy exists, and the Daniels are not the bad guys, ripping it up. In the real world, Peter Pan has the potential to become Captain Hook, no matter what the storybooks say. In the real world, Ryan could become a loving person or a criminal.

Daniel let go of my arms and came around to face me. “I’m so sorry,” he said. “I’m not exactly helping, am I?” Defying all logic, he put his arms around me and I fell into his embrace. “What I was supposed to say is that Ryan must be a nice person inside and that I’m sorry that such an awful thing has happened.”

I rested there for a few more seconds, then pulled away. “No, Daniel,” I said, wiping tears from my eyes. “You said what you should have.”

Ryan was out of jail within a week. He was on probation for a long time, but nothing horrible ever came of his stupid convenience store hold-up. We continued to date through high school, and he had more Peter than Hook in him. I’d like to say that he proposed after graduation, but he didn’t, and I didn’t mind. We went our separate ways, and I think he ended up marrying an Italian girl on some college exchange.

Daniel and I actually didn’t talk much for the remainder of high school, and after that summer, I never saw or heard from him again. Sometimes I feel as if I should resent him, for being insensitive in my time of need, but I don’t. I grew up that night, in the rain and the thunder. Carrie as a child ceased to exist, with her fanciful notions that life was perfect, and Carrie the adult was born. I ended up becoming a meteorologist, studying the storms that had shaped my life. I had been wrong, so many years ago, thinking that there was no magic in the explanations behind life. Magic was everywhere, if you only took the time to find it.