A/N: Wow, I'm actually posting something! *shock* I've been having severe and prolonged writer's block issues, and I wrote this awhile ago with no intent to share it, but since I seem to have hit a wall I'm going to put it up and… yes. This author's note is really pointless, so I'm going to end it now. Enjoy the story everyone! Hugs to you all! ^_^
Rain In Summer
The cold wind, laced with moisture it had caught from the sky, swept across the grass and bent it at its base, flattening it to the hillside. Dark-bottomed clouds had formed in the distance, over the edge of the meadow, a warning of a gathering storm. Rabbits and falcons retreated into their burrows and into their trees, hiding within their secret sanctuaries, on edge and waiting for the first perfect, crystalline drop to come sailing to earth. The ground was parched, and as the wind grew stronger it nearly tore the grass out of the dry, cracked dirt. Farmers settled in on their porches all up and down the edges of the field, setting up buckets and tin cans to catch the water they anticipated would leak into their patched roofs. The entire world – at least for a few miles – seemed to be counting down the seconds until the sky opened. It didn't often get like this in Georgia, especially near summer's end.
Under the awning at the front of one of the tumbledown farmhouses, Darrin reclined back in his father's rocking chair. One of the sliders got caught on a can of chewing tobacco, and his gentle movement came to an abrupt halt – he was pitched forwards almost onto the ground. He caught himself though, and re-arranged his body in the well-worn piece of furniture. Beside him, his best friend Jack let out a sigh and rubbed his hands together, expectant, as he folded his legs beneath himself on the broken stairs.
"Looks like rain," Jack remarked.
Darrin laughed and slapped the back of his head. They knew each other better than anyone else in the town – and since their first day of school, at that. Sometimes their parents would make jokes, asking how they'd ever get along next month when they both started up school at different colleges. It wasn't something Darrin liked to think about, but sometimes he had to wonder, himself. For the moment, though, he was content to share the time they had left.
"The rain does something to me, Darrin," said Jack.
"Gets me all peaceful. It's good for the soul, I reckon."
Darrin leaned back in the chair again – albeit more carefully this time. "Well, you may be right. I can't argue that."
"But it gets me to thinking, too." Jack looked up at Darrin with his eyes wide and dark, shining with questions and ideas.
"Oh?" Darrin said again.
"What in hell are we gonna do when I go off to school in Atlanta? We'll lose each other."
Darrin's throat got tight and scratchy, as though he'd just downed a glass of his father's terrible homemade wheat wine. "Naw. We couldn't. We're friends, and friends don't lose each other. Never happens."
"But there'll be miles in between us. And whether we like it or not, they're sure gonna get in the way." Jack's voice suddenly sounded the way Darrin's throat felt, and he wasn't sure he liked the tone of it.
"Come on, Jack. It'll be fine. Just wait and see."
The thunder rumbled then, and a flash of lightning pierced the sky shortly after. Darrin watched it, and when the brightness faded, the image was still burned into the backs of his eyes as though it was branded there. Both boys knew that the rain would be along in moments –and before they had time to remark on that to each other, it came. Fat drops that soaked the earth and made rattling noises on the roof. Darrin watched the ground and he swore he could see the water creeping into the fissures, nourishing the thirsting crops and plants. A little river came sliding down the drainpipe and spilled into the rain barrel, which was close to bursting already, and another crept around the bottom of the stairs, beneath Jack's bare feet.
"What if it's not?" Jack said suddenly.
"Hmm?" Darrin was distracted watching the rain fly at seemingly unearthly speeds toward the ground.
"What if it's not fine? What if we never see each other after the summer? I couldn't live with myself if I went away and I never…" His voice faltered then, and he stopped, staring out over the field with his cheeks flaming red like a rooster's crown.
"If you never what, Jack?" Darrin stepped off the chair and curled up beside him on the steps. He looked into Jack's eyes, and after a moment his friend turned to look back.
"If I never told you…" His face crept closer, so close that Darrin could feel hot breath against his lips.
Darrin looked at him, level and calculated. He knew what Jack wanted to say – it had to be the same thing he did. He didn't speak, though. Just waited, like he did before the rain.
"I can't." Abruptly Jack turned away, hiding his face in his arms, between his knees. Looking as though he wanted to escape.
A gust of wind blew up under the awning, rattling the wind chime that hung from the eavestrough. Darrin had made it when he was only ten, out of spoons and broken china teacups strung together with frayed bits of twine. He watched it dance and twirl, sending out a mournful, hollow clanging sound. The noise echoed into his head so loudly it almost hurt.
"Jack..." he said, almost quieter than the din of the now driving rain. He didn't know why he was attempting to talk, because he had nothing to say. But luckily, Jack spoke for him.
"I've always loved you, Darrin," he blurted out. His eyes were shiny, about to overflow with tears. "Always. Longer than I can remember. Longer than either of us know. And I reckon I always will." He trailed his fingertips along the top of the damp stair, distracting himself, swirling patterns in the fresh, cold rainwater.
"You don't know how many years I've been hoping I'd hear that," Darrin said, barely able to get the words out. "I've always loved you, too." His hands were shaking as he reached for Jack, to hold him, touch him. Or something. Anything. He didn't know what to do, didn't know anything really, only that he felt something in his heart that he never knew he could.
They leaned in closer to each other. Jack put his hand on the back of Darrin's neck – his fingers were cold and wet, but comforting. And before they knew it, their lips met and their eyes slid shut and neither of them ever, ever wanted the moment to end. But it had to, as do all things, and when they broke the kiss they looked into each other's eyes again.
"We have a month left before school starts," Jack said, slightly out of breath. He intertwined his fingers with Darrin's, held his hand tightly. "Let's make it the best month of our goddamn lives."
"I don't think we could do anything less."
And they shifted closer together, until they were almost lying in each other's arms, and they sat like that and stared out over the field. The rain still pounded down upon the grass, as though it were breathing life into a sleeping, comatose environment. And it seemed to Darrin that what had started out as an uneventful evening, nothing more than the calm before a rejuvenating storm, had managed to give him a new lease on life as well.
* * *
Not more than seven years later, the farmhouse Darrin had lived in all his life was knocked down. A wealthier farmer bought the field and progress was inevitable, it seemed, as all the other shacks were bulldozed along with it. Darrin had come home to the old town just to see it go, and he'd stood and watched as the wooden structure came tumbling to the ground as easily as a child's house of cards. He wondered how such a flimsy-looking thing had weathered and still stood tall through all it had seen.
After the demolition ended, he'd jumped into his shiny car and headed back down the dirt road, back towards civilization, his tires sending up clouds of dust and rocks as he screeched away. He knew inside that he was still a country boy at heart – sometimes he still reminisced about fishing in the reed-choked pond in his backyard, eating watermelon fresh off the vine, chasing rabbits through the trails that weaved endlessly through the forest. But he was settled into a more fast-paced, modern lifestyle now, and it suited him just fine. Everything about his life did. He felt a bit strange seeing the house go down, but he knew the only part of it he'd really miss were the porch and the crooked steps.
Sometimes, when it rained, he thought back to the memories of that night in early August. The dark, windy evening that had brought him and Jack together. He would always smile when he thought about it; how ironic the whole thing had been. The gathering storm, he would muse. How fitting. He'd gaze out the windows into every sluggish downpour or raging thundershower, and in his mind he'd be transported back there. He felt the pressure of Jack's lips against his, was warmed by Jack's arms around him, and clearly heard his promises that they'd never lose each other. He didn't miss those days all that much though. Things were going just fine for him now, too.
And when he arrived back at his apartment in the heart of the big city, he drew in a big breath, and without a single tear, announced the death of the old creaky relic he'd taken his first steps in.
"The house is gone, darlin'," he said, affecting a false Southern accent as he stepped into the kitchen. He still had a twinge of his left, but it wasn't nearly that strong. "Smashed all to smithereens."
Jack looked up from his newspaper and smiled. "Oh?"