Wendy loved the rain; the soft percussion of water against her roof, the tense static charge released from the air, and the smell. Especially the smell. She loved sitting out on the balcony and watching the damp streets below, people scurrying by with umbrellas, collars upturned against the damp. There was something exceptionally romantic about rain. Something that Alice, standing just inside the sliding glass door, failed to see entirely. “You’ll catch your death,” she remarked dully. At least Wendy had made it obvious over the years that while she respected her friend and took her counsel on many things, Alice was not going to change Wendy’s love of a good rainstorm. Alice barely even tried anymore. “I was thinking,” she continued, gesturing with her martini so loudly that Wendy could hear it without turning. “I know you’re resolved to live in this hovel, but there’s no reason it shouldn’t at least look like a home. My friend Diane can fix you right up.”
“My apartment is just fine,” Wendy insisted. “And I don’t have the money for an interior decorator, anyway.” Wendy paused for half a moment – any longer and Alice would certainly cut in – before she continued. “And even if I had the money, I would use it for something else. Or even just save it. The last thing I need is an apartment’s worth of decorations and no apartment to put them in.”
Alice’s tone was frustrated and not a little condescending. “Wendy, darling, don’t think of the price. Let me pay. I want to – in fact, I insist. And Diane will be on strict orders to avoid extra expense. This isn’t about buying art for the walls; although you certainly could use something to bring interest to the place. This is about using what you already have to brighten your little corner of the world.”
“What I already have is a bed, two chairs, and a table.”
“Yes, well, in your case it might involve a trip to the flea market.”
Wendy rolled her eyes. “Why are you doing this, Alice?”
“I just hate to –“
“Diane’s down on her luck, and my loft is already gorgeous.”
“And she’ll stay out of my hair?”
“You have my word.”
“Fine, have at it.”
“Marvelous. When can we all sit down together to consult?”
“To plan. You understand.”
“You said she would stay out of my hair. Diane can do whatever she wants, so long as I don’t have to see her. You have a spare key.”
Alice sighed one of her trademarked sighs. This one said ‘You are being unbelievably difficult and I do not know why I put up with you.’ Alice had perfected the art of the sigh at a very young age. “I will never understand you, Wendy, dear,” she said.
Wendy shrugged. “You’re the baffling one,” she insisted.
They fell into a comfortable silence, the sound of the rain overtaking their conversation. Comfortable, at least, for Wendy, who was content to sit and listen to the rattling in the copper gutters. Alice fidgeted inside, playing with the venetian blinds and rearranging the bedspread.
“Are you going to sit there all night?” Alice asked.
“Of course not,” Wendy lied. She would stay out as long as it was raining, she thought. “I have work tomorrow.”
Alice chuckled, another one of her perfect expressions. This one somehow expressed her mixture of equal parts respect and disdain for Wendy’s job. “How are the little monsters?”
Alice never referred to Wendy’s students as children. It was as if, in Alice’s mind, children were mythical creatures, like unicorns or mermaids. The small, unruly people Wendy spent most of her day with were just runted adults, and rather disgusting examples of messiness and need. Little monsters, designed specifically to ruin a good designer pant suit.
“You don’t want to know,” Wendy answered.
“It’s still polite to ask,” Alice insisted.
“If you say so.”
“You’re wasting your talents. You could be so much more than a third grade teacher.”
“I’m good with kids. I like them more than adults, usually, anyway.”
“But you could change the world.”
“Who says I won’t?”
“I just hate to see you squandering your life.”
“And I don’t see it that way.” There was another pause; this one tense enough that Wendy couldn’t drown it in the sound of the rain. This was another sticking point. Wendy didn’t know what Alice expected her to do. Alice herself was a hedge-fund manager at a local branch of a banking conglomerate. Wendy didn’t know exactly what she did all day, unless it was shuttling money between accounts and collecting a disgustingly large paycheck.
“I should be going.”
“You know how Clarence gets if I leave him to his own devices for too long.”
“He might start rearranging the furniture.”
“Oh! Don’t even joke about that! It isn’t funny.”
“See you next week?”
“Of course, darling. You know I love our talks. I’ll see myself out.”
Wendy heard the sound of Alice latching the door behind her, and nestled further into her chair. She was alone now; just her and the rain. She breathed in the smell of mist and mud, and breathed out. She finished her beer, and closed her eyes, and might have fallen asleep in her chair. She dreamed that a raven, feathers in disarray and with a clipped wing, flew up to her balcony. She felt like she should have been afraid, but she wasn’t. The bird just looked pitiful, like it had just been in a fight with a cat and had come out the worse for wear. It blinked its jet black eyes at her, and cawed. She thought she heard a plea in the caw, and she reached out to the bird, but it hopped away and flew, wobbling and dipping but never quite falling, into the night and the rain and the city.
She woke up in the middle of the night. The rain had stopped. She stood up, stretching her shoulders and yawning as she picked up her empty bottle. She took one last glance at the rain-drenched street, and saw him: collapsed under a streetlamp, drenched and in a pool of what she hoped was rain. She hurried inside to call an ambulance, and when she knew they were on their way she stepped into her galoshes and made her way down the stairs.
Up close, the pool wasn’t water. He had been badly beaten. She stayed two steps back, in case he was some kind of crazy person, and said, tentatively, “Mister?”
She thought he groaned.
“I called an ambulance. They’ll be here soon. What happened?”
He mumbled something that she couldn’t understand. Crazy, then, most likely. “Whoever it was beat you up real good,” she said. “I’ll stay with you until the EMTs get here.” In the distance, she heard sirens, and the cawing of crows.
And since I have a computer again, I'll resume posting drabbles tomorrow.