It was a gloomy morning. The dark belly of the sky was heavy with moisture. It spewed out rain in bitter waves, soaking everything in its foul temper. Water poured off of the rooftops and crashed into deep puddles below. Thin yellow grass bent underneath the opposing storm, trembling slightly in the downpour. The sidewalk was caked in fog, unable to escape the seeping coldness of the rain. Even the trees stooped to avoid enraged cracks of lightning that streaked across the sky, and easily snapped and scorched whatever stood against it. The streetlights remained an eerie warmth in the otherwise despairing scene. A few soaked moths clung hopelessly to the lamps, and would occasionally give up and drop into the flood below.
A group of children in brightly colored raincoats congregated around a gray bus stop sign. They chattered and laughed and howled like chimps. They were completely oblivious to the fierce downpour, save for shoving each other into the overflowing storm drains, and cackling as their companions shifted uncomfortably in their soaked sneakers.
One girl stood apart from the rest. She shuffled in her bulky white coat, watching the dark sky above her from underneath the safety of her umbrella. The rain made a steady pattern around her pale rain boots, a spiny circle of endless water.
The girl thought. Her thoughts matched the rhythm of the storm.
She had come to the conclusion that her life was a distant relative of these thunder storms that rumbled through the valley. A thick cloud of darkness and light that faded into itself before it gave way to searing jolts of light the tore through her psyche and singed her heart. An ever-present dankness that seeped through her skin. Sometimes she fancied herself as some sort of water spirit, watching out through white eyes into the world before it, feeling nothing but cool acceptance. More often, though, she just felt rather glum.
The sound of rushing water signaled the bus's arrival. It was painted the standard yellow, a color that made the girl flinch whenever she saw it during the summer months. The children in their bright raincoats pushed each other out of the way in their haste to enter the dry schoolbus. The girl hung back for just a moment, enough to ensure she would not need to bump into any of them. Then she, too, entered the belly of the humming vehicle.
A roar of noise entered the girl's ears as she left the rainstorm behind her. She silently sat in one of the front seats, which were always empty. While most children preferred sitting out of the driver's view, the girl felt much safer away from her peers. The screeches from the back of the bus only served to support this fear, and the girl sunk slightly in her seat, as if to hide from those behind her. She slid out of her white coat and placed it on the floor.
The rainstorm once again caught her attention, and she stared out the window. A melancholy face stared back. Gray-brown hair above sad brown eyes. The face seemed to looking elsewhere, away from the current world. The girl imagined that behind those sad eyes was a wonderland of rolling hills and soft breezes. A place where birds chirped and trees whispered their creaking songs. A far-away place, where thunderstorms would rumble in and water the tall grass with golden rain.
The girl smiled at the thought. For a moment, things felt alright. But her thoughts were interrupted by a snide voice in her ear.
"Hey, Emily." said a fattish boy. He wore clothes that appeared to be straight off the back of a teenage drug addict. His breath smelled vaguely of sulfur.
The girl shrunk back closer to the window. "What do you want?" she asked.
"I forgot to do the homework for science."
"I'm afraid I don't have it today, I forgot it at home..." Emily said slowly.
"Oh, that's too bad..." the boy said loudly, more to the bus driver than to Emily, before leaning closer to her. She could see the ugly pocks that marked his forehead. "Like hell you did," he hissed. "Where is that homework?"
Emily squirmed, wishing she could sink into the wall of the bus. "I told you, I don't have it".
The boy made a disgusted sort of sound, as if he could not believe such a lowly creature was trying to fight him. "Fine," he said finally. But something in his eyes made Emily wary. Before he turned to walk away, he stomped a muddy foot onto the lining of Emily's white coat. It made a terrible squelching noise. She reached for her coat and pulled it to her lap, before looking up sharply. She wanted to scream at the boy, at all of her classmates, but the boy had gone. The fire in her heart died down, and solidified into a heavy weight. She bit back tears and attempted to rub the mud out of the coat, only to spread it more.
The bus came screeching to a halt. The rain was a mad drumming on the roof of the bus, but it was still drowned out by the roar of the children. Emily hid behind her muddied coat as they stampeded by. Finally, feeling comfortable that they were a safe distance away, Emily stood up. She put on her coat inside-out, to keep the mud from ruining her dress, and picked up her backpack.
She stepped out of the bus. Her foot landed in deep water. A couple kids laughed in front of her. She felt humiliated, and she hadn't even reached the sidewalk. The bus rumbled off behind her, leaving her in the cold rain. Emily stared at the school, a dark shadow dominating the block. Threatening to crush all of its inhabitants. The bell rang, but it sounded distant and small compared to the roaring storm.
Emily stared and stared and stared. She felt the wind pushing her back where she had come from. The rain stung her arms. The inside of her coat was cold and wet. Her hair clung to her face, as if afraid the wind would sweep it away. She closed her eyes for a moment, and pictured the rolling hills. She took a deep breath.
Then she opened her umbrella and walked back home.