{Written for Alameda Shorts: March 2018: Theme: Ish}

Emma felt some kind of way as she stepped out from the building into the quad.

The rain was a rain … but a not-rain, not yet.

It was coming in as a heavy mist,

filling the space between classes with

the ruffling of wet coats and popped collars,

and the slap-splashing of rubber soles

in last night’s puddles,

but it was a rain without a plan, without an idea that it should actually land somewhere. That it should actually be a rain.

Emma moved fast-but-not-fast across the yard, hunching into her scarf and aware of the wet air brushing lightly against her hair and shoulders, but not concerned enough to have brought an umbrella. Not for the thirty seconds it took to cross from civics to biology.

Biology without Trish. Another day, another class, another empty chair. Emma should be used to it by now. In her way, Emma was used to it. Resigned. Reconciled. Whatever.

The clock ticked through the hour, the rain waffled between mist and drizzle, and Emma stared at her phone, willing an app to light up, any app, as long as it was Trish.

The nature of everything had changed; opposite clocks on opposite sides of a big, indifferent world gave them no space to really talk anymore, even when the time zones made sense. Not now that Trish was making so many new friends – such great friends, and all so beautiful and interesting – and had they really ever been that close, I mean, Emma, really.

Whatever.

On the other side of the wall, the wind picked up pockets of water

and tried to shake sense into it,

throwing the mist and drizzle

into a of squabble of direction and intention

that only turned indecision into rain

because it fell.

 

Emma only moved forward because she walked.

To school. To the quad. To her classes. To her locker at lunch, where she stood so long staring into it, wondering what to eat and where her appetite had gone, that she missed the chance to get something hot and nutritious in her belly.

So, what? She was barely peckish. She settled for the protein bar in her coat pocket. Halfway through, she stopped, satisfied-but-not-satisfied, but not invested enough to go on.

Emma hung like the mist in the midday air, suspended in her life,

in a state of life that was neither here nor there,

waiting for a gust of something to shake her into being,

probably something chaotic and full of angst and drama, because,

like Trish always said, Emma was so insecure and so easily influenced.

But even that was better than being left behind.

Or, Emma sighed into her scarf, she could just be alone. The fibers held her warm breath like a hug, and then let it go, like the memory of a hug. Trish gave good hug. Emma sighed again. Whatever.

She stood there long enough to realize the rain had changed its mind again, leaving the wind to mop up the last of whatever light mist was left moping among the buildings.

It cleared space for booming teenage voices and shrieks of laughter to echo and ping as they chased pheromones and friendships like pinballs around campus.

A storey above the action, behind a window behind a tree,

Emma watched a pack of freshmen flit and flirt in the brief sun,

making their bonds. Building the friendships

that would be their foundation and their touchstone

for surviving the ups and downs of high school.

Six months in, they were just beginning.

But Emma was a junior, halfway in and halfway out, with no idea how to school without Trish.

How to English another year. How to math. How to science. How to choose another round of electives.

How to lunch.

She fished around in her pocket for the rest of the protein bar. How was she going to be Emma without Trish? How sad was that? And was that sad-sad, or pathetic-sad?

Whatever.

Watching the freshmen, chewing idly on a mouthful of almonds, honey, and whatever lackluster protein bound them together, Emma wondered how such heavy clouds could reflect so much light, and why the day felt stalled when the sun was out. As she watched, the wind moved dense clouds across the sky and the gloom crept back in. Nothing happened. Just gloom.

If only the weather would, you know, weather.

“Emma!”

“What?”

“Earth to Emma! Are you coming, or what?”

Emma turned, blinking, to face Hope and the flock of boots and coats and fluffy bound winter scarves that dripped and giggled a few yards down the hall behind her, all of them looking expectantly in her direction.

“You know, Spanish?” Hope grinned at Emma. “Are you coming, or what?”

Emma hesitated. Hope and these other girls, they were so beautiful and interesting. But Trish didn’t like them. “You only think they’re your friends, Emma, but you don’t know. They’re mean girls. We have each other. Who needs them, right?”

Hope crossed the space between them in quick, decisive strides, looped an arm through Emma’s, and pulled her into the group.

“Look. I know you miss that girl Trish. But we miss you. You gonna snap out of this, or what?”

Emma looked at Hope and the gaggle of friends keeping up with them

as they walked,

all of them chattering away happily

like they belonged together.

She fought back tears

and the mawkish argument

to wallow in desperate teenage loneliness

for the sake of one person

fell away.

 

Whatever, Trish.

 

Outside, the rain came again, this time with feeling.

No longer wishy-washy, the weather committed to the here and now,

joyously criss-crossing itself

down from the clouds

until it gained enough momentum

to become a proper downpour.

Emma and her friends ran across the quad together, shrieking and squealing in the rain like freshmen.