Author : Jason Frank

“I felt a drop.”

Laurine looked over but her cousin was facing away from us. She talked to herself so much that you didn’t always expect it when she wasn’t. Laurine waited a moment before returning to our close, breath sharing intimacies.

“There’s another one.”

Our social fitness cores were too high to simply ignore her. Even knowing she’d been Punished didn’t change anything. Still, we slipped smoothly back into our closeness, a proximity at the very edge of permission.

“It’s going to rain.”

I didn’t hate her. Her chaperoning spared us applying for a couple’s outing, the most complicated permission to obtain. Her spending most of her time locked away in that crazy head of hers didn’t bother me. Did her weirdness get her Punished or did the Punishment make her weird? How could you ever know that?

“I haven’t been out in the rain in forever.”

Laurine broke our closeness and I felt our intimacy shatter into a thousand shards, floating around us in constellations of almost.

“Jane, are you okay? Can I get you something?”

“I’ll be fine in a bit. Have you ever stood in the rain, Laurine? It really is something.”

“But Jane… our permits run another thirty minutes. There isn’t any active weather scheduled until thirty minutes after that. They never run it too close, you know that.”

I looked at my palms and then placed them over my face to warm the coolness left by the lack of Laurine’s breath. I wanted no part of Jane’s reminiscence of her criminality. After a few minutes of nothing being said by either, I took away my hands.

The two stared at each other with looks I couldn’t read. The thought arose that there might be some sort of female psychic combat unknown to me. I pushed out the tip of my tongue to savor the deliciousness of the very thought. Laurine seemed to lose the struggle, breaking eye contact to look up. I looked up as well and saw a frightening darkness on the horizon.

Something inside of me took over and I ran for our transport, catching Laurine’s waist and bringing her along with me. I was born six months after the lights-on laws passed and the active weather restrictions passed before I left the hospital. I had a clean record and wasn’t about to ruin it. I was also afraid. I was, I realized, more afraid for Laurine receiving Punishment than myself, perhaps the greatest expression of my feelings for her to date.

The storm struck us with a wildness unknown even to zoos, circuses, and elementary schools. Laurine leaned into me, trembling with fear. I was unsure about the legality of it all, but in that moment, I held her. I held her and I looked over her shoulder.

There, in the deluge, Jane swayed with her arms wrapped around herself. I couldn’t tell if she was singing or shouting or both but she was smiling. For a moment, a whisper inside told me to go out there and join her. It told me there was something to be learned here, that she might teach me it. I did not go.

So much time has passed and I know nothing of the whereabouts of Jane, or even Laurine. I wonder often, however, if there was something I could have learned out there in the rain, something that would have made my going easier during the great troubles that were soon upon us.


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