The rain beats a staccato rhythm on the canopy. The water pools on it until the poorly-fastened edge gives weight and dumps its load on the street. Some of the stray splatters catch his back and he bristles, hunching his shoulders and pulling the collars of the leather jacket higher out of habit rather than actual necessity.
He cradles the burnt hand in his lap and reaches for his pocket with the other, retrieving a single cigarette from the mangled pack barely managing to not fall out. He props the object between his lips and starts searching for a lighter.
The glare from the uncovered electric bulb makes the rain seem like an impenetrable wall of liquid diamond.
He finds the lighter and lights the cigarette.
The rain parts suddenly. The young woman, her hat covering her eyes, shrugs her shoulders and the water rolls off the greatcoat in fragments of diamond. She removes the coat, flinging it casually over her arm and apparently ignoring the dark batch it soaks on the sleeve of her turtleneck.
The tip of her long, blonde ponytail brushes the wet tarmac as she sits down, grabs the trilby by the crown and casually drops it on the bench between them.
This is when he finally looks up. Blue meets brown.
Even the rain goes silent as they look at each other.
"What are you doing here?" he finally huffs. "This is no place for a pretty girl like you."
The sketchpad seems to appear out of thin air but he doesn't pay much attention to that: strange things tend to happen around her. The scratch of the pen against the paper is audible even over the rain, before she hands the pad to him and crosses her arms.
Her handwriting is unusual, slanted, messy and still perfectly readable.
I came looking for you.
He snorts and takes a drag. "Well you found me. What more do you want?"
She takes the pad and more scratching ensues. I was worried. We all were.
More silence. This time the rain seems to amp up the volume, to compensate for the awkward silence.
His patience doesn't allow for it for too long. "Why did you come looking for me anyway?"
She smirks, a foreign twist of lips on such gentle features. The mechanical dances a pattern over the paper.
You just ran off. It's not like you. She still wonders if you're around, just skulking about like you usually do.
"Go tell her I left. I'm not coming back. She doesn't have to worry about bad news ever again." He takes another drag and blows the smoke through his nose while trying to get the eerie badness in his stomach to settle down. "She doesn't have to pretend that she likes me anymore."
She's not pretending.
"Bull. She hates me." He muses for a moment, then looks into the rain and breathes out a cloud of smoke. "Well, I don't blame her. I hate me."
She snatches the pad back almost angrily, but the gentle smile never changes. Not even the blue eyes change, as she writes the answer without even looking.
She doesn't hate you. You just don't interest her right now. I know deep down she really does love you.
The paper flutters as she swoops with her hand.
She just loves me more ;3
He actually laughs at that, because the wink is probably the most accurate thing she has ever written.
"Sure of yourself, aren't you?"
Hell yes. But while it's great, it won't last.
He watches her closely, but there's no bitterness.
You are her future after all. Nobody can keep dreaming forever.
Her eyes are creased at the corners, with a mischievous little quirk of lips. It draws a smile from him, the sureness he sees there, that takes a long time to fade.
The following silence isn't nearly as deafening.
"How long has it been? Since you lost your voice."
For a fraction of a second he's afraid he's overstepped his boundaries, but she's still calm, writing her answer in three smooth arcs.
About a year.
She's getting better, but it's still a long way to go.
She doesn't want to hear me anymore.
"I'm sure she'll get better."
Me too. And I can have fun with her even if she doesn't. But I'm sure she will, so don't worry.
Her eyes twinkle again. The scratching blends to the rain.
I will be there to help you guys when needed.
He rubs his wrist, right above the burn marks. "You'll be there to step up when things get crazy, huh?"
Does that hurt?
"I'm used to it."
That's not what I asked.
He doesn't answer; instead he takes another drag and watches the rain. "You came here to tell me to come back, right?"
She stands up and drops the coat on the bench before grabbing the pad for the last time.
Take your time. She's still got a whole summer ahead of her.
Have some faith in her self-control.
He snorts but holds the snarky comment in because the blonde is right. He nods, to himself, and she takes it as the yes it is.
She nods once, then gestures at the rain and turns to leave.
"You forgot your hat", he has the presence of mind to say, reaching for the trilby. She just looks over her shoulder, winks and waves her hand dismissingly. The rain parts and she walks away, blonde ponytail flitting from side to side with her steps.
The sketchpad and the coat have suspiciously vanished, but the hat remains. He takes one last drag of the cigarette and then throws the butt away. Then he reaches for the pack and chucks it in the bin. He's ready to kick the habit anyway.
Above him, the canopy strains under the water load. He pulls the collars higher and steps out through the diamond wall.
The hat on the bench remains the only thing ounder the canopy. The electric light flickers and finally goes off.