On the planet Catharsis, summer was not a joyous affair. In fact, it was quite the opposite. During the hotter months, it rained constantly. It fell in torrents and sheets, leaving everything drenched. As if that weren't bad enough, it was no ordinary rain. It was a toxic rain, stained red from the radioactive particles floating in the upper atmosphere. If caught in a storm, 90% of the population would fall gravely ill and die painfully soon after exposure. The only people who lived on Catharsis were those who were not filthy rich enough to leave or the 10% who were immune. Being as it was it was no tourist destination, it wasn't long before Catharsis was destroyed to make way for a direct route to Yaltoise, a year-round tourist tropical paradise. In the few centuries Catharsis did exist, little happened that gained the attention of the other planets around it, but that doesn't mean nothing interesting never happened. One especially hazardous summer comes to mind.
Lizzie was a far from ordinary girl. For one, she was immune to the rain. Sure, it annoyed her to no end. She could never wear white or any other light coloured article of clothing, for fear of it getting stained, but it never affected her physically. The second point of interest was her appearance. Most of the people of Catharsis looked washed out like a faded photograph. They were pale and lanky, with dull grey eyes and mousy brown or blonde hair. Their clothes were old and worn, people trying to save their zils for more important things during the self-quarantine. The summer months were hard on everyone, except Lizzie. She had life to her. With her kinky ginger hair and sparkling green eyes, she still had a purpose to her steps that had yet to be beaten out of her. This leads to our third fact; Lizzie was born off world. She had come to this godforsaken planet for college using her parents’ vast wealth. She wanted some peace and quiet, and that's exactly what she got. During the summer, she had the streets to herself. Life was simple.
On the first day of the most interesting summer of her life, she opened her cabinet to find that all her food looked extraordinary unappetizing. She was craving something fresh, maybe some fruit. That was the only thing she missed. Most of the food on Catharsis was either preserved or dehydrated. In order to get something fresh, she'd have to spend the majority of her remaining monthly stipend. Still, she didn't know if she could stomach another helping of dried SpaceKelp™ and protein pills. Stuffing her feet into a pair of galoshes, she grabbed her umbrella from beside the door and made her way to the store. Her neighbours peeked at her anxiously from behind their curtains as she passed. She ignored them as usual, focusing on the wind threatening to blow her over. She made it to the store without incident and mostly dry. Scouring the isles, the most lively thing she found was a freezer full of red fish like creatures. She wrinkled her nose in disgust. She never liked fish, and she had an even worse vendetta against Tarricks. They were too scaly yet hairy at the same time, with sharp teeth lining the insides of their five stomaches. Appetite further lessened, Lizzie settled with some Bopcore jerky and a handful of Twinkies. The Dan-droid at the counter was powered off due to inactivity, so she handled the transaction herself and promptly left.
The rain had slackened slightly in her absence, a faint hint of sunlight peeking through the clouds. It was because of this that Lizzie saw the girl struggling along with no umbrella. Her clothes were plastered to her skin and she seemed to be shivering. Lizzie made her way over to her as well as she could. She held out her umbrella for the girl to take. The girl shook her head, saying something that couldn’t be heard over the sound of the pouring rain. Lizzie leaned in closer to her, shielding them both under her umbrella.
“I don’t need it, I'm already soaked,” the girl practically shouted.
Lizzie insisted, gesturing for her to take it. She did, and, with her hands now free, Lizzie took off her jacket and draped it over the shivering girl.
“Which way are you going?” Lizzie asked.
The girl pointed in the same direction as Lizzie’s house, so they walked away together. The rain made it hard to talk, but she didn’t know what she could say to this strange, small girl. Lizzie kept sneaking glances at her from the corner of her eye. She wasn’t shivering anymore but was still soaked thoroughly. She had the same mousey brown hair as most of the other inhabitants. She looked average, a little on the shorter side but that was a blessing in itself. The smaller you are, the less food you need consume. It was hard to believe this girl was one of the immune. Without knowing it, Lizzie passed right by her house, the neighbours staring at her less fearful and more curious. They walked on, past the mixed cluster of buildings posing as neighbourhoods. They slowed when they came to the downtown portion of the city that bustled in the midwinter. Right now, though, it was deserted. The girl delicately picked her way across the sidewalk littered with scattered stones to enter the old theatre. Lizzie followed suit.
Inside, it was cool and dry and serenely quiet. No, that wasn’t quite right. There was a faint melody seemingly emanating from the very walls themselves. It was a strange, haunting song that echoed through the foyer. Lizzie took a step forward, trying to find the sound’s origin. It sounded like it was coming from the auditorium. She strode in, captivated. It was empty as well, chairs sat vacant facing the stage waiting for the curtain to rise. She made her way towards the stage, the sound growing gradually louder. She climbed the side stairs and ducked behind the curtain. She could hear the melody clearly now. It was coming from a beaten-up record player in the corner. Scattered amongst the old set pieces were a dozen or so paintings, some covered with sheets. Lizzie took the cover off one. It depicted a little girl, painted in the same blood red pigment as all the others. She took the cover off another. It was a man filled with fury so concentrated it sent chills down Lizzie’s spine.
“That’s my father.”
Lizzie jumped at the sound of her voice. Frankly, she had forgotten about her. The girl held out Lizzie’s coat, an unreadable expression on her face. Lizzie looked back at the portrait and made a split-second decision.
“Keep it,” she said, “I have another just like it.”
The girl looked taken aback.
“What do you want in return?” she asked, quizzically.
Lizzie realized the girl wouldn’t believe her just being nice. With more quick thinking, she devised a solution.
“Be my friend,” she said, putting on her brightest smile.
The girl thought for a moment, looking Lizzie up and down and furrowing her eyebrows.
She finally smiled back, holding out her hand, “Alright, I'm Rin.”
“I’m Lizzie,” she shook Rin’s hand, “Nice to make your acquaintance.”
Thus, began a summer that time never forgot.
A couple weeks passed, and the theatre had become their prime hangout location. As it turns out, Rin was living there to escape her father. The paintings were hers, coloured in the rainwater filling the streets. The record player she had stolen from her father. Right now, it was silent. The two girls were too busy to change it over. They were decked out on the floor in a pile of blankets eating SpaceKelp™ chips, the rain outside beating a steady rhythm against the roof. Lizzie popped another chip into her mouth and grimaced, wrinkling her nose.
“I don’t see how you can eat these,” she said, discarding her bag.
Rin laughed, “I don’t see how you can be so picky.”
“I guess my pallet is a bit more refined.”
“Right, rich girl, if you call Twinkies refined,” Rin teased.
“Hey! This rich girl is paying for your meals right now,” Lizzie shot back.
“From your parents’ bank account.”
“They said as long as I'm here, they would support me.”
“Why would you ever leave your home world to come here of all places?” Rin asked, "And don't give me that college excuse again."
Lizzie unwrapped a Twinkie, “I guess I needed an escape. I was tired of being used. I had just broken up with my most recent boyfriend whom I had less feelings for than the girls he was cheating on me with, and my parents were arranging another affluent boy to take his place.”
“No, are you serious?” Rin looked aghast.
Lizzie nodded, trying to look severe with a Twinkie half hanging out of her mouth.
Rin attempted to choke back a laugh unsuccessfully.
“Stop it,” Lizzie hit her with a pillow, making her laugh even harder.
“I’m sorry,” Rin said through tears of mirthful laughter, “You’re just so hard to take seriously.”
Lizzie crossed her arms, pouting, “Am not.”
Rin gave her a look, “Whatever you say, princess. Do you want any more of this?” she held up the almost empty bag of Bopcore jerky.
“No, you can have it.”
“Thanks, do you want my last Twinkie?”
“I thought you’d never ask,” Lizzie took it from her with a grateful smile.
They thoughtfully chewed on their respective snacks in peace for a few minutes before Rin broke the silence.
“Can I ask you something?”
“You just did,” Lizzie joked.
“Ha ha real funny, I'm being serious here.”
“Alright, Sirius, what is it?”
“When you said that you liked the girls your ex slept with more than your ex himself, does that mean-”
“That I only like girls?” Lizzie interrupted, “I suppose so. Why?”
“Just curious, I guess.”
Lizzie looked over at her newfound friend. She could see the effort it took Rin to not squirm in her seat.
More squirming, “Yeah?”
“Why did you want to know?”
Rin stared at the floor, biting her lip and twisting her fingers into knots.
Lizzie moved closer to her and pushed her chin up so she couldn’t avoid her gaze. Still, Rin shifted her eyes around as if looking for an escape.
“Rin, please look at me.”
Rin's hesitant gold eyes met Lizzie’s green ones and it was as if something clicked into place.
Lizzie brushed her thumb against Rin’s lips.
She leaned in, "Is this okay?"
"Yes," Rin said, no louder than a breath.
They leaned together as close as they could without touching, and then,they were kissing.
The rain thundered on outside, and Rin's father was looking for her, and Lizzie's parents were wondering what to do about their wayward daughter, but none of it mattered. They were finally together at last.
"Was that what you wanted to know?"