Mama always said that you could tell what type of person someone was by looking at their positive or negative outlook to rain.
She said the people not worth my time were the ones who dashed from point A to point B with their collars upturned and their hats pulled low. The ones who scowled at the gray sky as if it personally offended them were the ones who most likely didn’t appreciate the little things in life.
But she said those to look out for were the ones who danced in the rain. Those who lived and loved with their entire being and not just that pounding organ in their chests. The ones who took the day off from work and danced with their daughter under the emptying skies, hair plastered to their scalps, broad grins, and so much love it hurts.
I guess that’s why she didn’t object when I found a boy nestled in the bush and brought him home. I saw him dancing in the rain, his silver poncho on the ground and his eyes heavenward - searching for the stars through that grey blanket hanging low over the world.
He didn’t look as if he hated the rain, but he didn’t look as if he liked it either. I wondered what Mama would say to that anomaly. I walked over to him, and we stared up at the sky together, eyes slit against the onslaught of droplets.
“Whatcha looking for?” I asked, and he took his sweet time responding. I didn't care, though. It wasn't a loaded silence, it was a comfortable silence. The ones Mama and I shared together when we danced in the rain.
“My father. I want to see if he’s doing okay in heaven,” he said. I looked at him. I could tell he was hurting. We stood there in silence for some more time until I tried the only thing I knew to do when I wanted to make someone feel better.
“Doyah want pie?”
I brought him home with the promise of a slice of cherry pie because Mama made the best in the entire town. She put whipped cream on top, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, and those sweet cherries on top of that. And if I asked nicely, I could get a warm glass of milk on the side, too.
The boy looked a little wary of me, but his stomach growled so loud I could hear it over the pounding on the swollen gutters. He and I looked at each other and smiled.
“Can I have milk too?” he asked me, and I held out my hand.
“I guess we’ll find out,” I replied, leading him home.
Mama was happy. I could tell by the smells wafting out of the open window as I led the boy up the front steps. Cinnamon and sugar. Snickerdoodles. She had some good news. But I knew we also had cherry pie in the oven.
“Mama?” I asked as I pushed open the door. I had to speak up over the thrumming rain on the roof. The boy and I pulled off our ponchos and rain boots, leaving them in a pile next to the front door.
“In here, darling,” she called.
“Come on,” I told the boy as he hesitated near the door. He stepped toward me.
“Is the pie in there?” he asked. I nodded.
“You'll have to meet my mom first,” I said, pulling him through the foyer and into the small kitchen. Mama had decorated it with my pictures throughout the entirety of my ten years: my first missing tooth, my first day of preschool, dancing in the rain, my first day of elementary school, my first carousel, my first baked cookie. She was hunched over the counter, furiously kneading a ball of dough swirled with cinnamon streaks.
“Hello dear, the cookies will be ready-ah, who’s this?” she asked, turning around and spotting the two of us. I shyly pushed the boy forward.
“He was dancing in the rain, Mama. I thought he could use some cherry pie,” I said. Mama’s eyes lit up, and she turned to the boy, dusting her hands on the apron she wore.
“Well, then. Raindancer. What’s your name?” she asked gently. He bit his lip.
“Mark,” he whispered.
“Mark is a very strong name. You deserve some pie. With two scoops of ice cream, and an extra cherry,” she pronounced. Mark puffed his chest out, his damp hair curling at the nape of his neck. I gasped.
“Mama, can I have that too?” I said, shocked. She winked at me.
“Of course you can, darling. Now Mark-” she started, but he hopped on the kitchen stool she motioned him toward and propped his head on his hands, interrupting her.
“May I have some milk too?” he asked softly. Mama blinked and a wide smile danced on the corner of her lips.
“Yes...yes of course,” she said, pulling the bottle out of the fridge. I hopped on the chair next to Mark as Mama bustled around, getting things ready. “Where do you live Mark?” she asked, setting a tall glass of milk next to both of us. He took a big gulp, his milk mustache smeared across his upper lip, before responding.
“The house at the end of the road, near the old oak tree,” he said. Mama nodded.
“I’d heard someone had moved in. Well, how are you liking the neighborhood?” She queried, scooping the ice cream into perfect balls and putting them on the big slices of pie. Mark’s eyes grew round at the sight, and he licked his lips before turning his eyes back to Mama.
“Well, I haven’t really made any friends yet,” he admitted. The rain fell harder after his sentence, drowning out all other noise, and when it lessened, Mama turned to me with a speculative glance.
“Well, I’m sure Charlie here would love to be your first friend,” she said. I rolled my eyes. I didn’t need her to make friends for me.
“Yeah, we’re friends,” I said to him, purposely not noticing the way his eyes lined with silver.
Mama slid the two plates over to us and handed us two spoons. We dug in, comfortable silence falling over us as we ate, Mama baked, and the rain fell around us.
And I remembered something Mama said. About the things that people do in the rain. The ones who glare at every single rain cloud are the ones who wash away, far out of your life, and those who dance among the raindrops are the ones who stay in your life, like the fresh smell after the rain stops - forever in your mind and forever in your heart.