The Return of Rain
I am not looking to free him, she said to the guard the day they shot her husband. But I need my revenge too, surely you can understand that.
The rest of that day she spent at home. Despite everything it felt wrong to see his death, so she turned the TV to face the wall. Her sister collected and disposed of the newspapers, and rather than field interview requests they unplugged the phone, locked the door, shuttered the windows.
Things stayed that way for a while—a few weeks—but they could not stay that way forever. The rains had started back up the day they would not let her see her husband, ex-husband, dead husband, and there were things that needed doing. Renting a sump pump, moving her records from basement to attic, feeding herself.
When they met at her sister’s wedding he was standing at the door, arms crossed, in the uniform of the Royal Guard. She had gone out for a cigarette. Her sister looked happy and was dancing with her husband and in six months would be laid up with a belly bigger than the rest of her put together. For these reasons she needed to smoke. She saw him, her future husband, her future dead husband, and asked what he was doing standing there at the door in his uniform not moving.
Looking for dissident activity, he said. Bad weather.
After their engagement he took her to the park. He thought her beautiful because she was small and her skin so pale he sometimes saw straight through her, but he did not tell her these things. Instead he told her about his job and the tabloid reporters who tried every day to bribe him for information on the princess’s health. He told her what their wedding would be like. He told her that he had always known where he would end up but not the manner in which he would arrive, and that he was pleased with the way things were going. He told her that he would love her as long as she loved him and maybe longer.
The weather was so nice, that day.
Later, it started raining. It started raining the day they married, it rained for three years straight, nothing was ever done halfway in that country. For three years the bloated corpses of dogs and goats washed against their fence, testing the rotted wood, and then one day it stopped. People sobbed to walk outside and see the clear skies. Even the mud seemed rotted, dense and horribly fragrant. When they tried they found the bodies of the animals too wet to burn and graves impossible, the soil closing in and water rushing to fill their briefly shoveled plots, so outside of town they piled the dead, the rotten, the to-be-forgotten.
Animals had died and people had died and crops had not grown, but it was not until a year of no rain that they realized things could be awful in an equal but opposite way.
Her sister laughed at all his jokes. When she told her about the proposal she said, “Now there’s a real man.” It had taken her husband a pregnancy and a lost job to consider his own wedding.
In the four years of no rain, when the earth dried to reveal chasms of dirt, when the animals lay collapsed and brittle and then vanished altogether, her sister said, I could have told you this would happen. From the very start.
You laughed at all his jokes, she said. You bought five dresses to choose from for our wedding. What she wanted to say but didn’t was: You could not have seen this. Not you, not me, not anyone. Even when he said he had known forever where he would end up, he didn’t know. Although an industry of gossip and guesswork had sprung up around the disappearance of that girl with her husband, no one could have guessed what was his future on the night he lit her cigarette and watched the clouds.
If the sentence was assigned more quickly than it might have been, it was only for who he had been and what he had taken. He had been trusted, a member of the Guard; the most trusted, a guard for the princess herself; and for this reason and others his former employer’s justice was swift and exacting and unrelenting, and she was not allowed to see him before he left the second time. The crack of a rifle, a drop of rain. Things can come fast or things can come slow but in the end, she knows, they always come.
Ellen Rhudy is a Peace Corps Volunteer serving as an English teacher in the Republic of Macedonia. In October 2011 she will begin researching Albanian culture as a Fulbright student in Tirana. Her fiction has appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, SmokeLong Quarterly, Hanging Loose and Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure. She writes about books at her blog, Fat Books & Thin Women.