The rain was heavy, as always this time of year…
Greta was as late, as always, regardless of the weather. Today it was for extra credit in science. She’d spent two hours scrubbing out metal pans she strongly suspected had contained dissected frogs moments before. The scent of the industrial sanitizer stung her eyes and clung to her nose despite the rain. It was worth it though. If Mrs. Cadbury upped her grade a bit more she could get into Honors Biology next year. Her dream of being an equine veterinarian would be one-step closer to realized.
She crossed the street, a ways up from the crosswalk, but there wasn’t a car in sight on the two-lane road. With great care she stepped over the full gutter, not that it mattered too much, all her clothes were soaked since she left the school anyway. The mousse she’d carefully applied to her blond hair hadn’t made it any farther.
Her eyes were focused on the soaked sidewalk, careful to avoid any of the squishy leaves. The tread on her shoes was gone, and every leaf was a risk. The next crosswalk intersected a four-lane road, one of the biggest in town. She glanced back and fourth a few times after hitting the button to cross. Her clothes were starting to get heavy, and even her waterproofed backpack was dripping.
She gave up on waiting for the little orange hand to change, and ran across the road. The storm-drain across the street was blocked, leaving a 3-foot wide puddle to hop over. She barely made it, stumbling back a bit. Her iPod slipped out of her loose hoodie pocket, and she barely caught it by the headphone’s cord, inches from the water. She stowed it in her jeans pocket, and smirked a bit, wiping the hair out of her eyes as she did.
She turned at the 7-11, waving ‘Hi’ to her brother, Jimmy, manning the counter. He waved her in, pointing at the soda machine with one long hairy-arm. She shook her head, and he rolled his eyes. After a few more exaggerated gestures he waved her off, his bleach blond hair bouncing as he nodded to a waiting customer.
Two-blocks up and one to the left and home was in sight, a little ways up a steep hill. Her selected album ended fifty-feet from her door, and she pulled the red-music player out of her pocket. A few pieces of notebook paper, balled up and her pen came with it, tumbling into the murky water of the gutter. She reacted quickly, rushing back downward, her shoes losing traction just a few feet into the run.
She slid on her butt, the cold water biting through her jeans. Her iPod tumbled from her grasp too, following the pen, but preceding the white sneaker she wore into the wide dark drain on the corner. Her thin leg went in up to her calf with ease, and it took her a long moment to stand up. Her sobs were quiet, as she stood in the street.
A tap, and a sound like a horse’s snort caused her to jump. She took a few quick steps back, ripping the headphones from her ears as she did. The street was silent, even the rain slowing to listen.
Another sound, this one familiar reached her ears. A Coldplay song was echoing from the sewer. Her favorite, the one she’d been about to play. She took a step forward, and then stopped herself. A squeak left her as her pen, held aloft in the hand of a smiling young man, appeared at the edge of the grate.
“Your pen?” he asked, a musical foreign lilt to his voice. All he wore was a simple blue jumpsuit, with two yellow strips sewed onto it. The legs and arms were several sizes too long, so he had rolled them up into thick uneven cuffs.
“Are you Irish?” she asked, not reaching for the pen even though his arm was inches from her. His brown hair was long and braided down his back, she could see as he leaned out of the drain. He was thin, and seemed to slide out from the wide drain with ease, even though his legs stayed in.
“Scottish,” he said, then with a wink added, “Usually.”
“What are you doing in the sewer?” she asked, as he sat the pen down on the ground, and slipped back into the ground, although his face was still visible he was mostly cloaked in shadow once more. Faint edges of beard graced the boys cheeks and chin, a chestnut brown like his hair.
“It’s a storm-drain, m’dear. Goes to the sea.” His green eyes twinkled as he spoke. “Mostly clearing it out, but also handing pretty girls back their pens.” She picked up the pen as he spoke.
“Thanks,” she said with a blush, and a small curtsy. “Did you see an iPod?”
He looked around theatrically, before zeroing in, and diving. “There we go.” He held the red-device out to her, it’s external speaker still loosing tinny music. “Glad to help.” His smile was wide, his teeth square and white as he slowly leaned a little farther toward her, the iPod on the edge of his hand.
She grabbed for it, their fingers brushing, and with a soft gasp was gone. A pop, as the straps on her bag tore, was the only other sound, and it too was light and drowned by the rain.
Her backpack, and iPod lay in the road until dark along with few horse hairs caught on the edge of the dark iron grate. The police picked up her things, and the hair, like her, was lost to the sea.