CARTER, AGE 8
Puddles are nothing but giant scary holes. My mother always warned me not to take the plunge because no one knew if the hole underneath the puddle was dug all the way down to hell. And so I never jumped into puddles. But I wouldn’t tell my friends why, no matter how much fun they made of me. I avoided the round mirrors of muddy water like the plague; I didn’t actually know what that meant, but I heard my mother say it often enough. It wasn’t until the first day of grade two, as we stood underneath the awning of Mr. Grafton’s convenience store, waiting for the rain to pass so that we could continue walking home, that Molly Fowler took my hand and pulled me out into the downpour. Our friends, who looked nice and dry, stayed close to the wall, enjoying the feeling of an afternoon sugar rush. Their mouths were full of Twizzlers and sour keys. Mr. Grafton always gave away free candy on the first day of school.
“You guys are crazy!” Nick yelled out.
“Come on, join us!” Molly screamed over the rain. It was pouring cats and dogs. Again, this was something my mother always said when it rained, and each time I looked up into the sky, there weren’t any cats or dogs – only big blobs of water, and one just hit me dead center of my eye. Why had she pulled me out into the rain again?
“My dress is already messed up,” Daisy complained, holding the hem of her dress tight in her fists as she tried to wring out the water that had soaked its bottom. Jo was busy showing Nick how the sour key fit on the tip of her tongue, and Andrew ripped a piece of Daisy’s Twizzler off and stuffed it into his mouth before she got a chance to finish with her dress.
“That’s rude!” She hit him on his arm, and as they started their bickering, my attention went back to Molly. Her head was lifted up, face toward the clouds, being washed by the rain. She had the most beautiful smile that day, which made the gray skies above us forgettable.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Enjoying this beautiful weather.”
“But it’s raining.”
“So? It’s still beautiful. Look at the way the raindrops change the way we look. Isn’t that amazing?”
I was wet, that’s all. Still, I couldn’t help but stare at how much she was enjoying this melancholy weather. Molly pursed her lips, and some water sprayed out from between them. As the rain fell, it carried the drops through the strands of her hair, straightening her brown curls and pasting them onto her face. Yet she kept on smiling, forcing my mouth to curve up as well.
And so I mimicked her and lifted my face to the sky. It was almost like taking an outdoor shower. The drops were cool at first, but warmed as they dripped down my face. Molly was right. Getting rained on did feel sort of nice; being soaked wasn’t as bad as we’d been taught to believe, and I never would have experienced the comfort of a rainy day the way she did if I hadn’t stepped out from underneath the storefront’s awning. My mother wouldn’t agree when she saw my soaked jeans, and so I promised myself to one day take her out into the rain to show her what Molly had shown me. This would definitely be one of the most memorable first days of school ever.
Molly’s eyes got wide at one point as she flew past me and stared at a puddle in front of us. Her toes touched the rim of the puddle. She wiggled them inside her sandals just as I stepped beside her. Molly grabbed my hand and squeezed it.
“Come on, Carter. You have to jump in one.”
I resisted the pull, keeping far away from the hole that could have led straight to hell. Still holding Molly’s hand, but standing way behind her, I said, “I’m going to be soaked.”
“We’re soaked already.” She tugged on my hand again and then lowered her voice. “Come on, just do it. It’ll be fun.”
“What if it’s deep?” Was I sounding like a wuss? Probably. But Molly didn’t seem to care, and it was raining so hard that we could barely hear our friends by the store.
“Are you kidding? Look!” Not loosening her grip on me, she jumped in as if she were Mary Poppins trying to hop into one of Bert’s chalk drawings. Molly was standing at ankle depth, grinning. I guessed that puddle wasn’t one of the ones my mother had warned me about. Though Molly didn’t disappear like Mary Poppins, the moment was still magical, and so I took the plunge into the murky water.
“My shoes are soaked now,” I complained.
“They would have been soaked anyway from walking. This way at least you had fun. And we made the best out of this beautiful day.” She smiled.
Molly’s positive attitude never ceased to amaze me. When I held her hand, it felt like nothing around us mattered. And I never let it go, either. No way. What if that one special puddle was waiting to suck me in? But I kept that little secret to myself. That day we jumped into all the puddles we could find, and once we ran out of them, the spellbinding moment had been trapped in the past. Still, I’d never forget the way Molly had managed to turn the miserable day into a fun afternoon. It wasn’t until we stopped and I found myself out of breath that I understood what Molly was talking about when she said it was a beautiful day. Molly could make any day beautiful, because she chose to. And that made her beautiful in my eyes. From that day on, rainy days were some of my favorite ones.
MOLLY, AGE 10
Dancing feet. Dozens of them.
That was my view of tonight’s Fall Fest as I sat underneath the table. Atop, rows of freshly baked apple pies cooled, releasing their saucy-sweet aroma. I’d crawled under here because I liked watching the adult feet move across the dance floor. How did they know where to take the next step, and how to spare their toes from pain?
There were red shoes and orange shoes. The purple ones were Mrs. Gladstone’s. They had a small broomstick attached at the heel, even though Mrs. Gladstone wasn’t a witch. The shiny black shoes were Doctor Burke’s, although I didn’t know what he was doing dancing with my mother. Hers had sunflowers at the toes. The tablecloth lifted at one end and Carter crawled underneath, joining me in my hiding spot.
“What are you doing?” he asked.
“Watching dancing shoes,” I said.
“Do you want some apple pie?”
I liked that Carter never looked down upon my odd behavior. I knew that others did, but not Carter. I just liked to stay out of the way and out of view. It felt safer that way. He sat down beside me with one plate, two forks, and a slab of apple pie. That meant the parents were having too much fun to notice their kids cutting chunks out of the dessert and helping themselves. Fall Fest, with all the pie cutting, dancing, and kids frolicking without a care, had been a tradition in Hope Bay ever since I could remember. And since I could only recall about six years back of my ten-year life, which was more than half… well, let’s just say that it had been a long time of us eating slabs of delicious apple pie.