Marnie pinned her shawl in place with a glittery cauldron brooch. (It had been a welcome-back-to-town gift from Luke.) The wind was blowing hard today, enough that she had to draw the shawl around her head to keep her hair from whipping into her face.
Dark clouds, just a dim line on the horizon only that morning, nearly blotted out the sky.
"Is this your first rainstorm in Halloweentown?"
She smiled and drew one of the heavy skeleton keys up from the ring clipped to her belt. The design on the end was based on the skull of a Cromwell ancestor. "I think it actually is," she said, carefully locking the front door of her grandmother's house.
"Then you should be pleasantly surprised. Is Aggie not home?"
Marnie turned around and let her keys fall back to her hip. Luke held out a hand to her, and she linked her fingers with his, careful not to trip on her cape while she made her way down the front steps.
"No, Grandma's at book club. This month they're working on illusions to make the drawings in illuminated manuscripts move," she said. She tilted her head to one side. A wisp of dark hair escaped from under her shawl and batted across her face. Luke reached up to tuck it back behind her ear. "How is rain going to surprise me, anyway?" she asked.
They began walking down the front path together. The thick, deep orange dress Marnie could wear now that the weather in Halloweentown was cooling off brushed against leaves and cobblestones at her feet.
Luke was in a slick yellow coat with hood folded back against his shoulders. "Well, it's not like I've spent a lot of time in the human world. But I've heard things," he said.
"From who?" Marnie asked, giggling. "I think I'm the only person from my realm you've seen more than twice."
Luke gave her a serious look that didn't suit him. Marnie's stay in Halloweentown was only for the summer before college -- though she'd been warned time and again that more or less time could pass in Halloweentown before her mother showed up -- but she was used to seeing a smile on Luke's face at this point.
Then the corner of his mouth turned up. "Your little sister is very talkative."
"She was here for maybe two hours!" Marnie protested. But she was giggling again, hardly able to feel the chill wind cutting against any skin exposed to the air. "It must have been like taking a vacation to the human realm."
"As close as somebody like me could get, anyway."
Marnie bumped their shoulders together. They passed through the front gate of the house, and Luke closed it behind them. The metal shut with a soft click. Above them, the trees in all directions were rattling so hard they dumped leaves in heaps on the ground.
"You could come visit one day, you know," she said. "Now that passage is open."
Looking at her sideways, Luke shook his head. "One of the things I do know about the human world is that I'd stand out like a sore thumb," he said.
Marnie glanced down the road. It curved away from her grandmother's house and lead back into town, but that wasn't their plan today. Luke was going to help her gather ingredients from a spell that only grew around certain trees in the woods. Or, at least that had been the plan, before the storm gathered overhead. Now she wondered how far they could make it without getting drenched.
"Should we keep going?" she asked, staring up at the clouds.
Luke tugged her hand forward. "Yeah," he said. At her questioning look, he grinned. "Come on, you can't spend your first rainstorm here hulking inside Aggie's house," he said.
"Fine," Marnie said, sighing. She patted her belt to make sure her collection bag was tied around it, opposite side from where she kept her keys. Everything was in place. If Luke said it was okay, she was going to trust him.
Thunder rolled ahead and she drew her shawl closer around her hair. Marnie racked her brain for water-repelling spells just to be safe.
The wind seemed much louder as soon as they stepped fully into the forest, too. There were more trees to rattle above them and the leaves on the ground were deeper where there was no one to care about raking them away.
"You could come on Halloween, though," she suggested, trying to keep the conversation going. She didn't spot any of the herbs yet. "I know Halloween night is kind of a big deal here," she said, raising her eyes to the sky and smiling sheepishly. "But if you wanted…"
Luke didn't want to resort to magic means to change his face any longer. The idea of looking human seemed strange to him: they'd talked about it before. Marnie was realistic enough to know, though, that without magic Luke would stand out, and not in a good way.
"No offense, but what could you show me that would be cooler than here?" Luke asked.
And then it began to rain.
Marnie flinched, and raised her hands to begin a spell that might be effective enough to keep the two of them dry. (She wasn't sure, her grandmother's book said it'd been designed for plumbers to use while working on leaks.)
Before she could speak the first word of the incantation, Luke grabbed her wrist. "Hold on for just a sec," he told her.
The rain turned the ground dark around their feet before Marnie could respond. Pale brown dirt shifted to mud in spots and splashes. Grass bent double under the weight of the water. The very branches of the trees sagged, their leaves drooping.
Marnie couldn't stop herself from giggling. She and Luke were completely dry. Luke let go of her wrist so that she could raise her hands completely above her head. If she rocked onto her toes, her fingertips brushed against a mist of rain parting in a dome just a little above the two of them.
"My mom told me somebody cast a spell a long time ago to keep her hair from getting wet in the rain," Luke said. "Except she put too much power in it and now it's a part of the weather." He tugged at the strings of the hood he hadn't drawn around his head. "We should be able to get your ingredients just fine."
He was grinning, too, but not at the wonder of the two of them standing dry in a rainstorm. Marnie leaned back onto one heel and spun around in a circle, letting her dress spin around her ankles. The rain moved back from the fabric when it came too close to the dry spot hanging around them. It inched away after she'd had her hands in the air for more than a few moments, too.
"This is amazing, Luke."
"Told ya it was better than staying inside," he said.
"And cooler than anything I could show you at home, I think," Marnie said.
Luke's chest puffed out a bit. "Yeah?"
"Cool. Now let's go get your stuff."
Marnie let her hands fall back to her sides, still smiling from ear to ear. She linked her arm through Luke's and snuggled up to his side as they walked deeper into the woods. The dome of clear air circling them followed their every step.
The rain made the gold of the eufbe vine glitter around the base of a tree in the distance.
"I just have one question," she said, letting go of Luke long enough to step over a fallen log. "Any idea who cast this rain spell?"
Luke hopped over the log. "Pretty sure it was a Cromwell."
Marnie laughed and watched the rain turn the air gray. It shimmered and shifted around them with every move they made. It was beautiful, and perfect.
When they were done collecting ingredients, Luke held her hand all the way home.