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A world within itself

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"It's starting! It's starting."

Zimmy didn't mean to say it the way it came out, with her voice hoarse and gulping strangely in her relief. It sounded as if she'd do something stupid like crying--so she gulped again to clear her throat and said, "Let's go!"

Gamma's fingers closed complacently around hers, and she wondered to Zimmy, Is the rain really in this direction? - Yes, yes, yesssssssyesyes! Zimmy told her, and they grinned in overlapped happiness. Gamma's eyes went to the low, gray bellies of clouds over the roofs. Even if it was strange to think that it was already raining in one part of the city and not where they stood, it really did look rainier there, she thought.

Zimmy felt that it was rainier in all sorts of ways, she explained warmly (because she could get a whole lot of warmth from letting her thinking fall around in Gamma's). Easiest way was the smell, of course, fresh and clear and so satisfying it could as well have been something sharp. There was the feel of pressure in the gut and the particular way it let up as the rain fell. Most importantly, that mistiness, soft and everywhere: so quiet.

She grabbed Gamma's upper arm as they trotted on. "Like this!" she said, fingers digging into the wool of Gamma's jersey. She dropped her voice so no one, whether with faces or without, dangerous or unimportant, could hear. "It feels like you."

Gamma smiled and said something out loud that Zimmy didn't know the meaning of. With her mouth shaping almost-words as they ran faster, it took Gamma a while to translate, and then as the first drops hit them, she said, "Fanciful."

For a moment it was too quiet for Zimmy to hear even one word. And how had she forgotten to mention that coolness?

Then she was distracted, as looking at Gamma turning a grateful smile to the sky made her remember that something had been said. Zimmy finally responded, pushing Gamma lightly. "Fanciful! And you? You think all of them look like flowers!"

Gamma blushed from the neck up and started looking at the ground instead. So Zimmy took over watching the umbrellas open around them, all the colours and cartoons, jostling each other aside and giving the two of them an obstacle course where they had to avoid accidentally staying dry. Gamma's aunt would be vicious-quiet again because of that - maybe it was a good thing that it felt like the rain wouldn't last more than the afternoon, so Gamma's clothes would get dry.

"Look at his beard," Gamma suggested quietly, having got some backbone again.

Zimmy let her gaze go carefully to the man with the lime-green umbrella and nicotine-stained beard to the chest, and the man nodded and smiled briefly with only his own teeth. She stepped closer to Gamma. "Wonder what it'd be like to make him eat all that?" she said idly, and Gamma squirmed a little, shocked at wondering something like that.

"Didn't mean it," Zimmy said.

They kept looking at the people all around, and Zimmy even dared to look at the people at the very edges of her sight. That scarf. Those pimples. That hairstyle. His arched nose, her bright lipstick, wobbly chins and high heels and a dog on a leash. The streets were filled with people and people's things, and with Gamma's glad, peaceful, proud feelings that Zimmy could see them - and Zimmy felt unbearable and beyond as water streamed down her face and neck. This town, she knew it now.

"The library, eh? We'll go there next!" She grinned so wide it went tense down to her neck. "I'll read you anything you like. Think of something good!" Gamma didn't quite like the library and its strings of words that expected her easy understanding, but it had heat this time of year, and Zimmy could borrow enough quietness now for hours at a time, unless the books got really bloody. Gamma was always patient as Zimmy sounded out the words.

Two girls stamped-puddle jumped-walked down the pavements, meeting every raindrop head-on. Zimmy relished that the first water fell on them, long before it ran into the cracks, stroked the gutter-moss, flooded the ants and cockroaches.

Gamma's mind shifted attention, and Zimmy let hers, too. The rain fell on people, cars, roofs - on the library. On the toy store. On Gamma's flat's building, yellow-grey and crumbling, comfortable when the aunt and uncle were out. On the warehouse, the McDonald's, on the park, the riverside. The rain was at all their places, and the rain was their favourite place.

Everywhere was almost safe.

All Gamma's attention switched onto her in a thud of shock. It was a weird way to think. And then Gamma smiled with that deep and tiny curl of her closed mouth and took Zimmy's hand.

(Everywhere was safe.)

"Let's run!" Zimmy crowed, grabbing Gamma around the waist - too hard for her to breathe, never mind move - and then they ran.

Two girls danced through the crowds and mist, laughing.