Athrun was five when he first saw rain.
He had accompanied his mother on one of her trips to Earth for her work, and he was overjoyed at finally being able to spend some time alone with her. Normally, she worked long hours, and sometimes he would fall asleep before she got home, having never seen her for the entire day. (She would always come in to kiss him goodnight anyway, even though he never knew it.)
When the rain first hit the window, he was lying down on his stomach on his bed in the hotel suite, reading the dictionary that his father had given him for his last birthday. But he completely forgot about it in the next instant, as he turned and watched the window, transfixed by the sound and rhythm of a phenomenon eons old.
The next instant he was on his feet and running into his mother’s room. She was seated at the desk, going over the mounds of paperwork that always seemed to follow her. He’d overheard one of his mother’s friends comment about that once, “Don’t you feel cooped up, Lenore? Sitting inside a lab all day?” His mother had only smiled at that, but it hadn’t been a happy smile. Athrun could tell. So he had looked up “coop” in his dictionary because he wasn’t quite sure what that meant.
Coop. n. An enclosure or cage, usually for small animals. v. cooped, coop-ing, coops.
Athrun had been very worried about his mother after that. Why was his mother caged in some way? Cages made him think of the time he’d gone to a pet store with his classmate, and seen the birds there. He’d been horrified beyond words. His father would never have consented to letting him have a pet, but he wouldn’t want a bird anyway–not if it meant caging it like that. He did however, buy a mechanical one that day, but it hadn’t been very well made, and had broken after a week. (He buried it in the back yard anyway.)
If his mother is caged, what should he do?
However, he’d pushed that thought to the back of his mind for this trip. He’d wanted to enjoy every minute of it, even if his mother still went through lots of papers each night. At the moment, he was more concerned with something else. Padding across the carpet, he reached her desk and tugged at her skirt.
“Mommy, look! The sky is crying!” Athrun was kind of worried. What would be so horrible that the whole sky would need to weep for it? His fingers tightened around the fabric, as he considered that.
His mother, however, didn’t seem too worried, as she lifted him up to sit on her lap. “The sky isn’t crying, Athrun,” she explained patiently.
“It isn’t?” Athrun said, eyes growing wide.
“Nope. It’s just raining.”
“Raining? Oh, you mean this is a good thing?” Athrun felt relieved. He’d heard about rain of course. Plants needed it to grow on earth. But this was the first time he had ever witnessed such a thing.
“It’s a wonderful thing. If we could only duplicate this up in the colonies…” His mother’s voice trailed off at that, mind already starting to drift back into her work.
Athrun took another look outside. “It does look kind of pretty,” he admitted.
His mother’s attention jumped back to him. “Look?” she teased, “Hmm…how would you like to go outside?”
It was his turn to be startled. “We can? I mean…it’s allowed?”
She only smiled at him, and set him back down on his feet. Humming a tuneless melody, she strode over to the closet and took out their coats. Within five minutes they were out the front door, before Athrun could protest again.
Outside, it was frigid, but Athrun hardly noticed. Because what was outside was also wonderful.
The rain made an enchanting sound when it hit—something so unique it was impossible to describe. Pitter, patter, pitter, patter. A thousand symphonies played in time. Drops of water kissed his face and hands. The slight breeze hugged him as it passed. He felt like a plant himself, soaking up life and light.
His mother led him along one of the hotel’s nature trails, making sure he jumped into every puddle that they encountered. The trail opened up into a grassy field, something that the hotel used to host big company picnics at exorbitant prices.
“Doesn’t the rain feel good, Athrun?” His mother raised her right arm upward, still keeping his hand firmly held in her left. She tilted her head to face the sky and laughed.
Athrun was delighted. It was the first time he’d heard his mother laugh in a long time. He raised his left arm too, and opened his mouth to take in the droplets, feeling silly and happy as he did so.
His mother gave him another warm, teasing look. “Don’t you feel liberated?”
“Liberate” was the word on his “word-of-the-day” calendar today (yet another birthday gift from Father). Athrun had looked it up dutifully this morning.
Liberate. v. to set free.
Athrun suddenly understood what that meant, and it was the pure joy that he felt.
It meant the cage had been opened, and the bird could finally fly.
Athrun was suddenly very happy because he had finally figured things out. He was young and small now, but he was going to make sure he grew up to be big and strong in the future. He’d learn how to fly too, he was positive of that, and when he could do all of this, he’d free his mother and everyone else who was trapped. He would free them all, so that everyone would feel like he did right now. He’d save them and then he’d protect them.
It was his promise.
He shivered slightly at that revelation, and his mother frowned. “We should get back inside now, it’s getting cold.” She gently tugged him to start on the path back to the hotel. Halfway there, a thought struck Athrun.
“We don’t have to tell Father we went outside in the rain, do we?” Athrun was sure that what they did this afternoon wasn’t exactly dignified and Father wouldn’t approve.
“No, we won’t tell your Father. This is a secret, all right? Just between us,” she gave him a wide smile, eyes full of mischief, and held out her slender pinky.
Athrun hooked it in his chubby one. “A secret,” he declared, eyes full of pride at being trusted – like a grown-up!
But he was still a child, and would forget about this day for a long, long time.
She will always remember, and eleven years later – to the very day, strangely enough – she will take the secret of a sweet, rainy day with her to the grave. And Athrun will watch Junius-7 explode, as his life irrevocably shatters.
But also, there will come a time when he will recall this memory, a few months after, as he watches another woman – still a girl, really – as she laughs in the rain.
Doesn’t the rain feel good, Athrun?
And he will set her free.