Aerith Gainsborough hummed softly as she set down her book bag and an empty flower basket on one of the low wooden benches situated around the sides of the plaza in front of the campus' main edifice. It was an unusually good day for her, as all the flowers were sold out earlier than usual, leaving her with more than enough time to eat lunch, and perhaps read some more to prepare for her afternoon classes. After settling down on the bench herself, she brought out a notebook and placed it on her lap, thumbing the pages as she did so until she reached the middle portion. Her eyes not leaving the text, she also brought out a sandwich enclosed in a ziplock bag and unwrapped it.
Aerith was about to take a bite into her lunch when she first noticed the small, wet spots smack right on the very sentence she was reading, causing the ink to run to adjacent lines and disrupting her concentration. Instinctively, she looked up to the sky, and after a few moments felt the expected drops of water on her cheek, rapidly increasing in both size and intensity. Quite alarmed, she instantly re-sealed her sandwich bag and snapped her notebook shut, hurriedly putting them back in her bag after doing so. Hugging her book bag to her chest, and using her empty flower basket as a makeshift hat against the rain, she ran across the plaza to the main building for shade, the rain getting stronger all the while.
When Aerith was finally able to squeeze her way in amidst the many other students trying to get shade, she found an empty spot beside the central elevators and set her things down there, inspecting the "damage" done by the rain. She felt uncomfortable in her slightly-wet clothes, parts of which were now sticking to her body. Thankfully, she was wearing open shoes that day, since her feet would dry off easier while she waited; she also bet that her damp hair would be a real mess if she didn't tie it up earlier. As she checked her things, she noted that nothing else apart from her basket and her notebook got wet, eliciting a small sigh of relief.
Barely a couple of minutes passed since Aerith started drying herself with a small face towel when an very wet male student with spiky, black hair stopped in front of the elevators, gasping for air as he held on to the post adjacent to where she was sitting for support. As she finished rubbing her hair dry, she watched him intently as he turned around and leaned on the post, trying not to slump. After regaining his breath once more, he turned to her and smiled.
"Some rain we've got today, huh," he commented, wiping the drops of water on his left arm with his right hand. "Really bad luck for us."
"No kidding," Aerith agreed weakly. "We don't usually feel this rain from where we live, though." She was halfway through folding her towel when she hesitated, then silently offered it to him. Normally, she wouldn't even consider doing this, him being a guy and all, but it seemed like the sudden downpour gave her this feeling of sympathy for this fellow student who, from the looks of it, had it worse than she did.
"Thanks," he mumbled as he accepted the towel, then proceeded to finish wiping his arms dry before facing her again. "Why's that?"
Aerith blinked in confusion. "I'm sorry?"
The student seemed taken aback in surpise at first, but then clarified himself after a few moments, his blue eyes lightening up in understanding. "What I mean is, why don't you usually feel the rain in your area?"
At this, Aerith looked down and pressed her lips together, as if hesitant to answer. "That's because... I live below the plate," she mumbled quickly, her voice dropping to a whisper. She was referring to the slum area that exists below the elevated structure that is Midgar, where very little rain fell due to the protective roof it offered, if none at all. Although she was not ashamed of her living conditions, she had always preferred to keep quiet about it when in school, knowing how the somewhat more well-off student populace viewed everything below the plate in general. And she just had to comment on how different the weather conditions were in their area!
"I see," the student brightly responded, his back sliding down the post until he was already in a sitting position beside her. "I don't understand why you sounded ashamed of what you just said, though. What's wrong with below the plate? I think it's pretty cool there!"
This time, it was Aerith that started up in surprise. No one from above the plate ever had this observation about the slum area - at least, none of the people she had ever conversed with about her address. She was so caught up with the thought that she did not catch what he said later on.
"... been there once, but I couldn't forget about that place," the spiky-haired youth continued eagerly. "You don't usually see flowers growing in the slums, what without sunlight and all. I think that in itself is awesome. Don't you think so?"
Aerith's green eyes widened in vague recognition of the place described. There is only one place... But they softened again as she decided not to talk about it. "I think so, too," she said after a while, followed by a smile.
"Glad you do," he replied, handing back the towel. "Thanks a lot!" Aerith reciprocated with a small nod before putting the towel back. "I'm Zack, by the way." He grinned brightly, offering his right hand.
"I'm Aerith," she introduced herself, beaming, as well, before she shook Zack's outstretched right hand with her own. Outside, the rain had stopped, giving way to clear skies once again.