It was raining. And it wasn't even a nice mild rain that made you want to curl up with hot chocolate in the armchair and read. It was a spine-chilling, skin-soaking, drenched-to-the-marrow-of-your-bones kind of rain. Slow, constant, steady, in huge drops, the rain fell on Abby's head. She had had to serve a detention after school because she had been severely late this morning. Consequently, she had missed the bus home and was now walking in this deadening downpour.
Abby sighed as the tree house came into view. Even though the school wasn't far, it seemed like she'd been walking forever. Behind the tree house, however, everything was grey, like old wet cinderblocks. If it weren't for the fact that she was almost there, it would be enough to make her feel hopeless.
Her steps plodded along in a rhythm akin to the one the raindrops were beating out on the brim of her hat. Abby decided that she must save her sanity from the grip of the nature-induced water torture she was going through.
She thought of her friends at the tree house. They'd been friends for so long, it seemed to her. Abby could hardly remember a time without them; as if they'd known each other all their lives. Everything seemed brighter and more vivid to her when the other four were with her. She knew that even this rain wouldn't be so bad if she could hear Kuki's hysterical giggles. There were times when the smaller Japanese girl got on her nerves with her ceaseless cheeriness, but at the same time, it constant she would miss if Kuki weren't around. She'd also miss the silly Rainbow Monkey tea parties she and Kuki had nearly every day. Kuki's presence alone could lighten any room.
Naturally, from Kuki, her mind drifted to Kuki's crush, Wallabee. Wally was a fighter, and as one herself, she admired that. He was a definite kindred spirit. His excitement and determination were infectious. She enjoyed being around the smaller boy. And their little sparring matches when the robots were down were fun and she always looked forward to them.
Robots, of course, made her think of their 2x4 technology expert, Hoagie. She and Hoagie had little in common, but she looked up to him in many ways. He sometimes seemed fearless to her with his flying objects always giving him near-death experiences. Bigger, better, faster, stronger, higher seemed to be the motto by which Hoagie lived when he built these flying death-traps. His knowledge of anything mechanical seemed immense to Abby, and he never ceased to amaze her with his insight into how various objects she'd never even heard of worked.
Things that boggled her mind led Abby's thoughts to Nigel. He was a complete mystery to her. Oh, sure, there were times when she could predict with frightening accuracy exactly what Nigel was thinking. But those times were few and far between. She couldn't figure out what made him tick. Being the kind of person who liked to know those sort of things, it drove her to distraction. It made her watch every move he made, and listen to every word he said. She admired his easy confidence and decisiveness. She liked the scowl he got when he was concentrating. She loved his rarer smiles, and the richness of his laugh. Abby began to blush at the form her thoughts were taking. She entertained for the moment the idea of her and Nigel together, and was only mildly surprised that it made her smile and her blush deepen. Abby shook her head. Even if I feel this way, what's to say he does? And how could I tell him anyway? she asked herself.
Abby was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice the sudden stopping of rain on the brim of her hat. She also didn't notice the boy next to her until he involuntarily sneezed. Abby jumped at the sudden sound. There, to her pleasant surprise was Nigel, smiling and holding an umbrella over her head. She stopped walking. "Hey," he said.
Abby smiled back. "Hey. Thanks," she replied pointing up at the umbrella over her head.
"No problem. I can't have you catching cold. But I must say I was hoping to get here sooner."
She gave Nigel a puzzled look.
"I thought you might like the company on the way home. But I couldn't find my umbrella," his cheeks reddened in embarrassment.
Abby smiled at him. "That's alright. You're here now."
"Yes," he said, in an almost unfinished sort of way.
The two started walking again in silence. Abby was unsure of what to say. Deep down, she really thought this would be the perfect time to tell her friend how she felt. But she was really afraid of what he'd say when she did. It's time to bite the bullet, she said.
"Look, I.." But that's as far as she got, because Nigel had said the same thing at the same time.
"You first," they said again at the same time. They both laughed and stopped walking again.
Nigel gestured at Abby. She took a deep breath. "I...Nigel...I think I have a crush on you." She paused. "I really like you, in that way."
Nigel breathed a sigh of relief. "I'm so glad to hear you say that. I was afraid you wouldn't feel the same way."
Nigel reached out with his free hand and took Abby's. "Yes, I really like you, too."
It felt right, her hand in his. As they began walking again to the tree house, she squeezed his hand and smiled when he squeezed back. And even though it was still raining, and she was walking through the puddles, to her, the sun was shining, and no one would be able to convince her otherwise.