one

It was a cold, bright winter day, windless and cloudless, with sunlight like glass and a bitter taste of ice in the air. It had rained overnight, and puddles remained on the ground, but for now the rain had cleared. The sky was a pale hazy blue and the air was clear.

Emma was walking in the park across the road from her house. The trees were bare, and fallen leaves were damp in the grass. She could taste ice in the air, but knew it would never arrive. Winters here were mild, and rather dull. So mild she had stopped automatically taking a coat whenever she left the house, because it hardly ever rained. So mild she didn’t even bother with scarves and hats any more, like she would have at home, and just wore two tops, one layered over the other. The gentler winter had made her realise, in a way the heat and flies and eucalyptus-stench of summer hadn’t, that she wasn’t at home any more.

She was walking, lost in her thoughts, tired from a day of doing nothing. She wasn’t really paying attention to anything around her, and didn’t notice the sky turn grey, and thick cloud wash in. She didn’t realise it was about to rain again until the rain actually hit her, sharp and cold and almost sore against the bare skin of her arms.

She stopped, startled.

She didn’t know what to do. She was shocked, as if by sudden violence.

She stood where she was, getting soaked, dismayed.

“Hey,” someone called. “Over here.”

A stranger, a woman, was calling to Emma from beneath a nearby tree. The tree was bare of leaves, but large enough and with thick enough branches that there was a dry space underneath, against the trunk, large enough to shelter in.

Emma stood where she was in the rain for a moment, getting soaked, too surprised to think. Then she ran. She ran over and stood beside the woman under tree and said, “Thank you.”

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