Meeting in the Rain
The rain beat hard on her as she sat on the soaked ground, knees drawn to her chest as she stared over the cliff. A light moved in the clouds somewhere in the distance. It would begin at the left of her view, then move around before shortly shining into her eyes. It drifted to the right, vanishing for a short moment before appearing once again, repeating the process.
The waves jumped up at the rocks below, the surge roaring at the obstacle in its way. She didn't even blink as the soaring mist from the salt water hit her eyes.
Maybe she would fall asleep, like she would back home when sitting on their house's roof, watching the city from above…
There was someone here.
She didn't turn around to see who it was although the wish to be alone, to say "Go away" rested in her mind and on her tongue.
The first moment Jade had seen the blue figure against the grey sky, she thought the person wanted to jump. Tired from a long day, the photographer still kept her eyes on the cliffs when she drove past them in case a boulder or chunk of soil could break off and hit the hovercraft. Most disasters around this area didn't happen due to storms but the islands' coasts collapsing and landing on boats that drove beneath them.
Unfortunately, she wasn't prepared to see what looked like a suicide attempt.
Jade yanked the steering wheel so hard to the right, the hovercraft went towards some rock needles breaking through the ocean. There was a horrible screeching as the green chassis scrapped over the rock. Sparks jumped before she put a safe distance between the hovercraft and the rocks again.
She gasped, the smell of smoke alerting her. God, hopefully the skirt wasn't damaged! She hastily shut off the motor, then opened the side window to look for any hints the boat was sinking.
After checking with her head in the rain for more than one minute that, no, apart from some scratches the hovercraft was fine. Secundo confirmed this with his scans – Pey'J later would both contradict at the top of his voice. The person was still crouched, visible on the spot where she had seen them before.
Jade allowed herself to take a deep breath. With one hand she brushed over her face and hair, massaging her temple; the other turned the motor on again. That had been close.
"But not necessarily a 'sunken hovercraft' close," Jade dryly commented on her frantic actions. Still, the damage could have been enough that it would have warranted repairs. Repairs for which neither Pey'J had the parts, or they the money, or even pearls to pay for. Just because she had misinterpreted what she had seen and overreacted.
If Jade hated one trait of herself, it was that she could lose control of herself.
However, worry pushed these thoughts away. She chewed on her upper lip, teeth scraping over green lipstick. Who would be outside during this weather, far outside from any shelter? As far as Jade knew, nobody lived in this part of the area anymore. Most people had moved to the city when the new shield was installed. They sought the safety of being among others and, of course, being close to the Alpha Sections.
The feeling which alerted her before to the girl on the cliff pulled again. Knowing it wanted to show her something important, Jade opened the left side window. It felt like someone gently tipped up her chin so she looked at the ledge. Several meters to the left of the girl, the slope of the plane began falling to the ocean.
She squinted – it was hard to discern any details through the strings of water dropping down. She didn't see anyone else or anything at first.
Jade's brow furrowed. There was a brown line in the grass, coming from somewhere behind the horizon. The ditch, she realized, stopped meters away from the ledge. Smoke rose from the spot where the earth collected in a ring around whatever had cut into the soil. It looked egg-shaped and a piece of metal with an embedded window hung loosely at the opening on its top.
The motor revved as Jade sped to the closest landing spot to get to the girl. Her green eyes stayed as long as possible on the blue frame, before it vanished behind another stone wall.
The person stood still. If she continued to ignore them, they would go away. They always did – either you answered at their greeting, or you did not and they knew you weren't interested in talking. Father always told her this was rude, even to strangers. That it was proper to send back at least that she had acknowledged them, but who did it harm? She just didn't want to be disturbed at the moments when she read a scroll, played with her doll or went to one of her favourite places for thinking.
It was easier this way. It would have been truly rude to send a dismissal, basically shoving them away in her mind. If she had ever done this, she knew her parents would have grounded her until her next birthday.
But they weren't here anymore. At all. So it wouldn't matter if she actually did when the person came closer.
It was only a small way closer. And suddenly, she felt light and life brushing on the border of her mind – myriads of blue so bright it gave part of itself to her.
She still stared, but her eyes were wide now and wandered to the corner of her view. There, her hair hung like a solid wall of water and salt that she wanted to brush away.
The girl sat with her back towards Jade, facing the ocean. Footprints went from the child's spot to the right: a dotted line to the crash site.
She had long, cobalt hair which lay sprawled in the mud and partially under her bottom; the strands slightly fanned out at her neck, revealing skin which reminded Jade of the sky when it paled in the distance. The black-haired woman scanned the white dress for red spots, sniffed for blood's sweet-sour smell, checked if the soil crumbled at the ledge, checked if the girl was shaking-
She mentally slapped herself. She was doing it again.
Jade sighed; the air smelled thick with night, slick soil, the heavy-green grass, cold strands of clouds. She smelled every nuance, breathing in through her nose. Shaking her head, the worry stayed. Even if the ground wouldn't crumble away like a squashy Starkos beneath the child, and the wind wasn't nearly strong enough to carry her over the ledge – the girl had come with the escape capsule. Jade had every right to worry.
A bitter, familiar metallic taste rose into Jade's mouth. It came whenever she thought about this. It smelled blue and old and just the tiniest bit alien, as if someone else was agreeing with her: Damn those DomZ.
Yesterday had been another attack, another case of people abducted. Just an hour ago, she had been looking for children she usually didn't see wandering the city or were suddenly around without their family, but luckily (or unluckily), she didn't find one.
But the news also said a spaceship had been close to Hyllis during the attack, shot down before crashing down onto the planet. They crashed into the ocean: all dead, probably.
The news had been wrong on two details. Only the spaceship had landed in the ocean. And there was a survivor.
The umbrella handle threatened to slip out of her hand as the rain pounded on. Jade hadn't approached the girl yet, since she was unsure how she would react. She was likely from a planet completely different in culture from Hyllis; she maybe didn't even understand their language. Should she still call out to alert the child her presence?
The situation resolved by itself as the girl stood up and turned around.
Her feet felt so heavy. It was like they had become stones which couldn't push her forward, so she had to drag them with her. Her feet barely left the ground, the earth slithering like brown worms around her toes. With every step, the mud squelched, and tried to suck her soles. The cold bit into the skin as if it had teeth.
She frowned. Where had her shoes gone off to?
Things were still fuzzy and her head hurt. She didn't want to think, couldn't think anything at all. Maybe later. The only thing that mattered, the only thing there was in the moment, was the woman. Her eyes. The light shone from them, a blue corona around two grass green, pond green, deep green suns, both pulling with their gravity so she sank deeper and deeper, and deeper. Starting with her feet, she lost all feeling in every part of their body. Not like they had been cut off her. Her body had stayed back behind her mind so she could go without their weight as she rushed forward-
-a figure appeared; their upper face was hidden like behind a veil and they wore flowing clothes which sleeves fell out of reach beneath hands crossed together like in prayer maybe; all was in blue, the source, the figure and you saw what looked like more arms coming from their back or were these something different; but you din't have time to look at them, as now the world focused on the orb they were holding;
Jade, her name is Jade it says, she is-
YOU! WHO ARE YOU?
She screamed. The voice slammed against her, blinding her with pain, hurling her out. A ball of yellow, with a black split in black in the middle, stared as the view rushed backwards. It sole presence seemed to contaminate everything as the world darkened to a sickly green. Like the eye was disease and death itself, the pupil seeped pus that poisoned life.
Her screams drowned in a thousand others as the blue world vanished.
Something dragged her away in a blur, to a sudden stop – from where she was then flung into her body like people would fling a ball. Hard. She slammed back into her body, the force enough to make her limbs ache in reality. It only got worse with the burning cold in her feet and hands she now acknowledged as if they hadn't existed before.
All that sensation, pain and emotion twisted inside her already shaken mind. It made her head burn. And the screaming, the people screaming still wouldn't stop…
The world tilted, inside and outside. Silence drowned the path to the light, cutting off the noise. She saw it from above both her feet, and the seam of her dress: speckled, lined, over all covered in brown, with some streaks of green in between. The clouds took their place then, indistinct faces staring down on her, only shortly before they vanished too.
She tilted, inside and outside. Solid mass pushed into her head and the last thoughts away before everything went down with the weight.
The wind carried the umbrella into the sky as Jade sprinted over the grass as the girl slowly collapsed. She slid to her knees, sliding over the ground the last meters that the girl landed directly in Jade's arms. The woman gasped – not for the weight, it was the icy skin that pressed against her arms. A new urgency overtook Jade. She carefully rearranged the girl so she sat sideways on her lap, then slipped both arms under her shoulder and knees respectively.
Standing up, she turned around, nearly slipping on the mud. She scowled, but slowed her movements before she began to jog down the way to the beach and the hovercraft.
It was warm.
She blinked. She found herself covered in a heavy blue-green quilt, on which laid another, brown blanket. A fire crackled in a portable furnace outside of what seemed to be a niche in a bigger room. She spotted a counter, with several strange devices behind which she assumed were kitchen appliances.
The quilt and blanket rustled as she sat up. How had she gotten here? Where and what was 'here'? The last she remembered was that woman with the green eyes. There had been something else but it eluded her for the moment, causing her a headache on top of that.
"Are you alright?"
She gasped, jerking her hand away from her temple and opening her eyes. Jade smiled at her.
"I'm sorry. Did I scare you?"
She tilted her head. She didn't understand the language, but Jade's emotions were clear enough. She nodded meekly and offered a smile that showed the woman she had scared her only a bit.
"Well, I apologize again for that. I wonder if you speak even our tongue but it doesn't matter." She bent down to where a tray with two steaming mugs sat on the ground. She moved to the bed and carefully seated herself on the edge. The girl scooted to the side to make room, looking curiously between Jade and the tray.
"That's tea. Peppermint tea. I thought you'd like something warm to drink after you were so awfully soaked through." Jade chose a mug and lifted it to her mouth, eyes closing as she sipped from it and swallowed. Actions and the tone of voice told more in such situations than any word could.
"Mmmhh, so warm." She blissfully emphasized to show it was good. Looking back to the girl, she found her watching her curiously so Jade offered her the mug. Her blue hands carefully took it before lifting it to the girl's face. Sniffing the tea, her face scrunched up – it didn't deter her to try a sip, however. Jade watched her face the whole time; if she had an allergic reaction, Jade could act instantly. The doctor had declared the girl weak but healthy after she had performed some basic tests on her, and that she likely could eat and drink the food on Hyllis. She had still warned the reporter to watch out and call her instantly if the girl acted strangely after eating something.
The answer came as she smiled again at Jade. No discolorations; no swelling in face, neck or anywhere else; no quickened breath. Good.
The girl's head tilted in confusion at the woman as her shoulders sagged for a moment. She shrugged, taking another sip of the liquid. It was strange – the smell seemed to bite her in the nose, so fresh it felt, although the tea was hot. It tasted much better than she had found it smelled, and the warmth chased away the last pricks of cold she had been unaware of when the liquid slid into her stomach.
"I'm glad you like it. Peppermint is my favorite – Pey'J always teases me that it's because it's green and compliments my outfit." She chuckled in fond exasperation as she gestured down her green-clad form, grinning at the girl. Her smile grew in turn too, chuckling with the woman, although she didn't understand what a joke she had told.
The hitch in her breathing went unnoticed by either of them at first. She set down the mug again, not realizing she was clutching at the sheets. She laughed and laughed louder until her eyes screwed shut from too much of it. Heat rose in her chest, up into her burning throat, then even further up until it pressed from behind her eyes.
When the heat finally spilled, she was sobbing into a warm chest and wound her own arms around Jade's body so she could press even closer into her. She blubbered names. Names of her mother. Father. Or maybe exactly that:
It wasn't fair. Why had her family died? Why had they left her alone? She wanted them back. She wanted to go home. She wanted them back. She wanted to go home.
"Sshhh," whispered Jade, stroking her hair. "Let it all out. Let it all out," she said with a coaxing tone. The sting in Jade's eyes hurt less than the first time she had to do this for an orphan, but the tightening in her chest hadn't eased at all over these months.
It probably never would.
The girl's voice rose to an anguished cry, beginning to shake in her embrace.
"It hurts but I'm here for you. You are not alone." Jade rocked back and forth and began humming a lullaby. It seemed to help – the shaking form in her arms slowly subsided to slight trembling, although the blue hands still clutched the back of her jacket.
Sometimes she wished more people would think about the victims whom the DomZ hadn't taken – these who were left behind, all of their family gone. The idea always managed to terrify Jade on a personal level, as only few things could.
"You are not alone." She stroked over the blue hair. "You will see later we have other kids here – orphans like you. And there is Pey'J. We will all be there for you."
More love and care seeped into the girl, slowly easing her tight shoulders and the knots in her chest. Her sobs slowly died into wet hiccups and she rubbed her eyes. All of her inside rung empty, as if she had poured away everything that had been in her mind. Even her parents' image blurred to the point that her head began throbbing when trying to recall it. She didn't know if that relieved or scared her.
More stings in her throat made her bite her lip. Nonono, she didn't want to cry anymore. She inhaled deeply, her nose in the woman's shirt, hiccupping. Maybe if she focused on the adult…
Daring to look up, she found the woman's eyes looking warmly into her own.
"Now would be a good time to introduce us to each other. You'll be living with us now and it's only courteous to know each other's name. I'm Jade."
She leant back to press her hand against her chest, repeating, "Jade". The girl's face lit in realization, and she laid her own hand on Jade's.
"Ya-jade," she uttered the foreign name.
"Yeah, that's right. And who are you?"
Despite the the words being alien, she knew what the question meant. Mimicking Jade's action from earlier, she laid her other hand on her own chest.
"That's a beautiful name, Yoa. Oh, you're crying again!" Jade drew her in a hug at the sight of the fresh tears collecting in her eyes. The sound of her own name had triggered more memories so he began crying against her will. It didn't bother Jade who just held her: rubbing her back, murmuring gently, rocking her until she fell asleep, now exhausted from the emotional turmoil.
The ache was still there when Yoa woke up the next time. Jade greeted her from what she learned was really the kitchen, preparing breakfast for her and the other orphans. Still, the ache seemed dull when her new caretaker seated herself on the bed's edge again to share the food between them, a brilliant smile directed at Yoa.
And when the girl stretched her arms out, Jade just smiled some more and completed the embrace.