1. Mercy Seat
At first I didn’t see the girl – sitting in the over-stuffed green chair under the willow tree. On a sunnier, more optimistic day, someone had set the chair out to air and catch passersby for conversation and comfort, but it had been raining three weeks now. The chair had long since moldered, and it stank like dark, damp bedclothes, even in the washing rain.
I was huddled under the awning, sheltering the last of my coffee between my cupped hands – hiding from the flying china and spitting curses inside the house. Too much in there. Even the cat was screaming.
The girl sat dwarfed in the large chair, shoulders hunched forward, rocking slightly in the rain gusts. Her hair might have been dark red or pale brown in sunlight, but under the willow in the storm, it dripped almost black from the top of her head, down her cheeks and over her shoulders. Her hands lay – listless claws – in the lap of her yellow dress, and her feet – in red patent leather buckled shoes – curled toward one another. I wondered if she might be pigeon-toed.
“So, you’ve met Alex.”
I jumped and turned to the woman’s voice. She was young – with worry lines creased between her eyes – and her bright blue umbrella had two large holes that let the rain drip onto her shoulder and the top of her head.
“I’m Deanna. My sister loves the rain.” She stuck her hand out to me and smiled.