It was almost dawn, the first hint of the sun’s rays beginning to soften the plush darkness of the night. Despite the early hour, it was still warm and humid, promising the relentless heat of summer would build once more as the day progressed. Clara walked through the empty park, silver heels in one hand, her matching purse dangling from its silver chain handle in the other, swaying as she sauntered.
She was in no particular hurry to get home. The party had been fun right up until Ted had decided it was time to leave. He had an early appointment…again and didn’t want to be up late. The instant the words had left his mouth her heart had sunk and she’d felt herself start to tear up. It had been all she could do to hold them at bay.
“Ted, this party is in my honour. We can’t leave.” Even as she had said the words, she had known they would be useless. What Ted wanted Ted got. The fact that the people there had come to help celebrate the launch of her first novel was incidental in his eyes. His work came first, his needs came first, and if he decided it was time for them to leave then that was the end of the discussion.
She had watched his expression darken and her heart had sunk lower. He wouldn’t cause a scene but he would make her regret questioning his decision. He was very good at that. Her fragile happiness evaporated to be replaced by dread and insecurity as she imagined the cold silences she would have to endure, the lonely, empty bed as he slept in the spare room. The scene had played out too many times in the past and would many more times in the future.
Where had it all gone wrong? She had asked herself that question so many times and never been able to find the definitive point that reflected where their life had changed to what it was now. It appeared to have slowly crept up on them, or rather on her. In the beginning, Ted had been loving, attentive to her needs, supportive of her endeavours. Somewhere along the way all that had changed and everything had become about him and his needs.
He had the high profile, top management position in a finance company. She was just working away at her low-level accountancy job, writing her silly stories at nights and weekends. It was her place to support him, cook and clean for him, listen to his stressful days. At first, she had been happy to listen and sympathise but the demands for her time had become such that she found her life becoming subsumed by his. There was no spare time to write, to lose herself in the worlds she created, in the lives of her characters.
The spark died in Clara and she hadn’t even noticed it happening. One day she woke up and felt such dread that a new day had begun and it was only then that she had realised she had been feeling that way for a very long time. Glancing over at Ted sleeping beside her she had felt nothing, completely empty. The love she had once felt for him was gone and she didn’t even mourn its passing. Ted was simply just there as he had been for the last four years.
Clara strolled through the park, feeling the first light spots of rain against her cheek. She tilted her head up, long dark hair brushing her bare back, her long silver evening gown moving sensuously. She had read somewhere that a drop of rain on a cheek was a sign that someone you had lost was thinking of you and letting you know you were not alone. She raised her head for some more, her silent tears mingling with the drops.
Something ending was always a sad thing, even if the end was necessary. Tonight had shown her that she couldn’t keep living this way in Ted’s shadow, that she was worth more than that. He was probably just as unhappy as she was. It was clear she couldn’t be the woman he wanted her to be and he certainly wasn’t the man she needed. Her life had just moved in a different direction, and he had proven that he couldn’t move with her, leaving her stranded at the party without a care in the world.
“So beautiful and yet so sad.”
Clara spun around, the raindrops falling heavier, her damp hair sending droplets into the face of the man behind her. Her heart fluttered furiously, her hand coming to her breast as if to halt its rapid beat. “Adrian.”
The tall, handsome editor, who worked at her publishing company, was watching her with a small smile on his lips, deep blue eyes twinkling in the early morning light. She had talked with him for a while after Ted had left and found him good company. They had talked of writing and editing and the hard work that went into marketing novels.
“I didn’t mean to startle you. I saw you heading off into the park alone and just wanted to make sure you got home safely.” Adrian pushed his wet hair off his forehead, his smile widening. “You looked lost in thought.”
Clara took a deep breath, her heart calming. There was something comforting about Adrian, and she didn’t feel afraid or spooked by his presence. In all honesty, she felt more surprised that someone would actually think about her safety and want to make sure she was okay. It had been so long since anyone had done something for her that didn’t require anything in return.
“That was very kind of you, Adrian. I don’t have far to go, I live on the other side of the park.”
He shrugged off his black jacket and draped it over her bare shoulders. “You don’t appear to be in any rush to get there,” he remarked, a hint of curiosity in his tone. The heavy rainfall instantly drenched his white shirt. “And you didn’t answer my question.”
“Did you ask one?” Clara bit her lip as the words came out waiting for a disapproving response. It was what she was used to from Ted when she didn’t speak the appropriate way he liked. Adrian laughed and it was so surprising that she took a step back and blinked in surprise. Her movement brought a slight frown that quickly disappeared.
“Touché,” he smiled again. “It was more of an observation than a question. Forgive me for being intrusive, I’m told that’s one of my bad habits.”
His response settled her and she moved forward again smiling back tentatively. “There is nothing to forgive. I was thinking about tonight and what I want for the future. It is such a lot to think about and some difficult decisions to make. I needed time to work through that.”
Deep blue eyes looked into her soul for a long moment and then his lips twitched in a smile. “Someone so beautiful should never look that sad, Clara. Life is for living and laughing and dancing in the rain.” He did a little twirl, throwing his arms out.
Clara laughed, shaking her head as she watched him. He seemed so free, so happy with life. It was what she wanted, what she had been missing for so long. “Is it really that easy, Adrian?”
He winked. “Have you ever danced in the rain, sweet Clara?”
At the shake of her head, he eased his jacket to the wet grass, catching her up in his arms and spinning her around as the rain fell heavier. He swept her in a wide arc, her soaking wet hair flying wildly, throwing out droplets of water in all directions. She went with him, letting going, twirling around, laughing as he dipped her down to the ground. It was the most heady, invigorating experience she could remember.
Clara danced and laughed, aware that if anyone saw them they would think they had lost their minds but she didn’t want the moment to end. She felt free for the first time in such a long time, free to be herself, to be silly without being reprimanded, to laugh without being told to be quiet. She felt free to live as she wanted to live.
The rain slowed, the sun broke the horizon, and Clara danced with Adrian until the very last drop of water fell against her cheek. She was breathless when he dipped her down for a final elegant arch of her back. She was soaked through but light of heart for the first time in years. Adrian raised her up and they smiled at each other, sharing one perfect moment together. “No matter what happens in life, Clara, always remember to dance in the rain.”
He sounded so serious, his expression intent, that she shivered and turned to look back at the park gate that would take her home. When she glanced back at Adrian, she found herself alone, no sign of the handsome man, his jacket also gone. Clara blinked in confusion, searching the trees around her and seeing no sign of him. Where had he gone and why had he disappeared like that?
Feeling unsettled, she picked up her purse and shoes and walked the last bit home. Even though Adrian’s disappearance was strange, she couldn’t help smiling as she relived their dance in the rain, the joy that had filled her soul in that, oh, so brief moment.
“Where the hell have you been? You’re soaking!” Ted’s angry words greeted her as she dropped her shoes and purse on the floor in the hallway. He was still dressed for the party, looking as if he’d slept in his suit.
“I walked home, Ted. Someone left and took the car remember?” It was the boldest she had spoken to him in a long time and for once, she wasn’t worried about his reaction. She’d reached her decision and that appeared to have set her free from his disapproval.
“You could have called! Didn’t you stop to consider that I would have been worried after getting the phone call from Chris about the fire?”
Ted’s angry words seeped in and she blinked at him in confusion. “Fire? What fire?”
“The fire at the conference hall!” He continued to yell, his face turning red with anger. “Chris said there was one dead that they knew about and no one knew where you were. It didn’t cross your mind to let someone know you were okay?”
One dead!? “Who?” The words whispered out, Clara’s heart starting to beat fast. “Who died, Ted?”
He scowled at her, waving a hand dismissively. “Some editor guy, Adam or Alex or something. That’s beside the point…I’ve been worried sick about…”
His words droned on but Clara turned away, opening the front door to stare across at the park now bathed in the early morning sunlight. The rays bounced off the wet leaves, the droplets sparkling like diamonds.
A drop of rain on a cheek was a sign that someone you had lost was thinking of you and letting you know you were not alone.
Clara shivered, understanding Adrian’s disappearance even though her mind told her it couldn’t be true. What she did know was in one night, Adrian had shown her that her love for writing was a gift to be treasured and there was nothing more beautiful than dancing in the rain.
Clara closed the door and walked past Ted, heading up to their bedroom for the final time. Today may have been the first time she had danced in the rain, but she would dance so many more days, and when she did, she would remember a wonderful man who had once graced the world and helped shape her future.