After It Rains
By Anne, age 21, Florida
She hadn't been planning to reveal herself when she had walked in to the art gallery's white halls, shivering at the temperature change. But as she handed the attendant her umbrella she found a pair of eyes watching her from a section of splashy orange and gray pieces that were not at all to her taste. Caroline had only shown up for her husband's benefit. It wouldn't do for the artist's sponsor to fly solo at the reveal party, or that's what they all told her. She didn't mind; she had decided a long time ago that if she wanted to see Daniel or have social interaction she would have to go to these events. Now neither of these motivated her; now she went for the alcohol.
The eyes were still watching as Caroline crossed to the small bar and ordered her usual cocktail, frowning at the tip jar with its gaudy label begging for cash. Caroline turned and found the eyes belonging to a diverse woman with impeccable taste. Her sandy skin clashed with her piercing grey eyes and bright red hair in a way that warned Caroline of something forbidden, do not touch, piquing her interest in ways only the things that are off limits can. Her heels looked out of place, as if wearing flats of some kind would have suited her better, and her sleeveless dress was tailored for a far bustier occupant. Who was she and how did she come by these clothes that clearly did not belong to her, and why did Caroline find her all the more endearing for it? But it was no time to wonder about this woman's secrets as she was standing next to her, offering a hand and waiting for a response to "Hello, I'm Rebecca."
"Caroline," she responded, blushing for reasons she could not explain. Rebecca grinned and gestured to the cocktail that had just arrived.
"Free bar, huh? So drinks on me then." Rebecca nodded to the bartender to give her a refill while Caroline attempted not to choke on her drink. She hadn't laughed at lame lines like that since she had first started dating Daniel, back when they had actually been in love.
"Cheers," Rebecca said, turning back and smiling as their glasses clinked together before she downed hers all in one. Caroline stared as her companion, licked her lips, and asked for another. "Go on, you need to live a little sometimes," Rebecca said, laughing at the looks she was receiving from the room. "And judging by your eyes, you're about as happy here as I am." She gave Caroline an encouraging smile, prompting her to follow suit.
"So what brings you here if you're so unhappy doing so?" Caroline asked, her eyes still watering from her sudden intake of vodka.
Rebecca threw a look over towards Daniel and his artist of the month, the man they were here to honor. "That would be my brother and the man he's currently in love with," she said, rolling her eyes and smirking slightly. Caroline eyed the way the man kept positioning himself closer to Daniel who only looked at him to introduce some potential buyers and then turned his back and sank into business deals while the artist went unnoticed.
"Pity. The only thing Daniel loves is his work," Caroline said, sending Rebecca into a state of giggles. "Well, he can't help it, really. Peter always was a hopeless romantic. So am I, I suppose ..." she said, glancing Caroline over in a way that make her skin flush.
Caroline wasn't clueless; she had been noticing the soft skin and bright eyes of women long before she had noticed men, but such things were only adolescent fantasies, or so she had thought. Besides, she had never found a single woman to really catch her eye until she had walked into this gallery and realized the real reason she didn't love Daniel - he wasn't Rebecca. It was ridiculous, she told herself. She had just met this woman. There was no way she was the cause of the deterioration of her relationship with Daniel. And yet she was, all because she decided to borrow someone's clothes and show up at her brother's art show.
Rebecca shook this thought from her head for a moment as they began circling the room, chatting more than observing the art. "Ever wish it all made sense?" she asked, bold enough to admit she somehow knew what Caroline was thinking.
Caroline peered into her glass before speaking. "It's never that simple. Too many variables that could go wrong." Rebecca nodded at her words. "I remember that feeling. Admitting you don't have all the answers is the worst, and then you have to move on and live the unknown. Terrifying ..." she added before taking Caroline by the hand to the next painting. They both shivered as their skin touched, the short walk not long enough for either of them. Neither wanting to be the one to pull away, they stood there hand in hand in front of a brown monstrosity that, according to Rebecca, was a paint rendition of Peter's doomed feelings for Daniel.
It made Caroline feel ill. "I think I'm going to be sick," she mumbled, dragging a tripping Rebecca away toward the friendlier colored pieces.
"Yeah, seeing your problems in someone else's sh**ty life can do that. That's why we do this, to ensure we're not alone while we avoid our issues ..." the redhead lamented, making Caroline stop short.
Rebecca was right. Life was awful enough without adding to it, and she shouldn't be standing here denying how awful things really were. Her new companion had made everything suddenly so clear. Rebecca was definitely the wake up call, she was the trigger who made Caroline admit her misery for the last eight years and decide to change it. This was her moment to throw off the elaborate cover story, twenty-nine years in the making, right there in front of a pale blue and grey painting that reminded her of the moment after it rains. Suddenly everything, like the painting, was looking up once more and the room was fraught with judgmental silence as Caroline crushed her lips to Rebecca's, officially no longer giving a damn.