Softly Towards Obscurity

The sky is dark and cloudy, wind whips through the streets and the air is filled with hot, moist stench of the city. You look up, squinting at the clouds, trying to judge how much longer you have before the rain comes down. There is a small stack papers left for you to sale, waiting to be converted into change jingling in your pocket. You sigh and glance to the side, where your selling partner is standing, hands shoved deep in his pockets, rocking on his heels as he whistles a jaunty tune. His eyes twinkle as he catches you watching, and he winks.

"Aren't gonna sell any of them papes by gaping at me," he says, then he tips his hat to a lady passing by, real respectful like, face as pious as a minister's wife.

You glower at him, but there's no real heat in it. "Buy my pape, mister?" you call out to a flush looking fellow. He ignores your question, choosing instead to curl his lip and sniff delicately as he pussyfoots his way past you. You give his back a nasty look and ignore the laughter coming from your so-called friend.

A sweet-faced lady is approaching with two pretty girls at her side, their hair done up in ribbons and bows. You give her your most charming smile and ask if she's interested in the day's news. She pinches your cheeks, calls you a darling thing, as her daughters blush and giggle. "Of course I'll take a paper," she says, her eyes kind. She fetches out a shiny silver coin and passes it over to you. "Keep the change," she tells you, and you wish her a blessed day.

You turn towards your partner and flash him a saucy look, holding up the nickel she gave you in triumph. He lets out a whistle and pushes his cap back on his head, swiping at the sweat on his brow with the back of his hand.

"Ain't you something special," he says, crossing the street to join you. "How's about we call it quits for now, find us something cool to drink and then finish off when the heat's broke?"

You look up at the sky again, a frown on your face. The clouds are hanging low now, heavy with rain. Odds are good, rain like that will chase the evening customers away. You shake your head and sigh, because a drink would be nice right now, as would time spent exclusively in his company. But you have to make hay while the sun still shines and there will be plenty of time for that drink once the rain comes.

He gives you a mournful look and kicks at a loose cobblestone, but he doesn't protest. Just ambles his way back across the street and starts hawking the headlines, making things up same as he always does, lurking the crowds in with his old, familiar mix of half-truths and charm.

You watch him from the corner of your eye, dividing your attention between him and your potential customers, not caring a whit that it puts you off your game, makes you less likely to close the sell. Not when it means you get to see him in his element, bare witness to the magic trick that is his smile.

There is a white-hot flash of light in the sky followed by the low growl of thunder and that is all the warning you get before the rain begins to fall. It's warm and wet and feels delicious on your skin, washing over you, cleansing you of the sweat and grime of the day. You pull off your cap, shove it into your pocket and let the rain plaster your hair to your head. You hear a whoop of delight, then the pounding of feet on the cobblestones a second before his hand catches yours, tugging you along beside him.

You laugh, loud and long and free, as you dash through the streets by his side, hand clasped tightly in his, the rain making the streets shine and glisten. You don't know where you're going, you don't even know why you are running, but he's there beside you, breath coming out in happy gasps, eyes dancing as they meet your own, and it's perfect. Wonderful. A moment you want to trap in time.

The sky is dark and cloudy, wind whips through the streets and there is air is filled with fresh, clean scent of summer storm. You look up, laughing at the sky. Somewhere behind you there is a stack of damp papers, soggy on a streetcorner, ink running in the rain. The change in your pocket jingles every time your foot hits the ground. You laugh and glance to the side, catching the eye of your partner. His eyes twinkle and his hand squeezes tight around yours. You laugh again, heart happy, as you follow his lead, racing together towards the unknown with a smile on your face and a promise in his eyes.

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