Santa Monica, California
Aden had packed his bag weeks previous; back before the rain picked up, when his fingers weren’t permanently wrinkled with wetness and the forecast wasn’t calling for floods. Before the funeral with an empty coffin. Even before the news got a hold of the accident report, playing footage of the coast guard searching through a thunderstorm for a missing body.
He had packed his bag barely an hour after it happened, with salt still in his hair and tears in his eyes, a chill deep in his bones that he couldn’t shake. It was only the storm and himself who knew what he’d done, but all the rain in the world couldn’t wash it away. He had tried, after all.
He was ready to leave the same night. He would have, if he had only been able to find that damn bracelet… the one to match the sodden wrap of braided thread he clutched in his wet palm. All he had found washed up in the waves; all he had left. He had the one with his name, spelt out on white beads, old and worn from how often she wore it. It’s pair with her name was still missing though, and he couldn’t leave without it. She would never forgive him.
So he stayed, and it rained.
It rained for ten days straight. It rained so hard, Aden was convinced that he’d never see the sun again. It rained so hard, the ocean was threatening to eat up the shoreline and the silence in the house threatened to swallow him whole. Nothing but the pounding of the water drops on the windows, a sound that use to lull her to sleep and now kept him awake all hours of the night.
He couldn’t stop the storm, and if he didn’t he’d send the town to a watery grave along with her. With or without the reminder of her, he’d have to go. He didn’t have time to beg forgiveness from the dead.
So in the middle of the night, as the clock switched over to the eleventh day of rain, Aden took his bag and returned to the storm. It’s heavy pattering muffled his movements so his exhausted parents down the hall didn’t hear as the door closed. It was better this way. They would get a well deserved night's sleep before living another nightmare.
Two children, lost to the storm.
At least the skies would clear once he was gone.
Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway
Arizona. New Mexico. Texas. Somewhere vast and dry and so far away from the ocean that there was no way Aden would accidentally stumble his way back to it. Somewhere that droughts were common. Somewhere that maybe even the water inside his own flesh might dry up a little.
That was the plan, at least. He knew it wouldn’t be so easy; his mother used to joke that he’d live in the sea if he could. I’m surprised you haven’t grown gills. Born and raised on the California coast, the smell of sand and salt was all Aden knew. He had to leave it behind though. For his own sake. For everyone's sake.
He took his old station wagon west, as far as the one tank of gas would take him, then he started walking. The rain followed; he could never outrun it. He’d keep trying, though.
Arizona was all red sands and never ending sky. It left little shelter from the elements; the rain was through Aden’s sweater and seeping into his skin in no time. He’d have to get a rain jacket.
When he reached the outskirts of Phoenix, he sorted through his very limited cash and parted with a few bills to pay for a room at the cheapest motel he could find. The women at the reception desk made small talk with him while he paid. This isn’t usually the time of year for storms. Global warming, I tell ya. Aden nodded.
He hung his clothes to dry and laid himself out on the musty mattress in hopes of airing the dampness from of his skin also. Before his exhaustion pulled him to sleep, Aden wondered briefly if a desert had ever been washed away in a flood.
He didn’t dare stay long enough to find out.
It was while approaching Tucson, three days of walking later, that the rain finally stopped for a moment. Aden wondered if it was because he was too thirsty and hungry to keep up with his emotions, but he tried not to dwell on the negativity too long.
He sat on a big flat rock and soaked up the clear air for a while. Just long enough for his wrinkly fingers to dry up and the ache in his feet to subside. Just long enough to feel the searing of the sun on his flesh for once, instead of the deep chill of the rain. It felt like it had been an eternity since he’d see sky instead of clouds. She would have liked Arizona, he thought; she always preferred the sun over the sea.
Rolling thunder sounded on the horizon, and Aden forced himself to keep moving.