Summer Rain

The college group had gone to the Santa Clara County Fair that day. There had been rides and games and concerts and typical fair food that tastes so good but leaves you just a little unsettled. Brett had been over an hour late to join the group, appearing, as usual, out of nowhere, like he did every six months only to disappear again without warning. Poof! Brett's here! Poof! Brett's gone again!

"Hey, guys! I've been looking forever all over this whole fair for you!"

"What took you so long, Brett?"

"Nothing. What's next?"

The group fractured, some pursuing thrills on rides, others in search of shade or food. One group of girls, too mature for silly rides, opted for a leisurely lunch, the main course being conversation. It was a roundabout discussion, covering Christie's latest crush, Melody's new haircut, the clothing ensembles of several passers-by, and Jenny's wedding plans. Brett, of course, as something relatively novel, was served with and without garnish several times. Colorado was nice. The Army had transferred him there after his year's tour in Korea, and now he taught the ranks chemical weapon detail and survival. He'd bought a car. He'd found a girlfriend; whom he had called last night, barely checking his famous temper as she whined and cried. He'd called this morning to apologize for rash words and piece the relationship back together, but it had crumbled into an unrecoverable mess when he had hung up.

"He doesn't seem all that concerned about it."

"How long were they going out?"

"I think just over a month."

"Do you think he's hurt at all?"

"Who knows?"

"Brett only shows emotion when he's mad at you."

"I still think it's amazing he found a girlfriend at all."


"Brett is not exactly a gentleman."

He had stubbornly refused every offer of sunscreen all day; "I never burn!" he declared as the rest watched his skin take on a decidedly red hue as the sun retreated. Now he radiated heat by himself, too hot in the evening cool for any one to comfortably stand next to him without immediately craving iced tea or lemonade.

But lemonade didn't cool him enough to ease the pain, and he complained of nausea and dizziness. Since he had a room in the house, Brett slipped from the loose gathering of people on the deck comparing the fair's haunted house with the one at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk, past the sleepy ones on couches watching Somewhere in Time, ooh-ing over Christopher Reeve. Jamie had been among those on the deck, listening to Dave's story of the overweight woman who wanted to ride the Ferris wheel. When the story ended, she realized Brett had left, and she slipped downstairs unnoticed, concerned, lemonade in both hands. Heat exhaustion, she knew from experience, could be serious, and her heart would not let anything suffer unattended.

"Brett? It's Jamie. You feelin' ok?"

"Just hot." His voice seemed to come from nowhere and yet from everywhere within the dark room.

"Do you want any lemonade?"


"Can I do anything?"

He didn't reply. She left the lemonade on the floor by the bed and turned toward the door. Hallway light streamed into the dark room, seeming overly bright. The shapeless voice called before she stepped into it.



"Could you stay a moment?" His voice was low, muffled by the pillows he lay in as if he were trying to relieve his skin of the weight of his body.


"You can go if you want."

"There's nothing upstairs but a movie and a lot of talk." She moved the alarm clock from the chair by his bed to sit.

"I just don't want to be alone yet, you know? There've been people everywhere all day, and I just don't think I can stand being the only person in the room right now, you know?"

"Yeah, I know."

They sat in silence, Jamie unsure what to say and Brett apparently finished. When he took her hand, she tensed, startled by the new sensation of her hand in someone else's, relaxing with the rush of his kiss on her palm.

Two days had passed since the Monday at the fair. It stung, having sat with Brett until he slept, believing somehow she was valuable, only to have heard nothing from him the following day. It had been a long Tuesday, jumping every time the phone cried from the kitchen, reminding herself that she had been available, some comfort to him, stubbornly sunburnt and battered in heart. She had offered concern and companionship that night, and Brett had accepted it as just that. How silly to think he thought any more of her than as a friend. As for the lingering sensation of his lips soft on her hand, surrounded by the prickle of his stubbled face, Jamie ignored it, scrubbing both dishes and hand washable delicates to erase the tingle. He had broken up with whatever girlfriend he had in Colorado, she reminded herself; he was lonely and sorry, and she had been available.

Wednesday dawned with no quivers. It hadn't been the first time she had thought someone cared only to discover her folly; it probably wouldn't be the last. By Friday, she'd be fine.

"Jamie! Phone!"




"It's Brett."

"Oh, hi. What's up?"


"How's your sunburn?"

"Really red. It's going to fade to a nice tan just in time for me to go back to base, and all the guys are going to be really jealous."


An awkward pause. Jamie wondered where he had found her number, but then decided he must have checked the church directory. But why was he calling? She refused to listen to the voice in her mind, suggesting he called because he cared, that she was special. There had to be another reason.



"I was wondering . . . Well, they don't have very good rollercoasters in Colorado and absolutely none in Korea. Want to come?"

"I'm not very good with rollercoasters. Remember the Big Dipper at the Boardwalk last summer? I had such an awful headache."

"Kind of. Please?"

"I'll take some Advil." It slipped out, a disguised yes, before she knew it had come.


On the drive, they sang to Michael W. Smith and Petra and a version of a Garth Brooks song Brett and some friends had recorded in high school four years ago. It had been at least a year since either one of them had been to the park, and neither remembered in time how to get there, driving all the way to Oakland before Brett, frustrated, pulled off the freeway and got the map book from the trunk. Jamie navigated back to San Jose and to the park, only to discover it was closed on weekdays for two more weeks, until the local high schools released their prisoners for the summer. The realization spawned more stories from Brett's senior year of high school. He'd been an Army Reservist for nearly a year, outspoken, conservative and patriotic to a fault. On Free Speech Fridays, when the staff would run the PA system to the front steps of the school, Brett was a fixture, speaking for "traditional family values," becoming so regular that he achieved fame in a full page candid in the yearbook. Jamie listened, mentally recording his words so when he paused for a breath, she might be able to tell a story of her own that would reflect his interests.

Somewhere on that drive, between songs and stories, Brett's hand found Jamie's knee. She thought of shifting her position, or maybe putting his hand back on the gear shift, but she did neither.

"Brett -"



"You don't like it?"

"You're driving."


"I would feel more comfortable if you concentrated on driving."

"I am concentrating."

Jamie took his hand in hers, pulling it away from her face.

"Can't I touch you?"

"You are."

"You have such soft skin." His voice faded as he returned his hand to her face, tracing her cheek with the back of his fingers.

She laughed, taking his hand in her own, hating to, relishing his touch. She laced their fingers together tightly.

"You're driving on a crowded freeway during rush hour at seventy-five miles an hour. Please, just drive." She squeezed his hand as he turned it in her grasp to rest on her leg. They started singing again, their own duet over the voices of Michael W. Smith and Amy Grant. When Brett's fingers returned to her face, Jamie made no objection.

Everyone else seemed to have plans for the night, most heading to Santa Cruz for a movie. Brett and Jamie left just before sundown, driving to the mountains, up a winding backroad oddly labeled as a highway to a clear space near the crest. They pulled the car out to the edge of the turnout and found the trail to the vista point bench on the back side of the hill. They had come for the sunset, flushing the world with a rosy gold as the last dregs of light ran out of the sky and below the horizon. A crescent moon flushed bloody before gleaming white from a darkened, star-filled sky. Jamie tried to point out the stars as they emerged one by one, asking Brett as he sat behind her, arms draped around her waist, which ones he saw in Korea, and which ones he loved best. His responses were vague, not really answers, as if he were not listening. After a half-dozen attempts at conversation about the evening and the appeal of the distant hills in the last light, Jamie gave up. They spent some time in silence, watching the colors drain, then Brett shook her gently, laughing.

"Jamie, relax."

She laughed a little in response, nervously. He loosened the barrette holding her hair back, running his fingers through the loosened curls, soothing, easing her with light pressure to rest her head against his shoulder. She gave in to his steady heartbeat in her ear. When he leaned down to her, his breath hot, his lips soft, there was no resistance in her, and she kissed him back.

"Is Brett in?"

"Sorry, he's out with Dave."

"Did he say when he'd be back?"


"Ok. Could you let him know Jamie called?"

"Will do."

It was Friday. Jamie had been called into work Thursday, and she had promised to call Brett when she got off. He hadn't been home when she called, but his substitute mother suggested she come over and wait for a while, offering dinner. She settled for dropping by, leaving a note for Brett, promising to call when she finished at work the next day. But, again, he wasn't home, and Jamie drove home in silence to lock herself in her room, claiming stomach cramps when called to supper.

She sat on her bed alone in the dark, her arms wrapped loosely around her knees, rocking slowly back and forth, choking on her tears. Words would not come; instead there were images, memories in vivid colors parading, mocking the ache; Brett taking her hand, his touch on her face, the colors draining from the sky, the heat of his kiss, the strength of his embrace. The memory of his final hungry kiss burned still on her mouth, mingled with the tears.

"Call me tomorrow."

"I don't know if I have to work."

"When will you know?"

"If I'm still home at noon, I'm not going in. But they could call as early as eight."

"Call if you go in."


"Good night."

"Good night, Brett."

But he hadn't been there when she called Thursday, nor on Friday. And now it was Friday night.

"Jamie! Phone!"


"Jamie? It's Brett."


"Are you coming?"


"We're going out, the whole gang, didn't you know?"


"Racheal's hosting a party, a luau, I think. Everyone's going."


"Are you coming?"

"Do you want me to?"

"What kind of question is that?"

"I just need to know."

"I called you."

"You didn't yesterday."

"I didn't get in until after midnight."


"Just get here soon."

"Ok. I'll be there in an hour."

"An hour? The party's already started."

"I'll get there as soon as I can."


She changed from the rumpled skirt she had only partially wiggled from before curling in a tight ball on her bed. Oddly, although she was upset, Brett's call had invigorated her, and she painted the distress from her face, grabbed the keys, and left.

Although they arrived at Racheal's together, several hours late, they stayed apart, almost avoiding being on the same side of the room. Jamie chatted with Julie, with Jenny, with Dave. Brett moved exclusively among the guys, a tight bundle of man radiating confidence and success. Most were playing boardless Pictionary, Racheal screaming her guesses in a panicked, screeching voice while Ben pinned her to the floor at general request, since she sat in front and would jump with the urgency of her answers. She hadn't been right yet.

Then everyone was saying good night, heading out the door into the drizzling summer night. Many of the group weren't nocturnal; those who were would go to Pacific Avenue, get a mocha at The Perg before it closed at 1am, and walk the streets of Santa Cruz, downtown or by the beach, alive until three o'clock, before heading home in the cold wake of those who had preceded them four hours earlier. Brett claimed a headache, he wouldn't be going out, but home, he said; Jamie, having come with him, thought she owed him at least the company of the ride home although she felt snubbed by his lack of attention. She thought of talking to him about it; what did he mean, calling her, telling her he wanted her to come, only to ignore her?

The engine was started before she realized her purse and keys were still inside Racheal's house. Brett waited as she ran down the long, graveled driveway, back to the front porch. The moisture glinted in her hair like a handful of tiny diamonds by the time she reached the car. Brett turned to her, his eyes lit dark, glinting in the ceiling light of the car. Hungry eyes, hungry mouth, he came to her, kissing her hard and fast, drawing the air from her lungs as if he would breathe it as his own. She kissed in return, wondering at this rush of passion, this demand she felt from his body as he pressed closer and closer, unlatching the shoulder harness of her seat belt and reclining her seat. What had been an instinctual response now was laced with fear, her words of protest found sound only as mewings under Brett's hot breath. She placed her hands against his heaving chest to push him away, give her room to sit up and ask questions. But he bit the words from her lips and crushed down on her, forcing passivity.

Then she knew where he was going and knew he had planned it since he had first taken her hand. The knowledge came not as a revelation but as blurred image coming slowly into focus. Part of her wondered how many others he had tortured, taking the trust of someone needy and weak to twist it into something ugly. By then, Brett had pinned her arms above her head, brushed her hair from her eyes, and covered her mouth, letting Jamie gaze up into eyes turned bestial, monstrous, and demanding.

"Jamie, you'll be good won't you? When I move my hand, you're not going to scream. Because you want this just as much as I do, don't you?"

His hand pressed against her mouth, cutting her lips on her teeth, using such force that he made her head move in the up-down gesture of yes although her tears screamed no.

When he pulled up to the house, he smoothed her hair, wiped the salt from her cheeks, leaned close and kissed her. Perhaps he tasted the blood inside her mouth. Part of Jamie wanted the taste to be so strong he would know how much he had hurt her; part of her wished he wouldn't since it would only confirm her weakness.

"It's been a good week, Jamie. I have liked you since the day I met you, did you know that? What was that, two years ago? You have such vitality. Such pretty eyes. No tears, ok? I have to go back to base tomorrow, and I can't leave with the memory of you crying. Let's have a smile. . . . there. See? Smiles always make a person feel better, don't you think? Such soft skin . . . mmm."

His words became whispers and he kissed her again, to her confusion. Then he smiled that smile that charmed color from roses and stars from the sky, and Jamie left his car, staggering to her own, too shaky to drive home. Her knees were Jell-O, and she leaned queasily on the bed of her truck as Brett walked alone up the sloped driveway. The bright front porch light threw his shadow down the hill behind him, swallowing her in its blackness as she stood in the summer rain.