A chilly southerly wind blew strong against my jacket as I took a seat at the bus stop. It had been raining all night and the ground was a blotched blanket of puddles and wet leaves. I shuffled my boots in the murky water beneath the metal bench and thought of my grandfather.
When I was a child, I hated the rain because it meant I couldn’t play outside. I’d sulk and grumble, watching the rainfall from the attic window of my grandparent’s home in Dorset while my grandmother attempted to cheer me up with home baking and hand-crafted puppets. Climbing trees and playing in the dirt was a great deal more appealing to me than hand puppets and ginger bread, so my mood would often continue long into the afternoon. To say I had a fair-weathered temperament was a hilariously genuine truth.
My grandfather on the other hand, would watch me sigh with an all-knowing smile on his face.
“When I was a boy, the rain never stopped me having fun.” He’d say as he crouched next to me by the window. “When the rain fell, I’d just run inside for my raincoat and wellies, and off I’d go again. No need to stay cooped up in here.”
It was on one particularly wet afternoon, as I sat gazing longingly out the window, that I noticed in the reflection my grandfather approaching. A cheerful smile was stretched across his face and his eyes shone like the clearest of skies.
“Here now, look at what your granddaddy has bought you.” He reached into a large blue duffel bag he was carrying and brought out something yellow, plastic and folded neatly. “Go on then”, he said as he thrust it into my hand. “Try it on.” I held the package up and it revealed itself to be a bright little raincoat complete with toggles and a great, floppy hood. Delighted, I scrambled to get it on, pulling my arms into it and stood grinning before him. “Beautiful. If a tad on the big side.” he beamed. “More room for jumpers, eh?” I thanked him with all the hugs, giggles and thank yous a six-year-old could muster before rushing excitedly to the door. “Hold your horses! You don’t want to get your little shoes all wet, do you?” And with that, he presented me some shiny, red wellington boots. “Enjoy the rain, sunshine!”
After that day, I’d long for the rain. When the sky turned dark, I’d run inside and fetch my water-proof uniform, embracing the weather with arms wide open and wellie-booted feet splashing hard. Playing in the dirt turned out to be a lot more fun when it was wet. Mud pies were featured in nearly all of my rainy-day playtime sessions, as did worm digging, rain dancing and puddle jumping aplenty.
Now the splashes on my boots remind me of happier days and an age of innocence gone. My granddad passed away just over a year ago, but yesterday would have been his 80th birthday and we celebrated his life again with matured steak and French wine as he would have liked.
Looking down now at the puddles, I sigh and I realise that the negative association I once had for wet weather has returned since my childhood. My appreciation for mud was a brief one, and now rain for me means practical footwear, frizz-ruined hair and a cumbersome umbrella.
I watch the cars whoosh past one by one. They drive slower than usual to avoid needlessly splashing pedestrians like myself. I glance at my watch. The bus is late. The breeze shakes through bare branches and whistles around the bus stop like an invisible waterfall, drenching everything in its path with a bracing chill. I reach up to bend my collar and bunch up my scarf, sheltering my exposed neck from the cold. I suddenly become aware that the pavement is empty and I’m alone. Even the cars have ceased to rumble past me and I feel the wind has relented. For a moment, I could swear that the clouds stood still in the sky and the hands on my watch lay motionless. It’s silent.
From the corner of my eye, I see a flash of red. A bus is approaching. I hear its engine as it gets closer. And as it gets louder, so does the rest of the world, leaving behind the meditative natural state I enjoyed just moments before. I stand up, and moving towards the edge of the pavement, wave the bus down. It indicates and comes to a halt beside me. The bus driver pays little attention to me as I step through its doors, showing my ticket. The bus is full with no spare seats on the lower deck. A gentle, quiet chatter hums around the bus as the engine starts up again, but before I can find a safe place to stand, I’m alarmed by a sudden pounding of footsteps on the upper deck. A small, blond haired boy suddenly dashes down the narrow, precarious bus stairs. The driver must have noticed him rushing to get off because he halted the bus and opened the back door especially. Now grasping onto the handrail in a brief moment of pause, I noticed his outfit. A bright yellow raincoat, grey trousers and red wellington boots. I’m perplexed by this, and even more so in the moments that followed, when in a silent, eerie second, he turned and looked me dead in the eye. A quick, mischievous glance with sharp blue eyes and a faint grin spreading his ruddy cheeks. I can only watch, in what feels like slow motion, as the boy then hops off the bus and a chilly breeze takes his place as the doors slam shut.