It was a rainy afternoon. The sky was gray with rainclouds, visibly swirling form high windows. Despite the warm weather that had graced Ellowwood late into the harvest, this had changed in the past few days. It was a signal that colder weather was approaching, and dubbed by local farmers as “The Storm of Reckoning”.
Despite having seen the weather earlier, Heather had not expected rain to approach so quickly, much less any. People were hardly about, windows shut and cleaning their yards of loose items. Within minutes of strong winds, the downpour had started.
And she was caught in the middle of it.
Within a few minutes she was soaked to the bone, merciless winds biting against her face and skin. Her vision was a bit blurry from water in her eyes, having a hard time avoiding puddles or rough spots in the road.
She hadn’t kept track of how long she was out there, but she knew it was a ways back home. Maybe another twenty minutes walk. Her jaw chattered from the onsetting cold, knowing that she had to make it home somehow. If she didn’t, Heather couldn’t imagine what would happen. Her father upset would be an understatement. There was no option to take shelter.
A faint accented voice reached her ears, barely audible over the torrent of raindrops. It repeated itself once again, a bit louder.
Heather looked upon the calling of her name, catching sight of the dry goods store of the town. She recognized the place, having gone in there to get spices and other necessities. But the voice; she squinted and started to wander closer.
Once she had started walking towards the building, the voice stopped. She was able to make out a figure at the doorstep. She recognized it as Tau’mi. Heather’s footsteps quickened.
“Tau’mi?” Heather came to a halt, staring at the strange girl before her.
Tau’mi returned Heather’s question with a nod, rapidly motioning her hand for Heather to approach closer. She didn’t respond, uncertainly following the girl’s beckoning.
Heather was familiar with Tau’mi; she was the talk of the village at times. She was a curiosity, a Kashri from somewhere beyond the Outer Reaches. Those odd traits of blue skin, purple hair and that insect-like appendage on her head. Many of the townspeople chattered about how the shopkeeper Elizabeth let her live as her own daughter, raising her with more human-like behaviors and mannerisms.
However she had talked to the girl a few times. Heather didn’t know a lot of people too well, but she definitely knew Tau’mi liked her company, often trying to invite her to spend time at “her” house.
When she had gotten close, Tau’mi grasped her arm without warning, tugging the girl inside. Heather yelped, unable to react. By the time she could protest or struggle, she was inside. Warmth enveloped her from the doorway as Tau’mi practically dangled a towel in front of her face.
She gingerly wiped the water from her face, blinking in awkwardness at her. “Thank you. I suppose I could stand here a moment…”
Tau’mi smiled in response. Except for her strange features, she looked pretty much like a normal girl. She wore a similarly styled dress as her, which added an element of familiarity to her.
Heather then realized that she had dripped water all over the parlor’s floor; the interior wasn’t anything too fancy, but her dress was soaked, still dripping into the ever-growing puddles on the floor. She exclaimed in dismay, starting to step outside.
“Oh, I’m so sorry! I-”
There were footsteps as a woman appeared in the parlor. Heather knew this face all too well. It was Elizabeth, the shopkeeper. Her mouth hung open in embarrassment; what was she to say?
“Heather? What brings you here?” Elizabeth raised an eyebrow, incredulous. Her tone was calm and inquiring.
“I was on my way home, ma’am. I really am sorry for the mess, Tau’mi invited me in-”
“She was outside in cold and wet, Miss Leesbeth!” Tau’mi grasped Heather’s arm again.
“She was?” Elizabeth folded her arms, noticing the gleeful look on Tau’mi’s face. Her eyes glanced back at the inhospitable conditions outside before landing on the two girls again.
“You were wandering alone out there? Where on earth are you heading at this hour?”
“Home,” Heather answered meekly, hanging her head a little.
“That’s a bit ways off; I would suggest you wait a bit till the rain lets up. Then again, that may not happen anytime soon. Storm’s been closing for days and it’ll probably only ease up when its passed.”
“Ooo, can she stay?” Tau’mi asked excitedly.
“Dear, what have I told you about dragging random strangers home unannounced? Then again, this isn’t a random stranger now, is it? Hum.”
Elizabeth rubbed her chin, letting her hands fall. “Well. If you don’t mind being our guest, we’ll be glad to have you. Of course if you really do feel that you need to brave that storm out there to go home, I can’t stop you.”
Heather looked back outside, starting to pull her arm away from Tau’mi. Would it really be that terrible if she stayed for a bit? Her father entered her mind once more; she had to go home. Regardless of storm or not.
A distant rumble of thunder rolled again, this time significantly louder. Heather cowered a little, looking at her benefactors.
“All right, if you don’t mind…”
“I most certainly don’t.” Elizabeth took the towel and closed the door. “Tau’mi, why don’t you get your friend dried up? I’ll clean up the parlor.”
Tau’mi nodded. “Come! I get you dry clothes!”
As insignificant as it sounded, Heather welcomed the notion.