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walk this street

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The rain, falling, makes different sounds when it lands. Shiah blinks; the drop of water rolls off the canopy, landing plop on her nose. The sky is grey, hemmed in by the buildings leaning over the narrow street, the staccato of feet passing by in the rain.

Splash.

Her toes, chilled by the sudden wave of water as a bicycle wheels by, hop back a split second before her mind has a chance to catch up. The boy on the bicycle doesn't turn back to apologize and Shiah steps even further back to avoid getting gouged in the eye by an umbrella. Red spots on white fill her vision until she blinks, refocusing on the crowd. It's mostly dry under the awning, standing outside a what looks like a patisserie whose friendly bell keeps ringing as customers pop in with stars in their eyes and back out again with bags and boxed of sweet things.

Shiah's stomach rumbles, and she sighs. Yoobin is late, and if her toes get anymore wet she's probably going to start putting down roots into the cracks of the concrete beneath the soggy soles of her shoes. People hurry by, huddled beneath umbrellas, and she worms her cold fingers deeper into her pockets.

There's something, a certain je ne said quoi, about the city in the rain. As though the world has suddenly become hostile, everyone is rushing from here to there, stepping out from the doors of shop fronts to scowl at the dripping sky or the eaves of the roof that have just dumped cold water down their back. Umbrellas fight for space along the pedestrian corridor, each person a small island of dry amidst a sea of dripping waterproofed fabric and the occasional unfortunate who's forgotten or lost theirs and is in too much of a rush to step into the convenience store to purchase an overpriced temporary affair of vinyl and ill-molded plastic. Shiah's arm is empty, her blue and yellow striped umbrella sitting safely at home in the bucket beside the front door, completely useless. She'd been fine, darting along beneath the awnings of stores, and the rain had barely been worth mentioning until all of a sudden it had become the sole topic of conversation.

She reaches out a hand, past the edge of the space protected from the rain, and lets the water droplets fall across her skin. It's still raining, not that she'd expected any differently. The rhythm with which the raindrops are hitting the dimpled surfaces of the puddles scattered about on the concrete beneath people's feet has only increased in tempo, half-time to quarter-time, as the pedestrians thrum out a ragged beat.

Shiah is surrounded by people, but at the same time it feels like being in the midst of a rushing current, the gazes single-mindedly staring ahead towards an undisclosed destination, the river flowing down to the sea. It's the strangest feeling, almost dream-like, and Shiah stands there beneath the canopy and feels the city breathe: in and out. She takes a deep breath of slightly bitter air, the taste of metal lingering on her tongue, and exhales the collective sigh of a rainy day.

Something buzzes in her pocket; it take Shiah a moment to gather her thoughts back up once again before she realizes it's her phone.

"You'd better be Yoobin," she tells the inanimate object crafted of glass and metal; it doesn't reply in words but only buzzes again, vibrating against the skin of her palm.

im sorry im late

Shiah would frown at the message, at the water that her toes are drinking up through her socks, but the bell over the door of the cafe behind her rings again, a delicate note against the backdrop of the falling water. She smiles instead.

ill forgive you if you buy me coffee

By the time she can see Yoobin approaching, yellow-striped umbrella bobbing through the crowd, the rain has shimmered into the background of her thoughts as she watches the bobbing umbrellas dance along the pedestrian corridor. My feet are wet she thinks, waving at Yoobin who's eyes are darting around until their gazes lock. Maybe I'll send down roots, stretch out my arms and unfurl branches.

"I'm sorry," Yoobin says, slightly out of breath as she joins Shiah beneath the awning, her umbrella accidentally dripping onto Shiah's shoulder. "The bus was late because of the rain."

"That's okay," Shiah says, pausing before she continues. "If you were a tree in the middle of the city, what kind of tree would you want to be?"

Yoobin blinks, regroups. There are water drops clustered on her eyelashes, even though the umbrella should have kept her dry.

"Are you delirious with hunger?" she asks after a moment, only half joking. Shiah laughs.