Rain Village

Excerpt

For a few moments she just sat next to me, stretching her tanned legs into the street, smoothing her skirt over her knees. I could only sit and stare. I watched her hands and her calves and thought how her skin seemed warm, like a blanket, or bread just out of the oven. When she turned to me and smiled, I felt like I’d been struck.

“What a perfect little girl you are,” she said. “Why are you sitting here alone?”

I stared at her. I could barely believe that she was sitting right there in front of me. Mary Finn, who was the closest thing to a movie star that Oakley had ever seen.

But she just rubbed her brown arms and stuck her hand in her hair the way other women stick combs.

“Did you know that stars die?” she said. “They burn themselves out and they fade from the sky, but they are like ghosts.”

I looked at her.

“There are no ghosts,” I said quickly, then felt my face grow as red as the radishes my parents bent over to pick each day.

“Oh, but there are,” she said, smiling at me with her crooked teeth, and lifting my right hand into her own. “You see this pinky right here? This little half-moon on the bottom of your pinky nail? It was once a star, you know, a star burning in the sky, but when it came time for the star to disappear, it just fell to the earth instead. Every part of your body—the moon on your pinky nail, the blue rim in the center of your eye—was once part of a star.”

Not even my own mother had been kind to me like this. I felt all lit-up and almost glowing imagining my body spread across the night sky like an explosion, sparkling down to the half-moons on my fingernails.

“And so the stars come back to haunt us,” she said, “the way everything else does, sooner or later.”