Author: Guede Mazaka
California’s not a land of rain. That’s one reason Jess likes it so much—nearly every day she gets to go out and play footie—sorry, it’s soccer here—and it’s not raining, the ground’s not soggy and sucking at her precious one pair of sneakers. No, it’s hard and firm and the grass is green as a lime.
But today it’s raining.
The sky is dull dark grey, the kind of color that drains the life from people just when they look at it, and the water’s been pounding the roof ever since Jess woke up. Its rhythm hasn’t changed much. She thinks it maybe lightened up a bit around noon, but it’s mostly stayed the same hard, monotonous rapping that makes her turn up the volume of her CD player so she doesn’t go insane listening to it. It’s not like home. Even the rain’s different in America.
Lately she’s been thinking about home, and about her life before soccer, and about its good parts. She’s been missing things like the salt-and-vinegar chips that could kick the butts of the wimpy fake ones Americans think are decent potato chips, like the sweet-spicy smell of curry that always drifted around her house. Jess laughs when she remembers how she and Pinky used to complain about it, and all the stupid tricks they’d tried to make sure their clothes didn’t smell Indian when they went to school. That was back before Pinky discovered getting engaged and premarital sex, when she could be halfway nice to Jess. When Jess thinks about it, she even misses the rain. In London it’s rarely this hard, or this continuous. It can last for weeks and weeks, yeah, but it’s not really unending. More like random drizzles that could come at any time but preferred to start up just when the umbrella broke.
Back in London she’d been looking forward to uni, maybe a local school, and shying away from any guy her parents tried to hustle her way, and hanging out with Tony everyday. Half-dreaming about some way where she wouldn’t end up cooking aloo gobi and cleaning house for the rest of her life—at least, not where that was the only thing she did. Sneaking off to play footie in the park. Remembering when Pinky was her friend as well as her spoiled-brat sister, and wishing in the back of her head that she could have a girl-friend like everyone else.
When Jess rolls over, she can look out the window and just barely glimpse the pitch through the sheets and sheets of rain without having to move from her sprawl on the bed. It’s nothing but muddy grays and browns and a sliver of green, but she knows without having to squint that Jules is out there. She’ll catch cold, the crazy girl.
It’s been a couple weeks since the whole mess with Jess’ dream and running to the bathroom and then panicking and calling Tony. And since then, Tony’s called back and Jess has had to shamefacedly tell him that he really didn’t need to threaten Joe, Joe has called and Jess has had a short talk with him that she still doesn’t think about because it hurts, and Jules hasn’t let herself be alone with Jess. Not really. They share the room and so they’ve got to sleep in it, but Jules has taken to coming in at late hours, long past when Jess has fallen asleep facing the door. Jess’ parents call often and talk excitedly about all the things they’re going to do when she comes home for the holidays, and Jess just thinks that she’s going home. Back to where it’s a little bit boring and a little bit suffocating but at least where life isn’t firing off Beckham-bends at her head every few days.
A break can be temporary, or permanent. That’s why she’s thinking. And that’s why it’s been taking her so long.
Jess flops over and listens a while longer to the music, and beyond that to the teeth-gritting sound of the rain. Going on and on and never changing, always the same depressed fearful song.
In America, everything’s different. Jules broke things off with her boyfriend a week ago—she said he wanted to go more serious, but that’s just nuts because she’s not going to do something over a couple thousand miles. America’s training so they can go back to Britain and wow their home, because what’s the point of making it good if you can’t go home and brag about it? She’d said that with one of the few smiles she’d given Jess since that.
America’s fun. America’s their time away from home, where Jess can do crazy stuff like walk along the beach at three in the morning. Like try on miniskirts and know what it’s like to feel the wind on her knees when she’s not on the pitch. Like kiss girls, and like it as much as kissing guys. Girl. Guy. There’s only been those two.
The earphone slips from Jess’ ear. She starts to pick it up, then drops it and shoves her feet into her sneakers.
Her hair is soaked within minutes and it’s so long that it’ll take hours to dry. Too late she realizes she’s wearing a white shirt and her bra’s showing, and so she runs to the pitch hugging herself like she’s holding in her guts. They’re twisting so much that maybe she is.
At first Jess doesn’t see Jules, but then something thumps against her foot: black and white checkers. From there it’s just reflex to look at where it came from and to see Jules swiping wet straggling bangs out of her eyes, looking at Jess like she’s crazy. Well, she is. They are. They’re this close to going back to how it was in London, but they’re not in London. They’re in California, and it’s raining, and the taste of the rain on Jules’ lips is so sweet and endless that Jess forgets to breathe.
Jules does it for her, pushing them apart. “What…”
“Cali, right? What—what happens in Cali stays in Cali.” It’s a saying Jess hears a lot, mostly from students roaring in from other parts of the country. She sounds stupid, but the rain is cold and she’s still confused and she really wants to kiss Jules again, and ignore everything else. “We’re still friends back home—we’re always friends, yeah? But…”
The way Jules’ eyes squinch up, it looks like she’s crying, but Jess thinks she’s just squinting through the water running down her face. She touches Jess’ cheek, jerks her hand away and brings it back. And finally she smiles, shaking like crazy, and grabs Jess’ hand. “Yeah.”
It’s raining, and Jess can’t see a thing but she can feel her way to Jules’ mouth, and she can feel when her foot hits the bleachers, and she can feel the jolt of them half-falling, half-scrambling beneath them. She doesn’t know what she’s doing, where this is going, but it’s just hands and mouth and Jules Jules Jules, a crescendo that aches in her breasts as chilly hands cup them, moves between her legs as her breath catches so she chokes on rain, warms her to burning as she sucks in clumps of hair from Jules’ face. It’s their knees banging together, it’s Jules dragging down her hand and showing her things to do with it against wet hot folds of flesh and coarse thick hair that make her blush even as she’s pushing her tongue harder into Jules’ mouth. It’s Jules exploding from her mouth, and it’s her name muffled in the slick skin of her shoulder, and it’s their breathless, nerveless laughter as they clutch desperately at each other afterward.
Jess knows where they are. They’re in Cali. California. And they’re in each other no matter what, and that’s all she wants, really. That’s what she tells the fear jiggling in her stomach, that’s what she tells the buzzing in her head. And for just a minute, the sound of the rain fades before it.