Ami loved rainy days best. You see, Ami lived in the clouds, or, more precisely, in a cloud. On sunny days, her home was a snug bungalow surrounded by acres of brilliant blue, but when thunderheads towered, it became a grand castle with high ceilings, spiral turrets, and hundreds of rooms to explore.
Every day the wind blew, Ami found herself somewhere new, and when clouds settled in for a long drenching, Ami slid down the raindrops to visit the ground below.
One crisp morning, the wind blew Ami’s cloud (that day, a two-story cottage) past a mountain. Ami admired the sharp slope through an open window. An eagle sat on the foremost outcropping.
“Hello,” Ami called. “How are you?”
The eagle blinked one golden eye. “Passably well. And you, child?”
Ami’s scarf fluttered in the breeze as she leaned out. “Very well. My cloud is growing nicely. It should rain on Tuesday.”
“With this wind, you’ll be over Bayberry then.” The eagle cocked his head. “Just in time for the festival.”
Ami clapped her hands. “A festival? How exciting!”
The eagle flapped his great wings and lifted off with a farewell squawk. Ami wondered what it would be like to fly so free.
As suspected, Ami’s castle settled over the village of Bayberry for a good, long drizzle. She put on her blue and white occasion dress and slid down the raindrops. A tuffet of moss caught her as she tumbled free, and she skipped down the lane into town.
At the candle maker’s shop, Ami purchased a bit of string to make her own bayberry candle. Wax gathered from berry skins bubbled in pots. She dipped her string repeatedly until she had a solid candle with nary a dent.
“Nicely done,” the candle maker approved. His name was Ned, and Ami found his eyes kind. “You’ve done this before.”
“Oh no,” Ami replied, hanging her candle on the line to harden. “Never.”
“Then we should celebrate.” Ned motioned for his apprentice to take over the shop. He offered her an umbrella, but Ami liked the feel of warm rain on her face. As they walked, she darted glances at his tall profile. Several times she caught him glancing back with the same wonderment. Never had Ami met someone she wanted to keep talking to. Usually, she flashed from one thing to the next so she could see them all during her allotted time on solid ground.
He took her to a stall selling fruit tarts. Hearty pastry gave way to a flood of tart berries. Ami gobbled it up, thinking it vastly preferable to the airy delicacies one consumed in a cloud. After a morning in town with Ned, she knew where to buy the best bread, who had the loveliest flower garden, and where the bunnies liked to play. Everyone they passed said hello when Ned introduced her.
After a luncheon of beef stew, Ned kissed Ami gently on the lips. “I’m glad we met. May I have the honor of calling on you tomorrow?”
Ami’s expression crumpled. “You can’t.”
“Why not?” His brow furrowed. “We get on splendidly.”
“Yes.” Ami glanced at the clouds. “But I’ll be moving on soon, and I doubt I can return. It’s not in my power, you see.”
“Well then,” Ned said, doffing his hat, “I will make the most of the time we have left.” He led her to the pavilion in the town square, where they whirled like dervishes in a merry country dance.
When a ray of sunshine pierced the clouds, Ami gasped. “I must go.”
“At least come fetch your candle,” Ned protested. “It must be dry.”
But Ami couldn’t. She darted down the lane to the tuffet of moss in the woods. The rain drops were fewer and farther between, but they still fell. Ami tugged herself aloft and scrambled from raindrop to raindrop all the way up to her castle in the sky. That night, she fell asleep in her grand canopy bed and dreamed of bayberries.
The next morning, she awoke in her bungalow and sighed. Alone again until the next rainstorm. It was nearly summer, which meant fewer storms. Several days passed thusly, and Ami began to realize how lonely it could be living in a cloud. Even exploring new rooms in the cloud’s permutations felt routine and uninspiring.
Ami sprang to the window to see the eagle hovering nearby. “Would you care to come in for tea?” she asked.
The eagle cocked his head. “Are you serving grouse or hare?”
Ami shook her head. “No, I’m sorry.”
“Did you enjoy the festival?” A sudden burst of wind sent the cloud bungalow shooting ahead, and the eagle flapped harder to keep up.
“Yes,” Ami said. “I wish I could visit again, but my cloud never stops in the same place.”
“I could fly you back,” the eagle offered. “My wings are strong, and I know the way.”
Doubt and excitement warred in her heart. Going back would be a one-way journey, but was the cloud worth the price of a solitary life?
“It will rain again.”
Ami looked at the eagle in surprise. “What?”
“Another cloud will always come along,” the eagle said. “It’s a certainty.”
Suddenly, Ami knew what to do. “I accept your kind offer.”
The eagle flew closer so Ami could climb on its back. The flight was fast, but predictable, like rain sliding. Ami hung on tight, but never once closed her eyes.
After thanking the eagle, Ami set off toward the village. The farther she walked, the more sure her footsteps became. At the shop, she found Ned on the porch holding her candle. The joy on his face when he saw her set Ami’s heartbeat racing.
As Ned took her hand, Ami glanced up. Her cloud was a speck on the horizon, but more clouds approached from the other direction. Among them all, the eagle soared.
Erin M. Kinch knows that a whole world exists in the clouds that we are just too far away to see. For more of Erin’s stories, visit www.erinmkinch.com.