In a competition for shittiest day, Ludy knew she wouldn’t win. She watched the news. Read books. People survived bombs, spousal abuse, and hurricanes. Her day had merely been a personal black cloud. Cartoonish. Still enough to soak her through and dampen her smile.
A literal rain storm brewed overhead, threatening to reward her imagery. She had an umbrella, but it was busted. Barely good enough to beat off a mugger, which had busted it even more. At least it still added to her outfit. Cheery pink and dotted with tiny white flowers. The perfect addition to her light blue sundress and grey jacket. Scarf with a duck pattern.
The scarf was the only thing that had survived her day. The jacket had lost a sleeve, and a rakish tear in the dress’s neckline prompted her to walk with her arms up. As if she were a boxer about to begin a match.
The skies opened up, weeping with a thousand unseeing eyes. Ludy stared into the rain with wide open eyes, baring her teeth like a wild animal.
And got a mouthful of dirty water.
Choking and cursing, she lashed out. She spat. Her arms swung, fast and hard. Her tantrum cut off suddenly as she realised that she had struck something. The way her day had gone, she should have expected a wall, but it was too soft. Something living. Not a stray dog with rabies, which she also should have expected.
A human man wearing a crisp business suit and a shocked frown. He held a cell phone to his ear, hovering as if it were more important than a crazy woman hauling off and smacking him in the street while she swore like a hobo.
She scowled at his umbrella. The source of the waterfall that had gushed over her face. “You should watch where you’re going,” she snapped.
“You hit me.”
“You nearly drowned me!”
He stared at her, clearly uncomprehending. “We’re on the sidewalk.” He looked around, as if he honestly had no idea where they were. “In front of a Chinese restaurant. How could I drown you?”
Words did not come. She spluttered for a few seconds. While her day had not been car-bomb bad, it had certainly been spread-the-misery bad. She snatched his obviously expensive black umbrella out of his manicured fingers and held it at just the right angle to show him exactly what he had done to her.
To his credit, he did not flail about and strike her. He coughed and spat water onto the sidewalk.
“Like that, you bitch.”
It would have been a good exit line, but he was still bent double. She didn’t want to just drop his umbrella and run away like a criminal. Her patience was rewarded when his coughing turned to laughter. An apology lurked in there, even as his suit went shiny, ruined in the strengthening downpour. “I’m sorry.” He held out his hand. “My name is Ivo.”
As she shook his hand, his eyes widened. “Are you okay?”
She laughed. It didn’t sound as good as his laughter. Her voice, always high and reedy, had become raspy in the freezing damp. “If I were any less okay, I would have to start screaming.”
“Do you need a doctor? Your dress…”
“You should see the other guy.” She held her hands up to her chest again. Jumped when Ivo covered her shoulders with his jacket. “Hang on, I don’t–”
“It’s the least I can do after I almost drowned you.”
He had already done the least. He’d apologised. It had been the first time she’d heard the word ‘sorry’ since she’d caught her ex in bed with two other women. It sounded better coming from Ivo. “I guess it is.”
“Are you hungry? We’re still standing in front of a restaurant. We could go inside it.”
Even wet, the jacket was warm. Her ducky scarf tickled her nose, pressed sticky against her skin. “Why not? I like Chinese food.”