"Mmmmnn..." The weather report was a liar ...
Well, no, Yumi knew the news didn't lie to her. The meteorologist surely though that the storm wouldn't blow in yet, but she still felt like she was lied to ... because the rain was falling, the atmosphere and sky hushing the campus under a heavy and constant, 'Shhhh,' never having to take a breath.
Yumi wouldn't have been in such a miff over it, but the weather was so nice this morning, the weather report told her it wouldn't rain, and now she was without either umbrella or rain coat for the walk home.
Yes ... It was a rainy day in late autumn; the field and pavement were dyed deep earthy tones by the rain, and the trees that lined Maria's gardens were dripping water, as if full and overflowing. As the clock's hands ticked and neared the end of class, Yumi Fukuzawa staring out the window, into the distance where the green earth met the grey sky.
The maidens who flock to the Virgin Mary's garden pass through the tall gates today yet again, their smiles innocent, angelic. Their pure hearts and bodies are wrapped in deep-colored uniforms. As to not disturb the pleats of their skirts or set their white sailor collars aflutter, walking slowly is preferred here.
Lillians Private Girls' Academy ... a garden of maidens.
It would have been so easy to take, that lone umbrella in the bin on the school building's threshold. It was 15 minutes after class let out, and already Yumi was alone on that threshold, staring at that singular black umbrella in a flow of thought and expressions. She looked up in thought, then down in consideration, raising an eyebrow at times, at others furrowing them both, all the while her thoughts moving from, 'It would be wrong to take it,' to, 'But what will I do with out it?' And...
'It has been a while, though ... maybe no one's coming for it ...'
'But what if they are! Then they'd be stuck in the same situation I am now ... ! No, no, no, in the end, I can't do that to someone ... ! But, what am I going to do ... ?'
"Yumi?" A gentle girl's voice pulled Yumi free of the flow of her thoughts, and Yumi turned to look, blinking. It was Shimako ... and she had an umbrella! Shimako gave Yumi a thoughtful look, then a fleeting glance back down to the lone umbrella in the bin, and back up to her friend. "Did someone take your umbrella?"
"What? Oh, no no no no no..." Yumi shook her head and hands side to side in front of her, as if warding off such a notion. "Not at all ... um, Shimako, where did you get that?"
"I always keep a collapsible in my cubby." Shimako said plainly, as if doing so was, well ... right as rain, then opened her umbrella.
"What, are you still doing here anyway, Shimako?" Yumi poked her upward pointed index fingers together with a slightly bouncing rhythm ; she was always in constant motion, wasn't she ... ?
Shimako stared for the slightest moment. "... ? I had class clean up duties today." Well, it wasn't Yumi's place to know that.
"Ohh." Yumi drew those hands apart to clap them together. "Of course. ... w, well, I guess you're going home now, right?"
"No." Shimako answered shortly, but with a simpleness that blunted her abruptness. "I was going to go on a walk, actually..." then, Shimako smiled as she put forth an offer. " ... I'd like it if you joined me. But, first, why don't we go in and call your family? So we might arrange something to be brought for you."
Thus, it was decided that Yuuki, after some business with the Hanadera student council, would come by the Rose Mansion to bring Yumi an umbrella, and so, sheltered under the dome of an umbrella the color of Lillian's own dark green, Shimako and Yumi stepped into the cascade and walked, huddled together in the garden of maidens.
As they walked slowly, Shimako admired the way the water filled the bristling bushes (water filling the slight empty spaces with a faint shine), how it rolled down and off the ever green leaves in drops and trickles (that faded, mixing back in with the wind and rain before they could hit the ground) ...
... sometimes Shimako would stop, close her eyes, fill her lungs deep with the misty air (fragrant with the scent of the earth), and listen to the rain say, 'Shhhhh,' hushing the girls along their silent, peaceful walk.
Yumi, though, found the silence a little less peaceful and a little more daunting. The cold atmosphere, the world dyed dark by the burdens of storm clouds ... this was the closest she'd been to Shimako before, keeping close to her under the thin shelter of black rods and dark green, and yet Shimako seemed perfectly natural and calm in this situation, as always (Yumi knew so well Shimako's calmness, for she watched Shimako watching nature more than she watched the nature itself).
Yes, Shimako was fine with the atmosphere; Yumi, however, had to break the silence. "So you really like nature-y things, huh?" Ginko nuts, for instance, and now walks in the rain.
"Yes, though ... more plants than anything else, really." Shimako responded, but kept staring at the green life around them.
Yumi blinked, staring at Shimako. "What? What about animals?"
"I do like them as well, but there is something about plants, don't you think?" Shimako spoke as she stepped along, finally glancing at Yumi, gaze gentle and lips lifted lightly in a soft smile.
"Mmm..." Yumi's eyes met Shimako's for a moment before she turned to look up and at the trees around them. "I, think I don't see the same thing you do ..." Her eyes snapped back to Shimako with a flutter. "Oh, but I think that's nice!"
"Ehehe..." The umbrella jittered above them ask Shimako gave the slightest giggle. "It's not quite something that I 'see.' They are beautiful ... it's hard to place, though. The way it changes with the passage of time, but always comes around again, the calmness they have ... with just a little bit of sunlight and rain, they're always alright all on their own ... there's something admirable about plants I think; almost ... ... zen like?" She paused before choosing those last words, hesitating as if in careful consideration.
... Yumi stared at Shimako, eyes a little wider as she marveled at Shimako. "I think that's the first time I've heard you say so many words all at once." That feeling only made Shimako's enlightening perspective more astounding to Yumi. Shimako was often of such few, carefully chosen words ... it matched with her soft spoken elegance.
... but beneath that demure demeanor was, amazingly, something even softer, and more importantly, a bit louder and brighter (though not even nearly as much so as Yoshino), and it reminded her of her Grande Soeur, Sachiko, if less prim and more gentle.
Shimako was uncertain of just what to say in response to Yumi's quaint observation, but Yumi, somehow feeling as if she had come another step closer to Shimako (and to understanding her) ... Yumi smiled at girl close beside her, and, bright, almost glowing, Shimako smiled back.