Arianna danced in the rain. She danced in the rain in a long white dress. Once, when they were kids, she had told him something about insanity. He hadn't known what it meant, then. Her family gave her insanity. That's what she had said. A family history of insanity. After she had told him, she'd made him give her a kiss.
"Is insanity contagious? If I kiss you will I get it?" he asked her.
"No. Daddy said it only comes down to you through your children."
She had put her face close to his and closed her eyes. Now, he had to kiss her. He lightly brushed her lips. Giggling, she had run back to her house. From her bedroom window, she waved at him and blew him a kiss. He hadn't known what to do after she had gone from the window, so he had gone back to his own house next door. It was that same bedroom window that he had thrown pebbles at when they were older. She had come to the window, red hair all tangled from her sleep.
"What do you want Charlie?"
"Come down here and I'll tell you."
She'd given him a big grin. "I'm coming, Charlie."
She never bothered to get dressed. Her bare feet would come pattering down the stairs and out the front door. Her nightgown would whip in the wind and her smile would light up the night sky. There were acres and acres of trees behind their houses. They spent hours there at night. One of those nights, he had really kissed her. How lovely she was.
The heavens were crying today. Ten years ago, his family had moved across the street. He could see her house from his bedroom window. Her lovely face appeared in the window, a huge smile spreading across it. Raindrops rolled down the glass as she came out the front door. Her long, white dress got wetter and wetter as she swirled and spun and leapt. It started to cling to her body. Today, he couldn't help himself. He went out there and he joined her.
When she saw him, she called out his name. "Charlie! Charlie, come dance with me!"
Her skin was hot in the Georgia humidity. He held her close to him and he waltzed with her in the rain. The neighbors didn't mind. Everyone knew about Arianna. Charlie didn't think God minded either. Everybody understood about Arianna.
Her red hair had darkened to auburn over the years he'd known her. The rain wet it and darkened it even more. Her blue eyes were closed as she danced with him. He couldn't remember just when they had got the hang of it, but they danced flawlessly. Arianna had taught him of course. Arianna knew things no other girl knew.
Her daddy understood about Charlie. Her daddy's mother had had the sickness. That had always been the way it passed. Grandmother to granddaughter. Arianna's daddy was sick in a different way. He'd been diagnosed with cancer five years ago. The doctors had given him six years to live. Time was running short and he knew it. When Charlie had turned eighteen, her daddy had sat him down for a talk. He knew about Charlie. That was the day Charlie had promised to take care of Arianna. She didn't have a mama anymore but neither did Charlie, as both of his parents were dead now. Her daddy would probably die next year. Arianna would only be seventeen.
"Daddy's real sick, Charlie." She said all of a sudden.
"He's not going to get better."
"What's the matter, honey?"
"Daddy's calling you."
Charlie couldn't hear anything but you didn't tell things like that to Arianna. "We'll go and see what he wants then."
They both started towards her house, soaked to the bone. She led the way upstairs to her daddy's room and held the door for him.
Charlie ran to the bed. Her daddy was gasping there. He grabbed a hold of Charlie's arm with a vice-like grip.
"Don't- let- them- take- her- away. Marry- her. You- promised- me!" he gasped.
"I won't. She'll be okay. Nothing will happen to her."
"She- loves- you. Don't- forget- it."
Arianna's daddy closed his eyes and died. She slowly danced her way to the side of his bed, humming a song Charlie had never heard before. She sat on the bed like a child and leaned over her father. She gently held his body in her arms. Beginning to rock back and forth, her humming growing a bit softer.
Charlie stopped the grandfather clock and went out into the hall. He got some sheets from the linen closet and began covering the mirrors.
He phoned Arianna's cousin in the next town over. When he came back to the bedroom, Arianna had covered the body and was standing by the window. Charlie shut the door gently behind him.
"Do you love me, Charlie?" she asked him, still staring out at the rain.
"Yes, Arianna. I love you with all my heart."
She did not turn her head, but she held out her pretty white hand to him. He crossed the room and took it. They stood there at the window together until the mortician came to take away the body.
Then, Arianna turned to him with a smile. She lifted her hand to his face and kissed him very gently. Her breath came so softly, he could not even see her chest move. She was only sixteen and he was three years older than her, but everyone understood.
She led him by the hand back out into the rain. There were magnolia bushes next to her front door. He picked a flower as they passed and put it in Arianna's wet hair.
"Dance with me, Charlie."
Charlie waltzed with Arianna as they took her father's body away. Charlie pressed her close to him and felt the beating of her heart. He closed his eyes and breathed in her sweet scent. Had he ever thought of anything else? There was only ever Arianna.