‘Welcome to Rainfall, we hope you love it as much as we do!’
It was a weird welcoming sign, but for anyone actually living in the city, it made perfect sense. This was by far the city with the worst weather any day of the year. Built in the closed-off side of a valley, with steep walls towering over the village. All the buildings in the small town were built on poles so that all the rainwater would do no permanent damage. The river was further down, but the villagers of Rainfall had no need for the river. Everyone had a big water collector, all the water they could need fell down on them. Being this high up in the mountains meant they had the purest water you could think of.
On the other side of the mountains was an area with a much warmer climate. But the villagers had no intention of moving. They loved it here. Having that warm weather also made that this small town had at least one thunderstorm a week. The warm weather collided with the cooler air high up in the mountains, creating fireworks below. Rainfall had its own Thunder-festival during summer when the thunderstorms were most frequent. Games, food stalls, cake-baking contests, it was a proper village feast. And during that one week, all the kids could stay up late with their parents to wait for the thunderstorm.
Rainfall had two large village halls, one on the north side, and one on the south. Big enough for all the villagers and with walls that could open to let the wind flow through the building. There was a walkway going from one hall to the other. Big flat boulders in the main street, high enough to keep dry feet and covered by colourful umbrellas. There wasn’t a house in this town you couldn’t reach without staying dry. Over the years, the trees were steered into each other, creating thick canopies in the town parks. Townspeople had invented the hanging gardens, to grow crops and the beautiful flowers spread everywhere. Even though Rainfall held honour to its name, with enough water falling from the sky to last some cities for a year, no one owned an umbrella.
It was a tight community, everyone knew each other, but that was part of the attraction of the village. With only one road leading to it, not many tourists visited the village, but the ones that did, either left within the day or stayed forever. That’s also what happened to me. I’m Ysabelle or Ysa for short. I came to this town now already ten years ago. My first trip as a single woman, coming out of a bad relationship. I always had a thing about places nobody would go to. I stumbled upon the town of Rainfall in an article and immediately knew I wanted to visit it.
I got out of that relationship, cried my eyes out for a week, then stumbled around for another month but then took a radical decision. I had some savings from working overtime, my way of staying out of the house. I sold everything I owned, said goodbye to my family and friends and went on a trip with no set return date. Rainfall was my halfway mark, or at least, from what I had planned. The moment I arrived in town, I knew I would never leave. The weather was different from back home, but I hated the humid summers. I was a fall and winter type, sitting at home by a warm fire or going out after a heavy rain. And there is one thing people fail to realise when they hear how much it rains in Rainfall, everything is luscious and green. The nature surrounding this village is so wonderful in colour and diversity, you have to see it to believe it. And yes, winters can be harsh, but that’s when we have fire pits everywhere and tabletop days and tea parties.
My family thought I had gone mad when I told them I was going to live here, but after some explanation, they accepted my decision. But after my brave decision, there was one problem. People don’t leave Rainfall, so there was no house for me. Here it only happens once every fifty years or so that a house became available. So I made a plea with the village council that I wanted to live in Rainfall. I was put before a committee to determine if I was going to be accepted into the community. When I passed that, the whole village came together to build me my own cottage. It is exemplary for this town, once you’re accepted, they’ll do anything for you.
But I have to hurry, I have a cake for the baking competition and I’m helping with the knitting stall. Yes, you heard me correctly, a knitting stall. Sheep fare well in our weather and what better to do with their wool then knitting warm clothes for winter? So each year at the thunder-festival we teach the young kids how to knit, and take orders for the elderly who aren’t able anymore. On the side, I also sign the occasional autograph in one of my books. The creativity has started flowing the moment I started living here and I can make a living off of the sale of the books now.
“Good morning, Ysa!” I hear when I enter South Village Hall.
“Good morning, Tom. Lovely day today, isn’t it? It smells like a thunderstorm is brewing in the mountains. Could be we have a winner tonight already!” I walk over to the mayor of Rainfall, Tom is always in for some small talk.
“Yes, I feel it, too. Shall I help you carrying that knitting basket?” he takes over the heavy basket.
“Is that your famous lemon and lime cheesecake you have there?” Tom points at the cake stand I’m carrying. It has a purple cover on it so he’s guessing what could be under it.
“Indeed it is. I have found some good lemons this year in the valley below, and the cottage cheese is directly from the dairy farm. I have a feeling this could be a winner, Tom.” Even though he is a judge in the baking competition, he is also a friend. He knows I have been perfecting my recipe for years now. The last couple of years I was runner-up, but I’m really hoping to win this year.
“I’m already looking forward to tasting it, Ysa. One of the perks of being the mayor!” He laughs, and I can’t help but laugh with him.
I deliver my cake at the competition table and make sure my name tag is placed on my cake. We had a slight mishap two years ago when two similar cakes had no tag with them. Even the bakers couldn’t tell anymore which cake belonged to them. Both cakes didn’t win, but even if they did, they would’ve split the prize. I was the only one with a cheesecake but the organisation didn’t want to take risks.
I made my way over to the knitting stall and started to unload my basket. I was the first one so I decorated the stall and set up for the others. It was still early but the first kids were already at my stall.
“Miss Ysa, I started on my shawl but I got stuck, can you help me, please?” one of the little boys extended his whole knitting project. I pulled two chairs from the back and sat him down.
“Of course. Let me see where you got stuck.” An hour later I already helped three kids with their problems and had set two others to work. It’s a busy day but I love to see the kids at work, enjoying the fact they are creating something themselves.
During a short break, a group of older kids comes to me, a little ashamed. They haven’t decided who is going to talk to me, so I ask the first question.
“Can I help you?” one of the kids looks up to me and finds his confidence.
“Ysa, we were wondering if you would like to come to the school and give a course in creative writing? We have started to read your young adult book in class and we like it a lot. But some of us want to write as well, so we asked the teacher if he could give us some writing tips. Then he told us to ask if you would like to do that?”
I am so touched it takes me some effort to not hug all the children and start crying. So I crouch down to their level and look at all of them.
“I would love to. Please tell Mr Tom that I’ll contact him for the details. Thank you for asking me, children. I’ll see you in class soon.”
The kids run off, totally happy that they got what they wanted, and I’m sure now frantically searching for their teacher. I feel guilty but take an additional five minutes to calm myself down before returning to the knitting stall.
The rest of the day goes by so fast I’m surprised it’s dark by the time we’re done with all the knitting kids. I clean up my stuff and fish out some coins out of my pocket. I get my plate of dinner and join the other villagers on the long tables that are set up in the Hall. Each night during the Thunder-festival we have a communal dinner before we clear out the hall and set up for the night. Outside it’s still raining, but clouds are already breaking open, showing the beautiful canopy of stars behind them. An hour later the hall is empty and people start rolling out their mattresses and lighting small candles to have some light in the Hall. Tom gives a small speech as mayor and with everyone clapping, he opens the roof.
This is Rainfall, so in the roof of the South Village Hall, there are actually two roofs. A normal, outer one, and a glass one underneath. Only opened during special days and festivals, it’s a special moment every time. These nights are basically one giant picnic, but it’s so much fun. Drinks and food, games and friends, and of course waiting for the thunderstorm. Slowly some of the younger kids fall asleep while the sky turns a strange purple. A storm is coming, but most parents wait it out before waking them up again. It must be so nice to grow up in a town like this.
An hour later the storm is finally there. Kids are woken up and all the candles are put out. Everyone lies down and looks up to the sky. When the first lightning flashes across the sky, all the villagers start cheering. But that dies down when the lightning strikes become more frequent. Even though we get a lot of thunderstorms around here, the kids are in awe with every flash. To agree with the kids, it is a spectacle through the glass roof of the Hall.
It takes the storm an hour to die down, and slowly people start to fall asleep around me. Together with one of my best friends, we are one of the last to lie down again and enjoy a good night sleep. The next morning I wake up, a little bit stiff but handed a cup of coffee almost the second I sit up. The Hall starts to fill with hushed chatting and the smells of breakfast. By the time everyone is awake, the breakfast buffet opens and the Hall is filled with laughter and the sound of eating. All of us help to clean up the room before returning home for a shower and fresh clothes. And then we do it all over again, the festival lasts the whole week. This is why this town is so awesome. Wouldn’t you want to live here?