Limbs tangled among bedsheets, I laid in the vapid light. With half-open eyes, I watched the shadows of raindrops paint an animated mural across the cold, white walls. Between the crashing of droplets on the window’s glass panels, my phone rang and I brushed my hand across mechanically the nightstand to pick it up.
A message from Master read: "Where is my picture of my doll wearing her sign?" I sighed and curled into a ball under the sheets, pressing my phone under my chin in contemplation. I had procrastinated in completing his assignment for the past week, with plenty of self-justification: post-work fatigue, inclement weather, social obligations, inappropriate timing.
However, I knew I had to finally do it or risk Master's displeasure. After a moment of begging my headache to leave me, I kicked the covers off. I got up, and grew dizzy from the sudden movement but instead of pressing my cheek back against the down-filled pillow, I rose, washed up, and dressed. Once attired in a black skirt and stockings, I put Master's ownership tag on my collar and wrapped the leather around my neck. Then I donned the handmade sign with Master's message on it. As if by omen, the sky cleared once I had made myself presentable, and although my window was streaked with water, it no longer vibrated with the angry drumming of raindrops.
I didn't have an umbrella--its backbone was snapped by a windstorm earlier in the week--so I ventured into the murky gray of the between-storm calmness and walked to the high street. Master gave me specific instructions for his photo: I was to wear a dress, wear a sign with his message on it, have someone else take the photo, have evidence in the photo that I was in a public place where other people could see the sign.
The rain had herded most sensible people inside, so I walked for quite some time before I finally happened upon a road sprinkled with people moving between the convenience stores and tiny bars tucked between residential apartments. I stopped a young woman and asked her to take a photo, explaining my assignment as a friendly dare. She tried her best, but the wind pushed my hair into my face and the sign flapped around so that the paper curled and obscured the writing, but because she appeared harried--she too lacked an umbrella--I didn't ask her to try again.
I moved on. After a few poor attempts at a photo, the sky darkened from a slate gray to charcoal—a minute difference, but enough to change the ambiance and foreshadow a new surge in the storm. Growing desperate, I resorted to asking a scruffy pre-teenage boy to take a photo, praying that he wouldn't instead take my camera and maybe try to snatch my purse. He did a most reasonable job though, and although there was no clear evidence of passers-by in the photo, I knew that I would do no better when the rain began; so I thanked him, shoved my camera into my purse, and turned on my heel towards home.
There was no gradual build-up in the storm that proceeded. The clouds were torn apart by angry hands and from their seams fell, not droplets, but spears of sharp rain that slashed my face and stung my cheeks and lips. In minutes, my clothes were clinging to my body and my hair clawing at my face. Despite the gusts of wind that rushed at me, my clothes were too heavy with water to move with its force, and so the furious torrents sheathed my wet body with cold, until I was trembling and my knees were knocking each other.
The roads here are winding and difficult to differentiate even on a clear afternoon, but behind sheets of rain, the quaint and already camouflaged street signs completely disappeared. I slipped along the cobblestone, wishing for any semblance of the familiar. When the thunder began to boom, all the frustration that had been building swelled into my throat and forced tears out of my eyes. They mingled with the rain and rolled down the edges of my cheeks and chin.
I realized that the paper sign was still pressed into my chest, the ink dribbling down the paper. Suddenly, feeling cold and angry and deserted, I pulled it off my chest, flung the wad of paper upon the ground and smashed it with an angry stomp.
I walked on, fuelled by sudden rage. I contemplated searching for refuge and waiting for a reprieve from the rain's angry lashings, but I knew that cold and wet as I was, it was too late for any shelter to do me any good. I walked for forty minutes, with only my anger to both warm and motivate me.
When I got into my apartment, a friend was waiting by my door, looking for me. We had cancelled our day plans because of the intensity of the rain, so she furrowed her eyebrows at me when I stopped at the doorframe, and water pooled around my feet.
“What possessed you to brave that mess?” she asked incredulously, as she watched my numb fingers fumble with the key in the door.
I shrugged and as my shoulders dropped, the anger I had been carrying melted away. “I had some errands I remembered I had to do.”
“And they were so important, they couldn’t wait until tomorrow?” She was staring at me, confused by my erratic behavior, but sensing that I didn’t want to elaborate.
“No, I guess not,” I replied.
She left me to get warmed up and changed. I peeled off my clothes but despite the moisture of wet leather and cold metal against my throat, I did not remove my collar. I was so sad; I was doing a task for Master and yet, instead of feeling closer to him, it had served to amplify my loneliness. I was not angry anymore; I knew it was irrational to be angry. After all, Master had not asked me to go and shiver in the rain. However, I was sad because I had done it anyway, out of desire for his approval, but despite it all, I was at that moment, alone. Forgotten, unacknowledged, invisible. I slithered between the covers, curled up to warm myself and closed my eyes. When I opened them, the pillow was wetter than my clothes had been.