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Things to Do When It's Raining

Virginia has always loved the rain. She never hides inside: she goes fishing or for a walk, and she doesn’t mind getting wet. Even now, when she knows that rain means danger, she tilts her face up to meet the droplets. The fear retreats for a moment. But then she lowers her head and keeps on across the ice, faster now because she knows she must find her husband, somewhere out on this river, and save him before it’s too late.

In the distance, she hears what sounds like a gunshot: the ice surrendering. If she’d known it was going to rain, she’d have gone for help. Usually, she feels it coming. But this time the clouds gathered and she didn’t notice. There were bigger things on her mind. And now that she’s out on the river she can’t turn back. He needs her. The river, which tells her where the biggest fish are when she goes out in her boat, which tells her so many other things because she listens, is telling her now that Chase is in danger.

She’s known everything about Chase since the moment he stepped off his family’s yacht and onto her family’s dock six years ago. She tossed her braid over her shoulder, rolled her eyes and helped him tie a proper sailor’s knot, and then he looked straight into her and said, “Thank you,” but he meant other things and the world stopped spinning for a minute. Later he told her he felt an axis tilt, a realignment of planets. He saw a constellation of freckles on her nose. She fell in love with him because he said stuff like that to her. None of the boys in Alexandria Bay talked that way.

And now he needs her. She knows.

It would be the same if their daughter were in danger: the river would whisper the threat in her ear and she would go find Mae. But their girl is out of harm’s way, up in the attic of Virginia’s parents’inn, alsoher home, playing with her friend Gabriel, oblivious to the ice that is shifting and about to crack in her world.

There’s another splitting sound in the distance just as Virginia approaches Island 51. She stops and looks at the shack with its boarded-up windows. She’s afraid to move, afraid to stay still. Pointless to even try, but maybe Jonah Broadbent is her only hope. Part of her still believes in this boy she once knew—now a broken man—so she climbs the slippery bank, scrambles up the stairs and poundson the door of the shack, but then doesn’t bother to wait for an answer. It’s unlocked, as always, so she turns the knob and walks in.

Part One

Things to Do When It’s Raining

A list by Virginia Summers, Junior Proprietor (self-proclaimed) of Summers’ Inn, Alexandria Bay, New York

Is there someone at home you miss? Write her a letter and say it. Don’t wait; tomorrow it might not be raining.


On the morning Mae woke and Peter was missing, she had been dreaming she was chasing her childhood friend Gabe through the farmer’s field with the steep slope where they used to go tobogganing. It was night and the moon was full, and the river was in the distance, invisible but ever present, and every time she almost reached him, she stumbled on a root, she fell, and he just kept running ahead. He would never have done that when they were kids, though; he would have turned back and reached for her hand, pulled her up—wouldn’t he have? “Why do I still believe you’re good?” she had shouted at his retreating form before waking and reaching for Peter.

But she was on the couch, not in their bed.

She sat up, listened, found only the silence that cloaks a space when the person being waited for hasn’t come home. (Sometimes, people go out and don’t come back. Sometimes, bad things happen. Mae has known this since she was six.)

Peter. Her partner. Where was he? She searched the apartment, but there was no sign of him. All thoughts and memories of Gabe vanished, all warmth from sleep was replaced with fear. She pictured a black gypsy cab running Peter down. A mugging, maybe even a heart attack. She tried his phone: no answer. She walked through the apartment again, slowly, and found herself cataloging the items that were hers. It was somehow calming, this evidence of her presence in his home, in his life: the painting of the Saint Lawrence River on one wall; a vase near the door in a fox-hunt pattern that she used as an umbrella stand, just like the one her grandmother kept at the door of the inn where Mae was raised; the artist’s rendering of Summers’ Inn itself, hanging in the hallway; and the photocopied list, tucked into her dresser drawer, a replica of the one that still hung on a corkboard in the lobby of the inn, an artifact from when Mae’s mother, Virginia, was alive. What would my mother say to me if she were here now? She would tell me to get out of here and go figure out where Peter is.

Mae went to the office in a taxi. Maybe he’s fallen asleep at his desk. The thought reassured her, calmed her heart.

But when she arrived, she found his office empty, the entire floor devoid of life—or so she thought.

First, she found the note, tucked into her Columbia Business School coffee cup:


Mae: I’m sorry. And I want you to know you meant something to me. You won’t be implicated; WindSpan had nothing to do with you. And I won’t forget you.




P.S. Please destroy this.


The world went black at first. The note was evidence that he wasn’t hurt or dead. But this, in a perplexing way, was worse. Mae studied the sentences scrawled on company letterhead like an anthropologist interpreting markings on a cave wall. This was the man she had planned to marry. This was the life she had wanted to lead. And yet she had not allowed herself to see it coming.

And now, here she is. At the beginning of the end.


Mae opens her computer and logs in to the main server. How many lives has he destroyed? How many has she destroyed, by proxy? Will there be anything she can do to make it right? Please let there be something I can do to make it right.

Her fingers fly. She opens files; she reads. It’s all there, and it’s absurd, how easy it is to piece together. As if he wanted her to figure it out. Or—and this is a thought that spins the room, roils her stomach, brings bile to her throat—as if he didn’t bother to hide it from her because he knew she’d be too stupid, too trusting, to ever check.

WindSpan Turbine does not exist. It never existed. But the money did. And now it’s gone.

She abandons her computer and goes into his office again. She sits at his desk watching the sun rise over Brooklyn Bridge Park. Less than twelve hours earlier she was buying take-out ramen, carrying it home along with a six-pack of Peter’s favorite microbrew. She’d remembered the hot sauce, she’d experienced and felt guilty about the smug joy that can accompany being needed by another person while passing people on the sidewalk who are possibly not needed by anyone at all. She’d set the coffee table, she’d put the ramen in glass bowls in the oven to keep it warm while she waited for him to get home from the office. She’d called him. “Something unexpected came up. I’ll be home as soon as I can,” he told her. Eventually, she’d fallen asleep watching Netflix.

Now she looks away from the park and down at the yellow diamond on her left ring finger. It belonged to his mother, Peter had told her, in a voice hoarse with heartbroken reverence. When Peter spoke of his family she felt like she was listening to a Southern gothic novel: tragedy and romance, privilege gone sour, a murky history involving a plantation, slaves, family secrets. Sex, lies and a damaged boy. She would heal him with her love, she had decided at some point, perhaps the minute she met him. This time, with this man, she would succeed.

She takes off the ring and puts it on top of the note. They’d gone to see a brownstone on the weekend. There’s an expensive white dress hanging in her closet. Her biggest concern lately had been finding the perfect shoes. Who had she become?

She hears a whimper and can’t believe she doesn’t recognize the sound of her own crying. But then she realizes it’s Bud. “You asshole, you left your dog behind!” The dog—named after Bud Fox from the movie Wall Street—is lying in the corner on a canine bed covered in toile-patterned fabric. Mae picked it because it reminded her of the curtains in her childhood bedroom at the inn. She stands; Bud woofs and scrambles toward her.

“Okay, Bud. Come on.”

She once found the name of the dog endearing but now she adds it to the list of things that should have alerted her to the fact that Peter is a criminal: Bud Fox, pure intentions or not, ended up in jail. “Come on, we’ll go for a walk.” Bud wags his tail and romps around her, knocking her back into the chair. He’s not a city dog; he’s a dog who should have many acres upon which to roam. But he’s the same kind of dog Peter had on the ruined plantation as a child. Peter said the dog from his childhood—named Earl—was the one positive memory he had extracted from his youth. Until the dog had been hit by a train while out walking with Peter’s suicidal twin brother not too long ago. “You were so lucky,” he had told Mae, “to have had such an idyllic upbringing at that inn, with grandparents who loved you so much.”

“But…my parents died when I was six.” In that moment, she thought maybe he’d forgotten, but he’d waved a hand, nodded. No, he hadn’t forgotten.

“You were so young you can’t remember them. How can you pine for something you never really had?”

These words had hurt her, deeply and swiftly. What she had wanted to say was, “I remember everything—and yet, I remember nothing. You can’t imagine how much that hurts. Sometimes, I wake from a dream and I know it was a memory, but it slips away from me like a fish down an ice hole. And no matter how hard I try, I can’t get it back. Except there is one memory that, no matter what, I can’t shake: the last time I saw my father. What I said, what I did, what I caused. I’ve never told anyone, but—” Even when she’s only imagining her confession, though, she can’t finish the sentence. So she buries it, back in the place where it lives, deep down in the riverbed of her soul. She had actually believed that Peter was good for her, because he didn’t allow her to wallow, to dwell in the past.

Bud is nuzzling her hand; she clips the leash onto his collar. He resembles an old man: gray, bedraggled, hair growing out of his ears. She suddenly imagines Peter leaving a note for Bud, maybe tucked under his dog bed. You meant something to me, Bud. And I’m sorry. Please eat this note. She shoves her own note, and her engagement ring, into the pocket of her jeans and thinks about what she’s going to do with the scrap of paper. Burn it, maybe. And the ring? She’d throw it into the Hudson except she’s probably going to need the money she’ll get from selling it to pay for a lawyer. The note said she wouldn’t be implicated, but there’s no reason to trust Peter’s words.

As she walks through the office again, she considers running. Just running away. But that would be an admission of guilt—and she did not do this. Besides, she knows she could never live with herself if she ran, if she hid, from a crime that was not hers but a crime she presided over no less. She pauses and looks into the office of Andrew, the CFO, but it’s as silent and empty as Peter’s. Something is missing: he kept a paperweight made of meteor rock on his desk, but now there’s a dust-free circle where it used to sit. “It reminds me that the world could end at any second, so I might as well live it up,” he said to her once, trying to explain why he was dating a twenty-five-year-old waitress he met at Hooters. She has the urge to sweep her arm across his desk and crash everything left on it to the ground.

The elevator opens as she pushes the down button, and Bridget, one of the account managers, steps off. “Morning!” she says.

“Oh, hi!” It comes out as a shout.

“Hey, is Peter here?”

“Not yet.”

“Can we chat? I got a strange call from Alex Moffatt last night. I tried to get in touch with Peter, but his phone is off and—”

“Definitely!” Mae tugs Bud onto the elevator, hard. This is not an easy dog to bend to your will. “I’ll be right back.” She hits the button for the door to close and keeps pressing it until finally the doors shut. Outside with Bud, she rolls the sleeves of her sweater down over her hands and squints against the winter sunlight. Bud leads her to the park. Once he’s inside the fence, she unclips his leash and he runs off, first lifting his leg against a fence post and then walking a few paces away to squat, lowering his head modestly. She sinks down onto a bench and feels the cold dampness seep through the seat of her jeans.

“Mae?” She looks up. It’s Jon Evans, a lawyer who works nearby and lives with his wife, Mattie, in Williamsburg, the same neighborhood where Mae and Peter live. They have a baby named Jorja. Mae held her once, at the office. She remembers Jon explaining that Mattie had become ill shortly after Jorja was born. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma; she had a kerchief over her head when she visited the office. She still looked beautiful, vibrant, even with her pale skin and high cheekbones in sharp relief against her face, but there had been something in her eyes that had made Mae want to reach out and squeeze her hand. Peter had been overbright to make up for it.

“This is my wife,” he had said to Jon. “Or—soon to be. She takes care of the marketing for us.” How Mae had loved those two words: my wife. In them, she had seen a future that did not involve her dying alone because she had no family—a viable concern when your only two living relatives (that you’ve ever met, at least) are in their eighties. “Do you want kids?” she had asked Peter when they had been dating long enough for her to bring it up. She had feared the answer: so many men didn’t, or said they didn’t until it was too late and then had babies with women who had not been left on the shelf so long that they were reproductively challenged. “Of course I want kids,” he had said. “That’s a silly question.”

She had envisioned inviting Jon and Mattie to dinner parties, had looked into Jorja’s eyes and prayed then that Mattie would be all right, that Jorja would not have to spend her life picking over her memories of her mother until they were almost gone. She had imagined Jorja playing with these future babies, the ones that would save her; she had imagined a perfect world.

Jon and Mattie had invested a huge amount of money in WindSpan Turbine. And now she can’t look Jon in the eye. “Mae? Are you all right?” She realizes the silence has stretched too thin, that she’s staring blankly over his left shoulder. She forces herself to meet his gaze head-on.

“How’s Mattie?”

“Strong. Hopeful. Better every day. She’s an amazing woman.”

Mae imagines hospital bills that can’t be paid. She calls for Bud. “I’m sorry,” she says to Jon. “I’m not feeling well. Really, really not feeling well.”

“Can I do anything?”

“No. But thanks. I need to get back to the office now. Or maybe head home and lie down.”

“That’s probably a good idea; you look pale. Hey, but sorry—can you have Peter call me when he gets a sec? I need to double-check something with him. I saw something on Twitter last night that was a bit concerning. About WindSpan. An article that seemed to suggest the site was abandoned. Or…not even abandoned, not even there. I’m sure that can’t be. Probably just trolls, or whatever, but I wanted to check in, so I’m glad I ran into you.”

Mae’s hand trembles as she attaches the leash to Bud’s collar. “Of course, will do, try not to worry, I’m sure it’s nothing.” As she walks away, she realizes she’s forgotten something. Let that be added to the catalog of her transgressions: “And she walked away without even picking up her dog’s shit.”

Back at the office, a knot of people have gathered. They are silent as she approaches. “I’m surprised you came back,” says Josh, who answers the phones. “I thought you’d taken off, too.” Josh is looking at her with revulsion and pity and something else. Because she was Peter’s fiancée, which means she either knew about this—in which case she’s a horrible person—or did not—in which case she’s a fool. I’m both, she wants to say. And I’m so sad, and I’m so sorry.

The elevator doors open behind her. A man and a woman emerge. They are plain clothed, but as their hands go into their jacket pockets, Mae knows they’re reaching for police badges. She reaches into her own pocket and feels for the note. She crumples it tighter, tries to make it small enough not to exist, but the ring gets in the way.

Things to Do When It's Raining
by by Marissa Stapley

  • Genres: Fiction, Women's Fiction
  • paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Graydon House
  • ISBN-10: 1525899015
  • ISBN-13: 9781525899010