The buzz and the ring startled Mark. The traditional flench of the hand moving the thumb to hit the mute button. Sherri again. How many texts can she send? His eyes gazed up, looking through the glass of his bedroom window. Will the rain ever stop? How many days had it been raining? Five, six, or was it seven? Why was it a struggled to remember? Looking down at his phone, he thought, why doesn't the weather app go backward. Then again another buzz but no ring he had muted the announce but the reminder was still there. She just could not let it go. That was Sherri, like a pit bull who grabs hold of something, once the tight muscular jaw clamped down nothing could break its hold. He knew he would have to reply. His gaze left the screen of the phone and drifted back to the rain that was hitting the window as it fell from the sky. As he stared into the night sky, his mind drifted to the days before the rain. He thought not of the problem, but he thought of the possibility of what had been. His thoughts raced to the time before the rain. He could feel the sun on his face, the warmth that it brought him. These memories did not seem distant it seemed as if they were right before him. These thoughts granted him hope. In the moment, he could hear laughter. He could smell the sweetness in the air. He took in a deep breath and filled his lungs as he closed his eyes the thought of just going back. This thought made his heart race; he could feel the breeze on his face; the warmth of the sun flooded his body. In his mind, he ran in the freedom of what once was, but was no longer. He knew he would have to find his way back to the time and the place of who he was. A smile formed slowly as the thought of hope flooded his mind. This hope was something he could build from this could be a foundation. This hope could stand against the rain. The smile fully formed, and peace settled. He could no longer hear the rain; with his eyes closed, he could see the dry green grass, he could see the dust rise from the path that he walked along. Peace settled in his heart. In the dry vision of what was the past, he knew who he was, and he knew what he would fight for and how he would fight for it. The image shattered like a thousand pieces of tiny glass. Mark's hand flenched as he looked down and reached for his phone at the same time. The notification revealed another text from Sherri. Was she part of the solution, or was she simply a distraction. For now, he was uncertain, but he knew he needed to reply. He opened the text thread and began to process how and what he would say.
The glow of the cell phone screen lite up the night and reflected upon the face of Sherri. Taking shelter under the gazebo at the park, Sherri stared at her phone. The brightness of the phone screen was cutting, not pleasing to Sherri's eyes. Her thumb moved quickly to the control center on her phone. She turned down the brightness and quickly went back to the text screen. In her mind praying to see the three dots a reply, any reply would let her know she was real. Any response would let her know she had value. She muttered to herself, come on, Mark, do not do this again. Moisture in heavy beads ran down her face, a mixture of tears and the unrelenting rain. Her hoodie was soaked, it clung to her body and was a reminder that the rain was here. It was upon them. It affected everybody. As Sherri stared at the screen, her mind drifted and thought of the response to the rain. Some people acted as if the rain were not there, and that nothing had changed. They carried on with life. They were untouchable. Others took shelter. They allowed the rain to dictate their every move and action. Sherri wondered where she fit into this dichotomy. To say the rain had not affected her, would be a lie. The pounding thought of who she was and who she would be left an ache in her heart. She clung to the phone, waiting for the three dots to emerge on the screen to validate her existence. Should she send another text? How could they both be so lost? Sherri trusted Mark. He would find a way; Mark always found a way. Sherri looked back to her phone, waiting for validation.
Mark read the thread one more time; clarity was a commodity that was hard to come by. Clarity, like so many other things, was lost when the rain came. He began to type.
The three dots, validation Sherri, breathed a sigh of relief. Finally, where have you been, why have you left me hanging? These thoughts danced across her mind, negative and judging thoughts. A chill ran down Sherri's spin, validation, oh please give me some assurance. Please, Mark, don't let me fall.
As Mark begin his reply, he begged for clarity. She deserved better. My mind, I must control the fear, the disappointment. I must move past the blankness, Mark thought. "Sherri, I don't know how to answer all of your questions. I wish I could, 'cause if I could, then my questions would be answered too. Where did we go, how did we lose who we were, and how do we arrive back to who we are. Those are great questions. I fight the desire to accept that this is just how it is. I know that you are in this fight too. I can imagine that you are out in the rain. I'll bet you are wearing your hoodie; it is the only thing you have worn since the rain came. Sherri, who we were and who we are, seem to have collided. I wish I could define the struggle. I only know that it is a struggle. Sherri, you are real, and you matter." Marks' thumb hovered over the send button as he re-read what he was about to declare. Was it any different than what he sent last night? Was there any hope. Who we were is not who we are. The riddle just razzed his brain. Send his thumb hit the button.
Sherri watched as the dots came and went, "hit send." Give me your response. I need validation. The buzz, Sherri closed her eyes, "thank you," she whispered under her breath. She read the text. "...I wish I could define the struggle. I only know that it is a struggle. Sherri, you are real, and you matter." Sherri raised her head. A smile moved across her face as courage flooded into her blood. She replied with an emoji smiley face. She bristled her body, shook the rain off, and whipped away the tears that ran down her cheeks. She placed the phone in her hoodie pocket, turned, and began to walk in the rain and the night. As she moved across the field, she felt a peace that allowed her to carry on for another night. Sherri knew that it would not remain, but for now, it was enough.
Mark looked down at the park from his window. He saw the glow of Sherri's phone shut off. He watched as she moved across the field into the darkness of the night and the rain. He moved to his bed, lying down, Mark whispered the phrase "who we were is not who we are." As he closed eyes, he knew sleep would not come easy, but it would come. Just as he knew Sherri would walk through the night, sleep would come to him. The struggle would lose its grip for a time. As Mark drifted off to sleep, Sherri continued her walk through the night. For her, it was more normal at night, the rain was persistent, but in the darkness, it was far easier to believe that things were as they used to be. The struggle of who we were and who we are would remain on the front line in dormancy as the rain continues to fall. For Sherri and Mark, the battle lines were actively forming, and soon they would have to enter the fight.
Chapter Two: "Listen"
As Mark drifted off to sleep, Sherri continued her walk through the night. For her, it was more normal at night, the rain was persistent, but in the darkness, it was far easier to believe that things were as they used to be. The struggle of who we were and who we are would remain on the front line in dormancy as the rain continues to fall. For Sherri and Mark, the battle lines were actively forming, and soon they would have to enter the fight.
Sherri continued to walk in the rain, in the dark of the night things seemed normal, and more like they use to be. For Sherri, the rain was like a new beginning for her, an escape from her life. She walked over to the bus stop and took a seat. Sheltered from the rain, she pulled out her phone. She looked at the text that Mark had sent her, she smiled. Mark had a way of making her feel good about herself. Mark was not like anyone she had ever met. After looking at the text, she flipped over to the photos. There on her phone were the memories of her life. She scrolled back, scrolled back to pictures before the rain. Then she stopped a photo caught her eye. Wow, she thought it seemed like it was only yesterday. The picture that lite up her phone and lite up the damp darkness of the night was from seventh grade. Hard to believe that she was now finishing up her eighth-grade year. It was a selfie of Mark and her. It was only the second time that they had hung out together. Mark had just moved to town only a week before, and being the new kid in school, it amazed Sherri because he had more friends than her, and she grew up in this town. Sherri thought back to the conversation that they had on that day over a year ago.
"It's Sherri, right? The fact that he remembered her name amazed her. "Yep, Sherri, and you are Mark?" "Yep, that's right, Mark said back." Of course, Sherri knew his name, everyone at Foothills M.S. knew who Mark was. "So how are you doing today, Sherri?" "Fine, I guess." "Mind if I sit down and have lunch with you?" "Of course," Sherri said with a smile. "So, what's your story, Sherri?" Sherri looked up at Mark and replied, "My story?" "Yeah, your story?" Sherri began to tell Mark everything about herself, like how her mom died when she was only eight, how her father had struggled ever since her death, how her father did not treat Sherri all that good. As Sherri told her story, Mark was fully engaged, nodding, and commenting here and there. Sherri could only think to herself that this guy is listening. He is listening to me. Sherri was continuing to tell Mark about her mother when the bell rang to end lunch. She was just about to tell Mark about how her mother died. The bell startled Sherri; Mark did not seem startled at all. Mark looked at Sherri and said, "thank you for telling me your story, Sherri, you have been through a lot." Sherri smiled and said, "thanks for listening; you are a really good listener." "I can't believe that I had so much to share. I usually don't talk all that much." "I like listening to other people's stories. Hey Sherri, if you want a bunch of us are going to hang out at the park after school, you could join us if you are free." "Sure, that sounds fun, I will have to see how much homework I have." "Cool, hope to see you there." As Mark stood up to leave, Sherri quickly reached for her phone and said, "hey, can I grab a selfie with you?" "Of course, if I can grab one with you and your number." They both grabbed their phones and snaped a selfie at the same time. Then Mark grabbed his tray and said "thanks for being my lunch buddy." "Sure, Sherri replied." Sherri thought to herself, where did that come from? "Can I grab a selfie with you?" Sure I like to take pictures, but that might have come off weird. He seemed okay, and he wanted a picture too, maybe he likes to take pictures just like me.
A car speed by on the street, as it moved fast in the wet road it made loud splashing sounds and sprayed a mist of moisture in the air. Sherri looked up from her phone. She thought that is how it all started. Since that day Mark had been part of her story, part of her life. The influence that he had made in her life and so many others was truly amazing. Mark just seemed to have a way with people. He really cared, he was different. It seemed like everyone cared, but most people just cared about what they were going through. They could only talk about themselves. You might be trying to share something that really means something to you, and then blam they would start talking about something in their life. Mark never really did that. Mark never really tried to tell you what you should do, unless you asked him to. He would just listen, and then you would start to think differently about what you were talking about. It was hard to understand or explain it. Mark was just different. Mark had moved here in the summer before seventh grade. I think I saw him only once that summer before school started. He was with his parents at the store. I probably only noticed him because he was new. That summer, he and his family kept to themselves. Then when school started, he began to meet everybody. He made an impact on our school because he impacted the people in our school. Sherri looked out from the bus stop. The glow of light was starting to take hold as it was moring. On a typical day, she would just be getting up and making her way downstairs for breakfast, then school. Today was not a typical day, as the days in the past three weeks were not normal or typical. Sherri stood up and started walking towards home, her father would be up soon and would want to know that she was home. As she left the shelter of the bus stop, the relentless rain fell upon her again. As she walked, she wondered if the rain would ever end.
Chapter Three "The Gathering"
Sherri looked out from the bus stop. The glow of light was starting to take hold as it was moring. On a typical day, she would just be getting up and making her way downstairs for breakfast, then school. Today was not a typical day, as the days in the past three weeks were not normal or typical. Sherri stood up and started walking towards home, her father would be up soon and would want to know that she was home. As she left the shelter of the bus stop, the relentless rain fell upon her again. As she walked, she wondered if the rain would ever end.
As Sherri entered her house, she saw that her father was already up. She sighed as she shut the door. From the other side of the house, she heard the barking of a dog; Chopper was his name. Then she listened to the gruff voice of her father. "Sherri, is that you?" Yes, Frank, it's me. She had stopped calling Frank dad when she realized that he did not treat her right. She let out a deep sigh when she started to walk up the stairs. "Sherri, get in here we need to talk." "Coming." Sherri could remember when her mother was alive and how the house would smell of bacon every morning, how her mother was always the first one up, and she was always in a good mood so cheerful and sweet. Her mother was the anchor for Frank and herself since her death, and it seemed like Frank and Sherri were just a drift with no guidance. "Yes, Frank, what's going on in your world today?" "Same old same old Sherri." "Listen I need to you start moving crap out of the basement today. All this rain has started seeping through the walls, and the basement has started taking on water." "Really, why don't you do it?" "Cause I got called into work, look I know you been walking all-around all night, but the crap is going to get ruined so just get it done." "Yep." Alright, now I got to get going." "See ya." As Frank was leaving the house, Sherri let out a big sigh, funny she did not remember sighing so much before the rain came. Sherri poured herself a cup of coffee, straight-up black. Before the rain, she would add sugar, cream, but since the rain, those things have been hard to come by. She took a sip of the coffee and started towards the basement door. Just as she reached for the door handle, her phone chimed at her. She pulled it out and realized that it was just an alert that her battery was about to die. She walked back to the counter and plugged it into the charging cable. Then she headed down to the basement.
The smell of standing water and mold hit her face as she opened the door. As she went down the stairs, the smell became stronger and more overwhelming. The light in the basement was dim, and she could see a tall stack of boxes in the center of the room. The water had not reached the center of the room. She sighed, thinking, at least I won't be carrying wet boxes up the stairs. Sherri began to move the boxes to the landing of the stairs. She wasn't sure where she would put them in the house. In her mind, she knew that it really did not matter. Every room in the house was a cluttered mess except her room. Frank had picked up some habits of hoarding ever since her mother had died. Sherri made it a point to keep her room clean and organized, but she never felt like it was her job to keep up the rest of the house. She thought I will just stack it up in the downstairs bedroom, which used to be her mom's office. That would have to be okay with Frank. She began the process of moving boxes up the stairs.
Just a few streets over, Mark rose from his bed to look out the window. He was not surprised to see that it was still raining, but the hope that it might have stopped was still with his thoughts. Mark looked to his bedside table and grabbed his phone, then headed downstairs. Both parents were already up and eating breakfast. "Good morning Mark, how did you sleep?" His mother asked him. "Good as always." "Great," his dad said. "You know what day it is?" "Yes said Mark Day twenty-one." "Are they ready?" his mother asked him. "As ready as anybody, I mean, I guess so, I hope so." Mark thought about each of them. Jeb, the tall, lanky basketball star of Foot Hill MS, was so competitive that it might be considered a fault by others. Mark knew that was the edge they would need. Cassandra was both books smart and street smart; she knew how to make things work, that other people did not understand. Carl could talk you into doing anything, even if it were your worst fear. Carl had a way with words and a smile that made trusting him easy. Carl wasn't the eighth-grade class president because he cared for politics; he just smiled his way into the position. Jocko, for a kid in eighth grade, there was nothing that he could not put his hands on to say he was a thief would be judgment, and Mark did not like to judge people, but Jocko was good at getting whatever he needed when he needed it. Then there was Sherri, Sherri had experienced loss, and that loss gave her grit and determination, a desire to survive no matter what. Her loss had sharpened her, and the edge that she had would cut through any obstacle that they might face. It was the Circle. It was complete. Mark looked back at his mom and dad and said, yeah, they are ready, and they are going to be perfect, just perfect. He took his last two bites and breakfast and told his mom, thanks for breakfast. Mark smiled at his dad as he was getting up from the table. He gave them both big hugs and told them that he loved them. Then he headed for the door. As he was walking out the door, he heard his father say, "Mark, be careful, and make it count." He shouted over his left shoulder, "I will." Mark made his way over to the park across the street he went over to the covered gazebo where Sherri had been standing just last night. Once free from the rain, he pulled out his phone and pulled up his text and typed in a group named the Circle. In the send to boxed Jeb, Cassandra, Carl, Jocko, and Sherri's name appeared. Mark took in a deep breath and began to type. "I need everyone to meet at the Spruce tree in one hour. Chime in to let me know that you got it." After Mark hit send, he took in another deep breath. He waited and looked at his phone, waiting for the replies to come in. Jeb chimed in first with a thumbs-up emoji, of course, he would have to be first. Then Carl chimed in with a smiley face emoji. Cassandra chimed in with the words "got it." Then Jocko chimed in with four poo emoji; Mark knew what it meant. It was the only emoji that Jocko ever used. Okay, that's four now, just Sherri. Mark waited and waited, but there was no reply from Sherri. This concerned Mark. He also knew that there was nothing he could do at the moment. He put his phone in his pocket and started walking to the Spruce tree. The Spruce tree was the mascot of Foot Hills MS. Many claimed that it was the oldest tree in the town, but that was never proven. Yet many in the town claimed it to be true. The tree set behind the M.S. some quarter of a mile up the first ridge of the foothills it was large, and it was a great covering from the rain. You could crawl right under the bottom branches, and then it was like you were inside a large building. With branches reaching to the sky and the needles covering and crossing over each other, it was a perfect defense from the rain. As Mark walked, he continued to check his phone, anxious that he might have missed Sherri's chime in. Sherri continued moving boxes from the basement to the room, which used to be her mother's office. The work was slow-moving, but she was making headway. As she was getting close to the last three or four boxes, she could notice that the water had taken more of the basement floor. She picked up the pace for the last trips up and down the stairs. She had been lucky not to have to carry any wet boxes, and she did not want to start. When she made it to the basement for the last box, it was like someone had turned on the faucet, the water was pouring in from the basement window. She splashed her way to the last box, grabbed it up, and ran up the stairs. Just as she entered the office, the bottom of the box gave way, and the contents crashed to the floor. Sherri let out with a long sigh, as she knelt down to start picking up the contents. At first, she had no idea as to what was in the boxes that she was moving. Looking at the pile that lay on the floor she could only start crying, as they were pictures of her mother, pictures of them as family pictures of them when they were happy, and there was no rain. In a pile were binders with the original manuscripts of her mother's books. Her mother had written many books and many collections of stories. Sherri had never read all of the collections. She was too young before her mother died and could not bring herself to read them now. As she was gathering up the pile on the floor, one binder caught her eye. The title was "The Gathering." Just as Sherri picked it up, she heard her phone chirp. Mark, Jeb, Cassandra, Carl, and Jocko all stood under the tree. Jocko spoke up first, "How much time do we have?" Mark looked at his phone, "Not much." Cassandra then threw her hands in the air and said, "it doesn't matter; I am texting her." Mark replied back, "I won't stop you." Carl said, "do it." Cassandra pulled out her phone and texted Sherri. "Yo where are you? You need to get to the Spruce tree right away, no time to explain." "Chime in." The four just looked at each other waiting to see Cassandra's phone light up. Jeb just shook his head. Sherri did not set the binder down for some reason, she took it with her as she went to the kitchen to check her phone. She picked it up and read the text from Cassandra and then read the text from Mark, which she had missed earlier. Sherri replied to Cassandra, "on my way." Sherri snaped the charging cable from the phone and ran to the front door. As the door slammed behind her, she realized that she was still carrying the binder. She did not have time to take it back, and she cared too much about it to toss it. The rain was coming down harder than it ever had. She thought this is why the basement window started to give away. There was a wind with the rain, in all the days of the rain, there has not been any wind. As she ran, it became difficult to see clearly, but she knew that she did not have time to slow down. She knew she must keep moving. At the Spruce tree the four looked at Mark, Carl smiled and said, "it's an odd number, that's not good." Mark just put up his hand. Jeb punched Carl in the arm and said "she will make it." "She has to." As Sherri approached Foothills M.S., she thought that the rain had let up just a little. Her body said slow down, but she ran all that much harder. Just as she was about to cross the street, and begin the trek up the foothill, she heard a loud screeching and a car horn. She snapped her head over her right shoulder, and then the impact happened. Sherri tried to scream, but the breath would not make it past her lips. Under the Spruce tree, the wind was not noticeable; outside, the world seemed to be on the verge of disaster, but it was clam under the tree. Cassandra looked up and said, did any of yall hear that? No one replied, Mark just looked at the time on his phone.
Chapter 4 "The Circle"
At the Spruce tree the four looked at Mark, Carl smiled and said, "it's an odd number, that's not good." Mark just put up his hand. Jeb punched Carl in the arm and said "she will make it." "She has to.” As Sherri approached Foothills M.S., she thought that the rain had let up just a little. Her body said slow down, but she ran all that much harder. Just as she was about to cross the street, and begin the trek up the foothill, she heard a loud screeching and a car horn. She snapped her head over her right shoulder, and then the impact happened. Sherri tried to scream, but the breath would not make it past her lips. Under the Spruce tree, the wind was not noticeable; outside, the world seemed to be on the verge of disaster, but it was clam under the tree. Cassandra looked up and said, did any of yall hear that? No one replied, Mark just looked at the time on his phone. Carl was the first to reply, "yeah, I heard that, but since the rain, hearing cars screech and horns blaring, is not that uncommon." Cassandra shook her head, "no, I heard something different, I mean, I heard the car and the horn, but I also heard a voice, or did I feel it?" "I am not sure, but I do know whether I felt it or heard it. The message was clear; do not fear." Jocko looked at Cassandra "what are you talking about, girl?" Cassandra fired back, " I just got a feeling I don't know." Jocko, just sighed, "you got a feeling." Cassandra was about to fire back when Mark interrupted the banter. "Everyone we are running out of time. Pay attention." As Sherri felt the impact of hitting the ground, her voice came back to her, and you let out a scream. Which was then followed by the words "get off of me." She struggled to her feet, looked over her shoulder, and saw the car speeding away with the driver shouting out of the passenger window, "pay attention, you foolish girl." Sherri looked then to the person standing just behind her, the person who pushed her out of the way of the speeding car. He was tall and slender, but strong at the same time. He wore a leather coat and a baseball hat covered the top of his head. His beard was grey and somewhat unkept. Sherri just looked at him. He stepped back "that was close, Sherri, you must hurry. There is not much time left. I am Firth, tell the others to have courage. Now Go! Hurry." Sherri had a thousand questions, she started to speak, but Firth said: "go." Sherri looked down and grabbed the binder and started to run. The wind and the beat against her body as she ran up the foothill to the spruce tree. She was breathing hard as she climbed under the first few branches. When she had made her way to the others, she was breathing easier. Then the noise from the howling wind and the rain had decreased. It was as if there was clarity in the tree. Cassandra was the first to shout out Sherri's name as she entered the open area at the center of the tree. The others all turned to look at her and smiled. Joko, under his breath, let out a sigh. Mark just looked at his phone to check the time. Carl smiled and then hugged Sherri and asked, "what happened to you, why are your jeans all ripped up?" Sherri had a confused look on her face, and then she looked down at her knees. Her jeans were ripped, and both knees were scraped and bruised. Sherri looked up at Carl. "Well, I was almost hit by a car, but this homeless-looking dude came out of nowhere and pushed me out of the way. When we crashed into the curb on the other side of the street must be when I tore up my jeans and my knees. I did not even know that happened until you said something." Cassandra chimed in, "Sherri, I think I heard something or felt something that might have let me know that you were in danger, but it told me not to fear." "Mark, you always do know how to show us a good time," Jeb said with a smile. "Yes, it is great that you made it, and it is so awesome that you are safe." Everyone turned to look at Mark. "It is awesome to meet up gang; it has been twenty-one days since the rain started. It is not going to end unless something changes. We are going to do something; we are going to make the change. We are going to take action. We are going to step up and not fall into the trap." Jeb chimed in first "Trap?" "What are you talking about?" "You know, everyone is just accepting it the rain, the foggy brains, the shutdowns. They are just adapting. Thinking it is just the new normal. That is the trap." Cassandra let out a sigh long and hard. "Mark, are you okay? I mean, what can we do about the rain? About the way, things have changed?" Carl spoke up and let his best smile lead the way. "Mark, I am with you. If there is anything that we can do, I say let's do it and do it quickly." When Carl mentioned the word "quickly," an alarm went off on Mark's phone, it startled him, he raced to pull it out of his pocket. Time is almost up," Mark said. Jocko "What's that supposed to mean? " Mark replied, we must come to a decision in five minutes that we will stand against the rain, against the change to bring about change." Jocko, "and if we don't." Mark, "we will have to wait it out another twenty-one days." "Forget that crap I'm in," Jeb stated. Mark looked intently at each of his friends, making eye contact with each of them. He took his right hand and stretched it out to the center of the circle. One by one, they each place their hand on top of his first Jeb, then Jocko, Carl, Cassandra. Sherri took a step back, and every eye of every person in the circle standing under the Spruce tree fixed on Sherri's eyes. Mark spoke to Sherri, "it will take courage." Right, when Mark said the word courage, Sherri blurted out, "Firth, his name is Firth, he told me to tell the others to have courage." As Sherri finished speaking the word courage, she stretched her hand forward and placed it on top of Cassandra's hand. They were all in the Circle was complete. Carl smiled and said, "it's an even number." At that moment, Mark's phone let out another chime. The last alarm went off; everyone breathed a sigh of relief. The took their hands down, and all eyes of the circle were on Mark. Mark looked to Sherri and said, " Can I see the binder that you carried here?" Sherri had almost forgotten about it. Her left hand was still clutching it. Sherri raised it and handed it to Mark. He smiled and said we have much work to do and little time, courage is on our side, this will not be easy. The others looked at the binder, not sure what it was or what importance it had. Each of them just knew that they trusted Mark. Mark had brought them together. Mark had been the person who made them understand who they were. Mark was the reason that they knew each other. The trust they had would have to continue. Mark sighed a sigh of relief as he took the binder from Sherri. He then sat down on the ground and opened the binder. Everyone else followed his lead. As they all sat in a circle, Mark read, starting with the title. "The Gathering." Outside the Spruce tree, the wind and the rain continued to move across the foothills. The light had dimmed as the rain increased in, and the clouds became darker. Standing just outside of the Spruce tree branches was a shadowy figure. The person did not make a move to enter the tree, but only stood on the outside, in the pounding rain and the wind, the effects of the weather did not seem to phase this person at all. Inside, Mark continued to read as the other listened.