A boy and a girl, Henry and Rose, were so much in love, that they couldn’t wait to get married. Although she was only sixteen and he was only seventeen, it didn’t matter to them. They asked for their parents’ blessing, but their parents could only shake their heads and say they were too young. So they ran away.
They went to a small town in a state where you didn’t have to be eighteen to get married. But as much in love as they were, and as eager as they were to wed, they were very particular about the results. They wanted to live happily ever after. They knew that the circumstances must be exactly right for that to happen, because they hardly knew of anyone who had lived happily ever after. As a matter of fact, they didn’t know anyone, because (logic tells us) in order to know someone has lived happily ever after, we have to wait until the “ever” part is over to know for sure.
So the boy and the girl went to the small café in the small town and they found out there was a town wisewoman – a gypsy fortune teller named Matilda – who was the all-around guru and soothsayer for everything from rheumatism to broken hearts. They walked to her little cottage on the outskirts of the town and knocked on the door. The elderly woman who answered the door smiled when she saw them. And although she was covered in wrinkles and brown spots and her hair was grey and thin and wiry, her smile lit up the whole doorway.
“What have we here? A pair of lovebirds, I see. Well, well, well. Come in! I’ll make a pot of tea.”
So the boy and the girl came into the warm, sunny little cottage and made themselves cozy beside the fire. A grey cat with white whiskers appeared out of nowhere and plopped herself down in the girl’s lap. The girl stroked her and spoke.
“We want to get married.”
The old woman looked thoughtfully at the boy. “Is that so?”
“Yes, he said. Very much so”.
“Well”, said the gypsy, “There is the preacher down the road. He can help you with that. I don’t do weddings.” And with that she began to get up. Then she stopped herself. “But there is something else, isn’t there?”
“Yes”, replied the girl. “We want to live happily ever after. We want to make sure. We don’t ever want to make each other unhappy.”
“Hmmmm.” The old woman mumbled. “I see. So you need the secret, is that it?”
“Yes, please” the boy politely replied.
“You must, of course, get married on a sunny day”, the old woman replied. “Otherwise, all bets are off”.
“That’s it?!” the couple cried in unison.
“That’s it,” answered Matilda.
With that, Rose and Henry jumped out of their chairs, hugged Matilda, and told her they would arrange to be married by the preacher down the road on the first sunny day available. As they left they promised to invite Matilda to the wedding. She waved after them, smiling.
Henry and Rose visited the preacher down the road, who expressed some doubt when he found out how young they were, but then relented, realizing that he and his wife, who had been happily married for over twenty years, had been just about their age when they had married. So they all consulted the Almanac and they tuned in to the Weather Channel, and they even looked outside for signs of rain. They decided that the next day would be a fine, sunny day. The preacher was available (as it would be a Monday), and all was hastily and happily arranged. Henry and Rose shook hands with the preacher and thanked his plump little wife who was making dumplings in the kitchen. They then went to the café and announced their wedding for the next day at the church down the road. All the town was invited. They called Matilda from the phone booth in the café and told her the good news. And because they were not yet married and had nowhere to go, they spent the night in separate rooms in the home of the café owner, which was just upstairs overlooking Main Street.
Well. The next morning the young couple rose to the smell of fresh coffee and cinnamon buns. They went downstairs for breakfast and tried to pay for it with their meager savings, but the café owner would not hear of it – not on their wedding day.
Just as they sat down to the steaming coffee, they heard a CRACK and a BOOM. They looked outside, and to their horror, saw that a huge lightning storm had come in out of nowhere. They were sure their wedding would have to be called off. Now they would never live happily ever after, they thought! They were miserable, and decided to consult Matilda one more time.
Henry and Rose put on their matching yellow slickers and ran to Matilda’s cottage. “Now what?!” They cried as she opened the door. Matilda just smiled her big, warm smile and ushered them in for a hot cup of tea.
“You have to dance between the raindrops!” she exlaimed.
Rose and Henry looked at her quizzically.
“Go ahead and get married in the church, just as you had planned. Then after the wedding, you have to go outside and have your first dance as a married couple. All you have to do is dance between the raindrops, and you will magically convert your bad luck into good luck. In fact, dancing between the raindrops is the best luck of all!”
Well, Rose looked at Henry, and Henry looked at Rose, and they were full of doubt, but more than that, they just wanted to be married, so they agreed. They hugged Matilda and put on their yellow slickers again, running out into the pounding rain.
At two o’clock, just as planned, they stood before the preacher. The ceremony was short, but very sweet. Rose and Henry were glowing and so happy they thought their hearts would burst. They ran outside the church and began a merry dance. There was no music, because the band would not play in the rain. But the young newlyweds heard the music in their beating hearts, and they danced for a full fifteen minutes. They tried very hard to miss the raindrops, but they wound up getting soaked. Their feet sunk into the mud. Rose’s dress was ruined. Henry’s Sunday best was dripping. By the end of their dance, they were laughing so hard that they fell down in the muddy street and just rolled around while the town cheered.
After everyone had congratulated Henry and Rose, and the townspeople had gone home, they realized they had to consult with Matilda yet again. It suddenly dawned on them that they had not quite lived up to the stipulated requirement for living “happily ever after”, for in spite of all their care, they had not been able to avoid the raindrops. Matilda was quietly waiting for them inside the café, utterly dry and sober, sipping tea. “Come in, my children!”, she called.
They trudged into the café, their hair sopping, their shoes squishing, their clothes covered in mud, and their eyes shining. Rose spoke for both of them:
“Matilda, I’m afraid we failed, as you can see! We tried so hard to dance between the raindrops, but no matter how hard we tried, they just kept coming and coming and – well, we got drenched! Now we’re afraid we’ll never live happily ever after!”
Matilda laughed a deep belly laugh.
“Nonsense! You have performed your task exactly as instructed. You danced between the raindrops. But who ever said you wouldn’t get wet?!”
And as predicted, Henry and Rose lived happily ever after.
© Robin Munson