The sky hung low and gray while mist and fog clung close to the muddy ground, making the walk to the lighthouse wet and cold.
It rained every seven days in the seacoast town of Fiammetta and Alba Mondo had prepared for this day, her rain shoes, coat, and umbrella made by the sisters of the local nunnery to keep her from catching a cold. But Alba did not mind the rain.
In fact, she loved rainy days.
Though rain came regularly like clockwork and the town shut down its business making the roads empty of inhabitants, Alba was like the rain, a regular to be seen on rainy days. The townspeople would expect to see Alba out while everyone was in, keeping dry and warm.
In fact, she was the only person out on rainy days.
Alba’s colorful patchwork coat and umbrella and rain shoes made her look like a ball of rainbow had descended down onto the ground and was bumbling across the road. She ran, jumped, hopped, skipped, and twirled as the rain came down, laughter echoing the empty streets.
“She’s enjoying life,” few would say.
“She’s a crazy one,” others would say.
“We feel sorry for her,” most would say.
It was not just Alba’s status as the only orphan in Fiammetta that made her stand out. She looked different and behaved differently from everyone else.
With hair like fresh snow—white and iridescent, eyes like summer evening skies—blue and purple and bright, and skin like spring ground freshly plowed—brown and rich, and standing only six heads tall, she stood out from the average seven to eight head tall adult with skin ranging from fair to olive, hair from gold to bronze, and amber to honey eyes.
While the townspeople were used to going about a habitual routine, which included waking up, adults going to work, children going to school, all returning at evening for dinner, and ending the night with a prayer and sleep, they never questioned why or how or what. Curiosity seemed as odd as the foreign travelers who appeared every so often at the port of town. Rarely were travelers allowed to enter through the high granite walls that blocked the ocean’s stormy and cold winds in the winter.
Alba would spend days running tasks among various townspeople, some may find her at the market, other times, may find her at the port. Some days, she would sneak into the forest, looking for magical roots and herbs for the nuns. Most days, she would sit on the high walls, counting the ships, the sea gulls, as if she was waiting for something or someone. She would ask questions, she learned all the various tasks of towns, run through town, and disappear for hours. Because of her rather eccentric and adventurous spirit, it was only natural she was asked to maintain the lighthouse, which would interrupt the routine of the townspeople.
This was the only one habit that made her almost similar to the townspeople. Every seven days when it rained like clockwork, she would run out to the lighthouse to brighten the beacon that the townspeople had grown used to seeing.
The lighthouse is situated in the westernmost part of town, beyond the high walls, on a small strip of land that raised up like a plateau raising up to meet the ocean in all her glory. It was shaped like a torch stuck into the ground, but taller than the high walls that one could see the lighthouse wherever they were in town.
Alba loved walking up the road that leads to the lighthouse. She loved watching the sky coming down to meet the ocean as she hiked up. She loved racing up the lighthouse, turning on the furnace, and watching the little flame slowly swell and shine bright into the ocean, like a beacon for lost souls.
Whenever the little flame—glowing white—burst into a blue ball, Alba would feel her heart swell with hope and wishes. Hoping that the light would lead someone to her. Wishes of fitting in, wishes of seeing the world, wishes of wishes of more wishes.
Did the world end where the sky met the ocean? Can someone at the other end see the light? Was she alone? Or were there other people like her, dark skin and white hair? Did her parents really die or were they lost in the world? Did they love her? Would they love the person she became? Would she ever have a chance to see the world beyond the lighthouse? Or would she always be the odd orphan child running errands and maintaining the lighthouse during rainy days?
As Alba sat at the edge of the perch, wide and tall windows surrounding the beacon, she watched the rain pour into the ocean, raising the tide, making the water rough, tossing fish and other sea animals around. Unlike the townspeople who would huddle inside to escape the rain, the ocean grew alive when with rain, basking with joy and gratitude.
On these days, Alba would fall asleep to watching the rain, the ocean, and the horizon, which sometimes seemed to be haunted by lights of a far off ship. She would dream of being on those ship, being a captain of the helm, being the heroine of a voyage that would have no end, and legends and stories would be heralded in her name, Alba Mondo—Alba and the World.
And she would wake up and do it all over again. Until the day her wishes were heard.