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Trying to find a story that I read probably in the 1990s. Don't know where I read it, but if I had to guess it was in high school in either a fiction magazine or a book of collected stories. I believe it focused on an engaged/newly married couple living in a sort of post-apocalyptic Earth where the skies were perpetually cloudy. The details I (think) I remember are:

  • Every once in a while someone would catch a glimpse of the sun or blue sky, but it was very rare.
  • The woman discusses wearing yellow for her wedding as a good luck charm that they will find some sun.
  • Somehow they come across a person's house/yard that has sunlight hitting pretty much only that section of ground.
  • The owner of the house is an older lady who is either ignorant or suffering from dementia and doesn't know about the lack of sun, or through sheer force of will is maintaining the sun on her property only.
  • The couple stays on the property for some time and it talks about the man having a tan from working outside in the garden all the time.
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  • I've read this story, but I cannot recall any details beyond those in the question (and that I think I read it in mid 80s). I had assumed it was by Ray Bradbury - it felt like one of his stories, but I cannot find it on looking through numerous synopsis of his stories. Of course Bradbury wrote so many stories that it could easily have been omitted from the lists I checked.
    – user23087
    Apr 2 at 21:12
  • 2
    @user23087 you are thinking of "All of Summer in a Day" by Ray Bradbury. One of a few set on perpetually rainy Venus. Apr 3 at 0:49
  • Grr - now that the answer is given I find that I have "A Bundle of Nerves" a collection by Joan Aiken which includes the story. That must be where I read it.
    – user23087
    Apr 3 at 1:15

1 Answer 1

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This is "Searching for Summer" by Joan Aiken.

It first appeared in the September 1958 issue of Argosy (UK) and has been reprinted several times over the years in various collections and anthologies; mostly in the UK.

The most recent US reprinting was in the 1975 anthology Ladies of Fantasy: Two Centuries of Sinister Stories by the Gentle Sex edited by Seon Manley and Gogo Lewis.

It can be borrowed from the Internet Archive.

A complete summary and analysis of the story can be read here.

Here is the summary:

Searching for Summer by Joan Aiken is a dystopian, futuristic story about a newlywed couple’s quest for sunshine. The times they live in are extremely dull, dark, and ugly. It is in the aftermath of bomb droppings that sunshine is rare to find. Tom and Lily get married and decide to embark on a journey to find sunshine. The countryside is cold, grey, and lifeless, yet they are hopeful. After hours of driving, they reach a village, where their bike stops as the engine dies on them. Frustrated, the couple decides to spend the night at a nearby pub while leaving their bike at the garage for repair.

They head towards a bus station, where they meet two old people, Mrs. Hatching and her son, William. Along with them, they meet the repulsive-looking” Mr. Noakes, the owner of the pub, who agrees to let the young couple in for a night. He mocks them when they confide in him that they are here searching for sunshine. He tells them that there isn’t a singular chance of finding sunshine in that part of the country, or else he would have bought yards and yards of land already.

Ignoring him, Lily tells Tom that she would like to go for a walk. She shows Tom an old bag that she picked up from the bus station. The old lady had forgotten it on the pavement, and Lily wanted to return it to her. Mr. Noakes warns them against going into the woods where Mrs. Hatching lives. He tells them that he’s never been on that path. However, Lily is adamant, and they soon depart and enter the woods. Lily was wearing her yellow wedding gown and her wedding sandals, which blistered her feet. They walk endlessly with no sight of the cottage. Lily is almost going to give up when they spot the cottage garden. In hopes of finding some first aid and rest, they knock on the cottage door.

Mrs. Hatching is pleasantly surprised at her new company and runs down a continuous commentary for her blind son, William. Mrs. Hatching carefully binds Lily’s foot and offers them tea. She casually mentions how today is a hot day. Perplexed, Tom and Lily look around, and Lo and Behold! The sun! They can’t believe their eyes. Mrs. Hatching chuckles and responds with a ‘matter-of-fact’ tone. She offers them hot tea and asks them about their journey. Lily looks around the room and then up. The sky is blue! Just as Lily desired, Mrs. Hatching asked them if they would like to stay in the spare room. Tom and Lily end up staying for three full days.

They must now go and collect their scooter from the village. Tom and Lily have been helping William pick a basket of beans. Even though they had stayed for three days in the sunshine, they would still stop at intervals and marvel at the blue sky. Finally, they have to leave. They bid goodbye to the wonderful, frail, and indomitable Mrs. Hatching and start walking back to the village. As they walk farther from the cottage, they realise that the clouds are greying over. They come to the conclusion that the sun shines only at one spot and that Mrs. Hatching and William haven’t even realised that the sun doesn’t shine in other places.

Back in the village, they get their scooter back. Mr. Noakes starts interrogating them about their whereabouts. Quickly making up a story, Tom lies and says that they have been miles from there. Quickly leaving the village, they drive off to the north. Lily realises that her wedding dress is still on her bed. Comforting her, Tom says that they have no use of it now. He is satisfied with the fact that they left the golden place undisturbed as Mr. Noakes never goes into the woods. They also attained what they intended to; the sun!

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  • Joan Aiken gets an upvote.
    – Buzz
    Apr 3 at 2:37

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