Distant Lightning

Nora wouldn’t look at Charlie.
              He couldn’t know how the wind screaming at the corners of the house had already torn the shutters off her. She couldn’t let him see what kind of mess she was.

              Charlie typed and tapped on his laptop, inputting the ingredients in the fridge in hopes of finding a recipe they could make since the trip they’d planned to the grocery store now seemed unwise.

              “Do we have basil?” Charlie asked from the table.

              Nora scrubbed at the tea stains in her mug. Without turning from the sink, she answered, “Yes, but not fresh, just the jar kind. Whatever that container is called, I dunno.”

              Even without looking, she knew how he was nodding and diving back into typing. She kept scrubbing.

              “How about goat cheese?” he asked.

              She shook her head. “Some kind of cheese. Not goat. My parents are too straight-laced for goat cheese.”

              Charlie laughed. “Not crunchy enough, eh?”

              Her parents wouldn’t be happy that she hadn’t told them Charlie was visiting while they were away on their getaway weekend. She hadn’t wanted to tell them he’d be staying the night. Now, at least if they found out, she could say he stayed the night because it wasn’t safe to drive home through the storm.

              Should have planned better, she could hear her mother tsk.

              Her shoulders hunched as the sense of the wind banshee outside seeped into the kitchen, as if that would ward off the bad thoughts.


              She startled and looked round. She didn’t meet his eye, but she could tell he was looking at her.

              “You okay, sweetheart?”

              The concern in his voice thumped into her chest. She ducked back to the dishes. “Yeah, of course.”

              He padded across the linoleum to her in his sock feet. “I’m sorry, hon, you just don’t seem like you’re okay.”

              His hand on her arm was aflame. With the hand in place on one side, he leaned around the other side of her to kiss her cheek. “Are you cold? Do you want a sweater or something?”

              “I’m okay.” She nudged her shoulder against his chest. “Did you find a recipe we can cook, or is it just a a free-for-all of what we can throw into eggs?”

              Before he answered, thunder rumbled like distant traffic. She tensed. He brought his free hand up so he could rub both her shoulders.

              “You’re tense,” he observed.

              She dumped the dregs of water out of the tea mug, then stood still.

              “If something’s wrong, please tell me.”

              She stared out the window. This time, she caught the flash of jagged lightning scoring the horizon. She held her breath, counting.

              When the thunder rolled in, she sank backwards into Charlie’s arms. “I’ve got you,” he said softly.

              “It’s so silly,” she said at last.

              “What is?” Charlie asked gently.

              “I – well, I hate storms. I hate the lightning, I hate the thunder, I hate the wind and rain that come with them. I have since I was a little girl and I hate that I haven’t grown out of it.”

              She waited for him to respond, but he just held her.

              “It’s childish and I didn’t want to admit it.”

              “You’re allowed to not like storms,” Charlie said. “I appreciate you sharing that with me.”

              She counted the next lightning strike to its boom of thunder.

              “I used to get laughed at for how much I hated storms.” She took several deep breaths. “It doesn’t seem silly to you?”

              He led her to the sliding glass door where they could get the full effect when the lightning slalomed down through the electrified air toward the ground. “Does it reverberate in your chest too? I hate that, when it’s thunder, or the bass is up loud at a concert, or a jet goes overhead.”

              She relaxed against him. “I can’t keep from watching. I have to know. I have to see it happen.”

              He kissed her hair, wrapping his arms around her. “Well then I’ll watch with you.”