I was supposed to be going to school. I was going into the third grade. I was so excited and everyone said how much I had grown over the summer. I didn’t feel taller, although my clothes were tighter. Especially around my middle. Also, I had a new piece of clothes – my first bra. A training bra, it was called. I was so excited. I was going to wear my black leggings, black Keds, a big pink shirt with black bows attached to it, and my mom promised she would French braid my long, blond hair the night before. But there would be no school. The news said it. The usually cheerful newscaster had looked very serious when she said that the schools were closed until further notice. I was sitting on the couch eating Cheetos with my mother when we heard it.
“Why mommy?” I had asked.
“A storm is coming. A big storm.”
I didn’t see why we couldn’t just go to school while it rained. It rained all the time, but I suppose the grown-ups knew what was best.
The day before the storm was supposed to come, my dad got his wood down. He kept big pieces of wood on a shelf above our cars in the garage. He laid them out in the back yard.
“What are they for?” I asked him.
“I have to cover the windows.”
“The storm’s coming.”
“But it rains all the time and we don’t cover the windows.”
“This is a different kind of storm. A big storm.”
“Harry!” my mother called from across the yard.
“What?” he yelled back.
“Elsa called. Her husband is working and she needs help with her windows.”
“I’ll go now,” he said.
I walked with him across the yard, back to where my mother stood.
“Why are you doing her windows first? What about ours?” my mother asked, in her scolding voice.
“It’s easier for me to go there first. Our house is closer.”
With that, he left. My mom complained to me for about ten minutes.
My dad was gone all afternoon. It was already early evening when he came back to our house to do our windows. My mom made pasta for dinner while I heard him hammering outside. It was a Sunday and Sunday was usually our grilling day, but mom said we had to use up the food that could go bad in the refrigerator.
“What’s taking your father so long?” she asked. She used “father” when she was mad at him.
“I don’t know.”
We walked outside and saw my dad putting wood up on the master bathroom window. It was getting dark and the wind was starting to blow.
“Are you almost done?” my mom asked.
“Yes, just two more windows.”
Within an hour, we were eating our dinner. The house was dark and I could hear the branches of the trees hitting the plywood on our windows.
“Marnie, you’ll stay with us tonight okay?” my mother said.
“It’s already starting to get bad outside,” my dad observed.
My mom cleaned up after dinner and we turned on the television. There was only news on. Channel after channel discussed the storm. They were saying something about it turning and that that was not good for us. The television began to get fuzzy and the picture faded in and out.
“Let’s turn everything off. The electricity will be out soon,” my father said.
We turned off the television and the lights. My father turned on a radio that used batteries and my mom got some flashlights. The news people were now talking over the radio. Their voices sounded tense. Like a teacher when she was trying not to get mad at the class.
“Where should we go?” my mom asked?
“How about our bedroom?”
We are got into my parent’s large bed and cuddled under the covers. The wind had begun to make weird noises outside. Like a dying animal. The branches beat harder on the windows. Sometimes they scratched, like fingernails on the chalkboard.
I was finally settling into sleep when my mother shook me.
“Get up Marnie.”
“Is it over?” I asked.
“No. There is water dripping on me. The roof is leaking. It might go down.”
My mother sounded tense, like the news people. She usually didn’t sound that way, at least not during storms. And the roof had never come down before. I felt my heart going faster in my chest.
“Hand me some towels,” my dad called to my mom. I hadn’t even realized he was out of the bed.
My mom ran to the hall cabinet, grabbed some beach towels and headed to the front door. I walked after her. The whole hallway was illuminated with my mother’s big flashlight. I saw it shine on the floor by the door. It was wet. Water was coming into the hall. My father grabbed the towels from my mother’s arms and tried to shove them by the door, trying to soak up some of the water.
“Let’s head to Marnie’s room,” my dad said.
We had barely entered through my door when I saw the wood blow off my window. The trees outside beat at the glass and their trunks were bent at impossible angles. I had never seen trees move so fast. This was more than just another big storm.
As I stood entranced by the wind, my mother grabbed my arm and pulled my back to her bedroom where there was a walk-in closet. I huddled in the corner, using her pants as a pillow and waited. The news people went in and out over the radio, their voices fuzzy and telling where the storm was. I knew where it was – it was here where we were.
I could feel the air get thicker and it was pressing in on my ears. It felt like they had to pop. My eyes were getting heavy again and sleep seemed like a good thing. Whenever I was scared before, I would just sleep. So I got closer to both my parents and closed my eyes.
It was the phone that woke me up. I was alone in the closet. I got up and saw my mother putting pans around the bedroom as water was leaking down. My dad had picked up the phone.
“Yes, we’re okay,” he was saying. “Just some leaks in the rood and one broken window.”
I walked to my mom.
“Hi sweetie,” she said.
“Is it over?” I asked. Who could tell with no windows?
“Yes, we got lucky.”
My dad got off the phone.
“We should go outside,” he said. “Get some good shoes on.”
Once outside, the sky looked hazy. It was a purple day. The olive tree in front of our house was on its side. Neighbors were missing the whole side of their house, clothes and furniture spread on their lawns. I had never seen houses open from the inside before. The whole world looked upside down. But at least not our house, was all I could think. We had been lucky.
Melissa Davis is a writer and teacher. She has had poetry, nonfiction, and fiction published in journals such as Marathon Literary Review, The Commonline Journal, and Poetry Quarterly. Waterloo Road, her first novella, will soon be published by Midnight Frost Books. Find her online at www.melissadavisauthor.com.