Short story - The Rain Storm
Sometimes we can't know the suffering that someone is experiencing, and why they are reacting in a certain way. Keeping an open mind, creating space for the suffering to be had, and finding connection can be powerful. This story is about loss, suffering, and deep connection.
The round, heavy rain drops begin to fall, but are sparse. I can only tell it’s raining by looking down at the ground from my window. The drops hit the dark puddles on the street.
Plop. Plop. Plip.
Each watery pellet creates a spherical ripple that exists for only a brief moment in time, disturbing the pools of water only momentarily before blending in, before disappearing completely. Sometimes, I want to disappear like those engorged particles of condensed vapour.
The yelling and arguing of my children jolt me from my thoughts and back to my surroundings. My attention back to the hard reality of the four walls around me; the small, high pitched, bickering voices down the hall. My edges feel sharp and ragged.
I lift myself from my chair and walk down the hallway, making sure to hit the ground heavy with each step. I stand with my hand at my hips, a caricature of myself, at the doorway of the kids’ bedroom.
“What is going on here!”
“Sarah doesn’t believe me,” my four year old exclaims, standing up as she says this, mimicking my posture.
“Mom, Charlie needs to get a grip.” Sarah replies, seated cross legged on her side of the room.
Charlie shoves herself onto her beanbag, pushing the occupant of that seat, a large teddy bear, aside.
“We were talking about that gross beetle. Mom, Charlie needs to get rid of it,” Sarah implores. “I don’t want it living in my room anymore.”
Before I can answer, Charlie picks up the teddy bear now lying at her feet and throws it in Sarah’s direction. She bursts into tears and Sarah laughs.
I cross the room to sit by Charlie and give Sarah a stern glare. She responds with a shrug and a blasé expression that must be hard-wired into pre-adolescent development.
Charlie’s beanbag is nestled under the one window in the bedroom and I notice that the sky has darkened. The rain falls in heavy, chaotic drops blown by the gusts of wind onto the window pane.
Thump. Thump. Thump.
I feel tired. So tired. Looking at my reflection in the mirror on the wall facing the window, I see my shoulders slumped, my face long. I turn away and look around the girls’ room.
We spent a lot of time making sure the pink wall colour would be a shade that is sweet enough for a four year old, but aloof enough for a twelve year old. Jack hung up each picture on the walls to the girls’ specifications. Above Sarah’s bed there is a large poster of a ballerina. Recently she’s pinned magazine cut outs of hair styles and clothes that she likes around that poster. Charlie still has the three canvases I painted for her when she was born above her bed. One of a chimpanzee, for Charlie. One of a rhinoceros, for her middle name, Rose. And one of a giraffe, for our last name, Gelinas.
Having the girls share a room wasn’t ideal, but Jack and I always imagined it would be temporary. Once he finished residency and started working as a full-fledged physician we would think about renting a larger apartment. My part-time nursing salary only takes us so far.
When would that move happen now, if ever.
“Mama, tell her I can keep it!” sputters Charlie. Her eyes are red-rimmed and her voice an unnatural staccato, the cry in her not entirely finished.
It is a small room, hardly enough space for the two twin beds and the one dresser they share. Both Sarah and Charlie have to be fastidious in their belongings.
I lick my lips and smack them together. I look down at Charlie. “Baby, you’ve had the beetle for a few days. It’s great that you are feeding it, but maybe it should go back out to its home?”
“This is his home!”
“What, now you know if it’s a boy or a girl?” Sarah says, mimicking Charlie’s little girl voice.
“Unnecessary,” I tell her as I rub Charlie’s back and bring her closer to me.
There is a flash and the midnight sky turns to day for just a moment. Charlie scrunches herself closer to me and I see Sarah falter, leaning towards us before resuming her casual position by her bed. We are silent for a few minutes, counting the seconds, until we finally hear a low rumble in the distance. The rain is now falling faster, hitting the window pane at a quick rate.
Spick. Spick. Spick. Spick. Spick.
Charlie catches her breath and then tears roll down her face.
“Honey, it’s ok. We can wait until after the storm and tomorrow we’ll help the beetle find its friends”.
“Mama, the beetle came to me.”
“It’s not really a beetle,” she adds, in almost a whisper
“I know it came to you, but it belongs outside.”
“The beetle is daddy,” she continues. And sit up straight.
“He needs to stay with us. I will protect him.”
I feel a pang in my chest and a hard ball in my throat. My eyes fill with water and I look at Sarah. She stares at her sister, her eyes halfway closed into slits.
“Don’t be stupid, you baby. Dad is gone. He drowned in the lake! The beetle is just a beetle and you’re making mom sad.”
The sound of the rain speeds up and seems to enter the room. I hear it against the walls, on the dresser, ricocheting off the mirror and onto the bed posts. In the background I hear the girls squabbling again, but I’m not sure what they are saying. I look at the picture of the four of us hanging on the wall between the girls’ beds and I’m overcome with nausea.
I stand up from the beanbag, using the wall to support me.
“Mama?” I think someone says.
“Mom, are you ok?” I hear Sarah over the sound of the deluge.
“Yes, yes. Sorry girls. I’m ok.”
“Ok Mama. Because it is Daddy. Tell Sarah. It’s because she doesn’t believe in magic. But I do, don’t you?”
I look down at Charlie, wanting so much to believe.
“I’m….just give me a sec girls. Stay in here.”
I walk down the hallway, pushing through a fog. I open the front door and clamour down the stair case. Finally, outside I am instantly drenched.
I face the heavens and the rain splashes hard on my face, intermingling with my tears. I look up at our building, into the lit room that shelters my girls. The electrical discharge in the air flashes bright between two clouds, forming a distinct bolt shape. I shout out into the night air, and my howl is joined by the low, deep rolling of thunder. My cry has been drowned out. Or perhaps it has been carried away as the rain offers itself as a sponge to my salty drops.
I walk back inside, water clogged and heavy. I strip myself of all my clothing when I re-enter the apartment and I go straight to my room. I put on Jack’s old housecoat and smell his smell. A sweet mustiness mixed with the citrusy tones of his aftershave.
I walk into the girls’ room. They are both silent and still, watching me. I pick up the small glass jar holding Charlie’s beetle and I stutter an inhale.
The rain is lighter now, like delicate fingers strumming on the window pane.
Pitter. Patter. Pitter. Patter.
I place the jar in Charlie’s hands.
“I believe in magic, baby”.