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It begins with a cloud. It isn’t a particularly interesting cloud, just a cloud. That cloud is soon joined by another, and more. The new clouds grow larger, darker, and ominous. Thunder growls moodily in the distance. The wind picks up. It is gentle at first, then faster, angrier. The trees begin to lean and whip as the sky turns to twilight in the middle of the day. Finally, as if exasperated, the skies brake, and rain pours from the clouds. Lighting flashes and thunder crashes simultaneously.
I remain where I am. I stand facing where the trail leads into the woods, where, despite the thick foliage, water drips heavily onto the forest floor. It is dark as night underneath the trees’ mammoth forms. Still, I don’t move even as I am soaked through and the wind howls and rages around me. Soon I’m chilled, so I tug my now-dark purple, zip-up sweatshirt tighter around my body. Other than that, I’m a statue. I’m waiting.
I stare into the trees, straining my eyes and blinking against the water dripping into them. Nothing is visible in the mayhem. Then, I see him. He strides confidently out of the stormy forest. I can barely make out his face at first, but as he draws near his features become clearer. He seems pleased as he stops in front of me, and I have to tilt my face into the pounding rain to see him. He pushes my wet hair back from my face.
“You came, Claire,” he greets me, raising his voice above the furious wind.
“I wouldn’t want to miss the rain, Storm,” I reply, returning his grin.
He throws his head back and laughs. His laughter is as deep, rich, and dangerous as the thunder rumbling in the sky. Then again, he is the thunder, and the wind, rain, and lightning, for that matter. He is mayhem, he is danger, and he is my friend. He is Storm.
I met him only days before, but it feels like I’ve always known him. I remember the day clearly. It had been sunny, a beautiful, warm day.
Without anything to do, I was wandering around the woods behind my house. The wind was only a whisper that danced in my hair playfully and rustled in the leaves. My mind was far away, on a story I was writing. So I wasn’t really watching where I was going, which was a bad thing, because I wasn’t the most coordinated person ever.
My foot caught on a branch lying on the ground, and, caught unawares, I went down. I felt my ankle twist a second before I hit the ground, and suddenly I was staring up at the sky. Ow. My breath caught and tears stung in my eyes at the pain. For a moment, I couldn’t move. Then the pain in my ankle faded to a barely tolerable throb, and I could focus.
“Ugh,” I moaned, sitting up. My hair fell forward into my face. Angrily, I pushed it back and bit my lip. I wasn’t going to sit here all day. Slowly, I stood, putting all of my weight on my good ankle and none on my bad.
Here goes nothing, I said to myself. I took a step forward. And came crashing back down to the ground.
“Ungh,” I groaned. “Ow.” I sat up again. Now, not only my ankle hurt, my whole body hurt. That’s just perfect. I glared at my ankle.
My head whipped around, looking for the source of the voice. It was a deep voice, very deep, so I knew it was a guy, but I couldn’t see who it was.
“I’m over here.”
There was laughter in the voice now. I turned my head to the right, where the voice had come from. I saw nothing.
“Over more,” he said. “I guess you can’t see me, because of the brush.”
I focused on the voice, then turned my head to the left, still watching the bushes and brambles around me. I heard footsteps in the fallen leaves, and then I could see him. I almost wished I couldn’t.
He was huge, tall, and broad-shouldered. His hair was black, but streaked with silver, though he couldn’t possibly be old enough to be graying. It was semi-short and unruly, falling into his eyes. His eyes were gray, and with a bluish tint.
He held down a hand to me. “Want a hand?”
I pursed my lips, staring at his hand. It was big. I mean, it was big.
“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers,” I stalled.
He chuckled. “That’s understandable. I’m Storm. Your name is…?”
I debated telling him. “Claire,” I finally said slowly.
He nodded. “There, now we’re not strangers. Want some help?”
I raised my eyebrows. He sighed.
“Look, your ankle’s hurt, and probably sprained pretty badly. You need help, unless you want to hop back to your house on one foot. Personally, I think that’s a bad idea, because if you can fall like that on both feet, I’d hate to see what you’d do on one,” he rambled.
My eyes narrowed suspiciously. “You were watching me?”
He didn’t even have the sense to deny it. “Yeah. You’re kind of interesting.”
“Well, I don’t think I want to accept help from some kind of giant stalker,” I said, crossing my arms.
His blue-gray eyes darkened to almost black. “Fine, then. You can get home on your own.”
He turned and began to walk away. The wind picked up. After a second, I let out an exasperated breath.
“Could you please just help me up?” I called, biting my lip. My hair blew around in the wind.
He turned back around. With his eyebrows raised, he slowly walked back towards me.
“Are you sure you want to trust a ‘giant stalker’?” he asked skeptically.
Shaking his head, and holding back laughter, from the look of it, he held down his hand. With only a moment’s hesitation, I took it.
Now, he holds out his hand.
“Really, you should be resting that ankle of yours,” he says.
I roll my eyes. “Yeah, right.”
And I take his hand.