My dad was at work, and my middle sister and I were home. Alone.
It was our first year living in Jacksonville, Florida, and we had started to get used to some of the stranger quirks of life in the deep south. The slow pace. The accents. The endless strip malls. The wide open spaces.
But we couldn't get used to the storms.
Every summer afternoon around four o'clock the clouds started to gather, and the sky darkened. The wind kicked up, and the air grew heavy with ominous humidity. Lightning sizzled across the darkened sky, and thunder rumbled in the distance. It moved closer and closer until it was right on top of us.
Then came the rain.
On this particular summer day, as the elements did their daily dance, the garage door ground to a close, and the taillights of my mom's car disappeared down the driveway. As jagged bolts of lightning slashed across the sky, my stomach knotted in a vicious case of separation anxiety. I was fourteen, but I hated being home alone in the storms.
I sat on the couch and tried to focus on the TV. Four half-hour shows until my mom came home. Thirty seconds later I was up again, watching the gathering storm. I went up to my room and opened a book, but only managed a single page before I was back at the downstairs windows.
This storm seemed worse than usual.
I knew that standing so close to the windows was a bad idea. I had been in the south long enough to hear violent stories of trees and patio furniture flying through the glass. But I couldn't step away.
As the rain beat down on the house, my sister joined me at the window in time to watch half a tree crash down across our backyard. My sister was never afraid of anything, but at that moment her eyes were wide, and her face a deathly pale, mirroring my own, I was sure. We knew we should get away from the windows, but somehow, hearing the storm without seeing it was the scariest prospect of all. So my sister and I watched, as the battle raged outside.
And then it happened.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw the funnel cloud make its way across my backyard. We watched, frozen in place, as the tornado tore through the grass, and brought down the other half of the tree. Smaller branches cracked against the windows, and our patio furniture blew around until it somehow all ended up in the pool. The tornado lifted up our heavy metal outdoor table with the glass top, and when the table fell back to the ground, the glass remained suspended in mid-air, as if by magic, until it, too, crashed to the ground in a million tiny pieces that mixed with the ferocious rain still beating down on the pool deck.
I thought frantically that we should make a run for the laundry room, the only room in the house without any windows. But before we could move, the storm was over, as quickly as it began. Relief coursed through my veins as the rain stopped and the sky lightened once again.
I thought maybe I imagined the funnel cloud, until I saw pictures on the news of the damage it caused to the rest of my neighborhood.
But our house wasn't touched.
We were safe.
Until the next storm blew through.
Obviously my mind these past couple of weeks has been on my move to the south when I was 14. So honored to share these thoughts with all the amazing folks at Yeah Write, the coolest blogging and writing community around. Go check them out. You won't be sorry.