Weather the storm

In a writing group I am a member of we were asked to write a short story featuring the weather.

The gentle sound of the waves as they rolled up and down on the beach calmed him. He loved the solitude of his beach house, it had been the best move he could have made. The gentle breeze blew away his thoughts of Alice and his stormy relationship with her. It would be a long time, if ever, before Ben gave his heart to another human being, but feeling the weak sun on his face gave him hope for the future.

He wiped his sandy boots on the mat and unlocked the front door. Every time he entered he experienced that feeling of coming home. He threw his keys onto the hall table, next to the photo of the twins, his niece and nephew, with their parents. He did miss seeing his sister and her family as often as he had been used to, but he knew how much they would love coming to stay with ‘Uncle Ben’ in the school holidays.

He sat at the old pine kitchen table with a warming cup of coffee and heaved a sigh of satisfaction, not realising how drastically his life would change within a few hours. From his kitchen window he could see the sea. Clouds were gathering ominously on the horizon. It looked like a storm was approaching.

Ben had just made himself some cheese on toast when his phone rang. His sister’s name flashed up.

“Hi, Sis. What’s up?” His heart rate increased when a deep, serious sounding voice replied.

“Am I speaking to Ben, brother of Megan Hillard?”

“You are. Who are you? Why do you have Meg’s phone?”

“I’m very sorry to tell you sir that there has been a terrible road traffic accident. We are unsure of the details of what led up to the crash, but I’m afraid your sister and her husband have been pronounced dead at the scene. We are using their mobiles to find relatives.”

“What about the twins?” Ben could barely speak, but his first thoughts had been of his nephew and niece.

“Miraculously, they seem to be unhurt. They are being checked over in the ambulance as we speak. It is because of them that we are so keen to trace family. We need someone to take care of the children straight away, while their future is decided. Are there any other close relatives to consider, grandparents perhaps?”

Ben’s mind was racing. His parents were quite frail and not in a position to take on two boisterous youngsters. The children had no grandparents on their father’s side. Anyway, there was no need to consider anyone else. Of course he would take the children in.

“I can be there in three hours,” he told the officer.

“It’s a long wait for the children and a long drive for you to do twice. I’ll get two of my officers to bring them to you. Give me your details. They will be with you as soon as possible.”

Ben put the phone down and stood looking out of the window, stunned. His poor sister. Those poor children. The clouds were rolling in, the sky was becoming darker, an overbearing presence. There would be a storm by nightfall. He put his mind to practical matters. There was a room ready for the twins, he just needed to make up the beds. He would make a tasty soup. He doubted that they would be up to eating much but a mug of warm soup might be appreciated.

He busied himself tidying and cleaning, trying to keep his mind off the terrible images that he was conjuring up. He needed to stay strong.

The sound of the car interrupted his thoughts and he rushed to the door. The twins shot out of the car, sobbing hysterically and throwing themselves into his arms. Ben led them into the kitchen. He offered the officers a cup of tea, or some soup but they were aware that the weather was changing and they wanted to get on the road before the storm broke. They took some details from him and told him someone would be in touch the next day to discuss the children’s future.

It was a difficult evening, the children were, in turn, angry, sullen or crying, not surprisingly. They sipped at his soup, but no amount of cuddles from him would get them to talk or even look at him. They fell into an exhausted sleep as the first rumbles of thunder started. He carried them up to bed and tucked them in gently. It was going to be hard but they would get through it. They had to.

By the time he took to his bed the storm was well and truly established. Lightning streaked across the sky followed by loud claps of thunder. Storms over the sea were quite spectacular and he left his curtains open to watch the sky from his bed.

After a particularly loud clap of thunder a little figure appeared at his bedroom door.

“Uncle Ben,” said a scared little voice.

“Millie, here hop in.” He held back his covers and Millie jumped in and snuggled down against him. Alfie followed quickly and the new little family weathered the storm together.

“See how beautiful the lightning is,” he said.

“But it sounds so angry,” said Alfie.

“It does, and we feel angry too, but the storm will ease and our hearts will gradually ease too. I’m here and I will protect you from this storm and whatever storms come our way.”

They must have eventually fallen asleep because Ben was woken in the morning by the sun on his face. The storm was over and it was a beautiful day. He eased himself out of bed without waking the twins and went down to prepare some breakfast. They were very quiet when they appeared but did eat a slice of toast each.

“Come on, shoes on. This is the best time to go to the beach.”

Without excitement they put on coats and shoes, and taking Ben’s hands, walked with him to the shoreline.

“After a storm there are always interesting things washed up on the beach. Let’s see what we can find.”

The three of them walked the shoreline, heads down, searching. The sun shone and the sound of the waves calmed them. Each find was greeted with tiny sparks of enthusiasm, quickly extinguished, but flaring up again with a new treasure. They only stopped when the shower started.

When they returned to the house they turned round at the door and looked back at the sea. A beautiful rainbow had appeared, a promise in the sky. In the hall they laid their treasures; sea glass, shells, pretty pebbles and interestingly shaped drift wood, on the hall table around their photo.