Nothing was ready. She looked around the living room and made a mental note of everything she still needed to do. Board the windows, box up the trinkets her mom thought were aesthetically pleasing, brace the door jambs…she sighed as the list just kept going on and on in her spinning mind. There was no way everything would be ready by the time the storm hit.
Hurricanes that is. Being raised in Miami Beach, Rachel was used to the process of preparing for the storm. Hurricanes were no stranger to the shores she spent many High School nights partying on. But since being away from home the past two years, it seemed that instinctual knowledge had left her.
She shouldn’t even be home now, but her mom and step dad had decided to take a cruise, a sort of second honeymoon now that they had the coveted empty nest. When her mom called to ask her out, Rachel had almost ignored the call, but, against her obvious better judgment, she had answered.
“Rachel? It’s your mother.”
“Yes mom, how are you?” Her mother was oblivious to caller id and always announced herself. It the caller id didn’t do it, her high-pitched one-of-a-kind voice would clue you in immediately.
“Your father and I are needing a favor.”
“Stepfather” I mumbled, she didn’t hear me.
She should have said no. She should have said she was busy, studying for midterms, or unable to get off work, something that would have allowed her to stay north of any impending doom about to strike the home she had grown up in.
It was really the nostalgia that had done her in.
“Rachel, if no one protects the house, it’s sure to be run over by the storm.” Her mom refused to call them hurricanes. Something about the using general terms made her feel safer. Or something.
“But what about me? I don’t want to get caught in the thing.” She avoided the term to placate her worrisome mother.
“Just board up the house and leave, we can clean up when we get back from our trip. The newsman says it should hit around 5pm. If you leave before it starts raining you should be fine.”
Leave before the rain starts. She kept repeating this in her head and glancing anxiously at the clock. 2:15pm. She let out a huff and picked up her phone for the umpteenth time that day. This time she even let herself scroll down to his number and place her finger above the call button. She put it down before her fingers did something she knew she would regret.
She picked up a ceramic cat and, wrapping it in newsprint, placed it in the storage box at her feet. She worked as quickly as she could, finishing the whole downstairs, and walked up the steps with more newsprint and boxes.
It was a familiar path, her feet barely needed her brain to know how to get there, it was so ingrained in her muscles. She reached the door and took a breath as she opened it, preparing for redesign she was sure her parents had done to her old room.
Surprise struck her as she looked at the room, everything exactly as she had left it two years ago. Even the book she had been reading was laying, face down and open to her place, on her night stand. It was like looking through a time hole, and in that instant, she still felt like a child instead of the 20 year old adult she tried to be the rest of the time. She smiled as she looked at the odd collection of horses that framed her walls, no reason or order to the collection, just every horse figurine she had laid her hand on the in the first 10 years of her life. She took them down carefully to pack them up, memories rushing through her with each one. She could remember the exact place she had acquired each of them, not a talent she would repeat to anyone, but she was proud of it.
High School had been rough on Rachel. It had been the typical experience, if any experience was typical. Rachel had not been in the “in” crowd, nor had she been ostracized. She was known for blending in, and the longest keg stand at MBHS. The partying had begun the moment one of her friends had gotten their drivers license. Then it was about every weekend for her, whether her friends were there or not. The drinking made it okay that her father had left her and her mom. The alcohol soothed the memories of her uncle molesting her as a child. Yeah, she knew the reasons, she’d been to therapy and was “cured”, that didn’t make getting drunk any less effective.
Squealing tires shook her from the past. It confused her for a minute, the familiar sound of that particular tire squeal. She looked out her bedroom window to see an equally familiar red corvette sitting in front of her house. The surge of joy was squelched by anger and she practically ran down her stairs, another familiar movement to her feet.
She flung the door open just in time to see the two boys making their way to the door.
“What are you two doing here?!” She practically yelled. Then she realized how angry she sounded and tried to remedy it with a cocky smile.
“Rach!” The brunette one shouted, ignoring her angry tone, and ran toward her. He picked her up with ease, putting to use the non-athletic muscles currently covered by a grey short sleeve shirt. She hugged him back out of habit, then pushed him away. He set her down laughing.
“I said, what are you doing here, Chad?” She asked the tall, tan boy. Okay, not so much a boy anymore, but she couldn’t bring herself to think “man” about her High School sweetheart.
Chad laughed again. “You are NOT going to like the answer.” His laugh was met by a single chuckle from behind.
The other boy had made his way to my front door, and now looked at her from under dirty blonde hair, that swooped to the side in that “I look like I just rolled out of bed but really spent at least 10 minutes just fixing my hair” style. Her stomach flopped at that look.
“Hey Rach.” Mark said in a flirty tone not missed by Chad, who quickly punctuated Mark’s greeting with a swift punch on the arm. Mark just laughed, and rubbed him arm. Rachel could sympathize. She’d seen those muscles.
“Hey Mark. Why are you guys here? Who told you I was in-“ She stopped mid-sentence as she answered her own question. “Mother.” She groaned. Chad just laughed again.
“We’re here to help, so put us to work.” Mark said. He looked at his watch, Looks like you’ve only got about an hour, unless you want to stay cooped up for a few days in here.”
“No, nuh-uh, I am not getting caught up in a hurricane.” She threw out her hands as if to make the point that much more clear. She looked up at the darkening sky with fading hope, trying to will them to hold the rain for as long as possible.
“Okay then.” Chad jumped in, “What do we have left to do?”
“Well,” She said, moving the party into the living room. “The windows need to be boarded up, and the door jambs braces, but I think that’s all.” She was actually quite pleased with the progress. If only essays could be accomplished this smoothly.
“Okay, let’s get to it!” Chad picked up a hammer and some boards Rachel had brought in from the storage shed and handed them to Mark, who, in turn, handed them back to Chad and picked up his own. She laughed at their mini fight and grabbed her own supplies.
Chad and Mark seemed to just bring all her fond memories of Miami Beach with them. The story of the three of them was anything but simple, but they had stayed friends nonetheless.
Rachel and Chad had dated pretty much all of High School. The periods in-between their dating had been spent with Mark. Awkward enough without them being best friends. Chad had always known about Mark, but for some reason it didn’t affect their friendship. They three of them stayed friends despite any perceived awkwardness.
It wasn’t like Rachel wanted both of them for the same reasons anyways. If Chad was her high school sweetheart, Mark was her high school lover. Mark had always wanted more, but something in Rachel told her that was too much of a risk, and she had always found her way back to Chad. Chad was reliable, trustworthy, forgiving. Mark wore his heart of his sleeve, and Rachel watched it break every time she went back to Chad. It was sick, but seeing his heart break reminded her that with Chad that would never happen to her. And it never did.
Rachel was always the one to break up with Chad, even when he knew he would be staying in town for college and she would be moving away, she was the one who had to break up his long-distance plan. No way would she be attached to someone hundreds of miles away when it killed her being attached to someone right next to her.
That was what had been easy about Mark. It never seemed like she lost anything of herself when she was with him. Maybe it was because he knew she’d leave, maybe it was because she knew she couldn’t stay, but there was never the unspoken expectations there were with Chad. They just had fun, and that was enough for her, and even when she knew it wasn’t for him, he never uttered a word.
So that had been their dance in high school. Each guy pretending not to know about what the other did with Rachel, and her trying to appease herself whatever cost. She’d been to enough therapy in her life to know how horrible that sounded, but it was the truth.
The hammering must have hidden the thunder rolling in around the little house. It wasn’t until Mark hammered in the last piece that the three noticed the deep booms from outside. Rachel’s heart pounded in her chest as she snapped her head toward the clock. 5:15pm.
She swore and ran outside, the two boys on her tail. Rain trickled from the black clouds, lightly beating on her forehead as she stared, mentally arguing with the angry clouds. She ran back inside, leaving the boys to hoot and holler about the storm. Grabbing her phone, purse, and keys, she shot past them to her grey SUV sitting in the driveway.
“Wait! Rach!” Chad yelled after her.
“Don’t stop me Chad. I’m leaving. I am not staying here through a hurricane!” She yelled back at him.
A hand grabbed the door frame to her car before she could shut it, and she was surprised to she Mark holding it open. She looked down, unable to look into those deep green eyes.
“Stay.” He said.
“I can’t. I don’t want to.”
“You can’t leave. It’s coming. Now.”
She looked back up at the sky, now throwing down the rain in big drops that splattered on her head, and she knew it. It was too late. She sighed, looking from Mark, who was grinning at her in triumph, to Chad, drenched in rain, but with a mirror reflection of Mark’s grin. Yup. She knew it.
The storm was coming.