Black Clouds

by Abbi G.


The sky was dark with clouds, and no moon was showing itself. They were lying on the rain-soaked ground, trying not to breath. Mud had streaked their clothing. The darkness was closing in. Andi took a deep breath as her lungs burned for oxygen, and she pulled the children close. 
“Jesus!” She whispered in desperation. “Please help us!”

*******
Earlier . . . 


The day started out bright and cheerful. All was quiet on Memory Creek Ranch--at least for now. Andi smiled through the window at her three children rolling in the tall, wavy grass.  
Mmm mmm, Andi thought as the smell of her fresh peach pie baking in the oven reached her nostrils. She heard hoofbeats, and the distinct rumble of a wagon nearing the home. Andi went to the open door, and looked towards the sound. It was Chad, Ellie, and the clan of two children. Andi suspected a third was on the way.
“Hello!” Andi called to the wagon. “Come right on in. Please, excuse the mess. I was baking today.”
“You’re alright. We brought dinner your mother sent from your family's ranch on our way into town.” Ellie smiled sweetly as Chad helped her climb from the wagon. Andi looked at her, perplexed.
“Town is the opposite way.”
“So? We took a detour! What? You’re not happy to see your brother?” Chad broke into their conversation, smiling. 
She just laughed.  Andi ushered everyone into the house for some fresh pie. She sliced the pie and everyone found a place to relax all throughout the room. Andi stopped mid-conversation to stop her two boys from scuffling. 
“James! Corey! Stop that this instant! That is no way to behave yourselves indoors.” Both boys looked sheepishly at their knees. 
“Mama?” James said, timidly. “Can we please go outside? It’s gettin’ mighty hot in here.” Andi considered her sons.
“The correct way of asking is ‘may,’ but I suppose you may. Just remember Corey is younger, so make sure he’s not left out. Also, only so long as you don’t get too dirty…” Andi let the warning hang. 
“Yes, ma’am.” Was the tandem reply.
“Papa, may I go to, please?” Will bounced lightly on the balls of his feet waiting for Chad’s reply.
“Of course! But you know how to behave.” Chad’s pointed look touched all three boys. With a “yes,sir,” the boys bolted from the room. 
“Mama, can we--I mean MAY we go to my room to play with dolls?” Eliza--named after Mother--smiled sweetly. 
“Of course, Darling! Mind your manners and be careful.” 
“Yes, ma’am.” Chad looked at Clara Rose pointedly, and expectantly.
“Yes, ma’am,” Clara quickly added. Both girls rushed off before Andi could comment more. Andi relaxed as the day progressed. It was nice to visit with family. She hadn’t been able to do that near as much as she’d like! Riley would like to see Chad. Hmm, I wonder where he is. Andi pulled thoughts back in, and recentered on the conversation as Ellie was speaking.
“I declare! If it isn’t storm season this past month, then I don’t know what is!”
“I agree. Especially that storm last week! Justin says it’s a shock that storm didn’t drop a tornado! A tornado! Can you believe it? All my life in Fresno, and I have never seen a tornado, and I don’t intend for that to change!” Andi shuddered at the thought.
“Well, if we do see a funnel cloud, little sister, don’t y’all have a root cellar?  That would be the safest place for everyone.” 
Andi smiled at his pet name for her slipping out. She definitely wasn’t a little girl anymore, but Chad had always been quick to point out that he was the older brother. 
“Of course we have a root cellar, Chad. I believ--” The hollow thuds of boots on the wooden front porch stopped Andi mid-sentence. 
“Andi? Chad! Ellie! What a surprise.” 
Andi watched Riley and the others exchange greetings. 
“Have a seat, Riley. I’ll get you some pie.”  A loud wail had Andi changing directions, headed outside. Ellie followed, and the men trailed her. The boys were in the middle of the yard, James and Will stood toe-to-toe. Corey sat on the ground off to the side, plastered with mud. The mud stretched from the tips of the boys boots to streaking his face.
“That was your fault!” James challenged Will hotly. 
“No, it was not! It was all yours. If you hadn’t bumped into him trying to fight me, this wouldn’t have happened!” 
“You shoved him!”
 Andi ignored the argument and knelt down at her youngest son's level. 
“Can you calm down and tell me what happened, Corey? It will be fine.” The boy took a few hiccuping gasps. 
“I-I-We were playin’ at the creek, and James and Will were wrestlin’ and they bumped into me and I fell into the mud by the creek!” 
Riley’s eyebrows knit into a look that would rival Justin’s court look. He turned to the of still arguing boys. “James Riley, did I not tell you to stay away from that creek right now because of all the rainfall?” 
“Uh...yes, sir. I didn’t mean to. We just sorta got there somehow.”
“Somehow, son?” Chad leveled his son with a look that somehow rivaled Riley’s.
“I told you the same thing yesterday, son. Where did the horseplay come in, William?” 
“Uh...well, Papa, I’m not really sure. It just somehow started.” 
The men looked unimpressed. 
“So,” Riley began, “We have a forbidden creek that y’all just somehow happened to be near…” 
“And a fight that just somehow ‘started’?” Chad interrupted. 
Ellie could tell by the men’s faces, some hides were about to be tanned. She could also sensed the boys' anxiousness in how they stood, hands fidgeting by their sides. They simultaneously swiped their hands along the back of their overalls to rid them of sweat. Ellie’s heart went out to them. 
Andi noticed the encounter as well from her position beside a very muddy Corey. Not today! Not when the boys were just being boys, and playing with family! Andi thought, sadly. Andi knew only too well the effect one wrong word would have on hot, tired boys. They were again best friends now. She suddenly brightened with an idea. 
“Okay, boys, time for a walk. Ellie, would you go get the girls?”
“Of course! I think a walk is a splendid idea.” Ellie scurried into the house. Both the men turned on Andi. 
“Andi, you ladies can go ahead. The boys, Chad and I have got some business to attend to.” 
Andi motioned her husband to join her a few feet away. “Riley, please, let the boys come with us. They were just being boys. We’re with family! Today is their fun day. Please, honey? You and Chad can go inside and finish your pie. You can show him the new tack shed you’re working on.” 
Riley tweaked her nose, and the edges of a smile appeared on his stern face. “You know I’ve never been able to resist those puppy-dog-eyes, Andi. Alright, the boys can go. They better behave themselves though!” 
Andi turned back to the boys as Ellie exited the house with the girls on her heels. 
“Alright,” Ellie began, “Who is ready for a walk?” The boys shot nervous glances toward their fathers. 
“Me!” Corey shouted, suddenly thrilled.
After a glance toward his angry father, Will voiced his opinion rapidly. “I would love to go on a walk, Mama!”
“Yes ma’am!” James nodded emphatically. “I think a walk with you and Mama would be great!” 
“Then let’s go!” Andi led the clan onto a small hiking path that skirted the tree lining on one side, and the far east pasture on the other. The hike was starting off wonderfully, but nobody noticed the sky darkening above. 
 ******
Andi, Ellie, James, Will, Corey, Eliza, and Clara were all enjoying themselves, and were well into their walk when things took a turn for the worse. A few drops began to fall from the sky. Andi glanced up.
“Oh my! It’s gotten so dark so fast! Let’s head back.” She bit her lip and hurried the group back in the opposite direction. Chad’s voice pounded in her head with each step. Surprised it didn’t drop a tornado! Surprised it didn’t drop a tornado!  
Ellie gripped each girls’ hand to hurry them along. Andi scooped Corey onto her hip to accommodate his small legs. The skies opened. Andi couldn’t see three feet ahead of her, but she felt the hail begin to fall. Ellie shielded the girls’ heads as best as she could.
“Boys!” She screamed into the wind, “Cover your heads!” Andi tucked Corey’s head tightly against her shoulder. Oh! God! Have mercy! Suddenly, the rains slowed, and the hail ceased. It was quiet--too quiet. Andi watched in desperation as the sky took on a green hue. 
“Uh, Mama, why’s the sky look like that?” Will’s voice was shaky. 
“It’s just a storm, dear. It will be okay.” Ellie’s voice was calm, even as they broke into a jog. Surely they were nearing the house! How far had they traveled? Then, Andi’s worst nightmare came true. The clouds above began to slowly drop as they slowly started rotating. 
Andi broke into a run, hampered by her heavy, soaked dress. No! No! No! Lord! Please! Her frantic prayers remained unanswered. A slight ditch before them came into view as a strange updraft made itself appearant. 
“Mama! The wind is blowing up!” James looked shocked. 
“I know, Sweetie. Stay with me.” The wind began to pick up, and Andi dove into the small ditch. She pulled the children down under her. Ellie lay beside her, helping to shield the children. The muddy water seeped into her very pores as the darkness began to settle again with a roar. 
The sky was dark with clouds, and no moon was showing itself. They were lying on the rain soaked ground, trying not to breath. Mud had streaked their clothing. The darkness was closing in. Andi took a deep breath as her lungs burned for oxygen, and she pulled the children close. 
“Jesus!” She whispered in desperation. “Please help us!” 
The skies opened once more, and the rain pounded the ground. Then, a sound an odd mix between a hiss and a rumble filled her ears and drove every coherent thought from her head. She felt the wind snatching at her dress, yanking it with a vengeance. She pressed herself firmly into the ground and prayed. Her tears mixed with the rain. It seemed like an eternity, but two minutes later, the world was once again silent, and the rain had slowed to a drizzle. 
“Thank you, Lord! You are so good! Thank you for keeping us safe!” Andi rejoiced as happy tears flowed down her cheeks. 
“Thank you, God!” Ellie joined her. 
“Mama! You’re squishing me!” 
Andi giggled as she rolled out of the ditch. She helped the children up, but Ellie was frozen. She stared at Andi, mouth agape, finger pointing directly at her. Her eyes were huge, but her shoulders shook as she began to laugh. 
Andi glanced down, and burst into a belly laugh as she noticed what held Ellie’s attention. Somehow, the lower half of her dress, at her knees, had been raggedly torn away. Her petticoats were shredded, or what was left of them. Andi collapsed back to the ground, rolling with laughter. 
And that was exactly how Riley and Chad found them when they burst through the trees. Andi, bare knees showing, rolling on the ground with Ellie delirious with laughter as the children stared in shock. 
Riley looked at Chad. Chad looked at Riley. Both men spoke at the same time. 
“She’s your wife!”
“She’s your sister!”
Both men stared a little longer, then broke into loud guffaws as the situation settled over them. When Andi could finally breathe again, she smiled as she looked at those she loved so dearly, and saw them safe. 
“Thank you, Lord!” She whispered one more thanks as she relaxed where she lay. Sure she was covered in mud and bruises, and had half a dress, but she had her family. And for that--she would be eternally grateful!

Comments

  1. Aw, that was so good! I love Riley's and Chad's opposite comments at the end!

    ~Leah

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  2. Thank you so much, Leah!

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  3. Oh, I really enjoyed this story, Abbi! Thanks for sharing. ❤

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  4. It is so wonderful to see these stories from you young writers! Keep up the good work.

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  5. I LOVED THIS STORY, ABBI! You are such an amazing writer! Keep up the great writing!
    ~Grace Hammond

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  6. THIS IS AMAZING! So funny at the end. Abbi, You could be a author!

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    Replies
    1. Reread this story! Totally still loving it! We've had a few tornado watches here in PA and it's not as scary as your description sounded! Your so good! Did you get the tornado info from experience? :O

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    2. Hi, Lizzy! Thank you for the compliment! Yes, I did. Haha! Our church runs a fireworks tent in the summer here in Missouri. Several years back we had tornadoes. We shut the tent down and took off when the clouds started rotating. The updraft was a real thing! We drove about five minutes and one touched down in the field right next to us! We were all fine, but it was a super cool experience!

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    3. Yes, It sounds frightening and awesome at the same time! How long after the tornado did you decide to write this story?

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    4. Umm, probably about two years! haha! I didn't have a lot of time to write then, and I focused on some other stories for awhile. Actually, it wasn't until a friend mentioned having to write a paper about a natural disaster that I thought of writing this story. With college starting back up, I'm limited again on time to write unfortunately. I got one story--posted under the friends tab-- with my cousin written in a few hours over break--that was tough. LOL I love writing, but I need to make more time for it!

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