The Morning We Begin Again
Diana left a disastrous storm behind at the Goodman home, & in the early hours of the morning after she left, Natalie makes a realization about the dawning of a new day, and the rebuilding of a damaged home.
Each crash of thunder resonated with Natalie as the kind of reminder that can't be ignored, that her life was on the verge of falling apart. Each crash sounded like the impact of a foot against her heart as it was stomped on. Each crash, another part of her life being torn apart. Each crash, was an interruption of the comfortable, serene silence she longed for in moments like this. Each crash, sounded like maybe it was the last one and in a way, the rhythm the crashes had developed had come to sound like the ticking of a clock – reminding her that there was only so much time left before nothing that had gone wrong could be made right, and each crash was a whispering voice in her ear, mocking her, that this disastrous rupturing down of a life and person that had took so long to build up was completely out of her control.
Natalie prayed that the moments of silence in between the booming, echoing sounds would last longer. They weren't really silent, because she could hear Henry's heart beating, as her head was against his chest. Curled up in a ball, engulfed in his arms, Natalie couldn't help but feel like a child, scared of the storm. But it wasn't the storm Natalie was afraid of, and Henry knew that.
Each time she jumped with fear at the sounds, Henry would rub her back, and whisper that it was okay, that everything was okay, that he was there. Natalie knew he was lying though about his bravery, because every time the thunder shook the house, she could hear his heart speed up. Natalie wondered if he was actually afraid of it, or if he too, was petrified of something else.
Natalie didn't know when her dad would be back tonight. She knew her mom might never be. In a strange way…she was almost okay with that. Almost okay, but still scared. Maybe if she could get over the fear she would be okay with it. Natalie tightened her grip around Henry, and he brought her closer. Natalie felt his lips on the top of her head, and closed her eyes. If she fell asleep, this would all be over. Henry would carry her up to her room, and she'd sleep through the storm.
But she couldn't sleep through the real storm. She had watched her Dad try it, and when he slept through one storm, another one woke him up. It became a cycle. Natalie refused to be a part of that. She would face the storm.
The loudest explosion of thunder erupted, and Natalie cringed hard, letting out a small, condensed scream, and Henry clutched her.
"Shhh." He whispered, and his arm fell from around her back, and reached for her hand. Natalie took it, but missed the secure feeling of his arm protecting her. Her shaking hand held desperately onto Henry's, his gently squeezes only calming her down once or twice.
Natalie pressed her head even harder to his chest, wanting to be close to his heart, because when it wasn't racing, its beat calmed her. It reminded her, even when she closed her eyes that he was there.
When Natalie's eyes were open, they would shut each time lightning elucidated the room. She didn't like watching it brighten the dark room. Natalie hated how it highlighted everything, nothing could hide in the darkness, everything was revealed. From the basket of laundry her Mom had collected that morning, that sat beside the washer, to the dusty, cobweb coated highchair that sat in the "storage" side of the basement, that had been used by Natalie, and before her, by her brother. The boxes labeled "Gabe's Toys", "Natalie's Trophies", "Diana's Medical Documents" – all reminders that went hand in hand with the thunder that everything was crashing down around her, and she was stuck in the middle to be destroyed by the rubble.
"It's just thunder, it won't hurt you." Henry whispered, and Natalie realized her body had begun to shake. She looked up at him. Eyes boiling over with concern, with bags underneath to match. Natalie glanced at the clock. It was 4:30 in the morning. Henry had stayed. Her parents had left. She didn't know where either of them went.
"I'm going out, I'll be home soon." Her dad had said. That was 5 hours ago.
"I won't let it hurt you." Henry added, and the fake, painted on smile that had rested on his lips turned to the familiar goofy one he usually wore. "I'm tough, I can take it." He said, and Natalie felt her insides turn a little, and her lungs released a small, barely heard chuckle.
"You're gonna fight the thunder?" Natalie asked, eyebrows raised.
"If it tries to hurt you." Henry said. Natalie sat up, and said,
"Well, if I'm the one it's trying to hurt – I should fight it."
"But I can help." Henry told her. Natalie smiled sadly, knowing that neither one of them were talking about the thunder outside.
"Okay." Natalie whispered. Henry leaned in, and feeling his nose brush by hers', and feeling his warm breath against her, Natalie let him kiss her softly. For a moment, she forgot about everything, and just wanted to be with Henry – where she was safe. The only place she was safe. In a break between thunder crashes, they heard a key turn in the front door upstairs.
"Your Dad." Henry whispered. "I should go." Natalie nodded.
"Go out the back so he won't hear." She told him.
"You gonna be okay for now?" Henry's voice cracked with nerves when he asked. Natalie knew what the question really meant.
Are you going to go drown yourself in meds and nearly kill yourself again? But she couldn't blame him.
"Yes", Natalie nodded as she murmured the one syllable, and they both stood up. Embracing Henry, Natalie wondered if he believed her.
"I love you." As Henry whispered those 3 words, Natalie realized he probably didn't believe her, because even Natalie didn't trust her answer. Henry left and Natalie was left in the basement alone, and was paralyzed with fear, too scared to move either upstairs or back to the couch, for some reason feeling like something would capture her, and she'd never be let free. But a small buzz against the coffee table forced her towards it. Picking up her phone, the name above the envelope on the screen read MOM. Natalie's thumb quivered as it pressed down on a key.
Flashlights are on the kitchen shelf, if the power goes out!
At first Natalie was pissed. After all the events of the night, the only thing her mom could text her was a reminder about flashlights for God's sake at 4:30 in the morning, when everyone should be asleep anyway. That's all she had to say? But at least she cared enough.
In her own twisted way, Natalie knew, this was Diana's way of making herself feel less guilty, and showing that she cared. She did care. According to Dan, that's why she left.
Natalie sucked up her fear, and tiptoed up the steps, and to the kitchen shelf, deciding to keep a flashlight with her overnight while she slept. There were four, for a house where 3 people used to live. Natalie knew it was normal to keep a couple of flashlights around the house just in case, but her mind couldn't help but remind her who that fourth flashlight was probably for. Natalie picked one up, and underneath there was a small envelope with NATALIE written on it in her mother's hand writing. Her hands tore the envelope and began to read,
It stormed like this the night before you were born, and that drizzly morning, when you finally came was another chance for me. A new beginning. Tomorrow morning will be another chance for you. Your new beginning.
There was a lot more but Natalie closed her eyes after that first paragraph.
The morning after a storm always felt so empty and peaceful. You could look out your window and see the grey sky, and the fallen trees. It seemed so simple, and silent, but to Natalie the morning after a storm was just a reminder of the damage. But her mom was right. It was a chance, to plant a new tree, rebuild a damaged home. Even if the morning after a storm forced you to see the damage, at least it meant it was over.
The thunder had ceased, the lightning had stopped, the rain had slowed to a light drizzle. Natalie's storm was over. For the time being at least, but until then, today was a new beginning.