No matter how dark the moment, love and hope are always possible.
– George Chakiris
She lightly touched my forehead and ran one finger down my cheek to the tip of my chin leaving a trail of fire in her wake. I closed my eyes trying to savor her and my head instinctively leaned into her touch. Her soft finger swept over my lips and I tasted her salty skin one last time before she was gone.
I could hear her footsteps growing faint but I didn’t open my eyes to watch her walk away. I stood completely still, the only sound was my heart pounding frantically as I knew the space between us grew larger by the second. My soul was begging me to chase her but my body knew she could never follow where I was going.
My cell phone rang and I didn’t need to look at the screen to know it was Dean because of the stupid ringtone he’d programmed for himself. He was the last person I wanted to speak to at this moment. I finally opened my eyes and her car was gone, she was truly gone. My chest felt empty, the only thing that remained was an overwhelming ache. I had done it, I had completely pushed her away. I would never see her face or feel her touch again.
The phone stopped blaring at me and then started back again just as quickly. I jerked it from my pocket and hit ignore. Just as I stuck it back in my pocket it beeped with a text message. I opened the text and saw “Gonna keep calling till you answer” and then Dean’s ringtone started playing again. I inhaled until my lungs were near bursting and hit accept.
“What do you want Dean? I already told you to leave me and my family the hell alone!” I screamed as all the air from my lungs escaped in one long steady stream.
“Are you at home? Where’s Lily?” I could hear how frantic he was. His voice was shaky and he sounded like he was on the verge of tears.
“Seriously! That’s what you called to ask me? I told you to leave my sister alone. Don’t speak to her, don’t touch her, don’t even think about her. You’ve already done enough!”
“Easton, there’s a tornado headed right for Kolby. I tried to call Lily but she won’t answer her phone. Are you home? Is she safe?”
I looked at the sky above me and only saw pure darkness. If there were storm clouds the black was concealing them well.
“Easton? Answer me where’s Lily?” he shouted again.
“Where my sister is isn’t your business, she’s my responsibility not yours. Stay away from her.” I quickly hung up on him and ran to my truck.
I didn’t make it a mile down the road before the rain started to fall in thick black sheets. The wind was howling outside and made an eerie shrieking sound as it fought its way down the row of trees flanking the country road. The farther I travelled down the road the heavier the rain became until I could no longer see beyond the hood of my truck. For the first time I was thankful I knew these old country roads well enough to drive them blind. My phone kept blaring as Dean called the entire way to my house. I never once considered answering his call but I did think about throwing my phone out the window a couple times.
By the time I pulled into the driveway hail had started to fall. It was at least golf ball sized and I was afraid it would shatter my windshield if it hit the long crack that ran down the middle. I parked my truck as close to the front porch as I could get without knocking down the white picket fence. I didn’t see my dad’s truck anywhere so he must be at his home away from home, the bar.
I ran from the truck and tried to maneuver my way to the house. A large piece of hail hit me square between the shoulder blades knocking me to my knees. The ground was completely covered and my hands could only feel hard ice - no grass, no dirt. After several tries I was finally able to stagger to my feet and make it to the safety of the front porch.
I flung the screen door open and saw that the living room TV was already on with the tornado warning blaring. Gary England was feverishly telling everyone around Kolby to seek shelter now. Dean was right, a tornado was here.
I felt the adrenaline rush through my body, it was similar to how I felt under the Friday night lights. But this time it was more edgy and pure, this was truly life or death. I took off down the hall to Lily’s room. She was stretched out under her covers asleep.
“Lily, get up. We gotta go.” I said from the doorway.
She didn’t wake.
I flipped her light on and walked to her bed touching her arm. Her hand flew to mine and squeezed hard. “Lily? C’mon we gotta go.” I said and shook her arm lightly.
“Dean?” She moaned.
Oh hell, I think I need to wash my ears out with bleach now.
I jerked her arm a little harder. “Lily, we have to go. Lily, can you hear me? Wake up, Lily, wake up.”
Her eyes popped open and she looked around completely confused. I shook her arm a few more times to try to pull her from her dream.
“Easton, stop shaking me. I’m awake, let me go.” She stammered still half asleep.
“A big storm is coming. Get up! We have to go to the cellar now.” I grabbed the closest pair of shoes I could find on the floor and tossed them to her. She was still staring at the wall with her eyes glazed over. “Now, Lily!” I shouted to get her attention.
She mumbled something about no sirens and I wondered if it would be faster if I just threw her over my shoulder and carried her to the truck.
“Gary England just showed the storm and said for everyone in and around Kolby to take immediate cover. The tornado has already touched down south of town.”
Fear flashed across her face. I didn’t like seeing the panic in her bright, innocent eyes and knew I should try to calm her, but she finally focused on putting her shoes on so I kept my mouth shut. I knew I had time to console her once we made it safely to the storm shelter.
“Where’s everyone else?” she demanded.
I’d had enough of the talking and was ready to get out of this house and somewhere safer. I grabbed her arm and hauled her from the room.
“Dad isn’t here and Mom’s in bed. You get in the truck while I get her.” I dragged her down the long hall and pushed her toward the front door. As I started toward Mom’s room Lily grabbed my hand.
“Easton, no. Don’t leave me. I’ll come with you. C’mon.” The fear on her face had turned to terror at the thought of being left alone and I felt the same way. But I didn’t want her in this house another minute, she was now mine to protect and I’d never let anything or anyone hurt her…never again. The safest place for her was away from this house and I’d do anything to protect her.
“No, Lily. Go now. We’ll be there in a minute.” I wrapped my arms around her hoping to pass what little courage I had through our embrace. “Go. I’ll only be a second.”
I turned and ran to the back of the house.