A woman increases her strength and confidence
| The Hurricane|
Emily shivered slightly as she peered through the front window. Drenching rain and high winds made seeing difficult but, surely, she could tell if the sky was darkening. Hadn't she read somewhere about the sounds of rushing trains just before the hurricane hit or was that a tornado? She kept listening as she continued preparations.
I have to make sure my animals are safe she thought as she tried to corral her cats into their solid sturdy cages. Mary, her youngest cat, sensing Emily's fear, had hidden under the sheets in the linen closet. It was taking too long to find her; time was running out.
Finally, all her cats were safely tucked away but Emily still had to get to the designated shelter of the local elementary school.
Turning off the power, Emily grabbed her raincoat and ran out the front door. Hurrying down her front walk, she looked back once, imprinting her house in her memory. That peaceful home she had worked so hard to create might be nothing but sticks and debris after the storm.
Watching the rain, Emily dashed towards the elementary school. Battering winds and buckets of rain pelted her on all sides as she struggled forward. As trees snapped and electricity crackled, Emily felt the ground starting to shake.
"I'm not going to make it," she whispered as she turned her head from side to side. There's got to be something I can hide in, anything that would provide shelter.
Emily spied a huge drainage ditch underneath the road to her right. As she turned to run for it, the winds knocked her down. Fighting the whirling winds and the concrete hits of rain, Emily scrambled for the safety of that underground pipe. Reaching it, she crawled inside into the darkness.
Emily crouched down in the middle of the pipe, her heart pounding so loudly, she thought it might come through her chest. She had never been in a hurricane before. Her knowledge was limited to the weather channel's warnings and suggested protective measures. Would this pipe be strong enough to protect her?
Wiping her face with her hands, she wondered if she would live through this. I've got to calm down she thought and, slowly, stretched out her hands and her legs, trying to relieve the strained muscles. It was so dark in here she couldn't see anything but gray openings at both ends of the pipe. Running water raced by her, wetting her even more. She tried to stand up and staggered on unsteady legs. As she lurched to the left, she reached out blindly with both hands to steady herself and felt...........something moving.
Jerking away, Emily screamed, "Who's there?"
Eric." Shouted a strange man's voice.
Trying to remain calm, Emily shouted back, "Who are you and what are you doing here? Don't come any closer. I have a gun." Of course, she didn't but how was he to know?
Hearing her fear, Eric answered, "Hey. Take it easy. I got caught out in this mess and had to find shelter. I saw this pipe and here I am. Calm down, I'm not going to hurt you. What's your name?
Well, Emily, I can tell you're scared but you don't have to worry about me. I just want to stay here until the storm passes. Then, I'll be on my way." Eric continued.
Emily said nothing. She moved a couple of feet away from that voice and sat down. She didn't know who this person really was but neither of them had much of a choice. Was he dangerous despite what he said?
The hurricane raged above. The forecast had indicated six or eight hours of it. Emily thought about her house and her little family of cats. Would any pieces of her life survive?
Exhausted by her terror, Emily began to weep. Was her sanctuary going to be destroyed? She didn't know if she had the energy to rebuild. Starting over with nothing had been the price she had paid to get away from Steve. It had been hard. That first winter with no heat, sleeping on the floor, cooking on a single burner, all that had been rough. It had taken her three years of physical hard work, extensive counseling, and sheer guts to create her sanctuary. The peace she had come to know had been worth every second of those three years. Continuing to weep, Emily felt a warm hand attentively touching her arm.
It's OK," Eric soothed. "We'll get through this. You'll be alright."
His voice startled her; she hadn't heard him move closer. Emily was still frightened of him but at the same time, she wanted to bury herself inside his soft comforting voice.
Acting instinctively, Emily reached towards Eric's voice and felt for his chest like a blind wanting child. Grabbing his shirt with both hands, Emily pulled herself to Eric's warm body and wrapped her arms around his waist. For the first time in a very long while, Emily felt safe and, promptly, fell asleep.
When Emily woke up, the first thing she noticed was the quiet. Realizing her arms were still wrapped around Eric, she untangled herself, creeping backwards, separating herself from this stranger. What was going on? Why was she in total darkness with someone she didn't know? The, she remembered.... the storm, the fright. She, also, remembered Eric and her fear of him. Maybe her fear was foolish. He had had ample opportunity to hurt her while she was sleeping. Maybe he was telling her the truth, that all he wanted was shelter.
Brushing her hair out of her face, Emily questioned Eric, "Why is it so quiet. Is it over?"
Calmly, Eric replied, "I think the hurricane's eye is right on top of us."
Sensing Emily's desire to escape, he continued, "I think we should stay put. When the eye moves away, the worst winds and rain come behind it. Hopefully, this pipe is strong enough and we'll be safe."
Emily was listening, but she was, also, thinking how good it felt to be held. How long had it been since she trusted anyone? How was she supposed to act? Realizing Eric was still talking, she said, "What?"
Eric repeated, "Are you OK? You must be exhausted but you only slept for a couple of hours."
"I'm fine., a little tired and wet, nothing serious. I'm worried about my pets. I'm afraid they won't make it through." Answered Emily.
Eric asked, "What kind of pets? Dogs? Cats?"
I have four cats, all strays and rescue animals," Emily said. "People tend to be so careless with their pets."
"No husband? No children?" queried Eric.
"No to both of those questions." Answered Emily, firmly, putting an end to that conversation.
"We've, probably, got another three-four hours before this hurricane is over. We can't see each other and we can't leave so why don't we spend the time talking. I won't ask you anything personal. And you don't have to answer any questions you don't like. We can just be Emily and Eric, two voices in the dark. No promises, no expectations, just a bit of comfort. OK?"
Emily answered, "Alright. We can try."
"Great." Eric said. "Do you live around here?"
"Yes." Emily responded, "about a half mile from here. I was able to buy my house cheaply because it was a fixer upper. It needed a lot of work."
"Really?" Eric said. "What did you have to do? Paints walls and clean windows?"
Emily laughed. "Not only that, I replaced windows, did some plumbing, helped re-shingle the roof and I, even, built a back deck all by myself."
Emily's voice reflected her pride in her accomplishments. Realizing her excitement, Emily stopped talking, mentally kicking herself. What did he care about what she had done? They were strangers. As soon as this storm was over, they would go their separate ways.
Eric said, "I'm betting you have lots of flowers and a vegetable garden. Right?"
"Yes." Emily said. "And it's all mine."
Quiet moments passed in the dark. Emily decided to try again, determined to keep it light.
"You said you were traveling when the storm hit. Where were you going?"
"There's a toy convention in Charlotte. I create educational toys for children. I was supposed to show my inventions to toy distributors. I didn't want to wait out this storm so despite the warning, I started driving towards Charlotte. Anyway, I think this hurricane is going to make me too late to keep my appointments. Today's the last day of the convention."
Emily said, "I think you'll be able to make it. Charlotte's only eighteen miles from here and the convention's, probably, on hold because of this hurricane. What kind of toys did you bring?"
"I have six models in my car", Realizing the wind was picking up again, he said hurriedly, "I've got to get them. I can't afford to let them be destroyed.
Eric moved, quickly, to the end of the pipe and slipped outside. Emily listened to his fading footsteps. Was he crazy? He could get killed out there. Should she go after him?
No, she'd wait here. Although Emily had been by herself for quite a long time, she had never been lonely before. This was a new feeling for her. Where was he? Why wasn't he back?
After three long slow minutes passed, she heard him coming back, pushing something heavy.
Crawling up to him, she heard him say, "Got them. Let's see if they're OK."
"Are you crazy? Said Emily. "You could have died out there."
"Calm down, Emily." Responded Erik. "I didn't get killed and now I'm back."
"Would you like to hear about what I've got?" Erik asked. "Here, put your arms out."
Emily did and felt something soft and furry and oddly shaped push into her arms.
"What is it?" She asked.
"It's a heart friend," answered Erik. "It's soft and hug-able and can be a lonely child's best friend. It's something that will always listen and never tell your secrets."
"What does it look like?" Emily asked. fascinated.
"Do you remember Gismo in that old horror picture. You remember, he was very sweet unless you fed him after 12:00 o'clock. Then he turned into a monster."
"I think I remember." Sid Emily. "Wasn't he furry with great big ears?"
Eric laughed. "Yes. But this is shaped like a giant heart and has bigger ears. It hasn't got a speck of plastic in it so it's totally hug-able."
"What a wonderful idea." Emily said, softly. "I could have used something like this when I was a child. What else do you have?"
"I've invented a tiny robot that teaches different languages to children. It has an interactive microchip that corrects the child pronunciation by processing his sounds. I have very high hopes for this one. Here," Eric said, pushing the toy into Emily's hands.
Emily felt the shape of a miniature man. "I want one of these. Are all your toys like this? Do you have any just for fun?"
"I'm glad you asked me that question," Eric responded. "Here's my pride and joy. It's a real live magician's kit. It's has powders and chemicals and disappearing magic milk, all the things I wanted as a child. We didn't have much money so I never got one. So, when I got older, I invented my very own kit. It can, even produce live rabbits and doves. And best of all, it comes with a magic cape."
"A cape? A magic cape?" asked Emily. "I've always wanted a long black cape. Is it black? I wish I could see it. Can I feel it?"
Stretching out her arms, Emily could feel a rich velvety material. She grabbed it. Her hand, accidentally, felt Erik's hand. For one swift second, Emily didn't move. Her next sensation was urgency inside her. Not quite believing what she was doing, Emily's right hand found Erik's. Slowly, her arms moved up Erik's arms onto his shoulders. Neither made a sound nor moved. The stillness of this moment stretched on and on.
Emily moved closer, her fingers moving up and down his face and neck, touching, caressing, taking strength from his strong face. As her fingers reached his mouth, they hesitated just a bit, teasing his lips. As if in a silent movie, Emily's mouth found Erik's mouth. She plunged into desire for a strange man she would never see again. That kiss deepened into wanton possessiveness. He drew her to him so tightly, she almost lost her breath. His mouth teased Emily's lips open and explored inside with a passion Emily had never felt before.
Forgetting about the danger above, forgetting her own fear of intimacy, Emily could only think how much she wanted, no, needed this man.
Erik murmured, "Do you want me to stop?"
"No." gasped Emily. "No."
"Just a moment," Erik said, withdrawing momentarily. Emily knew what he was doing, and she waited. She didn't know if this was right or moral or even rational. What she did know was she had been alone for a very long time. Nothing mattered at this moment except the feel of his body on hers with all the promises of his flesh.
Feeling Erik turn back to her, Emily reached out with both hands. And tumbled into the warmth and desire and the passion of lovemaking. Paying absolutely no attention to the continuing storm above, Emily's world totally consisted of hands and mouth and sounds and utterances of desire. Emily wanted it all.
Emily stretched luxuriously as she slowly woke up. Then she sat upright....last night! Eric! What they had done!
Looking around, she realized she was alone, wrapped only in a long black velvet cape. The storm was over, and sunshine poured in from both ends of the pipe. Reaching for her clothes, folded neatly beside her, Emily noticed a not pinned to the front of her shirt. Picking it up, she began to read...
Thank you for the most glorious night of my life. I hope it was the same for you. Always remember. Enjoy the cape." Love, Erik."
Emily read the note again. She waited for that old familiar feeling of guilt to start creeping in. Sex had always been a struggle for her. Seeking love in the past in the only way she knew how had always turned into a wham-bam thank you ma'am. It had taken her almost all of her adult life to realize that self-respect does not come from a stranger in bed. And last night certainly qualified as sex with a stranger. Would it undermine the small amount of confidence she had rebuilt?
Emily crawled out of the pipe. Standing up, she mentally prepared herself for the damage. Surprisingly, the guilt didn't come. Emily started home, actually, feeling good. She hadn't acted like a passive person last night. Matter of fact, she had taken as well as given and she, certainly, hadn't been shy.
Remembering some of last night's moments, Emily felt her face burn. But this was good, very good. She would remember last night for the freedom giving intimacy it had been. She had realized her needs and had satisfied them, giving pleasure both to herself and another human being. She felt no shame, only strength and confidence and ready to pursue the rest of her life with a passion she now knew she possessed.
I made it through all my storms last night she thought. And, tightening her raincoat, she ran home.
Word Count 2598