Jay huffed and puffed as he used an old takeout menu to fan his sweating forehead. “Ugh! It’s so hot!” he moaned. He stared at Edel, who was dressed in her usual attire of jeans and hoody, and with a look of disgust, he asked, “Aren’t you hot?”
Edel frowned. “Yes.” Her answer came in its usual affirmative tone.
“Then why are you wearing so many clothes? The apartment is like an oven and the aircon is useless. Why do you never make things easy for yourself? Surely you would be more comfortable if you wore shorts or a t-shirt or a vest or something!”
Edel pressed her lips together, considering her answer. She owned shorts. Jay bought her a pair from the thrift store at the end of the street, but for her entire incarceration at Poly-Gen, she had worn shorts and a vest. She liked the feel of real clothing against her skin, even in this heat. Plus, the length of the jeans and hoody covered her scars and hid the evidence of her traumatic past. “I like my clothes,” she said.
Jay shook his head and stared through the window. The window opened onto a tiny balcony and Jay said, “I’d stand outside, but it’s no cooler. It’s just so hot everywhere!”
A deep rumble of thunder rolled outside and Edel’s body jolted in alarm. Her eyes fixed onto the dark clouds overhead and her body tensed. She resembled a cat ready to pounce on it’s prey.
“It’s just thunder,” Jay said.
Edel’s eyes darted from the window to Jay. “Thunder?”
“Yeah, you know! Thunderstorm. It’s about time, too. It might cool down if we have a decent storm.”
The thunder cracked again, followed by a blinding flash of lightning, and Edel stared at the sky wide eyed and unblinking.
“You okay?” he asked. “um, you’re not afraid are you?” he sniggered at the filthy look she threw in his direction. Edel would never admit to being afraid under any circumstances. “What is it then? You’re acting like you’ve never heard thunder before.”
“I haven’t.” She stared through the window as the rain began to fall. It wasn’t like the rainfall she had seen before. This was wild, fast, and heavy. It bounced up from the floor and everywhere was drenched within seconds. The thunder cracked again, followed by a white bolt of lightning that lit up the whole sky and seemed to cut the world in two.
Jay peered at her uncertainly. “You have never seen thunder and lightning? How? I get that you spent almost all your life indoors, but you hear better than a dog! How have you never heard thunder before?”
“The cells at Poly-Gen are deep underground. Before I escaped, I had barely seen daylight, let alone weather conditions.” She moved closer to the window and watched intently as the sky lit up and the thunder crashed in the air. Without thinking, she opened the sliding door and stepped out onto the balcony.
“Edel! It’s slamming it down out there!”
She didn’t care. The feel of the heavy rain pelting her face and the crackle of the air felt exciting to her. The air smelled different. Fresh and new but there was a new and unfamiliar quality to it that she couldn’t quite place. The thunder roared again, and she turned her face to the sky, the rain soaked her skin and drenched her face and hair. The lightning was fascinating. So bright. So powerful. Unlike anything she had ever known.
She turned around to see Jay watching her in the window. He was shaking his head with a look of amusement on his face. He held a towel in his arms and said, “Are you coming in? You’re soaked!”
Edel stared back at Jay, not quite daring to argue, but not wanting to give up this new feeling. The storm evoked a feeling of freedom in her and a strange, but powerful sense of excitement. A thrill she had never experienced before.
She didn’t move. The rain pelted her face, and the wind blew her hair until it matted untidily and stuck to her wet skin. It was the first time she hadn’t automatically obeyed a command Jay had given her. She peered up at him fearful of the repercussions of not complying with his request, but desperate to hold on to this new sensation of wonder a little while longer. Instead of seeing anger when she looked at him, there was nothing but amusement in his eyes.
“Okay. You win!” he laughed. He dropped the towel on the floor, and climbed through the sliding door, and out into the rain. The thunder roared again and Jay looked up to the sky. “You’re completely mad,” he said.