Thunder in the House

August 5, 2009
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I push myself to sprint faster when I see how dark the sky has become. The clouds are a swirl of black and the rain is coming down so violently that my vision is a blur. My socks get drenched in mud and I’m shivering despite the humidity. None of that matters though, because I am too focused on finding her. She is having “one of her bad attacks” like all the doctors would say, and I need to find her before too much happens.
Fifteen minutes before:

I got out on of Lucie’s board games, Trouble, to distract her from the thunder that was starting to brew. She hates the thunder and whenever we get a storm, she huddles in the corner and shakes. Her fingers start snapping and she rocks back and forth. I hate when she acts like that. It makes me embarrassed. Everyone always lumps us together, but I am nothing like her, and I never want to be.

Lucie is my 15 year old twin sister. We were supposed to be identical, but something went wrong when we were delivered. I have silky brown hair. Lucie has washed out, stringy brown strands. I am 5’5”. Lucie is 5’4” and walks with a hunch in her back. I am slim. Lucie is scrawny. I am a freshman in high school. Lucie attends an alternative school. My favorite color is yellow. Lucie likes red. I spend my time hanging out with my friends. Lucie spends her time in therapy. I have always been the definition of normal. Lucie is anything but. She was diagnosed with autism when she was six. All I ever wanted was a normal sister, and instead I got Lucie.

I brought the game into the living room and placed it on the coffee table. The box was tattered and ripped. In the upper corner it read, “This game belongs to Lucie.” She had finally been able to write out her name when she was ten, so when we got the game, she proudly wrote her name on it.

Lucie was pacing in the corner of the room right next to a vase of Mom’s roses. When she saw that I was setting up the game and taking the red pieces out for her, she started inching her way across the carpet back to where I was.

“I like red. Can I be red, Lilly? Can I?” she asked eagerly.

I nodded and continued to set up the pieces. “You ready?”

I could hear the dull pounding of the rain hitting at the roof, but ignored it. Lucie didn’t though. She started to wail in a voice so high pitched it was barely audible.

“Come on,” I said getting irritated at her storm ritual. “Let’s start playing.”

Lucie stopped making noise and looked tentatively out the window. She focused her gaze our swing set in the backyard. Or at least what remained of it.

Our swing set used to be so magical when were little. Our mom built it for us, mainly to give us a place to play outside seeing that half of our backyard was occupied by a ditch that would fill up with swamp water.

The swing set was made of sturdy wood that had tints of orange streaks in it. There was a ladder leading out of the playhouse, and two leather swings that would burn when it got hot outside. We would play in the swing set for hours on end. We each got to plant flowers in the playhouse to make it cozy. I planted yellow ones, and Lucie planted red ones. Our mom put them in a pot for us, and set them up in our swing set. The same flowers are still up there and they haven’t died yet.

Lucie and I would make up games in the playhouse, see who could swing the highest, or try to climb up the slide. I always won these childish games, but once Mom found out that Lucie had autism she started demanding me to let her win.

After that, I hated the swing set. I stopped playing in it. Lucie stopped too I guess, because I was her idol, and whatever I did she would follow. Natural forces eventually took their toll on our once beloved swing set. The wood became rotted and chipped, the sand had been stolen by the wind, and a swamp drained into the ditch.

Finally Lucie came and sat down by me. For a second I saw the pain and loss of her childhood drain out of her eyes, but then it was gone. I felt a little bad for her, so I didn’t let it bother me when she started violently snapping her fingers together.

I let Lucie go first like I always do. She pressed lightly on the “pop o matic” that kept the dice in it. At the sound of the pop Lucie winced, but then started to laugh. “Do you remember the popping sound? It makes a popping sound like it always does.”

I rolled my eyes. “Yes Lucie,” I answered. “It always makes a popping noise.”

Lucie popped a 5 on the die. I let her leave home base anyways though so she wouldn’t throw a fit. After a few turns, and with all of Lucie’s four pieces out of home base, I finally popped a 6 and was able to leave.

Lucie laughed at me. “You’re going to lose,” she said in a mature voice. “Look, I already have all my pieces out.” Her voice sounded so normal.

I laughed along with Lucie. I loved it when she talked and acted normal. “Hey,” I said. “Do you remember when we were little and I always used to beat you? How’d you get so smart?”

Lucie was about to answer. I could see the smile in her eyes like she was reminiscing on the old days. The rain on the roof was patting out a rhythm that reminded me of a childhood song, and everything was normal. Were just two sisters, being sisters.

All of a sudden though, the rain sped up. It sounded like golf balls as it beat against the roof. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a piercing shock of light strike down from the sky. It was electrifying and came down really close to where our totting swing set remained.

I think Lucie saw it too. Just like that, she snapped back into her autistic state. Lucie dug her fingers into her own skin and started pinching herself. She rocked back and forth and started to moan.

“Shut up!” I screamed at her. “Why can’t you ever just be normal?” Angry, I slammed my hand down on the board game. I could feel my hand land right onto the “pop o matic” really hard and all of Lucie’s pieces went flying. I was too angry though, and needed to let it all out. Forcing my hand up and down, I hit the “Pop O matic” again and again.

Lucie rocked back and forth and watched in horror as her pieces went flying. When she heard the popping though, she jumped up and ran out of the living room. “Thunder,” she yelled. “There’s thunder in the house.”

I heard the front door slam behind her, and started to get a ‘pit of guilt” in my stomach as Mom would say. I slowly got up and looked out the window. The rain was getting faster and faster. I stumbled to the front door and opened it.

“Lucie!” I called out. “Where are you?”

When no one answered I started to panic. Lucie had never been on her own before, much less during a storm. “Lucie!” I screamed even more loudly. “I’m really sorry.”

I waited another minute and my fear started to well up. Finally, I slammed the door shut behind me and started to race down our driveway. The water had built up, especially since we lived in a flood plain, and I was almost surfing down to the road.

I ignored how hard the rain was pelting against me and I started running down our street. I didn’t even see anything else around me. The houses, the trees, the rain all disappeared. All I could think about was finding Lucie.

Lucie’s last words started to haunt me. “There’s thunder in the house. This was the first time I had created Lucie’s attack. I had made the thunder. But was it really the first time I had caused her pain?

I reached the end of the street and couldn’t see her anywhere. All of a sudden, a blast of thunder cracked at the earth. Running faster, I sprinted back to our house. Maybe Lucie has gone back home. Maybe she heard the real thunder and has gone back home, I kept thinking.

When I made it back to our yard, I couldn’t even see anymore. The rain pelted down so much that it hurt my eyes to look ahead. Instead, I looked down at the tough, dried out grass.

I didn’t even bother to check back inside the house. Lucie would never go back in there on her own. That’s where the “thunder” was.

My legs felt like jelly, my stomach felt nauseous, and I felt shivers coming on. Without thinking, I rounded the side of the house and started staggering to where the swing set was. I blindly climbed up the wooden steps. They were soggy and rotted and I was surprised that the wood could bare my weight.

The rain had turned into hail. When I reached the top of the steps, I lunged into the play house. Panting and shivering, I felt my way to one of the corners. I was on all fours and stretched my hand out anticipating the protective walls.

However, my hand fell upon a clammy object. Startled, I pulled my hand away and forced my eyes open.

Right in front of me, huddled into a ball was Lucie. She wasn’t rocking back and forth, she wasn’t snapper her fingers, she wasn’t wailing. She wasn’t even having an attack, but her face left me feeling even more guilty. Lucie’s eyes were puffy and red.

The panic left me immediately, but then I realized something even worse. There was a full blown storm and Lucie wasn’t showing any signs that she was afraid of it. And that was because she was more hurt by me.

I joined Lucie in the soggy and damp corner where many years ago we had played games. Afraid of saying anything, I stayed silent. Reaching up to the window sill of the play house, I gently picked one of the red flowers that had been growing in the flower pot. The soil was drenched in water as was the flower.

I waited until Lucie saw what I was doing and then handed her the flower. “I’m sorry,” I apologized quietly.

The flower lay wilted in my hand from the hail, most of the petals were missing, and it looked dead. Lucie traced her fingers around the red petals, and then hesitantly picked it up.

“I like red,” she said, trying to hid the quiver in her voice.

I nodded. “Do you remember when we planted these?”

“Yea.” Lucie gently started to straighten the flower back out. Then as if changing her mind, she stuffed the flower into her pocket.

I look at her confused. Lucie returned my look. “I don’t want to lose it,” she answered matter of factly. Then Lucie reached up her hand and pulled a yellow flower out of the pot. “This is for you.’

Smiling, I took the flower. The rain had died down and the hail wasn’t coming down anymore. “Should we go back inside?” I asked.

Lucie looked out of the swing set towards the house. She seemed to be questioning it, but then reluctantly followed me down the steps. I held onto her hand so she wouldn’t fall down. When we reached the bottom, we were standing in a pool of dirty water. The swamp from right behind our house had risen and leaked into our backyard.

Lucie splashed in the murky water making it even foggier. I looked into the swampy mess and waited for it to clear. Both mine and Lucie’s reflection was mirrored in the water. From the slight ripples running through, I couldn’t tell which reflection was mine, and which was Lucie’s.

I put my arm around Lucie’s shoulder. “Don’t worry,” I said. “There’s going to be no more thunder in the house.”





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