Welcome to Part five of the current long story cycle (Cracked Windows). The links will be laid out in sections to cut down the total number we see on each post. You will be able to follow from week to week as needed when new sections appear.
The Storm Begins
“I suppose you don’t want to talk about it,” Arial said.
Jerome had stumbled into the kitchen, rubbing at his eyes. He grumbled as he flopped into his chair at the breakfast table. An empty bowl sat in front of him next to a box of cereal and a half filled gallon of milk. No juice, no coffee, nothing from the normal breakfast waited for his arrival, just the cold cereal. He screwed up last night and knew it.
All the things he had seen in the middle of the night were gone. Their windows remained surprisingly undamaged. He thought he might have dreamt the entire thing if it hadn’t been for her question. And he wasn’t ready for the discussion that would follow.
“Do we have coffee?” he said.
Arial let out a sigh. “Yes, I made a pot. It’s sitting on the warmer now.” She shook her head and turned her attention to her breakfast.
He poured the bran and raisins into his bowl and then covered it all with milk. Jerome glanced at Arial before he got up to grab the coffee pot. He didn’t have the words, and couldn’t think of anything fitting for the oddity of it all. He knew what had happened in the middle of the night but still couldn’t figure out where it had all gone. The cracks across the glass in their bedroom had spider-webbed across the entire set of windows. They should have exploded with the damage but in the morning they had been just as solid as they had been the day before.
Thunder cracked through the morning air and broke the silence. For a moment, Jerome had forgotten what they had even been arguing about. He looked through the kitchen window into their back yard and could see toward the east the sun pushing up through the trees. But the sky just above their house fought to hold the darkness. The clouds were pushing fast as the storm rolled in.
It marked the rest of his day at work as well as the commute to and from. Rain sparked by lightning and thunder, it slowed at times but never really stopped throughout the day. The change in the weather had changed the mood of everyone around him. Tempers were shorter and exchanges were heated just a bit more than usual. The sales calls he made on the phone were curt and short. Flood damage had invaded his work life if not the world around him.
The rain had intensified on his ride home from work. Several times he had been forced to stop as the down pour flooded his windshield and his wipers couldn’t clear it fast enough. He had spent twice as long on the road as his usual drive and his muscles had become sore and cramped in the process. By the time he reached his driveway and he climbed out of his car the inner muscle of his shoulder felt like it had been pulled through a wringer. He twitched repeatedly as he hobbled to his front door.
As he fumbled with his keys he noticed a movement across the street. In that moment he realized that his attention had been drawn there even before he began the search for his house key. Their nameless neighbor had been walking from the house to the detached garage.
That wasn’t what had stopped him cold. Instead it had been the items in the man’s hands. He wore a bright yellow rain slicker and had a shovel slung over one shoulder. His other hand grasped the edge of something that looked like it could be a tarp. Jerome’s mind raced through the possibilities. The man had to be up to something nefarious, there was no question of it in his mind now.
He watched from the front porch as the rain came down, to see if the man did anything else to be concerned about. Arial pulled into the driveway before he had a chance to catch the man doing anything else out of the ordinary.
“What are you doing?” She pulled herself out of her car and ducked the rain on her way to the porch.
He looked around, in an effort to divert his focus from the neighbor’s yard. “Watching the storm,” he said. The lie spilled from his lips without a thought. He leaned out beyond the edge of the roof and let the rain pelt the side of his face. “It seems like forever since the last rain.”
“Mother Nature is making up for the oversight.” She brushed passed him and attempted to turn the door knob. “How long have you been home?”
Jerome jiggled his keys. “Just got home a few minutes ago. I haven’t even had a chance to open the door.”
“I can see that.” She stepped aside and gave him room to unlock the door.
He let her into the house first. Before he stepped through the door he glanced back, across the street, but didn’t see anything new.
If you enjoy these stories, consider leaving some coffee money in the jar or you could buy a book or two. Either way helps keep the stories flowing.