It was an overcast morning. The sky was blanketed with heavy strange orange-yellow-grey glowing clouds. Watching them from my study window, I could tell it was going to rain soon. I had been so engrossed in my work on my latest historical book for the last two hours that I hadn’t bothered to turn on the overhead lights or even to look up from my computer screen. If I had done maybe I would have noticed the odd clouds sooner or maybe I wouldn’t have noticed them at all.
Standing up from my chair, slowly so that my old body could take the movement and weight. I hobbled over to the window, leaving my walking stick by my desk. My view changed and I saw those yellow-orange-grey clouds above the roofs of houses and tree tops. Everything looked damp as it had rained before but I’d not noticed. A light wind was blowing the tree branches and the fallen leaves about in a lazy manner. Beside from that everything else looked still.
I frowned at the sky and wonder what was with those clouds. I’d never seen such a strange color. It was if they had been tinted by washed out sunlight or some poisonous toxin. They give off a depressing doom feeling, not like in a horror movie but more a tragic play. Little flecks of rain began to fall, like tiny snowflakes, almost invisible.
A chill went over my skin, rising the flesh in knobbly bumps. Feeling the stiffness growing in my legs, I moved and walked around my small study. The two walls either side were lined with bookcases, holding God only knew how many books. My desk was in the middle and the closed door in the wall opposite the window. Reaching the desk, I lent on it, feeling the aches I had come to know so well ebbing into my limbs.
The phone rang. The shrill crying breaking through my thoughts and pain. I answered it with a shaking hand and breathed deeply down the line.
‘Dad? It’s Emerald. Are you okay?’ my daughter’s voice echoed over the phone.
‘Yes,’ I answered, ‘just the arthritis again. I was sat too long,’ I replied.
Emerald tutted loudly as I shuffled over and sank into my chair. She was daughter number four and always the one who’d been most concerned about me out of the six. I could picture her rolling those sparkling green eyes which my late wife, Pearl, had named her after and fretting with her angel blonde hair. In the background, there were voices; the TV and her two children playing.
‘Listen. Please don’t go outside today,’ she pressed.
‘It does look little odd out there…’ I cut in, eyeing the window and the clouds.
‘The news said it was sand the hurricane winds are bring over from the Sahara. That’s why everything looks so orange-yellow and the air tastes strange,’ Emerald explained as if she was talking to a child.
‘Well, I guess they know more about this then I do. I didn’t have any plans to go out anyway,’ I added.
‘Do you need anything, dad? Do you have enough bottled water and food?’
I glanced around the study as if it could tell me.
‘I’ll go to the shops as soon as I’ve dropped the kids at school and get you somethings,’ Emerald spoke.
‘I guess that would be good of you, sweetheart.’
‘Okay. See you soon. I love you dad, bye.’
We hung up and after a few seconds of staring at the phone, I got up and went to the window again. This time I took my stick and lent on it. Easing some of the pressure. I opened the window little and looked harder outside. What I thought had been rain before was actually bits of sand and Emerald hadn’t been wrong about the smell. It was hot and dry, like a beach only without the salty sea.
I had been to Egypt once with my parents when I was a child and as that memory came back to me, I decided that there were similarities between today and what it had been like there. I didn’t want to think about that anymore though, so I went back to my desk and found some news stories about storm.
After reading them, I put the PC to sleep and went downstairs, using the chair lift, I hated so much to get there. In the living room, I turned on the TV and opened the curtains. The same sky that had been upstairs greeted me. I turned on the two lamps then watched the news reports. I dozed off for a bit, feeling calm and warm in my favorite chair.
When Emerald arrived, she brought the storm in with her. I must have fully fallen asleep because the heavy rain beating down like fists and the whipping wind hadn’t disturbed me. It was Emerald’s voice shouting out to me above all of that and the creeping autumn cold, like Death’s fingers wrapping around my throat that woke me.
‘Dad? Dad? where are you?’
‘In here, pet,’ I answered.
There was a rustle of bags then she stuck her head around the door.
‘I’m fine,’ I waved her off then began to get up.
Emerald had made a second trip to her car and back to into the kitchen by the time I made it up and in there. She was already unpacking things and placing important items within easy reach.
‘It’s getting worse out there and everyone has gone crazy!’ Emerald said.
I nodded and pulled out a chair to sit down.
‘I got you some more soup and noddles. Theses dried fruits were on offer and two small loafs of bread. I’ll put one in the freezer for you.’
‘Your mother hated frozen bread,’ I muttered.
‘She also hated to be without a loaf,’ Emerald shot back then smiled at me, ‘do you want some tea and lunch?’
‘Yes. That would be nice.’
‘I asked Ruby and Sapphire to check in with you later. If they can’t drop in they’ll phone. Okay?’ Emerald asked.
I nodded, my thoughts going straight to daughters number two and five. It had been a week since I’d seen and spoken to Ruby and three days since Sapphire had called me. One of their birthdays was coming up soon, but I couldn’t remember which. Emerald would know. She had taken over her mother’s place in fussing over me and her sisters.
‘That’s all sorted now. Kettle on and cups, soup in and bread.’ Emerald said to herself.
‘Have you heard from Jade? Didn’t she go to the Sahara?’ I spoke out as the idea came to me. I hadn’t seen my oldest daughter in five years now since my wife’s funeral.
‘I think she did…’ Emerald paused then shrugged, ‘and it’s been a month now. I sent her a few emails and tried to call but she says signal is bad in that part of Australia.’
‘Or maybe that was Topaz,’ I thought aloud.
My third daughter, who lived in America with her husband and five children. They had come to visit two months ago.
‘Well, it wouldn’t have been Opal!’ Emerald came in with as she set two mugs of tea and a plate of toast on the table, ‘I went to see her the other day and she’s doing a lot better now. The doctors said she should be able to go home soon. Though to what I don’t know!’
I picked up my mug with a slight nod of my head. Opal’s life had been nothing but hell. The youngest of my girls she had set herself on a different path from the rest of them and became a drug addict and prostitute. I had written a book about her and it had done quiet well.
‘Maybe, she could move back in with you?’
I shook my head, ‘I like my space and my peace and quiet.’
‘But I worry about you. This house is too big for just you and you need someone to look after you more then ever now,’ Emerald pressed.
This was a conversation I was tried of and I had found it was best just to ignore the topic every time it was brought up. I drink my tea and ate my soup. Emerald filled the silence with chatter about her kids, husband, other family members. I sat in my other thoughts, often looking at the storm building up behind the kitchen window.
When my daughter left, I went back to the living room and put the gas fire on. It was too cold to sit without some warmth. I found a big book to read on Greek myths and legends and with the news on to keep me company and the storm trying to get my attention with it’s rage, I lost myself for awhile.
I must have fallen asleep because I woke slowly into a darken room. Blinking away the dim glow of the lamps, I looked about and checked I was still in the living room. The book was in my lap, the news was still on though the time had changed dramatically and outside I couldn’t see the storm because it was early evening and the rain was too splattered on the glass.
My body groaned and creaked with stiffness and pain, as I got up and went over to the fire place. Turning up the heat, I went around felt the radiators which were all on and warm. I went upstairs, struggled to put on another jumper over my first but managed to do it then went back downstairs. I made myself a large mug of tea and debated what to have for dinner.
Life has to go on in some way, storm or no storm.