She loves the storms. Loves that crackling-charged feeling the air gets for hours beforehand, as clouds gather on the horizon like an amassing army. She spends the time before it hits watching the sky and ground, and the sun as its face is hidden from the world.
She loves the pitter patter of rain on the stalks of sweet cane that grow in long rows in the fields. There's something about the sound that lulls her into a sleepy state as she rests her chin in her hands, her elbows propped up on the open windowsill.
She loves going out in the rain, under the brooding clouds, feeling it hit her fur and soak in, weighing her down and anchoring her to the sweet earth. The smell is clean and fresh and lightens the load she wears on her heart. No one else understands the pull of the rain, of the heavy clouds and soft smells and that inevitable releasing of spirit that makes the soggy trudge home worth it all.
Matem tuts about the state of her fur, how wet her clothes are, how she'll catch cold. She's gotten used to sneaking downstairs when the rain comes, using rumbles of thunder to mask the squeaky steps, third and fourth from the bottom, that are too close to be jumped over and protest too much to be silenced by will alone. She tiptoes past her parents' bedroom and out the back door, pausing only to toe off her slippers and abandon the robe she has on over her nightdress. She wears them as an excuse if caught, but the night beckons from beyond the doorway and she wants as few barriers as possible between her and the rain.
Those first steps onto the wet grass are the sweetest. The water dropping from the sky beads and pools on her, down her arms and along the length of her tail, forming silvered drops that tremble and stretch and then break, darkening the fur beneath them. She shivers as cool liquid seeps between the pads of her feet, trickles down the back of her neck and drips in a friendly fashion into her ears and eyes and mouth.
It's pouring down, drenching everything, and she starts to walk towards the cane fields, needing the open space where she can see the clouds and the rain and nothing else. The smell of wet, sweet cane is nearly worth the trip alone. It seeps up from the ground as the rain seeps down and the scents collide and combine, filling her lungs and her head with a stillness she forgets to crave until she's in it.
She stops in the middle, turns her face up to the sky and closes her eyes as water splashes over her nose and mouth and eyes. This is a peace she'll never find in the house, with Matem and Nantam and all her brothers and sisters living under one roof. This is the kind of peace she'll risk anything for, as lightning and thunder war overhead, reminding her with a little thrill down her spine that she's the tallest thing for a half mile in any direction.
Energy builds in the air, hissing too high to be heard but just low enough to be felt from her ear tips to her toes, curling them in the muddy ground. Matem will be angry about the mess when she sneaks back inside but for now she can't care, every sense alert to the awakening happening above her head. She opens her eyes, shielding them against the rain to peer up at the budding clouds. They swirl and begin to coalesce and for the first time real fear trickles into her veins, cooling the excited beat of her heart.
She has never seen a storm behave the way this one is and that scares her. She turns on one heel, pivoting back towards the long-distant safety of the house when a bark of thunder, louder than any other, breaks the sky. She freezes, afraid to look, afraid of whatever has taken shape behind her.
Lightning crackles above and she turns in one abrupt move, scanning the sky, then falls to her knees, all thoughts of preserving her nightdress' cleanliness forgotten. Above her stirs an animal, a wild fox formed of purpling storm clouds and budding lightning. The raw power and knowledge in the ethereal creature's eyes is staggering, and she can't bear to hold its gaze longer than a few seconds. Instead she watches the ground and the rain dripping from her fur and trembles down to her bones at the force of the gaze trained on her.
Fear is predominant but awe bleeds through her veins as she remembers the figure in the sky from stories Nantam tells to the youngest children. She falls fully prostrate, whispering out a worshiping prayer to the goddess of the sky, thanking her for her beauty and nurturing spirit.
The rain gentles at her words, caressing her back and arms, warming her until her shivers subside and she dares to lift her head. She feels as though the storm has swept through her very soul, the eye of the hurricane focused like a spotlight. Their gazes meet again for a moment, power crackling along the connection before the creature stirs, turns and begins walking away.
As she kneels in the mud the sky above her lightens slowly, the rain letting up. The air is sweet and clean, clearing her head and eventually she stands, feet sliding a little in the mud. The shivers have returned but she hardly notices, starting the long walk back towards the house. Her breath keeps catching in her throat and those eyes and the knowledge behind them haunt her thoughts, trailing cool fire over her mind.
She knows she will never forget this storm, but also that she will never share it. Matem will be angry tomorrow, when the sun's light reveals the mud caked on her nightdress but she also knows that it won't matter. That the scolding will be worth it and she will not reveal her reasons for being out nor what she saw out in the cane fields, under the open sky.
This is a secret best remembered only when the next storm comes.