by Lauren Bell
Her name was whispered on street corners, in busy supermarkets, at meal times when couples had nothing else to talk about. They would hold their knives and forks in mid-air, staring down at their food, all the while thinking her name in their heads.
It became a ritual, of sorts, residents chanting her name, hoping that somewhere she could hear them trying to placate her. They wanted her happy, to see her smile, her eyes a calm ocean blue instead of the poppy-cheeked girl with fire streaming from her mouth.
No-one really knew or understood her condition. She was certainly rare and unique, they all agreed on that, but most viewed her condition as a burden.
On good days, the sun would be the brightest most splendid thing in the sky, trees would stand taller, and flowers would blossom and perfume the air with their heady scent. On bad days however, nothing was safe. Howling winds and storm force gales tore through streets shaking house foundations, half-uprooting trees and lifting people off their feet. Lightning cracked the sky, forking its violence far and wide, while thunder terrified pets and young children, prompting them to cower under staircases.
But then she hooked up with Jack Hall. I suppose he was kind of cute in a geeky way but Megan thought he was the best thing ever, even better than chocolate.
To begin with, everything was plain sailing as it often is with new relationships; we had a whole month of glorious sunshine and ate ice-cream at nine pm. We thought that getting with Jack was the best thing that had ever happened to Megan and we prayed that it would never stop. If this was Megan at her best, then long may it continue.
Except, good things never last very long and a week or so after our sweltering heat wave, the floods came. The sky lost its peaceful hue and instead became a mass of writhing iron-grey clouds. Lightning struck, here, there and everywhere, and the heavens above exploded, pouring its misery on to us.
‘She hasn’t been herself lately,’ her mother said when I asked if I could help out in any way. ‘I think it would be best if you stayed away for a while. She needs time to settle down.’
But I knew Megan and I knew it would take something special to settle her mood.
I told Brett it would be fine.
‘Megan’s a really lovely girl, you’ll get used to her unique ways. I mean who else do you know can create perfect sunsets with a smile?’
I forgot to mention the horrific floods and landslides when she was depressed.
And truth be told, Brett and Megan did get on well. I mean really well. The sunsets were more beautiful than ever – vibrant marigolds and vivid tangerines became everyday weather, and the odd cold wind was a reminder to us all that they had had a disagreement. We all said that they made the perfect pair and hopefully Brett would do the right thing and marry her – that way, we would never have bad weather again.
But five days ago, everything changed. The sky darkened and a mass of clouds rushed in, their weight looming overhead. The temperature dropped and thermals became the in thing to wear again. Ponds froze over and trees began to slump, losing their leafy splendour. Raindrops fell like giant’s tears onto people’s heads reminding them that all was not well with Megan.
We were afraid to go outside, whatever had happened between them, Megan was in a very fragile state right now, so we stayed inside, held our breath and chanted her name like the perfect incantation. I’m not sure how long we did this for – it seemed like an age but eventually the clouds began to lift, a thin shaft of sunlight filtering through, reminding us that Megan was on the mend again.
I saw her just the other day and she seemed fine. I didn’t really know what to say to her so I half-waved. She half-smiled back and that was that; although something has definitely changed, I can feel it in the air around me like a bloated shadow.
And here’s another thing: I haven’t seen Brett since that night when the river burst its bank. There was water everywhere, filling up every nook and cranny it could find, including a teenage boy’s lungs.
Lauren Bell lives in Birmingham, loves rainbows and is often drunk on inspiration.