Jason was busily typing away at his computer, in the finishing stages of designing a website, when Nicky’s friend arrived. Nicky dropped her book and bounded to the door.
“Sharla, come in!” he heard her say. He could tell that she was grinning as she spoke because her voice sounded a little higher than usual. He wished for a moment that they didn’t have to be so uptight all the time and that his sister could be happy like that more often.
Sharla, who appeared a moment later in the doorway to the little sitting room where Jason sat, was a petite girl with limp dark brown hair. She had big haunted eyes and a shy smile. Jason remembered his manners enough to stand up to greet her.
“Why don’t we go to the kitchen,” Nicky said, after introductions. “Would you like something to drink? Hot? Cold?”
They were gone, and Jason returned to his computer. But his mind was occupied listening to the girls talk in the kitchen.
Nicky was busy putting tea on and chatting. “I heard that your dad works at the post office. Does he like it there?”
“Well, sort of, I guess. He’s been working there all my life. It gets kinda boring, I think, sorting paper all day,” said Sharla. “But it pays well.”
“What does your dad do?” Sharla asked.
“Oh, he’s a clerk at a bank in New York City,” she lied easily. She’d told this story many times. It was nice and safe and far away.
“That’s far away,” Sharla remarked.
“Do you visit often?”
“Nah, not too often. But every now and again. My brother and him don’t get along very well, see.”
Jason was surprised at this. He’d never heard her say that before, but he supposed it was a good explanation for their infrequent visits home. And he had to admit to himself that there was some truth in what she said.
“Oh, that must stink.”
Nicky must have shrugged, because there was a pause in the conversation, then Sharla commented, “It’s gotten really dark outside. Must be a storm coming.”
A moment later there was a flash and a loud rumble of thunder that made the window panes rattle. Then the rain arrived. It smashed against the windows as if it were trying to make as much noise as the thunder.
Nicky dashed into the sitting room. “Jason,” she gasped, her eyes wide and wild, “a storm!”
“I know,” Jason was standing, shaking a little and staring at Sharla, who had followed Nicky out of the kitchen.
“You have to go home now, Sharla,” said Nicky.
“But the storm!” she exclaimed, clearly startled by Nicky’s words. “It could be dangerous.”
“Trust me, you need to go.” Nicky laid her hand on her friend’s back and guided her to the door. Nicky obediently put her shoes on as another bolt of lighting lit up the room.
Jason gasped and bent over, then ran into the kitchen where he gave a loud, screeching shout.
“What’s wrong with him?” Sharla asked, terrified.
“Nothing, he’ll be fine. Just afraid of storms.” But Nicky’s own body was beginning to change. The electricity of the storm made it impossible for them to hold their human form. Her hands were changing into claws, so she put them behind her back. “Just go! OK? I’m sorry!”
Sharla opened the door and stepped out onto the porch. Nicky shut the door behind her and collapsed into her griffin form.
Sharla stood on the porch that was walled in by the heavy rain. There was a long flat stretch of grass that she would have to cross to get home and many trees to go under and she knew that it was far too dangerous to make the trip in the storm. Storms here came up very quickly in the summer and were very dangerous. As she stood there, shivering on the porch, a bolt of lighting struck the tree in the twin’s front yard and the flames were put out almost instantly by the rain. So Sharla sat down, with her back against the door, too afraid to go out, too afraid to go in.