Maeve kicked off hard from the observatory rooftop, her braid whipping as she rose higher. Her hands and knees, stiff with an enchanted lining, gripped the handle of her broom as the ground disappeared beneath her.
It wasn’t until the earth became divided into green and brown tiles and the air took on a deeper chill that she slowed, allowing a small smile as she surveyed the skies. Blue, blue, blue as far as she could see.
Her sister, who had joined a sea coven, often remarked how big and empty the sky seemed. Like the ocean in its endless expanses, but without its daunting, ancient caverns, wide-toothed behemoths, and bursting treasure troves.
Maeve took in a deep breath, filling her lungs with thin, cool air that would have had her sister sputtering and coughing. She allowed herself a small smile and guided her broom toward the west.
A breath of warm air swept past her. Her smile grew as she followed the current, flattening herself on her broomstick, an arrow without a true mark soaring through the sky.
A storm watcher, they called her. A magnanimous title for a job nobody wanted. Nobody but her.
Maeve surged forward, her speed doubling as another burst of warm air gusted beside her. She scanned the horizon and was rewarded with a wall of grey on her right. She sped toward it, watching as wispy white grew heavy and full. The heavier and denser it grew, the more color it took on. It wasn’t long before swirls of deep blue shadow began to gather in the creases. Maeve grinned; it was like watching a toddler getting ready to throw a tantrum. She could almost see the clouds begin to screw up their mouths and unleash a mighty roar.
The wall of clouds grew, and she rose, climbing along the wall until the base was far below her. Maeve’s lungs filled with a cold, dark, wet scent, as if she’d inhaled a brine-less, moonless sea.
Maeve looked on as the sky began to dim. The grey skies swirled before her, the coils of a giant dragon bending and unbending. The wind around her blew harder in sharp, cold gusts, shaping the clouds to its will. The charms on her broom held her steady, but even with their buffers, the wind was strong enough that she kept one hand clutched at the place where she was tethered to the handle.
As the clouds surged, billowing like heaving waves, she sighed and touched her sapphire broach. It glowed in response, then faded. Soon, her coven would know the coordinates of the storm and redirect it to the west, where the wildfires raged. The scorched earth certainly needed the storm more than she did, but that didn’t stop the surge of loneliness that followed when the air grew still again.
But until it was swept away, she could at least enjoy it. Maeve swung her legs so she sat astride her broom to fully view the darkening skies.
It was when the air became properly cold that the storm began to truly take shape. The entire sky before her came alive. The clouds grew to pitch, getting clumsy in their heaviness, as if staggering beneath the weight of the rain. Swirling expanses of mist filled her vision, forcing her to continually move out of the way so that she kept to the outside.
Her hair stood on end as forks of lightning flashed, spindly blue fingers across the clouds, as if staking their claim. There was another flash and the fingers became chains as they linked together, glowing brighter for a few short seconds before the charge was lost.
As the lightning danced, rumbling peals of thunder soon followed, filling her soul in ways that human melody never could. To say the sound was sharp was an understatement. Like a whip, lightning arced into the sky, cracking, shattering the clouds into pieces and leaving behind a sweet, pungent fragrance. She watched as several thin, blue arms found their way down to the ground, shaking the air below with all the fury the newly formed storm could muster. The roar of thunder that chased it sent the heavens and the earth to trembling, vibrating Maeve down to the marrow of her bones.
How her sister ever said the sky was empty was beyond her.
This storm had its own personality, as every other storm did. They were as unique as any person. Getting to meet each one was special, a unique memory shared only between her and the sky.
She gripped her broom tightly with one hand and stretched out her other, reaching for the swirling darkness.
She’d reached out toward other storms, but they were always fickle—that was their nature. Sometimes, they liked being observed, and sometimes…sometimes she was thankful for the enchantments in her suit, no matter how stiff it felt around her.
But this storm felt approachable—as approachable as any storm could feel. The clouds shifted, suddenly moving toward her. There was a flash and a spindly hand arched its way toward her. It was seconds away from touching her finger.
Maeve stretched her hand out a little farther, the yearning for connection, for belonging, surging her forward, but moments before the lightning reached her, it withdrew as if it was yanked back.
The clouds were whisked away, as if someone was pulling them along. Maeve sat astride her broom, her hand still outstretched. It shook and it took a moment for her to realize that the wetness on her face wasn’t from the rain.
She wiped her face on her arm before lowering it, realizing with a jolt in her wrist how tightly she had been holding her broomstick. Maeve shook her head to herself and shifted, sitting properly on the broom again. The weather had to go where it was needed; she knew that. But that didn’t change the fact that each time, it felt like she was saying goodbye to a friend. A grumpy, chaotic friend who filled up her entire world with sound and light, whose fingers reached out to her, whose presence shook her to her core.
She turned her eyes to the glowing horizon. There would be other storms to find.