Asami liked clouds.
Fluffy and soft looking, just like cotton candy. Pull them apart and you’ll probably see a dozen or more thin threads come undone. Then when the wind arrives, the two of them, clouds and wind, performed for children all over the world an abstract picture book with billions of interpretations to their meanings. In a way, clouds were to children the same way cave paintings were to paleontologists.
The wind weaved, pushed, and tugged at the clouds, asking to play. And the clouds responded nonchalantly and with playful gestures, the way they’ve always responded. They played all day and night with the sun or moon. The sun was an aspiring artist, always painting the sky different colors that tinted the clouds with a soft hue. The moon loved decorating, dusting the clouds with silver linings as the stars lit up the backgrounds. It’s with these rather lovely companions that the clouds are able to tune the sky into various magnificent views, such as hazy hordes of white cotton smothered in fog in the mornings or a white speckled black pond in the dead of night.
That’s why Asami despised thunderstorms. They were dark and mean and either chased away the sunny clouds or consumed them into the same giant, black mass. It rang sharp snaps all around her, lighting up and pitting the sky that she adored so dearly against her. Though she’d never blame the painted sky and its painters, only the thunderstorm.
But Akira liked the thunderstorms.
And Hitori loved bringing it up as the one of the many things they had differing opinions on as twins. Hitori was their butler, young, patient, and a sense of humor that’d make an iron-face chuckle. He always tried to get Asami to understand Akira’s point of view, to fit in the shoes that he knows she can fill. Thunderstorms were calming for Akira, he’d explain. But how, Asami would ask, when the rain attacked the windows and the thunder sparked intense fear in her?
And then Akira died during a thunderstorm.
Bleak tree branches that scratched and rattled against the yellow-tinted window and the spider in the corner were now the only companions Asami had as she watched her sister’s skin pale to ashen by the, seemingly prolonged, minute. Dry hands, heavy eyelids, cracked lips and nestled hair now another commonality between the twins. Except one would never move their hands again, blink, speak, or brush their hair.
So Asami did it for her after Akira failed to laugh at her attempt of a joke in a dire situation that is their kidnapping.
The rusted bed frame matted with a vinyl mattress creaked as Asami shuffled to the edge and stepped onto the cold stone floor. She walked to the side of Akira’s similarity frail bed and gently nudged and shook her hand. She lifted one of her eyelids to show their shared grey iris. She moved her lips to the side the way Akira had always done in order to show her canines. She brushed out all the knots in Akira’s hair with her fingers.
There’s a sharp snap outside and Asami is quick to burrow her head into Akira’s chest, seeking the familiar comfort that pushed down the urges for a panic attack.
But it’s silent and senseless where Akira’s chest is. No gentle strokes of her head with a soft hand. No rising of the chest. No soft breathing. No heartbeat.
Asami jumped back in shock, accidently kicking the bed that might as well be Akira’s graveyard. While Akira lays breathless, Asami starts breathing too much and too little in uncontrolled manners as everything sunk in like a tide that forced its way into every cranny and crook.
And then the tide drains out from Asami’s eyes.
She was told by Hitori that the police found them two days ago. That she had been in and out of consciousness, the time awake spent confused and panicked, and the time asleep sweating profusely to the point of her nurse having to change her bedsheets every four to five hours.
“Akira died, Asami.”
Those were the last words she registered before entering a state of daze that lasted even after she was discharged.
Everything Asami saw and sensed reminded her of Akira.
The faint scent of her on the empty leather car seat seemed to mock Asami’s grief, refreshing water lilies and gyokuro tea, both of which she used to enjoy so much. Mirages of them playing patty cake appeared in the backseat windows of a passing black car. The unpulled weeds in the yard that they would’ve normally rushed to find in order to make ‘flower’ crowns. Half the shoes and coats in the closet by the door now ownerless.
Everything in the house reminded Asami of Akira. They all make her gasp tenderly as she tried to grasp onto the remaining traces of her sister.
Days go by with Asami trapped inside her room, the no longer their room. She has relentless nightmares of reenactments of Akira’s death, except Akira blamed her. Akira blamed Asami for her death. The dead bombarded Asami with questions she didn’t know the answers to.
Why didn’t you have my pills?
That was the last question before Asami was awakened by Hitori, who saw the way she withered and cringed while asleep. She immediately embraced him, and a cry involuntarily surfaced as her memories of their time together slowly faded to something that seemed like a fever dream.
In five hours, it will be one month since the day of Akira’s death. And in eight hours, it will be her third therapy session with Miss Taka. But right now, it was a thunderstorm outside.
Asami found herself listening to the harsh knocking of water pellets on her window, staring at the picture framed on the wall in front of her bed. Thunder clapped, but she wasn’t afraid. Odd. The storm continued on with occasional outbursts from the thunder. At one point, Asami wondered if the thunder was angry because Akira wasn’t here to dote on them anymore.
She tried to think about the things Akira liked about thunderstorms.
They were cooling.
They provided white noise.
And there’s always a rainbow after they’re gone.
Without fail, today marked the twenty-ninth day in a row she cried for Akira. As the thunderstorm outside seem to also grief and cry, Asami broke down as a realization hit her hard: Part of her will now always remain a child.
Once the tears dried, her sniffling stopped, and Asami could think clearly again, she was reminded that Akira once mentioned watching the rain hit the floor and leaves were nice when she had nothing better to do. Asami currently had nothing to do, maybe something better but she was in no mood for it, so she slowly walked over and pulled her blinds away from the window.
It wasn’t relaxing, per se, to see the leaves being repeatedly pelted by water. And yet, Asami felt as if her frustrations were slowly being lifted with each falling droplet. It was probably only a one-time thing, during this period where she was in the lowest point of her life, but Asami found a little peace amidst the thunderstorm she despised.
Because there was comfort in the way the thunderstorm chased away the silence.