How I met your mother? Are you ready for the story?
It was summer, a hot, dry day. The air tasted of dust and rhubarb crumble – your Grandma’s crumble, with the butter crust. Grandma had left it on the counter to cool, and she and Grandpa had gone off to Warwick, for the market. The storm missed them by miles.
I was just sixteen that summer. Grandpa’s old Ford was mine for the fixing, and I was under its hood, grimy with old oil and happy as a shrimp. When I looked up, the dark twist of the tornado was already over the barley field, moving toward me like a feral cat. I made it to the potato cellar in the kitchen just in time.
There is nothing in the world as loud as a tornado. It draws out the sound from silent things: bales of hay, sacks of flour. Barn roofs. It was terrifying. And then, all at once, there was silence.
I opened the trapdoor. All the sound had been sucked from the world. The house was still standing, eerie in that empty, yellow light. That moment stretches in my memory, like time had stopped.
Then: a tiny ting! of a fork on a porcelain plate. The infinitesimal crunch! of butter crust. I turned around.
A girl was eating your Grandma’s rhubarb crumble. She was the strangest girl: calm but somehow charged, like the eye of the storm above us. Her clothes had been stolen from a hundred washing lines.
She stared back at me. Her eyes softened, smiled. Dark hair danced around her eyes – you know how Mom’s hair moves even when there’s not the smallest breeze?
She took my hand. Outside, the storm dissolved into a thousand dust devils, hovering just out of sight.