Weathering the Storm

Weathering the Storm is a new-adult short story that I wrote several years ago. Recently, I dusted it off and did some major re-writes. The newly finished version is below for your reading pleasure. I would love to hear your thoughts! 🙂 

Weathering the Storm

It was raining again. Those days, it always rained.

She hated it. The gray, dreary weather that had made its home here these past few weeks reminded her too much of her own life: lackluster and a little bit lonely.

Even with the constant threat of wet weather hanging overhead, the sudden downpour surprised her. All morning had been mild, if not pleasant. Recent rain showers left a deep earthy scent where the ground began to open up. The air hung thick and heavy around her. When she stepped outside, it stuck to her skin and hair. Clouds rested overhead, full to nearly bursting, but not the storm clouds she had grown used to. Even the animals came cautiously out of hiding.

It may have been pleasant to start but nature, she decided, was menopausal. It waited to have its little mood swing until she was only a block away from her usual Saturday haunt: a quaint little café just off the front of campus. Hot, muggy air mixed with a cool breeze while she walked. Mere moments later, the sky opened up. While rain hammered at the pavement, soaking her to the bone, she raced down the now deserted street toward the brick building on the corner.

Call her overly optimistic, but she had hoped for a clear sky that day. Just once. Seems like one thing after another went wrong lately. She was running out of ways to cope.

When she neared the entrance, she glanced at the large chalkboard sign that always stood just outside the café to advertise its daily specials. A large awning above kept most of the downpour at bay, but tiny droplets of water escaped through tiny spaces between the panels. They dripped onto the sign and smeared the chalk, rendering many of the words illegible. Wonderful.

At least she had finally found a dry spot. She rolled up her newspaper — a failed umbrella she had grabbed in a hurry a few shops back – and pushed at the door. The blast of cool air felt good on her warm, damp skin. She closed her eyes and stood under the vent for just a moment. The scent of rich, bitter coffee mixed in the air with sugary sweet baked goods fresh out of the oven. Both mouth-watering aromas drifted toward her. She breathed it in and some of the tension in her muscles eased.

Her disheveled appearance drew a few curious stairs. She ignored them. After a brief survey of the room, she picked the emptiest spot and took a seat in one of the plush leather chairs by the windows. Wet clothing clung to her skin. It bunched in odd places and made it difficult to get comfortable. The feel of it bothered her until, unable to stand it any longer, she bent to peel the fabric of her skirt off her thighs and rearrange the crooked hem. After a few failed attempts, she gave up. It felt awkward, but the chair squeaking every time she moved was much worse. Instead, she gathered up a pile of napkins from the dispenser on the table and tried to soak up what water she could.

She really hated the rain.

Satisfied that she had done what she could, she leaned back and stared out at the sodden city landscape, thinking it a miracle that the whole of Manhattan was not underwater. The sewers must have been good for something, after all. She gathered up her hair and squeezed the last of the water from its strands and, fearing the frizzy mess that was to come, pulled it back into a haphazard bun. Wayward strands escaped, anyway.

The waitress sauntered over a few moments later; a tall, long-legged blonde who gave her a sympathetic smile. She flushed, embarrassed, but ignored the pointed stare.

After the ordeal of getting there, she decided to order something fattening and delicious, along with an obnoxiously elaborate coffee – the kind nobody admits to ever ordering (but everyone secretly wants to). “Oh,” she said before the waitress walked away, “and an extra shot of espresso.”

It was going to be that kind of day, she decided.

She stared out the window absently, or tried to. Rain streaked the glass so much that she could only make out blurred shapes on the other side, so she gave up and fiddled with her phone until the food came. Then, after the waitress left, she cupped the tall mug in her hands and brought it up to her lips. She stayed like that for a moment, just letting the warmth seep into her skin while she turned her eyes once again to the large windows in front of her table and let her thoughts drift.

When he came into the café, she almost didn’t recognize him.

She could blame the way the soft music in the background had hypnotized her, or how the dimmed lights played tricks on her eyes. The plain truth, however, was that he simply looked so different. He had cut his hair shorter, no more the long and unruly locks he used to sport. He wore a button-down shirt and pressed denims instead of a faded rocker tee and ripped jeans. He had recently shaved.

But his eyes… those crystal baby blues framed by thick lashes. Those eyes she would know anywhere.

It was natural that he would be the last person she expected to see standing there. Two years had gone by since their senior year of high school. Two years since they last spoke, and the conversation had not ended well. She recalled the shouting, doors slamming, packed bags and a taxi cab, where she went off to college and left everything behind. Including him. At that moment, she had vowed to never speak to him again. She purposely avoided any of his frequent haunts. Every thought of him was pushed far into the back of her mind. As far as she was concerned, he no longer existed. But that moment, seeing him again, made her wonder what made them fall apart. The reasons no longer seemed so important.

Funny how life liked to throw little curve balls now and again.

Her mind snapped out of its trance to catch him shaking off his umbrella and idly observing the room. She watched his gaze move closer, until it rested at last in the direction of her seat. He seemed just as surprised at her presence as she was with his, but quickly regained his composure and proceeded to walk toward her.

“Is this taken?” he asked of the empty seat next to hers. His rich voice melted over her – at least some things had remained the same – and it took her a moment to comprehend what he asked.

She blinked, then shook her head after a moment and motioned for him to sit. The chairs were angled slightly toward each other, giving her a clear view of him, and also no way to hide. The waitress made her rounds, then, and stopped briefly to check on them. He ordered coffee, black.

After the waitress left, he looked over at her and stared a moment. Then an embarrassed laugh escaped. He said, “I’m sorry. It’s just been a long time since…” He cleared his throat and tried again. “How are you?”

She smiled on the surface. Butterflies wreaked havoc on her insides. “Doing all right.” That was a lie. At that moment, she was a nervous wreck. “And you? How is life treating you these days?”

“Oh, I can’t complain,” he replied, leaning back.

Awkward silence ensued, so she took a moment to look him over as he fiddled with the change in his pocket. He did look mostly the same on closer inspection, even the same nervous habit of drumming his fingers on his knee. Yet, it all seemed so different. He was a stranger to her now. She could not think of what to say and it made her heart wrench. Had she changed as well? Did he notice?

Why was he not saying anything?

She spoke up, the silence making her crazy. Motioning to his clothes, she said with a smile, “You clean up well.”

“Thanks. I’m all grown up now,” he said with a hint of humor in his voice. “I hung up my rocker look for business casual.”

“No more band?” she asked in surprise.

He shrugged. “Someone once told me that I needed to get off my ass and do something with my life.”

A flush crept up her neck. Those were her words, said in anger, and they had come back to haunt her. Guilt gathered like a rock in the pit of her stomach. She looked down at her hands.

“She was right.”

Her gaze snapped up to meet his. He smiled thoughtfully, then his gaze turned to the window. “I was floundering,” he said after a moment. “Adrift. It took losing her to make me see that. I quit the band later that summer. Enrolled in the music program at Columbia and started the following spring.”

Words failed her. Could she have really had such an effect on him? Did he really give up on his dreams because of her? That band had been his whole world. A crushing weight settled on her shoulders. Feeling awful, she stared down at the busy pattern on the carpet at her feet.


The harshness in his voice made her look up and meet his intense gaze. “Don’t,” he said again, softening his tone. “I remember that look. You said nothing that I wasn’t already thinking. I was just too stubborn to admit it and it took time to see that. I made my own choices and I’m happy with them.”

He did look happy, she noticed. Much more relaxed than the restless teenager so full of angst. Just then, he grinned and spread his arms. “I’m going to teach music,” he added, and she smiled at his enthusiasm. “Besides, I still play a little. Casually, with some friends at school.”

His words eased her mind. He opened up to her more as he talked, seemed to come alive, and the transformation was breathtaking. He spoke of all he had learned, was still learning. His cheeks dimpled with each smile. When the subject turned to kids he mentored about music, his whole demeanor softened. He really wanted to make a difference in their lives.

With each minute that passed, she felt that undeniable pull that had drawn her to him in high school. When the conversation slowed, part of her dreaded the silence. She smiled at him and said, “Wow, that’s really amazing. I’m proud of you.”

She meant it.

“Enough about me. I’ve completely hijacked this conversation.” He leaned forward and tilted his head, and she felt warm everywhere his gaze touched. He seemed to be memorizing her face. “What about you?” he asked. “How are things?”

She took her turn filling in the gaps of their time apart. Made the dean’s list (again). Had an accounting internship lined up for the summer. Yes, she still kept in touch with her pen pal from France. Then, the conversation dialed down to the required small talk. Her parents were well. His dad retired and moved down to Florida. Her brother joined the military to pay for school. His sister got married. He had no serious relationships. Not while he focused on school. She had one – only slightly serious – but that ended a year ago. That one was nice, but, just not the one.

Just not him, though she kept that thought to herself.

The conversation naturally waned. She checked her watch; a reflex action. Then, they sat in silence for a while, enjoying the atmosphere and their drinks, now slightly cold. Occasionally they turned to one another to make a comment or joke.

She wanted to listen to him talk more, to get lost in the sound of his voice. She tried to think of something else to say, or ask, or do, to spur the conversation. Nothing came to her. She looked around the room, then at him, then down. Suddenly self-conscious of how she looked, she smoothed the fabric of her skirt, played with her hair, sure that it was a mess and her makeup was all smudged.

He said, as if reading her mind, “You look nice, by the way.”

“Nice, or different?” She had no clue where in the world that question came from.

He sat for a moment, thinking. “Different… but nice.” She looked away and suddenly felt his hand on her own. “We all change, you know. That’s life. It’s not always a bad thing.”

She blinked at him, confused, but the waitress interrupted them before she could ask what he meant. He reached for both tabs. “This one is on me,” he said with a smile. She blushed. It seems she did that a lot since he walked through the door.

With no other excuses to spend more time in his company, she reached down for her purse then stood to her feet. He did the same. They stared at each other for a moment before she spoke, breaking the spell. “Thanks for the coffee,” she said.

“My pleasure,” he said. The tone of his voice told her he really meant it.

After a second to gather up the courage, she stood up on tiptoes and gave him a quick peck on the cheek, pausing to breathe in his cologne. He still smelled like the ocean. His body froze beneath her hands and broke the spell. She pulled away. A dazed look crossed his face and, embarrassed, she blushed again. “I’m glad we ran into each other,” she said. With reluctance, she turned to head toward the door. Before she had taken a step, his hand reached out and grasped her arm.


He turned her around and she turned her head up to look at him while he searched for words. A moment passed and he cleared his throat. “Listen, my friends and I are playing for this charity event on campus tonight. If you’re interested…”

“Sounds fun,” she answered; too quickly, she thought. Her heart thudded in her ears. Still, she tried to keep her voice calm and could only pray he had not noticed. “I’d love to.”

Those dimples appeared again when he flashed her a smile.

And, did he look a little relieved?

He wrote down the details on a napkin – along with his number, though she never really forgot it – and handed it to her. She took it with a smile and tucked it into her purse for safe keeping. They said their goodbyes again. He held the door for her to step outside first, then they turned to walk in separate directions.

To her surprise, the downpour had stopped. She held a hand out from the awning first, half expecting an illusion that would burst as soon as she stepped out of its safety. No rain. Not even a drizzle. Satisfied, she started walking down the sidewalk toward home. For a moment she watched water run along the curb and down into the sewer drains, leaving the street wet. The asphalt glistened from sunlight that now peeked through the breaking clouds. Birds chirped happily from the small ornamental trees lining the city walk.

Looking up, she spotted a rainbow in the distance and smiled thoughtfully.

The rain, she felt, would not return.

© Danaye L. Shiplett. All rights reserved.

Also available to read on Figment

Migration (an essay)

Every once in a while, I will dig through my old files — whether it be to organize and archive or because I’m feeling a little nostalgic for bygone days. So, I thought it might be fun to start posting some of my particular favorite writings, musings, and drawings.

“Migration” is a creative nonfiction piece I wrote in college. I hope you enjoy it! 🙂


For as long as I can remember, a small family of Mallard ducks has made a home in our backyard. I cannot recall when they first appeared. Before long, however, their presence became a familiar constant and an endless source of childish amusement.

Every fall, my parents place a black vinyl covering over our in-ground pool to protect it from the cold winter elements. Then, every spring, ice that has accumulated over the cover begins to thaw, and the water creates a rudimentary pond. The world slowly comes alive. Thousands of tiny white seeds have separated from the parent trees that stretch their arms over the small hillside, encasing the pool in shade. The seeds create an imitation snow-shower as they float down toward the ground where the makeshift pond collects them. There, they wait for fertilization.

When that happens, I know that it will not be long before the ducks return.

My mother once told me that ducks migrate every year to the place where they were born. “Their eggs must have hatched somewhere nearby,” she said. As a child, I wondered why they would choose to return to such a minuscule body of water when there were ponds and lakes all over that would much better serve their needs. Still, I always had fun watching them float around. Their tiny duck-tails would wag as they dipped their long necks under the water in search for food. Sometimes I would stand outside, my bare feet on the cold brick that ran along the edge of the pool, and throw them pieces of bread. I felt bad that there were no fish in the pond for them to feed on.

Although I didn’t understand their reasons for returning year after year to our tiny suburb residence, I could understand their need. There was, after all, no place as wonderful as my home. To this day, the house itself possesses no extraordinary qualities. It is a simple split-level, muted gray with dark slate shutters and a one-car garage. The backyard was always big enough, I suppose, although the pool and a steep hill took away most of the play space.

As a child, I made up for the lack of space by making use of the small section of property at the front. A large tree that stood in the middle of the grass (at least it always seemed large then) became the spot where my friends and I would tell stories and daydream. In spring and summer, the driveway turned into an artist’s canvas. I became Picasso, Monet, Van Gogh, and Da Vinci. I colored the black concrete with dusty chalk that landed more on my skin and clothes than on the ground.

In the fall, I helped my mother rake leaves under that tree. I would impatiently scoop the leaves up with the rake or my hands and pile them as high as I could. Once finished, I would leap backward into the large mound. Leaves scattered when my body sank into the spongy middle. Foliage crunched beneath my weight. After a moment, I would scramble to my feet and help my mother place the leaves into large, bright orange trash bags with pumpkin faces on them to decorate the yard for fall harvest.

Once the first layer of snow blanketed the ground, I would bundle up in warm winter clothes and race out into the front yard. My clunky boots crunched down and sprayed white powder into the air with each step. I scooped up big chunks into tiny gloved hands. Ages later, cheeks and nose rosy red from the cold, I would finish my biggest and best snowman ever then collapse into the snow and make a snow angel.

Life never got much simpler or happier than those small moments.

We moved into that house sometime before my sixth birthday. Previously, we had lived with my grandparents for a year while my father looked for a job after his retirement from the military. The move affected everyone, but, being a rather nomadic family, we did not fear it as much as some. We had all become fairly numb to the effects, and I was little enough that I didn’t really understand it all, anyway. For me, the move seemed like some sort of adventure.

Being so young, it took me a little while to get used to my new situation. I had learn unfamiliar surroundings. At first, the mysterious creak of the stairs and the strange shadows cast upon my walls in the dark made for a difficult adjustment. For several nights I remember sneaking into my parents’ bedroom, where I curled up on the floor next to their bed with my “Little Mermaid” comforter and pillow. My dog and protector would trail faithfully behind me. He twisted his little reddish brown body into a tight ball behind the crook of my knees and rested his head on my calf. Being in the midst of the people I held most dear blanketed me with a sense of peace. It calmed me and led me into dreamless sleep.

My family never really had a physical representation of home before. No material possession stayed with us long enough to have real value. Thus my attachment for the new house took time, and my earliest memories are of a more expressive nature.

I remember most breathing in the warm, familiar scent of my mother’s baking after a long day at my new school; the feel of her skin as she enveloped me in her arms in greeting. Many nights I curled up on our cozy, worn-in old couch and rested my head on my father’s stomach, tucked under the crook of his arm. There, we watched television and bonded.

For me, as a child, home was not a place. Home was, instead, intimately tied with my family.

As I grew older, things began to change and evolve. I began middle school. My eldest brother left for college. Even my home felt the effects of time: we remodeled the kitchen, I moved into my parents’ old room, and they knocked out a wall to make a larger master bedroom. However, despite the outward differences, my home still held its old familiarity.

The concept of home changed a bit for me, as well. I began to test my wings, wandering ever-so-cautiously out of my nest to test the waters. Soon, I could hardly recall a time when the outside community was not a part of me.

Many hot summer days I walked with my friends to Kerber’s, a family-owned farm about a mile from my house. It was a large farm with a small convenience store at the front. Small picnic tables lined the outside, under an awning. A small bell chimed each time we opened the door, and, change in hand, stepped up to the counter to buy homemade ice cream. The trek back home was through winding streets and random backyards. The sun shone high overhead and warmed my skin. I can still taste the rich, creamy flavor of mint ice cream and chocolate-chips melting on my tongue. Those types of memories tend to stick.

Despite my desire to explore, the comfort I found within my home, and my room especially—could not be matched by any outside source. Hundreds of different images — artwork, posters, even stickers — covered so much space that most of the peach-colored walls fell invisible to the eye. The furniture left much to be desired, at least until I got a new bed in high school.

I remember the day my parents bought it for me in celebration of my move into their old room. I felt like a queen with a bed to match. To solidify the illusion, I purchased netted fabric to drape along the bed’s four posters, adding a bit of fantastical flair. That day marked the beginning of my transition into womanhood. My room grew from being just a space to being an extension of me, an explosion of color, of ideas, and of passion.

My room also became my sanctuary. I can remember times when I used my room as an escape from the outside world, and I would lock myself inside and pretend that I was someone else. Or, when sad, I would grab hold of my favorite stuffed animal, a large white polar bear. I called him Barnaby.  Barnaby and I would curl up on my bed and I would sob into his soft fur over some petty fight between my friends and I, or an argument I had just incurred from my mother. Rusty  never wanted to be left out. He also curled up with me and licked my face as if to tell me that he was here, and I was safe. And of course, I was safe. I was home. That was all that truly mattered.

Despite my increasing need to assert my independence, I managed to maintain a strong tie with my family and home all through high school and into college. It was not until I transferred from my hometown college to go to school over an hour away that I began to truly assert my independence. I began to think of myself as an extension of my home, and no longer part of the framework.

In the beginning, I found it difficult to detach myself from that which I knew and felt comfortable with. I drove an hour each way to be at home every weekend; sometimes, several times in a week. I just needed to breathe in the scent of my father’s cologne, or feel the warmth in our kitchen envelop me as I helped my mother cook dinner. I called my parents once a day, just so that I could hear the sound of their voices. I missed my bed, my room. I even couldn’t wait until I could throw my arms around Rusty’s furry neck and hold him tight.

Slowly, though, my homeward trips became less and less frequent. I became involved in groups on campus. I made new friends. I threw myself into my art and literature. I fell in love. My attention focused on looking toward the future rather than clinging to the past. The transition did not occur without some growing pains, but I survived. I am thankful for all that my home, and my family, has given me over the years, but I don’t regret the move forward. I understand now that even the tiniest of ducklings has to one day leave the nest.

I consider myself luckier than my two brothers in that I spent much of my life in that house. Mine is an interesting position, to understand what it means both to grow up in one location and to grasp the deeper, more intangible interpretation of the word “home”. For me, the meaning is interchangeable. Home can be anywhere as long as I am with the people I love. However, no matter where I go, what situations I am in, I know that, like that little family of ducks, I can return to the place of my childhood, the physical home I have come to love.

I know that it will always be there, full of old memories and new. For me, there is no greater comfort.

© Danaye L. Shiplett. All rights reserved.

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