“I don’t think you should take the money. He’s using it as a diversion. You want the house? Take the house.”
Gale mulled over the advice Lian was giving her.
“Lian, it’s a lot of money.”
“Yes, and it’s a big house, Gale. You’ve built memories there, your kids will want to raise their kids with grandma in her home, not with grandad in his condo.”
Talking about Craig like this was still so painful. She pressed the phone to her chest and thought about what to say next.
“Gale, are you there? I need to file this paperwork by four. The county office closes soon.”
She made up her mind, “Okay, say we want the house.”
“You’re doing the right thing,” Lian said, her voice was steady and businesslike.
“Thanks, you’re the best.”
“That’s what you pay me for,” Lian said, and hung up.
Gale put her phone in her pocket and opened the fridge absentmindedly. She wasn’t hungry, so she closed it again. A magnet fell off and the photograph pinned underneath floated to the ground like a feather. It slipped halfway under the fridge, face down. She picked it up and almost began to cry again, but she held back the tears.
It was her and Craig eight years ago on the Long Island Sound. He loved boating on The Raggedy Anne. It was his father’s boat, and now it was his. She would miss those long weekends and breezy bay nights.
The wind picked up outside and slipped through the window. For a moment, she could almost hear the ocean and smell its salt. It ignited a quiet passion in her, and she moved to the window accordingly. Throwing it open, she let the summer sun, dying in the West, fall full upon her face. The warmth lifted her spirits, and she hovered a few inches off the ground.
She texted Lian.
I am going to go for a walk.
Then, she lifted into the air and soared into the sky.
Gale’s outfit was always appropriate for these evening excursions into the atmosphere. She always wore tight athletic leggings, tough sneakers, a sports bra and a tank top. Usually she had on a neoprene jacket to keep the cold away, but right now, the wet crispness of the clouds was an antidote to her pain. There was rain in these clouds, heavy and patient.
She settled into a slow descent and floated in a spiral pattern down about a hundred feet per minute, it would take her seven or eight minutes to land on her favorite perch.
“What is happening to you?” she heard Craig’s voice in her mind. The conversation replayed itself for the tenth time today.
“Nothing is happening to me. This is me. This is who I am.”
“I didn’t marry a vigilante. I didn’t marry someone who would take off at a moment’s notice without so much as a text!”
“I’m sorry, but someone needed my help,” she argued.
“We need your help, Gale! What good is it to be a hero to a stranger when you can’t even be a mother to your son!”
That had stopped her for a moment, not because she agreed, but because it was so selfish. She had never known Craig to be selfish until just before the divorce proceedings began. She tried to think of something else, the dark purple clouds flying past her, the orange sun dipping into the horizon… anything, but the memory forced itself back into focus like a wedge in the woodwork of her mind.
They were on her front porch. She had landed in the cul-de-sac, just back from the police station. Her hands were covered in blood and her hair was a mess. It wasn’t fair, but as Craig looked at her with those pained, blue eyes, she felt like the villain.
She argued back, “Morgan is responsible enough to babysit, and Michael is almost in high school! Do you really think I couldn’t leave them alone for twenty minutes?”
“It wasn’t twenty minutes, Gale, it was over an hour. And when I got home you were gone, Morgan was upstairs with her boyfriend, and Michael was down the street with a sprained ankle from riding his bike into a ramp his friends had built out of cinder blocks! Is that what you call responsible?”
She finally shook the memory from her head as she landed on top of the Erastus Corning Tower and looked down upon her city.
She loved Albany. The city was small in comparison to its boisterous, southern competitor, but it has an invisible importance and stateliness that came from its station as the state capitol. In a way, she identified with it.
If one were to look at Gale, they’d see a mother in her late forties in good physical shape with light brown hair, freckles, crow’s feet by her grey eyes, and a pale birthmark on her shoulder. She looked like any other mother, but she could deadlift a truck, take a 9mm to the chest, and fly faster than an F16- all before breakfast.
She didn’t used to be this way, it happened slowly. First, she found herself stretching her morning jog a little longer, then she was doing just a few more pushups. At yoga class, she was able to touch her nose to her toes for the first time. It wasn’t until she snapped a cast iron pan in half trying to clean it that they realized something incredible was happening.
Her phone rang. She must have just gotten service back.
“Hi, Gale here,” she said.
She knew Craig’s husky voice instantly.
“What do you want?” she asked.
“My lawyer just said you’re turning down the settlement. Why?”
“I want the house,” she said quickly.
He sighed and the call became fuzzy and garbled for a moment.
“You still there? I don’t have great service.”
“Yeah, I’m still here.”
The brief, human, moment of miscommunication opened a crack in her defenses.
“I understand why you are trying to sell the place,” she admitted.
“You-” he started.
“Let me finish. Please. I get it. You don’t want to have those memories lingering any more than I do. But I still want to have a family and I need those memories. Michael is graduating college soon and Morgan’s going to have her baby any day. I need a home for them, even if it’s not our home anymore.”
He didn’t say anything for a long time.
“You still there?”
“Yeah, I’m here.”
“You can have the house,” he relented, “I don’t want to take that away from you, even if you did take it from me.”
“I didn’t-” she argued, but he stopped her.
“You did. Even if it wasn’t on purpose, you did. Even if you didn’t choose to change this way. You didn’t have to change careers! You didn’t have to submit yourself to every single scientific study on the face of the Earth, and you didn’t have to lean into whatever this thing is. Dr. Polk said he didn’t know why your body changed and that he didn’t know if it would keep changing. Can you really risk fighting crime every night? What if you are a thousand feet up and all of a sudden this power of yours suddenly stops?”
“So you care about me still? In that way?”
He laughed a strained and sad laugh, “of course, God, do you really think I’d ever want to see you hurt? We were so happy, Gale! And I would love you until the end of my days if you’d let me.”
“I never stopped you.”
“Yes, you did. Because you’re not being yourself. You’re letting this… thing, this disease, change you. And you can’t be naive enough to think this whole “police consultant” thing can last, right? The APD is just going to use you to their own ends until you wind up at the end of a bullet you can’t catch!”
He paused to catch his breath, then continued.
“Was it not good enough for you? Was I not good enough?”
The sun was gone now and her eyes were tearing up from the cold air and even colder question. Her throat was tight, but she fought back the tears and answered him.
“This is me, Craig. It always was me.”
The wind picked up speed and almost blew the phone out of her hand. She had to grip it so lightly as not to crush it.
“What was that?” he asked, “are you out?”
“Yes, I’m in Albany.”
“You should get home before the rain falls. You don’t want to fly home in lightning.”
“It’s fine, I’ve been struck before.”
He laughed, impressed, “Really? Wow. You never told me.”
“You never asked.”
“Fair enough,” he said, suddenly defensive again. “Look, just be safe, okay? You’re right about Morgan’s baby needing a grandmother. You should get home before the thunder starts.”
“We’re getting divorced and you’re still telling me what to do?”
“You’re right, whatever. Do what you want. Enjoy the house.”
He hung up.
The rain began falling as she stood from her perch and hovered inches off the roof. Her legs dangled loosely beneath her, six hundred feet above the tarmac. With the slightest tilt of her body, she accelerated East, toward home. The rain bounced uselessly off her face and mixed with her tears as she let loose the torrent of emotion she had held back all day.
The air around her shook with the tremendous force of her passing, and she cracked through sound and space and sky. The rain could not touch her, the air could not get out of her way fast enough, and the void of her flight left a trembling scar across the storm.
She landed outside her house only minutes later.
Inside, Morgan was waiting, as patient as she was pregnant.
“You weren’t here so I let myself in,” she said, “I hope you’re okay Mom, I heard thunder.”
Gale gently hugged her daughter and future grandchild with unfathomable tenderness.
“Don’t worry sweety, I am The Thunder.”