Song of Thunder and Rain | Teen Ink

Song of Thunder and Rain

March 17, 2021
By SarahLulu555 BRONZE, Hailey, Idaho
SarahLulu555 BRONZE, Hailey, Idaho
2 articles 0 photos 1 comment

Favorite Quote:
"It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves."
-Shakespeare-

"You do not find the happy life. You make it."
-Camilla Eyring Kimball-

"Athena: You wish to be called righteous rather than act right. I say, wrong must not win by technicalities."
-Aeschylus-

"When we reject the single story. When we realize that there is never a single story, we regain a kind of paradise."
- Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche-

"Everyone's a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid."
- Albert Einstein -


Archer: four years after


The sky above is blue, dotted with clouds. I catch sight of one, in the form of a girl with long hair and a huge smile. It winks as it floats above as if we’re sharing an inside joke. I don’t wink back.

My mom, next to me, sets her book down and engulfs me into a hug, sensing the tears before they can fall. 

“It’s okay,” she whispers, rubbing my back like when I was young even though by now I tower over her. 

But I still stare at the clouds, at the floating swirls of puffy vapor. At the park around us, where we went so often, dreaming of songs and music and our future, running and talking and laughing and singing, sharing the time with each other, best friends. At the playground, with the swings where we challenged each other to reach higher, at the fountain where we danced and sang and dropped in pennies and made wishes, at the path that led home, to the apartment complex we shared. 

I trace in my head our steps to that room, to the piano, to the bench waiting for us.


Anna: ten years before


We lay on the ground, our heads next to each other, our feet knocking together as we pointed at the sky. The clouds swirled thick above us, great cumulous forms smiling and twirling into shapes and faces and people.

“A dragon,” I guessed, laughing as he bit against his grin and rolled his eyes. 

“No.”

I squinted up at the swirling white puffy ring above us. “A serpent?”

“What is it with you and reptiles? No.” Archer’s eyes were clear and bright, filled with the refracted sunlight of the day. 

“It looks like one!” I protested, rolling my head towards him and fixing him with an inquiring stare, but I couldn’t keep the smile off my face. 

He grinned maliciously at me, and I tried to think. What would he say?

“A caterpillar?”

“It’s not an animal.”

I pursed my lips, stumped. “A treble clef?”

“Good try, but nope.”

“You’re so annoying! What is it?” I never was very patient, but Archer could make me wait forever. His ideas were intoxicatingly complicated, and the clouds above seemed to form an entire pantheon of intricate details.

“A campfire.”

“A campfire? What? No way.”

“Yes way.”

“I don’t see it.”

Archer’s hand, his fingers long and nimble, traced the shape of the cloud for me to see: the smoke curling above, the things I thought looked like wings instead a flickering flame, the legs of my dragon the kindling of his fire. 

I laughed and hit him, and he slapped me back, and we turned our heads up toward the sky and sang to the pictures the clouds made for us. 


Archer: one year after


I unlock the door to her old apartment, the mechanisms making a satisfying click as it opens. A backpack is slung over my shoulder, the old half-note keychain Anna gave me warm in my palm. The door creaks as it opens, and the apartment smells heavenly, spirals of something chocolatey thick in the air, the scent tied to a fading memory. 

“Archer?” A woman, standing at the stove, turns around at the sound. When she sees me her eyes fill with unshed tears, and she runs over to help me with my bag, tug the coat off my shoulders, tell me the brownies are almost done. Her eyes are engraved with a smile, the wrinkles proof it’s still possible to laugh. Anna always told me it was my grin that had won her over. 

“Hey, Mrs. Brown,” I say, smiling at her. “Good to see you.”


Anna: six years before


The sky started to darken and the clouds thicken toward the west, fat drops of rain plopping into our laps. I pulled Archer up and dragged him toward the middle of the park, where a fountain full of shimmering coins reigns. We stopped. Archer tilted his head to the sky, closing his eyes and letting the rain soak him. 

I giggled and followed suit, the rain dribbling onto my face and running down my skin and into my shirt. When I opened my eyes, the fountain splashed whenever the rain hit it and the water rushed over the stones of the courtyard, my ears relishing the slippery-pattering sound, my fingers itching to capture it, to compose it somehow. Thunder clapped overhead.

“Listen,” I said suddenly, and Archer looked at me and then closed his eyes, and I knew he could hear it too. The thunder boomed, and I sang along, and Archer joined in, and then we listened to the rain. I was the one to start jumping, the small puddles splashing over my bare feet. Archer laughed and pulled me into the fountain, where we ran along the rim, the music of the storm swelling up around us.

The storm was our song, and we danced to the beat of the rain.


Archer and Anna: forever and always


Archer Frost: dark brown hair, thick and messy; steel-gray eyes; features sharp and prominent; a permanent look of concentration; tall and tan and lean and strong; shy and serious; a year older; in love with music and

Anna Brown: long, straight, honey-colored hair; huge pink glasses framing light hazel eyes; a smile bigger than her face; clothes bright and bold, a whirlwind of a person entranced by one Archer Frost. 

She always loved his eyes, concentrative and exotic and ominous. He loved her smile, always bubbling just under the surface. They were best friends from the moment they met each other, could communicate in ways beyond words, the music in their souls forever intertwined. When she finished a piece he was the first to try, when he played she was the first to hear. Her hand would fly across the page, and the notes she prepared burst to life under his careful fingers. Their music lit up the world, and it would never go away. 


Anna: three years before


August 15th, Archer’s golden birthday. 

I was bursting with excitement as I led him to his room, tugging him along while he stumbled behind me, his eyes shut tight. 

“Anna, slow down! I can’t see, you know!”

“I know, I know, just wait, you’re gonna love this!”

Archer grumbled but followed me, a grin on his face. I stopped outside his room.

“Okay, okay. Are you ready?”

“Yes.”

“Keep your eyes closed,” I warned him, and pushed open the door. He stood next to me, there in the sunlight with his eyes tightly shut, his hand resting on the doorframe, smiling. It lit up the whole room, even brighter than before.

“Anna?” 

I jumped a little and tore my eyes away from him.

“Open your eyes.”

He did, and they landed on the piano, newly tucked between the bookshelf and the wall, and his mouth dropped open, and he stood there, perfectly and completely still. I was still behind him, waiting. 

“So?” I prompted him, my voice suddenly soft and shy. 

He whirled around. “Oh my god, Anna.” He was a little breathless, and there was that glint in his steely grey eyes, which were wide open. “How…?” Archer couldn’t even finish the question. It was a big gift, and both of us knew it. 

“Your mom helped, and my parents helped, and I can do what I want with my savings,” I said, a smile lifting my lips. “You’ve been playing on that school piano for too long. I thought it was time… for you to have your own.”

Archer turned around and stared at the piano again, entranced by it. And it was perfect. Smooth and shining and the wood a glowing brown, as if lit from behind with a candle. The ivory keys were pristine, thin and not layered by the touch of so many inexperienced players. It was free of dust, or scratches, or pieces of hardened chewing gum.

And there, resting on the piano’s music desk, was a crisp composition, the black ink as stark against the paper as the keys against each other, the notes waiting to be tested and played. 

“Anna…” My name was soft and melodic on his tongue, sending shivers through my spine, a small explosion in my stomach. 

“Try it out,” I said, just as quiet. He crossed the room in two long, eager strides and reached out to touch the keys, but his fingers stopped just before they touched. He picked up the paper, a shorter piece that took me forever to get just right.

“It’s a duet,” he said, and looked back at me, his eyes asking a question. And then he lifted an eyebrow and sat on one edge of the bench, and I slid next to him, exactly two inches of space between us, buzzing with electricity. We both brought our hands up into position, and stared at the page, those starting notes.

And then we played.

It was our song, the first one we heard together, the one we, now, finally wrote: its beat like a thunderclap and the notes pattering like rain, and somehow, between the notes I had written and Archer’s delicate trills, we captured the liquid water running down our bodies and the cackling lighting and the swirling mist and vapor back on the surface of that fountain, and me and Archer; the stuff that makes us us merging together into one.

The music surged out of our fingertips and leaped into the air, swelling and filling the room with the rich, layered sound; our fingers flying just as they always did, the notes leaping and rushing and falling and then quivering and shuddering, all at once, to a stop. 

And though the music was gone, the air was still charged with it, and Archer and I looked up at each other at the same time, and then the space between us was bridged because he was kissing me and I was kissing him and every inch of me was alight.

A symphony of notes chimed in my head.


Archer: two years after


My feet slow to a stop as I hear the piano in the sanctuary. The notes are crisp and clear. They rush through the air the same way they always do when Anna plays, experimentally but confident all at the same time. For a fleeting moment, I hear the song she wrote for us, the short and fast piece with a beat like thunder and a melody like rain. But then the student playing hits a sour note and brings me back to reality and when they start again, it’s only a simple song, a beginner’s melody, a pattern of notes for someone who’s still learning the music before it becomes intuitive. 

Before I know it I’m standing at the entrance and staring at the figure on the bench. For a second I see Anna there, just like I heard her music. But then I see clearly; it’s really a boy at least a decade younger than me. He looks about twelve, and his fingers stumble clumsily over the keys. The music comes on fast and lurching, rough and rushed. The notes tapped out clumsily string together and hang through the air, but they don’t swell or jump or fly or take me back to that fountain overflowing in the rain. 

He hits another false note, and groans but keeps going, until the song becomes riddled with too many wrong notes to continue. 

I approach the piano, confused because I need to be somewhere in fifteen minutes and I don’t want to see this particular instrument, full of too many memories, the one where I learned, where Anna and I first played together. And yet I stop there, just beside the boy, and guide his fingers to the note he keeps missing. 

It’s a sneaky one, a flat that sounds almost right but not quite. The kind of note that Anna would obsess over, the kind of note she’d crawl through my window at midnight to ask me about. 

I watch as the boy plays through his song. He gets that note, and then the next, and then his fingers play in the footsteps of mine as they trill, oh so familiarly, over the faded white keys. The music becomes more confident, and soon the rhythm is right and the song begins to swell, explore the room, and the boy is smiling, and I remember another time, another day, so long ago, when I met Anna-

I glance down at my watch. I was supposed to be there three minutes ago. “I have to go,” I tell the boy, and he nods and says “Thanks” and I run stricken from the sanctuary, glad for the excuse to leave the music that seems to follow me wherever I go. 


Archer and Anna: never ever


The door is painted sky blue. Tiny flowers dot its frame. The house itself is a lovely cream, the paint fresh and well-kept. Around the porch railing, a string of bright lights is wrapped like a barber’s pole. A swing bench is outfitted with matching cushions, the same blue color as the door. A pitcher, a bowl of sugar, and some half-squeezed lemons sit on the kitchen table. Laughter echoes from around the side of the house.

Archer lies next to the four-year-old on the lawn, the child’s light hair and dark grey eyes catching the shafts of afternoon light. Anna sits behind them. Her glasses rest slightly askew, and a pen is stuck in her long honey-blonde ponytail. She holds a glass of lemonade, and her head is thrown back with laughter as the girl points to the clouds, talking animatedly.

Their eyes meet over their daughter’s head, and they share a smile. 


Anna: three months before


I sprinted down the steps of the fire escape, my hair flying behind me. One hand skimmed down the railing and the other clutched the acceptance letter. Archer was doing homework, but when he heard my thundering footsteps he looked up and grinned at the sight of me. 

“Oh my god I got in, I got in!” I screamed, bursting into his room.

Archer’s smile widened.

“I told you you would,” he said, pulling me into a hug. 

I was literally shaking with excitement. I bounced up and down like the world was a trampoline, and Archer just laughed. 

“Who knew?” I asked him breathlessly, sitting next to him. “We’re going to the same school, in the same city, and we’re going to keep playing, together. Just like always.”

“Just like always,” Archer repeated, and I leaned against him. 

“Where do you think we’ll be in ten years?” I asked, my head full of the future.

He guided me over to the piano, still here although other instruments had come and gone through the years. He could play everything, but the piano is what we shared, where it started. And we sat down, and our hands played together, and the music swelled and danced, the beat of thunder and rain. 

When we finished, Archer stroked the keys without playing. He kissed my forehead, and said,

“Right here.”


Archer: three years after


First day of term, my third year at university. I walk down the hallway to the music room. I’ve come early - it’s about seven in the morning, and no one is here. I sit down at the piano, pull out one of her compositions, and stare at the notes, reading and playing at once, testing it. 

It’s nearly flawless, this one. Racing like fire, a low rumbling tempo, arcing up and down the piano with trills and sharps and arpeggios. The sound rises from the piano in meteoric waves, and I can see it hover there, lines of flickering lights. 

The composition finishes but I keep playing, letting the flame of the song consume my fingers and race across the piano, faster and faster, getting farther and farther away from our steady beat, the melodic rap of the rainstorm. The once confident and impassioned piece becomes desperate, a raging wildfire burning hot and fast and bright, searching for something; searching for a partner.

A man clears his throat, interrupting the music, my escape from the world. He’s standing at the door, and he walks forward, holding up a hand to stop me from leaving. 

“Archer Frost, yes?” he asks, and I nod.

“Well, Mr. Frost, that was spectacular,” the professor says. “Did you compose that?”

“No,” I say. “Anna did.”

And I brush past him and out of the room. 


Archer and Anna: shattered stars


Anna drove, talking emphatically to Archer in the passenger’s seat. He nodded along, drumming his fingers on the armrest. 

The stars glittered in the sky above them. The moon had shrunk to a sliver, making the light of the stars seem to spill through pinpoints of lights, the stars guiding them in a myriad of infinite paths. 

No one else drove on the road they were on. It was their own, for now, the trees and houses rushing past, all mere shadows under the collective light of the stars. 


Archer drove, and Anna dozed in the passenger seat. 

The shoulder strap of her seatbelt, instead of protectively cradling her body, crossed the seat behind her so she could lean against the armrest without choking. 

She had forgotten to take her glasses off, and now they sat crooked, digging into her nose and fogging with every breath. Glancing at the road, he leaned over and pulled them off, folding them together and laying them on the center console. 

He was just returning his gaze to the road in front of him, a smile gracing his lips, when the other car barely flashed through the spill of the headlights before slamming into theirs. 

Glass shattered, sprayed through the darkness, and he went weightless.


Anna thought she saw the stars again, fuzzy and indistinct without her glasses, before everything was gone. 


Archer saw her glasses, somehow lying unbroken amongst the shattered glass that glinted like the stars.

 

Archer: four years after


It’s been four years since I set foot in this room. 

Dust coats everything, my bed and desk strewn with homework long forgotten; my dresser, smooth and stacked with music she wrote and we never played; the instruments I worked on at the time: violin, cello, flute. 

And the piano. 

It’s golden-brown wood still gleaming through the dust, the bench wide enough for the both of us, the keys that still hold the touch of so many songs played, the mark of our fingers tracing and molding the notes into songs, and songs into oceans and birds and wind and clouds and sky and thunder and rain. On the music desk rests our song, the one that could only be played between the two of us. 

I sit there on the bench and wait for Anna, and it’s only through the silence that hangs unbroken that I finally know she’s not coming.


The author's comments:

I wrote this piece after hearing a song called Wildflowers by Maddie Poppe; in particular, a few lines that went like this:

And you can take me far away

But you can never take this part of me

You can take me far away

But some things never change

This song has a lighthearted melody that paired nicely with its lyrics, a sort of ode to the place where you're from and where you feel you will always belong. But underneath this, the song had strains of nostalgia and melancholy that I found intriguing, like maybe there was more to be said. In these stanzas, I felt like it could be talking less of a place and more about a person, but coming back to the themes of nostalgia: a person who is no longer here. 

I started to play with this idea of people so attached to each other that they become pieces of each other, that they "beat to the same drum," and that when one is gone that piece of them never leaves the other. And so this story was born; a piece that sort of trancends time and celebrates this deeply interconnected relationship for what it is through a series of snapshots into their lives. Since the idea was partially born from a song, it seemed only fitting that music was the thing that bound Archer and Anna most tightly together. 

The thing I hope people take from this is that same feeling of lightheartedness and deep attachment, and with it melanchology or nostalgia, and the incentive to cherish the beautiful, connective parts of their own relationships. 


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