Thunderheads battled their way past the mountains, rumbling with the promise of a drenching. Looking up at them, Lilah quietly packed another shovelful of sand into the sack leaning against her knees. For once it looked like a promise they could keep.
The mountains usually had a way of turning a cloud’s head. No matter where the cloud had intended to go, the mountains caught and it, sliding it south along the ridge rather than letting it cross. What rain reached the valley on the other side came down in a misting, or sang in the river beds that wove down from the peaks. The rivers kicked a little more than usual in their beds, and no one in the town much minded the mild weather.
But the mountains singularly ignored the darkest clouds, as if they weren’t pretty enough for them. And these were plenty dark.
Lilah picked up her sack and thunked it back down on the beach, letting the sand settle itself inside. This spring had already been a wet season. The rivers swelled quickly after winter. They climbed up into the green grass around their banks, running the grass flat in their haste. Two thunderstorms had already come in the last month: one that pounded through at a run, left them cold and breathless, and another that left three inches of water in the market square. She put another shovelful into the top of the sack, pressed it down and tied the sack shut. They all had read the history books well enough to know what was coming.
The town was going to flood with one of the next storms, maybe only a few feet, and maybe enough that the fishermen would pull their dinghy’s out of the ocean and let them bob outside of their second story windows for a while.
Picking up the sack, Lilah threw it over her shoulder, then collected the other she had filled a few minutes before. Trudging up the rise of the beach, she reached the grass and the rock where she had left her shoes. She stepped into them and continued down the slope toward town. Her house stood a few streets inside the town limits, where the roads had been paved, but hadn’t tightened into the main knots. She set the sacks into the barrier she was building around her outside walls and tested the long rows of sacks to make sure they would stay steady. There were a few holes she would like to fill, but it was almost done.
Lilah kicked the sacks, convincing herself one more time that they would stay, then went inside.
The house looked emptier than it should have been. Their good furniture was on the second floor now, along with everything else they cared about, just in case the water came in higher than her sand bags. Her husband, Andan was tying the kitchen herbs closer to the ceiling, like he’d done with everything on the walls. It looks wrong to her, and for half a moment she could imagine that the flood waters had already come, and swept everything within reach away.
“How are things out there?” Andan asked her.
She took a deep breath and shook her head a little. “Two, maybe three more trips, and I’ll be finished,” she told him.
He nodded, then looked at her a little more pointedly. “I was sort of talking about the weather,” he told her.
She smiled and shook her head again, looking out the window. “The tide is higher than it should be,” she said.
“That’s not good,” he said.
“Maybe it will go back out before the storm hits, give the rivers a little more room to run,” she said.
“You think so?” he asked her.
She looked at him, and went over the low look of the thunderhead crawling over the mountains. She remembered the shadow of them, turning the peaks ashen and the way whole sky faded to gray-white in front of them. The rivers had looked dull too, and the ocean just sort of sighed at the lack of sunshine that stole the glint off its waves.
“I hope so,” Lilah told him carefully.
He raised his eyebrows for a moment, then looked down and nodded to himself. “That might be better than knowing right now.” And he gave her a quick smile without raising his head before he went back to work.