by Glen Donaldson
Not very often a comet becomes bright enough to be noticed by the casual observer. Flaring spectacularly, they quickly run out of gas and extinguish themselves. And so it was with the perfectly prodigious Storm Mellors.
Complete with a Veronica Lake inspired peek-a-boo hairstyle, Storm had landed a position at the London Bureau of Meteorology at the age of just twenty. It was her first full time job and many agreed that by some means she’d been able to download no less than the full platinum edition of the much talked about, highly coveted yet rarely seen triple threat app—the three being beauty, brains and connections.
Storm was classically pretty; the type of looks that held people’s gaze a second longer than others as their brains registered first surprise and then enjoyment at what they were seeing. With intellect to spare, she also came with the sort of connections that all but guaranteed she was aboard the fast-track travelator to prehastened success and promotion from the beginning.
Storm’s father, the well known and highly regarded Cedric Mellors, had been the senior long range forecaster at the Manchester office back in the leather-elbow-patch-wearing era of the 1970’s. Naming their only daughter as he and his first wife had, underlined the belief that she too was destined to make her mark someday.
Christened ‘Brainstorm’ by her friends at University for her ability to breeze through exams, she’d graduated magna cum laude with a double degree in Environmental Science and Applied Physical Geography. Her premiership- winning but slightly over-caffeinated resume listed no less than forty-two specialist areas of knowledge, among them—
· satellite forecasting
· meso-scale climate demography
· hydrography zones
· topographic mapping
· accessory clouds ( a savvy girl always knew how to accessorise according to Storm)
· ball lightning
· maritime subduction zones
· automated weather stations
· northern hemisphere sinkholes
· viscosity inversion warnings ( the subject of her final dissertation)
· hygrometer and orographic lift data
· troposphere thermodynamics
· Tail End Charlies (don’t ask!)
· Fujita scale monitoring
· and perhaps the most rampantly weird sounding of all –
Zulu Time resonance calibrating (cute!)
Clearly Storm liked her three syllable nouns and roundly ignored the age old advice about using little words but that hadn’t stopped her becoming the youngest person since Scribbs Blustery back in the 1920’s achieved what the industry devotedly referred to as the ‘Weather Grand Slam’. This meant gaining admission to the Royal Meteorological Society, the Fellowship of Climate Forecasters and the Transcontinental Cloud Appreciation Society all within the same calendar year. To top it off she’d even featured as Miss November in the BOM’s (Bureau of Meteorology) annual charity calendar. Unquestionably Storm Mellors was a person who knew her hectopascals from her isobars. She was the chosen one and mercifully she also had the good grace to remove her eyebrow piercing each morning before exiting the lift to her sixth floor office.
Sometimes life can take on the semblance of a B grade movie where everything fits together a little too perfectly. Storm needn’t have worried. Her downfall was just on the horizon, momentarily obscured by a cluster of her precious accessory clouds.
After an upward trajectory that had propelled her from accomplishment to acclaim and badged her with the seemingly contradictory labels of ‘overnight success’ and ‘industry mainstay’, at some point the wheels fell off Storm’s burgeoning career and a metaphorical pea-soup thick London fog enveloped both her and once promising career.
Storm Mellors had discovered her one true love early in life – compulsive thieving. Put simply, she enjoyed taking things. Most of all she enjoyed the momentarily triumphant feeling of getting something for nothing; a wayward pleasure that had begun to take hold from a young age.
One of her earliest memories had been stealing a Garfield doll from a classmates’ bag in second grade. On a field trip to K-Mart she’d once walked out with a jacket. The next day she’d been summoned to the Principal’s office but returned later in the afternoon to steal a bag of coins she’d noticed sitting on his desk. And she still kept a miniature porcelain penguin she’d stolen from her best friend during a sleepover at age twelve.
Storm had thought as long as she maintained straight A’s no one would notice.
Inevitably people did notice and she was taken to a child psychologist. Storm’s father was told that compulsive stealing was a reaction to emotional stress and that it was his daughter’s psycho-symbolic way of filling the void left by her parent’s separation. In other words this particular pattern of behaviour was nothing more than a cloaking device.
Taking things that didn’t belong to her and without paying for them made life, at least for a short time, seem fair again. For Storm, stealing offered temporary relief from the feeling ‘I have been taken from’.
It had been widely hoped that young Storm would grow out of this deep fault line that ran through her personality and threatened to shift and rumble at any time. But like a cockroach in a nuclear holocaust the addiction had survived and followed her into early adulthood, disguised and counterbalanced only by her near insatiable appetite for achievement and success combined with a natural charm (Storm had long ago perfected the art of the ‘compliment sandwich’) and an array of sizable talent.
Some people never escape their childhoods, not really. It’s like a part of them just doesn’t feel safe in the adult world. For a while it looked like Storm Mellors could break free of hers. But like a dangerous undercurrent her dark secret had followed her into the Bureau of glass, concrete and five day outlooks. There was no denying she’d tried fighting her cravings, and the various accolades and badges of success she’d collected along the way had certainly delayed their onset, but eventually the ground beneath her opened up and old habits returned.
Staplers, laminating sheets, pens by the hundred, even the clock from the staffroom wall (since her own at home had stopped working) had all been filched from her workplace by the stunning yet underhanded and furtively flawed weather girl.
Caught several times, Storm had been continually let off with what had facetiously become known around the office as ‘storm warnings’. Strongly worded advice to bring her errant ways under control and even insinuations of possible dismissal should the twocking (Taking Without Owners Consent) continue amounted to little more than a pimple on Storm’s makeup encrusted chin.
Her indiscretions may have put a crimp in their trust of her, but everyone at BOM knew how good Storm was at her job and some in management still remembered who her father was and had been. With each caution Storm resolved to change her ways and for a time she would. But later she’d find herself secretly longing for that rush of power followed by heightened senses and sickly-sweet paranoia – that feeling of ‘Will I be caught?’ that so intoxicated her – all over again.
The final nail in the casket for Storm Mellors came the day when she was caught trying to make off through the security gate with a complete antique china tea set lifted from the chief cartographer’s layout room. Her eventual dismissal turned out to be no storm in a tea cup but rather, as was observed at the time given the voluminous number of infractions leading up to her final demise, a storm that had been brewing for quite some time.
Sometime later, in an attempt to put the past behind her and distance herself from the industry that had outed and finally spurned her, Storm changed her name by deed poll to Paige Orlando. Years later, not unironically, she found herself as the manager of a chain of bookstores based in and around North Birmingham known for their high tech security and unpitying prosecution of shoplifters. Evidence of the holy contour of life was there for all to see.
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Glen has had written pieces and works of fiction published by Jotters United, Positive Words Magazine, GhostStory.com, Tiny Owl Publishing, 101 Fiction, Horror After Dark, Tokyo Voice Column, Ipswich Life Magazine, Australian Writers Center, Lend Me Your Literacy, Fictuary, Octavius Magazine, Ether Books, The Binnacle and Cadillac Cicatrix. He was an honouree in DesiWriters 2015 Annual Short story contest and is a five times winner of Q Weekend Magazine’s (1 million plus readership) Caption Competition. Glen is also the creator of Ergon Energy’s “Powersavvy Man” character and stories.