When it rains, she stiffens. Even before she opens her eyes, lying in bed, just coming out of sleep, Billie smells the air, hears the tippy-tapping on her window, and knows that soon she won't be able to move. Deadness is settling into her jaw, neck, shoulders, chest, belly, thighs, arms, fingers, knees, shins, toes. It's as if someone is covering her in soft warm caramel, slowly hardening until she can't even twitch. She can only blink. Blink and wait.
The first time it happened, Billie was two, streams of water battering the roof. Her mother came into the room and, when Billie didn't begin her morning chattering, tried to wake her, shook her, even though the child's eyes were wide open. Billie blinked as if to say, I'm still here, don't worry, but her mother started screaming, her father came running, and he fetched the doctor, and they stood there in their terror as he examined her. The doctor searched and poked and investigated but he couldn't find anything wrong.
Finally, her mother pushed him aside and started stroking and squeezing Billie, her arms, her legs, whole body, slowly at first, then harder and faster. The doctor and Billie's father watched, frozen. And then Billie wriggled. She wriggled her toes, then her fingers, and then waved her fat legs in the air. My baby, my baby! cried her mother, grabbing Billie to her. Billie laughed, delighted at the big smiles on her parents' faces.
Sometimes, things happen to children when they are growing that we can't explain, said the doctor to Billie's father. They nodded and he left.