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Annalee lifted her chin off her chest and looked across the room at the rainbow curved across the cabinet door. She watched the soft colors crawl along the carved panel in a slow sweep, then lifted her left hand and covered her eyes. It was a slim hand, well shaped and capable, wearing a narrow gold band on the ring finger. Dropping her head briefly into her hand she stood for a moment, then swung her head left and pushed the hanging brown strands of her hair behind her right ear. She opened her eyes to accuse the rainbow once more. Her gaze followed the light back to where a crystal owl watched unblinking from the window sill. It was the first of the crystal figures he had brought from his long trips--their rainbow storehouses.
"Alfred," she quietly addressed the figurine, "Did you know that rainbows were supposed to be forever?"
She reached one finger out to the owl with a touch as soft as a breath, then let her arms fall. A spasm crossed her face and she clenched her hands at her sides until the joints pushed against the skin in blue knots. Abruptly she dropped her head. Her shoulders shook while a ragged breath scraped noisily--a dry sob. Then she lifted her face to the window again.
She watched as the leaves from the maple in the yard stirred around the trunk of the tree. Some whirled in gentle eddies across the strip of concrete, where the ghost of a Peterbilt shimmered against spring flowers nodding along the drive. She saw again the tall young man turn and lift a hand in farewell as he reached for the door of the tractor, then the smoky images faded into the fall colors of Mrs. Wilson's scarlet maple aross the street, with dead leaves falling to the ground. She dropped her hand onto the bulge below the smock she wore.
The phone rang. It jarred her back in time.
Annalee placed the receiver in the cradle with careful precision. She lifted her hand to her temple, pressing with fingers that slowly tensed into claws, trying to reach her mind, trying to catch the words that were spinning and plunging there. "Truck. Hurt. Six percent grade. Come. Dave. Serious."
She finally caught one word from the jumble. "Come." Grabbing onto it she ran to the door.
At the hospital, she paused briefly on the threshold of the room. Three people were bent over the bed. Tubes, wires, machines made a confusing jumble. She couldn't see Dave until one of the doctors moved. Then she saw part of his face through the red-stained swaths of gauze. As she moved into the room, to the bedside, a nurse gave the doctor at her side a questioning glance. He must have said something, for a small space opened for her to catch the inert hand laying on the bed. Being careful not to dislodge the needles, she nevertheless clung tightly to the still fingers.
"Annalee--" She heard more with her heart than with her ears the softly breathed word. She watched his eyes. Her peripheral vision saw the doctor carefully pull the sheet over the opening into that beloved body. Deep in Dave's eyes words struggled for the surface.
"Love--" was a slow exhalation. The light she watched grew dimmer, flickered once, and went out.
"Dave! Dave don't leave me."
On the first anniversary of that terrible phone call, Annalee touched the crystal owl with one gentle finger. "Alfred, how can you sit there smirking, making lying rainbows?"
Suddenly a red haze curtained the little figurine. She seized the delicate form and hurled it across the room. It shattered. She looked at it in shock. The shards pierced her heart. As the shattering sound dwindled, a baby's cry swelled from the back bedroom.
Leaving the broken talisman, she hurried down the hall.
"It's okay, Davey. It's okay." She soothed, reaching down into the crib to tuck the blanket back around him. The scowl of his disturbed slumber smoothed as he snuggled back into his nap. She looked down at the baby cleft of his chin, so like his daddy's, then hastily brushed at a tear. She didn't want it to fall on little David.
Three years later she took the lid off the box where she'd stored the crystal figures, wrapped in wadded newspaper. It seemed like it had been forever. It seemed like only yesterday. As she tenderly touched her crystal treasures, the back door banged. The boy came clattering his way through the house, looking for her.
"What you doing, Mommy?"
She put a smile on her face and answered. "I'm looking at some things Daddy gave me."
"See? They are little crystal figures." She held one up to show him. It caught the sun's rays from the window and reflected a rainbow onto the tablecloth.
"Hey, look! A rainbow."
"Yes." Her words sounded remote and automatic. "He told me that rainbows were forever."
She tried to stop the sob caught in her throat from escaping, dropping the little seal. It shattered.
"Mommy, you broke it."
"Oh, Davey." Now the tears slipped out. "I didn't mean to." She knelt beside the boy. They both contemplated the destruction of the seal.
After cleaning up the broken pieces, she let Davey help her place the figurines on the window shelves where once they'd stood so promising. And when her hand shook as she unwrapped each piece, she steadied it and kept her smile in place.
Later, when he'd returned to the sandbox and the mini-miles of highways he drove his little truck along, she returned to look at the faithless promises spread across the room. Her eyes drank in colors. Her head filled with pressure. Her heat ached with space.
Suddenly she snatched a little dolphin from it's stand and drew her arm back to throw. The crystal fit snugly in the palm of her hand, just as it had the first time Dave placed it there while triangles of brown glinted at her from his green hazel eyes.
Davey appeared at the door. He looked up at his mother. "Will you break another rainbow?" His candid voice queried.
She looked down into his eyes. A sweet memory warmed her cold face, letting a smile glimmer.
"Sides," a child's logic stated. "Rainbows aren't forever. They go away."
The brown triangle glints in his gray-green eyes danced into her eyes, into her mind, into her heart. She felt a tearing in her chest and clutched at it. It felt like an old scar tearing loose.
She dropped on her knees before her son, cradling the dolphin in her outstretched hands.
"Oh, Davey, her voice caught in her throat. "We don't have to see the rainbow to know it's there. Of course rainbows are forever."
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