Short Story: Broken Rainbow

     The wind swirled through the thick canopy above. A cool mist signaling the beginning of a storm fell on Grace’s cheeks as she toed along her 4-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter, followed closely by the watching eye of Alex. The four trudged through the never-ending sea of waist-high ferns that covered the floor of the surrounding jungle. They had been hiking for over four days now, both Grace and Alex weighed down with water, food, and the length of the trail ahead. The kids quickly tired of “carrying stuff like a grownup” so, the adults ended up carrying an additional five pounds of the kids’ clothes and toys that they decided they couldn’t live without. The rain was now coming down harder, droplets no longer simply rolling off of Grace’s skin but instead sticking and sending goosebumps up her arms. 

       “We’re going to need to set up camp soon and wait this storm out,” she said, “the kiddos aren’t going to last much longer walking in the rain.” She could see Benson’s bright yellow raincoat already falling behind as Violet kept trudging along. Benson and Violet were troopers. Despite walking for miles a day and the poor weather conditions, they both tended to keep a sunny disposition. Grace could tell that Violet was trying to keep her chin up but with each fern she had to push away, Grace could see her energy fading. Benson had gotten used to pushing the foliage out of the way but when he was cold or tired he began losing the war to keep the ferns out of his face. For him, the ferns alone were a jungle. Grace was very grateful for the yellow raincoat that Alex had packed for him. 

       At the beginning of their journey, Benson wore his brown fleece jacket most days, which made it nearly impossible to see him in the sea of ferns that almost completely enveloped his little body. Violet was able to see over the ferns but the way they constantly hit her in the stomach and chest irritated her to no end. Now, each person had a brightly colored raincoat that provided some shelter from the unpredictable weather and made head counts a very simple process. Blue for Alex, bright purple for Violet, she had insisted that her color match her name so that no one would ever forget who the purple coat belonged to, yellow for little Benson, and bright green for herself. As long as she could see all 3 other colors out of the corner of her eye, Grace knew they were all okay and she could keep moving. 

       “That looks like a good place over there,” called Alex from the back of the group. Just ahead was a hill, more like a cliff, formed by a large boulder that had been covered in a layer of soil and moss. The side closest to them was bare, being too steep for anything to stick to, and roots crisscrossed the stone’s face. Just in front of it was a flat, mostly bare, patch of land, sheltered by the rock from the wind, the perfect place to set up camp. The four of them slowly made their way through the increasingly heavier and colder storm until they finally made it to the little patch of land. Alex, without a word, began setting up the tent, carefully keeping as much water out of it as possible. Meanwhile, Grace dumped her heavy bag by the base of the rock and went to gather up her children who were getting increasingly more frustrated by the storm and the ferns they had to wade through. 

       Violet was able to make it to the rock but Benson had given up on walking before breaching the clearing. Grace could just barely see the pointy hood of his raincoat poking out of the foliage where he had sat down on the muddy forest floor. He was now busying himself with trying to protect a family of ants who were struggling to crawl up the stalk of the nearest fern. Grace smiled to herself as she lovingly watched her son create a shield with his hand over the ants so that the rain wouldn’t land on them. 

Suddenly, there was a bright flash of light followed by a loud clap of thunder. Benson flinched and pulled his hand in. He looked up at his mom on the brink of tears and reached his arms towards her.

       Grace quickly hoisted him onto her hip, kissed his forehead, and, pressing her cheek against the side of his face, said, “It’s okay, it was just thunder, nothing dangerous.” His lip pouted but he wiped his eyes with the back of his hand and nodded. The rain was coming down even harder now. It pelted Grace and Benson, instantly soaking them, even through their brightly colored raincoats. Grace started to walk towards the tent but the constant spray of water in her face made it difficult to see where she was stepping. Squinting through the rain, she could just make out Alex’s blue coat hunching over the door of the now set up tent, helping Violet, in her purple coat, to get safely inside. 

        As if out of nowhere, Grace’s foot caught on a root, sending her off balance, nearly dropping Benson onto the puddle-littered, muddy ground. She gasped loudly but recovered her balance, heart beating fast. She was nearly to the tent. She just had to keep moving. She had to keep her precious, yellow-raincoated baby safe. Shakily, she kept moving, her feet getting sucked into the mud below more and more as the rain softened the forest floor. Benson whimpered in her ear, shivering, frustrated with the rain, and chilled to the bone. Thunder continued to rumble almost endlessly with less and less time between the bright flashes and the cracking noises that followed. Grace could now see the tent clearly. 

“Alex,” she called out, in hopes for some assistance in traveling the remaining distance to the tent. There was no response, at least that she could hear over the thunder. Without warning, Grace was blinded by the brightest flash of light, overlapping the loudest crash she had ever heard. Her head jolted towards the noise just in time to see a lightning-fried tree falling right towards her. She had to get Benson to safety. Grace sprinted, no longer caring about the water getting in her eyes. Her sole purpose now was to get Benson out of danger. Her heart hammered as she pushed her legs to move faster, lungs aching from trying to pull in oxygen but being greeted with droplets of rain instead. She could hear the tree trunk squeaking as it neared her. 

       “ALEX,” she screamed, hurdling a fallen log in her path. The tree was nearing, she knew she didn’t have time. She watched the blue and purple figures emerge from the tent and, with all her might, ran towards them.

       “Mama!” Violet cried, “Look out!” Grace turned her head to see the tree just 10 feet above her head. Save him. She threw Benson with all of her strength out of the range of the tree. She watched as Alex and Violet ran over to him. The tree came crashing down, knocking Grace off her feet. But it was okay. She could see blue, purple, and yellow out of the corner of her eye. Her little piece of rainbow was okay.