(***This post was originally posted on Open Salon on March 18, 2011 as part of a Fiction Friday writing prompt. Please see this post about my decision to migrate to WordPress…if you’re interested.***)
The phone rang, just as Cathy expected it to. She shoved away from the windowsill and ran to the phone in the hallway. “I got it!” she yelled to her mom. “Hello?”
“Do you see it, Cathy? Do you see the rainbow?”
“Yes!” Cathy’s eyes were shining with excitement. “It’s so pretty! And I can see the end!”
“Me, too! Tell your mom you’re coming to my house, and I’ll meet you at the playground. Be sure to bring your bag, the one with the flowers on it.”
Cathy hung up and darted down the hallway to her room. She grabbed the bag with the flowers and ran back down the hall to the dining room. “Mom, I’m going over to Jillie’s house.”
Her mom looked up from the computer. “Does Jillie’s mom know you’re coming over?”
Cathy nodded, shifting her weight from one foot to the other.
Her mom looked out the window into the back yard. “Okay, be sure to wear a sweater.”
“Okay.” Cathy turned and ran to the door, pulling a sweater off the low coat hook.
“And be home by five!” her mom called behind her.
Cathy let the screen door slam behind her and raced across the lawn.
Jillie was already at the playground when Cathy arrived, breathless. “Come on, hurry!”
Hand in hand, they ran to the edge of the schoolyard and into the field behind it, their eyes glued to the rainbow arching over the sky just beyond the trees. They reached the edge of the forest and Cathy stopped, tugging on Jillie’s hand.
“I don’t know, Jillie, do you think it’s safe?” Her eyes, large and round with fear, gazed into the gloom of the forest, trying to see into the shadows.
Jillie tugged her hand. “Yes, come on! We’re going to miss it!”
Cathy let Jillie pull her into the woods. She cast a glance behind them, back to the field. She wanted to go back, but she didn’t want Jillie to think she was afraid.
A rustle of leaves to her right startled her, drawing her attention. “What was that?”
“Probably a squirrel or something. Come on!” Jillie tugged on her hand again.
Cathy heard another rustle. She searched the shadows, trying to pick out movement. It’s just a squirrel, she told herself.
They were deep in the woods now, and Cathy couldn’t see a clearing anywhere. “Shouldn’t we have gotten there by now?”
Jillie turned and let go of her hand, sighing and placing her hands on her hips. “Listen, do you want to find the end of the rainbow, or not? Because I can go alone. If you’re scared, you can turn back and go home.”
“No, no, I’m not scared. I just thought that maybe the rainbow will be gone by now, and we’ve missed it.”
“We haven’t missed it, now come on!”
Jillie turned and started running again. Cathy hurried to keep up, wishing Jillie would take her hand again. “Jillie, wait!”
Jillie turned her head. “What?”
Jillie stumbled, tripping over a rock. Her arms wheeled as she tried to regain her balance, but she fell backwards with a thunk.
“Jillie! Are you okay?” Cathy knelt down and grabbed Jillie’s arm. “Jillie. Jillie?”
Cathy stared down into Jillie’s open eyes, wondering why she wasn’t answering. “Jillie, stop playing, come on. It’s getting dark, we need to go.” Cathy stood and readjusted the bag with the flowers on it. She crossed her arms and tapped her foot, waiting for Jillie to get tired of the game. “Jillie, come on, this is boring.” She took several steps and turned back, but Jillie was still lying there with her eyes open, not moving.
Cathy looked around. She couldn’t remember what direction they had come from, and she didn’t see any trails or clearings anywhere. She needed Jillie to lead her out. “Jillie, please…”
She heard the leaves rustle to her left. She turned slowly.
It wasn’t a squirrel.
© 2011, Sara Sligar. All rights reserved.