A long time ago in a very large cold country there lived a very small girl, her name was Maria. The small girl did not live alone; she lived in a large family with many many brothers and sisters including a mother and a father. The small girl was not too poor but not too rich either. Her favourite food was toast soaked in milk sprinkled with plenty of sugar. Every morning she woke up out of a deep sleep and wished that she could sleep longer knowing that the moment would come when she had to put her little feet out from under the warm cozy blankets onto the ice cold floor of her room. Often she could have sworn she felt frost nipping at her heels and toes. She hated frost’s little teeth.
Maria lived from day to day as everyone does, she did not have an unusual life. At least not unusual in the eyes of the world nor in the eyes of her many brothers and sisters or her mother and her father. For all intents and purposes Maria was just another ordinary girl with a weak spot for sugar. She never got into any trouble, she knew how to spell and learned to count.
Something began to grow in her thoughts and maybe Maria did have a problem. A nagging thought that even she did not recognise at first. One day she noticed her busy family bustling about her. She noticed them all rushing about speaking loudly amongst each other. She noticed that not one person in her family noticed her.
Eventually, she noticed that she was invisible.
There was no reason for her to suspect that she was different from the other members of her family. Gradually the signs of her invisibility became transparent to her.
The signals were faint and soon enough the truth was revealed. Often she would hear her mother’s worried voice wondering where all of that sugar was disappearing to and she heard her brothers complaining that there was no toast left in the house, and where did it go? And then when she decided to move out of her house to live under her bed, not a single person noticed. To Maria this was enough proof to confirm her realisation.
She moved about the house like a fading shadow. Counting the number of times people did not notice her, quietly reciting the letters of their names.
Maria took to wearing an emerald green chiffon dress; she thought the translucent hue was flattering to her invisibility. She also found an old pair of tap dancing shoes with hard silver crests attached with tiny nails to the bottoms of the heels and toes. The shoes were faded black leather and she loved the frayed black satin ribbons that secured them to her little feet. When she marched through the rooms of the large family home the silver crests of the shoes made small tapping sounds like elves hammering leaves of gold.
She wondered why nobody ever complained. She wondered if invisible girls in tap dancing shoes could be heard? She wondered if sounds have shadows?
One day as Maria was clicking through her house in and out of every room she noticed an open door in the kitchen, a door that led to the back garden.
She peered out of the door and noticed the sun was shining brightly, she noticed that far far away at the very back of the garden there stood a tree, a very beautiful tree. A tree with bright green leaves almost as green as her dress. The tree was sprinkled with shiny red cherries. The cherries reminded her of millions of ruby earrings tugging at the green ears of the tree.
Without hesitation Maria whisked herself out of the back door and down worn path that brought her to the tree, she ran so quickly that her little shoes forgot to make a sound. So enticing was the tree.
Out of breath and slightly awed by her discovery all she could do was bend her neck backwards and gaze up at the tree. ‘Home’ she thought, ‘I have found my self a new home,’ not that she had been looking for a new home of course but such was her wonderment!
Maria noticed a ladder leaning against the trunk of the tree. A convenient coincidence for just as quickly as Maria scurried down the path to reach the tree she hopped onto the ladder and up into the tree’s core.
Thankfully the tree accommodated her shiny slippery shoes with it’s strong level branches and many knot like stairs.
Under a canopy of leaves Maria saw the maze like structure of branches and she smelled the soft sweet scent of ripe cherries. The sun shone through openings where gnarled branches separated. Maria had reached the centre chamber of the tree. It had never occurred to her before that behind all of those leaves that a tree could be so accommodating.
Taking in the scene before her with its scent and light Maria became tired and thought perhaps she should rest her little body in one of the elbows of a branch and possibly tuck her little head on a soft clump of leaves. Exhausted from all of her new impressions Maria fell into a deep sleep.
Maria dreamed about a huge room, a living room in a tree. She dreamed that she slipped out of her shoes and hung them on a twig by their shiny black ribbons.
She dreamed that a very large very shiny, black crow almost too slippery to look at kept sliding in and out of her sleepy vision as he laid a soft blanket over her shoulders.
She dreamed of the delicious aroma of cherry pie baking and bubbling happily.
In the distant corners of her sleep she heard the sound of tinkling teacups as they were set on a table. Maria’s sleeping tongue regressed in her mouth at the prospect of drinking hot steaming tea.
Opening her eyes and feeling refreshed Maria drank in the scene around her. Before there was perched a large glistening black crow. The crow was reclining at a table set for two with two cups filled with tea and two large slices of very inviting cherry pie.
The crow’s feathers shone so brightly that Maria could almost see her own reflection in it’s wings. She was visible in those wings and it made her feel glad. Her image fluttered gently toward her as he extended a wing to invite her to his table.
Smiling timidly Maria sat opposite the crow wishing that he might very kindly put three teaspoons of sugar in her tea and perhaps an extra four scoops of sugar on top of her cherry pie. Secretly she would have preferred milk and toast.
‘Do not worry cawed the crow,’ interrupting her thoughts. ‘I have filled each cherry with sugar before I put it in the oven and the tea is made from cherry juice. Feel free to add a small amount of milk if you wish and eat quickly young lady for my name is Gordy and we have an important job to do.’ He cawed as if he suffered from a sore throat. ‘My name is Maria,’ piped Maria as she obediently set about eating her lunch.
The cherry pie sang as it tickled the inside of her mouth and the tea made her feel warm and soft all over.
Opening her mouth to begin polite conversation she noticed that Gordy was no longer sitting at the table.
She saw that he was hunched over an old sewing machine. Maria also saw that all around Gordy there lay billowing clouds of something that looked like precious silk. Silk of every colour she could possibly ever think of. Maria imagined taking a little bite out of every single colour. Several shades of pink, green blue and red, choral, green, turquoise and ochre. There were even colours that Maria did not know the names of.
Maria pushed her chair back and walked over to where Gordy was crouched. ‘Pardon me Mr. Gordy,’ peeped Maria testing her voice. ‘May I ask you Sir what task you are busy with?’ ‘Hmm,’ cawed Gordy, ‘hmm. I am busy making a rainbow and please don’t call me Sir.’ He added, ‘now lets see, by the looks of it there will be a sun shower early this evening. I am very happy that you are here and I am so pleased to think that you might help me with my task.’ Half asking and half stating. ‘The afternoon is growing old’ cawed Gordy, ‘and we must race with time!’
Maria steadied herself and found her reflection in his wing just to be sure he was speaking to her. Feeling confident and visible Maria cleared her throat and bravely replied that she would be happy to assist but she simply had no skills that she could think of to help him. At that moment she glanced shyly at his face to see if he heard her, as she was not yet used to being heard. Gordy smiled and asked Maria if she had fingers? To which she said, ‘yes I have ten fingers, ten to be exact’ she repeated. Behind her back she counted her fingers just to be sure. Gordy asked her if she could use those fingers to grasp the coloured silk? Maria said yes if it was not too heavy. Fine, replied Gordy and then in a somber caw peering directly into her eyes he asked her if she could fly? ‘Yes replied Maria cautiously, because I fit in the reflection of your wings.’ ‘Hmm,’ said Gordy, ‘then your task will be to help me place this rainbow that I have been sewing high into the sky. High above the clouds. Together we will stretch it over the valley. The sun’s rays will embrace it and shine through it and every living person and beast shall behold it.’
Maria swallowed the last crumb of pie that she had been savouring.
‘Now my dear Maria,’ said Gordy, ‘the time has finally arrived! It is time to place the rainbow high into the heavens! If we hesitate just one more second the rain will stop, hurry! Come Maria, come, the sky is waiting!’ Maria picked up her shoes by their satin ribbons and Gordy snatched his straw cowboy hat from a peg.
With haste he rolled the rainbow into a tight ball as he began leading Maria through corridors of branches and stairs of knots.
Gordy reached above their head and unhooked a small brass latch with his beak. Without any effort he pushed open a little door and they climbed out of his home.
Blinking at the glare of daylight Maria realised that she was standing at the very top of the cherry tree.
Maria barely had time to get her balance at the top of the tree when she noticed that Gordy had extended a corner of the rainbow toward her. She stood up to take hold of the rainbow and when she touched the fabric with her fingers she was so pleasantly startled by the texture that she almost toppled off of the cherry tree. Goodness she thought, the rainbow was not made of silk it was not made of anything that she could possibly recognise. It was warm but soft, it was lighter than feathers yet if she held it too tight her fingers would sink right through it. On the other hand if she did not grasp tight enough the rainbow would slip through her fingers like grains of sand or perhaps like crystals of sugar, maybe like syrup.
‘This is like waking in a dream!’ Exclaimed Maria in a voice that she did not know she had.
Gordy spread his wings to their fullest breadth and Maria found her reflection in his glossy feathers. Extending first her right arm and then her left Gordy swept her up into the sky.
Maria’s breath feared the flight and stayed behind. Her breath became a small breeze tickling the leaves of the cherry tree, happy to stay near the earth.
Gradually Maria’s reflection began to blend into the fine black feathers, transforming into a glint of colourful shimmering light on Gordy’s jet black wings.
Surprised and yet amused Maria noticed that she had melted into Gordy’s heart and somehow she became his heart and yet she remained herself.
She was now the beating heart in the body of a crow. The navigator of Gordy’s journey.
Maria looked down from the sky as the distance between her, Gordy and the earth grew, she could see the cherry tree becoming smaller and just a stones throw from the cherry tree stood her family home and it too grew in reverse to the size of a tiny pinhead, just a speck hardly a memory.
The rainbow unfurled as Maria and Gordy crossed over the horizon.
Together they flew for thousands of years, years that were only seconds long and years that lasted forever.
Maria became Gordy and Gordy carried her with joy. Raindrops refreshed their thirst and whenever she became hungry Maria took just a small bite out of one of it’s colours.
One day thought Maria we must go home to create another rainbow.
Theresa Norris, http://www.norriscoaching.com
1999 for Gordon Norris who left this earth on double rainbows.