When Susan told Bonnie, “Shh, it’s a secret,” it was more out of spite for the twerpy neighbor kid passing by, to make her feel bad, excluded.
But Lizbeth didn’t need fake secrets to make her feel different. That feeling was as much a part of her as every breath of air she breathed on alternating Tuesdays and Thursdays, and every other day as well. Still, sometimes, she could pretend. Like when the Good Humor Man came. She’d found a way to get thick pieces of chocolate despite her mother’s millions of diets. One ice cream a week was allowed.
“Mommy, can I get an ice cream?”
Mommy would give out the precious pennies, graciously begrudged, depending on the mood of the day and Lizbeth would rush, like all the others, to tell the Ice Cream Man what she wanted: Chocolate Eclair.
She would peel off the paper and quickly bite into the ice cream coating to find ecstasy in a solid chunk of rich chocolate that was all hers. No one would take it away because this was “healthy” ice cream and not that fattening chocolate allowed only on serendipitous days of grace, accompanied by banana splits, hot fudge, and whipped cream piled high. Even that, sometimes, had to be shared.
Lizbeth sucked on her Good-Humor and moved onto the sidewalk with Bonnie, Susan and Sally, Susan’s sister. For now, Lizbeth was a part as they stood enjoying their summer treats.
Suddenly a noise distracted Lizbeth. Looking skyward, she saw a thick white ribbon slowing being drawn across the sky in a lazy arc. For a moment, chocolate ecstasy was forgotten. Lizbeth gazed upward in awe, remembering the story of Noah’s ark and how God had placed his bow in the sky—a rainbow—and now here it was!
Certain of her Biblical knowledge, for a moment Lizbeth forgot her lesser status. “Look,” she cried out, “look at the rainbow!”
The other girls looked up—and laughed.
“What’s so funny? Don’t you see it?”
“See what?” Susan laughed. “The exhaust from an airplane, that’s all it is.”
“No!” Lizbeth protested, “Its a rainbow! See how it’s growing, like an arc in the sky?”
“That is the plane moving,” Bonnie laughed, Susan and Sally joining her.
Lizbeth, convinced she was seeing a rainbow, ran home across the street, a distance of forever with laughter chasing her footsteps. “Mommy, Mommy, come see the rainbow!”
Mommy came eagerly. “Where?”
Lizbeth eagerly pointed up and Mommy looked up, kind of laughed and shook her head. “That’s not a rainbow.”
Mommy tried to explain about colors and rain and water, but Lizbeth was devastated. All the chocolate in the world could not replace that moment when God had made a rainbow just for her, and everyone else had desecrated it.
Sometimes, even now, Lizbeth the woman sees a glimpse of color in a dry sky and knows there is a rainbow hiding there. And, in a more secret place, she treasures the wonder of her first rainbow before laughter stole it away.