Read The Night Rainbow Online

Authors: Claire King

Tags: #General Fiction

The Night Rainbow (8 page)

BOOK: The Night Rainbow
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Chapter 6

I wake with a shout, because I thought someone had just turned on the lights. But it is black night in my room. So I must have dreamt it. I am snuggling back down when a huge boom makes my door rattle. I am afraid of the dark and I am afraid of thunder so I am very afraid of thunder at night. The rain is pattering hard on the roof. I try to think about the rain. It is like people clapping, as though the clouds have done something clever. Or maybe for me and Margot after one of our shows. Or maybe the swallows have put shoes on and are dancing on our roof. I can see them in little blue clogs, tap-dancing on the tiles, and it makes me smile. I get under the sheet and try to fall back asleep again, but every time I do I start to dream bad dreams. I am up on Windy Hill under a tree. I am holding tight to the trunk and the lightning is reaching down with clawed white skeleton hands to shake the tree. I’m trying to hold on but my arms are slipping. A storm-witch with Claude’s face comes screaming at me through the darkness, but when I take his hand it is a bony, witchy hand and I am lifted up into the stormy sky. I try to pull away from her and she lets go, but then I am falling into the storm clouds. I wake up before I find out what happens next. I am glad about that and I decide to stay awake for a while. I scratch at my arm and lie listening to the rain, raining itself out. Every time the lightning flashes I jump a little, but then I count like Papa taught me until the thunder comes. One (hippopotamus), two (hippopotamus), three (hippopotamus). You can’t just say hippo or it doesn’t work. Every time there are more hippopotamuses between the lightning and the thunder, which is good.

But I need a wee, which is not good. If I want to go to the toilet I have to put my feet down out of bed and on to the dark floor, if it is still there. If it is not then I will fall somewhere. I try not to think about it. Also, even if it is still there I don’t know what is under my bed. I try not to think about that, too, but the not thinking about it makes me think about it more.

I decide to do a plan. If I manage to get to the corridor, the light will be left on for me, which is good, but the house will be empty and quiet, except for the creaks and snaps. The floor of the corridor is made of wood and it bounces when you walk on it. Right outside my room, on the other side of the wall to my bed, there is a creaky bit. When Maman goes to the toilet in the night I hear the creak and I wait for the flush. I am always a bit afraid until the flush comes, until I know that no monsters could be standing outside my room.

I lie in bed with my legs twisted in a knot, and my hands tight between them, holding in my wee, listening to the dripping outside the window and remembering about when things were nicer. What was best was that Maman was my best friend. Maman used to like it that way. She always held my hand, unless my hands were busy mixing up cakes or planting flowers. She used to call me Sweet Pea, which is a flower not a vegetable. Every night she would do my shower for me, soaping my back and washing my hair. Then she would read me a storybook and tuck me in with kisses. Later she always came back to tuck me in again. She would tiptoe over to my bed and kiss me on the head and call me beautiful. As she went she’d whisper, I love you. Every night, even if I was awake I used to pretend to be asleep. Now I wish that I had kissed her back and said, I love you too. I don’t even remember the last time she kissed me, because I never knew I had to.

I can’t hold it any longer, and I have not been able to pluck my courage like Gaston, so the wee escapes in hotness down my legs. Maman is going to be mad. And now the tears start to come too. The warm water comes from everywhere inside me and the wetness starts to fill the bed like a boat with a leak.

Margot, I whisper. But she doesn’t reply.

Margot!

Not a peep. She will probably tease me if I wake her up just because I’m scared of the dark, or because I have wet my bed because I am afraid of the dark. Margot isn’t afraid of anything. So I wait here in the hot blackness of my room, holding my breath. The window is open a little and while I am not breathing I hear the
croooo-ak
of the frogs and the
trrrrp
of the crickets. There must be about more than a hundred frogs outside, and nearly as many crickets. Then I hear the rushing out and in of air as I can’t hold it any longer. I do this until the puddle in the bed goes cold and my spotty pyjamas stick to my legs.

Margot’s voice is soft in the dark. Pea? Are you OK?

I need a wee, I tell her.

Go to the loo, she says.

Is the floor still there? I ask. Can you check?

Of course the floor is still there, Margot says.

Just in case?

Margot tuts, but I see her shadow move and her legs come out until she is standing by her bed. She does not fall down into the kitchen.

There, she says.

Thank you, I whisper. I look around the room carefully. I take some deep breaths, and then jump out of bed as fast as I can and run to the door and into the corridor. I am breathing hard but it is OK. The corridor is strange, small and quiet, like it is asleep too. In the bathroom I take off my pyjamas and put them in the laundry basket. I wash my legs with a flannel and get dried.

Maman’s room is dark too. I leave the door open so I can see the floor. She is on top of her sheet and has forgotten to take off her knickers. She has her back to me and the fan is blowing air across her, making a few long hairs flutter about her head. The windows are wide open and she has the same sounds as I have in my room. I go closer. She is curled up like a cat in her basket. Under her tummy, she has rested the baby on a lot of pillows.

I climb ever so quietly on to the bed and cuddle up to her back. I am trying not to wake her up, but I do. She turns her head to look at me, and then she sits up, puffing a lot, and lies back down facing me. Her belly is big in between us, her face too far away. She puts the pillows back under her tummy, and pulls the sheet up over us both.

Pea, she whispers sleepily.

I love you, Maman, I say back.

Her hand takes mine and she holds it, a little bit too hard. She shakes as though she is laughing, and squeezes tighter.

I lie up against her belly pillows, my knees touching Maman’s, my face close to her breasts. When I was a baby I had milk from her breasts, but I can’t remember that. I smell the soap on Maman’s skin and try not to fall asleep, but I am so tired and she is warm and soft.

I am either asleep dreaming or awake or nearly awake but with my eyes closed when something thumps me hard in the chest. For a moment I am not sure where I am, but then I remember that I am curled up against Maman’s belly. I wonder if I dreamt it, but then it happens again and I jump. It is the baby kicking me. It wants me to leave it alone. I am not cuddled up to Maman’s belly after all, but to the bossy baby inside it. Not soft but hard, not friendly, not fun.

You are not polite, I whisper.

The baby doesn’t say anything.

It is not kind to kick people, I say.

The baby belly kicks me again.

I do not want to keep getting kicked, but Maman’s hand is resting on my shoulder and I will stay here being kicked all night if I have to. Once it was me that was inside her, curled up safe and warm against her skin, but on the inside. For a long time. Everywhere she went she took me with her. I think that I would have loved that, and even though I don’t really remember, I’m sure I didn’t kick Maman’s insides like this baby does.

It’s all your fault, I say. It’s all your fault.

I look up at the fan to try and feel nice but it is spinning too fast, blurry in the darkness. Maman fidgets and turns over again. She has to sit up to do it. She doesn’t say anything, just lets go of my shoulder, sits up, lies down. Her bottom nudges up against my knees. Then she groans and turns back again. The bed rocks and creaks. It seems like it is hard work, as though her belly is heavier than a bag of shopping.

Pea, says Maman, with her eyes open, you have to go back to bed now please. I can’t get comfortable with you here.

I can move over to the other side of the bed, I suggest. Outside the window the last of the raindrops are dripping off the roof.

She shakes her head. Pea, I’m too hot, I can’t breathe; the baby won’t keep still, I’m tired. Please, go back to your room.

I breathe in her skin one last time and climb down slowly.

 

I leave my door open so there is a bit of light, and take my pillow from the wet end of my bed and put it at the other. If I don’t lie straight, but curl up like Maman, then I can make it so all of me is on a dry part.

It’s still too dark, though, in the room and inside me. Before I can stop myself I am fighting with my face. Pressing my hand against my mouth. Screwing my eyes tight and sniffing to stop tears coming out of my nose.

Hey, Pea, whispers Margot, what’s up?

Nothing, I say.

It can’t be nothing if you’re crying.

I’m just a bit fed up, I say.

Hmph, says Margot. This house has enough grumpy people in it without you starting.

I’m not grumpy, I say. I don’t like the dark. I sniff again, and the sniffing is annoying me, so I just let the tears roll out of my eyes. I still try not to cry with my mouth.

Dark? laughs Margot. Pea, it’s not dark at all. It’s a beautiful night.

What are you talking about? I say. Go back to sleep.

But she doesn’t. Margot sits up in bed, crossing her legs and putting her hands on her hips. My eyes are getting used to the dark and I can see her grinning like the Cheshire Cat in
Alice
.

I know something you don’t know, she says.

No you don’t, I say. That’s impossible.

Yes, I do. Look out of the window, Pea, she says. There’s a rainbow.

A rainbow? Margot, it’s night-time.

Yes, she says. Look outside, can’t you see the night rainbow?

I am not afraid of the floor any more. I tiptoe over to the open window and peer through the half-shut shutters. A full fat moon makes white rings in the after-storm air. The black sky is shiny-fresh as though it had been rinsed and the stars are scrubbed bright.

See, it’s so beautiful, says Margot, even better than a day rainbow. The colours are more sparkly at night.

And I stand and I look, and there it is. A night rainbow, curving up over the barn, seven colours glittering against the black sky.

Can I keep it? I say.

And Margot says, It’s yours.

Chapter 7

Today we are going to run everywhere, says Margot, standing by my side at the open window.

I was hoping the night rainbow was still there, but it has gone. Over the barn there is nothing but blue sky.

What do you expect? says Margot. It’s the daytime.

The air is fresher. It is still hot, but in a nice way, as though the storm put the sticky summer in a washing machine, sloshed it about and hung it out to dry. It does feel like a good day for running.

You should wear your green dress, I say, to match with me. My green dress is cheerful and has pockets on the front. There are yellow daisies sewn on to the dress as though they were growing up out of the pockets.

I have a good idea for breakfast, says Margot.

What is it?

Something green and sticky, she says, puffing out her cheeks and boggling her eyes at me.

Yuck! I say, although I know the answer really.

Don’t forget the mop! says Margot.

We gallop downstairs, out of the house and round the barn to the fruit trees. I stop at the chicken coop, because the chickens are walking slow circles in the shade, holding out their wings and clucking quietly. They look like they are dancing.

I grab a handful of sage stalks and stick them down the back of my knickers.

I’m a chicken! I say. Watch me!

Margot giggles as I stick out my elbows and do the chicken dance. She thinks it’s the best joke ever. She laughs and laughs. The more Margot laughs, the sillier I make my dance. I jiggle my bottom and my feathers shake.

Actually, says Margot, the chickens don’t look very happy.

It’s true, their dance is not a funny one like mine, it is a little bit sad.

Shall we go and see if there are any eggs? says Margot.

I think about it. We are not supposed to go in to the chickens without Maman, but maybe she has forgotten about them lately.

Yes, I say, come on.

The chickens wake up a bit when we go through into the coop. They gather around my feet; they think I have brought them some food. There are no eggs there. Also they haven’t got a drink of water.

The chickens need us to look after them now, I say.

Yes. They can share our breakfast, says Margot.

It is hard work getting figs off the tree with the mop; I only manage to get three before I am tired and cross and give up. We sit sharing them under the tree’s honey sweetness, leaves like hands making fingery shadows on our bare legs. Our figs are green and the skins are quite thick, so we eat out the seedy pink flesh from the inside and save the skins for the chickens.

BOOK: The Night Rainbow
13.76Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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