As he reached the small dry space, he huddled next to an old man who appeared to be whimpering.
"Are you all right, sir?" JD asked. The man was hunched over and weeping. It was one of the saddest scenes he had witnessed in a long time. Even sadder than the scenes he'd come up with in his own stories.
"No," said the man with a trembling voice. "I am not all right." He looked up at JD with a set of bright blue eyes that made JD shudder.
"Why, hello Mr. Sky," said a girl with red hair that had popped out of the door behind them. "What brings you here today? It's not like you to be seen out in this rain."
"Yes, I know, Mary; but I am irreparably sad today. It's no wonder there's a downpour."
"What's wrong sir?" JD asked. He felt the need to help this man.
The old man bore into JD with his piercing blue eyes and said: "I lost my Rainbow.”
Then he hunched over and leaned on Mary's shoulder and began to cry. JD had never seen an old man cry like a 3 year old before. It made him feel all wrong. Mr. Sky needed his Rainbow.
“Do you know this man?” asked JD, himself fighting tears as he heard the man weep. Every time his slender body shuddered on the shoulder of the girl with the red hair, the wind whipped up and a sheet of rain seemed to drop on cue.
“Yes, Mr. Sky is a very good friend of mine. One hot day as I ate an acerola bar, this gorgeous rainbow appeared. It was so bright in the sky that everyone was looking. That’s where I bumped into Mr. Sky the first time.”
JD Looked on the old man and couldn’t help but feel a biting sadness over the sight. But still, how could anyone lose a rainbow? Moreover, how could anyone keep a rainbow? Just then, the old man turned to face JD with his impossibly blue eyes. He couldn’t help smile at how the bushy eyebrows looked like clouds looming over a kind blue sky.
“Don’t worry, mister. We’ll help you find your rainbow.”
At the mere sound of the young man’s words, the warmest smile broke through the cascade of tears. Next to the old man, the girl called Mary shone her own smile at the prospect of adventure. She motioned JD and Mr. Sky to follow her through the door and into a quaint little coffee and tea shop.
“Well, this is nice!” JD said. He’d never been to the Mad Hatter’s before, but Mr. Sky was a regular. Mary tended to him everyday just before sunrise.
“Would you like your regular coffee, Mr. Sky?” Mary asked as she took a position behind the counter. “How ‘bout you, JD? Coffee? Tea?”
“Some green tea with raspberry, please,” JD said. He was a sucker for some good ole tea. “So Mr. Sky, when was the last time you saw your rainbow?” he asked.
The old man looked out the window and up to the dark clouds overhead. “Yesterday,” he said in a shaky voice. It seemed the memory upset him because his eyes began to darken at the mention of the day. Then the lights in the coffee shop flickered several times. When they stabilized, the room looked different somehow. The wood seemed darker and had a navy blue hue. The lights were dimmer and the tint on the window glass looked bluish.
“What the…” said JD confused.
“Please, Mr. Sky; try not to be so blue,” Mary said. “We need to talk about Rainbow. Where did you two go yesterday?”
“We went to the beach,” said Sky.
“Which beach?” asked JD.
“Grey Beach,” said Mr. Sky somberly.
“Oh my,” Mary said out loud. “And Mrs. Grey was Ok with you visiting?”
The old man had a pained look on his face. “Well, it’d been so long since I’d seen Mrs. Grey, and she insisted she had some tea made by her grand uncle Earl. So we went. Last I remember, Rainbow was playing on the shore, counting sea shells and braiding her hair. I then got to talking with Mrs. Grey and telling her how lovely her beach was when I noticed I could only hear the waves splashing on the shore. When I looked back, there was no Rainbow. Only mist.”
JD looked on, quite worried at the prospects of where Rainbow could be. It was his nature to worry and if concern was a currency, he could pay off the national debt. Even so, he was at a loss for words. I mean, it’s not every day someone just vanishes while at the beach. Looking over at Mary for reassurance, he was surprised to see here smiling while sipping on her cup.
“I’m not so sure we should be smiling, Mary,” said JD.
She smiled back at him with bright eyes. “I think I’ll choose to agree to disagree.”
A bit confused, he had to ask. “Any particular reason why we shouldn’t be worried?”
“Plenty,” said Mary turning to the old man. “Mr. Sky, let me verify if I understand. You and Rainbow went down to Grey Beach, is that right?”
“Yes,” said the man gloomily.
“Aha… and you told me Rainbow was playing with seashells on the seashore?”
“Yes. She always enjoys playing with them.”
“I know she does, she always goes on about how much she loves seashells. But tell me, did you go to where she left her seashells?”
“Well, no. I sort of fell in a panic and me and Mrs. Grey split up to try to find her when I found myself checking her usual hangouts with no sign of her.”
Turning back to JD, she held her hands out as if presenting fool proof evidence of the obvious. “See? That’s why I don’t worry.”
JD’s brow creased so much he looked like a Shar-pei puppy. “I’m not following.”
“And neither did Mr. Sky,” she said matter of factly before turning back to the old man. “You said you saw her playing with seashells, right?”
“Why, yes. Yes I did.”
“But you didn’t see what she wrote with the seashells.”
A look of realization came over the old man’s face and a genuine smile came back to his face. A gust of wind blew into the Mad Hatter’s and any sense of blue that had tinged the walls was immediately blown away.
Mary smiled warmly and looked back to JD.
“So I guess we’re going back to the beach?” he asked.
“Wonderful deduction, my dear JD,” I’ll drive.
Mr. Sky, JD, and Mary hopped in Mary’s car and headed for Grey Beach. They parked next to Mrs. Grey’s dilapidated shack. The wood was so old it had lost all signs of varnish and just remained a dark, dull grey color with smudges of black humidity stains. As soon as they turned off the engine, Mrs. Grey’s silhouette appeared in the doorframe.
“Why’d you come and bring all these people here Sky?” she asked upset. The woman never liked company and was known to shoot at trespassers on occasion.
“My friends here are helping me to find Rainbow. You seen her?”
“No. That girl’s gone and disappeared. I spent all afternoon looking for her yesterday. Remember?”
“Did you check the spot where she was playing with the seashells?” asked Mary.
“Yes I did,” said the old lady. “Gotta hand it to that colorful little soul, she’s so cryptic.”
“Why do you say that?” asked JD. He got the impression the woman wanted to shoot at them right then and there. The shotgun in hand was part of the reason for that.
“Because,” she began, as she pulled some of her grey hairs away from her face, “she went and wrote a word with them shells and it made no sense; no sense at all.”
“What was it?” Mary asked.
“Bookmarks. That’s all it said: Bookmarks.” She raised her arms up in desperation like Rainbow’s clue was completely lost to her, but somehow Mr. Sky seemed to understand and he smiled, such a nice warm smile that even Mrs. Grey looked brighter.
“Bookmarks?” JD and Mary echoed in unison.
“That’s right,” said Mrs. Grey.
Mr. Sky looked at his two companions and smiled. “Follow me,” he said confidently. He led them to the back of Mrs. Grey’s house where there was an old tool shed that seemed to be falling apart. The door was closed shut, but there was no lock on it.
“But isn’t this where you keep your collection?”
The old woman frowned so deep her wrinkles went exponential. “What are you thinking Mr. Sky?” she asked nervously.
Mr. Sky pushed open the door to the tiny shed. To Mary and JD’s surprise, the interior looked clean and well kept. The floors were hard wood and polished to a shine that would make a mirror jealous. There were rows and rows of bookshelves all lined up neatly with every single space filled. In front of the shelves there was a desk with a registration book and a glass case filled with a rather impressive collection of bookmarks.
“There,” said Mr. Sky pointing at the glass case.
The four of them rushed over to the case and looked inside. To Mrs. Grey’s surprise it had two brand new bookmarks in it. The bookmarks were her personal collection and each one belonged to one of the books in her library.
“Well, I’ve never seen those bookmarks before,” Mrs. Grey exclaimed. One of had an illustration of a girl with a purple shirt that appeared to be riding a strange boat. At the top, it said: “Pixie Piper”. The other had an eye of some sort and looked a bit mysterious and on the back the words: “Only Human”.
“Holy tea cups!” JD’s eyes opened wide and he almost lost his balance. “That’s my book!” he added incredulously.
Mary leaned in to take a better look and almost fell backwards herself. “The other one is my book,” she exclaimed.
“But those books are not in my library,” Mrs. Grey explained. “I’ve read every single book in here, and I can assure you, those are not here.”
JD smiled like a kid on Christmas morning. “Well I have a copy of mine in my bag,” he said triumphantly.
“And I have a copy of mine in the car,” Mary added.
They went back to the car, brought back their books, and handed them to Mrs. Grey. Her eyes lit up and she caressed the covers just like Mary had done when her book first arrived. “Impressive, my young padawans,” she said smiling. Then she opened the bookmark case and retrieved the two new ones, placing each inside the first page of its corresponding book.
Suddenly a gust of wind blew in from the beach. It had the distinct smell of salt water and sand. The breeze spun around the library, covering every corner and just as quickly as it came, it dissipated, leaving the library in silence. Then, out of the Fantasy section came a little girl. Her hair was aflame with all the colors of the rainbow and she smelled like flowers. Her smile was bright, illuminating the room. JD noticed how the shelves became more colorful as she walked past them. The spines of all the books took on a shimmer, like they had been re-printed brand new. “You figured it out,” she said smiling at Mr. Sky and the rest of them.
Mr. Sky rushed over to her and hugged her fiercely. He no longer looked old and frail, like he had that same morning. He was renewed, filled with energy and his eyes shined bluer than they had all day. “Where have you been? I’ve been so blue,” he told her.
“I found the bookmarks and was looking for the books here in the library, when the torrential rain began and I had to come here to stay dry. You know I don’t like it when it rains without sunshine. Makes me all dull and grey.
Mr. Sky just held her tight. “I thought I’d lost my rainbow.”
“Well,” said Mrs. Grey, almost shooing them. “Go on now. I have new books to read!” she added.
Since then Sky and Rainbow are often seen together. They visit the Mad Hatter’s and share a cup of tea with JD and Mary. Occasionally Mrs. Grey comes by. She’s been pushing for sequels from the writers. Every once in a while Rainbow goes missing in action on rainy day. But now Mr. Sky knows better. After all, what better way to spend a rainy day than with the company of a good book?