The Rainbow Baby
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Rainbow Baby (also called Sunshine Baby): A baby born subsequent to the miscarriage or still-birth of the previous child. This phrase is referring to the happiness that can come with a new child after the “storm” and emotional stress caused by the death of an infant.

A little figure took dragging steps as she thumped along the decrepit sidewalk. A scarf bound her ears and nose, pushing back the bite of late October air. There is a time in autumn when the weather is perfect. It lasts about a week. A week in which, when one breathes in, their lungs are filled with cool air. The humidity of summer has gone. The leaves are at their brightest, and the ones that have already dropped crunch underfoot. That time of autumn had ended a few days before. Now, the leaves were wet with freezing rain. Unforgiving wind rattled the skeletons of the barren trees. It darted between the rows of two-story buildings and pulled at the woman’s hair, throwing it into her face. Her coat barely kept the winter at bay.

Long past was the hour when the shops had closed. During the day, the windows had shown off their wares, but now they were reduced to darkened voids. Ahead lay the outlier, a bar called “Avev’s Tap House”. The light of the sign displaying this cut into the darkness and buzzed with soft contentedness.

The woman pulled open the door and a gust of hot air brushed against her shivering body. Several people were in the bar, talking and yelling with drunken excitement as friends long separated caught up with each other. The TVs nestled in the corners of the bar displayed a football game, the presence of which added to the noise as the sports fans cheered over baskets of fries and bottles of alcohol. The woman grumbled.

There are two reasons people go to bars: the first, to socialize and party, the second, to drown out their troubles. Not a single person was here to do the second, much to the woman’s dismay. She would’ve relished the quiet. She was here to deal with her own grief, and she didn’t want other people around to witness it. She ordered a drink.

Down it went. The home team scored on the TV. The woman threw her hands over her ears and swallowed a sob. Another drink would help, and it did, a little. She hadn’t been able to drink in a long time. She felt ready now, so she fumbled for a pen in her bag. She scribbled something down on a napkin, something important she had learned, and slid it to the bartender. He swooped it up and looked for a moment before he tore it up.

The bartender leaned over the bar. “Follow me at a distance,” he whispered. He pivoted and trotted to the other side of the bar, disappearing behind an ‘Employees Only’ door. The woman counted to ten, then she followed.

Behind the door was a normal storage room, dark and musty. The woman pushed through another door and descended a flight of stairs. She rounded a corner.

The room before her was of a different world. Strings of old christmas lights lit the place with a dim colorful glow. Wind chimes hung from the ceiling, sitting idly, useless in the still and quiet air that this place produced. Buckets of herbs littered every corner. There were boxes stacked up to the top of the room. In the opened ones, she could see copper wires, steel pipes, and many other shapes of metal- like gears and wheels. In the center was a table. In the middle of that was a large glass bowl, surrounded by any number of tools- scalpels, scissors, pliers, and knives.

The bartender was talking to an old man sitting at the table, who crouched over a sheet of paper, which he was scribbling on with a dull pencil. His tiny eyes peered from heavy brows as he focused more on his writing than the bartender.

The most interesting thing about this room were the shelves of possibly hundreds of bottles. Several more of them hung near the wind chimes. Inside these bottles were substances of all kinds, many of which the woman couldn’t identify. Many were content to lie still at the bottoms of the bottles. Some were, less content, so to say. They boiled and burned. Some melted together in little spheres or piles. Others sloshed and hissed with anger, crashing at the sides of their bottles, and biting at the cork that sealed the top. They came in every color and consistency; some sparkled, some were dark, some flowed, and some stuck. Some bottles appeared empty, but they were not.

“Did anyone see you come back?” said the bartender.

The woman broke her fascinated stare at the bottles. “No. They’re focused on the game.”

“Heh, people would notice a lot more about the world if they weren’t so focused on mediocrities,” snickered the old man.

“Avev, you’re such a dinosaur,” laughed the bartender as he headed for the stairs, “This is your client, Lauren.”

“Ah? Did you get all that I asked for?”

“Everything,” said the woman.

“Ready to receive your purchase then?”

“Please don’t call her that.”

“Fair enough. Give me what you’ve got.”

The woman slipped her bag off her shoulder and unzipped it. She pulled out two-hundred dollars in cash, a bag of lemon drops, seven shoe laces, a bottle of shampoo and a bottle of whipped cream, two quarters, a Canadian penny, and finally, with shaking hands, a little shoe box.

“Ah, yes. I have all the other ingredients myself, so do not worry,” said the old man. He picked up the shoe box. “Is this?”

“Yes. Please be careful with her.”

The old man opened the box. The woman averted her gaze. Inside was a very, very small cadaver. The man’s expression changed. “This’ll all turn out fine. You’ll have to stay until after close if you go through with this.”

“I have to.”

The old man nodded and moved over to the shelves. He brushed a wrinkled, delicate hand over the bottles, his nail making a small clink sound on them as he moved past. He snatched one up. It contained a very light pink liquid that was about the consistency of glue.

“A base element. Yes, this will do.” He popped the cork and held the bottle close to his eyes. A thin mist came from the rim of the bottle. He poured it all into the glass bowl. It sizzled. “I’ll have to get more next time I run errands.”

He hurried back to the shelves to fetch another bottle. This one was a spotty green. He measured it out. “Forty-two ounces of Kelsomere. Yes, yes. Hand me a lemon drop.”

The woman ripped open the bag and rushed over to hand it to him. He popped it in his mouth. The woman winced.

“Oh, they’re not a part of the recipe. I just like to eat them,” said the old man. “Twenty-nine ounces of Gharin, ninety-five ounces of Fahro… no, better make that ninety-four-point-five.”

“Is it working?”

“Yes, yes, of course, of course. I have to ask you to step out for a bit. Can’t have my recipe getting out. I’d assumed you would’ve been on your way on your own.”

“I don’t even know what you’re doing. I’m sure it’s f-”

“No! Go upstairs,” hissed Avev. “I am an artist, and art is not meant to be seen half-done. You might see something you’ll regret.”

The woman’s chest tightened, but she pivoted and trotted up the stairs. As soon as she found herself back in the storage room, the air felt heavier. This was the normal world. That room downstairs was something different. She hadn’t been inside that specific room before, but that was not the first time she’d rubbed elbows with that world. She realized how Avev’s shop had blocked out the sounds of the people upstairs, and now they all bit at her ears again. She pushed through the storage room door, resisting the urge to shout at everyone to quiet down.

Her chair had been taken by a new customer. She forced herself to not be angry about it. I’m at my worst right now, but that’ll change soon. She reclined against a wall as the heat of other bodies choked her. She considered ordering another drink, but decided against it as her head floated in a little circle. This place was a front, after all. Who knew what kind of things were in those drinks anyway. They were probably nothing out of the ordinary, but she knew that anything had the potential to be extraordinary. The woman sunk to her knees. She knew enough about the world to get a bit of an idea about how much she didn’t know. That didn’t matter. What mattered is that Avev would be able to help her. It didn’t matter that there were things she wasn’t allowed to see. If she gave the shadows what she owed, and the shadows spat out what she wanted, she didn’t need answers.

The woman stood up and pushed through the crowd to the door. Nausea had come over her. Fresh air blew harshly against her face in reaction to the door disturbing it. Her heart kicked her ribs. Her stomach settled as frigid air cascaded down her throat. She seated herself on the concrete edge of a long-dead flowerbed. It was cold to the touch, so she did not idle long. The wind picked up a whirlwind of leaves and sent it down the street, seemingly the only living thing aside from the woman to be outside that night. It danced down the alleyway, unaware that as soon as the wind left it, it would fall apart and die. Maybe it was really alive. One couldn’t always tell.

The cold tempted the woman to retreat inside. She didn’t listen. She wasn’t ready to return to the dizzying heat and noise. The woman exhaled, and saw her breath for the first time that season. She wished for snow. The serenity of snow made the cruelty of cold worth it. It might be another month before it comes. The woman paced. Waiting is hell. Peace would come soon. She reminded herself that she would be spending this winter with the person she cared most about. That person would come back soon. Winter’s never bad with a loved one. So she waited.

“Hey, are you alright out here?” the voice leapt from the darkness. The woman opened her eyes. The bartender stood over her. “Don’t let yourself freeze! We’ve only got the materials to bring back just one.”

He helped the woman up. Her eyes stayed low to the ground, her furrowed brow hiding the mascara that streaked her pale cheeks. When they went inside, a pleasant warm surrounded her, instead of the hot sweat that had clouded the place earlier. Most of the people had gone home.

“What time is it?” the woman drawled.

“Half past one. We’re going to kick out the stragglers soon. Avev’s almost done.”

A weak smile teased the corners of her mouth. “… almost done.” She felt tears coming back. The bartender showed her to a seat. She rested her head on the counter. The bartender brought her some ice water, but she didn’t touch it. She was sick of the cold. The bar emptied.

Sleep had almost taken her when she heard the ‘Employees Only’ door swing open. She leapt to her feet. There he was. Avev stood in the doorway, holding a bundle in his arms.

“Is that…” the woman’s voice trembled. The rest of her sentence wouldn’t come out.
Avev nodded. He handed the woman the bundle. She nearly dropped it as emotion overcame her, and she fell to her knees and cried.

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