Marta’s Rainbow

Marta’s world was browns and grays.

Her mother talked of other colors – bright airy blues that swayed on flower petals on a breeze; vibrant pinks and oranges in a clouded sunset; the fuzzy yellow on a buzzing bumblebee.

These were stories of her mother’s time, however, her mother’s childhood – before the world changed and the skies exploded and the never-ending winter came.

Marta’s story did not have those colorful things. She had only seen faded pictures of flowers and the bees that visited them, and she had never seen a sunset. She had never seen the sun. But whereas one older than her missed those elements of their past, of the world’s past, Marta considered herself lucky in never having seen them. They were simply elements from a fairy tale.

And besides, the here and now had its own beauty, didn’t it? Yes, the world was brown and grey, but it wasn’t all flat and boring like the adults said it was. It was beige and umber and sepia and tan; charcoal and smoke and ash and… there were plenty of colors here.  Marta honestly couldn’t imagine making room for any more.

She was in her tan dress, skipping down her stone grey street, on her way to the community school when her rainbow of browns and greys moved aside for something more vivid.

Everyone was in the yard outside the building, gathered around a single man. He was a few years older than their teacher Cole, who simply stood off to one side with his hand over his mouth. The stranger had a thick salt-and-pepper beard, and black hair that peaked out from under a thickly woven cap. His shirt was frayed; his vest was patched in several places. He might have looked hard or rough if it weren’t for the smile on his face. It was a quiet, exhausted smile, but it softened the whole look of him.

Marta wandered over to where her classmates had gathered.  The man saw her at the fringe of children, and smiled wider to welcome her closer. She stepped around her friends and looked down at what the man held delicately in his hand.

Marta had never seen color so amazing. Her mind burned with its vibrancy. The thing was bright and red-orange and soft and beautiful. It was the size of hand ball, with a little tuft of leaves growing out of the top.

“What is it?” she whispered.

“Hope,” he said.

She looked doubtful, peering up at him through her bangs.

“Well, alright,” he admitted. “Forgive an old man for trying to impress upon… oh nevermind. It’s a tomato.”

She mouthed the word.

“It is quite a special tomato. It’s the first one to come along in a very, very long time.”

She blinked at it, found her mouth watering and swallowed. “Will there be more?”

His grin widened even more. “I sure hope so.”

Marta found herself smiling, too.

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