Beyond the Rainbow

I gazed up at the rainbow, marvelling at its beauty.

It had attracted the attention of the whole school just a few minutes ago, but the excitement had already gone. Everyone returned to their busy lives, and I was alone again, with only the rainbow as my company. It was a shame that no one else really admired its magnificence. I was hoping that there would be at least someone who appreciated it, but lowered my standards soon after.

Although in no way a bright rainbow, compared to the dull grey sky in the background, it was nevertheless vibrant. It did not have the sharpness of rainbows caused by prisms, but had a gentle gradient as the colours merged with each other. All of the traditional seven colours of the rainbow as described by Newton were readily apparent, but many more hues assisted in the smooth transition between each. It was, without doubt, one of the most beautiful and complete arcs I had ever seen, and I had seen a lot of them before.

I was deep in thought, but was interrupted by a quiet but distinct, "Aren't they pretty?"

I turned around, startled, to see a little girl standing behind me. Her uniform was that of the school at the bottom of the hill, and from what I saw, she would have been no more than ten. Although she spoke to me, her eyes were on the rainbow.

"What are you doing here?" I demanded. "This is high school. Go back to primary."

"School's over, isn't it?" she replied, but her gaze never left the sky. "I came up here to see the rainbows. We can't see them as well from our school."

When I ignored her, she repeated, "Aren't they pretty?"

"Yes. It's very pretty." I resisted an urge to roll my eyes at her question. I never liked stating the obvious, but at that moment, I found that I hated it even more when people asked for the obvious.

I looked back at the rainbow, but to my disappointment, it had dimmed, and was no longer as broad.

"They're very pretty."

She said it softly, but I did not miss the slight emphasis she placed on 'they'. I had no intention of talking to her for so long, but I could not resist asking her about it.

"What do you mean, 'they'? There's only one rainbow."

"You mean the one with red on top or the one with violet on top?"

"What are you talking about? Rainbows have red on top." That was a fact that I had been taught since kindergarten by my parents, even before I had seen rainbows, and I immensely disliked it when people kept getting it wrong. "Has anyone ever told you how rainbows are formed?"

She shook her head, and I almost slapped myself for it. I had been conversing with someone who knew nothing. It would have been my pleasure to launch into an explanation about natural phenomena and refracted light, except I figured that she would be too young to understand anything.

"Well, any rainbow you've seen before would have told you that."

"I've never seen rainbows before. Only these two."

"Which two?"

It seemed that she did not hear me at first, but slowly, she lifted her hand and pointed at the sky next to the rainbow. When I expressed confusion, she said, "The second one's there! Can't you see?"

I concentrated on to the patch of sky she was pointing at, but the only thing I could see was grey. There was nothing that even remotely resembled colour, let alone a rainbow. But whenever I stopped looking, she would seem to know, and would point even more frantically in that direction.

After a while, I gave up. "Stop imagining things. There's only one rainbow."

"No, there are two."

I ignored her, deciding that it was not worth my time arguing with a stubborn primary school girl who could not count. She looked as if she was going to continue, but she took the hint and quietened down. I had no idea how long we spent standing there wordlessly, just staring at the bridge across the sky as it faded away.

She was the first to break the silence. "I think I'll go now. The outer one's almost gone. I tried showing it to other people in my school too, but it's a shame that no one else can see it. I was hoping that you could."

Maybe it's because you're imagining things, I thought as I watched her leave.


I looked out for the year sevens every year after that incident, but the girl was never amongst them. Perhaps she went elsewhere. It was a pity that I did not get to see her again – it would have been interesting to get to know her better.

In retrospect, I regret not even saying goodbye to her as she left, because I had learnt a lot more about light, rainbows and other optical phenomena since. Now I know that there would have been a second rainbow, as she said, outside of the brighter one and with violet on top. Every time I thought about it, it slightly embarrassed me to think that I had to discover that fact from my science textbook, while all she had to do was take her first look at a real rainbow.

From then on, I had spotted numerous rainbows and their dimmer companions. It no longer took any effort to find them – they were just there, plain as day. Every time I saw a rainbow, I would proudly tell myself that I could see a side of its splendour that many people could not. I could finally see the less vibrant, almost invisible but equally beautiful second arc. However, despite how many of them I saw in the past and would see in the future…

I never stopped wondering what her secondary rainbow looked like.

A/N: Entered for a competition a few months ago, but now it's over (for me), I can finally post it up. It was meant to be no more than 1000 words, & the prompt was 'light'.

I guess 'humour' is one aspect I can improve on, but it might kill the atmosphere. Oh, & do you get the title?