Clare was gardening in her backyard when she saw it: a giant, vivid rainbow spanning across the sky. Clare’s eyes widened. She’d been waiting her whole life for this. Her friends had found gold at the end of a rainbow and all of their dreams had come true.
And now, it was Clare’s turn.
Clare set off to find her share of gold—a seemingly easy task. She had bright, colorful guidance right over her head, after all!
Along the way, Clare met a younger girl called Mary Sue. When Clare told Mary Sue where she was going, Mary Sue insisted she knew the way to the gold. Knowing how important and dangerous this quest was, Clare tried to talk Mary Sue out of it. But in the end, she was left with no choice.
Mary Sue’s short legs quickly grew tired and she asked to be carried. Clare obliged. But soon, she too grew exhausted from carrying the extra weight. She knew she had to find the gold before the rainbow completely faded from the sky, but she needed to stop and rest.
Mary Sue was nowhere to be found when Clare awoke from her nap. Clare frantically searched for her, climbing tall rocks and calling her name. A boy was fishing in a pond and, for a few coins, he told Clare that he saw someone playing inside of a small cave at the side of a hill. Clare ran to the hill, tripping and skinning her knees raw. Clare came across a deer inside the cave, but there was no sign of Mary Sue. Frustrated at being misled, Clare pressed on. Any time Clare happened upon another person, she was only led to a dead end or they knew nothing at all about Clare’s companion.
Clare eventually found Mary Sue napping under a tree. Clare, exhausted and filthy, was furious.
“Mary Sue! I’ve been looking for you everywhere! We’re running out of time!”
“I know a shortcut,” Mary Sue said.
Anxious about the time lost, Clare stood back up after another short break and continued on with Mary Sue by her side.
Mary Sue led Clare to a river. Clare hoisted Mary Sue onto her shoulders and waded the neck-deep water. Mary Sue seemed heavier now somehow. The river was powerful, and it took everything inside Clare to stay upright and keep the two of them above the surface. At one point, Clare lost her footing, and they tumbled with the current until Clare was able to grab onto a fallen branch. The water was freezing and by the time Clare made it to the other side of the river, her arms and legs were numb.
She needed to rest. She looked around and noticed that the river had carried them farther than she had realized. They were lost. Clare grew angry with Mary Sue.
“It’s not a shortcut if we have to waste time resting!” she roared. “And now we’re lost! The rainbow is fading!”
When Clare regained the use of her limbs, the girls set out again. Clare wasn’t fully recovered from the treacherous and taxing voyage across the river. She walked a few steps and collapsed. She’d never reach the pot of gold if she had to keep stopping. Maybe she could if she were alone, but certainly not while also carrying Mary Sue. She had to find that pot of gold. Her friends and neighbors had already found theirs. What would they think of her if she didn’t return home with her prize? What would they say?
Clare breathed a sigh of relief when she saw a man driving a horse-drawn cart down a nearby road.
Clare dusted herself off, splashed some cold water on her face and smoothed her hair. She pinched her cheeks for some color and put on her most charming smile.
The man slowed his cart and stopped.
“Sir, please, can you drive us over that hill?”
He looked at Clare as if she were crazy.
“That little thing? Why don’t you do it yourself?”
He turned his back to the girls.
Mary Sue spoke up. “She’s sick, sir.”
The man in the cart whipped around, somewhat confused as if he were imagining things, and looked Clare up and down. He raised one eyebrow and scoffed.
“Well, she doesn’t LOOKsick!”
He fled down the road with his horse and cart, leaving the two girls stunned at the side of the road.
“Why did he look so startled?” Clare asked.
“He can’t see me,” Mary Sue whispered.
The rainbow in the sky faded and disappeared.
Rage filled Clare’s heart and she screamed in Mary Sue’s face.
“This is all your fault! You led me the wrong way! You got us lost and you wasted my time! Now I’ll never find my pot of gold!”
Clare fell to her knees and burst into tears. Mary Sue slowly knelt beside her.
“Clare. Don’t you see? Open your eyes. We’re already here.”
Clare opened her eyes and scanned the ground in front of her.
“But where is the gold?”
Mary Sue’s voice was soft. “That wasn’t your rainbow, Clare. You were following one that was meant for someone else. And you were so focused on it, that you missed all of this.”
Mary Sue shifted her body to the side and gestured around them.
“You see.” Mary Sue whispered.
They were surrounded by rolling fields with vibrant flowers and golden grasses swaying in the breeze. The air smelled sweet. Clare reached out to touch one of the blooms. She marveled at the intricate patterns and the velvety softness of the petals. She turned around to the clearest blue stream she’d ever seen. It sparkled from the sun, and it was calm and serene. It wasn’t the raging river she remembered. The water was so clear, she could actually see the fish chasing each other. There were blue-gray mountains in the distance, majestic and rising above the clouds. The clouds were big and fluffy like cotton candy.
A butterfly landed on Clare’s nose and snapped her attention back to Mary Sue.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispered with tears in her eyes. “But why didn’t you tell me?”
Mary Sue smiled.
“You had to see it for yourself, Clare.”
And so must you.
This article was authored by Cat Stappas and originally published on the National Multiple Sclerosis Society’s blog, MSConnection.org, on March 17, 2017.