"When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant..."
She didn't have to see him to know he was there. It had been a very long time since Evelyn had needed to rely solely on her eyes.
She released a final, ear-piercing scream, its song a double-edged sword that heralded both life and death. It was done-her ultimate joy now within her reach, just as her ultimate sacrifice extended its hand to her.
"It's a girl," the midwife said, placing the baby in her arms.
Evelyn stared down at the tiny child and wondered how she would find the strength to let her go.
"She's perfect, Eve. She looks just like you. My two beautiful angels," James said.
He was still crying. He'd been a blubbering mess since the first contraction, but his words brought the first silent tear from Evelyn's eye. He swept it aside lovingly.
"I knew you'd cry," he teased as his eyes drifted between his wife and their daughter. He tentatively brushed the top of the baby's forehead, barely using the back of his little finger.
Evelyn's heart clenched. Leaving him was not something she'd planned for. She'd always assumed it would be her that would outlive him. All the time she had spent deliberating over when to tell him everything-how to explain he would grow old while she would merely age a few years. Time wasted now.
She looked down at their daughter, her eyes opening slightly. It would be her choice now if he should ever know.
Evelyn pulled James's hand to her mouth and kissed it, letting her lips linger on his skin, inhaling his vanilla scent and committing it to memory. She wished they had more time, but she sensed the magnets of power around her. She couldn't ignore it much longer.
"James, could you give me a minute to tidy up?" It was her last lie and she still hated that she had to. Lying to her husband had never sat well with her.
He kissed her quickly. It was too quick.
"I'll be back soon, ‘Mom,'" he said with a wink before leaving. It was heart-wrenching to know that she would hear it just once.
Alone with her daughter, Evelyn kissed the top of her perfect head. She already had a full head of hair, dark brown like Evelyn's, and she smelled...intoxicating. It was a fragrance she could get lost in for all eternity. She wished she could hold her like this forever, inhaling her and playing with her tiny, tiny fingers.
But she knew...they weren't really alone.
"Do I have you to thank for the dreams?" she asked the empty room.
He materialized, a corporeal form confirming the presence she had already felt. It was as if he had always been there.
She sensed him with her whole body. She had always been able to feel them. She could smell them too. Always flowers, but he smelled of lilies only.
And she knew-lilies held all the power.
He introduced himself, unnecessarily. She knew exactly who he was and why he was there. He'd been haunting her dreams for weeks now.
He stood by the window that looked out over a small park. There had been a time when he was able to frequent the world regularly, but that time had long since passed. He wanted to at least see the grass and sky from this point of view during his short visit.
They both knew how this was done. New life and new death equaled a gateway.
"Do you realize what you're asking?" she said.
"What will she become?"
"The Keshet." He spoke with a reverence that made Evelyn nervous.
"The Rainbow?" she repeated, recognizing the Hebrew word.
He nodded. "The bow that holds our arrow. The link between the realms."
"The bow," Evelyn whispered to herself. "Why her? Why me?" It didn't seem fair-she had already given so much.
He could feel her pain but stuck to information; that was what she needed from him.
"Through you, she is already more than human. She is one of a kind. There may never be another like her."
Evelyn shook her head in disbelief, even though she knew he spoke only the truth. "You already know I'll agree, or you wouldn't be here," she said, resigned, then inhaled a broken breath. She had to stay strong. "Is there anything you don't know?"
"I do not know what she will choose."
Evelyn circled the child's face with her finger-so soft, so innocent. "She will choose with her heart."
"Then let us hope that she finds love," he said.
Her head lifted, now more determined. "I have terms."
He already knew what they were, had discussed them with her in her dreams.
"They have been accepted as long as you are willing to pay the price. Do you have it?"
She nodded and reached under her blanket, revealing one of her silver wristbands. She slipped it on her arm carefully while cradling the baby, and raised her brow; she hadn't expected it to be that easy.
"You really need her."
He tilted his head once in mute confirmation that carried remorse. It was hard for him, to admit their failings, admit that they had to turn to humans to make these sacrifices because they could not contain their own forces.
"Swear you will make sure she wears the amulet." Evelyn pushed herself up a little with one hand to sit. As she did, she felt the strength draining from her. She ignored it as best she could and focused on her daughter again.
"You have already defeated her. It is not certain she will return," he said.
"Swear!" She wasn't going to let this drop; she had seen too much, fought too hard.
"I swear," he conceded, impressed by her intuition as much as with her sacrifice.
She shook her head, silent until finally she let a tear escape, and whispered, "Just another lamb to the slaughter."
He pulled himself away from the view and walked toward her. "Not just any lamb. You forget-you are part angel too."
"When?" she asked, though she could already feel it.
"I'm one hundred eighty-seven years old. Has it all been worth it?"
They both looked at the baby.
"You'll have to tell me," he said, surprised by the effect the proximity of the child was having on him.
Evelyn knew she had only minutes left. She took hold of the nurses' call button.
"Give me a moment to be with my family. Stand away, where I cannot sense you. I want to finish this as a human."
"You still believe in humanity after all you have seen?"
The heart rate monitor started beeping frantically. Evelyn kissed the top of the baby's head, inhaling her scent again and again as she pressed the alarm.
"Only a human can have this, however briefly. I would not give you my life and hand you her fate if I did not believe."
"I will travel with you, to a point, if you like," he offered.
She couldn't deny her fear. "Company would be nice."
The doors flew open as the midwife raced in, followed by the doctor with James close behind.
The midwife couldn't hide her horror when she saw the state of the sheets, now red. She started pulling the bedding off as the doctor began trying to fix the problem Evelyn knew he never could.
James's face had turned ghost white. Evelyn held out the neatly wrapped bundle of life to him. His arms shook as he took the baby. He knew this was bad. He could see it in her eyes.
Evelyn watched him, savoring her last moments with him.
"Tell me what's happening!" James pleaded, trying desperately to avoid his wife's all-too-accepting, fire-blue eyes.
The doctor didn't answer, yelling for more people instead. It would be too late.
"James," she said, but he couldn't look. She tried again, softly. "James, I've thought of a name."
"What?" he asked, through quivering lips.
"She is the heart of the Keshet, James. She is Violet." It was all she could muster. The most she could offer as explanation for what lay ahead. She'd told him tales of the Rainbow before. She hoped he'd tell Violet one day.
"Violet." He nodded and wiped his tear-streaked face.
"It's okay," she reassured.
James looked at the doctor and watched, disconnected, as he responded with the slightest shake of his head. His heart fell to a depth it had never known.
"I love you both."
"We love you, Evelyn," James whispered.
• • •
He was there for her the moment it was over, and he stayed with her through the journey. Later, he returned to the child Evelyn had named Violet and he left with her, the part of himself he could only ever give once.
Now all he could do...was wait.