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Black Rainbow

Black Rainbow

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Black Rainbow

189 pages
2 heures
Oct 30, 2015


Told from two full points of view, the central premise is a woman kidnaps a pregnant mother, murders her, and claims the child as her own. However, the authorities return the infant to her biological family, and prosecute the killer. The novel asks what would happen to such as child, and would there be any relationship between the child and the killer? Set in the late 60’s, in New Jersey, a surreal lower east side of Manhattan, and a magic-imbued remote northern New Mexico. The first point of view is Rania’s—the kidnapped infant, now a teen-ager. Her school provides little, except for a friendship with the charismatic Monique. Her family’s Armenian heritage hints at a dark historical past. Slowly, Rania uncovers the story of her birth. Egged on by Monique, she begins to want to search for her mother’s killer. But Monique has problems of her own. Her father’s flirtations towards her are progressing to something more sinister. Rebellious and longing for a bigger world—Monique disappears after a peace rally. Rania goes in search of her aided by Michael, who despite Rania’s coolness proves himself a worthy and a streetwise guide and boyfriend—Rania enters “Bablyon” as the novel shifts into magical realism in an old warehouse with mix of light shows, music, magic theater; a place of transformation. Here, Rania finds—and loses— Monique fueling the rest of her journey—a solo quest to the desert and mountains of New Mexico to find the killer, Mary Rose. The second point of view is that of Mary Rose. An ordinary young woman from a rural town outside of Albuquerque, she is driven mad by miscarriages and infertility. After she briefly kidnaps a child, and continues to be haunted by ghost babies, her marriage starts to dissolve. Her crime of murder leads to her incarceration in a mental institution. Here her healing begins. Mentored by a co-inmate, she recovers, and in an administrative slip-up, is released. Mary Rose travels to a remote Benedictine monastery, where she is taken in and helped to return to a normal life. She goes to work at a spa, living in a trailer, until Rania appears on her doorstep. Mary Rose’s desire for a child overwhelms her reality, and never allows its fruition. For both protagonists, their identity is interwoven with the failure of their relationship as mother and child. If both Rania and Mary Rose are missing pieces of themselves, it is only in confronting each other that they can be whole.
Oct 30, 2015

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Black Rainbow - Miriam Sagan

To my husband, Richard

Copyright 2015 Miriam Sagan

ISBN: 978-1-890932-48-0

Library of Congress Control Number: 2015946425

Cover by Isabel Winson-Sagan

Text design by Jim Mafchir

Edited by Cinny Green

Sherman Asher Publishing

126 Candelarion St.

Santa Fe, NM 87501



I HAD TWO MOTHERS. Or maybe I had three. There was my real mother who died when I was born. And then there was the woman who claimed to be my mother, my stepmother Grace. Behind them, like a shadowy third, was the crazy lady, the one who had wanted to be my mother most of all. She was murderer and midwife, my mother’s killer and the one who brought me into the world. Hers were the first pair of human eyes I ever saw.

Until the autumn I was fifteen, I thought I was like everyone else. I had one mother; and if I was unhappy I did not go looking for the cause. At least I did not think about it until I met Monique. That autumn it rained and it did not stop. Red maple leaves in the shapes of stars fell and clogged the gutters of my father’s house. The kitchen ceiling leaked and peeled. My father stood on the roof with a broom, cursing the expense of rain. The sky was dark at night, not its usual pink, lit up by refineries and the city of Manhattan shining to the east. Someone at school claimed that her brother had seen a huge albino catfish walking on its own feet in the Jersey wetlands, and I believed it.

Although I was a sophomore, it was my first year at the private girls’ school on the hill. Grace, my stepmother, taught music there, so I had free tuition. My younger brothers were still in public school; besides, they were boys and would never have to wear the stiff button-down uniform shirts and the itchy plaid wool skirt. The advantage was only for me. I said I would miss my friends. But Grace glared at me as she wound her dark hair up into a music teacher’s bun. Her mouth was harsh in its lipstick. So I went.

During the first few weeks, no one paid much attention to me. My Latin was bad, my French passable, I could spike in volleyball. There were a few other Armenian girls, some busty, fair Greeks, two black girls, and a clique of smart mean Jews. But most of the girls were prim and Protestant, with ironed-looking hair and penny loafers. I was almost invisible. If anyone thought of me they thought public school and nothing more. I wore dangling earrings in the shape of daisies and no proctor stopped me in the hall to demand that I remove them. No one noticed me at all, not until Monique.

The first time I saw Monique, she was threatening to jump off the ledge of the second floor girls’ lavatory and to stab herself with large blunt scissors. Monique had decided to commit suicide during mid-morning recess. Her clique stood cowed at one end of the bathroom, chewing on Sugar Babies and Mars Bars, which were sold by the school’s service organization. Presumably our cavities went to help the needy. I came into the bathroom not to smoke or to worry my lank hair but to pee. But when I crossed towards the stalls Monique announced, Come any closer and I’ll jump.

She means it, someone hissed from behind me. It was a pale-faced, stunted girl with large brown freckles who kept her position as head of the class by having no opinions of her own.

She won’t jump, I said casually, not moving an inch.

Oh yes I will, said Monique. Her large green-blue eyes locked with mine. The illegal mascara was slightly smudged. It was black anyway, a poor choice for a blonde. Monique’s eyebrows, honestly darker than her hair, looked like the marks over a French word.

Why? I asked.

This world. Monique faced her audience and temporarily forgot the scissors. Who can live in it? Babies getting napalmed, people living in slums full of rats.

She got grounded, murmured one of the clique, the hipper black girl in the class who wore a pearl in her pierced nose. I had never seen anything like this before. And no one had the nerve to tell her to take it out because the dress code did not specifically ban nose rings.

So jump, I said.

The recess bell rang and the clique shuddered. Then they gently streamed into the hall, leaving me alone with Monique. The bathroom smelled of perfumed deodorant, old lipstick, borax soap, blood, and smoke.

Just jump. I wanted to see it. Rain streaked the window gray behind her. The rain had a smell of its own: soot, pigeon feathers, metallic subways. I leaned on the sink and lit up a gold-tipped Balkan-Sobranie. I caught a glimpse of myself looking greenish in the mirror—small dark-haired girl, flatchested, zit on my chin, and an Armenian nose.

Jump, I said again, exhaling smoke that smelled, I hoped, of camel dung and cloves. The bathroom was quiet; the only sound was the rain.

Monique’s hair filed the window like a halo.

What are you smoking? She was facing me completely now, legs hanging over the inside sill, scissors forgotten beside her. The window behind her was closed; it had been locked the whole time.

Sobranies. Want one?

I like the pastel ones.

Black. I showed her.

Come over here, she said.



I shrugged. Uh huh.

I hear you’re not afraid of much, she said, swinging her legs in their green knee socks.

Oh really?

I hear that when the whole Latin class figured out a way to cheat, you were the only one who wouldn’t go along with it. Is that true?

It was a stupid idea.


Each person was supposed to translate just a little bit of the assignment and then volunteer to read it in a special order. That way no one would have to do all of the homework every night. We’re doing Caesar; it’s pretty boring, there’s a lot of equipment in it. The only funny part was when he wrote about elks that don’t have joints, who have to lean against the trees to sleep at night.

What happened in class?

We got caught. More homework, too.

But you didn’t cheat?

I don’t cheat.

I’m in the advanced class, said Monique, "We’re doing Cicero.

Well, groovy for you.

You’re not very good in Latin, she said.


You’re new here, said Monique, But you could get in with me, my crowd, I mean. Everyone likes you; they think you’re mysterious.

Oh yeah?

You have something…a quality.

My mother’s dead, I said.

Your mother? But isn’t the music teacher your mother? Mrs.…

She’s my stepmother. My father married her when I was just a baby. My mother was killed, my real mother.

Killed? Monique’s toes almost touched the floor.

She was killed just before I was born. It was all they could do to save me.

But how was she killed? Who killed her? Why?

I guess she was mugged or something.

Mugged? Come on.

I don’t, I don’t really know…I never really asked.

I don’t believe you, said Monique. You’re not really an orphan; you’re making it up.

I am not; it is…

Give me a cigarette, said Monique.

Just a sec. I put my hand in my purple suede purse, looking for more matches. I hit a Swiss army knife, a Tampax with the wrapping coming off, a white slicker lipstick, chewed gum wadded up in silver foil, and a thumbtack. I found the matches, lit another gold-tipped Balkan-Sobranie, and handed it to Monique. She shook her mane of golden hair once, twice, and then slipped off the sill. Her fingers trembled just a little as she inhaled.

Want a shotgun? she asked.

What’s that?

I’ll show you. She sucked in smoke and brought her face close to mine. Then our lips touched gently, my mouth opened to her, and she blew coarse smoke hot into my lungs. I almost choked, but our lips kept touching. Monique’s lips were warm and slightly chapped; they smelled oddly of bubble gum or carnations.

Then, as rapidly as she’d approached me, Monique turned and blew a smoke ring into the heavy air.

It’s time for geometry class, she announced. Mr. Love. She giggled, and imitating his Scottish accent intoned: Gerls, gerls, I’m going to inject ye with a gramophone needle. She babbled, I always sit in front, that way it looks like I’m paying attention. Last year I raised my grade from a B+ to an A- just by doing that. Come and sit with me, why don’t you.

In a minute, I said. I still had to pee really badly. But Monique and I were friends now. We had already done something we weren’t going to talk about.


Mary Rose

THE WOMAN WHO KILLED MY MOTHER lived in a three-room railroad flat on the east side of Albuquerque with her husband Bud. Her name was Mary Rose; she was nineteen years old and had been raised forty miles south, in a small town that smelled of chickens and marigolds. The same kind of land ran all the way down to Las Cruces and then to El Paso, Texas. The road sign read Chihuahua, 300 miles. Mary Rose had asked her father what it looked like there, and he said, It looks like here. Little farm towns nestled along the river, pueblos that had lost their post offices twenty years before, women who grew dusty geraniums and hollyhocks in old tires filled with dirt.

Mary Rose liked to sew. She had sewn the pink prom dress, even the painstaking ruffles and complicated bodice with button holes. Bud had brought her a wrist corsage of pink miniature carnations. As a bride, she’d worn her mother’s wedding dress, which had been made over from her grandmother’s. The satin was faintly yellow under the arms and a touch too warm for June.

Mary Rose had been a good girl. She had let Bud touch only her right breast and never kiss her below the shoulder blade. In return, she rubbed him through his pants, and no more. She was a virgin on her wedding night. Bud barely noticed the dotted Swiss nightgown she made for the occasion. He wanted to see both breasts at once, but after that it was as if he somehow forgot about her, lost in his own rhythm of need. They did not bother with anything nasty like birth control. Mary Rose wanted to have a baby right away.

For their honeymoon, they spent two nights in the Holiday Inn in Albuquerque. Mostly they lay by the pool, a confined piece of water in the desert, or watched television. Mary Rose wanted to order room service and have breakfast in bed, but Bud said it was too expensive. The bedspread on the queen-sized bed was orange and across the room was a painting of a cowboy riding home at sunset. Mary Rose looked at the menu and figured out that room service wasn’t really any more expensive than the restaurant, but Bud refused to believe her. Mary Rose sometimes wondered if things might not have turned out differently if Bud had just let her order orange juice and huevos rancheros.

Bud joined the Air Force, and they got an apartment near the base. Mary Rose got a job filing for a shipping company. Her mother had given her a new sewing machine as a wedding present. She made herself two sun dresses to wear to work in the brilliant summer heat—one red, one yellow. They were sleeveless, but modestly cut. She wore nylons because it was expected. She made brown and white checked curtains for the kitchen windows and cooked creative variations on meatloaf and tuna casserole, recipes clipped from ladies’ magazines. Mary Rose put olives in the meatloaf and paprika in the tuna. She was glad to be freed of the tasks of her mother’s kitchen. Every summer, her mother put up quarts and quarts of preserves and vegetables. Mary Rose was glad to be quit of the sweltering labor of apricot jam, jars of plums, pickled watermelon rinds, salsa, two kinds of green beans. She liked the new convenience foods and could make a good dip with sour cream and a package of Lipton’s onion soup.

Their neighbors weren’t much of anything, just old people. Mrs. Lucero across the street was kind and grew the most beautiful red climbing roses, but she didn’t speak much English. Mary Rose was not aware of her own loneliness. But she was excited when she missed her second period. She started sewing a little quilt out of her scraps, using all the colors of fabric so it would be fine for either a girl or a boy. She didn’t care which, as long as it was healthy, although of course Bud wanted a boy. She hummed to herself gently as she sewed. That was before she began to bleed, and bleed.


I DON’T THINK IT’S A GOOD IDEA, said Grace. "I just don’t

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