The Red Butterfly

April 19, 2016
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  I wonder as the butterfly flutters past me, colored the edge of a sunset. I wonder how it will look preserved in one of my glass display cases. As I muse, it threads its way out of my reach and into the thick growth at the water's edge.
***
  Whirlygigs wrinkle patterns into the pond surface under the watchful buzzing of a bloodthirsty mosquito cloud. I smack one little vampire, absentmindedly smearing mosquito remains down my calf.
  The painting is almost complete. There's my beloved pond on a balmy summer evening. A gaggle of geese mingle at its center. It's perfect. Almost. Just a little - there.
  It'll win.
***
  A moth trembles about my lamp, distracting me. I clap it up between my hands, and then brush the crushed softness out onto the carpet. My studies taunt me - there's a major test next week. I can't fail.
***
"Think you'll get in?"
  Sean bumps shoulders with me as we thrust our way down the hall. We're so close you'd think us siblings.
"Totally. I've been shooting hoops like crazy."
  We reach our next class, and sprawl on the chairs. A fly hovers over Sean's corn - rowed head, and I dart forward, pinching it flat between thumb and forefinger.
"Ew. But you've definitely got some insane reflexes," he teases as I wipe my fingers on some notebook paper.
***
  I tangle a pencil between my fingers - try to think of an appropriate test answer when your mind is on competition. I've already submitted it - the painting. What if someone else's is better? What if someone else wins? No. I'll win. I'll win. I will win.
***
  Team tryouts are intense. By the end of them I'm a puddle of sweat - but a satisfied puddle. I catch Sean loitering near the shower's entrance. I send him a thumbs - up.
***
  The scarlet butterfly flutters above me on my way home. I'm tempted to catch it. So unique... it would make a perfect addition to my collection. Ugh. But Mom will kill me if I'm late for dinner.
  Next time, I promise it.
***
  Impossible. My test score winks at me like a croc would at a bird. I push down that unfamiliar/too familiar feeling. It won't overwhelm me.
***
  Our fight leaves Sean's jaw set in anger. He turns sparking blue eyes away from me, striding off. Guilt is already twisting itself in beside that other feeling. I'm too proud  to acknowledge either.
***
  I - I must have missed something. I am not a detail-oriented person. I search the team list for my name.
  I didn't make it.
  Desperation finally nets me, and I almost forget to struggle.
***
  My painting leans against the wall, swathed in a curtain. A disgrace. Not even third place! I want to pull back its shroud to ascertain if it's really that horrible. Is it? Is it? With a muffled sob I leap off of my bed and tear out of the house. The January sky beckons me.
***
  I step onto the dock and crouch. The thin layer of ice sheeting the pond shatters at a tap of my fingers, echoing the sound of an emotion within me. I look back to shore, but sharp grey branches poke out at me; so I crawl to the dock's end, kneeling at the edge. My hair catches the drizzle of my tears. The glassy black sheen of the ice fascinates me, and I slowly tilt forward. Frozen in a transparent coffin is the butterfly - a fiery leaf pushed into rich soil. I miss the insects, I think as I tip further forward. Perhaps I lean too far.
  The cold is a shock.
***
  The sweet spring breeze gently plays with my curls. Out of habit I brush them back, carelessly smudging my cheek with red. A beetle crawls gingerly up the edge of the canvas, and I nudge it away from the paint. It wouldn't appreciate getting stuck. Sean snaps photos galore, entranced by my little piece of now shared paradise. He has forgiven, but I haven't forgotten.
  A princely Monarch sails past my artwork. Does he approve the likeness of his flame - red cousin?
I wonder.
 






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