Flutter


It was the flit of the butterfly’s wings that changed everything.

When she saw it, perched perfectly still on a nettle, it was dark – like her.
She liked that.
Quiet and dark.
And alone.
Folded up against the world.
She drew her elbows into her sides and watched its antennae twitch. ‘We’re the same – you and me.’

But then it lowered its wings and she saw that she was wrong. It showed off its rich red-orange and its bright purple flashes and powder-blue-eyed stare.
In a multi-coloured flash it took off.
She watched the creature’s papery flight lift and bounce and then disappear it; losing itself in a medley of yellow dots, orange silk hearts, green spikes, purple tongues and bright pink spears. Light petals fluttered, heavy pompom heads swung like upturned pendulums, and grasses waved. The colours altered as the wildflowers danced and bobbed in the sunlight. How inspiring nature was to have evolved a creature that adapted so cleverly to its habitat.

Sitting cross-legged and gazing out across the grasses and flowerheads, she tried to match long-unused names with remembered images: the red admiral, the tortoiseshell, the painted lady… but she didn’t know what this one was. Butterfly spotting had remained in her childhood with so many other ephemeral memories.

She wanted to take a photo. One day she would take the perfect wildflower meadow photo: sky, flowers and one other element: a bee, a bird, a distant hill, a butterfly perhaps…

One day…

She looked down at the unopened corner-shop-vodka, with the wonky label, hammocked in the lap of her long summer skirt and squeezed the pills in her fist until her palm begged to be relieved of the pain. Then she stood up – letting the bottle drop to the ground and walked back to the hospital, shaking out the pills like seeds along the path.

They’d said his eyelids had fluttered.
There was still hope.

33 thoughts on “Flutter

  1. Your line about shaking the pills like seeds stands out in this beautiful and haunting flash. It feels like a wonderful moment of clarity for your character in a dreadful situation.

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  2. I think it’s wonderful how you write with such clarity about such a fleeting moment and show what an impact something so ephemeral can have. You have some beautiful imagery in this, Rach. I especially liked that she sees herself as ‘folded up against the world’ and pulls her elbows in to mimic the butterfly’s closed wings, and then when she is ‘shaking out the pills like seeds along the path’, it took on fairy-tale quality, albeit one for grown-ups where pills replace breadcrumbs, in case she needs to find her way back to the bottle. Let’s hope she doesn’t and the flutter of his eyelids is as full of promise as a butterfly about to take flight.

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  3. Magnificent.. Elegant, delicate, precise and poignant.. just like the butterfly’s wing.. There’s so much going on here both big and small..At points it read like a meditative Haiku, and then reality comes careering back in to her world.. Sublime..

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  4. The imagery of fluttering used in two different ways was neatly tied together. Also in the camouflage of the butterfly’s markings and the need for beauty.
    Adam @ revhappiness

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  5. This is beautiful, Rachel! I was so drawn in by the lovely focus on the darkness of the underside of the butterfly’s wings – and then was caught completely in the swirling imagery of the butterfly’s flight and the wildflowers – how they merged in the mind of the protagonist to become a kind of kaleidoscope of hope. And I love the way each moment unfolds a changing significance – leading to the reveal at the end. Really lovely writing!

    Melanie

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  6. Really wonderful writing poetic and precise at the same time – so glad there is that flutter of hope after all. At first I thought she was a recovering addict and then that great last line really delighted me!

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  7. Wow, this packs a punch. I was so drawn into the tale of the butterfly, I wasn’t expecting that ending at all. It’s a beautifully written story, really gorgeous.

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