Year of the Butterfly

Life goes on.. even when you lose someone you love, even when you don't know what to think, how to feel, how to act and what to say. Everything will be okay, is what people like to say, but it won't and you know it. All you can do is bury your grief and hide, and hope on the surface at least life will appear to be normal. Is there any hope?
This is a story of a young girl battling with the loss of her father. Accompany her on a journey of self-discovery and misadventure as she negotiates her way through bereavement and processes the unanswered questions. Along the way, there are dreams, visions and schemes, at least one golden urn and a kidnapping. Her story is about a metamorphosis from pain into renewal and growth. Her destination is a place of hope with a promise of healing.


16. A dark day dawns

Day 2. The two girls woke up huddled together on the old sofa to a quiet house. Their kidnappers were nowhere to be seen. Someone had thrown a blanket over them during the night. It smells of old cheese but after a stormy night of thunder, lightning and rain lashing the earth, the girls are grateful for that small comfort permitted them by the kidnappers. The young girl is thinking that if even just one of them is kind to them, perhaps they are not in so much danger. Perhaps they won't get hurt. They cried themselves to sleep last night and although they are both still very scared, they're also somewhat curious about the gang's plans. They’ve seen enough movies to know what it means to be kidnapped. The kidnappers ask the family of the victims for money and usually they say the police mustn't get involved, or else... It's that 'or else' that is the most frightening. "Rise and shine, Minnie and Mouse. It's a beautiful day!" It's Mack. The girls didn't even hear him walking into the room. "We need to go to the bathroom." Mack raises his eyebrows. "Don’t they teach you kids manners over there in snob town? Can you say please?" "May we please use your bathroom please?" "Well, I don't think your heart was really in it, but okay." He whistles loudly and calls out Whitey's name. He comes running into the living room. "Yes, Mack?" "Whitey, I’m putting you in charge of the girls today. Make sure they get their 3 square meals and no snacking please. No beer either, you understand. We can't have our houseguests becoming unruly drunks. And take them to the bathroom when they need it. Make sure they have what they need and don't let anyone take any sneaky peeks while they're in there. I hate guys who mess around with little kids." Whitey takes them away and after a while, the others appear in the living room, yawning and ruffled-looking. They had obviously all spent the night in this house. Barney’s curls are standing up in a mop-like mess and he looks like an overgrown clown without the make-up. "I’ve got to show my face at home quickly. I’ll be back in a jiffy, Mack." "Skinny, you go and drop Barney off and on your way back, I want you two to drive around the neighbourhood and check out the vibes, okay? The mother of these kids isn't going to wait a long time before she starts looking around for them. I want to know if she's got the police involved yet. We have to get this party started before she calls the police." They both nod and leave.

There’s a knock on the bathroom door. "Hey! Hurry up in there or I’ll come in and help you get done." The girls frantically finish washing their faces and rinsing their mouths. They don't have their toothbrushes and they're not used to using other people's towels and stuff, so they don’t want to touch anything. There’s another bang on the door. "We’ve finished!" Whitey opens the door and takes each one by the arm and leads them back to the living room, where Mack is sitting having his breakfast. There’s some food on the table and he pushes two plates towards them. "Here. Eat." Whitey joins him and now they're all eating in silence with Mack watching them the whole time. "Don’t you know it's impolite to stare?" Mack smiles at her but his eyes remain as cold as steel. "You know, I like you. You’re a gutsy one. How old are you?" "Twelve." "And Mouse?" "She’s seven. Why don't you just let her go? She’s too small for this." "And you? Aren’t you scared?" No reply. "Whitey over here is a pretty scary guy - just look at him. Doesn’t he scare you with his milky white skin, his fair hair and pretty boy eyes?" She knows he's teasing her and she knows that as long as she can make him laugh, it's safe for her to challenge him. "If you hurt us, you won't get whatever it is you want from my Mommy." Mack’s smile melts away from his face. "Don’t push it, girly. You don't know what I will do or what I won't do. Now finish your food and shut your mouth before I shut it for you." Although she's hungry, the food suddenly gets stuck in her throat and she feels nauseous. She pushes her plate away. If only these guys will go off and give them a chance to talk. They didn't have much time alone in the bathroom to talk...

Suddenly the front door opens up. Skinny and Barney come in looking very pleased with themselves. "Hey, is there any breakfast left for me?" "Skinny, didn't you eat at Barney's house?" "Yes, but that looks good too." Barney has changed his clothes – now he's wearing a purple jacket over a green sweater and dark green army pants. "Go take a shower first man. You stink!" Mack raises his hand and calls them to order. "Wait a minute. Before anyone goes anywhere, I want to know what you two are smiling about. Have you got good news for me?" Barney's falling over himself, telling what they've seen. "I saw the mother driving around in her car with one of the older girls and Skinny saw the big uncle in his car too going up and down the streets." "Yeah, they're mostly searching the area around the park though. The streets on this side are as quiet as a normal Sunday morning. Just your faithful few going to church are out and about." "No sign of police?" Both shake their heads. Skinny picks up a slice of ham from the table and props it into his mouth. "The best was when we saw the other older sister walking into the shop around the corner from the house. We followed her inside to buy cigarettes and we heard her ask the shopkeeper if he's seen 2 small girls. She showed them a photo and everything!" Mack is sitting up straight now. "Yes, and then what?" Barney's enjoying himself with this. "We were paying for the cigarettes when Skinny asked to see the photo! Can you believe it? He asked the girl why she doesn't call the police to report missing persons." Mack jumps up and roars, "What! Are you crazy?" "Wait, wait, listen to this. She said the police will tell them to wait 48 hours before they report the missing children. Ha ha ha! She had no idea about us, man! Relax." Mack looks like he wants to slap the mullet off Barney's head. "Don’t you tell me to relax, you moron! Skinny, dammit, can’t you think before you act? I give you one small thing to do!" Skinny has now finished all the ham and answers Mack with his mouth full. "She's already forgotten us, Mack! Can you imagine how many people they'll be showing that photo to today and probably tomorrow too? Hundreds. We’re home free, homeboy!" Mack looks like a tiger prowling up and down, wearing the threadbare carpet down even further. "Okay. Okay. Now let me think. Let’s see if there's any credit on this phone." He pulls out the young girl's phone from his jacket pocket and presses a few buttons. "Oh yes, plenty! Mom takes good care of you, doesn't she? Now where is mom's number? Ah! There she is. You don't mind if I give your mom a call, do you?"

The room is dead quiet except for the sound of Skinny's chewing. "Oh good morning! Are you looking for your daughters by any chance?" "Mommyyy! Mommy! Help us!" The girls shout frantically until Whitey comes round and puts a hand over each one's mouth. "Well, it looks like you've found them!" ... "Okay, okay, lady. Now calm down, please. We can't have a conversation if you don't calm down. I can hang up if you don't. It’s your choice." ... "Good, that's better, mom. Um, you can call me boss. That’s because from this moment on you do as I tell you and you don't take orders from anyone else; that's if you want to see your precious girls again. Do you understand me?" ... "Well, you heard them already. I think that's enough for now. I just wanted you to understand the situation and make sure you do not call the police. That’s an order, by the way. And you might as well call off the search party too - you're just wasting your time. So, no police, understand?" ... "Excellent! Now, I’ve got a little birdie keeping an eye on you, so don't get any bright ideas and you'll soon be reunited with your little angels. I must compliment you - they are very well-behaved little brats." ... "That’s entirely up to you, mom. They don't get hurt if you do what your boss tells you to do, right? Well, I’m glad we have that sorted out, so I’m going to hang up now and I’ll let you know tomorrow what I want you to do next. Bye-bye!" ... "No, no, no. Think of this as a way of establishing trust between us. If you don't do anything silly before tomorrow, then I’ll know you're being straight with me."... "Precisely, and vice versa. You can talk to them tomorrow. On that you have my word. Can I hang up now, please?" ... "Have a nice day!" He puts the phone down with a big smile on his face. "I like your mom. She sounds like a really nice lady. You two are very lucky. Now girls, I need you to be as quiet as mice today," and he winks at Lisa. "Don't bother us and we won't bother you. We’re not going to tie you up again because Whitey is going to look after you. If you need anything, you ask him."

He calls them all to one side of the room and they huddle together. "How much are we going to ask for?" "We need to find out what they're worth first." "Let’s just pick a really high amount and if she doesn't complain about it, then we’ll know we can ask for more." "Maybe we can get her to drop off her bank card and details somewhere and we can get the money ourselves." "Don’t be stupid! That’ll never work." "Look, they've already seen us, so we have to ask for enough to disappear. I’ve always wanted to go overseas." And so on it goes. They don't seem to mind that the girls can hear them. Finally, Mack silences them all. "Guys! Patience please. This is a big score. I can feel it. So we need to put our heads together to find the best way to get this done without getting ourselves caught. The mother has until tomorrow to prove to us that she can be trusted. If we can be sure she hasn't called the police, then we proceed. The first thing I’m going to do is ask our guests a couple of questions about the jewellery dad bought mom and so on; so we can at least have some idea of what there is besides the money. Remember we didn't know about that big chunk of gold, so I’m guessing they've got more tasty goodies standing around the house with our names on them." They're all nodding, looking admiringly at Mack as if he's a genius and they're just so blessed to be in his presence. Simultaneously, they turn around to look at the two girls sitting on the sofa, the older one with her arm protectively around the younger. "Guys, could you leave me alone with our guests please?"

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