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.

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20. A hard day's work

The rest of the day passed in slow, painful boredom. At one point, Mack walked into the living room to get some matches from Barney and the young girl drew up her courage to ask for something to read. Mack made a sarcastic comment about Barney's ability to entertain and then brought them a book from his room. It was an adventure book about pirates that he thought they would like since they are such an adventurous pair. Barney had the TV turned up so loud that Mack pushed the girls' sofa to the far corner of the room, so that the young girl could read aloud to her sister. Through all the noise blaring from the TV, they spent their afternoon reading 'Treasure Island'. They only took breaks to go to the bathroom and whenever they asked Barney for permission, he just waved them away and growled at them to go by themselves. It wasn't long before they had managed to search surreptitiously through the empty rooms in the house, but they found nothing. There was no sign of their father's urn. The only thing that made sense was that it was being kept in Mack’s room. The young girl could have kicked herself for getting stuck in front of the bookshelf in his room.

After a while, the sound of snoring was competing with the noise from the TV and the girls couldn't resist a fit of giggles. Barney woke up. "What are you laughing at?" He looked very clumsy when he got angry, so it was hard to take him seriously. "Yeah? Well, we'll see who laughs last, won't we? By the time we're done with you and your family, you'll be broke! You’ll be crying for your laptops and games because I’ll be playing with them!" The young girl cheekily replied that she wouldn't cry over a machine. He got up angrily and was going over to the sofa when Skinny entered the room and intercepted him. He teased Barney about being outdone by a little kid and told him that Mack wanted the two of them to go to the drop-off point to see if the loot was there yet. As they left, Mack and Whitey emerged from Mack's room and sat down in front of the TV. They spoke in low tones, only once looking over at the girls. A few hours passed and they became fidgety, continuously mumbling to each other so that the girls couldn't hear, and that worried them. Until that moment, the guys had had no problem discussing their plans out loud in front of them. At one point, Mack made a call on his cell phone and asked, "Where are you? What’s the story?" and hung up no more satisfied. The girls were getting hungry and sleepy again, so they stopped reading and just sat there whispering to each other. They too were trying to work out what was happening out there and how they were going to get inside Mack’s room. It seemed like a bad idea to ask for food right then - the tension hung thick in the air. They dozed off and got woken by the buzz of a ringing cell phone. Mack answered eagerly and they watched his face change into a broad, triumphant smile. He only said one thing to his caller: "Pick up some party favours on the way, will you?" Less than an hour later, a truck could be heard being pulled into the backyard. Mack and Whitey ran out back and the girls heard shouts of joy from four different voices. When they all finally came inside, Skinny and Barney carried in boxes of pizza, a case of beer and other alcohol. They gave the girls some pizza, let them use the bathroom, and then proceeded to party the night away. They were obviously celebrating and ignored the girls except to raise their glasses to them once saying, "Cheers Minnie and Mouse!" and slapping their knees with excitement. The later it got, the drunker they got, the harder it got for the girls to sleep. They were talking about what they were going to do with all their money and using foul language. Barney passed out first and then Skinny. After a while, all they could hear was snoring and slurring, and finally, Mack and Whitey fell asleep too. Whitey had that same stupid smile on his face as last night and he was the only one of the four who didn't snore. He was as quiet asleep as he was awake...

***

I can't believe that Lisa has fallen asleep through all this noise. I’m tempted to leave her alone, but I don't want her to wake up and find me gone. I gently shake her awake and now her eyes are blinking as she looks around the living room. She looks at me and nods: she knows what we need to do. We tiptoe carefully past the sleeping gang, down the short hallway, into Mack’s room. We start looking in all the usual hiding places: under the bed, inside the wardrobes, when suddenly, she rushes over to me. "What! Did you find it?" "No! We’re being stupid again. Why don't we run away? They’re all asleep! They won't know we're gone until much later." I hesitate for a moment. I want to say that we should find the urn first and take it with us, but I know that Lisa is right. We’ll probably never get this chance again. And we really could get away! Nobody mentioned anything about finding our bikes against the wall next door, so it would be easy. "Okay, let's try the kitchen door. It’s further away from them." There's no key in the door and it's locked. "Okay. I’m going into the other bedroom in the front of the house. You know, the one opposite the bathroom - it's got big windows - and I’ll open a window. In the meantime, keep looking for the urn in here. When I’m ready, I’ll come get you." I’m sneaking past the living room, I’m in the bedroom and now I’m opening the window wide enough for us to climb through without making a sound. I’m on my way back to Mack’s room, but first let me stop to check on them. They’re all fast asleep... My heart is beating at a mile a minute. "Hey! You scared the life out of me." "Shh! Sorry. Any luck?" "No. You?" I nod at her and I’m trying hard not to get too excited. We’re going to be free! I take her hand and she's gripping it so hard that it almost hurts. "Ouch! Come on. Stop fooling around." I turn around and walk straight into a purple vest and green shorts. Barney! "Where do you think you're going?" I see his hand go up in slow motion and I feel it coming down on my cheek like a hairbrush on fire. "Got you, little princess spoilt brat!"

He yanks us by the arm and drags us back towards the living room. "Hey guys! Wake up!" Mack jumps up looking wild and ready to fight, but now that he's seen us, he puts his hands on his hips and gives Barney an annoyed look. "What’s your problem? Why’d you wake us up like that? Do you want Skinny to have a heart attack?" "Hey! You should thank me. I caught these two snooping around your room." Mack’s face goes dark and he bores holes in us with his eyes. "You did what?" "Sorry, Mack, but we got hungry and so we went into the kitchen--" "She's lying, Mack! I saw them in--" Mack is now looking at Barney as if he might slap him. "When did you see them there, Barney?" Barney's hesitating. "Um, well, I woke up and--" Mack roars at him. "You woke up! What do you mean you woke up?" Barney's now sweating a bit. "You know, after all that booze I fell asleep like all of you guys, but then--" Mack is holding up his hand, which means Barney has to stop talking now. "I have another question for you, Barney. And I want a short answer please. Did you hit the child? I’m only asking because there’s a red streak across her cheek where I’m sure there wasn't one before." Barney's turning white in the face now. "It was just a little smack to put her on her place. That one's a nasty little cow!" Mack looks like he's about to explode. He grabs Barney by the front of his purple vest and pulls him to the front door. He opens the door and shoves Barney outside. He follows him outside and gives him another push before pulling the door shut behind him...

Whitey and Skinny give each other a look like they've seen all this before. Whitey gets up and takes us back to the sofa. Much to my surprise, he speaks to us. "You’re lucky you just got a slap in the face - it could've been much worse. And really, if I were you, I’d quit getting any bright ideas. Now sit there and hope that Mack takes out all his frustration on Barney." I can feel Lisa shivering next to me and I have to say, I’m ready to cry my eyes out. Barney hit me really hard and the way Mack reacted was really scary. But all I can think is, he spoke to us! We’re one step closer to getting Whitey on our side! Ouch, I shouldn't smile - it hurts... Oh, here comes Mack. He’s breathing heavily and looking at everyone in the room as if he's deciding whom to throw out next. I’m not even trying to stop my tears from falling now. I can't believe this is happening. When you see this kind of thing in a movie, you never imagine anything like it happening to you and you can't imagine how scary it really is. I so much want my Daddy now. I can't even help Lisa feel better. Mack starts to speak. "I’ve sent Barney home, in case anyone's wondering, and I made it very clear to him that I do not want any amateurs in on this deal. If I ask you to watch them, you don't get drunk like a schoolboy and fall asleep! Of course they're going to snoop! Of course they want to escape! I would! Oh yes, I would definitely want to get away from a bunch of small-time brain-dead twits!" Whitey and Skinny are just watching and listening. Mack is coming towards us now and the closer he gets the bigger and wilder his eyes look. "And if it ever becomes necessary to punish these little brats, I’ll be the one to do it!" And just like that, he slaps me across the other cheek! "That’s just for insurance, Minnie. Don’t make me get out my knife." He turns around and walks out of the room. Whitey raises his eyebrows at me as if to say, "I told you so." Skinny's yawning and scratching his stomach. "Man, I hate being woken up from a deep sleep like that. Barney just doesn't learn, does he? Well, now that I’m up, I might as well see what's going on in the kitchen." Whitey starts clearing up the bottles and boxes, and leaves the room too.

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