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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4. Alone in the darkness

Oh what a drag it is being back at school! The holiday was too short. It’s not the getting up early that I mind because daylight starts earlier these days. At last winter looks like it might be ending and summer starting slowly. The weather in Mossel Bay was way better than here though. I wish I was still there, playing with Josie. We promised to keep in touch. She has a cell phone and Mommy said I could have one too but I have to wait until Christmas for it. At least that's something to look forward to, otherwise I don't mind if it takes Christmas a long time to get here. Time is flying by much too quickly for my liking. They say that time flies when you're having fun. Seems to me it flies even when you're not. I can't believe I’m almost at the end of Grade 6 - it's getting scary now. At school we're doing a lot of revision of what we studied earlier this year to prepare for the final exam. That means we have to do Fractions again - I hate that stuff! But our teacher said we needed to revise the old work before we study the next, more difficult section of Fractions. I did my best studying for last week's test but it was no good. For the first time since the worm incident, Kenny is talking to me again. Well, when I say 'talking', what I actually mean is 'getting on my nerves' about his being a Maths whiz. He started by going round the class, comparing his test scores with everyone as he usually does, but avoiding me. Then the teacher gave him a golden star for getting the top score in class. I swear everyone including Kenny turned around to look at me after the teacher made her announcement. What did they expect? Was I supposed to throw a tantrum or something? So what? He only managed to beat me that one time! After school that day and everyday since then, he's made a point of saying goodbye to me in the afternoon but always with a stupid little comment about how he could help me with my Maths if I was struggling, or I mustn't worry about it because I’m probably just going through a slump. There’s always this sneaky look on his face like he's laughing himself sick on the inside. At first it was easy to ignore him but now I’m starting to worry. The more I’m struggling in Maths class, the more irritating Kenny’s becoming. This new section of Fractions is doing my head in! I can't get it right! Daddy used to help me with my Maths at the beginning of the year, but once we moved onto something new, I was so happy to forget all about quarters and thirds, and could manage quite well on my own. I thought that was the end of that. Now I need help again. I want to ask Mommy, but just as soon as I start asking, I stop. I don't know why. Well, Mommy's always said that Daddy's the Maths genius in the house - she has other talents. And then Daddy would ask her, "Really? Besides shopping, tell us again, what are your talents?" Then Mommy would get cross and before she could scold, Daddy would quickly interrupt her with his frog laugh. Then she knew he was just pulling her leg. I guess I could ask Uncle Ron. He’s also good at Maths, but I’ve never asked him for help with schoolwork before. What if he doesn't want to or doesn't have the time? There’s no way I’m asking my older cousins! I don't want them to think I’m stupid. And my big sisters don't like Maths either. Sigh. I’ll just have to muddle through on my own and I’ll try to get my teacher to help me during breaks. Just as long as nobody in my class finds out. In the meantime, I’ll pretend it's no problem and I’ll just spend more time on my other subjects.

 

What’s keeping Jada so long? She’s so slow, that girl! Slow at everything. Her brother teased her the other day about the time their grandma got so annoyed with Jada for eating her breakfast porridge too slowly, that she shoved Jada's face into her porridge bowl. Apparently she was already late for school, sitting at breakfast, fully dressed, but because she hates cooked oatmeal she wasn't eating anything. She was pushing her porridge this way and that way, hoping her grandma would get tired of waiting for her to finish and excuse her from the table. But she didn't know her grandma was getting fed up with the same story every morning; so she got dunked! Barry, Jada's brother, laughed so much he got the hiccups. He said Jada's face was covered in oatmeal and it started dripping onto her school uniform, so she had to get up and change her clothes again. Jada’s face went as red as a beetroot as he was telling the story, and only said, "At least I got excused from the table and I didn't have to eat that disgusting gunk." She's at her funniest when she's serious like that. I couldn't resist telling her, "Jada, you should be ashamed of yourself, throwing away food like that! What about all the poor children in Africa who have nothing to eat?" She didn't realise I was teasing her. She answered with a look on her face that said I must be an idiot. "Africa? Where do you think we are now? This is Africa! So you should actually ask: What about the neighbours?" Barry’s hiccups only got worse after that. "And I’ll tell you about the neighbours! They don't have to eat that rot. I know because I’ve seen the empty boxes of yummy Rice Crispies and Coco Pops in their rubbish bin..." That's our Jada: a walking, talking comic strip. Ah, here she comes. At last! "What have you been doing so long? I’ve been waiting almost 20 minutes for you." "Don’t talk nonsense. It was only about 7 minutes. Ms Kelly wanted to see me." "Did she try to feed you some oatmeal?" "Nothing stopped you from walking home by yourself, big mouth!" Oh but there is... I don't want to freak her out too, but I’ve been seeing that same ugly old yellow car around way too often for it to be a coincidence. Sometimes I see it outside the school grounds and those guys are always just sitting there, smoking and watching. Sometimes I see it parked down the street near our house. I can never get close enough - and I don't want to - to memorise its number plate, and I don't have any proof that it's following me around. But still, it's best if I don't walk home alone. They won't dare come closer. And if they do, I know Jada can scream the skin off your eyeballs.

 

"Hold on a minute! Where do you think you're going dressed like that?" Mommy's looking at me as if I’ve got purple hair growing out of my nose. I’m wearing my Manchester United soccer shirt that Uncle Ron bought me last year. "What?" "Not 'what', young lady. Say 'excuse me'. You’re not going anywhere with me dressed like that. Go put on a pair of jeans and that cute little pink top with the frills Grandma gave you. And hurry up; we're going to be late. And help your sister get ready. Last time I looked into your room, she had 4 different outfits laid out on the bed." Hold the phone! Who’s going where? "Um, Mommy, Uncle Ron's picking me up in a few minutes - I’m going over to their house to play basketball." Why does she look confused? I always hang out with my cousins on Saturdays. Okay not always, but I do sometimes. "What are you talking about? We’re going shopping with Aunty Kay and the girls. You know that. I told you and Lisa about it last night." Oops! Slipped my mind! "You’re going shopping?" I’ve got to get out of this - I’m bored just thinking about it. "Not me or us, no. We are going shopping. And we're going to have a nice girls' day out with lunch, maybe a movie. Won’t that be nice?" I’m trying to answer her by digging a hole in the floor with my big toe. "Oh come on, honey. Don't be like that! You never want to go out shopping or hang out with Jacky and Jilly anymore. What’s wrong? Are you upset with them?" "No, mommy. I just..." Oh Mommy, why don't you let this one go! Just let me be. "But you don't want to come, right?" I’m nodding but can't take my eye off the floor. "Well, here's your sister now. Come on honey, let's go! We’re going to be late for the girls." If Lisa had a tail, it would be wagging right now. "Isn’t she coming?" Mommy opens the door with a sigh. "Forget it honey, your sister would rather play basketball with her much older boy cousins than go out with us girls." Phew! That was close. "Then you mustn't buy her anything, Mommy!" Oh yeah? See the worry in my eyes, Barbie troll! "Shh, never you mind... Now you and I are going to have a serious chat about this tonight, young lady. Bye-bye." Bye. Sorry, but I don't see the point in dressing up in frilly clothes and hanging around a bunch of shops just to look at more clothes, and then sit in a fancy restaurant to talk about the clothes you bought afterwards. Lisa is the girly girl. Mommy can take her on the girls' days out and leave me out of it. Oh, there goes the doorbell… "Hey, look at you, all kitted out like Sporty Spice!" "Hello Uncle Ron." "What’s with the mouth?" "Sorry Uncle?" "Your mouth. You’re blowing it up like a bullfrog. What have you got in there? Some flies? Some creepy crawlies? Or a gigantic spit ball?" Uncle Ron knows just how to make me laugh. "Ew!! That’s disgusting, Uncle." "Oh come on, don't tell me you've never tried to eat an insect before." "Only an ant, once. Do you know they taste sweet and then when you swallow them, something burns on the back of your tongue?" "No, but I once ate an omelette made antirely from ant eggs. Did you get it? I said 'antirely' instead of 'entirely'. Ha ha ha!" Just like Daddy, laughing at his own stupid jokes... There it is again! That yellow car is parked down the street from our house! Should I tell Uncle Ron? But what do I say to him? "Uh-oh! There’s that mouth again but now she's got her arms folded too. This means trouble. What’s up Sporty?" "Nothing, Uncle. Eh, Lisa put on my socks that go with this top without asking me first, that's all. I hate when she goes into my wardrobe without permission." He seems to be falling for it. "I see. So you're not such a big old tomboy after all, huh? Soccer shirts with matching socks! Now I know you didn't inherit that dress sense from your Daddy! He had a special talent for mismatching everything, didn't he?" And off he goes again, laughing. There’s something nice being with Uncle Ron but at the same time it makes me sad. I don't know anyone else who is so much like Daddy, so I feel safe and comfortable around him. But then he isn't Daddy, is he? I mean, it's just not the same. It’s strange to think I’m never going to go for a drive with Daddy again. "Hey Sporty Spice, you'd better pick your mouth up off the floor, otherwise your cousins will tease you all day long about your lip dribbling with the ball on the ground." Huh? Why’s that funny? "Oh, go and look it up! You women have no sense of humour. Here we are! Out you get. Dribble dribble! Ha, ha, ha, ha..."

 

Gee-whiz, did everybody get on my case this weekend or what? First Uncle Ron made a big deal about the way Jerry and Tom talk to their friends in front of me because I’m a girl and I’m younger than them, and then Aunt Lonni clucked her tongue at me for not helping her in the kitchen with lunch and the dishes afterwards. I don't see what the fuss was all about – it’s not like I understood everything the guys were talking about, I just know it had to do with girlfriends and stuff like that. My cousins called Uncle Ron a dinosaur and then Uncle got really annoyed and called them dodos, telling them they should know better than to talk about things like that in front of their baby cousin. Baby cousin! Can you believe he called me that? I’m not a baby! Then I overheard Aunt Lonni saying to Uncle in the kitchen that I shouldn't be spending so much time hanging out with the boys and their mates because they are used to talking like that with each other. We'd had such a nice time shooting hoops and then we took a dip in the pool. I got a really good workout yesterday! And the guys told me they don't mind my hanging out with them. When I got home, with my hair all messed up from the chlorine in the swimming pool and my face a little bit burnt, Mommy nearly had a kitten! Okay, I admit I looked pretty scary when I saw myself in the mirror: from Sporty Spice to Scary Spice, all in one fun-filled day! Ha, ha! But so what? Who cares what I look like? I forgot to put on sunscreen and I know that was a bad mistake. I don't want to damage my skin or get skin cancer, so I must try to be more careful about that in future. And then I made another mistake: I didn't go oooh and aaah about the new dress Mommy bought me. Yeah, it's nice enough, but I would've preferred a new pair of sports shoes. I guess I shouldn't have said that out loud though, huh? To make things worse, I think Aunt Lonni spoke to Mommy on the phone some time last night and told her about what happened at their place because Mommy told me this morning that she wasn't going to put up with my nonsense any more. I can't play basketball with my cousins if their friends are there too and I’m going to start acting like a lady whether I want to or not. Oh and also, my moodiness is getting on her nerves and it would be great if I could sulk just a little bit less when she asks me to do something. Bla, bla, bla, basically. I had to try really hard not to roll my eyes while she was talking because I know she can't stand when we do that. She’s just annoyed because I refuse to walk to the shop around the corner to buy bread or milk. Just because Lisa and I always did it before doesn’t mean we’re going to do it forever. What’s the point of having a car if you don't use it to go to the shop when you need something? Besides, there are dangerous people out there, driving around, following children around. Man! If Daddy were here now, he would have... Oh, what's the point of saying that? Daddy isn't here, so he can't do anything to help me. Can he? No. No help to me at all! Not at school, not at home, not anywhere! I’m sick of it. What’s God's point of giving me a Daddy who helps me with my Maths but when I really need help, he takes Daddy away? What’s God's point of giving me a Daddy who protects me from scary men in ugly old cars but when I really need to feel safe, he takes Daddy away? Fine then. So I won't walk to the shop and I won’t do the Maths homework. Kenny can have all the golden stars he wants. Teacher can stick his pudding face full of stars for all I care. And forget going to work for Daddy's company one day - I’d rather become a basketball player. I’m sure I won't need Maths for that… This morning I wore the new dress to church just to keep Mommy happy and off my case but I didn't stay in her good books for very long. One of the lay ministers came to ask Mommy if Lisa and I would take up the Holy Communion since we both looked so pretty today, but of course I refused. Mommy eventually forced me to do it, threatened blue murder if I didn't. When we got home after church, she told me very calmly that I wasn't allowed to take off the dress until I had my bath tonight and that meant no basketball or any other sport for me for the rest of the day. After that she ignored me. Well, I got so worked up over all this nonsense that I decided to take a bath early and go to bed early. So I haven't finished my homework and I don't care. There’s no point anyway. I’m tired of following rules. You’re always going to get people telling you what to do and then they don't explain why you have to do it. Or they won't let you do what you want to do and again they don't explain why you can't. And worst of all, let's say you do what people expect you to do and study and work, make money and all that: for what? Then you just die. You see? Pointless! I’m going to sleep now so that today can be over - not that tomorrow's going to be any better. And if I see that yellow car around again this week, I’m going to take binoculars to school with me and try to see the faces of the men inside and write down the number plate. I have to protect myself now.

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