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.


19. Eyes on the prize

Day 3. I spent the whole night awake, wondering where Daddy's urn is. It’s strange to think it could be right here, in this house with us. Is that what Daddy was trying to tell me in the dream, to find him? I wish I could dream about him again so that I can ask him what to do. If Lisa and I really do have guardian angels watching over us, then they have they have their work cut out for them now! I’m really sorry that I’ve caused Mommy to suffer so much and I’m sure Sue and Peggy feel terrible for letting us go out alone. I just have to hope I get the chance to apologise to all of them. I think Whitey's busy in the kitchen because I can smell food. He thinks we're both still sleeping. If only I knew exactly how long he's going to be busy in there, I could sneak around a bit. I wish he'd wear noisier shoes! Oh! There’s someone at the front door!


Ding-dong goes the doorbell. Whitey runs in from the kitchen and throws a quick look at the girls on the sofa before he looks through the peephole of the front door. He opens up and lets Barney in. They shake hands wordlessly and Barney walks by glaring at the girls, as usual. Lisa has woken up by now and together they sit there like mute little cats blinking the sleep away. Barney’s wearing a purple vest with green shorts today and his tattoos are now visible. "What’s the action, Whitey?" Whitey shrugs, still saying nothing, but his attention is now on the girls. They both smile at him and the young girl whispers questioningly the word 'bathroom'. He takes her by the arm and gives Lisa a look that tells her all at once not to move a muscle until he gets back and she’ll have her turn next. She nods and smiles at him. They’ve just left as Barney returns to the living room and flicks the TV on to a sports program. "What’s burning in the kitchen? Whitey!" It's Mack, calling out from somewhere in the back of the house. Whitey comes running down the passage and disappears into the kitchen. The young girl realises she's been left alone in the bathroom. She decides she doesn't need to wash her face right now. She’ll get another chance later. She listens at the door and slowly turns the handle. Nobody. She tiptoes out of the bathroom and peeks out left of her, then right. Nobody. She goes to the room immediately next to the bathroom. It’s a bedroom but it's a complete mess with an unmade bed and clothes strewn all over it. It stinks too. She turns up her nose and steels herself to enter. The curtains are drawn so it's a bit dark inside but she can see that there is only a small chest of drawers in the room opposite the bed. That’s the only place to hide something as big as the urn. She looks over her shoulder and quickly darts into the room towards the drawers. She quickly opens and closes each one but finds nothing except socks, boys’ underwear and some other clothes, curiously all in kids sizes. Quickly and noiselessly she returns to the bathroom. Okay, that's one down.

Meanwhile, Mack has got out of bed and walks into the living room, stretching and yawning. "Man, you missed a good time last night! What a shame little boy Barney has to check in with the old folks every time, huh?" He playfully rubs Barney's mop of curls and starts laughing. Barney doesn't look impressed. "Yeah, well, do you want my uncle to come here looking for me? Anyway, if I tell them I’m staying over at a friend's house, they can't say anything. So when do I get my turn?" Mack is looking mockingly serious at him. "Your turn for what?" "To party!" "I don't know about partying, my friend, but I can tell you that today is your turn to look after our guests." Before Barney can say a word, although the look on his face speaks volumes, Mack cuts him off. "Whitey, how's that breakfast coming along?" He rubs his stomach and goes to sit on the sofa, right next to Lisa. She shrinks away from him and he holds up his hands, shaking his head. "See? No knife. The knife goes with my day clothes, not the pyjamas. My night-time accessory is a teddy bear. Do you have one?" She shakes her head and just stares at him. "Hey little Mouse, the cat really has got your tongue, doesn't it? Where’s little Minnie? In the bathroom?" She nods and hugs her knees to her chest. "Did you sleep okay?" She whispers in a tiny voice, "Yes." "Oh! I got a word out of her! So you do speak! Well, Mouse, do you miss your mom?" She nods and whispers yes again. "Well, you're going to see her really soon. Okay? Just as soon as we finish our business, we're going to drop you right off at home. Do you believe me?" She stares uncertainly at him and looks in the direction of the bathroom. "Hey, you don't need your sister to speak for you. Tell me, does your big sister bully you? I bet she does. Is she always telling you what to do?" She's hugging herself ever more tightly but replies with a resounding, "No!" Just then Whitey walks into the room with her sister and takes Lisa away. "Is breakfast ready yet?" Whitey nods and holds up one finger. The young girl is now standing beside the sofa, unsure of where to sit or what to do; so he gets up and pulls tongue at her. "I don't want to sit next to you either!" Whitey brings in the breakfast and Mack starts eating. He mumbles with his mouth full of food. "I can't believe Skinny hasn't been woken up by the smell of frying eggs!" "Good morning! Did I hear my name?" Here's Skinny now, looking even scruffier than yesterday. "Ooh, yum! Just what the doctor ordered. Hey, are we down to one today?" He's pointing at the sofa. Mack smiles mysteriously. "No, but that could be part of the plan, my hungry friend."

After their meal, the mullet gang began to discuss their next course of action. Mack dispatched Skinny and Whitey to check around the neighbourhood for talk of the kidnapping. As soon as they returned with news that there was no news about the kidnapping or the disappearance of two girls from the neighbourhood, all of them except Barney went out to "check out the drop off point" as Mack put it. The girls were getting extremely bored with Barney's obvious obsession with car- and motorbike racing, which he proceeded to watch on TV all morning long. They were also feeling frustrated by the waiting and wondering what's going to happen next. Barney occasionally barked an instruction of some sort at them, but most of the time, he ignored them. The girls got thirsty and asked him for water once and he shouted at them that he wasn't their servant and they could get it themselves. He pointed in the direction of the kitchen and so they walked carefully, as if expecting him to change his mind. The kitchen is actually beside the living room with its doorway located further down at the end of the short hallway. The young girl pushed Lisa into the kitchen and whispered to her to find some glasses as fast as possible and to wait for her at the kitchen sink. In the meantime, she would take advantage of the opportunity to look around what had to be Mack’s bedroom - opposite the kitchen. The door was open and the room was much brighter than the room beside the bathroom. It was also much neater and smelled better. This room didn't look like a normal bedroom. It was quite big and had book shelves covering one entire wall, filled with books. She was in such awe at the sight of all those books, she just had to go over and look at them more closely. She took longer than she realised because the next thing she knew, Lisa was beside her, pulling at her arm, asking her in a desperate whisper to hurry up whatever she was doing. Right then, they heard the doorbell ringing and they scuttled back to the kitchen to pour water into their glasses.

They chose to stay in the kitchen and drink their water at the sink because they thought it would look the least suspicious. They could hear from the voices that the other gang members had returned. They sounded happy and excited. They could hear Mack asking Barney where the girls were and soon he found them in the kitchen, still drinking from their glasses. "Ah! There you are! I was beginning to think you ran away from home! Ha ha! That's funny. In a way you did, didn't you? Come on, that's enough of the water now. I’m going to give your mom a call now and I need you there with me." They followed him and sat back down on the sofa. Lisa's stomach grumbled. After making fun of Skinny’s always being hungry, Mack asked Barney if he'd given the girls some lunch. When he replied that he hadn't, Mack sent him straight to the kitchen. Then he waited until after they'd eaten before he put the call through to the girls' mother. He said he wanted them to sound well fed and satisfied in case he decided to let them speak to their mother. In the end, he didn't let them speak; instead he brandished his knife in front of their faces so that they would scream, and then he held the cell phone up for their mother to hear their screams. Mack’s demands and instructions were simple: he told their mother to go outside to her mailbox and find a letter there. In the letter was a list of items from her home that they wanted her to load onto a rented truck and have delivered to the disclosed address. The truck had to be left there with the keys under the driver's seat. All this had to be done before midnight, so she had to hurry up. On that list was virtually everything of great monetary value that her family owned except for her second car and the house itself. Mack promised that if the drop-off went as planned, then he would return Lisa to her mother. He would pick up the truck the next day and there had better not be any police present. In exchange for the other girl, he would have an additional set of orders for her once he was free and clear. He called this the proof of trust between them. As soon as he hung up the phone, his friends shouted at him that he was crazy to let the one girl go because she could show her mother where to find them. He just grinned at them and ignored their protests saying, "Who's the brains of this operation? Yes, I think that would be me. Now, if you lot don't trust me, then why don't one of you make the decisions around here?" They all followed him to his room, badgering him to let them in on his evil plan and they left the girls alone in the living room.

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