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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21. No honour among thieves

Day 4. The girls sobbed with such a deep sorrow after the trauma of nearly escaping and being caught out like that, but it seemed they were crying for other reasons too. They seemed to be crying out of frustration at their unbelievable circumstances and out of helplessness. They seemed to be crying out of need for their mother and their father. They seemed to be crying about the months of pain and confusion since they lost their father. It was as if all the tears they had bottled up because time went on after their father died and the world wanted them to move on with their lives, had found a way back from the hidden corners of their hearts to their eyes. Their kidnappers became impatient and shouted at them several times to be quiet, but the girls couldn’t stop. Finally, Mack and Whitey picked them up and put them into the smelly bedroom next to the bathroom. The window in this room is too high up for them to escape from and it faces the backyard, so they locked the girls up in this room and went back to sleep.

It was late morning when Skinny unlocked and opened the door. It was hard to tell which was smellier: Skinny or the room. They had woken up hoping to see Whitey's face, but it was immediately clear that Skinny was in charge of them for the day. Skinny turned out not to be so bad after all. He talked to them and even made stupid jokes, but they didn't want him around too much because of he had the smell of socks that have been worn too many days in a row. He brought them lots of snacks and if they asked him a question, he always answered. Well, almost always. The young girl asked him an important question late in the afternoon. "Are you going to take my little sister back home now that Mommy gave you the stuff you asked for? Like Mack said to her on the phone?" Skinny stalled. He made a joke that had nothing to do with her question. She tried again. "You did get everything you asked for, right?" He admitted that they did but wouldn’t say any more and left the room. The hours ticked by and they became increasingly anxious. Why weren't they coming to get Lisa? They had promised her mother and now... At dinnertime, Skinny brought them their food and the young girl demanded to speak to Mack. She kicked up such a fuss that Mack told Skinny to bring the girls back into the living room.

***

Skinny is walking us down the passage and I’m trying to calm myself down as we go. They’re all sitting there, Barney too. He’s got a blue eye and I can't help but smile about that. I’ve been thinking that something has gone wrong and that's why they haven't taken Lisa home yet, but now that I see them, I don't know any more. They’re calm. "Well, rosy cheeks, you wanted to see me?" Suddenly I feel nervous and I don't know what to say. I’m holding on to Lisa's hand like my life depends on it. "Sorry, Minnie, but I don't speak mute. That only works with Whitey. Never mind, we need you ladies to do us a favour; so make yourselves comfortable." The sofa has been pulled up beside his chair and he's patting the seat. I see my cell phone lying on the table. He’s getting ready to call Mommy! What’s going on? The tears are already running down my cheeks. "Oh come now, not that again. You two bawled so much, the neighbours called to complain about my cats making a noise last night and I don't even have cats!" The others laugh. "I’m n-not crying!" Barney's the only one laughing now. I really wish I could slap his face now. "I want to know what's going on please. You said you were going to let my sister go." Mack is sticking out his bottom lip at me, making Barney laugh again. "Oh poor Minnie doesn't understand! Tell you what: it's none of your business!" His face has suddenly gone dark again and the way Lisa is pinching me, I know she wants me to back off. He picks up my phone and dials a number. "Oh hello mom! How are you today?" ... "Mom, why are you shouting? I don't think I like your voice like that." ... "Okay, stop. That’s enough! Calm down!" ... "You seem to have forgotten that I am your boss and I give the orders, not you," and he hangs up the phone. My heart is pounding and I feel like jumping on him and scratching his face. He’s calling her again. "Are you calm now?" ... "Good. I can't stand hysterical women. First of all, mom, I want to thank you for a job well done yesterday! I’ve had a look through everything and you didn't miss a single thing! A very impressive collection too, I might add. Now for your reward. Hold the line please." Mack looks me in the eye and tells me to watch what I say. In one quick movement, he hands me the phone, takes out his knife and holds it over Lisa's leg. I can hear Mommy's voice on the phone saying, "Hello? Hello?" "M-mommy?" "Oh honey! Are you all right? Are you hurt? And Lisa? Is she okay?" She's crying now and me too. "N-no, we're both okay Mommy. We’re just s-scared Mommy." "My darling, I’m so sorry I left you alone. If he touches you, you scream and you scratch out his eyes! You fight him, do you hear? Don’t let him hurt you, oh God, don't let him hurt my babies!" Mack grabs the phone from my hand and gives it to Lisa. Her face has gone all white and she looks very scared. "M-m-mommy?" ... "Mommy, I want you! Come and get me, Mommy!" ... "I want to come home now!" Mack grabs the phone from her. "I’m afraid there's been a change in plans, mom." ... "I swear, mom, if you tell me one more time what to do, this knife I’m holding against your baby's neck will draw blood. So get your act together or suffer the consequences!" He's lying to her. He has already put the knife away. "I had a little problem with your girls last night. Just a small disciplinary issue but we're sorting it out. The problem is that the trust has been broken and I’m going to need them both to stay with me tonight." ... "Do you want me to hang up again?" ... "Yes, I was coming to that. Now, what I want is to know exactly how much cash you can get together by tomorrow night." ... "Oh! You’ve got quite a mouth on you mom! Wow! That's shocking!" ... "Right lady, here's the deal. You’ve got until tomorrow 9pm to figure out how you're going to scrape together one million bucks and then we can negotiate the return of your little angels." ... "Come on, don't give me that! I know you've got it and you know you've got it, so share and share alike!" ... "Mm, okay, you're right, trust goes both ways; so I’ll do something for you. I’ll take a picture of your girls as soon as we hang up and send it to you right away. Will that be proof enough for you?" ... "Standing up, yes, okay. I have to warn you though, I’m not much of a photographer and they're not smiling much." ... "You’ll hear from me at 9 o'clock sharp, so don't waste any time thinking of ways to trick me, because I hold all the cards, lady. And don't you forget that." He hangs up.

His eyes are cold as he smiles at us. I don't know what to make of him: would he hurt us or wouldn't he? I don't know. I know he's a liar. He never planned on letting Lisa go. He gets up and leaves the room without a word. He comes back with baby powder and rubs it over my cheeks. He’s taking our photo now and it looks like he's sending it to Mommy. "There’s a nice little memento for mom!" Skinny gives us our food that's gone cold now but I taste nothing. I feel like we're going to lose and they're going to win. "Skinny, I think it's past their bedtime. Go and tuck them in, will you?" Skinny picks up the chicken wing I’ve left on my plate and pops it into his mouth. "Don’t you know it's a sin to waste food?" The tears are rolling down my face again. I have no control any more! "By the way ladies, if the sun comes out tomorrow, maybe we'll let you have a dip in our swimming pool in the backyard, if you're good tonight!" The others are laughing again. "Can you two swim?" I don't know why, but something tells me to lie to the liar. "No we can't. Thanks but no thanks." I pull at Lisa's hand so that she doesn't say anything. We turn around and go down the passage ahead of Skinny. He locks the door behind us.

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