a butterfly

a butterfly

Melissa Chen | Art by Jamie Tan

The sun is going to set soon. I’m running under the rosy sky, my hair whistling in the wind. I feel the tug of the kite in my hands, the grass rustling under my feet. I spread my arms like wings and follow an invisible path up the slope, running toward the edge of the sky.

I don’t feel the climb. Break the crest of the hill and finally look back. The kite is soaring. I wish I could ride it. 

The wind rushes cool in my lungs and whips past me, but my feet are still planted firmly, like the roots of the grass around me. 

Dad is charging up the hill, running fast but not quite looking so because he’s so solidly built and moves heavily. He’s strong because he used to play rugby in college and now tennis with his friends.

“That’s great!” he calls out, breathlessly. “Amazing!”

I smile, and plop down, watching him finish the last stretch. His cheeks, which are normally very pale like mine, are pink. Mine must be too. Dad treads up and sits down beside me. He has his work-trousers on; I don’t think Mum would be very pleased with the grass stains or Dad. He leans back on his hands. We tilt our heads up and watch the kite for a while. 

It starts to falter, though the wind still blows through the grass. 

Quickly, I pass Dad the string. 

He does some wonderful movement starting with his wrist and ending at his shoulder, and the kite swings up again. I tuck up my knees to my chest and feel the cool cotton of my sweater against my flushed face. I brush the softness of the sleeve over my lips.

“It’s a good kite, huh?” Dad says. He looks at me, carefully.

I nod, and smile again.

“And school? How is that?” He’s talking normally, but his voice seems to fills the space around us. 

I shrug. 

The words are blowing away but now the silence is expanding. 

“The teacher had only good things to say about you,” Dad says.

I glance at him. 

He bumps me gently on the shoulder. “Well-behaved, kind, curious, a good listener.”

The space waits for me, not quivering with expectation but patiently. “She’s nice,” I say. 

He pauses, then claps me softly on the shoulder, pulls me into not-quite-a-hug but a just-holding-me.

The kite has fallen without a sound. It’s laying on the grass. 

Dad runs down and picks it up. He turns around with a big grin, and waves at me. I sit and watch him try to launch it again. 

I stretch myself over the grass, still a little warm from the day, but cooling from the wind. The sky is clear but I do wish it was blue. I close my eyes and listen to my breathing. It’s almost the same sound as the wind. I feel my lashes flutter, carried by it. One time, last summer, we drove to a huge wooded hill with an observatory on top that we had to climb up to. We went all the way up a winding trail, and the view of the rolling hills all around us looked different along every step of the way. Dad started carrying Willy in the middle and offered me a perch on his shoulders, but I wasn’t tired at all. In the observatory, they had big displays that no one read, and one said everything in the whole universe is made out of stardust.

Lying here I can feel myself melting away, combed by the wind, particles of stardust drifting off somewhere. Maybe if I fell asleep here for a year there would be nothing left. It would be a peaceful way to become nothing.

I sit up at that thought. It’s just me getting a “little dreamy”, like Mum says. 

Dad is chasing the little red kite, running up and down the hills. The wind must have ripped it away. I run. A butterfly flaps its wings.