Wednesday, 8 April 2009

She loved butterflies. So I'd screech to her from the downstairs porch whenever I saw one.
Once after lunch, I went out onto the front lawn. All along it's vast outer edge, Janardhan had planted rows and rows of spicy smelling white and gold flowers. The sun had seeped into them and the air was thick with the scent of their molten, chilli-tinged honey. Over the green monoscape of the lawn, only the odd bug crawled. But all along the periphery, from end to end, butterflies clustered over the flowers. Each stalk was a circus of jewelled wings and feelers. A swarm of butterflies. I had never seen so many before - or since.

I stood in the middle of the lawn, barefoot, the sun beating heavily down on everything around me, and the quiet clink clink of cutlery and glasses as the rest of the family finished their lunch. The low hum of their conversation, and of the fan, coming through the open window.
Everything else was perfectly silent.

I stood there for moments that have stretched out in my memory like a long summer afternoon.

Finally, the breeze broke the spell and I turned and ran - like only a 10 year old can run after lunch on a hot day - and burst into the peacefulness of the lunch table screaming, 'Amy! Amy!!! Get up!!!!! Get up now!! PLEEEEEEEEEASE!!!'
Sudden panic. Everyone's chairs moving back, everyone getting up. They thought there was something wrong. The dog bitten by a snake, a cobra on the porch, who knows.
I remember shouting 'NO NO NO. Only Amy!!!'
She wiped the corners of her mouth and excused herself.
We walked, hand in hand to the garden and I felt her grip tighten around my fingers when she saw it. So tight so sharp so fast. I tightened my hold on her too. I heard her breath catch in her throat.
I looked up at her astonished expression, and she beamed down at me and we raised our entwined hands and shook them in a gesture of ecstatic victory. Like we'd found Narnia or the Grail or Neverland after a long, arduous search.

She stood there drinking in the bright, incandescent wings and then said, 'Come on, baby, would you like some ice-cream now?'
I trotted off with her, back to the table. The family asked her what we'd gone out to see and my heart wrenched with love and delight when she smiled a coy, deliberate smile at me, put her finger to her lip and said 'That's a secret for just baby and me'.
If I'd hugged her then I would have crushed her with love. A secret of butterfly wings in the sunlight.

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