Lepidoptera

Jason met her after the aircraft accident, when he’d moved south to live with his Aunt Sheila. There was little for him to do except recover, but the writing and speech exercises frustrated him, and the intensity of his headaches were frightening. He was ten years old and tired of being kept indoors, so he dragged a chair to a window, pushed his crutches through, and carefully slid out after them.

He was sitting at the lake on a dilapidated wooden pier when Anna found him. He told her, in his broken, halting speech, that he wasn’t crying — he was scratching at his eyes because they itched. She showed him how to fish with a length of nylon and a bent safety-pin.

He never told Aunt Sheila that he was sneaking out of the house. The speech exercises remained frustrating, and the growing number of pills didn’t help with the headaches.

Two weeks later his Aunt told him that they had to move. We need more money, she said. There are better jobs in the City. Better speech therapists. The day before they moved, after most of the packing was done, he saw Anna for the last time. Jason was no longer in a cast, and walked down to the lake without his crutches. Anna grabbed his hand, wouldn’t say where she was taking him, and showed him to a stunted tree covered in colourful butterflies.

They’re not butterflies, she said. They’re moths.

But moths only fly at night.

Some like the day, too!

She held them in her hand, put some in his. Their little feet were ticklish, their wings were warm, and they seemed unafraid. Jason laughed.

He’s thirty-five now. He has friends and has sometimes been in love. Occasionally he has felt loved in return. He remembers her name was Anna, but he can’t remember her face. He still dreams of her hands covered in butterflies.