Confidence is fickle, and to a lot of us it depends on what the people who are important to us think of us as. Sometimes the smallest of words is enough to make you reach your lowest point, and sometimes even a small expression, like a chuckle or a faded smile is enough to expose you to a whirlwind of strength. Confidence is fickle.
Butterflies. Small insects that have fragile bodies and short lives, but that is exactly what makes them any bit special. To me they represent a lot. They show the tenacity to grow and transform from simple caterpillars to marvelous flickers of beauty. Them being my favorite creature is, I confess, influenced by my mother and her job. She is a researcher working in a butterfly observatory.
My father? Let’s not get into too many details because to be honest I don’t remember many myself, divorced since I was a child and I wasn’t ever given the real reason. All I do truly remember is my parents randomly fighting in their room when they were convinced I was asleep. I remember one night after they closed my room and began their wrestle of conflicting opinions I got out of bed and opened door slightly, suddenly I saw a butterfly flying into my room. It wasn’t alone. I followed the trail and they grew more congested as I approached my parents room. I remember seeing my father take a pillow and a comforter as he stomped his way down the other side of the hallway and downstairs. I remember seeing my mother in tears, weeping silently, and dancing around, her whole room was coated by the blue of butterflies. Unfortunately, those were my oldest memories, so I have my doubts as to what was reality and what was a dream. Living in that kind of household made me grow a little faster than most of the people around me. I noticed how much my mother cared for me so I tried my best not to cry, tried my best not to go to her about every small problem and 8 years later, I still haven’t changed.
I stayed with my mother but for as long as I can remember she has been thin, I never brought it up. Throughout the years I have tried time and time again to up our households diet, I needed to see her healthier, it never helped. She was always as thin as ever, even slightly anorexic, it was a constant source of fear that I might have to take her to the hospital but it never reached that point.
Since the household was only girls it made things a lot simpler, but I developed more of a tomboy attitude, and my lack of ability to really be weak didn’t help enhance my femininity, I couldn’t be bothered, having a good set of friends at school and a good relationship with my mother was all I truly needed, but I still felt that my mother was lonely. I still couldn’t forget the sound of my mother’s silent weeping after almost every argument with my dad. After he left it didn’t get any better. But at least it was less frequent, and recently it was actually improving a bit, it barely happened and I thanked god. I couldn’t stand seeing mom being so near breaking down, I would rush to her aid but I didn’t want to remove her sole method of releasing tension, it was her private time and I did not have the right to stop her from doing whatever she wanted. She has spent so long providing for me. But my curiosity was piqued when one day suddenly, mom looked like she was just a little less… thin. I don’t know how to explain it but suddenly one day, she looked a lot better than usual.
One day mom called me into the living room. She needed to discuss something important with me. Now not too many years back mom started telling me about her work, and about this man who was her colleague. He was always so helpful to my mom, and I was happy to hear she had no problems at work. I’ve met him before too; he was a really big man. In one word? Lumberjack… just if a lumberjack was merged with a salary man. Yes he was handsome (admit it you were wondering). So I was not that surprised when I heard this ‘important’ thing. I rushed to hug my mom and congratulate her on finding someone who was not a complete asshole; I didn’t word it that way though. From then on things started looking better. Mom was smiling more, she brought him over and hell, he was even bigger than I remembered.
“Hello Kelsey, I hope you remember me, I’m Joshua your mother’s colleague.” He said.
“How could I forget the largest man I have ever seen?” I said astonished at how big he seemed.
“Haha, I am not that big but I’ll take whatever I can take.”
It was around this time I started seeing butterflies again. This time they were all a pristine white. They seemed to stay and group around Joshua but I guess maybe he was just the type to attract them.
Joshua started coming by more often, and our house began to become a blend of blue and white, slowly I saw his stuff being moved in, Joshua, who’s favorite color ironically was white lived a pretty monochrome life. All the things he owned were either black for his suits or white for his shirts. I didn’t mind because I guess our house was just blue before he came. But it was not just his furniture that moved in, along with it came a handful of white and blue butterflies. The same blue butterflies I would always see while growing up but this time they weren’t flying anywhere. Nothing made me happier than this; it was some form of a sign that made me feel that Joshua may just be a really good thing happening to this house. And my mother seemed to just be getting healthier and healthier, I was slightly jealous since I spent so much time trying to help my mother but I could never get her to overcome her anorexia, but just by being around Joshua she was feeling better, however my jealousy wasn’t greater than my joy.
Time started going by and I got closer and closer to Joshua. I’ll admit it was hard to see him as a fatherly character, he was still really immature, and he enjoyed playing games and sports with me. He loved taking walks and talking about his life, telling me stories about him as a kid. He wasn’t actually that sporty. He enjoyed drawing and gardening a lot more than running around, but since he was quick to grow tall he was urged to pick up a sport or two. We would sit down some days and he would teach me new drawing tricks. And just like that a couple of years passed by.
Joshua had become more or less part of the family now, he was always around and there for me, he was great with me, and he trusted me dearly. He seemed fond of talking to me about his life and his troubles, especially the stuff he found difficult to tell my mother, nothing bad, just his work ventures and such things. The blue butterflies that were always around seemed to slightly decrease in number, so I was a little sad, but my mother had never looked healthier. Joshua who always seemed like a tower above my head seemed to shrink a little though… that’s what I thought at first, but I could swear that week by week I saw him Joshua seemed smaller and smaller, at the same time our house was beginning to take more of a white shade, and I don’t mean the furniture. I mean the butterflies. Our house which was a great blend of blue and white was now a very pale blue… I was really stressed when one evening a short man walked into my room and came to talk to me… his face was too familiar to mistake…. It was Joshua.
His appearance now was nothing simple. His large muscular arms now seemed small and thin, his thick neck and chin now appeared to be that of a prepubescent boy. He spoke with a voice that seemed hoarse and weak. At that second a large gust blew through my window and with it a large quantity of white butterflies. They sat in the room and stared at me, almost interrogating me.
“Kelsey, I have been here for two years, I think this is kind of late of me but I need to get your permission before anything. You’re old enough now to understand that I truly care for you and your mother, and it’s time for me to make that clear. Recently at work there has been talk of a promotion going to the person who brought in the most clients, and it’s a close cut between me and this colleague of mine. I already spoke to your mother but I am going to spend a few weeks away from the house to focus on it. What I haven’t told her is that if I get the promotion…” I proceeded to pull out a small box from his pocket “I will ask for your mother’s hand in marriage. And I need your approval before I do anything, because you’re one of my closest friends and someone who would be deeply affected by it”
I was at a loss for words… not really. First thing to cross my mind was ‘finally, it’s about time’.
I couldn’t contain my tears as I smiled and replied. “Joshua, thank you, I can’t express how much it means that you checked with me first but, what are you doing waiting for that promotion? If that’s your decision then get your ass to work already, but you better be ready when you come back. I won’t let you make any mistakes!”
Joshua gave me a tight hug, in a sense I felt it was his way of thanking me. I looked over his shoulder and saw all the butterflies that were static just a short while ago had lifted off the floor and begun to fly around the room. He let go of me, and in front of me stood a man, not that large but much larger than when he walked in. I was puzzled but didn’t bother asking about the change in stature.
The next few weeks were a bit hard, both me and my mother had gotten too accustomed to seeing Joshua around. More than once I found myself looking for him so we could go on a walk, or so he could drop me off at a shopping center. But there was nothing there. Our house had gone back to blue, a bunch of butterflies just sitting around. Almost as if they were waiting. I was beginning to get curious as to where they came from. Asking around my friends began to believe I saw ghosts. No one had butterflies at their house. I thought it was something normal. I tried catching a few but they kept escaping me. Getting away only the last second, in the end I decided not to bother.
Finally he fated evening came. The duration they needed for the promotion was over and Joshua would either come home with good news, or have heavy news to deal with. Either way my plan was to ask him to commit to his plan. To ask my mother out regardless, I had come to a realization in these weeks away from him that I had already thought of him as a father.
Joshua had asked that both my mother and I get ready and meet him at a restaurant in town. I left to my room to get ready. When I left my room, I bumped into my mother. She seemed thinner than usual… and there was a slight increase in the butterflies roaming around. We got in the car and mom drove off. Behind us was a huge swarm of butterflies. Following us to where we had to go. We got out and went to the restaurant. Apparently Joshua wasn’t there yet, so we sat at the reserved table. Surrounding us was a large group of the blue butterflies.
Suddenly one by one, almost as if dancing to a tune, a stream of white butterflies began to fly in, behind them, like the pied piper was Joshua. Smiling, larger than I last saw him, I already understood that our plan was a success. I gave him a “thumbs up” from an angle my mother couldn’t see. My mother turned and with her all the blue butterflies’ attention was all set on Joshua. The closer he came, the more my mother smiled, the more butterflies began to lift up off the ground and slowly circle the air above my mother. Joshua came, held both my mother’s hands and stood her up.
“Brook, first and foremost. I won the promotion!” My mother hugged him tight.
“I knew you had it in you.”
“Umm, that’s not all…” Joshua said as he took step back. My mother instantly realized. “Brook, we have been together for three years now, and through all the ups and downs you have made me the happiest man I could ever be, so I swore to myself that I will make it my goal to make you the happiest woman you could ever be.”
Joshua slipped down onto one knee, and as he lowered himself it seemed that his body was not moving, rather his butterflies just built up the rest of his body onto the pose, they flew into him and disappeared as he grew… it was finally making sense I thought as tears rolled down my cheeks.
“Brook, will you marry me?” Joshua said. And as he said it, all the butterflies above my mother, like a blue bolt of lightning flew right down into her. And for the first time in my life, with tears rolling down my cheeks, I saw my mother as she actually was. My mother now in her late 30s, mature, fit, not a single pound above how much she should weigh, not a single bit anorexic. Beautiful, more than ever.
“Yes.” She replied. She grabbed his head, lifted him up and as disgusting as it is to remember, they began to kiss.
Everyone in the room began to applaud and cheer, congratulating them. Joshua lit up like a tomato, grinning from ear to ear; he looked at me and winked. I signaled him, letting him know I had nothing to do with it, it was all him.
From then on two things changed. I began to understand exactly what these butterflies were. They were the fragments of a person’s personality that are either being built or lost due to lack of confidence. And since understanding it I have been seeing them a lot more often in different people, especially this one boy in class, he has this beautiful emerald-green, and no not just the butterflies, his eyes, but that’s a story for another day.
The second thing to change was the new color I began seeing at home. It was shortly after the actual wedding that I started seeing a new beautiful sky blue colored small butterfly flying around the house. I gave Joshua a weird look and sighed. I guess I ruined their surprise.