Magic realism flash fiction.
Charlie could hear his older sister, Nadine, screaming at his mum as he shut the door of the back porch. Across the patio, fragments of the jars Nadine had smashed earlier were scattered — the jars he had prepared for his collections of pond-life and insects. He knew she wanted him to join her fight, to speak up, to act out. She mistook his silence for arrogance, but it was only that he didn’t want to spew his desire out as anger between the four walls of their council semi. He wanted to be out in the world, amongst the things he loved. The long summer stretched before him. His exams were done. He had no obligations or deadlines hanging over his head.
He should have felt angry about the jars, but he wondered, as he collected the fragments from across the patio, if he was too old for another summer of gathering specimens, only to watch them wilt and shrivel in the heat.
A flash of blue caught his eye. He straightened up and watched a butterfly flit across the low wall of the patio and land on the barbeque. Its wings were vibrant blue, almost purple, edged with white. He set the glass aside and approached the creature. It was a Common Blue, Polyommatus Icarus — not rare, and yet the colour always took his breath away. When he drew close, close enough to touch the barbeque and feel the sun-warmed metal under his hand, it didn’t move. He knelt down, eyes level with the creature, and it crawled towards him, antennae searching from side to side. Then, in a flash, it launched up over his head and danced around the patio, as if it were putting on a show for him. He laughed.
The butterfly flew into the garden and across the grass. Charlie ran after it as it skipped along the hollyhocks he’d planted, and over the chain-link fence at the bottom of the garden. Charlie squeezed through a gap, and out into the grassy field beyond. He spotted the butterfly, alighted on a clover flower a few metres away. Once more, it spun up into the air and spiralled across the field.
The sun beat down on his head and neck as he squinted to make out the butterfly against the bright blue sky. It headed for a copse of trees. He ran as fast as he could, hurtling down the low hill, arms out to meet the air. The butterfly disappeared amongst the leaves. He slowed as the cool of the shade hit him, and his heart jumped when he saw a girl lying on her back, reading.
The first things he noticed were her long, tanned legs. She wore short shorts, blue jersey cotton with white piping round the edge. Her feet were bare, but next to them were a pair of leather sandals with chunky straps. The butterfly landed on her knee, and she looked up from her book and saw him. She smiled a huge, toothy grin that filled half her face. Her eyes were vibrant blue, almost purple.
“You all right?” she asked.
He stood there, feeling unsteady from the top of his newly-acquired height.
“My butterfly found you,” he blurted out, his voice too high and wavering.
“No.” She grinned. “My butterfly found you.”
She put down her book and pulled herself up. The butterfly flew to her shoulder.
She was wearing a stripy t-shirt that hugged her small breasts. Her dark blonde hair fell all the way to her waist. She was nearly as tall as him, but moved like she felt at ease with her body, even though he guessed they were a similar age. He felt like a clumsy pile of limbs.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
“Jackie. You live near here?”
He nodded, staring at her tanned feet on the grass.
“You want to kiss me, Charlie?”
He studied her face for some trick, but she met him with the same open smile. He did want to kiss her, but he didn’t know how to start.
She put her arms around his waist. Her body pressed against him, and the salty smell of her sun-drenched skin filled his senses. Her lips touched his, ever so gently, and her tongue felt for his. He opened his mouth to let her in, and their teeth bumped. He pulled back.
“Slow down,” she whispered, as she kissed him again and he let her, feeling her tongue push against his. A shiver ran through him.
She pulled him over to where she’d lain, and they knelt down. Her fingers pushed through his hair as she kissed him again. She tasted like Parma Violets. He closed his eyes and let the sensations wash over him — the searching pressure of her tongue, the warmth of her bare knees against his legs.
And then, in a moment, there was nothing.
He opened his eyes. She was gone. He felt a tickle on his arm. The butterfly crawled towards his hand. He followed it with his eyes as it lifted off and fluttered across the pool of shade. There was nothing left to show that she’d been there. His heart pounded, fear chasing loss. He crawled over to the butterfly as it landed on the ground, but it flitted away through the leaves of the trees.
Following it out of the tree’s shade, the afternoon sun warmed him through and chased away his worries. The Blue landed on a nearby clover flower.
The fields rolled out, and further the river and the old flower meadow where the grass grew up past his knees. Everything offered its promise to him. He smiled as he made his way home for tea. He was done with jars.