Aphelion Issue 236, Volume 23
February 2019
 
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The Butterflies on a Dead Man's Bed

by Kamila Modrzyńska




Queen InÍs sat on the throne. Eyes full of dread, nobody dared to move. When Pedro grabbed the queen’s hand and put a ring with a ruby on her finger, somebody in the crowd screamed and fainted.

The citizens of Lisbon were gripped by fear.

4. The Obedience of InÍs


12th June 1952


InÍs threw her feet out from under the sheets and shuffled to the window in the hospital corridor. Getting there from the bed left her exhausted and she leaned her thin pale hands on the windowsill. Peering out through the glass, she spied Lisbon’s bright colors of the special day—people with wreaths of flowers and cars full of decorations crossed the street below the window. They were all going to Alfama, the oldest district in town. Tomorrow began the Festas dos Santos Populares. The entire month of June was dedicated to the Feast Days of the Popular Saints, and the people of Lisbon would go out into the streets, demanding dance and sardines. Oh, how InÍs wished she could be there with Papa and Mama. She hadn’t seen her parents in more than a month and missed them terribly.

She remembered vaguely a time or two when she and her whole family had gone to Sao Antůnio Night and danced till the dawn, but that must have been a long time ago. This whole past year, she had been here, a prisoner of the hospital. She wondered whether her parents would go to the party tonight. She hoped not! The thought that they might be so close, and dance and play, while she was stuck in this nasty place was more than she could bear.

InÍs looked at the sun. Twilight was approaching the city and the yellow ball in the sky was blushing, as if she wanted to bashfully hide behind the old red-roofed houses. The thick walls of the hospital provided the patients with good protection from the heat, but in the evenings, when the windows were opened, one could still feel the summer breeze.

“What are you doing here, young lady?”

InÍs turned to see the nurse, a short girl with a dark skin, a look of displeasure on her face.

“Go to bed right now! You’re not supposed to wander around the hallways.”

The nurse grabbed her hand and started pushing InÍs back toward the children’s ward. She made a brief stop at the nurses’ station and let go of InÍs’s wrist, who took this unexpected chance to disappear behind the closest door.

InÍs just couldn’t go to bed tonight. She had seen three yellow butterflies flying near the ceiling of her ward. Besides, she still had another place to visit. She had been screwing up her courage to do so for the whole day.

The room she entered was dark. InÍs kept closing her eyes and opening them again and again, waiting for them to get used to the darkness. Finally, she was able to make out some shapes. In the long ward room, which seemed to stretch itself into infinity, patients lay in their beds. As she grew closer, she could see that they were all pinched-faced, pale, submerged in blindness. The dreams of dances and sardines were gone from that place.

InÍs pitied them.

She approached the first bunkbed, which stood tall as a tower on spider-like legs. InÍs began to clamber up. Reaching the top of it was an incredible effort and required a short stop midway. The owner of the top mattress surely must have heard her gasping and panting. She crawled over to the chair, and then to the night table, and then, finally, she sat down on the old yellowish mattress. The man lying there—under the dingy blanket, too short to cover his long body—didn’t look very old. He must have been younger than her papa because he didn’t have a moustache yet. InÍs couldn’t tell if he was asleep.

Boa tarde,” she whispered.

The man smiled and InÍs thought maybe she could make friends with him.

“Tarde,” he whispered back. “Are you lost?”

“Not anymore. This is exactly where I wanted to come,” InÍs told him. “What’s your name?”

“Tů.”

“Sister Marta says you can make up quite a story, Tů.”

The man started coughing. When he could breathe again, he spoke. “That depends, my little princess. What would you like to hear about? I don’t always have the correct story for a person right up my sleeve. But let me think. You look like you want to hear about…ships.”

“No!”

“Pirates?”

“Not at all!” InÍs shook her head.

“Africa, then?”

“I guess you really don’t have the right story for me.” With disappointment, she looked down at the floor. It seemed so distant now.

“What’s your name?”

“InÍs.”

“Such a coincidence! The fact is, I know a great story about InÍs.”

“Was she a princess?”

Tů hesitated. The girl stared at him openly, waiting for his answer with a suspicious look in her night-like eyes. Nothing mattered anymore, he thought. He saw what was going on outside the windows. They were coming for him. They were looking for him. And they were getting closer with every passing day. Soon they would find his bed.

“No, not a princess.”

InÍs sighed, disappointed.
“She’s a queen,” he added. “I knew her myself. I was a student in Coimbra around the same time when she lived there.”

“But daddy said Salazar is like a king, just better. Is queen InÍs his wife?”

Meu Deus, no! InÍs lived seven hundred years ago. We had proper monarchs back then.”

“Oh, I see.”

The girl laid down next to him.

“So you can start.”

3. The Obedience of ConstanÁa



InÍs had never regretted not being born into royalty and during that last month, hot and sizzling even for Castile, she understood she had always been right.

ConstanÁa, her royal friend, had lately suffered a great deal. She had been preparing herself for the role of queen of Portugal. She, InÍs, and the rest of the royal train spent the last two weeks traveling to Lisbon, where the ceremony would take place.

ConstanÁa didn’t take the journey well. She kept saying there’s something stuck in her throat and it stops her from breathing, but her physicians didn’t find anything. Everyone knew the problem was in ConstanÁa’s head, and so her doctors called InÍs every other day to calm the future queen down.

“I would never behave like that,” InÍs used to mutter to herself on the way to a tent.

Due to the fires in central Portugal, they had to stay for longer in a camp near Coimbra, unable to move any further. The thick layer of yellow fumes cut them from the sun. The ashes were dancing in the air.

ConstanÁa was getting insane.

They arrived to Lisbon only a few days late. The Castile’s train with seven-hoofed horses marched through the whole city to show the Spanish wealth. Towers of gold on top of each horse shone in the sun; towers higher than the highest of Lisbon’s churches.

The wedding was held on the next day, in the afternoon. After the sunset, when the weather got slightly cooler, the ceremony started. ConstanÁa had fainted three times before she arrived to the cathedral. Walking inside, she gasped with relief. The darkness and cold draft made her feel better.

She walked down the aisle. The obsidian dress she wore was full of gems and expensive stones; her maids had been preparing it for months. ConstanÁa stood in front of the bishop and lifted her black veil. InÍs, standing by her side, saw a smile growing on her friend’s face. And she smiled herself, too, relieved.

After that she looked at the groom and froze.

The bishop started talking and pulling off ribbons blue as the blood in the newlyweds’ veins, and then proceeded to grab their hands and tie them together.

InÍs had never regretted not being born into a royalty except for this one day when she saw Pedro, her future king.

2. The Obedience of Pedro



“Then she was neither the princess, nor the queen,” InÍs marked with a suspicious voice. She was still breathing heavily. “You’re fooling me, aren’t you.”

She lifted on her arm just to look in Tů’s eyes.

“Be patient,” Tů reprimanded her. “Hear some more. Imagine that scene, ConstanÁa with long, black hair and red dress full of flowers and rubies - they said later that it was the most beautiful dress ever sewn - and prince Pedro next to her, tall, handsome, with dark eyes. They were standing in front of each other with the bishop in between in the biggest, wealthiest cathedral of Lisbon. You know, it doesn’t exist any longer. Scene like from the picture, right? But let me tell you, Pedro barely noticed ConstanÁa. The moment he saw InÍs, he fell in love with her.”

Tů made a pause, as if he was waiting for the girl’s reaction.

“And she did so, too?”

“And she did so, too,” he confirmed. “And it was like in a fairytale, people were saying that someone cursed them. The prince was a reasonable man and he knew he must keep his promise, so he married ConstanÁa, not taking his eyes off her maid-in-waiting.

“Oh!” InÍs looked disappointed.

“And now it’s time to introduce you to the villain of this story, Pedro’s father, king Afonso.”

1. The Obedience of Afonso



Afonso was proud of his country. He had never seen much beyond it and yet he was convinced Portugal was the most beautiful place in the world. Nowhere else was the water so blue and the sun so yellow, beaches so golden and hills so green as in that corner of the Earth that belonged to Afonso. He had been taught how to rule this country ever since childhood and, well used to both his obligations and people’s obedience, he grew to become a tyrant. His wishes had to be fulfilled. He was a king; he knew what’s best for his country, didn’t he?

Having had a wise and deliberate king, the Portuguese lived well under his hand.

The deep relationship between his son and some maid became a problem for Afonso some years after the wedding, when ConstanÁa still hadn’t fulfilled her queen’s duty to bring an heir to this world.

Wouldn’t it be so outrageous if in the meanwhile Afonso hadn’t received information that InÍs is expecting a second child. Very well; he didn’t mind bastards at all, having a bunch of his own. Let this poor maid live in peace, far from his eyes in a monastery in Coimbra.

But oh, how much he craved a royal heir!

0.



Tů sighed and cut the story. Broken ribs hurt from exhaustion.

“You need to come tomorrow for the rest of the story, little princess,” he whispered.

The girl looked at him and even in dim light she could notice sweat on his forehead and white, parched lips. Tů tried to change position to give some relief to his swollen legs.

“And what exactly happened to you?” InÍs asked.

“Oh, that’s nothing. I fought the king.”

“Pedro?”

“No, told you Pedro was my good friend.”

“Oh, I see, Salazar then!” she guessed. “Of course, I’m being silly! Pedro is dead. Did you duel with Salazar?”

Tů chuckled.

“Oh yes, we dueled. Unfortunately, he had won, but I managed to escape. And now I’m healing to fight him again. Go, go, little princess, and come back tomorrow.”

After the girl left, he fell in a shallow, feverish sleep.

The elephants on thin legs and camels were getting closer with every step, and even white horses were staring at him through the blurry windows, crawling under the hospital’s walls. They were offering him fame and wealth, and each time he refused. Finally, he woke up. Maybe, he thought, to kill time he should tell himself a story of… ConstanÁa. It’s a sad part anyway, it’s better if the little princess skips that.

Besides, she probably wouldn’t believe in those butterflies anyway.

1. The Disobedience of ConstanÁa



ConstanÁa was dying.

Nobody could argue with that. Pieces of her soul were flying out of her mouth with every breath she took, and turning into yellow butterflies. The chamber in which she was spending her last moments was full of the insects.

A nurse was sitting by the window, holding a newborn prince in her arms. The baby was notably quiet, as if there was not enough strength in his lungs to scream. But ConstanÁa, who had never regained consciousness, didn’t have a chance to see her baby.

Afonso got into the chamber with a loud noise of door hitting the wall that brought the butterflies up in the air. They tried to escape the room and flapped their wings in despair, when they realized they were imprisoned. The king waved his arms to scare them away.

He approached ConstanÁa’s bed. The woman was as pale as the sheet covering her thin body. A doctor was standing next to her, frowning with disgust. He had never seen so many butterflies escaping a dying body before.

The men looked at each other. The doctor wasn’t very eager to talk to the king, powerful and a very frustrated man at the moment.

“Can you do anything for her?,” Afonso asked with a surprisingly calm voice.

“No, my lord. I swear to God, I’ve tried… I saw girls in worse states who were healing. But she… she doesn’t want to fight.”

“Nonsense. She has a child.”

Poor girl, the physician thought. At the hour of her death there was only few maids and a mad father-in-law in her chamber. He actually thought that she decided to die just so she didn’t have to endure the embarrassment coming from the fact that her husband had been cheating on her since the night they married.

Afonso walked to the window to look at his grandson. The boy had a blue face and was exceptionally tiny.

“Will the baby live?,” Afonso asked the doctor.

“Hard to say, my lord,” the man frowned. “He is very fragile, but sometimes such boys grow up to be strong men."

Afonso scratched his beard. There was something else… He looked around. People in the room were waiting for something. Oh yes, they already knew.

Then he realized.

“Can anyone tell me, caralhos, where is my son?!”


*****



Ten years had passed since ConstanÁa’s death and many white threads appeared on Afonso’s head.

He was worrying constantly.

He was worrying even while eating meat he hunted himself, and hunting was one of the biggest joys of his life. He was worrying while lying in bed with a beautiful new maid, looking at the stars when he couldn’t fall asleep.

“Wait a second,” InÍs interrupted. “What new maid?”

“Err, a new wife, I mean. He had a beautiful wife.”

And even his new wife couldn’t help him.

The king walked to the balcony, where he could admire the royal gardens. They were wild and neglected, because Afonso’s gardener was a lazy man.

“Oh! And do you know if Salazar has his own gardener, too?” InÍs asked.

“Listen, you really can’t interrupt me all the time.”

The royal gardens were wild and neglected, and so was a royal grandson, Fernando. The future king of Portugal was playing in the bushes. He was just as pale and thin as the first time Afonso saw him. He contrasted badly with Pedro’s bastards, three of them, all strong and rumbustious.

“My lord.”

Afonso twitched when he heard a voice coming from behind. He looked back. Manuel Antunes, his trusted advisor, was standing in the balcony door. Antunes was the right hand of Afonso’s father and he had an opinion of the most important politician in the court. After many years together Antunes could say he knew everything about his king. But he didn’t, of course, because he was a good man.

“You’re worried, my lord.” Antunes spoke directly. “Is it because of Castile?”

“To a certain degree, yes.”

Antunes stood by his king and together they watched Fernando’s play. The boy was running around the pond with his dog chasing him.

“Every year they offer us a few princesses Pedro could marry.”

“The problem is, my dear Antunes, that my son refuses to marry anyone except for his maid. And this is absolutely unacceptable.”


*****



“I don’t exactly understand why”, InÍs interrupted, sitting straight on Tů’s bed so abruptly that all her bones started to hurt.

“Well, her family was poor and not aristocratic enough, and she didn’t bring any alignment to the state. You understand, in those days kings were choosing their queens because of alignments. Just like ConstanÁa brought Portugal alliance with Castile.”

“Oh.”


*****



Antunes didn’t say a word.

“And ten years had passed! Ten years of asking, begging Pedro to remarry. Caralhos! It wouldn’t change anything. He could still visit that maid anytime he wants. Truly, I don’t understand my son at all.”

“I’m afraid, my lord, that he is very fond of lady InÍs.”

Fernando stopped to catch some breath. His dog was jumping in and out of the water, and running around the boy. The men could hear the prince’s laughter.

Afonso was furious. He, the king of Portugal, was helpless only towards one person in the whole kingdom – his own son, who owed him obedience more than anyone else.

“I’ve been waiting ten years,” he hissed.

The prince fell down on the ground and they all could hear a scream.

“I want to get rid of InÍs. Make sure of that, please. Find good men and make them kill her as soon as possible.”

“My lord!” Antunes was shocked. Then he looked at the determined face of his king. “My lord.”

He bowed.


*****



“Oh, did Afonso really kill her?” InÍs grabbed Tů’s head.

“Yes.”

“No, no! I don’t agree. Please, bring her back to life!”

Tů shrugged.

“I’m only telling you what happened back then. It’s not my story.”

InÍs started muttering something under her nose. Her eyes were sending flashes of lightning.

“I don’t like that story very much,” she informed Tů. “You were supposed to tell me about InÍs, the queen.”

Somebody stuck in the metal leg of the bed and soon they saw a hand giving them a plate with food.

“And I will, I swear. Come to me after lunch.”

3. The Disobedience of Pedro



Eventually, Afonso died two years later, never getting a chance to see his son’s second wedding. Pedro was stubborn and even though he couldn’t bring himself to openly go against his father, he didn’t accept another woman as his wife.

“My lord, the situation is very difficult,” Antunes told him. “A war with Castile is only a matter of time.”

Oh, Pedro really didn’t want to think about that.

“A marriage could still prevent that,” Antunes added as always.

“I have my queen already,” Pedro muttered too quietly for anyone to hear that.

But soon not only Antunes, but also the whole city council started insisting on marriage, and Pedro decided to do something.

“Very well,” he said some time later. “If you want a coronation, you’ll have it. I just need few days to bring your new queen.”

“And the wedding?”

“I married her in secret already long time ago, long before my father died,” Pedro explained. How easy it is to lie to people you don’t care about, he thought.

“Who is the girl?” they asked.

“You’ll see.”

He saw curiosity on his advisors’ faces. Some of the men were smiling as if it was their merit.


*****



“But the truth is Pedro misinterpreted their faces.”

“Misinterpreted?”

“He was mistaken. They weren’t really smiling,” Tů explained. “In fact, his advisors were horrified. Nobody knew what the king was capable of.”

InÍs was breathing heavily. She couldn’t lift her head from the sheet, so she just looked at Tů.

“Pedro’s dad was a better king, wasn’t he?” she said.

“Yes.”

Tů had already opened his mouth to continue the story, but the girl interrupted:

“Wait, wait. There’s something I need to ask you. Today is Saint Antůnio’s night.”

“I know.”

“I want to go there.”

“Then ask your parents.”

“They’re not from Lisbon. And besides, they don’t visit me very often anymore. At the beginning, when I got sick, they were coming here every Sunday, but now they can’t. My mom says the hospital costs a lot of money and you know, I’ve been living here almost ever since I was born.”

“What’s wrong with you?” Tů asked even though he wasn’t sure he really wanted to hear the answer.

“Oh, doctor Pereira says my blood is sick. But it’s nothing serious, my mom says I will be fine very soon. Tů, please, run away with me! It’s your namesake’s night after all. You can’t spend it in hospital, right? I need, I really need to leave this place. I will tell you a secret – can I tell you a secret? The Death lives here, here in this very hospital! Sometimes she comes to my ward, but I always hide from her. I know exactly when she’s going to come, because she’s leaving yellow butterflies behind, you see. But… she’s getting closer and I think I need to leave this place forever. So, would you like to come with me tonight?”

Tů smiled, but not with his eyes.

“Princess, both of my legs are smashed to little pieces. My ribs are broken. I can’t take myself to a bathroom, let alone Alfama.”

“You can’t walk? How do you pee, then?” InÍs looked at him suspiciously.

“You really don’t want to know,” he laughed. “So, do you want to hear about the coronation of the new queen? Just so you know, it’s going be scary. I’m not sure if you’re not too young…”

“I’m not! Tell me!”


*****



The coronation was held in the same cathedral where many years ago Pedro married ConstanÁa. This time they put two thrones in the center, in front of the crowd. The chairs were both grey, made of stone, decorated with the last gems from ConstanÁa’s dowry – Portugal wasn’t particularly rich in… well, in anything.

Pedro sat on the throne. He looked proud, just like the proper king should – tall, with wide arms, feeling comfortably as if he was born on that chair. His people must have been glad somebody like him ruled over them.

The place next to him remained empty.

He hired a group of very brave and very desperate men to transport the future queen. Not many people wanted to interrupt the eternal sleep of the dead. They came with her to the hall, holding her delicately so they wouldn’t break anything. Then, they put the corpse on the throne.

The people of Lisbon were gripped by fear.

“The king is mad,” they started to whisper.

InÍs rested on the pillows so her position was almost straight. A group of maids prepared her for the big day. She wore a long, red dress, and her fingers were heavy from gold rings. Straight dark hair was knotted in a dainty way. They did their best, but InÍs couldn’t look very attractive. Her skin was rotten black and peeling off in big pieces. The empty eyeholes seemed to stare at everyone and her jawbone, holding on by the last tendon was gaped, giving InÍs a surprised expression.

Yes, InÍs, even though you could never hope for that, you finally got what you deserved.

Pedro was amazed with the trick he pulled on his advisors. He was smiling wide, looking at his people. Didn’t they say they want a queen? And so they got one.

“I don’t like that story,” said InÍs. “Not at all. You said she’ll become a queen. But you can’t become a queen after you are deaded!”

“That’s what happens when you wait too long to rebel.” Tů shrugged his shoulders. “That’s life.”

Pedro put a ruby ring on his wife’s finger. The stone matched her dress well. Then he sat straight next to her and the bishop crowned both of them. The king pretended he didn’t see the disgusted face of the Pope’s emissary.

After the ceremony was finished, Pedro stood up.

“There were only two important women in my life,” he said. “The first one was Portugal, the second one – InÍs. Welcome your new queen and show your joy!”

“That’s it. Nobody in Castile will take that madman,” muttered one of the advisors, a man born in Spain.

The queen’s bones creaked. The skeleton straightened itself on the throne. With palms heavy from the rings it grabbed the fabrics of its dress and stood up. It walked then to Pedro, clacking with every step.

The dead woman looked around the cathedral with her empty eyeholes and even though she seemed not to be able to see, the crowd could feel her eyes on them. People started to panic. Some immediately left the cathedral, but most of them stayed, too curious about what was going to happen.

Pedro and InÍs were an unusual couple. The man, strong as a bear, full of life and energy, contrasted with his bone-made, blackish corpse. The king though that she was smiling but then he realized it was the only face she could make with missing skin on her cheeks.

He bowed and kneeled in front of her.

“My lady,” he said.

He barely could feel tiny bones on his shoulder. InÍs’ hand was so light.

Antunes, who had been for some time an advisor only in theory (just as all the other advisors; Pedro didn’t like to cooperate) was worried. He looked at the crowd and saw fear on people’s faces. If the word about their king going crazy spreads, a game of the throne will start. And Fernando was still too weak to have any chance in it.

“That’s the power of love!” Antunes walked to the front to be visible. “Our king and queen loved each other so much that even Death herself couldn’t stand in their way! The God is in our favor! The God is in favor of Portugal!”

People didn’t look very convinced, but after a while the disturbance on their faces transformed into curiosity.

“Long live the king!” Antunes started shouting. “Long live the king!”

At the beginning only few people repeated after him, but he didn’t give up. After the fifth time, the whole cathedral was chanting.

It wasn’t a perfectly smooth entrance to the new phase of Portugal’s history, but you couldn’t expect much when your queen was a rotting corpse. Nothing was going to be easy anymore.


*****



“I can’t believe it,” InÍs said. “Did she really rule Portugal? As a deceased person?”

“She was! But not so long. After few weeks, she stopped moving again. They buried her in monastery in AlcobaÁa, where she stays up till this day. Pedro joined her, too, after not so long.”

“So, she got her crown in the end,” said InÍs. “But she was the only one who didn’t rebel.”

“Well, her body rebelled against the death,” shrugged Tů. “She fought for her happiness just as ConstanÁa, Afonso and Pedro did.”

“None of them were very lucky.” InÍs shook her head.

“But they fought! If they hadn’t, nobody would remember about them today.”

“But what they did was senseless!”

“Did giving up make any sense? Remember, little princess, rebellion is not bad. You have to fight for what you desire, even if it’s just a night full of dancing and sardines. The ability to rebel is what makes us human.”

Tů looked at girl’s face only to find there, focus and suspiciousness. She probably didn’t understand much of what he tried to tell her. But maybe, just maybe… maybe the seed had been planted.

“Even when you think it’s senseless,” he finished. “Even then you need to try.”

Tů saw some movement in the corridor. People walking fast and loud were crossing the ward. The elephants on spider legs finally came for him.

He was so relieved he finished the story in time.

“That’s the end of the story. And now go and don’t come back! I’m so tired of your stupid questions.”

InÍs seemed irritated.

“Very well, I’ll go!” she said and soon after she left the ward.

While leaving, she almost bumped into some tall men in army uniforms, but she was so mad with Tů that she didn’t pay any attention to that.

4. The Disobedience of InÍs



On the way to her own ward she had to pass the nurses station. Suddenly she felt a wave of coldness; she stopped, pushed her hand against the wall and started breathing slowly, as her doctor taught her. One, two, three. And again.

“They finally got him,” InÍs heard a sister Clara’s voice. “This rascal!”

“Who?”

“Antonio Canela. You know, the rebellious one.”

InÍs felt a bit better but the fear wouldn’t let her move.

“I’ve heard all his friends refused to help him. That’s how he ended up in the hospital.”

“He had no other choice in such state… Apparently he doesn’t know how to talk to Salazar’s soldiers.”

“Stupid boy.”

InÍs frowned. Nobody is allowed to call her friend stupid!

“He could tell them everything, it didn’t matter anyway. They offered him a good name, money and a proper solid job in the barracks.”

“How do you know?”

“My nephew works in the interrogation office. All he needed to do was to tell them some names and he would get away with everything he had ever done. That is, as long as he would stop turning people against Salazar.”

“Of course.” The other woman agreed. “If it wasn’t for Salazar, there would be no Portugal. And he wants to rebel! Idiot!”

InÍs was listening until they’ve changed the subject. The moment they started talking about some other patient, the girl walked away. She should go back to her ward now, it was about time for dinner. But something was not right and InÍs, following her instincts, decided to visit Tů again.

She should teach him a lesson, right? At the beginning she would be quiet, resentful, but then maybe she would allow him to apologize and tell her another story. Next time she could hear about this duel between him and Salazar.

She walked into Tů’s ward and climbed the ladder leading to the boy’s bed.

The mattress was empty.

InÍs stared at it in surprise. How was that possible, he was here minutes ago! And how not only was he gone, but so were his things!

She saw some movement in the corner of her eye. A yellow butterfly was sitting on the mattress. Its wings were trembling.

“No,” InÍs whispered. “No, no, no.”

She left the ward as fast as she could. She saw a nurse on the corridor and stopped her.

“Sister, sister, he’s gone!” InÍs grabbed her apron.

“Who?”

“Antůnio,” she gave his full name. “But he was there a moment ago!”

“Oh, don’t worry. Mister Canela was dismissed. Maybe he’ll visit you if you’re a good girl.”

“That’s not true! I saw it, I saw a butterfly!”

The nurse lost her patience. She didn’t understand at all what was that snotty, pale girl was babbling about.

“You should calm down, it’s unhealthy to get so excited. Go to your ward now. Dinner is almost ready.”


*****



InÍs spent the whole evening in her bed, sobbing quietly. Only when night came and all the other children feel asleep, did she open her eyes. A yellow butterfly was sitting on her bed.

She sat straight. Two more butterflies were flying under the ceiling. The girl left the bed and lumbered to the window. The night was bright and warm and she could smell fried sardines in the air, the smell surely coming from Alfama. The music was playing. All that made her already miss the party so much, but when she saw the fireworks she just couldn’t stand it any longer. Who knows, maybe her parents were there, too?

What did Tů say?

You need to try. Even when you think it’s senseless.

She changed her pajamas for a short dress. She got taller recently and the fabric didn’t cover her knees anymore. Leaving the hospital also took her some time – she had to avoid all the nurses. They would take her back to her bed.

Finally, she managed to escape. She stood in the open hospital door. She was free! She could go and enjoy Saint Antůnio’s night. Tů would be so proud.

She made the first step.

The swarm of yellow butterflies followed her into the darkness.




THE END


© 2019 Kamila Modrzyńska

Bio: Kamila Modrzynska - lives a bit in Poland and a bit everywhere else, lately NC, she is sometimes a teacher and sometimes a bartender. She published various short stories in Polish magazines and is currently waiting for the premiere of her first book, young adult based on the Slavic mythology, coming in the fall.

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