The first time I saw the butterfly, I was sitting on the little balcony of my hotel suite, reading the latest issue of Motor Trend Magazine. Watching the butterfly land on the wooden railing, I couldn’t help but stare; not only was it all white like a moth, it had to be as large as a monarch butterfly, if not larger. But that was crazy, I thought! Moths don’t grow that big, do they?
It just stood on the railing, its delicate white wings slowly fanning themselves open and close. “Where did you come from?” I said to the butterfly. It just stared at me, which was why, for a fraction of a second, I thought it understood what I was saying. Of course, that was ridiculous.
Suddenly, it lifted off the railing then fluttered down to somewhere below my balcony. That’s when I decided to get up and go down to the hotel’s restaurant and have some more coffee. It was ten O’clock in the morning. Yeah, I could have made coffee in my suite, but I wanted to relax outside and just sit and gaze at the harbor, and watched the yachts and sailboats as they calmly listed back and forth in their slips. Unfortunately, my balcony was on the other side of the building and faced the parking lot.
Taking the elevator to the first floor, I passed on the way to the restaurant, the conference room where my mother, who was seventy-two, was attending a writer’s conference. Why she thought she could write a children’s book now was beyond me, but I promised I’d drive her to the conference. And because it was to be a two day affair, we got ourselves a small suite.
In the restaurant, I paid for a large coffee and a warmed up croissant, both of which I took outside to one of the tables overlooking the harbor. There I sat with my coffee and snack while watching the boats as well as the tourists do their thing.
About five minutes later, I noticed movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked up, I saw the butterfly again. At least I assumed it was the same one. Amused, I laughed and said in a quiet voice, “Are you following me?” To my utter astonishment, the butterfly came to a gentle landing on the opposite edge of my table, where it stayed just kind of looking at me.
Before I could think of what to say or do, I heard a female voice behind me ask, “Did you train it to do that?”
When I turned around, I found myself facing a young-looking waitress from the hotel. She had short blonde hair, hazel eyes and was holding a rag in one hand, which I assumed she was using to clean off the various outdoor tables.
“Not exactly,” I said to her. “I think it just followed me here.” I saw her confused look, so I explained, “I first saw it upstairs while I was sitting on my balcony. Then when I came down here, it just showed up.” I glanced back at the butterfly and saw that it hadn’t moved yet. I turned back to the waitress, “That’s why I think it’s following me.”
While still holding her rag, she came over and stood next to me. I could feel the heat from her body and smell her perfume—at least I think it was her perfume; it kind of smelled like cinnamon. Her arrival must have scared the butterfly, because when I looked back, I saw it had already leaped into the air and was fluttering towards the table she had just left. It landed, this time, on the edge of the table’s umbrella. Once again it remained facing us both.
“I’d swear it knows what I’m saying,” I said to her, as she came around and sat in the chair opposite me. From her looks, I guessed she was probably somewhere between five and ten years younger than me, but pretty cute-looking.
“You think so?” she asked.
I looked at the butterfly again. “I know this sounds stupid, but the way it keeps looking at me makes me think it understands human speech.”
“You sound like one of the writers inside talking about his or her next Sci-Fi novel; are you here for the conference, too?”
I turned to face her. “No, but my mother is. She made me drive her.”
“Why, how old is your mother?”
“Seventy-two.” I shook my head. “Why she wants to try and write now, I have no idea.”
The young waitress produced a huge smile. “Why not; I have an uncle who didn’t start writing until he was in his fifties. He has three books published already.”
“Hmm . . . Would his name sound familiar?”
She shook her head. “I doubt it. He writes under the pseudonym Clair Gains.”
“Because all his books are love stories told by women.”
Just then, another waitress leaned out of the glass doors to the restaurant. “Hey, Sally, they want you inside. We have to get ready for the writers’ luncheon.”
I turned back to Sally and said, “You’d better go.”
Smiling, she got up. “Maybe I’ll see you later,” she said, then hurried off to join her colleague. Feeling a little sad by her departure, I turned toward the butterfly. It was nowhere in sight. For some reason, this made me feel even sadder . . . but not for long.
After I finished my coffee and snack, I left the restaurant area and started walking parallel to the harbor toward where I was told there was a small interior mall of tiny shops selling all kinds of nautical souvenirs. I thought I’d see if any of them sold snow globes. I’ve always liked snow globes ever since I was a kid. To my disappointment, I didn’t find any, not even one depicting Wilson’s Harbor, which was where the conference was being held.
Having not found anything that really interested me, I left the shops and started walking back toward the hotel. About halfway there, I spotted the butterfly. It seemed to be paralleling my progress, while staying in the air a little above and several feet in front of me.
“You really are following me, aren’t you?” I mumbled more to myself than to the butterfly. And that’s when the thought came to me. It was prompted by the memory of a movie I had seen several years earlier. The movie was called Dragonfly and stared Kevin Costner. It was about a grieving doctor whose physician wife had disappeared in the South American jungles where she had gone to help the natives. She was presumed dead until suddenly, one of her former patients, a child, starts talking about a symbol he saw while experiencing a near death experience. This, and other appearances by the symbol, prompts Costner’s character to think that maybe his wife was still alive.
Except in my case, I knew my ex-wife was not alive. I had watched her die from cancer, then felt my heart shatter as her casket was being lowered into the ground. Still, the thought that there might be some kind of connection between my wife and the butterfly kept rattling around inside my skull like a lose nut and bolt.
I continued to walk until I reached the stairs next to the restaurant, at which point, the butterfly suddenly flew up and out of sight. This didn’t help my mood any.
After taking the stairs, which led from the boardwalk area up to the parking lot in front of the hotel, I went inside and took the elevator up to my floor. All the way, I kept thinking about both the butterfly and the waitress. For some reason, I found myself wanting to get to know her, which surprised the hell out of me, because ever since my wife’s death three years earlier, I had not found myself wanting to date anyone.
God, I hope she’s not married, I thought as I opened the door to my suite—and stopped short. Fluttering just outside the glass door to the balcony was the butterfly.
“How in the hell did you know which room was mine?” I said out loud to myself, forgetting for a moment that it had already hovered near my balcony.
Once again, my mind conjured up the image of the butterfly and the spirit of my ex-wife being one in the same. That’s why I practically ran toward the glass door and shoved it aside. But I moved too quickly and scared the heck out of the thing, which practically shot up into the empty sky and flew out of sight.
Later, after taking a long nap, I got up and headed down to the hotel’s bar. Secretly, I was hoping I’d run into Sally again. To my delight, I was not disappointed. While sitting at one of the tables nursing a drink, I heard a female voice say, “I was hoping I’d run into you.”
I’ll have to admit, she threw me off balance for a second. That was something the man usually says, not the female, but I recovered right away and asked her if she wanted a drink?
She turned her head slightly, as if she was thinking. “You know what I’d really like is an ice cream. There’s a shop just a little ways down the boardwalk.”
“Works for me,” I said, my enthusiasm soaring.
As soon as we started walking, the first question I asked was what flavor did she like?
“Mostly I’m fond of praline cream,” she replied. “And yours?”
“I’ve always been partial to flake mint ice cream. When I was much younger, I used to love to put it on blueberry pie.”
“I don’t know . . . The two flavors seem to complement each other in some way.”
We went a little further when suddenly, she pointed toward the sky. “Hey, there’s your friend again!”
For a second or two, I wasn’t sure what she meant until I looked up and saw the butterfly fluttering in the air nearby. I felt a thrill rush through me. “Now do you believe me when I say I think it’s following me?”
She nodded, “Looks that way.” Suddenly she stopped and turned towards me. “But why do you think it’s following you?”
I was trying to think of a good explanation that wouldn’t freak her out, but I couldn’t, so I said, “I could give you a reason, but if I do, you’re going to think I’m completely nuts, and won’t want to be anywhere near me.”
Her hazel eyes stared into mine and she replied, “Try me anyway.”
I took a deep breath and replied, “The reason I think it’s follow me is because I think it’s the spirit of my dead wife reincarnated.”
Even though her expression remained neutral, I was expecting some kind of explosion of disbelief. Instead, she surprised me by asking, “How did she die?”
Hesitating a moment, I replied, “She died from cancer three years ago.” I saw a moment of sadness pass over her face, but before she could say anything else, I asked, “What about you; are you married?”
She lowered her eyes and smiled, “Not anymore.” That made me feel a little bit better.
“So what happened?” I asked as we began to walk again.
“He left before my son, Jason, was born.”
So she had a son. That should have triggered a flight response in me, but to my surprise, I decided I wanted to meet him. “How old is your son?” I asked.
“So who watches him while you’re at work?”
“My sister; she lives next door to me.”
“Doesn’t she have to work, too?”
Once again, she looked down and smiled. “Not really. Her husband is in banking. He made several investments that paid off really well. They’re helping me pay for the house that I’m renting.”
“What about you?” she asked, as we arrived at the small but well-stocked ice cream shop, “what do you do?”
For a moment, I felt slightly embarrassed. “I’m in car sales.” When she didn’t react one way or another, I added quickly, “If you ever need a new car, I can probably get you an employee discount.”
She smiled. “That’s okay; I like what I’m driving now.”
I nodded and then we ordered our ice creams. Taking our treats over to one of the benches that bordered the cement boardwalk, we sat and began to enjoy our desserts. After a couple of minutes, the butterfly showed up again, landing on the metal railing that separated the boardwalk area from the harbor. I didn’t know about Sally, but I was absolutely stunned. Suddenly, she asked me, “What was your wife’s name?”
I glanced at her. “Kathy. Why?”
She leaned toward the butterfly and said in a low voice, “Kathy, are you happy that your husband and I met?”
Astonished, I turned and stared at her. “Now you sound almost as crazy as me.”
“Yeah, but you have to admit this whole thing with the butterfly is pretty weird.”
“I’ll agree to that.”
I turned back to look at the butterfly which, at that moment, decided to leap off the railing and come fluttering directly at us. Both of us ducked then turned and watched as it continued to fly up into the sky, becoming a tiny white dot, then disappearing all together. With it gone, I found myself feeling both thrilled and sad at the same time.
I turned towards Sally. “I don’t know about the butterfly, but I’m sure glad we met.”
“So am I.”
We never saw the butterfly again, but that was okay because I had Sally. Later I introduced her to my mom. Then the next day, while my mother was attending the second half of the conference, Sally and I had brunch together. Afterwards, she brought me to her neighborhood where I met her son, Jason, as well as her sister and the sister’s husband, whom I recognized as one of my former clients. We all got along great, which was one of the reasons I continued to see Sally for the next two years. At the end of that time, I asked her to marry me.
We kept the service very small and intimate. We almost had to; no one was going to take what we did very seriously otherwise. For instead of having a traditional service, we kept it whimsical by having every member of the wedding party, including the guys, wear a set of fake butterfly wings. After the ceremonial kiss, both Sally and I looked up towards the heavens and said together, “Thank you, Kathy for bringing us together.”
In my heart, I knew she heard us.