A Sign (Fiction)

09-21 Flower Butterfly

Sharon twisted in the recliner, the springs squeaking under her repositioned weight.   The steady beep of the monitor echoed in the room, same as it had before she dozed off. She stood and stretched her back before taking two steps to the bed. She brushed some strands of dark hair from her friend’s pale forehead and paused when she thought she saw Crista’s eyelids flutter. After a full minute with no response, Sharon decided it must’ve been a spasm.  Or her own wishful thinking.  Exhausted, she slumped into the chair and closed her eyes.

For nearly a month, Sharon had spent her afternoons at the hospital, tethered by worry and guilt. The surreal replay of that night ran through her mind whenever silence crept in. They had been out celebrating the night before Terry’s wedding. They had reached the first club safely. It happened on the way to the second club. The details, like much of her adult life, were fuzzy, but she remembered the commingled sounds of screams and shattering glass- and the numbing shock of the steering wheel slamming against her face. She swallowed hard, willing her lunch to not make a second appearance. Since that night, she hadn’t had even one drink; marking her longest “dry” spell since high school. Too little, too late.

“Butterfly.”

Sharon gasped and scrambled to her feet when she saw her friend’s eyes open and her arms stretched outward. She rubbed her shoulder. “I’m right here,” she whispered. She pressed the call button to summon the nurse.

Crista closed her eyes and mumbled, “I want to be flowers.”

Sharon furrowed her brow, clueless how to respond. She noticed the daisies on the table next to the bed and wondered if that’s what she spoke about. “The daisies are beautiful.”

Her arms remained outstretched, rigid.

A nurse appeared in the doorway. “Oh, this is good news,” she whispered.

She backed away from the bed to give the nurse room.   “I have no idea what she’s saying. Something about flowers and butterflies.”

Nurse Hiller smiled. “It rarely makes sense to us, but it’s a glimpse into their world.”  She massaged Crista’s arms until they relaxed on top of the white linens.

“Really?”

“Sure. She’s been in another reality for several weeks. It’ll take time for her to absorb this one.”

“Oh. I didn’t think about that.”

Several minutes later, the nurse exited the room.

Crista raised her head, eyes clouded with confusion. “Where am I?”

“The hospital.”

Her head nestled back into the propped pillows and her indecisive eyelids hovered between awake and not. “I want to go back to the field.”

Sharon hesitated. “What field?”

“With the white butterfly.”

“It sounds pretty.”

In the wordless moments that followed, Sharon grew overwhelmed with a debilitating combination of gratefulness and guilt. She felt tears coming, so she dashed toward the door, anticipating the freedom offered by the hallway.

“Terry is okay.”

“What?” She paused. Her tingling fingers rested on the knob.

“I didn’t want to leave, but she insisted I needed to be here.”

“It couldn’t have been Terry.” Sharon turned to see if Crista was out of it. She looked lucid.

“I felt her spirit. She’s watching over us.”

Sharon shook her head. “No.  Uh-uh. I don’t believe in that stuff!” Sharon slipped out the door, tears streaming down her cheeks.

“She forgives you,” Crista called out, even though Sharon’s footsteps had already faded down the corridor. She glimpsed the bouquet of daisies on the table, almost close enough to touch. A smile tugged at her lips when she caught sight of the white butterfly resting on the petals.  An unobtrusive, yet obvious sign.

“It’s going to be okay,” she whispered.

~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-~~~-

Inspiration: I found this photo, which I took last year around this time. This is the only white butterfly I’ve seen, but maybe they are quite common. I’m fascinated by the unexplained, and this story was most likely colored by the TV playing in the background. My mother-in-law seems to have an addiction to TLC and for hours, I heard “Long Island Medium” and “Angels Among Us” playing in the background, although I was catching up on blog reading and not actively watching the TV 🙂

I’d like to think we could all recognize the “sign” that would free us from self-torment and allow us to forgive our wrongs.

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34 thoughts on “A Sign (Fiction)

  1. shirleyjdietz September 24, 2014 / 4:48 AM

    We can’t see it so it’s not real. Yep, that works. Beautiful pic.

    • jannatwrites September 24, 2014 / 10:12 PM

      Yeah, so often we have to see to believe, but sometimes I think we need to rely on trust and faith. Thanks for reading, Shirley!

  2. nrhatch September 24, 2014 / 5:50 AM

    Well told tale, Janna.

    Especially how you let us know who was driving the car: “the numbing shock of the steering wheel slamming against her face.”

    • jannatwrites September 24, 2014 / 10:14 PM

      Thanks, Nancy! I’m glad you noticed that part… I added that on later edits when I realized I hadn’t included that info even though in my mind, I knew she drove 🙂

  3. suzicate September 24, 2014 / 5:55 AM

    Details and emotion…well written. Love this one.

    • jannatwrites September 24, 2014 / 10:14 PM

      Thanks, Suzicate! I appreciate you reading it 🙂

  4. Imelda September 24, 2014 / 9:44 AM

    First, I wish to say that your picture is pretty. That white on white makes it magical.

    Second, your story is well written, as if that is a surprise. The details you wrote it enriched the story.

    • jannatwrites September 24, 2014 / 10:15 PM

      Your photos are amazing, so it makes me happy that you liked this photo, Imelda. I appreciate you taking time to read the story!

    • jannatwrites September 24, 2014 / 10:16 PM

      I appreciate the compliment, Susan! I do hope I’m improving (that’s a nice side-effect of writing often, I guess 🙂 )

  5. joannesisco September 24, 2014 / 5:52 PM

    A heart-wrenching story which you’ve told so very well.

    • jannatwrites September 24, 2014 / 10:16 PM

      Thanks, Joanne – I’m glad you stopped by to read the story 🙂

  6. Emilio Pasquale September 24, 2014 / 10:27 PM

    Perfect! Under written, subtle, never a feeling of having to explain. I, too, liked the detail of the steering wheel slamming into her face. Editing in my mind I thought you might have done without that detail- she’s already feeling guilty and hasn’t had a drink since- but that might have been too subtle. Now this story I could have easily illustrated.

    • jannatwrites September 24, 2014 / 10:57 PM

      I appreciate your thoughtful comment, Emilio! Maybe the steering wheel part wasn’t needed, but I just wanted her guilt to be understood by readers. Without the steering wheel line, she could’ve felt guilty for suggesting they go to the second club, or for ordering the last round of drinks- which is a more tenuous guilt thread. I just might be over-thinking this 🙂

      Of course, this is one you could’ve illustrated (since I didn’t think to send it to you as an option, haha!)

      • Emilio Pasquale October 2, 2014 / 12:24 PM

        I missed this follow up comment to my comment so now I’m following up with another comment. In my off handed way I was saying it was good to keep the steering wheel bit. It would have been too subtle without it. Don’t try to second guess yourself or me! If anything, that’s what I’ve recently learned. I was raked over the coals (I feel) for a comment I made to someone and they criticized me and my photography and it was very traumatic. For a day. Then I decided I’m the only one who really matters when I’m creating. I have to do what is right for me. And you have to do what’s right for you. Then you have to sit back and hope your “audience” gets what you are trying to do. OK, now I’m stepping down from my soap box. On second thought, don’t sit back. Just write some more!!!

        • jannatwrites October 2, 2014 / 11:24 PM

          I couldn’t stop second (or third or fourth) guessing myself, Emilio! Art (both photography and writing) are subjective, so it’s bound to happen that not everyone will appreciate it. As much as we’d want everyone to “love” it, that’s rare. I’m not sure of the details of the comment you received, but ones that are unduly harsh do baffle me. Me? If I don’t ‘get’ something, I look for something positive about it that I can comment on…if I can’t think of that, I refrain from commenting (I take ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all’ to heart.) I hope to do some writing this weekend… so far, no scary ideas though. That’s scary 🙂

  7. diannegray September 25, 2014 / 2:39 PM

    Beautifully written, Jana. There’s so much emotion in this piece and I love the picture, it suits very well 🙂

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 9:59 PM

      Thanks, Dianne! I had that photo for a while just waiting for something that would fit- glad you see it, too 🙂

  8. judithhb September 25, 2014 / 10:04 PM

    Your words do tell the whole story Jana and just as Nancy says you managed to convey who was driving without actually saying so. Thanks. Beautifully written.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:00 PM

      I appreciate you reading, Judith! I’m glad you stopped by.

  9. Leigh W. Smith September 26, 2014 / 6:12 PM

    Beautiful story and photo, Janna! You do amazing things, I’ve noticed, with women’s dialogue and interactions. {I’m trying to “branch out” and do more male characters, and it’s tough.} Anyway, so very sad — and uplifting at the same time. Thank you for sharing these backstories/personal stories alongside your fiction, too.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:02 PM

      I probably should branch out more. Most stories I come up with seem to fit a woman’s POV, although I have done some male and children’s POV. I’m glad you like the inspiration notes, Leigh 🙂

      • Leigh W. Smith October 1, 2014 / 6:25 AM

        Only if you feel a pressing need to do so, Hey, when you’re an expert at something, why not flaunt it as often as possible (though I know you’re humble!)?! 😉

        • jannatwrites October 2, 2014 / 9:23 PM

          I’m not an expert at anything I can think of, Leigh! And I think it’s always a good idea to try something new.

        • Leigh W. Smith October 4, 2014 / 10:24 AM

          Not an expert . . . P’shaw! Modest, just as I’d expected! 😉 Have a great weekend; wishing you, as I steal Sting’s lyrics, “heavy cloud, no rain”!

        • jannatwrites October 5, 2014 / 2:30 AM

          Aw, thanks, Leigh! My weekend has been a good one so far… just one day left, which I intend to enjoy going to church, bike riding with the kids and maybe watching a movie with them on Netflix 🙂

  10. raalbertarts September 28, 2014 / 2:57 PM

    Beautifully written. The unexplained aside, there is nothing unexplained about the possible results of drinking and driving, a point that you illustrate powerfully. The wreckage to everyone involved is a sad reminder that we should all take to heart. Thanks

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:04 PM

      Drinking and driving is senseless and I don’t have tolerance for it. Accidents happen, yes, but drinking and driving isn’t an accident to me. I’m glad you stopped by to read the story, Raalbertarts!

  11. pattisj September 28, 2014 / 11:59 PM

    Love the photo, and the story it inspired.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:05 PM

      I appreciate you reading it, Patti!

  12. Lance September 29, 2014 / 7:16 AM

    Love the dialogue. Well done.

    • jannatwrites September 30, 2014 / 10:06 PM

      Thanks, Lance! I’m glad you stopped by to read it 🙂

  13. Sarah Ann October 1, 2014 / 12:37 PM

    Beautiful photo. The line, “The details, like much of her adult life, were fuzzy,…” was so telling, suggesting what we might expect. And I love the explanation of where this might have come from – those things overheard but not actively listened to. I hope Sharon find a way to accept Terry’s blessing.

    • jannatwrites October 2, 2014 / 10:56 PM

      I’m glad you liked the inspiration – sometimes things seem into our minds without us realizing it, I think. I like to think Sharon will come around… I can’t think of much worse than carrying a burden that doesn’t need to be carried. Thanks for reading and sharing your comment, Sarah Ann!

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