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.
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.
“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?”
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.