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Butterfly Tears previously titled R
Grey hunches over in her seat swinging her legs back and forth above the floor. She’s unsure of how long it’s been since the last person went in for their trading session. In her hand she grasps the locket necklace given to her by her mother.
All of a sudden the small red light above the door frame flashes. Sloughing some dust from the front of her dark trousers, Grey hops off the chair.
The lights on the ceiling bathe Grey in their sinister yellow gleam. As she walks through the labyrinthine halls, a light above her flickers on and off. At the end of the hallway is a tall door, one that Grey has to stand on her tiptoes to reach the doorknob.
When she turns the knob, the door swings open and she stumbles through. In the center of the room is a table at which a large man with a cleanly shaven face sits. He confers with a woman on his left who wears a modest, beige dress with a collar of the same color. On her head, a red ribbon ties back her black hair that cascades over her shoulders. She nods to him, then turns and walks towards Grey.
Grey flinches but the woman ignores her and walks out the door, closing it behind her. Once the woman is gone, the man at the table finally looks at Grey. He beckons her forward with a friendly smile and loose wave of his hand.
As Grey steps closer she feels a rush of timidity, perhaps due to the circumstances for which she found herself here, or perhaps from the air of impatience that surrounds the man.
Grey approaches the table, meeting it at just below eye level. She puts her hands on the edge and pulls herself up to look.
“How old are you, pumpkin?” the man asks in a voice deeper than she had expected.
The man’s face softens as he leans closer to her. “Can you show me on your fingers, then?”
She cocks her head to the side and chews on her the nail of her index finger.
“Like this,” he says, then opens and closes his hands several times, spreading his fingers out. “I had this many years when I passed away,” he repeats the motion.
Keeping her finger in her mouth, Grey raises four of the fingers on one hand and the pinky of the other.
“Five years old?” the man says in surprise.
Grey nods and places the necklace on the table, sliding it closer to the man.
“Is this what you came to trade for, precious?” he asks, his voice sweet and encouraging.
“Mhmm,” Grey practically whispers.
He picks the necklace from the table with big, meaty hands. “Now, my dear, you know this won’t do you much good, right?”
Grey stares back at him, not fully understanding.
He confirms her suspicions. “Up there,” he points a finger to the sky, “material items, like this,” he shows her the necklace, “don’t mean anything, sweetie pie.”
Grey’s eyes, the color of blue crystals, fill with water.
The man continues, his voice growing softer and more gentle by the second as he tries to explain to her, “You’ll have everything you need up there already…” he says.
Tears begin to spill over Grey’s eyelids. “But…”
“But what, my darling?”
By now Grey’s face is damp and her eyes are red, as the tears flow ceaselessly down her pudgy cheeks. “Mommy… Mommy needs it. She needs me to trade the necklace so she can go to heaven…”
The man straightens, taken aback by the innocence of this comment. He considers Grey for a moment. Her small frame makes her looks even more vulnerable next to the vast table she stands beside. Her shoulders sag. The man contemplates the look on her face: utter misery that poisons her innocence and youth. Her sweet little face is too fresh and young and still chubby with baby fat. She has nothing left to lose except her mother’s eternal happiness.
Rising from his seat, he walks around the table. Grey notices his height for the first time. He’s impossibly tall. He passes her the necklace. “Listen, Cutie Pie, you can keep this, okay?” Grey feels his hand on her back as he guides her towards the closed door. “You’ll need it when you see your mommy.”
Grey feels herself nod. The man reaches a hand over her head to the doorknob. Before the door is fully open, a bright light greets Grey. As the door opens even more, the light envelops Grey in a warm hug and she realizes she recognizes her mother. The man’s hand is no longer on her back as Grey’s mother cradles her in her arms. Her mother clasps the necklace around Grey’s neck and carries her daughter towards eternal happiness.