Beverly wouldn’t have been nowhere near tempted to head for the butterfly if she’d known what was going to happen. If she’d had any idea, she would have stayed indoors where it was safe rather than slowly opening the patio door so that she could run barefoot towards the shrubbery at the bottom left of the garden. She wouldn’t have waved to the bumblebees as she passed them, smelled the flowers that she trailed her hand through in passing, and wouldn’t have come to the fence on which the most beautiful, butterfly was trembling, and over which the man was watching her.
She didn’t see him at first, intent as she was on the butterfly, but as soon as she did, she knew that he was a stranger and she remembered the words her mother had drilled into her: stranger danger!
‘Hiya, what’s your name? Mine’s Chris,’ said the stranger as soon as he’d seen that she’d noticed him.
‘Ag, no.’ Beverly’s eyes had become panic-wide and the word danger was blaring so loud inside her mind that it left no room for anything other than monosyllables to make it to her mouth.
The man could see whites all around her blue irises. A pretty effect, he mentally noted, but she’s a fawn about to run. Slow her down. Gain her trust. Say something funny. He smiled and opened his mouth to speak but before he could do so, he heard a voice behind him.
‘Chris, what’re you doing up there? Come in the house and help me move these boxes upstairs.’
‘Hey, sweetie. He pushed himself away from the fence and, still holding on with both hands, turned. ‘I’m just meeting our neighbours; come say hi.’
The woman smiled and walked towards the fence with an expectant look on her face. She knew, from experience, that moving into a new neighbourhood was tough and so they both tried to get to know the people in the houses around them as quick as possible.
Chris let of the fence with one hand and held it out to his wife, who took it and jumped lightly up to join him on the bench he was stood on. They both then peered over the fence that let on to the neighbour’s garden.
But, in the few seconds that had elapsed, the woman in the cornflower-blue dress was gone and the only things they could see moving were a butterfly heading for the azaleas and the curtain behind the closed patio door swaying as if a breeze were playing across it inside their neighbour’s house.
Behind that curtain, sat Beverly, head down, rigid with fright. Her play date with the butterfly was over. She squeezed her eyes shut, but not in time to stop a single tear from escaping and plopping onto her cornflower-blue dress.