Sunday, 4 January 2009

SHORT STORY: Caroline's butterflies (Prt 3)

Dear reader... I confess that in writing this final part to 'Caroline’s butterflies' I get a sense that this story is itching to be a greater narrative – possibly a novel (as some, including my hubby, have suggested). Lots of characters that want to speak and have their motivations explored (lol). But in the meantime, here’s part 3 of its presentation as a short story. Hope you enjoy the read & as always I value all your comments.
[For part 1 & 2 please scroll down. Thanks.]

The crumpled bit of paper flutters to the floor, and comes to a rest underneath her desk. Caroline hesitates, picks it up. It reads: ‘We’ve got something of yours. Want it back? Meet us at Monks cave. After school.’ Caroline swivels round to the author; sitting two rows behind: Beth – pretty, popular, perfect. Beth smiles sweetly, and Caroline’s cheeks redden as she pulls away from her gaze. Madame Murielle stops in mid-flow: ‘Qu'est-ce que c'est, Caroline?’ Her lips tightly drawn, irritated by the interruption. ‘It’s nothing, Madame,’ Caroline mutters, hiding the note under her exercise book. Madame Murielle’s pinched brow gives away that she is not convinced, but with a little cough, she moves on and begins to scribble on the board.

Something tells Caroline it is a trick. But she is curious. If they have something that belongs to her – she wants it back. ‘I’m not afraid of them,’ she mumbles, making her way up the familiar path that leads to the cave. A hint of pink begins to spread across the horizon, brightening up the sullen skies. On approach: she stumbles over an overgrown bush; then a few paces later, over a rock – tumbling and scraping a knee. ‘Wrong shoes, wrong clothes,’ she scolds herself, ‘I should have gone home to change.’ She picks herself up, and waves off a stubborn wasp humming around her. As she wipes the trickle of blood, she notices a tear in the hemline of her yellow dress. ‘Mum’s not going to be happy,’ she sighs.

At first she sees no one. Then she hears Beth’s call: ‘Come on, Caroline... we’ve been waiting.’ She enters the cave. The damp hugging the limestone assaults her senses. She blinks momentarily while she adjusts to the dim enclosure. Its darkness illuminated only by the glow of six torch lights. She takes several steps forward, and slips on a slippery stone. The laughter that follows is cutting and hideous. Caroline trembles when she finds herself inside their circle. Their shadowy silhouettes loom large as they hem her in. Like a butterfly trapped in a bottle. Thankful for the darkness concealing her fear, she says: ‘What do you want?’ Her tone is calm and steely. Beth is the first to speak again, moving in closer until they stand nose-to-nose. ‘We want to be your friend, Caterpillar Caroline,’ she sniggers. Her angelic face – fuelled by her venom – contorts into a demonic caricature. The others join in: a chorus of sneers and taunts. Then: someone hurls a bucket of biting insects all over her. She can’t tell who. More laughter. More scoffs. Ignoring the prickling sensation on her skin – Caroline runs.

They are not far behind; hunting her like a wild deer. Uphill: she runs. The clearing has closed in with stretches of thick trees. Through the green and brown, her feet wind up a steep slope. They: continue to chase the blur of yellow in the distance. Their taunts soar louder and louder; echoes ringing in her head. She reaches another clearing – leading to a ledge overlooking a lake – and stops. She has run as far as she can. For a second time: she is cornered. Gasping, sweating – she waits for them.
‘What are you going to do now, Moth Girl?’ Kayla asks. She is the second in command, the tallest of the six.
‘Leave me alone...’ Caroline shouts.
‘What are you going to do now?’ They edge towards her. One pushes her, and she loses her balance.
‘Leave me alone...’ she says again, scrambling on all fours, before getting up. The tears are welling up, blinding her. In front of her: six pairs of vultures eyes. Behind her: a sharp drop into the lake below.
‘What are you going to do, Caterpillar Caroline?’ they cry in unison. ‘What are you going to do, Caterpillar Caroline?’ They charge at her, lurch forward with the energy of a bull to a red rag.
‘What are you going to do, Caroline?’ an inner voice asks.
‘I’m going to fly...’

Caroline’s body was found floating in the shallow river – a broken butterfly. ‘She slipped and fell’... ‘It was an accident’... the six girls said when questioned by the police. Everyone believed them. After all: they were only kids. No one thought it could be anything more sinister. Their innocence never doubted.

By Catherine Mark-Beasant


lissa said...

I also think this could become a novel with all the various perspectives, I thought perhaps this third installment was going to be in Caroline's first person perspective but this works also

poor Caroline, even though she had a fatal end, I like her last words, ‘I’m going to fly...’ and her bravely, I still wonder how those six girls' intention, makes me think how more cruel children can be

CathM said...

@Lissa: Thanks for your thoughts on the story.

Yes – I did toy with the idea of writing part 3 in Caroline’s POV – however, I felt that her POV was bigger than the scope of the short story. What I mean by this is – in terms of time-lines i.e. bringing in the past and the events leading up to the point of her death (which I believe her POV would want to tell) – it felt that the short story genre posed limitation in terms of: space/word count/etc. This informed my decision to go with the omniscient POV to bring the narrative to a conclusion (in the package of a short story). Indeed, should this develop into a novel – I sense it is Caroline’s POV that would carry the story – pulling together all the links/making the connections between the parallel narratives of the other characters.

p.s. re cruelty of children (not all, but some) - I see it everyday at school and on the streets of Birmingham (UK).

June Saville said...

There are many powerful themes here and it would be great fun to develop them:
A lost sibling, the effects of a suicide on the family remaining, bullying.
I like the butterflies too.
Take your time, but I'd love to see the result of this project one day.
June in Oz

Mariamellie said...

Hi Catherine,

Thanks for stopping by my blog and left your footstep there :-)

Though I haven't finished reading your writings, but I can feel that it is full of energy and creativity, as well as freedom of thought.

keep in touch!

DJ Rogue said...

A wonderful story Cath! I thoroughly enjoyed it. And yes, I do hope it becomes a novel. :)

Lilly's Life said...

Definitely a novel. Wouldnt we all love to fly...without quite the same ending. You write beautifully. And butteflies I simply love. When are you moving to Oz? I recall you saying you were.

CathM said...

@June: Thanks for seeing the layers of themes and potential in this one!

@Mariamellie: Thanks for visiting and commenting. I hope you pop in again soon!

@D.J. Rogue: Thanks for your ‘thumbs up’ for the story:)

@Lilly: I do value your positive comment on my writing. Thank you! p.s. re relocating to Oz – should be in the next 2 or 3 months. I’ll definitely keep you posted:)

English Hopeful said...

I really enjoyed reading this short story. I agree, I think that this could be turned into a novel, however, I think that the short story is very well written and I am satisfied when I am finished reading it. I would be careful adding to the story, because you may lose the strong pull that the story already holds for its readers. Either way, great job!

Sarah said...

your blog is such a great little find! thank you, by the way, for stopping by mine to read my poetry. i've decided to just run one blog and it is ---- it will just be easier for me to keep up. anyway, i hope i can add you to my main site!!! :)

have a nice tuesday! keep writing. :)

Ponderer said...

Cath, this kept me chairbound til the end. The postcard with the butterflies, 1 surrounded by 6, as if she was trying to tell her sister what really happened; the butterfly that fluttered throughout. Her parting words, very sad but in a sense I think she may be at peace. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, Cheryl

CathM said...

@Silke: Thanks for visiting my blog and reading this short story. I appreciate your positive comments especially where you write: ‘I am satisfied when I am finished reading it...’ because as a writer it is very important that the reader leaves the narrative satisfied.

@Sarah: Thank you for your generous comment that my blog is a ‘great little find’ (smile)! I look forward to staying connected with you and your blog!

@Cheryl: Thanks so much for taking the time to read: Caroline’s butterflies! I really appreciate your heart-felt response(s) to the story and I’m glad you enjoyed it!

rebecca said...

Wow! I expected her to jump into the lake, but thought she might have survived. The ending was surprising....and good. Reminds me of The Lord of the Flies in all it's lack of children can be pulled by the dark forces of human nature.

Cynthia said...

Wow. wow. I'm certainly depressed
now. Very good writing and dialogue
though. Too bad Caroline could not
have triumphed over those girls,
I think she could have.

CathM said...

@Rebecca: WELCOME to my blog!!!Thanks for your comment. In a future draft (or novel) I would want to make more of the mystery of whether she is pushed, possibly slips or she actually jumps – make it more ambiguous. Because I would then look to use the mystery/ambiguity to unearth the motives of the six girls, and unravelling how they react to Caroline’s death – and, discuss their culpability – in whatever scenario. For example, even if she did jump – their bullying pre-empted/led to her decision ‘to fly’. So, lots to untangle when I take this short story forward (smile)!

@Cynthia: Thanks for your response! OoohH... I don’t want you to be depressed (smile), perhaps challenged by the piece and the issues it raises. Re your comment: “Too bad Caroline could not have triumphed over those girls,I think she could have.” Perhaps, she did/does triumph (in many ways) - in that her death leads to change that needs to happen in people’s hearts and minds (e.g. the six bullies and her family), and even the wider community (although, of course - this would be explored in a longer piece/or novel project). As Walter Scott put it: “Death - the last sleep? No, it is the final awakening.” Or, as I like to think of it: ‘the final enlightenment’! Meister Eckhart puts it this way: “Only those who have dared to let go can dare to re-enter.”

CathM said...

@Cherie: Thanks for visiting and for linking onto my blog as a 'comrade' (smile). You are very welcome!!!

Maithri said...

Dear Cath,

This is really poignant and beautiful writing...This definitely has the makings of a great novel...

You have a wonderful way of taking your readers on a journey....

You left me breathless ;)

I loved her powerful statement "I'm going to fly"

May the power of the butterfly, the power of transformative love
be yours this day and always,

With love, Maithri