Thursday, 21 May 2015

I'd be a Butterfly

The diminutive new Queen of the Butterflies ascended to the pageant throne to have the borough's Royal Butterfly seal placed on her head by the strikingly slim parish vicar. The seated audience murmured with approval as the crown wobbled on her flaxen hair and she was presented with the regal sceptre : a thin wooden stick topped with a rather large hand-carved butterfly.
Oh, what a beauty!” whispered retired Mrs Wilmslow to her neighbour Mrs Johnson, the proprietress of the village's only florist, “Such an improvement on last year's – that girl was a monstrosity! You couldn't have compared her to a rose, a summer's day, or an oil painting, and to think...”
Mrs Johnson loudly tutted and swiftly brought an index finger to her pursed lips. Mrs Wilmslow, in full opinionated flow, was most put out; she crossly fidgeted and turned to her other neighbour Mrs Harrington, the village gossip.
Isabel Morris looked on at the proceedings, thankful that the mild weather had held and that last year's fiasco was forgotten: it had rained and the strong winds had blown the refreshment tent over; the food had been ruined and the old cowshed had been a poor substitute for the play and coronation. It had been a very testing, haphazard day, and not something she or her husband, Edward wanted to repeat.
They hadn't realised when Edward's uncle left the property to them ten years ago that they'd be obliged to continue the tradition. They had initially hoped it would end with the deceased as the will hadn't made it a condition, but Mrs Harrington hearing a rumour had taken it upon herself to mount a petition to prevent this from becoming fact. And so every year the garden was opened to the public and the pageant reigned without a gap.
And as usual, in the history of its staging, the village's amateur dramatic society had missed their cues and fluffed their lines, despite being very obviously prompted by Mrs Bone, the butcher's wife, who crouched behind the money bush, whilst the girl chosen to be this year's Queen of the Butterflies had been hidden from sight until the appointed hour.
Isabel had mused on this girl as the audience had tittered at the play: an ambitious modernised version of Shakespeare's Twelfth Night , publicised under its other lesser known name: What You Will. Betsy Fisher was in the throes of being transformed from a pretty girl to an even prettier boy in order to serve a rich squire, and red-faced old Ned Smith was awkwardly helping her into the manly attire. The audience had shook like wind-blown trees and tinkled like church bells, but Isabel, although she heard their reaction, had been concerned about the main attraction: she couldn't place the village in that girl and feared snubs from their regular benefactors.
Clarissa, she'd said her name was, just Clarissa. Pale of skin, eyes and crinkled hair, standing there in her own vivid costume: a huge hooped multi-coloured layered skirt, a tight gold bodice and puffed sleeves, the arms of which were attached to two baby blue tulle wings on a wire frame. She'd picked up her silky skirts and swung herself over the threshold, before following Isabel with tottering steps to the dining room: the only room in the crumbling house with folding double doors that would admit her skirts and all. She'd immediately accepted some bread and jam and a glass of still lemonade, whereas others before had cheerily responded: “I couldn't possibly Mrs M.” It didn't seem right that she should so willingly partake of some refreshment, but then she'd arrived already clothed and besides she couldn't very well sit down.
And now here she stood, in her normal viewing spot, scrutinising this Queen being crowned, except for the first time in ten years the thought appeared: Reborn, I'd be a butterfly, but which would I be...? A Brimstone, a Comma, a Speckled Wood or a Painted Lady?

*Picture Credit: The Queen of the Butterflies, Salvadore Dali
**A tale inspired by Between the Acts by Virginia Woolf