3 July 1936.
I stayed glued to the window even as Mama yelled my name again. I just had to see him again_ even if it was a glimpse. My heart was beating a thousand times faster and butterflies were everywhere in my stomach. I started counting from ten. I just needed to catch a glimpse of him.
“eight- seven- six…” I muttered to myself.
“Helen! Come down now or you are going to be late for school,” mama yelled from downstairs. I could hear her climbing the stairs towards my room.
“four- three- two…” I continued stubbornly. “one…” I was about to turn away from the window when I caught a glimpse of his shiny blond hair from his partly drawn curtain. I pressed myself even closer to the window. He looked like he was searching for something. Then suddenly, he moved towards the window and pulled the curtain all the way. His gaze locked knowingly with mine. His intense blue eyes bored deeply into mine; I felt their full effect even from the space separating our houses. My heart slammed painfully against my chest as I let out a soft gasp. I immediately dropped the curtain and turned around, just in time to see mama open the door to my room.
“What’s the matter, Helen? You look flushed.”
“Nothing!” I said too quickly in an uncharacteristically high pitched tone. Mama looked like she didn’t believe me, but she shrugged and let it go. Mama instructed me to come down for breakfast to go early to school. I resisted the urge to look through my window one more time as I followed mama out of my room.
I had been by my window the very first time I saw him too. It was about a week ago, and they’d had newly moved into the house beside ours. I watched him get out of the car with a young woman_ much younger than mama. He was about my age. She had her arm around him. He’d looked too sad and detached for his age. I had been fascinated by our new neighbors and the picture they made. I wanted to make friends with him, but I was a shy person. Then I later found out that our windows were opposite each other, so I resorted to watching him from my window. I feel strangely attracted to this boy whom I didn’t know how to approach.
I had to rush my breakfast because the bus arrived in no time. I sat at my usual place at the back and tried not to dry dream about the golden-haired blue-eyed boy next door.
The door to the classroom suddenly opened, and Mr. Hop, our homeroom teacher, stopped midsentence as everyone turned to look towards the intruders. To my surprise, it was Mrs. Beecroft, the headmistress, and my neighbor. I couldn’t hold back a soft gasp of surprise. Mrs. Beecroft introduced him as Jimmy Owen, a transfer student from England. Mr. Hop asked the class to welcome our new classmate. Then, he asked Jimmy to find a seat somewhere at the back. Jimmy roamed his eyes around the room and locked his gaze with mine. His intense blue eyes never left mine as he moved towards me. His eyes looked so wise_ too wise for his age. It was like he could read every thought in my mind and my tomato-red face wasn’t helping matters. He sat quietly at the desk next to mine. I could have sworn the whole class could hear the sound of my heart slamming violently against my ribcage. We didn’t speak a word to each other. Jimmy was a quiet kid but I felt his presence more than anything the whole day.
8 July 1936.
I was breathing hard from the exertion. Climbing the butterfly hill, as I call it, wasn’t easy, but I go there every weekend anyway. It had been my private paradise ever since I discovered it. The hill is located in the woods, close to our home. It was well hidden enough that no one ever goes there. I’d discovered it by accident a few years back when I followed a peculiar looking butterfly into the woods from my home. It’d led me to the butterfly hill. When I saw the place, I became enchanted. Butterflies of different colors and shapes were flying around. It was a magical place, my special place. I come to the hill every Saturday with a basket of fruits I sneak from Mama’s kitchen and a bottle of water and blankets. Then I have a picnic with butterflies flying everywhere about me. There, I can forget my worries and pretend everything is alright in the world.
Today, most significantly, I needed the peace and ambiance of butterfly hill. For the whole week, I have had to deal with clashing emotions_ most of which are strange to me. I do not understand these new feelings for Jimmy Owen, but they are strong. Having him sitting next to me in class isn’t helping matters. We haven’t spoken more than a handful of words to each other the whole week, and that was only when necessary. I wanted to ask him to be my friend but I get tongue-tied each time I try to. He is very polite but doesn’t talk much. He generally keeps to himself and has no friends. If only….
I got to the top of butterfly hill, and to my surprise, someone was already there. On my hill…
Claire woke with a start and looked around, disoriented. She fished under the pillow for her ringing phone. She squinted at the caller ID and wondered why Mace was calling early.
“Hello?” Claire said groggily.
“Oh my God, Claire. I’m so sorry for calling so early. I know I said I wouldn’t disturb you but you have to come in,” Mace said in a rush; her usually calm voice hinted at panic.
“What is it, Mace?” Claire asked. She was awake and alert now.
“It’s Mrs. Monroe. She’s talking about changing agencies if we can’t change the venue to Renley’s park. She isn’t sure about the small church her granddaughter picked out anymore. She wants something bigger and flashier. The wedding is in a week, and you know how difficult it is to get a venue like Renley’s park without about a month’s reservation, at least. Besides, we already sorted decorations for the church and we’ll have to change everything. That’s practically impossible. I’ve been trying to explain this but Mrs. Monroe isn’t budging. Maybe you can talk some sense into her.”
Claire groaned and rubbed her eyes tiredly. No matter how much she wanted to stay in her room and bury herself in her mother’s memory, life does go on. She still had responsibilities. “I’ll be there soon, Mace. Try to hold her down for about 30 minutes,” Claire said. Mace blew a sigh of relief and dropped the call. Claire dropped her phone on the bed beside her and picked up her mother’s diary lying on her chest. She must have fallen asleep while reading. Claire smiled a little. It was endearing to have her mom describe her first crush and her feelings in such a profound and explanatory manner. She couldn’t get over the picture of a pretty little girl having a quiet picnic on a hill filled with butterflies. Claire resisted the urge to open the diary and find out who the intruder on butterfly hill was. Doing that will mean getting pulled into her mom’s world again. The present world waited, though. Claire sighed and dropped the diary decisively. She only had to deal with Mrs. Monroe and she’d get back to it soon enough.