She painted purple butterflies in his eyes. Every day he would wake up to her smiling face, but it existed only in his mind, compelled into being by his own wishful thinking. Drawn in bright sparks on the backs of his eyelids.
He lay in bed while his alarm screeched at him, staring at the ceiling but only seeing butterflies. The blue ones she scribbled in the margins of her notebook. The pink ones on the back of receipts and ticket stubs. The purple ones that adorned her left shoulder, that he had only caught glimpses of when it was warm enough for her to wear a tank top and they had gone out for drinks as an office in the heat of the summer. It was a rare occurrence that the thick strap would slip off her shoulder, but when it did, it upped his heart rate just the tiniest bit.
He knew it was cheesy to even think it, but in his mind he thought about how her eyes sparkled like morning dew and her thick golden blonde hair held the scent of coconut. Any time he caught the scent, it turned his head. But it wasn’t her any more.
Of course it wasn’t.
How could it be?
He’d seen the police report on the news site he checked every day on the computer in his tiny cubicle, often only reporting vaguely on events that barely even interested him. He just read it because it was something to do. Routine.
Woman Found Murdered In Home – Police Search For Suspect
He hadn’t wanted to believe it. The article had no photo but the name Rhea Harnett stuck out in his mind like the letters had come off the screen and were burning themselves permanently into his skull.
It wasn’t a common name.
When she hadn’t shown up to work, he knew for sure. It office was quiet, but the knowledge was palpable, like someone had spread it lightly over a piece of warm toast with a butter knife and it had melted slowly into an almost invisible layer, settling over them all. It lasted for longer than he cared.
That didn’t happen. Well it did, but not to people he knew. Not to people he cared about. He shivered at the idea of her death, but the sadness that oozed out of him concentrated itself into fear. Fear that those things that only happened to ‘other people’ could actually happen to him. The purple butterflies wilted to black within his brain, flapping halfheartedly and falling to the floor.
He was not immune.
And that scared him to death.