Login   Sign Up 


Plight of the Butterfly

by McAllerton 

Posted: 18 June 2011
Word Count: 943
Summary: First draft of story with time-shifting, need to know if the structure works.

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Robert turns his head towards the open bedroom door. Under the corpse, on the bed the dark stain spreads across the sheet. He looks down at the blood-darkened kitchen knife he holds in his hand.
“I’m not sorry,” she says. She doesn’t look at him. He sees the front door of the apartment close behind her.
She sat down opposite him late one night at a table outside a pub, her clothes white and gold and black. Shades of blonde hair radiated away from her face shrinking her features into a miniature portrait. Her make-up was extravagant and around her eyes were dotted tiny jewel-like sequins, as if applied by a jeweller with tweezers and an eye glass. She settled like a delicate exotic butterfly and out of her small gold handbag she took a metal tool. Somewhere between scissors and surgical clamps, she applied it to her eyelashes and primped. When the job was done to her satisfaction, she looked at Robert, put her hand on his under the table and said “Verity”.
“I’m still waiting for your answer Robert. I need to know if I can count on you. Come over.” The phone goes dead.
Later in bed while her legs pulled him into her, his faced pressed into hair that crackled and the sequins scratched his chest before they came loose and scattered on the sheets.
She whispers low and urgent, “He’s here. He’s in the bed. He threatened me again. I knew you were coming so I let him in. He threatened to hurt me if I didn’t sleep with him. He’s in there now. You have to do something Robert. Go in there.” She backs away and holds her hands in fists under her chin.
He didn’t remember giving her his number but she’d phoned him two days later.
“It’s me, Verity. From the other night. Come over this evening.”
At her apartment she offered him beer and settled opposite on the sofa with her legs tucked up under her. Her appearance was more subdued but she still looked brittle to the touch.
“You’re tall,” she said. “That’s what I liked when I saw you.”
She was tiny folded up on the sofa.
“How tall are you?”
“Six four”, Robert smiled at the frequent question. “And a half.” But she didn’t smile back.
She glanced at her watch.
“I’d been watching you for a while before I came over the other night. I had a good time Robert”. She rose and walked into the bedroom, leaving the door open behind her.
She looks out at him from behind the make-up, scared and fragile.
“Will you help me Robert?”
He crosses the room to the bedroom door.
On the rumpled sheet he sees a naked man lying face down on the bed.
That was how it went. She phoned, he’d go over, they went to bed. Sometimes during the night he tried to hold her but she made herself so small he would lose her in the bedclothes.
“I’ll call you”, she’d say as he left in the morning.
On the third or fourth night like this he was woken by sobs rippling the bed. He found her curled up in the dark.
“Hey what’s the matter?”
She drew a breath.
“Verity?” he stroked her hair. She bunched herself tighter in the bedclothes.
“Go to sleep, leave it.”
He reached for the bedside light and switched it on.
“No, turn it off,” she said.
“Tell me, you sound so upset.”
He switched off the light and stroked her hair again. This time she didn’t flinch.
“You haven’t told me anything about yourself Verity. I like you, what’s the matter? Maybe I can help.”
Robert lay there in the dark, his hand resting on her head. Her back was still turned to him beneath the bedclothes.
“You make me feel safe Robert,” she said. “I like being with you. Let’s just keep it like this. Go to sleep.”
The man’s face is turned towards him. His open eyes tell Robert he does not need to look for a pulse.
“What have you done Verity?”
“I slept with him, then I did it, when he fell asleep. I keep the knife by the bed. I kept thinking about it while he was doing it. It was easy. Now you have to help me like you said.”
“I agreed to help you. Not this.”
She phoned more often. One evening, after putting the cold beer on the table in front of him, she folded into herself on the sofa and looked straight at him.
“Maybe you can help me Robert,” she locked her eyes onto his. “It’s complicated but yes I think you could help.”
“Pick up the knife,” her voice is measured. “I dropped it.”
“He won’t leave me alone.” She looked into her lap, “God, what am I saying? It’s far worse than that. He hit me, a lot, that’s why I ended it. Months ago. But he won’t leave me alone. He’s connected to bad people. He’s very dangerous. I know about things he’s done.”
He bends down and picks it up. When he looks back at her, she is looking at the knife in his hand. Looking at his hand.
She finished telling him and her eyes rested in the middle distance. Robert began to stand, to go over to her, but she was shrinking away from him again.
He looks down at his hands and the blood-darkened kitchen knife he holds.
The knife. The knife. He turns one way then he turns another.

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

euclid at 14:26 on 18 June 2011  Report this post
It sort of works, nearly.

It's not clear to me (at all) what point you're making.

Is she exploiting his affection to her own agenda? Did she lie to him? Did she kill the other man or did he? Or is she planning for him to take to blame for what she did? Also a lot of questions about their relationship.


DorothyD at 15:47 on 18 June 2011  Report this post
I got rather confused with this. I think there is the essence of a fine story hiding under the different lines, but it isn't showing itself because of the different lines. Is there a way to tell this story without it being so broken up, I wonder? It is very hard to see the storyline, the actual plot of the story when it jumps around so much. Lovely writing, I have to say that, really lovely writing but a tad confusing.

James Anthony at 17:37 on 18 June 2011  Report this post
I think it kind of works. But, maybe because all the time periods are in the present tense, at first it is a little confusing. Just an idea, how about making the section where she has just killed him in the present tense, and the sections that lead up to that point in the past tense? Not sure it would work, but worth reworking and making your own judgement on whether it does or not?

As I said, just an idea what might be worth looking at.

BifferSpice at 12:39 on 21 June 2011  Report this post
i really like both the story and the writing, but i'm not sure about the time shifting. and that's not to say that i don't think it works. it means what i say, i'm not sure. on the plus side, it gives it a dream like quality, suggesting the shocked robert's mind casting back over the events that led up to this moment. this achieves it more than a linear approach would do. at the same time, it can come across as a bit of a gimmick, and your writing is good enough that it would be a shame if the reader were to think like this.

at the end of the day it's your call entirely, but i enjoyed the read, and you kept my attention throughout. good job.

Becca at 12:18 on 27 June 2011  Report this post
Hi Mark,
I don't think in the end that this structure does work because it's over-laboured. I was more with the story when the sections were longer, but at the end on 'She phoned more often' onwards it's too fragmented and then comes over as contrived. So in theory you could make this work, but I believe you'd have to be subtler about it. James' idea of using different tenses to further delineate things would help. Like JJ implies motivation isn't clear in the story. I don't know if you deliberately made this a tiny story, but I think the most interesting part of a story of this kind in which one person appears to be exploiting another, is the nature of the relationship between them and how it builds up and develops and the personalities and thoughts of the characters themselves. So even if you managed to make the structure work, I'd still wonder what the point of the story actually was told in this way.

CatherineZ at 21:06 on 28 July 2011  Report this post

This expression:
Later in bed while her legs pulled him into her, his faced pressed into hair that crackled and the sequins scratched his chest before they came loose and scattered on the sheets.

really raised great sensual / sexual tension.

This one:

He turns one way then he turns another

May be missing an 'it' if you are referring to the knife, which I think you are.

The truth is that I did get a little confused at one point and had to go back to re read it. Other than that, I liked it and it did sends chills up my spine. I love reading short crime stories.

To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .