The Monarch butterfly circled slowly over Ava’s head, its orange and black stripes swirling crazily together as it flew. Didn’t I just read something that said the population of the Monarch was dwindling, she wondered. Had she, possibly, even seen it in the same newspaper where she had come across the birth announcement for his child?
She was sitting on the stairs of her old back porch, face to the sun, trying desperately to get warm. It seemed that for the last few months Ava had been chilled, never quite able to find the warmth of the summer. And now here it was September already and soon the temperature would change. Today, though, it was a balmy 75 and although the fall wasn’t quite ready to show itself, there were hints in the air: the cooler nights, the majestically vibrant colored leaves popping up in the trees, the sun a bit lower in the sky.
“Come on,” her best friend Jackie would say. “You have to let it go.”
Some days she would shake her head sadly at Jackie – how could she know what it was like to lose your entire future? Other times she would nod her head, yes – Yes, get over it, she would tell herself. And then once, last weekend, she had actually shouted at Jackie.
“Shut up! Shut up!” Ava wailed and ran from the room.
She knew her emotions had gotten the better of her but still, she was horrified at herself, horrified at how she had treated Jackie; Jackie, her best friend, who had been there for her during every raw moment.
As Ava sat in the fall sun she suddenly felt embarrassed that she still hadn’t called Jackie to apologize, yet. Her own reaction, her fury had taken too much out of her. Her energy tank was low. She hadn’t even had the will to do much at all since her outburst and thought it a miracle that she had actually rousted herself the last two days to go to work.
Today, though, Ava had cut out early, her head too fuzzy and her unsettled stomach bundled up upon itself. When she returned home she had headed directly outside instead of to her usual sad-place, the overstuffed chair in the corner. Maybe being outside, Ava thought, could improve her mood. Lord knows that shutting herself up in her small house for the last few months hadn’t helped at all.
Zack had left.
He hadn’t died, he hadn’t cheated. But he had become a father and it changed him more than he ever expected.
Ava and Zack had been friends in college and when they found themselves located in the same city a few years after graduation, their feelings for each other had changed. Ava finally noticed how incredibly smart Zack was, how good he was at his job as City Planner. He had lost his baby fat and had morphed into an amazing athlete. How had she missed all that in college, she wondered?
“Oh, I always wanted to be with you,” Zack told her one day when they first started dating, “but you were hung up on that loser, what was his name?”
“Carl?” she answered. He nodded yes.
Damn that Carl, Ava thought. She could have been with Zack all this time since senior year of college if Carl hadn’t put her mind and better instincts in a vice. She could have been with Zack and he would have never met Veronica and Veronica would have never discovered she was pregnant with his child two months after they broke up.
Ava shifted on the hard stair and sighed. She had been over this so many times – the unfairness of it all, the feeling of loss – and even she was getting tired of the circular thinking. Since the breakup, she hadn’t been herself over these last few months, even further back if she admitted it … really back to when Zack found out he was going to be a father. He told Ava that he didn’t love Veronica and nothing would change between them, but how could he know that? She knew Zack was a man of character and would love and be there for his child; that wasn’t the issue. It was how she could tell he was ever so slightly pulling away from her as the pregnancy progressed.
When Veronica entered her third trimester Ava could see the excitement in Zack’s eyes. She didn’t blame him, she was happy for him. But what did it mean for her?
“Selfish, selfish…” she muttered to herself, thinking back on it all.
When Veronica went into premature labor at 34 weeks, everyone held their breath. There were some scary times at first but then, miraculously, the little boy, whom they named Vince, started to thrive and the light returned to Zack’s eyes.
Ava had actually seen very little of Zack during that scary month when Vince was struggling but he came to her one day after Vince had gotten better and she knew right then that he was going to leave her.
“The thing is, I told Veronica that I’d move in with her to help take care of the baby. I want to give it a try. I love Vince so much it hurts,” he told her and what could she say?
And that was the last time she saw Zack, all the way back in June when the summer was the newest star of the four seasons. And now it was September, on the precipice of fall, an entirely different lifetime, it seemed.
Ava was tired of hurting. She was tired of wishing. It was time, she knew.
The Monarch swooped back through her vision and landed briefly in a nearby bush and she stared at the insect, the orange and black stripes still for the moment. The butterfly was beautiful; incredibly beautiful. She didn’t know how far the Monarch’s population had fallen, but she was glad they were back.
Suddenly Ava felt antsy, as though sitting there was no longer an option. She looked up to the sun again and was surprised when she felt a tinge of warmth on her face.
“Ok, then,” she said out loud to no one. “I think I’ll go for a run.”