It wasn’t always like this.
She was carefree and always smiling. She should have been scared. He remembered the first time they met, with him in a dark cloak in the pouring rain. She was waiting for the city bus too. And then for some unknown reason, she moved closer to him so they were both in the comfort of her umbrella. The only kind gesture anyone had made for him.
Her eyes always twinkled when she looked at him. He didn’t know how to respond. Never had he felt such…such emotion.
But at the same time, he knew it couldn’t be true. She didn’t love him. She couldn’t. How could she love someone like him, a person who’s heart was so frozen and thin that ice-skaters would fall right through?
And yet she continued to smile. Her hazel eyes danced when they met. Everything she did and said sang, “I love you,” but he still backed away. Soon it would all be over. She would admit she never loved him, that it was all an act, that all she wanted was his money.
Then she showed him her butterfly cage. It was nothing like he had ever seen before. The colors, the freedom…it flowed into him. The butterflies flew into his heart and started to melt it.
The warmth began to shine through.
He relaxed his tense muscles whenever she held his hand. He smiled when he saw her. He began fooling himself into thinking she did actually love him. He began to love her back.
And then one day, as they met at the bus station–the place they had first seen each other–the rain began to pour down, much like that first day. Her umbrella covered both of them. Then he moved the umbrella and held her hands, staring into her innocent face. She stepped closer. And before he knew it, they were kissing.
He didn’t even know how to kiss. No one ever let him be close to him. Yet they were kissing, the rain drenching them and mixing into his tears.
So this was what love was like.
The man sighed and stopped re-living the memories. He pulled at his hair and stood up, grabbing the flower from the tombstone and ripping it into pieces.
He had been foolish. He had known better. Even if someone loved him, they would be forced apart.
The man stopped and looked at the ruined flower. Just like his own messed-up life. He threw the flower on the ground and fell on his knees, crying out. It wasn’t fair. It just wasn’t fair.
He was crying, the first time he had cried since they had kissed. Only this time, it wasn’t tears of joy–this was agony.
He didn’t know how long he stayed like that, kneeling on the tombstone and weeping. Perhaps it was only a few minutes, but it felt like hours. Every day felt longer without her.
Finally he stood up and walked back. His feet automatically went by her house. It was his own way of torturing himself, he guessed.
He felt the key in his pocket, just like he did every time he walked past the empty house. After a while, he summoned up his courage and went inside.
It was still the same. Old piano sitting in the corner of the living room. The tiniest kitchen he had ever seen. Her bedroom with pictures covering every inch of the walls. He sighed and walked into the back room, the one with the butterflies. He grabbed the cage and brought it outside, asking himself over and over why he was doing this.
He set it on the porch steps. His hands trembled as he opened the cage door. He swung it open.
The man sat back, a fresh set of tears dripping down his face, as the butterflies slowly flew out of the cage and into the sky. This time, the tears weren’t from anguish. Instead, they were releasing a new feeling of freedom.
The butterflies, by being in the cage, had melted his heart once. But now, by being freed, they were once again melting his heart, this time with the ability to move on.
The man looked down into the cage to see a small butterfly, dead, on the floor. He gingerly picked it up and walked back to the graveyard. Then he placed the dead butterfly on her tombstone. And for the first time in a long time, he smiled.