The two sat alone in the forward pew, the child dressed all in white, her mother in black. The little girl wore a pair of butterfly wings strapped to her shoulders.
“Momma? Can little girls fly?”
“Of course they can,” the mother whispered. The woman held a tattered scrapbook in her lap. She turned the pages slowly, fingers caressing each of the pictures in turn. “All they have to do is believe,” she said.
The toddler stood and closed her eyes. Tiny fingers fluttered. Hair shifted. Red shoes lifted from the ground.
“Look at me, Momma,” she said. “Look at me, I’m flying.”
Father Jack approached the woman carefully. He hesitated before speaking. “I thought you might want to talk,” he said.
The mother hesitated for a moment, then closed her book of pictures and hugged the scrapbook to her chest. Above her, the little girl’s wings gently brushed the ceiling.
The woman looked up at her priest and tried to smile. “We lived on the third floor,” she said. “All of the windows there looked out over the trees below. In the summer, butterflies would sometimes land on the ledge outside—Katy loved to watch them. She said their wings reminded her of angels.” The woman leaned forward in the pew. The priest sat down beside her. Above them, the little girl giggled faintly.
“I came out of the kitchen that morning to find my Katy standing on the ledge outside. She wore the butterfly wings I’d made for her, and when she saw me she started to laugh. ‘Look at me, Momma,’ she said. ‘Look at me, I’m flying.'”
As the mother said this, her little girl fell into the seat beside her. One of the child’s wings was broken, the other bent backwards at an odd angle.
“Every day my Katy would ask if little girls could fly, and every day I’d tell her that they could.”
The mother turned and looked at her priest. “Why would I do that?” she asked. “Why would I tell my daughter something that wasn’t true?”
© 2015 by Stone Showers
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