She sat at the edge of the water, kohl streaks smudges across her cheeks, just above her swollen, trembling lips. Her face felt sticky with tears and grime. She had run away from all those people and now she sat by the river, her broken wings lay across her lap. She plucked at the bird feathers of the wings. They had all laughed at her. She, a butterfly, with her dark complexion and heavy hips, sniggers and taunts, till the tears came out and she ran away, so that nobody could see them.
It had taken her almost a week to prepare for the fancy-dress party. She had made her wings from feathers she had been collecting for the last many years. Each morning while waiting for her school bus, she would pick up the feathers, which often lay tangled in the bushes or lay by the dirt road. Mostly white but a few gray and black ones too. She would clean and dry each one of them and store her treasures in a box lined with tissue, under her bed.
Carefully she had painted the feathers in all the colors of her paint-box and glued them on the cardboard wings to wear over her white frock. Only her mama had known about her wings and she had smiled and kissed her when she was all ready to go. She remembered Mama had said, that she was her beautiful butterfly, the tears began to roll down again. It did not make sense. She had been so proud of her wings. She had wanted to dance and laugh with them. The river surged through her wiggling toes
Many years later
She is all grown up and pretty now and she does not need them. She does not run away anymore but stands her ground; firm and strong and looks them in the eye. Sometimes she can even laugh at them though mostly she could not care less. But some nights she can still hear them, feel those hot tears welling up in her eyes, after all these years. Somewhere deep down her wings are still soiled and torn.
What will it take to mend them?