Binny in Secret
September the first, and the sort of burglar wind that plucked litter from trash cans and petals from flowers and balls from toddlers and anything else it fancied. The market stalls packed up early and the pigeons all vanished and people walked slightly sideways and screwed up their eyes.
* * *
Binny, aged twelve, reluctant owner of a dark purple school blazer that looked (though it wasn’t) almost like new, was in town with Clem, her seventeen-year-old sister.
It was the last day of the summer break. The next day would be school. Binny so much did not want this to be true that she was busy in her head rewriting the future. She told the improved version to herself like a story.
Lightning zipped . . . zipped or unzipped? Lightning unzipped the sky straight above the Staff Room where all the teachers had rushed to the windows. Not one person escaped the shattering white blast . . . Not cruel, decided Binny. Instant. Painless, probably. And who would want to be a teacher anyway?
Moments later, the whole school was a great pile of smoldering emb . . .
A star-shaped brightness interrupted Binny, a glowing painted airiness, a butterfly.
Lemon yellow, etched with black. Lapis blue edging on the lower wings, each set with a dusty ruby. Caught and lifted on the air.
It was so different from any butterfly that Binny had ever seen before, so unexpected and so lovely, that she dropped her bag to race after it for a closer look.
“Binny!” screeched Clem.
“Oh!” cried Binny, dodging the traffic but colliding with a passerby. “Oh! Oh, stay!”
It didn’t stay. It vanished over the high church wall, gone between one moment and the next, and Binny tumbled back to earth and for the first time saw the results of her collision. A smashed box lay in the gutter, the pavement was scattered with broken flowers, and a voice was shrieking, “LOOK what you’ve done! Look!”