A butterfly fluttered past her face and landed on a nearby flower. Its wings were a perfect white with its tips dipped in a deep, moonlight blue. As it settled on the yellow bloom, it slowly quivered before closing its wings together like two hands in prayer. She bent down, her lips moving close to its fragility, as if she were about to kiss its beauty.
Instead, she whispered, ‘You should have stayed a caterpillar.’
She remembered learning somewhere that once transformed, the insect’s life was limited to only a few days. This particular butterfly may only have a few hours left to live. When it was a caterpillar it was able to live in expectation of becoming something beautiful, of a life full of change and excitement. It would stay safe in the undergrowth knowing better days were to come.
Now it only had certain death to look forward to.
The already hot summer sun pricked the skin on her face. It was not even nine in the morning and she felt taunted over the fact that this day was to be another scorcher. Most people revelled in the joy of a hot summer, where overcoats and jumpers could be discarded at home on messy bedroom floors, but not Liberty. The hot sun was just another woe to add to her gloom.
She stuck out her finger to nudge the butterfly from the Primrose. Anticipating the move, it rose up and away before she could reach it. She watched it fly in a staccato fashion like a drunken ballerina. Liberty snorted at the idea of a drunk ballerina. She imagined the choreographer’s distress as the intoxicated, supposedly professional, in the tutu inadvertently reinterpreted Swan Lake.
She stood up from her crouched position by the flowers and made her way to work.
The building entrance loomed. It cast a dark shadow onto the carpark, an unpleasant eclipse in the bright morning light. She felt it was sneering at her ‘no enjoyment in this place, you’re here to work’.
Liberty walked through the doors and scanned her ID, a modern version of the old time stamps, and made her way to her station. The whirr of machines mingled with the over cheerful commercial radio jingles emitting from speakers attached to the roof joints. Removing her grey cardigan, she placed it on the hook along with her bag containing a salad which was bound to have limp leaves by lunch break. She extracted her drink bottle and took a sip. It felt warm already, was over-chlorinated and carried the taste of plastic. She would save the rest for later when her thirst outweighed her taste.
Re-adjusting the hem line of her grey and white uniform did not help her to feel any less comfortable in this temperature. Why the bosses thought giving laundry workers clothing made from a non-breathable material was a clever idea she’d never know. Maybe they thought employees would be more productive if they started collecting pools of sweat in their undergarments as if wrapped in a black plastic bag. Her colleagues joked dryly about how at least they were able to lose weight from all the sweating. She’d tut in her mind when she heard these conversations. It’d take a lot more than sweating, she’d think to herself. The uniforms didn’t do any of the women any favours. Sweat would turn the material translucent revealing fat blooming over their bra straps, like bread proving. Each year the excessive alcohol intake, probably to drown out the sorrows of working in this place, and the ease of takeaways after a long day’s work, had taken its toll. They were able to speak so much of diets, exercise and fads but it was all just talk, Liberty thought bitterly. Topics like this occurred quite regularly at the factory, most mindless subjects were discussed and chewed upon as if they were of life or death importance. Liberty felt a much better way to spend the time would be to speak of things that educated. However, these women were definitely not the sort to stand around discussing philosophy or politics whilst they folded the linen. More’s the pity.
Liberty took her place at the workstation and prepared herself for another eight hours of this torture. Her job was to place pure white serviettes onto a conveyer belt which fed them into a machine to dry and fold. It had to be placed quite particularly otherwise the end result would not be ‘right’ and her line manager, whose job seemed to be walking around all day scolding people, would come and scold her.
The hands on the clock landed on 9 o’clock and her machine started up. A loud noise of cogs turning and rollers squeaking. Picking up the first of many damp pieces of material in her hands, she straightened an edge with elegant fingers, before placing it down upon the moving belt. If she was not fast enough, she would be scolded. And that was her day. Everyday.
Because she did not want to join in with talk on why so and so was sleeping with so and so’s husband or why Mr Down-The-Road was carted off in a police car last night, she kept quiet and distant and found herself drifting off inside her head. Continues…..