When Isak was a boy, his favourite thing to do was chase butterflies. He would run with chubby cheeks pinched into a smile and sticky fingers reached outward, for hours and hours on the soft grass, chasing something he hadn't yet learned he couldn't catch. He would run and run until the sky went dim and the sun had hidden itself away behind the horizon.
As he grew up, he forgot about catching butterflies, but he never quite stopped loving them. He became obsessed with the science of them. The way they breathed without lungs, the way they sensed vibrations to hear without ears, and the way the covered themselves in scales and exoskeletons to be both beautiful and strong.
Isak wished he could feel like that, beautiful and strong like a butterfly. Every time he looked in the mirror it was all he could see, the lies written across his face. The secret desire he wished so often to hide, which seemed to him to be painted in bright neon colours across his cheeks. The truth he was too weak to share.
When he was in the fourth grade, there was a boy in his class named Daniel. Daniel was friendly and bright, his red hair seemed to burn like fire in the sun and his smile lit up every room he walked into. His face was covered in freckles, like constellations. Every day at break they would go out and lie on their backs to look at the sky, and to watch the butterflies pass them by. One day, in late June, just as the school year was ending, Daniel gave Isak a crown of flowers to wear in his hair, so that maybe a butterfly might land on his head. He was so happy, that he grabbed Daniel by the face and kissed him. They didn't speak again after that.
There wasn't another until Jonas came along. Jonas was soft and warm, everything love should be. He never laughed when he talked about silly things, like parallel universes or the science behind why birds fly. He was there for him on days when the world seemed like it was caving in. He held him while he cried and didn't make fun of him for his feelings like other boys did. For a while, Jonas seemed like the only thing that mattered in the world. He was the moon on a string, with the whole sky full of stars in his eyes. But Jonas had Eva. Jonas didn't need him like he needed Jonas. There was love there, yes, but not the way Isak needed it. He tried everything he could to make Jonas feel the same way. Things he probably shouldn't have done. But in the end, taking Eva away from him seemed to take some of the light out of him. Isak had forgotten that the moon only reflects the light of the sun it orbits.
Sara made his stomach turn. She was all gooey lip gloss and vapid words. She never wanted to talk about anything Isak wanted to talk about. Everything was about her friends he didn't know and what parties she wanted to go to without him and how much of a bitch her teacher was for expecting that she show up to class. Objectively, he could say she was pretty, but she couldn't light up a room like Daniel or Jonas, couldn't make his stomach flip or his cheeks flush like they had. That truth stung like a block of ice in his throat, but he swallowed it down and reminded himself that this is what normal boys do. Normal boys find a nice girl and settle down with her. It only lasted two weeks.
Chris was nothing like Jonas. Chris was a distraction, something to calm the aching pit in his stomach, to make him feel like a person again. He didn't care about butterflies or astrology or any of those things. He only cared about himself. In a way, Isak didn't mind. He didn't care about Chris either, just about the way he could make him feel. Everything began and ended with his hands in his hair and on his hips and along his jaw. He was easy to get lost in. Chris was like a comet, shooting past you so fast, so blindingly bright and white hot that you might not believe it was really there.
Emma was almost worse than Sara, because she was actually a nice girl. She was stunning, albeit a bit overzealous. Kissing her was like being greeted by a dog, she was too excited and couldn't seem to keep her tongue in her mouth. He really shouldn't have kissed her, he knew he wouldn't have been able to stir up any feelings, try as he might. When she didn't go away after their first encounter, he could only feel disgust. Here was a beautiful girl who was ready and willing to give him the world, and the best he could conjure up were stunted sentences and handfuls of meaningless words to throw her way. He decided it must be impossible for anyone to hate themselves more than he did during those few weeks.
Even was- is- everything. With Even, he didn't need to try and catch butterflies. He brought the butterflies directly to him, as cliché as it may sound, nestled comfortably in his stomach where there had only been sadness before. Even made the world beautiful, put the colour back into the skies like a sunset that lasts all day. When they talked it was never about the weather or what food they would eat that day- or maybe it was. Isak could never tell, because everything Even said seemed to encapsulate the whole universe. Every conversation left him breathless, left him pondering life outside our planet and alternate timelines and the farthest reaches of the galaxy. It wasn't long before he realised that that must be what love feels like. It was a truth too bright to hide, not that Isak cared who knew anymore. Even was never something he could simply cover up, not when every bit of light that shone off him reflected even brighter off Isak himself. Even was the sun. Isak was simply the moon in his orbit. He remembers, in the back of his mind one night while they're laying in bed, being told that butterflies are always out searching for the moon. He pulls Even tighter to his chest and sighs with contentment. After all those years of running, he'd finally caught his butterfly.