In the legend, Psyche was the breathtaking wife of the god of love. Psyche Sinclair, however, was an Edinburgh teenager with mildly eccentric parents, and hair the colour of drying blood. She didn’t have a boyfriend, but that didn’t bother her; she knew her namesake was too beautiful for mortal men, and she’d heard that names were reflections of the soul. Psyche most certainly believed in souls.
Wednesday afternoon found her in the garden as usual, her feet curled under her on the bench, watching passers-by. Her dad’s ideas of home schooling at this advanced level were vague at best, and he had a Wednesday night residency at a New Town jazz bar. Psyche didn’t mind—Wednesday afternoons were a good time to think and dream and be.
“How’s it going, Psycho?”
A girl from down the street, shouting and gesturing to impress her boyfriend on the way past Psyche’s gate. Maybe it worked; ten yards further on they stopped for the kind of prolonged, uninhibited snog that only teenagers are capable of. Psyche watched idly over the hedge, and then blinked and frowned in concentration. For a moment, she had seen their souls fuse.
The boy had crossed the park and reached the thin band of trees before he realised Psyche was following him. Another of her contemporaries from the neighbourhood, he knew her by sight and reputation.
“Did you want something?” he sneered as she caught up with him at the boundary.
“You have a diseased soul,” she said, her serious eyes fixed on his face.
“What?” he laughed.
“I can cure you,” she murmured, as she leaned in to kiss him.
She was a nutcase, no doubt about that, but not bad-looking and there was no-one around to see, so what the hell.
He gasped for air and clutched his throat as she drew back, and as he sank to his knees choking, Psyche very deliberately stuck out her tongue and crossed her eyes in an attempt to look down at the small object upon it. She picked it off and held it in the palm of her hand for inspection. It was a small, pale green caterpillar.
The idea was very simple and Psyche was surprised she’d never thought of it before. Her inner beauty, reflected in her carefully chosen name, must exist for a purpose. The world around her, and the people in it, were ugly for the most part, whatever surface appearance suggested. It was her duty to bring light to those who needed it the most, and she only wished she could thank the show-off neighbour and her brutish boyfriend for revealing the means, but she knew they wouldn’t understand.
Starting with the boy in the park, she worked her way around the nearby streets, down alleyways, via bus-stops and off-licence car parks, improving lives one by one. She never seemed to notice the crumpled shell she left behind, intent on the tiny treasures cupped in her soft hands.
She was asleep when her dad got home that night, tired out by her busy evening. He quietly opened her bedroom door and shook his head in bemusement before he returned to his wife in the kitchen.
“Where’s she been to collect all those butterflies?”