The house she lived in was the only yellow one on her block.
Crumbling, concrete steps that led up to the front door were surrounded on both sides by patches of vivid, bright flowers. Bleeding Hearts. Her mother’s favorite, and pink, all of them pink, always pink. The girl who called the sunshine house home loved to run her fingers along them and watch the oddly shaped, strange little buds dangle and bump up against each other, like small cartoon hearts in a silly fight.
She was doing precisely this, in fact, when she saw it. A fragile, flightless creature.
A butterfly. A monarch.
And it was dying.
The girl knew it was dying, because why else would a butterfly be laying there like that? Flat on its side with its long, spindly legs stretched out and exposed to the open air. She stared at it, mesmerized. It was the first time that she had ever been able to look at a butterfly for more than a fleeting moment before it fluttered away.
It was also the first time that she had seen the promise of death.
After a few seconds which felt like much longer than they were, she went inside. Clearly, this was an emergency.
“Mom, there’s a butterfly outside, in the flowers. I think it’s dying,” she announced firmly.
“We need to help it.”
Her mother peered up at her from over the top of her book with warm, brown eyes.
“What are you talking about?”
The girl fidgeted, instantly riled and annoyed. Hadn’t that statement been clear? Couldn’t she understand that a beautiful butterfly was dying right now? “I’ll show you.” The girl grabbed her hand, pulling her mother outside in a huff. She dragged her through the door she’d left open and down the crumbling steps, stopping her in front of the right cluster of flowers. Her little hand pointed towards the ground impatiently.
The wary woman crouched down in front of the Bleeding Hearts, gently parting the flowers of pink and pink and more pink aside to reveal the hidden frailty there. She made a humming sound deep in her throat as she nodded, looking solemnly back to her irate child.
Her voice was heavy and grim. “Yes, I see what you mean. I think it’s dying, too.”
“I want to save it.” Her daughter stared at her with wide, illuminated eyes that were so unlike her own. Steely gray, and mildly unnerving. They were filled with the kind of innocent determination that could only be found in a child.
“I don’t know if there’s anything you can do for it, dear.”
The girl frowned. “Of course there is,” she muttered, heading back towards the front door. “What do butterflies eat?”
And so, the next few minutes were spent in the kitchen of the sunshine house, mixing equal parts sugar and water in a small cup before pouring its contents onto a plate. It wasn’t very much- just enough to make a small puddle on one side of the platter. Like a miniature oasis on a desert of old, white, chipped porcelain. Smiling, she carried it out of the kitchen and into the flower patch of pink.
She set the plate down next to the butterfly in the dirt. Gingerly, carefully, she picked the poor thing up and placed it onto the platter, close to the sugar water. It twitched and twittered pathetically in her fingers. But she figured this was good.
This one was a fighter.
“There,” the girl proclaimed triumphantly to herself, to the butterfly, to the world. She returned to her home with her head held high, feeling it would probably be best to give her new charge some privacy.
That night, she dreamt of flying. The next morning, the butterfly was gone.
Victory was the word on her lips at the sight of an empty white plate- for even the liquid was gone. Its absence was undoubtedly indicative of the monarch’s recovery. The girl smiled as she imagined the weakened, feeble butterfly drinking the sugar water of life before being reborn, fluttering off triumphantly into the clear, blue skies of summer.
Happy endings were the only endings. The world was filled with magic.