A Single Butterfly This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   "Momma, momma," my daughter Julianna called out as she raced to me. Her friend, Alexandria, and Julianna had been making mud pies for over an hour. I was just about to call them in when Julianna burst into the laundry room.

"What, honey? Is something wrong?" I dropped the towel I was holding and ran to her anxiously.

"Nothing's wrong, Momma." I let out a sigh of relief. Julianna had a mischievous side to her I had seen it. It was hard to believe she was a troublemaker. She had short Hershey-brown hair that waved gently around her face. Her eyes sparkled like emerald gems and her nose was like an up-turned button. Her wiry, thin frame looked fragile, but it had been through a lot. There was the time when Julianna was ten, she decided to make s'mores in the microwave for an hour. I was outside, and Julianna knew she wasn't supposed to play with the microwave. I came inside to hear a loud BOOM! The s'mores had exploded, leaving a chocolate-marshmallow mess behind. It took hours to clean up. I asked Julianna why she used the microwave when I told her not to; she said, "It looked like fun. You always got to push the buttons; I wanted a turn." I returned from these thoughts as Julianna continued her tale.

"I just saw the most amazing thing!" she breathed and her emerald eyes flashed.

"What was it?" I questioned eagerly. It was hard not to get excited when Julianna was. She was a real charmer, my grandmother used to say.

"I don't know," Julianna replied. I almost laughed as her face got a puzzled expression on it.

"What did it look like?" I asked gently so as not to hurt her feelings.

"It was like a moth, Momma, but it wasn't. Moths don't fly around during the day, do they?" I shook my head no, intrigued by my daughter's tale and she continued.

"It was petite and about the size of a hummingbird. It had wings that were so beautiful. They were a fiery orange-like a sunset. The orange was fringed with black. The creature fluttered and flitted happily amidst a sapphire-blue sky tinged with puffy, marshmallow clouds. It looked exactly like a winged flower floating among the treetops. Was it a flower, Momma? What was it?"

"A single butterfly," I whispered in awe.

I have always believed that parents have to be honest with their children, even when it hurts. It hurt plenty then. I had always loved butterflies when I was a child. I had romped and cavorted with them for hours. I believed I could catch one and tame it so it could be a pet. But I couldn't when all the butterflies were killed off by the pollution.

I swallowed hard, "Julianna, that wasn't a flower and it wasn't a bird either. It was a butterfly - a monarch to be exact." I let this sink in.

"A butterfly," Julianna pronounced the foreign word with little difficulty. "What are butterflies? What do they do?"

"A butterfly is a type of insect that flies using its wings. There are many different types. They drink pollen and nectar. I'm surprised you saw a butterfly. I haven't seen any in years. The pollution and disintegration of the ozone layer made the butterflies die out. Butterflies are very fragile creatures."

"Why did they have to die?" she questioned.

"They died out because humans didn't take care of the Earth."

"It wasn't fair to the butterflies." Julianna pouted and her lips began to tremble. "I don't want the butterfly to die," she wailed.

I comforted her and hugged her tightly. What could I say to her? You can't change the past. A few seconds later she left the laundry room satisfied with my answers and happy again.

I dropped my head into my hands and cried as my daughter had before. I cried for the animals and flowers that had long ago been lost because our generation had not cared for the Earth. I cried because my daughter and all our descendents would never see a butterfly - they were a rare occurrence now. Lastly, I cried because never again would the Earth be the same as it was because of the ignorance of the world. There was just one question left that I couldn't answer: Why? ^


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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