“The Secret of the Butterfly” — a short story by Natalia Allen (age 11) and second-place winner of the Turning Point Story Contest.
Princess Zavia ran swiftly through the tall wheat fields. Alongside her was her closest friend, Wren. Wren shivered in the cold night, wishing she had a cloak.
Zavia sighed. If it weren’t for her brother, they wouldn’t be in this predicament in the first place. He wasn’t even her real brother. After her mother had died, Father had remarried. Her stepmother already had a son. Soon after, her father and stepmother died in an accident. Now her half-brother was trying to assassinate her, because Zavia was the heir to the throne.
Why does everything go wrong in my life? Zavia wondered. First, both my parents die, now someone’s trying to kill me!
Wren was more or less thinking the same thing. There was never enough food to go around. Even worse, it was her father’s fault. Even when she took up a job as a kitchen maid, her father wasted the money on beer.
“You didn’t have to come,” Zavia said, though the thought of running from an assassin alone petrified her.
Wren nodded vehemently. “Of course I do,” she replied. “You helped me. I’m just returning the favor.”
Once, Zavia had hidden Wren from her father; and even if she hadn’t, Wren would have still helped her. This would make a good book, Wren mused, as they cut through the tall wheat. I would call it the flight of… She didn’t finish her thought, for the sound of heavy footfalls reached her. It could only be one person, the assassin.
“We’ll have to hide,” Wren hissed.
Zavia, propelled by fear, ran on. Wren groaned inwardly. They couldn’t outrun an assassin, could they? The assassin, detecting movement, began to gain on them. Their pace increased. Until Zavia slammed into a dark object that had not been visible a moment before. It was an old chest, which was odd. But they did not have time to think about how absurd it was to find a chest in the middle of a wheat field, for the assassin was nearly upon them.
“Get in!” Wren cried hurriedly.
“What about you?!” asked Zavia.
Wren didn’t answer. She was too busy shoving Zavia in, and reaching to close the chest, except Zavia was not there anymore.
“Zavie!” Wren yelled, her heart pounding. She looked around frantically, but Zavia was nowhere in sight. The only thing Wren could do was jump in the chest, so she did. Then, she was falling, and falling. The only thing that broke her fall was Zavia.
“Owwww,” moaned Zavia, for there was nothing to break her fall.
“Sorry,” Wren said, jumping up. She looked around, astonished. They were in a dark cave. She could not see anything except Zavia’s red hair.
“How did we….?” Zavia breathed,
Wren brushed her brown hair out of her eyes. “At least we’re not in those wheat fields!”
“Let’s try to find a way out,” Zavia suggested.
Wren huffed. “We must have a plan, or we’ll get lost.”
“No, we won’t,” Zavia replied stubbornly. Then, before Wren could stop her, she began to run.
“Zavie! Not again…” Wren grumbled, feeling her way through the inky blackness.
Zavia slowed to let Wren catch up, but a light flashed and she raced on. She reached the spot where she had seen the light, but there was nothing. Wren finally caught up, breathless and exasperated. She was about to explode into a lengthy lecture, when a raspy voice spoke through the darkness.
“Greetings,” it said. “I’ve been expecting you”
Both girls screamed. The unseen figure waited until the last echoed screams died, and then spoke. “There’s no reason to be afraid, dearies. Here, I’ll light a lamp.” And immediately, the cave was alight with a warm glow.
The figure was an old woman with a navy cloak. Her face was wrinkled, and her bright green eyes seemed to go straight through your soul.
“Princess Zavia, and Wren the kitchen maid, at last. How nice to see you.” The old woman smiled. The girls gaped.
Finally Zavia spoke. “Are you…magic or something?” she asked.
The old woman laughed “You could say that. Some might call me the wisest and oldest fairy in the land.”
Wren gasped. Could this really be happening?
“Well then,” Zavia continued boldly, “Would you mind sending us home? I don’t really want to die here.”
“Hmmm,” the fairy mused, flipping through a huge worn book. “Yes. I do believe I can do that,” she said.
“How?” Wren asked
“Wren, she’s a fairy! She can do anything!” Zavia scoffed.
“Well, not anything…” the fairy said, closing the book “But nearly.” Then she produced a……feather? Both girls studied it curiously. It was golden, with thousands of vibrant colors on it, and on the bottom was a tiny carved butterfly.
“Uh, what exactly is that?” Zavia asked finally.
“It’s a wishing feather,” the fairy replied.
“For anything?!” Wren asked excitedly.
“Only to return home,” the fairy said. “And if you choose, for your life to be perfect as
Many thoughts swirled through their heads in those few moments. Zavia thought of her life, of the death, and unfairness. Wishing it perfect would mean no evil half brothers, no more pain, or sadness, no more running and hiding. Wouldn’t that be a dream?
Wren thought of the poverty she lived in, all the nights she went to bed hungry, thanks to her father. What if there wasn’t any of that?
“And now, you each must wish,” the fairy said.
Both girls put one hand on the feather and wished. Wren arrived home, to discover that her father was out, wasting her money, most likely. Her mother’s eyes were still sad and tired, for Wren had chosen to keep her struggles.
As soon as she was able, she raced off to see Zavia. When she asked, no one had heard of a half-brother, or the death of the queen, and she realized Zavia had picked the perfect life.
She found Zavia in the garden. She seemed melancholy as she turned towards Wren. Wren wondered what was wrong—wasn’t her life perfect?
“Zavie!” Wren cried. “What’s it like?”
“Who are you?” Zavia asked.
Wren laughed. “Stop joking, Zavie! It’s me, Wren!”
Zavia stared. “It’s Princess Zavia, and I’m sorry, but I don’t know you.”
An awful feeling rose in Wren’s stomach, as she understood. For it was the unfortunate happenings that had brought them together, and Zavia no longer knew her. She wasn’t even Zavia anymore, for it was the struggles that had formed her personality.
Wren eventually became a great author, saving the lives of many with her story, including her Father. As for Zavia, well, I will leave you to decide. Perhaps Wren succeeded in finding a way to get back the real Zavia, perhaps not.
What made Wren choose what she did, you wonder? It was the small butterfly on the feather. It reminded her of a story her mother once told, where a girl, watching a butterfly struggle to free itself from its cocoon, cut the cocoon to help it. But alas, the butterfly was not able to take flight, for it is the struggle that gives it the strength to fly.