Charlotte stood behind as her dad and older brother ogled canons and war guns. At eight, she didn’t share their fascination with the Smithsonian exhibit, but her dad felt a history lesson was the perfect patriotic way to spend the Fourth of July. This year, she didn’t even care if she saw fireworks.
From the corner of her eye, Charlotte saw an orange blur. A Monarch butterfly had landed on a nearby musket. Intrigued, Charlotte inched toward it. She glanced at her dad and brother. They didn’t notice, so she moved closer.
The butterfly flitted down the hallway. Charlotte followed. It flew into an open elevator. She paused. She shrugged before stepping in after it. The butterfly led her outside, onto Constitution Avenue. She just knew the butterfly had a plan. The excitement almost made her smile for the first time in three months. Almost.
She wove through people on crowded sidewalks, not seeing anything except the Monarch. At a corner, the “Don’t Walk” sign flashed. Charlotte considered darting across anyway, but then noticed the butterfly hovered across the street. As if waiting for her!
It could’ve been several blocks or over a mile, Charlotte didn’t know. She gasped when the butterfly landed on a branch of the oddest tree she’d ever seen. Sitting in the middle of a grassy park, the gnarled and knotted trunk supported a huge green canopy.
“Charlotte,” the tree said with a rumbling voice.
She looked left, then right. It had to be a joke because trees didn’t talk. No one else seemed to hear.
The tree chuckled and it felt fluttery- like wind whooshing through leaves. “Your mom is worried about you.”
Charlotte frowned. “You don’t know anything.”
“She says you lost something. She asked me to help you find it.”
The tree’s voice soothed, like her mom’s fingers through her hair. She missed that.
“Follow Monarch. Open your eyes and your heart,” the tree instructed.
Charlotte obeyed. The butterfly led her to a patch of daisies- her mom’s favorite flower. Just when tears formed in the corner of her eyes, the butterfly landed on her finger. Charlotte laughed as its legs prickled her skin.
A gusty breeze made the petals shake and thousands of tiny white fingers waved to her. Charlotte smiled.
At once, she realized that she’d found what had been lost.
Charlotte couldn’t wait to celebrate with Fourth of July fireworks!
It seems I can’t resist a writing challenge- even for a genre that I don’t write 🙂 Nancy, at Spirit Lights the Way, did a post about a writing contest that Susanna Leonard Hill is hosting. The Contest: Write a children’s story, in poetry or prose, maximum 400 words about the 4th of July in which a secret is revealed or a mystery is solved! Check out the link above to see complete guidelines and to read other submissions.
Surprise, surprise, I used exactly 400 words. (I’ll explore my need to push limits some other time.) I have no illusions of “winning,” but enjoyed writing something outside my usual box. Thank you to Susanna for hosting another fun writing contest. And thank you for taking time to read my story. I hope it provided some entertainment.
P.S. All of the above photos were taken during our recent vacation to the Washington DC area. As far as I know, the tree was not really enchanted. And I’m pretty sure the butterfly kept flying away so I wouldn’t follow it- not with the intention of leading me somewhere!