At the bottom of the garden, there was a big butterfly bush. It seemed huge to Diana; a towering green monolith with plumes of bright purple flowers. She loved visiting her grandmother, just so that she could stand at the gate and look at the butterfly bush.
Her grandmother had split the garden into two with a fence of tall trellising, and a gate in the middle. Diana had to promise never to go through the gate; she had to stay on the house side. Although she dearly wanted to go and have a closer look at the butterfly bush and the beautiful insects that flocked around it, she was an obedient little girl, so she went no further than the gate. She would climb up onto it, her arms hanging over the side so that she could get a better view, and try to count the butterflies. There were always too many to count.
When her grandmother got older, Diana’s mother began to worry about her, all alone in that big old house, trying to look after that big garden all by herself, so they moved to a new house which was closer. Every day, Diana would walk past her grandmother’s house on the way home from school, so every day she would stop in for a cup of tea – and to spend a while watching the butterflies.
One sunny evening at the beginning of summer, when she knocked at the door her grandmother didn’t answer. This wasn’t so unusual; on warm days she would often spend her time in the garden. Diana stood on tiptoe to open the side gate, and let herself into the garden.
As she came around the corner to the back of the house, she heard a sharp metallic squeak from the bottom of the garden. She looked over and saw the gate swinging shut, and the skirt of her grandmother’s yellow summer dress disappear behind the trellis.
She called out to her grandmother, and ran across the lawn to the gate. Mindful of her instructions, she stopped there. Her grandmother was walking up to the butterfly bush with her arms wide and upraised. Diana called out again, but her grandmother didn’t look around.
From behind the gate, Diana watched as a butterfly landed on her grandmother’s outstretched hand. Another followed, and another. Soon, the butterflies were all over her grandmother. They sat on her arms, her shoulders, her head, they clung to her hair and her dress. Suddenly, as if on a signal, their wings fluttered and they all took off at once. They blurred into a swirl of bright colours, which whirled around like a tornado and then, just as suddenly, dispersed. The butterflies returned to the butterfly bush, and all that was left of Diana’s grandmother was a bright yellow summer dress, crumpled on the grass.
© Kari Fay