Here we are again! Time for another bedtime story...
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The Butterfly House
Harvey was Liam's best friend. They did everything together; they sat next to each other at school, shared snacks at break time, ate lunch together, played football in the field after school and were forever round at each other's houses. That was why Monday was a very bad day for Liam. It was the day that Harvey broke the news.
"Dad has a new job," Harvey said, avoiding Liam's eyes. "He starts next week. It's all happened really quickly, but... We have to move to a big city and I have to go to a new school."
The rest of the day was a blur for Liam. He didn't know what to do or say. He was always with Harvey; he knew the rest of his classmates and he liked them, but none of them were as good as his best friend. He didn't want anyone else. He wanted Harvey to stay and if that couldn't happen, then Liam decided he may as well just be by himself.
The week went on and Liam could barely even talk to Harvey, let alone anyone else. On Friday, Harvey's last day, the boys exchanged addresses and promised to stay in touch. Harvey asked Liam to promise him that he wouldn't be sad. But Liam just gave him a little half smile, then watched him walk away.
All weekend, Liam was quiet. He didn't want to play games, or go out anywhere. He stayed in his room, staring sadly out of the window.
On Monday, Liam trudged to school, with his bag hanging heavily over his shoulder. He sank into his seat and gazed at the empty chair beside him. What was he going to do, without his best friend?
The teacher started talking, but Liam wasn't really listening. She said something about going out into the garden to look for minibeasts. It was the sort of thing that Harvey would have thought was really cool and that just made Liam miss him even more. He glanced up, as his teacher handed him a magnifying glass, a little net and a whiteboard and marker pen. "Come on Liam," she said in a soothing voice. "Get your coat, it's chilly outside."
Liam followed his classmates out into the garden, shivering in the breeze. He wasn't even sure what he was supposed to be doing. He plodded through the grass, swinging his net to and fro. Suddenly, a beautiful butterfly, sitting on a blade of grass, caught his eye. Its wings seemed to have all the colours of the rainbow on them and they fluttered gently as the wind blew. Liam swung his net and bam - the butterfly was trapped. He clamped a hand over the top of the net as he brought it to his face. "Don't be scared," he whispered. "I'm going to be your friend. I don't have a best friend anymore, so you can be my new one."
Sneaking away from the rest of the class, Liam found an old shoe box that someone had dropped. "I'll turn this into your house," he told the butterfly, using the end of his magnifying glass to poke holes in the lid. The butterfly fluttered around inside the net. It looked like it was trying to escape and Liam felt a bit cross. "No," he told it. "You can't just fly away; I want to be your friend!" He carefully tipped the butterfly into the box and put the lid on tight. He stowed the box away, under a bush, before hurrying to join the rest of his class.
By breaktime, Liam was keen to see his new friend again. He rushed across the grass and pulled the box out from under the bush.
"Want to play football?" He heard some of the boys from his class call. But Liam just shook his head. He opened the lid of his box just a crack and smiled at the butterfly. It was flying around the box very fast, almost like it was panicking. Liam frowned. "Don't be cross with me," he said. "I'm your friend, remember? I'm just keeping you safe in your new house." He tugged at the grass and tipped a few blades into the box. "See? I'm making it nice for you." He added a couple of daisies, but the butterfly still darted at the lid, as though it wanted to fly away. Liam crossly shut the lid and hid the box back under the bush.
At lunchtime, Bethany Bryant, who sat on the other side of Liam in class, asked him if he wanted to join in a game that she and her friends were playing. Liam said no and scurried off to find his butterfly house. He sat cross-legged in the grass, nibbling on a sandwich, watching the butterfly flutter around the box. He dropped in a few crumbs. "Is that what you want?" He asked. "Are you hungry?" But the butterfly just went on whizzing around. It looked like it felt as cross and sad as Liam did.
"What's in the box?" A voice called. Liam glanced over his shoulder and saw Lennon and Harrison, twin boys from his class. He quickly shoved the box back under the bush and shook his head.
The boys disappeared, just as the bell rang for everyone to go back into class.
At the end of the day, Liam felt tired and lonely. He missed Harvey. He didn't like being all by himself and his new friend didn't seem to like him very much. He rushed to the bush and pulled out the box, planning to take the butterfly house home, so he could keep an eye on his friend overnight.
"What is in there?" Lennon asked.
Liam spun around. He hadn't noticed anyone following him. "Nothing," he insisted, hugging the box tight.
"There must be something," Harrison said. From behind him, Bethany Bryant nodded in agreement.
"You've had your head in that box all day," she added.
Liam sighed. "It's my friend," he told them all. "I found it, earlier."
He opened the box, but this time, the butterfly didn't try to fly out. Its wings drooped and it stayed where it was.
Bethany peered over Liam's shoulder. "It looks sad."
Lennon and Harrison crowded round. "It probably wants to go back to all its butterfly friends," Harrison said.
"But it's my friend," Liam protested. "I need it."
Lennon frowned. "But it needs to be free," he replied. "If you keep it in there, it'll die."
Liam blinked up at him. "It's all I have," he said, in a small voice. "Harvey's gone... I don't have any other friends."
Lennon wrinkled his nose. "Well... What about me? And Harrison? And Bethany?"
Liam glanced from face to face, as Harrison continued: "We were all worried about you, so we came to find you, to see if we could cheer you up."
"That's what friends do," Bethany chipped in. She pointed at the box in Liam's hands. "You can't trap something on its own; it'll be miserable. That butterfly wants to fly off with all its friends and that's what you should be doing, too."
Liam swallowed, hard. He opened the lid a little further and smiled at the butterfly. "Go on," he told it. "It's okay."
The butterfly spread its wings and darted out of the box, up into the blue sky beyond. Liam watched as another butterfly joined it in the sky, wheeling and soaring together, higher and higher.
"Doesn't it look happier, now?" Lennon asked.
Liam nodded. He had a strange feeling in his chest. He was sad that his friend was gone, but... He was happy that he had new ones.
"Want to come back to our house?" Harrison asked. "We're going to play on our new computer game."
Liam smiled. "Okay, just for a bit," he said. "Then, I'm going to go home and write Harvey a letter."
And, as the friends all walked away together, Liam turned and took one final glance at the butterflies. Floating and dipping, making patterns across the sky, they flew freely in the air. They were going to be okay.
And so was he.