“Have you fought?” she asked as she looked up at him.
"Absolutely," he replied as he continued pushing the swing.
“There was once a small young crane that didn’t know how to fish,” she began. “No matter how hard she tried, she always failed. If she wanted to eat, she had to catch bugs or pick at fresh roots and greens.
‘Go away!’ she sniffed, certain he was only there to tease her in her present predicament.
The butterfly smiled at her shyness and replied, ‘I wanted to see if you were hurt and offer my assistance.’
‘What could you ever do for me?’ she asked in a huff.
The little butterfly heard laughing near a tree and saw other cranes making fun of her.
‘Are you going to let them tease you?’ he asked.
She continued to look upward without moving, too afraid of doing something else foolish for their entertainment.
‘It’s my own fault,’ she said softly. ‘I can’t fish and all I can do is eat bugs. Today, I couldn’t even do that right.’
She let tears slide down her feathered cheeks and tried to ignore the laughter.
‘Can’t fish?’ he repeated. ‘How can a crane not know how to fish?’
She sighed and answered, ‘I’m afraid of drowning. When I put my beak in to catch a fish, I feel the water rush around and it scares me. I’m just a little crane, so it doesn’t take much for my beak and nostrils to fill with water.’
The butterfly felt more pity for her now and asked, ‘Have you tried fishing in shallow water? A lot of little fish swim near the pebbles.’
‘I’m too clumsy,’ she replied shamefully, though his compassion was beginning to put her at ease. ‘When I try to catch them, my beak slams into the rocks and I get hurt. Sometimes, my big feet get in the way and I slip on the algae.’
The butterfly looked over at the cruel cranes still making jokes and thought of a way to help. If he could teach her to fish, she would stop eating butterflies and perhaps even grow stronger and larger so those cruel cranes could never tease her again.
‘If I promise to help you, will you promise not to eat me?’ he bargained.
She looked over at him again as he moved closer onto a lower blade of grass. He was almost beside her eye now, and he looked even more handsome than when she first saw him. She nodded quickly and rose to her feet.
‘But how is a little butterfly going to teach me how to fish?’ she wanted to know.
‘Follow me!’ he instructed and they flew together to the side of the stream. ‘Wait for me here,’ he said. ‘When you see a fish, do exactly as I tell you.’
She watched him fly out over the water for a while until suddenly, he turned and raced back toward her. He was flying so fast, she wondered if he was going to fly into her face.
At just the last minute, he flew upward and a large fish leapt out to grab him.
‘Catch it!’ the butterfly ordered and she caught it in her beak. ‘Bring it to shore!’ he ordered as he flew back around.
She did as she was told and quickly dropped it onto the rocky ground.
The butterfly landed on top of her head as she stared at the first fish she had ever caught.
‘I did it!’ she exclaimed! ‘I really caught a fish!’
‘Do you want to catch another?’ the butterfly asked and she eagerly nodded her head.
They returned to the stream and repeated their fishing technique several times more until there was a large pile of fish on the rocky bank. The other cranes had come to watch and were amazed at her new skill.
‘I’ll share them with you,’ she told the others. ‘This is too much for me.’
The other cranes looked at one another with guilt. They had always teased her and hurt her feelings, but now, she was offering them these fish she earned herself.
She pushed the fish in their direction when it seemed they wouldn’t accept the gift, and they humbly took one each and flew away.
When everyone was gone, the crane turned to the butterfly fluttering around her head and asked, ‘Why did you help me? I might have eaten you like I have so many other butterflies, but you helped me.’
The butterfly rested beside her as she nestled into a clump of flowers and replied, ‘I helped you so you would stop eating my kind and you could properly feed yourself.’
She responded with a simple, quiet, ‘Oh.’
‘And because you are the most beautiful crane I have ever seen,’ he continued.
She quickly looked down at him as he perched on a flower.
‘Me?’ she replied doubtfully. ‘I’m not beautiful,’ she argued softly. ‘I have no red feathers like the other cranes, and the feathers that are supposed to be black are dull grey. I’m, also, smaller than any other crane my age. I’m the ugliest crane in the world,’ she sniffed.
The butterfly flew up to her beak and landed so she could see him. ‘I may not know much about feathers and what other cranes your age are supposed to look like, but to me, you are the most beautiful crane here. When I saw you swooping down to catch me, I thought you were a heavenly fairy. At that moment, I was willing to be eaten if it meant I could be close to your heart.’
The crane’s eyes filled with tears. No one had ever said those things about her.
‘I wasn’t going to eat you,’ she admitted. ‘When I saw you, I thought you were too beautiful to be crushed in my mouth. I wanted to be your friend, but then I tripped and made a fool of myself.’
Before the butterfly could say any more, a star soared across the dimming sky. They both watched as it disappeared into the light of the full moon.
‘Make a wish,’ the butterfly said and they both closed their eyes and secretly prayed to the heavens for the same thing.
They each wished that in the next life, they would return as two cranes or two butterflies or even two humans … any form that would let them be together forever after.”