As long as they could remember they did everything together and helped each other whenever they could. When Beetle fell into a pond, it was Caterpillar who pushed a piece of straw until it reached him and Beetle could climb out. When the gardeners sprayed the bushes and all the caterpillars were paralysed and fell off, Beetle carried Caterpillar on his back until they were out of danger and carefully put her down on a fresh, juicy leaf.
But one day, when Beetle came to see her, Caterpillar moved very slowly and her eyes were sad.
“My time is coming” she said. “Soon I’ll have to make a cocoon and there, inside, I will change.”
“But we will still be friends, right?” asked Beetle.
“I don’t know,” said Caterpillar sadly. “I will be different. Everything will be different for me. I’m not sure I will remember.”
“I hope you will!” said Beetle, but he felt very worried.
When he came next day to the branch he left his friend on she was nowhere to be seen. Instead he found a big brown cocoon hanging from it instead. Beetle put his ear against the cocoon and listened carefully. He felt that his friend was inside there, as she had said, and that she was alive and well.
So as the days grew shorter and colder, he kept coming to the cocoon and telling her about his day. He felt sleepier each day the autumn was progressing, and one evening, after he just finished telling Caterpillar how a hungry crow tried to catch him and he escaped under a log, he yawned and fell asleep for a long, long time.
The friends were lucky that winter –no hungry birds made a meal of them, no little animals found the secret place where they were sleeping. With the first warm rays of the spring sun, Beetle opened his eyes.
As the sun warmed his little black body, he felt very happy and full of life. He ran to the cocoon and listened. His friend was still in there, alive. Beetle was hungry, so he ran off to find some food. He found some young dandelion leaves – and they never tasted better for him!
When he returned to the cocoon and was halfway through telling her all about it, he felt some movement inside the cocoon, like something was just about to change, to burst, to escape. Before his eyes, the cocoon split down the middle and a wet butterfly, with her big wings folded and wrinkly, emerged.
“You’re here!” exclaimed Beetle. The creature who used to be his friend didn’t look at him. She was just sitting there, shivering, gazing around at the bright world. Her wings were opening and, but it still was hard to guess their colour.
“You must be really hungry!” decided Beetle. He rushed to the dandelion plant and it took him some time to chew off one of the juiciest little leaves from the bottom of the plant. Panting and carrying it, he hurried back to their branch. The butterfly was gone. The empty cocoon was swinging gently in the wind, like a dry leaf.
“She’ll be back!” Beetle thought. It was painful to think anything else. He just needed to wait; so he did. As the sun started going down, he chewed on the leaf he brought. By the time he’d finished it, it was already dark. “I’ll bring her another one if she’s hungry,” he thought, falling asleep. “She used to love juicy young leaves…”
Beetle waited for three days. Butterfly didn’t come back. He was very hungry but he stayed where he was – he didn’t want to risk missing her. On the fourth morning, with a deep sigh, he slowly made his way down the branch and back to the dandelion plant. The leaves were tasteless. He drank some fresh dew from a grass blade, though it didn’t make him feel any better. He saw young millipedes playing hide and seek in the rocks. Watching them having fun made him miss his friend even more.
He ran away – from the bush, from the field, from all his old life – and found himself scuttling across a road, in the open. Just as he remembered the dangers of being in the open, a shadow fell on the ground in front of him. With a loud screech a hungry sparrow dived at thr chance of a big fat beetle to eat. Beetle leapt to the left, then to the right, tried to hide in the grass, tried to open his wings to fly away, but the sparrow seemed to be everywhere with its beak hitting the ground ahead of Beetle whichever way he turned. Beetle just couldn’t struggle any longer; he stopped running, closed his eyes and thought of his friend.
Instead of a crushing beak he felt gentle but strong little feet grabbing him, holding him, lifting him in the air. He opened his eyes. He was flying – but not on his own wings. He looked up, and his friend’s eyes smiled at him from a changed face. “I remember now!” she said. “It took some time to remember.” Her wings were black, lined with patches of yellow and blue. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. And she was smiling at him.
They landed in a big, tall bush with thick, strong branches.
“It’s called the Butterfly Bush. The flowers are just beginning to open.” Butterfly said. “They have the best taste in the world. Shall we live here?” She winked at Beetle “And right under it there are plenty of young dandelions. I remember dreaming of someone telling me how great their leaves tasted.”
Beetle sighed happily and laughed; Butterfly soon joined in. The wind gently shook the young branches with thin green leaves and bunches of blue and purple flowers, just starting to open, some still buds.
It was going to be a beautiful summer.