She was old enough to know, but young enough to disappear within her imagination. Her kingdom of calla lilies had to be tended to, after all, regardless of what tragedies took place in the deceptively dull realm of the real world. Ruling alone was an awfully gigantic task, and there were no princes of worth nearby. Some were too ugly; some were too smelly; most were too stupid... and they all had cooties. She had a quest to begin soon, anyway. A journey her uncle told her that could take the rest of her life. There were no worries, however, for she didn't think she'd be away from her calla lilies for too long.
The quest was, perhaps, the kindest thing her uncle had ever given to her. The little girl refused to come to terms with her father's death. Car accidents and heart attacks didn't exist among the callaliliputians (a term her father had coined), so why should they exist for her father? An artist by trade, her uncle had recognized the girl's defense mechanism, and instead of following the suit of modern advice and making her confront the cold facts, he simply played along.
"But where did daddy go?" she asked, frowning, though she wasn't entirely convinced a frown was called for. She was simply imitating the expressions of the adults that were present.
Her uncle sighed, tired from reluctant and public tears, but turned to her with a big smile. "He moved, princess. He went to a different kingdom to rule."
Her eyes widened as big as the muffins she had stolen the week before (but told no one about, not even her sister). "Does he have a castle?" She seemed excited.
"Oh, yes," her uncle replied, "but it's a castle in the sky."
The girl frowned again, but this time with purpose. "How do I get there to see him?"
Her uncle picked her up and propped him on her lap. "Well, it's a very, very hard journey. One such a little girl might not be able to make. It might even take forever."
She crossed her arms, keeping the frown intact. "I'm not that little. I can make it."
"All right, then. First, you have to go to the gardens of stone and find the one with your daddy's name on it. That's his street sign. Understand?"
"Second," he continued, "you have to follow the yellow butterflies. One will lead you to another, and then another. Sometimes the butterflies will disappear and you'll have to look around for a hidden clue."
"Like when the Easter Bunny hides her eggs?" she interrupted.
"Yes, exactly like that." A telephone rang from the next room and her uncle set her down. As he got up to answer, he reminded her, "Follow the yellow butterflies."
"To the castle in the sky!" she exclaimed with a giggle, her frowns now an unimportant memory.
It was the tenth anniversary of her father's death, and she was weary of visiting him. Her life was about to take her to the far reaches of the world, and a hint of regret threatened to stain her aspirations before they had a chance to shine.
Remembering a childhood emotion, she glanced around for something, struggling to hold back her tears.
"Please," she said aloud, to no one in particular, "let me know that it's okay to leave you."
Not really expecting an answer, she parked her car and began the short walk to her father's gravesite. It was a beautiful spring day and there was still some moisture in the soil from a gentle rain two days prior. The birds were calling and the sun was warm. Only her mood darkened the beautiful and peaceful landscape.
As she approached the headstone, her eyes grew as large as those muffins she once stole. She fell to her knees and began to cry. Upon her father's marker, basking in the sun and flapping its wings to a song that no one could hear... a yellow butterfly.
Wiping the tears from her cheeks she looked up to the sky, imagining a cloud in the shape of a castle.