Age 7

A wizened old face pressed up against the glass of the train's window, rosy cheeks full and creased as the old man's lips upturned into a cheerful grin. Hurriedly he boarded off the train and went to stand anxiously by the gate. His grandson came barreling through the station like a bat out of hell, his little arms flapping excitedly as he jumped up into his grandfather's arms.

"Grampa!" The boy shouted and wrapped his arms around the older gentleman's neck, squeezing as tight as his little arms could.

The man chuckled hardily and pried the young child from himself, setting him gently to the pavement, and then reaching around for his gray leather bag. There was a large brown paper package protruding from the brim, and of course that was the very thing that the boy's grandfather had extended for. Wrinkled hands placed the thick parcel into the tiny hands of his grandson, a broad smile halving the grandfather's haggard face.

Those tiny hands ripped at the paper, slowly but surely exposing a glass case with white labels lining the bottom, each one set three inches apart. The case was thick and hollow and it glistened in the sunlight as the boy turned it in many directions. Though he had no clue as to what it was for he still looked as eager and excited as ever to find out.

"What is it?" The boy asked, his pale cheeks flushed with exhilaration.

"It's a butterfly case, Lani." Grandpa playfully ruffled the boy's messy head of red hair.

"Is that what we're doing this summer, grampa? Catching butterflies?" Lani's eyes danced with wonder, hoping so much that it was.

"You betchya," he laughed and looked up in time to see his daughter-in-law grimace as she approached with a quickstep.

"Arthur, please don't tell me you're going to let him do such a thing?"

"Linda, please. Not in front of Lani," Arthur's tone was low and brooding.

Lani looked up at his mother and grandfather, knowing exactly what his mother meant. She had always been concerned about Lani doing such "girlish" things such as catching butterflies or dressing up with makeup. Lani had always been interested in such things and frankly couldn't help himself.

"Arthur," Linda said firmly, "I don't want you encouraging that sort of inappropriate behavior. That's the end of it. Now, we don't mind you staying but--"

"We? 'But' what?" Arthur sniggered.

"Fine. Whatever you want," she heaved a sigh, turned on her heel, grabbed at Lani's hand, and went off swiftly.

Arthur followed dolefully in pursuit, grabbing his old leather bag, just as old and corrugated as he. As they walked he tried not to say anything else that could get them in to a heated argument on the ride home; although, it was tempting.

Age 10

A gorgeous monarch butterfly was explicably caught in the light of an abandoned prism. Its wings were of a fiery sunset orange, beautifully illuminated and paper-thin. In a slow and rhythmic pattern, the frail appendages fanned the denser air around them. A pair of small hands and curious eyes ignited on the creature, little puffs of air caressed the microscopic hairs on the miniscule thing.

How wonderful it was that a being so simple could arouse that much joy in Lani. So often children at his age were tempted to catch and hold the bugs captive, where their lives were sure to diminish quickly. However, Lani differed from the other children, for he admired the creatures, watched them intently in wonder and fascination. It was an alluring idea to Lani of a fast and simple life. Butterflies only live for about a week, and they all have the same purpose. Lani wished so much that human life could be as simple.

Tentatively, Lani unfurled his fingers and touched them delicately to the tiny body shadowed by his own. The butterfly did not flinch or fly away; in fact, she remained completely complacent as she felt the boy's rough, warm fingers gingerly caress her. Her little legs strained against the weight; however, they did not collapse. Lani just smiled brightly as he pet her, craning his neck a bit to the right and retrieving with his free hand the abandoned prism. Another newfound treasure, a gift his friends had found for him.

Suddenly the ground began to rumble with the sounds of racing feet, raucous laughter thickened the air, and Lani could taste the own bile of his fear rise in his throat, stinging his eyes. Amidst the calamity, the little monarch became frightened herself and hastened to make a quick getaway. Lani whipped his head 'round just in time to see her flutter off down the street in midair. When the boy slowly brought himself to face the mob that approached him, he could feel his knees began to protest beneath him.

"Playing with your friends, Lani?" A blonde haired boy-- evidently the leader of the mob-- sniggered, giving Lani a forceful shove.

Lani looked at the place that the blonde boy had touched him, and then replied matter-of-factly, "I was, but you pigs scared her off." He tried to size up the bunch of them by holding his shoulders up at a ridiculous angle that looked rather painful to say the least.

"Oh, I'm sorry, Lani. Want me to call Thumbelina and get her to give you your bottle and change your diapers?" Blondie thought he was a real riot. Only a few giggles emanated from the crowd behind him.

"Just go mind your own beeswax, Charlie," Lani replied dolefully and a bit under his breath. The audience gasped for they knew that you were never to speak to Charlie that way, and also knew the consequences for Lani's backtalk.

Charlie shoved Lani harder this time, his already trembling legs couldn't withstand the force, so Lani fell backwards into a puddle of mud. The muck splattered a good two foot radius onto everyone's shoes, but it barely evaded poor Lani's eyes and mouth. He managed to prop himself up on his elbows, the squelching mud sucking him back in each time he attempted to stand. In this defenseless condition, Charlie found it a great opportunity to filch Lani's bag from him and dump the contents at the struggling boy's side. Butterfly sketches, empty jars labeled with rare butterfly species, and several other objects immediately reduced to a murky brown mess.

"Lets see how your friends help you outta this one," Charlie glowered down at the boy he deemed so inferior. You could see the pure insidious poison leak from Charlie's eyes like acid. It would make one wonder how someone so small could harness such a vast rage, and with no reason for it at all.

As those nefarious footsteps faded into the distance, Lani's breathing could at last return to normalcy. He peered around as though he were being watched by the big bad wolf, but when he realized that no greater evil was around he began to retaliate from his fatal battle. The beautiful sketches he had done destroyed by dark mud stains, and his once immaculate labeled jars were cracked. Homework was, of course, DOA and in no condition to hand in.

However, (an unfortunate missed target for Charlie) something still clung tightly inside of Lani's muddied bag. A thick blue binder remained clean and intact, so as quickly as he could Lani began to copy down his homework onto a clean sheet of paper. With that done, Lani left the butterfly ruins were they lay and began to make his way to school. Without his butterfly things, he felt as empty and shattered as those butterfly jars.