A small, willowy figure strode through the empty garden, gazing at the vast and seemingly endless field of flowers. Every flower the little girl could think of was in this one special place; roses, daffodils, tulips, daisies, baby's breath, dragon snaps, everything. But there was one flower she was looking for. A flower that she knew her mother would like very much.
But she had to hurry, for the sun was beginning to set and the sky would soon be dark. Already the heavens were turning a magnificent royal-blue and purple color, signaling the end of the day and setting into twilight. The girl quickened her search.
She was so engorged in her mission she didn't even notice the caretaker until she ran into him. Her small, delicate frame smacked right into his, and she fell flat on her rear. She cried out with a tiny oof! and looked up at the tall, lanky man who was the caretaker of the gardens.
The man stared down at the girl in total disbelief, not fully trusting his eyes on what he saw. He took off his spectacles and rubbed his deep blue eyes.
"I'm sorry, sir," the little girl said hurriedly. "I wasn't looking where I was going. Please don't be angry."
The man was, once again, taken aback, but this time by her kindness and innocence. She couldn't have been more than five years old. He smiled, and offered her a hand. The little girl took it hesitantly, and the man pulled her to her feet.
"No, it's quite alright. In all honesty, it's my fault, I should have paid more attention my self. But it's just that you blend in so well with all the plants around-" the man said with a laugh, trying to put the girl at ease. But the little girl tensed, and the man cut his laughter short. All the sudden, the little girl turned around and tried to run away, but the man caught her- gently- by the wrist.
"Let me go!" the girl screamed. The man could clearly detect the anger, and sadness, in the poor girl's beautiful voice. The man felt downright ashamed for what he had said.
"I am so sorry, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," the man said slowly. And he was completely honest and truthful in every word. The girl stopped struggling and looked at him, her vision intense, as if she was trying to determine if he was telling her the truth. "What I meant to say was that you blend in so well because you are just as beautiful as every single flower in this garden."
"I'm not a flower. I'm just an ugly green weed," the girl spat.
The man was startled to hear this from such a young girl. "Who on earth put that horrible idea in your head?!"
"Daddy says I'm just an ugly weed," the girl said slowly. "He says no one will think I'm as beautiful as Nessarose. Because she's the flower, and I'm the weed."
"You're dady's an awful liar, you know that?" the gardener said, lowering himself to one knee and gripping the little girl comfortingly in his strong arms. The girl seemed to relax, and she leaned her head against his shoulder. "Beauty isn't measured by what's on the outside, but what's on the inside."
The little girl smiled and looked the man in the eye. The man smiled himself, his heart filled with joy to see her smile. "Thank you, sir," she said quietly.
"Now, what may I do for you?" the man asked. The little girl continued to smile.
"I'm looking for a special flower for my mommy," the girl answered confidently.
"Oh? How very sweet of you!" the man said affectionately. The little girl giggled. "What is your mommy like?"
"Well, she always sang me to sleep when I was little," the girl said, deep in thought. "And she was always with me when I was sad. I love her very much." She brought her voice down to a whisper. "And she never called me ugly!"
The man beamed. "Then I have just the flower for you!"
"But I already know what flower I want," the girl persisted. "I would like to buy a white lily."
The man snorted. "That is but a common flower. And your mommy sounds really special. So shouldn't she get an equally special flower?"
"I guess so," the little girl answered tentatively.
"Then follow me!"
The man led the girl deep into the heart of his precious gardens, and each passing flower was more beautiful than the next. The girl continuously stopped and asked the man to buy a certain flower, because she was certain it was the most beautiful in the garden, but the man shook his head, promising that he would show her to the most beautiful flower in the entire garden. The little girl would pout for a while, but would follow the man obediently.
"Now over here-" the man said, motioning to the girl. "-is where the most beautiful flower in the entire kingdom is!"
The girl, her heart pounding with anticipation, looked over his shoulder, expecting to see a grand and magnificent plant, but all she saw was a clump of ugly weeds. The girl became angry, and very upset.
"You're so mean!" the girl cried, tears leaking from her eyes. "Those are only ugly weeds!"
"No, no, no!" the man said quickly, pulling her closer to the flowers. "You must be patient. They only bloom at night."
The little girl stopped crying for a moment, and relented, gazing at the greenish tangled vines before her. She wiped away her tears, and glanced over at the setting sun. The great star was now almost completely set, and just as the last lights of day faded into darkness, the little girl experienced a true miracle.
The weeds before her blossomed into the most glorious flowers the girl had ever seen. The flowers were a beautiful mix of purple, blue and green, with black tips, and each flower shimmered and sparkled like silver. The little girl broke out into the biggest smile the man had ever seen, and the girl laughed, burying her head in the flower and deeply inhaling their lovely scent.
"What did I tell you? The most beautiful flower in the entire kingdom; the night lily," the man said. It filled him with so much joy to see that little girl so happy.
"Thank you so much, mister!" the girl cried. But she soon checked herself and pulled out a small purse. "How much for one?"
"I'll tell you what," the man said. "I'll let you have all the night lilies you want, if I get to meet your mother."
The little girl bit her lip and chewed, deep in thought, but finally, she agreed. "Ok."
Well, the man had certainly not expected this.
The girl told him she'd come back in the morning to pick the flowers, and then she'd take him to meet her mother. The girl was true to her word, and arrived early the next morning and picked a handful of the night lilies, which were now in their homely and plain shape. The girl took the man by the hand, an he all too willingly let himself be pulled to wherever the girl was heading.
And that place happened to be a cemetery.
The girl walked up to a gravestone in absolute silence, and the man dared not break the solemn air. The girl laid out the flowers before the grave, and knelt on the soft grass, still moist with dew. The gravestone read: Melena Thropp-- Beloved Mother, Wife, and Friend
"I miss you, mommy," the girl said quietly. "It's so lonely without you. Daddy doesn't like to talk to me and Nessa's always away with her friends." She wiped her nose. "But I brought you some nice flowers. I know they're not your favorite, but they will be, just wait until night! They're really pretty! Just like you!"
The man was so touched by what he saw. How could such a little girl have the courage to go to a cemetery all on her own? He knelt down beside her and stroked her shoulder. All the sudden, she broke out into loud sobs and buried her head in the man's cotton shirt.
"It's not fair! She was so nice to me! Why did she have to die?" the little girl sobbed. "She was the only one who ever said she loved me! Everyone else says I'm ugly! Why did she leave me all alone?"
The man was torn to hear the young girl's cries, full of pain and anguish. He comforted her as best he could, and whispered gentle words in her ear.
"She didn't want to leave you, believe me, no one so special should die," the man said. "But you're not alone. You never will be. You have the flowers to remind you of that. Remember when you first saw them? How ugly you thought they were?" Slowly, the girl nodded. "And remember what happened, when the sun went down?" Another nod. "What does that teach you? Something may appear ugly at first, but once you truly look at it, you learn to see its true beauty. Your mother saw that in you. She saw how beautiful you really are. And you know what? I can see that you are very beautiful, too. Everyone else who can't is a fool. And you shouldn't pay attention to them, because they don't matter. Ok?"
The girl nodded, and started smiling again. "Ok. Thanks, mister."
The man chuckled. "Hey, everyone needs a little help sometime, right?"
The little girl gave him a hug. "Thanks for the flowers."
They parted, and the man stood, and took a few steps back to give the girl her privacy and to say anything else to her mother. She leaned forward, and kissed the gravestone.
"I love you, mommy."
The man was very old now, about forty or so years since he had last seen the little girl. After their first visit, she had stopped by once every few days, but slowly, her visits became more scattered until she stopped showing up altogether. The man sighed, resting his head against the trunk of a maple tree.
"Excuse me, but do you own this garden?"
The man looked up. Standing in front of him was a young man, perhaps eighteen years old, with long spiky black hair, tan skin, and magnificent green eyes. The man smiled.
"Of course. How may I help you, lad?"
"I'm looking for a flower."
The man laughed. "Well, you can find plenty of flowers in my garden! For whom are the flowers for? Girlfriend? Grandmother?"
"For my mom, actually," the young man said. The older man smiled coyly.
"And what is your mother like?"
"She has learned to see the true beauty in all things," the young man said immediately, almost as if he was anticipating the question. "She's a very passionate woman full of beauty only a few can truly see, and I love her very much."
The man's smile widened. "Then I know just the flower for you, young sir!"
The man took the boy to the heart of his garden and gave him a night lily. The young man smiled upon recieving the flower.
"Thank you. I'm sure my mother will love it."
The older man raised in eyebrow, somewhat surprised the boy did not turn away the flower in disgust. "You think this is a beautiful flower? This ugly clump of weeds?"
The boy laughed whole-heartily. "I learned quite a few things from my mother. One of which is how to see something beautiful in that which at first appears ugly. And she also taught me more than I care to know about flowers. This is a night lily. It's my mother's favorite."
"Your mother did a fine job raising you," the man complimented.
The boy smiled, handing him some coins in payment for the flower. "And I'm really not one to judge based on appearances."
The man returned the smile, but raised an eyebrow questioningly. The boy was very handsome himself. What could he possibly mean? The old man shrugged, turning around and seating himself once again beneath the maple tree.
Suddenly, he hear the thunderous flap of enormous wings and he jumped to his feet, just in time to see a very large black shape fly off into the skies. The man squinted, rubbing his eyes, and when he opened them once again, the mysterious black figure was gone.
Shaking his head, he sat once again under the tree, clearing his mind. "I'm getting much too old for this," he said to himself.