This piece is titled Caterpillars.
It's around 900 words in total.
She knew it was time to send them back.
But part of her didn’t want to let them go. It was too painful. They had been her friends for the last month, how could she ever bear to part with them now? They had been her only friends. She had been so alone before she found them, she didn’t want to be alone again. They would become butterflies soon; she didn’t want that to happen.
Even the mere thought of it sent a shiver down her spine. She gazed down at her palm. Her only friends in the world and she was about to let them go. She couldn’t let it happen, she couldn’t. She wouldn’t.
The caterpillars wriggled in her hand, as if they knew what she was thinking, as if they could feel her pain. A smile rose to her lips. Ever so gently, she closed her hand and carefully placed the caterpillars into the pocket of her pinafore. The time for goodbyes could wait. Until she was ready to let them go.
Catherine knew it was ridiculous to even think such a thing. She was no longer a child, she couldn’t make believe anymore. She had to grow up, her mother was forever telling her. Forgo the childish dresses, style her hair into the latest fashion and wear something more her age. She was becoming a young woman, she was due to attend finishing school in a few years. Soon, she would have responsibilities. She would be expected to go to dances and select a suitable husband.
She didn’t want a husband.
She would tell her mother that she had let the caterpillars go. If she tilted her head and fluttered her eyelashes in just the right way, her mother would believe her. If that didn’t work, her father would take her side. She was Father’s special girl.
Skipping back into the house, Catharine kept her head down. There was a suitable box under her bed where she could keep her friends. She would go back into the garden later to collect twigs and leaves to make it comfortable for her guests. The box was hidden deep under her bed so the maid wouldn’t find it when she was cleaning. It would be easy to feed her caterpillars, there were plenty of plants around the house.
“Have you let them go Catharine?” Her mother called from the drawing room. She had eyes like a hawk and always knew what was happening. As if her mother had a sixth sense for trouble.
Poking her head round the door, relief flooded through her as she spotted her father at his desk in the far corner. He looked up from his letters and nodded at her, silently giving her courage.
“Yes Mother,” she said standing on the threshold. She didn’t dare go in still having her outdoor shoes on. There would be hell to pay if she trod mud into the carpet. She didn’t want going to bed hungry for a week-again.
Her mother was staring at her. Catharine bit her tongue and resisted the urge to put her hand protectively to her pocket. Surely that would give the game away. She just had to get to her room.
“Are you sure?” Her mother’s eyes narrowed and her brow knotted, making her look quite ugly. Catharine cleared her throat, trying to suppress the urge to laugh.
Forcing a sweet smile onto her lips, Catharine nodded. “Yes Mother. It was silly to have them in the house to begin with.”
Her father looked up from his writing pad, the fountain pen suspended in mid-air. “Good girl Catharine. Now run and get changed. Your uncle is dining with us tonight and he’s bringing a client’s boy with him.”
“Who?” Her mothers’ attention shifted to her father. Catharine was tempted to leave them, but she hadn’t been dismissed yet. Resting one hand on the door handle, she gazed around the room, pretending she wasn’t listening. After all, such matters didn’t concern her. But they did. She wasn’t even of age yet and her parents were trying to arrange a husband.
The caterpillars wriggled in her pocket, they sensed something was wrong.
“Lord Dowry’s son Anthony,” her father was saying. “He is off to finishing school later on in the year. Lord Dowry thought it was best to introduce him to a possible beau to make sure he doesn’t become involved with a commoner whilst he is away from home. You remember what happened to Lord and Lady Bestwood’s son…”
“Yes…” Her mother trailed off, staring into the distance. The atmosphere shifted slightly and Catharine saw disgust fleet across her mothers’ face. The caterpillars wriggled. They were hungry.
“Catharine, tell Mary you are to be ready by six,” her father said and offered her a reassuring smile. “Go and get ready my girl.”
Bobbing a curtsy, she closed the door and allowed a sigh to escape her lips. Gently, she tucked her fingers into her pocket. The caterpillars wriggled happily. She stopped at the foot of the stairs and plucked a handful of leaves from the vase of flowers on the side table.
Sweeping up the stairs, Catharine flung her bedroom door open and closed it swiftly behind her. Unfortunately, there was no lock on it. Time was against her.
Crouching, she yanked the small wooden box out from under her bed. One by one, she delicately placed the caterpillars inside. She smiled as she watched them wriggle around. Then carefully placed the leaves from the vase of flowers inside. Her heart soared. Her friends weren’t going to leave her.
Footsteps echoed down the hallway. Her stomach lurched and the air suddenly caught in her throat. Taking one final look at the caterpillars, Catharine closed the lid and pushed the box deep under her bed.
“I’ll come back for you,” she whispered. “I promise.”