“So, I’m going to teach you a few very important things, and when you have figured them out, I want you to be sure you think about them as examples, not just as truths in themselves. Allegories, all right?”
Alhandra remembered her father’s stories for years. The one about the monk who climbed the mountain. The one about the monkey who made bad promises. The one about the princess with the sword. This, this always stuck in her mind, in part because he didn’t start out like he always did:
I’m going to tell you a tale, and when I’m done, perhaps you can tell me what you learned.
All of his tales were lessons, but these, somehow, these were supposed to be more important.
So Alhandra remembered.
“Butterflies first. Pretty things, butterflies, small and fragile, right? They’re not the most dangerous-looking things around. Lots of people are like butterflies, angel. They look pretty, they look weak, like they won’t last too long. You know the sort.”
Allhandra nodded. She knew the type, all right, even then.
“Butterflies can be poison. And people who are beautiful, they can be poison, too. They can be deadly.” He touched her hair, gently. “They don’t have to be. The little butterflies that wander around the meadow behind the house, they’re safe. And not all pretty people are poison – that’s important, too. But you know about the viceroy butterfly, how it imitates the monarchs? Remember that. Some people are poison in a pretty coat, and some people are harmless and look like poison.”
“So… look beyond the wings?”
“It’s more important than you’d think it is, princess. Not just the pretty faces, but the pretty words. Not just the pretty words, but the soft touches. You have to really, really know someone before you know if they’re poison or just pretending.”
“What’s the next part?”
“Noam!” Alhandra’s mother had called from the back yard at that point. “Noam, it’s time.”
She’d had to wait for another day to learn about sharks.
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