The butterfly has been an embodiment of beauty forever. The perfect symmetry of their wings can take anyone’s breath away, but did you know that it takes approximately four weeks for a calliper to become a butterfly? Something so beautiful and perfect could never happen over night; it’s preposterous to think perfection can be achieved right away. A caterpillar must be ready to become a butterfly and then it takes weeks for it to finally become one. Now this story isn’t about butterflies, or beauty, or even perfection. This is a love story about two people and, like a caterpillar going through metamorphosis, it’s going to take time for the two to finally reach each other. They don’t know it yet but no matter how far the distance is between them, they, without a doubt, end up together. So settle in your seats, because this is a long ride but a beautiful one, and it’s about to start.
Emily Jamison tightened her long brown ponytail and continued carrying the two large bins of equipment to the main cabin of the summer camp where she was working. She has worked at this camp every year since her freshman year of high school and with two more months until she goes to college, this will be her fourth and final year.
“Do you want some help with that?” A deep voice asked her.
“That would be great, thank you,” Emily replied, she couldn’t see who it was but as the stranger lifted a bin from her arms she smiled. “Are you new?” She asked the stranger, who was wearing a staff hat.
“I am, yesterday was my first day. I’m Jack by the way,” he remarked.
“Emily. Nice to meet you Jack,” Emily replied, smiling.
It was a beautiful day with a clear blue sky and gentle sunshine. As they reached the main cabin, Emily and Jack continued talking as the two waited for the camp to open. They learned they were both about to go to college, and they talked about Jack moving here the previous year, and about how weird is was that they had never meet before.
Jack and Emily had gone to different high schools but their town was small enough that most high schoolers knew most of the high schoolers from the other schools in the area.
Emily teased Jack on the fact that he was only working at the camp to get away from working another summer at his dad’s company. Jack teased her on the fact that she had gotten into Stanford and was choosing to go to NYU instead.
Fate works in strange ways and, by some stroke of luck, Emily and Jack were assigned to the same group that day. When the day was over, Emily didn’t hesitate to say yes when Jack asked if she would like to hang out sometime.
That summer, the two spend nearly every second together. They bonded over their shared curiosity in what the next chapter of their lives would bring them and their shared interests. It seemed to them that that summer was like a snow globe, immobilized while the rest of the world continued to go by. They were in their own little world, but, no matter what, they couldn’t keep reality away.
“Jack, you’re leaving in a week for Seattle,” Emily said one night as they watched the stars from the roof of Jack’s house.
“I know,” He said quietly from next to her. The two words had weight, and the pressure of them felt heavy between them. Emily knew the meaning too. They knew that they were going to have to say goodbye and that was hard for both of them but they were also both excited about what the next year was going to bring them.
“Do you think we fell in love at the wrong time?” Jack said in a near whisper. Emily turned her head to look at him.
“No,” Emily said after a moment, “I think we were meant to meet each other here and now.” She smiled at him and he smiled back. They faced the stars again, enjoying the last few moments of their quiet and peaceful world.
Emily and Jack had the shared outlook that they needed to find themselves in college and dragging each other along would ruin their relationship and personal growth. So when the time came, they let each other go because they each wanted the best for the other and themselves.
In two years, during winter break, both of them independently decided to come home. It was a beautiful snowy day and Emily decided that she wanted to go to her old favorite cafe to see if they still had her favorite holiday order. When she got to the cafe, a familiar person was standing in front of her.
“Jack?” Emily exclaimed in surprise. Jack turned around at the sound of his name.
“Emily!” He exclaimed grinning,“It’s so good to see you!” The two hugged, grinning at each other.
“I haven’t seen you in so long,” Emily said, “I was actually just thinking about you when I was driving over here, do you remember-”
“When I couldn’t find any parking so we had to park two blocks away, and then when we finally got here there were two open spots?” Jack said laughing.
“Yes!” Emily laughed with him.
Jack insisted on buying Emily’s drink and the two decided to catch up in the cozy warm cafe that used to be their favorite.
It seemed just like old times except they had so much more to tell each other. They never talked about the boring stuff that you tell your family about when you come back from break, but the things that really mattered, like the fact that the guy who sat next to Emily in her gender and equalities class said ‘like’ as least five times in a sentence-which Emily and Jack both hated- and about how none of Jack’s friends enjoyed Korean food- which Emily and Jack both loved.
They hadn’t even noticed that the sun was almost gone from the sky and that the cafe was about to close until the last employee told them it was closing time.
They both looked at the employee like she was the bearer of the worst news possible, but they quickly decided it was okay because they had to see each other again before they both left. With one last smile they departed, but their smiles followed them both throughout the rest of their time home.
That summer, both decided to stay at school, and the next winter break they missed each other by a day, but the next summer they met again at that same cafe.
“I have a confession to make,” Jack said after they had finished catching up, “I’ve come in almost every day while I’ve been here on the chance that I might see you.”
Emily smiled as she said, “I was planning on doing the same thing.”
They laughed, as Jack told the story of one day last week when he thought a different girl was Emily and accidentally scared her.
When they both went back to school after that summer something seemed slightly off. Emily found herself wondering what it would be like if Jack went to NYU with her, and what conversations they would have when they were at cafes and restaurants in New York. She couldn’t help but think that maybe it had been the wrong idea to end things with Jack so long ago.
The next year they both graduated from college, both mature and with a strong sense of who they were and wanted to be. Jack had graduated with a degree in high school education and already had a position lined up back home, while Emily had graduated with a degree in political science.
Emily and Jack both traveled back for the summer again but this time their minds were hardly on seeing each other. That is, until they ran into each other yet again.
The farmer’s market is always one of the most beautiful places in town during the summer. From the brilliantly bright flowers to the smell of honey and fresh fruit, everything seemed peaceful and calm.
Emily was picking out a bouquet of flowers for her mom when Jack nudged her on the shoulder.
“Hey stranger,” Jack said smiling.
“Jack,” Emily smiled back in greeting. “I’m starting to think that maybe we are supposed to end up together. Why else would we keep randomly seeing each all these years?” Emily laughed at the look on Jack’s face and quickly added, “I’m just kidding.”
Jack smiled at her for a moment, “Emily there is someone I want you to meet,” Jack waved a woman over, “This is my fiancé, Lily.”
Emily’s mouth almost fell open but she regained her composure quickly. “It’s so nice to meet you, Lily, I’m Emily.”
“Emily! Jack was telling me how he hoped we would run into you, so nice to meet you,” Lily said. She was tall, blonde, pretty and from what Emily could tell, she was nice too. Emily’s smile faltered as she looked between the two.
“I had no idea you were engaged, congratulations!” Emily said with a little too much enthusiasm.
Jack looked at her for a moment like he could see right through her. His smile seemed to falter too. “Thank you, we are getting married this spring,”
“Is the ceremony going to be in the botany garden in Wilson Park?” Emily asked.
“No actually, it’s going to be at Saint Theresa’s,” Lily replied. Emily nodded and smiled but looked at Jack sideways, he had always said he wanted to get married at the botany garden.
After some more conversation about the wedding, Emily paid for her flowers and said goodbye. She looked back as she was leaving and saw Lily and Jack picking out their own flowers.
A tear fell down Emily’s face as she got in her car but she wiped at it hastily. She had forgotten to tell Jack that she had decided to go to law school at Stanford.
A month later Emily left again for school, she came back on break a time or two but she and Jack never ran into each other. It seemed that their story had ended.
Three years later Emily graduated and decided to move back home to be close to her mom. She got a job at a local firm and for the first time in her life felt like she had finally found herself.
With two weeks until she started the next chapter of her life and her new job, she decided to head to the park where her friends and her used to hang out in high school, just for nostalgia’s sake. She sat on a bench and started to read a book. It was sunny and warm but not too warm, perfect for a comfortable day out. The sky was blue and filled with surreal white clouds. The only sounds around were the distant voices of children laughing and the cheerful chirping of birds in the trees above her.
“Emily?” She looked up from her book startled. She looked at the person in front of her for a moment before smiling quietly.
“It’s been awhile Jack,” she said as she set her book down beside her.
“Only three years,” He said laughing. “How have you been? I heard you just graduated law school, that’s amazing!” He said as he moved to sit on the bench with her.
“Thank you,” Emily said, “I’m just glad to be done with school honestly. How are you? How’s Lily?”
Jack shifted slightly, “We actually called off the engagement, it just didn’t feel right.”
“I’m sorry to hear that,” Emily said slowly as she processed what this meant.
Jack looked at her for a moment just smiling, “Emily we met each other seven years ago.”
“It was that long ago?” She realized he was right. It had been seven years since that had met at that old summer camp and seven years since that had left to go to college. It seemed crazy that time had gone by so quickly. “We were so young back then.”
“And foolish,” Jack says he takes a moment before adding, “Emily I think the biggest mistake we ever made was saying goodbye to each other.”
Emily looked at him, the sun was shining making his brown hair appear to almost have golden streaks. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw something land on her book; a butterfly.
“I don’t think there is anything stopping us from meeting again,” Emily said slowly.
Jack smiled and Emily smiled back, they shared a knowing look. It had been seven years since they meet, seven years since they had fallen in love, and seven years since they had said goodbye. But they were completely different people than they were then and if seven years was what it took for them to finally be at a place where they could be together, they both knew they would go through seven more. This time, they were going to start the next chapter of their lives together, just as it was always meant to be.