“We are back, Gardener!” Flare was once again at the gates of the Garden, this time, with the sunflower. (Or rather, a sun named Sunflower, now).
“Hello there,” the Gardener appeared. “So you have experienced the miracle.” He nodded, observing that the sunflower had now become a little sun-ling.
“Yes! Sunflower is now a sun!” Flare declared with pride. “Now we can traverse this Garden together, him and I, perhaps even this universe. We are both suns now!”
“Ah, can you?” The Gardener asked. Then he spoke to the little sun-ling (I suppose we should call him Sunflower now, with a capital S, so we know that Sunflower is now his name.) “I will speak to Flare alone, Sunflower. You will find, twenty paces from here, a small brick house. It houses the map of this Garden. You may enter the house and study the map. Then when I call again, come back and tell me where you would like to go next, in this garden of mine.”
Sunflower nodded excitedly and stole a glance at Flare. Flare gave his approval and Sunflower sped away.
“Do you think you will travel with Sunflower now?” The Gardener asked Flare.
“Yes!” Flare declared. “When he was just a sunflower, I could not bring him to the places I went. But now, he is a young sun and there is nowhere in the universe young suns like us cannot go!”
“Ah, but are you still a young sun?” The Gardener asked.
At his question, Flare stilled. For he had been so engrossed with the task of caring for the sunflower, then blazing away whenever he could, that he had not looked at himself for a long long time now. Now he did, and saw to his dismay that his flames were no longer as bright and luminous as they were. (It might seem to you that not much time has passed, since Flare first found Sunflower as a seedling; but that is how time works, so often it slips by, too silently.)
“No, I am not.” Flare said quietly. (Suns, as we know, live for a very very long time. But they too, use up the fuel of their gaseous heart, grow old, and die some time. Flare knew this too.) “But even an old sun such as I, there will still be places we can go together.”
“Ah, but would these be the places Sunflower wants to go?” The Gardener asked. Flare had no reply. And after a moment, the Gardener said, “Let’s ask him, shall we?” And he called out to Sunflower.
Sunflower blazed up in an instant, breathless with excitement.
“And where would you like to go, my dear Sunflower?” The Gardener asked.
“Oh! May I choose? May I really? There are too many places I want to see! At the other end of the Garden, there are seven planets, each the colour of a rainbow! I think I shall want to start there!” Sunflower answered.
“Ah, that is too far for Flare to follow, would you still want to go, if he cannot come?” The Gardener asked.
At this question, Sunflower stilled and looked at Flare. And Flare saw in Sunflower’s eyes, the exact reflection of himself, as he was, aeons and aeons ago.
“You can go.” Flare said quietly.
“Oh! Can I? May I! Then yes Gardener, I want to go!” Sunflower exclaimed.
“Ah but the Rainbow planets are far, and you are but a young sun-ling. To get there you must wait for an epoch, unless someone gives you one light of his.” The Gardener said.
There was a moment of silence at this. Then Flare spoke, “You can have a light of mine, dear Sunflower.”
The Gardener looked at Flare, then at Sunflower, and said “So it shall be done.”
And in an instant, Sunflower’s light became so luminous and so magnificent, that there no doubt he was now a real sun, one capable to blazing, like Flare once did, to the ends of the universe.
“May I go now then?” Sunflower asked eagerly.
“Oh just a moment,” Flare said as he moved closer to Sunflower. “How far you have come, my little sunflower.” He smiled, a little sadly, at Sunflower. “You will have so much fun out there.”
“Yes,” Sunflower said, solemn for a moment. “My dear Flare, I will never forget that you were my sun. I shall come back and tell your about my travels!” Then he reached out and touched Flare, light to light. “Goodbye now!”
And then he sped away.
“That was my last light,” said Flare, long after Sunflower left.
“I know, ” replied the Gardener.
“There was time and world enough for us to be apart.” Flare said sadly. “I wanted my time alone, and now, I have.”
“Do not be too hard on yourself, you did not do badly by the sunflower,” the Gardener said kindly. “You are a sun, and suns are made to want to blaze across skies and travel to the ends of the universe. You did then, he does now.”
“But I thought I had done all that, before I came to your garden.” Flare replied.
“Yes you did. But we do not leave ourselves behind when we enter The Garden. We are still who we are and want what it is in our nature to want. For you Flare, that was your independence, and your solitude.” The Gardener said wisely. “What you learn in the Garden is love someone, until the love and responsibility truly become part of who you are.”
“So what will happen now?” Flare asked. “I have lost my last light. I cannot be a real sun in The Garden,” he said sadly, glancing at his own dying embers.
“No, you cannot. But I promised you a place here, should you accomplish the task I set you, and you did.” The Gardener smiled. “You will never be strong enough again to light up a planet, but I will gather what remains of you now. You will be a most beautiful sunset, in a painting I shall place in the house on the easternmost reach of the planet where Sunflower is. Every morning, the first rays of his light shall shine on you and you will always be together this way.”
“And this painting, what else will I find in it?” Flare asked.
“Oh,” The Gardener answered with a wink. “It will be a painting of a sun setting behind the hillocks on a golden planet, setting aglow a stream and the panes of a glass house–a glass house, with a sunflower in it.”
And that is how it came to be, that there is an empty house on the easternmost tip of the green planet (for that is where the Sunflower is now going about his work as the sun of a planet).
Every morning, the first rays of the sunflower, now a sun named Sunflower, shines through the windows and lights up the canvas where Flare resides. When morning has passed and Sunflower was too high overhead for its light to reach Flare, Flare waited through the rest of the day and night for the next dawn when Sunflower’s light would once again touch him; remembering during those hours, how once it was the sunflower who was doing the waiting, for him, Flare, his sun.
Now we come to the end of the story. You might wonder, why didn’t the Gardener put more windows in Flare’s house, so that Sunflower’s light can shine in during the afternoon? Or why not make the house a glass one, like the one Sunflower grew up in? Sunflower’s light could shine on Flare all day then. What clever children you are!
But there is a lesson in this and it is a little too sad for me to explain it to you. For I have a sunflower of my own and I must learn the lesson myself. I can only say this to you — that one day someone is waiting for us, but one day, we find ourselves waiting instead. Come read this again, when you too have little sunflowers of your own, you will understand then. We must love our sunflowers the best we can.
And you will also understand that all stories end, and we will leave Flare and Sunflower here, in this beautiful ending.
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