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Deep in the deserts of South Africa was a little oasis garden. Filled with many wild trees and plants, it was full of life and was also home to a cactus plant and a rose bush.

One day, a swift wind brought with it a butterfly. It was new here and introduced itself to the rose bush. “Hi, my name is Nancy. I’m new here and was blown here by a strong wind. Would you mind if I lived here in your garden?” she asked. “Of course,” said the rose bush, welcoming Nancy. Soon, Nancy became a part of the garden and got along well with all the trees and plants. Among all of them, she was best friends with the rose bush.

She’d flit over to her, flapping her big, colourful wings and sip the nectar from the rose bush’s flowers. They’d talk for hours about this and that and their bond grew stronger still.

One day, the cactus turned to the butterfly and said, “Nancy, would you like to be my friend too?”

“What? Me become your friend? No way,” said Nancy, making a face.

“Why not?” asked the cactus, innocently.

“You’re full of thorns. That’s why,” said the butterfly.

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“The rose bush has thorns too. How come you’re friends with her?” asked the cactus.

“You dare compare yourself to the rose bush?” asked Nancy, threateningly. “Even though she has thorns, the rose bush also has beautiful roses, full of nectar. You on the other hand have no good qualities.”

“That’s right, you have no good qualities. You’re all thorns,” added the rose bush and the two started giggling

The cactus felt terrible and didn’t bother them again.

Several days passed and the seasons began to change. The garden was getting warmer and as the days passed by, the weather grew hotter and hotter. The plants began to wilt and the leaves began to turn brown and shed. The once green garden became a bland, bed of brown.

Soon, the entire garden had wilted and all that was left was the cactus and rose bush.

Things weren’t as beautiful as before and the rose bush was looking sickly too.

“What’s the matter?” Nancy asked the rose bush. “You haven’t borne any new flowers in days now.”

“It’s the heat. Without any water, I just don’t have the energy to make more flowers. All I have are the ones that are already in bloom,” said the rose bush.

“Oh no, what am I going to do if you’re not going to be bearing any new flowers?” asked Nancy.

“Nancy, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to stay here anymore. The summer has only started and things are going to get much worse. I suggest that you move to a cooler, greener jungle for a few months and return when it rains again,” suggested the rose bush.

While Nancy was keen on moving to greener forests, she was too afraid to make the trip. She was worried that she might not be able to make it that far. As she stayed on for a couple of more days, the dry winds wilted the last few flowers the rose bush had.

Now Nancy was left with no more food. She grew weary and sat on the branches of the rose bush. The expression on her face was enough for the cactus to tell that something was wrong.

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“What’s the matter Nancy? Is everything alright?” the cactus asked.

“No,” said Nancy. “I want to fly away to a greener place, but I’m so tired and thirsty that I’m afraid I won’t be able to make it. I can barely fly across the garden.”

“Don’t worry Nancy. I’ll help you,” said the cactus and called his friend, Raaka, the vulture.

Raaka swooped down and asked the cactus what the matter was.

“Oh, nothing much, just helping a friend. Could you use your beak to carve a hole on one of my arms?” asked the cactus.

Raaka did so and out of the cut oozed drops of water.

“Now you can drink to your heart’s content,” said the cactus to Nancy.

Nancy took a sip of the sweet, cool water and felt much better.

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“How are you so full of water when all the other trees and plants have dried up in the heat?” asked Nancy.

“That’s because nature has given cacti the ability to store water in their stems. We soak up all the water we can find when it rains and use it during the hot summer months. Cacti may not seem like much on the outside, but we have a lot going for us on the inside,” said the cactus.

“I’m sorry for saying mean things to you,” said Nancy. “I was under the impression that the only special beings on this planet are the ones who have beautiful wings or bear beautiful flowers. I never realised that there could be so much more. Please forgive me.”

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The cactus accepted Nancy’s apology and said, “Don’t worry about flying away to another forest for now. Stay here and drink to your heart’s content. I’ll keep you safe here until the next summer.”

Nancy and the cactus spent the summer and the rest of their lives as best friends.