Monday, August 24, 2015

The Girl and the Bee - A Short Story

I recently was given the opportunity to write a short story that was unlike anything I would usually write. An experiment outside my comfort zone. So I took inspiration from a dream I once had and created a short fable-esque story. This is an original work of fiction but the pictures here are not mine so I can take no credit for them. I hope y'all enjoy!


In a far-off land where magic was not uncommon, there was a town called Hivewall. It was known throughout the Kingdom for its cultivation of honey. Other towns may have had honey in water white to amber hues. But these could never compare to Hivewall's golden honey for the secret to Hivewall was its very special bees. Any common bumble bee would be no bigger than the tip of a man’s thumb. But Hivewall bees could fill a man’s hand with ease and are covered all over in brilliant yellow and black fuzz. They’re a magical and rare species that the people of Hivewall have always held in the highest regard.

Spring came to Hivewall when her streets were lined with blossoming bushes; when her fields and window boxes were filled with flowers. With bees buzzing to and fro gathering the pollen for the new year’s production of honey. And with the collection of last year’s abundance from the hives, preparations for the Festival of Honey could begin. Blond-bricked houses opened their doors to release children and their mothers out to buy bright festival clothes. Women of fashion bought tall hats like beehives to wear. Men ordered new suits from the tailors with gold bee buttons and yellow and black stripes on the cuffs. This festival was the highlight of the year for everyone in town. Everyone that is, except for the odd girl who lived down on Yellowwood Lane. She was Melisandre Devri, the only girl in all the great town of Hivewall who was allergic to bees.

An allergy to bees is terrible enough in a town like Hivewall. Only the more tragic when Meliandre dearly loved bees and flowers. She wasn’t really allergic to bees at all, merely to the pollen that clung to them as they buzzed from flower to flower. It is this glorious yellow dust that makes Miss Melisandre sneeze. It didn’t matter though if she was allergic to pollen or the bees themselves, reacting in any way negative toward the revered insect of the town earned severe unpopularity. The good people of Hivewall couldn’t be bothered with a girl who was unable even to walk their flower-edged streets in spring for fear of a sneezing fit. And if they couldn’t be bothered with her, they couldn’t be her friend either.

So young Miss Meslisandre Devri had no friends at all. She spent her days alone in her parlor painting pictures and wishing she could walk outside. For she truly did love flowers and being outside. She even loved the sight of bees. But her nose could not withstand the pollen.

It must now be said that Miss Melisandre’s parlor was just as odd as she was. If she had any friends they would not want to stay in it for very long. For it was not colored in any shade of yellow, gold, or amber as one should expect in a room in Hivewall. Instead the walls were covered in sky blue wallpaper. Over the years Melisandre had taken up the brush and painted a lush garden of flowers across the walls. Tall Ligularia Sibrica with their coned heads of dainty yellow flowers reached to the ceiling. Purple and pink Oregano blossoms and clusters of white Coriander spread across the walls. Down near the floor were sweet little Lemon Mint buds amid the leaves. She had painted bold blue Borage flowers and even the ordinary bruise weed with its purplish blue curling blossoms. A season-less copy of what she could see through her tall bay windows which overlooked a garden outside. She had never opened the bay windows of course. But she liked to imagine the flowers on her walls smelled just as nice as the real ones did.

Melisandre had even painted bees on her walls to fly between the flowers. Such fine and fuzzy bees there were too. She gave them the names of people who walked past her house on the street and pretended they were her friends. She talked to the painted bees and, sometimes, she pretended so well that they might have talked back. Which is impossible of course. On days when she was depressed Melisandre would set down her brushes and leave her painted friends to go and sit in the cushioned chair by the big bay windows. There she would take honeyed tea and sigh longingly as she watched the outside world. "I wish I had someone to talk to." She would say. "I wish I had a friend."

She wished this all her childhood days. But today, in the year she was to turn sixteen, she wished it more fervently than ever before. It was a bright, happy day outside and the signs of the Festival of Honey approaching were everywhere. Melisandre could hear minstrels practicing for the parade, and see the ladies in their beehive-like hats bob past her house. The gardens outside her bay windows were so beautiful they put her painted walls to shame. "I wish I had a friend who could come visit me." Melisandre sighed. "Just someone to tell how lovely it is outside today.". It was then, as she looked out the window, that she saw a bee lazily come to rest on her windowsill.

Now it was commonly known in Hivewall that if a bee landed on your shoulder it was a sign of good luck. Could the saying be any different if applied to a window sill? Melisandre thought not, and chose to believe this a sign of definite good fortune. It was a bee just as you would expect in Hivewall, but Melisandre thought this one to be the handsomest of all the bees. He even seemed to notice her through the glass of the window. His large, glittering black eyes watched her.

Melisandre sat in the cushioned chair by the window and watched him in return. No bee had ever stayed still this long for her. She sighed longingly. "If only I could invite you in for tea, Mr. Bee." she said. "You can’t say anything back, but at least if you were in here you would be better company that my walls." The girl raised her hand and let her fingertips rest against the glass over where the bee’s large eyes continued to watch her. "And I wouldn’t mind that you’d give me fits of sneezes." She whispered. "But I suppose you would think me rude if I sneezed at you. You can’t help it if you make me sneeze I suppose."

"Bees make you sneeze?"

The voice of a man hadn’t come from inside the room. It hadn’t even come from Melisandre’s imagination. It had come from the bee! Melisandre shrieked and stood up suddenly from her chair. In her haste, her hand flew up against the latch and hit it. A wind from outside pushed the unlocked window open and a rush of spring air rushed into the room. Oh it was awful! Crying out in dismay Melisandre hurried to shut the windows. She heard the bee apologizing profusely but that only startled her more. She slammed the window shut in his face. Perhaps frightened by her force, the bee lost his balance and fell off the sill. Then he flew away and out of sight.

Panting, Melisandre tried to calm down. Then she felt a terribly familiar tingling creep up her nose. She sneezed. Then sneezed again. Again and again and again till she reached a grand total of twenty-two sneezes. In the lull before she started up again, Melisandre went quickly for her scented handkerchief and held it to her nose to soothe her poor sinuses. She moaned pitifully and sank into the cushioned chair once more. What a terrible upset. Had the bee really spoken? It had been such a clear, handsome voice. Melisandre looked out the window, wondering very seriously if she wasn’t finally going insane from lack of company.

Melisandre spent a long while thinking it over. She didn’t imagine anything else out of the ordinary all day, so it was hardly likely that she was going insane. That only left the possibility that she really had heard the bee speak. She thought about it even after dinner when she had gone to bed. She lay all night staring at the ceiling, wondering if she’d been so rude to the bee that he would never come back. If he never came back then she would have lost the only hope for a friend in her entire life. The thought was so terribly sad that it made Melisandre cry. She prayed that the bee who could speak with the voice of a man would come back tomorrow and that, finally, she would have a friend.

The next day Melisandre sat in the chair by her parlor window all morning. Her eyes never left off their intent gaze over the garden. She sat quietly for hours, her hands clenching her skirt. Her longing grew with every minute that passed. Until, at around half past three in the afternoon, the handsome bee came and landed on her sill. "Oh, you’ve come back!" Melisandre gasped even as tears squeezed out from her eyes. "I’m so relieved! Please, I’m so sorry about yesterday. Please forgive me, and thank you so much for coming back, Mr. Bee!"

The bee tilted his head at her and spoke again. "I’m sorry I scared you. Are you alright now?

Melisandre nodded, touching the glass like she had the day before. "I was just startled. I didn’t know bees could talk. You must be a very special bee." The bee’s wings whizzed together. She took it that he was pleased by her compliment.

"Not especially, but I like it that you think so. We can talk if we want to. Yesterday I only wanted to ask if we really made you sneeze."

"Oh. Well, no, not you. Just the pollen really. I’m allergic to it you see." Melisandre explained. "That’s why I stay in this room all the time." She looked down sadly. "That’s why no one can be bothered to be my friend." Something tapped against the glass under her fingers and Melisandre looked up to see it was one of the bee’s fuzzy black legs. As if he was saying he was sorry. "Would…would you like to come in for tea?" Melisandre invited. The bee nodded.

Being very courteous, the bee brushed himself off before she opened the window to make sure he had no pollen on him that would make her sneeze. Then, being very very brave, Melisandre opened the window for him. Even with all their precautions Melisandre would have expected a fit to come on almost at once. Credit it to their caution, or to some magic of the bees, but not one single sneeze came to Melisandre after the bee was inside.

Bee buzzed in and landed on the chair she offered him by the table where honeyed tea and scones had been waiting. Tea that afternoon was the most wonderful thing Melisandre had ever experienced. The Bee talked very freely about all manner of things he had seen while flying through the town. He told her of flowers in meadows she had never seen, of the places where the bees lived, and of how they made their magic honey. Melisandre in turn told him about her parlor, about her paintings, and about her wish to have a friend. But of course, unless her allergies went away, that wouldn’t happen. When he heard these things Bee tapped the side of his yellow and black head with one of his fuzzy legs in thought.

"There must be something that can be done." He mused. Then his wings whizzed together once more. "I say, until I solve your problem, I can be your friend." He decided. This made Melisandre very happy. She could not remember anything else in the world that could have made her happier. When tea was over she carefully opened the window for Bee again and let him out.

"Will you come back tomorrow?" She asked him. Bee nodded as he hovered on the other side of the glass.

"I will. And I will tell you everything I have seen and heard, just like today." He promised.

That night Melisandre went to sleep the happiest girl in Hivewall. For at last she had a friend. The next day the bee did return and they again had tea. Bee told her about the hive where he lived and his closest friends. Then when tea was over he left again. Bees do have lots of work to do you know, so he could not stay forever. Melisandre was sad to see him go. What if he did not come back tomorrow?

Over the next few weeks the bee always came for tea and he and Melisandre talked as friends should. But every time he left that sad feeling inside Melisandre got worse and worse. One day, as she watched the bee fly away, she became so convinced that he wouldn’t return the next day that her worry turned to panic. She couldn’t live with this! If Bee didn’t come back she would die of loneliness! Bee didn’t understand what being alone was. He was always surrounded by other bees. He had his freedom too, which was something Melisandre had never had. How could he leave her alone like this every day? If he was really her friend he would never leave her side! No, Melisandre decided she simply couldn’t risk being alone any longer.

When Bee came back the next day he patted off all his pollen just like every other time. Then Melisandre opened the window for him and shut it after Bee had come in. The two sat for tea and treats and talked of anything that came to mind to say. Bee praised Melisandre for her beautifully painted walls, and said her flowers were just as pretty as the real thing. Melisandre smiled a bit and nodded. She told him how, before he came along, she had named all the bees on the walls and talked to them like they were her friends.

"But now I have a real friend." She said happily. "And I’ll never lose you." Bee agreed with her of course, but at the time he did not fully know her meaning.

The time came like it did every afternoon for tea to be over and Bee to return to his work. He hovered from his chair to the window to wait for Melisandre to open it and let him out. But she did not. Instead, Melisandre had gone to her desk where she kept all her paints and brought out a long red string. This was something Melisandre had never done before and Bee asked what she was going to do with the string.

"I can’t lose you, Bee." Melisandre said as she approached him, holding the string ready in her hands. And so Melisandre captured her Bee, who had been her first and only friend, and tied the red string around him. Even as she collared him Bee did not sting her and try to escape. Hivewall bees were the friendliest of all the species towards humans. Bee just watched her as she tied the other end of his leash to the leg of her cushioned chair. "There. Now you can see outside and never have to leave me. We can be friends forever this way." Melisandre said. Then, "Why are you looking at me like that? You can’t be sad. We’re going to be together forever." She exclaimed.

Bee lowered down onto the cushioned chair and looked out the window. "If you keep me in here, I’ll never see my friends again."

"Well I only have one friend! You!" Melisandre exclaimed, frustrated tears coming to her eyes. "I can’t go out there and have friends so why should you? This is only fair!" Bee didn’t answer. His wings and head drooped and he looked at the floor. Melisandre turned from him angrily and left the parlor. She went to bed without speaking to him. In time, she told herself, Bee would be happy here with her. They would both be happy together forever. But things did not turn out like Melisandre planned.

At first, spending all day with Bee was fun for her. She sketched him and talked with him all morning. Then in the afternoon they had tea and in the evening she talked with him again before bed. Bee continued to be her friend, but he was still sad. Days went by and Melisandre became utterly miserable. Bee looked out the window with the same longing for freedom and friends that Melisandre had experienced herself. The difference was that he had actually had freedom and friends. And Melisandre had robbed him of them because she was afraid of losing him. The weight of her selfishness bore down on her with every passing day. She found she could no longer take pleasure in their friendship if Bee was not free to be her constant friend by choice. It wasn’t right of her to deprive him of what he loved most just because it had always been denied to her. If she loved him, and she did, she would willingly give him those things.

One night, when all these thoughts were so strong that Melisandre couldn’t sleep, she rushed into the parlor. With tears running down her cheeks she loosed the string from around Bee and then threw open the window. "I’m so sorry, Bee." She sobbed. "Please go."

As Bee hovered to the open window Melisandre couldn’t imagine him ever forgiving her for what she had done. She imagined as she let him go that she was saying goodbye to her friend for forever. But as he passed she felt one of his soft black legs brush a tear away from her chin. There was hope. He might come back.

The sun rose over Hivewall the next morning, bathing the city in yellow brilliance. Melisandre came into her parlor and gasped to see Bee tapping at her window. She let him in.

"Oh Bee, how can you ever forgive me? I was so terrible to you." She said. Bee shook his head.

"What mattered to me was that you loved me more than your own desires." He told her. "That was very brave, and very kind. I’ve decided now what I can do to solve your problem." Melisandre looked at him in confusion so he explained further. "We bees have very special magic you know. Because of what you’ve done, I’m going to give you want you long for most."

Amidst the girl’s open-mouth surprise, Bee hovered up till he was on eye level with her, and touched two of his black legs to her forehead. Instantly the magic of the bees took effect. Melisandre was transformed into a Hivewall bee, just like her friend. "Your allergies to pollen are gone now." Bee said in a tone that suggested a smile. He went to the window and opened it. And Melisandre the bee did not sneeze. "Come and live with me." Bee said to her.

And so Melisandre the bee did go and live with her friend. She lived free with Bee, surrounded by friends and flowers for the rest of her days.

The End





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