In The Care of Bees – Stella Bauer

I discovered the beehive when I was nine. I was playing hide and seek with Rebecca and stumbled across the little nest in the woods that were the boarding house’s yard. It was no bigger than a football when I first found it, the hive barely buzzing with its residents. I remember being scared at first, afraid that it would attack me, and I would have to spend the night in the nurse’s office. But as I sat there looking at the hive, the bees continued to lazily visit the flowers surrounding us. They brushed up against my limbs but didn’t sting, simply looked to see if I had any nectar to give. And then they buzzed away.

I won that game of hide and seek. It was then that I discovered the bees, and I had a secret place. A sanctuary. I started escaping there every game of hide and seek or when I needed to run from my tutor’s lessons. Or if I needed to burrow away from the barbs of the other girls in my class. No one ever found me, no one was ever brave enough to breach the boundaries of the bees.

When I was twelve, I started eating my lunches and spending my free time between classes with the bees. Rachel and I had stopped being friends and none of the other girls seemed to want to invite me into their groups. Not that I minded, the bees became my company. They never made rude comments about my hair or made fun of me when I stumbled around my words. They buzzed and listened patiently to my day. They drank the nectar of flowers and rested on my open hands and bare feet. I started stealing wildflower seeds from the grounds keeper’s cottage and bringing it to the bees. Under my care, in our friendship, the beehive nearly doubled in size, bringing new bees with it.

Bees will build their hives around anything. I discovered this when I was fourteen, I accidentally left a cup by the hive before a long weekend. I had eaten lunch with the bees and lost track of the time, and in my rush my drinking glass fell at the base of the tree the beehive grew on. When I returned to the bees, three days later, they had started to grow their home around the cup. The holes of their nest covered half of the cup, the hive forming and around the obstruction. But it wasn’t really an obstruction to them, it was an opportunity for expansion. They persevered, thrived, and grew off what I had given them, like the wildflowers I planted two years previous. I liked that a little piece of me remained with them, around them, in their home.

This little trick came in handy when I was sixteen. Rachel’s book went missing one morning. Or rather, I had stolen Rachel’s book. I overheard her telling Sandra that I was unusual and creepy, that I spent more time outside in the woods than inside. I heard her say that if I spent more time inside than maybe I wouldn’t be at the bottom of our class. Rachel said that she was ashamed that she was ever my friend. I went to the bees and cried that day. They enveloped around me in a swarm, wrapping me with their soft bodies and comforting hums. Rachel was my friend; she was always nice and didn’t mind that I was quiet or struggled with my sentences. We played together; we ate together. Without me and her playing
hide and seek I wouldn’t have found the bees. The bees who now rested around me. Their buzzes became a song, a call. Protection.

I stole Rachel’s book that night, she left it out on her bedside table. She needed it for a presentation the next day and stayed up late reading it. When she woke up the next morning to find it was gone, she immediately blamed me, but they didn’t find it in my trunk or with my belongings. What the school didn’t know is that I had already sneaked out to the beehive that night. The bees were covering the book completely as Rachel failed her presentation.

It’s a shame what happened to Rachel next.

She had followed me into the woods that afternoon, she was looking for the book. She knew that I had taken it, she told me as much. She barged into the alcove with the bee’s nest, which had grown to cover the entire trunk of the tree and the ground beneath its shade. Rachel found me sitting near the base of the hive, my legs half covered with bees. Her book sat open on the ground, already overtaken by a swarm building their waxen home atop it. I remember that she froze. I imagine it to be quite a sight. Me and all the bees there. Her book, the evidence of her work and my crime open in front of her. She started screaming at me.

Rachel didn’t listen to the bees growing louder around her. At the swarms rising to double her height, at the bees forming a barrier between me and her. Rachel’s mistake was not leaving. She had to step forward to try and claim the book. I’ll never forget the look Rachel had as the bees turned their stingers on her. They moved with a vengeance to protect their home. To protect what I had given them. To protect me. Rachel fell to the ground, terror in her eyes and her mouth wide open with a scream on her lips. A scream that came because the bees had already rushed into her throat.

I don’t know how long Rachel took to die, but I know the bees took hours to calm down. I cried. Not for Rachel, but for the bees who had given their lives to me just as I had given myself to them. Once the bees stopped attacking Rachel, they started to build around her. They built inside her. She became another gift that I gave the bees, a new place to find a home.

The school went into a tizzy over Rachel going missing. I was questioned of course, but they could never find a reason to convict me. They never found the body. That secret remains in an alcove of honey and wildflowers. A secret in my care, and in the care of the bees.

Stella Bauer is a junior at Lindenwood University and is working towards a major in English with an emphasis in creative writing. When not studying, Stella works at a Barnes and Noble Cafe where she spreads her love for reading and caffeine. Stella enjoys spending time with her friends, family, and cats, Baxter and Hazel. Stella can often be found reading fantasy and romance books, but will read just about anything. She also enjoys writing, knitting, and dreaming the day away.

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