Smoke billows across the grassy field. The grass is green, with darker splotches like spilled ink. Stepping through the veil, a child dressed as a beekeeper trespasses towards a hive. She walks with the smoker in front of her, swinging it side to side like a priest with a thurible.
She slows down as she reaches the hive, and holds the smoker straight out in front of her. She peels back the curtain on the hive, raising the smoker as she does. She tries to angle it down into the hive. The bees start fluttering about, unsteady as if caught on the wind. The smoke builds outside the hive, and the bees begin pouring out. He hand shakes at the growing mass.
She pulls back hard, and the smoker falls to the ground, and the girl with it. The silver top flips off, and ashes spread out across the grass. Her veil bounces across the field and lands next to her.
A half-height leather boot comes and stomps them out before a fire can start. She looks like a full size version of the girl. Beneath her hat and veil, a silver eye catches the light that wraps around her wrinkled face.
She walks up to the girl on the ground and helps her up. The woman takes the hand guarded by the girl up to her face to examine it. She pulls off her hat, letting it rest on her back from the twine cord around her neck. She pulls her gloves off and uses a long fingernail to scrap the stinger away from the girl’s skin. She winces. Soft tears roll down her cheeks.
The Beekeeper crouches to match the girl’s height, and hands her the small veil from the ground. The girl takes this and puts it under her arm.
“Are you okay Bella?” the Beekeeper asks.
She girl looks at the ground. She nods, almost imperceptible.
“I know it hurts. You get used to those. I don’t even notice them anymore.”
Bella looks up at the Beekeeper. “Did I hurt it?” Her voice is soft and gentle.
“Bees don’t have more than one good sting in them. But they know what they’re getting into, like us. Don’t worry about it.”
The girl looks down again.
“Hey,” The Beekeeper reaches into her smock and pulls out a small jar. “Let me see your hand.”
The girl holds her hand out limp to the woman, a princess offering her hand to a prince.
The jar contains honey. The Beekeeper takes the smallest drop onto her finger, and spreads it on the wound. “Some for your hand,” she says, “and some for you!” The Beekeeper takes the remaining honey on her finger and pokes at the girl’s nose. She giggles and wipes it off. They both laugh.
“Come on, sweetie. Let’s go get you cleaned up.”
As they stand to walk to the house, they see the woman from the forest. She clutches her hand to her body.
“Any honey for me, Bee?”, she says.
Startled, the Beekeeper rushes over to her.
“Ma! What happened?”