By Alyson Tait
A woman, a wife, a widow named Ramona, carried half a dozen yards of lace over her outstretched arms. Even though it was black — freshly dyed and washed once for starch — it looked dull in the sun. Gray and ashy like her skin.
The summer heat played along. The liquid from the washing tub had sizzled against the backyard rocks, but the light itself pale. Limp and lifeless.
Ramona swallowed a lump - the sensation painful and unsatisfying.
After 1,275 steps, she arrived at the gate to the apiary.
It, too, played the color game, she noticed. It’s bright red looked muddy and sad. It looked like old blood staining the barnyard floor. The hinges creaked as they opened, and even though Ramona flinched at the metal scream - the keeper didn’t seem to notice the protest.
“Be calm,” he said. His voice low, sweet, and slow like the jar of honey back on the breakfast table.
She nodded and entered the precious space and walked over to the large hive.
She cleared her throat.
The man snuck up and tapped her shoulder, shushing when she startled. “They’ll listen.”
Ramona bent down low, grimacing at the sound of the little wings, the sight of the pale yellow bodies. Their black was dark, though — rich, which surprised her. “I’m here to tell you…” her voice caught, but she didn’t want the keeper to touch her again.
“I’m here to tell you that the master of the house has passed,” she whispered. Her breath filled the air between her and the bees, and she swore that they slowed down to listen. “I have your veil to help you mourn,” she said, and after a long moment, she finished her errand, “and hope that you’ll stay with us.”
In the silence that followed, Ramona found her shoulders sliding downward. The tiny buzzing creatures did not respond to superstitious voices, but they were soothing in their own busy way.
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