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Short Fiction

By Julia MarsiglioPublished 3 years ago 7 min read
Photo by Boba Jaglicic on Unsplash

The honeybees had wintered under the magnolia tree. As the snow melted, the bees emerged from their labyrinths between the roots to pollinate the blushing branches. The swing sat empty. Nobody wanted to disturb the buzzing earth and risk being stung.

Evelyn's mother was afraid of bees and wasps—all insects really—but especially biters and stingers. She'd called an exterminator: 1-800-BYE-PEST! But they'd said that there was nothing they could do. Honeybees were protected in Illinois. They couldn't be moved when they were in the ground, but they would leave of their own accord soon enough. They'd need to build a hive.

Evelyn was fascinated by the holes they made. They were just wide enough for the bees to pop out of one at a time. They'd stick their tiny little heads out before taking off. They must have been smart, to hibernate under the magnolia. It was one of the first trees to blossom in the spring, and the bees would be well fed from its sweet nectar. She wondered if they'd face competition from other swarms. Did bees share? Or were they territorial with their food?

She wondered if it was easy for them to change homes like that. Evelyn had lived in the same house all her life. It had changed around her. Her mother was always rearranging furniture and changing paint colors. She'd watch HGTV and call out to Evelyn.

"You can make shabby-chic curtains out of drop cloth, you know!"

Evelyn's mother liked to pretend she had the money for fancy remodeling. Or the skills. The truth was that their furniture was textured with painted-over peeling paint and paint drips. And the colors never matched.

Evelyn sat on the rough pavement of her front steps. There was a bonfire out at Ivan's farm. A bunch of the girls were heading up together, but she was going with Grant.

Grant was cool. He had this way of slicking back his curly blond hair only to have it fall over his eyebrows again. Then he'd give Evelyn a cheeky look as if to say he was as wild as his hair, and he liked it that way. He dressed smart—button-down shirts with the top button undone or t-shirts that looked like they'd never been washed and hugged his chest. His jeans fit perfectly and his sneakers were always clean.

Grant drove up in his mom's old Pontiac. Evelyn lept off the steps as soon as she saw him pull in. He got out of the car with a big smile on his face.

"Hi!" said Evelyn.

"Hey!" Grant strode confidently towards her and placed his hand on the back of her waist, ushering her towards the passenger door. He opened it for her and waited until she settled into her seat before closing it.

"How's it going?" he asked. He'd placed his hand against her headrest as he looked over his shoulder to back out of the driveway. Evelyn felt her skin prickle and warm feeling him so close. She wanted him to touch her just then and blushed at the thought.

She looked at him, and he winked at her before reaching out and placing his finger on her bottom lip, pulling it down slightly.

"You've got beautiful lips."

"Thanks," Evelyn looked down and instinctively reached into her purse for her chapstick and smeared it on her lips, smacking them together. It smelled like watermelon candy. She wanted him to do it again, but at the same time, she felt timid and unsure how to react. Was she supposed to compliment him too? Touch him back?

She shrunk into her seat, waiting for him to make the next move. It was easier to react than act. Grant had an air of experience about him, and Evelyn was anything but experienced.

They arrived at the farm. Grant closed the car door behind her and hung his arm casually over her shoulder as they walked out back to the bonfire. A couple of the guys were already there sharing a blunt. They noded at Grant and smiled at Evelyn, passing it to her. She took a puff, coughing a bit as she tried to hold the smoke in her lungs.

Ivan came out of the house and laughed.

"I've got edibles if you really want to get fucked up!" Ivan opened a tin of cookies, and Evelyn took one. Grant pulled away and grabbed a couple of beers from the cooler. He held them up for her and queried Evelyn with his expression.

"Blue Moon," she answered. He pretended to throw it to her, laughed, and then twisted the top off, passing it to her. His hands lingered over hers on the bottle for a second, and she felt the cold beneath her fingers and his warmth above them.

Evelyn bit her lip and looked up at him. She was feeling the weed like a warm envelope around her senses. It made her bolder, calmer. She pulled in closer, and he wrapped his arm around her, the cold beer pressed between them.

With his other hand, he lifted her chin towards his face. Evelyn was suddenly aware of just how tall he was. She raised herself on her tiptoes, and he kissed her lips, a soft lingering kiss.

The boys hooted. Grant looked sheepish and tossed his hair back, looking over his shoulder at them.

"Come," he whispered, pulling at Evelyn's hand. He sat down on a lawn chair and pulled Evelyn into his lap.

Evelyn felt exposed but chosen. She'd never been kissed but wanted to play it cool. Nobody knew that. She was self-conscious about how her body felt against his. Was she sitting right? Did she look feminine and chill or awkward and unsure? Grant was just so cool. His attention felt precarious.

The girls soon arrived and the bonfire blazed. Grant kept a steady stream of alcohol in her hands, and soon her posturing turned to staggering. She almost stumbled into the fire but Grant caught her. Evelyn reached for another beer, but Grant grabbed it from her. She lunged for it and missed, giggling. Grant greeted this with a half-smile and a twinkle in his eyes as he brushed the hair out of his eyes.

"Let's take a walk Ev. Just you and me. The stars are gorgeous tonight."

Evelyn looked up into the sky and beyond the pillar of smoke rising from the fire.


She leaned against him as the fire and laughter faded into the background and the vast Illinois sky painted the Milky Way before them. Evelyn gasped. It was so beautiful. Grant was so beautiful. This moment was perfect.

Grant was leading her, and she followed without question. Evelyn hoped he'd kiss her again. Before long they came upon an old barn, planks silver by the touch of time. The entrance sagged and groaned.

"Do you think it's haunted?" Grant asked, laughing.

"I don't know," Evelyn answered. "Let's find out!"

She pulled away and ran inside the teetering structure, and Grant followed. He caught up to her, swooped down, and hugged her around the legs, lifting her up and over his shoulders, whispering, "gotcha!"

Evelyn laughed as he lay her down on the barn floor. He was strong, and to her surprise being lifted by him felt secure. He bent over her. His breath was quick, and she could feel his pulse as he drew close, kissing her.

At first, it was gentle. His lips felt like velvet, and Evelyn wanted more. He touched her arms and legs, tenderly. She ran her fingers through his hair. Then, the barn started spinning around her, and she felt suddenly sick.

The kissing wasn't so gentle anymore. It was hungry. And hands were everywhere. When they reached under her shirt and into her pants, Evelyn tried to pull away, to catch her breath. She couldn't.

"Do you have a condom?" he said.

Evelyn didn't answer. She felt a scream rise in her throat but swallowed instead. Her mouth was dry.

"It's okay. I'll pull out." Grant was pulling off his shirt and then her own.

"Grant, I..."

He kissed her mouth, not letting her finish. Evelyn wanted him to like her, but she couldn't catch her breath. She needed a minute. She wanted to see the stars in the sky, but the walls of the barn were closing in on her, suffocating her. For a moment she thought Grant had been replaced with a many headed-beast. The next moment she felt that she was being crushed under a tidal wave.

"Grant, I don't feel so good." He wasn't listening.

"Grant. Stop. I..." He didn't.

Evelyn felt him all over her. She wanted to push him off, but it was like her hands couldn't find him. Everything was happening on a distant plane, and all she could do was float as far away from it as possible. A tear rolled down her cheek as she felt her body go limp as she left it altogether.

She was sitting on her swing under the magnolia tree, its blossoms kissing starlight under a crescent moon. Under her feet, the bees stirred. She didn't hurt them, and they didn't hurt her. The bees were weaving a story, and she was part of it somehow. She could swing and touch the moon with her toes and feel the bare earth under her fingertips. The bees were digging, and they covered her in cool black earth, so she could disappear.

"Fuck! Fuck, fuck, fuck!"

Evelyn was back in the barn. She was lying against the dirt, and Grant was hopping around in a craze above her.

"The little fucker stung me. I'm fucking allergic to bees! My EpiPen's in the fucking car." He was fiddling with his phone.

"Ivan. Glove box. My Epipen. We're in the old barn. Yeah. Calling 911 now."

Evelyn looked down between her bare legs and saw a honey bee convulsing on the black dirt, its abdomen torn in half. She picked it up and held it in the palm of her hand until it was still. Moonlight flooded in from a crack in the old barn, and Evelyn thought she could smell the scent of wet earth and magnolia blossoms waft in on a gentle spring breeze.

Short Story

About the Creator

Julia Marsiglio

Loss parent. Canadian poet. Fiction and nonfiction writer. Intersectional feminist. Writing on trauma, grief, mental health, marginalization, neurodivergence and more.

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