I went into the living room and found Bombus poking about in the dog basket. Charlie was nowhere to be seen.
“What have you done with the dog?” I asked.
Bombus in a yellow sweatshirt tightly stretched across his rounded body, momentarily stopped what he was doing. “Eh?” He raked his fingers through his thick black hair. I – twelve years older and near bald – marvelled at its density.
Charlie pawed my leg, his way of declaring his dogged presence. I bent down and patted my beagle who bore a more worried expression than of usual. No wonder: his worn cushion – that had a second cover which somehow perfectly matched himself in colour and texture – had been thrown across the room. It was usually safely inside his basket and not stuck in the horizontal blinds at the window. Things were not as they should be.
My Rita says I’m normally so laid back I’m horizontal like the window blinds, but now I felt a prickle of annoyance. (And it wasn’t the first time that week that my annoyance had been pricked). “Bombus, just stop whatever it is you’re doing!”
“I can’t, I’ve lost a bee.”
I was beginning to regret letting the bee-keeper and his ‘mini-mees’ into my home. With a sinking feeling I was thinking it would have been wiser to have been hard-hearted and not to have offered him sanctuary upon his sudden homelessness. Yes, there were perks: honeyed tea for my allergies, an explosion of flowers in the garden that cheered Rita, the extra income going towards my engagement surprise, plenty of honey on hot buttered toast, a dishwasher that was regularly filled and emptied, and, er, yes, more honey.
But there was something I really didn’t appreciate, and it had been going on for too long. At this point in time Bombus had been renting my spare room for almost two weeks.
Without his rent Rita might no longer have the fragrant blooms and the engagement ring would have to be put off till later. I knew I would miss the honey too.
Bombus – normally ‘so thick-skinned he doesn’t feel a bee sting’ – tried to avert his watery eyes. The empty wicker dog basket was held limply by his side in one hand.
“Bombus? Come on…what’s wrong?” I reverted to the big softy I am. So much for the Tough Guy act.
“I should be used to it by now…” He sniffed, cradling what I suspected was a dead bee in the cupped palm of his other hand.
Not being good with emotions I stood awkwardly rooted in the doorway. It was Charlie, who – knowing me transparently after our ten years together – decided to pad across the room to console the bee-keeper. He put his slobbery head and floppy ears against the man’s leg. Licked a bare albeit hairy shin below the black shorts and looked up at him with his big soulful eyes.
I thought about my girlfriend, Rita. How she’d changed since these past few days. Wearing girly flowery dresses and even lipstick. Singing whilst she bathed. Not even nagging me when I forgot to put my dirty laundry in the right place, or left my dirty coffee mugs upstairs.
I loved that woman more than all the honey in the world.
I replaced the worn cushion in the dog basket, put it back on the floor; tentaively patted Bombus on the back. “Bombus I believe you’re a good sort, but, you know…”
My lodger wiped his eyes with the back of a hand – thankfully the one without the bee. “What Si? What is it?”
His hazel eyes had widened. There was a familiar creak as Charlie returned to his bed.
I took a deep breath. “You can stay here, but you’ve got to stop flirting with Rita. I’m going to propose to her…”
He let out a laugh. I had never heard him properly laugh before, it was surprisingly loud and rich – and well rounded as his body. “I’ve no interest in Rita! My bees come first. Always have, always will!”
“No other honey for me!” Then he actually winked at me.
The bee in his hand took off. First it buzzed a couple of laps around the living room before departing for the garden via the doorway. I was stunned as if, well stung by a bee!
“Why on earth were you upset if the bee was alive?” I was astounded.
“There’s been something I’ve been meaning to tell you, Si. I’ll be leaving soon. It’s not personal, I’ve just found some better flowers for my bees.” Bombus, large and round, dressed in yellow and black, started to trundle off.
“Oh.” I was able to mutter.
Oh, what a strange day indeed!
He turned at the door. “Rita can keep them ones in the garden.” He said.
Please visit the (real) bee-keeper who kindly let me use his photographs, *HERE*
Writing inspiration: The name Bombus and a bee-keeper’s WordPress blog.
What’s a Chi Tale?: A short story or verse (under a 1,000 words) with doggy references.
Copyright Faith McCord 2016
Story and artwork belongs to Faith McCord who is the author and artist holding the copyright. This is not a public domain work. Worldwide rights.