Its rotund, striated body was dusted in huge, golden pollen granules that smelled warm and sweet in the august heat. I smiled wiggling carefully closer as I watched it.
It was straining upward, its small, transparent wings glimmering like jewels, its gilded body almost sagging under the weight of its precious yellow cargo, before depositing itself to nestle once more into the downy face of a dandelion. The deep hum of her fellows could be heard all around me, almost drowning out the sounds of the playground. Tall dandelion heads swayed in the breeze that did little to cut the summer heat.
I lay on my stomach, my elbows pressing into the damp ground. The shepherd’s purse stalk in my hands being relieved of its tiny heart shaped seed pods by my small, now green rimmed, nails. A pile of the hearts rested before me. After a few minutes I reached out and plucked one of the brilliant, swaying stalks. The end was purple-red and oozed wonderfully sticky sap, which I dabbed onto my palm to glue a tiny heart to myself. Satisfied with the adornment I returned my attention to the little bee.
She was still busy with her dandelion meal, her small face buried deep in the feather petals; her little legs gripping, as her wings beat the air, pollen sacks bulging with their cargo. She looked so soft, so warm and nice.
I reached out a small hand and lifted her downy bed. Holding my breath, I moved her. Far more delicately than any queen was ever raised on her golden palanquin, I raised the little creature up to my eye level and observed her as she continued her quest within the little circle of organic sunshine. She hadn’t noticed the movement at all, or if she had she discounted it as the wind.
A devious plan began to form in my mind. Lifting my eyes from the golden queen captured between my grass-stained fingers, I looked across at the boys who had shunned me from their football game because I was ‘too slow.’
The other girls could play with them, but those were their ‘girlfriends.’ Feeling disheartened by my lack of a grade school love life I had retreated to the dandelion patch to play a better game. I had already found three pecans, but they and the large rock for cracking them, were forgotten in favor of this new engagement.
Cupping the handful of tiny hearts and holding the little queen with utmost reverence, in the other hand, I rose and made my slow and careful way across the big field, past the hot, shiny bleachers toward the football game.
They were taking a timeout. How fortunate. I plastered a straight face on and approached Jonathan, a tall fifth grader like me. He had a large dark birth mark on his neck, short wispy brown hair and a big smile. Some days he was my boyfriend, some days he laughed at me and dumped his water bottle on my head, threw erasers at me in math class, and stole my Nancy Drew books, hiding them in the boy’s bathroom. Today was one of the latter.
Today Tracy was his girlfriend. I could not have cared less, however, it was expected that we make up, so, what better way? I thought as the curly black haired girl sidled up to Jon.
“Hi…” he muttered, looking anywhere but at me.
“Hi, Jon…Tracy,” I acknowledged the taller girl grudgingly.
I pressed my lips together trying hard not to grin. I felt that horrible blush heat my cheeks as it does whenever I speak in front of others. Usually I hated it, my ears got hot, my upper lip dampened, my bangs stuck to my forehead. However, at the moment I was an embarrassed ex-girlfriend.
I bit my lip and held out my offerings of peace. Reaching out he took the handful of hearts and the little queen’s palanquin, disguised as a flower.
The moment his big sweaty hands closed around the stem the devilish grin took over my features and I scampered away just in time to hear the whole group scream.
Girls and boys alike darted past me, trying to escape the irate gilded creature.
Soon the football field was empty, and the little queen had settled back down to the business of collecting her gold. Careful not to disturb her, I walked over to her new bier, a daisy. Bending I plucked her up and traveled back to my field of dandelions.
“I’m sorry, little bee, I didn’t know they would scream so.” I lied, but it is best not to anger royalty.
A few boys approached, retribution in their eyes, but I only smiled and held up the little queen, I her loyal bearer and she my talisman.
Middle school is hard for everyone.
First published in the 2013 R2: The Rice Review 9th Edition
Photography by Alamy