Disclaimer: This post contains strong language and topics involving sexual activity and consensual sexual violence. Not suitable for individuals under eighteen years of age. Reader discretion is advised.
I had an interesting call earlier, it made me think of someone.
Oh?, I replied.
A nest of bees. Would of been in your Dad’s catchment area.
I smiled weakly, our catchment area, it was a sort of family thing we did. Not anymore though, not since he left us.
Beekeeping was a huge part of my childhood, and the bees were every bit a family business as much as they were my Dad’s alone. In the autumn, we all got involved with capping and spinning the frames, as well as jarring the honey that we produced. I’d always join Dad on trips to our jar supplier or our distributors, too – a Yorkshire pudding and all of the trimmings for lunch if we went to buy jars, the biggest slice of gluten-free carrot cake if we went to our main distributor. The nice lady behind the counter unabashedly favoured me.
The jar warehouse always spooked me. Downstairs was tall shelves, forklifts and hi-viz, but upstairs was all offices full of friendly, normal-looking people. I liked being up in the offices, they were always nice to me and they always gave me some water and a biscuit while Dad did business. I remember one chap, I think his name was Martin, who used to print off pictures for me to colour in while I waited. Times were simpler back then, and people trusted people. Dad knew no harm would come to me while he collected his order from downstairs and I was always swarmed with people who, I’m sure, quietly hoped that I’d become the new office mascot if Dad ever agreed. I was quiet and well-mannered back then. Oh, how things change.
But besides the honey sales, we also collected bee swarms. In fact, as any experienced beekeeper can attest, collecting a swarm is kind of a competition, and you can expect some dirty looks if you collect a swarm that other local beekeepers didn’t get to look at. If you successfully collect and rehome a swarm then within a few weeks, a swarm can become a new bee colony and that once-swarm can wind up making you even more honey. Think of it as free labour, stuck up your neighbour’s apple tree or in some poor old fella’s shed. Little wonder other beekeepers get jealous!
At home, Matt logged into his work computer to show me the attached photograph of the nest.
“Why there?” I thought out loud, why on metal railings? That’s unusual. Buildings and trees, yes, commonly – but why metal railings?
“The only thing that I can think of, possibly, is that some delightful soul has stuck some sugary chewing gum there and it’s acting act a source of food.” It was a guess at best because in all of our time collecting swarms, I couldn’t recall a nest-on-a-fence yet. It’s possible of course, anything is possible.
“And it’s definitely honeybees?” I asked.
“Yes, look” Matt said, zooming in on the photo. Brown, rounded bums. Fuzzy, rather than solid stripes. Yep, checks complete: Definitely honeybees.
“That’s really strange,” I concluded. “Wasps will nest absolutely anywhere, and I mean that, anywhere. Nobody keeps them, they’re wild. But bees… Unless someone’s had a swarm and they’ve set up a new nest? It’s the right time of year for swarms aplenty” I said with a sigh. Boy, did I know it. We’d get a call most weekends and most often, they were wasps anyway, not bees. Call in an exterminator for those, we’d say. Beekeepers don’t tango with those vicious beasts.
“How do you move a bee nest?” Matt asked, curious. Ah yes, time for my ‘expert’ voice.
“First, you wanna suit up,” I said with a giggle. “If somebody started smashing up your home unexpectedly, they’re gonna want to be protected, too. Those things can get seriously hot in this heat, and I don’t envy any beekeeper wearing a suit in the middle of June. Second, you smoke ’em out with a smoker, it puts them to sleep. Finally, and carefully, you move the nest into a skep for relocating” I explained.
“What’s a skep?”
“It’s like a…. bee basket, small hive thing?” I tried. I mean it was a bee basket and a small hive thing, seriously!
“You need to keep the lid on and plug up the exit, too” I added, “otherwise you wind up with pissed off, anxious bees all over your car once they finally wake up. Nobody needs that” I laughed.
“How do you get them into the hive?”
“Carefully, and expect to get stung a few times in the process” I shrugged. “Suits give you good protection, they don’t give you full protection. You can guarantee one little fucker will always find his way in, that’s what they do”. Anyone who keeps or handles bees can expect that as a part of the privilege. Angry dogs bite, and angry bees sting. It’s just that simple.
“I’m gonna text Mum,” I said, “see if she can remember anything like that. I certainly don’t.”
Dad had to collect one from under a deckchair once.
“Well, that could have been a pain in the ass” I said out loud, “but no, apparently they will swarm anywhere too. The more you learn.”
As I relaxed on our bed, Matt set about applying for a couple of jobs. He’s been unhappy where he is for a while now, lots of promise but no progression was bound to have an effect.
“So you’ll be like a pretend boss of something else?” I said with a smile.
“Whatever, you’re just going to take the piss,” he sighed as he walked out of the room. Sucker punched.
I curled up on our bed to process what had been said. I wouldn’t take the piss, I’d never take the piss. Take the piss to tease him as his brat, yes, but never about his job.
“Sometimes, I just don’t feel like you take it very seriously,” he said as he sat next to me. “You’re always looking for the next punchline.” Ouch.
“I don’t take you very seriously?” I said, rolling myself over to look at him. “Matt, I’m immensely proud of you. From where you were when I first met you to where you are now, you’ve come a long fucking way. I often tell people how proud of you I am, even if I don’t always fully understand what you do or I skip details so as not to bore people, I’m still proud of you. I tease you sometimes because I can, I tease you because there are no rules against it, no consequences for doing so and honestly… ” I trailed off, unsure of what I was about to say, “sometimes it’s kind of boring.”
“Gee, thanks” he replied.
“I’m sorry, I don’t really sugarcoat things. It’s not my style, it’s not my family’s style, you know this” I said apologetically. My mother particularly was known for being rather direct, sometimes even aggressively so. Like Matt tried to keep his temper less like his Dad’s, I strived to make mine less like my mother’s. I tried to opt for diplomacy first, only unleashing my inner Gordon Ramsay when I really had to.
“Look,” I sighed, sitting up so that I was level with him, “I love you, I love everything about you and what we have. I feel safe around you and completely at ease. I trust you and finally feel free enough to be myself without fear or judgement. You know where I come from and you know that I didn’t have much of a voice. You gave me that voice, and I thank you and love you for it. However, as my Dom…. you do let me get away with murder sometimes.”
“So what am I supposed to do?” he argued, “pull your slacks down and give you a spanking? Go and get the leather belt out?”. I stifled a smile at his outburst. Now that you mention it, it’s not a BAD idea….
“I don’t want you to do anything that you’re not comfortable with” I said softly. It was about all that I could offer in the moment.
“Maybe I’m not the best listener” I said, matter-of-factly. We’d sat in silence for a good fifteen minutes, contemplating our own parts in the drama that had unfolded only moments before. Maybe I could do better, too.
“I get the feeling it’s something you grew up with?” Matt asked, I gave a wry smile and nodded.
“It’s hard being the black sheep of the family” I replied, “you’re the brunt of all of the jokes and everyone speaks over you. Your feelings don’t matter, maybe that’s where I get it from. It’s a learned habit, a reflection of the way that I was treated. People didn’t listen to me, so I stopped listening to them. It’s a part of my barrier, my guard.”
“Try being the only sheep!” he joked, we both laughed.
“I get a feeling your Dad did it, too?” he whispered, I nodded again as the tears fell.
“It’s hard to speak wrongly of the dead” I whispered, “but yes, often. He meant well, but…”
“As soon as I met you, I could see that you were the odd one out” Matt began, lifting my chin to meet his gaze, “I could see the divide in your family and I could see that your brother was the favourite child. I also saw a lot of potential in you and I knew that it needed bringing out”. I gasped softly at his words. There he is, my own Ten Shades.
Matt cooked dinner as I took some time to decompress. Decompressing is common with me, and it’s common with HSP’s.
“Why do I get the feeling you’re beating yourself up?” he asked, sliding back onto the bed beside me.
“I’m fine” I said softly, trying to avoid his gaze. Sure, it’s obvious, but at least it works in the moment. Sort of.
“If I know you, you’ve been Googling how to be a better listener. Tell me I’m wrong?” he challenged, I sighed and looked at him. What’s the sentence for first-degree murder these days? Is it more or less for strangulation?
“You’re not wrong, and you know you’re not wrong, asshole. But you needed time… look, remember that time with your showing off on webcam? You needed time, too”. It was a good defence if ever there was one.
At least, it was until it wasn’t.
“That was near relationship-ending stuff, kitten” Matt laughed, “that’s like comparing somebody stealing a handbag against somebody running over and killing twenty people. They’re incomparable.”
I run my tongue across my teeth for a moment, where do we go from here? There has to be something else that I can deliver. Alas, I came up dry.
Over dinner, Matt mentioned a Facebook post that he had found. In it, it mentions the starsigns of various serial killers. I had no idea why, but people will fascinate themselves with all sorts of information, I supposed.
“No Libras. Plenty of Virgos, though” he observed.
“Imagine that?” I teased.
“I’m gonna move up a bit” he joked, shuffling his chair further around the dining table, away from me.
As he did, I pretended to study my knife and fork for a moment.
“Oh no, I already know exactly what these are,” I said in my best and completely imagined serial killer tone, “I’m just trying to decide which one I want to use first.”