The summer the bees started dying, I nearly did too. He told me he loved me. But I never doubted that. Our reasons aren’t important now that I’ve left. Now the rain has come, I wonder if it will wash away all traces of me, and leave nothing to show for eight years of living in each other’s pockets.
One afternoon that august, he rammed my ribs up against the refrigerator in the outdoor shed, and the thud startled me. I thought; this is it, he’ll kill me one day without meaning too, he’ll chuck me at a wall, or trip me on the stairs, and I’ll die, just out of spite. When he let go, and I felt the gentle rush, the bruises surfacing, I told myself we were nearly done. He was getting careless; hitting me where people might see, and scaring me when people might hear. He knew old Millie next door cared for those hyacinths like children. He knew she would be just the other side of the fence when I cried out, startled. I knew it was over for me too, because I’d stopped trying so hard to hush. We were agreeing to it. We wanted this dangerous thing to destroy itself. We could feel it was over. Like the daises turning purple in the afternoon, they know what’s coming to an end.
Larry wasn’t really a very big guy. But I was tiny, really. I guess it made him feel like a man. I was always wearing a long skirt after he kicked me down the kitchen stairs, or a blouse with a collar, if he’d had me by the neck. When he got really bad, I wouldn’t go out for days, I couldn’t bear thinking up reasons; how clumsy I’d been, how careless. We had a big bit of grass at the back of the house, and no one would really see you out there except maybe old Millie who couldn’t see her own nose on a bright day. I’d pace around out there and try not to think about things while they were too fresh in my mind.
When the bees started dropping, I began to notice. There were too many around, after a too long without them. I’d find one curled up like a baby in a crib, on the path. You couldn’t see what killed it, it’s body was perfect. You couldn’t even see where it had been loved.
As I went back into the house in the late afternoons, the smell of autumn wafted in with me, and I’d go to the pantry to get what I needed for Larry’s dinner. I knew it wouldn’t last forever now, because we were both getting careless. I knew I wouldn’t be stuck with him for life, because neither of us were holding on as tight as we used to. And with the bees dying, I knew fate had its own plans.
When I was little, and my father kept bees, we had to tell them everything. When my grandma died, he sent me out to whisper it to the bees, and on the morning of the funeral we took out black linens to dress the hives. My sister Hollie had a baby, and we had to tell the bees then too, even though she didn’t live in his house anymore, even though she’d moved to Michigan. I hadn’t talked to the bees since I lived there, amongst my father’s honey hives. But you have to respect them or they’ll swarm away. It was almost like the bees here in Larry’s back yard knew that I had to go. They were dropping dead around me, maybe if I left, they’d swarm away with me?
On a Thursday afternoon in late August, I wrapped up a little crystal swan that was my mothers, into one of Larry’s clean handkerchiefs, and slipped it into an empty cardboard corn flour box from the pantry. I swept up all my things from the dresser, and carried everything I owned in two paper bags I’d saved up from the Piggly Wiggly. I walked near on four miles to the greyhound station, and took the first one going for Michigan.