Telling The Bees

November 16, 2013 § 8 Comments

Another excerpt or ‘moment in time’ from a much longer piece. Freya, who some of you may have met on earlier blogs, is a fragile, passionate young woman not quite meant for this world. She possesses second sight, and feels things others do not. She tells no one what she knows, except her dog, Lily, and an ‘imaginary friend’ who appears at seemingly random points in her life. This friend does not feature here.

This short piece is what goes through her mind as she makes the decision whether or not to have an affair.


Freya’s first job was to tell the bees. ‘No one’s died,’ she said. ‘But it’s like dying, so I thought you’d want to know.’ The bees listened, circling with interest around her head. ‘I’m going to make a new life and forget about the old one.’ The bees buzzed loudly and a few settled on her face. ‘There’s really no need to concern yourselves. Nothing bad will happen.’                 

            Freya’s second job was more difficult. The wood refused to catch. It was dry enough, but now a marsh mist was in the air. She stabbed at the bonfire with a stick until the branches of the old apple tree flared hot in her face, and sap bubbled from the bark like treacle. Insects sizzled and popped out of their shells, while others scurried from the heat and hid in the long grass.

The diaries and papers wouldn’t burn. Pages from her past glowed and made chimneys of curling smoke, but no flames would come. She threw a plastic bottle of paraffin on the fire, and as it exploded her ducks rose from the pond and flapped in alarm. Soon pages partly alight flew above the blaze in arcs, and settled in the grass; the words smouldering and partly visible amongst the ash.

But Freya felt a lightness coming: as if she was turning into a bird and her bones filling with air. She took the photo of Robert and his wife from her pocket, tore it in half, and threw the smiling Julia in the flames. Then she opened the well-thumbed letter and began to read.


Come to the cottage and sit with me in the lap of the Gods. I will cook for us and light a fire in the hearth. I will take you to the sea loch where the whales blow, and show you where the eagles watch.

I’ll meet you by the dam at Ardnamurtie Loch, thirty minutes south of Ullapool. Remember. I showed you on the map? I’ll wait for you everyday between two and four o’clock. I won’t leave until you come.


The smoke drifted into the mist making a cloud around her head, and Freya wrapped herself in the horse blanket curling up tight like a caterpillar, and slept.

            As she dreamed, her mother returned. She was working: wiping her hands on the yellow striped apron and bending over a mound of freshly cut lavender. Her long fingers separated each plant stem and removed the damaged leaves with the tips of her thumb and forefinger. There was more lavender drying on another table. It rustled as her mother separated the stalks into small bunches then tied them together with lengths of fine green string. After she’d finished she hung them upside down on a line of butchers hooks screwed into the rafters of the barn. Rubbing her hands together and holding them up to her face, she breathed in and massaged the oil from the flowers into her skin. She turned to Freya standing in the doorway, and smiled. ‘If you fly too high you will crash.’

            Freya woke in the damp grass: cold and unsettled that her mother had not said more. The mist had spread over the ground in thick fingers, and all colour had drained from the landscape. The fire had flattened and spread into the grass, still flickering as unburnt paper caught. She poked at the fire again, then pulling the blanket around her shoulders, went to the house and slept.

            She woke late. Where the bonfire had been was now a flat circle of grey ash.  The only history remaining was in Freya’s head, and that could be easily hidden – apart from her clothes that lay in a pile on the kitchen floor. She took scissors and began to cut: slicing the fabric into long strips. Then she began to cut the lengths into squares. ‘I can make a patchwork quilt of my past,’ she said. ‘Make it new – make it unrecognizable.’ She was speaking to Lily. The dog lay watching her, her head between her paws. ‘Do you think we should go?’ The collie’s tail thudded slowly on the kitchen floor.

‘Yes. You’re right,’ answered Freya. ‘I have nothing to lose.’

She jangled the car keys. ‘Come Lily. We’re going to Scotland.’



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§ 8 Responses to Telling The Bees

  • mikesteeden says:

    Gentle and deliciously weird!

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      And your piece. Great! Not gentle and particularly weird!

      • mikesteeden says:

        You give glimpses of one on top of her game, yet as an avid reader of all and everything, you should pick your favourite character, write the book and make your fortune (JK Rowling’esque!) Shirley and I will be the first to buy so stop us always wanting more! As the missus says, you tantalise too much! That’s not bad criticism by the way. I’d swap your fiddle for my drum any day of the week!

  • Beautifully descriptive – you paint a wonderful picture without ever getting too ‘flowery’. I love the way you have used both the bees and Lily as confidents. I really enjoy your writing, Rachael.

    • Rachael Charmley says:

      Thanks Chris. Can I rely on you to tell me if I do get a bit too floral? 🙂
      As you know, I so enjoy your writing too. More please.

  • Miranda Stone says:

    Though Freya lives in a reality the reader can easily recognize, your writing does a great job of giving her character an otherworldly essence. I love her conversation with the bees. I hope you plan to post more of this story, Rachael!

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