Excerpt from The Bee Charmer by Poppy Lawless
The sound of the honey bees buzzing all around me was sweeter than any Vivaldi concerto I’d ever heard. I sat lotus style in the apple orchard, inhaling the sweet scent of the apple blossoms. My eyes closed, I could feel the white petals falling on me as a soft wind sent them spiraling. The warm spring sunlight shone down on my face. It must have been almost noon. The rays of sun felt warm on my skin. I listened to the bees hum as they danced from flower to flower. Perfection. I inhaled deeply, and with each exhale, set my enchantments on the wind:
Bring a love for Alice.
Now is the time.
Bring a love for Alice.
One that’s finer than wine.
Wine? Not a very good enchantment, and not a very good rhyme. No wonder Alice was no closer to meeting the man of her dreams than she’d been the day I met her three years ago when I’d gotten my assignment.
Wine…of course it would be wine. Ever since I’d set eyes on Viola Hunter, the dark-haired wine heiress who just happened to be the sister of my best friend, I’d been distracted. I imagined her skipping nymph-like through the apple orchard under the spring sun. Imaging, however, was as far as I’d ever taken anything. Viola Hunter, whose family’s vineyard sided my small country farmhouse, had already friend-zoned me. There was little use pining over a woman who just wasn’t into me. After all, Alice was supposed to be my focus. I needed to shake Viola from my thoughts. Poor Alice. I was doing my best, but she still wasn’t where she was supposed to be. I needed to try harder.
I shut out all thoughts of Viola Hunter and set my mind on Alice once more. I tuned into the sounds of nature: the humming of the bees, the rustling of the new leaves, and the feel of the warm sunlight on my skin. This time, I lifted the willow wand sitting in my lap and gave it a wave as I intoned:
Over hill, over dale,
Through brush, through brier,
Over park, over pale,
Through flood, through fire
Bring Alice her love!
This time when I said the enchantment, I could feel the magic. A little sound, like the chiming of a hundred small bells, told me that the spell had worked. I could almost see my words glimmering like gold on the wind, twisting and turning upward toward the sky in search of the one who would bring Alice’s heart joy.
I opened my eyes and looked down at the wand. For a moment, I wished I could just give it a wave and have everything I wanted. But that wasn’t how this worked. Whatever I wanted, I was going to have to work for it. Good thing I didn’t need much. But the moment I thought it, Viola came to mind once more.
My phone, lying in the grass beside me, buzzed. I picked it up to see I’d received a text from Alice. So soon? When I opened the message, however, I was perplexed.
Crisis, she’d written.
What’s wrong? I answered back.
Dumped again. Bring chocolate.
I sighed heavily. When Alice started dating Tom, Chancellor’s local sheriff, I knew it wasn’t meant to be. He wasn’t a bad guy, but they were completely wrong for one another. And I also knew that uniting Alice with her true love meant that Tom would have to go away. But that fast? Wow, maybe I was getting better at this than I thought. Or maybe, it was just time.
On my way into town now. I replied.
There was no answer. It was the midday lunch rush at Alice’s bagel shop. No doubt that would keep her busy, her mind occupied. I frowned. Also, it was the worst time of day to get dumped.
“Time to get to work,” I told the bees. They stopped their tasks then and swarmed, making a passing spiral around me, from my feet to my head. I could sense their questions, their excitement.
“Help me?” I asked. “Help me find the one for Alice?”
With an excited buzz, they flew off happily. I had no doubt they’d do everything they could.
“Thank you,” I called behind them then headed out of the orchard.
My old pick-up sat waiting near the barn. Shielding my eyes with my hand, I gazed across the horizon at the row after row of vines owned by Viola’s family’s business, Blushing Grape Vineyards. I could just make out the roof of the Hunter family’s elaborate mansion sitting along the shore of Lake Erie. So close, but so far away. I sighed and looked out at the lake; the waves were dark blue that morning. The wind blowing off the lake was still cold, even though it was April, but I could feel the earth coming back to life. Spring had come again.
I picked up the cases of honey I’d packed up earlier that day and set them in the back of my truck. Sliding into the driver’s seat, I glanced once more at the Hunter family mansion. Where was Viola today? Working at the estate? Was she busy at the family restaurant downtown? Or was she over at the college where she’d started taking classes once more? The image of her laughing and running through the orchard played through my mind once more.
Alice. I needed to focus on Alice.
I lifted my phone again. Still no reply from Alice.
“Sorry, Alice. I’ll try to do better. Looks like you’re stuck with the worst fairy godfather ever.”
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