“Where’re all the bees, Momma?” A funny, frumpy frown falls upon Richie Tozier’s fair, freckled face - froggy lips pouting and arms stretched out like a twiddly string in disappointed yearning - as he twirls and swirls around the grass and promptly trips right on over his two left feet.
“Gone for the Fall, baby. They like the sun, and it’s setting for good now.” Maggie Tozier steps out the back porch doors and onto her lawn; long, stringy fingers carding through the brass and bouncy black tufts of hair that mingle with the daisies in the grass and belong to her now terribly forlorn eight year old son. Summer had passed in a flurry, and while it was still warm out, school was starting, and Fall was on her sweet way.
Richie loved the bees. They were busy, and they were buzzy, and they were just like him; liked the flowers and the smell of summer and flew their unabashed way all through life. He’s got bandaids of pink and blue and green over his pinkies and thumbs and index fingers from poking at them when they were busy collecting pollen, but Richie doesn’t mind. At the same time Momma gives him his meds before bed, she simply peels the multicoloured patches from his sticky Summertime skin, slathers on some tingly ointment, rolls his knuckles in fresh bandaids, pecks them with a few careful kisses, and he’s good as new!
“You’ve just gotta stay on the lookout for ‘em. I promise one will come back and find you.” She pulls his flashy fingers in between her own and yanks him up from the ground, nicely and gently. He shoots up like a springy little sunflower.
“You swear it?” A tiny blue-wrapped pinky finger swoops up to her chest and wriggles around like a muddy worm digging for its treasure. Maggie’s own twists around it and tugs tight.
Teeny-tiny white sneakers tap the grounds of Derry Elementary on one particularly misty Monday morning. They fall out of a little yellow car as the delicate ends of skinny tanned legs with knobbly knocked knees and dinky denim shorts with pinky patchwork pockets. A zippy red lunchbox trundles out next, held in a small, steady hand. The tiny boy is wearing a big blue knit sweater, and petting a black kitty-cat sat soundly purring in the backseat one, two, three times, before closing the car door and dashing round to the driver. He hops up and kisses the man at the wheel right on the cheek, and skips on into the playground.
Richie watches intently, as the little yellow car speeds away. The boy is new around here, Richie has never seen him before. And he would have, if he weren’t. Richie has big buggy eyes and a quick mind and he likes to watch bright people and shiny things and he likes to remember. Also, there’s still a tag hanging from the zippy red lunchbox.
It’s placed nicely and neatly on the ground in the schoolyard’s flower-garden as the boy scuffles to sit down with his pretty patchy pockets by the fairy hills. His school bag falls down too, and that’s a powder blue, and as he squints his eyes at the rising sun above, dainty fingers brush through yellow daffodils and creamy white daisies and eyelashes flutter like baby butterflies. From where Richie’s sitting, the edge of the football field, the boy looks like a pixie; a fairy in a dream.
In class, Miss introduces him as ‘Eddie’, and plops him right down at Richie’s table, which is just excellent, because Rich had been growing antsy at the sight of the empty chair, and the other kids at the table kept tutting at him when he’d tap his feet against it in a hyperactive fidget. This was truly a win for everyone. Especially so when Eddie unpacked his bag and arranged a shiny new mechanical pencil sharpener at the corner of his desk. Richie had seen them at Home Depot when he went school supply shopping in the Summer, and those bad boys were like eight dollars.
“Hey, E-d-die. Can I h-have a sh-sh-shot of your sharpener?” Bill, across from Eddie, asked. Richie quite liked Bill. He was different, like him, had something that set his brain aside from just everybody else’s, and he was always rather nice to Richie.
Eddie seems to not have heard nice Bill, so when his fingers are tapped with the snubbed end of the boy’s pencil, he jumps like a sweet scaredy kitten and stares at Bill with big brown eyes and asks, “Pardon?”
“Y-your sharpener, m-m-may I?”
“Oh, sorry! Yes, of course you can.” Eddie slides it over to Bill with a gleamy kind smile and Richie is completely awestruck. He didn’t even shuffle at Bill’s stutter. Everyone’s always got something to say about it, something to ask. Richie even had, when he’d first met Bill. (Not that he could help it. Just all falls out. That’s what his meds are for. He’s still very sorry though.)
Rich has to sit down on his shaky hands and clamp his teeth round his tongue to stop himself from asking the same. He really wants to try the sharpener, and he really wants to talk to Eddie, but somebody just asked him and his tongue is poking out of his lips like a little bee stuck to yummy pollen as he scribbles onto his sugar-paper and he is probably concentrating very, very hard, so Richie tries to do the same. He pulls a squirmy hand out and grabs a pathetically blunt pencil and meddles with his chicken-scratch for the hour before the lunchbell and listens to Eddie breathing and follows it discreetly to steady his own.
At lunch, Eddie’s munching on a teeny brown sandwich. It seems to have been the only occupant of that dashing lunchbox of his, which Richie finds rather odd, as it is rather big. Eddie himself is only small, though, so perhaps he only really needs one sandwich to fill his tiny pixie body. He takes his sweet time to nibble away, and once he is done swipes his palms against his shorts and squirts a little somethin’ outta little bottle and rubs his hands all seemingly squeaky clean.
Richie got an apple in his lunch bag today, because it is a Monday, and he feels very red on Mondays. Little roll slapped in salami and cheese like every other day and a shiny red apple. Tuesdays are blue and Wednesdays, orange - it’s just a Richie thing, Richie has lots of Richie Things - but Mondays are red. Usually. He’s starting to feel pretty yellow today, though.
When Eddie begins to pick some stray daisies from the grass and loop them in and out of the little holes in his sneakers for his shoelaces, Richie’s fingertips start to tingle. Then he ties the ends together, and joins them in topsy-turvy loops and silly strings and long lines and wraps them loose round his wrists and his ankles and his neck. And Richie just watches, entranced, by the funny little flowerchild. The air is buggy and balmy and lovely and Richie kicks his gangly, purply legs out and lets his bushy head fall into the football field fence, tush mushing into the concrete just off the fairy garden.
Eddie’s petals loves-me-loves-me-not-fray and stray and fly when his feet kick against the ground at the end of the school day. Shoot and soar around like a pixie trail along the hopscotch and past the skipping ropes and right on into that little yellow car.
They tickle the black cat in the back’s shiny nose, and it sneezes, small, then Eddie does too, and the door closes shut. When Richie runs to his Momma, he proclaims he has seen an angel. Tells her all about Eddie all the way home, then begs for extra blueberries for Blue Tuesday, for the boy with the daisy feet.
“For me? To share?” Eddie asks, surrounded in white-green petals and cartoon stars and butterflies and picking pretty at that samey lookin’ sandwich.
It’s been a pretty golden Tuesday, contrary to Richie’s usual blue beliefs. He’d cleared his groggy throat and pursed his lips and smiled bright and brass and the only way Richie Tozier knew how and asked Eddie to borrow his sparkly sharpener with a kind ‘please’ and it worked out just swell! Eddie had looked at Richie’s pink and blue and green fingers a little funny, with a crinkly smile and big, curious, chocolatey eyes, and pushed him the thing across the table with tappy pinkies and pink-white nailbeds and velvety knuckles with a totally dashing, darling, ‘of course you can.’ Richie’s hands went haywire afterwards, couldn’t even hold the pointy perfect pencil longer than two seconds.
He dashed out into the schoolyard so hasty his light-up sneaks didn’t stand a chance, could not flash quick enough, and toddled right on over to the other boy to the sound of the ringy, springy lunchbell.
White calla lilies and orange gerberas sprout from the beds among the lunch-benches, and Eddie just sits square on the floor, a smidge behind them, right by the fairy hills. And Richie asks him if he’d like a squishy blueberry. Holds the punnet out in simple, sweet offering.
Lavender roses tickle their little backs, tiny knobbly spines, and Eddie’s pokey hand slithers into the tub to pop one in past his strawberry lips, grazing pudgy raspberry cheeks. “Thank you, very much.” He smiles squinty and small and stares straight ahead.
Rich points down to the half-eaten lunch in the boy’s lap and jiggles his own knees up and down, kicking his heels into the ground. “What’s on your sandwich?”
Eddie’s head swipes round in a brief turn. Little grin. “Honey.”
Richie nods in consideration and murmurs a small ‘hmph’, honey on a sandwich. “What kinda bread is it?”
Eddie chews. Chubby cheeks. Sunshine boy. He swallows and smiles. “Wholemeal.”
“Do you eat a honey sandwich everyday?” Richie’s fingers are cracklin’ as he twiddles and prods and pries at them, jumping around by his waist and dancing just there all crazy.
“Just school days?”
“Whadda ya eat on weekends then?”
“Strawberry jam sandwich.”
Richie’s head bounces appreciatively. He likes a little jam on his Sunday morning pancakes, he gets it. His soles graze the grass as he settles his pointy chin into the crack between his knees and sighs. Wraps his hands round his ankles.
“Your fingers. Are they okay?” A teeny weeny little touch of the tiny tips of Eddie’s fingers grace Rich’s. His forehead is crinkly-crumply in concern.
“Huh?” Rich is dubious, staring at the other boy’s nice face and forgetting about his stings. “Oh! Totally, Eds. Jus’ dandy!” He smiles all cute and cheesy and bops his head around. “I was pokin’ around at the bees, never know howta leave them be.”
Eddie’s cheeks glow silly, and his head turns away again. He’s very shy. “That’s funny. You’re funny, Richie. I’m glad your fingers are okay.”
Small little fairy voice.
Richie, a little dazed, stares. Wired to the moon at the best of times but feeling like he’s sat beside a great, big star right now. He breathes and stares ahead like Eddie and runs his fingers through the daisies and they just sit and be. (And Richie’s knees bounce and elbows creak and teeth natter and click. But he sits.)
When the little yellow car pulls up that afternoon, Richie gets to wave, and he does, all big and sunny and happy. Eddie climbs into the car with a lovely, ‘hello, Grandad,’ and golly grin. He rubs the kitty-cat’s pointy ears and Richie catches a, ‘hi, Inky,’ before he’s shot into the sky when Eddie and his grandad wave back, and Eddie says, “That’s my friend.”
Friend. Flower friends. Daisy feet. Honey sandwich boy. Richie’s friend
On Orange Wednesday, Richie, naturally, is supplied with many the easy, squeezy, breezy, pleasy orange segment. All in a little Tupperware dish and pre-peeled, because Richie absolutely despises the nasty, yucky feel of that stuff. Eddie takes one, nice and bashfully, and offers Richie a nibble of his honey sandwich, but Richie also hates crusts, so (begrudgingly) has to decline. He can’t even eat around them, he’s tried. Can’t do it. But it’s okay. That day, he teaches Eddie to cartwheel, and it is sunny and it’s glorious.
“I can’t get real mucky shoes, my Grandad just bought me these.” He had protested, big bug eyes deadly serious. Richie wondered where Eddie’s Mommy and Daddy were, but he didn’t ask, because his own Momma told him that things like that can harm little hearts and hurt peoples feelings, and he’s gotta be careful and think a little before he asks people big questions sometimes. And he wants to be careful with Eddie, and take his time.
Careful Eddie who always takes his own time, and touches Richie’s knees with his palms, pressing them flat and gentle against Rich’s colourfully flourishing bruises of seeping purple and blue.
He takes much better care of Eddie than he usually does with himself - his battered knees the living result of flinging himself from the kitchen counter and crashing into the recycling bin - and soon has him cartwheeling all around town. He has to hold onto his daisy-chain boney ankles for a few tries, but soon the little rocket is flying off on his brave ol’ lonesome.
On Purple Thursday, Richie can’t share his plum, because it’s just the one. He debates (whether or not plums are truly purple, but more importantly;) giving Eddie the weighty seed, as a token as his gratitude for their sparkly fresh and lovely acquaintanceship, but decides against it because, well, it is a seed with Richie’s choppy teeth tracks in it. They sit crisscross applesauce and he taps Eddie’s knees with his multicoloured fingers while they eat and the boy seems to be quite happy with just that as his little present. Richie’s presence. Nice.
Yellow Friday, he almost eats his banana whole. Eddie didn’t want a bit, and Rich was so hungry. He opens it like a true monkey, from the bottom up, and Eddie giggles crazy and cooky and Richie starts rolling around the grass like the little chimp he is and cackles like a loony-tune.
He forward rolls and cartwheels into the flowers as Eddie cleans his hands with his smelly gel and runs a rosey pinky through them. He sticks his face in and Richie’s heart flies like a lark and sings and dances and soars right round his soul.
“You’re like a little bee!”
Eddie’s eyes are big and bright and his tiny baby brows get lost in blondy-brown bangs when they lift up high and his cheeks turn a sweetie-pie pink. “A bee?” He looks at Richie through the flowers. His lips look sticky from his sandwich.
Eddie’s smile’s as bright as the sun that yummy yellow day. Stays that way the whole afternoon, too. ‘Specially when his Grandad rolls up in his sunshine car and Richie bobs over with him.
Eddie holds Inky the kitty in tiny tender hands and kisses the cat on the head and holds her close before setting her out to Richie, trustingly.
“Inky doesn’t like being without a friend. That’s why she comes by school everyday.” Eddie explained, still petting her legs even as Richie cuddled her purry, warm body. “Grandad takes her everywhere.”
Richie pops his head into the passenger seat window, in a common, endearing display of his lacklustre of social-cue experience, and shouts a shiny ‘hello’ to the guy. Eddie’s Grandad just chuckles and waves his nice old hand and tips his cool hat at Rich.
“Hi, Eddie’s Grandad!”
“Hello, Eddie’s friend.”
“Grandad, this is Richie. He’s waiting on his Mommy.” Eddie’s head peaks in through the window, too, Inky squished up between the pair of little boys. Momma was late, but only by a little, the bell had just rung, and Richie’s sister’s preschool was just around the corner.
“A pleasure to meet you, Richie. You can call me Clive.” Eddie’s Grandad took his hat right off, placed it on the dashboard. He smiled like Eddie, took up his whole face. Richie felt warmer just being in his presence. He held a gentle hand out by the window.
“You too, Sir— Clive. Sir Clive. I like your cat. And your hat! And your grandson.” Richie shook it vigorously, shifting Inky into one arm. His palm was a little clammy, and he probably had cat hair on it, but he thinks Eddie’s Grandad Clive is the kind of kind man who wouldn’t care. (Plus that he must be used to cat hair.) He was smiling pretty big anyway.
Richie’s baby sister is entranced by Inky when she toddlers over with Momma hot on her heels, profusely thanking Eddie’s Grandad for keeping an eye on her bubbly, babbling Richie. Jovie squeals a cranky, sullen cry when she has to say goodbye to the pretty kitty, and Richie feels the same sort of way about departing from his Honeybee for the weekend. He just found his bee, he doesn’t want to leave him.
Eddie hugs him tight round the neck and flies into the little yellow car and waves ‘bye’ all the way down the road and doesn’t stop till he can’t see him anymore.
The months flit by; dainty dahlias and marigolds give way to pretty pansies and snowdrops, and Richie’s finger stings heal, and he feels like a flower himself; come into his bloom.
Miss marked their heights against the wall in September, and now again, in chilly December, and Richie’s teetered his way up four whole inches, but Eddie hasn’t grown one smidge.
“Jus’ you keep collecting your pollen, Honeybee. I promise you’re gonna shoot up like a sunflower soon.” Rich slides his glasses up his nose with one twitchy forearm, and the other tosses itself snug right round Eddie’s neck, and yanks him close. Richie watches his eyes flutter to a close and his arms reach up to hug Richie closer. He sneaks a little sniff of his pretty wavy hair. Smells like lavender.
“Thanks, Itchy Snitchy.” Eddie tickles his nose all mighty and sweet into Richie’s skin, giggles tiny at his rhymey name for him, then he’s swooping off and running away. Running in circles around Richie. With his angel halo and daisy petal pixie trail and milk-tooth grin.
They ran around all through first term together. Would lay in the fairy garden and tickle one another’s calves with the daisies they’d braid into hair and round fingers and through shoelace holes. Eddie’d eat his honey sandwich and Richie, his fruit of the day and they’d cartwheel crazy and giggle giddy till the little yellow car’d pull up and the sun would set.
In class, they’d sit with their tiny, freckley ankles entwined and blow raspberries and pass funny little flower doodles to the other and Eddie’s sparkly sharpener would sit right in between the two of them. Everything was their’s. Everything was together.
Eddie would come over after school on yellow Fridays for shimmery sweet sleepovers and Richie’s Momma would make them tomato pasta and Jovie would spit it out from her high chair and they’d laugh and laugh. Richie’s dad gave Eddie high fives and rustled his hair and called him ‘Eddie-boy’ and watched cool big-boy action movies with the two of them when Momma took baby Jovie to bed and they’d make sugar cookies and Eddie’d take them home all iced and nice and packed away pretty to his Grandad and precious Inky.
He taught Eddie how to ride a bike, just before the Fall fell hard, and there were too many leaves. Gave him his old one that was a little smaller, but perfect for his little Bee, and those tanned, tiny track legs peddled all the way down through Jackson and Witcham and to Eddie’s then to Richie’s and wherever they wanted to go.
On Eddie’s eighth birthday, Clive took the pair to the movies, and Richie’s loving Momma and doting baby Jovie cat-sat Inky. They saw Jaws in 3D and Richie couldn’t sleep in the dark for four nights straight, and had to lie on his parents’ bedroom floor, but it was worth it ‘cause he got to hold Eddie’s hand for almost two hours straight in the shadows of the theatre.
They ate cherry ice cream that day, too. And Richie must’ve sung his buzzing little Bee ‘Happy Birthday’ a hundred times. It was a weekend, and Eddie’s cake had strawberry jam in the centre, and they wore pokey little party hats the whole day, and bounced silly on the trampoline and fell asleep outside in Clive and Eddie and Inky’s backyard between the flowerbeds come dark.
In Richie’s room on yellow Friday nights they’d look to the stars and utter little wishes and Eddie’d lullaby Richie to slumber and sleep in his poppy patterned socks after they brushed their pearly whites and danced around the bathroom a little.
They done everything together. Flew high in the clouds with teeny fingers intertwined and daisy petals laced through their limbs. Nothing seemed so bad when Eddie had Richie, and Richie had Eddie.
The springy Flower and his little Honeybee.
It was colder, now. The snowfall came today, and brought with it a chilly, frilly air. Richie and Eddie were bundled and trundled up in spotty, dotty scarves and hats and gloves and sent to school with the same packed lunches, and soft, airy hearts. The schoolyard was off-grounds, so the boys ate in the cafeteria. Eddie plopped down by Richie, gnawing on his bottom lip, catching it quick between his teeth when it would slip away.
“What’s the matter?” Richie’s foot hooked round Eddie’s nicely and tightly as he slurped up his slipping salami and nibbled on his cheese.
Eddie was sad. Richie could tell. Sunshine face foggy with a bad case of some groggy, grey clouds. He wrapped both his feet round Richie’s ankle and took his tender hand.
“Gotta tell you somethin’, Snitchy. And ask you a big favour. Biggest of my life.” He’s frowning hard, and Richie wants to reach out with pink fingertips to smooth the messy, stressy lines on his little poker face.
“You can tell me anything, Bee.” He takes both Eddie’s pinkies in his own and tucks them all together, swivelling round to face the boy on the bench, four knees knocking.
“Grandad got a job, and we gotta— we’ve gotta go. Move away. Again.”
When his lip juts out, and quivers like a baby bug, Richie’s eyes fill up full, and his nose twitches silly, and he briefly thinks they must look awful funny, before his busy mind flicks back with a sad switch to no, no no no no.
His Honeybee. Came and gone. Like the snow, or the sun. Can’t be, not his Eddie.
“But—but you’re my best friend.”
Eddie sobs. “You’re my best friend, Chee. You’re my best friend because you have the best heart I’ve ever known. That’s why I gotta ask you my biggest favour.” Sniffly boy sighs, hands wrapped round Richie’s goosebumpy wrists.
Rich sniffs big, and swipes a soft sweater sleeve under his nose. Something Eddie should chastise him for, but seems to be unable to bring himself to do. He just holds him tighter.
“‘Cause Grandad’s gonna be working, Inky’s not gonna have a friend...”
Richie’s tattered heart sinks. Inky’s best friend was Eddie’s Granny, who they lost a little while ago, and Inky was the last piece of her Eddie and Clive had.
“You’re the only person, with gentle enough hands, that I know and trust to keep her safe.” Eddie’s breathing is shallow, and with every little whisper Richie’s heart breaks even more. Eddie’s arms are tossed tight round his neck, and Richie pushes his palms into his hips, and holds him for as long as he still can.
“Don’t know if I can do it without you, Snitch. Anything.” He’s shaking against Richie’s rickety chest, and he speaks softly and soundly and so, so sadly into his neck.
Richie takes a big, brave breath. “Honeybees survive the Winter. They’re the strongest kind.”
The little yellow car and the itty kitty splutter up the driveway that night, and out trudges sweet Eddie-boy.
With a final touch of his nose to her soft skull, Eddie passes Inky off into Richie’s arms, and falls, for a final time, into them himself. His hair brushes the freckles on Richie’s arm as he pushes his face up and sticks a hand in his back pocket.
“Got you a present.” His lips twitch a little lopsidedly, and out pops a cellophane wrapped honey wholemeal sandwich, no crusts. “Have it for lunch tomorrow.”
Richie’s Momma appears behind him to hold his shoulders, ground him a little before he flies up high past the moon and sinks into the stars to cry in the dark forever. She takes Inky and touches Eddie’s right ear and leaves them alone for a quiet moment of boney arms clutching tired torsos and tiny breaths shaky and unsure.
Eddie’s head rests on Rich’s shoulder and his tear tracks trace their spot right there. “Love you.” He whimpers soundly. Pulls back to kiss Richie on the nose, pouty pink lips and bleary brown eyes.
“I love you, Honeybee.” Richie’s feet kick round the grass, heels grind in their place. His hands hold onto Eddie’s waist. “You’re gonna come back to me.”
“Bye bye, Inky-pie.” Richie shook out his shins, tied his daisy laces, kissed the pretty kitty on the nose and shot out his bedroom door.
Philly is crinkly and funny and still ill-fitting and kinda strange, and Richie’s starting high school in the new city today, and his school bag’s a little too big and shoes a little too small and heart nervous and shaking and thundery.
Jovie’s going to middle school, and has buckles on her shoes and braids in her hair and pretty pink braces and Richie knows she’ll be fine. He swipes her chin on his way out the kitchen after grabbing his keys.
The last eight passing years were frilly funny and silly strange. Momma got pregnant again, twice, and Mikey was a sweet seven and Lily a grand ol’ four. Rich was in and out of doctor’s offices, bouncy and tuggy as ever, and his weeks passed in multicoloured clouds, hazy with honey. He went to school and sharpened his pencils by the bin and kept his mouth shut, sat by the fairy hills and worked away. Eventually, he met some new, nice friends. Then left them when the space for his Dad to open up his own practice in Philadelphia was announced, and the Toziers shackled up their little Derry lives and drove on over, Inky wrapped in a fluffy yellow blanket tucked under Richie’s arm, in a big brown cardboard box and adorned in Lily’s stuffed elephants and giraffes. Lots of friends.
“Rich, apple!” His Momma calls, stuttering out from the fruit bowl and tossing the thing through the air, right into Richie’s clammy palm. He salutes her and shoves it in his backpack and dances his jittery way out the door.
The morning sails smooth. He doodles flowers in new notebooks and taps and cracks his knuckles ‘gainst the tabletops and bounces knocked knees underneath and minds his own business. By lunch he’s stammering out past the benches and over to the birch trees.
The air is clear and cool and Summer is passing but Richie’s okay. This was always his favourite time of year anyway. There’s clusters of teenagers mowing and towing in and out of one another down in the courtyard, lots of lunch trays and scrunchies and laughs. Hands hold others’ and slip into grips under lunch tables and over food and kisses are flimsy and first-love-y and nice.
Richie’s bushy head falls onto the front of his bag, lain down on the grass, as he pokes at his same old salami-cheese and people-watches. Eyes graze emos and cheerleaders and football players and band-geeks and a boy amongst the flowers, a few metre-sticks away.
He flinches, punched in the gut, and his heart stammers for a beat. The boy is twirling and twining daisy and daffodil stems into his backpack straps and sneakers. Rich can only see the backside of his head, and it’s gold-spun and wavy and shining in the sun. He hasn’t even taken two bites of a wholemeal honey looking sandwich before Richie’s cartwheeling and caterwauling over and holding a fresh face between stuttery palms.
Eddie looks just the same, the fairy pixie. But he’s old and tall and has shot up like a sunflower, and his petals are big and marvellous and in full bloom. His top lip is glistening with dew and blanketed in a dusting of shadowy blond hairs and his cheeks are full and freckley and plush and perfect. His eyebrows almost touch in the middle and lashes kiss them sweetly like bees to their pollen. He flies forward and kisses Richie square on the nose and breathes a sound, steady, “Richie.”
Their idea of reacquainting works just the way they always did, for their little term of floral love in the early eighties, at the early age of eight.
There are red tulips and pink camellias brushing their sweaty necks as they lay on the soft ground and Eddie tousles lilac sweet-peas and lavender-blue forgetmenots into Richie’s crazy hair while his head rests in his lap and they breathe together, Richie following Eddie, feet tip-tapping against one another down below.
They have AP English together, later in the day, and Richie writes Eddie silly bee-themed notes and Eddie draws baby flowers on his gentle palms and they sharpen their pencils and their ankles knot together in muscle-memory and it’s like a whole eight years never even happened.
Richie’s got Eddie and Eddie’s got Richie and the world is turning fast and bright and hard and daisy petals are falling from oh so high up in the sunny sky.
“She’ll be right in here,” Richie’s hand holds Eddie’s snug and cosy as he guides the boy into his home and sets their school bags down by the front door.
A kitty-cat slithers out through the living room and stops by Eddie’s feet and licks all over his sneakers. He sets Richie’s hand back by his side only to snatch up Inky and shove his face into her back. “Hi, Inky-pie.”
It’s a weighty reunion, and Richie’s poor heart aches. His hands, with their minds of their own, tangle through Eddie’s belt loops, but he doesn’t seem to mind. His scratchy head falls into Richie’s heavy, happy chest and Inky rests in between them. She’s getting old, but she purrs contentedly all the same, happy when with friends.
“She missed you.” He kisses into Eddie’s hair. Eddie kisses Inky.
“Dad takes her to work. She sits in the dentist office and meets so many friends. She’s never, ever lonely.” Richie sighs, arms wrapped round the two. When Inky wasn’t at the office, she was with Richie. In his bed or tucked in his arms or laying on his chest and listening to all he had to say, and all he had to do. He was never, ever lonely, all because he had her. Looked after her with his life, as he and his gentle hands and big heart had been trusted to do.
Eddie’s crying when his head tilts up, and Richie kisses under each teary bottom lash line, and swipes at his shimmery cheeks with the pads of pinky thumbs.
They sit out in the backyard with the pretty kitty, with a strawberry jam sandwich cut into two triangles.
Eddie got a ‘hey, Eddie-boy!’ from Richie’s Dad, and a sweet and soft sock round the ear from his Momma, and his little brother and sisters marvelled over Inky’s owner. Rich had always told them they were only looking after her, she had another family too, and they met Eddie with toothy, sunshiny smiles and wide, pretty gazes. Lily hung off his leg for twenty minutes.
“My Twitchy, Itchy, Snitchy Richie.” Eddie hums a mellow murmur, knuckles shredding Richie’s skull, mild and meekly. Richie can hear his sticky sweet smile.
Richie turns round in his lap with a content hum, chest pressed to his thighs and knees, shiny face staring up at him. “Missed you, Daisy Feet. My funny little Honeybee.”
Eddie kisses his balmy forehead, his hooked nose, and his cream puff lips. His tongue runs along Richie’s, and hands tangle up in his knotty hair, and he tastes like strawberry and honey and hope.
“Never going anywhere again.”
They fall asleep out in the backyard, souls tied together by daisy-chains and hands knotted and knitted in first-and-only-love. The sun goes down on Philly as it flies into Fall and all is set back into place for two airy, fairy young hearts. Eddie’s tucked into Richie and he breathes him.
The Flower and his Honeybee.