“Kiza! Look at this!” Andrew exclaimed the moment she walked through the door.
Kiza smiled and approached as he pointed at a jar on the counter. Andrew was the son of the grocery store’s owner. If Earth had splices, she would think he could be a fox-splice with his wild red hair and his playful demeanor. It wasn’t just that, though. There was something else about the way he acted occasionally that made her think he cleverly hid his intellect.
When she got to the counter he stood behind, he handed her the jar. “Isn’t it neat?” he said.
The jar contained honey, but it was odd. It was blue. Of course she had seen colored honey before, but not that bright blue, especially on Earth. Bees on other planets could make honey every color of the rainbow depending on what kind of plants were nearby. But on Earth, this was odd.
Andrew’s smile faltered when she didn’t share his enthusiasm. “I mean, she said she wasn’t selling it. You don’t have competition,” he said.
Kiza frowned. “Why wouldn’t she?”
It didn’t make sense for someone who had the means to produce something so interesting to not sell it. That was capitalism. That was what Earth did.
“She just moved here. Into that old place just north of town?” Andrew asked and waited for Kiza to give him her attention. “Said she’d been fixing it up for the past year so that she could move her operation there. But before she could move her bees and some of the flowers, that rainfall they had a few towns over a few weeks ago destroyed all the flowers and hive boxes. So she just wanted to get rid of everything.”
Her frown deepened as she set the jar down. “She must have really liked bees,” she said.
Andrew nodded. He took the jar in his hands. His excitement had subsided into sadness. He seemed to realize just how much this beekeeper had lost.
“You said the old place north of town? Is it the one with that old horse barn?” Kiza asked.
“Yeah,” he replied. “The old inn with the carriage horse barn.”
“What’s her name?” Kiza asked. She’d had a thought to visit with the lady.
Andrew shrugged and then looked at the jar. “Beatrice Holguin? That’s what it says here. With a contact number. You going to go talk to her?”
“Gonna talk bees,” Kiza chuckled as she turned to walk away. She waved goodbye to Andrew. He waved goodbye back, and then she left the store without getting what she had originally set out to get. But she had a better idea.
Seeing this Beatrice was a good idea, she thought. It was a perfect idea. Someone who loved bees would certainly get along well with someone who was half-bee, wouldn’t they?
Kiza pursed her lips in thought as she walked north of town. The old inn wasn’t too far anyway. She wondered what her father would think of this beekeeper. Someone who wasn’t afraid of being around quite a few bees at one time. Someone who seemed sad when she had lost all of the bees in her care. She hoped the woman didn’t see them strictly as a source of income.
Arriving at the house, she knocked upon the front door. It was certainly large enough to have been used as an inn in the past. A sign by the road had lain in pieces so she hadn’t been able to see what it had once been called. In fact, as she stood at the door, a sign on the porch beside her seemed splintered as well. The paint was well faded by years of weather. The rest of the house, though, seemed well repaired.
Kiza knocked again, but paused when she heard a loud commotion behind the house and a string of cursing that would’ve made the most fearsome Skyjackers blush.
She rushed from the porch around the back of the house where a cloud of dust was settling and a woman fanned the air in front of her as she paused her words to cough. She turned at the end of her coughing fit and her dark eyes landed on Kiza.
“Oh shit,” she said and then she stuttered. “I mean-- I… I’m so sorry. I thought I was alone. I--” She sighed heavily and dropped her head for a moment.
Kiza could tell she was having a difficult time. She seemed defeated.
Composing herself, the woman said, “I’m sorry you had to hear that.”
Even when she smiled, the corners of her lips didn’t really rise. The smile was the barest movement of her lips, just a tightlipped expression that didn’t reach the rest of her face.
The expression hurt Kiza’s heart. This woman, this Beatrice Holguin had certainly suffered a great loss. She was sad because of bees.
“Is there something I can help you with?” she asked Kiza.
“No, no,” Kiza said quickly and stepped forward with her hand outstretched. “I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m Kiza Apini.”
Beatrice removed her work gloves and shook her hand. “Apini? Oh! The other beekeepers!”
“You’ve heard about us?” Kiza asked when the woman released her hand.
“At the store yesterday,” Beatrice said. “But don’t worry, you won’t have a bit of competition from me in the honey market in this town.”
The comment was meant to be consoling, a joke, but tears brimmed in Beatrice’s eyes and she smiled even broader as she fought them away.
Kiza nodded. “I’d heard,” she said softly. “I’m sorry that happened.”
Beatrice chuckled, “Wow, that got around quickly.”
Changing the subject, Kiza said, “Are you working on something?” and motioned towards what appeared to be an old horse barn.
“Yeah… some of the ceiling beams were a little rickety and I thought I could fix them but it just… well.” Beatrice waved her gloves at the cloud of dust that still seemed unsettled and chuckled.
It was then that Kiza saw it, what looked like a little flower tattoo on the outside of Beatrice’s left wrist.
“Cute tattoo,” she mentioned, hoping to steer the conversation towards it. It seemed familiar with its star-like shape “Borage flower?” she asked.
The beekeeper looked to her left wrist and said, “Yeah, I think that’s what it looks like. Borago officinalis. If you can believe it though, it’s not a tattoo. I was born with it.”
“Yeah?” Kiza smiled. “Weird!”
“Definitely!” Beatrice smiled back. This time it was real. “I credit this weird little birthmark flower to the reason I got into working with bees.”
Kiza shrugged. “It is a favorite flower.”
Beatrice continued to smile. “Can’t research borage flowers without running into something about bees,” she added.
“We have a bunch of them growing at our house. I’m sure I could get some seeds for you if you’d like,” Kiza offered.
The smile changed on the beekeeper’s face. “Thank you,” she said softly, “but… I know this is going to sound really odd. I don’t think I’m ready.”
Kiza’s brows drew together.
Beatrice laughed, a harsh sound. “I know it sounds stupid. My family laughs at me because they think I’m taking this too hard. It’s just bees, they tell me. Get more.”
Kiza shook her head. “No, you’re alright. I’d be just as devastated if something like that happened to me and my father.”
She wasn’t lying. The hives within the walls of her home, that was just an extension of her family. To think of such a thing happening… She quickly shook her head. That wasn’t something she even wanted to consider.
Clearing her throat at the silence that had filled the space between them, Kiza asked, “So what are you planning on doing with this place? It’s huge.”
“Well…” Beatrice rubbed the back of her head. “The plan was a bed and breakfast and change the old horse stalls into garage parking and have a big garden in the back acreage for the bees but… I’m a little short on money, building supplies, time, and manpower to get this place up and running the way I need it. I actually wasn’t supposed to be here until next year.”
As the sun soon began to set, Kiza left the old inn and the very tired beekeeper who had lost all of her bees. It was nice meeting the woman. It was nice meeting someone who wasn’t afraid of bees, and who seemed to be experiencing genuine grief for the ones lost not as income but as family.
When she returned home, after stopping at the store, she found her father sitting with Queen Jupiter and Caine Wise in the living room. The bees in the walls were excited. She knew that there were visitors from the moment she turned down the driveway.
“Thought you’d gotten lost,” her father said when she entered the room. She could see his worry and only gave him a happy smile.
“I met someone,” she said. “Got distracted.”
“Call next time?” Stinger suggested.
It had been six months since Jupiter had taken reign over Earth and taken Caine as her guardian and partner. The friendship that had sprouted between the four of them in the house of bees had made them incredibly close, close enough to speak informally.
“So you met someone?” Jupiter asked, sitting at the edge of her seat. “Who is he?”
Stinger balked, “I thought you liked that Andrew boy. He’s safe. Stick with him.”
Caine choked on his drink and laughed.
“I said I met someone,” Kiza interrupted the amusement. “I didn’t say I met someone like that! But she is very nice.”
“She…?” Stinger said softly. “I accept your choices, Ki--”
Kiza interrupted her father. “For you, Dad.”
The room became very quiet. Even the bees in the walls seemed surprised at her words.
“For…” Stinger began hesitantly.
“Uh huh,” Kiza nodded. “For you.”
He shook his head.
“She likes bees,” she told him.
“Just because she likes bees doesn’t mean anything,” he said. He kept his temper even but she could see his agitation growing. He didn’t want to talk about it. It would mean acknowledging once more that her mother was dead.
“Alright,” Kiza said and shrugged. “But she is really nice. Should at least meet her and welcome her to town.”
Stinger appeared to settle. “Maybe later,” he said.
“Sure,” Kiza said and left it at that. She then asked Caine and Jupiter, “Are you staying for dinner?”
Cooking became an endeavor taken on by all four of them. It was an indescribably amazing feeling to have people around. The house had felt quiet lately, even with the bees in the walls.
Her father had thrown himself into his work, helping Queen Jupiter create laws concerning immigration and visitation from the universe outside of the little planet. And while Kiza often left the house for one reason or another, he rarely had before as part of the Aegis, and did so even less now. Meeting someone and sparking a relationship, she thought, just might cheer him up. Even if he had to explain that alien half-bees were a thing.
As Stinger pushed up his sleeves to begin chopping tomatoes, she noticed a darkened scar on the outside of his left wrist. “Hey Dad?” she asked. “What’s that from?”
He glanced at his wrist, at the circular scar on his skin and the darkened flesh that seemed to peak in five messy points.
“An infection,” he said simply. “Had to cut it out before it ruined me.”
Kiza frowned. “Ew,” she chuckled.
“You asked,” he replied with a smile.
Stinger withdraws further at Kiza's insistence that he meet this strange beekeeper.
Kiza made her way to the inn the next morning. She could sense that the weather might quickly take a turn for the worst, but she couldn’t help but want to know more about the beekeeper that had come to town.
Not only that, but her father’s scar had piqued her interest. He had been lying through his teeth, she knew that well enough. After all, if the infection had been cleared out, then certainly the dark mark on his skin would have been completely removed as well.
If, by chance, this beekeeper and her father bore the same marks, then it was destiny that they should meet. It was destiny that they should be together.
Kiza clapped her hands together. It was such a beautiful thought. She delighted at the possibility of her father being happy again. It wasn’t that he was unhappy, but she knew he was lonely. Bees weren’t supposed to be alone.
At the inn, she heard hammering from the barn. “Beatrice?” she called out.
After a moment, the woman appeared from one of the old horse stalls. “Kiza?” she asked. “What’re you doing here?”
Beatrice fumbled her words and then added, “That sounded awful. Not that I don’t want you here I--Just…”
Kiza laughed. “It’s fine. I just came by to see if you needed any help?”
Before the woman could reply, the rain began to come down. It had been threatening with the overcast atmosphere, but it let loose in that moment.
“Oh!” Beatrice cried out. She pulled up her plaid over-shirt and held it over her head like an umbrella. “This way!” she called to Kiza.
Kiza rushed after her.
They sat in the horse stall she had been working in and Kiza watched her settle in in the darkness. “Should’ve seen that coming,” Beatrice said as she peeked outside.
Kiza smiled as she watched the woman. She could tell, she could sense it. There wasn’t a mean bone in this woman’s body. She had a mouth on her, so she knew she could probably hold her own when she needed to. But the kindness within her was so much more prominent.
“I think I left the back door open,” Beatrice said. “We could probably make a mad dash to the house.”
Chuckling, Kiza said, “Sure.” Even though she knew running through the rain would only make it worse.
Beatrice lifted her plaid shirt up to cover herself and glanced back at Kiza. The younger woman had a broad smile on her face and the beekeeper smiled back before running out through the rain.
At the back door, Beatrice turned the handle and spilled into the house. “Yes! I’m not an idiot!” she said aloud.
Kiza could only laugh as she entered.
“I don’t mind the water, but shoes please,” Beatrice said and kicked her muddy shoes off by the door. Kiza followed her example.
“It’s a nice floor,” Kiza said, admiring the wood on the steps that led up from the mud room. The house was much different on the inside than what she expected to see. It was much cleaner and shinier than Kiza’s own home. Though she wasn’t comparing.
The two couldn’t be compared at all.
“I finished the lower level of the house,” Beatrice commented. “For the most part. The upstairs rooms are still torn out.”
In her socks, Kiza tiptoed about the lower floor.
“My favorite part is the kitchen,” the woman said and pointed to a swinging door.
Kiza followed her direction and stepped into the other room. She had been expecting a newer, sterilized room with stainless steel and polished countertops. But Beatrice had gone a different direction. The old countertops had been restored and sealed. There was a newer stove but also a wood burning one. It was an antique kitchen, but with a few modern aspects, such as the large stainless steel refrigerator.
“Always wanted a kitchen like that,” Beatrice said as she sat at the table behind Kiza.
“You like cooking?” Kiza asked.
Beatrice nodded. “I love it!” she said excitedly. “But I hate cooking just for myself. If it’s just me, well, I’d rather eat pineapples from a can than put a pan on the burner.”
Kiza chuckled. Casually, she tucked her hands behind her back and said to the beekeeper. “Well, if you ever feel like cooking for another person, I’m always willing to eat.”
Smiling, the woman said, “I’d love to.”
The rain pounded on the outside of the inn, and as the sound of the storm grew louder, Beatrice grew quieter.
After a clap of thunder shook the house, Beatrice squeaked, “You should probably call your father! … Let him know where you are.”
Kiza nodded and stepped away from the woman at the dining table before making the call. Jupiter had insisted on setting the four of them up on a cellular family plan. That way off-world technology wouldn’t be needed every time they needed to get in contact. Kiza appreciated it. Stinger and Caine, however, were not fans of the more primitive technology of Earth.
The phone rang a few times before her father finally answered.
“Kiza?” he asked. “Where are you?”
“I’m with Beatrice,” she replied. “I got here before the storm hit.”
Stinger sighed on the other end. She couldn’t tell if it was relief or growing annoyance with her fascination with the beekeeper.
“I’m okay, Dad,” she said. “I’ll head back when the storm clears up.”
“And if it doesn’t stop by the time it gets dark?” he asked.
“If the rain doesn’t ease up by tonight, I’ll just walk in it,” she told him.
Before her father could reply, Beatrice quickly said, “No no no! If you need a ride home, Kiza, I’ll give you a ride home.”
On the other side of her phone, Stinger said, “I don’t want her here, Kiza.”
“Do you want me home sooner or later, Dad?” Kiza asked.
“Now,” he said and hung up.
Beatrice cautiously neared her when she put the phone away. “Are you in trouble Kiza?” she asked. “Should I get you home now?”
Kiza grinned. “You’re just trying to get rid of me, aren’t you?”
Taken aback, Beatrice stumbled over her words. “W-What? No! I--”
“I was kidding,” the girl laughed.
Beatrice smiled. “You’re welcome anytime, Kiza. As long as it’s alright with your father that you’re here. I’d hate for your to get in trouble because of me.”
Kiza set her hands behind her back. “Alright,” she said.
Beatrice gave her an umbrella and took her home. The rain continued to pour down and the wipers of the car were in overdrive trying to keep their sight clear.
As they neared the end of the long driveway that led up to the house of bees, the porch light turned on.
“Here is fine,” Kiza said. And Beatrice brought the car to a stop. “You should come to the door and meet my dad.”
Beatrice sat very still. “I--I-- Maybe another time, Kiza. He seemed a bit upset on the phone. Remember, we agreed. You won’t get in trouble because of me.”
“Promise,” Kiza replied.
The door of the house opened and Stinger stepped out onto the porch. Kiza opened the car door.
“Umbrella!” Beatrice told her.
Kiza grinned and opened the umbrella just outside of the door. She looked back at Beatrice and said, “Thanks for the ride.”
“Any time. As long--”
“As long as it’s okay with my dad,” she finished. She waved to the woman behind the wheel and stepped around the door.
Kiza began to close the door but paused when she noticed Beatrice shift in her seat. The woman’s dark eyes were focused through the falling rain on the oddly lit form of Stinger Apini standing upon the porch.
Beatrice waved sheepishly, and when Stinger gave no reaction, she said, “Kiza, the door?”
“Right!” Kiza said. “Bye Beatrice. See you later.”
“Bye Kiza.” Playfully, she added, “Be good.”
She closed the car door and met her father at the porch. Beatrice waited until then to drive away.
“She’s nice,” Kiza said.
“Kiza…” Stinger sighed and set an arm around her shoulders. He steered her into the house.
“You haven’t even met her,” Kiza said.
“I don’t particularly want to,” Stinger replied.
“Dad…” Kiza complained. “You need to get out more.”
“I’m busy with helping Jupiter,” he replied.
Kiza set the closed umbrella just inside the door and pulled out her phone. “I’m calling Jupiter.”
“I’m going to ask if you can have a personal day,” Kiza told him.
He reached for her phone and she rushed away. “Kiza! Stop!”
“Only if you meet her!”
“The phone is ringing!”
“Kiza! Stop it!”
Jupiter’s voice came through from the other end. “Kiza?”
Kiza put it to her ear. “Jupiter!”
“Kiza no!” Stinger said.
“Hold on,” Kiza said to Jupiter and then lowered the phone. “Then meet her!”
“I don’t want to, Kiza.”
“Kiza stop!” Stinger shouted.
She stood very still. He had never raised his voice before.
He seemed more surprised at himself than she did and he dropped onto the couch in the living room.
Kiza closed her phone without a word to Jupiter and sat down across from her father.
“Dad,” she said softly. She reached out and took his hand. “She has the same mark on her wrist.”
He lowered his head.
“Isn’t that a good thing?”
“No, Kiza…” He held her hand tighter, his body trembling.
“Dad…” She moved to sit beside him and wrapped her arms around him.
Sitting there, he seemed distant, and even sadder than usual.
The house was quiet throughout the rest of the day. She had called Jupiter back to apologize for calling and then hanging up so suddenly. She explained that she couldn’t talk about it right now, but would tell her everything when she could. Jupiter was more than understanding.
Kiza went to bed that night with her father in mind, how he had lost his composure when she had told him about the marks matching. What did he have to fear? It was destiny. They were supposed to be together. Weren’t they?
Kiza had woken that next morning with the intention of seeing Beatrice, but when she saw her father sitting in the living room, she realized he hadn’t left since the night before. He hadn’t moved an inch since he had sat down and that worried her more than anything else.
Quietly, she sat beside him. The movement of the couch caught his attention, but he barely moved to acknowledge her presence.
Kiza gathered her legs and held herself tightly as she waited for him to speak, though she had no idea if he would, or when he would. She was content to wait. Sometimes, silence was the best medicine. Sometimes, no words needed to be said, just the quiet company of family or friends. But aside from Caine and Jupiter, Kiza knew her father had no other friends. She herself had Andrew and several others in town. After she had recovered from her sickness--by the recoding her father had provided her shortly before Jupiter took claim of Earth as queen--Kiza had returned to her normal routine and all of her friends had been ecstatic for her return. It made her happy that people had noticed, that people had cared enough about her absence.
Andrew had thrown her a small party. Her own father, however, had all but refused to attend, instead seeking solitude. Or was it repentance? Something had happened off-world, and Kiza only had a vague idea of what it was through what had been said and Jupiter’s ascension as ruler of Earth.
Tiredly, she set her head upon her father’s shoulder and it was only then that he seemed to stir. He patted her knee and asked, “Hungry?”
His voice was gruff from not having spoken since the night before.
“A bit,” she replied.
Stinger took a deep breath and rose to his feet. She watched him make his way into the kitchen. He was there, she could see him, but just looking at him she could tell he was distracted. If he tried to cook that way, she was sure he’d set himself on fire just because he wasn’t paying attention.
“I’ll help,” she said and rushed to his side.
Kiza’s intended help became a solo activity as he stepped back. Occasionally, as she cooked, she glanced back at him. Every time she did, he noticed and set his hands at his sides. He’d been rubbing the mark at his wrist. It wasn’t a good enough time to bring it up. Not yet. Not after his reaction the night before.
She set the table and then she and her father sat down to breakfast. Everything said it would be a very quiet meal, but she was pleasantly surprised when he sat down and said, “This is hard for me, Kiza.”
In her hand she held her fork, paused in motion. She could only stare at him.
“I shouldn’t have shouted,” he said. “I’m sorry. It’s been a long time, but you really wouldn’t know anything about it. It’s not your fault, it’s mine.”
“It’s alright. I shouldn’t have pushed…” she said softly.
“It’s something I should have told you a long time ago Kiza.”
She looked at her food and decided quickly that she would rather hear his story. And something told her she couldn’t have both.
“I loved your mother, Kiza,” he said. “More than anything in the world. More than being a Skyjacker, more than my own life. But when we met, she was betrothed to another. She and him shared a mark, a bee, of all things. Yet, she neither loved him, nor did he appreciate her for who she was. They were to be married because of the mark alone, even if she was unhappy, even if he was…”
Stinger’s voice trailed off. He cleared his throat and started again. “She tried running away. She was very vocal about changing the law that those that matched were duty bound, obligated, to be together. They-- … Kiza, do you know the story of why people get these matching symbols?”
There was a story that she knew, but now he made her very uncertain. “I know a story…”
“There was a couple. And they loved each other more than anything. So they played with genetics. Whenever people were born that may lead to the creation of their recurrence, they would develop a shared mark. But because temperaments factored into genetics, those with shared marks often fell in love. And then it was corrupted. The belief that we had free will to choose became a lack of. A mark sealed your fate.”
Kiza frowned. That had not been the story she knew.
“Entitled used it as a means to force…” Stinger paused. He was having trouble continuing. Or he didn’t want to continue.
Kiza reached across the table and touched his hand. He looked to his daughter’s face and such sadness entered his eyes that she left her seat. She hugged her father and he held her arm. His breath shook, but he shed no tears. He held it in. He didn’t want her to see him break.
Stinger was still trying, more than anything, to be strong for her. But he didn’t realize that he didn’t have to be.
“But you had mom,” she said consolingly to him. That much she knew. Her parents had somehow ended up together. Maybe that was fate.
Kiza felt tired, she’d lost her appetite. She wasn’t sure her father had ever even had one that morning, with the way he had seemed to dread speaking to her about the marks.
She felt her father take a deep, steadying breath. He sat up a little straighter.
“If…” he said and paused. “If you really want me to meet her, Kiza, I will.”
Kiza stepped back. She managed, “What?”
“Don’t expect me to--” he began and his daughter interrupted.
“No, no! Dad. I don’t expect anything. At all.” She ticked off the reasons on her fingers as she spoke. “She’s a nice lady. She likes bees! You share the same mark. She’s pretty. You need to get out more! And, most of all. You both like me.” Kiza but her hands on her hips and smiled proudly.
Stinger’s smile faded. It made her own falter. “I don’t like you,” he said and suddenly scooped her up in his arms. “You’re my daughter! I love you! Even when you drive me mad!”
Kiza squealed as her father spun her in a circle.
When he set her feet on the ground, he kissed her forehead.
She wrapped her arms around her father and he held her close. He’d do anything for her. She knew that much. And maybe, he also knew that it was time to try moving on. Just a little. There was no rush.
Stepping back, she looked him over and asked, “Are you going to wear that? Also, I think you need a shower. Really. It’s a bit… Dad, you smell.”
“We’re not going now, Kiza.”
“But it’s a good day, a bright day. Go change.”
She got behind him and began pushing.
“The food is getting cold,” he said in an attempt to sidetrack her.
“We can always make more food! Shower!” she steered him out of the kitchen and then blocked the doorway.
Stinger turned to her and smiled. There was worry mixed in there, somewhere was that same worry he held when she had been sick. He was dwelling on it. Even though she was better.
“We don’t have all day, Dad,” she said.
“Alright! Alright! I’m going!” he laughed.
The drive to the old house was quiet, even though Kiza could hardly contain her excitement. Her father however, hadn’t said a word. His hands had been glued to the steering wheel of the old truck, his knuckles white. He didn’t want her to see his apprehension, but it came out one way or another.
The closer they got to Beatrice, the more debris lay in the road. Had the storm gotten that bad on that side of town? It hadn’t been nearly so terrible at home. Kiza wouldn’t have even remembered that it had rained if she hadn’t seen the umbrella Beatrice had loaned her.
Now, she held it in her lap, her hands tightening on the handle. How had the old inn fared? How had Beatrice made it through the night?
“I should’ve stayed with her last night,” Kiza said softly.
“Stayed?” Stinger asked. “Not a chance.”
Kiza didn’t look at him. He wouldn’t understand. He hadn’t met Beatrice, didn’t know about the bees she’d lost, about the storm…
As they pulled up to the inn, the first thing Kiza saw was the broken windows and the downed tree. It was an old tree, just waiting to fall, and when it had, it had scraped up the side of the inn and smashed the windows on that side with its wild branches.
And then she saw Beatrice, sitting on the front steps, staring at the amber beer bottle in her hands.
When the truck came to a stop, Beatrice slowly looked up. Her reaction was slowed, either she didn’t much care that someone was pulling up, or she was just a little inebriated. When Kiza got out of the passenger’s seat, she knew which one it was.
“Kiza?” Beatrice asked, the name just a little slurred.
“Beatrice,” Kiza said as her father got out of the truck. “What happened?” She rushed over to the ex-beekeeper.
“Kiza,” her father said and the girl stopped short.
Beatrice finally noticed him and jumped to her feet. She tried to hide the bottle behind her back like a child just caught drinking. Her face reddened.
Kiza bit back a smile. The woman in front of her was embarrassed to be seen in that state. Not so much by Kiza, but Stinger was a different story altogether.
“So much for first impressions,” Beatrice mumbled to herself, the words thick in her mouth. Her eyes narrowed on Kiza and she squinted, trying to focus.
“Are you alright?” Kiza asked.
Stinger said, “This is a bad time. We’ll come back later.”
“I--!” Beatrice stumbled forward down the last step. The bottle behind her slipped from her hand and shattered on the step. She winced at the sound. The woman took a deep breath and said, “That’s probably best.” She sounded as if she’d sobered immediately.
Kiza frowned. She looked between Beatrice, who kept her eyes downcast, and her father, who looked over the broken windows and the downed tree.
Carefully, the girl said, “Okay,” but still approached Beatrice and offered her the umbrella.
Seeing it, Beatrice brought her attention to Kiza. Tears brimmed in the woman’s eyes but she smiled peacefully as if nothing was wrong or could ever have been wrong. “Thank you, Kiza,” she said.
“I’ll be back later,” Kiza replied. “And then we’ll work on fixing those windows.”
Beatrice smiled a little brighter, but the tears threatened to fall. “I’ll see you then,” Beatrice chuckled.
As Kiza headed back to the truck, she tried not to watch her father. But she saw it, his attention finally leave the storm’s destruction and drift over to the beekeeper. His expression didn’t change.
Opening the passenger-side door, the girl looked back to Beatrice. The woman tentatively waved goodbye. Stinger turned away from her. Kiza watched her father get back into the truck. She waved to Beatrice and the moment the door closed, her father was already pulling away from the beekeeper. Leaving her alone…
Kiza couldn’t put her finger on it, but something was wrong. Everything was wrong, not just with Beatrice, but with her father. It was wrong to leave her there, alone…
Before they were out of sight, Beatrice walked up the steps and disappeared into the building.
They were both hiding their feelings. Kiza wasn’t sure how to fix any of it. Either way, their first meeting certainly could have gone much better.
The drive to meet Beatrice had been quiet, and so had the drive home. They walked into the house and her father went back to the kitchen to eat the cold breakfast. Kiza wasn’t even sure what to say. There wasn’t anything to say.
Stinger’s phone rang around midday. It could only have been two people: Caine, or Jupiter. Kiza listened to their conversation from the other room. She could only hear her father’s side, but it was something about the storm. Everything was fine.
The conversation moved quick and was beginning to wind down. Kiza needed to think fast. Jupiter could help, couldn’t she? Couldn’t Caine help? She’d known Caine since she was born.
“Dad!” she said quickly and bound into the room. “Is that Jupiter?”
Stinger stared at her. “Yes,” he said cautiously.
“Could… Is there any chance they’re heading this way for a visit?” she asked.
“I don’t know,” he said and suspiciously added, “Why?”
“I… Dad… There are some things you just don’t talk about with your dad,” she said.
“Like what?” he said defensively.
“Like periods,” she blurted. “And--”
She could already hear Jupiter laughing on the other end. Her father stared at her. He had given her the coming of age talk when her mother couldn’t, but he had stuttered his way through it and when he wasn’t stuttering he would pause and repeatedly wish her mother was still with them.
“Jupiter…?” he said into the phone. He had given up. Kiza held back a smile.
She could hear Jupiter still laughing as she said, “We’ll be by this evening, Stinger.”
He hung up the phone and set it on the table, visibly uncomfortable.
Kiza said, “I’ll clean up a bit,” and left him there to a little bit of quiet. She had asked a lot of him recently. It was only fair.
There was no such thing as a spotless beehive. The house was a hive. On warm days, honey dripped down the walls. Kiza paused her sweeping and wondered if Beatrice would be happy in a place like this. She loved bees but the inn, even under construction was beautiful floors and walls. She kept a clean property. Maybe that was an issue for her father. Bees attracted bees, but flowers still needed room to grow or they would be smothered. What kind of flower was Beatrice?
Jupiter and Caine arrived to excitement from Kiza. Stinger still looked tired. Almost immediately, they left to the store and Caine and Stinger settled in for a quiet evening.
In the car, Jupiter asked, “Alright, so what’s really going on?”
Kiza smiled sheepishly. “Did Caine ever tell you about soulmate marks?” she asked.
“Two different stories,” she replied. “After he saw mine on my…um... two very different stories.”
Kiza grinned. “Well, there’s a Beekeeper that moved to town, and hers matches my dad’s.”
Jupiter pursed her lips. “Oh boy… And? They met?”
Kiza sighed. “We went by this morning. The storm trashed her place and… she was a bit drunk.”
Jupiter made a face. “I take it that didn’t go over well?” she asked.
“Not at all,” Kiza replied. “What’s strange though? They seem weird around each other.”
“Yeah? How so?”
Kiza shook her head. She really couldn’t explain it. The sideways glances, the downward cast eyes. If one was looking, the other wasn’t.
At the girl’s silence, Jupiter asked, “She’s… she’s just from Earth, right?”
Kiza nodded. “I’m pretty sure,” she replied. “She didn’t seem to have any idea what the mark on her wrist was.”
Jupiter watched the road for a moment and said, “Let’s go visit her!”
Kiza sat up straight. She clapped her hands together. Jupiter was intrigued enough to meet Beatrice, maybe she could see something that Kiza missed. “Oh… Don’t tell my dad we’re doing this?”
“Of course not!” Jupiter laughed.
As they pulled up to the inn, Beatrice was out at the tree hacking away with an axe. The sun was low and the branches of the tree had been pulled away. The large trunk was still there. How long had she been working on it? It was a lot of work. She must have started soon after Kiza had left that morning.
The car came to a halt and Beatrice pulled the axe from the tree. She looked up and wiped the sweat from her brow as Kiza leapt out of the car.
“Kiza,” she said and stepped away from the tree. “What are you doing here?”
“Here to help,” Kiza replied. “Or at least to check on you.”
“Check on me?” Beatrice replied. Her voice was tense.
Jupiter came around the car and introduced herself. The tension remained in Beatrice but she seemed to stand a little straighter. They shook hands.
“You have a beautiful property,” Jupiter said.
Beatrice turned around and set the axe into the tree again with a heavy swing. “Wanna buy it,” she grumbled.
Kiza flinched. This wasn’t the Beatrice she knew.
“You’re selling?” Jupiter asked.
“At this point, I’m cursed,” Beatrice said. The axe slammed into the wood again. “Property is better off with someone else. Make an offer. I’ll take a box of chocolate and a six pack for this shithole.”
“Beatrice…” Kiza breathed. Had something else happened in the course of the day? “You can’t leave.”
“I--!” Beatrice started loudly. She faced Kiza and took a deep breath. She wasn’t angry at her.
Jupiter took that silence to intervene. “I’m looking at property to invest in in the area,” she said. Kiza looked at her with surprise.
“Invest?” Beatrice asked.
Jupiter watched the beekeeper for a moment. “This would be a particular contract,” she said.
“Particular contract…?” Beatrice said slowly.
“We’d cover the expenses of running the property, you would own and manage it,” Jupiter said.
Kiza looked between them. What was going on?
“What’s the catch,” Beatrice said with skepticism.
“I can’t tell you unless you agree to a contract,” she said. “You wouldn’t be able to talk about the clients.”
Kiza’s face broke into a grin.
“What’s the legality of this?” Beatrice asked.
“Completely legal,” Jupiter said.
Beatrice stared at her. Kiza could almost see her mulling it over.
“Let’s talk details,” Beatrice said.
Kiza and Jupiter left several hours later and barely remembered to go to the store before it closed. When they returned, Stinger and Caine were sitting in the kitchen trading war stories, reminiscing about their time as skyjackers.
“Did you get lost?” Caine asked.
Stinger sighed heavily. “Kiza,” he said through clenched teeth.
Kiza opened her mouth to explain, but Jupiter spoke instead. “We were looking for property to host visiting dignitaries,” Jupiter said. “Ms. Holguin’s property is secluded enough with additional property to house their transportation.”
“You told her?” Stinger said and Kiza wasn’t sure if her father was speaking to her or to Jupiter.
“Not yet,” Jupiter replied. “Beatrice wanted some time to make her decision. We hashed out a few details, but if she decides to go for the project, then I’ll have to.”
“Do you really think that’s best?” Stinger said shortly.
Jupiter watched him with consideration. “Do you want to run a hotel for intergalactic visitors?” she asked. “I don’t have enough people here that know the truth and we need to start looking at political remedies for off-world situations.”
Kiza bit the inside of her cheek. She didn’t know what to say. Caine and her father stared at the Queen of Earth.
“Alright,” Stinger said slowly. “If that’s what you want.”
“She still has to agree to it,” Jupiter said. “And when she does, I would like all of us to be there. I know I didn’t want to believe it either.”
Stinger sighed, “Alright.”
Kiza looked between them all. She had intervened and Beatrice’s entire life was about to change. For a moment, she wondered if she had done the right thing.
I'm alive! I have heard your cries! The story will continue. It's not much at the moment, but it's something to hopefully tide you over until I can get on it a little more.
Jupiter and Caine had stayed the night at the House of Bees. Kiza had retired early to bed, but for a while she sat on the stairs and listened to her father and the others talk.
“It is a good plan,” Stinger sighed. “I just don’t like it.”
“What’s really the problem, Stinger?” Jupiter asked.
Kiza never heard his answer. They were quiet for so long that she found herself drifting off to sleep at the top of the stairs and she soon went to her room.
The sun was bright in the morning sky when she awoke to the bees in the walls humming with excitement. Something was new. They were feeding off of the energy in the house and Kiza pulled herself out of bed. She made it halfway down the stairwell when she heard her father proclaim, “This is all I have to wear. Why are we getting dressed up for this?”
“You’re starting to sound like Caine,” Jupiter muttered.
“H-Hey!” Caine stuttered back.
Kiza wiped at her eyes as she came down into the room. “What’s going on?” she yawned.
Jupiter paused as she pulled a nice coat over her shoulders. “Your friend Beatrice called this morning. She said she wanted to go over details and make the deal,” she said.
“And no one was going to wake me up?” Kiza blurted.
“We weren’t going to leave without you,” Caine told her.
“I doubt the house bees would let us,” Jupiter smiled. She reached back and tied up her dark hair and she smiled to the girl. “You could get ready quickly. It was Stinger who has taken some convincing.”
Kiza’s face lit up and she rushed upstairs to find clothes. Once Beatrice knew the truth, she hoped she and her father wouldn’t be so strange around one another. It could all quickly backfire, but she hoped Beatrice would be accepting of everything. She had never hoped for something so much. She wanted this to go well, even if it didn’t go smoothly. She wanted to tell the beekeeper so much.
They had all four gotten in Stinger’s truck and he drove them to the old inn.
“Wait here,” Jupiter had said to them when she left the vehicle. She crossed the gravel road and Beatrice met her on the porch with a tired smile.
The beekeeper cast the truck and its inhabitants a questioning expression but seemed to let it fade when she invited Jupiter inside to talk.
Kiza sat on pins and needles. She fiddled with her hands, with the seams and stitching of her shirt. She untied and braided her hair and then unbraided it and put it back in a ponytail. “Why is this taking so long?” she whispered inside the quiet vehicle.
“It’s been five minutes Kiza,” her father said.
She looked at the clock. It felt so much longer than that. “Do you think--” she began.
“It’ll be fine,” Caine said.
“You think she’ll sign it?” Kiza asked. “Do you think we’ll be able to tell her?”
“I think she’s got nothing left to lose,” Stinger said.
Kiza groaned. That was probably true. The agitation in the beekeeper the day before had worried her. It felt like she had given up, like she was ready to burn whatever the storm had left intact.
The time neared an hour. Kiza hadn’t ceased fidgeting. Stinger had his head tilted back and he slept quietly. Caine looked out the window, his gaze wandering over the downed trees and branches, over the taped and covered windows. The inn would need plenty of work if it was to be useable. The storm had done a number on it.
Finally Jupiter stepped down the porch followed by the beekeeper. The Queen of Earth paused and turned back to the dark-haired woman, said something quietly, and Beatrice seemed to pause in her tracks. She stared at Jupiter, shook her head, and laughed.
“She told her,” Caine said, his eyes on the queen again.
Kiza leaned forward from the back seat to watch.
The two women spoke again and Beatrice shook her head. She looked up at the sky, shook her head again and crossed her arms.
Jupiter lifted a hand and waved to the three in the truck. Kiza didn’t need any other invitation. She threw open the door and leapt out before her father could say another word. At this moment, she didn’t think her father would say anything. They were all there to do the same thing, convince Beatrice of their existence.
“Kiza?” the beekeeper said as the girl trotted up to Jupiter. “What kind of people do you-- you know what? I don’t want to know. You’re all crazy but--”
Jupiter interjected, “We might be crazy, but going forward, you’re going to have to believe me. You’re a part of this now.”
“An intergalactic bed and breakfast?” Beatrice scoffed. She shook her head again “Look, you can call yourselves whatever you want--” She fell silent.
Kiza glanced behind her to see Caine and her father approaching. They didn’t look like they fit in with anyone else on Earth. There was an extraterrestrial style that they were comfortable wearing, and it showed on Beatrice’s face that she was clearly concerned.
“Kiza…” Beatrice said slowly. “Dear… is there… someone I should contact? Are you… are you safe? At home? I mean.”
Jupiter bit back her laughter. She turned away from the woman and covered her mouth as her shoulders shook.
“Beatrice,” Kiza said. “I’m fine. And you are too. This is my father, and this is Caine.”
“And… you are all… aliens?” Beatrice spoke slowly.
Kiza smiled a wide grin. “Well, yes,” she said. It was the easiest way to relay the information.
“And Jupiter says there are… splices?” Beatrice said. She seemed like she was trying not to be condescending but it was in her tone that she thought they were insane.
“Jupiter was hardly this difficult,” Caine muttered.
“Yes!” Kiza answered the woman. “My father is spliced with a bee and Caine is--”
“An albino, space werewolf?” Beatrice scoffed.
Jupiter’s eyes widened. “Half-albino, werewolf, space angel,” she said. “But I’m impressed that was really close.”
Caine gave a sigh and a soft growl of disapproval. “That’s not very funny, Jupiter…” he said.
“Look,” Beatrice shook her head. “You can be weird furries if you want. I--”
Caine had had enough. He shrugged off his jacket and let his skyjacker wings form and stretch out wide.
Beatrice stared as Jupiter’s guard lifted from the ground with a single beat of his wings. Kiza watched the woman’s gaze follow him higher and higher and when she was looking up into the sky, everything seemed to click. “...Lycantant…” she whispered.
She looked at Stinger. “Bee…” she said.
And then to Kiza. “Bee daughter…”
Finally, her dark eyes landed on Jupiter and she said, “Queen… of Earth?”
Kiza watched Beatrice’s gaze go back up into the sky. She wasn’t looking at Caine, but something far off in space. “Huh…” Beatrice breathed. Then she swayed and fell.
The ex-beekeeper had fainted and no one had moved. Caine landed and said to Jupiter, “It was sudden, but we were getting nowhere the gentle way.”
“Oh I agree,” Jupiter smirked.
Kiza looked back at her father, whom hadn’t said a word and hadn’t moved an inch and Stinger Apini said, “I should have caught her, shouldn’t I?”
Jupiter snorted. She covered her mouth and laughed.
“Yes!” Kiza chastised him.
“We’ve got a lot to talk about when she wakes up,” Jupiter said and gave a slow shake of her head.
“I’ll do it,” Stinger said.
“Really?” Kiza asked. “We’re staying til she’s up?”
Her father seemed reluctant to say any more, but he nodded. “I’ll be keeping watch on this place, right?” he asked of Jupiter and the queen nodded. “Then as the resident Aegis marshall, I’ll handle it,” he said.
“We’ll handle it,” Kiza confirmed.
Stinger nodded. “Leave it to us, Jupiter,” he said.
Finally, Beatrice knows the truth. If only there was a little progress.
Soo... I couldn't sleep last night and wrote a small chapter. I apologize, it's not much, but again, I'll keep trying to update this. Man, where does a year even go?
Kiza sat beside Beatrice's bed. Stinger had unceremoniously slung the unconscious woman over his shoulder and hefted her into the inn. Jupiter had cautioned him to go easy on the woman, but his bedside manner left much to be desired.
Jupiter and Caine had left. Kiza’s father decided it was best to stay downstairs, and even though Kiza remained, she wasn't quite sure what to do when Beatrice awoke and stared at the textured ceiling saying nothing.
The day had begun to fade and footsteps up the stairs made Kiza turn in her seat to see her father come into the room with two bowls of food.
“Still not awake?” he asked, his voice gruff.
She went to say that the woman had awoken, but glanced back to Beatrice to see her eyes were closed. Was she pretending to be asleep? Kiza bit back a smile and said, “Nope.”
“Well I brought you food in case she does come to any time soon,” he said. One bowl he handed to his daughter and the other he placed on the nightstand.
The bowl was warm in her hands and whatever he made smelled absolutely delicious. “Thank you, Dad,” she said.
“There wasn't much in the kitchen so I--”
“No,” Kiza interrupted and gently shook her head. “You’re trying.”
He gave her a half-hearted smile and kissed her forehead before leaving the room. When he was gone and she could no longer hear him on the stairs, she said, “You can stop pretending now.”
Beatrice slowly opened one eye, and then the other. She watched as Kiza began to eat and then she looked skeptically at the other bowl
“It's not going to eat you,” Kiza said. “You're supposed to eat it.”
“What is it?” Beatrice asked.
“Something with a lot of cheese,” she replied.
A slight smile crossed the woman's face and she sat up. She was hesitant to eat, but once she started, Beatrice didn't stop until the spoon scraped the empty bowl and she set it aside.
“It's missing something,” she said.
Kiza teased, “Didn't seem like it mattered.”
Beatrice's face reddened slightly and she sat back against the headboard of her bed. “So… I didn't dream that.”
“So I'm going to be operating an intergalactic bed and breakfast for the Queen of Earth’s political visitors.”
“This is certainly not the direction I saw my life going…”
“So?” Kiza said.
“It’s a bit much to take in.”
“You agreed though,” Kiza reminded her.
Beatrice had signed the contract. “I know…” she said softly. “I guess… I'll just have to… figure this out as I go along.”
Kiza squealed in excitement. She set the bowl aside and hugged Beatrice. For a moment she had been worried that she'd go back on it, that she'd run for the hills. But she wasn't.
Absentmindedly, Beatrice stroked her hair as the young woman held tightly to her. Kiza had wanted her to stay, to meet her father, but now it seemed like there were so many more possibilities. She was glad the woman was staying. Kiza had become fond of her, and if nothing else, she considered her a friend. It was nice to have friends that knew the truth. She hadn't really had any of those outside of Jupiter and Caine.
“Alright,” Beatrice said. “Let's get this show on the road.”
Something had changed in Beatrice in that moment and it only.made Kiza more excited. The determined woman she had met in the barn that rainy day was back. This old inn was not going to defeat her.
She followed Beatrice down the many stairs to the first floor, and when Stinger heard them.coming, he stood from his seat in the main room. Beatrice took a deep breath. She stood a little taller, and that tiny pause in her step flowed into the next one as if she had never stopped at all.
Kiza watched them. They saw one another now. There were no risked glances, no apprehensive looks.
Stinger offered his hand in greeting. “Stinger Apini,” he said.
Without a second thought Beatrice shook his hand. “Beatrice Holguin,” she replied. “So tell me, Mr. Apini, does Jupiter have any special requests or are we safe to use my original blueprints?”
“Your blueprints will suffice,” he said, “Though some accommodations will need to be made to ensure the comfort of our guests.”
“I look forward to to the collaboration then,” she replied.
If Kiza hadn't seen it with her own eyes, she wouldn't have believed it. They were talking. Yes it was only business, and it was a little stiff, but they were still taking. Not only that, but in the coming days they worked nearly flawlessly together. The workers that were brought in were of course not from Earth and at first they tried to bypass Beatrice’s decisions and seek out Stinger for confirmation. She didn't wait for him to save her.
Beatrice gathered the crew and said, “Look. I get it. I'm from here. But this is my inn, my project, and my home. You do it my way, or you can get off my planet.”
They had all stared. Stinger stared. There weren't any problems after that. Kiza tried not to laugh. The queen bee had spoken. Everyone had listened. Even when it came to the offworld accommodations, they still came to Beatrice. It was then that she needed Stinger at her side to talk her through it. They looked over plans and talked them out. They stood so close, reaching over one another to point to this or that. Kiza was certain they were growing closer, but still they only spoke to one another formally. It baffled Kiza how they could be so close and so very far apart. There was, however, a very deep respect. That was unmistakable. Whatever annoyance Stinger had felt for her when they found her daydrinking on the porch was gone.
Beatrice was stunned when the project was completed. It would have taken at least several weeks by normal human conventions. It took five days. And even then it only took so long because they were merging aesthetic and technology, and both Beatrice and Stinger were quite particular on what they wanted.
Jupiter arrived for the grand opening with Caine at her side. It was less of a grand opening however and more of an excited walk through. Beatrice had finally come to see the adventure in all of it and she and Jupiter chatted about all of the possibilities as the beekeeper showed her around.
“Feeling left out?” Stinger asked his daughter as he trailed behind with her and Caine.
“Not at all,” Kiza smiled. “It feels more like she's fitting in. Don't you think?”
Caine said, “I think Jupe likes having someone else around that knows the truth.”
“It's a little bit of a relief,” Kiza said. “Like… the family has grown. It's kinda nice.”
She glanced back to her father and found a sadness in his eyes that she hadn't seen before. He took a breath and it was gone.
“Hey Kiza!” Beatrice called back, “come take a look at the kitchen now.”
Kiza stepped into the kitchen and it looked as glamorous and rustic as Beatrice had intended. The closer she looked, the more she realized that the technology was far more advanced than what Earth had.
“I could use some help figuring out all this stuff so I don't burn this place down,” Beatrice said.
Kiza looked at her as the excitement dawned on her that Beatrice was asking her to stick around. She looked to her father, but instead of accepting, Stinger said, “It's more likely to explode all together. Not burn down.”
They all stared at him.
“What?” Stinger said.
“You are a real buzzkill,” Beatrice said flatly.
Jupiter started laughing first, followed by Caine and Kiza. And it was only then that Beatrice's face flushed red.
“I didn't--I didn't mean it like that. Like buzz because you're a bee… I--” she was speaking rapidly and the fell to silence and hung her head in defeat.
It was then that Stinger cracked a smile and gave a little chuckle. Kiza's smile brightened. Finally, something had happened. That formal shell had been cracked.
To the untrained eye, it was a simple bed and breakfast. They all knew better. Kiza was happy this was working out. She hoped Jupiter's visitors would be kind to Beatrice. Though, Kiza knew how the Entitled could be. She wondered how Beatrice would take it.
“I think we should have drinks to celebrate!” Jupiter called.
“Uh…” Beatrice said slowly. “Considering how that went last time, I should probably… you know. Not.”
“That was a pity party,” Stinger said. “This is a celebration.”
Beatrice stared at him. Kiza was smiling ear to ear. Progress.
“Alright then!” Jupiter cheered.
Kiza drifted in and out of sleep on the sofa in the main room as the night wore on. She could hear their laughter and their conversations, and the story Jupiter told of her ascension as Queen of Earth. Beatrice was enthralled.
“Wait. So the Aegis is… what? Like the intergalactic police?” Beatrice asked.
“Close enough,” Jupiter said.
“It's more than that,” Stinger balked.
“And the skyjackers are… badass military peoples with wings?” Beatrice asked.
Caine nodded and Stinger said, “Okay, that's pretty much it.”
“Accurate,” Caine agreed.
Kiza smiled. Maybe they were at least in the path to becoming friends.
Come morning, Kiza awoke to the smell of breakfast cooking. She stretched and made her way to the swinging door if the kitchen when she paused, hearing her father's voice.
“See, not so difficult, is it?”
“Not really, no,” Beatrice said. She was quiet a moment. “Mr. Apini, I--”
He interrupted. “Stinger.”
“Stinger,” she said slowly and then continued, “Earth food is one thing, but am I going to be expected to cook food from off world?”
“Eventually, I imagine so. But I'm sure Jupiter will find someone to train you, or if you're too busy, I'm sure we can bring someone in,” he said.
“Oh,” she said shortly and the added, “That would be great because honestly I hate cooking.”
Kiza covered her mouth to keep from laughing and giving herself away.
“Yup. Hate it.”
“But you were practically neurotic about the way this was constructed!”
Kiza braced herself. It sounded like the start of an argument.
Instead Beatrice chuckled and said, “Okay, maybe a little.”
There was a smile in Stinger’s voice as he said, “Either way, it's equipped for an experienced chef”
“As it should be.”
Silence settled between them and Stinger broke it with a hesitant, “Ms. Holguin--”
“Beatrice,” she corrected him.
“Beatrice,” he said. “My daughter--”
“Is delightful,” Beatrice interrupted.
That smile was in his words again as he said, “Yes, she is.”
Again, a silent pause followed.
“I believe,” Stinger began, “My daughter is trying to set us up.”
“It's awkward, isn't it?” Beatrice said and quickly continued speaking. “Stinger I apologise for how I may have initially come across. Standoffish and a giant mess. But I…”
Kiza gently eased open the door and they were looking at one another with the strangest of expressions. There was uncertainty, distrust. Their eyes were chaos as they searched one another's faces as if the other held the answer.
“It won't work,” Stinger said.
“No, I don't think so,” she agreed. “You're a bit too…” She searched for the word. And Stinger’s eyes scanned yet face for her answer.
“Different?” he offered.
“Intimidating,” she said.
That deafening silence filled the kitchen. They were standing at an amicable distance, within arm's reach, but now Stinger stepped back.
“Oh,” he said simply.
Kiza's hand gripped the doorframe. Something in her father's face said this was not the truth, this was not his truth. Not that he couldn't be intimidating, he certainly could be. But his words to her… They had been getting along so well.
“And, of course,” Beatrice said as she turned back to the food and began to set it upon plates. “I'm neurotic,” she chuckled.
Her back was turned to him and Stinger absentmindedly rubbed at the misshapen mark he had tried to remove from his wrist so long ago.
“I'll go let everyone know breakfast is ready,” Stinger said and without another word he went for the door.
Kiza rocketed away to the sofa and threw herself on to it. She closed her eyes and pretended to sleep.
She felt her father's hand brush back her hair. He kissed the top of her head and whispered, “Kiza. Beatrice has breakfast ready. Time to get up.”
She slowly opened her eyes to look at him but he was already walking away to rouse Jupiter and Caine.
For someone that suggested that nothing could come from a relationship with him, her father appeared hurt that Beatrice had agreed.
The inn is open for business. Beatrice is fitting into her new role like a hand in a well tailored glove. New friends are made and an important visitor has arrived on Earth. What will the impending talks between the Luminary and the Queen of Earth accomplish?
I'll always be apologizing for my disappearing act. But I got a comment today on this story reminding me that people still read and re-read it so here is chapter 7!
Where had the time gone? So much had happened in the few short months that Beatrice had been operating the inn for Jupiter. Not only that, she had grown accustomed to the etiquette required of her position. Kiza had watched the humble beekeeper stumble her way through the first few visits. Beatrice had quietly sought her out in a hallway or another room--for Kiza tried her best to always be there to help--and would ask for guidance. Kiza was happy to help, and Beatrice always prevailed.
One day a visitor, a rather large alien of unusual shape and six legs with long thick fingers, threw his plate at Beatrice and complained that her preparation of a “skanar”--a delicacy from his home world--was beyond atrocious. It was the end of a very trying week and before Kiza could get to Beatrice to ease the situation, the innkeeper stepped toward the visitor with a scowl on her face. He drew himself up to his full height, nearly reaching the top of the twelve-foot ceiling. Beatrice certainly looked tiny, but she stared up at him nonetheless and said, “Though your attitude alone is atrocious, might I ask for your assistance in greater understanding the proper preparation of skanar for future visitation?”
The annoyance in his growly face fell away. Beatrice was covered in what looked like red lumpy sauce, but still the anger hadn’t reached her voice. And he could not be upset with her.
That singular visitor was named Gnalda, and he was an off-world chef. With Jupiter’s permission, he decided to stay at the inn full time. What was for a short moment a very tense meeting ended up as a click between personalities. Beatrice and Gnalda could be heard laughing anywhere in the inn from the kitchen when something set them off. And though it brought uncertainty from anyone able to hear it, it made Kiza smile. Beatrice had made a friend all on her own, and it could have gone terribly wrong. Gnalda had a temper, but when he threw things, Beatrice put him in his place.
Hearing crashing in the kitchen, Kiza rushed over in time to hear, “If you break one more of my…” The next words that followed were not in English. It sounded almost garbled, throaty. Then she finished with, “I will skin you!”
Kiza paused. What had Beatrice just said? She knocked on the kitchen door and silence fell on the other side. “Bea?” Kiza asked.
“Yes…?” Beatrice said almost sweetly.
“Everything okay?” Kiza gently pushed open the door.
Beatrice tucked her hands behind her back as she faced her. Her back was to Gnalda, who looked the human woman over and then centered his four eyes on her hands. He made a face that showed offense and then growled a chuckle. Had Beatrice made some kind of gesture behind her back?
Silently he began to pick up the pieces of a few broken white plates on the floor.
“Yeah, everything’s fine!” Beatrice said. “Gnalda’s just... “ She cast him a glare and finished with, “Just Gnalda, I guess.”
He grumbled something in his own language.
“Yeah yeah,” she muttered back and rolled her eyes.
Kiza looked from one of them to the other. “You… understand him?” she asked.
“Uh…” Beatrice appeared sheepish. “A little?” she offered. “It’s… more like…” She searched for the words somewhere up in the air.
Gnada glanced to Kiza and spoke. The words played through her mind. He hadn’t said it in English. But she knew what he said.
“You feel it…?” Kiza repeated. It had been what the alien had said.
“Yeah,” Beatrice said.
“Those words weren’t so hard to find,” Gnalda grumbled and returned to his cooking.
“Ha ha, very funny, you--” Beatrice said and turned to him and said something else in his own tongue, a long string of thick, guttural words.
Gnalda stared at the woman. Kiza wasn’t certain but she thought he could be blushing.
“Come on, Kiza,” Beatrice said and steered the young woman out of the room.
“What did you say to him?” Kiza asked as they strode down the hall.
Beatrice chuckled nervously. “Your father would kill me if I told you.”
Kiza bit back a smirk. “That bad, huh?”
“There’s a saying back home: The first words you learn in another language are always the worst,” Beatrice told her.
As they neared the dining room, which also served as the lobby, Kiza said, “Oh! Dad said he’s stopping by today.”
Beatrice paused in step and quickly corrected herself. “Is he?”
It had been some time since Stinger had been there. He would come to the inn fairly often, but would rarely come inside where he knew Beatrice was. Since their conversation in the kitchen during those first days after finishing the intergalactic bed and breakfast, they had only seen one another in passing, and rarely said more than a formal hello or goodbye. Or even worse, small talk about the weather.
Kiza had noted that silence, though it was hardly awkward, it still held something and was regarded with stolen glances when the other wasn’t watching. She wondered often if there was something that pulled them toward one another, fate. And as romantic as that seemed, Kiza wondered if they felt they needed to fight it.
“He is,” Kiza said slowly, watching Beatrice quickly try and hide her expression. She was almost unreadable.
Beatrice looked down and frowned at her clothes. There were bits of sauce and food across her shoulder to her stomach. Gnalda had thrown not just a plate, but food as well. That alien certainly rubbed Kiza the wrong way, he was disrespectful. ...And grumpy. But Beatrice seemed to like him and that confused the young woman.
“I guess I should go change clothes,” Beatrice said. A smirk crossed her face and she said, “Don’t need your father telling Jupiter I walk around with alvaga guts on my shirt like a weird fashion statement.”
“What… is an alvaga?” Kiza asked as she watched Beatrice walk away.
“Deep sea squid-like creature from the third moon of Travador,” she said casually over her shoulder.
“... Where is Travador?” Kiza called back, but Beatrice merely laughed and continued on.
“Travador,” Kiza muttered when the woman was out of sight. “I want to see an alvaga,” she muttered unhappily.
In that little inn, there were certainly moments of adventure. And over the months, Beatrice had handled it admirably. Recently, she hadn’t needed Kiza much at all and the young bee had to face that she was feeling a bit left out. Her father handled the Aegis that were stationed at the inn, Beatrice handled the visitors inside. It was a well oiled machine. Though it made her curious as to why her father told her that morning to inform the innkeeper that he would be coming by. They all had phones. Were they being so childish that they wouldn’t speak to each other anymore? Adults were odd, especially with these two.
This day was unusually quiet. The inn hadn’t seen a quiet day like this since it opened. It was often full of life and sounds and new and unusual people. Today was different. And when the chime above the double french doors rang out, Kiza turned and realized why.
Sargorn bodyguards filed into the room. Their great reptilian heads scanned for threats as they entered, and behind them came a great spindly creature. It was grayish and wore clothing of rich blues with golden stitching. He looked prominent, official, and at the sight of Stinger Apini and two other Aegis officers at his side, Kiza knew this was an important visit.
“Thisss is your famousss innkeeper?” the tall spindly alien seemed to hiss. It wasn’t menacing, but rather curious. It looked over Kiza with bright green eyes and blinked.
“No, Luminary Nogaj,” Stinger said, his voice respectful. “This is my daughter, Kiza.”
Luminary Nogaj rarely left his home planet. He was a speaker of peace, and a grand leader of a sect that rose to combat Balem Abrasax’s destruction of seeded planets. They were a humanitarian effort, though they helped more than humans.
“Kiza Apini,” the creature said and stepped forward and away from his sargorn guards. He was tall, and Kiza felt she knew how Beatrice had felt when first standing before Gnalda. The Luminary was not so tall, and he came in peace, but it didn’t make Kiza feel any easier.
“Luminary,” Kiza said and bowed her head to him.
“It is my honor to meet the daughter of quite an essssteemed Aegisss marshall,” the Luminary said, his voice melodic. It drifted over Kiza’s skin and gave her goosebumps. She didn’t like it. It felt wrong.
A glance to her father and Kiza found him proud, though a little red-faced at the praise.
“Where is Ms. Holguin?” Stinger asked.
From behind Kiza came, “A little delayed, but ever present.”
Before she turned around, Kiza caught a glimpse of her father’s face. His eyes had widened, his lips parted in surprise. He took a slow, deep breath. Curious, she turned to Beatrice.
Once a beekeeper, now an innkeeper, and she had taken to the fact that her guests were otherworldly with such ease. If meeting the woman before her for the first time, Kiza would have thought she was from a rich and royal lineage, that she was an Entitled. She was elegant in deep blue. It was a dress that said she was important figure in this place, and still she appeared soft and beautiful.
“Welcome to Earth, Luminary,” she said and gave a gentle curtsy. “If you will follow me, I will show you to your lodging for the duration of your stay.” She held out her hand, though not to touch the Luminary, but she drew it toward herself in a slow gesture that signaled for them to follow.
Beatrice led the sargorn and the Luminary down the hall and they disappeared around the corner. The Aegis stayed by the door.
Kiza looked to her father with wide eyes. “Why didn’t you tell me Luminary Nogaj was coming?” she hissed as she approached him.
The other two Aegis officers chuckled at the sight of Stinger’s daughter berating him.
Stinger shook his head. “I didn’t know he was coming,” he said softly.
The officers looked to one another and the blonde one said, “You didn’t?” His name was Eddis. He was often stationed at the inn, and often the one that drew the short straw and came in to ask Beatrice for snacks, which Beatrice always gave him.
“We knew,” said the other officer. Copal, was her name. She was stocky and blue, with scales along the bridge of her nose and cheek bones. “Ms. Holguin knew as well.” Copal was the newest face among the Aegis at the inn. She had only been stationed there for a week. She told the oddest jokes that only she seemed to think were actually funny.
Stinger was quiet a moment, thinking.
“All things considered, Sir,” Copal said. “You weren’t scheduled to be here today so… maybe that’s why you weren’t informed?”
“That would make sense!” Eddis said and nodded quickly, repeatedly. He set a hand on Stinger’s shoulder and told him, “That makes perfect sense. It was a need to know assignment.”
“I’m here all the time,” Stinger said. His brows furrowed. Kiza watched the hurt flash across her father’s face. They had left him out of this… but why? He was the head Aegis marshall on Earth.
“Maybe!” Eddis tried to remedy the situation, “because you’re never really inside? If you never came inside, you’d never know the Luminary was here?”
Eddis was really trying. Kiza had often heard her father say that Eddis was much too soft to be with the Aegis, but Kiza didn’t think that was the case. She had seen it time and time again, Eddis was an empath. He could read other people and could feel their feelings from across the room. It might have made him soft, but he could assess a situation before anyone was the wiser.
Copal bumped her partner with her elbow. “We should return to our posts,” she said.
He gave a silent nod and the two of them left.
“Dad?” Kiza asked softly and it snapped him out of his silence.
“I should call Jupiter and let her know Luminary Nogaj has arrived,” he said, his tone entirely business and he walked away into the other room.
Kiza stood alone. The room was quiet. That had been an interesting reunion for her father and Beatrice. She wondered for a second what Eddis had felt in that room and she trotted outside to ask.
Eddis and Copal stood guarding the front door like silent sentries. They didn’t look very old, perhaps Jupiter’s age. Though age could be tricky. She wondered if they used RegeneX.
Shaking the thought from her head as Eddis looked to her, she smiled and he asked, “Something on your mind?” He already knew.
“My father?” she asked as she shut the door behind her.
Copal sighed. “Kiza, you know Stinger hates it when Eddis eavesdrops.”
“I know,” Kiza said, “But…”
Eddis said, “She just wants to help her father, Copal.” His brows knit together.
Copal sighed and shook her head.
“Eddis?” Kiza said softly.
“He’s feeling pretty betrayed,” he told her. “About the Luminary’s visit? I thought he was supposed to know. I couldn’t imagine why he wouldn’t unless someone really dropped the ball.”
Kiza frowned. “How do the rest of you find out who’s visiting?” she asked.
“Usually from Stinger,” he said. “But Ms. Holguin told us this time. She came outside really stressed out and asked when our next shifts were and then--”
“Eight million questions about the Luminary later…” Copal muttered and rolled her eyes.
“Maybe in the stress of it all,” Eddis suggested, “She forgot to tell Stinger? He’s never around lately. And I guess we just assumed she told him? Or that Queen Jupiter told him?”
“Ya know…” Copal said and broke bearing by casually leaning back against the exterior of the inn. “He hasn’t been around lately, but… you don’t have to be an empath to see that he was happy to see her.”
Kiza’s brows raised. She didn’t think she had seen happiness on her father’s face. More like surprise? Beatrice was beautiful. She often dressed well enough to receive dignitaries, but not so elegant the way she had today.
Eddis chuckled. “Empath or not, there are too many emotions to feel when he’s around here.”
“What do you mean?” Kiza asked.
“He’s usually pretty apprehensive when he arrives,” Eddis said. “But that? In there? I felt his heart pound in my chest at the sight of her.”
“He loves her?” Kiza asked slowly, uncertainly.
Copal interrupted. “An entire galaxy of males and they’re almost all the same. They don’t fall in love easily. They get excited when you dangle a nice steak in front of their face and if you don’t let them have it, they get upset. But if you do, they get complacent.”
Eddis stared at her. “Hey!” he objected. “Co? What gives? Also, come on! That’s her father you’re talking about.”
Copal shrugged. “Fine fine…” she muttered. “Look, Kiza, I might be new down here at the inn, but I’m acquainted with your father’s reputation. He’s a bit of a loner. Always has been since the whole incident with Caine Wise.”
“Co!” Eddis growled. “Knock it off.”
She continued, “He doesn’t love easily. He doesn’t let people in easily. He sure as shit doesn’t trust people as far as he could probably throw them.”
“I’m warning you, Copal,” Eddis said sternly.
She continued and her aloof expression crossed into seriousness. Kiza watched her, drawn into her dark eyes. “He loved your mother, Kiza,” she said. “I don’t think he’ll ever love another. Just because he sees something beautiful doesn’t mean he can’t appreciate it just for being beautiful.”
“What… do you mean?” Kiza asked.
Copal smiled softly. “My heart beats in awe at the sight of a breathtaking sunset,” she said, “but I don’t want to kiss it, especially if I know it’s impossible to hold.”
“But she’s not a sunset,” Kiza said. “She’s a person.”
Eddis frowned. “I hate to say it, but I agree with Copes--”
“Don’t call me that--”
“--The fact is, your father thinks that today she was beautiful, and also that she and Queen Jupiter may have purposefully withheld the Luminary’s visit from him,” Eddis continued. “I also know he feels she is far out of his reach. She’s a sunset to him.”
“And…” Kiza said softly. “What did you feel from her?”
“Nothing,” he said. “I was too close to your father, and the Luminary and all of his guards. Plus being that close Copal just made me feel really hungry. It was a bit distracting.”
Shrugging, Copal muttered, “Sorry, I didn’t eat breakfast and just being here makes me hungry. Ms. Holguin gave me… what was it… Pizza? Last week? It was so good!”
“Food’s definitely changed since Gnalda came, though,” Eddis grumped.
“Has it?” Copal replied.
Kiza went back inside. The conversation had derailed to nothing but food and she had a feeling the hungry Aegis officers wouldn’t be changing the topic any time soon.
Stinger stood off to the side of the room, quiet, thinking.
Kiza approached her father and gently took his hand in hers. He looked up, snapped out of his thoughts. “What did Jupiter say?” she asked.
“That she left the arrangements to Ms. Holguin, who was supposed to inform me,” he said. “But she informed the Aegis on duty and they were thoroughly prepared for the Luminary’s arrival, so I’m--”
“Then it was just a misunderstanding?” she said, trying not to focus on the fact that her father had called Beatrice formally by her surname.
“I believe so,” he said. “I hope so.”
She didn’t have to be like Eddis to know that her father wasn’t so sure of his own words. She also knew that the Luminary’s visit was special. She was hoping it would be a good visit, that whatever conversation the Queen of Earth had with the spindly creature would prove fruitful in the future. It would certainly lend further protection to the planet and the people living there.
“Dad?” she asked.
“Hm?” was his soft, distracted reply.
“How come you haven’t been coming to the inn much?”
Stinger took a slow breath and said, “I have to admit, I’m glad you haven’t been by yourself while I’ve been gone lately.”
Kiza smiled to herself. She had to admit as well, living at the inn lately had been fun. It was the most adventure she had had since coming to Earth with her father. He got to go help Jupiter take control of Earth from Balem Abrasax while Kiza had been sick. And even now that she was better, she hadn’t left the planet. This was better than nothing, though.
A loud grumbling interrupted the quiet. Kiza looked to her father’s stomach and he looked away. “I’m a little hungry,” he said softly.
“Me too,” she replied.
“How about, since I’m here, we go home and get something to eat,” he suggested.
She nodded. Going home for a bit sounded great. She missed the hum of the bees in her house. The inn was a different kind of noisy.