HER AUDIENCE OF BEES
by Margaret H. Mason
Naina did not want to practice her violin.
She was lonely up in her room, with no one to listen to her playing.
She was restless up in her room, dragging the bow across the strings.
She was bored up in her room, staring at the flat white walls while the notes rose to the ceiling and slid back down to the floor.
Naina marched into the kitchen, where Motiba was making chicken curry and apple dumplings. She played her most delicious melody, simmering and sizzling. A tune for baking, tantalizing and sweet.
“That’s pretty, dear,” Motiba said. “But it’s a little loud. I have to get this cooking done for Mrs. Guitterez. She’s home from the hospital today, you know, and she needs a good home-cooked meal. Please go practice in your room.”
Naina frowned and stretched out a warm note, fading like a wisp of steam.
Motiba’s forehead wrinkled and she stared at Naina.
“Naina…” she said.
“I don’t want to practice,” Naina said. “It’s boring up there. Can’t I help you cook for Mrs. Guitterez?”
“No, not now,” Motiba said. “Not until you’re finished practicing.”
Naina sighed and trudged out of the kitchen. She wandered into the family room, where her brother was careening through a video game. She played her most dangerous melody, roaring and zooming. A tune for racing, wild and bold.
“Naina!” her brother shouted. “Get out of here! That racket is driving me crazy!”
Naina scraped her bow across the violin, shrieking like a siren, and trounced out of the room. She clattered down the stairs to the basement, where her mother was sanding in the woodshop. Naina began playing mellow tones, long and smooth. A tune for polishing, silky and soft.
“You’re playing beautifully, sweetheart,” her mother said. “But I really need peace and quiet right now, to finish this railing for Mrs. Guitterez’s back-door wheelchair ramp. She’s home from the hospital today, you know, and I want her to be able to enjoy her back yard.”
Naina struck a hard-working note and held it. Her mother stopped sanding and cast a stern eye on Naina.
“Go upstairs, please, Naina. You should be practicing in your room.”
Naina ended her tune with one last sorrowful note. “But I don’t want to practice. It’s lonely up there. Can’t I help you finish the railing for Mrs. Guitterez?”
“Not now,” her mother said. “This is your practice time.”
Naina groaned and clomped up the stairs. She slipped into her parent’s bedroom, where Sonia was sleeping in her crib. She played her most tender lullaby, soothing and warm. A tune for napping, drowsy and feather light.
Sonia’s eyes shot open and she burst into tears, great gulping wails of terror.
Naina scurried out of the bedroom and dashed around the corner, away from Motiba’s rushing footsteps.
She sped into the living room, where her father was wrapping a present. She played her brightest celebration song, merry and lively. A tune for dancing, swinging and bright.
“What pretty music,” her father said. “But I have a bit of a headache, and I need to finish wrapping these books for Mrs. Guitterez. She’s home from the hospital today, you know, and she’ll be needing some reading material while she’s recovering. Please go up to your room and finish practicing.”
Naina kicked at the couch, and played an unwrapping tune, a tearing and ripping symphony. Her father scowled over his glasses.
“I don’t want to practice,” Naina complained. “It’s no fun up there. Can’t I help you wrap the books for Mrs. Guitterez?”
“No, Naina,” her father said. “Your job is to practice.”
Naina stomped out of the room. Down the hall, a glint of sun caught her eye. She glanced over her shoulder and darted out the side door, into the garden, where no one was cooking or sanding or wrapping, and no one was playing or sleeping. She plucked a few strings, then let the music take off, high and flying like a soaring kite. A tune for swooping, clear and sparkling.
The notes weren’t banging into any walls or ceiling -- they could rise and keep rising.
But… there was no one to hear the music’s lively call, no one to notice how Naina’s shoulder stayed still and her bow arm stroked smoothly, how her fingers danced across the strings, her hand relaxed and curved so that daylight shone through.
No one – except – the fuzzy golden bee, gliding from the day lilies. No one – except – a second tawny bee, emerging from the lilac bush. No one - except - a third busy bee, floating above the honeysuckle.
Naina flinched, but she kept on playing.
“Go ahead, sting me!” she yelled. “Just try to chase me away like everybody else! I don’t care what you’re doing for Mrs. Guitterez -- I’m not stopping this time!”
Eyes closed, Naina’s bow dove, and her fury rose. The music swirled and stormed like a swarm of raging bees.
Naina winced – would she be stung any moment? She opened her eyes.
There were six bees now, wings whirring. But they weren’t attacking.
Six bees, hovering. Lined up in a row, above the honeysuckle.
An audience at last. Her audience of bees.
Naina smiled. Her music softened. A bit of honey dribbled in, a drop here and there. The music shimmered and began to flow, a glowing stream of amber. A tune for gathering nectar, rich and sweet.
The bees zipped and zapped, a humming ovation.
Naina bowed to the bees – and froze.
Two hands clapping. The sound hung in the air.
Naina stood up straight. Through the window next door, an outline of movement.
“Bravo, Naina!” called Mrs. Guitterez, her hand waving. “Gracias, gracias, such lovely music – please, please, don’t stop! Por favor, play some more!”
Naina bowed again. “Why certainly, Mrs. Guitterez!” she replied. “Welcome home!”
She leaned towards the bees. “I’m going to play for Mrs. Guitterez now,” she whispered. “She’s home from the hospital today, you know. But I’d be pleased to have you stay and listen.”
And with her heart soaring and the bees dancing, she played her strongest melody, healthy and free. A tune for healing, a tune for living. Music for sharing, as it was meant to be.