Sunday, November 11, 2018

1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Luken Rev 1


Name: Ellie Luken
Genre: YA Fantasy
Title: Last Lights of the Lost

I wait by the edge of the camp beside the remains of the fire for the scout’s return. At the edge of the desert, his silhouette appears against the rising sun. The sand between us glows red with the sunrise, and it looks like everything bleeds. He brings me the last information I’ll need for my hunt today. He’ll be the one to confirm if the sandworm is close enough I can safely reach it before it fully wakes for the day.

I stand and shake stiffness from my legs. Lingering chill from the night prickles my neck and shoulders, so I draw my new wool cloak around me. My fingers skim the raised threads of embroidery, symbols of strength, health, and victory. A few of the threads are crooked. My younger brother isn't precise.

Matis gave me the cloak last night with a solemn bow, no trace of his usual smirk to be found. Any other time, I would've teased him about the flaws in his work. But I accepted it as formally as he gave it. Today is the most important day in my life. It’s the day every moment of my life has been leading up to.

Because today, I become a huntress.

Darius stops short and swings down from his steed. Flecks of meat stick in its sharp teeth, as its lips peels back at the sight of me. It blasts me with breath like rot. Its thin tail flicks back and forth, the hard knob at the end swinging.

One of the huntresses from years ago, Lia the wise, who studied halfway around the world in Heian City before joining our team, bred them for us. They're a combination of horses and gryfith monsters. They're stronger and sturdier than horses with thicker legs and bones, more vicious than horses with their sharp teeth, and don't spook like horses are so prone to.

“You’re clear to go,” he says. “The sandworm is currently only about twenty minutes from here.”

I acknowledge with a nod. “Thanks.”

“Wait. A quick moment.” He flashes me half a smile and then ducks his head. His pale cheeks shine pink, and his light curls glow. “I—made you a small token for strength. Sorry it took me so long to finish."

Usually only loved ones offers up tokens before a first hunt, and now I find my own face warming. "Oh." He's new to the team, originally from far north, one of the rare travelers who begs to join. Maybe he doesn't understand the significance of the tokens.

Or maybe he does. That thought makes my throat a little tight. I hope he’s not looking for something from me. He’s pretty, no doubt, with his fine-boned cheeks, dusted with light stubble. But I’m not sure I like him like that, and I don’t want to have to think too hard about it now. I have bigger concerns.

"Do you—accept it?" He holds out a wooden carving, hanging on a piece of string like a very crude piece of jewelry. The intertwining circles mean strength, but not a lone person's strength. Strength in unity, in family, in friends. The huntresses and scouts and trainees are a team. We're not all related by blood, but we are family. The carving is a little rough around the edges, but I suppose he's new.

"Of course," I say because it’d be rude not to, and even if I’m not sure how much I like him, he’s still a great scout.

I reach for it, and his hand closes over mine as he presses it into my palm. He leans a little closer, the grey mist of his breath swirling.

"I really hope you succeed," he says.

I yank my hand away. "Of course I will. Training has been my entire life. I’ve given everything I have for this." Half of the trainees who attempt this test die trying to pass it, but I won’t end up like them. My mother was a huntress, and her mother before her. I was made to follow in their footsteps.

I've never even considered I might not succeed, because how can I consider that all of me isn’t enough to make me the one thing I’ve always wanted?

“Sorry,” he says. “I didn’t mean to insult your abilities.”

I step back. Every word he says is more and more awkward, and it sounds like he doesn’t believe in me. “It’s fine. Once I return, you won’t doubt me again.”

“I don’t doubt you—I just—” he starts, and I put up a hand.

“I need to go.” I turn my back because I can’t get caught up in this. “But don’t worry. You’ll see when I return.”

When I become a huntress, everything I’ve sacrificed will be worth it. My crooked nose from when my rival Tavas broke it and called me weak, my girlfriend breaking up with me because she was afraid I wouldn’t come back from a hunt, the most accomplished huntress on the team rolling her eyes when I announced I would take the test this year and asking if I was sure I didn’t want to wait one more year until I’m eighteen – I’ll show them all that they should never have doubted me.

I weave through the team’s silent tents until I find my family’s and duck inside. It's warm, smelling of sweat and life. My brother snores in a pile of furs. His light brown bare feet poke out. He’s shot up in height this year, and even if I’ll always be three years older, I’m not going to be the bigger sister for much longer.

Mother is awake, sharpening a knife, and she gives me a brief nod. Behind her, nearly double her size, is the scale of a sea serpent. It’s the strongest monster she’s slain, so it travels with us. Anyone who enters our tent can know her strength.

My father doesn't live with us—he lives in the city of Aresten. I've met him only a few times. He didn't want to join the team as a spouse, have to travel the world with us and sleep on the ground most nights, have to stay in the camp during the day and pack and unpack supplies, cook food, care for the youngest children, like all of the spouses here do. Mother keeps hoping Aresten will hire the huntresses again, so we can visit him once more, but they haven't requested us in years. And huntresses follow the money.

I head for our weapons collection at Mother’s side. Although it’s not officially part of the test, selecting my weapons is a critical step for success. I can pick anything I want—but if I pick wrong, I’ll have lost my fight against the sandworm before it’s even begun.

Sandworms are Beast Class monsters, large and heavily armored, with poison on their scales. The only way to kill one is to hit a vulnerable area through the back of its mouth. My gaze skims over the line of close combat weapons, the spears, the curved arms, the swords, all different metals for different monsters. If I end up close enough to the sandworm to use one of these, I’ll probably be dead already. For a sandworm, I need something to fire from a distance.


1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Robertson Rev 1


Name: Kate Robertson
Genre: Upper Middle Grade, Magical Realism
Title: The Thief of Buttercup Lane

Everything is going according to plan. 

6:23 - Mr. Verhoeven arrives home from work. Yells at neighbor’s Chihuahua for pooping on his lawn. Face is alarmingly red.

6:45 - Mrs. Verhoeven is dropped off by a red sports car. She is dressed, head-to-toe, in yoga wear but looks neither sweaty nor Zen.

7:00 - Delivery driver arrives. Indian food.

9:00 - They retire to their separate bedrooms. Possibly due to the Indian food.

9:15 -They are fast asleep.

I sit in the old oak tree in front of the Verhoeven’s house and wait my standard two hours and fifteen minutes before I even think of making a move. Two hours, to make sure the Verhoeven’s are asleep. Fifteen minutes, because I’m extra cautious. I take this thieving business very seriously.
When it’s time, I creep across the grass to the far corner of the house. There is a drain pipe that I can use to get up to the second floor. Mrs. Verhoeven keeps her jewels in the guestroom, laying in a box on an armoire. No safe. No locks. They’re practically begging to be stolen.
It takes a few deep breaths before I can access my powers. I hold the air in my lungs and imagine myself, as light as a feather. The magic starts in my toes, then ripples up my body. It feels like that tingling sensation you get after you sneeze.
 Now that I’m practically floating, scooting up that drain pipe is a synch.
I scout out the narrow ledge that runs all the way from the drainpipe to the guestroom window. It’s going to take excellent balance and guts to make it across. Luckily, I have both, not to mention, a little magic. Inch-by-inch I move along the ledge, until I reach the window. I take another deep breath. This time, when I exhale, I think about making the air in my lungs as cold as ice. The window freezes.
A quick trick with my dagger and I’ve etched a hole, just big enough for my skinny butt to shimmy through. One tug, and the glass is free, but it’s way heavier than I expected. I try to set it down on the ledge beside me, but I can’t move a single inch. I’m stuck, really stuck.
Looking down, my problem is obvious. I’ve snagged zipper on the pocket of my jeans on one of the window hinges. Betta Vulgaris, thief extraordinaire gets brought down by a zipper.
I figure I have two options: drop the window to the ground below and pray that no one wakes from the crash or tug my leg free and risk ruining my jeans. Now before you go ahead and judge me, these are really nice jeans, black, skinny, distressed just the perfect amount. Plus, it took three months and commission from four other jobs to save up to buy them.

Obviously, I throw the window. Now, my hands are free to unhook that darn zipper. The good news is, the Verhoevens don’t make a peep. The bad news is, their next-door neighbor,  Mrs. Weston (newly divorced, lots of time on her hands) starts shouting at the street below, “who made that noise? Daryl is that you?” for the next eight minutes rendering me unable to move without being seen. That’s what gets me: eight freaking minutes.

Eight minutes is all it takes for the other thief to get in and out with the necklace. I can do it in six but eight as still pretty impressive. It’s been happening lately more than I care to admit, this mystery thief, showing up and stealing my jobs, making off with my hard earned loot. The only silver lining in this whole story and the only thing that could possibly save me from getting yelled at by my Uncle Larry when I get home tonight, is that I saw my mystery thief’s face this time and now I can find him.

He did a very stupid thing. If they wrote a manual on how to be a successful thief, the very first bullet point would read, “never ever under any circumstances remove your mask.” It’s a rookie mistake, but really what can you expect from someone who takes eight full minutes to get in and out? So, I saw him, clear as day. Now all I have to do is find him, then it's payback for all of the other jobs he messed up for me: the Eastons, The Van Burens and now the Verhoevens.

There is no point in hanging around the Verhoeven’s any longer. The jewels are gone and I’m not a fan of Indian leftovers. It’s dark and the street is quiet now. I figure it’s safe to use my powers again. No one will see me and my poor jeans have suffered enough tonight. I step from the ledge and float slowly to the ground, landing lightly on my feet. Unfortunately, I also land in a pile of Chihuahua poop. I now understand Mr. Verhoeven’s rage.

I figure the odds of Uncle Larry yelling at me all night are pretty good, even with the new information I have on our competition, so I decide to make a little pit-stop before I head home. Something to keep me distracted while Uncle L tells me what a worthless, good-for-nothing thief I am and if I keep screwing up like this, he’ll send me back to Aaronvale to be a beet farmer like my cousin Dole.

The distraction’s name is Andrew P. Jordan. The P stands for Positively Perfect, either that or Paul. He also goes to Fairfield Heights Middle School. We’re completely, undeniably, totally in love, he just hasn’t realized it yet. His house isn’t far, he also lives in the good neighborhood, like the Eastons and the Verhoevens and every other house Uncle Larry plots to hit. The Jordan’s have a large maple in front of their house. There’s a branch with an excellent view and a little dip that fits my butt perfectly. I love to sit on that branch and watch him. His face is perfect. I think he likes admiring it as much as I do but I am cool with that. If I were that good-looking, I’d spend hours gazing in the mirror too.

I really want to see him so I have to scoot. His light turns off at twelve sharp and after that, the show is over, at least the show I can see from my spot in the maple tree.

I am about to climb the tree when I spot him walking down the sidewalk, the thief who undercut my job. There is no doubt in my mind it’s him. Same jet black hair that waves to just below his ears, same papery pale skin and green eyes. Plus the dingbat didn’t have the brains to ditch his mask, he carries it in his hand as if it were his paper-bag lunch. Amateur. Rookie. Idiot.

I bid a silent farewell to Andrew P Jordan and his perfect cheekbones before I follow the thief down the street. He cuts through memorial park, turns down the main street and follows it all the way to the end before ducking down a small side street with a sign that says “Buttercup Lane”.


1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Monson Rev 1


Christine Monson
YA Speculative Fantasy
The Promethean Effect


Steel gears grind overhead along thin aluminum girders. The weighted anodized-pistol rests cradled between my palms. As I wait for the targets to line up, two questions rotate on heavy cycle: Why did my brother have to die? And, will Ms. Reddington remember I prefer chocolate over spice cake this year?

Ten computerized birds drop down from the ceiling. The sensors on their tails flash red, blue, and green. Chromatic lights reflect off of the bullet-proof glass to my left and the gray cinder block wall to my right.  It doesn’t matter how quick the fake birds move or in which direction, blue is always first. I adjust my stance and squeeze the trigger. One by one, the stiff, automated fowl return to the rafters. According to my father, the electronic target system is the latest in gaming technology. I wouldn’t know. My siblings and I aren’t allowed to leave the compound.

The panel embedded into the wall beeps before Mother’s voice crackles through the intercom speaker. “Kade, come upstairs. Your father and I wish to speak with you.”

My gaze flicks to the red START button. Two-tenths of a second and I’ll have beaten the high score. Perhaps I can squeeze one more–

“Now.”

I return the pistol to the charging dock. Game over.

After tucking in my shirt and fastening the buttons on my suit jacket, I sprint across the expansive atrium to the staircase leading to the main floor of the house. Spotless, translucent gray glass surrounds me from all sides as I skid past the other training rooms. The soles of my dress shoes squeal along the glossy anti-static tiles. Like the sophisticated-gaming console, the three-story, fully-staffed house in the heart of the Appalachian Mountains is supposedly hi-tech. Again, I wouldn’t know. My brother’s unexpected death changed a lot of rules.

At the top of the stairs, the aroma of overly-peppered roast beef collides with the astringent, chlorinated-air from basement below. However, it isn’t the clash of smells that almost knocks me off my feet. It’s the intensity of Mother’s intonation and Father’s sternness. After I steady myself, I lean closer to the door and listen.

“You promised this time would be different,” Mother exclaims.

Father sighs. “He has been here two years longer than–”

“Don’t say his name.”

“Dang it, Grace. You knew this day was coming.”

“Of course, I knew, August. I’ve always known.” Mother’s tone softens. “But I want Kade to join us when he is ready. Not when they say he is ready.”

I steal a peek around the corner before taking the last final step onto the main floor. Under the three-tier chandelier, in the foyer, both of my parents face off. Mother, dressed in her usual travel attire of black slacks and sweater, stands with her hands on her hips, her golden hair tied in a loose bun on the back of her head. A dazzling display of rainbows reflects off the crystals above them, onto the white walls and marble floor. Father rolls his shirt sleeves to his elbows, his work pants wrinkled. He watches her as she moves to the other side of the round, mahogany-red table. When she closes the gap between them, he shifts his favorite brown journal and electronic pad behind his back.  

“Be their father for once,” she snaps.

Father’s face reddens. “I am not doing this now.”

He smacks his hand down on the table. Skinny orange petals rain down from the bouquet of chrysanthemums onto the polished surface. Mother sweeps the petals in her hand and deposits them in a small crystal bowl. Like me, the table and flowers don’t seem to belong in this icy world of crystal and snow-white furniture.

I step into the foyer. The basement door closes with a soft click. “Sorry to make you wait but I had to go back down and retrieve my jacket.” Honesty, I despise liars but sometimes telling my parents the truth can be dangerous.

Mother reaches out to touch me, then stops. She drops her hand back to her side. “You’ve wrinkled your dinner suit.”

I run my hands over the thick black wool of my dinner jacket. Static cracks under my fingertips. Above our heads, the bulbs flicker. “I wanted to get a few more rounds before dinner.”

Father places his free hand on Mother’s shoulder. The twins say I look like him but I don’t see it. We have the same brown hair and eyes, but while his complexion is dull and pallid from sitting under fluorescents all day, I have a ‘kissed by the skin glow’ from running outdoors every morning. “How many hours have you clocked in this week?” he asks.

“Sixteen.” The same as the age I turned today.

“That’s outstanding,” he says with a smile. However, his tone doesn’t match the expression. “Your mother and I can’t stay for dinner. We have to head back to the lab.”

“It’s important,” Mother interjects, “or we wouldn’t leave.”

What about my birthday?

On the other side of the foyer, Father’s office door opens. Sofiya Snyderman, my parents’ colleague at AIB– the Advanced Institute of Biotechnology– and family creeper steps out. The click of her high heels sends a chill up my back. I glance up at the top of the staircase. Thankfully, no one is there.

“Sofiya,” Father chokes out. A patch of black lace peeks from under the doctor’s lab coat as she treads towards us. “I thought you were in D.C.”

“Not tonight,” she purrs. “I came to oversee…Kade, my little soldat.” Soldier. Her German, Russian, and possibly Ukrainian accents blend together in a sticky dialect-pudding. The psychiatrist adjusts her short, black wig. I take a tentative step back. I have known Doctor Sofiya Snyderman my entire life, and she still sends shivers up my spine.

Father clears his throat. “We were heading to the lab. There is an issue which needs to be rectified immediately.”

Sofiya purses her thin lips, then shifts her concern to the third person in the room. “Grace,” she murmurs, “Where is Bishop?”

Mother crosses her arms. “How would I know?”

Movement at the top of the main staircase catches my interest. I shake my head in warning for my two younger siblings to stay upstairs. Behind Snyderman’s red cat glasses, her eyelids narrow.  Even though I know I am going to regret this, I grumble, “So I’m dressed in a suit for nothing.”

Mother whirls on me. “Kade Maddox, what in the world has gotten into you?”

Like Snyderman, Father’s glare constricts behind rimless eyewear. “Recite the rules,” he demands. “Immediately!”

Mother’s gaze jerks over my head. Her shoulders drop. “The rules, Kade.”

“Rule number one,” I say to the tiny white scuff on the tip of my left dress shoe, “obey authority. Rule two, never ask questions. Rule three…”

“We should go.” Mother’s eye’s flick from Father to the chandelier. Though no one is near the light switch, the brightness has doubled. “Xavier is waiting for us. Kade, Ms. Reddington made your favorite dinner. Cake is in the sitting room.”

“This is what I have been talking about, Grace. You coddle them too much.”

“And coddling encourages disobedience,” Mother quips. “Yes, I know, August. Thank you for reminding me. Again.”

With a swift strike of her foreign tongue, Sofiya Snyderman silences them. “Nyet. No more. I want Bishop’s location.”

Mother touches my arm briefly, sending a warm yet nauseating wave of prickly pain through my body. “August deals with the help around here. Interrogate him.”

A smug grin slides across Dr. Snyderman’s thin lips. “Oh, but, my dear Grace, you are so much more fun to question.”


1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Koste Rev 1


Name: Danielle Koste
Genre: YA Comtemporary
Title: EXTRACURRICULARS 


AFTER

----

The C.O. told me I had a visitor.

I didn’t have “visitors”. Mom could only make the trip out the first week of every month, and my sister never bothered. Not even once. 

I couldn’t blame her.

There were only two kinds of people who showed up on weekdays: the journalists, hungry for an exposé, or the “fans,” hormonal teens who only knew their sweet suburbs and deep-web gore porn, hoping to come face to face with the felon they romanticized. 

I stopped meeting with them all ages ago.

Their fascination with me—with us—was more disturbing than anything we did. I remembered Jay saying once, America loved its violence almost as much as its apple pie. I’m not sure I quite understood at the time, how much love two gangly, teenage boys from Washington could get with a couple of 9mms.

I’d want to see this one, the C.O. said, and I didn’t understand until my cuffs were off and I was ushered into the visitation room. A chill passed my skin, like I’d seen a ghost, because that’s what it was like, seeing her again after the lifetime that was the last eighteen months.

“You look well.”

I stifled the sarcasm prison had groomed into me. Nobody looked well in here, but she was a polite girl, nearly grown into a polite woman. 

“Emma?”

Her name was foreign on my tongue. Like I hadn't said it in decades. She hardly even looked like the same person. Her hair reached only her shoulders, darker and cooler than the warm caramel I remembered. Her face, more narrow and angular without the baby fat in her cheeks. I almost didn't recognize her, and maybe that was the point.

She finally looked at me, her forest green eyes a confirmation, along with the desperation and grief hiding in them. 

Right where I'd left it.

When I stared too long, she turned her gaze back down to the table between us. “I’m sorry I didn't tell you I was coming. I knew you wouldn't agree.” 

I didn’t bother arguing. She was right; I wouldn’t have. 

But now, I was curious. “Why are you here?”

She hesitated, painted lips parting slightly with an attempted answer. She chose against it, pressing her mouth into a straight line and retrieved the purse at her feet instead. From inside, she collected a manila envelope, placing it on the table between us.

My fingers knew the smooth card of these envelopes too well. Signed police reports, witness statements, guilty pleads: justice wrapped neatly in a crisp buff jacket. The facts. The truth everyone needed. The feeling of opening a folder and seeing my past, my actions, my fate, written out clean and concise in Times New Roman had become so familiar that I was surprised with what I found instead. 

Photographs. Glossy eight by tens stacked in a neat pile, freshly printed and still smelling of wet ink. 

“They’re from school,” she said, but I didn’t need her explanation. I recognized the first photo immediately: A before-Emma, red-cheeked from the borrowed rum, gold shining in her eyes from the sparklers. The next picture, a before-me, hiding behind an orange cast on my wrist, a heart she’d penned decorating the plaster near my hand. 

A different truth. A truth nobody was interested in hearing.

“These are great,” I lied, continuing through the pile of familiar faces, skipping quickly over one of Jay, fingers aimed at the camera like a gun and a grin teasing the side of his mouth. They were great, but they left my mouth dry. These snapshots of people I’d tried desperately to forget. People now six feet under. 

“A production company contacted me, they want to buy them for a documentary they’re making.” She filled the air again as I neared the end of the pile. A photo from prom, where I was swimming in a too-big tux and she snuck a kiss onto my cheek. “They… They offered a lot of money.”

I closed the envelope before looking at the last photograph. I could guess which one it was. I remembered the snap of her camera shutters, vivid as a gunshot. 

“You should sell them.” I hated that I knew how much a photograph of me was worth. She could afford that fine arts university she’d wanted to attend. If she even ended up going. I considered asking but decided against it. It wasn't my place to know anymore.

She nodded, considering my response, but as she took the folder back, she offered an alternative. “Actually… I wanted to use them.” Pausing, she fended off something that glossed her eyes. It lingered when she continued, her voice wavering. “I wanted to write a book. About school. About you, and me, and…” 

I sat back in my chair, fighting another chill that passed me. “Oh.”

“It’s why I came. I want to talk about what happened. And before too. I thought… Maybe it could give us some closure.” She let her hands wring in her lap with the admission, only looking at me again when I took too long responding. On a whisper, she begged, so quiet I would’ve thought I wasn’t supposed to hear if she hadn’t said my name. “Please, Sam. I need to know why...”

A thick mass swelled in my throat. I hadn’t talked to anyone about it. Not the cops. Not my lawyer. Not a soul. For eighteen months. And now she was asking me to speak. No. She was asking me for closure.

I wanted to tell her she’d never have closure. I wanted tell her that we’d robbed her of such peace, when she went to school the day she wasn't supposed to. I wanted to tell her I was sorry. That the thing inside her still keeping her awake at night, tossing and turning, it would never sleep again. I knew, because I never slept either.

I couldn’t bear disappointing her all over again, though.

“Where should I start?”

----

BEFORE

----

CHAPTER 1

I’d like to say that I woke to the pings of incoming messages on my phone, but the truth was, I hadn’t slept a wink. I’d been too wrapped up in my spiraling anxiety to spend the night on anything other than my insomnia. The first day back to school tended to do that to me, and senior year was clearly no exception. 

I fished around blindly for my phone when a fourth unanswered message arrived, finding the cord and following it under my pillow. The bright white of the screen burned my tired eyes when I unlocked it. I buried my face into the musty mattress again, squinting with one eye to read.

[you up yet?]

[Saaaaaaaammmmm]

[rise and shine]

[?????]

I fought a groan, tapping a response with only my thumb.

[skip?]

An ellipsis pulsed across the screen.

[dont pussy out on me]

[be there in 10]

I allowed myself a final sigh before giving into Jay’s guilting, fending off the instinct to curl up and fester away in my sheets. It wouldn’t even take long. With summer lingering well past its Washington due date, it still felt like early August despite creeping into September. 

Rot season, my mother called it.

I smelled like I’d already started decaying. Rummaging through the clothes on my floor, I found my jeans and a tee-shirt that didn’t smell of death, then swayed like a zombie down the hall to the bathroom. 


1st 5 Pages November Workshop- Krumwiede Rev 1


Name: Lana Krumwiede
Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy 
Title: DILUVIANS

The first time Beatrice communicated with an insect was the day Mom finally agreed to let her have a beekeeping lesson. It was the perfect day for it—a white-hot July afternoon. Beatrice wore a long-sleeved long-pants zip-up suit, thick gloves, some serious boots, and a wide-brimmed hat with a veil that hung down to her chest. Kid-sized, of course. 

Mr. Andelin, her eighty-one-year-old neighbor, wore the same protective gear. He was about to open the lid of the white box on the top. 

Not a box, Beatrice reminded herself, a super. That was the correct name for it. When it came to science, correct vocabulary was important.

A low, constant hum came from the hive. Already there were quite a few bees zipping around. When one flew by, a soft buzz would get louder and then fade away, like a tiny jet zooming past. One landed in front of her face on the other side of the mesh that hung down from her hat. She had to almost cross her eyes to look at it. “Hey there, little guy.”

Mr. Andelin looked up, bees circling his head like electrons around a nucleus. “Girl, you mean.” 

That’s right, worker bees were girls. In the insect world, females were fiercer than males. They were the workers, the queens, the warriors, the hunters. They were the ones with stingers. While Beatrice liked the idea of fierce females, she didn’t want to get stung by one. 

“Is the buzzing getting louder?” she asked. “Or is that my imagination?” 

“The veils are making the bees uneasy,” he said. “They’ve never seen me wear one before. We’ll have to move slow and quiet to keep them calm.”

Yes, please. Beatrice definitely wanted them to stay calm. But could insects really notice things like that? In the videos she’d watched, beekeepers always wore veils and used smoke to calm the bees. All the times Beatrice had seen Mr. Andelin working at his hive, he didn’t use either. 

The only reason he wore the suit and hat today was because Mom had insisted. It had taken a lot of convincing to get Mom to agree to this, and full protective gear for both of them was one of her conditions. 

“Why don’t you like wearing a veil?” Beatrice asked.

Mr. Andelin gave a tiny shrug and answered quietly. “The bees and I have an understanding. I make sure they have what they need, and they share their honey. It’s all very friendly.”

Hmm. That sounded very non-scientific. It was true that bees were intelligent. Scientists had even trained them to search out land mines in military zones. But they couldn’t have friendly feelings toward people, could they? “What do you mean, an understanding?”

“I’ve been doing this a long time. I trust them, and they trust me—that’s what friends do. How would you feel if every time I came to visit you, I wore a bullet-proof vest and a helmet?” 

“I don’t think that’s the same thing.” Trust sounded fine, but it didn’t seem like the best idea with bees. 

As Mr. Andelin pried open the hive’s lid, Beatrice noticed something she hadn’t expected: She was nervous. 

Even after the dozens of videos she’d watched. Even after the stacks of library books she’d read. Even after the four and a half essays she’d written on the benefits of beekeeping for a ten-year-old, which was mainly to convince Mom. Even after all that, Beatrice still had a twisty-gut anxious feeling now that she was actually here.

Mom was the one who was queasy about bugs, not Beatrice. Whenever a bug showed up in the house, Mom refused to get near it, dead or alive. Beatrice would scoop the bug into a cup, cover it with a card, and release it outside. The bug was probably just lost, and nobody deserved to be executed for being lost. 

But with all the bees around, this was different. A colony this size had about fifty-thousand bees, and if they got aggressive, they would defend the hive with their lives. 

Twisty-gut feeling and all, Beatrice was dying to get a good look inside the hive, especially the brood nest, the innermost part where the queen and the larvae lived. At least, the scientist part of her wanted to.  The scaredy-cat part of her wanted to go home and read about it. The scientist won out. 

Mr. Andelin had the lid off now, removing the wooden honeycomb frames one by one to inspect them, and Beatrice forced herself to lean forward for a good look. There wasn’t much to see yet. She counted a total of seven bees crawling on the honeycomb. Oh, now eight. Most of them would be deeper in the hive. 

Mr. Andelin stood very still and didn’t talk for a bit. 

Beatrice did the same. This was one of the things she liked about him. She could ask him dozens of questions, or spout as many science facts as she liked, and it didn’t annoy him. He seemed to enjoy it. Sometimes when she helped him water his flower garden or refill the butterfly feeders, they didn’t talk at all, which was perfectly comfortable. 

Another bee landed on her veil, walking in a circle in front of Beatrice’s face. Following its path made her a little dizzy. 

“That’s Jasmine.” Mr. Andelin motioned toward it. “She’s just curious. And a bit too outgoing for her own good.”

Strange how Mr. Andelin thought of his bees like people, giving them names and personalities. And even stranger that he could tell them apart. 

Mr. Andelin pulled out another frame and inspected it. He spoke softly, but loud enough for Beatrice to hear. “Look, Hazel. Rosa has a mite on her back. Right there. Can you get it off?” 

Oh, gosh. Now he was talking to them. Did other beekeepers do that? People talked to dogs. And she’d seen a movie once where a boy talked to a cow while he milked it. 

Maybe he talked to his bees because he was lonely. Mr. Andelin lived by himself and didn’t have family nearby. Beatrice could understand lonely. She had Mom, every other weekend with Dad, and a few friends at school. But when it came to someone to talk to about ordinary stuff, not so much.

Mr. Andelin was still whispering over the honeycomb. “It’s nothing to be embarrassed about. Hazel took care of it. Now, off you go.” 

A long pause followed. Did he think they were talking back? 

“We’re getting close to the brood now,” he said. “No jerky movements or loud noises. Nothing to make the bees nervous.”

Beatrice leaned closer for a better view. “Do you think we’ll see the queen?” 

“Probably not. She has thousands of children, with more on the way. She’s very busy.” Slow and easy, Mr. Andelin unstacked the last honey super and lowered it to the ground. The hum got much louder and higher, like an engine accelerating. He murmured reassuring words, but still the buzz intensified. 

Moving at a sloth’s pace, he lifted one of the frames from the brood nest. It was boiling with bees.  

Beatrice stood up straight and took a backward step. Maybe Mom was right. Maybe this wasn’t a good idea.

“Oh my,” Mr. Andelin whispered. “The queen has come out to meet you. Come closer.”

The hum was louder than ever. 

“I’m not sure I should,” Beatrice said.

“Nonsense. You don’t want to miss this.”