Queen Bee (Lowcountry Tales #12) - Dorothea Benton Frank


Of all the stories I’ve ever told you, this is the one that you’re going to remember. This is the one. Hopefully large parts of this will entertain you, because sometimes life goes right off the rails somewhere between hilarity and the absurd and somehow it always happens in my orbit. But there is another story within these pages that might bother you. I know this because this story haunts me. It’s the one I can’t forget.

I told myself that I should’ve done something to intervene earlier. But it wasn’t my place. I tried polite conversation, I tried impolite conversation. No one would hear me. It bothers me that there was a part of me that didn’t want to see, didn’t want to get involved. Was there that part of me? Does that make me complicit? Heaven knows that people in general can rationalize the most egregious behavior in the name of religion, love, the alleged greater good of mankind, or just because whatever it is they’re lobbying for is good for them.

For all you know about me, even those I’ve met in passing, you know I’m not a troublemaker or someone who exaggerates the truth. Okay, maybe I’ll embellish a little. But generally, you don’t have to make things bigger or more fantastic than they are. Reality has so many surprises and unbelievable situations, it’s okay to just lay down the bones.

Maybe I want to tell you this story as a kind of cautionary tale. At the end of the day, you must live with who you’ve allowed yourself to become. But before you close your eyes for the last time, there will be a day of reckoning, even if it’s not the kind we’ve been taught to expect.

It has taken me a long time to piece together the real truth of what happened, to rationalize that perhaps I didn’t have a hand in all of it. But then, I did. Actually, I think you could easily lay half of what happened at my feet. But I digress.

This is a magical tale of love and redemption, of how to heal broken spirits, and most of all, why it’s all right to hope for and believe in miracles. It’s not just a Lowcountry thing. If this could happen to me, it could surely happen to you.

I said, “People been thinking about and fascinated by bees since forever.”

“Yeah?” the boys said. “Like who?”

“How about this? The bee is more honored than other animals not because she labors, but because she labors for others. That was said by Saint John Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople. He lived from 349 to 407 A.D.”

“That’s old,” Tyler said.

Chapter One

Meet Me, Holly McNee Jensen

Sullivan’s Island, South Carolina

February 2017

I was standing on our back porch hanging wet dish towels on a swing-arm gizmo, having just finished cleaning up after breakfast. Momma was headed back to bed, where she lived 90 percent of the time, ever since Leslie got married and moved to Ohio with weird Charlie.

I stepped outside and scanned the yard. Mother Nature was clearly losing it, one marble at a time. It was a Friday morning in the middle of February and eighty-something degrees. Eighty-something degrees! When I was a child on this sleepy island, I would’ve been wearing an overcoat, a hat, and maybe a neck scarf and gloves. I’d be shivering and waiting for the ramshackle school bus to stop at the corner and take me and a hundred other kids to Catholic school, where I would be made to tremble over the painful retribution to come for sins I had yet to commit. Now, people were all over the island, a parade of surfboards and coolers disappearing over the dunes, and on the beach, people half-naked, slathered with suntan lotion, running around like idiots.

Didn’t anyone know it was supposed to be winter? And no, I wasn’t cranky. There it was! Proof! Climate change.

Flowers that weren’t expected to bloom for another six weeks decorated our yard in huge clumps and stands of color. Daylilies, Shasta daisies, and purple smoke reared their pretty heads toward the morning sun and opened wide. My honey bees, who were supposed to be huddled in winter mode, getting their well-deserved beauty rest, had been sending out scouts from the hive all week long to see what was going on. They had to be very confused. I know I was. Something was seriously wrong.

But confused or not, my bees needed attention. I was going to check the hives for the early