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I Once Had Wings
by Robin K. Ziebert

It was our first official date.

I was finishing my cider while watching her lick the last of a cinnamon sugar doughnut off her forefinger.  Apparently, a bee landed on the rim of her cup.

There are always bees at Cider Mills, and I've never known a single person who was stung. Those facts, along with the prolonged finger sucking meant I wasn't paying much attention to the bee. I didn't notice it all actually, until she abruptly pulled her finger out of her mouth and flicked it at the bee.

I don't know what I expected,  I probably didn't expect anything, but whatever I may have or have not expected, it wasn't what I got.

She then leaned over the table and showed me her finger. I guess I thought she was going to show me bee guts or a bee corpse.  She didn't.

Oh, there was definitely something on the tip of her finger, but it wasn't dead or even smashed.  It was something else entirely.

Somehow , in what had to be milliseconds,  that girl,  that sweet, gentle beautiful girl, had reached out her hand, grabbed the bee from her cup and ripped off it's wings!

She had let it live, but  she ripped off it's wings!

Just a moments before , a honey bee had been flying around and then randomly chose her cup to land on.  It had sat there, happily sipping cider and just living his normal little bee-life. Now, suddenly, that life, and that bee, was shattered and in its place was this . . . thing, quivering on the tip of her finger.

I sat back and watched as her hands made that airy twisting motion Magicians use and then gently deposited the "bee" back on the rim of her cup.

Her brow wrinkled as she glanced up at me from beneath her bangs and covertly wiped her finger along the edge of the table. The sunlight betrayed her when it caught for a moment on a bit of the cellophane wing before the breeze could snatch it away.

Then, she too leaned back and simply helped herself to a second doughnut.

The wounded not-quite-a-bee-thing staggered around and around the rim of her cup, looking more drunk than mortally injured. Eventually it fell onto the table and I noticed that something shiny and wet had formed beads along the tiny hairs of its back.

Even after the fall, after having its wings ripped from its body, that almost-a-bee-thing refused to die. Once or twice it slowly fell over on its side and a leg or two trembled. Each time I was sure that it was dead, but after a moment, it  would somehow right itself and began again.

"Does he know his wings are gone?" I wondered. Or maybe I just think I should have.

In any case, she and I just sat there, together, for what seemed a very long time; her intently watching the parable playing out on our table, me just as intently watching anything but.

When at last I couldn't stand it even one more second. I slammed my fist down .

She looked up at me seemingly surprised. "Why'd you kill it?"

"It had no wings. It was suffering."

"But, it wasn't dead." She made a face as I wiped of my hand. "It didn't have wings, but it wasn't dead."

"It thought it was."

She reached for my hand then and used her own napkin to wipe the last of it off my skin. Then, still holding my hand, she stood and walked around to my side of the table while she waited for me to get up.

Hand in hand, we walked back to campus.

We were together for three years. Everyone thought that we'd get married.

She didn't.



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