“This land is incredible. Who owns it?” I look around on the most perfect summer day that’s ever existed.
Rae slows down so her horse is walking in step with mine. “The Greyson’s. Lauren and Warner were friends with my parents for ever. We’d come up here all the time as kids and get lost on purpose.” Her smile makes me feel like I’m right there with her. Back in her memories.
“Did they have kids?”
Rae nods. “Older, though. Well, the girl was around Bo’s age, but she was never interested in him, and I don’t think he was in her. They were good friends. Zoë is her name. The boy, Kevin, was in college before I was in high school. I don’t really remember him.
The breeze picks up, and loose strands of Rae’s black hair whip from under her helmet. Summer breezes are the best; you hear them coming before you feel them, and they’re always warm. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath through her nose.
I love you.
I can’t say it. I want to so badly, but I can’t. The way she lets her lips part as she’s lost in her smile begs me to say it. It’s too soon, though. Too soon. We’ve only been together for two months, even though it seems like longer. Everything is so effortless with her.
Rae is optimistic, bright in ways her older brother, Bo can’t be, especially with all of that brooding he’s doing over his ex-girlfriend, Ember. I still don’t really understand what happened there, but Rae assures me it will all work out for them in the end. Apparently Bo and Ember are meant to be. If the level of snark and brood one shows during a break up is directly proportional to the “meant to be” factor of a couple, those two are goddamn soul mates. That’s what Rae says, too. She uses the term soul mate as if it doesn’t come with centuries of baggage attached to it.
See? Effortless. Love is love. Soul mates are soul mates. And she is perfect. My term, not hers.
We come to the head of several trails that all disappear instantly into thick woods. My heart races a little in anticipation. Reality knocks, but I know I can stay here a while longer. In this dream. Before it’s shredded into a nightmare.
Normally I wake myself up when we get here, to the trail. Sometimes I push it, though. I just want to be with her a little bit longer.
“Which trail are we taking?” I ask, holding my horse back. He’s as anxious here as he was when it happened. Like he knew what was coming.
Rae points with her chin to a trail on the left of the tree line. “That one. It’s shaded and this sun is brutal today.”
I nod and back my horse up a few steps so she can take the lead.
I really should wake up now, but she still has more to say. And one more smile to give.
Not yet. Just a few more minutes.
“Oh,” she sighs in relief, “thank God for shade.”
My horse leads me just behind her and I’m grateful to find out she’s right. I didn’t realize how hot the sun was until I was in the coolness under the branches. Huge trees. Evergreens, pines, maples, and probably a few others my two years in Boy Scouts didn’t teach me, create a narrow tunnel of nature that we travel down in single file fashion.
Rae turns around and smiles.
Wake up. Now.
I don’t, though. I’m greedy tonight and want to hear her voice one more time.
“You with me, Regan? You got really quiet.”
“This trail … it’s … wow.” I gesture with one hand to the grandness of the earth around us.
I forgot she’d done that.
“Right? Come on, let’s get going. This trail is long.” She commands her horse to pick up its step, and it follows loyally.
I do the same with mine, but make it slow slightly as a low hum filters into my ears. It sounds like a far away tractor, or lawnmower, but I didn’t see anyone else in the large pasture we just crossed. And, she just said the trail was long.
Leave. Now. Open your eyes, Regan.
My throat closes and I try to swallow. Nothing. My horse pulls back as I try to push it forward. He shakes his head and lifts his front legs slightly. Warning. I’m not trained enough on horses to know that, though. I think he’s just not submitting to me.
You’ve seen this enough, man. Open your eyes. Wake up. Wake up!
The humming is louder now and I don’t say anything because I’m trying to find the source. Rae is several yards ahead and seems to hear it, too. Her head moves slowly side to side as she continues her stride forward.
Then, I look up. It’s there. Huge. Grey like brains and dangling from a branch just above her.
It’s too late.
The bees come.