The old woman had finished her examination and gestured at the younger woman, accompanied by a few guttural vocalizations. The old woman left them and the younger one had begun to carry out the instructions she had received. She tended to the boy’s cuts and bruises.
He gazed into all four of her eyes. Her eyes had changed. They no longer twinkled like the stars, but they had become like deep dark reflective pools of water. He felt something akin to being stabbed in the core of his being. He winced from a pain deep inside of him and not from the wounds he had received at the hand of the larger boy. The new information he processed about the girl had made him forget any physical pain he felt, the inner pain was much greater.
She touched his swollen face tenderly before she rose and left him lying in the mouth of the cave. The boy ignored the aches of his body which bemoaned every movement as he struggled to his feet. He felt dizzy and off balance, but still he followed her. He remained at a distance, out of view.
She followed the same path to the running water, but she did not gather roots, or nuts, or berries. She did not pick flowers for her hair. He watched her from his vantage point concealed in the bush and brush. She sat on a big flat rock that jutted out into the running water. The buzz of a bee distracted the boy. He swatted at the insect and just missed it. The motion sent pain radiating through his entire body. Rising and dropping in the air, the bee flew off.
The boy was struck with an idea and he left the young girl laying on the rock and followed the bumblebee’s flight. After some time the bee, going from flower to flower led him to his goal. Bees actively circled the entrance to the hive. The boy looked around and found what he was looking for, a large stick. With all the might he could muster he swung the fallen branch, but missed his target. Pain shot through every muscle of his body and he stumbled forward a little, carried by his own momentum. He braced himself with the branch as he gasped from the pain.
When he had caught his breath and sufficiently recovered from the pain he tried again. This time he made contact and sent the busted hive in an arc to the ground. Bees swarmed around the broken remains of the hive. The boy ignored the stings and the pains of his previous wounds and rushed in to reach into the broken hive to retrieve its sticky treasure. The boy, with several pieces of honeycomb began to run with the bees in hot pursuit. They stung him mercilessly. They stung every inch of his exposed flesh. They stung his eyes, inside his mouth and nose, they stung him all over.
His emergence from bush and brush in a full sprint startled the girl. He fell to his knees in front of her breathing heavily and holding the prize in his outstretched hands. She did not look at the boy, but at the ground between them. His hands remained outstretched proffering the chunks of wax with their precious contents. Her eyes rose slightly and she looked at his hands, bruised, scraped and covered in beestings. Her hand touched the welts on his arms as her gaze followed up his arms to his bee stung chest and shoulders before coming to rest on his cut, swollen, and stung face.
His features were almost unrecognizable. His eyes were nearly swollen shut. Her eyes grew misty. Her cheeks grew moist. She took the honeycombs from his hands and placed them upon the rock. She washed his wounds, both new and old with cool water. She collected the honey filled wax when she was done tending to his wounds. She led him back to the cave. She had to help him several times because he was extremely weak. With his arm draped around her shoulders the arrived at the cave of their clan.
She laid him down on some skins near the cave’s entrance. Their absence had not gone unnoticed. There was a great deal of activity about the cave, much more than normal. The young man the boy had fought with the night before glowered at the boy each time the young hunter passed the cave’s mouth.
T J Therien