I've had honey on my mind this week. This is a scene from my manuscript, Bound. It's mid-book, so enjoy this out-of-context peek, featuring honey.
Pain and Honey
I step over the broken honeycomb and come close to the fire, the only thing that keeps the
angry bees away. The rag I dipped in the stream that runs along the bottom of the steep stone
cliffs, drips across the hot stones and sizzles. The smoke stings my eyes as I move close to
Tarik. His eyes are swollen shut and his lips are puffy with bee poison. Bees that attacked him
as he came back to save me as I clung to the cliffs, frozen.
“Tarik. I’m back.” I hope he can still hear me and I try to ease his pain with the cool
He attempts to smile and winces at the movement of his face, which seems to pain him
“Deerskin.” The name sounds like a caress, rather than an insult.
“Shh.” My voice is gentle as I smear honey across his swollen lips. The cure, ironically,
is made by the maker of the poison. I stir the honey poultice around again slowly, before
plastering it on his skin. I pull open the ties on his shirt, swabbing the stings on his chest and
“Don’t eat me.” Tarik rasps out.
I hide the pain that watching his slowness causes me. I can sense there is more of a joke
he would like to tell, but the movement of his lips is not worth the effort.
I dig out the stringers with the end of the dagger I found at his waist. Blood mixes with
the honey on the knife’s tip. I try to calm myself by digging out each one methodically.
“My father. He will take you in.” His eyes are kind, not pained for himself, but worried
on my behalf.
He begins to tell me directions to his father’s, but I silence his lips with my finger, “No
need you will be with me.”
My voice sounds steady in my ears, but not in my heart. I know he
will not be with me, if I do not heal him. The honey and oils are not enough to save him.
I tie the end of his shirt ties in knots that match exactly at the end, to distract me from my
decision, like the bee buzzing around the cliffs the thought that I must heal him buzzes around
my brain. Is he worth the risk to heal? I’ve used my oils, but the venom is too strong and too
much. One person cannot be worth losing everything, but suddenly it seems like everything to
“Close your eyes.” I command him gently.
“Won’t. Be. Hard.” The words are raspy as his throat starts to close.
I absently tear at the pieces of honeycomb in my lap, knowing my decision is already
made. There is a cliff between life and death that I will walk him too, so he will not know what I
have done. I cannot risk him knowing who I am and what I can do. I must wait carefully, but
not wait too long—if the timing is wrong I will lose him.
It doesn’t take long until he is at the edge of his own life. I think of my own feet at the
edge of the cliff and his hand reaching toward me, asking me to keep my eyes on his. His blue
eyes are closed now, but I can see them clearly when I close my own in prayer.
I check again to make sure he is breathing, but not aware, before I slip out of the skins,
unwillingly to defile my prayers any longer. My sticky hands close around the mallet and my
healing bowl. I call out, a whisper at first, so he won’t hear. But he doesn’t and I don’t see his
chest rise or fall beneath my prayers. I call out louder and press my hands against him, they stick
to his chest. The circle that I trace across his face and throat are slow and clumsy, leading me to
his throat, where the pain constricts him. My hands are already golden, the glow reaching
through the honey. I pull the festering poison from the stingers with my healing touch and the
glow from my hands seems to find its way inside him, but his chest continues to be still.
Selfish. Selfish. I berate myself as I wait to see his breath recovered. Did my worry just
cost this man’s life? I move my hands to his chest, my fingers feel the uneven welts. I find
myself bargaining with prayer again, not for myself this time, but for him. This man beneath my
hands has saved my life twice now I plead that he will not to pay for it with his own.
“Please, please, please.” I curse myself for my slowness.
His eyes flutter open after his chest rises in one long breath. Tarik’s blue eyes stare at me
and I reach out for his face. His weak hand curls around mine as he takes my finger in his mouth
and licks the end.
“I thought you would taste good.” He winks before closing his eyes again, his face
smooth, but sticky.
“Praises. Praises. Praises.” I sigh and sag back on my heels. I wonder if I’ve ever
cared about those I’ve ever healed before. I bow my head and lay it on Tarik’s once again
beating chest. His hand slowly stokes my hair, before stopping limp in sleep on my back. I stay
there until the fire threatens to go out from neglect and the night starts to descend through the tall
pines. Night comes early in this tight valley of high, cold cliffs.
Although I’m surrounded by the overwhelming smell of smoke and damp rocks the sweet
smell of honey fills my nose and I absently lick the honey from the rest of my fingers. I glance
over at Tarik, tucked next to the fire. Healed. Alive.
I pull a blanket over him and tuck myself into the bedroll across from him, but I can’t
tuck my thoughts away as neatly. They escape and won’t be returned with deep breaths or
prayer. I give up on sleep and find myself absently sucking on the finger Tarik licked and watch
his sleeping profile across the fire. There is relief that he didn’t know I healed him, but the hope
bubbling up in my belly is not related to that. It makes me smile unwillingly, a hope of
something I don’t know and can’t name, but it has me replaying the memory of him licking the
honey off my finger as the fire burns to embers.