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by Duncan Hedges

“I’m glad we chose to break the boundaries of our gender stereotypes,” he said while fiddling with the neck line of his carriage dress.

She was loath to disagree as it had been her idea in the first place.

“I was rather hoping you’d try something more productive than dressing up in 19th century frocks,” she replied, her measured tone punctuated by the harsh bang of a hammer.

“My brain could be refining the fundamentals of feminist theory and you wouldn’t know.”

“I would, you’d have fainted. Make yourself useful and brew me a pot of tea, will you?”

“Are we still on gender stereotypes?”

Not wishing to dent his self-confidence, she’d hoped that widening his scope might unlock some hidden potential. Could he prove more competent with a pastry brush than a hand drill? So far, the only thing he’d shown an interest in brushing was his hair.

“Do you know that cartwheel is an anagram of orchestra?” he beamed smugly, pleased with his ability to communicate and adopt the lotus position simultaneously.

“I’m taking the dog out for a shit,” she replied, unimpressed. As much as anything, it wasn’t an anagram. He meant carthorse. Any donkey could tell you that.

The winter air was cool as she wandered through the cemetery, her loyal greyhound by her side. It was a route she knew well, for she would regularly come to visit her beehive, which was stationed in a sheltered corner, away from the main path. All was quiet now, but in summer months, she would feel a thrill of familiarity as her busy insect workforce buzzed relentlessly. In fact, if ever there was a gender stereotype she felt she fulfilled, it was that of the honey bee. Man had seen fit to describe the females as “workers,” while the lazy males were labelled “drones” and only ventured out on the whim of libido.

But was her man a drone? It was maybe on the final detail that the analogy fell down — at least the male bees had a purpose. Try as she might, she couldn’t picture her man in a flight of passion anymore, be it romantic or otherwise. Curiously, in the early days it had been a passion for honey that had stuck them together. In its absence, she felt things were falling apart. And the evening silence only amplified that, as it had done many times before as she tread the path of a solitary excursion.

When she woke early the next morning, it was a relief to find the warm body beside her was emitting the musty smell of dog, for it was he who had become her closest companion in recent weeks. And it was he who would be her co-absconder as she heaved the beehive into the family saloon, just half an hour later. All that was left was to point the bonnet in the direction of Cleethorpes and go in search of the rising sun.

Duncan Hedges works as yard staff at a stables in Leeds, West Yorkshire. He writes short stories in his spare time. He has previously been published in scientific journals, the names of which he cannot remember. @duncan_hedges