Kage Baker was most attuned to summer, of the seasons of the turning year. Her personal thermostat ran to triple digit heat, and her internal organs all re-oriented then, turning to follow the sun like sunflowers. Her hair was photo-reactive, and a morning in the sun would brighten it from dark russet to a blaze of gold, copper and inhuman colours like burgundy and metallic gold: and no, she never dyed or touched it up in her life. I have no idea how it worked, only that it did – only that by mid-way through the Spring Faire, I would be braiding a torrent of sleepy fire in the far-too-early mornings.
Her skin, however … that was porcelain pale, and the only change it ever displayed was to burn extravagantly. By her 20’s, she never willingly exposed an inch of her skin if she could help it, wearing broad Panamas and felt hats in civvies, and wimples in her Faire clothes. Nonetheless, under her shifts and her Hawaiian shirts, she was covered with freckles that never faded at all. She insisted that one day they would all run together and give her an amazing tan – but no, she just would have looked like a piece of toast.
But more than the heat, Kage resonated to the rhythms of Summer. She might not get up at dawn, but she usually woke enough to notice the hot tide of light in the morning and register approval. The long, long afternoons were her favourite times of all the year, made for gin cocktails, badminton games (at which she was a deadly switch hitter), Slurpees, pizza and root beer floats; at Faire, for huge group song-fests in the Inn, led by all that year’s singing groups and fueled by ale and chai.
But she loved the holidays the best, especially the old ones forgotten by nearly everyone except Faire performers and rural Englishmen: Mayday, Midsummer’s (Eve and Day), Lammas. She said they all rang with eldritch resonance, like glass bells, and swore she could feel the seasonal portals opening and closing between our common Earth and Fairieland. She always sounded pretty wistful about it, too; I used to worry she’d find some way to get her Changeling status activated, and just vanish into much-too-thin air some warm sunset …
Here, it is very nearly summer, the Solstice bearing down on us with all the horns of Elfland sounding in its train. Portals come and go like sundogs in the sky, filmy rainbows blinking in and out as they promise strange new horizons. And in my living room, with rosemary and roses and geraniums and clover all blooming rich and heavy in the garden – we are suddenly afflicted with bees. Not outdoors in the garden – where one might not only reasonably expect them, but have room to dodge – but in the living room. Where we have all the windows shut and the A/C on. Six or seven of the fuzzy little beasties in a single hour!
A damned nerve-racking hour, too. Kimberly and Michael were already tense and tired from necessary errands in the wretched heat, I (of course) am no use at all in anything that requires, like, actual movement, and our new kitten was absolutely convinced the invader was some charming new toy just for him! Poor Michael had to climb and leap all around the living room in order to capture each of the bees (we try not to kill bees in our house) while I retreated out of the arena just because I am a large, slow impediment. None of us are allergic to bees, but we were not sure what effect a sting would have on a 4 month old kitten with no brain …
And they just kept coming! We couldn’t figure out where their entry was: we closed the fireplace doors, checked all the windows and doors, even eyeballed the gap under the front door, just in case some working girl had decided to try her hand(s) at being a sapper … Michael redid ALL the edging around the in-window air conditioner, and apparently that was indeed the weakness in our fortress walls. Or there was a bee-sized portal somewhere in the living room, since there was ONE late bee that appeared when everyone else had been tossed out. We could not tell where she had come from, and Kimberly was forced to send her over the Rainbow Bridge before the cats got stung or Michael had a stroke from sheer frustration.
I have never entirely trusted summer portals … and while Kage never disappeared through one, a half dozen bees appearing in our living room was just about as bad. And we are still not entirely sure where they got in!
May the gods and goddesses of the bright season keep flying terror out of all your houses, Dear Readers.
And now, I am off to soothe my nerves with pizza. That is almost the ultimate summer food … at least, Kage thought so.