As it always seemed to be, it was a miserably hot day. Stephen and I were sitting in the double swing in his backyard, just swinging to try to cool off and talking. We were making plans for our family after our marriage, and I mentioned to him that I’d always wanted to be a princess. Of course, I wasn’t beautiful or rich, and in America we don’t have princesses anyway, but I’d always wanted to be one. It’s partially my Mom’s fault, I think — she’d awakened my sister and me at an obscene hour to watch the wedding of Princess Anne years before, and I’d been enchanted with royalty — and with England — ever since.
I’d probably seen a broadcast of 1965 Rogers & Hammerstein version of “Cinderella” recently, which always had me humming “In My Own Little Corner” for days afterward. I thought that Lesley Ann Warren was the most beautiful princess I’d ever seen, and hated that I had blonde hair and was overweight.
Stephen laughed at my wish to be a princess, and asked “Do you want me to call you ‘Your Royal Highness’?” Delighted, I smiled and said I did, and he said “OK, Your Royal Hiney!” and, licking his finger, drew a line down my cheek.
Ugh! Stephen may have been my best friend and future husband, but he was still a boy, and had just called me a hiney and got his spit on my face! I jumped up from the swing and started walking home, scrubbing his saliva off my cheek as I walked, furious at him.
“Wait!” he called, and I turned, ready to demand an apology. “Have you ever suckled the honey from a honeysuckle?” he said, surprising me.
Honey from honeysuckle? I’d never heard of it. He motioned for me to join him at his back fence, which was covered with a profusion of honeysuckle vines, overflowing with flowers that perfumed the whole yard.
I waited before I joined him, worried about the honeybees who were buzzing all over the flowers; I was terrified I’d get stung. He waved them away, though, and pulled one blossom from the vine. I joined him at the fence.
“Watch.” He gently separated the calix from the petals and slowly drew it out. As the stamens slid from the blossom, a clear drop of nectar suddenly appeared. Stephen leaned over and caught the drop on his tongue.
“It’s delicious!” he assured me.
I couldn’t believe that he was actually tasting something from a flower — I thought sure it was poisonous or something. He grabbed another blossom, and once again caught the drop of nectar on his tongue.
He didn’t drop dead on the spot — he didn’t even look sick. Maybe it wasn’t poison after all. I took a blossom, but tore it apart too quickly, and missed the nectar.
“Here” he said, gently tearing apart another flower, then holding it so I could catch the nectar on my tongue. It was sweet, and tasted as good as the honeysuckle smelled.
Delighted by the secret drops hidden in the flowers, I forgot that he called me a hiney and all but licked my cheek. We stood there, surrounded by bees collecting pollen (which I thought of for years as bees collecting honey), tasting the honey from the honeysuckle until it was dinnertime and I had to go home.