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Allergic

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The first time that Chuck was stung by a bee, she was ten years old. The broken stinger lodged in her skin, attached to a little honey-yellow bag that pumped venom, fierce and biting. The offending insect lay writhing in the grass, a speck of gold lost in so much green.

Her hand was the first thing to swell, turning red, and then firey purple. Before she had time to find her aunts or even to cry, she found that she could not breathe. It felt exactly like drowning.

When she came back to life for the first time, Aunt Lily was there, with a face almost as red and blotchy as her arm had been. Aunt Vivian, in the background, was talking to a doctor.

“Of course we’ll get rid of the bees,” she said.

They did, too. The hives were sold to an apple orchard, and Chuck watched from her bedroom window as men in white suits packed the neat boxes into a truck and drove away.

The next summer, she found a virgin queen surrounded by a swarm of courtiers. She kept the secret for three weeks, and she would have kept it for longer, except Aunt Vivian had called an exterminator. Teary-eyed, she led her aunts to the jury-rigged hive box in the back corner of the garden, and begged them not to kill her bees.

To her great surprise, Lily bought her a veil, and helped her plant lavender around the hive.

Adapting to her third life was no trouble at all.

She had invented thirty-seven ways to make sure that she never, ever touched her lover, no matter how close she got. At some point, she suspected that the cosmic force governing her resurrection would be utterly fed up with the technicalities of not touching you, but until then, it was good to tempt fate.

Most of the workarounds were easy. Make noise. Wear gloves.

Always use a condom.