"They lied to us?" May stood lightly on the mud. She worried, for the first time, that the viscous earth might catch at her delicate feet and pull her down into an early grave. "All of it was just a lie?"
Old Dan nodded. "Fraid so," he said. "I thought you'd want to hear it from me."
Manny stretched and retracted his long front legs. "But I don't understand," he said. "Why lie about it? Why feed us all that crap about our 'bright and glorious' futures?"
Old Dan rolled some of the muddy material into a ball as he spoke. "Force of habit," he said, pointing at the ball, laughing at himself. "Think about it," he said. "Seriously. If you'd known what was to come, would you have lived the way you have?"
May shook her pretty head and tiptoed over to the water's edge. She felt more comfortable there. "I don't believe it," she said, stamping a tiny tarsus. "I won't believe it."
"Denial is the first stage,"Old Dan said. "It's quite natural."
"But it isn't fair," said Manny. "It isn't right."His terminal filaments twitched with agitation. "If we'd known at the start that we'd have only just this one day, we might have..."
"What,"said Old Dan. "You might've what? Decided against emerging? Passed at your chance to taste some of that He paused to nod in the direction of pretty May at the shoreline "sweetness?" He chuckled as he rolled himself another sticky ball. "I don't think so," he said.
May blushed, and Manny joined her at the shoreline. Their wings touched. "No,"said Manny. "I wouldn't have missed that for the world."
"Remember," said May, "when we first rose to the surface in that bright bubble of air? When we first saw the sky? When we first saw each other?" She caught the rainbow glimmer of a trout in the corner of her farthest eye and nudged Manny, gently, out of harm's way. "Remember how the sun looked, and felt, on our tender exoskeletons during our first molt?"
Manny gazed at May's slender abdomen, her many lovely eyes. "I remember," he said. "I was still panting on that leaf, a dull, pubescent subimago, as I watched you transform before my very eyes, into the transparent beauty that you are." His wings seemed to cloud up all over again as he reminisced. "And then you flew away! I thought I'd never catch you!"
May's thorax pulsed. "But you did catch me, my darling," she said. "In mid-flight!"She cast a quick fond glance at both of Manny's penes. "It was wonderful," she said, dreamily.
"But we might not get another chance," said Manny. He looked accusingly at Old Dan. His anger was returning.
"Good. Very good," said Old Dan. "Anger is the second
stage. Not healthy to bottle it up." He was just rounding off the
edges of his fourth brown ball. "Can't help myself," he said
apologetically. "It's what I do."