Doga had summoned her!
Zita knew she should feel apprehensive that the head of her unit and the third in command after the Queen and Kaza had, for the first time ever, summoned her. But she just wasn’t.
She couldn’t explain why or how, but she felt like a whole new ant—fearless and full of a hope that hadn’t been there before. The experience of the night before out in the open field, uninhibitedly free of laws and restrictions, away from ever-probing eyes and the mundane regularity of their everyday ant life on the Hill, has filled her with this new strength. It has awakened in her a hunger for something more. A desire for a life that was more than just waking up at the break of dawn and working tirelessly till nightfall.
No, she wanted more. She wanted the fun, the laughter, the freedom… the love. And no, she wasn’t afraid to appear before Doga.
She crawled into the larvae chamber where Doga usually was, over-seeing things. Her eyes met with Kiki’s as she entered. She gave her a funny look. But Zita ignored her and advanced towards Doga.
“You sent for me, Doga.” She said in a quiet self-possessed voice.
Doga raised her head to stare at her. And Zita kept her head held-up and her eyes unwavering on the scrutinising ones that stared at her. “Indeed I did, Zita. Poki brought forward a report that you were seen crawling in from outside the Hill the night before with another ant she believed to be a drone. Is that report true?”
It wasn’t just the direct question that momentarily rendered her speechless. With Doga, ants always expected directness. No, it was the fact that Poki had seen them—when? How? And the nosey, gossipy ant had chosen to quickly report them? Oh well…
Tilting up her head, so that pride, and not fear, shone from her eyes, Zita responded. “Yes, I was outside the Hill last night. But it wasn’t…”
“It wasn’t with a drone.”
Kiki’s interruption surprised not only Zita, but also Doga. And as they turned to stare at her, she let go the larva she was attending to. “It was actually with me.”
The lie to save her head, no doubt, annoyed Zita. It was completely unnecessary. But before she could reprove her and state what was true, Doga spoke in her low, measured tone.
“You were with Zita outside the Hill last night?”
The tone behind the question indicated disbelief. Zita supposed it was because Kiki was such a meticulous ant and no one ever expected such act of disorder from her.
“Do any of you want to tell me what you were doing outside without orders?” Doga looked now from one to the other.
Zita raised her head to correct Kiki’s lie but the interfering Kiki was already responding.
“We are sorry we left the Hill without permission.” She excused. “But on our last march outside, Zita and I observed a new food nest and wanted to make sure it was a good one.”
Zita gaped, unable to believe that Kiki could spurn such a mad tale and certain that Doga would see through its unlikeliness.
“You two discovered a new food nest?” Doga’s steady eyes studied Kiki who’d crawled closer. “And where is this food nest?”
And there goes, not just my head, but stupid Kiki’s too, Zita thought.
But Kiki once more shocked her. And maybe even Doga too. “Down the valley leading into the corn field.” She said and proceeded to give accurate descriptions.
Zita wasn’t certain if her eyes weren’t popping out of her head. Was there really a new food nest?
Doga’s eyes narrowed momentarily. Then she gave her head a single nod. “Very well. I will alert Kaza and we will see about making arrangements to bring in the food.” She gave them both one last look, then turned towards the exit. “You two finish up in here.”
As soon as she was out of the chamber, Zita struck Kiki with her antennae. “What are you thinking coming up with that story? Is there truly a new food nest?”
“Of course there is.” Kiki retorted and struck her with her antennae too. “Why would I make up a non-existing nest when I know it will be checked out?” Then she stepped back and said in a chiding tone. “And it’s that the thanks I get for saving your love-frenzied head?”
“I did not ask you to save my head.” Zita was still annoyed at her interference.
“Ungrateful!” Kiki drew closer and struck her again with her antennae.
“I’m not being ungrateful. I didn’t ask for your help and…” Zita stopped at Kiki’s disapproving whirr and sighed. “Sorry. It’s just that I don’t want anyone in trouble because of what I did. Thank you for your help. But…”
“But nothing.” Kiki interrupted. “Now that you two have gone on your moonlight walk, just let all these crazy ideas go and allow things go back to normal, will you?”
Zita stared at her as she swung around to return her attention to the larvae. Things would never again go back to normal. She didn’t want them to.
MEANWHILE, inside our chamber, Toki was doing his best to drive me insane with his nonstop babbling about the upcoming nuptial flight.
“I wonder which of the Princesses I’ll end up with.” He said for the umpteenth time. “I sure hope it will be Loka. She gleams so brightly. Brighter than all others. Except of course, the queen.” He made a creaking sound at the impossibility of that.
I made an appropriate sound in agreement, not at all listening to him. My thoughts were all wrapped around Zita and her declaration of love the night before.
So she loved me too? She had declared it, spoken it to me. She loved me, as I loved her.
The thought of it made my heart swell and almost burst out from my bottom.
We were in love… and we must do something soon.
Soon, because the night of the nuptial flight was at hand.