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Romance Friendship

—The Garney’s Backyard Apple Tree, 16 Golway Road—


“Just up a little higher, Janey!” Her mother shouted from the ground.

Jane had significant doubts about this new apple-picking method her mother was so keen to try. Mom had bought a new ladder. This theory about needing to collect the apples from the top of the tree then work her way down was probably all some way of proving to dad that purchasing the ladder hadn’t been a big waste of money.

Jane climbed to the highest rung she could reach, slung her basket on the closest limb, then started picking.

“Uh, Janey, dear.”

“Yes?” 

“It’s only that… Well, you’re not quite at the top.”

Jane glanced upward at the few feet of branches that she hadn’t bothered trying to climb. “Your fancy ladder doesn’t reach.”

“Sitting one branch higher would do the trick, I’d bet.”

“You know, inviting me over for tea was a bit misleading,” Jane called down.

Her mother made no response. Jane rolled her eyes as she pulled herself further up. Toward the top, the thin twiggy outshoots of the tree were in greater abundance, making it hard to navigate. “This is my limit, mom. If I go any higher-” Jane stopped mid-sentence, hearing bark scraping and branches rustling beneath her. Below she found her mother pulling the ladder away from the tree. Jane stretched out an arm toward it, but she was up too far, her hand grabbed only air. 

“Mom?” She couldn’t quite fathom what her mother might be doing, and only watched while the woman dragged the ladder back across the lawn to lean it against the house. 

“Sorry, Jane, darling. I’ll be back in just a moment,” she said, and slipped in through the back patio door. 

“Mom?” Jane yelled after her. “Mom!”



—The Wilson’s Backyard Apple Tree, 14 Golway Road—


Nash watched from his vantage point sitting high up in his parent’s apple tree as Jane was ushered into her backyard. Mrs. Garney marched Jane toward the apple tree on her side of the fence, and his own mother’s plan revealed itself. His mother was a wise woman, and when she’d stranded him up in the apple tree, he’d known there had to be some intention behind it. Still, he’d called after her, and told her exactly what he’d thought of her methods. She’d only yelled back that it was for his own good.

He had decided not to concern himself with getting down. Nevermind that he had a paper to write, and a midterm exam that begged studying for. Now he could blame his mother for his procrastination. With that weight off his back, he had filled up his basket with apples from the highest branches. Then, he’d simply leaned back against the trunk of the tree and chomped into the biggest, red-est one he could find.



—The Garney’s Backyard Apple Tree, 16 Golway Road—


Jane stared incredulously toward the door where her mother had just disappeared. She tried shouting toward the house again, “Mom!”

When it became clear that her mother was not coming back anytime soon, Jane whispered a few obscenities that would have made her mother’s eye twitch. She looked down through the branches. Climbing down was a possibility, but there was a section of tree where no branches grew and she’d have to either jump or try to shimmy down the trunk. She’d wait to see how long her mother took to return - surely she planned to return eventually - before attempting escape sans ladder.

Her gaze wandered over the fence and into the Wilson’s manicured backyard. The sight of the four patio chairs hollowed out a hole in her stomach. They were mismatched in an intentional way. The green one was hers, though she couldn’t think of the last time she’d sat in it. Likely, three years ago. 

She’d spent as much time in that backyard as she had her own. Nash was one grade above her in school, but they’d been born only four months apart. They had been completely inseparable for almost their entire lives. Growing up, their parents were just as likely to find their neighbour’s kid camped out on the couch as they were to find their own. Then they’d reached high school. And there was the bubbling tension of attraction, complicating their previously easy friendship. They’d gone on one date. Or at least Jane had thought it was a date. The embarrassment of it still turned her cheeks pink, years later. At the end she’d leaned in to kiss him, and he’d pulled back and turned away. She’d been so mortified that she’d avoided him for a week. Then when they’d finally spoken again, in a flustered attempt to seem ambivalent she somehow ended up suggesting that he date her friend instead. What a nightmare that had been, watching them together.

Outwardly, they’d still been friends, but it had never felt the same. Jane had found excuses to distance herself from him, and then he’d headed off to university. He wasn’t far, just an hour away, but it was enough. Without having to see eachother every day, that discomfort between them grew. By the time she started university the following year, just in town, they hadn’t spoken in months. 

She stared back at the patio door where her mother had disappeared and caught the reflection of the two apple trees, one planted on either side of the fence. Nash’s parents had planted theirs to commemorate the birth of their son, new life to celebrate new life. Her parents had liked the sentiment so much that they’d followed suit when she was born just four months later. After twenty-one years the trees had far outgrown the fence, their branches reaching over it and mingling together in a tangled embrace. They were unreasonably large for apple trees, her mother loved to point out to anyone who would listen, postulating that they grew so well because they were happy to be next to each other.

Speaking of her mother, there she was, peering into the backyard through the kitchen window. Jane waved her arms in an attempt to catch the mad woman’s attention. “Mom! What are you doing?”

“I think they’ve joined forces against us,” came a deep voice that she would recognize anywhere.

Jane nearly jumped herself off her perch. She squinted through the branches to her right, searching for the source of that voice. He leaned forward around a leafy branch, giving her a wave and a wry smile. “Hey, Jane.”

She looked back toward the kitchen window to see her mother’s face all but pressed up against the glass. Catching Jane’s eyes, she ducked out of view. “Oh, for God’s sake.”

“I think they mean well.”

“So did the guy who invented styrofoam.”

“What?” He chuckled.

“I don’t know.” She sighed. It was annoying how hearing his voice tugged at the piece of her heart that she’d been ignoring these past few years. 

He twisted and snapped a leafy twig from the tree and held it out to her. 

“What are you doing?”

“Extending an olive branch.”

“That’s an apple branch.”

“A metaphorical olive branch.”

“It’s a literal apple branch.”

He smiled over at her, and she fought a returning grin. 

“That’s why they trapped us up here,” he waved the not-olive twig in the direction of their parents' houses.

Jane felt herself deflate. So he was just looking to placate their parents. “Right, so let’s go through the motions, play along, and they’ll let us down,” Jane’s response came out more barbed than she’d intended.

“That’s not what I meant.” He leaned his head back against the bark, and peering at him through the leaves she thought he might look exasperated. “I just meant that we could see it as an opportunity.”



—The Wilson’s Backyard Apple Tree, 14 Golway Road—


He was struggling to maintain his relaxed demeanour. This girl had always driven him wild. Even when they were kids and he hadn’t really understood what it meant, he just wanted to be around her. Then they’d gotten older and he had been completely in love with her. He’d thought they might finally be heading in that direction, that she might finally have started to think of him as something more than a friend. He’d been so nervous and on edge for that one date, then she’d gotten so weird at the end. She’d actually shaken his hand goodnight. Which he likely would have found adorable, if it hadn’t meant that he’d totally struck out. He’d spent the following week lingering on his own front step, hoping to catch her, to get a clear picture of where they stood.

After a week, when he’d finally been able to pin her down, she’d basically told him he should date somebody else. Things had never been the same between them. He liked to think that he had a pretty full life. And it’s not like he was walking around still feeling wounded over her rejection, but with her sitting so close, and talking more than they had in years, he felt that pang of something lost, something that could have been great.

“An opportunity?” she echoed his earlier statement.

He pulled in a big breath, exhaling quickly. He may as well just go for it. He had nothing left to lose. The worst had already happened.

“Yes, an opportunity to talk. About why we never talk anymore. I’m just going to go ahead and say it. I don’t care if you never liked me the way I liked you. We could have still been friends. You didn’t have to shut me out.”

“The way you liked me?” Jane echoed him again. She pushed aside a cluster of leaves blocking the view between them, and he saw her face scrunched in confusion. “But you didn’t like me. I tried to kiss you, and you leaned away,” she almost whispered that last part, eyes downcast, her face flushing.

“You tried to kiss me?” Now it was his turn to echo her. “No way. When?”

“After our date. Or, well, I thought it was a date.”

“It was a date. And you definitely did not try to kiss me. You shook my hand at the end.”

“I shook your hand because I was mortified after I tried to kiss you and you. turned. away.”

“Well, I can guarantee that I did not catch that you were trying to kiss me.” He ran a hand over his short hair. “My God, Jane, if I’d known that was what you were doing, I would definitely not have turned away. I would have kissed you back.”



—The Garney’s Backyard Apple Tree, 16 Golway Road—


They were both silent for a few minutes. Jane removed her arm, letting the foliage spring back to form a wall between them. She was processing. He hadn’t noticed her leaning in to kiss him. Her recollection of the moment was shrouded in the haze of nerves and remembered embarrassment. She believed him. In a way, that version of events made more sense than the one where he had turned his back on her offered heart. But if it was true, then that meant that they had both felt the same way, and they’d missed their chance over a misunderstanding. A misunderstanding she’d allowed to deteriorate their friendship, like a worm eating its way through an otherwise healthy apple, rather than addressing it. 

“So these last three years…” She muttered to herself.

There was rustling from the tree to her right. She pulled back the leaves again to find Nash crouched on his branch, arms reaching toward a large limb of her own tree that stretched into his territory. He muttered, “Here goes…” then sprang forward.

“Oh my- Nash!” 

His hands slapped onto the branch just below her and he hung there for a moment before swinging his legs toward a foothold below.

“What are you doing?” 

“Making up,” he said, climbing toward her, “for lost time.”

He sat himself on the bough beside hers. He turned to face her, so close their knees were touching, and smiled. “Hello, Jane.” He raised his eyebrows at her, as if to say, aren’t you impressed?

She only smiled back and said, “Hello, Nash.”

He pulled the twig from his pocket and placed it in her hand, making her chuckle. 

“So you wanted to kiss me, huh?”

“That was years ago,” she answered quickly, lest he hear the shake in her voice.

“And now?” He leaned toward her, exuding mischief.

She leaned in, whispering, “And now…”

He closed his eyes, waiting, but a part of her wasn’t quite ready for this moment. The one she’d thought would never happen, with the friend she thought she’d lost. She’d spent three years thinking of him as gone, she needed just a second to adjust to the possibility of having him back, to trust that this was real.

In a temporary departure from her sanity she took the leafy little twig he’d given her and used it to tickle his ear. He flinched and swatted at his head, eyes flying open. 

His gaze flicked to the twig, then her hand, then questioningly to her eyes. She gazed back, slightly horrified at her own unorthodox attempt to slow down the moment. 

His brows furrowed momentarily, then he barked out a laugh. “I missed you,” he said, still chuckling.

And that was what she’d needed. He liked her, quirks and all. Mid-laugh she closed the extra few inches between them and pressed her lips to his. 



—The Garney’s Kitchen, 16 Golway Road—


“What can you see out there?” Mrs. Wilson asked. She sat at the table, blowing on her fresh cup of tea. 

Mrs. Garney was back at the kitchen window. The two women had agreed not to spy on their grown children, stranded in the apple trees. That had lasted about as long as it had taken to make the tea.

“Nash has swung himself over to our tree now,” Mrs. Garney reported. “Rather impressive.”

“Oh yes, well, he’s always been very athletic,” Mrs. Wilson boasted.

Mrs. Garney squinted to get a clearer view. Did Jane just hit that boy with a stick? Best not to report that. Oh, there we go. There was the result they’d been hoping for.

Mrs. Garney sat back at the table with her friend, happy to be able to say, “Well, Mariam, I think we’ve done it.”

July 18, 2022 00:26

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8 comments

Mavis Webster
21:28 Jul 23, 2022

These lines definitely got me: “So you wanted to kiss me, huh?” “That was years ago,” she answered quickly, lest he hear the shake in her voice. “And now?” He leaned toward her, exuding mischief. This was a very sweet story and genuinely made me smile! I love how you encapsulated teenage awkwardness that led to misunderstanding, and how wholesome the ending between them was. The idea of the apple trees was also pretty creative! Any inspiration for that? Overall, I really enjoyed it. I hope you keep writing. :)

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Avery Mossop
03:57 Jul 24, 2022

Thanks so much for reading it, Mavis! And for your comment! :) Someone was climbing a tree in a book I read recently, and I thought it could be a fun place for a romantic scene.

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Cindy Strube
02:44 Jul 19, 2022

Sweet story - with a little bit of devious collaboration by the mothers. It reads very nicely!

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Avery Mossop
01:48 Jul 23, 2022

Thanks so much for reading it Cindy! The mother’s were fun to write!

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Wendy M
05:31 Jul 18, 2022

I love it. Brilliant set up well done.

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Avery Mossop
11:06 Jul 18, 2022

Thanks so much for reading it Wendy! :) I did like the setup as well.

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Michał Przywara
02:30 Jul 18, 2022

Heh, I love the setup for this! Trapping them in their trees. It's neat that they are birth trees too. The story itself was a pleasant read, with good characters, motives, and conflict. The dialogue was fine and believable. A line stood out to me: "and they’d missed their chance over a misunderstanding". That's like the root cause of all inter-personal problems, isn't it? I suppose it's lucky for them they had such a long history together, or reconciling might have been out of reach.

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Avery Mossop
11:13 Jul 18, 2022

Thanks so much for reading, Michal! I love the idea of planting trees to celebrate life events. The beginning, tree-trapping part was the most fun to write. And I agree about misunderstandings. I often find myself thinking that if the characters would just talk to one another then their problems would be solved! But then there’d be no story. :)

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