Daughters of the Apple Orchard

Submitted into Contest #63 in response to: Write about two characters going apple picking.... view prompt


Drama Sad Thriller

It was a bitter joyful event to be able to walk among the apple trees with my mother and my daughter. My fingers tickled the aged dried leaves pausing every so often to whisper love to my sisters. I need to be careful of my growing belly as it barely fits between the rows of trees and I found myself constantly scratching and bumping the precious branches. 

The orchard was a maze and unless you knew your way around among the thousand apple trees it would easily disorientate anyone. As a woman of the island, we were only allowed to enter the orchard during the rituals. I enjoy the reflection of crisp morning dew knowing full well that it will disappear as the still-warm autumn sun rises above. I took advantage of our stroll as I pick various apples from my sisters and placed them in the pockets of my apron. 

“Melea my love, you are dottling,” my mother’s stern look burned right through me as she struggled with my wiggling daughter on her hip. Even though I was now well into my breeding years she still had quite an effective way to make me feel as if I was a young child again. I had found that she had aged quite a bit over the last few years. As a child, I remember her hair, full and lush. I would often find myself playing with it or brush it at night after she made sure that my brothers were tucked into bed. This would be the only few minutes I would get her all to myself. The younger boys and the older boys were not constantly asking for her mother to tend to their every need. I was her only daughter as it is with all the families of the island. Now I watched as the sprinkles of coarse grey hair randomly freed themselves from her stiff high bun.

“Coming,” I said, as I wobbled towards her. She placed my daughter in my hands but I was at the point where it was difficult to carry her. I slid her down until her feet gentle touch the ground.

“We shouldn’t be late. This will be Karmela’s first ceremony and she will need your full support.”

I nodded in agreement and we continued our strut. We both understood the hardship that Karmela would be facing. My mother more so than I did. Together we had to perform the ceremony five times. I look down upon my daughter and then to my ever-growing belly. I pray for a son. 

  Karmela and I had grown up together on the island. We were the fifth generation to the island and most of the others were very young or of breeding age. It was unquestionable to play with the other sons our age. They were put straight to work in the orchard as soon as they were able to tie a shoe. If they can tie a shoe then they can learn to graft an apple tree. Us as daughters were tasked with the care of the sons. One to a flock of many. 

“ Do you know what kind of apple tree Karmela has selected?” Mother asked. 

“I think the Golden Delicious, she wanted it to reflex her golden hair,” I said. All three of Karmela’s children had inherited her dark chestnut hair. Her two sons and one daughter were a small duplicate of their mother. The weeps that occurred when it was announced that a daughter had born echoed across the island for all to hear.

“Oh, I suppose it will be a bit of a change. We have not had too many healthy Golden’s around for a while. Still pretty sweet. In the last few years, the trend has been for a Honey Crisp. I prefer a bit more of a tart apple. That way I can have more use for the apples.”

Her baking skills were the best throughout the island. With each of her ceremony’s, she had chosen a Granny Smith or a Pink Lady for this reason. I suppose she had other reasons to choose those types reflective of the bitterness of the ceremony. My belly moves in a wave of emotion as if it was reacting to my thoughts. What kind of apple will I need to pick for you if you are a daughter.

The foliage droops out in front of us and we try and dodge them as much as we could. My daughter let out a cry of hunger. Mother grabbed an apple from one of the trees. She pulled a switch knife from a pocket of her apron and sliced off a piece for my daughter. She munched on it slowly, drips of red drool drowned her chin. I picked her up and tried to carry her as best as I could, trying my best not to slow down my already slow pace. 

  “I found a way off the island for you and Hannah.” mother said in a tone low enough for only a dog to hear.

“You can’t be serious. No daughter has escaped the island, not alive,” I lowered my voice to match hers.

“I have never been more serious,” she said.

“I am about to give birth there is no way I will able to run two feet.”

“I don’t want you to have to make the same choices that I was forced to make.”

“It’s tradition. This has always been the way.”

“Shhh...we are getting close. We can discuss this later,” Mother stop and her eyes gestured forward as she placed her pointer finger to her lips. A few feet ahead of us we found a few dozen fellow daughters mingling and giggling among one another. Discussing if and who they had chosen to breed with this year and whether or not it was successful. The ceremonies were one of the few times that we as daughters made time to socialize with one another. . Once of breeding age socialize among the others was highly discouraged. “It leads to jealousy and hate among the daughters. To keep rumours at bay we must keep conversation to a minimum.” The elder daughters would say. These were daughters well past the breeding age. With the knowledge and wisdom of past generations. They ensured that the island was well run and rules were followed. 

We entered the well-weathered circle. Apple trees of the island’s first second daughters surrounded and canopied the circle of worship. A simple staged structure gave additional to shelter from the elements but it could not protect all its worshipers and so long benches were placed doubled up to three rows. Up upon the stage, there were simple wooden chairs for the elder daughters, seven in total that surrounded a low alter set in the middle of the stage. On the altar sat a beautiful box that was painted with care pink and white apple blossoms encompassed the box with the name "Sunny" stretch on its size. Off to the side of the alter was a bench reserved for her mother and her first daughter. 

I watched as those unaffected directly to the ceremony chattered about with the occasional watchful eye was on the younger first daughters. The young first daughters did not know how it would affect them in their future. Did not understanding what would be asked of them after they reached their breeding age. A tradition used to help maintain the balance of the island’s population. Every daughter was only allowed to have one daughter. My belly bounced back at that thought. 

The elder daughters also felt that it had a bonus of maintaining respect among the sons. They are brought up solely by their mothers and gain respect for women and the work that they do. Keeping the daughter population down to a minimum allowed daughters to be cherished more. The elder daughters remembered stories sent down from their grandmothers where “Fathers” would beat and abuse their children as well as their mothers. Starting a never-ending cycle of abuse that was passed down from generation to generation. “We do away with “fathers” where boys are solely raised by their mothers they do no witness any abuse and therefore do not repeat the cycle. The cycle of abuse stops”.

 A wind chime was stuck which singled us to find a seat as we waited for the ceremony to begin. Daughters scurried around trying to find the best view and a fellow daughter that they could whisper with. We found a seat close to the mother’s bench as I hoped to somehow give her strength if she was able to see me.

“All rise!” a voice shouted off to the left side of the stage and in unison, we obeyed the command. 

  The elder daughters entered the stage from eldest to the newest member who had just entered to their next stage of life. Some well required assistance as they crossed the stage.

“Hungry,” Hanah whispered to me and Mother produced another piece of apple for her too much on. We watched as they awkwardly settled into their seats. The wind chime was struck once again as we were allowed to sit once again and we bowed our heads in silence. The elder daughter named Abigal who sat in the center of the row rose and approached the altar. She was slender compared to the others. Maybe this was since she only chose or was unable to have only a few children. That it did not wreck her body as those that chose to have many. No one thought less than her she did have that right as we all did. If we did not wish to mate after you have had three children you did have the choice to stop but three was the minimum. Abigal herself produced two healthy boys and her last child was a daughter. She never had to sacrifice a second daughter and I felt that she should not be a privilege to speak at these ceremonies with this lack of experience. Yet there she was standing in front of us with wet wide eyes as she stretched out her arms above the box. 

“Welcome my fellow Daughters. I have been chosen to welcome our fourth ceremony of the year. This has been truly been a blessed year of sons, as well as the welcoming of a first daughter for Daughter Elieen. She has waited many years for her baby daughter to arrive.” Abigal said as a soft cheer arose from the crowd. A daughter in her mid breeding years rose to show off her small bundle. She smiled and gave a little wave as she showed off her little girl before she sat down once again on her bench. 

"So blessed is she,” Abigail said as she clasped her hands together, “I want to thank you all for all your sacrifices this year. We can feed all through the winter because of this. This is to you and your positive mothering. This is your success!”

Another low cheer swept among the daughters. Abigal paused as she stretched out her arms and bounced them up and down indicating to others that she had more to say. As the daughters down died their voices she once again spoke. 

“With all successes, there will be some sorrow. Today we give thanks to our fellow daughter Karmela. After many hours of gruelling labour, she has given birth to a second daughter,” Abigal soften her voice. Karmela’s beautiful face was washed with tears running down her flushed cheeks. She struggled against those who were assisting her to her bench. Her eyes were focused on the tiny box. Karmela was followed by her first daughter Lily, carrying a wiggly newborn dressed in white lace. Golden curls sprang from a bonnet on her head. The infant cried and Lily tried as best she could to whisper sweet sounds into her ear. Lily stepped forward placing the baby carefully in Abigal’s arms. She turned and rushed to sit at her mother’s side clutching her as she buried her face into Karmela’s still swollen belly. 

“Thank you Lily for your sacrifice,” Abigal raises the baby, “and to you Karmela. Your sacrifice will not go unnoticed.”

“Sacrifice! You do not know the meaning of sacrifice. You dried up prune,” Karmela sprang to her feet. Two other daughters grabbed her around the waist forcing her back down to her bench. When satisfied that Karmela was no longer putting up a fight the two daughters released and stood behind her. Placing their palms on her shoulders firmly. Abigal turned her back to Karmela and followed through with the ritual with no emotion and raised Sunny above the box.

“There was a time where the island faced famine and overpopulation. There was a time where Daughters were faced to watch their children slowly die from starvation. There was a time where men abused and killed Daughters for control of food and water. That was until our founding Daughters rose against these men to regain control of our island. To them we give Thanks,” Abigal preached.

“We give thanks,” the daughters responded in unison. I watched as Karmela shifted uncomfortably listening to Abigal’s empty words. Lily still hugged her mother tight as they watched helplessly as the infant was lowered towards the box. 

“When the plight of men was cast off the island the wise daughters knew that changes needed to be made for them to survive on their own. They joined together and with their strength and perseverance, they mended and cared for the apple orchards. The care and mothered their children with kindness and love. They would teach their sons to respect their daughters. To them, we give thanks to their wisdom.” 

“We give thanks to their wisdom,” the daughters watched as the child as she wiggled and squirmed was placed into the perfectly sized box. I watched as Sunny stretched out her hand above the edge. Her fingers flexing and searching.

“It was with their wisdom that only one daughter would be born to each daughter. No longer would a second daughter be born to their children or grandchildren. It was a sacrifice to keep the population of the island sustainable. It was the wisdom of the founding daughters to keep their first Daughters protected and respected. From that day forward they had control of who they chose to breed with. How many sons they wished to have. The only thing that was asked of them was the sacrifice of all daughters after their first daughter.”

The youngest elder rose and placed into Abigal’s hands a small glass bottle. She raised it to the sky and slowly brought it back to her heart as she closed her eyes.

“You can’t do this! She is only a baby! Get your hands off of me,” Karmela struggled with her guards, tears dripping down her chin as she watched Abigal lift the seal of the bottle and tipped the liquid onto her free finger. “Please, you can’t do.!”

  “With this, you will fall asleep my dear little one,” Abigal whispered to baby Sunny as she dabbed the liquid to her lips. The baby’s arms lowered as the life from her fingers escaped, “You will feel no pain, know no hunger. We give your soul thanks.”

Your soul we give thanks,” the crowd said in unison once again.

The guards released their grip on Karmela and she plopped down on her knees. Her fist slamming into the wooden platform. I nodded to my mother before I raced to her. Kneeling as I embraced both Karmela and her daughter. Karmela’s guards drew their attention to the box as they lifted it with care. They followed Elder Daughters with Abigal leading the pace as they carried the box into the orchard. Our fellow daughters followed, head down as they whispered thanks to their sister. 

“You need to stand. If you don’t you know they will reduce your food portion. You have to do this for you, other children, for Lily.” I said. Karmela looked at me, her eyes swollen and red. Karmela closed her eyes and nodded knowing that her children needed the nourishment. I supported her as best I could. My mother took both Lily and Hanah’s hands as we follow the daunting procession.

We walked for what seemed like hours as the weight of my dear friend leaned on me. The dry leaves crackled and rustled. The moans of the second daughters that were laid before Sunny. Hanah cried with sleep and Mother managed with her expertise to lift her to her hip as she held tight onto Lily’s hand. We continued until we came to Sunny’s final resting place. A deep hole had already been prepared. Abigal waited until we all circled the hole some found the need to hide between the trees as they watch as little Sunny was placed into the ground. Karmela began to weep as she dipped her face into my shoulder. We watched the Karmela’s previous guards placed upon the tiny coffin. They stopped and placed the Golden Delicious apple tree in the hole before finishing their task of filling the hole. 

“May your tree be fruitful,” Elder Daughter Abigal said as she bowed her head. The congregation followed her lead before they broke off to return to their duties at their homes. Karmela collapse at the base of the tree. She scratched at the fresh dirt as her tears watered the tree. We sat down near, giving her the much needed time to mourn. I glanced down on my swollen belly as I felt the waves of movement from within. Maybe my mother is right and I need to leave. Then again maybe it will be a boy and I will not find myself picking the fruit of my daughter's tree.

October 16, 2020 14:44

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22:02 Oct 20, 2020

Brutal and well-written.


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B. W.
18:00 Oct 25, 2020

Heya there, i think that you did a great job with this story, so I'm going to give this a 10/10 :)


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