An Apple a Day

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

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Creative Nonfiction Friendship Funny

Two young girls trudged across the grassy hills, little white flowers littered beneath their worn shoes. They each held a thick, woven basket in their hand and a small scissors in the other. The sky was clear and blue, the air warm and sweet. A cottage sat in the far distance behind them, but no one watched the girls as they soldiered through the moores.

"Mr Castor told us that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. " the smaller girl struggled to firmly grasp the basket in her sweaty hands.

"Hm. An apple a day keeps the doctor from earning his bread. " the older girl looked in all directions, making sure that they were alone.

Willa looked up at her sister, her bright blue eyes shining with curiousity, "So, it isn't true then? "

Willa could never tell if her sister was being clever or not, so she found herself asking this question many, many times.

Ira sighed, as she knew that once Willa started asking questions, she would not stop. The six year old would find some way to keep silence from ensuing all the way to the orchard and she was not the easiest to ignore.

"Fruit and vegetables are always good for you. " she replied simply, her tone bored. She was doing her best to scale the steep hill that led to the orchard. She didn't want to be here. She would rather have gone riding with Thomas Reich than gone apple picking.

"Mother says that all the time. Father, too. " Willa recalled. She quite enjoyed going apple picking. Their father would always give them each a coin when they returned and Ira would sometimes give Willa her coin as well. She looked forward to buying herself sweets or a cake.

"Yes. And you should listen to them. " Ira huffed out. Both sisters sighed once they reached the top of the hill and only then could they see the orchard that stood far away, in the distance. They felt the strong winds as they began their journey down the hill, which was much better than going up. Willa, of course, wanted to converse as they walked on.

"Mother doesn't eat that many fruits. Only pie. Father likes steak. " she pointed out, her dark brown locks blowed in the wind and her blue eyes squinted against it.

Ira scoffed, "Mother needs to learn how to make anything other than pie or steak. " she muttered under her breath, softly and hoped that Willa did not hear her.

Although, not even the strong winds could cancel out her bitter words and Willa heard her, "I like pie, but only the pumpkin ones. " she mused as she finally wiped her sweaty hands on her faded yellow dress.

"Hm. "

"Don't you like apple pie? " Willa received no answer from the surly fourteen year old so she continued, "We're getting it for tomorrow. Mother says that you might even be able to pick out your own birthday present at the market. " she spoke cheerfully once they reached the bottom of the hill. The orchard was straight ahead.

Ira was quiet for a very long moment. The only sound was the high-pitched whistle of the wind and their heavy breaths. Willa looked at her sister, again. Her face was hard like steel; her dark brows pulled down, her light green eyes seemed bothered and she didn't try to push the thick, dark locks that blew wildly as if they were alive out of her pale face.

"Ira? Don't you want to go to the market?" Willa looked straight ahead once more and realized that they were fairly close to the orchard. She could vaguely see the bright crimson of the glorious fruits that awaited them in the fenced in environment. However, her sister still said nothing.

"Aren't you excited? It's not that often that we get to pick out our presents. " she tried again, but still, she did not receive a response.

They approached the fence. Ira lifted the latch on the rusted, old fence and allowed her sister to enter the grounds before she did, and shut the fence behind herself. Both sisters were fairly surprised to see that no one else was here. The orchard belonged to their town as a whole and its apples were quite popular.

It was also the perfect season for apple picking. Autumn. They noticed that the apples were bigger, rounder and redder than the previous months. Ira ushered Willa further into the orchard with not a word uttered between them. They reached the middle and found a tree where bright red apples were plentiful.

"Why did we need to come this far? " Willa whined as she dropped her basket on the ground, pouting.

Ira finally looked at her and answered, "The other folk have already picked from the outside. Most of the apples are here, in the middle of the orchard. " she shrugged and then went up to the closest trees and shook the lowest branches.

A few apples fell and Willa quickly gathered them and put them in her basket. Ira also put down her basket, but held on to her scissors. She climbed a tree effortlessly, as she had done so many times before. She sat herself down on the thickest branch she could find and then quickly started cutting stems and dropping the apples as close to the baskets as she could. The ones that she missed got picked up by Willa and put in one of the baskets.

Although eventually, Willa decided that the silence had become uncomfortable, "Why did we grow apples? Why didn't we grow any pumpkins? Pumpkins would have been nicer. "

Ira tried containing her frustration with all of Willa's questions and responded curtly, "We can grow apples all year round. There are many different kinds, " she jumped down from the tree once she was satisfied with how full the baskets were, "Lots of pumpkins can only be grown in summer and harvested in autumn. "

Willa sighed in disappointment, "So then, why don't we plant them in summer? "

Both sisters picked up their baskets that were much heavier than before and began walking back to the fence line.

"They're very expensive. Only the rich can afford it. "

"Like Mr Castor? He has a pretty house. " Willa inquired again, her forehead scrunching.

Ira sighed, quite irritated and nodded, "Yes. The rest of us have to use our money and food more sparingly. "

This time, Willa stayed silent for a moment and then asked, "Is that why he can eat an apple every day? "

"Yes, I suppose. " Ira confirmed, indifferently.

The sisters made it out of the fence and then continued the journey back to their cottage. It was much more difficult with baskets full of apples and eventually, Ira had to carry Willa's basket for her. The cottage was spotted as they reached the top of the steep hill and only once they were panting and beads of sweat ran down their backs, was another word spoken.

Willa looked at Ira one more time and asked her quietly, "Ira? Why aren't you excited for your birthday tomorrow? "

Ira huffed out a breath and Willa watched her glare at their cottage, "Because, my birthday is today. "

October 10, 2020 22:14

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